Comicspace.com looks as though it has some potential. Since, given that it’s only three weeks old, it seems reasonably populated. It’s pitched somewhere between MySpace and YouTube – but for creatives who make webcomics / comic books / graphic novels. It has no “Flickr/YouTube for comics”-style comics-hosting yet, which is what will make the site really take off – that feature is due “soon”. What that feature looks and acts like will make or break the site. There’s also an innovative and transparent advertising system riding alongside the site.

Let’s hope the ComicSpace owner has seen the HyperComics site (from the makers of Comic Book Creator software) and realised that’s not the way to do a web-based comic-book reader app. In my view, ComicSpace comics should be viewable as large as possible, with the ability to take in a whole page at once and without any scrolling. Never ever make me scroll, and never ever make me use a clunky ‘panel-tracker’ sub-window. In other words, make it very similar to the standard .cbr reader software. That means a “full web-page per comic page” solution, and as uncluttered as possible – and make any ads into little text-only tabs discreetly tucked away at either side of the screen, but which pop out as visual “flip-book previews” on a simple mouseover action.

“Kick this junk off the site” voting buttons would also be nice, to rate the comic; they’ll need something to prevent the sort of useless junk that seems to overwhelm the stupidly-named Drunk Duck and Smack Jeeves sites. Stupid attacts stupid. A “this comic actually tells a story worth telling, and at a reasonable length” button would also be useful, to filter out all the inane 8-panel gag-strips.

For fairness I’ll also mention here some of the other comics-hosting sites I found; although none bother with any kind of elegant “comic book reader”-style interface for the comics, they just slap them in the middle of a clunky web-page and surround them with an annoying clutter of navigation infrastructure and adverts:

Webcomics Nation – decent range of content, nicely grouped by genre, and some evidence of quality-control. But the comics are so poorly displayed.

Comic Genesis – looks good, but from a random sample of comics I got one with a broken main image, and three which were just single-illustration Xmas cards. No actual comics.

Smack Jeeves – a front page that doesn’t work properly in IE6, and the same kind of quality-control issues as the Drunk Duck site.

Of course, it’s a sad fact that the best ‘webcomics’ are the terabytes of pirated fare that’s perpetually rushing like a tidal wave through your friendly neighbourhood bittorrent tracker. Perhaps the bittorrent system actually offers a solution to the bandwidth problems that large comic-hosting sites seem to have; I mean, if webcomics are to aspire to be more than just the kiddie-flavoured ‘newspaper funnies page’ of the net? How about building a ‘sleeper’ ad feature into standard .cbr reader software – load up a .cbr comic that has a “brand x” tag embedded in it, and discreet little Brand X-controlled “ad tabs” would appear on the side of the reader page. Make the ads lively, timely and relevant/social enough, and people wouldn’t want to use an ad-free .cbr reader.

Update: HyperComics does, after all, appear to have a full-screen view function.