Monthly Archives: March 2009
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!)
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).
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.
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.
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?”
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.)
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?