Most of my favorite web comics are ones that I discover near the end of their runs. Michael Poe’s Exploitation Now!, Josh Phillip’s Avalon, or It’s Walky – I stumbled upon these near the end of their runs where I could sit down and spend several days reading through the archives. This last month, I embarked upon reading through the archives of two of my favorite web cartoonists: Michael Poe and Fred Gallagher.
The experience of reading through an archive is vastly different from following along as the comic is created. Often in the daily wait between new pages months or even years can go by between the appearance of minor characters and stretching long, convoluted plots out over months can cause many of the subtle details to be lost.
I prefer to read the archives online. I do buy the print editions to help the artists, but I find that one of the great aspects of web comics is that necessary beat – a brief “ah” while you wait for the next page to load. This gives me a moment to reflect upon the events of that page, to get caught up on the cliff hanger, and appreciate the art. A printed book is too easy to skip ahead, the pages fly by in a blaze. I try to remember to give that beat with a print comic and pause before I turn the page. Nevertheless, print artists fail to fully utilize that beat as effectively as web cartoonists.
Michael Poe’s Exploitation Now! was my introduction to web comics. I loved watching how the art and characters progressed from sketchy, one-dimensional creations into a complex fleshed out world. I am also rather impressed with Poe’s dark sense of humor that seems to fixate at times upon the more disgusting aspects of bodily existence. Poe’s more recent work, Errant Story, I liked not as much. In rereading the work from the beginning, I begin to understand why. In following the story the first time, I became confused by the complex place names and history. I became lost. In rereading the work, I caught all the history, all the characters and found myself actually enjoying the work just as much as Exploitation Now!.
Fred Gallagher’s Megatokyo, I began reading in 2004 and since then it has added nearly a thousand new pages. In all the mess of filler art days, guest strips, and hiatuses I became rather lost in the main storyline. Following it through a second time, I see why I enjoyed the work. Though it’s a long story and at present, I am only up to 2002.