Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Webcomic Overlook #92: Gastrophobia

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Last spring, the wife and I booked a trip with another family on a cross-country flight to Virginia. “Visiting family?” our friends would ask. No, we were actually touring Civil War battle sites.

To which they would inevitably say, “Why in the world would you ever want to learn about history?!?”

I understand not grasping the appeal of a Civil War battle site. At the end of the day, they are, after all, medium-sized national parks with some earthworks you sorta have to squint to see. But I do take umbrage to my friends’ distaste for history. For them, “history” was a stuffy course that they had to suffer through in high school. That’s not how I see it. You can’t spell “history” without “stories”: real accounts of people going through incredible adversities that we in the Modern Age can only imagine.

I lay the fault on unimaginative history teachers. They reduce the thrill of humanity’s achievements into a dry list of dates, names, and places that must be memorized in order to ace the midterm exams. Clearly, they cannot be trusted. It’s up to armchair historians on the internet to bring history to life again. Mental Floss does a fantastic job re-interpreting history in modern parlance. Where else could I learn that porches on old houses were so big because that’s where folks spent their days cooling off in the sweaty days before air conditioning? Over on the webcomics front, Kate Beaton has made a name for herself mainly because she knows that even the most mundane historical details can be endlessly fascinating if you present it right.

You don’t even have to go into teacher mode to make history more interesting. Sometimes, the setting will suffice. Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove makes Incan civilization accessible and less alien through Chuck Jones style antics. (The always classy vocal talents of the late Eartha Kitt contributed some, too.) In the same way, the subject today’s review makes Greek antiquity a fun place to visit.

Today, the Webcomic Overlook takes the wayback machine to the days when “Amazon” just wasn’t an online bookseller and reviews Gastrophobia, a webcomic written and illustrated by David McGuire.

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The Joy of Webcomics lies, cheats, and steals

joyofwebcomicsThere was apparently a big To Do down in SoCal this weekend. Various webcomic types are spending this week coming down from the high of San Diego Comic Con. The event has gotten so large that I swear I saw Stan Lee on CNBC last night doing a post-Con wrap-up. Surreal.

There was a slightly smaller event here in Seattle, too: The Webcomic Overlook has just passed the two year mark. Yup, I started reviewing webcomics in some way, shape, or form back in July 24, 2007. I had played around with doing something special — maybe making an illustration or doing a “Best Webcomics to Introduce to Beginners” list — but, seriously, it’s too hot in the Northwest to think. Worse, we have no air conditioning or a basement. So I’m going to have to wrap up some time later when I’m not lounging on the floor and keeping my temperature down by conserving my internal energy.

Now on to the weekly scrapbook of webcomic/comic/Aishwarya Rai news and information!

  • How do you deal when you realize your parents have been lying to you your whole life? I’m not talking about the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus level deception here. I’m talking about if your dad lies about being on the National Security Council, writing papers for Henry Kissinger, and possessing a Ph.D. Laurie Sandell, a contributing editor at Glamour Magazine, had to live with the reality that her dad was none of those things, and she worked out her issues in a comic book called “The Imposter’s Daughter,” which is covered in The Wall Street Journal.
  • Over at fellow webc-… excuse me, digital comic blog MPD57, guest blogger Rob Berry takes a look at Azure. I especially loved his two intro paragraphs:

    Webcomics, in its really short lifetime as a medium, has been a pretty closed craft. By this I mean to say most of its look, methodology and expression comes not so much from how it operates as a new and web-based media, but how the web can be a distribution model for what is still essentially a print-based product. Most of the earliest success in the industry came from gag cartoonists using the web to distribute comicstrips in a dwindling print market and a lot of the current measures of success still rely on turning online comics into bookshelf properties. There’s nothing inherently wrong about this, but it does seem that most of us are following the HalfPixel tips about ‘How To Make Webcomics’ as opposed to Scott McCloud theories about how to see the web as an entirely different canvas. It works fine, but its a bit like designing jet-propulsion to make ground travel faster; a bit limited in scope.

    Not sure if McCloud has used him as an example before, but theories on the possibilities artists are given by new media always put me in mind of William Blake. Blake and his brother opened a print shop which, dealing in Revolutionary material of the time, provided him a unique outlet for developing his own artistic voice. This allowed him to develop a process of relief etching placing words and images together in a style like that of medieval illuminated manuscripts and lead to Blake’s unique fusion of poetry and drawing. He saw how print allowed for distribution of art in new and more profitable way, as all engravers had been doing in his time period, but he also saw past that to the uniqueness of book-making as object and artform.

    Why did you let this guy say the “w” word, Mike? Methinks his ass is fired. Needless to say, Mr. Berry has some glowing praise for Azure: “This is not what you’d expect webcomics to give you. Its what Dan wants to make webcomics into.” Wow. Guess I’m gonna have to read this (as if the girl in the spandex didn’t hook me in already).

  • During last week’s nomenclature discourse over the nature of the term “webcomics,” I discovered a fantastic webcomic-related blog run by Olaf Solstrand. Here’s a sampling of some of his excellent posts:
  • Brigid Alverson talks with Scott Christian Sava of Dreamland Chronicles at GraphicNovelReporter.com. Dreamland Chronicles is just one of those webcomics I really wanted to get in to but intimidated me with its sheer volume. It sure is purty, though.

    So, here’s a huge question on most economists’ minds:

    Dreamland runs as a free webcomic, yet people buy the books. Why do you think that is?

    They want to support the creator. They appreciate the free comic…they know what efforts I put into it…and they (very kindly) support those efforts by buying the books, toys, and such.

    Also, for anyone who’s seen the books…the resolution is much higher. And the detail is wonderful. IDW has really done a great job of printing the books. And I get so many emails from parents whose kids take the books everywhere. It’s great for trips.

    Oh…and I also do sketches of people’s favorite characters inside the books when you meet me at cons. Bonus!

  • NPR is talking about webcomics again. Glenn Whedon tries to sift through the worthy ones, though it ain’t easy:

    (From what I can tell, for instance, there seem to be an inordinate number of webcomics about sexy, sword-wielding, anthropomorphic kitties in leather bikinis. I cannot speak to their merit, or lack of it. On account of the creepy.)

    I can’t vouch for that. Most of the sexy, anthropomorphic kitties I’ve seen are wielding submachine guns. Maybe if I started reading more Comic Genesis offerings?

    Here are Glenn’s faves: Goats, Pictures for Sad Children, Achewood, xkcd, Wondermark, Penny Arcade, PvP, Dinosaur Comics, Partially Clips, Cat and Girl, Octopus Pie, The Rack, Lydia, Perry Bible Fellowship, Sheldon, A Softer World, and AD: After the Deluge (which, incidentally, got a nice write up at The Wall Street Journal). He also seems to think that web folk are weirder than people who watch America’s Got Talent. Nah — we’re just too intimidated by the Killer Mojo of The Hoff.

And, finally, your Aishwarya Rai Tasteful Picture of the Day, where she Lounges on a Sofa in a Nice Dress. Did you know that even Julia Roberts thinks Aishwarya Rai is the most beautiful woman she’s ever seen? It’s true!

The Webcomic Overlook #91: Buttersafe

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LOL! Humor on the internet is sooooo random!

In saying the above phrase, I understand that I’ve invited a modicum of invites backlash. Sexy Canadian librarians and urbane, well-dressed sequential art afficianados — who, in the deep recesses of my fertile imagination, make up the bulk of readers on this site — are no doubt glaring angrily from behind their pince-nez glasses and/or spitting out their Chamomile. This is an especially egrarious faux-pas since “random humor” almost always means that, at the end, someone’s head explodes, or the world blows up, or ninjas pop up out of nowhere.

So RANDOM! Even if it means everyone else is doing it.

In reality, it’s actually more of a shock cut than random. And if it were really, truly random, then there’s very little chance it would actually be funny, since you wouldn’t have established any expectations in the first place. Hell, John Allison made a shirt about it (which I would order, if the value of the dollar was much stronger against the British pound). As stated by the venerable Urban Dictionary (your indispensable resource on funky fresh lingo), you’re probably better off if you just say it’s unexpected humor … but then teenagers everywhere will dismiss you as an anal-retentive killjoy and there’s nothing I want more than the praise and adulation of today’s youth. That’s the secret to how a grandpa like Tony Hawk can keep rolling in that phat video game loot.

So without further ado, The Webcomic Overlook reviews the latest salvo in the world of random webcomic humor. Even its title looks like something straight out of a random word generator: Buttersafe, by Raynato Castro and Alex Culang.

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And the 2009 Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic goes to…

… Carla Speed MacNeil for Finder.

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This is the first year I haven’t correctly called the Eisner winner. (I predicted Vs. would win back in May.) In my defense, I wasn’t overly familiar with any of the webcomics or creators beforehand, so I plead ignorance!

Finder was especially tricky, since there’s a large body of work that’s not online but which I imagine the Eisner judges were already familiar with. I mentioned that the available material looked kinda tacky. Finder fans set me straight and told me that this was but a small subset of the world that Ms. MacNeil crafted.

So, anyway, congratulations to Ms. MacNeil!

Meanwhile, I will drown my sorrows and lose my self in this tasteful picture of Aishwarya Rai in a clingly sweater.

Girl Genius hits the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center

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Passing on some news for you Northwest readers. Nicole Nathan of the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center e-mailed me that the Foglios will be having a Girl Genius exhibit in Portland from August 14 – September 20, 2009. (Thanks for the shout-out in the press release, by the way!) From the site:

Girl Genius is a self-described “gaslamp fantasy comic” and the brainchild of creators Phil and Kaja Foglio from Seattle, Washington. Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center will host a selection of original artwork from the collection of the creators spanning the run of the story from its initial publishing in 2001 through to the soon-to-be-released Volume 8. This artwork, along with text illustrating the process and history of the story give the public a chance to see a strong female lead character—rare in mainstream comics.

The story features “adventure, romance and some mad science” and the title character is Agatha Heterodyne. In an interview with Comic Book Resources News Phil Foglio describes the heroine, “Our story concerns Agatha Heterodyne, the long lost and here-to-for unsuspected heir to an ancient family of mad scientists who everyone had thought safely long gone. Because of who and what she is, everyone either wants to control her or kill her. Comedy ensues.”

The creators will also be on hand to perform a radio play at 3pm on Saturday, September 5, at the Legacy Center as part of Oregon Nikkei Endowment’s Street Party. The Foglios will also be participating in this year’s Kumoricon anime convention held at the Portland Hilton.

Girl Genius is a nominee for the Best Graphic Story in science fiction’s 2009 Hugo Awards, and the 2008 winner for both Outstanding Comic and Outstanding Writer from the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Award. Girl Genius is loved by devoted comic readers and new fans alike. “Girl Genius, from start to finish is pure, unadulterated fun… with almost every page, I had a blast and a hunger for more ADVENTURE, ROMANCE, and MAD SCIENCE” – The Webcomic Overlook

Exhibit hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11 am to 3 pm, Sundays noon to 3 pm. Admission is $3 (free for Friends of the Legacy Center).

Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center
121 NW 2nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97209

Phone: 503-224-1458

My own review of Girl Genius can be found here.

Captain Nihilist asks, “What’s so bad about calling them ‘webcomics’?”

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I’m probably going to end up making an issue out of a non-issue here, but the topic is fairly interesting and, as more independent artists migrate to the web, is probably going to get more press in the coming years. Comic creators are, after all, totally anal when it comes to proper terminology.

Should we still keep calling comics on the web “webcomics”?

A few bloggers have brought up that they just do not like the term.

AT ALL.

I’m speaking to YOU, Mike Perridge.

Mike (codename: MPD57) displays the following motto on the banner of his blog:

Webcomics don’t even exist as far as I’m concerned. Comics remain comics whether in print or online. Each medium presents it’s [sic] own opportunities and challenges but comics remained untouched at the centre.

Big words, MPD57. Let’s not forget that MPD57 is British, and his countrymen call sausages “bangers” and cigarettes “a politically incorrect slur about homosexuals.” If we let the British come up with an alternative term for webcomics, no doubt they’ll come up with the name of a heinous sex act and pass it off as some cultural quirk. Wouldn’t that be the dog’s bollocks!

Clearly I have a personal stake in the debate, since my site is called “The Webcomic Overlook” and I don’t want to lose the $15 I spent registering the web address. But I also think it’s a good term, and we should stop worrying and learn to love “webcomics.”

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The Joy of Webcomics: Funnies All The Time edition

joyofwebcomicsApparently, there’s a huge comic to-do in San Diego that every comic creator seems to be going wild over. Being a horrible shut-in, I’m not too much a fan of being located in a throng of sweaty, germ-filled people. Not a fan of San Diego either, having been there too often and being bored by relatives most of the time. (If you are going, though … there’s an awesome fish taco place about 2 miles north of the Mexican border.)

Still, The Webcomic Overlook is somewhat amused by a tradition that some folks are looking to revive: the Sunday funnies section. Is syndication that old thing that’s brand new again?

  • Kotaku.com begins its tradition of keeping Sunday funnies alive … by showcasing the latest in video game webcomics! It’s sort of a narrow focused effort (and if Owen Good follows up on posting everyone’s favorite video game comics, the page may soon number as much as the sands on the beach), but I do appreciate the spirit. Even if it DOES inadvertently spur an new wave of video game webcomics for people hungry for the publicity. (h/t Robot 6)
  • Speaking of the agenda to keep video game webcomics alive, Xaviar Xerexes at ComixTalk informs us there’s an opening at the WiiSpace website for yet another video game webcomic. If I were them, I’d see if I could get Katie Tiedrich of Awkward Zombie. You’d be rolling in Smash Brothers-centric comics, WiiSpace!
  • Fleen mentions that about twenty webcomics are putting together a unified front at The San Diego Comic Con by publishing a four-page, full color sampler. I’m not sure who’s all in it, but the sample picture shows Shortpacked! and Diesel Sweeties. Sounds like a fairly effective marketing tactic, if you ask me.
  • KC Green wraps up his first story about The Anime Club at The Gun Show. If you haven’t yet read this story about four friends torn asunder over animes, you can start here.
  • As part of the ongoing San Diego Comic Con festivities, the AV Club interviews Michael Kupperman, he of Snake ‘N Bacon, Tales Designed to Thrizzle, and the mkupperman Twitter (where he gets quite artsy, apparently). My favorite entry:

    AVC: There can be sort of a fine line between the Dadaist or situationist free-association approach, and being simply incoherent. How do you negotiate that?

    MK: That’s a tough one. I’d say I keep an eye on that line and try not to step over into it. I came out of first a fine arts background and then underground comics, so certainly there have been choices that I’ve made in my approach along the way, and one of the first was to try to be funny rather than bizarre. Certainly I enjoy the outré and I enjoy artistic comics and surrealism in comics very much. But the decision I made and have stuck with and refined was the decision to try to be funny and communicate humor. Once you put that ahead of everything else, it resolves those other questions for you.

  • The Thought Bubble blog has published the Best of The Web list, highlighting favorite webcomics (both active and inactive). Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.
  • The Beat takes a look at Leigh Kellogg, artist of Wayfarer’s Moon (reviewed here) and a nominee for the Russ Manning Award for Most Talented Newcomer. The award will be presented as part of the Eisner Award ceremonies at the San Diego Comic Con.
  • Fellow blogger Bengo seems to be at the end of the road with his Floating Lightbulb webcomic blog. Best of luck to him and his wife on whatever they have planned next.

And now, your Aishwarya Rai Tasteful Picture of the Day. Did you know Ms. Rai once traveled to the Siachen Glacier, the highest battlefield in the world at 13,000 ft above sea level, to boost the morales of Indian infantrymen? It’s true!

PS Brigid Alverson has put together a very handy list of activities at the San Diego Comic Con for webcomic fans. Check it out at Robot 6.

The Webcomic Overlook #90: Locus

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It’s a shame that the Grindhouse movie entered and left theaters so quickly. I’m too young to know what real grindhouse movies looked like, so I would’ve appreciated the experience. Now all we have are two separate DVDs for Planet Terror and Death Race… though everyone who’s seen all of them tells me that the original theatrical release was the superior version.

I guess what I like most about grindhouse is the poster designs. One of my favorite SomethingAwful Photoshop Phridays was the one that re-imagined famous movies as grindhouse posters. The aesthetic is partially reflected in the site redesign. Hell, I spent the weekend designing an online invite for my brother-in-law’s bachelor party, all done up in a font called “Feast of Flesh” and rendered in half-tone with images looking like they were clipped out of the local newspaper.

Today’s review focuses on a comic that seems to be the modern embodiment of a grindhouse film, steeped in viscera, horror, and gratuitous full-frontal nudity. Oh yes, there will be boobs. So many boobs that eventually you mind tricks you into a trance and you have to rind yourself that boobs in comics is kinda risque. It’s impossible to keep your mind out of the gutter after you’ve finished reading Locus. Now it ain’t no Oglaf or Sexy Losers; if Locus were a movie, it would likely score an R rating rather than a hard NC-17 or X. However, I feel I should warn you that everything after this paragraph should be considered NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Click on links at your own risk.

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