A few days ago, Leigh Walton, marketing coordinator of Top Shelf and writer of Picture Poetry, hit me on the instant messaging machine. “Have you been following ‘Tikboom’ on Top Shelf 2.0?” he asked. I hadn’t, and while we talked, I caught up on Tikboom.
It turns out that Tikboom basically rules, and you can see the proof here. It’s a light-hearted story starring three little creatures (Cake, Turtle, and something that almost definitely isn’t a banana). They’re pretty pissed at global warming, like all good creatures, and set out on a quest to stop it. What follows is a tale involving ice cream, a nuclear bomb, and an octopus. It has this very care-free feel to it that I enjoy, and the art is equal parts cute and expressive. I’m also extremely fond of the hand-lettered sound effects. That kind of thing shows both careful attention to craft and a willingness to use all of the comics page as art. I wish more people employed letters-as-art– John Workman is definitely one of the major reasons why I love Walt Simonson’s Thor and Orion as much as I do.
The comic is cute and funny in a way that isn’t cloying. In fact, the humor comes off pretty deadpan to me sometimes. Characters say funny things, but the humor isn’t punctuated with a guy pulling an oh-so-wacky-whooooooaoaooaaoaaaa-Jim Carrey face or anything. It’s just funny. It doesn’t need parlor tricks to make you laugh. The bit where the turtle is talking to the cop in chapter three and slipping, falling, and explaining that the giant missile is not a car, it is a missile, is solid gold to me. It’s just good, straightforward humor. Show your friends.
I’d be remiss and a jerk if I didn’t point out Top Shelf 2.0 as a whole, too. It’s updated Monday through Friday with something new for you to read. It’s also basically the best company-run digital comics portal out. Marvel, DC, and Top Cow all have digital comics portals, and all three leave something to be desired. I’ve tried to read Shadowline books where the scrollbars disappear, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited is an unwieldy beast, and Zuda is slow.
Top Shelf gets it right. All you need to put comics on the web is a jpeg and a couple of arrows. TS2.0’s interface is simple. There’s a breadcrumbs header, which lists the site, the creator, and the title of the comic. You can click on them to go back a level. There’s a drop down box flanked on either side by two arrows. The arrows let you go forward and back, and the box has the pages listed. And beside that is another drop down, this time for related comics. Here you can find comics by the same creator or in the same series.
We’re all on high speed here, but that’s no reason not to keep it this simple. I’ve grown pretty fond of reading webcomics on my phone, and TS2.0 is basically the only comics company who’s doing it right. I realize that Marvel/DC need to serve ads or track views or whatever, but I honestly don’t even want to use MDCU. It’s clunky and ugly and awkward. If they had a TS2.0-style front-end, I’d be way more interested and way more likely to use it. As-is… eh, I’m okay without it. There are plenty of webcomics out there that actually want me to read them.
JPG. Couple of arrows. Keep it simple. TS2.0 gets it right.