Category Archives: action webcomic
Stories of disenfranchised youth are all the rage these days. None strikes to the heart as much as the story of a young greaser named Ponyboy. (I should probably make this clear in this day and age that he’s not named “Ponyboy” because he’s way into My Little Ponies.) The rich kids are known as the Socs — short for Socials. Early in the story, Ponyboy gets attacked. This bings to a head a class struggle set against a dusty Oklahoma setting. After a tragic incident occurs, Ponyboy soon finds himself many miles from home, trying to sort things out and in the processes becoming wiser than when he started.
Wait — what? It’s a different Outsider? …. With no “s”?
OK, look. Time out. Obviously I didn’t really mistake the infamous S.E. Hinton novel — whose movie adaptation launched the careers of Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, and Diane Lane — for today’s reviewed webcomic. I mean, geez, this isn’t Young Adult Novel Overlook. To tell you the truth, though, Jim Francis’ Outsider is not that much different. Just substitute Ponyboy for Alexander Jardin, the Socs and the Greasers with the warring Loroi and Umiak, and Oklahoma for outerspace. It’s fairly easy to confuse, admittedly, so here’s the big difference. The Outsiders is the one you were forced to read in junior high. Outsider — no “s” — has alien space babes.
There should be no question which one here is the superior product.
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).”
Ladies and gentlemen, I have some very sad news: I’m cancelling Mars Week. I knw you were looking forward to the parades with a giant Marvin the Martian balloons, a public reading of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, the contest to think up with a better Martian rover name than “Curiosity,” and free Mars Bars for the kids.
But I only have myself to blame, really. Earlier this week, I thought to myself: “Self, why don’t you finally review that other Mars-themed comic? Uh, what was it called? Red’s Planet?” It was a full-proof plan… until I reached the end of Red’s Planet and realized it had nothing to do with THE Red Planet. Fortunately, though, I have no regrets reading Eddie Pittman’s Red’s Planet. I’ll come right out and say it: it’s the most delightful webcomic you’ll ever read about Mars that will turn out to be not about that at all.
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.
Imagine you were in charge of a roller derby team. “What?” you say. “I came here for webcomics! What is this… the Roller Derby Overlook?” But just bear with me for a second. Imagine you were designing the mascot. What would it look like?
The character will pretty much have to be a devil. It’s an inversion of the traditional goody-two-shoes type that, I don’t know, shop at malls and go into marketing. It’s a sign of rebellion. Feistiness. Grrrrrrllll power. Besides, who’s ever heard of a roller derby team without a devil as a mascot? That would be ludicrous. That’s like designing an NBA logo without a basketball in it. So we start with a devil, preferably a shapely female to show that world that your team is both sexy and oh-so-dirty.
But… shoot… everybody has a sexy devil as their logo! How do I distinguish my mascot from every other mascot out there? Well, if the team’s called, say, the “Rat City Mavericks,” then the answer is simple: put some cowboy gear all up on that hottie! But it’s gotta be formfitting, lest you diminish the sexiness of it.
In the end, you would have a character that looked a lot like Kit, the protagonist of Matt Speroni’s The Dreadful.
Imagine a story centered around a nomadic tribe. They voyage the plains, perhaps resembling the African savannah. They live a sort of insular lifestyle, dealing with issues on a small, community-based level. What do we do when the herd we’ve been tracking suddenly moves? How do we deal with conflicts with neighboring tribes. And so on and so forth.
Suddenly, though, this tribe comes across a huge Empire that has ambitions for expansion. The Roman Empire, lets say. One of the people in that tribe is suddenly conscripted into the service of the Empire, and must now deal with a frightening new world, with new moral standards, a stratified class structure, and people who don’t look very favorably upon a simple tribesperson from the plains.
The set-up is pure Joseph Campbell and is a very popular one to use in historical or fantasy fiction. It sounds a lot like Conan the Barbarian, in fact. But … what if Conan was a girl? … OK, that’s just Red Sonja. BUT … what if Red Sonja was also a salamander creature?
While you’ve still got a way to go before this analogy starts making any sense, your starting to get close to Evan Dahm’s lastest incursion into the Overside: a little webcomic about a female, sword-wielding, salamander creature named Vattu.
For some reason, comic book superheroes don’t seem to fight supervillains anymore. Rather, they seem content fighting each other. Last year, DC’s New 52 kicked off with Flashpoint, where heroes became murderous villains living in an alternate timeline. This year’s big event is Marvel’s Avengers Vs. X-Men, where the merry mutants square off with the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. (And before that: Civil War, where Captain America and Iron Man took opposite sides on superhero registration.)
Is it because the average age of the comic reader is a decade or two older than the original intended audience. Do we now find standard black-and-white morality to be childish, to the point where comic book villains look no worse than the morally stodgy heroes? Perhaps it’s our general distrust of authority? Or, in a genre rooted in rebellion, are we compelled to take sides against fatherly ultrahuman types? Maybe there are just more storytelling opportunitiies when Batman and Superman aren’t friends? These thoughts and more flit through my mind when I read Blue Yonder, a webcomic written by Luke Perks and Richard Pulfer and illustrated by Diego Diaz. Here, the villains are, for the most part, laughable… and the greatest threat to the heroes are themselves.
So, not to long ago, I spent pretty much the entire review of Insufferable praising the amazingness of the incomparable Mark Waid. At that time, though, I hadn’t yet read Waid’s acclaimed Irredeemable, a work which has garnered 3 Eisner and 3 Harvey nominations. The story is about a heroic, powerful character who experiences a pyschotic break, and he becomes absolutely frightening. He kidnaps people and forces them to reenact his sexual fantasies. He kills former friends and their children in his furious anger. The remaining heroes have to resort to selling out their own morals in order to put a stop to the maniac.
I loved it. I pretty much downloaded and plowed through all 37 issues just because it was just so engrossing. At the same time, though, the characterization was always a priority over the more questionable elements. Waid made you care about the characters, even the ones that were transgressive beyond belief. It was a series filled with shock elements, but they all had a reason for being there beyond the gratuitous use of blood and gore. Irredeemable proved that you didn’t need to have name-brand heroes to make a superhero story compelling (though, to be fair, the Plutonian was more or less a mirror image of Superman).
The superhero comic, the staple of the print comic industry, is somewhat of a rarity in webcomics. There have, however, been several attempts… and some have been surprisingly long running. One has been around for over six years: Scott Story’s heartwarming tale about a man — or rather, two men — with planets emblazoned upon his chest, Johnny Saturn.