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. 

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