Monthly Archives: February 2009
I do not envy newspaper comic strip writers. With their seven day a week schedule, they’re expected to be funny 365 days a year. Man, I have a hard time being funny for 30 minutes. You have to work within the narrow, profit generating constraints of the funny page format, which severely limits artistic freedom. If you fail, your hard work gets mocked cruelly online by a bearded weirdo who lost on Jeopardy. And if you somehow get the luxury of retiring, you’ll be lucky of your spouse didn’t run off with your pretty, young apprentice.
Should short form webcomics follow the same rigorous schedule as their print counterparts? Some folks think so, like Pete Abrams of Sluggy Freelance and Dave Kellett of Sheldon Comics. I think for the most part, though, webcomic creators have settled into a more relaxed schedule. It takes time for a lot of people to be funny. Why burden your flashes of comedic brilliance with mediocre gags?
Then again, what if we’re giving cartoonists too much time? What if they’re overthinking their gags to the point that they’re no longer funny?
Well, friends, there’s a webcomic out there that does both. Few other comics online have a higher hit-to-miss ratio than Nedroid’s Picture Diary. The comic is written and illustrated by Anthony Clark, who goes by the pseudonym “Nedroid.” Despite being featured on the college-humor site, Cracked.com, Nedroid is an all ages gag strip: both kids and adults will enjoy its pleasant humor.
I know folks are getting bummed out about how webcomics are being purged from Wikipedia over notability issues. However, webcomic artists already had a pretty decent wiki with Comixpedia.
Why is no one using it?
Comixpedia is a wiki that very few people seem to be updating. Is it lack of interest? I logged in earlier this week just to put a few pages up. There were no entries on ACT-I-VATE or Penny & Aggie artist Gisele Lagace, which seemed to be grievous oversights. Other comic entries haven’t been updated since, oh, 2007. Are there so few OCD’s in the webcomic community willing to devote their precious waking hours in creating webcomic entries? Look, if Lost fans and Star Wars fans and Homestar Runner fans can have their ridiculously obsessive wikis, so can we!
At the very least, the Comixpedia is a useful tool for webcomic creators looking for an easy way to write chapter synopses. Klio of SPQR Blues has been faithfully updating her wiki entry to spool up new fans. It’s a powerful tool, folks! Use it for good.
The world is going through a reverse Tower of Babel. Everyone’s speaking one language: English. And one of its victims is the once proud French music industry. An article in the Wall Street Journal, “France’s Lyrical Movement,” reveals that France — a country highly protective of its language — requires, by law, “that at least 40% of all songs played on radio or television are in French.” However, the French language seems to be losing ground. Musicians who want to be recognized globally and reach the largest audience possible know that they must perform in English.
In a nutshell:
The French debate over English lyrics is part of the country’s larger struggle with the forces of globalization—whether in the world of business or pop culture. There is the France that acknowledges English is now key to most successful business careers, and that introduces the language at ever-earlier stages in its educational system. And then there is the country that refuses to accept English as the language of international communication and forces companies and advertisers to translate every document and slogan into French.
What’s changed? Mainly, the internet. When people go looking for music, they don’t turn, exclusively, to the cultural microcosms of radio or TV anymore. The article mentions that, for the new generation of fans, “the favorite tune on their iPod playlist might have come from the band’s site on MySpace, a YouTube video or an MP3 from a friend’s memory stick.”
There are strong parallels between French musicians and comics. Comic choices, previously marginalized on the shelves of comic shops or in specialty magazines, are now subject to the global whims of an international fandom. With that advance comes with the same perils. We all need to communicate with each other, somehow. And the way to communicate to the largest audience?
But what does that mean from the standpoint of culture? If, as the French government believes, that French language is tied to French culture, does a foreign comic done in English mean a break from the home country’s culture? Will anecdotes by the local people just go over the heads of the audience in the New World Order?
Over at webcomics.com, Olaf Solstrand, a Norewegian webcomic creator posted an excellent piece where he pondered these issues. Can Norwegians get away with a joke about a children’s story that only fellow countrymen could get? He never really arrived at an answer. I suppose that right now non-English speaking webcomic creators are going to have to wing it, buffeted by the forces of Mother Econ.
The webcomic featured in this review, however, is one of the few that pulls the non-English to English transition rather successfully. Anders Loves Maria, by Rene Engström, is a Swedish webcomic that boasts a healthy audience in English speaking countries. Yet it is also ineffably Swedish, which is one of the comic’s greatest strengths.
Incidentally, this comic is about sex. It’s not exploitative, and sometimes it’s sweet. It does, however, contain various images of naughty bits and characters involved in intimate congress. So, dear reader, you would be safe to assume that each and every single one of the links in this post are not safe for work. Also, they’re probably something you don’t necessarily want your kids to peruse, so … not safe for the nursery as well.
So, only the most mature of ye venture below the cut!
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From the desk of El Santo, a.k.a. Captain Nihilist:
If you chased me down, trapped me in an abandoned wine cellar, tripped me with wire to land me in a hollowed out pit, flipped open your John Locke Limited Edition Victorinox Swiss Army Knife, and demanded of me, “What is the most important thing in you look for in webcomics?”, I’d have to reply: “The characters. Please put the knife away, you psycho.”
More than anything, characters keep a webcomic grounded. The comic may go through shifts in art style. The story may evolve from a horror story or a gaming comic to a teen romance or an office humor strip. But it you keep your characters true and engaging, I’m usually happy every step of the way. It makes the webcomic memorable, even if I’m grasping to remember certain plotlines. Print comics have been sticking by this principle for decades. This is why I know that I like a decent guy like Superman because he’s a great character … but hell if I know what he’s be up to in the last ten years.
So I decided to take some time to look at characters. This is aimed at both critics and webcomic creators. I’m going to be posting excerpts from one essay in particular, so all accusations of me being myopic are probably true. Folks looking for reviews might also enjoy reading it, as it will deepen your understanding. If not, come around next week for my take on a highly popular romance comic.
“OK, Captain Nihilist,” you sneer. “What in the heck makes a good character?”
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- Notorious webcomic creator Scott Kurtz, of the Eisner-Award winning PvP, will be hosting the Harvey Awards (h/t The Beat). Also, according to Comics Worth Reading), the Webcomics Weekly podcast was goofing on awards ceremonies this week. Interesting choice of MC, methinks. Are the Harveys trying to drive home the point that webcomics are rising in importance? Or were they simply charmed by Mr. Kurtz’s snarky yet comfortable speaking style? (Crazy mad trivia: not all comic professionals are good public speakers.)
To be honest with you, I don’t really follow the Harveys. Every time I hear it mentioned, I think it’s named after that invisible rabbit that Jimmy Stewart always talked to. Wikipedia says that, unlike the Eisners — which are voted on by a five-person panel — the Harveys are selected by an open vote among comics professionals. So it’s sorta like the SAG Awards to the Eisner’s Oscar. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about previous award winners in the “Best Online Comics Work” category:
- 2006 American Elf, by James Kochalka, http://www.americanelf.com
- 2007 The Perry Bible Fellowship, by Nicholas Gurewich, http://www.pbfcomics.com
OK, so I guess that’s a better selection than the Eisner’s, and Lord knows that PBF needed some sort of recognition. Still, meh.
- Dean Trippe (of Butterfly) and Evan Bryce decide to take a look at the current administration in their new webcomic, President Awesome. The press release says “President Awesome is a weekly political comic about President Barack Obama! Basically, it’s The Daily Show meets The Far Side, but you know, way better.” I don’t know how Daily Show you can be when you’re calling the comic President Awesome already. (h/t The Beat, again)
Of course, if you’re not too optimistic about the current presidency, cartoonists will oblige in gruesome ways.
- Meanwhile, the Floating Lightbulb takes a good look at the art of Winston Rountree’s Virus Comics. An excerpt:
Lost in my ranting is my real point: characters should have character. I tire of comics that pander to current ideals, and Winston doesn’t do this. He invents new ones. He can make your brain entertain sexual scenarios you never, ever considered (sometimes considered momentarily).
Also, are you telling me Winston’s not really a dude? Ya fooled me, Winston. YA FOOLED ME.
Abraham Lincoln. Whether or not you agree with his policies, Barack Obama made the right choice when he chose Abraham Lincoln as his role model. You can’t really say anything bad about a man who stuck by his principles so closely that he died for his country. Unless you’re some sort of Johnny Reb, you’d be hard-pressed to name anyone else who’d be regarded as the Greatest US President. The thing that doesn’t get mentioned often enough is that Mr. Lincoln was a wiry guy who, in his younger days, liked to wrestle on his free time. I’d like to think that the classic debates with Stephen Douglas were punctuated by an impromptu no-holds barred match.
Spider-Man. Peter Parker by day, crime-fighter by night. Friendly. Neighborhood. Friend of his Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, and the Human Torch. Enemy of Norman Osborn, The Shocker, and J. Jonah Jameson. Radioactive bug bites turn him into a superhero. Alien symbiotes turn him into a super emo. Recently, a deal with the devil effectively dissolved his marriage to wife Mary Jane, much to the confusion of everyone following along in the newspaper funnies section.
These two heroes, along with Captain America, are finally united in the Amazing Spider-Man: President’s Day Special. (Interestingly, this looks to be the Steve Rogers Captain America, who’s technically still dead. But then again, so is Lincoln, so who am I to talk?) In celebration of President’s Day, the comic is available free online at the Marvel Unlimited site. Yeah, it’s only a six page long story. The rest is a reprint of that over-hyped “Spider-Man meets President Obama” comic. From a comic standpoint, this is the equivalent of those cavity-fighter pamphlets you get at your dentist’s office. So why in the heck should I even give it a look?
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Happy Valentine’s Day!/200th Birthday of Lincoln/200th Birthday of Charles Darwin/Friday the 13th/my brother-in-law’s birthday. I’m pretty sure the sheer confluence of events have somehow caused the world to end, and I am typing this entry from a pocket dimension somewhere in the recesses of inner space. I mean, everything around me still looks the same … look, there’s my favorite mug! … but that’s how those higher-dimensional beings getcha. So it’s time to switch things up a bit. With the New York Comic Con going on, everyone’s talking superheroes.
- First up is a blog where comic artists draw alternate versions of superhero covers. Why not browse these sites tomorrow instead of moping around all day about how you don’t have a date? Of these, Eric Skillman’s Superman is my favorite. Very retro 70’s, And is it fair to include Fred Hembeck in these things? Drawing alternate superhero covers is practically his day job. (h/t to The Beat)
- Speaking of alternate versions of superheroes, now’s a good time as any to point you to Project: Rooftop, a site dedicated to drawing superheroes in new costumes. One of the editors of the site is Dean Trippe, creator of the aesthetically pleasing Butterfly webcomic (reviewed here). My favorite is probably the Wonder Woman collection. You’ve lassoed by my heart, Valentine!
- Continuing on the superhero theme, the Switched site reports that Marvel Comics announced, at the New York Comic Con, that it comics will be available for download at the iTunes store. They’re going to be in a format called “In-Motion,” which means that the panels will be animated. Plus, there’s going to be voice-over work from “popular actors” (whatever that means). I share my pessimism with the article: can the “In-Motion” comics, which you have to pay for, compete with the free comics available on the web? Especially since it’s geared toward the iPhone and iPod Touch, two devices that can hook up to the internet. I’m leaning toward no — but mainly because I think comics with voice-overs are uber-cheesy.
Still, it makes you wonder: where will readers of print comics go to when they start looking for content on the internet? The fans of current webcomics and fans of superheroes are not one and the same. (The Big Two faced a similar revelation not too long ago when they discovered that the fans of the red hot manga books weren’t necessarily fans of superheroes.)
- While we’re on the subject of Comic Con, The Wall Street Journal looks at why comics are still popular despite the rough economy. And why are newspapers reporting over lesbian Batwoman now? I thought that was old news. I happen to think most of the confusion is that folks think Batwoman is either Batgirl or Catwoman. (She’s neither, though you just know DC is exploiting the confusion.) Also, when my wife e-mailed me the story, she claimed that Batwoman was the first gay superhero. I had to shamefacedly tell her, “No. Actually, it was Northstar. From Marvel.” She smiled and said, “I just knew you’d know if this story was real or not.” That’s my Valentine! Beauty and the geek, we are. (And no, I’m not going to repeat Jack Nicholson’s line from the 1989 Batman movie. It was awesome and all, but Mrs. Santo will kill me.)
- And since yesterday was the 200th Birthday for both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln, why not party with the two righteous dudes down at Thinkin’ Lincoln (reviewed here)?