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I’m so confused by the publishing sequence of Jane’s World August 19, 2019

Posted by Erin Ptah in Erin Watches.
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Okay, I’ve spent way too long trying to puzzle this out, so now I’m inflicting it on the rest of you.

Jane’s World is a gay-centric sitcom-style comic — a lot like Dykes To Watch Out For, but with cartoonier art, and less topical political commentary in favor of more surreal misadventures.

It was launched in March 1998, picked up for syndication in April 2002, and concluded in October 2018.

Here’s a review of the printed omnibus volume 1, if you want a bit about the contents without diving into the full online archive.

This post is just about the order things were published in.

Online Version

GoComics has what I assume is the full syndicated run, starting April 1, 2002:

  • At first it’s horizontal strips, newspaper-style, 6 days a week
  • Goes on hiatus in April 2004
  • Returns for like a week of full-page installments that October
  • Resumes properly in May 2006, as full-page updates 5 days a week
  • The end of August 2008 (noted as the end of volume 8) has a set of 6 full-page color comics, annotated with “originally appeared in Jane & Jane Magazine” (???)
  • September 2008, it switches to horizontal half-page installments (2 rows), keeps it up until a short run of (1-row) strips in November, then goes on hiatus again
  • Returns in March 2009, half-page installments, only 2 updates a week until July (end of Volume 9)
  • August 2009, switches to full-page updates, 1 per week
  • November 2010, switches to “Classic Jane’s World” — 1 update per week, with a block of 3-4 of the early individual strips posted together
  • April 2011, still reruns, but now 7 days a week. At first it’s more “Classic” blocks, with annotations. Looks like then it reruns full-page updates from Volume 8? In July it cuts back to 5 of these updates a week.
  • In March 2012 it reruns a sequence of early individual strips, 1 at a time, 6 days a week.
  • In July 2012, we get…new material?? Full-page updates, 1 per week, and the little dates scribbled between the borders say 2012.
  • August, more new material, single strips, 4 days a week (mostly). Cuts to full-page reruns in April 2013.

…and, okay, I’m not going to keep digging for new material after that. Appears to still be reruns (no handwritten dates, older art style) through the end of 2013, at least.

From the start of the online archives, I assumed it was formatted for newspapers…but then it takes a turn, and the layouts and scheduling get too erratic for any print publisher.

Did it ever actually run in newspapers, or was it just formatted that way in the hopes that it would get picked up, and eventually the artist went “it’s not working, time to stop appealing to papers and just do what I want”? It was syndicated online with United Features — what were the terms of that deal?

There are lots of weird gaps, some as short as a day — are those random gaps in productivity, or are there strips that weren’t archived? (Maybe strips with copyrighted elements that United doesn’t have the right to reprint?)

There are print collections. They only raise more questions.

Dead Tree Version

All the print compilations are under the imprint of “Girl Twirl Comics.” I can’t find any online presence for the name at all. Possibly it was just the pseudonym for “Paige Braddock selling books out of her basement.” (No shade. If it works, it works.)

ComicBookRealm has records of 24 single-issue releases — no pagecount information, but it looks like they’re simple floppies. Issue 1:

Single issue 1

Amazon suggests there are 11 paperback collections. Volume 1 =  issues 1-6, Volume 2 = issues 7-12, Volume 3 = issues 13-15, and so on. Around 150 pages each.

Volume 6 gets through issue 24, and from then on it looks like new material wasn’t printed in single issues, just collected into trades.

Volume 1:

Volume 1 cover

Confusing the issue, there’s also a Jane’s World Collection Volume 1, an omnibus with Jane’s World Volumes 1-3 (issues 1-15). Total of 435 pages. Apparently it never continued into a Collection 2.

Some places (including CBR) will incorrectly show the cover of Collection Volume 1 in their entry for Regular Volume 1.

Collection 1:

Omnibus volume 1

So far, so good, right? Same material, reprinted in ever-larger collections. It’s the circle of shelf life.

Where it gets weird is, I grabbed Omnibus 1 from my library, and tried to match it up to the online archive…and they’re so different.

(Also weird, someone seems to have neatly torn a page out of the start of each “chapter.” I’m guessing those had the cover images for each issue? Hope you enjoyed them, mysterious vandal!)

The very start of Omnibus/Volume/Issue 1 opens with “here’s the story so far.” The third page includes a handwritten 1999 with the signature, so it looks like there’s a bunch of material from 1998 that was just…never collected or preserved, anywhere. So that’s a bummer.

A lot of these pages have weird layouts, and summaries inserted between panels — as if sequences of panels were cut from the middle, either to improve the pacing or just to keep the pagecount down. Gotta wonder what they looked like originally.

The first few issues also have lots of irregular panels. Later they develop a regular height, and it starts to become clear that these were originally single-row strips, but they’ve been chopped up and rearranged to fill the page differently.

And, I mean, arguably it makes the visuals more dynamic, but it completely throws off the rhythm! It got a lot funnier when I started reverse-engineering which panels were punchlines, and not just “weird conversational tangents.”

In Issue 7 (middle of Omnibus 1, start of Volume 2), the art starts getting regular handwritten dates, indicating that it covers March-August 2001. This is also where the summaries end, and the layouts are all undoubtedly scrambled from single strips.

Still hasn’t been syndicated yet, though.

Issue 8 opens with…a short gag storyline from April 2003! Which is on the website! And then it cuts right back to the rest of August 2001!

Issue 9 includes a couple of strips about “New Year’s resolutions for 2004.” I went looking for those on the website too — no sign of them! January 2004 is something entirely different. Then I looked closer. The handwritten dates show that this was from the 2001/2002 changeover.

Maybe the floppy issue was published in 2004, so someone changed it in an effort to be more topical, and then they just…left it that way?

Issue 10 is the one where the online archive finally kicks in. Not at the start of the issue, or at the start of a storyline. The syndicate bought the rights starting in April 2002, right in the middle of a dogsitting arc that had been going since February.

Things settle down now…kind of…mostly. Sometimes there are extra gags inserted between the daily strips. At least one nice big splash panel, letting us sit with a domestic scene a little longer.

Issue 15 (the end of Volume 3 and Omnibus 1) gets through April 2004, the end of the same storyline (a road-trip arc) that wrapped up online right before the first big hiatus. But the print version has a couple pages of extra wrap-up scenes that aren’t online.

And then…it skips straight to the middle of Volume 4, which I also have, but haven’t read yet. Had to flip a long ways through the book to find it at all. (The next online page is several pages into V4’s Chapter 2, i.e. presumably Issue 17.)

There are some pages earlier in the print flip-through that also showed up later in my online flip-through, but I haven’t read closely enough to have a sense of where the heck they are yet.

What even is this

If you’re a total hardcore completist, you’re pretty much out-of-luck when it comes to Jane’s world.

The print version has a bunch of exclusive material from before the start of the online archive, and apparently a bunch of exclusive interstitial material from after that.

But the online version also has some material (the full-color short story, the annotations) that I’m not sure would’ve made it in the print collections.

The online version is a better reading experience when it comes to the single strips. Can’t compare the full-page storylines yet, haven’t read enough material that’s in both versions yet.

I can’t figure out the order things were produced in, or guess which one is truer to the Artist’s Intended Vision.

And there’s no smooth way to integrate the two, because you can’t just say “if you can’t find Volume X, read the online strips from Date Y to Date Z to fill yourself in.” They’re not in the same order!

I just want a nice streamlined reading experience for this strip about a hapless cranky single lesbian having dumb adventures. Is that too much to ask?

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