In an ever-expanding comic community, Portland seems to be the center of many emerging companies in the industry.
“From our list of 11,000-plus [webcomics]—it’s growing daily—people can find all the webcomics that they want,” said Andy Grossberg, cofounder and chief creative officer at Comic Rocket. “They can subscribe to them [and] share them with friends.”
Comic Rocket is part of Business Accelerator, home to 30-plus start-up companies ranging from clean tech and bioscience to technology.
“We offer them an array of services,” said Xan Pedisich, operations manager at Business Accelerator. “The huge advantage they have is the community here.”
A main goal of Business Accelerator is to help ideas and research to become a product.
One of the reasons Business Accelerator companies are so successful is that they have a great support network and a true niche, Pedisich said. The university also provides a fair amount of exposure.
“We have a really special team of people,” Pedisich said.
Many of these companies have several ways in which they connect with Portland State, including capstone projects and job and internship opportunities. Comic Rocket is one of those companies.
“We love to give internships and jobs to students,” Pedisich said.
Comic Rocket was formed in 2011, joining Portland Seed Fund’s first class, and then relaunched in spring 2012.
Andy Grossberg and Tim Shields, two of the cofounders, started out working with regular print comics that were being digitized.
While giving a presentation at the accelerator they ran into cofounder and current Chief Technology Officer Jamey Sharp, who is also a PSU grad. Sharp saw their demo and introduced them to his company, Serialist, a website for tracking and bookmarking webcomics.
“He said, ‘Yeah, so I’ve got this thing that me and my buddy did, and it might fit in with what you’re doing,’” Grossberg said. “We took a look, and it was like, holy cow, webcomics.”
The two companies decided to join forces, using the graphical front and heavy understanding of the comic and gaming industry of Grossberg and Shields in tandem with Sharp’s programming skills to create what Comic Rocket is today.
“It was a match made in heaven,” Grossberg said. “We jumped right in, immediately…pivot[ing] the company from print comics into webcomics.”
One of the many user-friendly features of the website is how interactive it is. It’s crowd-sourced, allowing users to add and subscribe to comics not already included on the site, making the list an ever-growing one.
Grossberg notes that they’ve taken this feature a step further, so that when creators start seeing traffic coming from Comic Rocket, they can claim their comic, locking down their page listing so others can’t change their info.
“They can add their own tags and description and manage it themselves,” Grossberg said. “We hope to eventually build out some author tools and really let them optimize their experience.”
Another positive feature for creators is how the comics are viewed by users.
“The traffic is actually passed through our iFrame, through to the creators, so they get all the traffic, ads and comments,” Grossberg said. “It’s still happening on their page.”
New Comic Rocket user and local webcomic artist Jeremy Burghardt admires this feature.
“[I] really appreciate that [Comic Rocket] doesn’t steal ad revenue or site hits from the actual comic creators,” Burghardt said.
Another user-friendly feature is the reading list, where users can keep track of where they’ve left off in the archive of whatever webcomic they’re reading.
To check out the website and create your own webcomic list, visit comic-rocket.com.