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.

Friday, May 1, 2015

No, I didn't get that article done

As much as I wanted to get my rantish article on cast pages done, the last couple of weeks has been, um, brutal at work.  So nothing this week, sorry.  Hopefully I'll get it done for next week.  Until then.