Friday, February 26, 2010

The Long Joke and Announcement

This week, 8-Bit Theater made a single update (well, so far) and flabbergasted it's entire fanbase.  No, it wasn't something out of left field like that miscarriage comic from Ctrl Alt Delete.  In fact, it was very much in the spirit of the comic.  The thing is, that the comic was focused on a punchline for a joke.

A joke set up a little less than 9 years ago.

Take a look.  Here's the set-up, and here's the punch line.  Comic 007 and comic 1221.  March 20th, 2001 to February 20th 2010.  8 years, 11 months to the day.

Talk about a long joke.  So long I doubt most people even got it.  The title not withstanding, most people probably had no clue what was going on.  I knew, after all I've played the original FF to death, so I knew what it was, but even I had to check out the comic's forums to figure out which of the 1200 strips it was talking about.  I'm still stunned by it, to set up a joke THAT far in advance?  Insanity!

Did he though?  After all the basics of the joke are pretty much Final Fantasy lore (and it can be done, scarily enough).  Maybe he had an idea that perhaps he'd actually do it, or maybe it was just an off thought to introduce White Mage to the story in the first place.  It's very likely in fact that he had written himself into a corner and had to find a way out.

On the other hand, he did have a long joke setup before.  He reflected a conversation from rather recently back to the past and it only made sense then (though it was still fitting there).  So he could have setup the joke way back on the 7th page of the comic.  In fact, he claims he did.  Of course, George Lucas claims he had the the Star Wars prequels written before the original Star Wars movie was filmed.  Still, Brian (the creator) has a better track record than George, so. . .

Of course the real question is, was it a good idea?  Oh yes, it seems brilliant now, and as one forum poster said, if this was THE joke of the comic, then everything between 007 and 1221 could have been ANYTHING, giving Brian unlimited freedom in a way.  Yet I can escape the fact that a lot of people just didn't get it.  Oh, sure, the Final Fantasy fans (well, the classic FF fans, 3-D is lame guys) got the joke, but how many remembered the set up to it?  I certainly didn't, and I've been reading 8-Bit Theater for years now.

A great joke is something you know you should have seen coming, and as soon as it hits, you laugh, not just at the punchline, but at the entire thing.  This joke was like that, but with so many YEARS between the beginning and the end, would any of us remember it?  A lot of people don't, especially the little brats who think sprites are a sign of a bad comic, not that they're always wrong of course.

I found it funny as hell myself, which is why I'm wasting the time to write about one joke from one comic.  Maybe though, it was a little TOO long.

And this brings me to the announcement portion of the this article.  When I started this blog, I did so because I had a LOT of time on my hands, mostly due to being laid off from my full time job.  Earlier this week, I was offered my job back.  I took the offer.

Now, I'm not going to abandon this thing, but I do need to cut back on the update frequency.  So now it'll just be once a week.  Yeah, I know, it's not a super active blog, but on the other hand, I was running out of article ideas anyway.  Hell, I'm surprised I managed to go THIS long.  So next FRIDAY I will post an old set of reviews, and then probably another Newspaper article the following week.  I might change this as I figure out the amount of time work will devour like an untamed beast, but for now, I think this will work best.

Well kiddies, that's it for now, see you next FRIDAY.  Until then. . .

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Wild Webcomic Review IN SPAAAACE!!

Space, the final frontier.  These are the voyages of. . .


Yes, that's right, another batch of five NEW reviews.  You ready?  Good.

201.  Supermassive Black Hole A* - This is not a webcomic.  Then what is it doing here?  Well, it presents itself (and advertises itself) as a webcomic, but it isn't, it's an animation series.  Yes, it has a "webcomic" version, which is just stills from the animation, but like Lizzy, at best it can only give you an overview of the story.  Without watching the videos, much of the action is flat and uninteresting.  The fact that the art is heavy black and white, getting any sense of action from the stills is difficult at best.  It does get better (the still version) but it's still just not quite right.  So is it any good?  Well, I think the story isn't too bad, but again, half the action is in the animations, and due to issues on my end, I didn't get to watch more than a few minutes of the first one, so I can't say for sure.  Due to this nature, though, I'm not going to be following it.

202.  Chainsawsuit - While reading this, I couldn't escape the fact that it seemed familiar.  Then I read that it's made by the same guy who does Starslip Crisis, and it made perfect sense.  Oh, it's not exactly the same art wise, far more towards the stickman side of things, but it's close enough that it seems familiar.  Otherwise, Chainsawsuit is like any number of joke-a-day daily strips, typically with a satirical bent, often just being non-sequitur.  Nothing wrong with it, and it is often funny.  It does seem to update more often than Gunshow, which is the closest comic I can come up with to it's nature, so I'll probably keep it on the list for a bit, but really, nothing I haven't seen before.

203.  The Princess Planet - It's comic built on puns, so you know it's going to be full of groaners.  Often it's a play on words that builds up to the inevitable groan.  Funny?  Sometimes, as all puns sometimes are not grounds for execution.  It plays against the old princess stereotypes that have floated around and tortured brothers via their younger sisters (thankfully mine was more into My Little Pony than this princess stuff, of course that brings its own scars).  While it's not bad in any way, it really isn't a comic I intend to keep reading, mostly because I've got enough to read on a daily basis.  Still, if you can stand the puns, it's not bad.

204.  Exiern - I've had this on the to be reviewed list for a while, and finally got around to it.  It's one of an entire sub-genre of webcomics featuring "gender swap."  Other notable strips include The Wotch (though that covers for more ground than that), El Goonish Shive and Misfile (those two I haven't read yet).  Now while the latter two apparently take the entire gender swap thing rather seriously, Exiern does it strictly for jokes.  And they're pretty funny sometimes too.  On top of that you have a typical competent humorous fantasy story that is rather enjoyable.  Still, this comic is about drawing sexy women and having their clothing torn off, and then having at least one bitch about it since she's actually a he.  Entertaining?  Yeah, but not anything super special.

205.  Cleopatra in SPAAACE! - I do frequently review very young comics, and this one is less than 20 pages long so far.  Still, LOOK AT THE TITLE!  Like Kristy vs. The Zombie Army, it's simply amazing and instantly draws you to it.  From what little has been posted so far, there's plenty of action, the characters have some basic traits laid down without going overboard with it and the art is actually pretty damn good.  I'm certainly going to follow it for a bit based on the title alone.

Well, that's it for this week.  Next time, I'll get back to the old reviews.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Let's talk advertising.  A significant majority of the comics I have read have been via ads on other webcomics, but what exactly attracts me to said comics?  Well, I've got some ideas:

  1. Ad position - There really only two ad placements that matter, the top banner ad and the side one.  I almost never got to a comic featured on a side banner, though I'm not sure why.  I think a lot of it is that very few comics are actually designed for the vertical (Kawaii Not being the rare exception) and so the side banner never feels right.

  2. Flash - I have it turned off on my browser normally, so if you have a flash ad, I'm not seeing it.  I imagine a lot of other people do the same (and a lot more block ads entirely).  If you're going to have an animation, stick with gifs.

  3. Replicated Strips - A lot of ads have full strips from the comic in them (usually Daily Comics).  I skip those generally.  Ads should entice a reader to read the comic, not to start them reading before they get to the site.  I suppose if the joke is VERY funny, it might still draw someone in, but if it's only passingly humorous, you could have problems.  I would suggest fitting the art to the ad, making something specifically for the ad itself that will get across the point.

  4. Wordiness - AKA:  Too much text.  I don't want to read it all.  There was an ad I remember that had a LOT of text on an animated cycle and it took a bit to watch the whole thing.  I decided not to bother reading the comic.  Keep the text to a minimum, the title is often more than enough.

  5. Unrelated to the Comic - I know controlling which comics an ad gets put up on is somewhat difficult, if not impossible, but if the ad is for a comic that has NOTHING in common with the comic the ad is on, I'm certainly not interested in visiting the comic.  If you can control this, try to advertise on comics with similar themes (Sci-Fi, roommates R us, fantasy) or similar artwork style (stick man, manga, etc) in the beginning as it'll build a nice base of readers (says the guy who doesn't advertise his own review blog at all).

  6. The "Catch Phrase" - I really can't think of a better term for this.  It's the short phrase that tries to draw people to the comic, and they generally don't work very well in my eyes.  They're supposed to tell you about the comic, but typically they're what the artist thinks the comic is about rather than what it is about.  Keeping it brief helps, and making it as actually descriptive as possible will as well.  Yeah, that sounds contradictory, and it probably is, but I generally don't like them so that might be my way of discouraging you.
There really isn't much else I can add about ads.  The best advertisement I've founds is word of mouth, getting people to talk about your comic via forums is always the best method I've found as you'll end up with little reviews like mine and such.

Well, enough of that kiddies, see you next time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Touching Base #2

Time for another edition of Touching Base.  It has nothing to do with being to lazy to post old reviews and that I'm currently in a new review reading cycle.  Nothing to do with that AT ALL.

First up, Gods and Undergrads, a comic I've been following a while, though with little caring about it recently.  The story is, um, kind of not there.  I take that back, it IS there, it just isn't the bold, obvious story you normally get.  All that would be well and good, but the first two volumes of the comic have been compacted into actual paper books and are now on sale.  Great, right?  Wrong, because now you can't read the achieves any more, only see "preview pages."  With such a long, slow story growing, the fact that the archives are now inaccessible makes me question whether I wish to continue the strip or not.  I'll think about it.

City of Reality is changing it's schedule.  It was running an entire chapter every 15 days or so, creating one of the more unique webcomic experiences that I really enjoyed.  Now it's going to a MWF schedule, one page a day.  I think I understand why, a typical chapter is on the order of 20-30 pages long, meaning he ends up doing nearly 2 pages A DAY.  Fully colored, sometimes with a great deal of flash.  That's assuming he didn't build up a healthy backlog, but even then, he's probably running out by now, and the stress of maintaining his current pace will probably have a negative effect on the comic.  On the other hand, I love the single chapter updates, it's so different and makes each a thrill to read.  I'll have to get back to you on whether this is a good thing or either too, but not for a few months or so.

In sadder news, Resident Dysentery has apparently dropped off the face of the internet.  Actually, this initially happened several months ago, with a big "Account Suspended" web page.  I figured they forgot to pay their bills or something, but the site has not returned and there's no hint of it that I can find via Google.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, between the rare updates and random art projects that got stuck in there, the comic really wasn't an "active" comic.  Still, to know that it's gone, like too many others, I am saddened and angry.

In hiatus news, Head Trip is back on hiatus.  Apparently the artist got flooded out of her apartment and is relatively homeless at the moment.  Just prior to this was a rash of events that prevented her from updating for months.  Hopefully she'll get back on track.

Parallel Dementia has also gone on a bit of a hiatus, but not without leaving something behind, namely yet another Emergency Exit crossover.  This time, though, EE is doing all the art work and updating both sites.  It's odd how closely linked these two comics have become, it's something you rarely ever see, even between spin offs.  Yet the character sets seem to compliment each other nicely and the story of the comics two main characters will likely be pushed forward from this exchange in a way that neither could do on their own.

Happy news, Totally Kotor is back!  Oh, you don't know about that yet.  Totally Kotor is a parody comic of the video game Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic and it's sequel.  It's a silly, fun comic featuring light spoons and cartoon violence and evil.  It went on hiatus, oh, about a year ago it seems when the artist went to do missionary work.  Well he came back, must have been around November, and has been updating regularly ever since.  I thought it was dead for good, so color me surprised when I checked it one day and found it was updating again.  Glad to have it back in it's old home, the MWF list.

Okay, what else.  Shadowgirls FINALLY started updating anew.  For some reason I was convinced it was restarting IN January rather than the end of the month.  Whoops.  Templar, Arizona hasn't updated in a while now, not sure what's up with that.

I suppose that's about it for this edition.  I'm hoping to have a new review batch up next week (I've read 4 of the 5 comics so far), and I'm still working on touching this place up with a page called "The List" which will feature EVERY comic I've read and reviewed (though not the reviews).  And by still working on, I mean I haven't done jack with it yet.  Hehe.  Also, suggestions on site layout, coloring and whatever are appreciated.

That's it for now kiddies, see you next time.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sexual Preferences in Webcomics

With all the recent talk about the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays and lesbians, I suppose it's only right that I spend this weeks article on the growing number of gays and lesbians in webcomics.

I say growing number because it seems I'm always stumbling across one or several when I find a comic.  I'm not sure why, maybe I just happen to read them, but there does seem to be more appearing every year.  Not that I have anything against it, I don't, but I wonder if it's simply being done for the same reason "minorities" are included in 80's cartoons.  Well, let's take a look.

At it's most simple, the concept of homosexuality is really an excuse to tell jokes.  This is particularly true of Sinfest and Menage a 3.  The former uses it as a simple form of humorous temptation for Slick to get all bothered by.  Of course, in a comic that features porn as part of the joke, this should be no surprise.  As to the latter, the entire concept for Menage a 3 is to be about different sex preferences and fetishes, and all played up for raunchy laughter.

A step up is when the relationships are taken a bit more seriously.  Girly features the many "side kicks" of the comic, that while not straight up claiming these relationships are much more than that, really drives home the point that the definitions of others don't strictly apply.  The feelings each couple has for each other vary, but they are close and they watch out for each other, which is all most relationships really need to have.  Footloose started playing in the more serious (only just though) role thanks to a bit of cross dressing, some ancestry and questioning of one's personal wants or needs.  Though I think it throws a bit of a wrench in things with the ancestry angle, which ends up reducing it all down a bit.

Angels 2200 presents a much different situation, one in which nearly every man is dead, and thus we're left almost only one gender relationships.  While there is several sexual relationships, often it boils down to more emotional relationships, and given the situation, it seems at least relatively real (aside from the fact that all the women are drawn exceptionally hot).  Bruno is all about the relationships, though it sometimes seems Bruno will sleep with anything with two legs.  Perhaps this is more a bit about liberation from traditional sexual moors than anything else.  BTW, if you haven't read that comic, Bruno is a girl.

Which brings up an interesting point here, most of the comics I've talked about feature lesbians of one sort or another.  The only other comic with characters that are homosexual include Queen of Wands and it's sequel, Punch n' Pie, both having lesbian/bisexual characters.  Male homosexuals are strangely rare.  Blip has one male character who is gay, but he isn't a major character (and recently got stabbed. . .), as does Emergency Exit (though he plays a more major role).  Menage a 3 has at least 2, and they were going at it in the first strip, but even then it narrowed down to one after that.  Templar, Arizona mentions this, but strictly in terms of prostitution rather than an actual relationship.

The only comic that has any serious male homosexual relationships that I recall seeing is Return to Eden, and that only takes place in the first chapter or so (and they both promptly die).  So what is going on here?

It could just be that I don't read comics with homosexual male relationships (I don't go seeking it out either, sorry, not my thing).  Perhaps, but I think it might be more likely a play on the fact most webcomic artists are male, and there's a fairly large segment of the male population that likes girl on girl action.  I even use it as a joke in several of my reviews of the above mentioned comics.  I think also lesbianism is more acceptable for some reason (actually, for the same reason) and people are more willing to read and write about it.

So where does this leave us?  Gay and lesbian characters exist, yes, but there seems to be far more focus on lesbians for the titillation factor.  While many of these relationships are meaningful to the characters and story, they really seem to be more about getting people to read the comic, while male relationships are rare and do little.  Well, at least including the "one gay friend" gag isn't epidemic, so perhaps things aren't too bad, but still. . .

Anyway, enough yakking about that, maybe I'll do one about race next time.  Or maybe not.  Until then kiddies.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Newspaper Comics #1

Newspaper comics?  This is a webcomic review blog-thingy, isn't it?  Well, yeah, but as I said way, WAY back in my Webcomic Categories article, newspaper comics are one of the prime motivators for webcomic artists.  And I need to write some different articles to pad out my regular webcomic reviews.

Unlike my webcomic reviews, this will be less about multiple reviews and more about the influence of individual newspaper comics on webcomics, sometimes specific strips, sometimes on the industry as a whole.  Well, as much as I know about them anyway.  And who do we start with?  What newspaper comic more perfectly encompasses everything the typically webcomic wishes to be?  Why, Peanuts, of course.

There are probably only a handful of truly great newspaper comic artists in history, and amongst them Charles M. Schulz is god.  There are older strips (Blondie started in the 30's) but none of them even hold a candle to the sheer influence of Schulz and Peanuts.

I love the comic, pretty much always have, so excuse me if I gush any.  Yeah, it's good, and it seems to me that a lot of webcomic artists can find in Schulz a kin to them.  He did the entire thing (not sure on the coloring, can't find anything on that) himself.  He drew it and wrote the jokes alone, and let no one else do it.  So much so that his retirement meant the end of new strips and all that's currently in the paper are reruns.  A one man show, and something most webcomic artists can relate to.  Of course, he also did it for more than 50 years (not counting his proto-Peanuts strip), I don't think there's a webcomic more than 15 years old that's STILL updated.

There's a timelessness to the strips.  Most of the strips require little, if any, knowledge of the era in which they were draw, and almost never include modern technology or topics.  You'd never hear Charlie Brown and Lucy argue over cell phone ring tones.  This helps keep the strips from ever feeling dated and the jokes can be felt even from the eldest of strips.  I actually have a book of old Peanuts strips printed in 1963 and featuring strips from the 50's (it's a small book) and the jokes in that are still funny after all these years.

Which isn't to say Peanuts doesn't visibly age.  The art changed from those early years until the end (Snoopy is unrecognizable from early on, almost to point of looking like a character from a more modern comic, Mutts), and the jokes got flatter as time went on.  But hey, after 50 years, what do you expect?  The last 10 years were probably the worst for the strip, and considering that it's still better than 90% of what ends up in my newspaper, that says a lot about the comic.

And it's sheer popularity allowed it to build up a massive collection of TV specials, books, a play, and more merchandising than can be easily matched by any strip (Garfield probably wins the race, but only JUST).  I suppose it's no surprise that even 10 years after Schulz's death and the end of new Peanuts strips, the comic is still one of the major draws of the funny pages.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that Schulz died not long after ceasing production of the strip, and a kind of symbolism that the last strip was published the day after his death.  A great comic and it's artist had passed on just as they should, together.  Which is more than I can say for a lot of strips.

Every webcomic artist wants to be the Schulz of their genre.  To be revered by everyone and to get the acclaim worthy of such an artist.  But I haven't run into one that truly deserves that title yet.  I suppose it is because of the youth of the industry and the lack of a way to truly measure the greatness of a strip in any direct way.  The Washington Post poll shows much of this as it lacks strips that should be there, and places strips that should NOT be there because of a popular nomination process.  Of any of those, I don't think any could match Schulz for sheer universal appeal.  I'm not sure if that's good or not, after all Peanuts probably helped maintain the funny pages in newspapers for decades, but also created an environment where papers EXPECTED comics to last 50+ years and change hardly at all.

I suppose I would be remiss to not mention Weapon Brown, a comic that takes the character names and foibles direct from Peanuts and the rest of the funny pages.  It places them in a completely different environment with only slightly different, if harder, personalities and is actually very fun to read.  I suppose the greatest honor is that at the bottom of every new strip, the artist puts a panel from the original Peanuts to act as a kind of alt-text to his work.  That's a hell of an influence.

Well, that went on a while, and rambled a bit.  Oh well.  Next time, I think I'll tackle another of the great comics, and one comic I used to absolutely love beyond reproach, though not so much any more.  Until next time kiddies.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Wild Webcomic Reviews 71 - 75

Well, after two weeks of no old reviews, let's get back to them shall we?

August 24, 2006

71. Brainslug - What is with homicidal bunny rabbits? Why do we want them to exist? I don't know, but here's another one, along with his "owners" fighting alien tongues. Yeah, I said tongues. Short, hasn't been updated since May, and more's the pity. This would be high on my list of comics if he started updated. Reminds me of Rugg in that way, and makes me cry since it hasn't updated in a long time either.

TODAY - The updates are still sporatic, but it does do it more frequently than before.  The initial alien tongue storyline finally finished, but the movement of the plot is, um slow.  Still, I'm glad, because it is rather fun.

72. Dreams in Synergy - This comic is gearing up to be a wonderful horror comic. A wonderfully horrific comic. The art is nice too, in a surrealistic sort of way. It sort of flows around, as does the text and dialog. It's short, being rather young, but it seems to be on the way to being very, very good.

TODAY - And it all fell apart and got a reboot, at which point I just stopped reading.  I think it might be on a monthly schedule, but hard to say on that.  The art is visually interesting, but I think there was never really much of a plot to run with it.

73. Infanticide - It doesn't update much, if at all. There aren't many "strips," as it were, and I'll be damned if I can pronounce the girl's name, but it is a nice break. Innocent in a way that is hard to match, fun in the same way. Short, sweet, easy to read and enjoy. I hope it gets updated again, that would be great.

TODAY - There hasn't been any new pieces for this in a long time, but I think it's more a one shot deal than a running comic.  I have no problem with that either.

74. Insanity 24/7 - Every strip involves the main character slipping into some geek culture reference. Games, movies, cartoons, etc. Not VG Cats (and I know, what is?), but fun in its own, little way.

TODAY - This comic started to lose it's luster not soon after I posted the review, and kept going for a while.  I suppose it works out that the comic went on an extended, likely permanet, haitus as I was just about to remove it from my read list entirely.  At least there was an explination, better than a lot of comics out there.

75. One Liners - Snarky statements are what this comic is all about. Sometimes they're serious, usually they're not, and often they're damn funny. The one character, Shishio, reminds me of someone, see if you can guess who.

TODAY - Speaking of comics that vanish with no explination, this one is so gone as to have vanished from the face of the internet.  That's right, another MIA comic.  Shame, actually.  Oh, and the thing at the end of the review refers to a person on the forums I original posted this one.

Only one still on the read list, with two dead and one MIA.  At least it wasn't as bad as the last couple before this.

Anyway, I'm taking this Friday off.  The reason is very personal and I don't really have an idea for an article for this week anyway.  Well, I do, but I really don't know if I can finish it in time.  No matter, see you next week kiddies.