Friday, June 26, 2015

Spending a little money

Actually, a lot of money because damn was that trip expensive.  1300 in car repairs (don't ask), 300 in gas, 200 for the room, 170 for my "ticket" plus all that I spent on food, my trip last week was a drain both financially and physically.  Still worth it.  More worth it was upon returning home I got where another 20 dollars went just before I left.

In the midst of talking way too much about Errant Story, I opened with a reminder that Errant Story remains the only comic I have ever given money to.  It was five dollars, and I don't remember exactly when.  Poe made an extra appeal one day and I had some cash in my paypal account, so I shot it over.  A bit later, because paypal has my address attached, I received a little pin with Ellis on it.

It's not that I don't like spending money, my random collection of junk and shit ton of books says otherwise.  The issue is that for a long time, I didn't have any extra money to spend.  Good timing led to my donation, nothing more.  There have been a LOT of comics I've considered donating, buying, or even joining in a Pateron for, I just don't because, well, I didn't have the money once, and it's made me very frugal ever since.

I take a lot of time and thinking before I spend money on something I'm not sure of.  Sure, I'll buy a couple books or some chips at random, but I'll think for a good 30 minutes on a computer chair, even when my current one is crap.  And I don't mean looking for it, I mean finding it and debating if it's still worth it.  Impulse buys are not my thing, and of course the internet is built on impulse buying.

Still, with my current income and my love for webcomics, I suppose I should spend more on them.  There are a LOT of great comics out there, and a little bit of financial support is all they need to keep going.  It's why I point out Pateron campaigns every once in a while.  Donations aren't as common as they used to be, but tip jars are still out there.  There's always the convention circuit, selling nick nacks, art, and of course books.

Every comic that manages to get some traction going gets a book at some point.  It's not just to make money, books are usually a drain rather than a money maker, but it is a right of passage.  An announcement that the artist and the comic are here to stay.  It's the culmination of the dream of every artist, whether it's a comic, a story, or, well, anything, to say "I'm Published" and have it be real.

So back to the story, which is I don't spend money.  Except when I saw that Ben Fleuter, artist of Derelict needed some cash to get over a hump (and freaking jury duty).  His deal:  The first volume of Derelict, Deligue, he signs it and pays the shipping.  I got the package over my vacation.

I've only just flipped through it, work schedules and lack of sleep preventing me from doing much more.  Some more background stuff I could probably find on the wiki or TV Tropes, some special art, a short little story, and a signature on the title page.  Technically my statement that Errant Story is the only comic I have ever given money to is correct, I did it with no expectations of recieving anything.  This time, I bought a book of one of the best comics I currently read.

Worth every penny.

Next week, we should be back to The Classic.  Until then.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Nothing, too tired

Spent this last weekend at XPFest, and driving back and forth to West Virgina.  Too tired to write anything.  Next week I should be back.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Classic: Volume One

Well, there are also a few people that think we were all put here by a group of super advanced alien life forms. . .

Errant Story began in November 2002, only a  few months after Poe's previous comic, Exploitation Now! ended.  Yeah, they're that close together, and I started reading it a few months after that (my review went up in January 2003, so yeah).  Talking about the first volume of Errant Story really can't be done without mentioning Exploitation Now! because it is the foundation of that introduction.

The humor from EN! is very evident in this volume, especially in the conversations between Ellis and Meji.  They remind me of toned down versions of Bimbo and Ralph.  They constant sniping and bickering is definitely right out of EN! and later jokes (there's a yaoi gag there, and if you don't know, don't look it up) are in the same vein.  This humor will be sprinkled throughout the comic until those fairies show up when they'll bring it full force once again, but we're a ways away from that.  Still, there's a lot of EN! humor in the first volume.

And a LOT of dialog.  My god there is so much on a few of the early pages.  I remember the commentary track mentioning they were breaking up some of the pages because they were solid dialog, but I had forgotten how bad it really was.  Meji's introduction is her talking and the page is more dialog balloons than art.  It does pull back after that, but expect a lot of talking early on.  Reminds me of when I reread Life of Riley and how much dialog was in that comic too.  Same time period, so I guess I really didn't notice.  EN! had the same issues near the end of it's short run, so again, more overflow.

I get why there's so much there, this is Meji's introduction and there wasn't any good way to relate it besides having her and Ellis snipe at each other over it.  All of the main characters (Ian, Sarine, Jon, Sara, Meji) are introduced through the length of the first volume.  Sure, Sara doesn't get much time (an alt-text even mentions she won't be significant for 400 pages), but the rest get some characterization.  It's not everything (Volume Two does more of that), but it's enough to give the readers an idea of who the characters are.  Sarine doesn't really like what's she's doing, but does it anyway.  Jon complains about wasting bullets to save Meji, but the next scene has him shooting leaves for practice, undermining his argument.  Ian's reaction to any comment regarding his sister hints at his reactions in the future, etc, etc.

If anything, Meji gets the least characterization, outside of Sara of course.  Mostly, she admits to being lazy, but there are less than subtle (aka Ellis) hints that she's insecure about her looks, is ignored by her mother, and reacts poorly to criticism (aka Ellis).  It's a little more limited, even though we follow her more than the others, but given the length of the comic is her coming of age, I guess it's fitting.

Finally, there is some world building early on, but much of it is limited to off handed comments.  The last full chapter features more about the ancient history of the world than the modern era than the rest of the comic, all done in a single conversation.  Oddly, much of what's said is true (including the quote at the top here) so the major storyline is pretty well established even this early on.  I'm sure the details were still kind of nebulous at this point, but the setup for a much longer story were well settled by now.

It's a good introduction to a longer story, one that is growing from very little.  The players are introduced, the world is built, the tone is settled, and the story is moved along.  Next time, Volume Two and maybe Three, depends on how much of is there.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Classic: Introduction

Before this universe there was another one. . . a happy universe filled with bunnies. But that one got destroyed in a great cataclysm brought about by a major plot point. Pay attentiion, there will be a test later.

I did my last Special Series, Best Overall, where I talked way too much about Schlock Mercenary, in an attempt to get me through a really crappy work month and it only kind of worked out.  And I only did that because The Standard, where I talked way too much about Sluggy Freelance, I felt was quite a success and I enjoyed doing it.  So with two in the bag, I started thinking about other comics that deserved this kind of treatment..  My first thought was to do Gunnerkrigg Court, as I had just given it a Quasi-award for Best Overall for 2015.  Then I thought about it more and there is a comic a bit more deserving of this treatment, especially as I apparently, and inadvertently, snubbed it in both sets of Quasi-awards.

It's not that I went out of my way to not award Errant Story anything, but I wanted to focus more newer comics because everyone's read Errant Story, right?


I know that's not true, a lot of people haven't read it, but I feel they should have.  It's like those classic pieces of literature kids get stuck reading in school.  They are classics, excellent works of fiction and examples of the written word, and I feel that Errant Story fits in there.  Oh, it's not as good as Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, but when it comes to webcomics, there really isn't any other comic that does what Errant Story has done.

Errant Story is my model for the High Fantasy epic, a cornerstone of my involvement in webcomics as a whole.  While Sluggy Freelance is my standards by which all comics are measured against, Errant Story is more a model of what I want a particular branch of comics to be.

I started reading Errant Story very shortly after it started, within a few months if that.  I read it all the way through, beginning to end.  I was there when Michael Poe's father died and derailed the comic for a while, and when his wife nearly died.  This remains, for now, the only comic I have ever given money to.  They sent me a button, which I still have.  It's a comic I have done a Not-So-Wild Review and a Retrospective, and now a Special Series all it's own.

I consider Errant Story to be The Classic of all the comics I read.  Some are older, some have better stories, some have better art, but none of them are the quintessential webcomic, the one everyone SHOULD read.

And it's going to take a while to describe why.  After all, the comic went on for a good 10 years, much of it 3 days a week (probably around 1500 pages total), and there's really only ONE story, not several.  The only easy way to handle this is the straightforward way, one volume at a time.  There are 7 volumes, of course, and that would make a long series, so I might combine a few, but I will reread the entire thing.

I will be bypassing the Commentary Track version of the comic, however.  Mostly because it's incomplete (stops halfway through Volume 2) but also because I want to re-experience the original comic, from the beginning.  Finally, I won't string this all together like I tried with The Standard and Best Overall, this one is going to take awhile to get all the way through and I'm sure there are other topics that will come up in the mean time.

So let's get to it.  This is The Classic, Michael Poe's Errant Story.  See you next time kiddies.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Touching Base #21

Well, I derped and forgot to hit PUBLISH for this article.  Thus it's going up rather late.  Ah well.

This edition of Touching Base is also a site maintenance thing as well.  There's a lot of good news in this edition, for once, and a couple of duds.

Vampire Cheerleaders finished it's last storyline back in January or so, and hasn't done much else since.  Is it dead?  Laying the ground work for another story line?  Forgotten?  No idea, but it's going in the hiatus folder for the time being.

Short Stories is annoying me more than it probably should.  Several of the shorts have been removed from the comic and I suspect published, which is great for them, annoying for me.  It also hasn't updated in a while.  I'm moving it to hiatus along with Vampire Cheerleaders because I'm not sure if it will update again.

Remember in my review of Wapsi Square I talked about that odd pool storyline?  Yeah, it went away from it for a bit, then came back.  Seriously, just STICK with it for a bit, I think your readers can handle a story that lasts more than a week at a time.

It seems technical difficulties and health issues have been keeping Sunstone (NSFW) from updating for some time.  The tech issues appear to be resolved, health not so much, but he's planning to power through, so updates should be back soon.

Eerie Cuties and Magick Chicks are at their respective climaxes, and are looking to end at, um, nearly the same time from the looks.  Depends on how much epiloge they're planning to use in each.  As I said when I first mentioned the end of both comics, I'll do a Retrospective on both at the same time as one is the spin off of the other and the timing and comparisons are too great to simply let go.

The Non-Adventures of Wonderella is updating regularly again.  After a short plot arc involving her coming back from the dead, they vowed never to speak of it again and moved back to general nonsense the comic is known for.

Broodhollow is ALSO updating again (I told you there's a lot of good news this time, but the best is yet to come).  Took long enough honestly.  Still, it's Broodhollow, so it should be pretty damn good, even after the wait.

The best news, and I do mean the best, is that The Meek is back.  After years of inactivity, the comic is updating once again.  Looks like weekly for the time being and I can't be happier.  Hope it updates for a long time to come.

I want to comment on Gunnerkrigg Court for a moment.  I know more than a few people are unhappy with the current direction of the story, to the point of anger.  Those people need to get a grip.  For one, this is a natural development of the characters given the situation, and two, when Annie does decide to assert herself once again, the results shall be GLORIOUS.  So just keep reading.

Too the site management side of things.  I'm making some slight changes to the side bar.  I will be adding a few extra categories to the Quick Reference section.  The Categories page is being split into two pages.  General Categories (best name I can think of right now) will have all the reviews, articles and Retrospectives in it, while the Special Series page will have all my multi-part articles.

This is in preperation for this year's long series wherein I talk way too much about a comic.  Which comic?  You'll have to wait and see.  In any case, unlike the previous ones, it won't be straight out series, but broken up as I find other topics and possibly reviews to write about.  It's not really much longer than The Standard or Best Overall, but unlike them, it will be a full look at the comic, so it might take a bit longer to write up.

Next week I hope to have the introduction up for it, but I make no promises as I actually got a promotion at my job, so that means, of course, more work.  So I hope I find time to write it.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Retrospective: Leisuretown

When I started thinking of the Retrospective on Perchance to Dream, I started thinking about other comics I'd like to go back to.  Retrospectives tend to be comics that recently ended, but expanding it out and covering older strips seems like a good idea, and would separate them away from the Not-So-Wild Reviews that are more for active comics.

And the first comic I thought of for this treatment, after Perchance to Dream, was Leisuretown.

Much of it is the fact that I have, until this day, haven't found anything quite like Leisuretown.  I suppose Cat and Girl kind of comes close, but it's only kind of a glimpse that is Leisuretown.  It feels completely unique, and it's probably one of my favorite comics of all time.

The uniqueness starts with the art.  It's a photocomic, which isn't strictly rare, but uncommon enough to make note of, but it's more than that.  It's entirely made up of those gumby like rubber toys with the holes behind every joint that bends every which way.  ALL of the characters are these, and there is quite a variety.  Yes, it will repeat them over the course of the various stories, but they always seem different.  It really is a testament to the artist's skill that emotion and movement can be show with such strangely static figures.

But static figures on a static background would just be pretty good, Leisuretown goes one step more.  They are photoshopped into complex, real world scenes.  Layered images that often feature multiple of the same character puttering about, sound effects that help push the idea of movement and more than a few of the props makes the entire thing almost unbelievable.  It's hard to remember that this is just a photo comic, and an example of an artist's hard work pushing something so simple beyond what most others would.  And not just for one image per page, but several, and for hundreds of pages.

All that hard work produces a, um, interesting comic.  It looks like it should be a humor comic.  The whimsical character designs, the visualized sound effects and the exaggerated movements all point in that direction.  There's even a strain of, well, crass humor, focusing on the words and phrases that would make George Carlin proud.  It's very similar to It Hurts! in that way, but it's not sincere about it.  In fact, most of the time the joke is that the person using this language is, well, an idiot.  Or at the very least, overestimates their worth.  It's more like it's making fun of the people who use this kind of crass humor to try to be funny, or shock, or whatever.  It's funny because they aren't and don't quite know it.

It's also part of the many themes of the comic that the various stories and shorts play with.  Often main characters find themselves with few prospects for the future, often turning to crime, drugs, violence and suicide to ease the pain.  It's dark in that sense, but there's almost always an odd hint of hope in their lives.  Not always, of course, there are some stories that don't quite fit the mold, but they work well in their own ways.  Much of the comic is more like the "best rants" one reads, at least as one reviewer put it.  There is an art form to such amazing rants, and my formative internet years were exposed to it regularly, which is probably why I enjoy it so.

In the end, I recommend it because I do so enjoy it and consider it great, but I know it's not quite for everyone.  If you think you can handle the more rantish nature of the comic and the pre-facebook days of the internet, I do have a couple things to comment on.  One:  The comic was designed for back when 640x480 was still considered standard resolution, so the images might be a bit small, especially with that frame around them (you can open them in a new window without the frame).  Two:  Scroll to the bottom of the list of stories, down to the giraffe hanging itself, and start from the bottom up.  Not because QA Confidential isn't the best story, it is, but because it is the best story and the rest of the comic will feel a bit of a let down if you start there.  Start at the bottom and work your way up.  If you can get through the essays, then you should be able to stand the rest of it, and you're in for a treat.

One last thing.  Last week, I mentioned that this was an "other project," well it is, as the creator of Leisuretown is one of the forces behind Jerkcity's creation and continuance.  I'm amazed that comic is still updating, but seriously, no reason to go back, read one Jerkcity strip, and you've seen most of them.

Next time, um, not sure.  We'll see.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Other Projects

So I was reading Blindsprings a few weeks ago, and in one of the blog sections for a particular page, I miss read a comment from the artist.  It said she was trying to make the comic "more like" a movie.  I took it to her thinking she wanted to make a Blindsprings movie, which I felt was a little too ambitious at this stage.

Still, it got me to thinking about all the other projects comic artists tend to work on, and the fact that it often derails the part that I tend to follow, namely the comic.  It's not as bad as a stretch of hiatus, as these projects are usually at least talked about, and there's some good reasons why the comic might be sidelined for a bit while they're worked on.  Sunstone (NSFW) has been on a regular cycle of this as Stjepan Sejic is often working on a variety of art projects and of all his projects, Sunstone makes the least money (directly anyway).  But there are others.

The first one I thought of beyond Sunstone was Elsie Hooper because at creation it was meant to be a story board for a movie.  One that at one point was being worked on.  I don't know if it was ever finished, I do know that long, LONG stretches of time went by without an update due to it and the various other projects the artist was working on.  The fact that it has been more or less regularly updated (every 3 weeks it seems sometimes) is actually a step up from where it was only a couple of years ago.  It does make it annoying, however, when one considers that the comic does have a scripted ending and even after 10 years it hasn't yet finished.

Dead Winter is having the same issues.  The game project they're working on seems to be sapping all the energy to make the comic.  I do want to play this game, I love side scrolling beat'em ups, I love the comic, so putting them together can only make me happy.  BUT, it does cut deeply into the comic, especially the patreon which, surprise, is mostly for backing the comic, not the game.  Hopefully it'll start updating more regularly soon.

That's not to say other projects can't still be done.  Sandra and Woo, for example, have a game in the works, but it isn't interfering in the production of the comic.  I guess that makes sense as they're already juggling two projects, Sandra and Woo and Gaia, so throwing another one into the mix isn't that big of a deal.  It's also not a self created thing, as it's being made by an actual game developer rather than a couple of comic artists in their spare time.

Cyanide and Happiness' other project is their shorts, short videos that are basically just more of the same.  I don't watch too many of them (checking comics takes long enough, even a 2 minute video can hurt at 2 am when I'm getting ready for work), but the few I have watched have been quite good and often are offshoots of regular strips.  More of the same, and while it replaces the occasional strip, it's not that big of a distraction from the main comic.

And then there's, well, EVERYTHING Howard Taylor does outside of Schlock Mercenary.  Games, conventions, books, movie reviews, etc, etc.  I couldn't even hope to list all that he's up to.  Guess he gets bored having that big fat buffer keeping his comic up every day.

I do like other projects by the artist, even if they aren't comics, I just kind of hope they don't interfere with the comic.  As for Blindsprings as a movie, not yet, give it a couple more years.

Next week, hopefully, another Retrospective that oddly enough is an other project.  Until next time kiddies.