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June 3, 2004
The Rise of the Videogame Sprite Comic
WIRED has a good article on the culture of videogame sprite comics (You, Too, Can Be a Comics Whiz). Basically, comic strip artists use pre-existing images from videogames and create comic strips from them. The prime example WIRED provides is Bob and George, which uses images from Megaman videogames. B&G is actually a quite interesting combination of videogame fanfic and comic.
Strangely, while the article discusses the controversy of artists using pre-generated imagery to make comics, there is no mention that such use is not limited to sprite comics. Indeed, "clip art" comic artists have been quite popular outside the sprite world, including such mainstream works as Get Your War On and This Modern World.
Nor is there a mention of the similar use of videogames to make video, one of my favorite art forms, aka machinima. For example, Red vs. Blue uses almost no original imagery in their work (all the action takes place within the videogame Halo), yet surpasses the quality of many mainstream television shows.
Nevertheless, the article does a good job of pointing out the legal limbo these comics, like fanfic, reside in. The game companies refuse or are highly reluctant to license, but they seldom seem in any hurry to go after the works legally - something you don't see much with regard to other content industries. Overall, I think this is a good thing, given the present status of copyright law. Over time I believe that sprite comics and machinima will continue to grow in respect and cultural cache such that companies will encourage their creation.
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