Schoolyard Rules!

Published On July 11, 2006 | By Joe Gordon | Comics, Reviews

David McDonagh has dropped me a line to tell us about his British webcomic:

“As its British Comic Month I thought that I’d drop you a mail to inform you of my own publication recently launched on the web, brought on by the lack of UK comics in what is now a heavily dominated American and Japanese market.

Rather than go down the superhero route I chose to create four characters inspired by modern day inner city life, characters I feel the public can relate to. I suppose the fact that Batman is my favourite comic book character (particularly in the Dark Knight Series) helped with the decision not to use super powers and have a very dark setting. The storyline is not too dissimilar to Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz and is set entirely in London.”

Nightmare edition.jpg

I’ve just been to David’s site to check out Schoolyard Rules Nightmare Edition – one little note of warning though, if, like me you usually use Firefox you will need to switch to IE to view the site properly. I was actually quite impressed by how much David got out of a minimalist approach to the artwork; lots of clear lines, white backgrounds or reworked photo images, which are stark but still quite effective, especially in conveying the urban isolation.

The minimalist art style is also well-suited to a webcomic, meaning frames post much quicker – highly textured and rendered artwork on a par with professional print work may be very pleasing to the eye, but it takes too long to load! Even over on Shooting War where Dan Goldman does use a mix of painted, colour artwork and photo images the design displays only single frames at a time to avoid slow loading and the reader clicks for each new frame.

David has arranged each chapter of Schoolyard Rules in a landscape format, with a number of panels running line-abreast in a manner similar to newspaper strips, except longer. Of course, it is a matter of personal taste, but I’ve found this sort of landscape format to be more suitable for reading webcomics. Some creators prefer to reproduce a strip as it would look on the printed page and while this is also fine, I think it is better to acknowledge that a webcomic is functioning in a different medium from a printed comic and so it may require a different form of format, more suited to the medium and easier for the reader to follow.

As David mentioned, the story roughly follows some of the plot elements from Frank L Baum’s evergreen fantasy classic The Wizard of Oz, but this is a very modern, very urban version of Oz, being set in an alternative London. David, the central character, arrives accidentally in this other London when his tower block is snatched up by a tornado; unfortunately for him it lands on the Wickedest of Wicked Bitches causing her sister, the Wicked Bitch of Windsor to swear vengeance on David’s head. Or at least on his magical shorts which he gains from the deceased Wickedest Bitch. Lottie, the Coolest Bitch of the North advises him to follow the Red Route; on his journey he will brave Flying Crackheads but also find friends in the shape of the Scarecrow (who needs to find some women) and the Cowardly Thug (who needs courage to become a proper thug).

Nightmare edition2.jpg

A little more background story, dialogue and character expansion would he handy, although really on this sort of format it would be difficult to add too much more for fear of slowing the pace or putting off web-readers (I know I have a limit to how much I am comfortable reading online as compared to print) – perhaps that’s more something which should be added to a printed version (which David is trying to get going). However, he does actually address this slight deficiency on the site, which as well as the actual webstrips, has sections on the characters, a synopsis (which I also found to be a handy primer for reading the strip) and, very interestingly, a storyboard section. I thought this last was a great touch, allowing the reader some insight into the design and layout of the finished comic.

David is now planning another webcomic, this time based around the theme of spies. Unusually he is actually encouraging visitors to his site to suggest ideas to him for plot, characters, settings and so on, so in a way this will be a collaborative online webcomic. Again I find this quite refreshing – it is something which is more difficult to do in a traditional printed comic, but webmedia can take advantage of far more easily. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy other webcomics too, but it is good to see creators exploiting the nature of the web more rather than simply recreating a normal printed page on the screen. David is accepting suggestions for the Spy Edition until the end of August.

Meanwhile, if you want a totally different British webcomic experience then check out Flying Monkey Comics (I like any excuse to write Flying Monkey, I love that title…) who we added to the British Small Press section of the FPI webstore recently. The guys have some material up on their site as well, so you can have a read before you buy (I’ve been checking it for a good giggle the last few days). Anyone else out there with a British webcomic? Is it purely a webcomic or do you hope to use it as a stepping stone into print? As a portfolio for your art? Because you want to share a story? Let us know!

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

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