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Web Comics

May 7, 2012 2:35 p.m.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with web cartoonists Rebecca Hicks and Paul Horn about the impact of webcomics on the industry over the past 2 decades.

Related Story: Profile: San Diego Webcomics


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: Webcomics are comics distributed online first. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with two San Diego artists about the impact webcomics have had on the industry over the past two decades.

When the first webcomic debuted in 1985 it prompted a revolution in how comics could be distributed. Anyone with a computer and Internet access could put out a comic rather than having to submit it first to a syndicate or agent.

REBECCA HICKS: It's a comic that didn't have to go through a syndicate, that didn't have to go through a filtering process, it's just out there for the world to see.

And that was especially significant for women says Rebecca Hicks who creates the Little Vampires online comic. She says women cartoonists are a minority in print but are thriving in webcomics.

REBECCA HICKS: If there was, and I'm not saying there was, but if there was any kind of we can't let the girls do comic strips attitude, it doesn't exist in web comics because there is no group of men or women saying uh, no yours is not really got wide appeal. Really we all throw our work up there and the stuff that's sticks is the stuff that's sticks but it's determined not by a small group of people but by the entire world in some cases.

That access appealed to Paul Horn who creates Cool Jerk, a strip that originated in a Reno newspaper.

PAUL HORN: Once the Internet started taking off, I took the strip out of print and put it online with the thought of the potential that anyone on the planet that has Internet access could then read my comic, which beats a hundred mile circulation radius.

Plus it can reach that audience from anywhere. Both Hicks and Horn work out of San Diego, something that's easy to do now with today's technology.

REBECCA HICKS: I don't even think easy is a strong enough term. For many people it was almost impossible to do certain kinds of work in entertainment because of location.

But in the end what Hicks and Horn both produce is a comic strip.

REBECCA HICKS: My elevator pitch for Little Vampires is they're literally little vampire and they try really hard to be like big and fierce vampires and they fail spectacularly at it.

Horn writes and illustrates Cool Jerk.

PAUL HORN: It's typically a four-panel strip that you would see in newspapers with recurring characters that makes a target of and pokes fun at a lot of the day to day banality of life, a lot of pop culture, current events, relationships, Southern California lifestyle.

Cool Jerk is just one of the tens of thousands of webcomics now available online. Hicks points out that there's a difference between a print comic made available online and something that originates as a webcomic.

REBECCA HICKS: Because that term to me means you are gonna have diversity of content, you are going to have diversity of art style whereas a comic book that has been put online it's gonna look just like the comic book in papers just on your iPad or whatever. I think the difference is in the innovation, this is the new technology, this is the new form of entertainment so that means that you are gonna see some new cool stuff.

Part of that excitement comes from greater freedom for artists who are now their own bosses. There's no publisher or editor -- worrying about ads or circulation -- to tell them what they can or cannot do. But it also means there's not someone handing them a regular paycheck.

PAUL HORN: It is not necessarily difficult to break into the industry but to make an income at it that's tough.

Cool Jerk's website makes no money from ads or charging people to read the comics online. Instead, it's about getting and keeping fans, and selling other merchandise like books.

PAUL HORN: I have 3 Cool Jerks books and a fourth one is coming out later this year. I have a side book called Doc Splatter: Ominous Omnibus, which is an advice column of the supernatural hosted by Doc Splatter -- think Dr. Phil with holy water and a chainsaw.

But with all the new technology Hicks says she still builds her fan base one person at a time and often face to face at conventions.

REBECCA HICKS: I met them, I talked with them, and they spread the word to their friends and nowI have friends of Little Vampires, in Germany.

Not bad for creatures that are not much bigger than a computer mouse.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.