Monthly Archives: November 2008

Joy of Webcomics: Deep-Fried Turkey Edition

Brad Guigar's puns.

Reason #48 to be thankful: Brad Guigar's puns.

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone stateside! Time to spend time with the family, either reflecting what you’re thankful for or dreading the simmering resentment, and settling down for the all-day Chowder marathon on Cartoon Network.

So before we engorge ourselves on massive amounts of turkey so we don’t have to be conscious during the Lions-Titans game, here’s some webcomic reviews and articles that might be of great interest:

Andrew Hickey reviews Achewood‘s Great Outdoor Fight: Mr. Hickey is well grounded in the language of traditional print comic, so it’s quite interesting to see him compare Achewood to some of Dave Sims’ works.

Xaviar Xerexes interviews Nicole Chartland of Fey Winds
: This is a very genial interview that managed to get me excited about reading Fey Winds (and derailing my planned review schedule). The art, she is eye-catching. Expect a review for the manga-esque humor fantasy up this week or the next.

John from “This Was All A Bad Idea” Takes A Look at FreakAngels: Again, another insightful review from a writer who seems to have a strong familiarity with traditional comics. Something that lends well to a comic written by Warren Ellis, who’s got a rep among the print crowd. (And if you’ve thrown your lot with the non-electron crowd, here’s Gary Tyrrell’s impression of the print FreakAngels.)

Lore Sjoberg’s Alt Text: You know, I’ve been bummed for a while that internet personality and part-time webcomic guy Lore Sjoberg is no longer writing articles for Wired. Partially because he’s the same guy that said three years ago: “it’s not that hard to get professional work as a writer if you have the chops.” Sigh. At least he has his videos. By they way, check out this classic oldie where he comments on Scott McCloud’s theory about charging for online content.

Reconstructing Comics: Haven’t had enough of webcomics that make fun of other webcomics, eh? Get your bad self down to Reconstructing Comics for your curmudgeonly fix! (Hasn’t updated this month, sadly.)

Comic-themed ladies’ wear: Not sure what to get your comic lovin’ lady love this Black Friday? How about you surprise her with these sweet-ass togs! (OK, so this item is not really webcomics related, but it was too good to pass up. Also, Wonder Woman swag.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Webcomic Overlook #59: Sarah Zero

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“Pretentiousness” is a criticism that gets tossed about a lot, and most of the time I think it’s undeserved. Those blue peas in The Aviator, for example, is often called out as pretentiousness on Scorcese’s part, but when you think about it, it really didn’t derail the movie.

However, that doesn’t mean that pretentiousness does not exist. Take the case of Marina Abramović, the self proclaimed “grandmother of perfomance art.” Wikipedia has a good overview of one of her most famous pieces, entitled “Rhythm 0″:

Abramović had placed upon a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were scissors, a knife, a whip, and, most notoriously, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions. Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained impassive) several people began to act quite aggressively. As Abramović described it later: “The experience I learned was that…if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed.” … “I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.”

To which most of us would respond with, “Well, DUH.”

Seriously, what did she expect? I mean, you stand like a mannequin, you give people a bunch of objects … are you telling me that you never expected people would try to do things to get a rise out of you? And her conclusion was some trite little moral like “if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed”? Bull. I guess when I put on a mask to scare my wife when she’s reading a book, I’m really trying to say that “left to their own devices, humans will spread fear and malcontentedness.” Sorry, grandma. The only moral I got from “Rhythm 0″ is that performance artists are pretentious little drama queens who treat the most obvious observations about life as some sort of mind-blowing epiphany.

That said, today’s subject is about as close a webcomic can get to performance art. Surprisingly, the webcomic also has “0″ in its title: Sarah Zero, written and illustrated by someone calling himself “Ace Plughead.” (Isn’t that what Boris was always saying in GoldenEye?) Readers may be relieved by the break from my recent string of black-and-white webcomic reviews. Color! Finally! Just a word to the wise: there’s a very good chance that, by the end of this review, you’re going to hate the color red.

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Neal Stephenson vs. xkcd

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The sci-fi author Neal Stephenson was recently interviewed by the AV Club. Interestingly, one of the questions asked was what he thought of a certain criticism directed at him from Randall Monroe’s xkcd:

AVC: Speaking of made-up words, did you see the xkcd strip about the book, or any of the subsequent discussions online?

NS: I saw the strip, but not the discussions. Note that the dependent variable in the graph is “probability that the book will be good” and not “quality of book,” which means that I still have some statistical chance of writing a good book even if it’s full of neologisms.

I’m alternately baffled and intrigued by all of the attention that has been paid to the made-up words in Anathem, since it seems to me that it doesn’t have a hell of a lot more such words than most other fantasy and science-fiction books. To me, it’s always been a normal part of reading F/SF that one encounters unfamiliar words and learns their meaning as the book goes on. Every kid in the world knows the meanings of “horcrux,” “wizengamot,” etc. Right now I’m reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, which is stuffed with made-up words. So when I see discussion of neologisms in Anathem, I find myself considering a couple of hypotheses:

1) Maybe Anathem is being read by a lot of people who are not in the habit of reading fantasy and science fiction and who simply aren’t accustomed to encountering neologisms in literature.

2) Maybe it’s just another example of shortened attention spans. People don’t have time to read. This is not me criticizing others—I’m exhibit A of someone who doesn’t have time to read! Only reluctantly do they pick up a book as fat as Anathem. When they find it has new words in it, they get even more impatient.

But those are just guesses. For me, it is still something of a mystery as to why people are so preoccupied with this. Maybe I’m just underestimating the difficulty of figuring these things out from context. My own tastes run toward the “just let me figure it out” end of the spectrum. The alternative is big chunks of naked exposition.

Popular authors being asked about what they thought of a webcomic? Whether you love or hate Randall Monroe, you got to admit this is one hell of an achievement (from both the standpoint of both a critic and a webcomic observer).

Incidentally, the subject of made-up words is going to be addressed in the next Webcomic Overlook review. I’ll let you ponder for a few minutes to guess which webcomic I’ll be reviewing next.

Paper Zuda

Do you love the content of Zuda Comics but are tired of the website and its stupid, stupid load times … even if you have the fastest computer on the market? Fear not, heroes and fans of flipping through pages. Wired reports that Zuda, like its cousins DC and Vertigo, is coming to print.

The first plucky artist to get lucky is Jeremy Love, whose magically realistic Bayou, will be released in wide format as Zuda’s first print edition in June 2009. Bayou, which tackles racism and violence in 1930s Mississippi, is as hypnotic as it is unsettling.

That will be followed in October 2009 by David Gallaher and Steve Ellis’ High Moon (reviewed here), a Civil War-themed fever dream about werewolves, which is slated to become Zuda’s sophomore crossover.

I guess this is a good time to remind readers that Dark Horse already publishes its online forays in MySpace Dark Horse Presents (Volume One is currently available on Amazon, and Volume Two is on the way). Need I remind you that this collection includes Joss Whedon’s Eisner Award-winning entry, SugarShock! (reviewed on ComixTalk here)?

(thanks to Publisher’s Weekly for the heads up)

The Webcomic Overlook #58: Pug Davis

Pugs are awesome.

I’ve never owned a pet, partly because my wife is terribly allergic to anything with fur, but mainly because I’m lazy. Terminally lazy. I’d probably forget to feed them from weeks, then the proper authorities would be called, and then members of PETA would probably spit on me too and from my car. It would not be a pretty scene.

However, if I were ever to own a dog, I’d want a pug. Those little dudes are alternatively grotesque and fun-loving, embodying the “small tough guy with a heart of gold” aura that inspires animators from Warner Brothers to complete the look with a saucy bowler hat. Pugs always seem happy (“comedians of the dog world,” says Wikipedia), what with their big-ass grin, wrinkly upturned eyebrows, and big bulgy eyes that just seem to say, “Everything’s going to be OK, mac.” (Needless to say, they all have Brooklyn accents.) Pugs never fail to put a smile up on my face.

Which is why I was excited to hear about a comic named Pug Davis. That title’s got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Like he should be an NBA point guard playing alongside the likes of Charles Barkley and Mugsy Bogues. But, no, Pug Davis is a sci-fi story about a Buck Rogers-like hero who’s got the face of … you guessed it … a pug.

This review will feature some mature discussions, so parents be warned. Pug Davis itself, though, is mostly clean, though there are some scenes that tend to cross into the PG-13 territory.

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The 2008 Weblog Awards!

Man, I am so late to the game. This site is, like, belated news central, man.

Last week, the Weblog Awards opened up nominations for 2008 in several categories: Best Blog, Best New Blog, Best Political Blog (conservative and liberal), and … ta ta ta dah … Best Comic Strip! It seems to be a fairly major organization, with a half-a-million votes cast last year.

Previous winners to the fairly new Best Comic Strip category include xkcd (2007) and Least I Could Do (2006). In my opinion, there are many, many more webcomics out there that could easily win this category.

Do your part and nominate your favorite! Have your favorite webcomic share company with the likes of Instapundit (2007′s Best Individual Blogger), Gilbert Arenas (2007′s Best Celebrity Blogger), and The DailyKos (2006′s Best Blog). If anything, it’s probably legitimate validation compared to the several webcomic-related “awards” floating out there.

Finalists are expected to be announced early December.

Nominate your favorite comic strip here!

The Webcomic Overlook #57: Sore Thumbs

My fellow Americans, our long national election is over. Now that we’re a week past Election Day, it’s time to spend some time reflecting on the past year and ask the hard questions. Such as: Why is the Washington Redskins game before the election (win: Republicans take office; lose: Democrats) the best political predictor ever, boasting a 94% success rate? Who are these people who still display “Kuninich for President” and “Ron Paul ’08″ bumper stickers? And, most importantly, was there any point in the Obama and McCain campaigns where things would devolve to the point where the next present would be decided by three rounds in the steel Octagon?

I mean, take a look a one of the most brutal elections of all time, the 1828 election pitting incumbent John Quincy Adams against war hero Andrew Jackson. You had the Jackson camp claim that Adams struck a corrupt deal in the first election, turned the White House into a casino, and was pimping out women to foreign dignitaries. The Adams camp shot back that Jackson was a brutal, bloodthirsty killer who went beyond his duties on the battlefield and portrayed Jackson’s wife as a bigamist. Given Jackson’s love for shooting and Adams’ love for skinny-dipping, it’s not too unreasonable to believe that if that election were to last just a wee bit longer, we would be reading in our history books about the first election decided by naked underwater dueling. (Which, incidentally, would make an awesome T-shirt for fratboys.)

Sad to say, when you look back at Election 2008, you might notice that Obama and McCain were highly cordial toward each other. Those dudes were all smiles and respect and preemptively shutting down unfair critics in public forums. Seriously, that episode where the two were Ocean’s 11-like thieves working together to steal the Hope Diamond? Not that implausible. Maybe it’s because the two senators are, in essence, coworkers. I’m guessing they work out a lot of their personal issues over a game of Parcheesi during lunch breaks at the Senate cafeteria.

But another big part of it is that both candidates seem to have outsourced all of the controversial negativity to the internet. Why spend millions of dollars and a strategy that could potentially backfire when you can just sit back and let an army of bloggers do the dirty work?

Since this site is about webcomics, though, protocol sorta demands that I tie this in somehow. Unfortunately, I can’t. There are several politically-themed webcomics online, but I can’t say that any of them are what you would call “influential.” No, not even you, Stephanie MacMillan. Which is sad, because political cartoons are far from being irrelevant. Remember the furor that broke out when the cartoon of Obama as a terrorist graced the cover of the New Yorker? Imagine the awesomeness if that controversy had broke online! Unfortunately, nastiness is par for the course on the internet, and a particularly scathing cartoon is just one among many.

The subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook, Sore Thumbs, is one such political webcomic. This is arguably the flagship title of the formidable Keenspot group. Sore Thumbs merges the political comic with two already familiar webcomic standards: the gaming comic and the roommate comic. Can this odd amalgam repair false comic divisions, like the incoming administration promises to heal the partisan agendas that are dividing our country? (Incidentally, if staring at the computer screen causes you uncomfortable neck strain, Sore Thumbs is also available in print … though only one volume seems to be available on Amazon at this time.)

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The Webcomic Overlook #56: Ménage à 3

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Welcome back to the show that never ends! The Webcomic Overlook is back from its month-long, wedding-driven hiatus to bring you the what-for in webcomics opinionating. Now that I’m back from getting married, honeymooning, and all that jazz, what should we talk about? She we cover a political webcomic in honor of our new president-elect? Should I cover yet another video game webcomic? Or perhaps a video game webcomic that dabbles in politics? I’ll cover those eventually. But today, I’ll cover a subject that’s first and foremost in the hearts of every American man. Yes, I’m talking about sex.

(Hint to parents: you might want to push your kids toward some sanitized fare for this one.)

Ah yes, sex. Some have claimed that there are studies that show men think about sex every fifteen minutes. To which I say, hogwash! How does one even conduct a study like that, anyway? Do they lock up a guy in a room and ask him, every fifteen minutes, if he was thinking about sex? And if that’s how the study was done, wouldn’t the man have no choice but to think about sex, especially if the question was delivered by a nurse in a peek-a-bo outfit? Look, if I’m reading an article out of “The Economist,” you can bet I’m not thinking about whoopie every fifteen minutes. I’m more likely to be thinking about the ramifications of the Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson trade. Thus, I suspect that this particular nugget of knowledge is entirely bogus and was created by the fine people behind “Redbook” or “Mademoiselle” to sell extra copies.

Anyway, it’s impossible to read the subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook without thinking about sex every fifteen seconds. The comic stars a geeky, down-on-his-luck loser who shares his apartment with a sassy brunette and a giggly blonde. The comic version of “Three’s Company”? Close. Today, the Webcomic Overlook reviews Ménage à 3. (But really, the “Three’s Company” analogy is not too far off. There’s even a grumpy landlady.)

I feel it’s due diligence to reveal that the comic does, in fact, feature several scenes with frontal nudity, a scene or two of R-rated non-political congress, and a heaping spoonful of dirty sex talk. Thus, like the creators, I must warn you that Ménage à 3 is for readers 16-years-old.

According to the Keenspot blurb, the comic — created by Gisèle Lagacé and Dave Zero1 (which I suspect is not his real name) — “follows the lives of comic book geek Gary and his way-sexier-than-he-is roommates in their Montreal tight-as-a-sandwich apartment where the walls are so thin there are virtually no barriers between their rooms.” Oh la la! Sounds like quite an opportunity for a little je ne sais quoi, non? Also nekkidness. Copious amounts of nekkidness that somehow involve sandwiches.

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