So, who do you think would do a better job at documenting the History of Webcomics, PBS or some blonde dude from L.A. who draws a talking duck? Yeah, trick question, because the ‘blonde dude’ is Dave Kellett, who draws that talking duck in the popular webcomic Sheldon, and takes his knowledge of the business of comics very seriously… and that’s only partly because it’s the business he makes a living from. I previously noted his Very Serious Speech on the subject from two years ago, but even before that, he was working with film-guy Frederick Schroeder on a feature-length documentary film. Soon after that speech, they went public with their project and did a Kickstarter to raise money for its production (Disclaimer: Hell yeah, I gave them some money!). The film’s debut has been delayed, partly due to their obsessive perfectionism but also due to the additional sources they’ve unlocked as word of the film has spread… in other words, EVERYBODY who is ANYBODY wanted to be interviewed for it, even, it was recently revealed, Bill “Calvin and Hobbes” Watterson, the J.D. Salinger of sequential art!

Here’s the latest trailer for “Stripped”…
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and here are some very informational (and VERY creative) clips, first about Newspaper Syndication…
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then about the emerging Webcomics business…
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and finally, the whole history of visual storytelling, in song, by musical humorist Kate Micucci…
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With production values like these, you can imagine how frustrating it was when the owners of certain pieces of valuable existing content (KNOWING how valuable they were) required serious $$$ for the right to include them. But Kellett and Schroeder had already seen how the word spread AFTER the Kickstarter and how many people contacted them, wishing they would’ve gotten in on it. So, they went ‘back to the well’ and started an unprecedented second Kickstarter (making it clear that they didn’t want anything from anyone who’d supported the first, just new contributors). And, like the first, they have easily exceeded their goals (and earned ‘stretch goals’ adding bonus content going to supporters from BOTH campaigns, yay!).

If you haven’t participated in this yet, I loudly recommend you give them $20 for a digital download or $25 for a physical DVD. (Or $500 for a Producer credit, come on, Kevin Smith, you know you want to…) The second Kickstarter ends Thursday Morning, April 4th, so do it NOW! Operators are standing by doing nothing because they aren’t even using telephones for this…

While an impressive performance, the total of “Stripped’s” two Kickstarters will be about half of that for the “Bronies” documentary (original title “BronyCon”) but that one had the direct involvement of MLP:FIM’s original Executive Producer and Developer for Television Lauren Faust, awesome-voice-actor Tara Strong (who besides Twilight Sparkle, did Batgirl in “SuperBFF”, Raven in “Teen Titans”, Ben in “Ben10”, Timmy in “Fairly Oddparents”, Bubbles in “Powerpuff Girls” and at least one character in nearly every animated movie or tv show of the last 15 years) and John ‘Q’ DeLancie (who got involved after seeing the massive reaction to him playing ‘Discord’ on MLP)… and when you have Q on your side…

Anyway, how does the “Stripped” doc compare to what PBS is doing? Well, “PBS Digital Studios” is making a webseries of short (usually around 7 minutes) mini-documentaries about ‘new arts and media’ titled “Off Book” and posting them at YouTube. They started just over a year ago with a piece on “Animated GIFs: Birth of a Medium” you-tooned-in (which they insisted on pronouncing like the Peanut Butter brand – it is the deeply committed opinion of Tooned.In that it should be ‘G-as-in-Graphic’) and have continued once every two weeks since with something or other: either offline – tattoosyou-tooned-in, logosyou-tooned-in, Legoyou-tooned-in – or online – web designyou-tooned-in, Reddityou-tooned-in, Twitteryou-tooned-in, Internet Comedyyou-tooned-in – or both – fan art and fan fiction you-tooned-in.

Some of their topics are clearly relevent to Tooned.In, but it’s only now they have finally gotten around to dealing with “The Rise of Web Comics” offbook-webcomicsyou-tooned-in
(minus 1 point for making webcomics two words… PBS and I just don’t agree on syntactical stuff). So, otherwise how did they do? It’s a fairly good introduction to the form, which they immediately state is inspired by newspaper comics, comic books AND underground Zines. And you can tell the producers’ interest is more in the Zines, because they emphasize the experimental, edgy and not-so-mainstream offerings, specifically in the webcomics artists they interview.

First, it’s Nicholas Gurewitch, whose “Perry Bible Fellowship” was a definite pioneer in both using the web, and going way out in its design and humor. Unfortunately, he only updates once-in-a-blue-moon (although he specifically notes his latest comic), with his meager updates showing up at BoingBoing.net first. foot1 Similarly with Lucy Knisley, whose “Stop Paying Attention” has been one of the undisputed best ‘diary webcomics’ both as a comic and as a very personal document, but who hasn’t published a new piece in over six months!

Sam Brown’s “Exploding Dog” is a very non-typical comic, using captions submitted to him to make random drawings (and still doing it well). He referred to its a comicking as a “conversation”, which I must agree with, but I thought he was also inactive, until I was directed to his Tumblr where he is now posting his new work. (That was a happy relief.) And then there was Andrew Hussie, whose interactive, semi-animated, game-style epic “Homestruck” is the most NOT typical webcomic of them all.

Without interviews, examples were shown from “xkcd” (which they put in ALL CAPS), “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”, “Diesel Sweeties” and “Johnny Wander”, which is a good selection for bringing things, if not ‘down to earth’, at least to a reasonable altitude. Also odd was the choice for someone to ‘tie things together’, in lieu of a formal narrator (which OffBook just does NOT use) in Christina Xu of Breadpig, the ‘uncorporation’ which, among its other products, publishes the xkcd and SMBC books, even though merchandising is an issue never touched up here. (She’s also cofounder of ROFLCon, which would link her to most of the online OffBook subject matter)

So PBS comes from a different angle and provides a different perspective. Nothing wrong with that; it was just SO PBS of them (which I pronouce “peebsuh”).

footy1 Yes, I’m one of those people who like to refer to the Boing Boing blog as “The PBS of the Web”, but its Comics section keeps getting more interesting, with PBF, Tom the Dancing Bug, the revival of Elfquest and the musical history lessons of Hip Hop Family Tree. (And would believe I just noticed the similarity between Perry Bible Fellowship’s acronym, PBF, and PBS… but then, it’s also one letter away from PBR and PB&J…)