Category Archives: 3 Stars

WCO#239: Dresden Codak

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Aaron Diaz’s Dresden Codak is a strange creature. It debuted back in 2005, back when webcomics were developing a reputation as the sophisticated alternative to their comic strip brethren. xkcd launched in the same year, and A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible not long before that. Perry Bible Fellowship was starting to gain a strong following. At the core of these comics as a brainy just-out-of-college mentality. The gags were still sometimes juvenile, but at its core were concepts and ideas that were smarter and more clever than ones on the Sunday Funnies. Except Marmaduke. That comic is pretty dang subversive.

And all of them, including xkcd sometimes, would surprise you by hitting you with some great looking art. It may be easy to forget, since a lot of art grads now know of webcomics as a great way to expand their portfolio, but aesthetically webcomic art was pretty dire. The medium, after all, was originally conceived as an amateur hobby where some folks got lucky despite the artistic merit, e.g. tons of pixel comics. As a result, comics like Dresden Codak were incredibly eye-catching in comparison.

Typical of early Dresden Codak is a comic like “Li’l Werner.” It’s a one-shot comic with no continuity baggage. Diaz is still experimenting with his art style: this time homaging the black-and-white cross-hatching of Edward Gorey. The strip hinges around a tongue-in-check parody of Aryan physics (the Nazi nationalist scientific movement to discredit Jewish scientists like Albert Einstein). There’s a sharped-toothed Philip Lenard recalling anti-Semitic caricatures, a tiny Heisenberg, and something about “current momentum.” I don’t pretend to know what the heck any of this is about. But it sounds smart and the multiple tiny Heisenbergs is a cute visual gag. It’s a lovely comic to introduce to your local Tesla fan.

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WCO #231: MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck (Act 6)

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(For the rest of this multi-part review, check out my thoughts on Acts 1-4 and Act 5.)

You’ve got to hand it to Andrew Hussie. They guy seems to go out of his way to be as alienating as possible. Just when it seems like the story’s gaining traction, he’s all, “Nuts to that sh*t. Time to roll with something that makes even less sense.” When MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck started, it bore a lot of similarities with its predecessor, Problem Sleuth, as a parody of an adventure game, complete with confusing inventory systems and glitchy controls. But then, all of the sudden, it became this complex world-building mythology, with multiple planets and a core system of light and darkness anchored by two planets with two moons.

And then Act 5 rolls around. Hussie introduces a bunch of abrasive new characters with orange horns that were so myriad that they seemed impossible to track. Oh yeah, and they’ve got their own alternative world and a complicated system of romance. Clearly, Hussie has disappeared straight up his own butt, right? Well, that maybe so… but the gamble paid off, and Homestuck became more popular than it ever had been before. At least with the costume stores supplying gray facepaint to all the troll cosplayers out there.

When we get to Act 6, then, the question isn’t, “So, what’s Hussie going to do to answer all these puzzles and mysteries?” It becomes more, “What sort of ridiculous bull is Hussie going to make up just to needlessly confuse and deliberately obfuscate the story even further?”

There are drawbacks to being this experimental, though. At some point, the mythology can get too top heavy, and the characters the readers learned to love over the course of the story get lost in the shuffle. Hey, Losties: remember Lost, Season 6? The experimental one that discarded the format, explored all new characters with a sideway universe where the cast had different adventures because they were living in a parallel world?

Me neither.

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The Webcomic Overlook #235: Hobo Lobo of Hamelin

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Ladies and gentlemen: how do we know we’re in the future? Is it when we get flying cars? Is it when we can replace our arms with cyborg parts? If comic pundits will have you believe, it’s when webcomics realize their full potential and embrace the infinite canvas. No more being restrained to the rigid static confines of a piece of paper, developed hundreds of years ago! Why live within those archaic limitations? We’re living in the future, son!

And just like how flying cars and prosthetic limbs exist in real life, so too are there examples of these futuristic comics. Some do nothing more than scroll in one direction for a long time. Others contain significantly more bells and whistles by incorporating sound and simple animation.

A relatively recent effort is Stevan Živadinović’s Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. And by “relatively recent,” I mean that it began in 2011 and was updated as recently as September 2013. I actually mentioned this comic when it first came out and had hoped to review it when more became available. It looks like not much progress has been made in the intervening two-and-a-half years, though. Note to pundits who still lean on the “motion comic” approach to webcomics: if you’re doing one by your lonesome, they’re a massive time sink.

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One Punch Reviews #87: Battlecroc

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Battlin’ animals seem all the rage these days. And the more inappropriate, the better. Pokemon probably started the rage, what with its rats and lizards and … um … mimes all bread for battlin’. The trend has spread to webcomics as well. 2012, for example, saw the Eisner Award go to Battlepug, which, as its title suggests, is about a pug that battles. That, of course, is part of its humor. Who expects a pug to battle? They look like sad little children, more likely to be begging for handouts than to be bathed in the blood of war.

And cuddle unassuming animals are once again at the forefront in Bryan Fleming’s Battlecroc. That’s right, thouse friendly long-snouted fellows that Steve Irwin used to pal around with (until his unfortunate demise at the end of the frightening tail of the stingray) are portrayed as unlikely warriors in a world that hoas gone to the birds.

(That’s right. Again with the bird-bashing. Hasn’t the Angry Birds franchise done enough damage by portraying these feathered hacky-sacks as being in a permanent state of utmost surliness?)

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Ultra Mammoth

So sometimes webcomics have side-stories. They can be like Something Positive or Weregeek where they’re table top games the characters are playing, or like Johnny Wander or Ctrl+ Alt+ Delete where it’s just something else the author wanted to share. Depending on how well they’re executed, and the comic in question, it can be entertaining. It works with Johnny Wander (Although I cannot wait for Lucky Penny to end. It’s not bad but who puts up a long form graphic novel only two pages a week? Expect a review from me when it finally ends) since they’re just one off auto-bio comics and the sides are usually only a few pages long. With Weregeek, however, I found the RPG stuff so boring I quit halfway through my archive trawl of the comic.

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Today, we’re looking at Ultra-Mammoth, a side story in David Willis’ Shortpacked that went for a few week. It was a fan fiction comic about the Transformers show Beast Wars. Specifically, one of the characters made to be sold as a toy, but never featured in the show. In the show, new characters were introduced by having the crew of the Maximal ship, who are the good guys, ejected and placed in orbit in the first episode. Occasionally, a pod falls from orbit and a new character awakens, unless the Predacons, the bad guys, get to it first and reprogram the bot inside.

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One Punch Reviews #86: Girls of Monster Paradise

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Welcome, boys and ghouls, to another frighteningly fun edition of the Deadcomic Overlook … um, Hotel! Ha ha ha ha ha! This is your ever fiendish host, El Satan, bringing you another chilling review of …

Wait.

Is it November already?

Well, pilgrim, get ready to feast on another review. This time we’ll be looking at a little giblet of a comic called Girls of Monster Paradise by Stephanie Gladden. Will this webcomic leave you feeling thankful, or will it be turkey terrible?

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One Punch Reviews #85: Internet Webcomic

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There are generic sounding webcomic titles, and there are generic sounding webcomic titles. There’s one variety that follows the Perry Bible Fellowship nomenclature and just tosses some random sounding words together. And then there are the ones that look like they’ll never show up on any online search engine whatsoever. Such is the chase of Internet Webcomic by Mary Tanner, which, against all odds, is somehow the first result to pop up on Google when “internet webcomic” is typed in the search field. Seriously, I expected this to be buried on page 3 or so.

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The Webcomic Overlook #230: Ava’s Demon

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It’s getting to be a familiar site these days to see animators flexing their creative juices in webcomics. Just about 5 years ago, it seemed like a novelty when Chris Sanders, animation director of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, brought his verve to the little electrical screen with Kiskaloo. An actual animator! Deigning to illustrate webcomic! How about that! Man, webcomics aren’t just for bored college liberal art students with a poor grasp of MSPaint anymore!

Nowadays, it’s a little more commonplace. Katie Rice, the winner of this year’s Strip Search, to point out one of the most prominent examples, is herself an animator. I suppose it makes sense. As an animator, I’m thinking that most of the time you’re shackled to someone else’s brilliant vision… like, say, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Sure, there’s some creative leeway there. Maybe suggestions on the character design. Or ideas on fun little background elements. Or animating the letters “S-E-X” in the clouds near Aladdin and Jasmine.

I, too, wanted to be an animator once.  Inspired by the Disney Renaissance of the early 90′s, I even once bought a book about how to break into the biz.  If these animators were anything like I was, I’m guessing a lot got into the field because they wanted to tell stories. Their stories. There’s a creative force gnawing inside, waiting for the day when it can be finally unleashed on the world. Something like … a crazed little demon.

Speaking of crazed little demons, that’s sort of the premise for Ava’s Demon. The webcomic was created by Michelle Czajkowski, who, as I understand it, is an animator at Dreamworks.

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