I happen to love newspaper comics, but over the years I’ve either not gotten a newspaper, or not gotten a newspaper carrying all the comics I’d like to read. I know I’m not alone in loving comics; just take a look at Comics Curmudgeon. The people who both read and post comments there clearly love comics, which is half of what makes it fun. Add in to it with some of the cartoonists clearly joining in with the joke, and really its a lot of fun.
The lack of print has made things difficult in the past, but I have tended to get by. The general solution most people use is to go to the online sites of newspapers carrying the comic of their choice, in particular, one that also puts it up online. The more industrious of us use things like the Perl tool
dailystrips. Basically, you tell it the pattern for finding a comic of a particular date, and it scrapes the website for that comic. This works, but has some hangups. Most importantly, it means the newspaper is not getting any money for the ads they could be showing you. Additionally, it means the tool needs to run every day, if one can have any hope of following the comics regularly. Finally,
dailystrips hasn’t been updated since 2003. It has amazingly worked for the most part,1 but eventually it will stop working.
In the last year, new solutions have been cropping up. The New York Times has a good article detailing some of them.2 I first noticed that GoComics was offering RSS feeds for each of their individual comics. I have about 40 comics I read daily, and this helped me prune down the way I get comics otherwise. It actually fit in with how I get the web-only comics, which of course were using RSS already.
The second change is rather recent; in the last month or so, Comics.com became free. And in addition, they provide a single RSS feed for each user, containing the comics in them. Again, I was able to prune that list.
For one reason or another, this didn’t completely prune my list of comics I had to use other methods for. This is where Comic Alert! comes in. They provide a link in an RSS feed, pointing to the page from a site providing the comic in question. This is different from
dailystrips in that you actually go to the page, thus seeing all the ads the newspaper wants you to see.
The very most recent change, noted by the New York Times, is how GoComics now has Safari Mobile-friendly (i.e. iPhone and iPod Touch friendly) pages. This is a nice touch, as I’m often using the mobile NetNewsWire app in the morning. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to make use of any user settings as of yet.3
While it’s nice to see all of this happening, it’s not entirely clear how sustainable all of this is. Comics.com doesn’t seem to be showing any ads as of yet, and it seems unlikely that this will remain the same. Hopefully, when everything settles, some of the good of this will stick around.
Partially due to forum posts on the SourceForge page, where people (used to) update the pattern for finding comics as older ones fail. ↩
Not to mention that GoComics is insistent on pushing the paid “pro” features at every turn, without mentioning at first that they are such. ↩