It was said that, if you sat at the Moulin Rouge long enough, everyone in the world would eventually pass by. Not, obviously, a literal statement. Nor is it literally true that, if you visit justthefirstframe.com, you will see the first frame of every webcomic on the Internet.
But there are a lot of them there, and, if you click on each one, you may feel the world passing you by, because some are downright awful, and some aren't bad and a few are pretty good.
Obviously, if I were concerned about preserving my gatekeeper function, I wouldn't point out a place where you can find it all without a guide, but I think the site shows exactly why a gatekeeper can be a pretty good thing.
I like that it steers you to the individual sites, so that the artists get some benefit, even if you take one look and turn away. Meanwhile, unlike places that simply mention a strip, you can see the first panel and make your own judgment as to who is original and who is ripping off somebody obvious and so forth.
Bearing in mind, of course, that some of the funniest strips on the web are also some of the most artistically inept. (Also bearing in mind that, while there is such a thing as being purposefully minimalist, there is also such a thing as trying to pull our leg on the subject.)
I was reminded of this site by a long discussion over at Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter on digital delivery of comics.
Tom goes wordy on weekends, which is his privilege, and, weekends being low traffic anyway, are a good time for in-depth discussion. In this case, he posed the question "What Do You Want From Digital?" and then posted some interesting responses from a variety of sources.
Comics Reporter is comic-book rather than comic-strip oriented, but both forms are very well addressed in the discussion and it's worth scrolling through, even if you don't read every word. I found the two that are highlighted with links to the speaker's website to also be the most compelling, quite by coincidence. Your mileage will almost certainly vary.
All creative types have to think about this stuff, because simply formatting for computers is beginning to mean missing the market. I'm glad to see that people a lot more experienced and sophisticated than I am are struggling with the possibilities.
I also suppose it will finally boil down to another of those Betamax/VHS solutions that is determined not by quality but by marketing.
Then there is this: Several contributors there are talking about downsizing their massive physical collections of old comics and, while it's really, really encouraging to run into people who collect comic books because they want to read them, rather than as investments, I think they're going to be very disappointed in how the digital thing shakes out.
Recently, "On the Media" featured a segment on copyright, since the Sonny Bono Law is up for renewal. The Sonny Bono law (passed in the wake of his death as a tribute to the ability of Congress to pass stupid, harmful laws for sentimental reasons and to benefit massive corporations) basically makes everything produced after 1923 unavailable more or less forever.
The vast majority of books (as well as sheet music, etc.) that are still under copyright but not current are no longer available. The example used in the discussion is the PBS documentary "Eyes on the Prize," which has disappeared because the licensing for its music has expired, but it also applies, for instance, to the works of important but not classic writers of the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s and onward.
Which is to say that, if you want to read the first Superman, you'd easily find a licensed copy being sold by someone or other, but you might not find a copy of the second Superman. And ditto with the sorts of minor classics and delightful oddities most of those aficianados have stashed in boxes in their attics.
Anyway, go read the discussion, or at least scroll through and sample. It's very much worth your time.
And, while we're on the slightly-off-topic, this is Free Comic Book Day. If you drop by your local comic emporium, you can pick up special editions of comics, some of them complete stories and others just teasers, but all worth a gander at that price.
Think of it as a chance to start a new box.