Monthly Archives: March 2009

Metapost: April break!

Time for the Webcomic Overlook to take a break again.

A piece of advice to all you unmarried types out there: the needs of the wife outnumber the needs of the blog. So when your significant other is feeling sick, stressed out, and suffering from anxiety attacks, her health comes first. Mr. and Mrs. Santo will be taking some vacation time over spring break to travel and just decompress. Hopefully I’ll be back by late-April/early-May. At that point, though, there’s family members from both sides (my sister, her brother, not to each other) who are hitching the knot between early-to-mid summer. In other words: busy, busy times up ahead. Reviews will probably be sporadic.

So, until I return, thanks to everyone who came by to read my webcomic reviews. WordPress says that I’ve been averaging 1,000+ page views per day over the last two months, and that’s a very big deal to me. Thanks, everyone, for reading and commenting, whether you agreed with my assessments or not… and whether you commented on my site or not. Special thanks for the creators who left kind words and/or rebuttals. I’ve been lucky to have some absolutely well-reasoned input this time around.

I also suggest you check out other review blogs in the meantime. They’re listed over in the right-hand toolbar. Or you could check out Bengo’s list at Psychadelic Treehouse.

Here are two excellent blogs that I haven’t really given much coverage on this site:

  • Webcomic Finds – a fantastic blog written by Ping Teo, who has a keen sense of adventure and an eye for what needs to be improved artwise.
  • Storming The Tower – a newish blog by “Elle Dee” that focuses mainly on webcomics that can best be described as having an “indie” look … but really, the selection is just as varied as what you’d find on this site.

I love both Ping and Elle Dee’s writing styles. These two are direct, knowledgeable, and oftentimes surprising. In one Webcomic Finds review, for example, Ping elaborated as to why Addanac City turned her off almost immediately by the site’s haphazard presentation. Over in Storming the Tower, Elle Dee discovered that Red String challenged her ill-will toward romance comics.

Oh, and Websnark should be back sometime soon.

So, just so you know, here’s my list of webcomics I’d planned on reviewing in the long run. Feel free to check ‘em out yourselves:

Word of warning though: four out of the five above titles have been in my queue since January. Gah. Stupid short-term memory! However, by posting them, I think I’ve written myself a contract to finally get down to writing them. Like they teach you in Dale Carnegie or some such. So there’s that.

Finally, two creators recently solicited a review for their webcomics. Usually I put those in the backburner, but their e-mails were so wonderful that I feel guilty not getting to them. It’s like I said way back before: you write me an enticing e-mail, and I’ll probably acknowledge it sooner rather than later.

I hope they don’t mind me sharing them with you.

The first is from Jose Oliver from Young Lovecraft:

¿Cómo estás? We´ve just started to publish our webcomic in English after its Spanish edition. It´s called Young Lovecraft and it´s about the childhood of the american horror writer H.P.Lovecraft. We play with the creatures of his Myths and tell what if they had been real entities that he met while he was just a kid. Our Lovecraft it´s not exactly like the real one, but we think our work is a nice homage from our love to him and his works.

Our Young Lovecraft has also a couple of friends that colour his life: Siouxie, a cute girl from Detroit, and Glenn, a ghoul that meets him and decides to stay in his house causing all kind of troubles.

To make a quick idea of it, we could say that it´s a cross between Tim Burton’s style and Calvin & Hobbes’ humor + Lovecraft Myths. Does it sound well? Hope it does…

Who can’t get behind that?

And the second is from Mike Gray of Clumsy Love:

I am just stating out and I am trying to get more readers…please let me know what you think!

More about myself, I am a self-employed animator, cartoonist, writer, comedian…you can see some of my work at the following links (including my 2 cartoons that premiered on Nicktoons this year)!

See? I’ve never seen either comic, but I’m champing at the bit to click on those links. Anyway, guys, I’m definitely keeping your stuff at the top of my queue when I get back.

Until next time, dear reader… Keep supporting your local webcomic!

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The Webcomic Overlook #75: Evil Diva

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Cripes, when did March become Girl Power Month at the Webcomic Overlook? First I reviewed Sister Claire, a gothic story about a young nun. Then I took a look at The Princess Planet, which was all about a treasure-hunting teen. And, last week, I posted my thoughts on Dawn of Time, starring a curious young girl who lives in the prehistoric world. And I started off the month interviewing T. Campbell, who is not a teen girl, but is best known for a comic about teen girls.

And yet, it’s not an unwelcome phenomenon in comicdom. Old school followers of print comic books know that you will hardly find a comic on the shelves starring a female protagonist. And those that do make it there are shamelessly cheesecake (or “good girl art,” if we go by the 50’s vernacular). Note to Marvel and DC: stuffing Sue Richards in a bikini with the number 4 cut out in the center to expose her cleavage is not the way to attract a female audience.

Fortunately, manga came along with its strong female stars. Young women were finally cracking open pamphlets and relating to the characters. The downside? Every girl portrayed in those books looked like jailbait. If you’ve got one of those books on you, you run the risk of being called out as a perv … like, ahem, my younger cousin did when she spotted the Love Hina collection on my bookshelves.

So thank you, webcomic creators, for being able to put together comics with female characters that don’t make me feel like a lonely Japanese businessman. There are several other great comics with female stars in addition to the ones I listed above: Gunnerkrigg Court (reviewed here) and Roza (reviewed here), to name a couple more. Give yourselves a hand for expanding the scope on the depth and variety of comics. It gives hope that, unlike the print counterparts, webcomics will be for both the girls and the boys.

So, appropriately, I will close out the month with yet another comic starring a teenage girl: Evil Diva, created by Pete Menotti, illustrated and written by Brinson Thieme, and inked by Honoel A. Ibardolaza. I’ll be referring to these three collectively as Team Diva, as Menotti/Thieme/Ibardolaza is ridiculously clunky to write repeatedly. Their webcomic is tale about a teenage girl who can be … a real hellion. (A ha ha… Tales from the Crypt writers, eat your hearts out!)

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Metapost: Don’t forget Emerald City ComiCon!

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I honestly don’t know how this snuck up on me. I probably wouldn’t have noticed until Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading mentioned it on her blog. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, mark your calendars for April 4 & 5 for Emerald City ComiCon!

It’s one of the smaller conventions, but that just means that you got a better chance to chat with your favorite creators, including Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content, the Halfpixel crew, Jim Valentino of Shadowline Comics, Frank Cho of Liberty Meadows, and friggin’ Rob Liefeld.

Now, I personally won’t be attending, since I tend to avoid comic conventions and I’ve got some family engagements that week-end. But don’t let that stop you from joining in on the fun! It’s also being held at the Washington State Convention Center, which, honestly, is one of the best facilities I’ve been to.

Two day tickets are $25.00, while single pass tickets are $15.00.

(Also, and this shouldn’t affect your decision in any way, but I was surprised to hear — recently on the Webcomics Weekly podcast — that the guy running the show is also the proprietor of the comic shop I most visit. It’s weird how people you meet have the most interesting back stories. Just down the way from that comic shop a few years back, I was at a Sleep Country where I met the guy who created the Heroes of Might & Magic video game series.)

Kleefeld: From Atlas Shrugged to webcomics

So what do Ayn Rand, AIG, and Marvel’s Secret Invasion have to do with webcomics? Let Sean Kleefeld (who has an MBA, I was surprised to find out) walk you through it:

I’ve always tended to be a bit more on the cynical side. Still hopeful, but cynical nonetheless. Lately, though, I’ve felt that cynicism growing more pronounced and I suspect it’s due to several factors. First, there’s news almost every day about some selfish bastard screwing over hundreds, if not thousands, of people for their own greedy purposes. AIG execs, Madoff, take your pick. I also happen to be reading two books that deal with the issue: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and Leadership Redefined by Todd Dewett.

….

“Sean, what in the hell does this have to do with comics?!?”

Civil War. Countdown. Secret Invasion. 52…

Pick any company produced comic series. Heck, any of their regular titles: Action Comics. Uncanny X-Men. Justice League. Amazing Spider-Man…

These books are created under the same business circumstances. No, I’m not talking about “editorial interference” or anything like that. Editors, by and large, hire the writers and artists they think will do a good job on a specific title. But there’s a much larger business behind that. Do you think Tom Brevoort or Matt Idelson or Mike Marts or Axel Alonso only have to deal with their creative teams?

No, of course not! They have to deal with their bosses, their peers, the printing reps, the distributor reps, the office admins at all sorts of locations… the list goes on and on. Now, certainly, some of those people are going to try to be helpful and do the best job that they can. But some of those people will also undoubtedly have their own agendas, which may or may not coincide with the production of a good comic book.

The individual impact of any one of these people might be small, but the cumulative effect can be huge. Especially if you’re not Marvel or DC (whose relative sizes give them at least a little leverage).

“So what?”

The ‘So What’ here is that there is an alternative. An option where there aren’t dozens of people getting between the creator and the reader. An option where the only person to be cynical of is the creator him/herself. There’re no office politics. There’s no catering to sensitive egos. There’s no having to deal with incessant fools if you don’t want to.

The option, of course, is webcomics.

(You knew that was coming, right?)

Now, go read Tozo or Charles Christopher or Odysseus or something!

Now, as much as I love Sean Kleefeld (and I do love you man, in a bromance way), this seems to be the same argument we always get whenever we talk independent vs. publisher-owned comics, or, in a macroscopic scale, small business vs. big business. Sean’s probably right … for now. But his assumption assumes that webcomics will always follow a small business model. Which I don’t think will be true for very long.

Commenter JM Brown mentioned not too long ago that some really good webcomics are slipping through the cracks, and he’s right. The infrastructure for promotion isn’t there for creators just yet. Everything’s word of mouth … which is great, mind you, but it does have its limitations. (How many people do you think were familiar with the three webcomics he mentioned, as opposed to the thousands of comic book fans following Secret Invasion and 52?) And when that infrastructure does get established … I envision webcomics, one day, gravitating towards a centralized system similar to Marvel and DC.

The Webcomic Overlook #74: Dawn of Time

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Paleontologists: valuable members of the scientific community, or cruel enemies of wonder and imagination? I raise this question as a person who, once upon a time, showed up as a paleontologist during Career Day in my elementary school years. (And if that seems kinda bizarre to you, my schoolteacher wife tells me that last time she did Career Day, three kids dressed up as paleontologists… which basically means repurposing the Indiana Jones costume kit. I conclude that “Paleontologist” has risen to the upper echelons of “The Kid’s Career of Choice,” which includes nostalgic favorites like “Doctor,” “Policeman,” and “Fireman.”)

One the one hand, paleontologists have provided us an invaluable basket of discoveries, giving us a window into a world of giant lizards before the dawn of humans. It’s a fantastic reality that’s so enormous we take it for granted: that Earth existed long before the first human breathed his first breath, and the caretakers were gigantic beasts.

On the other hand, many of the discoveries have been as soul-crushing as when their pals, the astronomers, decided that Pluto was no longer worthy of planet status. The Brontosaurus did not actually exist? The Ultrasaurus is basically an overgrown Brachiosaurus, and also probably did not exist? That the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex was probably too heavy to be anything but a scavenger?

These sourpuss paleontologists have been ruining things from the beginning, ever since they decided that cavemen and dinosaurs did not actually live side by side. This is a reality that anyone with a bone of imagination seems to want to work around. Heck, if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle thinks that men and dinosaurs need to coexist side by side, who am I to argue?

Oddly enough, this dilemma between fantasy and reality rears its head in the subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook, Michael Stearns’ fun and light-hearted Dawn of Time. The comic references at least one real life controversy that proves that paleontologists can get pretty humorless sometimes.

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Kate Beaton: “Our history is the march of thousands of people across a continent trying to make a life for themselves… How can it be boring?”

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Cartoonist Kate Beaton gets interviewed in Maclean’s, one of Canada’s top news magazines. (Incidentally, stay out of Saskatoon. It is the most dangerous city in Canada.) The article, “Making Fun of Canadian History“, does a great job of observing Ms. Beaton’s toons from the perspective of a native Canadian. The article takes a look at Ms. Beaton’s beginnings as an office worker trying to pay off her student role at Fort McMurray to her comic’s recent rise in prominence.

Color me absolutely impressed by the attention she’s attracting:

Originally from Cape Breton, Beaton is a Toronto-based cartoonist who has fans ranging from award-winning graphic novelists to geeky comic nerds. In the little over a year she’s been doing the comics, her work has been talked about on the website Wonkette and in Bitch magazine; a reviewer for Wired magazine called Beaton’s the “funniest comic that I’ve read in awhile.” Recently Daily Show writer Sam Means approached her to illustrate a children’s book he is writing. About 10 other agents and publishers have asked her to write a book, but so far she’s refused. Still finding her feet, Beaton wants to find out more about the industry so she doesn’t get shortchanged. Also, since she hasn’t yet drawn enough to fill a book, she doesn’t want to become “overwhelmed.”

Also, The Webcomic Overlook gets a mention. Referring to this review:

The otherness makes her “vaguely otherworldly,” says Seattle-based Larry Cruz, who writes reviews on the website, The Webcomic Overlook. Beaton’s work is “delightful, funny and endearing even if I have no idea what in the world this crazy Canuck is referencing.”

Thank you, Maclean’s!

Also… never stop being a crazy Canuck, Kate. (And I hope you never consider me to be one of those creepy jerks you’re talking about.)

Metapost: Twitter it is

The Webcomic Overlook has set up a Twitter! Yes, we are completely suckered into this fad that will probably be lumped in with MySpace as an obsolete networking site by 2010. But ever since the Wall Street Journal, that grand old lady, was all hip to the Twitter, I said to myself: “Hold the phone! Clearly I cannot let these high-powered business types monopolize this networking tool. Make room for El Santo, capitalist scum!”

In any case, you can subscribe to my Twitter at the very non-obvious address below:

http://twitter.com/ElSanto45

It’s also posted to the right in the link below my e-mail … you know in case you are hesitant to bathe in the glory of El Santo at the moment, yet, at a later date, find yourself curiously drawn to the ramblings of the man who posts while wearing a mask.

I’ll post some webcomic-related links from time to time, such as webcomics I’m reading that I’ll probably never do a review for. However, most of the time, it’ll be all shenanigans and non-sequitur thoughts … pretty much like any other Twitter out there.

Let the Twitter revolution begin!

The Webcomic Overlook #73: The Princess Planet

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On a message board I frequent, one of the regulars mentioned how he was “stalking Neil Gaiman.” Not literally, I think. (You’re not, are you, O***?) It was a phenomenon where he was convinced he’d never read or seen anything by Neil Gaiman before, but in a single moment coming to the realization you’ve been a fan all along. After reading American Gods and some research afterwards, he then discovered that he was mistaken: Gaiman was also the man behind Coraline, Mirror Mask, and several short stories that he’d already read. Thus, his “stalking Neil Gaiman” moment.

I had a similar experience with a webcomic collective named Transmission-X. Previously, all I knew about this collective was that Dean Haspiel, a man whose opinion I highly respect, mentions the collective whenever he’s given the opportunity. That, and it had a terrible name. Seriously, it sounds like something you’d find at the shelf of your local Pep Boys. “Extend your engine life by filling your powertrain with specially formulated Transmission-X!”

As I started writing the review for today’s comic, I clicked on the link to the Transmission-X collective. It turns out I already reviewed two of their comics, both 5 stars! On this site, I gave Karl Kerschl’s The Abominable Charles Christopher a glowing review for its fantastic arc and expert storytelling. And despite its weirdness, I rather enjoyed Ramon Perez’s Kukuburi and awarded the trippy comic with my highest rating at the Comic Fencing site.

Which means that the subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook, Brian McLachlan’s The Princess Planet, has large shoes to fill. Will Transmission-X go 5 stars for a third time?

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