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Emoticomics are sequential art which feature emoticons (and by extension, smilies) as the main characters. The word "emoticomic" is a portmanteau of emoticons and comics, and is considered a slang term that has only been used in recent years to describe the medium. Emoticomics can be found in a variety of places, from message boards to online art galleries to traditional websites.
Example of single-panel emoticomic.

What is an Emoticomic?

The idea of making "comics" using emoticons is not new, though there is no official date as to when the the first emoticomic was created. After the advent of the text-based smiley and their expansion to include a wide-range of expressions and characters, it was only a natural step to depict the emoticons as talking and format them within panels and with word balloons.

Purists to the artform consider an emoticomic as being wholly pixellated, from the emoticons to the backgrounds and props. This has led to many comickers classifying them as "sprite comics," since their composition often consists heavily on the use of cut-and-paste graphics. This designation is highly contested by many, as sprite comics often rely soley on pre-existing video game graphics and do not feature original art. Nevertheless, as emoticons have evolved, emoticomics have changed as well. Many now feature vector-type emoticons and graphics.

While emoticomics tend to rely on the same elements of storytelling as traditional comics, the advancement of digital technology has allowed them to expand in different ways. Gif animations are sometimes incorporated into strips and with the wide-availability of Flash, comics are increasingly being given an interactive element.

Emoticomic containing special effect elements.

Freeform Emoticomics

File:Anon ForumEmoticomic.png
Example of an informal emoticomic listed on a forum page. (Click to enlarge).

Though not formal in composition, many of the first emoticomics were created and posted on message boards and websites. Using ASCII characters and HTML code, individuals could entertain their friends by creating pseudo-comics with talking text emoticons.

With the advent of pixellated smilies, impromptu emoticomics continued to be created by users. These comics were often posted regularly by their creators or were created in a "round-robin" environment where members of the community were invited to add their own smileys and text to the story. Many communities still utilize this type of emoticomic creation in a "forum games" environment.

Early Emoticomics

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Emoticomics strip

The Adventures of Nerd Boy, or just Nerd Boy, is a comic by Joaquim Gândara which was published between August 6, 2001 and July 17, 2007 and consists of 600 strips. The strips were posted to an ASCII art newsgroup as well as the author's website.[1] While technically created using ASCII art, which consists entirely of typographical symbols, the strip utilized text-based emoticons in the traditional and Japanese styles.

In 2006, the website Emoticomics.com opened and published a web-based comic featuring graphically generated faux-ASCII smilies. Primarily a one-panel strip, the webcomic ended its 90-strip run in the mid-2009s.

Emoticomics Today

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Strip from the Bitmap World Emoticomic. (Click to enlarge).

The vast majority of current day emoticomics are stand-alone strips and are not produced on a regular schedule. They are typically included as a part of an artist's gallery or website but not an independent feature. That is slowly changing as emoticonists embrace the medium as a way to combine their pixelling and storytelling skills.

In March of 2007, the webcomic Bitmap World premiered, claiming to be the first comic (that the creators knew of) which featured smilies as characters.[2] Though there were clearly emoticomics which appeared prior to the launch of Bitmap World, the strip has continued to publish on a mostly regular schedule for over 3 years and is considered the longest-running pixellated emoticomic to date. In addition to publishing weekly emoticomic strips, the site also features a build-your-own-comic utility that allows users to create their own emoticomics using pre-configured templates and customized text.

In 2009, to encourage and introduce budding emoticonists to the medium, the website deviantART hosted an emoticomic contest.[3] Participants were encouraged to create emoticomics following specific guidelines, the main requirement being the use of traditional 15x15 base emoticons and pixel-art.

Cultural Influence


In February 2010, Twisted Pixel Games introduced the fictional comic, The Adventures of Captain Smiley. The comic is part of an upcoming video game called Comic Jumper.[4] Though not a emoticomic by any stretch of the imagination, the game and fictional strip within the game are testament to the influence of smilies on the pop-culture and comics in particular.



Even though emoticomics have been around for many years, there are still relatively few and even fewer resources for specifically making them. Some artists, however, have taken the time to create graphics and utilities to help produce emoticomics, including strip templates, fonts for lettering, and pixel balloons for speech. Such resources can usually be found by doing a simple web search.

Notes and References

Article Information
Author: Darius Ecaps
Date Published: Article has not been published yet
Other Contributors: BradLee
Last Modified: August 4, 2010

***All images used by permission***