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Online Comics :: Megatokyo18 December 2002

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Hello again, I have sat down and thought of a couple of ideas to try to do, keyword being try. So let's begin....


Previous Column Policing the Internet
Date 04/12/2002
Views 254

Well, not as much response as I would have liked, but I did get some. Policing the Internet will still be a hot subject for some time and its in the press a lot now as well, due to some 'crack downs' on people that really should know better. Like minors selling illegal copy's of games on auction sites.... Darwin Award anyone?

Today's treat

The title of today's treat is: Online Comics

Now, since the previous two articles were not a light read, I thought I would do something a little bit more interesting and down to everyday Earth.

As many of you are already aware, there are several hundred online comics out there, I cannot cover them all, so I've decided to cover the ones that seem to be the most popular.

Online comics have been around for some time now, each one going that one little step further than the last, there are no rules to these comics, they can grow out of all proportions into new areas and best of all, they are free. This means that creativity is down to the author, and not a story line set out just to make some money, while at the same time being able to attract many more readers to such wonders as Megatokyo, Penny Arcade, Real Life and Little Gamers.

I think, the best way to go forward is to describe you one of them, as there is no real way to go about this politically, comics, like any other literature always have been about emotions that they create.

Megatokyo, is probably one of the best and most interesting ideas I have come across while working on this article. When I first came across it, I was startled by its originality. The story line revolves around two gamers who managed to get stuck in Japan, and seem to rather enjoy their disposition, the story is taken on a wild goose chase from there, ending ( where we are today) with a battle between good and evil. Somehow, it works to give a very interesting and involving plot.

The artist, taking the alias Piro, includes himself in the story, as a character that is supposed to be loosely based around the real person, as with many of the characters in the series. What started off as a pastime, between two creative minds working with each other, is slowly but surely turning into a profitable comic, which has had a lot of recognition from the online community.

Now, as a further little treat, I managed to get an interview with Mr Piro, have a read... its quite interesting. It really speaks for itself to be honest.

Me: "How did you get into online comics?"

Piro: "When I first got onto the net years and years ago, like a lot of people I wanted to put up a website. My first website was actually a fan page for the series 3x3 Eyes. After that, I worked on some other fan sites, which is pretty common in the states - working with things you scan from magazines, etc... but I found that I wasn't really happy just regurgitating other people's work and whatnot. The first iteration of 'fredart' was a tiny little thumbnail page that I just put up some scans of my work, a few years later, I started wandering around and visiting various Japanese fan art sites, these inspired me to take the plunge and to try to do a site that was fully my own work - to try to create my own content, not just rehash what I found on the web or in magazines. My drawing style was always pretty illustration - I never really experimented with sequential art but what I liked to do was pour a lot of feeling into the pieces that I did draw, I started to find that some drawings, even when well done, just weren't interesting, while others seemed to have something far more intriguing to them, and these would often inspire lines of thought and story ideas. It was Rodney who started pestering me with the idea that I should do a webcomic. He was a big fan of webcomics, and kept pestering me to check them out. After a while, I found myself reading a few of them, and I started thinking about what he wanted to do. Really, in an effort to get me off his back about it, I did a few comics (the first two MT comics), he put them up on the web, and I forgot about it for a while. Right off the bad, it was pretty good, which really puzzled me, because for the first year the art sucked horribly. Rod kept bugging me to do more because the reaction people had to the two that we did was very good. I made two decisions that effected and I think helped to get it off the ground; the first was to go in and design a real site for the comic - which is what you pretty much see today (I did that over the course of a weekend). Then, I decided that since people seemed to be ok with my pencil work, that I would try pencilling the comics, not inking them. I am not a good inker - the first two were inked, but it seemed to loose something in the inking, so I redid them, redesigned the site over the course of a weekend, and had a static page up for Monday. Then Penny Arcade, who largo had talked with quite a bit, linked the page from his commentary area. We started getting a lot of traffic, and these visitors seemed to want more, so I started to try to catch up, and have been trying to ever since..."

Me: "What gave you the idea of such an off hand story line?"

Piro: "Well, the basic elements of the story - two gamers get stuck in Japan, was largo's idea, he didn't want to get much more complicated than that - he was more into the idea of doing humour oriented strips. He was ok with the story stuff as long as it was still humorous. My problem is that I have propensity to develop long, convoluted and complex stories - that's what *I* like. A lot of where MT is today, from a story perspective, evolved as I dug into what I felt I wanted to do with the story. Technically, the running off to Japan thing is straight out of the other project I was working on, 'warmth', there are other similarities (in fact, I expect to hear a lot of 'hey, just is ripped off out of mt!' when warmth goes up - when it's actually quite the opposite). The story came together really well when I finally had to face that what Rodney wanted to do, and what I wanted to do did not mix very well, for a while it was 'ok, this one is for me, tomorrow we'll do your idea' kind of thing. Rod even got frustrated to the point that he wanted to kill off several characters, and bring zombie hoards into Tokyo and start killing people, which I refused to do, but at the same time, there was something about the two different angles that worked between Largo and Piro. And that's when the concept of the dual realities started to really take shape. See, I really think that people's worlds are more shaped by perception than raw facts. People not only see what they want to see, but they interpret it differently depending on how they see it. To me, the real trick with Megatokyo was bouncing these realities off of each other in ways that helped bring out the most interesting things in each one. The problems in our creative partnership came when Rod found it very hard to write things that had to fit within the bounds of what I was trying to do. Even so, I was flexible enough and organic enough in the creative process to work with his ideas. Great Teacher Largo was a very random idea he had that ended up working fabulously..."

Me: "So the characters are loosely based on real people and some interesting ideas..."

Piro: "Yep. I like to say that the line between the real Piro and the comic Piro is grey and vague on purpose. Its not a vanity comic - I use what parts of our personalities - both real and imagined - that work best for the story. Also, I pretty much refuse to adopt any of my female friends to it, save Sarah, because being an MT character involves a lot of pain and humiliation ^_^"

Me: "So, the coming book, are you hoping on moving to paper based comics?"

Piro: "Well, not entirely. See, the method of distribution doesn't really matter. Megatokyo will always be just like it is no - 3 per week free online comic. When MT wraps up, I’ll do another one, but I will also do print only comics, in an effort to try to earn a living doing this. Here's an example; see, in Japan, you can buy weeklies that are like big telephone books, they are printed on crap paper and are basically disposable. The publishers loose money on them but what they make the money on are the collectables. Since no such structure really exists in the states, the web is an ideal place to do a very similar thing. The difference is - on the web you have to keep people's interest by offering new content on an almost daily basis. Doing a single page of manga per day is an odd and difficult setup but it works, to a point.."

Me: "So, are you planning to finish the comic anytime soon?"

Piro: "Well, not really. It's going to take quite a while to work through everything I have planned. MT is a pretty vibrant universe, really - there are a lot of things I can do with it. The better I get at drawing, it expands what I can do. Doing it full time gives me more time to do better comics."

Me: "Just a little bit off the subject, as many people would probably have wondered... Why does Piro in the comic resemble a girl? And when or which girl is he going to date?"

Piro: "Hehe. He doesnt look like a girl at all ^_^ and we're talking about piro here, do you really think he's gonna land a date any time soon? Technically, I suppose you could say piro is very 'bishonen', but I don't really think that's the case"

Me: "Sorry, my Japanese is very poor :)"

Piro: "Bishonen is a genre of japanese comics called 'beautiful boy' stuff. Basically, pretty male characters, there's also "bishoujo', which means beautiful girl. Piro is himself a parody on the character 'Ruri' in Nadesico. His bangs are sorta inspired by her batwing hair, which is why those bangs become ponytails in his female gaming avatar. Hey, whaddya want for a character that was designed in one evening just to shut a friend up? :P"

Me: "Erm.... anyway, what are your plans for MT :)"

Piro: "Gosh, I dunno you have to remember, I never really thought that I'd be sitting here doing it full time, with a book coming out next month that is already #39 on the best sellers list for december, #39 best sellers for graphic novels, that is"

Me: "Is that in the US only?"

Piro: "Actually, that's just through the distributor - there's lot more sales than that, directly to fans and to foreign markets this isn't for print, but if you compare the numbers, its actually #2 or #3 for december - but that's not official - just based on raw numbers. Lessee... there. What I really want to do, is continue doing MT like I am, while also doing another series, Warmth for example, and building up both properties so that collections of the books, and sales from the monthly Warmth series can help support me so I can continue doing this full time. I have a lot of expectations to live up to, and all I want to do is improve my art skills, my storytelling abilities, and keep people happy with my works. I always want it to be well worth peoples time, attention and money that they might spend to enjoy my stuff. Honestly, I believe that you need to be free and open with your work, and if you are, the support will come, if it will come, and for me, it has, and I really don't know what to think of it..."

Me: "How are the sales going so far?"

Piro: "Very good. MT fans are not only supportive, but people seem to genuinely want and appreciate the stuff we offer. Its a good feeling, makes every one happy, I think. I will avoid over merchandising at all costs, I absolutely refuse to 'milk' the audience."

Me: "Are you worried about piracy and copywrite infringement?"

Piro: "Not really. I've done the write things I need to do so that I can protect my work via copyrights, etc. But also, I have the main thing I think that's needed to prevent a lot of problems. I think that there is a lot of respect out there for my work from my fans, and I return that respect by trusting them. I don't believe in the idea that the net is a bad place - I think we work on the concept of respect. People won't blatantly cross my copyrights in ways that hurt me, because the fans don't want to see my site hurt"

Me: "What do you think of other online comics? And is there a lot of competition between them?"

Piro: "One of the great things about the net is that there is plenty of room for other online comics there are some REALLY great comics out there, some of them are not even very well known - but they do well based on how good they are, not how much money is spent to promote them. One of the things I have GOT to do is start promoting other comics again. I've been too wrapped up in what I've been doing to remember that without Penny Arcade exposing us, we wouldn't be where we are today. As far as competition - its all friendly competition, some of it isn't, there are some out there that really despise me and my work. That's ok, its like that in any creative biz..."

Me: "Well that's about it, thank you."

Piro: "Thanks, cu."


I am planning to do a continuation to this article with a look from the different side of the scale.

Online Comics :: Penny Arcade and Little Gamers

Well, regards


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