Saturday, March 8, 2008

Web Comics Portals, Part II: The Keen Sites

Part 2: The Keen Sites

This article is the second in a series intended to make sense of my "World's Biggest Web Comic Portal List." I'll explain what each site is, what it offers, how it's connected to other sites, and what kind of experience I've had with it. At the end, I will recklessly attempt to group like with like in a series of lists that will condense everything down to a writhing mass.

Together, the list plus the articles should allow someone just coming onto the web with a new comic the information they need to make their first siting and promotion decisions.

I'll report what I've done with my own comic, Scratchin Post, and what I've learned.

My biases: I always prefer a site that is communicative to one that's popular. Unfortunately, communication tends to be the first casualty of traffic growth.

I prefer a polished look to a cluttered one. The genres I most enjoy are life, humor, surreal and original concepts like Breakfast of the Gods. I avoid anything called "furry," because I author an animal comic and I don't want any connection to the fur sex fetishists. They have irritated me by high-jacking a lot of innocent animal stuff and co-mingling it with adult material. Some sites are using "anthropomorphic" instead of furry, which is fine, for those of us who know the word.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I'll mention that I passed resumes to OnlineComics and WebComicsNation. I'm recovering from being hit by a car. As I transition to full employment, I've had talks with several creative outfits, but no comics sites.)

Enough throat-clearing. Let's start looking at the sites with a discussion of the Keen group.

ComicsGenesis, KeenSpot, and KeenToons are owned by Chris Crosby and his family. They recently bought out the 50% share of their cofounders.

ComicsGenesis (originally KeenSpace) is a hosting service, and claims over 10,000 members. I have not encountered server delays there.

KeenSpot features by-invitation comics presented as "web exclusives." There are about 50 titles. I don't find anything that moves me here, and there are no widely recognized comics.

KeenToons develops animation, and is worth seeing to experience the varied ways web comics can be animated.

ComicsGenesis encourages all comers, so there is a heavy presence of beginner efforts -- easily 80 - 90%, depending on who you call a beginner. In many cases, I'm reminded of the stuff I drew in junior high. But even I don't go back and read my stuff from that era, so looking at all these scribbles gets numbing. Browsing appeal is fairly low. At least half of the strips I open I know instantly I do not want to read, though I usually force myself because sometimes I am wrong. The more I have to force myself, the more turned off I get.

Hosting appeal for me is also low, and not because of the other comics. What puts me off is the weighty user agreement, which encumbers participants with certain legal rights and responsibilities. One requirement, that I put ComicsGenesis banner ads on my own site, is a deal breaker, at least at this stage of my strip's development.

The source information for this series comes from things printed online, in places that include the sites discussed, articles about them and Wikipedia. It's taken a long time to assemble, but has been useful for me as a comic author, and the opinions I express are from that point of view. If I've accidentally printed faulty information, contact me, and I'll make revisions.

Next: More discussion of individual sites