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.