Friday, December 30, 2011

Can't Live Without, 2012 Edition

So I skipped doing this last year because I had other things to do, but the list has changed a bit from way back in 2010.  Two comics on the original list ended/died utterly, one stalled out, one is nearing its end and I've discovered more comics, so the list needs to be updated.  Again, these are in no particular order, so no one is better than the other, and this is not a "best" list at all, just comics I never want to not read.

1.  Sluggy Freelance - Despite all the weird twists the comic took, I still enjoy Sluggy.  I WANT to see where it goes everyday, whether it's the darkness of 4UCity or the silliness of the Hampsternom, I want to see the next strip.

2.  Schlock Mercenary - Still probably the overall best comic on the net, I love how the story simply flows from one event to the other, ranging from local hotspots to galaxy spanning conflicts.  The characters all have their strengths and weaknesses, and all manage to do it in the funniest way possible.  A classic webcomic that deserves your attention.

3.  Weapon Brown - There are few action comics that are as awe inspiring as Weapon Brown.  The repurposing of classic comic characters into a post apocalyptic setting is amazing and well done.  If you haven't read this comic, you're missing out, go do it.

4.  Gunnerkrieg Court - This comic is great, and not reading it should almost be a crime.  The art, the characters, the story, all of them come together to make one of the best comics there is on the net.  There should be a franchise built around this, it would be awesome.

5.  The Adventures of Dr. McNinja - Humor is McNinja.  Weird, surrealist humor with a bit of action.  Dr. McNinja is a comic that never forgets WHAT it is, no matter how weird or long the story goes and deserves to be read.

6.  The Whiteboard - The silliness continues with this comic.  On one end it's a fairly simple adventure/gag comic, on the other, it goes over the top in such a way that you can only laugh.  The cast has gotten more rounded over the years and I really think this is getting better than most.

7.  Spinnerette - I've been reading this from it's beginning, and it has only gotten better and better with each new chapter.  It gives me hope that superhero comics can actually rise above the current garbage out there while still being fun.  It's serious and fun, smart and hilarious.  The art is spot on for such a work, and it deserves the movie they're now working on (an independent film).  Go read it.

8.  Dead Winter - The zombie fad is hard to do different and interesting.  Dead Winter manages this, I think.  It's less about fighting zombies than the people doing it, if anything the zombie fights are almost casual annoyances most of the time.  The art is great too, getting better with each new strip and likely some of my favorite art in a comic I've read.

9.  Heart Shaped Skull - Okay, technically the comic is called Serenity Rose, but that's the name of the site and I'm a stubborn soul.  Despite the otherworldly nature of the comic (magic is big here), it is pretty well grounded.  Serenity is pretty normal, relatively and that gives it an odd depth that I enjoy.  The art is great, the message is well thought out and I just think this comic works.

10.  Blip - Where Serenity is neck deep in the magic of her world, K is completely oblivious to it.  I love that aspect of the comic, where she is utterly unaware that her three best friends are a vampire, a witch and a robot.  It's an odd angle for a comic as most usually throw the main character in or have them wallowing in it already.  I suspect that K will NEVER know what's going on around her, or if she finds out, the comic will end.  It's a great angle for a great comic.  Just wish the artist would fix the date system attached to the updates.

As always, I have some Honorable Mentions:  City of Reality, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Errant Story, The Adventures of Superhero Girl and Sinfest.  All of them could easily get on this list if the rest weren't there, though Errant Story isn't because, well, it's nearly over and at some point I will have to live without it.

Well, that's it.  Happy New Year to you and yours and hopefully I'll have some new reviews instead of half baked articles this year.  Later kiddies.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Webcomic Christmas Gifts I Want

Well Christmas is coming this weekend, and I could give you a present of a new batch of reviews.  But I didn't do any.  So instead, I'll give you a list I would send Santa for the various webcomics I read.  This isn't so much about things, but the comic itself.

1.  I'd like so many comics to come back from the dead.  Lizzy, Hanna is Not a Boy's Name, Shadowgirls,  Hazard Pay, No Rest for the Wicked, etc, etc.

2.  I don't want too many print copies of comics, but Gunnerkrigg Court, The Meek and Errant Story are a couple exceptions.  They are spectacular comics, and WHY AREN'T YOU READING THEM!

3.  A few comics I'd like to see start going again.  They aren't "dead" yet, but getting close.  Sea of Insanity has returned to life more than a few times, and I'd like to see that again.  Hari-Sari and Punch n' Pie need to come back as well.

4.  Some comics just need to end.  Elsie Hooper needs to get back and finish up.  It's so close to the end, so close.  Not too many others, luckily, at least ones I'm still reading.

5.  And some comics I just want to die horribly.  Diesel Sweeties and Penny Arcade, please just curl up and die.  I don't read either of you, but please die and make the internet a better place.  Please?

I would like to say I DID get a webcomic gift after all.  In the process of adding links, I found that Nobody Scores! updated!  I know, I was shocked too.  Miracles do happen kids.

And that's it for Christmas.  I hope you have a Merry Christmas, or general Happy Holiday.  I'll be back next week for my top 10 comics I Can't Live Without, 2012 edition.  See you then kiddies.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Not So Wild Review: Sinfest

Since I don't want to spend time recreating a post that blogger ate, I guess I'll do a Not So Wild Review.


I read a lot of comics, and as I've said before, I divide them into 4 categories:  Novel, Epic, Adventure and Classic/Daily comics.  Usually I have one or two ideas of what each entails, a prototype for the category.  Sinfest is the prototype for the Classic one.

Once upon a time, Tatsuya Ishida, the comic's artist, wanted to get Sinfest into newspapers.  I think he was rejected about 15 times or so, enough that he said screw it and dedicated himself to the webcomic.  I think that was probably a good thing as the comic syndicates would likely have demanded it be neutered and all the humor of the comic would have been lost.  Sinfest doesn't have an overarching story, but does have character development.  There are no "adventures" but things happen over the course of the comic.

But let's get down to the review portion and start talking about it.


The two main characters are Slick and Monique, but even then, the secondary cast has taken a lot larger role in recent years.  For a comic that is built on short story arcs and daily jokes, however, the various characters develop over the life of the comic.  Slick once wanted to be a pimp, but is he really?  Yes, he still has some of those traits, but he's a much better character than he once was.  Monique has done much the same, questioning her own appeal and, very recently, going for a more androgynous look to try do define herself.

Calling the rest the "secondary cast" is hard, though, as they span quite a variety and get reasonable amounts of time.  Li'l E currently is getting a chance to reexamine his life while the Devil seems to be tracking his movements.  Fuchsia, a devil girl, walks out of her job with the Devil to pursue her love for Criminy, a boy who loves books.  Even Squigley, the over eating, pot smoking pig, got a whole storyline where he wondered around as a hobo.  None of these characters are quite what they used to be at the start of the strip (well, God is still a bit of a dick).  At the same time, they are, fundamentally, the same people.  Reading a strip from early on and then fast forwarding to the present isn't as much a jarring change as you would think, though it would leave more than a few questions.


There are no adventures in this comic really.  There are stories, but they rarely go very far and wide.  Squigley's adventures as a hobo are about as close to a full fledged adventure as the comic ever got, and even then it wasn't quite what would classify as an adventure in comics of the type.  There are no great villains running around (the Devil doesn't count), or quests to undertake.  These are people living relatively normal daily lives, well as normal as having a Reality zone next door, the Devil playing basketball with Jesus, books that attack people and 2010 pulling a Themal and Louise vs Death.

All that sounds exciting, but they are only loosely connected.  The comic isn't about the adventures, it's about the characters and their common foibles.  Sex, drugs, religion, pop culture, popularity and even love all appear in one form or another and the individual vignettes that pepper the strip help to explore them.


Sinfest is, at it's heart, a daily joke comic.  Nearly every strip is punctuated by some kind of joke or twist.  Slapstick is rare, but it happens, and almost never is there a pun involved.  The jokes aren't more about setting up the moment and delivering in the next up.  It's an interesting pacing for this kind of comic as the set up is often as funny as the punchline, if not funnier.  Honestly, as time has gone on, the comic has felt less funny to me, and more insightful than it probably has any right to be.  Laugh out loud moments in Sinfest are kind of rare, but there's almost always a bit of a chuckle to be had.

And when things get too intense, Tatsuya pulls out Percy and Pooch and runs a week worth of strips featuring them.  In a way, they represent a more conventional kind of comic, jokes built around a dog and cat and their interactions with each other, their owner and their limited world.  These moments provide a light moments that are almost always funny, especially from a pet owners perspective.  Kind of like how Garfield USED to be in it's nature.


Comparing the early strips to the later ones really isn't that huge of a leap.  Oh, the earlier strips are cruder, but the basic characters are fairly well defined.  The big difference is shading, as in there's a lot of it in the modern strip as opposed to the early days.  The characters have gotten smoother and more streamlined, and the art has improved, but I wouldn't call the differences radical.  More like a well practiced hand at work.  The art is very good, and stands out even more with the color Sunday strips where Tatsuya gives himself more space to work with.  There are details that aren't detailed, but you can see them well enough.  Once in a while he'll do a calligraphy strip that shows line and form merging from a regular image into a written character (I assume it's Chinese, but I don't know for sure).


Sinfest is one of those comics I've come to expect to just BE there.  And as the comic has evolved from a straight up daily joke comic into what it is now, I find myself enjoying it more and more.  I haven't always felt that way, but even in writing this review I found that I really like this strip much more than even I thought I did.  It's a good comic and one that deserves to be read, long term or short.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Starting Points

Well my last article got eaten, so I'll have to recreate it sometime.  Just not now, I'll do this one instead.  Hopefully it doesn't get deleted randomly.

A few months ago now, DC, the big giant comic book company, "rebooted" their entire line up.  The reason for this is two fold:  They wanted to bring new readers in from the beginning of the universe's story without the mountain of backstory most comics come with, and they wanted to make money.  I can't speak on how successful the later was, nor really the former, but let's talk about starting points anyway.

This is actually something webcomics have to deal with, especially the older ones.  Comics like Sluggy Freelance, Schlock Mercenary and other long form comics have massive archives and that can be rather intimidating for new readers.  Sluggy, for example, has well over 5000 strips over it's 14 some years.  I started reading it about 8 years ago, and it was still a slog to go through the archives.  My review process is in fact hampered by these massive archives as I insist on reading from the beginning.  Probably the reason I have so many short/young comics in recent years as opposed to older ones.

This problem isn't even restricted to webcomics.  As already stated, comic books have the same issue and have attempted multiple "reboots" to restart these comics.  Even more so are the newspaper comics, many of whom are decades old.  Blondie, one of the oldest at 81 years, has more than 30,000 strips to it's name.  No one is going to read them all, and until recently, they really couldn't.  Newspaper comics are far more disposable than other comics, and often weren't meant for being reread.

So how do they keep an audience in the first place?  Aside from just simply being there for half a century in some cases.  Well most newspaper comics do it the easy way:  no story at all.  Just single jokes.  You don't have to know the names of the characters, their pasts, or anything really.  The joke stands on it's own.  It's the simplest way to solve the problem of starting points as there really isn't one.  Many webcomics, like Cyanide and Happiness and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, follow this, you don't need to read the archives to know the comic.

Which doesn't work for those long form story comics.  For them, we should look to the comic books, and how they do starting points, unless they're restarting everything.  Ideally (which is to say, they don't do it much) each individual issue of the comic should stand alone.  You don't need to know much, if anything, to get the story.  This doesn't always work, but even a simple narration box at the beginning can get people up to speed rather easily, and for the big comics (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, ect) most people know enough not to need such a thing.

I rarely see this from webcomics.  Spinnerette does it a little, but not as much as a good comic book would.  More adventure style comics have "chapters" or even "books" to designate the division between different stories, but often the older comics, like Sluggy and Schlock, kind of run their stories together and link them.  These deep connections mean that references are often made to past stories, and much like comic books of old, they put up links to the referenced events.

Okay, so what do webcomics have to help with starting a story?  Well, there are cast pages and getting started pages that can be used easily enough, but they aren't perfect.  Sluggy has one, but it's already out of date by quite a bit.  Cast pages tell you little about the character typically, and are often out of date as well.

In the end, webcomics with long stories or adventure style comics will always have a problem bringing new people in.  Comic books have the same problem and there is NO good solution.  Even starting from scratch doesn't resolve the problem, it just holds it off a bit.  The best option is to make whatever story is most recent GOOD.  With access to archives, either through the net or trades from the comic book publishers, will keep people's attention and they can start anywhere that way.

So an article about starting points offers no solutions, because there aren't any that I can think of.  Oh well, at least this hasn't been eaten by blogspot.  I hope.  Until next time kiddies.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Okay, I don't know what happened

I had an article, I wrote it, scheduled it and published it to be put up YESTERDAY and it did NOT go up, and is now even gone from the back end stuff.  The hell happened, I don't know.  What the hell?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Damn Turkey Day

I had a pair of articles started, but thanks to Thanksgiving, I couldn't get either of them finished.

So bleh, no article this week.  I hate doing that.  Next week I should have at least something.  God damn it!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Not So Wild Review: Bob the Angry Flower

Nice thing about finishing that list last week?  It sorts out what the next comic in the Not So Wild Review is with one simple click.  And that comic is:


My weekly dose of absurdest humor, Bob has kept me chuckling for nearly 9 years now, and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.  That said, I can't quite review it like the last 3 Not So Wild Reviews.  There is no story element, outside of a short stint known only as Rothgard, and that's fairly recent.  And as for characters, well, there are only 3:

There is Bob, who is an angry flower.  Then Stumpy, who is a bored stump.  And finally Freddie, who is an innocent flying fetus.  Stumpy and Freddie are there to react to whatever weird thing Bob is up to at the moment.  All three do whatever happens to be funniest at the time.


And that's really the point of the comic, whatever happens to be funniest.  Bob's humor is borderline surreal, involving talking punctuation marks, UN mandates and various space aliens.  Why Bob does ANYTHING is the joke, and usually the answer is "because."

Which isn't to say it's always funny.  Like Nobody Scores!, which is based on the same concept, the jokes either hit you in the face like a truck, or miss by a mile.  Bob, however, does it constantly, once a week, every week.  This provides a steady diet of humor that even the funniest comics can't quiet get right.  This once a week scheduling also keeps the comic from going stale too fast.  The final joke of every comic is pretty similar ("just because"), and if it ran daily, or even 3 times a week, I could see myself growing bored of it.  With weekly dose, it keeps it from leaving a bad taste in my mouth for very long, if it ever does create one.


Bob's art is actually really good, considering that the whole point is for a giant flower to do something crazy.  Looking at early work, you can see the basic shapes of the characters easily coming together, but there's a sketchiness to it that indicates it is very early artwork.  A steady progression of development into the current style is easy to see as each strip gets a little be cleaner than the previous one.

Honestly, I would expect nothing less from a comic that's nearly 20 years old at this point.  It's like looking at early Peanuts strips and comparing them to what's being reprinted in papers now.  There is an obvious difference, but it's not so different as to be unidentifiable.


Bob has been a staple of my comic list now for a long time and as long as he keeps making it, I will likely continue to read it.  It's a small, fun dose of zany that keeps me coming back every week.  In a way, it signals the beginning of my weekly updating comic read through, which I usually do Sunday, and in a sense is the front page of my internet funny pages.  It doesn't always get a big laugh out of me, few comics do, but it always gives me a chuckle and prepares me for the rest of my day.  I recommend Bob as a nice break from the massive epic comics and story driven dramas.  And if we're lucky, Bob won't try to open any more cans.  With a tank.

See you next week kiddies.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Update Week

As in, I have updated the site, a bit.

The biggest addition is The List, which lists all 225 comics I have currently reviewed.  I've included status and links for each.  If one of the links doesn't work despite me saying it should, please tell me.

I have gone through and resorted my read lists as well.  Many comics (Shadowgirls, Lizzy, etc) have been removed and newer comics have been added.  I will make every effort to keep this list updated properly.

Suggestions on new look, colors or pictures are welcome and accepted.

And that's about it.  Not sure yet what next week's article will be, but I'll think of something.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nothing Again

I am unemployed once again, with my gig at the amusement park, and it's Halloween event at an end.  Which should mean I have more time for this.

But instead I spent the day cleaning my woefully neglected home.  Yeah, it's kind of a mess.  So nothing this week.  Next week I hope to finally straighten out the blog a bit rather than a straight up article.  So a couple weeks with nothing special.  Sorry about that.

Anyway, see you next time kiddies.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Real Life Vs Webcomics

Death by Hiatus was one of my first articles on this blog.  The reason for it is that a lot of comics die because the artist "took a break" and never came back.  Often the question left by a hiatus death is why?  Why did the artist leave and never return.  For the lucky ones it was just plain boredom.  For the rest, however, it is Real Life, and it can be far, far worse.

The simplest, and probably most common Real Life issue is computer failure.  Obviously a webcomic requires a computer to at least publish, but many artists use computers for cleaning, editing, and sometimes even drawing in the first place.  Failed computers have stalled out a great many comics, including most recently Head Trip, and even Sluggy Freelance has suffered (though that was more due to massive power outages).  These problems are usually temporary, but with artists making so little money on comics, if any, the incentive to get a new, functioning computer to continue updating is small at best.

Work and school is the second most common issue.  The vast majority of webcomic artists do NOT make money on their comics, so they have to do something else.  Most do some odd office jobs or if they're lucky, they'll actually have a job as an artist.  Either way, work causes stresses that maintaining a regular update to a webcomic that make no money less appealing.  Punch n' Pie is going through that now, as is (I hope) Sea of Insanity, neither of which has updated in months.  Will they come back?  Work isn't something that is simply going to go away, so if it's so stressful they can't come back now, will they ever?

And then, there's the big one/two shot:  Personal and medical.  Medical has killed a great many comics.  It nearly did in Sea of Insanity once (thus the "I hope" previously), Metrophor was killed by a medical problem, the same problem that seems to be effecting Emergency Exit I'm afraid.  Worse problems occur like those plaguing Michael Poe's wife which is about as bad as you can get short of dying.  He also had the issue of his father dying and that estate issue which has stalled out both Errant Story and Does Not Play Well With Others.  The comics still update, but then, these comics are his job.  I'm surprised the man can still tell funny jokes at this point.

Frankly, the worst fate is one that's hard to fathom:  The artist simply loses interest.  At least with work or medical problems, there's usually some indication as to what happened, but other times, the artist simply doesn't want to do it any more.  They walk away and never return, no comment, no reason, just gone.  This is true Death by Hiatus, the worst kind of death a comic can have.  I'll forgive Poe if he elects to stop both his comics for his wife.  I'm fine if Punch 'n Pie disappears because the writer is buried in paperwork.  Hell, if Sluggy Freelance vanishes because Abrams' computer explodes in a giant fireball, I'll let that go, but simply walking away with no reason ever given, that is unforgivable.

Well, enough of that.  Until next week kiddies.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Horror By Other Means

Last time I talked about horror. As I said last week, horror is a flexible genre, capable of taking on multiple personalities as needed.  In many cases, the "horror" element of the story takes a back seat to the other elements of the genre.  Horror then becomes less a genre and more a setting, which is what I'm going to talk about this time.

I have read a lot of comics that have horror elements, or a horror setting, but not actually what I would consider horror.  I look at suspense and mystery as an essential part of horror, with gore and scares being the final results of those two elements.  Most of the time, though, horror is less about those things, and more about, say, comedy.

Which brings me to the first comic I'd like to discuss, Eerie Cuties.  This is most certainly not suspense or mystery, but almost entirely played for laughs.  Yes, there are vampires, werewolves and even witches (until they moved to their own comic), but they are merely characters in the comedy that is Eerie Cuties.  There are SOME horror elements even with these characters, but they really take a backseat to the comedy.  I find that comedy and horror go very, very well together, but in this case it's more comedy than horror.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, and as a comedy it works pretty well.  The actual horror part of Eerie Cuties loses out in most cases to the comedy.

Further away from pure comedy is Conny Van Ehlsing, Monster Hunter, who leans more towards the horror angle, with actual monsters, but rarely goes into pure suspense.  How Conny deals with the creatures is very thoughtful and practical, but often the motivations of the monsters is rather silly and are put down rather easily.  Here we get more gore, less humor, but not strictly a lot of actual suspenseful horror.  The action, however, is much more prevelent here.

Then we get to Kristy vs the Zombie Army.  Comedy and horror go well together, as I said, so much so that some of the greatest horror movies are actually comedies.  Specifically, I'm thinking of the Evil Dead series, and Army of Darkness, which is where Kristy gets it's inspiration.  Like Army of Darkness, however, the comedy is merged more into action, and the fight with the zombie army takes up quite a bit of the early comic.  Of course, the fact that a little girl is carrying a giant chainsaw is enough to put a grin on anyone's face.  Though calling those zombies actual zombies is hard to do, they are kind of stylized.

Which finally brings us to the other end of the horror spectrum, action dramas, and Dead Winter.  Like the majority of zombie based, well anything, it is about action and killing or running from zombies.  Dead Winter is all about that, with the occasional bout with other humans.  There are tense moments, yes, but calling them horror would be a disservice to horror as a whole.  Doesn't mean Dead Winter isn't good, it is, but it's not strictly horror as I see it.

I've read other horror comics, of course, the direction of each being somewhere between comedy and action with only elements of horror in them.  From Choppingblock to Contemplating Reiko, the variety is there to be had, but I wouldn't call any of them true horror.

One day I hope to find one, until then, I'll just have to make due reading more Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.  Until next time kiddies, happy Halloween.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Horror and Webcomics

Given the time of year, and the fact that I work in a haunted house (and am being paid to do it), I guess we should cover the topic of horror and how it relates to webcomics.

Horror is a weird genre, much like science fiction, it is more a mixture of other genres with a general theme to them.  Horror is about fear, generally, the generation of fear and the final snap that makes fear that exciting jolt many seem to love.

Horror and comics go way, WAY back.  Horror comics are even behind one of the greatest "corrupting our youth" over reactions of all time.  It took nearly 50 years to shed the results of that scare and free the comic book industry from it once and for all.

So webcomics should be able to handle horror really well, right?  Well, actually no, they can't.  At least not the way the majority of webcomics are currently structured.

Let me try to explain.  I used to set up a Halloween display every year until I moved to my current residence (I don't get trick or treaters here, sadly).  Now I never had much, really, but I structured it so what little I had went a long way.  The first thing people heard when they got on the street (within about 4 houses) was music.  Halloween music, of course, a mix CD I made using classic horror music and a few tracks I felt fit quite well.  As they got closer, they would begin to hear something else, sound effects.  I have a great CD of Halloween sound effects and right about the time they could see the enclosure where the display was, the sound effects began to leak out.

At this point they saw the graveyard, and began to see the lights from inside the enclosure.  As they got to the enclosure (I've used tarps and my porch alternatively), the music would fade back and be replaced almost entirely with the sound effects.  The CD player for the sound effects is always in the enclosure.  That's when the display came to full force.  A giant spiderweb on the wall, a skull with glowing eyes and smoking pouring out, pumpkins glowing in the dark, eyes lining the walls, spiders dangling from the ceiling, and in one corner, right next to the candy bowl, was me.

Dressed all in black, with a faceless mask and large gloves and sitting still, oh so very still.  Visitors had to know I was going to scare them, after all no one just lets people take candy.  So they came in anyway, slowly, knowing at any moment I was going to leap up.  I'd let them get closer, and closer until RAR!  Then I give them their candy and they leave.

The point of that?  All horror, all good horror, is built around a notion of suspense, the building of tension until the final scare.  Winding people up is an art in and of itself, and maintaining that tension par for the course.  Webcomics should be able to do this, but can't because of one thing that I have pounded on them for NOT doing:

They update regularly.  As in, they update once a week, twice a week or even every day.  One strip or page each update.  This allows all that tension the artist has been trying to build to be eased up between strips.

The best example of this is Flatwood, a comic that is long sense dead.  When I originally read the comic, I thought it was creepy and looking back on it, I think it was a really well done horror comic.  The art direction was near perfect for this kind of horror, unsettling being the word I used.  It also used gif images to give the appropriate "boo" factor.  The problem came after I finished the archive.  All the creepiness burned away when I had to wait a week between posts.  All the tension, the suspense of the comic was gone by the time the next update came about.  I doubt it would have worked even if it had updated daily, just too much time for the images to settle down.

The only other comic I would classify as horror that I've read is Nightmare World, and if memory served it still updated one page at a time, so it didn't quite pull off what horror comics need to do:  Update in short chunks.  Like City of Reality did for a time, whole chapter/story updates for horror comics seem to be a much better method than even the most generous update schedule.

That said, I'd love to be proven wrong.  Of course, what I consider "horror" for this article is different than what many people would think of, so I think we'll cover some ideas for horror next time.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wild Webcomic Reviews 150 -154

Hey, some old reviews.  It's been a while with these hasn't it?  No matter, FORWARD!

February 03, 2008

150. Gingerdead and Friends - Gothic cookie people and the things they do. It's different, but not what I would call great. Nothing's really wrong with it, but only the art style really sticks out, and that isn't that impressive. It's kind of like a watered down Reiko, but not really. At least it isn't horrible.

TODAY - Damn, I didn't even REMEMBER this comic.  That's how little impression it left on me.  Still updating though, a bit, but wow did I not remember anything about it.

151. leveL - All I could think while reading this is that someone played WAY too much Final Fantasy (7 or later), or the equivilant at least. Main character with amnesia and latent, but unexplored, magical like powers? Check. Girl with lots of attitude? Check. Terrible secret that secret agency within the government is trying to hide? Check. I could go on, but it would take a while, so I'll stop there. I actually put off reading this one for a while because of the animish art style (which in the first chapter isn't that great), but the art does improve and the story is at least mildly interesting, except for the bulk of Chapter 4 which has a lot of characters just talking about the world. Boring. Anyway, it's not bad, but not really great.

TODAY - The website for this broke a while ago, and didn't have any updates for a while, so I kind of wandered away from it.  The main page HAS been repaired, and redone.  And was last updated August of last year.  Yeah, I think this comic is definitely dead.

152. Luz: Girl of the Knowing - "The Knowing?" Yeah, that kind of threw me to, so I had to read it to find out. Turns out, it's one of those comics with a message, which basically comes down to "Globalization is bad, peak oil will destroy the modern world, learn to live without this stuff or YOU'LL DIE!" Okay, maybe I'm going a bit far with that, but it does seem to HAMMER its message into your skull in a way that is unpleasant. Now I'm a bit of a luddite myself, but this comic takes it all TOO seriously. Though it is funny when Luz realizes that chocolate might disappear and there isn't a damn thing she can do about it. I've got better things to read.

TODAY - Apparently there is now a book for this comic, as well as a stand alone graphic novel.  As much as I don't care for the comic, good for the artist for getting published.  Still not reading it, but that's me.

153. Teddy Bear Trauma - This is a comic about teddy bears doing HORRIBLE things to each other. Lots of violence and death, all done to stuffed animals. Seems the narrator of the comic didn't get that message, but you'll have to see that understand. Anyway, this is a fun comic, except for the interface. Flash, the whole thing. Not a fan of flash interfaces, give me html any day. It doesn't hurt the comic in the least, might even help it a bit, but makes navigating it a bit hard. It's worth the effort though.

TODAY - Yeah, still  a bit of a waste of flash, but the comic has been slowly updating, apparently.  No idea on when (flash interface prevents back dating things), but it's there.  When I was reading  Devilbear: The Grimoires of Bearalzebub for my last review, I thought back to this comic frequently, it's the whole teddy bears doing horrible things to each other idea.  The flash interface, again, encouraged me to not bother with the comic.

154. Just Another Escape - Many comics do flashbacks, some do flashforwards, but few do what Just Another Escape does and jumble the whole thing up into a ball and run with it. It even defines what is the past, present and future via artwork, just to keep things straight as it bounces around between the different time periods and tries to tell the story of the people of Rain House, a fancy college dorm. I think the best part is you KNOW it isn't just being made up as it goes along, and so there is some sense of a destination, which is what many comics (like leveL) sometimes lack. Is the story any good though? Well, it's kind of scattered and trying to figure out where everyone sits, and why things are happening the way they are is difficult to say the least. Probably the result of the comic being relatively young (less than a couple years). I'll be keeping an eye on it.

TODAY - I just did a retrospective on this comic.  Go read that to hear my final thoughts.

Wow, no comics in this one I still read, though the last one was by it's own hand.  That's kind of depressing.  Until next time kiddies. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Wild Webcomic Review: Late As Hell Edition

No, it's impossible.  This can't happen.  It can't be!


Ten months and I'm ACTUALLY doing a new batch of reviews?  Well, yes, I am, so it's not impossible, just improbable.  Still, time for another batch of reviews, 5 for you, my lovely readers (both of you) to gawk at and wonder "why did it take you 10 months?"  The answer is:  I'm lazy.  Off we go!

221.  Leth Hate - Remember Lowroad?  Yeah, about the same thing.  It actually features the cute succubus character, Giselle, which was featured near the end of Lowroad's run, but the main character is Leth, who is the ultimate asshole that has been rejected by heaven and hell.  There is also a zombie.  The jokes are the same as Lowroad, lots of sexual innuendos that aren't very subtle at all, and things like that.  If you liked Lowroad, you'll probably like Leth Hate, and I kind of do like Lowroad.

222. Devilbear:  The grimoires of Bearalzebub - This comic has one joke, it involves teddy bears going to hell.  And that's about it.  The first "chapter" is very much about that, and it got old very quickly.  Later chapters picked up a bit as they became less about bears going to hell.  Which brings the only other focus of the comic:  scantily clad devil women posing.  They also have pillow fights, seriously.  And it does get a bit deeper, but the core "joke" of the comic remains.  It's weird, I feel like I should really like the comic's jokes, if I were 10 years younger, or more.  I've MADE these jokes before, but something about it just doesn't quite work.  I think there might be a good story developing out of it, what it means to be good or evil and such, but I'm not sure if it will come through that one joke that was old before the first chapter was over.  Not sure if I'll follow it just because of that.

223.  Marry Me - This comic could easily be a romantic comedy.  It's structured like one, has the same jokes and the same wish fulfillment angles that any proper romantic comedy has.  The story opens with one of the most beautiful and famous pop singers getting up on stage, pointing out a guy carrying a "MARRY ME" sign, and gets married, right there on the stage.  Things get weird from there.  It's fun to watch the wacky hijinks, but in the end, it feels like things were thrown at the wall, random events and encounters that get weirder and weirder.  And all this goes back to pointing out that the two main characters, the pop star and her husband to be, are pretty much the most perfect people there are.  It doesn't bother me too much in this case, the comic is very fantastic in structure anyway, but I can see that it could drive some people away.  The main story is Marry Me itself, with a secondary story starting at the end of the original, and hasn't updated since February.  Yeah, I know how to find them.  Fun to read, but I doubt it has any steam to last longer than the original story.

224.  Winters in Lavelle - The first vibe I get from this comic is Narnia.  I've never read any of those books, but I know enough about it to get that Winters has the same basic concept behind it.  It rather quickly becomes a bit more dangerous and complex than I think Narnia ever did, but then, I never read the books.  It's still pretty early, but the seeds of the comic's stars being WAY over their heads has been planted (almost literally).  I won't say the world is complex, but it has some interesting elements and I think I may follow it for a bit just to see where it goes.

225.  Trying Human - I once got to visit Roswell, NM, where that alien space ship that was really a weather balloon crashed.  This comic taps the myth of Roswell to bring a story that is actually about love, of all things.  And love triangles and all the problems that come with them.  I really found myself enjoying the story and how it was built.  It integrates flashbacks throughout, and makes them feel relevant to events in the present story.  A lot of comics might try to shove the flashback storyline in early and not make it relevant or forget about it later.  This one draws it out, giving us the information we need to know as we need to know it.  The art is pretty good, sometimes feels a bit more cartoony than it should, but it still works, especially the various alien designs.  I will definitely be following this one for a while, and I would suggest others do the same.

Well, that's it for this review session.  Will I actually manage to do another review before the end of the year?  Um, probably not, but you never know.  Still, I'll try to get one out before July.  Until next time kiddies. 

Friday, September 30, 2011

Retrospective: Shadowgirls

So with so many comics dying, starting up a series of articles about them was inevitable.  Here I will give a post-mordum on comics that have, one way or another, died.  And this week we'll start with the most recent comic to join the club:  Shadowgirls.

It actually came as a surprise that Shadowgirls outright ended.  There had always been extended breaks throughout the comic, and even the current one didn't exactly phase me and was rather short.  I figured at worst, their 'financial model' plan might lead to a subscription to read the rest of the comic, but the comic would still exist.  Instead, the comic ends.

It's a sad fact that only a handful of lucky comics make any money at all, and even fewer make enough to completely support their creators.  The need to eat is a driving force in many decisions, but in this case I think it was the wrong one.  The artists needs a job, to get money, to eat, I know, I get that, but giving up the comic to do so?  Not sure if that's the best course of action myself.  Working on something, even a pet project or hobby (like this blog) keeps you going, gives you incentive to continue looking for a job.  It also builds a nice portfolio for possible employers, especially for artists.

And this artist is damn good, and has only gotten better with time.  Here, for example, is an early page from the book (yes, she's in her underwear).  Now here's the same character in a similar (though more dressed) pose.  I won't say that's a tremendous improvement, I've seen much greater leaps, but it is a steady improvement that shows the skill of the artist.  The shapes are better, the coloring more subtle, it's less like a quick sketch and more of a well planned image.  That kind of skill takes years of work, and I really appreciate that I got to see it for free.  Why doesn't this man have a job?  Who isn't hiring him?  Those people probably should be flogged.

Still, it's a personal decision to stop, and I won't judge it beyond the fact that, damn it, I want this comic to continue.  It's a good comic, and I enjoyed it for the length of the run, even if the last story didn't quite come together, you know, because it wasn't even half over.  So I implore them to reconsider stopping the comic, for the most selfish reasons possible.

Of course, since no one reads this blog (except for the 3 of you), I guess I'll just have to write about what I thought of it.  The tag line for the comic is "It's like H.P. Lovecraft meets the Gilmore Girls," how close it got to that, I can't say because I never watched Gilmore Girls, and what little I know of it comes from ads on TV.  The gist though is the mother/daughter connection and how their relationship with each other makes them stronger, quite literally in this case of course.  I actually like the relationship between the two, it feels, well, realistic to me.  They argue, yes, but there's never any hatred there.  The daughter knows the boundaries the mother put in place, and is rightful scared when she's been found out, but it's not "shit, she's going to beat me to death," but a proper fear of punishment.  There's love, punishment for breaking the rules, but not hatred and violence.  If Gilmore Girls is like that (and I don't know) then it succeeded at that.

The Lovecraft end, however, I do know about, and it worked DAMN well.  It takes it's inspiration from "Shadow Over Innsmouth," and if you haven't read that or any of Lovecraft's work, go search for it online, it's in the public domain and free now.  When I say inspiration, I mean it took the basic ideas while going in it's own direction.  Still, it captured the spirit of Lovecraft very well, and managed to bring the ideas into the modern world, and the last story even manged to describe how that happened in the first place.

Shadowgirls, however, was never a horror comic however.  A lot of what created the horror for Lovecraft is discovering humans weren't special or powerful, something that is taken more for granted now.  Instead, as I said in my original review of the comic, it is built more like a superhero comic.  It's built and works like one and I enjoy it like one.  There's far more action in it than Lovecraft ever worked on, and almost nothing that we would call horror.

Even so, the comic manages some great character development, though not with the main characters.  Yes, they do change, a little, but some characters, two in particular, change radically between the beginning of the first "season" and the end.  I'll discuss the second season in a moment.  These characters had interesting arcs, one even evolved from a simple, one note secondary character simply there to move the plot along to a key element of the story.  The other was more well planned, I think, and evolved from a personal antagonist to a sympathetic character.  This is brought even more to the point with the second season as we get a much better idea where the characters went following the events of the first season.

The first season of the comic was very well done, and while it might have felt a little meandering at times, it managed to tie it all up at the end.  The second season, however, felt very scattered, like ideas thrown at a wall with no plan.  That's not to say there wasn't one, of course, it was never finished, it just felt that way.  I think it comes from the fact that the first season started with only a handful of characters and plots, while season two had many, MANY more.  It became difficult to follow them all and see how they were all going to tie together.  Again, it never finished, so it's hard to know how it would have all come together, or if it was going to, and of course now we'll never know.

Still, Shadowgirls was a good comic, and one I would recommend to others who want a superhero comic, but without superheroes, if you know what I mean.  I will miss it, and I hope they change their mind before they're forgotten entirely.  At least the last comic features the best way any comic can end:  the image of a character walking off into the distance.  I like that.

Well, that's enough of that kiddies.  Next week, I might, MIGHT, have some new reviews for you.  Isn't that exciting?  Until then. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Culmination Events

Adventure comics, as I've stated before, are a series of short adventures a cast of comic characters undertake throughout the life span of the comic.  There's no path or goal for these adventures, they are more or less random, though they may be generated by previous adventure.  Epic comics do have a final goal, a final confrontation to look forward to, and an end to the adventure.

But that's not to say there's a moment when things do get tied together in an adventure comic.  These are culmination events, and they can be some of the most memorable stories in a comic.  This comes up as Dr. McNinja is in the middle of one such event, but there are others.  Sluggy Freelance is famous for them, with one of the best being "The Bug, the Witch and the Robot," amongst many others.  These events can often make the smaller stories seem more epic than they really ever were, but also act as a bit of the old fan service.  Giving the comic's fans more of what they enjoyed.

But what goes into making a good culmination event?  There's no real set of rules for it, but here are some rough guidelines.

1.  There should be a clear goal or objective.  Adventure comics can have mysteries in their regular stories, but a culmination event shouldn't have much mystery.  The mysteries of the last few stories are revealed in a culmination event and the characters should have a mission and goal set out before them.  HOW they resolve it is another story entirely, but the goal should be clear.

2.  Something important should be at stake.  Meaning that if the characters don't do something, they will lose something important.  It could be another character, it could be the end of the world as they know it, but it must be important and they don't want to lose it.

3.  Bring in the resources.  Over the course of an adventure comic, many items, powers and people are collected, discovered or befriended and a culmination event should feature as many as reasonable.  Sluggy's repeated culmination events mean resources are usually generated in the intervening period between events and then brought to the current culmination.  Dr. McNinja's current one is only using resources generated during the color phase of the comic.

4.  Don't forget about it.  Culmination events are NOT the end of an adventure comic, just the end of one chapter or book of it.  The comic can, and often does, keep going, but culmination events are so big, they cannot be forgotten by the characters.  It should effect them and their lives in a meaningful way and set up the next story arch.

And that's about it.  Culmination events are more than just another story, they are the peak of the comic artists story telling ability at the moment of the event.  It should stand out and be memorable.  It also can backfire terribly, GPF's Surreptitious Machinations was a culmination event that eventually drove me away from the comic.

At the same time, not every adventure comic needs a culmination event, so artists of such comics should not feel required to do one.  Still, they can be a lot of fun and give the fans something to keep their blood boiling for the strip.

Next time, I'm starting a new article category.  See you then kiddies. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Second Year Anniversary

Two years?  TWO YEARS?!  Seriously, it's been that long?  How did that happen?

Yeah, I know, the last couple of weeks have been a bit rough, but at least I posted SOMETHING for them, which a lot of sites, comic, blog or otherwise, don't often do.  Still, two years of posting something at least once a week?  That's a feat I didn't think I'd pull off.

I started this blog as a birthday present to myself, I've wanted to do it for a long time and finally had the time to do it.  Because I didn't have a job.  I have a job, at the moment, but it's highly seasonal so soon I won't have a job at all.  Again.

Yet I keep posting something, even if it's to say I'm posting nothing.  This week is more like a nothing week, but it's a happy nothing week.

So when is the next new batch of reviews?  Um, I don't know, I'll try to get some out before Christmas at least.  Champions Online has eaten a lot of my spare time (it IS fun, go try it).  More Not-So-Wild Reviews will be going up as I finally sit down and write them as well as more Newspaper ones.  I'm thinking of starting a "Reflection" batch of articles that will review dead/ended comics (which means I may have to reread them, it has been a while), and the first of these will be for Shadowgirls.

Going beyond webcomics, I'll probably post another book review soon, and maybe get into a few other things.  Don't know about the later, but I went to a book fair and got more books, so maybe some reviews of them are in order.

Anyway, thank you for reading my silly blog about webcomics.  All 3 of you.  Oh, okay, there are probably a few more than that.  Like 5 or 6, but still, thanks.  Until next time kiddies.

PS:  BTW, today is my birthday.  I am old. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Touching Base #8.5

Another Touching Base?  And so soon?  And with a half point?  Well, um, there is one big old reason for it, one of my aunts died.  Not a super close one (just the way the family is) but the funeral is likely some time this week and I don't know if I'll have time to write something else.  I WANT to write something else, just haven't had the time.

At the same time, there are some updates to make that I didn't cover last time, so I'll do it here now.  This one is rather short.

I'll start with Punch an' Pie paused sometime last month due to technical issues, and the next month isn't looking too good either with the writer being buried in work and the artist on vacation (a month long vacation, lucky shit).  Updates have been very sporadic, but I doubt the comic is coming to a complete halt, at least so far.  When October comes, we'll see.

Return to Eden, a comic with a big warning at the beginning which goes pretty much nowhere after the first chapter, is finally starting to wind down.  The last page of the story proper went up this week and all that's left is the epilogue.  I will, of course, do my thing with comics that end with Return to Eden when it does end, which will probably be about the end of the year.

Though I will have to do that thing (I should come up with a name for it) for Shadowgirls, which officially declared itself dead this week.  This actually took me by surprise as I thought they were planning to charge for it or go for paper publication, not, well, dropping it entirely.  The problem comes strictly on the real life side of the equation, as in one of the artists is unemployed and needs time to finally get his house in order.  I get it, and maybe, just maybe, they'll find time to restart it, but if not, well, what a damn shame.

Anyway, that was it.  Hopefully I'll soon get the call on when the funeral is and we'll wrap that up.  Next week is the two year anniversary of this blog.  Will there be a new batch of comic reviews?  Um, no, but I'll do something, at least.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I have determined

That I won't be posting much today.  Just not enough time this week.  I am exhausted.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Not much this week

The next couple are going to be packed with real life things, so no full scale updates this week.

I will post that Faith Erin Hick's graphic novel, "Friends with Boys" is being posted daily online through February.  Of course, there's several hundred pages, so it won't be the whole thing, but a decent teaser for the print version of the comic.  Her work is amongst my favorites, from Demonology 101, Ice and Superhero Girl.  In other words:  GO READ IT!  Just don't expect a review, since the comic won't be completely online.

I'll post SOMETHING next week.  What, I still haven't determined.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Touching Base #8

Another edition of Touching Base because I haven't read a new comic in, um, nearly half a year I think.  I know, for a comic review blog, I don't do much of it do I?  I'll get back to it once I stop getting distracted by Champions Online.

As I stated last week, The Wotch is back to updating again, picking up where it left off with a new artist, Ian Samson from City of Reality.  He's done a LOT of fan art for the comic, so much that he even has to remind himself that he's not making fan art, but actual art for the comic.  The schedule will be weekly to start, but ramp up as Ian gets more time to draw.

City of Reality is doing a different, flash based system for presentation.  Samson is a big fan of using flash for various things (past updates to CoR have featured it heavily) though this method seems, well, a bit of a waste at the moment.  It's compact, I suppose, but it really doesn't offer anything that couldn't be had via straight up page updates.  Not sure why he's doing it.

Dr. McNinja's current storyline features Paul Bunyon's (yes, that's plural) fighting dinosaurs.  Why aren't you reading this comic?  Are you opposed to all that is awesome in the world or something?

Emergency Exit's reboot has begun and I'm, well, not all that impressed.  The lack of color I think really, REALLY hurts this comic.  The line work is good, very good, but it feels hollow without proper shading or color.  I'm sure the plan is to make it easier to update, but I think it loses something without the color angle.  Even some better shading would help.  Storywise, I don't know yet.  Still too early to tell, but it's apparent the story has moved forward several months from where it left off.  I'm fine with that, let's see where it goes.

Spinnerette's newest chapter is being done by a different pair of artists.  It's a temporary measure, from what the news post about it says, and the art is pretty good.  I think it helps they're sticking with the proper models for the characters.  I do want the original artist to come back, I think it fits the comic better, but for a temporary departure, this is fine.  I wonder if Krazy Krow will draw his own chapter at some point, or maybe do his own guest comic.  That would be pretty neat.

Cogs, the new comic by the creator of Just Another Escape hasn't started QUITE yet, but there is the first sketch of a cast page up.  I usually don't like reading info dumps like this, so I'll wait for the actual comic to start before doing much about it.  You can read it though, not like I could stop you.  Still no word on when something to 'complete' JAE's story will come out, however.

Alright, enough of this good news, let's get on to the comics that are dead.  Lizzy hasn't updated in forever and it's forums are flooded with spam, I think it's dead.  Hanna is Not a Boy's Name hasn't updated since Feburary and none of the artists sites (twitter and deviantart) have updated since then either.  I was really liking that comic too.  More of a surprise is Charliehorse, Krazy Krow's comic before starting Spinnerette.  That is officially done according to a news post briefly during a pause between Spinnerette's chapters.  I thought it was going alright, but if he wasn't seeing how to make it gel, I can understand giving up on it.

I'm finally going to stop checking Nobody Scores!, On the Edge, and, *sigh* Sea of Insanity.  All three, while some of my favorites, are effectively dead at this point.  On the Edge was announced as dead, of course, but I hung on hoping for a mind change, while the other two are just, well, dead.  Again in Sea of Insanity's case.  I suppose the positive thing here is I can skip the not-so-wild review of it now, as those are for comics I read.  That said, all three will go into the Hiatus folder, never knows if one of them will suddenly come back to life after all.

Not much else to say on this front.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Getting Stuck

The Wotch is one of the comics I keep checking and hoping it'll update.  The last actual story update was 2 years ago, almost exactly.  There's been a couple of guest strips, but that's about it.  At least until this week when it was announced the comic was coming out of it's unplanned hiatus.  Which of course means I had an article idea all set up to feature the comic and it threw all those plans in the gutter and stomped on them.

I'm still going to do the article, of course, but now that there is a solution to the hole the Wotch got stuck in, I can at least cover that as well.  I've been stuck before, not just writing this blog, but writing in general.  Writing and artistic blocks are hard to overcome.  The first step in doing it is to determine WHY you're stuck.  The issues vary but can easily determine the best course of action to resolving the problem.  Anne has made clear that the Wotch's problem had multiple layers so I'll cover each of them as best I can.

The simplest problem is simple writers block, unable to figure out where to go next with a story.  It seems obvious that the most recent (the one that stalled 2 years ago) wasn't exactly going the way they wanted, and they couldn't quite figure out how to make it do so.  Solutions here are many, and the Wotch actually has several options.  The first is to simply abandon the story, snip it from the archive and start a new story.  Given that this last story line was fairly young, this wouldn't have been too bad a solution.

The next is go with another story.  The Wotch has quite a cast behind it, so simply switching over to a "meanwhile" type storyline until the other one gelled would have been a perfectly valid solution to the problem.  Also simply resolving the stuck story "off panel" would have helped as well, adding some mystery and drama to a tale that may not have had it before.  As of yet, there's no indication on what they're going to do to resolve the storyline, but I think a partial reboot may come into play, and likely simply remove the story the got everyone stuck in the first place.  We'll see next week when the comic updates.

Artistic blocks are something I sadly can't relate to (I draw terrible stick figures).  I think the best solution here is to simply draw.  It doesn't have to be comic characters or anything, but draw.  Flex your artistic muscles and try to get back into it.  That still may not work, and I have no solutions to offer.  It seems, though Anne has had a bit of an artistic block, but the real problem is more about time and stress.

Which are the two biggest and hardest problems to solve.  The vast majority of webcomic artists are NOT professionals, they do other work and webcomics are a hobby.  When it comes head to head with real life responsibilities and work, then webcomics lose, and lose badly.  I think this is the majority of the problems for the Wotch, and I can provide no easy solution.

That said, the Wotch has found their solution to the problem:  Letting others take up some of the load.  Ian Samson, creator of City of Reality, is taking up the bulk of the artistic duties and probably will have quite a bit of input storywise.  They've also cut back on updates to once a week.  This SHOULD allow the comic to come back to full strength in a few months.  But nothing is guaranteed.

I'm glad the Wotch is coming back to life.  A 2 year hiatus is a LONG hiatus for any comic, though, so we'll see if it can recapture it's former magic (heh).

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Real World Tragedy and Webcomics

The recent tragedy in Norway, with all the shooting and such, got me to wondering how Scandinavia and the World reacted to it.  The answer:  It didn't.  Instead there was a comic about why everyone spoke English and something related to the Thing.

That's not an unexpected reaction, honestly.  Despite the fact that most artists live in the real world (I say most because some of them I wonder about), reflecting real events in their comics is often something that is simply not done.  Oh there will be the occasional strip dedicated to the event, encouraging charities or putting thoughts and prayers with the victims, but overall, these events almost never effect the actual comic itself.

That's not to say they won't later reference it.  Doing that in an effective way, however, is really, REALLY hard.  Making it part of a story is even more difficult.  So I'm not surprised that it doesn't happen often.

So if I'm going to talk about these kinds of tragedies, then I might as well go for the big one, September 11, 2001.  I hate discussing it because A)  It took place close to my birthday and B)  I hate how it was used as an excuse to fuck up my country (the USA, to be clear).  Neither of those is the topic of the day, of course, but when it comes to comics featuring references to it, there aren't many I can think of.  It probably doesn't help that I wasn't reading many webcomics at the time, and my natural tendency to skip over comics featuring the subject when reading archives really doesn't help.

Still, there are two comics where the inclusion of references to that event are quite clear in my mind.  And the first is Jack.  Yes, Jack.  Jack is the comic that when I think of awkward execution of reasonably interesting ideas, or comics featuring lots of furry porn.  Not that I think of lots of furry porn, it's just full of it.  It also features a September 11th reference more prominently than most other comics I've read, and one that sticks out in my mind.

Because it put the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Hell.  Now before you over react, the point was that it was an epicenter of despair, and used to mentally torture people. It was more used as part of the setting, rather than some political or moral statement.  It worked, in a comic where so many things didn't quite worked, it fit.  It's still Jack, of course, and why I'm not linking to the strip itself.  That and I haven't been searching through the archives for it.

The only other reference I remember is in The Pain.  The Pain is mostly a political cartoon and the comic I have in mind was released a year after the fact.  On one had, it's probably MORE offensive than Jack's take on it.  On the other hand, I find it probably the funniest strip in the entire comic.  It fits the sense of humor of the comic very well and I for one love it.  Like most of the comics in The Pain, the comic comes with an artist's statement which makes clear the point:  "A year seemed like long enough to wait, and the media coverage is likely to be relentless, maudlin, and tacky enough to make a single innocent snicker on The Solemn Day a welcome relief."  I couldn't agree more.

Now, of course there are other comics that put up their dedications, I'm sure, but I don't recall them.  These ones stand out because they AREN'T dedications, but actually part of the comic.  It can work, yes, but it's also hard to do and will most assuredly rub some people the wrong way.  It's the chance people take when covering a tragedy of some kind. I think it's why most artists don't do it.

Anyway, that's enough for this week.  Until next time kiddies. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jumping the Gun

The party, by the way, went reasonably well.  Ton of leftovers though.  Especially beer for some reason (they're getting old and drinking more wine now).

Two weeks ago, I posted about Sluggy Freelance, and I probably wouldn't have said anything if it wasn't for a blog post from another webcomic reviewer.  Tangents did a pair of posts regarding the end of 4U City, and didn't like it.  That's fair, he can have his opinion on the story and the comic as a whole.  My problem is that he didn't let the end of the story play out before deciding what the best path for the comic was and then bitching when it didn't happen that way.

I've seen this before.  Not in webcomics, but television, specifically Battlestar Galactica.  I really liked the whole series, but the internet seems to have had an odd effect on the fanbase.  Every episode was dissected, examined and judged within hours of showing.  People began speculating on things, throwing around theories and ideas of where the show was going and how it was going to get there.

And then when it gets there, they bitched that it didn't go the way THEY wanted.

Now for a bunch of chuckleheads on the net to do this is one thing, for a reviewer to jump the gun like this is another thing all together.  It was VERY obvious the story was nearly over, and if Tangents had waited another week, he could have had a piece that was complete and wouldn't have had to speculate.  It doesn't help that he didn't really like his own idea of where the story was going (I think, it's a little weird near the end), but obviously he hated the way it actually went even more.

I think a lot of fans do this as well.  I like to guess where stories are going, and I'm often completely wrong.  Perhaps the fact that I am wrong so often allows me to easily take the ego hit on being wrong.  I think a lot of fans, typically the vocal ones, convince themselves that they are right about how the story should go and bitch and moan when it doesn't.  And they get really MEAN about it.

This saddens me because I like to see where the author/artist is taking the story.  If I'm right, I feel really smart, if I'm not, oh well, no biggy.  As long as the story works out in a satisfying way, I'm happy with it.  Then I read comments on forums or whatever and the screeching and bitching and wonder why do they even bother reading/watching it if they don't like it.  I wonder if it's an attempt to sound critical without knowing how to be critical.

I guess the internet breeds this kind of idea, and normally Tangents is very good about his commentary and reviews.  The Sluggy thing is an off thing, and maybe something more personal to him (much like my dislike of Penny Arcade), so I'll let it go.  The fans, though, are something harder to deal with, and I don't think there's anyway to handle them without alienating them.

Anyway, that's enough on that.  I don't want to be critical of other critics, but this one just seemed really off to me.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Nothing this week

Family party is set for this weekend and lots to do to set up for it.  Conveniently it's at MY place, so I really need to do a lot of stuff.  Next week, I'll have something.

I hope.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sluggy's Dueling Stories

The last couple of years of Sluggy Freelance has been dominated by two stories, the Minion Master saga and 4U City.  It also featured breaking up the team, specifically sending Torg and Riff along separate paths and stories.  These more or less wrapped up last week.  Some will say this is a bad thing, that Torg, Riff and the rest of the Sluggy gang work best together.

I disagree.

Well, kind of.  I mean, I disagree that it was a bad thing because there is one thing I've always noted about Sluggy:  Riff and Torg don't grow when they're together.  They're always those two goofballs they were when they started the comic.  Even the few moments where they had differences of opinion or were temporarily separated, once they were back together, the fell into the old patterns.  Hell, they did it in Monday's strip, the follow up to one of the longer stories Sluggy has had.

Torg and Riff together are like a single entity that has little development or control.  Some of the best stories do NOT feature either of them, and the ones that do feature one do NOT feature the other.  They are still the two guys from that first strip so long ago, when together.  Separating them and letting them be the star of their own stories allowed them to grow and develop as characters.

I liked both Minion Master and 4U City.  A little wordy with 4U City at times, but I understand that, and I get why people will compare either or both to Oceans Unmoving.  Yet they did get the key lesson of Oceans Unmoving:  Feature a Sluggy main cast member.  Bun Bun was barely a side character in Oceans Unmoving, MM and 4UC were stories basically about Torg and Riff respectively.  More importantly, it gave them some growth.  Torg became more of a leader and organizer in MM while Riff showed he was fully capable of careful planning and execution of his lone wolf missions (note he never once had to check "his notes" during the entire story).  We also got to see each of their failings and fears, something we only got glimpses of before (That Which Redeems being the sole exception, and really it fed into Torg more with MM).

I would also like to note that they were not really separated, but teamed up with people whose personalities would be much more in line with what they would face when they did meet up again.  4UC Torg is very much like Torg Prime after MM, though I will say 4UC Torg is a bit more extreme.  Still, the similarities are pretty apparent.  Similarly, Torg Prime had Sasha to deal with, who has often been compared to Riff in the past, but now seems more like the Riff we see coming out of 4UC.

What I see coming is a new dynamic between Riff and Torg as the comic moves forward.  Will we still get the classic team up?  Oh sure, you'll see some of it, but as the stories ramp back up, the difference in how they relate to each other will be more clear.  The best part, though, is that it will feel natural, most readers probably won't even notice it happened. But it WILL be different.

I don't think that difference was possible as long as Torg and Riff were together.  They would have kept falling back on old habits and deviating from it would feel forced or out of character.  Now they can grow out of it and move on.

At least, I hope so.  Anyway, that's enough for this week.  Until next week kiddies.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wild Webcomic Reviews 145 - 149

Well, my busy couple of weeks are still busy, but no new pictures from Champions Online.  Instead, some old reviews.  Enjoy.

June 10, 2007
145. Dresden Codak - This got linked from Nobody Scores! so you know it's going to be odd, and it is. It's also completely awesome. Few comics manage to caputure surreal tangents and mix in a batch of superscience as well as this comic. The art is also well above superior, so it looks as wonderful as it's written. Go, read, do it now. Chop chop!

TODAY - The art of this comic is still amongst the best on the net, possibly of any comic period.  It doesn't update frequently, probably once a month at best, but the pages are spectacular when it does.  The storytelling is getting better, improving with each extended story.  I highly recommend this comic, for the art if nothing else.

146. The Nineteenth-Century Industrialist - Yeah, we really need another one of those running around. It's funny in an odd way, mostly in the way of screwing workers, destroying the enviroment and general greed. The art sort of reminds me of Girly, only not as clean, which is fine. One of the earliest jokes features dropping an anvil on someone's head (It's funnier in real life, apparently). Crude, odd, evil, greedy. There you go, that's this comic in a nutshell. Is it worth the time to read it? Eh, not sure. Leaning towards not, but the premise is neat enough that it at least might be worth a look.

TODAY - I stopped reading it, so many other comics to read that I don't have the time or energy to keep up with this one.

147. What Birds Know - More a comic novel than a straight up web comic, the story follows three friends as they go in search of mushrooms. Well, that's how it starts and it only gets odd from there. The pacing is nice, there's a great mystery and a touch of the supernatural. I also love the way the comic is actually displayed: each page in it's own window with no ads to get in the way. Makes for easy and wonderful reading. It's currently on a short hiatus, but is certainly worth reading.

TODAY - The display issues were resolved some time ago, so that complaint is gone.  The comic has gotten rather dark since I originally reviewed it and it's getting darker by the moment.  It's still good, but at the same time. . .

148. Minus - Minus is about a little girl, named Minus, who can basically bend reality to her will. Literally. Trees grow out of no where, dogs become people (temporarily), sidewalk drawings come to life, etc, etc, etc. And it's sweet and nice and wonderful in every possible way. So why are you still sitting here reading this review: GO READ THE DAMN COMIC ALREADY! You'll thank me afterwards.

TODAY - Minus ended some time ago, but the same artist has two more comics going on his site, Kiwis By Beat. Great! is probably the longest lived comic so far, and is mostly about ramen.  Yeah, you really have to read it to get that.  Modern Fried Snake is, well, interesting to say the least.  I like it, but I'm not sure where exactly it's going, or if it even has a direction to begin with.  Either way, both are pretty good and I would recommend them, especially if you like Minus itself.

149. Bruno - Not Bruno the Bandit, just Bruno, a girl with issues (yes, HER name is Bruno). Funny, I just noticed that four of my five comics feature a female lead character. Odd. Anyway, this is a big comic, as in 11 YEARS of archives (the comic did end in Feb 07, so there is an end to it), and each strip averages a metric TON of text. Lots of reading, and its actually a bit of a depressing comic. 90% of the comic is watching Bruno take her life and smash it into a brick wall over and over again. It DOES get kind of old, but there's always this hope that she'll finally get it together. In any case, at least she gets to travel a lot, visit lots of places, angst, work dull jobs, strip at one point, and sleep with anything with two legs (I'm not using that word I want you to finish reading the review first kids). There is some nudity in the later half of the strip, so the youngins probably shouldn't read it, not that they would. Like I sad, a TON of text. In fact, that really makes it interesting as there's no action in the art, all the action is in the dialog (aside from a few rare occasions). So is it good? I enjoyed it, despite Bruno's life disasters getting a bit old after a while, but it did come to an end and so I'll accept it. Will you like it? If you don't mind reading a lot, maybe. Read through the end of the arc with the circus and you should be able to decide.

TODAY - Bruno is currently on a reissue spree, which commentary on each strip and each strip presented bigger and crisper than the original release.  It's only about two years into the comic's 11 year run, so if you want to read a comic with commentary from early on, now's probably a good time to start.  The original archives are still available, but even I may reread everything with the commentary this time.

Man, Bruno continues to surprise me.  First it was a pretty good comic and now it's going through a reissue.  Anyway, sorry I don't have anything more this week, I'm barely ALIVE after working the 4th, so take what little I have.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lazy week

I've got a summer job at an amusement park, which means the next couple of weeks are going to be very, VERY busy (4th of July weekend).  That said, I don't want to leave you with no post this week.

So this is only tangentially related to webcomics because it has more to do with Champions Online, which is free and I've been playing recently.  The best part about Champions Online is the character creator, and I figured maybe I could use it to create a few characters from webcomics.  It's more for fun than anything else, but I thought you guys might like it.

To start with, we've got Super Hero Girl from Faith Evans Hick's comic of the same name.  

I would have gone with a more traditional star, but it looked HORRIBLE on her for some reason, so I went with this one.  No hoodie, so I went with a simple windbreaker. 

The cape is a short one because I thought it looked better than a full length one.  Most of the rest of the costume is kind of mix-mash of various looks SHG usually wears.  She has no set costume, so I had to use my imagination. 

Given that it's a back and white comic, the coloring I got from a deviantart image.

Next is Spinnerette.


Sadly, the game lacks an ability to add extra arms, so really it's just the base costume. The various yellow bands were the hardest part, honestly. They're more solid in the comic than here, but I think I got pretty close. Also missing a set under the breasts, but I couldn't find a good way to do that. I probably could have done the original costume (blue spider), but I like this look better. 

Finally, Weapon Brown himself.

Sadly, there's no way to do the shirt properly. Also can't get the hair thing, no option for that sadly. The boots are bit off, but look good anyway. The arm looks REALLY good.

And that's the update for the week.  Will I do more?  Maybe, we'll see.  In the meantime, go read those comics, they're good.  Until later kiddies. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Future Reads

So I know I've been slacking when it comes to new reviews and I'd like to say there's a good reason for it.  I'd LIKE to, but mostly it's just laziness.  That isn't to say I haven't been looking for comics to review, I just haven't actually done it.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  Anyway, today I'm going to post the full list of all these comics that I have tagged for future reading, but haven't actually read yet, with a couple exceptions.  Do I recommend these comics?  No, I haven't even read them, but if you want to see what's on this list, here it is:

  1. Ana and Gabriel
  2. Anhedonia Blue
  3. Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
  4. Between Failures
  5. Blue and Blond
  6. Buttersafe 
  7. Cartridge 
  8. Cold Iron Badge
  9. Cosmic Dash 
  10. Dumbing of Age 
  11. Ectopairy
  12. God Mode 
  13. Grumble 
  14. Gun Baby - At posting, the link doesn't go anywhere, might be temporary. 
  15. Guttersnipe 
  16. Haunted
  17. Pajama Forest 
  18. Irregular Webcomic 
  19. Lackadaisy 
  20. Magic Inkwell 
  21. Mysteries of the Arcana 
  22. Night Zero 
  23. Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life 
  24. Pants Are Overrated 
  25. Rice Boy 
  26. Runners Universe 
  27. Seedless 
  28. seeFOODdiet 
  29. Sfeer Theory 
  30. Simulated Comic Product 
  31. Subnormality 
  32. The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon 
  33. The Princess and the Giant 
  34. The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo 
  35. Three Word Phrase 
  36. Trancerebral 
  37. Trying Human 
  38. TwoKinds 
  39. Winters in Lavelle 
There are two exceptions to this list.  The first is Commander Kitty, which I originally reviewed way back here.  Since then the comic has completely stalled out, then did what appears to be a reboot.  To be fair to the strip, I'm going to re-review it from scratch in the future.

The second exception is Scandinavia and the World.  I've actually read a good chunk of this comic, I just didn't finish it yet.  The universe interfered with finishing it and I don't remember where I stopped now.  I'll have to go back some time in the future, but not now.

So anyway, that's on my future read list.  A lot to go through and I will be, as soon as I get the time.  And I'm always looking for requests and suggestions, so just post them in the comments, I'll see them.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Retelling Myths

So I finally got Portal 2 a few weeks ago.  Okay, I know, I'm a month behind everyone else, but considering I didn't play Portal 1 until Portal 2 was released, despite owning it for several years, I think I'm doing quite well on that curve.  It's a good game, and while many will argue Portal 1 is better, I'm of the opposite opinion, I feel that storywise, Portal 2 is much stronger and more interesting.

But this is a blog about webcomics, not games, so why do I even bring it up?  Well, this blog has become quite a bit about storytelling, in webcomics, so the topic applies here.  Anyway, as I was playing, I noticed multiple allusions to the myth of Prometheus, with one direct reference from a rather different turret.  As I kept playing though, a question started to bubble up:

Considering that there are, at best six (6) characters in ALL of Portal, who is Prometheus?

The myth of Prometheus is rather simple, he gives fire to man and is punished by a kind of bird.  You can read a more detailed version of the story here, but that's the basics.  It should be easy to pick which of six characters in Portal represents Prometheus.  And yet, it's not.

At best you can outright eliminate one character, maybe, as we're not told much about that character, and no, I'm not talking about Chell, we know a LOT about Chell.  Eliminating the other five characters, however, is really hard.  Each one could be given the title as they all, in their own way gave a form of "fire" to "man" and were "punished" by "birds."  All to relative degrees of course.

Which brings me to why I bring this up at all.  Many authors and artists try to retell myths like Prometheus and others, but often it doesn't turn out very well, or worse.  So how did Portal manage to come off so well?  I think it's because of this ambiguity about who is who and what is what in the story verses the myth.

Most will make a simple, one to one, relationship with the myth and their story.  THIS person is definitely Prometheus, THIS is definitely fire, THIS is definitely the punishment, THIS is definitely the bird.  There is nothing straight up wrong about this, of course, but it is rather lazy, and easy.  Portal doesn't take this route, instead leaving the definitions open to interpretation.  Chell could be Prometheus in one sense, but in another, it could be GLaDOS.  The portal gun could be fire in one interpretation, while Aperture as a whole could be it in another interpretation.

I've done the one to one relationship thing with myths before and I can tell you from experience, it wasn't very good.  I think I could make it work still, but it would take time and effort better spent on more original ideas.  If the myth simply must be tied into the story, there are other options than simply saying Character A is Prometheus.  One option is to simply make Character A the literal Prometheus.  This is best exemplified by Sea of Insanity and Gods and Undergrads where the mythological figures are actually running around doing things.  In fact, I'd say Gods and Undergrads does it a bit better as the myths are directly referenced as part of the backstory, bring the tale to life in a new way.  Sea of Insanity doesn't bother with this, but it still uses the characters of myth and builds new tales for them to walk around with.

But that's not the only way.  The other way is what Toilet Genie does, which actually doesn't use a traditional myth, but one made specifically for the story.  Using flash backs to tell the "myth" (I think it's supposed to be real in a sense) allows the reader to make connections to the current events in the story.  The key here is that the myth was made to match the story, not the other way around.

As for comics that just hint at a mythological source like Portal, I can't think of any.  Most of them are very blunt about it.  This doesn't mean they can't do it well, it's just that there are better ways.

Anyway, that's enough for this week.  See you next time kiddies.