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Nathan Davies

Bored of the same old routine? Want to hang out with heroes? Fancy taking your frustrations out on the worlds greatest villains? I know just the place.

If comics are your thing then is great place to unwind on-line; it’s bright, interactive, fun and full of features. For example, it’s current main attraction is a regularly updated web version of the sold out comic series Ultimate Spider-Man. This can be accessed through a simple index of available episodes (each amounting to approximately half a printed monthly issue) reached off the main menu and is launched through a separate browser window. Although this can be annoying at first, as you have to close this makeshift player before you can re-enter the main site, it does negate the need for any exotic plug-ins such as the latest version of Flash.

However, if reading Spider-Man isn't what you're after, then shooting at him might be. In addition to the on-line comics, has a section dedicated to keeping the fun orientated fans happy. Aptly named "Fun and Games", it is home to Spiderhunt (an arcade-style shooting game), a Thor themed 'whack-a-mole' (where you can bludgeon pop-up villains with the heroic thunder god’s hammer in a very stress relieving fairground manner), and more. You should also check this area out if you're interested in entering the regular art competitions or writing for Fan Fiction (where a paid writer starts a new story each month, and fans have to continue it over three weekly instalments). For the “True Believers” there is also plenty of information on all Marvel’s monthlies, and even a section on about the company itself that provides information on everything from advertising on the web-site to internships and employment opportunities within the Marvel group.

Although cluttered and colourful this site is very easy to use, as all the pages are topped with navigation bars (with the links being repeated at the bottom), and there is even a dedicated internal search engine that can sift the site for a keyword in a variety of categories. As a whole then, is a great place to start looking for comic book related web antics, but it is only the tip of the iceberg. A rather large iceberg.

If you want more e-comics then you should definitely point your browser to (the official web-site of America’s leading publisher of licensed titles, Dark Horse Comics) as it boasts more than any other site to date, and they’re animated. Weird creatures run in and out of the frames in Stan Sakai's samurai rabbit saga Usagai Yojimbo, flies circle the fresh corpse at Hellboy's feet; in almost every panel of each of the 10+ comics, something is moving. And it gets better. Dark Horse recently started running a serialised animated feature (cartoon) called Silence: Dream Theft, on the site. Add to that the fact that even the comics get theme music openings and give audio prompts to 'turn the page', and you have a truly multi-media web-site.

In addition to the comics and animation, also includes a number of 'zones' relating to groups of titles published by the company. For example, the Star Wars zone contains everything up to and including a chronological listing of all the Star Wars comics and graphic novels in print. The is also the obligatory shop feature and a calendar of events that can be used as a second index. All in all, it's a pretty impressive and functional site, but be warned; because it has so many animated features it can be painfully slow to load, and if it gets stuck bringing up the next page, the prompt noises will become very annoying. Having said that, this is a great web-site for the patient.

If web-toons sound interesting, then you should visit the DC homepage at as it provides links to a number of animation’s showcased within the Time Warner group (now owned by AOL). However, for those of you can’t be bothered to search for them yourselves, here are two of the best.

DC’s flagship character, Superman, is now appearing in over 30 short webisodes over at Warner’s With experienced writers who have contributed to the Superman continuity in print, these cartoons promise to deliver some good stuff, but the 3D rendered animation, for me, fails to capture the spirit of the character. For casual web-watchers, however, this should not be a problem, and these cartoons certainly stand as a testament to what the internet can do for comics. Just remember to leave space enough on your hard drive for any plug-ins that the site asks you to install.

Gotham Girls, featuring Batgirl, Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn from the popular Batman Animated series, is also recommended, and has been well received by the comic reading community. Set up as a separate site, this offers two different three minute episodes and associated games, that maintain the look of the original cartoon. Unfortunately, these take even longer than Dark Horse’s features to load (at last count, upwards of five minutes), and unless you’ve got the right software and hard ware, the image will actually remain static while the voices and music play on.

For those of you more interested in games, often with the chance win prizes, should be your next stop. The home page for Jeff Smith’s company Cartoon Books, this site is essentially a virtual model of the town of Boneville (the central location for the long running cult comic series Bone) with the various features being represented the ‘places of interest’; such as the Arcade. Here you can find another whack-a-mole clone ( ‘Whack-a-stupid, stupid rat creature’- they’re so cute!), which has four different difficulty settings and the option of entering a league. The idea is that each month the visiting player with the highest new score wins a load of Bone goodies. Similar prizes can also be won by entering the trivia quiz and most of the other games on the site.

For actual fans of Smith’s creations there are a number of features and a regular news section (which can be found in the Barbers Shop), as well as a preview of the current art work on the man’s Drawing Board. You can also check out the latest Bone merchandise, and there is even a tour of Boneville in 3D.

Fans of the cute and the obscure should also visit the Viz Communications web-site (, as they are the leading US distributor of Japanese comics and cartoons. Although there are no comics or games as such, you can send your friends e-mails on Pokemon ‘stationary’, and post your own pocket monster images in the fan art section. Unfortunately, due to the popularity of Pikachu and co. this site is typically jammed up with a lot of fan traffic and is, consequently, slow.

Practically every comic book company these days has some presence on the web. It’s big business, and a great way to get new readers. They’re really are worth exploring, but here’s a tip; if you are looking for fun features and stress relieving games stick to the companies who have a wide fan base and colourful characters, otherwise you’ll find yourself face to rotten face with depressing horror characters such as Spawn. You have been warned.

© Nathan Davies 2001

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