Friday, April 27, 2012

Crowning Moments

TV Tropes has an entire page dedicated to the concept of the "crowning moment."  This is the moment where a character or series or, well anything, reaches the pinnacle of greatness in some field or another, and you never forget it.

Webcomics have them too, all the time in fact.  This brings me to Aptitude Test, a weekly comic that I for some reason keep on the T-Th rotation.  Should change that.  Anyway, the comic's most recent chapters have partially revolved around Rina's campaign for class president.  It is a highly unconventional campaign, with no real goal besides, as she says it right before the debate, talk and don't stop.

Really, though, Rina never wanted to win.  She just didn't want her rival, Cheryl, to win.  Thus why she developed a plan, a plan named Angela.  Bookworm Angela is smart, quiet, insightful and a secret superhero, and probably the best suited to be class president.  Rina convinces Angela to run, but how that works out isn't revealed until the debate.

Where she declared she wanted a moon colony.  Ah Newt Gingrich, your campaign will never be forgotten now (even if the rest of the public already has forgotten it).  Things came to a head with one strip, this one in fact.  The next two show the last steps of Rina's plan:  To use Cheryl's own personality against her, while at the same time propping Angela up.  Rina's counter questioning of Cheryl's accusation against her practically burned Cheryl's campaign in the water.  It was a great moment, a crowning moment for Rina, showing how skilled she is at manipulating others, especially those she doesn't like.

It ends with Cheryl claiming clam, bookworm Angela is as crazy as Rina, and with that, she basically lost the election.  A great moment in the comic, a great moment for Rina.  Of course, the next couple strips show that Rina is not invulnerable, if perhaps a bit ignorant of the things she says.  But that's another story.

Good crowning moments can make a comic more than just good, but they are very rare.  Off the top of my head I can think of Tagon in Schlock Mercenary giving his life to save his people, and Meji's speech at the end of Errant Story as being about the same, but I can't really pick them out myself.  Honestly, just go check TV Trope's page on Crowning Moments of Awesome for more.  There are a LOT of them.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nothing this week

Blame it on laziness if you will.  Also on Champions Online which did a major update last weekend and kind of ate all my time.

That said, I did do one neat thing this week:  I went to Barnes and Nobel and happened to find a copy of Kawaii Not's newest book in the store.  This is awesome as I have seen only two other comic books (White Ninja and Cyanide and Happiness) in stores.  I have also seen an art kit by the author of Timescapes, but that's it.  I bought Kawaii Not Too and I hope to see more webcomic books in store soon.

Until next week kiddies.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Newspaper Comics #9

The last Newspaper comic review was focused on Get Fuzzy, a comic I promptly said was like a webcomic, with the edge taken off.  I stand by it, it is very much like a lot of webcomics I read, such as Out At Home, which has a similar feel, though as a webcomic it still has its edge.  Get Fuzzy isn't the only webcomic style comic in my paper.  There's at least 2 more, and the one I'm going to talk about today is 9 Chickweed Lane.

I'm not going to tell you it is like a webcomic, because it IS a webcomic.  That edge is still there, sharp as ever and is a delightful addition to the army of zombie and legacy comics that dominate the funny pages.  Or it would be if it wasn't stuck in amongst the classified ads.  Why is it there?  Well, a while ago they did a storyline about one of the characters as she was during World War II.  To add to the atmosphere, they made the comic black and white.  There are no black and white comics in the funny pages of my paper, so they pulled it from the funny pages because, well, they're dicks.  The comic is in color again, BTW, but it's still in the classifieds, buried amongst ads for used cars.

This hasn't stopped the comic from being it's own thing, if anything it's enhanced it.  There is something very, adult about the comic.  There's implied sex throughout, adult situations, the jokes, even the weird ones, aren't made for children to understand.  That might be part of the reason the comic hasn't returned to the funny pages either (this region is so backwards, honestly).  There's no outright nudity, no porn (soft or otherwise), and no violence either.

Artwise, the comic is good, and the artist has a lot of skill in drawing bodies.  Often there will be entire pages devoted to showing a single position of one of the characters (two of the main characters are ballet dancers) or of the cat who's owner I'm not clear about.  Faces, however, are all, well, pretty much the same.  Especially the females who all have the same structure for the head and face, which often makes identifying them difficult, though clothing helps a great deal and when it's in color, the color of the hair helps as well.  The guys don't suffer nearly as much, but they often feel far stiffer than the ladies, and when stripped of things like beards and glasses, they also look pretty much alike.

The stories though, are not alike, or even similar to many I've come across in other comics.  The first one that I remember reading is when about a nun and a priest who fell in love, left their church and had a baby.  While I'm sure this story has been out there before (it would almost have to be), I don't recall ever seeing it in a newspaper comic of any kind.  Especially not in a paper in this shockingly conservative part of the country.  The story set in WWII featured the grandmother character (when she was young) acting as a spy and falling in love (and getting pregnant) with a German prisoner of war.  The most recent story, currently has the granddaughter confronted with the fact that she is pregnant and. . .

Suddenly I see a pattern here.  Probably just happenstance, honestly, as there have been other stories that don't involved people getting pregnant, these just stand out because how often do stories like this actually show up in comics?  I know Blondie did it, they wouldn't have kids otherwise but that was 50 years ago, and has For Better or Worse done it, but recently?  Within the last 20 years?  I can't think of one.  9 Chickweed Lane did 3 in the last 6 years.

And it's not taken lightly, or as if the entire thing is a joke, though small jokes are made.  It's serious, life changing, life shattering things.  At the same time, they continue to live.  The most recent story does feature the main character, a ballet dancer and model, becoming pregnant, but there's also some evidence that she's about to be fired from both jobs.  Her life will completely change, and she only knows half of it.  When the other shoe drops, it will hit with a shattering thud.

The comic will change, and change hard.  What happens next, I don't know, it's a comic that can't be predicted as easily as the rest of the comics.  Get Fuzzy will still have Bucky and Satchel next week.  For Better or Worse is almost in zombie mode at this point.  Even one of the other quasi-webcomic newspaper comics is reasonably predictable.  9 Chickweed Lane is not, and that's part of the fun and interest it holds for me.

So there it is, a webcomic in print form.  I hope it's not alone (there is another that is kind of a webcomic).  It should be noted that 9 Chickweed Lane does have a spinoff/cousin that IS a webcomic, Pigborn.  I have never read it, and likely never will.  After all, I have the print version, and that's good enough for me.

Next time, um, I'll do something.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Beyond Imagination

In my last batch of new reviews, I covered the comic Twilight Lady and while I loved the most recent story (The Indwellers), earlier chapters were, um, less great.  There are many reasons for it including the stilted Poser (a 3D imaging program) art of these early chapters.  The real problem though, is one I've dealt with myself.

I love creating things, universes, ships, and characters, and I like pushing the limits of what can be created.  Specifically, I set out to create the most powerful human character that could ever be imagined.  Yeah, I'm a touch ambitious.  So much so, I actually had to sit down and define what the limits of imagination were so I could get beyond them, only to discover that no individual can get beyond their own limits of imagination.  That said, my character was beyond MY imagination, which is weird but not the point.

The point is I succeeded in my goal, but discovered very quickly that I had a serious problem:  I couldn't USE the character.  Effectively, there was nothing that could actively threaten this character, and any action taken against them or their 'loved ones' could be easily undone.  Stories, of course, need conflicts of some sort, but with my character, there wasn't any.

This is the problem in Twilight Lady.  The Lady really has few if any direct threats to her.  So few, she might as well not have any at all.  Thus it is hard to create a proper story for her, and more importantly, hard to create a reason for her to CARE.  Creating a reason for her to care is the downfall of the comic, as it forces an idea upon her that she might not really have.  When I said my character was beyond my imagination, I mean I can't imagine WHAT that character can imagine or thinks.  The Lady is in that same realm, but they've tried to put thoughts and imagination on her.

Now, I said in my review I preferred the most current version of the Lady, one restricted to the body of her "shield."  Why?  Because it does the same thing I had to do to make my character useful:  Force a limitation.  In my case, I either had to remove most of the power from my character or actually make the story about before that character gained all that power (an origin story if you will).  This makes the character much more likely to care about the immediate situation, and this is exactly what happens to the Lady.  Once she's restricted, having her care is far easier, and more believable.

Still, the problem with the Lady didn't stand out greatly until several pages were dedicated to her monologuing to herself.  Her motivations were laid bare, and her desires became keen and obvious.  Mystery of what she wanted was what made the Indwellers chapter so interesting.  Once the mystery was stripped away, I became disenchanted with her.  The worse part?  The last few pages have had the other characters speculating on her motivations.  It's good, written properly from their perspective with the information they have.  But we know they're more or less wrong, so what was the point?

With my character, in the origin story there is an antagonist (not villain) who commits a series of actions that are strange and are not explained, so much so that even his last action in the story remains an in universe mystery.  AKA:  I do not know why he did it.  It gives rise to a lot of in universe speculation and makes the character much more interesting.  What's more, my character, later on, hints that they might actually know why he did it.  This pushes the character beyond me and makes even me wonder what was found.

With characters as powerful as these, mystery is required, and stripping it away ruins the character a bit.  The good news is that skipping those early chapters of Twilight Lady doesn't effect the understanding of the most recent chapters, and thus the mystery is maintained.  Frankly, I'll probably be ignoring most of the early stuff (not all of it) so that I can more easily enjoy the comic, but it will still bother me.

And someday I might actually release the origin story of my character, which if you hadn't noticed I haven't even told the gender of yet.  But not today.

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