Apr 27th 2012 By: Lauren Davis
Because my RSS reader isn't nearly full enough, I'm always on the prowl for new webcomics. Most of the time, I find webcomics through creators I'm already reading, comics sites like this one (including more webcomic-specific sites like The Webcomic Overlook
or recommendations from friends. Sometimes, though, I just want to cruise through long lists of comics and see what's been flying under my radar. Just the First Frame
is the perfect scratch for that itch, displaying the first panel of dozens of recently updated webcomics, so that you can discover new comics based on how well they hook you in with their art and just a few words of test.
We gave a quick mention to Just the First Frame
a few weeks ago, and I've been playing around with the webcomic discovery tool since it pinged my radar. Aggregation is a dirty word in webcomics. A lot of folks, many of them well-meaning, some of them hoping to make a quick buck off of the hard work of comics creators, have set up sites and applications that aggregate a series of webcomics on one page. As you might imagine, few webcomic creators take kindly to seeing their work scraped off their sites and planted elsewhere. What Henry Kuo has done with Just the First Frame is different, however; he's managed to create an aggregator that promotes webcomics while forcing you to click through to the creator's website if you want to read the whole thing.
Each day, Kuo hand-clips the first panel (or in single-panel gag strips, the first part of the joke) of dozens of freshly updated webcomics, and places them on his site with full attribution. If a panel catches your eye, you can click on it to read the full comic on its home website. If you like it, maybe you'll turn into a regular reader. If not, there are plenty of other webcomics to explore.
When I first scrolled through Just the First Frame, I thought, "This is a clever idea, but there's no way it's scalable. As more and more people ask Kuo to add their webcomics to his site, it will just become clogged up with low-quality comics, making the gems harder to find." Fortunately, Kuo seems to avoid this problem with the inclusion of the "Popular"
view, which lets you see only those comics that have a higher view count. There's certainly an uptick in the average quality of the art in the Popular section, but at the moment, the "Random" section is well worth the occasional scroll-through. I've already added several webcomics to my reading queue, and I'm not sure I would have discovered these particular comics elsewhere.
I just hope that Kuo's able to keep up with the increasing number of comics he has to crop each day. Perhaps some comics-loving programmer could help him devise a script that would make his task a tiny bit easier.