Friday, February 25, 2011

The Webcomic List Awards

Handing out awards has become so common even the highest forms of them are kind of diminished, especially on the entertainment side.  At one time, the Oscars actually MEANT something, now, not so much.

There have been many webcomic awards, several since I started this blog, but this is the first one I actually sat down and read, for a number of reasons, the main one being I found a link to it.  The other is that several comics I read, or have read before, were up for awards.  So let's see what they were doing and what I thought of the winners.

Best Writing:  The winner here was xkcd, a comic I don't regularly read, but it was up against many I do, including Sinfest, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and Bug.  Which instantly makes me wonder what they defining as "writing."  When I think writing, I think storytelling, dialog and plot, not clever use of math or over using the same old joke, which is what all four of these really do.  The only other comic on the list, Oglaf, I've never read, so I won't make any judgments on that, but one has to wonder on this.  That said, there is a catagory for "longform comic" so perhaps they wanted something for the gag strips to grab, so why not call it "best joke" or "most clever" or something?

Best Color Art:  Dresden Codak won this, and if you've ever seen a strip from it, you know why.  The Meek, Hanna is Not a Boy's Name and Oglaf were also nominated, but I can't argue with any of that.

Best Black and White Comic:  There were only three nominees for this category, something that bugs me as there are a lot of black and white comics out there.  The winner is a comic called The Abominable Charles Christopher, and it's competition was Lackadaisy Cats and Sandra and Woo.  Now I've never heard of the winner, but I have heard of Lackadaisy, and I'm not sure Sandra and Woo should be put up against that strip.  They aren't quite the same, and as we'll see, Abominable Charles Christopher probably wasn't fair competition either.

Best Non-Traditional - Romantically Apocalyptic won out here, but I'm not sure why.  Oh, it's a great comic, but it is actually pretty traditional.  It is drawn by hand, just using photorealistic techniques that have been around a while.  Dreamland Chronicles uses computer generated figures, so that fits, and the other two nominees, Union of Heroes and Softer World, are photo based (like Terror Island from way back when).  Romantically Apocalyptic is very good, yes, but I'm not sure it actually fits into this category.

Best Character:  Why did Hanna is Not a Boy's Name get two nominees here?  Hanna and his partner are interesting characters, no doubt, but pick one or the other guys, not both.  The result is seven (!) nominees for this category, which was won by Cleo from Cleopatra in SPAAAACE! (which they misspelled in the award show, there are 4 A's).  Which I also question since the comic is maybe two years old, if that, and one of the other nominees is Annie Carver from Gunnerkrigg Court.  Sorry, Cleo doesn't even rank against Carver, who isn't even the best character in her own comic (I'd give Kat the nod myself).  Axe Cop, AXE COP, got a nomination for this.  Sorry, Axe Cop doesn't qualify here, his motives are based on a kid's imagination and randomness.  The other two nominees are from the comics The Dreamer and Imy, neither of which I've heard of, but somehow I'm not sure if they knew what they were doing in this category anyway.

Best Longform: Here's one of the big categories, and I'll tell you the nominees and you tell me who won:  The Meek, Gunnerkrigg Court, Girl Genius, Questionable Content and The Abominable Charles Christopher.  If you said The Abominable Charles Christopher, I have to wonder what the hell I'm missing.  The Meek is a great comic, Gunnerkrigg Court is probably one of the best webcomics of all time, Girl Genius is popular enough to win print comic awards and Questionable Content is oddly popular, but The Abominable Charles Christopher wins the award?  Either this comic is the best damn comic in the history of comics, or something odd is going on here.  I'll get to that in a bit.

Best Gag-a-Day:  The first category was the "writing" one, and featured some very funny comics.  So does this one.  In fact, it features THE SAME COMICS.  Exactly the same.  xkcd, Sinfest, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Bug and Oglaf.  Bug won here, and while I think Sinfest or SMBC are probably better, I won't rage on this.  What I will rage on is why this category and the best writing category have the same nominees, but different results.  VASTLY different.  xkcd is a very cerebral strip, yes, but funny, while Bug is much simpler and still funny.  So why are they even sharing ANY category.  If it weren't for the Best Writing category, this award wouldn't bother me at all, it's fine, but with the EXACT SAME NOMINEES in the other category, I really must question the vetting process for these categories and nominees.  Someone didn't think this thing through.

Best New Comic:  Aside from Axe Cop, I haven't heard of any of these comics.  Red's Planet, Minor Acts of Heroism and the winner, Scenes from a Multiverse, are all unknown to me, so I cannot, and will not lay a judgement here.  In fact, Red's Planet already looks good enough to read from one image, and I'll probably check out Scenes from a Multiverse as well.  Good choices for nominees here and this category did exactly what it was supposed to do:  Get you to read new comics.

Best Comic:  Best comic is supposed to be the overall best comic, right?  With nominees like Gunnerkrigg Court, Questionable Content and The Meek, none of which won, BTW, that comic has to be pretty damn good, right?  So why did Red's Planet win?  Yes, Red's Planet, the comic that was nominated for Best New Comic and DID NOT WIN, was given the Best Comic award, over some of the best comics on the web and another called Freak Angels, which I have not read, and may be very good as well.  I would say this is because they didn't want to give two awards to the same comic or something, but they did that with the Abominable Charles Christopher.  Red's Planet has to be about a year old, or else it shouldn't have been nominated for Best New Comic, and it somehow beats out comics that have half a decade of strips behind them?  I don't get it.  I'm not saying Red's Planet doesn't deserve it, it may very well, but I find it hard to believe given the competition and the fact that it didn't get Best New Comic for this year's awards!

For comparison sakes, I went and looked up 2009's awards.  Here are my notes from that:

- Abominable Charles Christopher won the Black and White award last year, so they really must like this comic to award it again in the same category.  In fact, the field was much denser that year, so I will respect that award much more than the 2010 award that featured THREE nominees.

- The Best Writing category actually meant what it should have in the first place.  Gunnerkrigg Court won, BTW, bringing it's total to 3 awards in 2009, including Best Comic.  It didn't get any in 2010.

- Non-Traditional was won by Dreamland Chronicles, which is fine.  Why were they nominated again this year?  And what happened to the other nominees from 2009?  Did they die?

Now I don't know the details of their nomination process.  It's a webcomic list site, so I would assume only comics on the list are eligible, but something doesn't resonate right when comics get repeated nominations for categories they won, and the other nominees vanished without a trace.  Why was the writing category changed so much?  Was it just to give xkcd an award?  How can a comic win Best Comic but not Best New Comic in the same breath?  How damn good is Abominable Charles Christopher that it earned three awards in two years, one of them against potent contenders?  And why did Hanna is Not a Boy's Name get two nominees for the SAME CATEGORY?

The only other thing I have to complain about is the utter lack of a proper list of winners.  The "presentation" was done via comics and I can respect that and enjoy it, but give me a link to the end that tells me who won each category please?  Not just the links to the comics at the end of every comic.

I want to make clear that I am not disparaging the winners here. You won, be proud and show it off, but I have some issues with how these awards were given out and the nomination process, not with the winners.  I have no doubt that simply being nominated means your comic is damn good and you deserved it.

Next time, I think I'll write out how I would organize my own webcomic award show thing. Until next time kiddies.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wild Webcomic Reviews 131 - 135

Sorry about the odd formatting last week.  This blog thing is terrible sometimes.  So another batch of old reviews for you to feast your eyes upon.

March 08, 2007

131. Ever After - Watch as Little Red Riding Hood kicks ass and takes names (as well as limbs). This is actually a fairly young comic (very few story line strips, it's stuck in a giant guest strip sequence now, which I could do without, thankyouverymuch) but it has a load of potential. The action is actiony, the art is fantastic, and the writing, well, we'll have to see on that. Like I said, it's young. Might become a classic at some point, you never know.

TODAY - Dead as a doornail.  It died maybe a couple months after I reviewed it.  Damn shame as the comic looked so damn interesting.  I sure know how to pick them, don't I?

132. Starslip Crisis - A light sci-fi comic featuring a war ship turned museum and its crew and galactic TERROR. Doesn't that always follow? It's not as funny as, say, Schlock Mercenary, but it's a bit more deep than Station V3. It's something in the middle. That's not bad, mind you (I like both Schlock and V3), just in the middle. Enjoyable.

TODAY - The name and art style was changed a bit ago, so it's now Starslip, and features more 3 dimensional character designs.  The comic hasn't changed that much from when I first read it and continues to entertain.

133. Questionable Content - This batch of comics comes to you thanks in part to this comic, but mostly to this review of the comic. If you are less than mature or a fan of Questionable Content, I suggest not clicking that link. Upon reading the review, I had to find out if what he says is true. So is he right? Well, yes and no. No, it is NOT the worse comic ever (EarthBeta is far worse, with Diesel Sweeties right behind it). In fact, I found parts of it quite funny. That said, everything he says about the nature of the comic ("a group of 20-somethings consisting of guys who are absolutely terrified of women and the girls who terrorize them sit around and discuss their feelings" among other things) is dead on. There are also probably 2000 comics out there that do the same damn thing, this one is just lucky enough to be popular. I think it takes the "whimsy" element (weird stuff that happens, including giant robots demanding apologies) a bit to far for a comic that is, generally, pretty grounded. All that said, this comic isn't going to stay in my read pile. It's okay, often funny, but it just doesn't interest me in a long term relationship. I'm sorry Questionable Content, it's not you, it's me.

TODAY - Still don't see what other people see in this comic.  I just don't read it, but I don't hate it (like some other comics that are popular for some god damned reason).  Just not sure why people like this one that much more than it really deserves.

134. Brat-halla - So what's it like to raise a god? This comic answers the question. About the only comic that focuses almost solely on Norse mythology (that I've found, I have a few that do Greek), and a rather funny one at that. The art style looks familiar (can't place it myself) but it is very well done and fairly high quality. It's just a fun comic.

TODAY - As I said last week, the comic is going on indefinite hiatus, and is likely dead.  Damn dirty shame.

135.  Flatwood - The FAQ for this comic suggest that you read it "with all the lights off and the optional oragan music playing." Adds to the "horror" effect of the comic. And it has a point, this can be a bit of an unnerving comic. The character style screams "FUNNY" while everything else says "BOO!" Odd combination and I still can't decide if I like it or not. It's not bad, I'm just not sure if I want to keep it in my weekly grind. Be warned that some of the comics are actually animated gifs, so don't go clicking through real fast, you might miss something.

TODAY - So dead it isn't even funny.  The main site is long gone, so all that's left is the Comic Genesis site, and that's about it.  I would say a shame, but at the same time, I don't think it was really that good.  Weird, scary, but good?  I don't know.  Judge for yourself on that one.

Well, that's enough.  Hopefully I can get the time to get to reviewing that award thing next week.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Touching Base #5

Another edition of touching base to get you caught up on what's going on with the various comics.

Totally Kotor ended last week.  The Star Wars based fan comic, with it's simple art style and generally unnecessary use of flash, finally finished up the Knights of the Old Republic (I and II) storylines.  While I could give an indepth analysis on the comic, as I did for Girly and Parallel Dementia before it, I think I'll just settle for saying it's done.  Considering the artist has two comics currently running (Totally Crossover and the new Special Level) I consider this less a good bye as an evolution beyond the simple constraints of the old comic.  Of course, there's always the possibility of it returning in the future (Old Republic MMO is based in the same universe).

Brat-halla went into a hiatus a bit ago, and it has converted to indefinite recently.  Artistic burnout and other projects have pretty much killed it, which is depressing, but unsurprising.  They want to continue the last story, but when they do it is the question.

On the Edge is also going on indefinite hiatus for similar reasons.  I am hoping she finishes Wonderland (an expansion on the basic comic) but that moves very slowly, so I'm not holding my breath on that one.

More hiatus news comes from Shadowgirls.  I'm not quite clear as to why, except that they have some sort of book deal in the works and something about changing the "business model" of their comic.  Considering it started as and was published as a free webcomic, that may mean they're looking to going to a pay model, possibly purely in print form.  Good for them, bad for me as I have no money.  We'll see what happens.

Speaking of money, Contemplating Rekio has suspended updates due to some financing conflicts with Google over advertisements.  Will it return?  I have no idea.  I can hope so as I need a little bit of evil in my life.

Sadly, it looks as if Lizzy may be dead.  A short comic that was filling in for the main comic ended months ago, and there are no updates, news posts or, well anything, from the artist since.

The Wotch is doing the same thing.  There was supposed to be a guest comic arc starting in December, but it never came.  The news posts are shockingly quiet.  I suppose there might be activity in their forums (there is an active forum community), but I don't read most comic forums, so I don't know what's going on.  God, all these dead or dying comics news is depressing me.  Is there any good news out there?

Oh wait, Gypsy! started updating again!  Yes, there was a bit of a stall in updating through the holidays and most of January, but it's back to updating again, so great.  I love when comics come back to life.

I haven't talked about it, but Kiwis By Beat, where the comic Minus was born, continues to add comics.  The current strips there are Great and Modern Fried Snake.  While Great has been going on longer, I think I prefer Modern Fried Snake of the two.  Minus, of course, blows both out of the water, but that's another story.

The Pain has updated, a bit, kind of.  Sort of.  Ever since the artist stopped getting paid to draw a weekly comic (they were published in a periodical), he's sort of slacked off on updates.  Meaning there have been a handful in the last year or so.  And not all of them are comics.  Still, it does still occasionally update, so I'm fine with it, for now.

Finally the Webcomic List gave out their awards for 2010.  Many of nominees are comics I read, but few actually won.  I think I'll dedicate an article to breaking that down.  In the meantime, you can read the "award show" here.  Warning, it's in comic form, and there is no list on the site, which is annoying.

Well that's it for this edition of Touching Base.  See you next time kiddies.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Not So Wild Review: Sea of Insanity

For about 3 years of my young life, I lived in Greece, on the island of Crete specifically.  While I regret my lack of exploration (I was only 11 at the time) of the culture and land today, I did get a healthy appreciation of Greek history and mythology.  So when a comic shows up claiming to have roots in Greek mythology, I sit up and take notice.  That's probably how I found comic 15, Sea of Insanity.


So what happened to the Greek gods after they fell out of favor?  They're still around apparently, living and working amongst us, and occasionally causing problems.  Though in general hiding, a few people are let into this world, including Finn, who simply needs a place to live.  There have been other comics that have done this, of course, including Gods and Undergrads, but Sea of Insanity seems to do it better by not going too big.


The main human characters are Finn and Gil, our fish out of water characters.  Or fish in the water in Gil's case.  He turns into a fish randomly.  Anyway a fish out of water character is supposed to ask questions and let us get a feel for a story's universe, and they work well here.  Gil works even better as he a psychologist and actually brings a different sort of analysis to the gods and goddess than they normally would get in such a story.  Finn is the main character of the comic, though not the driving force of it.  That said, he is the most grounded of the group, ignoring high minded ideas and treating everyone, even the gods, as just normal people.

On the mythological end of the scale sits Isle and Calliope.  Many of the events in the story center on Isle and all three live in her apartment.  Isle is probably most important and her relationship with Finn is appears to be the main arc of the story.  Calliope acts more as the information board than anything else, but she's been slowly developing a decent character.

There is a hefty list of supporting characters including The Sibyl (an oracle of sorts and her partner, as well as the gods Apollo and Artemis, and more besides.  Apollo plays the roll of antagonist in the comic, but makes few appearances.  The supporting cast enter and exit cleanly, but few get much screen time and thus little development.


The art of Sea of Insanity has always been one of the odd ducks in the bunch.  It's clean pencil, meaning it's been cleaned up, but not inked.  The characters are realistic in design and stature, and the environments rather detailed, but it all feels a bit incomplete. Like the inking would finish it and it would be a regular black and white strip, or it should be rougher and be more like Megatokyo or something.  It's in a weird area that likely would turn off some people.  I'm used to it at this point, and the penciling is so clean it could almost be mistaken for light inks, but it's not the best in the world.  It's also not terrible.


As I said, the story revolves around Isle, her work, her mind, and her rather strained relationship with Apollo.  And at the same time, there really isn't a main story.  There's no epic tale being told here, just a series of personal relationships that seem to be a story.  Similar in structure to Out There, it runs based on individual events but with no obvious direction.  There are some hints at a larger picture thing going on, but it's hard to pick it out directly.

The personal relationships, though, bring me back and keep me involved.  I want to see what happens to them as the story goes on, and I care about them, but the plot isn't necessary.  If it was more like Out There, where you just have interacting characters, I would still be hooked on it, perhaps more so.  The individual events that drive the comic are rather well done and brief (well, brief for a comic that updates weekly).  They typically focus on a couple of the main characters (or a supporting character if necessary) and try to dig deeper into them as a result.


The comic died for about 2 years at one point, the result of the artist going through some medical hell and became one of the reasons why I insist webcomic artists tell their fans what's going on.  I was surprised when he started updating again, and pleased.  That said, the comic isn't great.  It's pretty good, but nothing exceptional.  I think much of my enjoyment comes from my personal relationship with the mythology it's based on.  It's probably not worth reading for most people, but I do enjoy it and will continue to read it, as long as he doesn't have someone hit his house with a car again (yeah, that happened).

Well, enough of that.  Until next time kiddies.