It was bound to happen – once the passion of comic books mingled with the online innovation of the digital revolution. But webcomics – or online comic books – were not an instant creation, or overnight creation.
Digital comic books started out initially as an experiment of major comic book companies like Marvel – in other words those with the access to the then-difficult-to-attain tools needed to produce high quality comic books online – completely with limited motion and sound. From the swish of Spidey's webslingers in the Spider-Man comic books to the snickt sound of Logan's claws in the Wolverine comics, all were captured through gifs and MP3s in the pioneer webcomics. However, in the dark days of dial-up, embarrassing load times and limited novelty lead to ultimate failure of these online comic books, although the gimmick of sound and motion in comic books would not be forgotten.
It was comic book creator/critic Scott McCloud who brought the notion of infinite canvas, and by doing so, completely lifted the burgeoning online comic books genre from its classic comic book limitation. Digital comic books like Dominic Deegan and El Goonish Shrive were seen manipulating the dimension of their web pages, allowing more innovation within the online comic book medium. Even better, the medium was as cheap as comic book supplies and web hosting, and as the latter became more affordable, a golden era of webcomics was quickly born. The special effects used the early digital comic books were not lost in this new breed of webcomics, as several effects of varying complexity were occasionally integrated into the medium.
The rest of the comic book industry caught up to the digital comic book revolution, albeit in slow fashion. Online comic books carved their section out of the industry, seen with webcomic publishers like Ambrosia Publishing or DC Comics' own Zuda Comics. Online comic book stores redefined the retail dimension of the industry, and recently Marvel unveiled a subscription service called Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, which offers thousands of classic issues in the form of digital comic books.
Though comic books have been struggling to re-invent themselves as an industry since the mid-1990's, the untapped potential of creator-owned online comic books seems to be blossoming with each new webcomic. Never since the Golden Age comic books has the medium itself seen such increasing amounts of creativity or interest in the digital comic book.
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