Friday, January 30, 2015

Retrospective: Gunshow

When I decided to do this Retrospective, I didn't really think about it much.  After all, the comic was coming to an end, and I do these for those comics.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wasn't exactly sure what to write about Gunshow.  The problem isn't the comic, it's a pretty damn good comic, and I do recommend reading it.  The problem is that it's a Gag comic.  Gag comics are just that, a series of gags, jokes, typically once a strip or whatever.  They are the staple of the newspapers, and what everyone thinks when you say "comic" in reference to print for the most part.

And Gunshow very much is a gag comic.  Oh, there are a few stories over it's run, and I'll get to them in a moment, but for the most part this is just a comic about jokes.  So what is there to talk about really?  The comic is pretty funny, I think, but humor is subjective.

I could compare it to other gag comics, but even that's kind of hard.  Every gag comic is different.  Cyanide and Happiness typically goes for the shock and crude humor, and Gunshow did that, but not all the time.  Chainsawsuit goes for the completely absurd, and Gunshow did that too, but sometimes it wasn't that absurd, and it was clear it wasn't being very serious about it.  Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal often goes for the more cerebral jokes, and, yes, Gunshow did those, but not to the same extent.

Gunshow did it's own thing, as most gag comics do.  It never quite did the same joke twice, or if it did, it tried to put a new twist on it.  Sometimes the gag was visual, sometimes it wasn't.  It wasn't always flat out funny, but often enough that I enjoyed it.  There were some odd experiments, like the series of horror strips this past October, but that was about it.

There were a few storylines, but nothing that would elevate the comic beyond it's gag status.  The Anime Club, the rabbits and the Gravedigger story were vehicles for more jokes, and didn't mean anything to each other or the rest of the comic as a whole.  But they were good, in their own way.  The Gravedigger story, especially, was quite good, especially the ending.

It was a good comic, damn good, and again, I recommend it, and I'm saddened it is gone, but not so much because I love Gunshow so damn much.  I enjoyed it, yes, but it reminds me of the steady disappearance of good gag comics on my read lists.  Oh I still have Bob the Angry Flower and Wonderella (whenever he gets back to updating it), as well as the other three I mentioned, but their numbers are dwindling.  I don't know if it's because I do tend to look for more story driven comics than straight up gag strips or if there are just fewer gag comics out there.  The latter would not surprise me in the least, actually.

But Gunshow also reminds me that even gag comics can tell stories, have good, and interesting art, and occasionally hit that emotional button just right.  The artist is moving on to other projects, including a couple comics, and I will be trying to keep tabs on them.  In the meantime, I will remember Gunshow and maybe reread it at some point, and I think you guys should too.

Next time, I do a Not-So-Wild Review, but this one is kind of different.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, January 23, 2015

2015 Wild Webcomic Quasi Awards Winners

Welcome to the 2015 Wild Webcomic Quasi Awards.  This post will distribute awards to comics that meet and exceed the standards for which categories they are nominated.  These awards are given out by myself, based on my own experiences with these comics over their life times.  Nominations for this year's award may be found here.  For past winners please see this post.  For a more detailed set of rules regarding the process of these awards please see this post and this post.  Let the awards begin.

------------------------------------------------

Best Black and White Art

When it comes to monotone are, achieving a feeling of depth is a task left to shading, something that even great line artists often can't pull off.  Allison Shabet manages this better than most that I've seen in her comic Dead Winter.  While the characters come across more, say, cartoony than other comics, the effective use of shading makes them far more realistic than other, much more realistically drawn strips.  At the same time, the use of black and white isn't done to save time or due to lack of ability, there are several strips that are in color, typically as dream sequences, so Allison is fully capable of drawing a full color strip.  Instead she chose black and white to more accurately describe the comic and it's themes.  The fact that there is one touch of color, a bit of red on two characters, drives home this point better than anything else.  That is why this comic is awarded Best Black and White Art for 2015.

Winner:  Dead Winter

------------------------------------------------

Best Color Art

Stjepan Sejic is an amazing prolific artist.  Multiple comics in print, cover art for other print comics, guest comics, and of course his webcomic Sunstone (NSFW).  Saying that Sunstone is his best work is difficult as it was, until rather recently, just a side project, but even in this form, it far surpasses most other wholly dedicated webcomics.  Realistic and well adorned characters, amazing use of color and form, and the pages themselves are monstrous in size and scope.  What was once just a string of mildly erotic pin ups has blossomed into a story of love, loss, and some kinky sex whose artistic style is immediately recongnizable and amazing at the same time.  It is with this in mind that this comic is awarded Best Color Art for 2015.

Winner:  Sunstone (NSFW)

------------------------------------------------

Best Gag Comic

Humor is still one of the hardest forms of art ever to exist, and managing to do it consistently is harder still.  Justin Pierce somehow manages, even when on hiatus for kickstarter reasons, to keep The Non-Adventures of Wonderella the hilarious non-adventure it is.  Being a superhero parody gives the comic plenty of fodder to play with, and a main character who is, well, lazy, a little stupid and almost always drunk means the jokes practically write themselves, and yet they don't because there is effort here, a great deal of effort.  This makes this comic the winner of the Best Gag Comic award for 2015.


------------------------------------------------

Best Shortform Comic

Speaking of superhero comics, sometimes it's nice to just read one that is both sincere and playful about the topic.  Krazy Krow's Spinnerette fits this bill nicely, and more.  With each chapter being almost it's own story, it's wonderful how the characters can still be shown to evolve and grow, and how the different pieces fit into place.  With an amazing series of artists, wonderful character designs, and some tight writing, Spinnerette is not just another parody of superhero comics, but an actual one that takes full advantage of the genre and reminds readers why superheroes were so popular for so long.  For this, Spinnerette wins Best Shortform Comic of 2015

Winner:  Spinnerette

------------------------------------------------

Best Longform Comic

The fantasy epic has been done many, many times, so creating one that can stand out is a feat unto itself.  Oliver Kn√∂rzer and Puri Andini succeeded in doing this with Gaia.  The world created is both intricate and flexible, and the story, while only really just beginning, demands the reader's attention.  While epic events are happening, the story manages to keep the focus on the small group of heroes and their actions, but it's clear their roles in these events will only become greater as time goes on.  The art is great, and sharp, the action clear, and the writing crisp, even if it feels a little long in the tooth sometimes.  Gaia is a comic and story set for the long haul and likely will be updating for quite sometime.  To this end, Gaia is awarded Best Longform Comic of 215.

Winner:  Gaia

------------------------------------------------

Best Cast

Few comic allow more than one or two characters to get really good development, and much of this is due to time.  There's never enough strips to cover every character, their strengths and weaknesses, and what makes them who they are.  Then there are comics like Pete Abrams' Sluggy Freelance whose 17+ years leaves MORE than enough room for development for not just the main cast of the comic, but several villains, side characters, and alternate versions of those characters.  With so many plots, it's often easy to forget that the characters drive the story forward, but Sluggy manages this that even with all it's failures, the characters are still appealing and wonderful.  Sluggy Freelance then wins Best Cast for 2015.

Winner:  Sluggy Freelance

------------------------------------------------

Best Character

Most of the first half of Ben Fleuter's Derelict has no dialog.  The comic's main character says nothing for the vast majority of the strip even after that.  In fact, her name, Dang Thu Mai, isn't revealed until more than a hundred pages into the comic.  And yet, the reader really comes to know and understand who she is without even noticing.  Her few words and actions do more to build her as a person than any string of shared dialog.  She's not all around great, or a hero, she's full of flaws and fears, but she's also brave enough to go where she probably shouldn't.  There is so much more to her than a name and a few streaks of green in her hair, making Dang Thu Mai the recipient of the Best Character award for 2015.

Winner:  Dang Thu Mai from Derelict

------------------------------------------------

Best New Comic

Just because a comic is new, does not mean the comic is the first product of the artist.  Minna Sundberg's Stand Still, Stay Slient is not her first foray into webcomics, and it shows.  From her disciplined update schedule, a shocking 5 days a week for such large pages, to the amazing art and wonderful story telling, SSSS has all the trappings of a long running, mature comic, despite being only a bit over one year old.  It's clear that this comic, it's story, it's mysteries, it's characters and it's world are destined to stick around for a long time to come.  Thus Stand Still, Stay Silent is Best New Comic for 2015.


------------------------------------------------

Best Completed Comic

Webcomics can end, and while many do seem to go on forever, many more are designed to end, with a story arc that demands an ending at some point.  As the first recipent of this award, Jon Kilgannon and Mark Sachs A Miracle of Science was chosen because it is a complete story, and was meant to be one.  The story is rather small, not an epic tale that could change the course of history, but a simple detective story, with a love interest on the side.  It manages to balance the harder science fiction with the more fanciful, play with psychology and memes and still have the main characters get together in the end.  It's a remarkable tale and one that deserves to be read which earns it the Best Completed Comic of 2015 award.


------------------------------------------------

Best Overall Comic

Selecting a Best Overall Comic for any particular award period is always difficult because all the comics that win, or are even nominated, should be considered.  At the same time, simply excelling in one field or another is not enough.  With good to great art must come good to great characters, good to great story and good to great humor where applicable.  This is difficult for any single comic to achieve, and yet there is always more than a few that succeed.  This time, I have selected a comic that has done all of the above and more, and that comic is. . .

Tom Siddell's Gunnerkrigg Court.  Tom's story of a strange school on the edge of a forest is definetly one of the best comics currently updating on the web today.  It creates a wonderful world, an enduring mystery, and an amazing cast that it is almost impossible to read webcomics today without it being mentioned amongst the greats.  It captures what is great about webcomic, their evolution and scope, and encourages the reader to come back again and again.  To call Gunnerkrigg Court anything less than great is a mistake, and it more than deserves the title of Best Overall for 2015.


------------------------------------------------

Thank you for read and congratulations to all the winners and nominees.  I encourage everyone to read every nominee and I'll see you next week.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Wild Webcomic Quasi Awards Nominations

Once again I am back with the Wild Webcomic Quasi-Awards.  The goal of these awards is recognize comics for their achievements in a wide array of categories.  Each nominee for their award category should represent their category at their best.  As I am the lone judge and nominator of these awards, these are my opinions based on the comics I have read and reviewed as part of this blog.  On to the nominees.

Best Black and White Art - Nominees should express great use of line, form, shape and shading using a mostly monotone pallet on a consistent basis.

Dead Winter - Zombies and the people struggling against them rarely look as good as they do in this well drawn piece whose world's only hint of color is a dash of red and a dream here and there.
Deep Fried's Weapon Brown - The post-apocalyptic Sunday funnies is dark, gritty and gorgeous.  Though it revels in the violence of the world, it also does so with detail rarely seen in most comics.
Little Guardians - The imaginative monsters that inhabit the strange world of the guardians and the human characters that struggle against their natures and destinies make this comic one of best drawn comics out there.

Best Color Art - Nominees should express great use of line, form and hue using a multi-color pallet on a consistant basis.

Sunstone (NSFW) - This absolutely gorgeous comic about love and bondage started life as a series of pinups and has only become more beautiful as time as gone on.
Romantically Apocalyptic - The photo realistic artwork of this comic is second to none and the bizarre events and characters that inhabit it are almost beyond amazing.
The Demon Archives - Soldiers in identical battle armor might seem easy to draw, but to make each stand out and create a story using those same looking characters might be one of the greatest feats one can imagine in art.

Best Gag Comic - Nominees should express excellent use of timing, word play and humor within a single strip or page on a consistent basis.

The Non-Adventures of Wonderella - She's not a hero, but not a villain either, and her non-adventures usually result in more damage than any villain can ever hope to do.  And yet, she still hasn't caught that leprechaun.
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - While some jokes are more "intellectual" than others, the basis is that humans can screw up just about anything if we put or minds to it, or not.
Chainsawsuit - Sometimes a random joke is all that's needed.  There's no rhyme or reason to it, no high minded idea, and no hero to poke fun at, just random events that are too silly to pass up.

Best Shortform Comic - Nominees should be able to tell coherent and independent stories based around a small cast or idea without requiring an overarching plan or story to the comic as a whole.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja - He's a doctor, a ninja and Irish and these are his adventures.  They're silly, over the top and often don't make a lick of sense in the long run.  Well, as long as they don't deal with King Radical.
Aptitude Test - While the story started as a simple one shot tale of a test, the ongoing short stories continue the fact that the real test is life, and a multiple choice test can only hint at person's true potential.
Spinnerette - With superhero comics either becoming pale imitations of their former selves, selling out to big media or simply dying off, it's great to find one comic that makes an honest shot at telling classic heroic tales.

Best Longform Comic - Nominees should be able to tell a coherent and consistent story over a long period following a character or cast from the first strip to an eventual last strip in an interesting and engaging way.

Girl Genius - One day, her locket broke, since then Agatha has been on a quest to claim her heritage from those who fear it, those who desire it, and those who would like nothing more than to destroy it in a world where mad science is the norm.
Gaia - A group of friends finally graduate from school, amongst the best in their class, only to have things go horribly wrong.  Through making new allies and friends, a greater adventure awaits all of them and it will take all they have and know to make it through.
What Birds Know - It was just a school project, but when three friends head into the woods what they found was a history they never knew and a fire looking for a lone spark to rise again.

Best Cast - Nominees should have a cohesive cast of characters who support and build each other in ways that make each essential to the other and creating a great whole from the sum of their parts.

Sluggy Freelance - For 17 years the ever expanding cast of Sluggy Freelance has grown, but in numbers and personally into a memorable group where no one character ever stands completely above the others.
Dumbing of Age - A kind of rehash of previous comics, the various characters from four different comics are brought together to tell a new story with fresh eyes.
Bohemian Nights - When a group of twenty-something friends get together, wild parties and drinking contests occur, but they only get a few hours to play before returning to their dreary lives and planning the next meeting.

Best Character - Nominees should be a single character that stands out from the rest of the cast with a strong personality, history or story, but also one that drives the story through their actions.

J. Thomas Blackwell from Between Failures - Though manipulative, Thomas spends his time trying to bring together his crew of retail workers to make them a stronger team, and better friends, even while he deals with his own demons he can't quite control.
Alison Green from Strong Female Protagonist - She started a revolution by taking of her mask, and now seeks to save the world without fighting a supervillain, a task more daunting than any she has ever faced before.
Dang Thu Mai from Derelict - A survivor in a world destroyed by disaster, Dang isn't some gun ho hero or ruthless monster, but a normal person struggling with her own fears and insecurities in the face of survival.

Best New Comic - Nominees should show general excellence in the creation and publication of a new webcomic starting between now and the previous nomination announcement.

Stand Still, Stay Silent - The end of the world wasn't the end of humanity, and the plaque that killed billions was only the start of the world's troubles.  Now a small group seeks long lost knowledge in the world that was.
Blindsprings - A lost princess who finally returns home hundreds of years later.  A group of persecuted magic users.  A collection of spirits who want to make a deal.  The truth of this world is slowly coming to light in this fantasy tale.
Subhuman Sanctum - A chance encounter turns a boy's life upside down, but while this new world beacons him onward, old obligations rear their head and the question of whether to follow a new way or stay with the old becomes the center piece of this comic.

Best Completed Comic - Nominees should be naturally completed comics that stand out as great pieces of fiction and art.

Errant Story - This epic fantasy tale continues to hold the standard for long pieces of webcomic fiction and stands as the artists current masterpiece.
Miracle of Science - A science fiction tale of love and mutual discovery that enthralls the reader in a wonderful world and amazing action.
Rice Boy - There are few worlds as creative and amazing as this and with a story that is epic and characters who are great.

Best Overall Comic - Nominees must show general excellence in the fields of art, writing and publication over the length of the comic's lifespan.

Derelict - A comic that hits every note of what great comics should strive for with interesting, realistic characters, great art, and an intriguing world.
Gunnerkrigg Court - The continuing story of a school on the edge of magic and science and how the two collide and interact remains one of the standards webcomics are held to.
Gaia - This epic fantasy comic picks up the torch set down by other great comics and stories and begins a new, exciting journey where the final goal is still a mystery, but it's coming up fast.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Return of the Quasi Awards

So once again I'm going to try my own version of a webcomic award.  Of course, since I'm the only one doing this, it shall be a Quasi-Award.  I will tap comics I have covered in this blog so don't expect any comics coming out of no where.  That said, there will be some changes to the awards this time around.  The core rules, however do not change:

1.) Comic can not have previously won in the given category.  Comics also cannot win more than one award per award event.

2.) Comic nomination must be for the award year period. Things like "best new comic" have to be within a very specific time frame, other comics can cover longer periods.

3.) Comic must be active for the length of the award year period, meaning the comic updated regularly over that time frame. Only exception might be a "completed comic" award, or "short comic" award.

4.) Comic must qualify for the given category. A color comic cannot be entered in the black and white category, for example.

5.) If a comic wins "Best Overall" it can't be nominated for another category ever again.  Unless it's a special "legacy" category.

With that out of the way, let's get to the changes.  First and foremost, I'm scrapping the Non-Traditonal Art category from last time.  No, I'm not doing it because I don't like the cateogry, I LOVE it, but I don't read any comics that fit it.  Hell, last time's winner, Lizzy, is dead and GONE in the form that won it the award.  Three of the others are dead/complete and the fourth I don't read.  If I pick some up in the next couple of years, I'll re-add the category, but until then, it'll be gone.

All is not lost however.  I've decided to add a category that I mentioned in those rules above, a Completed Comic category.  This will be for comics that have naturally completed their runs.  As long as an "end" is provided to the comic/story, then the comic will qualify, but if it's like Shadowgirls and just stopped, it won't.  This does mean that comics that qualify for Completed Comic will not be eligible for some of the other awards, specifically the story format (Shortform, Longform, Gag), but can qualify for art and character categories.

I'm also reducing the number of nominations from five to three.  As I have been thinking on how to expand the awards to multiple judges, three pre-nominations per judge, which is then whittled down to 5 actual nominations has become very appealing, and since I'm the lone judge, 3 is plenty.  It also means I have to make hard choices just for nominations.

Other than that, expect much the same as the last time.  Next week, the nominations for the 2015 Wild Webcomic Quasi-Awards!  Until then kiddies.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Year In Review Type Thing

Well it's the end of the year.  And what a year.

I do want to apologize for the many Nothing posts I've had this year.  11 over the course of the year (not counting a day I skipped Dreams of Stars).  I only have 37 for the entire run of the blog, so that feels like a lot more than it should have been.  But I've also been working, a lot, and making money again.  Good for my self esteem at the very least (and my bank account).  I still have the job, so I will likely miss more updates, but I'll make every effort to avoid it.

Despite this, I managed 4 batches of Reviews, adding 20 comics to the list.  Not bad as my highest was back in 2010 with 5 batches.  I do intend to keep adding more, I certainly have enough in the Future Read and Email Suggestion bookmark folders to do so for a long time to come.

I also posted some of my own work, and then promptly slacked off on it.  Yeah, I kept meaning to get back to posting My Stuff, but time to myself was in short supply.  When I did have free time, I played Star Trek Online, though there have been issues there.

I did complete another big series, Best Overall, which went NOTHING like I thought it would.  I expected it to be a kind of clone of The Standard, but instead of being about Sluggy Freelance, it would be about Schlock Mercenary.  Couldn't quite do that.  I also expected to be able to write the whole thing in a couple of days and have a month or so free.  That didn't work out either.  In fact, I was writing much of it long after I had re-read the various bits.  Came out alright, I think, but was still not as good as I wanted.

That said, there was a lot I did want to do, and didn't get to, including a Newspaper Comic review that I should have had done at the beginning of the year.  I blame much of it on the fact that I would have good ideas, at 3 am, while driving to work for 40 minutes.  By the time I got home, 10 hours later, it would all be forgotten, or I'd be too tired to write.  I'm working on a way to avoid that this year, but I make no promises.

Those plans should come to fruition starting next week.  I'm going to start the new year with a new tradition.  Last year I did my Can't Live Without series, but I'm keeping that once every two years, my tastes change at about that rate so it's worth the time.  Instead, I'll be bringing back the Wild Webcomic Quasi-Awards every other year.  There will be some minor changes, but I'll go through that next week.

After that, a Retrospective on Gunshow, whose last strip should be up by the time you read this.  Then, well, I'll leave that a secret for now.  Do know there will be more reviews, and I hope to get started on the next batch, um, today if I can.  There's a comic I've wanted to read and damn near did it last week, but the theme of it didn't quite match what I was looking for (and I nearly forgot about Bloodstain entirely, whoops).  Slight reminder to those submitting email requests:  Yes, I do check it, but if I don't reply it's mostly because I don't check it that often.  Also, I tend not to review comics that have paywalls in them because I want to share them with others, others who probably don't have money.  If it's obvious, no big loss, if it's hidden away, I get annoyed.  The comic has to be very special (Serenity Rose was partially paywalled for a while) to get around this rule.

In any case, I'm still here, still posting and will do so for as long as I'm able.  Until next time kiddies, and happy new year.