8-Bit Theater Celebrates 20 Years With A Copyright-Friendly Publication

8-Bit Theater Celebrates 20 Years With A Copyright-Friendly Publication 2
| Apr 22, 2021
Brian Clevinger’s foundational webcomic 8-Bit Theater is being published for its twentieth anniversary—but in a less conventional form.

Clevinger announced a Kickstarter campaign for 8-Bit Theater: 20th Anniversary Complete Script Book—Do Not Sue Edition, an oversized hardcover book containing the scripts for all 1225 comic pages. After launching on Monday, the campaign has already surpassed its goal, $35k CAD.

The project comes after years of fan requests for a printed compendium, but Clevinger shared that printing the comic itself is impossible for two reasons—copyright issues from using sprites ripped from the original Final Fantasy and other classic games, and a technical oversight that renders the entire series unprintable in its current form.

8-Bit Theater Is Being Preserved As A Limited-Run Hardcover Books, Containing Scripts For All 1225 Pages And Background Commentary Throughout.
8-Bit Theater is being preserved as a limited-run hardcover books, containing scripts for all 1225 pages and background commentary throughout. (Brian Clevinger)

“What I usually tell [fans who ask for a printed collection] is that I don’t want to get sued by the brilliant and attractive lawyers at Square Enix because that distracts from the fact that I rather idiotically produced every single page at 72dpi,” Clevinger wrote. “For those of you who aren’t in publishing: generally speaking you want at least 300dpi for print. So, even if we could print them we can’t print them.”

8-Bit Theater ran for nine years, from 2001 to 2010, and loosely serialized the events of Square Enix’s classic Final Fantasy, “about four murder hobos pretending to be heroes of destiny who were foretold to save the world from a great evil, but it turns out they’re the great evil.” It quickly became a runaway success at the height of webcomics’ popularity, spawning a phenomenon of other sprite-based comics.

Clevinger’s star was raised by the comic’s success, helping him launch the Eisner Award-nominated comic series Atomic Robo with Red 5 Comics in 2007, with artwork by Scott Wegener. He has also penned several stories for Marvel Comics, including an all-ages adaptation of the Infinity Gauntlet saga.

The compendium will not be a simple verbatim script, but will also contain “all-new commentary, including behind-the-scenes tidbits, adding insights into [Clevinger’s] process, and tucking extra jokes into the panel descriptions.” In the samples posted to Kickstarter, the comic mocks itself for questionable design choices, highlighting the fact that it began as an independent study credit for university, never intended to be seen globally.

Despite the work that went into recreating nine years of comic history in a new form, the 8-Bit Theater compendium is not intended to be available outside of Kickstarter. Its print run will only cover pledges received during the campaign. “Think of it like an NFT without the forest fire,” Clevinger quipped. Standard and Deluxe editions are available—with the latter featuring a case, prints, and pins—as well as PDF versions for those who wish to save on space and shipping.

Although the entire webcomic is still available at Clevinger’s site, the book is sure to be a collector’s item for Final Fantasy fans, or anyone who feels nostalgic for a bygone age of internet humour before Facebook and YouTube. Personally, checking for new installments of the “Light Warriors” latest misadventures was a staple of my high school years, and Clevinger’s sense of humour shines through in the small script samples provided.