Friday, January 28, 2011

First Reviews of 2011

Look up in the sky!  It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's an overused cliche because I'm out of ideas!


Yes, the first reviews of 2011 are here, only a mere, uh, 3 months since the last one.  Actually, I've had the first couple read for a while now, just haven't gotten three others to add to the stack.  And it turns out I have zombies, nudity and new comics from a couple of my favorite artists.  So let's start with a comic that is none of those things.

216.  Prophecy of the Circle - First glance at this comic and many will write it off as a "furry" comic of some sort.  It's not, it simply doesn't have any human characters, but it feeds no fetish.  It's hard to find what to call this as it isn't a traditional fantasy world or even a sci fi one.  The world is based around two sentient species that co-exist by killing each other every once in a while.  Seriously.  There's some technology, there are tribal peoples and the other species from the main cast are giant reptiles of some sort.  The story is actually interesting, but I can kind of see where it's going, even at this early stage.  The art is really good, but with one major flaw:  It's hard to tell the cast members apart.  With human characters, you can usually pick out features that differentiate them from each other (clothing, glasses, hairdo, etc), but with non-human ones our natural abilities kind of fall flat.  Yes, the different characters are different colors and have some different shapes about them, but associating them with names is a bit harder than it normally would be.  It especially gets hard when the lighting effects of the comic wash out the colors and make it all but impossible to tell.  I suppose that's to the comic's credit that it doesn't rely on stereotypes or other gimmicks to separate the characters, but it also means the comic has problems standing on it's own without a deep about page (called an encyclopedia here).  You can understand the story and some of the character motivations easily enough without it, but if you want to know more, you have to dig, which is my only problem with it.  I don't know if I'll follow it for long, but we'll see.

217.  The Adventures of Superhero Girl - Faith Erin Hicks has done two of my favorite strips, Ice and Demonology 101 and is definitely one of my favorite comic artists.  If I had a job, I'd have even bought her printed comic books which have nothing to do with Ice or Demonology 101.  So a new comic from her is a treat.  Superhero Girl doesn't go the route of parody like the Non-Adventures of Wonderella or over-the-top comic hero antics of Spinnerette, but instead settles for a realistic, slightly humorous, and pretty light hearted view of the superhero genre (and given how actually rare it seems to be on the net, that's nice).  In one of the first strips, she rescues a kitty from a tree, with no sarcasm at all.  The comic is apparently being printed in a paper of some kind, so don't expect any epic stories and given the tone, truly dark plots will likely never exist.  It's a good comic and I intend to follow it for quite a while.

218.  Go Get a Roomie - Warning:  Nudity.  I'll wait for you to get back.  For those not going, there are also lesbians.  Now to wait for them to get back.  Okay, now that you're back, the comic focuses on "Roomie" (I don't think it's her real name) who apparently has no home, so she goes home with any girl she comes across.  Then they have sex, because she's a lesbian and they have powers or something.  Then one day she runs into the one person her powers don't work on immediately (aka:  They both aren't naked in the morning).  And that's the comic.  It's basically a slightly raunchy sit-com plot.  To that end, it's alright, but it's not great.  It doesn't go over the top with sex angle like Menage a 3, but it also doesn't do anything special in the joke/story department.  Mildly amusing, but there's really nothing here to stay attached too.

219.  dead winter - I know I've read a few zombie comics in my time, but few that are, well, this damn good.  Given that zombies are almost overdone to the point of ridiculousness at this point, this one manages to do everything well.  Well, I guess the main characters are a bit too badass in their own ways, but it keeps the action fast and fun.  The focus is typically on survival, personal demons and finding oneself rather than the zombies themselves.  In fact, the most dangerous encounters have little to do with the zombies at all (especially since those can be kept out of reach with a mop), but often feature other humans.  The art is a touch cartoony, but is sharp and beautiful black and white, conveying the action and emotion of a scene very well, with the only hint of color being a bit of red on a couple of the characters.  It is certainly one of the most enjoyable reads I've come across recently (and likely the best of this batch of reviews) and I recommend it.

220.  Does Not Play Well With Others - The other comic from past artists is this one, the newest creation of Micheal Poe, the creator and artist of Exploitation Now! and Errant Story.  With Errant Story nearing it's climax, he's trying to get back to his humor roots with this comic.  How's it going?  Well, it's getting there.  Exploitation Now! is chock full of over the top, cutthroat comedy material (until the last bit of that one) and Errant Story had humor, but that wasn't the driving force (it was much more dry there), so getting back to it takes time.  This comic has really only just started and getting back to Exploitation Now! levels of humor will take a bit.  But this is Poe, and I think it'll get there, probably sooner than later.  If you're looking for instant humor, don't bother yet, but in 6 months, it'll probably be right up there again.  I'll be watching that's for sure.

And that's it for this batch of reviews.  Remember, I always accept recommendations (despite having a way too long a list of comics I should read).  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Artist Blogs

A great many webcomic artists run blogs.   That probably isn't a surprise, nearly every comic has some sort of news page underneath them.  These newsblogs, though, rarely have anything thrilling in them.  Often it is just news for the comic, like apologies for late strips or the occasional begging for votes.  That's fine, but it takes a bit of extra effort to do a stand alone blog that covers something other than the comic.

That said, there are a few comics with separate blogs out there, but I don't read most of them.  I generally believe a comic should be able to stand on it's own, and the artist should be able to communicate their thoughts through it without a separate medium.   Heart Shaped Skull did this for the better part of a year with the "Vicious Whispers" series of strips.  Those are, by the way, really fun reads (the whole comic is, of course) but they also tell a lot about how the artist wants to see life, the universe and everything.  The character (Vicious) is designed to think that way, of course, but I think Aaron (the artist) WANTS to think this way and that tells me a lot about him.

But that's not what this post is about, this is about blogs artists DO operate.  Like I said, I don't read many, and really I only read two.  The first is by Faith Erin Hicks, of Ice and Demonology 101.  Mostly I read it for Ice updates, but I still enjoy reading it when there aren't any.  Typically she ends up posting random bits of art, news about her current projects (comics that aren't web based) and random things she finds interesting.  Often she does post fan art for other comics, there's even one for Heart Shaped Skull in there.  Honestly though, it's just a regular livejournal type blog, and I really do read it mostly for Ice updates.

Which makes the last one I even bother checking significant.  It is Indistinguishable from Magic, the blog from the artist of Dresden Codak.  This is the reason I decided to do this article, because this blog is actually something spectacular.  While I know there are some differing opinions on the story of Dresden Codak, no one will argue against it's art.  It is possibly the most beautiful comic on the internet, easily topping even the most popular strips.  The fact that it takes him a month to do a strip is understandable given the sheer quality of the strip.

Indistinguishable from Magic makes a concerted effort to explain his craft.  He breaks down the secrets behind the art that he does, pointing out such things as color choice, posture and simple layout.  Primarily he uses Dresden Codak as an example, but he also goes further afield, touching on other webcomics and even some published books to illustrate his point.  Sadly, like his comic it updates once in a blue moon, but there's so much information here, mostly visual, that one could simply read the blog itself over and over again.  My art skills are crap, but even I think I'm learning something from it, and I bet those who do a lot of art and comics would do well to read it as well.

Of course, I'm sure those blogs get more hits than my humble effort, but you should still go read them.  Lots of fun and information to be had.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, January 14, 2011

You know the best part?

I have read a lot of webcomics over the years, and in that time I have learned one thing:

Eventually, webcomics die.

No matter how good or bad a webcomic is, there does come a point when it dies.  These are not like newspaper comics that continue to exist perpetually.  Newspaper comics are supported by large comic syndicates that feed money into them constantly, feeding a workforce of artists, writers and colorists.  It's why Blondie can last 80 years.

Webcomics don't have that.  Artists make money alone, from ad and swag sales.  Some run the convention circuit, while others are simply overwhelmingly popular and make money that way.  I don't think more than a handful are over 10 years old, and they really don't make the kind of money needed to last until the artist is dead and certainly not enough to last past that.

When a webcomic dies, whether it be by the choice of the artist, death by hiatus or simply because the story is over and there's nothing more to tell, it's a sad thing.  But it also signals a worse fate is in the cards:  The archives may soon go down.  Sure, the Comic Genesis and Keenspot type sites might stay up, but those independent sites are under threat of going down the moment the updates stop coming.  The internet is not forever, especially if someone isn't paying the bills.

Reposting my old reviews gives me a chance to see if I can find a comic I read, and often the comic is gone, entirely.  The website has vanished and the archives gone for good.

That's when the best part happens.  When a comic that I thought was gone for good resurfaces.  Jeremy did that, showing back up after year or so of being missing (though now it's just in book form, but hey, it's still out there).  I was thrilled at that.  Life of Riley disappeared long ago, but someone managed to salvage the archives.

The day I write this is Wednesday, January 12th.  Today I am excited because I discovered another of these lost comics.  Road Waffles is one of my all time favorite comics, but it's been dead for more than 4 years, until now.  Thanks to a random ad on Out There, a comic that's very similar to it in many ways (aside from the zaniness), I discovered it had relaunched last November.  I'm so excited about this discovery, I haven't even read the new strips yet, but I intend to.  Hell, I may even reread the archives again because this comic deserves it.

That's the best part about reading webcomics, watching your favorites come back to life.

Friday, January 7, 2011

You know the hardest part?

The hardest part about maintaining this blog is coming up with a weekly topic.  Oh, I have the old standby of posting old reviews, but I'm running out of those, so eventually, I have to write something else.  So here are the general topics and what makes them so hard writing:

1.)  Webcomic Articles - Before I started this blog, I figured I had a lot to say about webcomics.  How they were structured, what to and not to do, the entire Hiatus article was a big part of that as well.  The problem:  I've basically done nearly all of my ideas.  There are a handful that sit, barely started in the post editing thing, but often it's because I didn't really have a good idea of what I was doing with them.  Now I kind of struggle to come up with new ideas, ones that I can tie to comics I have read.  That's harder than you would think.

2.)  Newspaper Comics - With needing something to fill space, I figured "why not funny pages?"  It is where a large majority of webcomic artists get their inspiration and many of them kind of want to be in the paper, though that's becoming less and less appealing.  I set out with 4 comics I definitely wanted to do (I did 3 of them so far), but the others are kind of random.  And also I have to do research, into all these comics.  Unlike webcomics, there's no easy way to read the entire archives of these comics, and in some cases (Blondie) it's probably impossible to do in a reasonable amount of time.  So research it is, but that takes time and I need an opinion on the comic before I even start.  It really isn't as easy as throwing open the newspaper and pointing.  Wish it was.

3.)  Touching Base - The entire concept is to keep you guys updated on things going on in comics, like a comic shutting down or starting up.  Which doesn't happen very often.  I don't like doing story summaries, updating you on what's going on IN the comic, I want to talk what's going on WITH the comic, and that's more rare.  The last edition was me bitching about comics that don't update any more, and that is SO depressing.  Luckily, most of the comics I read do update pretty regularly, so that's good.

4.)  Not So Wild Review - This is MUCH harder than any of those others.  I don't write a lot of detailed reviews (the whole concept of the Wild Webcomic Review is quick and dirty), so when I try to go into details, I have to really think long and hard about it.  Currently I have Sea of Insanity sitting here waiting to be finished, but finding a way to describe it for a review is tough, thanks in no small part to the 2 year gap in production it had.  I hope to continue to do these, and finish the next one especially, as it will definitely fill time on the blog.

5.)  Other Reviews - I've only done one, the book review for Silver, and I'm not sure I want to do any more.  This is the Wild WEBCOMIC Review, not the Wild Book Review (and it wasn't that wild).  It sits more as an exercise in reviewing more than anything else.  I've got a few other reviews of various things (including one game) that if I'm pressed, I could post, but I'd rather avoid it.

6.)  Finish updating the site - BUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!  Wait, yeah, I should do that.  I really need to get that list page done at some point here, maybe change the color scheme, add some images or something.

Or I could do 7.)  Post about why I'm not posting anything this week.  Yeah, that seems like less work to me.  How about to you?

Until next time kiddies.