Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas Wild Webcomic Review

We wish you a merry. . .


I wanted to get at least one more review batch out this year, and right near the end, here it comes.  This time I'm actually going to be taking up some alt-comics by many of the same artists I already read comics from.  Well, mostly, you'll see.  In the meantime, let's get started with my Christmas present to you, my readers.

266.  Subhuman Sanctum - Corridor Realms is the home to at least 4 comics, this one, Vine, Blood Professors, and the main comic, Twilight Lady.  While the artists for them vary, the writer is the same guy, so the comics tend to be very similar.  Except Subhuman Sanctum is different.  The other comics are far more serious and it's. . . not.  It's not not serious, if that makes sense, but it's definitely lighter than the other comics, especially versus Twilight Lady.  It still tries to delve into higher ideas, but it's not as dark.  Frankly I find the entire comic to be, actually quite good.  It's a refreshing perspective and I find myself enjoying it quite a bit.  Worth reading.

267.  Cherry - Footloose is the quasi-fantasy comic I've had on the read list for a long time now, but haven't said all that much about because, well I'm not sure, just hasn't come up.  Magical Transvestite Cherry (full title, kind of a mouthful) is a bonus/prequel comic to Footloose itself focusing around the only male magical girl in the dojo of at the center of the comic.  Which means that it really doesn't stand up that well on it's own.  Oh, it works, but it really needs Footloose itself to understand what's going on.  In a sense, Cherry needs Footloose to work, but Footloose doesn't need Cherry.  If you're a fan of Footloose, or even just a casual reader, it's worth the time, but otherwise don't bother.

268.  In Here - Some time ago, the R.C. Monroe decided to change formats for his comic, Out There, shifting from daily to weekly to make time for two new comics, Cliche Flambe and In Here.  All three feature the same characters, which is weird, but fun too.  In Here is kind of a side story, alternate story to Out There as it plays right from some events in Out There, but does something odd.  It's a mystery type story, with the question being "where the hell are they and why?"  While it's only through the first part (it hasn't updated since April due to life issues), I am completely sucked in and wondering what is going on, but with few clues it's hard to know.  Still, it is worth reading even without knowing Out There, but there's a thing on the last page that does need Out There to understand.

269.  Broodhollow - Kris Straub is the creator of Chainsawsuit and Starslip, which he ended probably to do this comic.  And it's amazing.  I complained back in my Genre Savvy article about not having many examples of actual Horror to reference, well now I have.  Broodhollow looks great, even if it is just using Starslip's character design, but then come the monsters and ghosts which all look incredible.  The story and mystery around the comic hook the reader and refuse to let go.  Though I do a rather rapid archive dive, I can see the cliffhanger moments and they grabbed me just as hard.  This is a great comic and one that will likely sit on my read list for some time to come.

270.  Bloodstain - Stjepan Sejic is amazing and prolific artist.  As well as being the man behind Sunstone (NSFW), he's got at least 3 print comics out there, dose cover art for other comics, and the occasional guest strip.  But did you know his wife draws too?  Yeah, this only kind of fits the theme, but Bloodstain is Linda Sejic's comic, and it's actually quite good.  The story is probably the most mundane of them all, a young woman simply trying to hold down a job, but it's well done and fun.  The art is also incredible, being JUST shy of Stjepan's art, so much so that it's often hard to tell the difference.  It's on Deviant Art, which I've complained about before, but there's no need for a mature filter here.  The strips are long, just like in Sunstone, but horizontally rather than vertically, which makes it rather longer than it's 69 pages it might indicate.  While updates are more sporadic than other comics, it is worth keeping an eye on.

Well there you go guys, Merrry Christmas and all that.  Next week, I'll be doing a kind of year in review and set up for next year.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Building Mysteries

I'm not much of a mystery writer.  My stories contain mysteries, but they're not classic "whodunits" or something similar.  That said, mysteries are appealing to me, and I do enjoy a good one once in a while.  I often try to guess the next move of many comics, some rather successfully, others, not so much.  Still, there is a right way to do a mystery and a wrong way, so today I'll go over a few guidelines to help make more good mysteries in the world.

1.)  There must be a solution.  An answer to the mystery, a final solution to the puzzle, one that the entire story is working toward.  Without a solution, there's no way to effectively build the mystery, and you're left with The X-Files Problem.  The answer can be just about anything, but as long as there is one, that will help control the direction of the story.

2.)  The clues must make sense.  I'll talk about red herrings in a moment, but the actual clues, the true ones, should make sense.  Logic should connect each clue together and make everything work together.  If logic fails between any two clues, then the entire thing falls apart and it wasn't worth the effort.

3.)  Don't be afraid of red herrings.  The idea is to distract or misdirect the characters in the story and the reader from the truth.  Don't leave them out simply to satisfy number 2, but decide early on which ones are red herrings and leave them that way.  Don't decide they're suddenly relevant after being false for so long.

4.)  Don't add revelations that can't be concluded from the piece.  Long way to say, don't pull something out your ass.  Any revelation, fact or clue MUST be concludable from the story itself, not suddenly revealed with no set up.  This is very annoying and likely will cause the entire mystery to fall apart.

5.)  Don't assume your readers are dumb.  The characters should come to conclusions at about the same time as the reader, so keep up.  If the characters are behind, there should be a reason, like a red herring or some misread clue, one that the reader can figure out.  That said, don't let the character stay behind, once it's obvious, let the character catch on.

6.)  Read more mysteries.  The best way to get better at them is to read them.  If you don't, how else will you create your own?

How mysterious that I would have such an article.  I wonder what's next week (HINT:  no clues have been left, sorry).  Until then kiddies.

Seriously, I didn't leave you any clues, I'm not a mystery writer.

Friday, December 12, 2014

World Building

The last batch of reviews featured 3 comics that are not only quite good, but also have one thing in common:  World building.

Construction of the world/universe that the comic takes place in is a difficult task, which is why most comics set themselves in the modern day.  I went over the rules for building universes a while back, but that's only the starting point.  Actual execution requires a bit more work.  Which is where those three comics come in because they all choose slightly different angles to present the rules of their worlds while not bogging it down with pages of text and dialog.

Stand Still, Stay Silent sets things up using the real world as a basis.  Specifically it uses modern day Scandinavia as the initial set up.  The various nationalities are represented throughout the story, including the fact that their languages don't always line up.  Then comes the maps.  Including maps within the comic itself helps to orient the reader, but it's not presented as "this is a map, the characters are here."  Instead it's presented as a historical document, a map showing the familiar coastlines but with odd markings and shadings that normally wouldn't appear.  Even without directly seeing the chaotic fall of civilization, the map makes all the point that's needed.

Along with the map, SSSS (which is a weird abbreviation when you think about it) presents a series of documents, like what would come out of a school report.  Blindsprings does much the same, though from a different starting point.  Blindsprings is a created fantasy world, so it doesn't have the benefit of the real world to build up from, instead it uses a historical event as a basis for the a story event, namely the Russian Revolution.  While the circumstances are different, the events are shockingly similar to the fall of the Romanovs.  The result are those documents, which take a very anti-royal perspective, and it tries to make the revolution look far more justified than it might actually have been.  Not long after, this is followed up by the opposing viewpoint of the nature of the revolution, but still seems like not the whole truth.

I suppose I should be expected to be annoyed by documents and maps like this, but I don't have problems with things like this for world building, I have issues with it being about characters.  Character description dumps annoy me because these are things we can learn about the characters through their actions in the story.  Background information like the kind provided in SSSS and Blindsprings is necessary because the characters KNOW all these, or a great deal of it, while the reader does NOT.

Which brings me to Rice Boy.  The universe here has no analog in the real world, so instead it must deliver the world via a character, Rice Boy himself.  Rice Boy is much like the reader, unfamiliar with the world as a whole, and it is through his journey that he, and the reader, learn about the world.  He's told stories, show documents, and sees the world itself, taking the reader on the same journey.  This is highly effective as it shows the world directly, allowing the reader to easily become invested.

That's not to say SSSS and Blindsprings don't do this, they do to an extent, but Rice Boy has to use this as the only truly viable means to communicate it's world.  Likewise, Blindsprings has a map, but it's not nearly as effective as the one in SSSS.  All three must work to get you involved, but different circumstances mean each must use a different path to make their respective worlds come to life.

I became very invested in all three because of this, and I feel it is the strongest element of all three comics, making them completely worth reading.

Next time, I'm building up to something.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Bleh, Nothing Week

Post holiday week is busy and I wasn't able to get my article finished.  Sorry, nothing this week.  Should have something up next week.  Until then kiddies.