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Smithson Thus Far... ·


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Man, the class of 2002...where are they now? Gene Yang's American Born Chinese was eventually published in print by First Second and, in 2007, became the first graphic novel nominated for a National Book Award. Lark Pien has a book coming out soon from First Second too. Jim Zubkavich's Makeshift Miracle was hugely popular during its online run and is now out as a graphic novel. Jesse Hamm drew the Minx graphic novel Good as Lily, written by Derek Kirk Kim (who almost joined MT and then dropped out, albeit not before talking me into it). Jason Shiga's up for his second Eisner Award next weekend. Tom Hart, one of my longtime alt-comics heroes, became a friend, and we collaborated on our own webcomic, Trunktown. Lea Hernandez is another dear friend, and I swear we're going to collaborate on something one of these days. Cat Garza is reentering the comics world after a hiatus, during which he got married and had a kid. John Barber now works as an editor for Marvel. David Gaddis never ended up running anything on Modern Tales; as far as I know, he dropped out of comics not long after his one brilliant short webcomic, "Piercing," and also moved away from the Bay Area so I don't run into him at Shiga's place anymore. Kent Dorfman became a sensitivity trainer for Encounter Groups of Cleveland, Inc., and Douglas C. Niedermeyer was killed in Vietnam by his own troops.

The established webcartoonists in the launch lineup mostly used Modern Tales for side projects: Scott Kurtz ran his autobio strip, Wedlock, R Stevens did a Diesel Sweeties spinoff with a cute kid version of Clango, and Dorothy Gambrell drew The New Adventures of Death. Of the three, Dorothy's strip was the only one that lasted long. Which was too bad, since during the time it ran, Wedlock was by far the most popular thing on Modern Tales.

Of the launch comics, Bryant Paul Johnson's Teaching Baby Paranoia, Chuck Whelon's Pewfall, Tim Broderick's Odd Jobs, and Dirk Tiede's Paradigm Shift are all still updating regularly on Modern Tales. Some of the other creators who were around at launch, like Tom Hart and Lea Hernandez, moved to the sister sites Graphic Smash, Serializer, and Girlamatic when they started up. James Kochalka isn't in my links here, but he was part of Modern Tales from early on and eventually launched a solo spinoff site,, which has spawned an entire genre of daily autobio webcomics.

Joey recruited a lot of the launch cartoonists from several knots of cartooning friends in different parts of the country. I was then on the outskirts of the Bay Area circle that included Jason Shiga, Lark Pien, Gene Yang, David Gaddis, Jesse Hamm, and Chuck Whelon, so I guess that's how he found me. I ended up becoming friends with a lot of the others online. That year, a lot of us, plus Joey, met up at the San Diego Comic-Con, the best Comic-Con I ever attended. Somewhere there's a picture of us crowded on the steps of the convention center, ready to revolutionize comics.

I don't suppose we ever got around to doing that, but it was a beautiful weekend.

Tiff Hudson (tiff_hudson) says:

Shaenon, believe me. You revolutionized comics. I was raised on Pogo books. Carl Barks reprints amused me. DC never had me. Marvel managed to lose me. Eisner reprints enraptured me. Watterson and Larson held me for their time. Then into the void that followed came Girl Genius; and Kaja Foglio pointed me (and countless others) to Narbonic just as Dave was letting slip the dogs of madness. From there I rediscovered this great, big, wonderful world of comics and comic artists. Holy butterflies, Batman! It's just super!!!

fluffy <3 (fluffy) says: I originally subscribed to Modern Tales for Jon Rosenberg's "Patent Pending."  I stayed subscribed because of Narbonic.  I did not subscribe to Rosenberg's own "$3/month to see what i may or may not put out next!" wall.
Brian Rogers (billionsix) says:

God, I hated Modern Tales for stealing Narbonic from me. I remember writing a (very well-reasoned) email to Shaenon explaining all the (perfectly logical) reasons why you shouldn't go to a subscription model.

A few weeks after switching over, I lost internet for a few weeks. I was left behind in the story and couldn't catch up. I looked over at Modern Tales to decide if I wanted to subscribe, but didn't because Narbonic was the only strip there I wanted to read. Joey Manley had taken all the comics I was interested in, and spread them out over maybe three different pay sites. (I still suspect he did it as a deliberate plot against me, despite never having met me, and having no motive to do so.)

About 3 or 4 years later, I decided that I missed Narbonic enough to subscribe. It was fun catching up, but I still hate the fact that I wasn't able to follow the fun as it happened. :(

But I'm not bitter. ;)

So It Begins (soitbegins) says: The irony is that it's now all available on WebComicsNation for quite a lot less.
Robin Paulus (bubble181) says:

You mean, "for free", right? I mean, I know I'm not paying, and to the best of my knowledge, I'm not bypassing anything =S

If shipping wasn't so dreadful, I'd have had Narbonic stuff all over the place here, but, well, poor students 'n stuff...(I know, I'm the type of reader why they *should* switch to subscription systems...But, noooo)

Kisai Yuki (kisai) says:

I was so sad that Narbonic went pay only (I seem to recall writing a 'will never work' message on the message board), and ultimately at this point in time Joey was also trying to get other webcomics to join and I was doing work for at the time though I don't recall this invoking much other than a micropayments debate everytime moderntales came up.

Dark Tiger (dark-tiger) says:

I recall throwing up a 1000 word rant up on the Nice forums when this was first announced. It boiled down to "this is going to explode, and Shannon is (and this is a direct quote) going to take her gerbils and go home." The Cartoonist responded, although all I can remember of that was that she refered to me as "Mr. the Tiger" and stated a more or less exact date for when she planned to end the comic. I THINK that was the first time the Allmighty Cartoonist admitted that she had a long term story with an end publicly.


I ended up paying for MT for about 6 months, although the only comic I followed other than Narbonic was Makeshift Miracle. As I recall, all of the others I liked had either monthly update schedules or missed so many updates that they might as well have been once a month. I'll admit, since at that point, Modern Tales was being sold as a site with guaranteed updates on time, I was miffed to say the least.

Beth Bever (dementron) says:

Aaaand here's where I stopped reading Narbonic during its original run, which was a shame because I have a great love for mad scientists and gerbils, and I think this is an awesome comic. It's not that I think webcomics artists shouldn't be compensated for their work, I totally do, but something about putting content that's usually free behind a subscription fee really rubs me the wrong way. I didn't want to have to pay for the whole site when I was only interested in one comic, and living on student loans really didn't help the situation any.

Speaking of compensation, though, that reminds me I haven't donated to the Tip Jar (heehee, Tip) at Skin Horse in a while. I think I'll put my money where my mouth is and go do that.

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The education bestowed on Shaenon K. Garrity by her parents had been expensive, athletic and prolonged. ... full profile