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. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Just Another Escape Ends

Damn, another obituary for the pile.  I had a nice article about using myths in stories ready for this week too, but instead, I'm going to spend my time on Just Another Escape.

I suppose there really shouldn't be much of a surprise that one of my weekly comics comes to an end, especially one as high concept as Just Another Escape, but I am still kind of surprised.  I've come to accept that it was taking two or three weeks to generate a new comic as I was kept interested in the comic by it's concept.  In the end, though, the delays were a sign that the end was neigh and I should have heeded them.

Just Another Escape had probably the most interesting premise in terms of format I've seen in quite a while.  It's stated on the very first archive page and is a really neat idea.  The comic is divided into 3 periods, the past, present and future, and each is defined by three different art styles.  The past is in black and white, the present is in normal, flat color and the future is done in water colors.

This is a brilliant idea, allowing the reader, at a glance, to tell what time period a part o the story is in, and what it's significance is for the comic as a whole.  This is a great idea and opens the comic to a wide range of storytelling options.  It literally provides a mechanism to crank out flashbacks and flashforwards as needed to drive forward the main, present story.

But I don't think Just Another Escape used it well.  There is no present story to speak of and the future story is where most of the action happens.  The past stuff works really well, and I enjoyed that part, but the present and future stuff, for the most part, didn't go anywhere.  At least through the run of the comic.  What I'm trying to say is while the idea was really good, in the end Just Anther Escape didn't use the idea to the fullest.  For the most part, I think that was simply because the story was being generated on a weekly basis for the most part.

Also I think that as originally planned, it might have been a touch to ambitious.  The original cast page featured a cast picture, which must have had 20 people in it.  It's different now or I would show it, but it was a hell of a cast.  The cast page has been streamlined since then, and the cast is MUCH smaller, but even then, many characters have little to no development.  Yes, he did manage to go back and give some back story to these characters, but without the context of a main, present time story, their point was completely lost.

I don't want to sound too down on this comic, I did enjoy it.  The stuff with Solina and Abraxas was actually really good and fun, while some the stories around Erica and her past were probably the most tragic and probably the more important past stories in the line.  The artwork improved GREATLY over the length of the comic and the story telling got better as it went along.  Developing a much stronger main storyline to bounce the future and past stories off of and constricting the cast much earlier would have helped the comic a great deal, but sometimes one must reach for the sky and he did it.  Things just didn't work out in the end.

In any case, it's a shame that yet another comic I like is shut down, but it's something one must get used too on the internet.  He's moving on to work on his own graphic novel, Cogs, which while not up and going yet, will probably prove very interesting and I'll keep my eye on it.

Well, I guess next week I'll post my myth article (had to do some tweaks on it anyway), and then the following week, a special edition where I show you my "future read" pile.  Oh, it's a doozy.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, June 3, 2011


The idea pot is stirring again.

Last Friday Girls With Slingshots finished up a week long dedication to newspaper comics, with a strip featuring Hazel and McPedro reenacting, in their own way, the last strip of Calvin and Hobbes.  It was cute and I thought little about it, until I happened to read the news post attached to the strip:

"I really debated putting GWS characters in the place (almost exactly) of Calvin and Hobbes in their final strip, because it seemed a little blasphemous."
The emphasis is mine because that what caught my eye.  Blasphemous.  This is the internet, nearly nothing should be considered blasphemous, they have Jesus dildos for pete's sake!  But this gets a bit of worry over being blasphemous?

I think it stands out for me because it's about Calvin and Hobbes.  My Newspaper line of articles may have stalled a bit, but I think if you read them, it's obvious I was hinting at this being probably the best newspaper comic of all time, it's certainly my favorite.  I think a great many people doing webcomics today feel the same way, and there's this odd respect for the comic.

There are a lot of reasons, but I think the key one is that most people wanted to make a comic just like Calvin and Hobbes.  Thus they want to pay it respect.  In fact, I can only think of one instance where there was no respect given to it, a horrible comic that was immediately derided by just about everyone, and I'm not even going to bother hunting it down to link it.  The other comics, Garfield, Peanuts, Blondie, and especially Family Circus get cut to ribbons and we all laugh along, but crossing Calvin and Hobbes is likely to earn the scorn of the entire internet.

So how does one pay tribute to such a revered comic without being blasphemous?  Well, for one, I think GWS did fine with it, capturing the iconic moment of the original comic without actually making it into something vulgar or unpleasant.  Sinfest showed it's rather obvious inspiration by taking the topic head on and in a way that fits the style of Sinfest.  That seems important to me, that the very nature of the webcomic needs to be expressed in the dedication to Calvin and Hobbes, and I think that keeps things from going over the line.

Which is where a pair of strips from Pants Are Overrated, a comic I haven't read or reviewed (as of yet).  He features a pair of comics that feature Hobbes and Bacon.  It's basically created as a sequel to Calvin and Hobbes and I think strikes a cord with people who see it and loved the original.  It countered that horrible comic I mentioned earlier almost perfectly, while also capturing what people loved about Watterson's work.  The problem, of course, is that the webcomic artist set his bar high, and due to legal issues, odds of any more strips are unlikely at best.  Still, it does make me want to read the main comic, just to see what else he can do.

In fact, the only comic that actually manages to take Calvin and Hobbes and run with it is Weapon Brown, for reasons so different than the others in this article that there's no way to actually compare them.  It doesn't touch the essence that most people associate with Calvin and Hobbes, but takes the tropes associated with it and twists it over and around.  Yet, I wouldn't call this comic blasphemous either, as it isn't about Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes, it's about the artist having fun with it.

In the end, what is blasphemous and what isn't depends on how much one feels about the work being parodied.  Calvin and Hobbes, of course, triggers a great swell of emotion amongst most people who grew up with it, and are now the main force behind most webcomics and the internet as a whole.  Other comics, aren't nearly as strong a pull and likely can be made more fun of, but I think as long as the spirit of the comic is kept, blasphemy doesn't really exist.

Okay, that's enough for this week, see you next time kiddies.