Friday, December 30, 2011

Can't Live Without, 2012 Edition

So I skipped doing this last year because I had other things to do, but the list has changed a bit from way back in 2010.  Two comics on the original list ended/died utterly, one stalled out, one is nearing its end and I've discovered more comics, so the list needs to be updated.  Again, these are in no particular order, so no one is better than the other, and this is not a "best" list at all, just comics I never want to not read.

1.  Sluggy Freelance - Despite all the weird twists the comic took, I still enjoy Sluggy.  I WANT to see where it goes everyday, whether it's the darkness of 4UCity or the silliness of the Hampsternom, I want to see the next strip.

2.  Schlock Mercenary - Still probably the overall best comic on the net, I love how the story simply flows from one event to the other, ranging from local hotspots to galaxy spanning conflicts.  The characters all have their strengths and weaknesses, and all manage to do it in the funniest way possible.  A classic webcomic that deserves your attention.

3.  Weapon Brown - There are few action comics that are as awe inspiring as Weapon Brown.  The repurposing of classic comic characters into a post apocalyptic setting is amazing and well done.  If you haven't read this comic, you're missing out, go do it.

4.  Gunnerkrieg Court - This comic is great, and not reading it should almost be a crime.  The art, the characters, the story, all of them come together to make one of the best comics there is on the net.  There should be a franchise built around this, it would be awesome.

5.  The Adventures of Dr. McNinja - Humor is McNinja.  Weird, surrealist humor with a bit of action.  Dr. McNinja is a comic that never forgets WHAT it is, no matter how weird or long the story goes and deserves to be read.

6.  The Whiteboard - The silliness continues with this comic.  On one end it's a fairly simple adventure/gag comic, on the other, it goes over the top in such a way that you can only laugh.  The cast has gotten more rounded over the years and I really think this is getting better than most.

7.  Spinnerette - I've been reading this from it's beginning, and it has only gotten better and better with each new chapter.  It gives me hope that superhero comics can actually rise above the current garbage out there while still being fun.  It's serious and fun, smart and hilarious.  The art is spot on for such a work, and it deserves the movie they're now working on (an independent film).  Go read it.

8.  Dead Winter - The zombie fad is hard to do different and interesting.  Dead Winter manages this, I think.  It's less about fighting zombies than the people doing it, if anything the zombie fights are almost casual annoyances most of the time.  The art is great too, getting better with each new strip and likely some of my favorite art in a comic I've read.

9.  Heart Shaped Skull - Okay, technically the comic is called Serenity Rose, but that's the name of the site and I'm a stubborn soul.  Despite the otherworldly nature of the comic (magic is big here), it is pretty well grounded.  Serenity is pretty normal, relatively and that gives it an odd depth that I enjoy.  The art is great, the message is well thought out and I just think this comic works.

10.  Blip - Where Serenity is neck deep in the magic of her world, K is completely oblivious to it.  I love that aspect of the comic, where she is utterly unaware that her three best friends are a vampire, a witch and a robot.  It's an odd angle for a comic as most usually throw the main character in or have them wallowing in it already.  I suspect that K will NEVER know what's going on around her, or if she finds out, the comic will end.  It's a great angle for a great comic.  Just wish the artist would fix the date system attached to the updates.

As always, I have some Honorable Mentions:  City of Reality, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Errant Story, The Adventures of Superhero Girl and Sinfest.  All of them could easily get on this list if the rest weren't there, though Errant Story isn't because, well, it's nearly over and at some point I will have to live without it.

Well, that's it.  Happy New Year to you and yours and hopefully I'll have some new reviews instead of half baked articles this year.  Later kiddies.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Webcomic Christmas Gifts I Want

Well Christmas is coming this weekend, and I could give you a present of a new batch of reviews.  But I didn't do any.  So instead, I'll give you a list I would send Santa for the various webcomics I read.  This isn't so much about things, but the comic itself.

1.  I'd like so many comics to come back from the dead.  Lizzy, Hanna is Not a Boy's Name, Shadowgirls,  Hazard Pay, No Rest for the Wicked, etc, etc.

2.  I don't want too many print copies of comics, but Gunnerkrigg Court, The Meek and Errant Story are a couple exceptions.  They are spectacular comics, and WHY AREN'T YOU READING THEM!

3.  A few comics I'd like to see start going again.  They aren't "dead" yet, but getting close.  Sea of Insanity has returned to life more than a few times, and I'd like to see that again.  Hari-Sari and Punch n' Pie need to come back as well.

4.  Some comics just need to end.  Elsie Hooper needs to get back and finish up.  It's so close to the end, so close.  Not too many others, luckily, at least ones I'm still reading.

5.  And some comics I just want to die horribly.  Diesel Sweeties and Penny Arcade, please just curl up and die.  I don't read either of you, but please die and make the internet a better place.  Please?

I would like to say I DID get a webcomic gift after all.  In the process of adding links, I found that Nobody Scores! updated!  I know, I was shocked too.  Miracles do happen kids.

And that's it for Christmas.  I hope you have a Merry Christmas, or general Happy Holiday.  I'll be back next week for my top 10 comics I Can't Live Without, 2012 edition.  See you then kiddies.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Not So Wild Review: Sinfest

Since I don't want to spend time recreating a post that blogger ate, I guess I'll do a Not So Wild Review.


I read a lot of comics, and as I've said before, I divide them into 4 categories:  Novel, Epic, Adventure and Classic/Daily comics.  Usually I have one or two ideas of what each entails, a prototype for the category.  Sinfest is the prototype for the Classic one.

Once upon a time, Tatsuya Ishida, the comic's artist, wanted to get Sinfest into newspapers.  I think he was rejected about 15 times or so, enough that he said screw it and dedicated himself to the webcomic.  I think that was probably a good thing as the comic syndicates would likely have demanded it be neutered and all the humor of the comic would have been lost.  Sinfest doesn't have an overarching story, but does have character development.  There are no "adventures" but things happen over the course of the comic.

But let's get down to the review portion and start talking about it.


The two main characters are Slick and Monique, but even then, the secondary cast has taken a lot larger role in recent years.  For a comic that is built on short story arcs and daily jokes, however, the various characters develop over the life of the comic.  Slick once wanted to be a pimp, but is he really?  Yes, he still has some of those traits, but he's a much better character than he once was.  Monique has done much the same, questioning her own appeal and, very recently, going for a more androgynous look to try do define herself.

Calling the rest the "secondary cast" is hard, though, as they span quite a variety and get reasonable amounts of time.  Li'l E currently is getting a chance to reexamine his life while the Devil seems to be tracking his movements.  Fuchsia, a devil girl, walks out of her job with the Devil to pursue her love for Criminy, a boy who loves books.  Even Squigley, the over eating, pot smoking pig, got a whole storyline where he wondered around as a hobo.  None of these characters are quite what they used to be at the start of the strip (well, God is still a bit of a dick).  At the same time, they are, fundamentally, the same people.  Reading a strip from early on and then fast forwarding to the present isn't as much a jarring change as you would think, though it would leave more than a few questions.


There are no adventures in this comic really.  There are stories, but they rarely go very far and wide.  Squigley's adventures as a hobo are about as close to a full fledged adventure as the comic ever got, and even then it wasn't quite what would classify as an adventure in comics of the type.  There are no great villains running around (the Devil doesn't count), or quests to undertake.  These are people living relatively normal daily lives, well as normal as having a Reality zone next door, the Devil playing basketball with Jesus, books that attack people and 2010 pulling a Themal and Louise vs Death.

All that sounds exciting, but they are only loosely connected.  The comic isn't about the adventures, it's about the characters and their common foibles.  Sex, drugs, religion, pop culture, popularity and even love all appear in one form or another and the individual vignettes that pepper the strip help to explore them.


Sinfest is, at it's heart, a daily joke comic.  Nearly every strip is punctuated by some kind of joke or twist.  Slapstick is rare, but it happens, and almost never is there a pun involved.  The jokes aren't more about setting up the moment and delivering in the next up.  It's an interesting pacing for this kind of comic as the set up is often as funny as the punchline, if not funnier.  Honestly, as time has gone on, the comic has felt less funny to me, and more insightful than it probably has any right to be.  Laugh out loud moments in Sinfest are kind of rare, but there's almost always a bit of a chuckle to be had.

And when things get too intense, Tatsuya pulls out Percy and Pooch and runs a week worth of strips featuring them.  In a way, they represent a more conventional kind of comic, jokes built around a dog and cat and their interactions with each other, their owner and their limited world.  These moments provide a light moments that are almost always funny, especially from a pet owners perspective.  Kind of like how Garfield USED to be in it's nature.


Comparing the early strips to the later ones really isn't that huge of a leap.  Oh, the earlier strips are cruder, but the basic characters are fairly well defined.  The big difference is shading, as in there's a lot of it in the modern strip as opposed to the early days.  The characters have gotten smoother and more streamlined, and the art has improved, but I wouldn't call the differences radical.  More like a well practiced hand at work.  The art is very good, and stands out even more with the color Sunday strips where Tatsuya gives himself more space to work with.  There are details that aren't detailed, but you can see them well enough.  Once in a while he'll do a calligraphy strip that shows line and form merging from a regular image into a written character (I assume it's Chinese, but I don't know for sure).


Sinfest is one of those comics I've come to expect to just BE there.  And as the comic has evolved from a straight up daily joke comic into what it is now, I find myself enjoying it more and more.  I haven't always felt that way, but even in writing this review I found that I really like this strip much more than even I thought I did.  It's a good comic and one that deserves to be read, long term or short.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Starting Points

Well my last article got eaten, so I'll have to recreate it sometime.  Just not now, I'll do this one instead.  Hopefully it doesn't get deleted randomly.

A few months ago now, DC, the big giant comic book company, "rebooted" their entire line up.  The reason for this is two fold:  They wanted to bring new readers in from the beginning of the universe's story without the mountain of backstory most comics come with, and they wanted to make money.  I can't speak on how successful the later was, nor really the former, but let's talk about starting points anyway.

This is actually something webcomics have to deal with, especially the older ones.  Comics like Sluggy Freelance, Schlock Mercenary and other long form comics have massive archives and that can be rather intimidating for new readers.  Sluggy, for example, has well over 5000 strips over it's 14 some years.  I started reading it about 8 years ago, and it was still a slog to go through the archives.  My review process is in fact hampered by these massive archives as I insist on reading from the beginning.  Probably the reason I have so many short/young comics in recent years as opposed to older ones.

This problem isn't even restricted to webcomics.  As already stated, comic books have the same issue and have attempted multiple "reboots" to restart these comics.  Even more so are the newspaper comics, many of whom are decades old.  Blondie, one of the oldest at 81 years, has more than 30,000 strips to it's name.  No one is going to read them all, and until recently, they really couldn't.  Newspaper comics are far more disposable than other comics, and often weren't meant for being reread.

So how do they keep an audience in the first place?  Aside from just simply being there for half a century in some cases.  Well most newspaper comics do it the easy way:  no story at all.  Just single jokes.  You don't have to know the names of the characters, their pasts, or anything really.  The joke stands on it's own.  It's the simplest way to solve the problem of starting points as there really isn't one.  Many webcomics, like Cyanide and Happiness and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, follow this, you don't need to read the archives to know the comic.

Which doesn't work for those long form story comics.  For them, we should look to the comic books, and how they do starting points, unless they're restarting everything.  Ideally (which is to say, they don't do it much) each individual issue of the comic should stand alone.  You don't need to know much, if anything, to get the story.  This doesn't always work, but even a simple narration box at the beginning can get people up to speed rather easily, and for the big comics (Superman, Batman, Spiderman, ect) most people know enough not to need such a thing.

I rarely see this from webcomics.  Spinnerette does it a little, but not as much as a good comic book would.  More adventure style comics have "chapters" or even "books" to designate the division between different stories, but often the older comics, like Sluggy and Schlock, kind of run their stories together and link them.  These deep connections mean that references are often made to past stories, and much like comic books of old, they put up links to the referenced events.

Okay, so what do webcomics have to help with starting a story?  Well, there are cast pages and getting started pages that can be used easily enough, but they aren't perfect.  Sluggy has one, but it's already out of date by quite a bit.  Cast pages tell you little about the character typically, and are often out of date as well.

In the end, webcomics with long stories or adventure style comics will always have a problem bringing new people in.  Comic books have the same problem and there is NO good solution.  Even starting from scratch doesn't resolve the problem, it just holds it off a bit.  The best option is to make whatever story is most recent GOOD.  With access to archives, either through the net or trades from the comic book publishers, will keep people's attention and they can start anywhere that way.

So an article about starting points offers no solutions, because there aren't any that I can think of.  Oh well, at least this hasn't been eaten by blogspot.  I hope.  Until next time kiddies.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Okay, I don't know what happened

I had an article, I wrote it, scheduled it and published it to be put up YESTERDAY and it did NOT go up, and is now even gone from the back end stuff.  The hell happened, I don't know.  What the hell?