Saturday, March 15, 2008

Web Comics Portals, Part VI


"The Lesbian Pirates..." strip looks like it was designed 
by one person and executed by another. 
© Megan Rose Gedris.

Drunk Duck and SmackJeeves

Drunk Duck is a busy hosting site that has seems to skew toward a young audience. It's always been a poor browsing area for me, and the atmosphere is too much like a game room for my taste.

Drunk Duck has been purchased by a west coast resident who dresses like David Geffen. You can see him on the corporate site, flashing grins and speaking in steamroller declaratives, at Platinum Studios. Duck founder Dylan Squires, retained in a software capacity, does not fit the decor or speak the body language. As you'd expect, there is much discussion of another overhaul of the Duck site.

I can't take the cacophony at the Duck. It reminds me of entering a Chucky Cheese. I see a surfeit of spiky manga hair and sprites and I want to go away. I picture kids around the planet jumping off skateboards and logging on as the Duck stares down, Joe Camel-like. I wouldn't say he looks drunk as much as mildly sloshed, but this has to be one of the most poorly conceived site names since smackjeeves.

The hard facts: Duck is a host site. It's also invested in the forum angle, and hosts games. I can't take it seriously, but I'm watching to see what it becomes. I wouldn't be surprised if the site ends up back-burnered at Platinum, as the demographic weaknesses of the site become apparent.

The Duck may have some value to web comics generally by introducing new, young readers, and my agita may stem from being far from average user age. Whether those readers should be scrolling through "Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space" is another question.

Duck offers creator interviews, sometimes asking multiple creators the same question, or else the standard single interviewee format. As an experienced journalist and editor, I can assure you that interviews are hard to do well. Even Comics Journal doesn't execute the format with particular success. Like most, the ones on Duck tend to make my eyes glaze.

I wish this would be a better site and hope it will evolve toward a presentation that is less demeaning to the web comic. It's obviously operating on a level pleasing to an audience that doesn't include me. In the future I'll try placing my own comic there to see what I learn.

Tony Mansurian, who does My Life is Terrible, a highly recommended web comic, does a great job summing up Smack Jeeves:

"Smackjeeves boasts of hosting over 10,000 webcomics, and they are all terrible. Must be experienced to be believed," he writes. I remember that this series is about features and not content, but I can't stop myself. Smackjeeves is like a swarm of locusts in a far away country. You can ignore it and not feel too bad.

My favorite part of the site, almost worth a visit, is house organ Smacktalk, with Editor-in-Chief CuteThing. CuteThing writes boilerplate editorials and offers an advice column. Feel like being interviewed? Click "Get Interviewed!" It's little wonder none of the dozen or so "staff" want to sign their real names. They might want to get jobs at Ranger Rick some day. (Smack illustration here:

Like other swollen sites that encourage visitors to draw their own web comic right now, the site is cumbersome, unpleasant and probably going to counter my critique by saying I am just jealous. I am indeed jealous, as it would give me great pleasure to cut loose 10,000 piss-poor comics at once.

Being hard on these sites often brings me up on charges of elitism from people who can't think of a more ferocious insult, but I've never offered an alternate formula that I think these sites should follow. I don't need one: outstanding peer sites have set the standard in design, lay-out, flow, content and attitude. Most of the ideas a site needs to excel are in plain view.

Next: At least two more installments. At the Brits say in a soft, sarcastic monotone, "Woo!"