Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Joy of Webcomics is free … or is it?

joyofwebcomicsIt’s Friday, it’s time for some webcomics talk, and I’m here to be your personal concierge! Before you get your weekend started, here are a few items that’ll make ya go “hmmmm”:

  • An interview with the guys of Let’s Be Friends Again (reviewed here) at Living Between Wednesdays. Finally, we get the answer to a question that’s been haunting me for days:

    So how about those Harvey Award nominations? Do you think NASCAR Heroes #5 will sweep?

    Chris: Imagine us both answering ‘Yes’ in unison.

    Curt: YES. If it wins, I think we deserve full credit. That whole thing is ridiculous, but if everybody was working within the system I can’t see anybody blaming a publisher for trying their best to get awareness of their comic out.

  • Angry Aussie wonders when your website should ever have a Flash intro. In a follow-up post, Mr. Aussie mentions that a reader pointed out that his decision-making flowchart bore a strong resemblance to a Toothpaste for Dinner comic about pan flutes. Aussie insists the resemblance is purely coincidental. In all likelihood, he’s probably telling the truth; I just wanted an excuse to post that comic panel.
  • To celebrate the rise of vampire literature in general, Ces turns Medium Large into the All-Nosferatu Edition! … What, that’s supposed to be Lord Voldemort? Who’s that guy?
  • I don’t know how I missed this: Brigid Alverson over at Robot 6 reviews Dylan Meconis’ Family Man, that historical, supernatural webcomic about that guy with the huge schnozz. I’ve actually been fairly curious about the comic, and Ms. Alverson lays out her thoughts very matter-of-factly. Also, don’t miss her interview with Gina Biggs of Red String.
  • Speaking of which, Tangents also reviews Red String and its recent senses-shattering development that promises to sever the very bonds of fate! Also, if you wanted to follow up on my Girl Genius review, Rob also has a good write-up regarding the back-up stories.
  • Over at webcomics.com, Brad Guigar recently linked to Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price. I have been meaning to comment on this for a while, only that I have no idea what to think of it. (My business degree is useless! USELESS!!!!) The article has been languishing in my blog for two weeks now. Anyway, I’ll give you a few handly links regarding the debate and you can make you your own mind:
    • Chris Anderson, Wired.com editor and author of Free, believes that all information has a right to be free. At least one business model, “advertising,” comes very close to the one independent webcomic publishers are following nowadays. His theory is that the cost of technology (namely bandwidth) is approaching zero, so there’s no excuse to give information away… provided you have the right business model.
    • Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker magazine, differs, mainly arguing that there will always be a cost associated with the transmittal of information. Gladwell especially calls Anderson out on his lionization of YouTube (which will actually be a huge profit loss to Google and not just some magical provider of free content).
    • The AV Club review of the book, which concludes that Anderson cannot back up his own suggestions.

    This has very strong implications for the webcomic industry, no doubt. Word of warning: several of the articles include the word “freemium,” and I seriously want to deliver a savage beating to the person who coined that term.

  • Incidentally, I just found out this week that, not only was the Mars Rover Spirit stuck in a volcano, it also has a Twitter. It turns out that it’s the NASA guys updating the status on the Mars Rover, and not actually the Mars Rover twittering from space. DISAPPOINTED! Anyway, major props to the NASA guys for operating a malfunctioning robot that managed to last 20 times past its original mission life!

Want more Aishwarya Rai, former Miss India World? You got it, dude!

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The Webcomic Overlook #89: Girl Genius

WCO-big-review

Some of my ideas for this site never pan out. A few weeks back, I had played around with doing a theme week. Specifically it was going to be Girl Power Week. (Motto: “Girls rule, boys drool!” Eh heh heh … so true.) A marathon session, reviewing webcomics with sassy, brassy ladies in the lead role! I even had a logo designed and an intro paragraph written (which can be found in The Black Cherry Bombshells review. OK, so it took me all of 3 minutes from googling “gurren lagann yoko” to slapping the logo together in photoshop. But still!

But, you know, actually finding the time to read webcomics and write about them takes forever. I finished about two-thirds of Girl Power Week: along with The Black Cherry Bombshells, I also finished the Earthsong review. But the third comic was too long to do properly. And now here we are, almost a month later.

More than one Webcomic Overlook reader has enthusiastically requested that I take a look at this comic. It’s one of the few comics set in the steampunk framework and does it right. It’s been nominated for Hugo Awards and Eisner Awards, and has won WCCAs and Squiddy Awards (whatever the hell that is). It’s the comic about “Adventure! Romance! Mad Science!”

Yup, you guessed it. The Webcomic Overlook finally reviews the eminent, notable, and prestigious Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio. The webcomic takes a lot of surprise twists and turns, so I’ll try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. However, there will be some revelations (minor ones, I hope), so proceed reading this review at your own risk.

gg1a
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Warren Ellis: comics can help you perform sabotage, cure Alzheimer’s

Warren Ellis (who created the webcomic FreakAngels, among other things), gave a speech at Dundee University. He claims its was written in chickenscratch … but, as Abraham Lincoln could attest, sometimes the most timeless and memorable speeches come from concise yet powerful ideas that just mentally congeal into perfect nuggets of wisdom. For Ellis, comics are a superior medium. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve worked in television, and there are a hundred people between you and the audience. I’ve worked in film, and there are a thousand people between you and the audience. In comics, there’s me and an artist, presenting our stories to you without filters or significant hurdles, in a cheap, simple, portable form. Comics are a mature technology. Their control of time — provided you’re not intent on reversing universes (or even if you are) — makes them the best educational tool in the world. Hell, intelligence agencies have used comics to teach people how to dissent and perform sabotage.

When done right, comics are a cognitive whetstone, providing two or three or more different but entangled streams of information in a single panel. Processing what you’re being shown, along with what’s being said, along with what you’re being told, in conjunction with the shifting multiple velocities of imaginary time, and the action of the space between panels that Scott McCloud defines as closure… Comics require a little more of your brain than other visual media. They should just hand them out to being to stave off Alzheimer’s.

Although I think a headline of “Grant Morrison staves off dementia” might be a little premature.

The line I always quote in talks like these, the one I want you to take away with you, is something the comics writer Harvey Pekar said: “Comics are just words and pictures. You can do anything with words and pictures.”

He also talks about doing brown acid with Grant Morrison, which would be a major no-no if he was giving an address at an American university… unless it was Evergreen State College.

(h/t Robot 6.)

Also, did you know that, in the movie Jeans, there’s a song called “Poovukkul” that claims its actress is the Eighth Wonder of the World? That actress? Aishwarya Rai. Look out, Chyna!

The Joy of Webcomics… in space!

joyofwebcomicsWell, time for The Joy of Webcomics to get back to its roots. This entry was originally set up to look at a smattering of interesting comics, and somehow I lost my way. Well, no more! This Joy of Webcomics will be all about sampling digital comics that make our day just a little bit more joyous.

  • First, though, a news item. The Oklahoman talks to David Gallaher about High Moon. How did the state where corn grows as high as an elephant’s eye influence the western comic?

    “When it came to developing the second season, I wanted to do something that felt authentic to me,” Gallaher said. “The first thing that came to mind were my experiences in Oklahoma. I thought about the geography, the Arbuckle mountain range, all-black towns like Langston, and everything developed from there.”

    Also, Gallaher gives a shout-out to the digital format:

    Creating for the Web first offers many advantages, Gallaher said.

    “From a creative standpoint, it’s pretty similar. We have to keep the story fun, fast, engaging and compelling,” Gallaher said. “But, in terms of distribution, the Web offers an incredible place to bring your ideas to market without the financial burden and liability that comes with print.”

  • Over at Nedroid, Reginald and Beartato discover what it really means to discover the greatest treasure.
  • Is Winston Rowntree (not “Rountree,” as was widely suspected) doing a videogame comic now? Winston, HOW COULD YOU?!?!?  Well, I’ll forgive you, just this once. Subnormality does a tribute to Tetris.
  • Even wonder what the Bronte Sisters talked about on their free time? Kate Beaton did.  It’s true: no one likes Anne Bronte.
  • There’s been some talk about negative webcomic reviews lately. This gives me an opportune time to mention the Bad Webcomic Wiki. I’m not involved with it personally, though if you read their Earthsong and Boss Noodle reviews, the similarities to my own conclusions may have you wondering if I ghostwrote the thing. The wiki is sort of a successor to John Solomon’s site, though not as witty or as well-written. Still, for fans of vicious reviews, this might be a place to check out.
  • Meanwhile, Dresden Codak updates, and Kimiko Ross takes a look at a secret message imprinted in our genetic codes.
  • They say that in space, no one can hear you blog. Internet access is generally unavailable to our fine space men and space women. But things may be changing! According to this Popular Science article, modifications are being added to the ISS to make the internet possible! Finally, webcomics and The Webcomic Overlook will be available to astronauts!

And now your Aishwarya Rai Tasteful Picture of the Day. Did you know that Ms. Rai was named the Second Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Roger Ebert? It’s true! And who was the most beautiful woman in the world? Aishwarya Rai, of course. Gee, wonder what his wife must’ve thought about that one.

One Punch Reviews #23: Fatawesome

onepunch

Earlier this week, I credited Cracked.com for jumpstarting the readership of the very excellent Daisy Owl. Now comes the yang to that ying. That magazine is not quite the greatest arbiter of good taste. Eventhough I’m almost certain that its readership is composed of 90% nerds, the humor can best be described as “fratboyish.” Which, in a sense, means that Fatawesome, a recent recepient of Cracked.com’s seal of approval, is a better representative of everything that Cracked stands for.

But what does that mean, exactly? Cracked is actually pretty good from time to time — the internet equivalent of junk food. Is Fatawesome the Angus burger and fries of webcomics?

birthdaywish
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Unsurprising news of the day: the end of Scary Go Round

Goodbye!

To the surprise of no one, John Allison is ending his long-running Scary Go Round (reviewed here). From the post on his blog:

This is a brief announcement to say that Scary Go Round will be ending in September. The eighth collection will be the last. “Goodbye” is the final story. I’m sure a lot of you had worked this out already.

If your claw-like fingers are rending your clothes to rags as we speak, I would ask you to be calm. I have a new project in mind and, like the transition from Bobbins to Scary Go Round back in 2002, it won’t all be new, all different. I could probably have got away with making the change with no fanfare at all and kept the name the same. But there were a few reasons that I decided not to.

I don’t want to talk about my new project yet as it would spoil the current story, but you can rest assured that there will be plenty that you recognise about it. I’m not sure about the exact end date of Scary Go Round, and there may be something transitional in between, but expect no interruption in service.

Go gently into the night, Scary Go Round! Among the reasons he’s ending his comic is that he wants an fresh, new jumping point for beginning readers. A pretty wise move, if you ask me: some comics have gone on so long that only the diehard fans can understand the latest entries.

I thought Scary Go Round had the snazziest title in webcomics. It rolls off the tongue. And you can apply it to anything! (The comic itself was rarely scary or a merry-go-round.) Here’s to hoping that his next project will have a similarly pleasant moniker.

So will we get a fresh new start and have the previous characters trickle in again, a la zombie Shelley Winters? Or will Allison flesh out some of the more minor SGR characters, like that stupid fish guy? Or will there be a more disciplined focus on totally new characters?

And give a decent resolution to Erin Winters already, John Allison! If you’ve thought I’ve forgotten, I can assure you that I have not!

(h/t to Fleen)

And now your Aishwarya Rai Tasteful Picture of the Day. Did you know that Ms. Rai originally studied to be an architect? It’s true!

Metapost: O Canada (or a big “thank you” to the True North)

Just for fun, I looked up my site over at alexa.com. Apparently, 39% of you readers, the highest percentage by nationality, are from Canada (vs. only 25% American … Yankee scum!) This is actually pretty unique. I poked around the other webcomic-related sites, and most had a solidly American majority. I don’t know why this is. I’m American, though I’ve pretty much spent all my life in cities not two hours from the Canadian border.

But I think it’s pretty fantastic!

Thank you, my Canadian brethren!

CanadianFlag

In return, I have to say that hockey is the manliest of sports, Tim Horton’s is the tastiest of fast food breakfasts, Blackberrys are awesome, and Bret Hart was the greatest wrestler of all time.

This guy's not far behind.

This guy's not far behind.

And a big hello to the apparently 21% of you from India. You’re only 4% away from surpassing the Americans! Don’t force me to put a bunch of Aishwarya Rai pictures up on this site. I’ll do it.

Finally, all rise for the Canadian National Anthem.

The Joy of Webcomics can’t find a cure for the summertime blues

joyofwebcomicsBoy, there must be something in the air this month because a lot of people are sure mad about webcomics!  Maybe I should change this week’s entry to The Annoy of Webcomics, amirite?  (Double finger click.) Anyway, here are a few salty items that might make you think that there might be some speedbumps in the new medium.

  • What The Hell People starts off with a recent Lore Sjoberg post about criticism care of Wired.com. (Excerpt: “It’s important to let people know what parts of your work you won’t change, so they won’t bother criticizing it. For instance, you might say: ‘I’m writing an original story about a Jebi knight named Lucas Starwalker who fights an evil imperial overlord named Darthon Vaderon who turns out to actually be his father. I’m not going to change the plot, the setting, the characters or the names, but aside from that let me know if there’s anything I can do to make my story even more awesome!'”)He applies its words of wisdom to webcomics. Its concluding words:

    The Gutter Snipe, in its response to my post, noted that “aesthetics are not laws”–rather, aesthetic standards are now, as ever, in flux. That much is true. But I fear for the future in which our aesthetic standards reward laziness, accept pettiness and hold sacrosanct the lowest common denominator. You are no Cezanne, so don’t make subjectivity into your personal aegis.

  • Everyone’s offering tips for webcomic newbies! One of them is Hey! Look! Comics!, that offers 20 free tips for webcomic beginners.

    Use a blaring, ugly background, so your reader’s eyes get diverted to and stay on the comic! If your comic is taller than the screen, only have the navigation buttons above it OR below it, but not both! Use an intentionally confusing drop-down archive system so readers will be forced to look at a bunch of your comics before they find the one they’re looking for! If you can, use complex, “page turn simulation” animation between pages to give the feel of a real book- don’t worry if it compresses your image a bit small or makes the page slow to load, the effect is SO WORTH IT!

    Will do, E!

  • Jackson Ferrell does an interview in comic form with Unwinder of Unwinder’s Tall Comics. Somehow the discussion ends with them talking about Shredded Moose. Moral of the story: if you want to totally kill a conversation, TALK ABOUT SHREDDED MOOSE.
  • Now for my first sarcasm-free entry: Webcomics.com relaunches!  In one of the newer entries, Nathan Foreman takes a look at the ages old debate of art vs. writing.  Who wins?  Who loses?  And will there be a rematch?
  • In just regular comic/TV show news, Brian K. Vaughan has left the Lost writing staff! To be honest, I was much more a fan of Paul Dini and (yes, it shocks me too) Jeph Loeb’s contributions.  BKV got too… cosmic.  (Not that I still didn’t enjoy Seasons 4 & 5.) Who will be replacing the Y: the Last Man writer?  My money’s on Stan Lee.
  • Meanwhile, Pigs of the Industry takes a look at Sin Titulo and doesn’t like the Lost-like mystery aspects much.  To wit:

    I don’t think Lost advances much if anything in their going off in all possible plot point directions. I also don’t think they have a clue how it’s all really going to end. No road map to the words “THE END”. I don’t [think] ST is that bad off about direction, but all those new narratives just slow things down.

    Maybe there’s a roadmap now that Stan Lee’s in charge!

  • I haven’t read the comic yet, but Delos of ArtPatient did an expose on M.I.M.E.S. in his What Did I Learn feature. Supposedly, the heroes are silent … which is just enough to pique my interests. Flailing my arms wildly like I’m in an invisible box over here.
  • I Am Legend reviews Annyseed. It’s about a vampire girl who looks like a goth with black hair and two ponytails. Which … pretty much describes any goth girl portrayed in pop culture. Including that one chick from NCIS.
  • Why in the world do we see, anyway? Sounds like a fairly goofy question, until you realize that our vision is far more attuned than what simple evolution would require. Do we define certain colors as baseline? Do two eyes give us a sort of X-ray vision? Did our alphabet evolve from things we observe in nature? Let the Wall Street Journal walk you through the particulars in their book review of “The Vision Revolution.”
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