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.