Category Archives: barbarian webcomic

The Webcomic Overlook #201: Battlepug

For some reason, webcomic creators really love mashing two unlikely subject matters and making a story out of it. (Though, to be far, it’s not only webcomics. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, anyone?) There are doctors who are also ninjas, doctors who are also dirtbike riders, dinosaurs who are ninjas, cops who have axes, barbarians who are Americans, and American patriots who are rock stars. It embraces an internet appetite for the absurd, which is why it’s actually fairly amazing that a lot of these comics can actually maintain a long term story.

I mean: think of that movie, Snakes On A Plane. Why did that fail? The biggest one was that once you got the title, you pretty much got the whole joke already. On the other hand, The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has been going strong for 8 years now. I think the webcomic format is more suited for silly ideas like these. They feel far more like they’re genuinely off-the-cuff and not focus-grouped to death. It doesn’t have to be dumbed down to reach as wide an audience as possible. It only needs to reach the fans of eccentric humor … which are not in short supply on the internet.

And now, something with a mash-up premise is a nominee for the Eisner Awards: Battlepug, created by Mike Norton, who’s done work in the comic industry (Runaways, Queen and Country, and Young Justice to name a few). You mash together a barbarian and a giant pug. What could go wrong?


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Random Quickies: Battlepug

Woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof arf woof woof woof woof arf arf woof Battlepug. Woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof grrrrrr. Grrrrrrr. Grrrrrrrrrr. Woof woof arf woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof woof. Woof woof. Woofwoofwoof?

(Translation for human readers:

The introductory image of a warrior riding a pug is pretty much all there needs to be drawn for me to be sold on Mike Norton’s Battlepug. Fair warning: the site may be NSFW — while there’s no full frontal nudity, there is the framing device of a naked woman telling a story to two small dogs. Just be clear on your company’s policy on naked butts.

Battlepug is an epic fantasy about a muscly sword-and-sorcery barbarian raised in slavery who fights fearsome monsters and was raised by a society of elves. Norton’s art is top-notch. His got a great grasp at drawing action-packed scenes. The story is just starting, so we haven’t even got to the part where there guy rides the pug yet. The best part is that all these adventures are completely true! Not that you can expect humans to buy into real history that’s so canine-centric. Humans. Amirite?)

One Punch Reviews #37: American Barbarian

When I first got into comics in the early 1990’s, everyone in the comic book press seemed to be overly worshipful of one Jack Kirby. I couldn’t understand it. Kirby’s art looked out of date and cheesy. He always used some, to my mind, pretty off-putting poses. Like where a dude’s mouth goes wide open like a frog’s. Or where a guy’s stretched out arm looked flat and badly proportioned. And the colors were just so loud and garish.

It took some growing up to finally understand why Kirby’s so revered. It’s because his artwork is so dynamic. A guy throwing a punch becomes a work of art. Plus you gotta love how he made the grotesque come to life. I appreciate his style more nowadays, especially since everything in superhero comics seems to be photoreference this, photoreference that.

Do you know who else admires Jack Kirby? Tom Scioli, creator of American Barbarian. Sure, it’s a goofy title that makes it sound like the latest webcomic thing of mashing together two unlike things and making a comic about it (Thanks a lot, Dr. McNinja). And, yes, there are a whole lot of goofy touches like a giant villain who dresses like a pharaoh and has tanks for feet. But when you think about it, would an American Barbarian seem out of place next to a Grim Reaper who wears skis or Mad-Hole, Country of the Screamers?


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The Webcomic Overlook #95: Legend of Bill

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The Sword and Sorcery fantasy subgenre began in the mind of a troubled young Texan named Robert E. Howard. He peppered his stories with aspect of his life. Growing up in the 1900’s, he witnessed the transformation of his state from a wild frontier to industrialized oil towns. He saw the anger and loss felt by disillusioned former Confederates, still bitter about losing the Civil War. He heard myths and legends passed down by his grandmother and ex-slaves. These elements came together in stories of one Conan the Barbarian, a big bruiser from the Far North who loves lusty wenches and despises evil wizards.

After Howard, several authors followed his template. Fritz Leiber (who actually popularized the term “Sword and Sorcery”) attempted to humanized its protagonists with Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series. Michael Moorcock proved that scrawny albinos built like Iggy Pop could attract an audience with his Elric novels. And Marion Zimmer Bradley proved that the ladies could be just as kick-ass in her Sword and Sorceress anthology.

Yet the genre has always been ripe for parody. I mean, we’re talking about stories where beefy dudes regularly walk around shirtless, hot warrior babes rush into battle in skimpy outfits, warriors have unpronounceable alphabet soup names like “Grignr,” and the prose is so tortured* that Amnesty International is filing formal complaints. Yet everything is taken deadly seriously, like their pulp paperbacks were King James Bibles or something. Sergio Aragonés and Dave Sim got their licks back in the day. It’s only natural that webcomics got in on the action as well.

Verily, we have already laid our eyes upon several webcomics spoofing the venerable swords and sorcery genre. Among their honored ranks are Skadi (reviewed here), Dawn of Time (reviewed here), and Gastrophobia (reviewed here). So powerful is the allure of the female barbarian that the one presented today shall mark the first, and hopefully not last, day we visit a comic featuring a lead of the male gender. For today we shall review Legend of Bill, a webcomic formed from the very fingers of David Reddick. Will Crom smile upon his efforts? Or shall he see this webcomic driven before him?

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The Webcomic Overlook #92: Gastrophobia

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Last spring, the wife and I booked a trip with another family on a cross-country flight to Virginia. “Visiting family?” our friends would ask. No, we were actually touring Civil War battle sites.

To which they would inevitably say, “Why in the world would you ever want to learn about history?!?”

I understand not grasping the appeal of a Civil War battle site. At the end of the day, they are, after all, medium-sized national parks with some earthworks you sorta have to squint to see. But I do take umbrage to my friends’ distaste for history. For them, “history” was a stuffy course that they had to suffer through in high school. That’s not how I see it. You can’t spell “history” without “stories”: real accounts of people going through incredible adversities that we in the Modern Age can only imagine.

I lay the fault on unimaginative history teachers. They reduce the thrill of humanity’s achievements into a dry list of dates, names, and places that must be memorized in order to ace the midterm exams. Clearly, they cannot be trusted. It’s up to armchair historians on the internet to bring history to life again. Mental Floss does a fantastic job re-interpreting history in modern parlance. Where else could I learn that porches on old houses were so big because that’s where folks spent their days cooling off in the sweaty days before air conditioning? Over on the webcomics front, Kate Beaton has made a name for herself mainly because she knows that even the most mundane historical details can be endlessly fascinating if you present it right.

You don’t even have to go into teacher mode to make history more interesting. Sometimes, the setting will suffice. Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove makes Incan civilization accessible and less alien through Chuck Jones style antics. (The always classy vocal talents of the late Eartha Kitt contributed some, too.) In the same way, the subject today’s review makes Greek antiquity a fun place to visit.

Today, the Webcomic Overlook takes the wayback machine to the days when “Amazon” just wasn’t an online bookseller and reviews Gastrophobia, a webcomic written and illustrated by David McGuire.

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The Webcomic Overlook #74: Dawn of Time

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Paleontologists: valuable members of the scientific community, or cruel enemies of wonder and imagination? I raise this question as a person who, once upon a time, showed up as a paleontologist during Career Day in my elementary school years. (And if that seems kinda bizarre to you, my schoolteacher wife tells me that last time she did Career Day, three kids dressed up as paleontologists… which basically means repurposing the Indiana Jones costume kit. I conclude that “Paleontologist” has risen to the upper echelons of “The Kid’s Career of Choice,” which includes nostalgic favorites like “Doctor,” “Policeman,” and “Fireman.”)

One the one hand, paleontologists have provided us an invaluable basket of discoveries, giving us a window into a world of giant lizards before the dawn of humans. It’s a fantastic reality that’s so enormous we take it for granted: that Earth existed long before the first human breathed his first breath, and the caretakers were gigantic beasts.

On the other hand, many of the discoveries have been as soul-crushing as when their pals, the astronomers, decided that Pluto was no longer worthy of planet status. The Brontosaurus did not actually exist? The Ultrasaurus is basically an overgrown Brachiosaurus, and also probably did not exist? That the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex was probably too heavy to be anything but a scavenger?

These sourpuss paleontologists have been ruining things from the beginning, ever since they decided that cavemen and dinosaurs did not actually live side by side. This is a reality that anyone with a bone of imagination seems to want to work around. Heck, if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle thinks that men and dinosaurs need to coexist side by side, who am I to argue?

Oddly enough, this dilemma between fantasy and reality rears its head in the subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook, Michael Stearns’ fun and light-hearted Dawn of Time. The comic references at least one real life controversy that proves that paleontologists can get pretty humorless sometimes.

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The Webcomic Overlook #51: Dumm Comics

It’s harder to think of a more controversial figure in animation than John Kricfalusi. Oh, sure, you can make a case that Ralph Bakshi guy. Yet the guy is more or less universally respected in animation circles for forwarding the cause of adult-themed cartoons. Those who don’t care for such things hardly even know he exists. There isn’t a huge anti-Bakshi backlash, unless you, for some godforsaken reason, decide to argue that his Lord of the Rings movie was pretty good.

Kricfalusi (who I shall now refer to as “John K.” simply because “Kricfalusi” is too much of a pain to type over and over again) will forever be known as the man behind the “Ren & Stimpy” cartoons. Thus, the man has already secured his place in animation history. However, the man is also one of the most, how shall we say, strongly opinionated men out there. His personality alone is what drives people into pro-John K. and the anti-John K. crowds, the North and South Korea of animation theory, scorching the land in between for anyone unfortunate enough to straddle the middle ground. I mean, the man even managed to drive away Billy West, the former voice of Stimpy, the current voice of Philip J. Fry, and a man who strikes me as fairly amicable from his interviews.

While I admire his openness, I admit that I am one of those prudes who’s often taken aback when the man opens his big old yap. Take his interview with the Onion AV Club, for instance:

I know in kids programming you’re not really allowed to draw sexy girls. I managed to get a couple into Ren & Stimpy. In the Powdered Toast Man episode, Lovely Assistant is really hot. She’s only in a few scenes, but, boy, I got lots of letters saying, “Give us more of that!” We’d try to, and then the executives would tell us, “Well, that objectifies women,” and “it’s offensive,” and all this stuff. [Moans.] You don’t even see it in prime-time cartoons. There are no sexy girls in The Simpsons. Would you ever take your pants down and watch The Simpsons? Those cartoons are designed to be so primitively drawn that you wouldn’t be able to do a sexy girl because you have to draw well. Drawing a funny animal, you don’t need a lot of detail to make it work. But to draw a sexy girl, there’s certain things you can’t leave out.

You kiss your mother with that mouth, John K.? He does have a point, though. I’ve got, like, Seasons 3-6 of The Simpsons on DVD, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t take my pants off once.

Even more controversial, though, is John K.’s self-elevation as the standard-bearer for classic animation. His disdain for the primitive nature of the The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park are somewhat understandable … though not totally correct, since the main crux of those shows is the writing. What’s more baffling is John K.’s acrimony towards pretty much every Disney and Pixar feature film created.

However, I can, to a certain extent, appreciate what John K. is trying to do. He’s really very much a historical preservationist, trying to create new productions following the design philosophy of an art form that most people had abandoned or forgotten. He wants to pick up from the days when Mickey Mouse was a bouncing rubber ball and when wolves had jaws that would literally drop to the floor at the sight of a red-head lady in tight evening wear. Is there much difference between John K. and, say, George Lucas and his love for 1940’s serial cinema or Grant Morrison and his love for Silver Age Superman stories? We’re all just a part of the Village Green Presevation Society.

But, seriously, what does all this have to do with webcomics? Usually, nothing… until you get to Dumm Comics, which went online earlier this year. If you browse through the archives, you’d swear that these were all drawn by the madman behind Ripping Friends. And, believe it or not, you’d be partially correct. The creators behind Dumm Comics are professional animators. Many had jobs in John K.’s animation studio, Spümcø International, while others are veterans of Disney and Nickelodeon. These artists all seem committed to translating John K.’s design aesthetic to the static screen.

1930 Nightmare Theatre

1930 Nightmare Theatre


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