Before there was Google. Before Amazon.com. Before YouTube and MySpace and the Bust of 2000, there was Cartoonists@Large.
A gang of cartoonists from all over the world banded together to form a very primitive web portal for online gag panels and comic strips. At its peak, Cartoonists At Large (or C@L) had over 50 members from every continent except Africa and Antarctica (the 'Net hadn't made inroads into Africa at the time and there were no cartoonists in Antarctica with a reliable dialup back then).
C@L was an offshoot of a bunch of like-minded cartoonists who had regular chats on AOL (when it sucked only a little bit). With the advent of graphical HTML browsers like Netscape, Internet Explorer and Mosaic, the cartoonists realized an entirely new medium to showcase their talents. At the time, the only major comic strip online was Dilbert. Just about everyone else was a member of C@L. It was a rowdy mix of professionals, amateurs and students. Some still have a strong web presence today, like Daryl Cagle and Randy Glasbergen, others fell into obscurity. Cartooning is tough work. It's tougher to become a syndicated comic strip artist than it is to become a major league ball player. C@L was our way to give everyone a chance to play in the big leagues.
For the Christmas season of 1996, the Cartoonists@Large members decided to create a collaborative project for the holiday season: "The Night Before Christmas." The artists who wished to participate, were given a snippet of the Clement Moore poem to illustrate in any way he or she wished. The resulting collection would be posted on the C@L website for the world to enjoy.
The website recieved a spike in hits when C@L member Ted Goff was interviewed on CNN about the project on one of their tech shows. Adding to that traffic, we were named Cool Site of the Day for December 25, 1996. At the time, the C@L website was hosted on a server that charged extra for a certain number of hits over a set monthly allowance. We very nearly pulled the plug on things when it looked like the traffic was going to start costing real money.
The original website has been reproduced here for the first time in nearly 10 years for your viewing pleasure.
As an additional gift to their viewers, and to give some of the other cartoonists something to do, the C@L team created an original poem called "The Net Before Xmas," a slightly more modern retelling of the famous "Night Before Christmas" by C. Clement Moore, which the C@L gang had illustrated previously.
So here it is in its (mostly) original form with the original pixels from 1996. Please remember that in 1996, everyone was on dialup and if you were lucky your modem was 28.8k, so the graphics might be a little coarser than what you're used to seeing on the web.
I hope you enjoy both of the C@L Christmas projects. Merry Christmas.
Jeffrey Page, C@L Webmaster
"Cartoonists@Large", the C@L logo and content are ©Jeffrey Page; Other artwork & content on this site is © of the respective artists unless otherwise noted.