A slightly "up-the-nose" shot of the most recent incarnation of my webcomics in print shelf.
I've previously mentioned in this blog how much I love print collections and given a list of all the stuff I've got, so I'm not going to rehash it here. I'm just going to talk about the new books I've gotten in the past month or so: Goats, Dinosaur Comics, Silent Kimbly, and Schlock Mercenary.
First off, we've got the books that are new to me, but not to the public as a whole: Goats Vols. 1-4 (That's four volumes in three book collections, for those of you keeping score). I've got to start by saying the guys over at Goats are some class acts. I ordered the book bundle, and they accidentally sent me two copies of all the books. Naturally, I offered to return the extra copies. And not only did they send me a postage paid envelope to return them in, they also sent me some free stickers. Classy. I've had much worse experience dealing with Ebay types in the past.
As for the books themselves, you get a lot of Goats for your buck. There's not really any extra content beyond some extremely funny forewords (Jon Rosenberg is a master wordsmith), but what you do get is Goats strips printed nice and large, and you get well over 200 of them in each volume. These are some nice, big, weighty books which can compete with any Calvin and Hobbes collection you've got on your shelf. They're black and white, but guess what: so was the strip during the time period they cover. I really hope that when the strips turned to color the books will turn to color as well, because it would be a shame to lose that sublime colorwork.
But in terms of sheer content, the Goats books have got nothing on The Best of Dinosaur Comics. One nice feature of this book is the printing of each comic's alt tag below the comic (hadn't noticed that before? If you hold your mouse over any given Dinosaur Comic on the website, you'll be rewarded with an extra "throwaway" joke). Beyond that and a foreword, there's not really any extra content to this book, but this book's got like 230 or so Dinosaur Comics strips, and that's a lot of Dinosaur Comics. This is like the perfect bathroom book. You can pick it up, flip to a random page, and read five or six Dino comics. No need to read it in any sort of order.
I was a little disappointed at first when I heard it was a "best of" book rather than the whole archive, but when I realized that you really can't tell with Dinosaur Comics when a strip gets cut out, and I honestly couldn't think of any strips I particularily enjoyed which got cut, I got over it. I did notice that Ryan North seemed to cut out pretty much all the strips where he messed around with the template of the strip (such as the mirror universe strips), and I'm guessing this is to enhance the effect when you show the book to a friend and say "check this out:" then flip through all the pages and show them that they are all exactly the same. In any case, no big loss.
Silent Kimbly: Play Time, as opposed to being the perfect bathroom book, is like the perfect book for a coffee table. It's probably the shortest book out of any of the four I'm reviewing today in terms of total strips, and each strip is just a single panel, so it reads pretty quick. But the humor is pretty accessible and the lavish, cartoony artwork is very pleasing to the eye, so it's the perfect book to leave lying around for your guests to peruse if they have a few spare moments. Ryan Sias' artwork is really pretty unique for the landscape of webcomics with its Nickelodeonish feel, and it's a good way to show people how webcomics aren't all just geeks, anime, and gamers. So even though you can read the book quickly, it's a lot more pleasant to appreciate the artwork of each strip and let it sink in before moving on to the next. Plus if you order a book Sias will draw a free sketch in it for you! I got a really nice looking one of Kimbly in my book.
Oh, and by the way, I've loved having Kimbly in color the past few weeks. It's just absolutely beautiful, and it keeps getting better and better. The latest strip (with toast) is awesome. I know it's gotta be tough to try to color in all those strips, but man, that adds a whole new level of vibrancy and life to the world of Silent Kimbly.
And speaking of great colorwork, Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management proves yet again that when a webcomicker takes the plunge and prints his work in full color, it pays off. I think all webcomickers thinking about making a book need to secure themselves a copy of this beauty. It's worth the extra cost for the added value. I would gladly pay the extra money for a colored printing of a color webcomic than save a few bucks and get it in black and white.
The book is a suprisingly long 80 pages (there's a lot of strips per page) and reads more like a graphic novel than a collection of strips. It includes a lot of the typical Schlock-type commentary in the form of historical notes and explanation of scientific jargon, which is nice. The book has a very nice layout, with strips surrounded by lots of sketches, designs, and other artwork spashed around the pages. Again, this is something a lot of other webcomickers could learn from, putting some extra thought into their layouts.
The Schlock book also has the most bonus content, with an added story at the end explaining how Schlock got his infamous plasma cannon. All in all: quality.
So if I had to pick a winner from the bunch, it would be the Schlock Mercenary book. But honestly, none of them are losers. They all have a slightly different method of displaying their work, but they all give you a lot of good comics offline for hours of reading pleasure, and a great way to share your favorite online comics with your friends and get them hooked too.