I might as well tell a little about my plans for the website in development at Webcomicsnation. I see a few people have gone over to look at it in the past few days, and they'll have noticed the Chronicles of the Witch Queen title graphic, and wondered what the hell that might be.
My primary purpose for the site right now is to play with the space and the Content Management System a bit, whenever I have the time and inclination to. I'm testing it out by pretending I have a real website to run on it, with multiple comics. If in the near future it ends up actually being a real website, then that's a success.
Chronicles of the Witch Queen is a catchall name for a series of stories created by Geir Strøm, Daniel Østvold and myself over the years, including Courtly Manners and The Eye of the Underworld as well as two comics by Geir and Daniel that I published in print in the late 1990s. Some of Daniel's material has been published on the web by me as well, and if you search carefully, you may be able to find it. I would like to gather up all those stories in one place online and re-publish them in a polished-up form for people to read. We wouldn't need to do a lot of new work, and we might be able to make a few bucks off it through subscriptions or advertising. However, for this to happen, we would need to have Daniel on board, which we haven't accomplished yet. If we don't get Daniel on board, I'll probably leave the already-configured material on the WCN site, add a whole bunch of other comics by me and re-title it "Reinder Dijkhuis' comics"
Right now, I've got both Courtly Manners serials and The Eye of the Underworld running on the WCN site. That's everything I've drawn so far that fits under the Chronicles of the Witch Queen umbrella. We may decide to re-run everything in chronological order, so the comics may disappear. For contractual reasons, Courtly Manners is currently only available as a subscription series. I'm still working on that aspect of the site though.
I'm pleased with how Webcomicsnation is turning out. I would never publish Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan on it, because it doesn't allow me the level of control that I want and that other solutions already offer me, but for the sort of project outlined above, a collection of related, shortish comic stories, it's really quite suitable and easy to use. Compared to what I'm using for my work on Modern Tales, the control panel is much improved. I especially like having some of the tools that on Modern Tales are only given to the editors. Being able to create a record for a different comic and doing all the page settings and activation for that is very convenient, and is the reason why Courtly Manners is not organised the same way on the WCN site as on Modern Tales.
There are some aspects of it I like less. The design options are a bit limited. However, I've already found that people like Tom Hart have been able to work around these limitations. The HTML source code on Tom's homepage is more than a bit hairy, but the bottom line is that for most of his readers, his home page looks full-featured, with a styled navigation bar above his title and a sidebar on the right. So those things are possible. I'm not going to do these things though; I'm more interested in seeing what's possible with just the functionality WCN offers. Once features such as cast pages are released to us testers, and I've put all these things in place, then I'll see what the site still needs. And as Spike's website shows, it's possible to create a decent looking site with just the basic tools.
Another problem is [warning: tech-speak ahead] that the HTML output is pretty inefficient. If you view source on the pages, you see a 160-line Style Sheet included in each page, with extra local style declarations attached to many HTML tags. This really, really should be a single external CSS file linked in the HTML header. There would be some complications: each series would still require its own CSS file but it would keep the HTML cleaner and faster, and it would allow the reuse of the CSS file between pages within a series. A few runs through the Validator would also improve the HTML output from the CMS.
But I'll bet that for most of the intended user base, these problems are of lesser concern. After all, the idea behind WCN is to shield webcartoonists from having to deal with precisely the sort of computer blather I used in the paragraph above. For beginning webcartoonists or anyone needing to set a website up quickly, I think WCN is pretty nice.
The testing is bringing up many bugs, which are being fixed impressively fast. By the time that's done, WCN will be a very usable service indeed.
Update: broken HTML code fixed on August 8. The fact that no one pointed this out to me even though an entire paragraph stopped making sense as a result of the broken code does not encourage me...