Monthly Archives: December 2012
… Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant.
Just when you thought she was out, she draws you back in!
The accolades really started rolling in last year. In December 2011, the book version of Hark! A Vagrant won a spot in Time Magazine’s Top 10 Fiction books of 2011. Lev Grossman (writer of The Magicians, The Magician King, and Codex) wrote: “… the main point is that they’re hilarious. Whatever else it might be, Hark! A Vagrant is the wittiest book of the year.”
The output for Hark! A Vagrant slowed to a trickle in 2012, though. This was due to Ms. Beaton’s increasing opportunities in the field of publishing following the success of her book. She wrote on her blog:
This is a funny job. Webcomics are often cited as the future of comics and the internet and I don’t know what else, but the fact that no one has retired from them yet means that I, at least, rest a little uneasy in these shoes sometimes if only for the lack of having a dependable compass by which to steer the ship. I just want to make the best decisions I can, so that I will be around longer, making drawings and comics and writing and other things that I hope people will enjoy. I’m not sure what will work out with these opportunities that have come my way, and I guess I can’t really say much about them, but I think I’d be a fool if I didn’t give them a try. So I am going to! Whatever I can let you know, I will.
She’s only posted thirteen strips on her site since that announcement.
And yet … that didn’t stop the accolades from coming. Hark! A Vagrant had already won a Harvey Award in 2011 for Best Online Comics Work and a nomination for Canada’s Shuster Awards in 2009 and 2010. It turns out that that was just a warm-up to 2012. In her most successful awards take yet, Ms. Beaton netted three Harvey Awards: the repeat of Best Online Comics Work, the Special Award for Humor in Comics, and the Best Cartoonist Award.
And if you think jive-talking historical characters are the only source of Ms. Beaton’s appeal, you’d be wrong. The Strong Female Characters sorta gained a modicum of internet infamy. While they were co-created by friends Carly Monardo and Meredith Gran, I’ve most often referred to them as “Kate Beaton’s Strong Female Characters“. The comic would get referenced in some online movie reviews.
The comic would sorta make Ms. Beaton something of the final word on “strong female characters.” She participated in a round of illustrations taking digs at an infamously cheesecake-y Catwoman cover. The mantle of lampooning how women are backbreakingly, twistingly portrayed in mainstream comics continues has nowadays been taken up by The Hawkeye Initiative, a Tumblr that Ms. Beaton is well aware of.
These achievements and more have led the Webcomic Overlook (that is, myself) to name Hark! A Vagrant the 2012 Webcomic of the Year.
“Aeria” is pretty unfortunate name for a fantasy realm. I doesn’t sound too bad at first. It’s got the “aerie” in the name, which is the nest of a hawk, eagle, falcon or other bird of prey. There’s an implication of loftiness and grim (some would say hawkish) determination. Since the world of Aeria is a bunch of islands defying laws of nature and physics by floating in the empty confines of space while somehow retaining an atmosphere, then it’s sort of appropriate, right?
It also sounds like “aria”, the musical composition made popular by Puccini, Mozart, and Bizet. It puts you in the mood for some classical music, an appropriate accompaniment when you’re traipsing around a fantasy world with a team consisting of a mage, a paladin, a thief, and a ranger.
And yet … it feels a tad unimaginative. I’m going to blame it on the fact that “Aeria” also sounds exactly like “area.” “Well, we’re going to start off in north area and journey down to middle area. We’re then going to go to west area so we can catch a ship heading over the sea of area until we reach generic brand islands.”
It’s middle of the read, which incidentally is also how I feel about this comic. Aeria is the title of the land and the name of the manga-style comic written by Fabian Rastorfer, illustrated by Songwut Ouppakarndee, and assisted by Kridsana Rattananen and Tim Harding. The comic is something of an international production. Mr. Rastorfer is from Switzerland (though studying in New York), and Mssrs. Ouppakarndee and Rattananen are from Bangkok, Thailand.
(It’s also alternately known as The Tale of Aeria in the browser header, but since the banner truncates it to the single word title, I’m just gonna go with that.)
If there were a thing such as “Webcomic of the Year” — you know, perhaps emblazoned on the cover of Time Magazine or some other archaic format — which would it be?
Would it be Axe Cop, which got its own animated series?
Would it be Hark! A Vagrant, which, despite being on semi-hiatus, managed to net its second Harvey Award?
Would it be Digger, which concluded yet won a Hugo Award?
Maybe it’s Battlepug, winner of this year’s Eisner for Best Digital Comic?
Is it Scenes From A Multiverse, winner of this year’s first ever Reuben Award given to a webcomic?
Perhaps it is The Oatmeal, which brought the internet to its knees with all the lawsuits and such?
Is it CAD, for pulling the plug, then putting another plug back in that looked slightly familiar but came in four different colors?
Or is it Order of the Stick for its ridiculously successful Kickstarter?
Maybe it’s none of these, and there’s another great webcomic in 2012 that deserves praise and accolades (or maybe jeers and snark like that one year Hitler was Time’s Man Of The Year). If so, speak up now, fellow friends, Internet Romans, and countrymen.
The “Lessons” continue: A Lesson Is Learned But the Damage Is Irreversible returns to the digital screen near you
As the immmortal Marshall Mathers once said on his song, “Without Me”: “Guess who’s back, back again/ Shady’s back, tell a friend. Guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back, guess who’s back….”
In this case, that which is back is the comic with the notoriously unwieldy title, A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible. After a hiatus of more than half a decade, it has resurfaced like some sort of island that became unstuck in time and is the hellmouth for all evil in the world.
From the blog, writer David Hellman writes:
When Dale [Beran] and I called time out from A Lesson Is Learned in 2006, I had no idea if there would ever be another episode. After 41 restlessly changing installments, it seemed the experiment had run its course. There were new challenges to tackle, creative and professional. Dale and I had moved to different cities on different coasts. And yet about a year ago, thanks to the advent of telephonic communication, we started talking about bringing back A Lesson Is Learned. At least one time…
What follows is a comic called “I Name Thee Annihilator!”, which blends Narnia and automatons and weddings.
Will there be more? Well, Mr. Hellman is off stoking the “are video games art debate?” by being the artist of Braid and Second Quest, while Dale Beran is working on Nerds of Paradise and Dates Worse Than Fate. It would be nice to see them collaborate on this comic a few more times, though, the one that will be forever remembered as the Perry Bible Fellowship before Perry Bible Fellowship… only better.
There’s a great Patrick Stewart bit on Extras that’s become something of a major internet meme. Ricky Gervais plays a struggling actor, and he’s snuck into Mr. Stewart’s trailer. Mr. Stewart is game, and he starts giving Gervais some advice. He recalls his time working on the X-Men movie as telepath Professor Charles Xavier. He says it helps to envision what you would do with those powers in real life.
“I’m walking along,” Patrick Stewart says, “I see this beautiful girl and I’d like to see her naked. So all her clothes fall off. And she’s scrambling around to get ‘em back on again, but even before she can get her knickers back on, I’ve seen everything. I’ve seen it all.”
The Extras version of Patrick Stewart sounds like the guy who would’ve written Banzai Girl. Surprisingly, it’s not. It’s actually Filipina writer, artist, and model Jinky Coronado.
Now that the Buzzfeed piece has made the rounds, Matt Inman responds with the allegations on his site. He has taken screenshots of the piece and responded in kind by flagging inaccurate parts and elaborating on them.
(NOTE: COLORFUL, RIBALD LANGUAGE WHICH SOME MAY SEE AS A TAD INAPPROPRIATE AHEAD)
I read Derf Backderf’s graphic novel My Friend Dahmer not too long ago. It’s an almost sympathetic look at Jeffrey Dahmer, one of Mr. Backderf’s classmates while growing up. The signs of Mr. Dahmer’s decline are obvious. He’s a heavy drinker. He does an impression of a person with cerebral palsy to entertain his classmates. He is into strange hobbies, like dissolving the bodies of tiny animals in acid.
What makes Mr. Backderf’s portrayal to be a little sympathetic, though, is that he points out that the other students he hung around with were almost as bad. Dahmer wasn’t even the most off-putting student Derf knew. In fact, Derf’s story wasn’t picture perfect, either. He pulled horrible phone pranks and messed with the yearbook. He mentioned substance abuse wasn’t so weird in his school in the 70′s. He and his friends even formed a Dahmer Fan Club, which aimed to imitate Dahmer’s weird performance ticks.
Derf really believed then, that before Dahmer’s terrible first murder, he was a guy who could have been saved. That slight glimmer of hope is what the main character in Elaine M. Will’s Look Straight Ahead is reaching for. After one of Jeremy’s psychotic breaks, his friend cut ties with him. “You do realize that now everyone thinks you’re going to start shooting the place up?” he says. It’s a horribly lonely spot, but Jeremy realizes that unless he gets better, his friend might be right.