The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Friggin' awesome.

A hilarious Dinosaur Comics mixup from Dadasaurus Rex.

So, what happens when your webcomic consists of the exact same artwork, every day?


What does this mean? It means you can do clever things with the comic using a little bit of scripting and stylesheet magic. Dinosaur Comics is the ultimate example of being able to do COOL THINGS with a webcomic because its form is so rigid. Since you've always got the exact same panels to work with, you can easily mess around with them "on the fly" by replacing or changing certain things that you know will appear in certain places.

Here's some of the neat exploitations using Dinosaur Comics:

  1. The Dinosaur Comics Puppy Machine takes advantage of the fact that the dinosaurs always appear in exactly the same place in every comic. So what it does is whenever a comic is loaded it simply uses a script to overwrite the dinosaurs with some other images. For example, what if it were Dinosaur Comics starring Penny Arcade? Some of the templates still need a bit of modifying to display the text correctly every time, and some of them don't work in Internet Explorer (thanks to IE's poor handling of PNGs), but it's still pretty awesome. Now they just need to open up the project so that anyone could make their own version with their own characters. I honestly don't think it'd be that hard. You'd just need a form asking the people to submit 12 images to replace the dinosaurs and the various objects in the comic. That would be beyond friggin' awesome, it would be frigtacularly awesome. And you can quote me on that.
  2. NewsRex takes advantage of the fact that the text must always appear in the same general locations (as the dinosaurs never move) to allow the dinosaurs to deliver the news to you. The NewsRex script scrapes off short news stories from the Reuters newsfeed and then formats them as a dinosaur comic by breaking them into properly sized chunks for each dinosaur in each panel. The neatest thing about this is that it really tries to keep to the Dinosaur Comics style by having the headline broken up into the first two panels with the classis T-rex ellipsis (...) between them, and with the ubiquitous additions of exclamation points. It actually flows like a dinosaur comic as you read the news. Awesome!
  3. This one's my personal favorite. Dadasaurus Rex takes advantage of the fact that Dinosaur Comics uses the exact same six panels every day to create absolutely hilarious mixups by choosing each of the six panels from a different random Dinosaur Comic. This is the only one of the three deviations that I'm not sure how it works. My guess is that the script chooses six random comics, cuts out the appropriate panel from each, and then stitches them together into a new image. Both Perl and PHP have image processing scripts which could easily perform a task like this. And since a new image is created on the server side every minute as opposed to every time a visitor refreshes the page, it greatly decreases the load on the server. Pretty clever. But what I really love about the Dadasaurus is how consistently hilarious the resulting mixups are. The one I put at the top of this post isn't anywhere near the most funny one I've seen today, it just happened to be the one that was up when I started writing, and it's still pretty darn funny.

These three deviations are awesome examples of the potential both of webcomics and of the fixed form. Using a combination of artistic talent, technological ingenuity, and all around web-savvy, a couple of people were able to take a webcomic and do some darned clever things with it. And I bet there's some even more clever things that could be done. For instance, using a combination of OhNoRobot transcriptions and some language software, it would be an easy task to present Dinosaur Comics in practically any language imaginable, generating each comic completely on the fly! Or you could do a Google search and have the results be given to you in Dinosaur Comics form! Or Dinosaur Comics versions of Wikipedia pages, or Dictionary definitions!

Oh yes, that is totally friggin' awesome.


At 6:46 AM, Anonymous Philippe Gaboury said...

I had no clue just how far this Dinosaur Comics thing went. And you're right, reading the whole archive is a superhuman task. I haven't even finished 2003 yet...

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The translation aspect is what I think has the most useful application of Ryan's various coding tomfooleries. If he can make it so it'd work on more... varied... comics than Dinosaur Comics he may have a statue dedicate to him in webcomicsville.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Flatwood said...

Not to be a moron, but do you review webcomics or just talk about ones that you already like?

At 12:13 AM, Blogger Gilead Pellaeon said...

A little from column A, a little from column B. But I am the type of person who prefers writing about stuff I've enjoyed as opposed to stuff I've disliked.

At 1:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a good point though.

Webcomic blogs tend to give more blow jobs than Jenna Jameson in her prime. And most of the creators getting their knobs polished don't need the encouragement because they're already big fish in the small pond.

I think the focus needs to be on how things can be improved so everyone will want to read webcomics ad not just our geeky subculture. Because not even the biggest webcomics are above it... despite what the artists and their fans may think.

At 11:16 PM, Blogger Gilead Pellaeon said...

I guess the question really comes down to what you want to accomplish with your blog. In my case, I just have a strong interest in webcomics and I want to talk about them. *shrug* I'm not really serious about trying to "get the community to go somewhere" or anything like that. That's for people like Scott McCloud to deal with.


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