Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Reel Geek: Webcomics In Hollywood

Every Tuesday, Geekanerd Correspondent Bishop rocks it movie geek style...As geeks and/or nerds, I can pretty safely assume that you enjoy four things: comics, the internet, movies, and animation (if you dislike any of these things then you probably misspelled a word on Google and somehow ended up here). Well, today we’re going to talk about all four of those things coming together in a writhing orgy of tangled limbs and sweaty buttocks.

Oh my! Upcoming WebComic to Animation info and video, after the jump!

As many of you may know, Scott Kurtz, author of Player vs Player, the popular gaming comic, has launched an online animation series based on PVP. The series is set for 12 episodes, pumped out once a month, for a fee of $24.95 for the year. So far the reaction has been a mixed bag, but the internet is full of critics who would nitpick the way a popular website was giving away free money, so I’d rather not sit around debating how a character’s voice didn’t sound like what a 13 year old in Iowa felt it should.

PVP: The Series is being brought to us by Blind Ferret Entertainment, which is the studio that produced Tim Buckley’s “Ctrl+Alt+Del” series last year (see the trailer here). Blind Ferret is the creation of “Least I Could Do” writer Ryan Sohmer et al. Now I know I’m supposed to be discussing movies here, but bear with me.

Blind Ferret recently announced plans to create a full-length feature animated film starring the cast of “Looking for Group,” another comic that Sohmer writes. Sohmer posted a short that he and the BF team had put together for everyone to see, so take a quick peek at the video below.

Now, I don’t know about you, but the very fact that webcomic creators are pushing into the frontier of animation and film is pretty exciting to me. What we’re seeing is another expansion by webcomics into a venue traditionally only seen in syndicated comics. Garfield, Heathcliff, Peanuts and others were all syndicated newspaper strips that branched out into merchandising, which included animated features and television series. Webcomics have really only proven themselves to be financially profitable in the past few years, with powerhouses like PVP and Penny Arcade and collectives like Dumbrella and Dayfree Press. Now it looks like webcomics are taking up the challenge to produce animated series and movies without the backing of a large syndicate, and personally I’m glad to see them doing it. Sure things are going to be a little rough at first and there are going to be a lot of false starts and misfires, but that’s just part of the game.

Blind Ferret said that CAD: The Series was indeed financially profitable, and PVP still seems to be attracting subscribers, so we may start seeing more and more webcomics pushing into the animation field. Better still, we’re going to be seeing them get there on their own terms (or at least much closer than they would working under a syndicate and a network). Now I know some people out there are going to scoff and roll their eyes because webcomics are “trying too hard” or “going commercial.” Well those people have herpes. All we’re seeing is artists branching into another field of expression, one that allows them to create new material and give a new voice to their work. It may also push web-based animation ala Homestar Runner more into the spotlight and encourage more young artists into animation. This means not only more series like Homestar, but more series like “Venture Brothers” hitting the channels as networks see that these web-based series can garner an audience and make more compromises with creators about content and themes that carry over to air. Sohmers’ “Least I Could Do” has already been optioned and is in development for a TV series.

I’m looking forward to seeing web-based animated series grow and garner larger audiences. The scripts will probably be a little unsteady early on (writing for the screen has a different pacing than with a 4-6 panel comic strip), and the animation will be a little uneven, but go watch an early episode of the Simpsons and tell me you KNEW that it was going to be the success that it was.

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