Friday, December 28, 2012

Nothing this week

I WAS going to try to work on something this week.  But then I got Guild Wars 2 for Christmas.  Yeah.

That said, I do have an idea for an article for next week, so stay tuned.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Christmas Yak

With Christmas just around the corner, rather than try to come up with some holiday webcomic related post, I'm just going to post an old Christmas story I wrote some time ago.  It's simple, not all that great, but fun regardless.  hope you like it:

The Christmas Yak
By:  Yours Truly

            One day, some time ago, a yak was wandering across the snowcapped mountains of the Himalayas very depressed.  It was the middle of winter now, and he had, for some reason, not been able to move down the mountain this year.  Cold, lonely, and really, really hungry, the Yak simply wandered the crooked paths of the blizzard strewn mountains.

            Then a monster leapt out from around the corner, and let out a heart stopping roar.

            "Hey Yeti," the Yak said.  "How's it going?"

            The Yeti, an eight foot tall white beast, dropped his arms from their 'I'm going to tear you limb from limb' position.  "Oh, hey Yak.  Didn't know you were still up here?"

            "Much to my own dismay.  Know which way is back down, I think I'm lost."

            "Sure, but you'll never get there in this blizzard.  Let's go back to my place for the night."

            The Yeti's cave was large and relatively warm compared to the outside.  It was well decorated for a Yeti's cave, with some clumps of white fur, grasses, branches and the occasional collection of bones here and there.  "Make yourself comfortable."

            "Mind if I munch on your couch, I'm starving."

            "Sure, but leave the bed," the Yeti patted on a red cloth that covered more branches.  "I need somewhere to sleep tonight."

            The Yak began to munch on the Yeti's couch and let his mind wander a bit.  "You know, this sucks."

            "The couch?"

            "No, the season.  Every year, the big blizzards blow in and I have to come down off the mountains to live.  But it's just as cold down there.  I wish I hibernated, at least then I wouldn't have to deal with it."

            "You don't?"

            "I don't.  Maybe some of those others do, but I don't."

            "Ah."  The Yeti sat there for a moment, sucking the marrow from one of the various bones lying around.  "Well, what should we do about it?"


            "No, nothing to do in winter."

            "Right, well, I'm not sure," the Yak stopped eating, sustained for the moment, and curled up on what was left of the couch.  "What do you think we should do?"

            "Well," the Yeti said.  "A couple years back, about this time of year, I came across a couple of those really pale colored humans in one of those brightly colored leaves they're always setting up.  This one, in fact," he patted the bed.  "Anyway, right before I tore the thing down and ate them, I heard one of them say 'merry Christmas,' and I could just see a shadow of one handing the other a squarish rock.  Course, after I tore into the place I looked around and found what looked like a box made out of really thin bark with some garbage in it."

            "That's nice, but how is that supposed to help?"

            "I don't know, but maybe you could copy the humans and give other people boxes made of bark with garbage in it.  Then maybe they'd give them to other people and so on and so forth."

            The Yak laid there in thought for a moment.  "I don't know, most don't like garbage."

            "Then give them a big square rock."

            "That might work," the Yak said.  "But if I gave one person a rock, I'd have to give everyone a rock, and that could take a while."

            "True," the Yeti said.  "Well, maybe you could make it so that the person getting the rock would regret it or something."

            "Regret it?"  The Yak stood up with a cheer.  "That's it!  I'll throw the rock at someone every year.  The others will be real nice to me then as they won't want me to throw a rock at them next year."

            "Course," the Yeti interrupted.  "They could start throwing rocks at you."

            "Not if they don't know it's me," the Yak said.  "I've got an idea."

            A couple of weeks later, another yak, a nasty bastard who had knocked over the pervious Yak and laughed on several occasions, was minding his business in the valley below the mountains when an unfamiliar shape appeared out of the woods.

            "Who's there?"

            The shape walked forward.  It looked like a yak, but was covered in a strange red leaf like the ones humans use as shelters, and with puffy white fur tacked on to it with branches.  "I am the Christmas Yak," the strange yak bellowed.  "Have you been a good yak this year?"

            "What the hell are you talking about?"

            "I know if you've been a good yak or a bad yak.  I know you've been a bad yak, always picking on the others.  So I have a gift for you."

            "A gift?"  The mean yak took a step closer.  "For being bad?"

            "Yes," the Christmas Yak said.

            "Well let me have it then.  I've been a really bad yak this year."

            "I know."  And the Christmas Yak through a rock at the mean yak.  A big one.

            About twenty minutes later, the mean yak recovered from the blow and searched around for the Christmas Yak, determined to beat the crap out of him for hitting him with a rock.  The mean yak searched around for several minutes, but was unable to find any trace of the Christmas Yak.  Eventually, he came across the Yak he had picked on last summer.

            "Hey!" the mean yak called.  "Have you seen some joker in a red leaf running around throwing rocks at people?"

            "No," the Yak said.  "I haven't."

            "Really weird, he said I was a bad yak and threw a rock at me because of it."

            "Serves you right," the Yak said.  "You've been a mean bastard to me, I'm glad he hit you with a rock.  Assuming, of course, you're not making it up."

            The mean yak's eyes grew wide.  Could the Christmas Yak have been an apparition, dealing out justice with flying rocks?  "Uh, listen, I'm sorry about that.  All in fun, you know?

            "Wasn't fun for me."

            "Yeah, I guess not.  Like I said, sorry."

            The Yak smiled.  "Apology accepted."  The mean yak wandered off, spooked but wiser.

            The next year, on that same day, the Christmas Yak appeared again, and hit a yak that ate more than his share of a bush.  And then the next year, with one who always pushed his way to the front of the line.  Year after year, the Christmas Yak would appear and hit the meanest yak in the herd with a rock.  Eventually, people would try to be nice to each other as winter came.  Mother yaks would tell their children the same thing every year.  "Be good, or the Christmas Yak will get you."

            And as the faithful day approached, yaks will warn each other of the coming danger.  "Beware of the Christmas Yak."  They would say.  And when the danger had passed, they would have a party to celebrate them not being hit by the rock.  Everyone would have a good time, except the one who got hit with a rock.

            So to all the people everywhere, remember, beware of the Christmas Yak.

Oh, the story isn't over yet:

A Visit from Saint Yakolas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the Alps
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The notes were all hung by the chimney rock with care,
In the hopes that St. Yakolas would read them there;
The kids were nestled all snug in their hey beds,
While horrors of flying rocks flew through their heads;
And mamma ewe was asleep, and I on the cliff
Having just settled down like a lame working stiff
When down in the valley, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my perch to see what was the matter.
Away to the pass I leapt like a flash,
Tore down the pathway, and up through the gash.
The moon on the breast of the glacier ice flow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a cart full of hey, and eight tiny sherpas
With a hairy old driver, so stinky and fat,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Yak.
More rapid than falcons, his carriers they came,
And he grunted and spitted, and called them by name;
"Now, Rinzen! now, Kalden! now, Tenzin and Dawa!
On, Dorjee! on Nawanq! on Karma and Mingma!
To the top of the arête! to the top of the headwall!
Now dash away!  dash away!  dash away all!
As dry snow that before the snowstorm fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the cliff-top the carriers they flew,
With the cart full of hey, and St. Yakolas too.
And then in a twinkling, I heard on the snow
The pattering of the climbers dropping their load
As I drew back my head and was turning around,
There at the chimney rock, St. Yokolas appeared unbound
He was covered in fur, from his head to his hoof,
And his clothes were made of an old tent, with some soot
A mouth full of hay he had brought from the cart
And he looked domesticated, though without a cart.
His eyes -- how they twinkled!  his horns, how merry!
His hooves were like clods, his snout like a cherry!
His droll mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the hair on his hat was as white as the snow
The stub of the hay he held tight in his teeth,
And for a moment I though he would eat our wreath;
He had a broad face, and looked a little cranky,
That shook me in fear, like a bowlful of jelly,
He was chubby and plump, a right gaudy old beast
And I bleated when I saw him, expecting him to leave
A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,
Soon led me to believe I had nothing to dread
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And read all the notes, then turned with a jerk
And flung a rock right at my head
Knocking me down and almost leaving me for dead
He sprang to his cart, to his team gave a whistle
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as I held unconsciousness back
"Happy Christmas to all, and BEWARE THE CHRISTMAS YAK!"

Friday, December 14, 2012

Retrospective: Weapon Brown

Last week, Weapon Brown, the apocalyptic take on newspaper comics, ended it's current run.  Current meaning while the story as it started is over, I don't think he's done telling Chuck's story.  But for the moment, it is over, and thus it's time for a retrospective on it.

Last week, I said I almost wanted to compare the excellent Between Failures to the awful Blade Kitten, but honestly, the comparison wouldn't have been exactly fair.  Comparing Blade Kitten to Weapon Brown, however, is perfect.  A bounty hunter with a past, a world full of villains and virtually no heroes, a badass attitude but underneath a heart of gold?  It's weird how many basic traits Chuck and Kit share, up to and including the loyal pet.  But then, Chuck isn't a catgirl, so can't be a one to one match.

The other area where it doesn't compare?  Sheer violence.  Few comics I've read REVEL in violence the way Weapon Brown does.  It's completely over the top which makes it a thrill to read.  The fact that Chuck rarely gets through a fight completely unscathed gives an air of realism to the violent world around him, but doesn't reduce his badassery any.

The story is, well, just a vehicle for the violence honestly.  It's certainly modeled on The Road Warrior and it works well in that regard.  It's not perfectly a match for that classic post-apocalyptic film, of course.  There IS a civilization out there, it's just run by generally evil people.  Still, the classic trope of a lone hero working to save a small group of good guys is very much present in the second half of the story.  The first half, on the other hand, is more a lone survivor type tale.

As a character, Chuck doesn't really seem to change all that much through the course of the story.  He's a badass and while he may be weakened or beaten down, he keeps going.  About the only change is that he finds someone to love and when it's time to fight to save her, he doesn't back down.  Sadly, I will say that the rest of the characters are rather one note, but reading this kind of comic for character development is, well, kind of silly.  It's there for the violence, the glory of watching Chuck overcome the odds, and the references.

Ah yes, the references.  This is the real reason to read this comic, because it is a post-apocalyptic parody of the funny pages in the local newspaper.  Chuck is a grown up and hardened Charlie Brown.  His love interest is Little Orphan Annie.  His rival, CAL-v.1n is Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.  And that's just the tip of the iceburg.  Everything from Family Circus to Blondie, Gasoline Alley and B.C. gets a reference in there somewhere.  It can get quite obscure in some cases, so tags are often at the bottom of the comic to help point a direction, but guessing is part of the fun.

That's really the rub of it.  Yes, the comic is a good action/violence piece.  Yeah, the characters aren't anything to write home about, but they're based on even more one note characters and given a semblance of life.  It's just a lot of fun, and I'm glad to have found and read it.  Here's hoping that a sequel is in the works so I can watch Chuck and Jeffy carve a path of destruction through the Syndicate.

In many ways, Weapon Brown is the reason I started reviewing newspaper comics, and why I'll do so in the future.  Anyway, enough for today.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Palate Cleansing Wild Webcomic Review

Last week I did a full Not-So-Wild review of Blade Kitten.  I didn't intend for that, in fact, I wanted to make it just another part of the:


It hurt.  I think it's because I don't really read a LOT of bad comics.  Maybe 10 or so I would rate as outright bad, and out of 240 comics, that's pretty good.  Still, I had meant to do a review batch, and with Blade Kitten on my mind, I needed something to cleanse my palate.  And I came up with 4 good comics, and one REALLY good one.  So let's get started.

236.  Gaia - Gaia is a high fantasy comic from the creator of Sandra and Woo, and it's very, VERY good.  Despite it's short life (little over a year at this point) it shows all signs of being an already very mature piece of fantasy.  The closest comparison I can make is to Errant Story, but with all the lessons it took Errant Story many years to learn already learned.  After maybe only 120 strips, this comic is already set to be one of my go to comics and I suspect I'll be following it for a long time.

237.  Between Failures - When I first started reading it, I was full of dread.  1000+ strips, and the main character came off as a bit of jerk.  Yet I kept going, and with a single moment, a kiss, I went from dreading it to loving this comic.  The art is good, and distinctive.  No issues telling one character from another.  The characters are great, taking a seed of a basic identity point, and growing them with each strip.  Each gets their moments to speak, and grow, and the dynamic between them is wonderful.  And that's all within the first 300 strips, which covers a SINGLE in story day.  This is the antithesis of Blade Kitten in almost every way, to the point I may do a side by side comparison of the two in the near future.  I highly recommend it.

238.  Alex Ze Pirate - This is a much older comic than it first appears, as revealed by the VERY first strip, which you have to find manually.  That would be my biggest complaint, the archive is a touch annoying to deal with, especially with no "first" button.  Not that the comic really NEEDS it, as this is more a daily humor type comic up until the halfway point of the comic where stories start coming out, but even these feel like early forays into the larger story telling world.  I'm hoping this expands more as while the random humor strips are funny enough, I think these same characters would do better with slightly longer story arcs.

239.  The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo - Way back when, I reviewed a comic called Perchance to Dream, which has the distinction of being the only comic I've ever wanted to go back and rewrite myself.  The frustration was that it took classic fantasy elements (Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, the Jungle Book) and didn't quite go as far, or as well, as it should have with them.  Edgar Allan Poo does the same with characters from myth and legend, but does it RIGHT.  This is an amazing comic, not just in the strange art style, but in the fantastic story telling.  It's really hard to describe it without reading it, but while the title says "surreal" I find it much more dreamlike, and that makes it feel the way I wanted to feel from Perchance to Dream.  Very good, worth a read, except, well, it hasn't updated since July 2012.  I have a dread feeling it may not be back anytime soon.

240.  The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon - My initial reaction was that this was just another high school comedy comic.  Then the bully pulled out a keyboard and start causing the earth to punch the hero.  Then things got weird.  It's an action comic, with a focus on punching people.  A lot of people.  Of course when one of the character's last name is "Facepuncher" you get this is pretty silly comic, but it's up front with it's silliness, allowing the reader to just enjoy it.  There's a plot, of course, and it's reasonably serious, for a very silly comic.  It's a good read, and after Edgar Allan Poo's very serious take, it was nice to get to something less than serious and quite humorous.  As the "villain" was defeated recently, I'm curious what direction a continuance of this story will go.  I'll be watching to see.

And that's it kiddies, 5 very good comics, but Between Failures is my favorite of the batch.  With Christmas coming up, and a few other things, updates will be a little sporadic.  I'll post at least something next time.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Not So Wild Review Special: Blade Kitten

NOTE:  Sorry kids, looks like the damn thing didn't publish on time.  Should have checked it yesterday and forgot.  Sorry.

I don't do this.  Normally, when I find a new comic and am set to review it, I'll put it aside and locate at least 4 more comics to review at once.  These five would be the newest addition to the Wild Webcomic Review.  Not So Wild Reviews follow later, typically in the order in which I originally reviewed the comic, assuming I'm still reading it.  This is how I've done this since the beginning.  Today I make an exception for:


Before I begin, I also broke another general rule for reading comics because of how I found it.  I found this comic via the Let's Play Archive, and a Let's Play of the game that's based on the comic.  This game was the final nail in the coffin for a major game development studio.  The comic is done by one of the company's founders and creative director.  Watching the LP, I am stunned at how well the game seems to function from a mechanical perspective.  From everything else, I can see why it bombed.  It also meant I HAD to see the comic, I had to read it.  As such, I started this comic with background information I normally wouldn't have had in a dry archive run.  This may or may not color some of my comments.  Let's get on with this.


This is a manga/anime style comic, but not quite as good as it should be.  It's not awful, but I've seen much better comics using this kind of art style.  The issue, I think, is that it leans far too hard on the anime tropes, including, but not limited to, girls in impractical clothing and cat girls.  Specifically the main character who is very much a cat girl, with pink hair and everything.  There's also a trend that rarely does a panel pass without some kind of dialog block interfering.  To be fair, even Errant Story's early strips suffered from this, too much script going in, so this isn't a stumbling block, but it is a sure sign that he's not confident the art can tell the story.  And we'll get to the story later.  It's at least competent, not god awful, but I don't think the overall style and point of the comic is very good.


Oh these characters.  The main character is a cat girl, named Kit.  Most of the names are awful.  Alamo, Justice, Kaiser, Gattling etc are some of the WORSE "creative" names I've seen.  And these aren't pets, oh no, these are actual people.  If these were nick names, or code names or something, I might stand them, but no, these are their proper names.  Names aside, that's about all these characters have.  Most are one note personalities, even if they have "a dark past" or some other emotional trauma.  Kit is especially bad as she wisecracks unnecessarily, slips into badass mode at the drop of hat, then goes all teary eyed later.  I've seen characters with LESS character become something greater, so I suppose that with time all of them can get better, but at the moment they're just glorified tropes running around with cat ears.  The worse part?  Dialog dumps worth of character backstory.  Yeah, way to make me care.


Disjointed.  Incomplete.  I've read comics before where it felt like it was missing whole strips.  I never felt that in Blade Kitten, instead I felt I was missing entire PLOTLINES.  I don't mind mystery in my comics, and there are a couple moments throughout that actually almost worked.  But the mystery here was how vaugue could the artist be for any given story point.  We aren't given any reference points for things.  Alamo, at one point, turns out to be a robot, but there is never any HINT at what was going on, nothing odd to question her nature.  Why?  Because there's no time to learn anything.  She's maybe in a total of 6 pages before ANYTHING is questioned, and it has to be forced because when the non-robot version is revealed, there's no connection there.  Other times the overly dense strips feel like they could have told so much more if they were stretched to 3 or 4 pages.  In the end little is learned about the world, little is shown about the characters and their backstory (shown, not TOLD), and there's no investment in the story as a whole because the mystery and suspense of the tale is drown out by poor pacing and the fact that it feels more like the Cliff notes version of a comic.


I will forever hold that the worst comic I've ever read is the old EarthBeta (which you can't see any more, praise on to any deity that did that), so no, this isn't the worst comic ever.  It is, however, by no means good.  The art direction is annoying, the characters are one note or so trope filled as to topple over under their own "weight" and it almost feels like the artist is speeding through a story rather than building one.  The sad part?  That game, the one that destroyed the game studio?  It's built the same way.  The story in the game is disjointed and rushed, the characters are one note at best, and the art direction is actually about the same.  It's also canon with the rest of the comic, so there are events that don't make sense without the game, and vice versa.

This is a bad comic.  The only reason to even read it is to complete the understanding of the game and what happened after it.  That said, it is doing something a lot of comics can't do.  Yeah, that's right, it still updates.  Looks like about once a week.  It might get better one day, but I kind of doubt it.

This comic will NOT go on the official list because, well, I broke every rule with it.  Hopefully I'll get another batch of reviews up before the end of the year, or at least for the start of next year.  No promises though.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Not So Wild Review: Cat and Girl

Most comics have some sort of theme that unifies the various strips.  Sometimes it's absurdest humor, or action/adventure, or even just really great art.  These themes define the comic and aim it's direction, and at the very least they can be identified by the reader early on.  And then there's:


I think it's meant to be subversive, honestly.  But not quite.  A commentary on the world, without actually saying anything about the world.  Does that make sense?  Probably not, which is kind of how the comic works.  I read this comic thrice a week, but do I LIKE this comic?  Um, yeah, kind of.  In a weird way.  But let's break it down a bit.


They're not really characters.  At best they're designated voice boxes for various things.  They have some personality quirks, I guess, but asking "who is Cat and who is Girl" and I'd be hard pressed to say anything (besides Cat eats paint for some reason).  Some characters are there for the joke, like Bad Decision Dinosaur, who makes and encourages bad decisions.  Saying they have "character" would be wrong.  But then, this isn't a story comic in any sense, so not having character isn't a detriment to the comic at all.  It is about the joke, which I'll get to in a moment.


All comics evolve in their art, but I'm not sure how to really label the evolution here.  From a technical perspective, the art, I suppose, has improved.  The lines are crisper, more defined in the current strips compared to the early strips.  At the same time, the art now feels stiffer, less lifelike and effective.  It's almost as if most of the art is copy and paste, though I'm pretty sure it isn't.  Looking back, the comic feels more alive in the early strips, while it's feels more dead in the later ones.  Though not always.  It's a very confusing comic.


Trying to describe the humor of this comic is difficult.  Let me try by quoting from the about page referring to the artist:
Dorothy Gambrell was born in Illinois, and educated at Illinois College and Union College of Law. She was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1891 to 1895, during which time she became the leader of the free silver movement. Her later years were devoted to the advocacy of fundamentalism, most notably as a prosecutor during the Scopes monkey trial.
Yeah, it's that kind of humor.  Is any of that actually funny?  To some it is, because it's silly, but it's not "ha ha" funny.  It's more "huh" funny.  And that's a lot of this comic, it just kind of makes you go "huh."   Oh, it does have some "ha ha" moments, enough that I do consider it a humor comic, but a lot of it isn't that way.  It's like a weird mix between a daily comic and an editorial comic but without necessarily being topical or timely.


I like this comic, but being able to say why has given me issues.  It's not strictly funny, but it is entertaining.  It offers commentary on life, the universe and everything, but doesn't really say much about them.  The art isn't great, but it's not awful.  It's subversive, but not really.  I somehow manage to enjoy it, and while it's not one of those comics I'm looking forward to reading, I'm not dreading it either.  Decent comic, and if you like the odd humor, you'll love it too.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wants and Needs

So the last time I had an article, I talked about characters and how, despite being the creators, most artists and authors really aren't good enough authorities the human mind to really discuss what's going on in the minds of said characters.

With that in mind, I figure I should walk through how I create a character for my various projects.  I'm not talking about the bits where the character is out to save the world or what hair style they have, I mean how I make the character's character.  As I said, I'm not a therapist, but I do need some kind of guide to tell me WHY a character does something.  Yes, characters need a reason to do things, and often they have plenty through the course of a story, but what matters to me is how they justify it to themselves.

Thus for each character where it's appropriate, I give them a simple, two column list.  One says "WANTS" and the other says "NEEDS."  And that's about it.  In my experience, simple is more effective than building a complex series of relationships or what not, as it is easier to remember, and easier to build on as the story continues.

Wants represent the desires of the character.  Typically they're physical in nature (wants this thing, for example) and often are declared by the character in some way.  It's the motivative force, it pushes the character forward and drives them along.  It also acts as a way to redirect the plot, taking what was initially a foregone conclusion and sending it off on a different path.  Wants are powerful, conscious, and often more than a touch irrational.  It's one thing to want to be ruler of the Earth, it's another to want to be King of the Universe.  One is doable, the other not so much.

Needs are different, but not exclusively.  They're usually not physical in nature, more mental or spiritual, and often even the character doesn't know that it's there.  It's more a completion force, when achieved it completes a character arc, and possibly set up a new one.  It doesn't mean it's the end of the story, of course, but it could be essential to the climax and lead to the end of the story.  Needs also tend to be reasonable and rational, and are almost always actually achievable.

Wants and needs relate to each other in various ways.  Sometimes, they're the same thing, or closely related.  Nothing says they HAVE to be different, after all.  At the same time, the want will often be bigger than need, so achieving the need won't achieve the want.  Other times, wants and needs are opposed to each other.  The want runs counter to the need, meaning getting that need often won't be accomplished via direction action of the character.

Here's the last comment on this:  as the author or artist, the wants and needs of the character should NEVER be given out.  It's a guide for developing the story and character and that's all it's for.  Revealing it would lead to potential spoilers, and remove the ability to change them as the story goes on.  Plus, it's fun to guess.

Well, that's enough for this week.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Blame it on laziness

Yeah, another nothing post.  Mostly due to laziness on my part.  I have an article planned, but I never got much past the title.  I'll work on having it up next week.  Until then.

Friday, November 2, 2012

You Are Not A Therapist

Exploring a character's personality is one of the most desired, and most difficult, task an author of any sort faces.  Getting it right, making it natural, and not dropping it on a readers head is the hard, but can be very rewarding in the long run.

But there is an issue.  Most artists and authors don't actually know how the mind works.  They're not therapists or psychologists.  This means, as the author starts to dig into what makes their own characters tick, they're not doing it from an educated position.  Which brings me to Schlock Mercenary and it's current "B" plot.

While Captian Kaff Tagon and his Toughs are busy trying to contain a nanite infested army of Gavs (or run away as the case may be), General (Retired) Karl Tagon is relating the story of the beginning of the Teraforming Wars (none of which is needed to actually know to understand this article).  The point:  Nearly his entire family died there, with only father and son (so far) getting out alive.  The fact that it was caused by nanites here as well has relevance on the "A" plot.

The most recent comic on this part of the plot tries to dissect what's going on in Karl's head with respect to this incident.  It ends with "You're not a good therapist."  The question is, however, is she right?  As far as Howard Taylor is concerned, I suspect he believes she is, but from a psychological one, I'm not so sure.  Mostly because, like Taylor, I'm not a therapist.

I've developed several characters for stories and I have the same problems, armchair psychiatry.  I THINK I know why characters do what they do, but is true?  I can only guess.  Intuition works to a point, but people who are more educated can probably see through it.  It's dangerous territory, and going beyond the most simple, broad strokes might likely get an author into trouble.

I really can't wait for the next comic on this plot for Schlock.  I'm curious to see what Karl believes happened in that moment, or how he deals with the fact that she might be right.  If anything, I find this "B" plot more interesting than the "A" plot, but only until the two start colliding.  After all, Kaff is dealing, once again, with nanites threating his life (and employeers), and there's a survivor as well.  What will HE do and how will it relate to what happened in the past?  Even if it's not psychologically accurate, the story is still damn good.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dealing with Horror Classics

New ideas are hard to come up with.  New stories are REALLY hard to come up with.  The thing is, no matter what the story, idea, character or whatever is, it will inevitably compared to something that came before.  Hell, it's what I do here.  So what happens when classic character types are introduced into a comic?  They get compared to those who came before.  Let's get more specific and talk about classic monsters, after all, tis the season.

After all, how many comics have vampires in them?  Off the top of my head, Sluggy Freelance, Eerie Cuties, Abandon: Last Vampire (now called Love is in the Blood), Blip and, of course, Vampire Cheerleaders.  Inevitably, any of these vampires will be compared back to Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Most people have a vision of WHAT a vampire is:  drinks blood, can't go in the sun, stake to the heart kills them, etc.  If the character is claimed to be a vampire, these are looked for and if they don't happen, they freak out.  Which is odd since Stoker's vampires, especially Dracula, could go out in the sun and took a bit more than a stake in the heart to kill them.  And even Dracula wasn't the "original" vampire, since those legends had existed long before Stoker wrote his book.

Which oddly brings me to something I never thought I'd mention in seriousness:  Twilight.  Stephenie Meyer developed her own take on the vampire, and it wasn't much like a traditional one at all.  In fact, it royally pissed off everyone but fans of the book series.  I've never actually read any of Twilight and it's sequels, so I cannot nor will not comment on the quality of the writing (which I hear is poor), but I do have to lightly applaud Meyer for trying to reinvent the vampire as a concept.  It's tough to do such a thing and actually make it successful.

Now she probably could have gotten away with it if the work itself wasn't poor at best.  This is the danger of playing with these classic monsters.  Going beyond their accepted design can prove the unending of a comic.  Sluggy got around it by claiming their are multiple families of vampires so different varieties can exist.  Eerie Cuties uses it's own internal logic and humor to allow them to violate some (but not all) horror tropes.  Vampire Cheerleaders explains walking around in the day by using tanning beds.  These are weird solutions, but it works thanks to good writing and believable scenarios.

It also points out that there is room to maneuver with the classics.  The Frankenstein Monster has gone through several verisons from Mary Shelly's original concept, to Boris Karlov's green monster to Blip's take on the concept.  Werewolves vary from an uncontrollable beast like in the Universal Classics, to the Werewolf of London in Spinnerette, who is a Canadian superhero.

It can be done, it has been done, just be careful on doing it.  Classic horror monsters and characters must be treated with respect not just because they're classics, but because readers KNOW they're classics and either know or think they know the rules.  Rewriting those rules should only be done with careful consideration and with creativity.  Of course, correcting those rules can be just as dangerous, but a lot more fun.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Nothing this week

Busy week this week, so no article finished.  I blame the fact that I got a week ahead last time, and attempting to scramble put me behind the ball.  I'll be up and going next week, I hope.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Newspaper Comics #10

Shuffling through the newspaper strips in order to setup for my eventual switch over to full time internet reading has made me really look at the comics I follow in the paper.  Some comics it's obvious why I read them, they're very good, others, well I wonder sometimes.  Like Beetle Baily, do I really want to keep reading it?  Probably not.  Another comic, however, is giving me issues.  This comic is Luann.

I didn't really start reading Luann until I got this paper (so maybe 6 years ago), but Luann has been in papers since 1985, so it's been around a while.  At it's most basic, it's a high school humor comic.  Luann and her friends deal with high school and it's drama/comedy.  It's nothing really that special, especially in the world of webcomics where every other one is based on school of some sort.

There is one thing about the comic that bugs me:  The main cast.  I don't like any of them.  Not Luann, her brother Brad, her two best friends, her parents.  All of them are dull and uninteresting as all hell.  They do nothing for me.  Maybe if I had started reading it much earlier they would be more interesting and fun, I'd have something invested.  As it stands, I really can't stand them.  If I note the comic features them as the driving force of the day's strip, I usually end up skipping it.

So why the debate about reading it?  Well, because I really like the secondary cast.  They have much more interesting conflicts, character arcs, personalities and generally stand out more than the main cast.  Whether it's TJ's ongoing battle with Ann Eiffel in the local fast food joint, or Tiffany trying to be a famous actress without knowing how to act, or the weird relationship between Knute and Crystal, all of them are more interesting than whatever Luann happens to be doing at the moment.  Hell, I know the names of the secondary cast more than I know the names of her two best friends!

I think the reason that happens is the nature of newspaper comics, the status quo.  It must be maintained so that people who slip in and out of the strip aren't completely lost every time.  Even the soap opera comics or story comics have a base line they come back to at the end of every arc.  Luann and the rest of the main cast act as a baseline for the strip, a touch point that never changes.  Meanwhile, the secondary cast can do whatever the hell they want because they aren't as tied down.

Growth happens amongst the secondary cast.  Gunther, originally a shy love interest of Luann, found another girlfriend.  There's some hints that Tiffany, a snobby girl with whose dreams of stardom have been smashed over and over again, might be at least a little smitten with the big, anti-bully Ox.  Knute and Crystal, as I said before, likely will end up with each other despite one being a slacker and the other being goth.  They're breaking out of their old forms and becoming something new.  Luann?  She's probably the same girls she always was, and always will be.

That said, I don't think the secondary cast, as of now, could support a comic entirely on their own, which brings me back to the status quo.  Luann acts as the glue that holds everything together.  Which continues to be a problem as MOST of the comic will focus on Luann, despite her being the least interesting part of her own comic.

I think I probably will follow Luann in the end.  I like the secondary cast enough to tolerate the fact that someone as milktoast as Luann exists in it.  Perhaps I should take solace in the fact her dullness will elevate the others.  There are better comics, sure, but it's not completely terrible.

Until next time kiddies, hopefully I'll think of something to write by then.  Later.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Not So Wild Review: Station V3

My newspaper dilemma has had me looking at the newspaper comics I read and figure out which ones are actually worth reading or not.  It also quickly divided them up into groups:  Story driven comics (9 Chickweed Lane, The Amazing Spiderman), classics (Peanuts, Blondie, Garfield) and random silliness (Pearls Before Swine, Mother Goose and Grimm).  This is kind of similar to how I break up webcomics, including the ones that are just silly for silly's sake.  In other words:


Of all the comics I currently read, Station V3 is the least serious of them all.  Even Cyanide and Happiness hits the serious moment point once in a while.  V3 has NEVER been serious, and likely never will be.  This comic is about being silly and not much else.  So why do I read it?  Because it IS silly.  Compared to the more serious comics I read, it is a breath of fresh air that keeps me going every day.  The


All the characters are one note, one dimensional characters, typically with one joke built around them.  Floyd never sees a problem and doesn't want to.  The Chef makes tripe into anything and everything.  The Rumormongers are always spreading rumors (which are almost always true).  And the pirates are always trying to take over, well, everything.


The art is, well, dirt simple.  Simple to the point that many would consider it awful.  Yet the nature of it fits the jokes and characters so well that imagining this comic with any other art is damn near impossible.  It isn't high art, at all, but it isn't forgettable.


Story?  Well, I guess there's an ongoing story, which basically revolves around "wouldn't be funny if. . ."  There's no beginning or ending to many of these stories, they just keep going until from one joke into the next.  Whether it's wondering what the Monolith has planned (it doesn't have anything planned) or why Floyd is now an eel (no idea), it just kind of floats along.  Knowing what came before isn't necessary, but sometimes puts jokes into perspective.  Sometimes.


Have I mentioned it's silly?  It is.  The jokes range from simple puns to sight gags.  The jokes repeat themselves after a time, of course (Rumormonger rumors being true in a weird way gets a little old), but they're never overused.  Light, simple, and worth a chuckle, especially have a string of comics with darkly serious tones or themes.  There are other comics like it (Bug for example), but there's a sense of random sameness that runs through each joke.  The joke's setup and punchline are usually easy to figure out, but WHEN said joke is going to show up in the current "story" or which character sets it involves kind of varies a lot.


All that basically translates to:  I don't know why I like it, but I do.  Other comics have much better art.  Other comics have better stories.  Other comics have better characters.  Other comics have better jokes.  Station V3 isn't a great comic, by any stretch.  One might even argue it's not really even a "good" comic.  It is, however, a fun comic.  A simple strip that really would be at home in the local paper, and perhaps that's what keeps me coming back.  I love the funny pages in my newspaper, and Station V3 is probably the most newspaper comic of any webcomic I read.  I find that funny as many webcomics, like Sinfest or Sluggy Freelance, started the same way, and backed away from the newspaper style as they grew.  Station V3 stuck with it, and the result is a comic that provides the kind of variety I need compared to the others.

Well, enough of that.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Newspaper List

At the end of August, my local paper (Syracuse Post Standard) declared that as of January 1st, they will shift to a 3 day a week publishing cycle, instead of a daily one.  That sucks, as reading the paper is how I wake up in the morning.  Oh, there's another local paper we could get, but, it's not that great.  Either way, I will still miss the funny pages, which is how I ACTUALLY wake up.  No, I don't drink coffee.

This is actually starting to emerge as a growing problem.  Newspapers are losing readers quickly because they're no longer the heart and soul of the American news media.  That goes to the 24 hour cable news networks, and Google News.  This means that the traditional avenue for comic artists to get popular is shrinking at an alarming rate.  Luckily, they know where to go:  The web.

Which is where I'm going for my newspaper comics starting the first of the new year.  It's very likely that we will be canceling our subscription to all but the Sunday edition of the paper (coupons!), so I'll need a source for daily strips.  Or sources as the case may be.  In any case, this article will cover where I've found the comics and be the set up for a new list on the site:  Newspaper Comics, which I'll be using daily to check strips because not all of them are in the same place.

A lot of them, however, ARE in the same place.  For this site, I actually have to thank my newspaper because of their issues with a particular comic, it led me to finding this site.  The comic in question is 9 Chickweed Lane, which I have covered in a newspaper review before.  The issue:  The comic page is in color, but at the time of the issue, the comic had a series of strips in black and white.  It was a story telling point (it took place during World War II, before they discovered color), but the paper was annoyed that their bright colorful funny pages had one lone, black and white strip.  So they shipped it off to the classifieds and replaced it with another strip (Mutts, I believe).  There have been days, however, where finding this strip has been more of a challenge than others, so I went looking for it online.

This led me to GoComics, a site FILLED with comics.  230+ comics, plus editorials, plus classics that aren't in papers any more (Calvin and Hobbes anyone?).  Most of my comic reading will come from this site as it includes comics that aren't my current paper, but ones I loved.  It even offers a FREE account feature to keep track of comics.  As of this moment, my current list has:

Garfield, Peanuts, Foxtrot, Pearls Before Swine, Adam@Home, The Boondocks, Close to Home, Fraz, Get Fuzzy, Grand Avenue, Overboard, Shoe, U.S. Acres, The Duplex, Wizard of Id, Non Sequitur, 9 Chickweed Lane, Ripley's Believe It or Not and, of course, Calvin and Hobbes.

Quite a list isn't it?  And there are far, FAR more comics there, I just haven't gone through them all yet.  At the very least, I'll have new comics to look at all the time.

But, there are quite a few comics missing.  For example, Dilbert.  There's two listings for Dilbert on GoComics.  One says "Dilbert Classics" and links to comics hosted by GoComics itself.  The other, which just says "Dilbert" leads to the official Dilbert webiste.  Odd, but I like Dilbert, so I'll have to link to the website for that.

Still others, though, are COMPLETELY missing.  And many share the same thing in common:  the same syndicate.  Syndicates, for those who don't know, are the comic middle men of the industry.  They buy comics from artists and sell them to newspapers.  Aside from sounding damn sinister, the syndicates are the reason zombie and legacy comics continue to exist in papers, and why new comics don't get into papers much, because those other comics have made the syndicates a lot of money so they pay those same comics to keep producing.  For good or ill, they'll be around as long as newspapers, and those days may be very numbered indeed.

Alright, so most of the comics that aren't on GoComics are from King Features, the syndicate that produces Blondie, Spiderman (not the comic book version) Family Circle and many others.  Why?  Because King has it's own comic site, DailyINK.  Only one small problem with it.  When I mentioned GoComics and it's accounts, I mentioned it was free.  There is a premium version of the account, which gets rid of ads, lets you access more than a week's worth of archives and a couple other features for about 12 bucks a year.  DailyINK?  There is no free account and it's 20 bucks a year.  So I'll have to find another source for these.

Which is what will mostly fill the Newspaper Comics List as most of these comics do have their own websites and I'll link directly to them.  That said, many (like Baby Blues) are two weeks behind the newspapers (which won't matter after a couple weeks of reading them, honestly).  Others are a touch harder to find stand alone (The Amazing Spiderman strip is going to be a pain to find), but I'll do my best.  This is going to be an ongoing process over the next few months as I try to find most of the comics I like reading, not just for me, but for my entire family.

As for the news?  Google News all the way.

Anyway, that's enough of that for now.  The new list will probably start going up in the next couple weeks.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Touching Base #11

Time for another edition of Touching Base, wherein I bemoan comics that are dead, resort the ones that aren't, and maybe actually say something about the content of the comics themselves.  Maybe.

So let's start with the dead summary.  Angels 2200 hasn't updated since December 2011, and while this would normally not be long enough for me to declare it dead, there has been absolutely NOTHING from the creator since then.  As such, I think it's time I let it go.  Same story with Nobody Scores!, which annoys me to no end.  I love this comic, and I'm really, REALLY disappointed that nothing has come of it in the last 9 months.

I'm finally sending Return to Eden to the Completed category.  I left it hoping to see when the new comic from the same artist was going to start up, but, um, it hasn't come yet.  I wish I could watch and wait more, but checking a finished comic on the off chance of another update.  Ah well, I hope I'll happen across the new comic when it starts.

Finally, Road Waffles and Starslip are heading for the completed pile, ending their long stay on the main list.  I'm still not convinced Road Waffles is done, but for the time being, I'm going to let it go.  Speaking of Starslip, however, the complete book edition of the comic has been released, so if you liked the comic enough, now you can own it on paper.

Emergency Exit is going into the Hiatus folder.  It might, MIGHT come back at some point, but with the artist's recovery aimed for 2013, and the current plan is a new comic, I think it's just about dead.

Actually, quite a few comics are going into the Hiatus folder.  Finder's Keepers stalled out back in May, and while I think it'll update in the future, I need to make room on the Weekly list.  Roza was updating up through April, then stopped.  Considering it is basically repeating the last story, I think dropping it into Hiatus is only fair.

U.F.O., joined Roza and stopped updating back in April.  Though I think some of it was due to some kind of computer error.  Special Level hasn't updated since August, however, so not every comic halted early in the year.  Either way, both are going in Hiatus.  Honestly, I don't think the artist of Special Level had the kind of passion for it as they had for Totally KotoR.  Sad, but not unexpected.

With the dead, gone and nearly gone out of the way, let's get on to actual comic updates.

Cleopatra in Spaaace! has started updating again.  Looks like this chapter will have a bit of a space cowboy motif, which makes the comic even more outlandish and fun.  If you can find it from its main page, look in the right sidebar, it's there on the top.

Elsie Hooper's long delays between updates continues.  Felt like about a month, or two, since the last update, but it did update early this month.  When will it update again?  Not sure, but with two updates, it looks like we might be finding out what happened to everyone in town.  Wonder how that film thing worked out. . .

Kiwis by Beat, home of Minus, finished up his most recent work, Vampire Story, and promises at least one new comic, and likely more updates to Modern Fried Snake, in October.  I love this artist and hope the updates continue.

Looks like The Meek will likely be updating again before the end of the year.  Maybe even by October!  I'm really excited by this and glad it's coming back soon.

Justin Pierce, over at The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, has developed a seriously nasty hand injury, and has been ordered not to do any comic work for quite some time.  Luckily, it looks like some guest artists have taken up the call, and the comic will keep going while he heals up.  I wish him luck.

I almost put Haru-Sari into the hiatus group, and am still considering it (U.F.O. hasn't updated as long as this comic), but I am holding out hope it comes back.  The last strip was kind of a down note, so I want to see how this finishes at some point, and I think it will happen, not that anything has been said about it.

Makeshift Miracle has been quiet for a bit.  I THINK they're working up another chapter, much as Skullkickers did, but it's taking a bit longer.  That said, I think the art and story for MM is requiring a bit more work to get going, where Skullkickers is mostly about violence and humor.  Priorities, I think, are part of the issue here, so I hope it starts updating soon.

Blip is still being plagued with software glitches and injuries.  I wish I knew more about what is going on with the comic, but there's not much to work with at the moment.  If I learn anything, or it updates, I'll try to let you guys know.

So Damn Bright suffered a, and I quote, “catastrophic failure," which turned out to be, again I quote, "a tad more catastrophic than I thought."  Yeah, that's a nasty issue, and the comic has been rendered dead for the time being.  It'll stay on the weekly list because, well, it's not HIS fault, and I suspect he is drawing still.  I hope so anyway, we'll see.

Bunny hasn't updated in a while either.  I don't know what's going on with that comic.  I almost put it into hiatus, but it updated back in June, so it's far, FAR too early to call it.  I don't know though, I don't know.  I blame Issac.

And wow is this getting long, so let's finish this up with comics moving on the list.

Haru-Sari, Bunny, City of Reality, currently on hiatus after a completed chapter, Aptitude Test, which misses it's Monday update more often than not but is finally getting to the meat of the conflict, Edible Dirt, Kawaii Not, neither of which has updated regularly in quite a while, and Winters in Lavelle, which I have nothing to say about, are all being moved to the Weekly category because, well, that's about as often as I should be checking them anyway.

I won't be including last weeks reviews on the read list on the sidebar, not because I'm ashamed I read them, but mostly because I don't know WHERE to put them, and the Weekly list is plenty long enough.  I think they'll end up split between T-Th and M-W-F lists, but I'm unsure.  Once I figure it out, I'll update it.

And that's it.  Wow, that turned out to be rather long.  It'll be longer as after I'm done writing this, I actually have to move the bookmarks, sort the sidebar, and update The List to not only reflect these changes, but to add last weeks new comics.  Next week I hope to have an article about something happening closer to home, so until then kiddies.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Forbidden Wild Webcomic Review: Part 2

Previously, on the Wild Webcomic Review:

These comics are a bit, fetishy.  DON'T JUDGE ME!

Now, the continuation.

Okay, it's review time.  Of the 5, two of them are NSFW (Not Safe For Work), and will be marked as such.  Four of them are on deviant art, and if I can link to the comic itself, I will.  If I can't, it'll be the artist page.  Ready?  Too bad.

231.  Vampire Cheerleaders - It's a comic about high school cheerleaders.  Who are vampires.  Hilarity ensues.  This is a manga style comic (read right to left) that isn't nearly as fetish heavy as the other comics on this list.  Oh, there's implied sex, and some self censored nudity, but nothing too risqué.  In fact, if the vampire part of the comic was pulled, no one would likely notice.  This is actually my issue with it:  nothing is really done with the vampire part of comic.  Oh, it's there, it plays a role, but there's no consequences to it.  No conflict over their nature.  Even the last major storyline, while it had a bit of the vampire as part of the storyline, most of it was focused on a cheerleading competition.  The art is manga style, very clean and very good.  They're doing a crossover with one of the other comics in the "group" so the art is very different right now, and whether it goes back or not, I do not know.  Anyway, it's a light, fun comic, but nothing serious, heavy or important.  Hell, I often forget to check it regularly.  It's probably the worst of this batch of comics, but that doesn't mean it's bad.  Maybe worth the time.

232.  The Legend of Zelda:  El Rey - I'm not much of a fan of fan fiction, and it doesn't come up a lot in comics.  The only two I can think of off hand is the part of the old Earthbeta (I still have nightmares), and 8-Bit Theater.  Still, this is an AMAZING comic.  I am not joking, fan of Zelda series or not (I am a fan) this is a great comic.  It has direction, a point, really good art, well written, and turns the classic Zelda characters on their head, but without sacrificing what makes them classic characters.  I think I know where the story might be going, but I want to see it get there, and if it's really what I think.  Completely worth fighting with deviant art to read, and as a fan of the series, it's the best I could imagine.  Go, read it.

233.  Material Girl - This comic is about crossdressing.  The basic plot is one day a boy gets attacked by his sisters neglected clothing, and they for him to wear them.  Hilarity ensues.  Then it gets a bit dark at the end.  Yes, this comic is complete, so there is an ending to it.  The crossdressing is the center of the comic, which makes sense as the artist, I believe, is a crossdresser himself.  I don't think this comic is meant to be, in any way, autobiographical, but I suspect there are elements there.  The comic is simple (4 panel, penciled strips) and focused more on individual jokes per strip than anything else.  It's light, fun, and probably worth a read through.

234.  Demon Candy:  Parallel (NSFW) - Tagging this with NSFW is only because, well it isn't safe for work, but not because there's lots of sex or nudity.  One would be forgiven thinking that, as it does take place in the mansion of the Succubus Queen, in Hell, and everyone is in leather, latex and other bondage gear basically all the time.  There is no nudity in the comic.  No sex either.  Can't even think of a moment where it's even implied that there is sex.  For a comic about various forms of BDSM play, it's very clean.  Artwise, it's very good looking and some of the best ink and paper work I've seen.  Characters are interesting, far deeper than simple demons for the most part, and that seems more the focus of the comic than even the fetishes.  How they relate to each other drives the story, which is pretty good, but I'm not sure on the direction.  The basic plot is outlined on the page I've linked, but where it's going and how it's getting there is, well, undefined.  Most of the chapters are standalone stories around some form of BDSM play.  I think it's still building up to that point, but by the rules of the comic, it's at LEAST halfway done, so I hope the build up starts showing a bit more direction.  It's interesting and well done.

235.  Shiniez (Sunstone) (NSFW) - Where Demon Candy barely even implies that sex occurs, Sunstone (the probable name of the comic) makes no bones about what it is and what is going on.  It also has some of the best, realistic artwork I have ever seen.  Perhaps TOO realistic in some regards.  Considering it started as simple fetish based pinups, I suppose that's not that surprising, and definitely one of the reasons many would consider this more useful for that reason rather than for the comic's content.  The content is actually pretty good.  The artist states that it's actually educational about the true nature of bondage, and safe practices and such.  I like it more as a character piece, where we learn about the characters and while not WHY they like what they do in the bedroom, it at least goes into how it effects their life.  Great art, good writing (if filled with typos, don't mention it, the artist knows), and an interesting story make it one of the more interesting and well done comics I've read in the while.  I will warn right now that these strips are HUGE.  One strip is easily 4 or 5 regular pages for most large comics, so be aware it could take a bit to load.

And that's it kiddies.  With that, I finish the third year of this blog.  So what's in store for the fourth year?  No idea!  I suspect I'll be finishing up the old reviews (didn't think they'd last THIS long), but beyond that, no idea.  Should be interesting to say the least, hope you kids stick around for the ride.  Until then kiddies.