Henry Kuo has created something new and unique in the way of webcomics. No, Henry isn’t a cartoonist, but he loves webcomics so much that he created “Just the First Frame,” a website that exposes the masses to new work by various cartoon artists. Just the First Frame is HERE.
Everything is featured from long storyboard type dramas to daily gag-a-day strips and panels. The website is layed out in that you click on the page and the comics are right there in small square boxes. It’s really a matter of gut reaction as to what attracts your attention. I like the way my comic Tomversation.com appears on the site, I feel the quick panel image attracts visitors.
Henry crops the first frame, as the website’s names implies, and you get a feel for that day’s comic and whether you would like to read it or not. If you like a certain style or genre, you can see it right away without going through a list of titles. It’s all visual, which is what webcomics are about anyway. What’s also great about this is that when you click on the first frame image, it takes you right to that comic’s website. You can also minimize the comic image overload by blocking the comics you are not interested in, so they won’t show up on the monitor, making it easier with less to sift through.
To date, Henry has added almost 30,000 panels, yet it doesn’t look or feel overwhelming. It really works and is a great way to find about about new webcomics. It’s perfect for all sorts of fans since all genres are featured. I like the “Randomize” button, which allows you to mix up the page and have comics randomly appear in no particular order.
Henry did an analysis last year of what were the most common comics clicked, in first place were sexy girl comics, which I guess is no surprise. In second place, and always insulting to me, a cartoonist, are the stick figure comics. They got the most clicks after sexy girls. Go figure.
I asked Henry a few questions about the site.
Tom Falco: How long have you been doing Just the First Frame.
Henry Kuo: I launched the site on March 1 of 2012, which is kind of shocking becauseit just hasn’t felt that long, but that date feels ages ago right now, especially considering that I’ve only missed a couple days not updating the site even through holiday travels and vacations.
Tom: You actually go through each comic and crop it? How long does that take per comic and in total for the day?
Henry: Yes, I still manually crop each comic. A while back, someone offered to give me some insight into how it could be done programatically, but there’s just so many small details that I come across daily into how a panel should be cropped that I just can’t see how I could write an algorithm to cover it all. Having done this for a while now, I’ve gotten quite fast at it though. Roughly, I’d estimate an average of 140 panels a day, and I can get them all cropped in about 15 minutes, so it’s never really been a burden on my time or energy. I have a few Photoshop actions that give me options on how to crop a panel depending on if there is a clear thick frame to select or if it’s easier for me to select two opposite corners within and expand the selection a few pixels before cropping. It’s somewhat of a meditative experience and some days I’m done before I realize. There’s additional time and work in gathering the screenshots and then getting them into code to upload, but over time, I’ve figured out more efficient processes to do those as well.
Tom: How do you decide which comics to choose daily or do you post all of the updated comics on your list?
Henry: I pretty much post every comic that comes through my RSS reader. I might skip some single panel comics if it’s difficult to see how it could be cropped without revealing the punchline, but the panels are often downsized small enough that the text gets obscured anyway so it’s ok. In terms of which comics appear higher or lower on the page, I randomize the order before adding them to the site, because otherwise, certain comics would tend to appear higher simply based on the time of day I usually check my RSS reader and when comics update their RSS feed.
Tom: Do you have any favorite comics?
Henry: Aside from everyone’s popular favorites, I’m absolutely in love with Broodhollow and False Positive. I also loved and followed Kukuburi until its creator put it on hold but just got word that after almost two years,he’s planning on coming back to it which I’m immensely excited for. And I’m just now realizing that all three of these have somewhat of a dark side to them.
Tom: Are you a cartoonist? What is your cartoon named?
Henry: While I majored in illustration in college, I’ve never had an idea for a comic to create.
Tom: How many comics are now listed on the site?
Henry: There’s currently 856.
Tom: There is no advertising. Is that something you plan on in the future? There is a lot of value to your site.
Henry: I haven’t given much thought to advertising or any other forms of monetization. The most I would consider is having a basic banner ad placement as long as it’s not disruptive to the flow of the site.
Tom: What about an app, any plans for that?
Henry: No plans for an app. I’ve never considered it before, but I think it would be difficult to make it a good experience. While I’ve made my site responsive down to mobile sizes, I don’t enjoy viewing it on mobile myself with having to pinch zoom on the landing comic sites. I personally don’t see comics in general as being a great mobile experience because neither strips nor pages size naturally down to a mobile screen.
Tom: What is next? Do you have any ideas you would like to implement, although I think it’s perfect in its simplicity.
Henry: I’ve implemented most everything I’d like to while keeping to the core concept of displaying panels that link to the full comic sites. Other ideas I’ve had are to add filters or tags for comic types and to allow user accounts for the ability to fully customize which comics get displayed and in what priority. But they’re both daunting tasks to approach and I’m perfectly happy with where the site is at right now.
Tom: Thank you Henry. Appreciate it. I’m sure after this story runs, you’ll be receiving many more submissions and many more daily readers.
Tom Falco, creator of the webcomic www.Tomversation.com has been doing cartoons and illustrations for many years. His comics have appeared in newspapers, magazines, books and online. Tom is also a journalist whose work appears in various publications including the Miami Herald, Huffington Post, Examiner and now the Webcomic Alliance.