Friday, December 25, 2015

Best Overall: Shifting Responsibilities

Schlock Mercenary is not a static comic.  Despite it's regularity that you can set a clock to and the fact that it's always my Best Overall, the only real constant storywise is that Schlock himself is in it somewhere.  Well, that and the humor which is always there.

The point is things move as the comic goes along.  Members of the Toughs leave or are killed pretty regularly, even with the ability to bring the dead back to life, there is a limit to who gets brought back or not.  More often the biggest change involves the ships the Toughs use.  There have been 5 singular ships until the end of the storyline Broken Wind.

At their core, though, Tagon's Toughs remained a mercenary group, they do what they do for money, and often try to get paid multiple times for the same job.  It's not that they can't be altruistic, they have on many occasions, but they usually get paid for their time and firepower.

Broken Wind changed that.  They have now become the defacto military of a resurrecting galactic power, one with a LOT of money on their hands, enough to buy a Battleplate just so they could scrap it and build a city with the remains.  That means the very core of what it means to be part of Tagon's Toughs and exposes a lot of the rather obvious limitations on them.

To be fair, they are superstars really, they STARTED multiple wars, fought in them, pulled off some amazing feats while fighting them (mostly surviving, AND getting paid), amongst a long string of other accomplishments.  But they are just mercenaries, so certain things get past them.

Like law enforcement, which they are wholly unequipped to perform.  Not the least of the problems is the fact that they are often on the ones which the enforcement is being placed on.  So they had to trade out their still active "kill the attorney drones" contract to an actually law enforcement mercenary group to handle the issue in the new city they built.

And still the issues keep coming.  Schlock just takes things without thinking of the concept of "theft," and their lawyer accidentally made himself Chief Justice of the new Supreme Court for the new city.  On top of all that they still have multiple ships, multiple captains, and a big honking space gun that can get them into way more trouble than they'd like.

They're also not really a military.  So then there's the crash course office work that all the senior officers had to take in a not-montage (Howard elected to skip it).  All this sums up to the very nature of the Toughs changing radically from what it had been before and things haven't finished changing yet.

It's one of the things that keeps Schlock fresh even after all these years.  With Sluggy it's more waiting for the loose ends to be tied up, Schlock prefers to use those loose ends to recreate the comic, the characters and the universe for as long as possible.

EDIT:  Just after I wrote this, Howard posted an interview where he states that the current incarnation of the comic will end 2018/2019 or so, then do a big time skip and pick up with a new cast (and Schlock will still be there).  So yeah, there's that.

Next time, Can't Live Without and a new year.  Exciting!  Also, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Standard: Vampires

Sluggy Freelance continues to call back to it's past with call back to the original Vampires story.

It's not the first time the well has been returned to, but I don't remember the other times very well.  Considering they were all Sam centered stories (as he is a vampire), that's not all that unsurprising.  The main one happened right before That Which Redeems, so that might be why I don't remember it well (over a decade ago, I might add).

But it actually reaches all the way back to that original story by tying up a loose end I don't think anyone remembered was a loose end.  That said, as soon as I saw it, I remembered the scene, so there's that.

The original Vampires storyline though is significant for Sluggy, as it was the first serious story of the comic, coming right at the beginning of the comic's second year.  I covered the first year in detail, so no point going over that, but I did reread the Vampires story.  It's a culmination event, surprisingly, as the various elements of the last year finally came together to drive the story forward, from Alyee's fear of Riff, to Val's sudden attraction to Torg.

That's not to say it is high quality, compared to early Sluggy it was something new and exciting.  There was a real sense of danger there at the time.  Torg and Zoe were in actual, factual danger throughout the story, and given the idea that the comic was supposed to have a revolving cast, maybe this was where Abrams was going to start the cull.  He didn't, in the end, perhaps this changed his mind.

It's not bad, I should say.  I enjoyed the silliness of it, but it isn't anything special.  Later stories would far exceed it, but it set a pattern of abilities and responses.  Alyee and Bun Bun would always be the muscle, Kiki would be distracted and poop, Riff would be reliable, but build something unreliable, etc, etc.  Sam continues to be kind of dumb, both on purpose and because, well, he is.  I think he got dumber after this, for comedic effect I assume.

Being the first also means it tried to wrap things up quickly.  Only took a couple of months really, after quite a bit of set up.  Still, it changed what "story" meant in Sluggy, and nothing was the same after that.  The path of modern Sluggy began with the end of the Vamipres story.

The fact that he's calling back to it now, 17 years later, shows how important it really is to the comic as a whole.  The end of the comic is still some time in the future, but now it's closer than ever.

Next time, I talk a bit about Schlock Mercenary.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Personal Stuff

So with December well underway, I have some news.  You may remember a random nothing post a few months ago where I was making a point that there were personal reasons for not having a post.  I won't go into details, but ultimately it's leading to what's coming in January.

I'm moving.  My physical location, the blog is staying here.  Moving from central New York State to Texas.  Yeah, I'm going halfway across the country.  This move will have a serious impact on the blog as I won't be around to update it much at the beginning of the year.

So my plan for the rest of December is thus:  I have a couple follow up posts for The Standard and Best Overall series, and then I'll do another edition of Can't Live Without.  After that, the blog will likely be dark for a month or so.  I'll TRY to do something, even a review batch, but I make no promises as a move of this magnitude will take most of my time.  Once I'm back, I will start another long series (once I figure out the structure) and get back into posting.

So that's my heads up, the rest of the year will have posts, next year, won't start right away.  I hope you don't wander off (all 3 of you) in the meantime.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Classic: Not Quite Over

Trying to define a classic is difficult because it does vary between people.  For me, Errant Story is the Classic of webcomics, but that's because it changed how I viewed what webcomics were and what I was looking for in them.  Before, I was looking for more Sluggy Freelance, and it stuck for a long time afterwards.  Schlock Mercenary, GPF and College Roomies from Hell all fit that mold, but as Errant Story kept going, I found myself craving something similar.  Now my read list is full of comics like it, Gunnerkrigg Court, Derelict, Stand Still, Stay Silent, among so many others.

Errant Story took on the role of a Classic as it finished up.  During it's run, Lord of Rings made it's way to the theaters and show the classic version of the fantasy tropes, with it's clear divisions of good and evil and all that.  Errant Story, on the other hand, is the modern version of fantasy.  There is not strictly good or evil characters.  Hell, three of the comic's heroes, Sarine, Jon and Sara, are all basically assassins of one sort or another.  Ian himself isn't strictly evil, but someone whose motives are understandable, even if his actions aren't good in any sense.  Meji's goal is to gain the godlike powers so she can pass her class, possibly by beating her teachers in a magic fight.  It's a selfish group that becomes the heroes because, well, everyone else seems worse.

But they're not.  It's a political world that they live in, where there really isn't much of a line between good and evil.  They're all doing the best they can for their interests, which vary and conflict.  It's complex, and trying to navigate it is frustrating and difficult.  Even in the epilogue, the complexities don't go away even as Meji tries to use her godlike powers to help the world, things don't go as she intended.

And it didn't really end, nor was it intended to end.  Errant Tales was to continue the story, probably into the distant future.  The white room scene in Volume Seven was the first hints of this, giving the reader a glimpse as to what was to come.  It never happened though, the stress of readying Errant Story for a full publication as well as the many health and personal issues that plagued Poe and his wife ground the entire thing, both the commentary and Errant Tales itself, to a halt.  Will we see it in the future?  I don't know, I hope so.

The good news is that we have Errant Story as a whole, and complete.  It's a great read, wordy sometimes, especially early on, but it builds a wonderful world.  From there it creates a tragic story of vengeance, redemption and hope.  It's not perfect, nothing is, but it shows the way for other comics to follow, and that makes it a classic, THE Classic webcomic, and one everyone should read at least once.

And so after 7 MONTHS I'm finally done with this series, at least until Errant Tales begins, but for now I can move on to other things.  Assuming my work schedule isn't a complete terror.  Until then kiddies, and thanks for reading.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Classic: Volume Seven

FINALLY I'm up to Volume Seven of Errant Story.  Sorry it took so long.  And of course, I may have screwed up anyway.

The last scene of Volume Six I talked about?  Yeah, it actually happened as part of the first chapter of Volume Seven.  Since there aren't any more volume breaks, or obvious ones anyway, it's kind of hard to tell.  I like my break better though, as it leads right into the real meat of Volume Seven, which is Meji finishes her school project.

Volume Seven also starts throwing random background information into the comic as side notes, and filler.  A lot of the really bad stuff to happen to Poe happened during this period, so the universe building filler helped pad the comic.  It's interesting, but not strictly necessary to the comic's story in the long run.  It does make a point though that the comic's universe was constantly being rewritten as the story went on, changing and modifying as the story required rather than being completely wedded to it.

I covered the final parts of the volume pretty well in my Retrospective on the comic after it ended, but the build up to there is quite interesting too.  The comic speeds along, most of the events taking place over the course of a few days at most.  Most of the cast spend their time in jail cells (where Sara juggles) while Meji is in bed.  Then a white room, where she encounters herself, from THE FUTURE!  Apparently the alt-text (which shows up early in the comic then disappears then reappears in the late comic) says people didn't like the scene, not sure why.  I guess I like it better because I've done scenes like that in my various stuff, so it didn't bother me.  There is a reason for it, and I'll get to the white room thing next time.

The final fights in this volume are, well, brief.  It's funny how little action there is in the comic, with most of the real heavy fighting off panel.  But the results are obvious.  The Elven city (whose name I can never bother to remember) is utterly destroyed, a disaster of epic proportions.  It's almost unnerving how quiet it is throughout the first few pages.  Then the explosions start.

Over on TVTropes there's a page dedicated to the headscratcher of the comic:  Why are they saving the elves?  They're complete jerks for the most part, awful across the board in fact.  They are horrible and terrible people from the long view.  Sarine gives her answer as to why in this Volume, because some of them ARE innocent, and if means saving the jerks to save them, then so be it.  The truth though, is that the elves don't matter.  This is all about Ian, and saving HIM is the point.  He admits, while he's beating up the one person he cares about that's still alive, that what he's doing is evil, but it's all he can think to do with his great power.  His naked form in the white room bitches about how he got the short end of the stick constantly, but really he didn't, he just didn't deal with the challenges in life in a meaningful way.  He almost forgot completely about those that cared for him, and in his blindness would have killed them all.

That said, I do still stick with my contention that this was more Sarine's story than either Meji or Ian's.  She really is the major mover of the plot from pretty much the get go, and she's the one who wraps up the whole thing at the end, finally healing, for the most part, a 1000 year old wound.  She also gets the child she always wanted, from Jon, which by this point should be no surprise.

The comic ends with the note that the world didn't END with the story.  Something a lot of people forget is that life goes on after the adventure, so Sarien and Jon's kid, Sara's wanderings and Meji's attempt to change the world aren't just an afterthought, but a full on story in and of themselves.  At the same time, Errant Story, the comic, does draw to a satisfying ending, and one I wish I could have been more timely about.

Next time, I wrap up The Classic.  Until then kiddies, and hope you had a happy Thanksgiving (for those who celebrate it anyway).

Friday, November 20, 2015

Best Laid Plans

I had time off this week, and then it went away.  Stupid work.

I really hate these posts.  I keep a category for them to remind myself that there are many.  Thus, more nothing.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Gunning of Age part 2 and Dumberkrigg Court

I couldn't help the title.

Despite the last few weeks being an absolute mess, I am making an effort to stay up on things.

Dumbing of Age more or less finished it's story about a father, his daughter and the gun he brought to drag her ass home.  It ended with Joyce punching him out.  I haven't read any of Willis' other works, but I do remember a panel I saw from Get Walky, I think, where Joyce was powered up like a Super Saien, so I suppose this is likely in character for her from that.  From DoA itself, it is more a sign that while she tries to be the nice girl, when push comes to shove, she will break you in half if you tick her off.

While I'm still not sure about whether it was meant to be a commentary on the shootings that happened right before it started, I think it was very well done.  No one got shot, though someone did nearly get crushed by a car, twice.  Fun.  The ending, though, was probably the most important, when Joyce say's she misses home, but every time it comes to visit her, she begins to hate it.  I have heard that Willis had a similar, general experience (Joyce is him working out those demons apparently), so this is probably very much what he felt during such a transition.  I really should read some of the other comics in group, just to see if that stuff comes to the surface there.

Gunnerkrigg Court, meanwhile, had Annie finally reunited with her inner flame and filled with determination, and fire, to retrieve Reynard from her father.  She banged on the door, demanded him back, and Tony gave him to her.  Chapter end.  Yeah, that was it, that was the whole chapter.  A title page and a single page.

I think it's partly a response to all the fan noise around the current storyline, and party an attempt to add some levity that has been sorely missing as of late.  I love the timing of it, the set up and all.  He even carried right on through with post chapter page.  And of course Coyote could be blamed for it all.

So while I'm still stupid busy (oddly this is the SLOW season), I hope to be back to do the last Volume of Errant Story and I hope to have it all finished by the end of November.  No promises, there's some job I may have to do which involves Walmart and Black Friday.  If I die, I'll have someone say something.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, November 6, 2015


So tired, but must go to work.  It's 4 am on friday, first time I've had a chance to write that I didn't have time for a post this week.  Weeeee. . . .

Friday, October 30, 2015

Best laid plans

I WAS going to finish the Volume Seven of Errant story this week.  Then my week got wrecked by random jobs.  Horray?

I do have one bit of news:  Apparently Eerie Cuties and Magick Chicks are NOT ending.  A kickstarter that I suspected was meant to save at least one, ended up saving both.  So I don't have to do retrospectives on them any more.  So there's that.

Next time kiddies.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Gunning of Age

So as I was finishing last week's edition of The Classic, I was reading my comics and I came to Dumbing of Age.

David Willis' comic is a quasi reboot of his many other comics, none of which I've read (I've seen maybe 3 strips of Shortpacked, maybe).  I say quasi reboot because he turned back the clock on all of them and sent them to college.  There they deal with the common tropes of college and a lot of LGBT stuff because. . . I guess because it's topical, but that's hard to say because again, I've never read any of the other comics.

Then someone pulled out a gun.

Backing up.  Becky is Joyce's is best friend from home.  Becky randomly arrived at the school to visit Joyce, but mostly she was running away after being kicked out of the all Christian school she was sent to because, well, she's gay.  Her father came looking for her and it looked, initially, like it would be a hijinks thing where he would nearly catch his daughter, but something would get in the way.  Pretty standard stuff, and if well done could be a pretty funny running gag.

Then he randomly spots her and pulls out a shotgun.  Considering this was just after a series of actual shootings on college campuses, I have to wonder at the timing of this.  I know most comic artists don't keep extensive buffers (Howard Talyor is an exception rather than the rule), so it's possible that Willis decided to change this route right after the real world events happened, it could also just be a coincidence.

It's kind of ballsy to take on such an event directly, even if the opening move was a Jurassic Park joke.  The point is that such tragedies are hard to joke about, at least right away, and given the more realistic nature of Dumbing of Age, odds are good this will not have a good ending, something even pointed out within the comic itself.

The storyline isn't over yet, but it's likely not going to have a happy ending.  I suspect that someone will be shot (not killed, shot, there is a difference), and originally I thought it might be Joyce, but that's probably a bridge too far at the moment.  Still, when it ends, I'll try to follow up on it.

Until next time kiddies.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Classic: Volume Six

Volume Six of Errant Story is the final chance to avert everything that will happen in Volume Seven, and of course doesn't avert it at all.  I know that makes no sense at all, but let me explain.

Throughout Volume Six, there are chances to make alternate decisions, easy decisions in fact.  And I don't mean ones from the various government agencies involved, as they are dead set to do what they will and while it wouldn't have been good, it certainly wouldn't have been what occurred.  No, the real decisions all came down to two people:  Sarine and Ian.

Ian's path is probably the most straight forward as he's been kind of deteriorating mentally for some time.  He's going nuts, and I think he knows it.  What control he has managed to lead him back to Leah and Riley (I think this is the last time they show up in the comic BTW) for a brief recovery.  For a moment he even wanted to go back to the healing thing, which nearly killed him last time but he's come around to the idea of not dying while doing it so that's good.

Then the bombshell comes that some of the people he healed the first time reverted, and at least one died.  I emphasis "some" because many, including Leah, are just fine.  Still, this is enough of a blow to Ian's already fragile mental state, so he decides if the only thing he's good for is killing, then he's going to kill people who deserve it, the Elves.  Once he decides on this path, betting that the's going to be killed in the process, he's off and that's all she wrote.  He could have not done this, of course, if someone, say Meji, had been there to slap some sense into him, but without a tether to keep him grounded (and now I'm mixing metaphors, I think), he might have been able to recover at this point.  He didn't, instead giving into his despair and rage.

The tragedy that forms the basis of Volume Seven is thus in motion, but the other half of the equation is Sarine, and for her the path was more desperation and atonement.  I wrote in the Retrospective that despite the title and every other indication, I think this comic is more about Sarine than anyone else, and this volume really gets to the point.  Meji, Jon and Sara likely would have walked away if Sarine hadn't been pushing them forward, even if not directly.  Sarine is desperate to prevent a massive tragedy, and despite the disdain she has for her own people, she doesn't want them to get all killed.  Yet every decision they make, to her, seems like they want to get themselves killed, or worse.

She has been constantly haunted by the events of the Errant Wars, and her role in it.  The fact that she preferred to leave her people and be a stranger in the world says a great deal about how she felt about it.  It's clear she tracked errants, but actually investigated them, tried to figure out if there was an issue then she killed them if necessary.  It's gotten to her, and she's trying to undo the damage in some small way.  She's the only one looking to talk to Ian, even knowing how he feels about elves in general.

To this end, she begins a process of trying to talk the rest of the Elves out of, um, raiding god's tomb, then finding ways to convince them not to raid god's tomb, to just trying to get there first to keep them from raiding god's tomb.  I should note that Sarine has a lot of plans, and rarely do they go well at all.  When the talking doesn't work, she starts sacrificing things, starting with her loyality to the Elves as a whole, asking for asylum and hoping her information will, again, stop this from even happening.  When that doesn't work, she gives up personal mementos as bribes to keep things moving along just so she has a SHOT at stopping all this before it happens.

In the end, she even has to kill one of her friends and fellow rangers, Sarna and why couldn't they have names that don't look so similar with the font they use?  Dear god that could be confusing at times.  In any case, she continues to aim towards a higher end, but her actions move the players in ways they might not have done so without her machinations, or attempt at them anyway.  This lines everything up in such a way that when Ian finally bursts through the ceiling with Anita and an army of the undead (yeah, he's building one), things are going to go from bad to worse very quickly.  Though they also have a chance now, where before, there would just be a lot of dead elves.

Jon follows Sarine because he's in love with her, Sara follows because Jon is going and Meji goes along because she wants to save Ian, somehow.

And of course, the final scene has an elf mage trying to absorb Senilis, and that guarantees Volume Seven as a whole.

The final push to this ending is a bit frantic, but methodical.  The steps are there all along, and they seem to move quickly, but really it's not so much.  I think, and I could be wrong, but while there are more chapters, I think there are less pages overall through Volume Six, which makes it seem to go by much faster than it would have otherwise.  It helps that most of the dialog is unnecessary.

My last note here is that this is where a lot of filler strips, mostly featuring Bani and Sara, start popping up.  Poe had a lot of issues come up during this period and pushing into the next volume:  first his father died, then he nearly died in a car accident, then his WIFE nearly just died in something that is the most dramatic thing I have ever seen (she survived) so the fact that not only was Errant Story still updating, but Does Not Play Well With Others was going at the same time is just damn amazing.  The filler strips don't take that much away from the story, though they do pop up at inopportune moments, but it's clear keeping the coming going was the main goal, even if it wasn't the main story as such.

Next time, the end of Errant Story, but not the end of The Classic.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, October 9, 2015

And I thought I would have time this week

Joke's on me.  Oh god, the driving.  Next week, I hope.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Touching Base #23

I hate doing a touching base with so few articles and reviews in between, but my work schedule is a horrible beast of nastiness and I do need to catch up a bit.  And there's a lot of bad news to cover, though no dead news, so that's good.

Licensed Heroes is now officially on Hiatus while they sort out, um, issues.  It's not clear WHAT is going on, but it's something and it's completely derailing the comic for the time being.

Broodhollow is also on a Hiatus of sorts.  Straub put up a post that's it's almost purely mental issues related and he's trying to get back to a normal flow as quickly as he can.

Head Trip's issues are more physical.  First her computer died, then she was in a car accident and now needs physical therapy.  Yeah, that comic is down for a bit while she recovers.

Derelict's short hiatus is more related to setting up the next phase of the story than anything else it seems.  In the mean time, there is his new comic Sword Interval to look out, I have not yet as it's maybe a dozen pages long and I prefer 100 or one year, so it's at least 40 pages short of me checking it out at this point.  I imagine it's quite good regardless, so check it out.

The Demon Archives is just now coming back from it's guest artist binge it goes on between chapters.  I like it because it does expose less well known comics during these periods and that's more fodder for the Future Reads.

Magick Chicks is definitely finished, they have an epilogue page and everything.  My issue is Eerie Cuties which really didn't get that kind of ending ending.  Maybe it's that the comic isn't really ending or what, but I think I'll rethink my Retrospective plan to do both at the same time.  I'll give it a bit long and see what happens.

Legend of Whoelterra's updates have slowed WAY the hell down and aren't quite keeping pace with this new schedule.  I know I said I would drop it shortly after the review, but it's looking more likely now than ever.

The Fifth Circle's updates have been nonexistent for a while.  I'm probably going to put it in the Hiatus folder as a result.  I won't call it dead because, well, he's in AFRICA, kind of hard to maintain a website so far away.  Still will keep tabs.

One piece of good news is that Sluggy Freelance's summer schedule is over and it's back to 5 days a week, and beginning what is likely the final story of the comic.  Should be a fun ride.

That's enough for now.  Yes, I have finished Volume Six of Errant Story.  I just have to write the next part of The Classic, so hopefully that will be next week.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sympathy for the Devil

Talking about Errant Story reminds me of an article I did about villains last year.  While I will go into more detail at the end of The Classic, Ian is never portrayed as an irredeemable villain, a monster or otherwise.  The reader gets to know him early on and comes to sympathize with him and his decisions, to the point that some are just fine with the genocide he attempts.  Maybe that went a little too far.

Still, presenting the "villain" (and I use quotes for a reason you'll soon see) in a sympathetic light is a good idea.  Almost no one is purely good or evil, not even the Austrian corporal we all know and loath.  This creates a complete character, one that is more than just a cardboard cutout of a villain.

Gunnerkrigg Court does this pretty much across the board.  Many characters do not-nice-things, but I doubt many, if any of them, can be called outright evil.  While many fans were suspecious of various characters, none would say so and so is a villain, evil, or the devil.

Then came Chapter 51:  The Tree, and everything went nuts.

Anthony Carver is Antimony's father and has been basically absent from the entire proceedings since the comic began.  The only times we saw him was in flash backs to his childhood, and then there was a phone call in Chapter 37 which seems to have lead to Annie being placed in a coma in Chapter 38.  Zimmy says outright it was Annie's father, but why?  What was he trying to do?  Was it on purpose or an accident?  As I suggested sometime after the event, maybe he wasn't responsible at all.  Like many of the characters in the Court, he was met with suspicion, but nothing more.

Then he shows up as a biology teacher and careens through the comic, and the fandom, like a mad bulldozer.  I won't get into specifics, but in the span of one chapter, Tony went from being a background character of some minor importance and interest, to being the Devil himself, someone irredeemable in every way shape and form.  Watching this develop amongst the various fan groups (not even the official forums, where I hear it was far, far worse) was amazing and terrifying.  The sheer hatred some expressed for him was unbelievable.

The following chapter, 52, made things even worse.  Annie seemed to regress in a way that angered many, at least one declared they weren't following the comic any more because of it, and they all blamed Tony for ruining her character.  We saw a bit more of what was going on, but it only from outside of Tony's perspective, and that just made things worse.  The rage over this one character was amazing, remarkable, and unbelievable.

Chapter 53:  Annie and the Fire clarified a few of the issues.  Annie cut her own hair in order to remain in control of her emotions, that wasn't dictated by her father as many suspected, and the loose fire spirit that resulted is, um, well independent, but incorporeal.

The real gem though was that we finally got to hear Tony's side of the story.  The incdent with Annie's illness was explained (it wasn't meant to hurt Annie, and he was glad Zimmy sucker punched him before it finished).  Why he was coming down so hard on her was also partially explained, and I will admit I guessed it, as he was protecting her from the Court itself.  The real meat was his reaction to Surma (that's Annie's mom) dying, and the fact that he couldn't save her.  It ripped him up and, as Coyote says in the next chapter, he's a Broken Man because of it.

Donald, Kat's dad and the one who got Tony to open up to him and secretly Annie, made a point about the whole exchange.  It explains why he did it, but doesn't excuse it.  Yes, he did some horrible things, and will never win father of the year, but he did so because he felt it was the best, perhaps the only, way to protect his daughter.

Eventually, Annie and her father will have to confront each other on all of this.  It will either be very messy, or very heart breaking.  Possibly both.  When that happens, though, I think this entire sequence will be justified and I look forward to it.  Still, there is a lot of rage at Anthony, and it won't be going away any time soon.

I think Tom Siddell knows this, and tried to show a mirror up to his fans with the opening of Chapter 53, showing a raging fire spirit, impotent to destroy her environment, attempt to use sheer rage to burn a picture of young Tony she happened to see.  And when the chapter was all over, Annie calmly says "see, he had his reasons" and the spirit went into yet another rage, just like the fans themselves.

Next time, um, maybe a Touching Base.  Nasty busy week coming.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Nothingness is a thing now

This week can be blamed on lazy.  And work, but work is always blamable for nothing.  Next week.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Classic: Volume Five

Volume Five of Errant Story is, well, long.  In fact, I kept having to check back to see how far into the volume I was as there are no more volume covers, and there are a lot of chapters. It's not the most (Volume Seven is 9 chapters), but compared to Volume One and it's measly 5 it feels excessively large.  And there's a lot going on, a lot.  With every volume my notes get longer and longer.  Not just the number, but just the length of each entry.  There's so much to say, to touch on.

That said, there does seem to be a kind of theme running through this Volume.  I'm not sure if it was on purpose, I suspect not.  Still, it is there, and it has to do with family.

I use the term loosely when it comes to Sarine though.  She makes an off hand comment about one of her "relations" being in the audience of her attempt to bring this whole mess to light, only to comment about hoping to embarrass them.  That said, given the relatively few numbers of elves running around, the entire species could be considered her family, and she doesn't think much of it.  It's been on going since the beginning that she doesn't like other elves, and it's even more apparent here.  She avoids her own people as much as possible, hides as soon as she can, and then plans a raid to rescue Meji, right before they're surprised/captured just outside the elven city.  The fact that she finds better company with an assassin, his sister, and a flying/talking cat says a great deal about her.

Jon and Sara's relationship is more direct, of course, being brother and sister, but no less tumultuous, at least at the beginning.  I said last time that I wasn't sure if Sara intended to kill Jon or not, but that's probably not the right question.  The real question is was she going to do it because it was her task, or because she wanted to.  While she is clearly upset that Jon left her, she yells at him, the most animated she will be in the entire comic, the impression is she's angry because she wanted him to save her, not that she hated him for not doing so.  Jon's response is well reasoned, and apologetic.  His career did not offer him an easy way to care for his little sister, and by the time he found out his mother was dead and sister was orphanage, she had already been taken away by the monks.  Once they have their talk, though, they seem to find a mutual understanding, creating probably the most stable family unit of the main characters.

Meji certainly doesn't.  At least when it comes to her parents.  We won't learn outright until later, but her grandfather does care about her, which is why he's rather hard on her.  Her mother, on the other hand, is exactly as inattentive as she was initially presented.  She really doesn't care about her daughter, and only thinks about her in relation to getting back with Meji's father, something Sarine talks her out of because, well, her father is an elf.  Who are generally predisposed to killing half elves whenever they find them.  It's sheer luck that the whole thing with Ian happened, so instead he kidnaps his daughter and locks her in a cell in the elf city.  That wouldn't have happened, of course, if Meji didn't actually want to meet her father, despite knowing what he might try to do to her.

Then there's Ian, who's mother killed his sister by burning down their house.  You know, the sister he traveled the world and absorbed the powers of an elven god to simply heal.  Yeah he has issues.  Still, he knows he's kind of messed up, so when Anita offers to help him control his powers, if she helps him genocide the elves, he agrees to be her weapon without a thought.  As far as he's concerned, he should be dead already, and if it weren't for Meji, he would be.

And it's through Meji that a strange, new kind of family is formed.  Our heroes form a strange kind of family, which, despite the murderous rampages, assassinations, backstabbing and general dickery are probably more stable than any of the other groups.  Sarine and Jon have a rapidly developing relationship where they seem able to create "routines" between each other without any prior preparation, something that causes Sara to make a joke about it.  Meji is actually wants to help Sarine and Jon when Ian comes to her rescue (he is only concerned with Jon), and of course Ian did come to Meji's aid.  Sarine, despite knowing Ian's current rampage would likely target her as well, is more than willing to try to talk Ian down while Jon sees to Meji who was injured and Sara wants a weapon in case she needs to help protect them all.

Again, the theme is there, kind of.  It wasn't strictly intentional, as much as I can tell, and it isn't perfect, but at the same time, I prefer it that way.  Instead of trying to fit everything into a specific theme, the story just happens to involve it, while it moved along on it's own.  The reader gets a hint of it and has to dig down a bit to find it without it being thrust in their faces.  At the same time, they don't have to, the story doesn't NEED it to work.  I found myself enjoying this Volume far more than the earlier ones partially because of it.

Volume Five furthers the story, digs deeper into the characters and their various connections, and grows around a loose theme that manages to link everything together.  Also, Ian kills a god in this, but that's just a side note in the end.

Next time, Volume Six.  Until then kiddies.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nothing, this time it's personal

Personal issues are serious enough to derail the blog for a bit.  Hopefully next week, but I'm not crossing my fingers on this.  I'll keep you updated.

And before you ask, I'm not the one in pain or anything.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Nothing, again and again and again

This time it's personal issues at home that are to blame (though the back to back shift at the beginning of the week didn't help either).  Hopefully things will settle down for next week.  Until then.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Touching Base #22

Once more with Touching Base, mostly because shitty summer work schedule and big ass article series kind of necessitates these shorter bits.

Following, a bit, from last week's Retrospective, Between Failures had a medical emergency several weeks ago now.  A week's worth of guest strips while the artist recovered then the comic picked up once again.

Bohemian Nights also had a shake up as the site got hacked and got taken down for a bit.  I bring both of these up because they each did what artists should always do, tell the audience that something was wrong.  I really appreciate that and I'm glad both comics are back at full steam.

Speaking of which, Wapsi Square took a bit of a break, then picked up with about 3 strips that were some of the best story telling I've seen in the comic.  Then it got really overloaded with dialog again.  I told you he can do it, wish he did it more.

Station V3 is finally back to updating with a new title and mystery "Whatever Happened to Station V3?"  It's still the same silly fun that V3 is known for, and plays off the fact that the comic has had some serious issues in the last year or so.

Subhuman Sanctum finished it's first book and is now on summer vacation.  Which also serves as part of the fundraiser to keep the comic going, via buying the online books.  On one hand, I get it, they need money to pay the artists to continue making the comic, on the other hand, it almost feels like they're keeping it and Twilight Lady hostage over it.  I'll trust both will be back at full tilt soon enough.

Blindsprings did a short bit of posting "character descriptions" which normally I would rail against, but this is after most of the first volume of the comic is done, so I don't mind so much.  It's really just filler here, and while I didn't read much of it, the nature of the characters should already be known so it's not strictly necessary to read.

Strong Female Protagonist has finally seen the confrontation between Allison and Mary.  I'm writing this last week, so by now it might be wrapped up, but I doubt it.  This has been by far the best storyline in the comic, and I appreciate it greatly.

Something happened to Conny Van Ehlsing, and all of in fact.  The site is gone, and I fear the comic is too.  I can find one entry about it on google, and it's all in German or something, so that makes it a bit harder to track down.  I'll do some more searching as I have time, but I suspect the comic is gone.

Contemplating Reiko, which wasn't updating often to begin with, has now gone almost 8 months since the last update.  I think I'm going to call it dead now, which I don't really enjoy because the comic was fun.  Still, there was no real story there so no reason to stick with it strongly.

Oh and Elise Hooper is on unannounced hiatus again.  Seriously, just finish the damn comic already!  You're so damn close to the end.

I had to change the link for Out There as the actual site only ever worked half the time, and the Keenspot site is usually up all the time.

So finally, the last bit of news is a few weeks old, but worth mentioning.  The Adventures of Dr. McNinja will be coming to an end, probably in about 9 months or so (which puts it into next year).  After almost 10 years, I'm surprised, but not really shocked.  The comic has basically played out all it's ideas by this point, so it was time to bring it to an end.  Still, we'll see how it goes and I'll be waiting for it.  At least that's one comic that won't be added to the year of Retrospectives.

Finally, my browser decided to die.  Not my computer, my browser.  Been using Opera for sometime and today (Monday) it decided it didn't want to work any more.  Guess where all my bookmarks are?  I didn't lose ALL of them, just a bunch of them.  I'm straightening it out on Chrome now, but some of my recently marked "Future Reads" are going to be a trick to get to for a bit.  Shouldn't effect the blog any, just venting a bit.  I could vent more about more serious things, but those have NOTHING to do with the blog (outside of my work schedule).

Anyway, that's it for this week.  Hopefully I'll have the next part of The Classic up next week.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Retrospective: Punch an' Pie

Last week, Punch an' Pie came to an end.  Yes, it's another entry in this the year of Retrospectives.  And oddly another comic that I've been following pretty much from the beginning.

It also established my general review guideline:  no review until after 1 year or 100 strips.  Because I stared reading it less than 2 weeks after it started, and no, I didn't read Queen of Wands until two years later, so that wasn't a jumping off point for me.  While it worked out, Punch an' Pie proved to be pretty damn good, it could have easily backfired.  So I established the rule some time afterwards, since by then I realized how dumb it was of me to have done that.

Still, the comic did turn out to be quite good, so I guess I didn't screw up that badly.  The result is a comic I can't really straight up call unique, but am actually at a loss to find anything that's quite like it.  I guess Between Failures fits best, but for every point of comparison between the two, there are several that counter it.  Similar enough though, even to the point that the most important moment in the comic is in color, but then it goes back to black and white after that.

It's not a comic about plots as much as it's about characters, mostly Heather and Angela, but also the people around them and their interactions.  There are storylines, I guess, but they're not really divided up into anything distinct.  There are no chapters, no parts, the only markers are the shift from Angela to Heather and back, which makes up the structure of the entire comic.

That structure starts with Angela and Heather in a very loving relationship, then they break up and don't see each other again, directly, until the end of the comic.  Instead the comic follows each of them, jumping back and forth, as they go about their lives.  They never really forget each other, but they never seek the other out.  When they split, I remember thinking that they'll be back together soon enough, but it never happened, and that was intentional.

While Heather and Angela don't directly interact for the length of the comic, the people they meet throughout do cross from one to the other.  Karen, Heather's coworker at the zoo, eventually gets a job at Angela's toy store.  Lucy, who worked with Angela at the bookstore coffee shop, fosters a relationship with Heather (one that is both good and bad for her).  It's interesting to watch all this happen, and the comic does well with it.

I could see the comic going on longer, but the last few years have, um, not been kind.  The comic was a partner strip, one did the writing and the other the drawing, and the writer kind of ran out of time to do it.  Updates extended for months at one point, which is terrible for a comic that started life as a 3 day a week strip.  In the end, the artist took over the final scripting, and finished the comic up.  The ending is satisfying and the fitting for the comic.

Punch an' Pie (which I'm pretty sure I misspelled repeatedly in the past, ah well) is probably one of the better comics I've read and I recommend it highly.  I even went back and reread the whole thing just for this retrospective and found it was just as good throughout it's run as I remember.  While I am sad to see it go, along with so many others, the time had come and I'm glad I had a chance to read it from beginning to end.

Next time, probably Touching Base as I spent all week rereading Punch an' Pie rather than more Errant Story.  Whoops. . .  Until then kiddies.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Classic: Volume Four

I had a good chunk of Volume Four of Errant Story written when I realized I was just reiterating events.  That's fine and all for the earlier volumes, as that is kind of the point.  There's a lot of backstory, setting up of initial motivations and the key event that sets everything off.  But that's not really explaining why YOU should read it.

Volume Four is when the movements really begin.  Characters stop introducing themselves and start acting as characters.  We get hints of their attitudes and motives before this, maybe some actions, but those are brief if anything.  Here, we see them in full action, and the consequences of each of these will echo throughout the comic.

Jon and Sarine part ways, not pleasantly at least from Jon's perspective.  Losing Meji echoes losing his sister earlier in life, and he goes off to do the one thing he's best at:  Killing people.  Sarine does ask him, practically begs him, to look for Meji and Ian, but he knows it's a fool's errand.  Like Sara, Meji has gone to who knows where and he likely won't ever find her, and he's probably more than a little scared to do so.  He's not really equipped to deal with magically overpowered, well, anything, and he knows it, so why bother?  Getting angry at Sarine, it's more a defense mechanism.  He's been alone for a long time, and any attachments, especially one that tends to wipe the memory of shared moments, is not something he really wants or needs.  The fact that he doesn't know or particularly like what's going on doesn't help either.

Sarine reveals quite a bit, mostly that she really doesn't like her own people.  Like at all.  The fact that they've been deliberately hiding things from, well, everyone, really ticks her off.  It's clear she really doesn't like the job she has, she's every bit the assassin Jon is, only her list of targets is whole groups of people, and she has to be judge, jury and executioner for each and every one of them.  And she really hates the arrogance of the Elf leadership, confronting them with what she knows, kind of knowing that things are going to get worse.  So she hides things, like that she knows Meji and that Jon was with them from the start.  Then once she knows things are going to hell in a handbasket, she leaves, making a beeline for the one person in all the world she thinks can help.

Sara has gotten the least amount of panel time of all the "main" characters.  It's mostly because she has almost no emotions, honestly.  We finally get a brief glimpse of her past, VERY brief especially compared to everyone else.  Still in it's brevity, it gives us a very good look at her as she grew up, what was instilled in her, and why she doesn't even blink when told to kill her own brother.  That fight is actually really well done, it feels like it takes forever, but the build up is well done, and when the final blows are struck it is quick and to the point.  It's funny how the arrogance that Sarine so dispises at home, almost gets her killed here, and how Jon's own belief that he can't really compete is proven completely wrong, all in the a few pages.  Both are completely surprised, and it will prove to be a valuable lesson in the future.

Meanwhile, Ian is drunk on power and Meji is along for the ride.  Watching Ian go from the highest moment of his life to the lowest in the course of a few pages could have been much more soul crushing, but he's constantly holding back.  It's not until afterwards the true depths of his depression become evident:  He's basically suicidal at this point of the story.  It's understandable, of course, and perfectly reasonable.  He tries, TRIES, to turn his new found power into something that benefits everyone he can, but it is hurting him, probably killing him.

And then there's Meji.  I think she shows something here that was basically absent from, well, the entire comic until now:  she does care about someone other than herself.  She's not scared of Ian throughout, she's scared FOR him.  She carries him along at one point when he's nearly out of power and kind of drunk like.  She makes him take breaks, to the point of actually punching him in the face and threating people to get away before he kills himself healing them.  Then, when he tries to raise the dead, while she says "you might kill me" it comes off less as she's desperate to save her life, and more that she's trying to convince him not to do something that could kill them both.  The fact that she stays AT ALL is played off as being "well I don't want to walk home" but really, she can't leave him again, especially not like this.  It's actually a character to her, especially outside of the whiny brat we've seen for much of the comic.  Scary Little Devil Girl or no, she  can and does care about someone other than herself.

The various characters actually get to show the traits we've only been given the briefest of hints at up until now, and there is some growth.  The comic is finally going strong and will only get better from here.  Next time Volume Five, until then kiddies.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Summer Strikes Again

It would be nicer if that meant "Oh I went to the beach and didn't have time to finish my next article" but no, it means I'm being worked to death and didn't get time to get it done when I wasn't half asleep in my computer chair.  Next week, I hope.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Classic: Volume Three

The first thing that stuck out for me with Volume Three of Errant Story is how awful the volume cover looks.  I don't know why, but Meji looks really, REALLY off model.  Flat, rough, and terrible.  I'm reasonably sure that most of the cover art, either for the volumes or chapters, are all sketches of one for or another, which is probably why Meji looks so bad, it's an early, quick version.  It's a jarring image, but it's only temporary.

Anyway, the reason Volume 3 had to be separated out is because this is when the story actually gets going.  One and Two are basically set up and backstory, both for the world and the characters, and while there is some more here, it's more about moving the story forward rather than stopping and talking way too damn much.

But it starts with Anita being a bitch.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention her in Volume Two where she's actually introduced, but that's more because there's really little about her there.  She's the leader of the Ensigerum Order, the time ninjas that Sara belongs to, and in Volume Two, as in Volume One, we really don't get much about her there.  It's in Volume Three that Anita starts playing a more major role, and one of being probably the main antagonist of the whole story.  Yes, even though Ian is the "villain" (for relative levels of villainy), Anita is the one that eventually pushes the whole thing over the top.  She is not a nice person, like at all, but backs it up by being a really good at what she does.

The most memorable moment for me, for some reason, is when Sarine and Jon have sex.  Yeah, okay, maybe it's the titillation factor, but it's actually a great character moment for both characters.  The setup is simple, Sarine crying over the thought of having to kill Meji, who is a stable half-elf (one with self esteem issues and a spoiled attitude, which is very prevalent throughout this volume).  Then Jon pulls his gun out with the idea of defending the girl.  There's more to it, of course (go read it already), but in the end, the act is one that is not really out of character for both.  The fact that Sarine tries to erase the event from Jon's mind the next morning is also in character (he noticed).  Then the Paedagogusi arrive.

The Paedagogusi are basically the Elven version of angels, but they're fairies that are, um, unconventional to say the least.  To say the most, they're right out of Exploitation Now!  See, I told you it was part of the root of the comic.  Meji and Ellis's sniping dies down a bit in time for them to arrive and introduce a whole new level of, um, annoyance.  To the characters, they're not that annoying to the readers.  They're basically a kind of comic relief that actually has a point to them, and in the end a pretty powerful role in the story.  Here, two of the five of them are guarding Anilis', um, resting place.  It's unclear what Anilis is or why she's there, dead, sleeping, lazy?  Doesn't matter, but Meji follows through on her plan to gain ultimate power to pass her class. . .

And finds out Ian beat her too hit.  We get a flashback sequence for him, starting from the decision to begin his journey, his fight with the Elves, and eventually his "accidental" absorption of Anilis.  It does appear to be an accident by the way, I don't think he meant to basically eat her, but after a bit, he adjusts.  When he officially reappears, he, um, opens the roof of the inn Meji and the others are staying at, and whisks Meji away.  With this, Volume Three ends.

After two volumes of sheer exposition with one fight and some flirting, this is the meat of Errant Story as a story, and it's only the beginning.  I really did think it would take longer to get to this point, but I guess that just means the last volume is just lots of action and violence, which it probably is.

Next time, Volume Four.  See you then kiddies.  And sorry again for the lateness, my job hours are mean and cruel in so many ways.

Friday, July 17, 2015

God this summer (AKA nothing)

It's been eating me that I can't get more out this summer.  Work schedule is nuts, as usual, with early mornings and long days.  Barely have time to READ the comics, let alone write about them.  And when I do have time, I'm too tired to stand up straight.  Don't work for an inventory company kids, unless you don't have a life, because you won't have one after they're done.  Half done with Volume Three of The Classic, hopefully it'll be up next week.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Classic: Volume Two

I considered posting Volume Two and Three of Errant Story together, but in the end, they both deserve their own posts, so I guess we'll have a lot of pages for The Classic.  Ah well, more writing for me, and reading for you.

Volume Two is really more exposition for the comic.  And a fight.  But mostly exposition.  It's spaced out enough with the action that it doesn't feel overblown, but there is still a lot of talking in this volume.  Not as much in the first one of course, but enough.

The first major bit is a flashback for Meji, and it's what finally broke the commentary track version of the comic.  The art is very different from the rest of the comic, with these long, almost brush like strokes used for the shading and coloring.  It gives it a very nice look, but apparently made it a pain to actually prep for publication.  On top of all the other issues happening at the time, something had to give and the commentary track was one of them.  Several of them in fact.

Still, it's an interesting look at what Meji was like prior to events in the comic, and she's not exactly a happy kid throughout.  It was kind of obvious before hand, but made even clearer here.  Her slow physical development made her very self-conscious and withdrawn.  She was more than happy to live with the lie that she was just a human prodigy rather than a half-elf.  It also shows, once again, her mother is a non-entity in her life while her grandfather, while stern, at least is interested.

Then there's a fight with the elves.  We only see a bit (the last part is done in Volume 3), but it's enough to show that Ian is kind of a badass, taking on a cluster of elf soldiers basically alone.  Still, as the first major action scene it plays out pretty well, showing the sheer confusion and anarchy that should reign during such an event.  The fact that Sarine stays out of the fight (and instead heals one of the wounded elves) says more about her than even a few words could ever state.

In fact, most of this volume is about Sarine.  And we get to see quite a bit of her.  Um, meaning she's naked in a few scenes.  Actually, there's more than a little nudity in this volume for some reason.  I guess this is the point where Poe said "I need more readers," and while that is cynical of me, that might actually be the reason.  It's never full frontal or vulgar, but it's there.  Which ends up being an odd contrast to the fact that so many curse words are censored throughout.  I think this is actually very common throughout all of Poe's comics, but it just feels weird to me any more.  Not sure why, perhaps I'm just more used to the less dainty comics that are out there any more.

Back to Sarine and that bulk of the volume involves her in one way or another.  From interacting with Jon and Meji to, well, telling the story of the Errant Wars.  It's actually very tragic, terrible, and very plausible.  From just what was seen in this volume, it's abundantly clear that it happened, and it was horrible and terrible and left some really nasty scars, especially on Sarine's psyche.  Hell, it all but wiped out the elves as a whole (they went from occupying 2 continents, to having barely enough people to populate a single city).  And it really still hasn't handed.  Sarine is going around killing errants (ones who have gone crazy for the most part) despite not really wanting to.

That's really the core of Volume Two, the history of the Errant Wars, and how it set up the current state of the world.  There will be more backstory as the comic goes on for the other characters, but with the end of Volume Two, the basic world building is done, there's little more to add.  Then Anilis shows up and things get a little weird, but that's for Volume Three.

Until then kiddies.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Well, I'm dumb

I actually had an article written, but I didn't finish it up and then set it to post.  This week has been kind of stupid like that.  I apologize and it will be up next week.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Spending a little money

Actually, a lot of money because damn was that trip expensive.  1300 in car repairs (don't ask), 300 in gas, 200 for the room, 170 for my "ticket" plus all that I spent on food, my trip last week was a drain both financially and physically.  Still worth it.  More worth it was upon returning home I got where another 20 dollars went just before I left.

In the midst of talking way too much about Errant Story, I opened with a reminder that Errant Story remains the only comic I have ever given money to.  It was five dollars, and I don't remember exactly when.  Poe made an extra appeal one day and I had some cash in my paypal account, so I shot it over.  A bit later, because paypal has my address attached, I received a little pin with Ellis on it.

It's not that I don't like spending money, my random collection of junk and shit ton of books says otherwise.  The issue is that for a long time, I didn't have any extra money to spend.  Good timing led to my donation, nothing more.  There have been a LOT of comics I've considered donating, buying, or even joining in a Pateron for, I just don't because, well, I didn't have the money once, and it's made me very frugal ever since.

I take a lot of time and thinking before I spend money on something I'm not sure of.  Sure, I'll buy a couple books or some chips at random, but I'll think for a good 30 minutes on a computer chair, even when my current one is crap.  And I don't mean looking for it, I mean finding it and debating if it's still worth it.  Impulse buys are not my thing, and of course the internet is built on impulse buying.

Still, with my current income and my love for webcomics, I suppose I should spend more on them.  There are a LOT of great comics out there, and a little bit of financial support is all they need to keep going.  It's why I point out Pateron campaigns every once in a while.  Donations aren't as common as they used to be, but tip jars are still out there.  There's always the convention circuit, selling nick nacks, art, and of course books.

Every comic that manages to get some traction going gets a book at some point.  It's not just to make money, books are usually a drain rather than a money maker, but it is a right of passage.  An announcement that the artist and the comic are here to stay.  It's the culmination of the dream of every artist, whether it's a comic, a story, or, well, anything, to say "I'm Published" and have it be real.

So back to the story, which is I don't spend money.  Except when I saw that Ben Fleuter, artist of Derelict needed some cash to get over a hump (and freaking jury duty).  His deal:  The first volume of Derelict, Deligue, he signs it and pays the shipping.  I got the package over my vacation.

I've only just flipped through it, work schedules and lack of sleep preventing me from doing much more.  Some more background stuff I could probably find on the wiki or TV Tropes, some special art, a short little story, and a signature on the title page.  Technically my statement that Errant Story is the only comic I have ever given money to is correct, I did it with no expectations of recieving anything.  This time, I bought a book of one of the best comics I currently read.

Worth every penny.

Next week, we should be back to The Classic.  Until then.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Nothing, too tired

Spent this last weekend at XPFest, and driving back and forth to West Virgina.  Too tired to write anything.  Next week I should be back.

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Classic: Volume One

Well, there are also a few people that think we were all put here by a group of super advanced alien life forms. . .

Errant Story began in November 2002, only a  few months after Poe's previous comic, Exploitation Now! ended.  Yeah, they're that close together, and I started reading it a few months after that (my review went up in January 2003, so yeah).  Talking about the first volume of Errant Story really can't be done without mentioning Exploitation Now! because it is the foundation of that introduction.

The humor from EN! is very evident in this volume, especially in the conversations between Ellis and Meji.  They remind me of toned down versions of Bimbo and Ralph.  They constant sniping and bickering is definitely right out of EN! and later jokes (there's a yaoi gag there, and if you don't know, don't look it up) are in the same vein.  This humor will be sprinkled throughout the comic until those fairies show up when they'll bring it full force once again, but we're a ways away from that.  Still, there's a lot of EN! humor in the first volume.

And a LOT of dialog.  My god there is so much on a few of the early pages.  I remember the commentary track mentioning they were breaking up some of the pages because they were solid dialog, but I had forgotten how bad it really was.  Meji's introduction is her talking and the page is more dialog balloons than art.  It does pull back after that, but expect a lot of talking early on.  Reminds me of when I reread Life of Riley and how much dialog was in that comic too.  Same time period, so I guess I really didn't notice.  EN! had the same issues near the end of it's short run, so again, more overflow.

I get why there's so much there, this is Meji's introduction and there wasn't any good way to relate it besides having her and Ellis snipe at each other over it.  All of the main characters (Ian, Sarine, Jon, Sara, Meji) are introduced through the length of the first volume.  Sure, Sara doesn't get much time (an alt-text even mentions she won't be significant for 400 pages), but the rest get some characterization.  It's not everything (Volume Two does more of that), but it's enough to give the readers an idea of who the characters are.  Sarine doesn't really like what's she's doing, but does it anyway.  Jon complains about wasting bullets to save Meji, but the next scene has him shooting leaves for practice, undermining his argument.  Ian's reaction to any comment regarding his sister hints at his reactions in the future, etc, etc.

If anything, Meji gets the least characterization, outside of Sara of course.  Mostly, she admits to being lazy, but there are less than subtle (aka Ellis) hints that she's insecure about her looks, is ignored by her mother, and reacts poorly to criticism (aka Ellis).  It's a little more limited, even though we follow her more than the others, but given the length of the comic is her coming of age, I guess it's fitting.

Finally, there is some world building early on, but much of it is limited to off handed comments.  The last full chapter features more about the ancient history of the world than the modern era than the rest of the comic, all done in a single conversation.  Oddly, much of what's said is true (including the quote at the top here) so the major storyline is pretty well established even this early on.  I'm sure the details were still kind of nebulous at this point, but the setup for a much longer story were well settled by now.

It's a good introduction to a longer story, one that is growing from very little.  The players are introduced, the world is built, the tone is settled, and the story is moved along.  Next time, Volume Two and maybe Three, depends on how much of is there.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Classic: Introduction

Before this universe there was another one. . . a happy universe filled with bunnies. But that one got destroyed in a great cataclysm brought about by a major plot point. Pay attentiion, there will be a test later.

I did my last Special Series, Best Overall, where I talked way too much about Schlock Mercenary, in an attempt to get me through a really crappy work month and it only kind of worked out.  And I only did that because The Standard, where I talked way too much about Sluggy Freelance, I felt was quite a success and I enjoyed doing it.  So with two in the bag, I started thinking about other comics that deserved this kind of treatment..  My first thought was to do Gunnerkrigg Court, as I had just given it a Quasi-award for Best Overall for 2015.  Then I thought about it more and there is a comic a bit more deserving of this treatment, especially as I apparently, and inadvertently, snubbed it in both sets of Quasi-awards.

It's not that I went out of my way to not award Errant Story anything, but I wanted to focus more newer comics because everyone's read Errant Story, right?


I know that's not true, a lot of people haven't read it, but I feel they should have.  It's like those classic pieces of literature kids get stuck reading in school.  They are classics, excellent works of fiction and examples of the written word, and I feel that Errant Story fits in there.  Oh, it's not as good as Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, but when it comes to webcomics, there really isn't any other comic that does what Errant Story has done.

Errant Story is my model for the High Fantasy epic, a cornerstone of my involvement in webcomics as a whole.  While Sluggy Freelance is my standards by which all comics are measured against, Errant Story is more a model of what I want a particular branch of comics to be.

I started reading Errant Story very shortly after it started, within a few months if that.  I read it all the way through, beginning to end.  I was there when Michael Poe's father died and derailed the comic for a while, and when his wife nearly died.  This remains, for now, the only comic I have ever given money to.  They sent me a button, which I still have.  It's a comic I have done a Not-So-Wild Review and a Retrospective, and now a Special Series all it's own.

I consider Errant Story to be The Classic of all the comics I read.  Some are older, some have better stories, some have better art, but none of them are the quintessential webcomic, the one everyone SHOULD read.

And it's going to take a while to describe why.  After all, the comic went on for a good 10 years, much of it 3 days a week (probably around 1500 pages total), and there's really only ONE story, not several.  The only easy way to handle this is the straightforward way, one volume at a time.  There are 7 volumes, of course, and that would make a long series, so I might combine a few, but I will reread the entire thing.

I will be bypassing the Commentary Track version of the comic, however.  Mostly because it's incomplete (stops halfway through Volume 2) but also because I want to re-experience the original comic, from the beginning.  Finally, I won't string this all together like I tried with The Standard and Best Overall, this one is going to take awhile to get all the way through and I'm sure there are other topics that will come up in the mean time.

So let's get to it.  This is The Classic, Michael Poe's Errant Story.  See you next time kiddies.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Touching Base #21

Well, I derped and forgot to hit PUBLISH for this article.  Thus it's going up rather late.  Ah well.

This edition of Touching Base is also a site maintenance thing as well.  There's a lot of good news in this edition, for once, and a couple of duds.

Vampire Cheerleaders finished it's last storyline back in January or so, and hasn't done much else since.  Is it dead?  Laying the ground work for another story line?  Forgotten?  No idea, but it's going in the hiatus folder for the time being.

Short Stories is annoying me more than it probably should.  Several of the shorts have been removed from the comic and I suspect published, which is great for them, annoying for me.  It also hasn't updated in a while.  I'm moving it to hiatus along with Vampire Cheerleaders because I'm not sure if it will update again.

Remember in my review of Wapsi Square I talked about that odd pool storyline?  Yeah, it went away from it for a bit, then came back.  Seriously, just STICK with it for a bit, I think your readers can handle a story that lasts more than a week at a time.

It seems technical difficulties and health issues have been keeping Sunstone (NSFW) from updating for some time.  The tech issues appear to be resolved, health not so much, but he's planning to power through, so updates should be back soon.

Eerie Cuties and Magick Chicks are at their respective climaxes, and are looking to end at, um, nearly the same time from the looks.  Depends on how much epiloge they're planning to use in each.  As I said when I first mentioned the end of both comics, I'll do a Retrospective on both at the same time as one is the spin off of the other and the timing and comparisons are too great to simply let go.

The Non-Adventures of Wonderella is updating regularly again.  After a short plot arc involving her coming back from the dead, they vowed never to speak of it again and moved back to general nonsense the comic is known for.

Broodhollow is ALSO updating again (I told you there's a lot of good news this time, but the best is yet to come).  Took long enough honestly.  Still, it's Broodhollow, so it should be pretty damn good, even after the wait.

The best news, and I do mean the best, is that The Meek is back.  After years of inactivity, the comic is updating once again.  Looks like weekly for the time being and I can't be happier.  Hope it updates for a long time to come.

I want to comment on Gunnerkrigg Court for a moment.  I know more than a few people are unhappy with the current direction of the story, to the point of anger.  Those people need to get a grip.  For one, this is a natural development of the characters given the situation, and two, when Annie does decide to assert herself once again, the results shall be GLORIOUS.  So just keep reading.

Too the site management side of things.  I'm making some slight changes to the side bar.  I will be adding a few extra categories to the Quick Reference section.  The Categories page is being split into two pages.  General Categories (best name I can think of right now) will have all the reviews, articles and Retrospectives in it, while the Special Series page will have all my multi-part articles.

This is in preperation for this year's long series wherein I talk way too much about a comic.  Which comic?  You'll have to wait and see.  In any case, unlike the previous ones, it won't be straight out series, but broken up as I find other topics and possibly reviews to write about.  It's not really much longer than The Standard or Best Overall, but unlike them, it will be a full look at the comic, so it might take a bit longer to write up.

Next week I hope to have the introduction up for it, but I make no promises as I actually got a promotion at my job, so that means, of course, more work.  So I hope I find time to write it.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Retrospective: Leisuretown

When I started thinking of the Retrospective on Perchance to Dream, I started thinking about other comics I'd like to go back to.  Retrospectives tend to be comics that recently ended, but expanding it out and covering older strips seems like a good idea, and would separate them away from the Not-So-Wild Reviews that are more for active comics.

And the first comic I thought of for this treatment, after Perchance to Dream, was Leisuretown.

Much of it is the fact that I have, until this day, haven't found anything quite like Leisuretown.  I suppose Cat and Girl kind of comes close, but it's only kind of a glimpse that is Leisuretown.  It feels completely unique, and it's probably one of my favorite comics of all time.

The uniqueness starts with the art.  It's a photocomic, which isn't strictly rare, but uncommon enough to make note of, but it's more than that.  It's entirely made up of those gumby like rubber toys with the holes behind every joint that bends every which way.  ALL of the characters are these, and there is quite a variety.  Yes, it will repeat them over the course of the various stories, but they always seem different.  It really is a testament to the artist's skill that emotion and movement can be show with such strangely static figures.

But static figures on a static background would just be pretty good, Leisuretown goes one step more.  They are photoshopped into complex, real world scenes.  Layered images that often feature multiple of the same character puttering about, sound effects that help push the idea of movement and more than a few of the props makes the entire thing almost unbelievable.  It's hard to remember that this is just a photo comic, and an example of an artist's hard work pushing something so simple beyond what most others would.  And not just for one image per page, but several, and for hundreds of pages.

All that hard work produces a, um, interesting comic.  It looks like it should be a humor comic.  The whimsical character designs, the visualized sound effects and the exaggerated movements all point in that direction.  There's even a strain of, well, crass humor, focusing on the words and phrases that would make George Carlin proud.  It's very similar to It Hurts! in that way, but it's not sincere about it.  In fact, most of the time the joke is that the person using this language is, well, an idiot.  Or at the very least, overestimates their worth.  It's more like it's making fun of the people who use this kind of crass humor to try to be funny, or shock, or whatever.  It's funny because they aren't and don't quite know it.

It's also part of the many themes of the comic that the various stories and shorts play with.  Often main characters find themselves with few prospects for the future, often turning to crime, drugs, violence and suicide to ease the pain.  It's dark in that sense, but there's almost always an odd hint of hope in their lives.  Not always, of course, there are some stories that don't quite fit the mold, but they work well in their own ways.  Much of the comic is more like the "best rants" one reads, at least as one reviewer put it.  There is an art form to such amazing rants, and my formative internet years were exposed to it regularly, which is probably why I enjoy it so.

In the end, I recommend it because I do so enjoy it and consider it great, but I know it's not quite for everyone.  If you think you can handle the more rantish nature of the comic and the pre-facebook days of the internet, I do have a couple things to comment on.  One:  The comic was designed for back when 640x480 was still considered standard resolution, so the images might be a bit small, especially with that frame around them (you can open them in a new window without the frame).  Two:  Scroll to the bottom of the list of stories, down to the giraffe hanging itself, and start from the bottom up.  Not because QA Confidential isn't the best story, it is, but because it is the best story and the rest of the comic will feel a bit of a let down if you start there.  Start at the bottom and work your way up.  If you can get through the essays, then you should be able to stand the rest of it, and you're in for a treat.

One last thing.  Last week, I mentioned that this was an "other project," well it is, as the creator of Leisuretown is one of the forces behind Jerkcity's creation and continuance.  I'm amazed that comic is still updating, but seriously, no reason to go back, read one Jerkcity strip, and you've seen most of them.

Next time, um, not sure.  We'll see.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Other Projects

So I was reading Blindsprings a few weeks ago, and in one of the blog sections for a particular page, I miss read a comment from the artist.  It said she was trying to make the comic "more like" a movie.  I took it to her thinking she wanted to make a Blindsprings movie, which I felt was a little too ambitious at this stage.

Still, it got me to thinking about all the other projects comic artists tend to work on, and the fact that it often derails the part that I tend to follow, namely the comic.  It's not as bad as a stretch of hiatus, as these projects are usually at least talked about, and there's some good reasons why the comic might be sidelined for a bit while they're worked on.  Sunstone (NSFW) has been on a regular cycle of this as Stjepan Sejic is often working on a variety of art projects and of all his projects, Sunstone makes the least money (directly anyway).  But there are others.

The first one I thought of beyond Sunstone was Elsie Hooper because at creation it was meant to be a story board for a movie.  One that at one point was being worked on.  I don't know if it was ever finished, I do know that long, LONG stretches of time went by without an update due to it and the various other projects the artist was working on.  The fact that it has been more or less regularly updated (every 3 weeks it seems sometimes) is actually a step up from where it was only a couple of years ago.  It does make it annoying, however, when one considers that the comic does have a scripted ending and even after 10 years it hasn't yet finished.

Dead Winter is having the same issues.  The game project they're working on seems to be sapping all the energy to make the comic.  I do want to play this game, I love side scrolling beat'em ups, I love the comic, so putting them together can only make me happy.  BUT, it does cut deeply into the comic, especially the patreon which, surprise, is mostly for backing the comic, not the game.  Hopefully it'll start updating more regularly soon.

That's not to say other projects can't still be done.  Sandra and Woo, for example, have a game in the works, but it isn't interfering in the production of the comic.  I guess that makes sense as they're already juggling two projects, Sandra and Woo and Gaia, so throwing another one into the mix isn't that big of a deal.  It's also not a self created thing, as it's being made by an actual game developer rather than a couple of comic artists in their spare time.

Cyanide and Happiness' other project is their shorts, short videos that are basically just more of the same.  I don't watch too many of them (checking comics takes long enough, even a 2 minute video can hurt at 2 am when I'm getting ready for work), but the few I have watched have been quite good and often are offshoots of regular strips.  More of the same, and while it replaces the occasional strip, it's not that big of a distraction from the main comic.

And then there's, well, EVERYTHING Howard Taylor does outside of Schlock Mercenary.  Games, conventions, books, movie reviews, etc, etc.  I couldn't even hope to list all that he's up to.  Guess he gets bored having that big fat buffer keeping his comic up every day.

I do like other projects by the artist, even if they aren't comics, I just kind of hope they don't interfere with the comic.  As for Blindsprings as a movie, not yet, give it a couple more years.

Next week, hopefully, another Retrospective that oddly enough is an other project.  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Cast Pages

My rule with every review is that I read the comic, the whole comic and nothing but the comic.  Cast pages, about pages and the like are something I actively avoid during my first read through of a comic.  I do this on the grounds that if it's not in the comic, it's not in the comic.

After the inital read through is done, though, I might flip through the cast and about pages.  For larger, more involved comics it's more refresher, for smaller ones it's just to see if it matched up with what I found in the comic.  At the same time, I don't always go the page, as I have better things to do.  It's a resource to me, nothing more.  Which is why when I was writing the Not-So-Wild Review of Wapsi Square, I went to it right away.  Wapsi is a fairly large comic and complex and remembering everything was going to be hard, so I loaded up the cast page as my first resource.  And found a monster.

Most cast pages are pretty simple affairs.  Girls with Slingshots represents what I think of as a cast page.  A single picture, a name, a brief description that may or may not actually say anything, and that's it.  It's nothing glamorous or flashy, there's no large amounts of information, and nothing more detailed.

Stand Still, Stay Silent has a bit more information on the cast page itself, but not much more.  To add to it are a series of supplemental pages.  These are actually in the comic, typically near the end of a chapter and share world information that can't be easily presented otherwise.  This turns the cast and about pages into resources for the comic and almost essential to the comic's future.

Of course, these comics are both not super story intensive or very old, both of which do define Wapsi Square.  But there are other, much larger, older comics, that have to deal with similar issues.  Sluggy Freelance and Schlock Mercenary have at least as many characters as Wapsi, if not more, and they're both at least as long, if not longer.  Their solution was simple:  Wikipedia.  Sluggy has it's Niftypedia and Schlock has the Ovalkwiki.  Both are expansive, but well organized, and are what I used when writing The Standard and Best Overall for much of my outside of the comic research.

That monster that lurks on Wapsi Square, however, is something else entirely.  81 pdf pages, and most of it is packed from end to end.  The first three pages are basically empty, the rest is written like an encyclopedia.  Densely packed, bullet points being the only division between characters in the list, and only a handful of pictures.  The character section of the pdf is about 9 pages long, and includes incidental characters (Volleyball guy?  Really?) and Wapsi Square itself, which is a suburb.  I love the idea of locations having "character" but in this comic, where the background really doesn't get much love, it really doesn't have one.

The next 4 pages are "locals" which isn't a bad thing and the text is quite large (compared to the rest of the file).  Still, few pictures, and those that are there are small cast shots, and basically don't relate to the content at all.  As pointless as the locals section is, there isn't any easier way to describe these things, so I don't mind.  What I do mind is the sheer amount of text for each entry.  Saying "this shop is co-owned by Monica and Georgette" should be enough, maybe what it sells, but it just keeps going.  The same can be said for each character description which relates far more information than strictly necessary.

The remaining pages, 17 - 81, are ALL storylines.  Initially the descriptions are very brief, but by the end one story line has more text than this entire article.  It's mind boggling, and almost impossible to follow.  Wapsi is already difficult to follow and being presented with a literal wall of text makes it all the more difficult.

So why does this exist at all?  Not sure, I suspect though it was put together by a fan and only made official after the fact.  Now the wikis for Sluggy and Schlock are fan maintained, but organizationally they're so much better and easier to navigate.  Wapsi just has a block of text crammed into a pdf file.

The good news?  There's a wikia and TVtropes pages for Wapsi Square that are a decent enough filter that information can be found, but it's sad that the only official link through the comic is, well, unusable.  It doesn't provide any information, or even a brief overview, it's a block of text that's has no art for character descriptions and the storyline area makes an already confusing comic even worse.  It's by far the worst cast page I've ever seen.

Next time, um, we'll see.  Until then kiddies.