'WhirlGirl' website offers humor and multimedia fun

by Brad Russo | 11/23/98 6:00am

The Internet can bring you radio broadcasts, weather updates and the Ken Starr Report. It should come as no surprise that there is also a multimedia comic book site for the web.

"WhirlGirl" is an on-line version of the comic books everyone used to read in their childhood, with added sound effects and animation.

The site mixes more traditional comic book elements in a continuing story with independent animation sequences with a funnier tone.

Creator David Williams told The Dartmouth he thinks his site is the first of its kind. He said it was conceived in early 1996 and was officially launched in March 1997.

The comic site traces the adventures of the young heroine of the title in a more humorous manner than most print comics.

Many of the site's animated movies are highly entertaining and spoof high-profile current events like the Microsoft anti-trust trial or other entertainment venues like "Titanic."

The more traditional story-lines contain one animated image per screen and then a series of head shots next to each character's line.

Williams said while the "WhirlGirl" site was originally more similar to its print cousins, the advance of internet technology has allowed "WhirlGirl" to take on more multi-media properties.

He said the crew behind "WhirlGirl" is comparatively small with only five full-time employees. Williams said he works with the comic's writer and discusses where the story-line will go throughout the season and then will meet later to determine how each episode will progress.

Next he said the artist draws story boards and outside actors are called in for the voices. Williams said the site uses its own original sound effects and music. After all the creative elements are in place the site producer transforms all the information into HTML, the format which is readable by internet browsers viewing the site.

Williams said the site earns most of its revenue through advertising, but is also involved with profitable non-internet ventures.

"Where our big money comes from down the road is through licensing and merchandising," Williams said. "We're currently in talks with a major cable network with an arrangement that involves on-air use of the property."

"WhirlGirl" attracts a broader audience than most print comic books, Williams said.

"We find that the lion's share of our audience is teenagers between 15 and 24 and a little more than half of our audience are girls, which initially surprised us ... but we were from the get-go shooting for a mixed audience."

Williams said the viewership demographic causes some problems when deciding site content but he considers "WhirlGirl" to be appropriate for all ages.

"We're constantly asking ourselves about what we need to be cutting edge and appeal to people's adult sensibilities and be exciting for the web but also keeping in mind a portion of our audience is teenagers," he said. "We tease people with nudity a little bit. I don't think we do anything that wouldn't be accessible on network television shows ... I think we've found a good mix."

Williams said they have considered using live actors instead of animated images, but the current level of technology prohibits that. Looking ahead, the internet has the potential to change mainstream entertainment, Williams said.

"This is clearly the medium of the future ... it clearly has the potential of creating a renaissance for entertainment for the future and we are counting on that."

You can find "WhirlGirl" at www.whirlgirl.com.

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