Friday, March 29, 2013

The Fine Line of Fanfiction

Ah, fanfiction, that nebulous concept that is the domain of people who want to be more than just the audience of their favorite stories.  I've written a few in my time, I won't comment on the quality, but let's just say, not great.

In many ways, fanfiction is a great way for young writers to flex their writing muscles.  In other ways, they're the worst kind of vanity projects, often resulting in self insertion and magnifying the worst aspects of the piece they're based on.   Young artists, likewise, will copy their favorite character designs or styles, giving that pen a good workout, but they also tend to emphasis specific assets they find most appealing (I'm talking about boobs here kids).

As a general rule, fanfiction isn't that good.  Of course, fanfiction can easily become official, after all I'm fairly certain the future Star Wars Episode 7 will be a piece of "fanfiction" that becomes official.  Once out of hands of the original creator, it's fanfiction.

There are a LOT of fanfiction comics out there, but I really don't read many.  They just don't appeal, and I think a lot of the issue is the classic issues of fanfiction as a whole.  That said, when something is done WELL, I pay attention.  That doesn't happen often.  But what makes a good piece of fanfiction?  Well, it comes down to knowing the source material, but not adding the unnecessary.  Exploring beyond the source without making breaking it.  It's hard to do, very hard, but there are a few comics that do/did it quite well, for very different reasons.

The first, is Legend of Zelda:  El Rey.  It's Zelda, it has the standard Zelda characters, mostly their Ocarina of Time incarnations, but it's not quite what Zelda.  They are familiar, yes, but not what is expected from them.  Zelda isn't a damsel in distress or a wise ruler, but a stuck up drunk.  Gannon seems far more reasonable than he ever should be and Link, well, he's about the same, but filled with a lot of self doubt and guilt.  They have made these characters their own while still making them similar enough to know who they are.  The story takes them down a different path, and while there are similar elements, it is a different adventure, with additional characters from other Zelda games (and at least one Final Fantasy reference).  This is what I call doing a fanfiction very, VERY well, capturing the nature of the original while telling a new and very interesting story.  It also doesn't lose much as many of the events that happened prior to the story are the same as the source, building a new story on the old foundations.  That alone makes me curious what the specific change was that twisted the world it's new direction.

What happens when the source doesn't have much in terms of foundations to begin with though?  The result is something more like 8-Bit Theater.  As anyone who played the original Final Fantasy will know, the original game didn't have that much of a story.  The player characters were nameless cyphers that could have been anything.  So 8-Bit turned it into a comedy.  Talk about influence though, even today, the personalties that were created for this fanfiction comic have come to dominate the sprites they were attached to.  With so little to build on, it's surprising how filled the comic became by the end, with a dozens of different characters, convoluted plots and wild antics.  It took everything that was great about those old games, and made them about as funny as possible.

Somewhere in the middle sits No Rest for the Wicked.  On one hand, the characters and stories it's based on are pretty well established and well known.  On the other, there's plenty of room in those characters and stories to expand and play with.  The real trick is the melding of all these very different stories and worlds into a single piece, and building on the concepts of the characters already in existence to create a greater story.  It's fanfiction, for sure, based on the original fairy tale works, but it takes them in a new, unified direction.  I covered most of this last week, so I won't go into more here, but know that I think it fits right in with the other fanfiction pieces listed here.

Of course, there is one other branch of fanfiction I won't cover today, the parody.  Maybe some other time.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Not So Wild Review: No Rest for the Wicked

When I started these Not So Wild Reviews, I intended to do them in the order of how I collected the comics.  And then I found this:

No Rest for the Wicked, Chapter 1:  The Moon Rolling in Her Grave

This is the first chapter of one of my favorite comics, done as a motion comic.  There's another comic that had this happen to it, but it was only one strip and I have reviewed it yet.  So in the meantime, let's talk about


I'm not big into fairy tales, I know of them, but I know Andrea Peterson, the artist and author, is very much into them.  She knows them quite well, the core versions and such.  There's even a list of links to the stories on the website.  While other comics might refer to these classic stories, she adds knowledge to it, gravitas and a bit of reality.  I also suspect they are much closer to the actual stories then what you might see out of Disney.


The art is very sketch book.  I mean, I could see these pictures, especially the early strips, done in someone's notebook.  It's not bad, not at all, it just feels that way.  As the comic goes one, the art improves, at it must, but it always remains "sketchy."  Great art?  No, but it hits the right points.  Characters stand out, it's easy to identify them at a glance, backgrounds are interesting and well built, and actions are fluid.  From a sequential art stand point, it's more than competent and quite well done.  Many other comics would beat it out in the art department, but it's not bad by any stretch.


I don't usually talk about the setting of comics because, well, it's unnecessary in most cases.  Does it really matter that it's implied that Sluggy Freelance takes place in New Jersey?  No, it doesn't.  But for No Rest, the setting IS the comic.  This comic takes place in a literal fairy tale world.  There are kingdoms, vast tracts of wild forest, and not much else from what I can tell.  It's a strange world yet the characters seem very at home in it, which they should be.  They're aware of the issues with this world (including strange old women, witches and curses) and deal with them as they come.  Their relationship with their world is constantly there, to the point that their interactions with each other sometimes take a backseat to it.  It's even hinted that the world is quite vast, but has a literal end, as evidenced by a pilfered atlas which has a page marked "The End," just as all fairy tales do.  This makes the comic kind of unique amongst other strips that might take a similar route since knowing even the basic rules of the setting is vital to understanding character motivations, the jokes, and even the overall plot.


A princess, a cat and a woman on the edge of sanity go looking for the moon could easily be the start of a fairy tale on it's own.  As it is, they are reinterpretations of classic fairy tale characters.  November is the princess from Princess and the Pea, Perrault is Puss in Boots, and Red is Little Red Riding Hood (or Red Cap, the things you learn from this comic).  Aside from Red, they aren't far off their traditional mark, November sleeps on dozens of mattresses and has an allergy to peas, for example.  Red is more a post-tale version of the character, one that has gone through significant stress and kind of cracked.  Their motivations aren't strictly hidden, but not laid out completely.  This is not a quest to save the land, that's incidental honestly.  November was told finding the moon is the only way she'll sleep again, Perrault is in it for the chase, and Red, well, I think her reasons are the most enigmatic.  Each has their qualities without being wholly dominate in one or the other.  Red is the muscle of the group, but is smart enough to see through deciptions, Perrault is the brains, but sometimes overthinks things, and November is innocent and fragile, but far tougher than one might initially think.  A fourth member was added in the last couple of chapters, but her presence seems more incidental at this point, and I almost think there's something off about her actions at this point.


From what I can tell, the goal is to basically rattle through a lot of different fairy tales, having our central cast meet players from each one and have it lead to their final goal.  This means taking the actual fairy tales and turning them in odd ways so they seem more natural and real, and possibly linking them closer to the original source than normally would be.  At the same time, I think Andrea has taken a few liberties to make some of the tales that much darker than they normally would have been.  The call back to Hansel and Gretel being the prime example of this (and yes, that one grew DAMN dark).  Given that the original fairy tales are dark to begin with, this is pretty damn disturbing.  The result is the pacing is compartmentalized as each tale is partially retold and represented in new and interesting ways.  I hope this continues as they make their way to the end, though I wonder what other fairy tales might be tapped for this.  1001 Arabian Nights perhaps?  Hard to say.


There is always something about this comic that makes it stand out as one of my favorites.  The characters, the setting, the story, the jokes, all make this a comic I want to read and love very easily.  What hurts it is the abysmal update schedule.  There are usually months between pairs of pages, which makes the wait a strain.  At one point, well over a year had passed between updates and I thought the comic was dead for sure.  I dropped Zap! for having regular, weekly strips because of pacing, so why does No Rest get a pass?  I think because it makes every effort not to waste time.  A single page can easily draw one back into it and make it feel like not a beat was missed.  Zap! couldn't do that.  Still, a slightly more regular update schedule could easily move this from being a favorite to being a must read.  As it stands, the comic is more a brief stop on my weekly run rather than a comic I check obsessively.  I wish it was otherwise.

Time to move on to the next thing.  Make sure you check out that video, it's totally worth it.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Wild Webcomic Review 170 - 174

Well, this is it.  I've been reposting my reviews since I started this blog over 3 years ago, and this is the last repost.  Considering I've added another 60 comics on top of this in those 3 years, I feel almost like I've been slacking.  Because I have.  Still, I've done a lot more things that I always wanted to do, and I'm planning to do more.  With that said, enjoy the last old review.  I'll have to think of something to add my current thoughts to the new review batches, but that will come later.

June 01, 2009

170. Sandra and Woo - This comic reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes. Not so much in art style like Sinfest, but more in tone and the way it flows. Don't expect it to be Calvin and Hobbes, it isn't, but it is its own thing, and it works pretty well. It's young (only about 8 months old), but I think it could easily become memorable.

TODAY - Still a pretty solid comic.  Is it memorable?  Probably not, but good nonetheless.  Worth reading and I've kept it on my read list for a while now, and probably well into the future.

171. Sister Claire - This is a silly comic. Mostly in concept, but in execution as well. It's fun and I imagine anyone who grew up around nuns (not me, BTW) will probably find this much more entertaining than the rest of us. Hard to say much else, but I think it's worth a look in most cases.

TODAY - I'm still not sure what to make of this comic.  It's not what I initial thought it was, a kind of parody nuns and such, because now there is magic, half cat people, witches, statues that are fighting robots and a Nun Fu.  This comic got odd really quickly and kept being odd.  I want to see where this is going though, and I keep reading.

172. The Best Band in the Universe - Here's another reminder comic, this time of Scooby Doo or something like that. The space van looks like it. But there is an issue: All the characters in the band are male. Go ahead and read it and you'll see why this is an issue. Once that gets out of the way, it's not too bad, if not updated recently (March was the last one). I think that's kind of a shame, with a title like that, it could be pretty memorable.

TODAY - Dead and gone.  I hate when that happens.

173. The Meek - The main character is naked. And is female. I know, I should have saved that for the end, but at least those of you who left are reading the comic, and you should. The art is great, the story, though still young, seems well written and I'll be following it for as long as possible. And since she's naked, so will you.

TODAY - Hey, that naked girl?  She's wearing pants.  Just pants.  And the comic has been on and off hiatus rather randomly, mostly because the artist is doing pay jobs and making money and living.  Good for him!  He deserves it, but I'd really rather he come back into this story.  It got pretty dark at a few moments, with a several great characters, but the stalling out due to pay work has made me sad.  Come back soon not so naked girl.

174. Zap! - Comics change over time, some for the better, some for the worse. If you come in at the wrong point, you can easily be turned off on even the best comics. For the first 250 or so strips, Zap isn't a great comic. It's not terrible, there's just nothing of interest there. Then, with a somewhat climactic fight scene, the comic dynamic changes and it shifts from being merely ordinary to something really good. If I had reviewed it before that point, I would never have gone back (well, probably never). As it stands, it will slip into my schedule, a comic that finally found its tone and style, after 250 some strips.

TODAY - I dropped it from the schedule within a year.  Mostly it was a pacing thing.  One page a week is a pacing wrecker, and it became easy to lose my place there.  The comic was better then when it started, but it was so slow, it wasn't worth following any more.  Just a brief look at the most recent page shows the art is still quite good and I think the story must be moving along nicely.  I may have to revive my re-review project and give it another shot.

And that's it.  It's now been over 10 years since I started reading and review webcomics in a sporadic fashion.  The first 7 years have now been reposted on this blog that took the last 3 and more into the future.  Hopefully I'll actually do some more reviews.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Brainstorming A

Here's a comic for you.

A.)  Tolebias - A young telephone operator, with no given name, is at her last day of work before going on to her new job.  She's whisked away in a dark windowed flying limo and told her code name will be Tolebias, and her mission is to spy an the strangely human crew of an alien space ship on it's way to their planet.  Upon arrival, the mystery of who these people are, who she's working for, and what this is all about start unravel and Tolebias is caught in the middle.

Sound interesting?  Well it does to me, because I just came up with it.  Seriously, about an hour ago I was working on this idea based off a dream where a telemarketer and her Cylon cat crashed in Battlestar Galactica with a space limo.  I have odd dreams.

They say those who can, do, those who can't, teach, and those who can't teach, criticize.  Here I am, a reviewer of webcomics, but I don't have one of my own, so where do I get off telling people their comics suck?  Well, mostly it comes from lack of drawing ability, but not the will.  Right now, I have at least 3 ideas for webcomics, Tolebias here being the most recent, and I've debated posting about the other two for some time now.

So that's what Brainstorming will be, just throwing ideas not just for webcomics, but stories in general, at the wall and playing with the idea, and how those ideas generate and grow.  Of course, none of these will go anywhere, but it'll still be fun to play around with them and I might do at least a bit more with them in the future if I do.

Alright, so let's start with the genre here.  Given the flying limo and space ships, it's certainly Science Fantasy, and at the moment it seems to have a more Drama bend to it (mysteries tend to be Dramas, unless it involves Cthulhu).  So the real question is it more toward the fantasy end or the fiction end of Science Fantasy.  Hard to say at the moment since all I have is the base of an idea, no overall plot, but at the moment I'm leaning toward fiction as the story seems to mean the technology will be important in the long run.

So as a comic, what is the format?  It's definitely an epic piece, as it should have one, large overarching plot by the time it's done.  As a mystery style adventure, there should be several set up pieces early on to leave clues as to the final resolution of the plot, or at least what it was all about.  Since this is more an epic piece, it should also have full sized pages, so that leaves room for artwork and more story telling.

A lot of the art angle I can't deal with because, well, I'm not an artist.  However, I do know that having regular updates helps keep a comic going, so depending on the skill of the artist, the basic nature of the artwork needs to be kept in line.  Thus I'm thinking for this one that a black and white, 3 day a week strip could be possible and desirable.  If it was weekly, it would HAVE to be in color, but it might wreck the pacing to extend it that long.  Quicker updates might strain the full page updates, and having them in color would likely be impossible.  Chapter style updates wouldn't be very likely because, well, I don't really have much beyond the basic set up.

Which is a big hang up on this particular idea:  I have no idea where it's going.  I suspect the idea is that the "aliens" are human, and Tolebias is being sent there for some reason other than what she was told.  I can even see this strange, nonsense name being the key to a larger reason for the plot.  Exactly what, however, I'm unsure about.  I did just have this idea, so it's very early stage of development.  Most likely then, there will be a series of short adventures to get a "feel" for the world of the story, then building up to a larger plot as things go on.

And that's it for now.  Just a random idea for a random comic.  I do have at least a couple others, one far, FAR more well defined than this, but I'll save them for another day.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Touching Base #12

You know the good part about a long series of articles?  I can write them well in advance and can spend time doing other things.  The bad part is eventually the run out and I have to start doing weekly things again.  Like this.

First of all, the Newspaper List is now up and functional.  The only strip I'm having issues with is Buckles, whose official site doesn't seem to update, like at all.  At the moment I won't bother looking for it, but it is annoying.  Anyway, the current list will likely be added to over time and gives me a bit of a guide for the Newspaper Reviews in the future.

Alright, let's cover the bad news first.  Lots of comics are being shuffled off to a new version of the hiatus folder because, damn, I can't see myself dumping them in dead just yet.  Blip hasn't updated since August of last year (even if the date stamp says Aug 2011).  Not sure what's going on there, but there were a number of site issues then any updates from the artist stopped.  Bunny is also non-responsive, both of which are quite sad.

Elise Hooper's on again, off again updates continues to bother me.  If it wasn't so damn close to the end, I would have dumped it long ago.  For now, to hiatus with you.

Only three comics are going into the Hiatus folder because they're on Hiatus.  Cleopatra in SPAAACE! is being delayed while the artist works on a graphic novel project.  Money and eating is more important than a webcomic.  This is also the reason The Adventures of Superhero Girl hasn't been update, though there is a hardcover version of the book now available, might actually have to buy that if I can steal some money. . .

And then there's Does Not Play Well With Others.  Michael Poe has had a miserable couple of years.  First his father's death (and apparent complications with the estate), then his wife nearly dies, and now he's had his own encounter with severe medical issues.  The fact that he can't seem to find the spark he needs to keep Does Not going is not that surprising.  Still, he does intend to get back to it, but I can understand why he isn't right away.

On the more positive side, while Does Not is on hiatus, Poe has amped up Errant Story to a daily strip (been that way since the first of the year, actually) so it'll be in the Daily slot for now.  The insights into the construction of the comic have been very informative.

Hari-Sari, after nearly a 9 month hiatus, is back in action.  Not sure why there was a long delay, though I'm fairly sure it was something personal, but it's back.  It's also moving to Smack Jeeves for archiving and such.  Can't wait to see where it goes.  And sense it's updating regularly again, it'll be moving to the T-Th-S folder.

Also returning to updates is Makeshift Miracle.  I'm still more impressed with it's partner comic, Skullkickers (which just finished it's first plot line and is now doing guest strips), but it's still a very dreamy and interesting comic.  I'll be following it for a while.

Speaking of which, Skullkickers, due to work load, is moving to a 3 day a week schedule.  I'm putting it in T-Th-S folder mostly because it's feeling a bit empty.

The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon is also back from their holiday break (okay, it was like 3 weeks ago at this point).  With the completion of the original plot line, I'm curious where this comic is going to go now.  There was some hints about dealing with his parent's past, so that might be the main focus, but only hints.  We'll see where it goes.

Cyanide and Happiness's creators have started a Kickstarter to resurrect their animated short series by the same name.  If you've never watched any of them, go take a peak.  Same kind of humor, so don't expect any miracles.  I wish them luck.

Speaking of Kickstarters, Dresden Codak's first book, The Tomorrow Girl, is also getting a Kickstarter to get it going.  I'm not sure I understand the point, a lot of comics get print editions and don't need a Kickstarter for them.  Originally, I thought it was just a printing, and was kind of excited, now I'm just confused.  Which is a lot like Dresden Codak in the first place.

Weapon Brown has shifted to a daily replay of the entire series, so if you love the comic (like I do) now is the time to be reading it to experience it all over again.  At the same time, the books and preorders for it are all over the place, so keep tabs on it.  In the meantime, it'll be shifted over to the Daily folder.  Oh, and on Friday, a NOT Weapon Brown comic appears on the Deep Fried site.  Dark humor abounds.

Sorcery 101's main site has undergone a rather massive revamp (middle of THIS week).  Given that there has always been a variety of shorter comics, along with Sorcery 101 itself, on the site, this does make it a bit easier to navigate them, but it makes it harder to get to main comic, with no less than 3 clicks from the main site to get there.  As such, I'll be changing the link to directly connect with the main strip.

Finally, Templar, Arizona is now in color.  Yeah, it took me by surprise too.  No exact reason given, but the colors look good, so it makes this odd comic worth reading that much more.  But it doesn't update as much as it used to, so I'm shipping it off to the Weekly folder.

And that's about it kiddies.  Next week, um, something.  I'll figure it out.  Until then.