Different week, different entry, yet same old problems. I assure you, one of these days I will get to a well archived webcomic. Then I’ll be able to write a proper review about it.
But for now, please enjoy what info I’ve managed to collect.
Drawing horror comics from the early age of one and a half, making cards for his teachers of himself burning down the school in the second grade, and working through college as a embalmer/dissectionist of human bodies, Eric Millikin is by no means an average man. It makes sense, then, that he would do something no one else really did before. That he would have the honor of creating the first “webcomic”.
CompuServe was the main internet portal in the early days of the internet, popular in the the 80’s and 90’s before being overtaken by AOL. As an early innovator, it allowed users to share data and maintain a level of connectivity that set an early example of what internet service was. (Watch it in action here.)
So back then, a young Millikin still in elementary school used that very internet portal. It wouldn’t take long before his old hobbies would mix with new technologies.
‘Witches and Stitches’ was published in 1985 by Millikin on CompuServe. Written as an unauthorized parody of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, it gained notable popularity online and around the globe.
Sadly, however, it wouldn’t last long. CompuServe managed to stay around until 2009, when it was finally shut down. There’s a website still up, but outdated design choices make one question the supposed 2016 copyright.
And ‘Witches and Stitches’ hasn’t fared any better. It was killed off long before the end of CompuServe, supposedly due to legal trouble when Millikin was threatened with a copyright lawsuit over it. All of it’s been taken down, leaving us only able to wonder what it may have been like.
In the End
It’s not all sad news though. CompuServe and the first webcomic may have fallen, but Millikin continued to create webcomics. The low censorship/self publishing environment of the internet served him well, and he has gone on to create hauntingly creative works both on and offline. Most notably, his webcomic Fetus X gained enough popularity to be picked up in a number of print newspapers.
These days he seems to focus more on modern art than webcomics but that doesn’t seem to be any problem to him. Time has moved forward and, knowingly or not, a lot of people have come follow in his early footsteps.
Not a bad way to leave your mark on the world.
Dark visions: MSU grad’s ‘Fetus-X’ comic earns national recognition (Lansing State Journal)
Goodbye, CompuServe! (We thought you already died) (Ars Technica)
Witches and Stitches (worldlibrary.org)