Monthly Archives: April 2008
There is no creature in the world more terrifying than the zebra.
Although illustrations are not as accurate as photographs, they can provide a window into the artist’s psyche. For example, this illustration from the 19th Century proves that zebras inspire the sort of fear that consume a man’s soul. Look at that deathly grimace. Those ominous black and white stripes. Those murderous eyes. Is it any wonder than the noble lion, long considered a symbol of goodness and honor, devotes its life in the futile quest to hunt down these monstrosities of nature?
If you needed any further proof of the vileness of these creatures, look no further than the quagga. (Notice the name sounds like some sort of forbidding Babylonian deity.) What is a quagga? It’s a species of zebra that went extinct in the 19th century. So like the dinosaurs, dodos, and sabretooth tigers of yore, quaggas were relegated to dusty zoological books. Or… was it? In the 1980′s, after some geneticists started playing around with quagga DNA, the creature was reborn. A species that had been wiped out from this world, but now brought back to life — resurrected, if you will, be science? Nothing about this sounds slightly bizarre?
The spirit of the zebra lives on, too, in the subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook. Despite its name, the long-running webcomic named Zebra Girl does not actually feature zebras. It does, however, feature an adequate and slightly less fearsome alternative: demons.
For today’s One Punch Review, let’s take a look at something relatively kid friendly. Parents should first sit their kids down, though, and tell them that picking their scabs and opening their wounds won’t give them the power to summon butterflies. It sounds silly, I know. I respect the intelligence of children. Back in the day, though, when kids were crawling around smelly poop-infested sewers to be like a Ninja Turtle, I realized that you just cannot underestimate the power of a child’s imagination.
After you’ve had that talk, though, go ahead and lead them to Kelly Hamilton’s lush fantasy webcomic, Roza.
It’s fun to follow what movie monsters are currently tapping the cultural zeitgeist. Back in the 90′s everyone was ga-ga over vampires. Anne Rice was churning out novels on a regular basis, Bram Stoker’s Dracula was one of the most anticipated movies, Gangrel and the Brood were appearing out of flaming circles in the WWF, Sarah Michelle Gellar won the hearts of America with her vampire-hunting ways, and Wesley Snipes was just getting his fangs fitted for his first Blade movie. In recent years, though, vampires haven’t done much to capture the nation’s imagination outside of the latest Kate Beckinsdale movie. I blame this precipitous fall in stature on overly serious goth kids and the existence of actual vampire cultists who really do drink human blood … which, let’s face it, is totally gross.
No, in 2000, it’s all about the zombies! They’re like the party-hearty alternative to the even mopey vampires … not unlike how, in the world of Trekkies, the more sociable fans dress up as Klingons rather than as the stuffy and austere Federation officers. Vampires are always writing sad, tear-stained poetry about guilt over their bloodlust. Zombies, on the other hand, are pure id, chomping on flesh with gleeful abandon. Putting a vampire on a gameshow is rather confusing and probably a Christ allegory; chained up zombies on a gameshow where they chase fresh meat (as seen on Shawn of the Dead) … that’s comedy gold, baby! And, as Michael Jackson proved, zombies are kickass dancers.
Even I have not been immune to the charms of these gentle reanimated corpses. I’ve enjoyed both the new Dawn of the Dead movie and, paradoxically, the laughably awful House of the Dead, directed by the notoriously awful Uwe Boll. I even liked I Am Legend, which was basically a sanitized zombie movie for the masses. I’ve been both a zombie minion and a hapless survivor in the free online text-based MMORPG Urban Dead (which, by the way, inspired a short but fairly decent webcomic called Necrophobic). There’s even a movie about zombie strippers which .. well, honestly, would get me kicked out of the house if I ever rented it, but it’s OUT THERE PEOPLE!
So what culturally precipitated this shift of affection from vampires to zombies? I’ll leave it up to CNN and Fox News to speculate whether or not it’s a reaction to fears and anxieties stirred up by 9/11. My own absolutely unsupported analysis is summed up by pretty much the same answer I give to explain any youth-centered phenomena in our current decade: video games. Specifically, first-person shooters. We like to have plenty of faceless bad guys to mow down without worrying about whether or not we were committing murder. And which monsters are more faceless than zombies? Vampires are generally depicted as intellectual equals. On the other hand, zombies are already dead and are more animal than human. Time to turn off your conscience and fire up that rail gun!
This theory of mine, soon to be published in reputable scientific periodicals under the name “The El Santo Awesome Theory of How Everything Works,” is put to test in the subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook: Jenny Romanchuk’s take on the zombie apocalypse, The Zombie Hunters.
My review of Sarah Ellerton’s mystical Victorian era webcomic, The Phoenix Requiem, is now up on ComixTalk. It’s about a mysterious stranger who stumbles into an idyllic village and the pretty doctor who fixes him up. If you want the short version, I thought the illustrations were absolutely stunning, but the storytelling aspect was rather slow and unrealistic … and I’m not talking about the part where the people’s faces fall apart.
Welcome back to the Webcomic Overlook! After a longer-than-expected hiatus — where I traveled across the country, went to the final Sonics game, injured my foot, and wined and dined like there was no tomorrow — it’s time I plunge myself into the weird, wonderful world of digital comics.
But first, let’s talk about anime.
In today’s Saturday Adult Swim world — where blonde haired ninjas dress up in orange jumpsuits, squiggly-shaped characters do battle at the bidding of their trainers, and guys with spiky hair scream real loud and spend some ninety episodes beating the crap out of each other — it’s easy to forget that there was a much smaller but very devoted anime fanbase in the 1980′s. Now, I personally wasn’t part of this fanbase. I cut my teeth a decade later when I watched a little series about where a boy turns into a girl with a splash of cold water. I also made the mistake telling a girl in college all about it with naive, unbridled enthusiasm. (Her piercing accusing eyes … they still penetrate my soul.)
There was a time, though, when anime was filled with space-faring adventures, huge plasma rifles, men who piloted transforming robots, ominous spaceships, and women whose hair looked impossibly shellacked. In short, a time when all anime was pretty much influenced by Star Wars. Robotech is the most famous of these cartoons. There were many, many more, though.
Which brings me to the subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook: Alpha Shade, which looks and feels inspired by those 1980′s sci-fi anime.
Okay, so I had originally planned a two week hiatus, but it turned out to be longer. Here’s the funny thing: it turns out that you can actually be busier on Spring Break than you are on regular working days. Lots of spring cleaning, planning, and what not. Plus, I had this terrible foot injury. Doesn’t sound like it should affect my writing, should it? Except that it takes five times longer to do regular things, like going out and getting groceries, then it does when you have two feet.
Enough of the excuses! I’ll be back sometime later this week with an actual review. Right now, I’m still taking it a little easy. Kicking back, resting my foot, popping the extra-strength Ibuprofen … you know, the life.
Still, there was a piece of webcomic news that broke last week I couldn’t ignore, mainly because it concerned a character that I felt got an awfully raw deal.
On his blog, John Allison (Scary Go Round) mentioned that there was one character that he was never, ever going to bring back. That character was none other than Shelley Winters’ mousy little sister, Erin Winters.
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It’s always a little jarring to encounter a webcomics online that look so gosh-darned traditional. I’m talking about the kind that look like they’re continuations of series that were conceived in the time between the 50′s and 70′s, and either the original artist has continued to illustrate the strip in his old age, or the strip has been taken over by his successors. You get that vibe from strips done in an old school style like Evil Inc., Thorn, and today’s subject, Much the Miller’s Son.
I know I’ve been very hard on a certain webcomic. I’ve been trashing it every chance I’ve gotten. I’ve called it a glorified caption contest. I’ve lampooned its readers as lonely middle-aged women whose houses reek with the mixture of potpourri, yarn, kitty litter, and fancy feasts. But there’s no denying that, according to some people, it’s the world’s most popular webcomic.
What kind of site would this be if it didn’t cover the big guns? That would be like Sporting News refusing to cover the New England Patriots, or the CNN/MSNBC/Fox News trifecta exclusively covering that darling young upstart, Ron Paul. It’s the type of lax coverage that would cause people to snicker and snort and say things like, “That El Santo fellow is fine reviewer, but he’s no serious reviewer at all. What a lark! I shall take my business elsewhere, what say to that jovial Websnark fellow. Tally-ho!”
Needless to say, that is a scenario will haunt me to my dying day until I put my foot down and rectify the situation immediately. That’s right, it’s time I take a serious look at the online sensation that sweeping the nation — nay, the world — I Can Has Cheezburger?