When I was younger, I was a huge fan of the Fantastic Four. I got a copy of one of their books as an eleven-year-old, and I was absolutely hooked. Naturally, I began buying all the issues I could, and I kept the notes I made about the comics in a three-ring binder. Later, when the world wide web came about, I transferred all of that information online and, freed from the space limitations of a binder, kept adding to it. Before long, I found I was running the largest Fantastic Four fan site online.
That was a passion project of mine. I found the characters and their stories spoke to me in a way unlike any others I’d come across, and the site I built reflected that. But one thing I had to be careful of was crossing a legal line. I couldn’t put my own FF stories out there, or make money from selling unlicensed material. (Although I did knowingly push the issue by selling bootleg copies of the never-released Fantastic Four film from Roger Corman. Marvel’s legal department eventually called me on that.)
It stands to reason that nearly every half-decent character speaks to someone in much the same way. Where you discover just the right character at just the right moment in your life, and become passionate about following their adventures. Certainly characters like Wonder Woman, Snoopy, and Spider Jerusalem. But there’s bound to be people passionate about older characters, too, that aren’t being used much currently.
Gene Luen Yang relatively recently discovered a Golden Age hero by the name of The Green Turtle. The character only had a handful of appearances in the 1940s, so Yang took the passion he found for the character and started crafting new stories for him. (The character had fallen into public domain, so he didn’t have to sort out any rights issues.) As a well established comic author, Yang’s stories have been picked up and published under the title The Shadow Hero.
I use all that to preface an idea that I haven’t seen anywhere before. Namely, where someone comes across one of those old comics, becomes passionate about it, and then re-publishes the material as a webcomic. Some artwork might need to be cleaned up digitally, or perhaps reformatted slightly, but if you fell in love with, for example, Atoman, there’s nothing from stopping you from reposting his adventures on the web. There are sites like the Digital Comic Museum that host digital versions of many old comics, but I have not seen any that tweak them to a webcomic format.
Admittedly, a lot of those Golden Age comics have not aged well. Many contain horribly racist and sexist stereotypes or speak to a long-outdated mindset or simply weren’t done very well in the first place. So it’s harder for those comics to speak to people in the 21st century. But, as I noted above, Yang did find a passion for The Green Turtle, so it’s not impossible either. So I’m left wondering why there aren’t at least some people putting together webcomics based on old Golden Age comics; I’d think it would be a great way to get into webcomics for someone who perhaps didn’t have the skill to write or draw a new story as well as they’d like. So with so many public domain comics out there, and content so easy to generate online, why don’t we see any of this?