Monthly Archives: December 2010

Merry Christmas from the Webcomic Overlook

Merry Christmas to all! Spend time with family, open up your presents, scarf up some Christmas food, and get in line for some Boxing Day deals so you can shop like a Santa and save like a Scrooge!

And thank you for reading The Webcomic Overlook! I couldn’t have done it without you! According to my WordPress stat counter, this site averaged 1,500 pageviews a day in 2010, so hopefully not all of them were spambots. But seriously, I wouldn’t be writing if people weren’t reading, and 2010 was a particularly fun year to be writing about webcomics. Thank you.

We kicked off the year with WCO #102: SuperFogeys and closed it out with WCO #146: Tiny Kitten Teeth.

The most read review was STILL WCO #52: Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi. (Good Lord, when will people stop reading that comic?) Right behind, though, were two reviews written this year: WCO #130: the infamous Ctrl+Alt+Del and WCO #111: the booberiffic Las Lindas… what made me wonder, several times, why I even bother reviewing good webcomics. In between I read comics about zombies, sports, Shaolin monks, astronauts, bounty hunters, ace detectives, wombats, gamers, Cthulhu, and superpowered grapes.

But why are you reading this when you can enjoying your Christmas break? Go! Have fun! I’ll see you in 2011! Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

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MTV’s Splash Page names Ectopiary, Axe Cop, and Octopus Pie the best webcomics

As you know, the end of the year means year end lists. Everyone wants to give you their take on the best of 2010. Our latest “Best of 2010″ list comes from MTV.com’s Splash Page, the site’s blog for comic-related news. Rather considerately, they’ve given webcomics three whole categories:

BEST WEBCOMIC
“Ectopiary” by Hans Rickheit
(http://www.ectopiary.com/)

Since Hans Rickheit decided to serialize the follow-up to his 2009 graphic novel “The Squirrel Machine” online last year, the story has been as haunting as anything the Xeric winner has produced before. Up until recently, the tale of a young girl named Dale grappling with the truth behind her isolation from her mother and father has been uncharacteristically realistic, but Rickheit has slowly been building a world of terrifying implications and mysteries outside of his panels while drawing one of the most gorgeous webcomics out there.
– Brian Warmoth

BEST NEW WEBCOMIC
“Axe Cop” by Malachai Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle
(http://axecop.com)

A true testament to the unconstrained creativity made possible by the minimal publishing barriers in webcomics, “Axe Cop” became a transcendent success in 2010, crossing over with “The Adventures of Dr. McNinja” and eventually snagging a publishing deal with Dark Horse. The concept dreamed up by a 5-year-old and drawn into life by a 29-year-old is so simple but so gobsmackingly hilarious and outrageous with its sudden twists and turns that it deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as “The Tick” and “Flaming Carrot Comics.”
– BW

BEST PRINT EDITION OF A WEBCOMIC
“Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars In Brooklyn” by Meredith Gran (Villard Books)
(http://octopuspie.com/)

Collecting the first two years of Gran’s popular webcomic about Brooklyn-dwelling roommates Eve and Hanna, “There Are No Stars In Brooklyn” not only looks great in print form, but the format offers a fresh take on the series’ continuity — specifically, how all of the serialized stories gel together into a single, fascinating story of life in New York City. With its distinctive green-hued pages and themed chapters that provide context for each story arc, the book is a great example of what the best webcomic collections strive to present: it offers a unique way of looking at the series that will appeal to new readers and longtime fans alike.
– RM

Webcomic Overlook’s Webcomic Moments of 2010

Welcome to this year’s webcomic wrap-up for 2010. And what an insane year it’s been. I’ve been poring through the archives of my own site, and I have to say that even I’m pretty stunned about all the major upheavals that happened this year, both industry-wise and story-wise. It was tumultuous. It was triumphant. It was continually evolving.

However, as with the last time I did this (2008, it seems — I must’ve been in a coma December of 2009), I’m not trying to put together any sort of definitive inventory. Rather, I’m keeping things loose, informal, and hopefully fun. I mean, this is webcomics we’re talking about … not the economy or global tensions exacerbated by North and South Korea.

So what greeted us in the first year of the Third Decade of webcomics? We’ll start with a couple of goodbyes:

The last 8-Bit Theater.

Fond Farewells of the Year:

This was a year for some farewells to webcomics. Cue up Lawrence Welk’s “Adios, Au Revoir, Aufweidersehn” and let’s take a trip down memory lane.

8-Bit Theater ends its unlikely long-lived run with the comic breaking from its pixel format to finish with the characters rendered in manga-style artwork.

In a more camp vein, Wendi Pini’s Masque of the Red Death ends with an ending so glam it rivals the Broadway production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. I mean, seriously: a curtain call where everyone, who were apparently actors in Ms. Pini’s dramatic retelling of Poe’s short story, sashays in the most fabulous outfits imaginable accompanied by racuous applause? I admit… it’s definitely something I’ve never seen in webcomics before.

Meanwhile Order of Tales wrapped up with an ending that was fantastic, epic, heartfelt, and bittersweet. Everyone should read it. However, the Overside tales are still ongoing, which makes it feel less final than the previous two webcomics I mentioned.

Webcomic Superheroines 2010:

The last time I mentioned a superheroine in one of these end of the year pieces, it was “Phenomenal Lass,” who took home the 2008 Best Pun Award. (“Phenomenal Lass.” Ha ha ha.) This year, none of these gals have punny names. They are, however, superheroines.

My roster of the Webcomic Superpowered Charlie’s Angels includes a trio of ladies whose names begin with “S”: Superhero Girl, Spinnerette, and Spy Gal! Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape:

Spinnerette, Superhero Girl, and Spy Gal.

Superhero Girl (The Adventures of Superhero Girl): debuted this year. Can lift objects ten times her size (like ants). Can also leap over tall buildings (not to be confused with flying). Canadian. Greatest challenge: laundry day. Second greatest challenge: Space monsters.

Spinnerette (Spinnerette): trying to become a superhero after growing extra arms. Failing at that. Kinda clumsy, but full of heart. Obviously stole costume from Marvel’s Spider-Woman. A member of some sort of Justice League of Anime Stereotypes.

Spy Gal (SuperFogeys): Experienced. Tough. Old. An homage to Marvel’s Black Widow. Senility may or may not be an act. Greatest challenge: the director of the retirement home. Got engaged to Captain Spectacular in 2010.

Which of these three is the greatest webcomic superherione of 2010? What do you, the viewers at home, think?

Toughest Dude of 2010:

It was not an easy decision (especially in a world where a guy named Commander Badass and Rob Liefeld’s take on the Apostle Peter made their debuts), but I’m going to have to go with Axe Cop. Debuting in December 25 of 2009, Axe Cop and his head-chopping ways really caught many readers’ imaginations this year. What can I say? Little kids know tough dudes.

Axe Cop also gets my vote for the “I Don’t Want To Grow Up” Award. While the joke is sorta played out now, very few comics really captured the zeitgeist of being a young kid and making things up as you go along. Paired with the fantastic opening sequence of Toy Story 3, 2010 was a great year to remember being a kid again.

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Dresden Codak guest strip by KC Green and friends brings you the sci-fi/comic strip mash up you never knew you wanted

It’s getting to be that every KC Green guest comic is becoming an event. His Skull of Regret strip, for example, was probably one of the best Pictures For Sad Children strips ever (even inspiring some dudes to make a film of it).

And now, along with John Keogh and Emily Vasseur, he brings you pretty much the best Dresden Codak guest comic ever: a world where Battlegarfield Earth and Blondiestar Galactica exist. It’s almost unfair. Putting KC Green in your guest comic roster means that even Zach Weiner and Spike Trotman can’t even hope to compete.

The Webcomic Overlook #146: Tiny Kitten Teeth

Not too long ago, a reader took me to task in the comments section of one of my recent reviews. His comment implied that I am easily swayed by pretty pictures. It was as if a cheap, theatrical device blinded me to other deficiencies, which thus led to The Webcomic Overlook handing out inflated ratings.

Now, I could go into some diatribe about how ratings really aren’t that important, and it’s the content of the review that matters, and an opinion is just an opinion…. but, you know, this guy’s onto something. I’m man enough to admit that I like pretty, pretty pictures. And what’s wrong with that? If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t be reading comics. I probably would best be spending my time curled up with a book or an audionovel or something where illustrations are not such a key component of storytelling.

That said, even I have my limits. There are times when nice art doesn’t hide deficiencies, but, rather, amplifies them. Case in point: Tiny Kitten Teeth, illustrated by Becky Dreistadt and illustrated by Frank Gibson.

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It’s that time of year again: The ComixTalk 2010 Roundtable

So.

2010.

What a crazy year for webcomics, eh? The iPad became a thing, everyone started talking about some webcomic-related book beating out Glenn Beck in the best-seller’s list, and perhaps established publishers to digital comics seriously.

What better way to revisit the doings and going-ons of that year than the annual ComixTalk Roundtable discussion?

A typical discussion about webcomics.

Peek in as webcomic pundits like Brigid Alverson, Heidi MacDonald, Gary Tyrrell, and — yes — me masquerading as dashing webcomic man-about-town named “Larry Cruz” discuss the important issues of the day.

What were our favorite digital comics?

Do we even have an iPad?

Which creators took advantage of the digital comic format the best?

The answers may surprise you! Here’s a taste:

In 2020, we’ll be kvetching about the monstrous establishment that is Topatoco and how they don’t recognize hip young creators.

I know! Shocking, right?

Next webcomic-related salvo at the bestseller book list: Girl Genius

Phil and Kaja Foglio have faith in Girl Genius (reviewed here).

They believe the character is strong enough to transcend the comic book format.

Which is why the Foglios are retelling Agatha Heterodyne’s story in their all new ebook, Agatha H and the Airship City, a novelization published by sci-fi/fantasy publisher Baen books.

But that’s not all! Phil Foglio has a devious plan to get everyone to buy the book when it goes live on Amazon. From his LiveJournal:

… we are launching a campaign that I’m calling ‘A Gift For Kaja’. If you are planning on buying Agatha H and the Airship City from Amazon.com, we ask that you hold off from pre-ordering, and buy it on January 12, 2011. The idea is that if enough people buy a book on a particular day, it will rise in the sales ranks. The higher we can get it, the better. Yes, it’s just for the one day, but if we get it high enough, then other people, people not already Girl Genius aficionados, will notice, and we hope, check it out.

Are the Foglios mad? you ask. Perhaps. But remember, the Foglios have not won one, but TWO Hugo Awards for Best Graphic Story (besting Bill Willingham on Fables, Brian K. Vaughan on Y: The Last Man, Joss Whedon on Serenity, and Neil Gaiman on Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?) If they be mad, perhaps they have good reason. After all, I imagine the Hugos, being a fantasy/science-fiction award first, values a strong storytelling narrative over other things.

This is but the first incursion into media beyond sequential art. An audionovel is not far behind. Can a movie be in the works? And will Agatha Heterodyne be played by Miley Cyrus?

(h/t Robot 6)

Know Thy History: Thomas Nast’s Santa Claus

Over here in the real world, I’ve been reasonably busy with Christmas-related activities. Travel arrangements, presents, decorations, the whole shebang. In the month of December, I am less “El Santo” and more “El Santa.”

SPEAKING OF WHICH…

A Nigerian friend of mine made an interesting comment recently that, over in his home country, Santa (or rather, “Father Christmas” owing to their tradition’s British origins) has always been portrayed as a Black man. So he was actually pretty surprised when he emigrated to America, and all the Santas here were white. As an added bit of shock, apparently all the locals assumed that the real Santa was always white. But St. Nicolas, the man behind the legend, was actually a bishop in what is now modern-day Turkey. So, really, wouldn’t an accurate Santa be more olive-skinned?

So what established the American template for Santa Claus? The one that all mall Santas, Salvation Army reps, Santa Run athletes, and Santa-themed movies must abide by? Could it be … The Father of the American Cartoon?

The man credited with crafting the uniquely American version of Santa is none other than comic superstar Thomas Nast. Anyone whose ever opened an illustrated American history book is familiar with Nast’s contributions. The man spoofed the Democratic Party as a bunch of braying jackasses and the Republican Party as a dumb, lumbering elephant … and in a weird twist of fate both parties embraced his mockery whole-heartedly and turned his cartoons into party symbols. Along with superstar British illustrator John Tenniel (Alice In Wonderland), he gave Uncle Same has trademark goatee. He published several memorable images criticizing the Tammany Hall political machine, which also helped codify the style of the editorial cartoon.
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