I’ve been looking for a new creative outlet for a while now, and I’ve found it in the form of a new webcomic called Ferret in a Lab Coat. The concept of a webcomic has fascinated me for quite some time, as the potential goes so far beyond traditional printed comics.
Syndicated comics fit into one of a few strict formats: the daily multi-panel (landscape), the daily single-panel (roughly square), and the Sunday format. Newspapers need this structure to make sure that the comic page lays out neatly every day. If Dilbert fit into a particular space yesterday, it will fit that same space tomorrow.
When I started planning for Ferret, I played around with ideas of what could be done on the web that can’t be done in print. I didn’t see any reason to fit a web-based comic into a set of restrictions defined by newspapers.
I pulled all of these ideas together into what I call the “Enhanced Webcomic.” Here are its components:
- CHARACTER ID: Not sure who one of the characters is? Hover over the character to see the name, click (or tap) on the character to go to the appropriate page in the cast of characters.
- HOTSPOT OBJECTS: What the heck is that thing in the drawing? Hover over it for a description, click to read about it in more detail.
- TRANSCRIPTS: Every comic has a full text transcript below the image, which helps with web searches if you want to find a particular comic again.
- VARIABLE IMAGE SIZES: In the days of newspaper comics, there were only a few size options to choose from. Daily comics were either a single-panel format (e.g. The Far Side) or a standard wide format, usually drawn as three panels. On the web, there’s no reason to limit the size. Randall Monroe takes this to extremes in his comic, XKCD, with comics like the scrollable Click and Drag, the big wide Movie Narrative Charts, and the really tall Earth Temperature Timeline. Zach Weinersmith’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is also well-known for very tall comics. Randall and Zach are both inspirations of mine.
- TEXT LINKS IN THE COMIC ART: Certain words in the comic itself may also be links to related cartoons or reference sites. I’m experimenting with highlighting the linked text in red vs. leaving it as an Easter egg for readers to find.
- MULTIPLE NAVIGATION PATHS: We don’t all read comics the same way. Some start at the beginning and read forward, some folks look at titles and pick something interesting, some start at the end and read backward, some jump around randomly, some look at series or story arcs. I’ve built Ferret with standard forward/backward navigation, an archive page, and a dropdown menu above and below each comic showing the titles of every single one. I’ll be adding a random link shortly.
So far, I’ve put up a dozen comics, ranging from science to poetry to politics to screws.