There’s a rush now at Google and Microsoft to incorporate chatbots into their search engines, which seems apt to undercut the usefulness of search engines.
Suppose you want a list of Ruben Bolling’s God-Man comics. The words that a large-language model will string together about God-Man, based on having taking the whole internet as its corpus, will be nonspecific, incomplete, and probably error-ridden. The best source on this topic would be an official webpage or a fan page. There is no official God-Man episode guide, but I happen to maintain what is probably the only God-Man fan page. The best answer to the query is not to digest my page along with ten thousand others, but just to link to my page.
For lots of perfectly ordinary queries, one wants a dedicated webpage or site rather than the word-salad gestalt of a general purpose tool. So a traditional search engine can provide answers that a chatbot will only obscure.
This post was prompted by OmnipotentFriends, the latest adventure of God-Man and the cause of an update to the fan page.
One of my longest-running things on the internet is The God-Man Fan Page. I updated it today with a recent adventure— by my count, the 74th appearance of the character.
In preparing for tomorrow’s class, I discovered Raphaël Julliard’s 2005 work 1000 Chinese Paintings. She commissioned a Chinese factory to make square canvases painted a uniform shade of red and reserved a booth at a Paris art fair to sell them. All of the canvasses were sold by the end of the pre-show, so the result was an empty booth during the fair.
Over the summer, I recommended some long-form narrative webcomics. However, my greatest comics love has always been stand-alone funny comics.
Reza Farazmand’s Poorly Drawn Lines regularly makes me laugh out loud.1 There are some recurring characters, but no plot to speak of. There aren’t punch lines so much as perverse situations that escalate into absurdity.
Here’s another post of webcomic recommendations. The loose thread connecting these is that they are ongoing comics about young people in odd situations, for some values of ongoing, young, and odd.
Questionable Content started back in 2003 as a slice-of-life comic with some science fiction elements. I didn’t start reading it until much later, when there were 1000s of comics in the archive. It manages to simultaneously deliver goofy, fun characters and real emotional engagement.
Dumbing of Age has been running since 2010, but David Willis had a number of earlier comics that covered similar ground. This started out as a reboot of his series of comics which began as a college slice-of-life comic, turned into an interdimensional government conspiracy comic, and then turned into a comic about working at a toy store. The current run began with students starting at college and hasn’t added any of the science fiction elements. The characters take on a new life, so appreciating it doesn’t require looking back at any of Willis’ earlier work.1
Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter is about kids who have bodily organs turned into magical monsters. It’s a comic with heart.2 The story is drawing to a close, so it’s close to belonging in the completed epics post.
As a followup to my previous post, I’ve decided to share some webcomic recommendations.
In the early days of the pandemic, I reread two fantastic science fiction comics that were written from the beginning to tell a specific story.1 Both of these manage to pull off the trick of presenting extraordinary characters in a universe that is nothing like mine while still getting me emotionally invested in them.
I originally read them as were coming out, waiting for the each new page. This time, each story wiled away a shelter-in-place afternoon. Afternoons well spent.
A Miracle of Science, by Jon Kilgannon and Mark Sachs, is set in a solar system overrun by mad scientists. It follows the adventure of Benjamin Prester, agent of the Vorstellen Police.
Alice Grove, by Jeph Jacques, is about life in a fragile Eden. I can’t think of anything to say Alice herself that wouldn’t be misleading or a spoiler.
I’ve been reading web comics for almost 25 years. For most of that time, one of my daily reads has been Howard Tayler’s Schlock Mercenary. Many years ago, when everybody’s homepage had a page of links, I described it this way: “Schlock Mercenary is a space opera named for an amorphous blob who wanders the galaxy and shoots things. Jocularity abounds. It seems reminiscent of the Star Frontiers games I used to play, so it merits a nostalgia bonus.”
Tayler is an anomaly in several ways. He updated on a regular schedule for more than two decades, whereas most independent creators miss updates or go on hiatus at least sometimes. And he actually finished his grand narrative, rather than leaving it unfinished. Recently, the story came to a close with the eponymous hero’s dark matter apotheosis.1
The title of this post also points to the fact that webcomics really aren’t a thing anymore. I’ve had a half-written post about this in my drafts for over a year.
Steven Frank drew the webcomic Spamusement from 2004 to 2007. The schtick was “Poorly-drawn cartoons inspired by actual spam subject lines!”
It was a genius idea. Frank encouraged other people to draw their own, based on spam they’d received. Back in the day, I drew about a dozen. Drawing them was a pleasant kind of mental palate cleanser, doodling that was tethered loosely to the verbal part of my brain.1