Monthly Archives: June 2009

Joy of Webcomics… YEAAAAHHHHHH

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Before you pick up your guitar and play, get up on your knees and pray and check out some webcomic-related news and views:

  • MPD57 has an interview (and photo progression of a comic panel being put together) with Daniel Govar, creator of Azure for Zuda Comics. I am very much in love with the play-by-play screenshots that show how a page come together. The finished piece looks fantastic.
  • I’ve always wondered how some artists do their strips in Flash. I’m an old-schooler who does things with a pencil and a Sharpie pen, so new technology frightens and confuses me. Fortunately, Sandy Debreuil has a nifty “how-to” guide up on webcomics.com for anyone who was ever interested. While it really doesn’t matter what medium you use, as long as you can learn and improve your technique, I’ve always admired how the colors in Flash turned out so vivid and crisp.

    Plus, if you haven’t checked it out yet, their series on word balloons was pretty illuminating. Ima try that sometime.

  • Johanna Draper Carlson faces Goats at Comics Worth Reading. I disagree that it would be useless reviewing something this old. I mean, I can’t be the only one who hasn’t heard about Goats before today. Am I? I mean… why are there monkeys on the cover?
  • Ping Teo’s Webcomic Finds is now called Lonely Panel! Man, but I do love that new name. It works on so many levels: a sorta pun on a popular travel franchise, a connection to Ping’s love of travels, a connection to comics… well done, lass, well done! I have half a mind to change the name of this site myself, but the cleverest alternate name I could ever come up with was Webcomic Fruit Salad. Also, it’s possible I’m hungry. Anyway, Ping, big thumbs up on the new name.
  • The Beat mentions that it will cost $1.5 billion to renovate the San Diego Convention Center… and if the taxpayers don’t pony up the cash, San Diego Comic-Con might move from The City of the Big Zoo!
  • Also, apparently some American Captain is coming back to life. It disturbs me that my wife thought this was breaking news, and I had to tell her I knew a week ago. I pray that my voice didn’t sound dismissive and Comic-Book-Guy-like.

NOTE: I have no idea who drew the picture leading off this post, but it’s a parody of this.

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The Webcomic Overlook #82: Sin Titulo

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As I mentioned in my review of The Princess Planet, the Transmission-X webcomic collective has, in my admittedly cluttered mind, been batting at 1.000. Fantastic writing, fantastic artwork, and accessible, friendly creators. Transmission-X is the webcomic gold standard, an admirable example for creators everywhere.

And yet, I was STILL apprehensive about the content of the webcomic for this week’s Webcomic Overlook review. The Abominable Charles Christopher, Kukuburi, and The Princess Planet are all generally peppy, upbeat, colorful, and fanciful. I like those elements in a webcomic. It’s like Pixar in print form. Sin Titulo, by contrast, is dark, noirish, and grounded in the harsh light of reality. It even comes with a “For Mature Readers” tag. There’s nothing sexually explicit in the comic thus far, by the way; the warning is mainly for language and violence.

Also, while I love me some mystery, suspense, and hard-boiled detective novels, noirish comic books are just not my cup o’ Bourbon. I’m not that huge a fan of Sin City, for instance. (Miller sorta lost me with the ninja hookers.)

What to make of Sin Titulo, then? And, a more important question: how do you pronounce the second part of the title? (I’m personally going to go with “Tah-TOO-low.”)

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The AV Club on Kate Beaton, webcomics

How do you know webcomics are gaining ground on their direct market brethren? When the print versions of popular webcomics are starting to pop up with reliable frequency in the AV Club’s comic round-up. In the June 12 version, they have a review of Kate Beaton’s “Never Learn Anything From History,” as well as a bit of commentary on webcomics as a whole:

Webcomics have been a seriously mixed bag since their inception, and for every Achewood, there are two dozen shabbily drawn, incoherently written strips about videogames or anime. That’s why it’s all the more impressive when a talent like Kate Beaton emerges. The young Canadian artist has turned a history degree into a non-stop laffs-generating machine, as her book Never Learn Anything From History (TopatoCo) illustrates; the great leaders, military figures, artists, and philosophers of the past are her usual subjects, but they’re usually portrayed as consumed by petty ego and expressing themselves in the freewheeling, dismissive argot of snotty adolescents. Add to that a keen sense of the absurd (in her footnotes, Beaton herself cannot explain why a weeping Napoleon stuffing his face with cookies while Josephine carries on a wild affair is so damn funny, but it is) and you’ve got a book full of comics that are generally hilarious even for those who don’t fully recall the history behind the stories. Beaton’s art is likewise impressive; her neat linework and terrific grasp of simple caricature and facial expression sells a lot of the best strips, including Sasaki Kojiro meeting an undignified end, Jane Austen and Nikola Tesla being pestered by their fans, and Lord Byron muttering “Bitches, man” to a grieving Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her occasional non-historical comics (featuring mermaids, Tintin, and an evil Shetland pony) are likewise winners, and if American audiences don’t quite get the jokes behind her strips about Stompin’ Tom Connors, Newfoundland, and John G. Diefenbaker, at least they might learn something about Canada from reading them… A-

The Webcomic Overlook #81: Raven’s Dojo

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Hero spends about seven episodes training to fight an unstoppable villain. Hero and villain meet, and, after spending an inordinate amount of time staring at each other. They have inner monologues which last for several minutes on how they’re going to beat the other guy with their unstoppable techniques.

Finally, they fight. Which lasts for thirty episodes or so. The good guy and the bad guy trade the exact same punches for the first episode, after which the bad guy boasts over the next episode how he has this hidden technique that he hasn’t used yet. He spends the next three episodes powering up, where the heroes just sorta stand around with their mouths open. And then the villain unleashes his powerful move… which is totally ineffective because the good guy has his OWN unstoppable technique, which is, apparently, IMPOSSIBLE!

Repeat.

Congratulations. You’ve just watched an episode of Dragonball Z.

The show is quite infamous among anime circles for running, say, a string of 70 episodes with perhaps 10 minutes of actual content. Even the most diehard fans will admit that Dragonball Z was one of the dumbest things on TV. Yet, somehow, creator Akira Toriyama somehow created the most influential anime in history. Several anime, from Yu Yu Hakusho to One Piece, followed in its footsteps.

The show is a favorite on the internet, from popular memes (“Over 9000!”) to AMV’s (which range from gleefully ridiculous to surprisingly touching) to one of the most infamous webcomics of all time (which, incidentally, also inspired its own AMV).

Unfortunately, we’re not going to be talking about BUTTLORD GT. Instead, the Webcomic Overlook is reviewing a newer entrant into the burgeoning field of Dragonball Z parodies/homages/shameless rip-offs: Raven’s Dojo, written and illustrated by Raven Perez.

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A few more webcomic related items of joy

Here’s a few more webcomic related pieces of interest.

  • At Robot 6, Brigid Alverson gives her own spin on the 2009 Eisner nominees. She asks the question on everyone’s minds: do these necessarily count as webcomics if they’re basically just print comics that got put online? Of the nominees, she thinks there’s only one on the list that actually benefits from the webcomic format.
  • And then there’s NPR’s report on the fate of comics after newspapers. The transcript, making waves among webcomic creators, includes this choice line:

    Mallett (of Frazz): Sometimes I worry that they’re just so ingrained and associated with ink on newsprint that they’re just not going to fit quite as well into wherever newspapers go next. All comics are already online, but nobody’s found a way yet to get the web to pay enough so that drawing a strip can stay a full-time job.

    There’s a pretty strong backlash among currently existing self-sustaining webcomic creators in the following commentary. Another entry:

    Cartoonist Darrin Bell has chronicled the death of newspapers in his strip, Candorville, and he actually has a tip jar on his Web site. He says the money coming in from the Web — not just in tips — is only a quarter of his income as a cartoonist. But he’s not worried about comics.

    OK, Darrin Bell, a word of advice on the online fundamentals that I think a lot of experiences web cartoonists have been following: say “No” to the tip jar. And merchandise revenues are not as taboo as you might think.

    Also, the NPR piece digresses into crossword puzzles for some reason. Huh.

    Anyway, John Rabe, the author of the piece, did the right thing and offered the following apology in the comments:

    I owe Marketplace listeners and fans of the online strips an apology.

    I just had a very nice phone conversation with Randal Milholland, who does the online-only strip Something Positive. He told me he was working 40 hrs doing data entry and 40 hrs doing the strip, and when readers complained he was late posting an update or fixing a link, he dared them to support him. Thousands of dollars came in, in $5 and $10 donations, in just a few days, and now, he says, he’s making a decent living solely on the web strip. For those who want details, he authorized me to tell you that last year he made $55k before taxes in 2008, roughly a third each from merchandise, donations, and ads.

    He also wrote, “and if anyone gripes at you and goes on about reading my comic, tell them I asked them to be nicer. Or I’ll find them.”

    Thanks, for that, Randy, but if I got it wrong, I got it wrong.

    – John Rabe

  • Finally, Act I of MS Paint Adventures‘ “Homestruck” story ends… with a bang!

The Webcomic Overlook #80: Set To Sea

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I mentioned Drew Weing on this blog before. I gushed over his work on the somewhat experimental “Pup” (reviewed here). I was enamored by how he pushed the boundaries of the internet browser to augment the themes of his individual strips. You might say that he put the “can” in “infinite canvas”! (Groan. That’s right, I groaned preemptively for you.)

However, I understand if those strips come off as a bit gimmicky. Being goofy with the medium does not mean it’s any good, right? Rest assured, though, Mr. Weing’s traditional artistics skills are, in fact, mad and crunk. Perhaps even fly. They’re reason enough to give his webcomics a good look. Today, on The Webcomic Overlook, let’s check out one of his more standard comics: the more conventionally paced (yet still novel) Set To Sea.

I mean, it’s a story of a soulful giant and his adventures on a rickety sailing vessel. What’s not to like? Plus, you might want to stick around later as I get my techie on to ask another question: how do webcomics look on the small screen, e.g. the iPod Touch and the Samsung Glide? Go on and feel free to persecute me for my lack of technical knowledge!

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Summer of Joy of Webcomics

Some relatively quick links for y’all:

It looks like summer is the time for webcomics reviews, ‘cuz they’re popping up like rabbits, son.

  • A reader of the Webcomic Overlook emailed me and suggested that I take a look at Rice Boy. I gotta say, I like that reader’s tastes, as Rice Boy, from a quick glance, looks great. Good ol’ Jackson Ferrell beat me on the review front, though, and he has glowing praise over at This Week in Webcomics. Check it out!
  • Meanwhile, Elle Dee takes a look at Ellerbisms and the honesty it takes to do a good journal-style comic.
  • Tangents takes a look at the admittedly off-the-beaten-track field of choose-your-adventure webcomics in Aetheria Epics. I haven’t read the comic yet, but I’m pretty curious as to how the system works, actually.
  • Delos at Artpatient.com takes a chance on Xylia Tales, which looks like some mystical Victoria era gaslamp fiction.

Delos also did a side by side between search results from Bing and Google. It turns out that this site is in the Top 20 results when you google “webcomics.” Huzzah! I shall now vow to bad-mouth Bing every chance I get until either this site shows up on their search engine or Bill Gates ponies up that protection money.

MPD57 stirs up the pot by posting an e-mail from a reader who suggests that Zuda have a separate section for experimental comics. Sounds reasonable to me, actually.

The first Zuda published book, Bayou, made the AV Club’s comic review section, by the way. It got a B grade.

It’s hard to know what to make of Bayou: Volume One (DC/Zuda) in its present form. The breakout offering from DC’s webcomics experiment zudacomics.com, Bayou reads like a story designed to fill unlimited space. Even at 160 pages, it feels like the mere beginning of a story, an impression only reinforced by some sketches of characters and locations not to be seen until later chapters. It also feels unsatisfying in its present form, but mostly because there isn’t enough of it. Set in Depression-era Mississippi, where the white establishment keeps racial restrictions in place with violence and miscarriages of justice, Bayou focuses on a black girl named Lee whose father is arrested after her white playmate disappears. Lee knows he had nothing to do with the event, however, and she goes searching for her friend in a world populated by helpful-but-cowardly monsters and malevolent forces straight out of an Uncle Remus tale. It’s a captivating, frightening environment, and while Bayou’s story sometimes suffers from poky pacing—or at least it feels poky, with so little of the story available so far—it makes for a provocatively sideways look at an ugly slice of American history…

And while we’re on the AV Club, they posted a blog entry in early May detailing why you shouldn’t pay attention to grading systems, as, most of the time, it’s pretty meaningless.

Lisa Barone hates bloggers! You and me both, sister! I … oh. Anyway, despite having a very confrontational slant (her blog — yes, I know, ironic what what — is on a site called Outspoken Media, after all), I think she does offer tips on how you can make your blog interesting. Rule #1: stop being emo.

Finally, I was kinda disappointed that Joe Dunn was less than fully thrilled by Up (in the accompanying movie review). It’s OK to go against the grain … Wall Street Journal‘s Joe Morgenstern is up there with you (no pun intended). But, seriously, man, you gotta see it without a bored nephew in tow. Those little punks ruin everything. (I have to say, I gotta agree with my wife that adults will enjoy this movie more than kids, so I kinda understand why they might get a little fidgety through the middle acts.)

The Webcomic Overlook #79: 70 Seas (formerly Lagend)

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(Note: Lagend recently changed its name to 70 Seas. I’ve fixed the links to reference the correct pages. However, the entire review remains the same. Since I’m far too lazy to do a simple find-and-replace, the comic in the review will still be referred to as Lagend. — E.S., 10/09)

I’m sure that out there, somewhere, there’s a certain subset of Webcomic Overlook readers going: “Yarrr! This be a fine site. But whar be the review about pirate webcomics? I’d walk the plank to find me a good pirate webcomic, sez I.” If you’re asking that question, likely your name ends in “-beard” or it’s Talk Like A Pirate Day again and you’re showing way too much pirate-y spirit. That’ll teach me not to mark that day off on my Microsoft Outlook!

Almost a year ago, I reviewed Here There Be Robots back over at the Comic Fencing site. To be fair, however, that comic was less a pirate comic than a parody about pirates. (Seriously, what can you expect from aliens dressed up as pirates fighting robots dressed up as pirates?) If it’s swashbuckling high seas adventure you were looking for, you might come off a bit disappointed.

Fortunately, there do exist some very good pirate themed webcomics out there, including the subject of this week’s review: Lagend by Nick Daniel. There is a catch, though: the characters are all furries.

“Avast! Ye take me for a fursuiter, do ye? How would ye like to feel the cold, point tip of me cutlass, landlubber?”

Relax, buddy. Hard as it is to believe, furry comics aren’t just about creepy pervy fantasies anymore!

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