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 arĂȘte! 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.