Gotham Girls was ahead of its time. Jointly produced by Warner Bros and World Leaders Entertainment, the flash-animated, online series debuted in 2000, featuring a catty of improbably proportioned heroines and villainesses from the world of DC’s caped-crusader, Batman.

It begins with Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Batgirl, Catwoman, and Zantanna, in some type of lesbian fantasy where the women have super powers and all the men in Gotham have disappeared, and ends three seasons and two years later with a five-part, physical comic book mini-series that leveraged its online counterpart’s success.

Little action has occurred in the world of comic book-derived web shows since. With the unimpressive exception of Strange Detective Tales, nearly all experimentation with new media has come from the literary side of book publishing. There, you can witness the initial rumblings of change in the process of promotion.

Publishers of books like Celebutantes and Foreign Body precede print releases with web shows meant to popularize titles, hoping to increase awareness and sales. But this phenomenon hasn’t yet caught on in the world of comics. Until now.

New media studio, 60Frames announced that it’s partnering with indie graphic novel and comic book publisher, Oni Press to create web series based on past, present, and future titles in their library.

The first two slated for production are Ark – a science-fiction combo of live-action and CGI set to launch in early 2009 that follows a “young woman who wakes up in a coffin-like capsule and quickly discovers that she is in fact on a large spacecraft” – and Men with Guns: Assassin – “a gritty drama that follows a high-end assassin who is eluding the cop who is trying to bring him down, and their respective children, who are star-crossed lovers,” conceived by Tom Fontana.

I wonder why this didn’t happen sooner. Aesthetically, it’s a near perfect combination. Comic book panels are almost the exact same size as online video players, and their bright colors and emphasis on action works perfectly on computer screens. I expect this to be the first of many similar comic-book/web-show announcements.

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