Category Archives: 3 Stars
You can say many things about webcomic veteran Kris Straub. Maybe you can say that for some reason he has an almost pathological fear of nostrils. Or that he replace the first letter of his name to a “Ch” to avoid gender confusion. Or that his beard is weird. Like I said, many things.
One thing that you cannot say, though, is that he has no ideas. Kris Straub is the sort of man where any fool thought pops into his head, and he has to go and make a webcomic about it. A webcomic space opera? Sure. Done. Got it. A comic about a struggling band? On it, buddy. A suit made out of chainsaws?
When you think about it, by the way, chainsawsuit (reviewed here) provides the perfect outlet for an ideas man. A thought pops up, and a hastily drawn comic later — BAM!!! — it’s the latest hit on Reddit, garnering tens of upvotes. In one of the Webcomic Weekly podcasts, Straub marvels how the comic was sort of done as a lark, but it turned out to be the one picking up the most views. I suspect, more than anything, that the format fit him like a glove … much like blogging about webcomics, for me, has given me a wide-ranging platform for my racist polemics.
The latest joint by the bearded man with an aversion for the olfactory senses comes in the form of Broodhollow. This time, Straub invites you to enter his particular vision of horror! Only it’s set around the turn of the 20th Century. And it’s still nominally a comedy. And people still don’t have noses.
Seriously, noses are for ethnic people.
I think we are entering a somewhat mature era for webcomics. Not necessarily “mature” in the sense of “growing up and getting a job” or “mature” in the way cable channels like Starz and Cinemax use it. (Though there are examples of both if you’re looking for it.) I mean mainly that it’s been around a while. When CAD aped the style of Penny Arcade, there was plenty of hoo-ing and hah-ing that somebody was getting their style ripped off. We’ve reached a day, I think, that if someone copped the same style these days, you could say, rather, that the comic was “influenced by” it’s more well known predecessor.
Can we seriously fault any new webcomic if it builds upon the precedents set by Penny Arcade or Kate Beaton or Scott Kurtz or Pete Abrams? After all, they were the ones who proved what worked and what didn’t. They’re the ones who know the safe route to success. Sure, it somewhat puts the limits of creativity. However, while a very few of us can be Pablo Picassos, most of us would be happy being Norman Rockwells: low in pizzazz, but just high enough in appeal for the masses at large.
These are the thoughts that flitted through my mind while ruminating over Citation Needed, by Christopher J. O’Brien and Amy T. Falcone. It’s a comic that stubbornly conforms to the established narrative as to what a webcomic should be. Namely it’s a roommate webcomic about wacky characters and totally random humor. Which means, bottom line, Citation Needed looks like pretty much every other webcomic ever.
The opening sequence of Cari Corene’s Toilet Genie is not unlike having escargot at a classy French restaurant: the atmosphere is pretty, the appetizer is kinda gross, and yet it’s still pretty compelling and makes you hungry for the main dish. Then suddenly, the main dish arrives, and it’s a college philosophy thesis. Slathered in barbecue sauce.
“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.)
It’s sometimes hard to comprehend in this increasingly global world we live in, but humor is very much tied to where you grew up. I think I mentioned it before, but whenever my wife tells me that she discovered a hilarious video that a friend of hers sent via Facebook, I cringe. I cringe a lot. That’s because she grew up in the Philippines, and a lot of the comedy seems to be rooted in terrible mangling of the English language… despite the fact that, from my ears, the accent is only slightly more atrocious that her own. And even if that were the case, why would I even find it hilarious in the first place?
There also seems to be a bit of a cultural disconnect with British humor. There seems, for example, to be a lot of comedy to be mined regarding mustaches. At least, that’s what I glean from Scott Ferguson’s Nerf This. Here, mustaches are featured prominently and often. Sometimes they just show up, and that’s apparently the punchline. Ah, to have been born on the British Isles. Perhaps I would’ve appreciated some of that fine honed humor rather than, say, watching a Filipina starlet humiliate herself on YouTube while mangling the lyrics of Air Supply’s “Can’t Live (If Living Is Without You).”
Recently, I’ve been reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars, a fairly methodical (yet still enjoyable) novel about the colonization of Mars. The main theme that emerged throughout seems to be that Mars sorta transforms its inhabitants into adverserial jerks. It’s not the only book to come to the same conclusion. Edward Rice Burroughs’ Princess of Mars is populated by a bunch of irascible aliens. The aliens from Mars Attacks! are murderous pranksters. And so on and so forth.
I think much of that characterization is taken from the nature of the planet itself. It’s defined by the color red — which is the color of blood, passion, and madness. It’s dusty and desolate, reminding us of the hardscrabble life of the Wild West. And it’s named after the Roman God of War. Violence seems to be the logical conclusion. So it is in the world of Dave Pauwels and Nicolas R. Giacondino’s Free Mars, where the red planet seems to be in a permanent state of debauchery (NSFW) and revolution.