Category Archives: dramatic webcomic
“Our bodies break down, sometimes when we’re 90, sometimes before we’re even born, but it always happens and there’s never any dignity in it. I don’t care if you can walk, see, wipe your own ass… it’s always ugly, always. You can live with dignity; you can’t die with it.” — Dr. Gregory House
In the past four years, I’ve had to deal with the deaths of my grandma, my father-in-law, my uncle, my wife’s uncle, and my dear friend who left a grieving wife and four children behind. Every time my wife’s grandma — who turned 95 this year — ends up at the hospital, we all hold our breaths frightened that this may be the last day we see her. My own father died the same year I began this blog. You never get used to deal with it, and every death is a harrowing reminder of one’s own mortality and how short one’s time really is.
That’s when that quote from the great Dr. House haunts me. That picture perfect scene you see in movies where everyone gathers around the bed of a loved one as they slip off into eternal slumber? It never happens. It’s always messy. Maybe you spend a couple months in a brain dead coma. Maybe you live your last hours knowing your immune system is succumbing to the cancer. Whatever it is, it’s always ugly. Always.
Sam Costello’s Split Lip is a horror comic that contains ghosts and murderers and monsters. And yet, it’s the unflinching depiction of death and dying that I find most chilling.
There’s been a lot of scary hullabaloo in the media lately asking “What is it about 20-somethings?“, i.e. “How come my unemployed, lazy-ass kids are turning 30 and still living in my basement?” Seriously, my wife turned on the TV this morning, and that’s what they were talking about on the Today Show.
The argument boils down to the idea that 20-somethings are afraid of growing up. Now, I personally believe that a lot of this is the typical sensationalist media panic. When I was but a young El Santo, I remember being handed a similar article by my dad from the Reader’s Digest entitled “The Lazy American Teenager.” I imagine my dad afraid I was turning into a burnt out teen. (Guilty as charged!)
But, for the sake of putting together an intro for this here webcomic review, I’m going to go ahead and take this humbuggery seriously. Here’s a quote form the New York Times:
DURING THE PERIOD he calls emerging adulthood, Arnett says that young men and women are more self-focused than at any other time of life, less certain about the future and yet also more optimistic, no matter what their economic background. This is where the “sense of possibilities” comes in, he says; they have not yet tempered their idealistic visions of what awaits. “The dreary, dead-end jobs, the bitter divorces, the disappointing and disrespectful children . . . none of them imagine that this is what the future holds for them,” he wrote. Ask them if they agree with the statement “I am very sure that someday I will get to where I want to be in life,” and 96 percent of them will say yes. But despite elements that are exciting, even exhilarating, about being this age, there is a downside, too: dread, frustration, uncertainty, a sense of not quite understanding the rules of the game. More than positive or negative feelings, what Arnett heard most often was ambivalence — beginning with his finding that 60 percent of his subjects told him they felt like both grown-ups and not-quite-grown-ups.
In the end, the emotional paralysis stems from the attempt to maintain, for as long as possible, the elusive pipe dream that you can still mold your own destiny into something that’s better than the pains that the previous generation experienced. It rises from a fear that if you don’t get started on the right foot, you doom yourself to screwing up the rest of your life.
The webcomic I’m reviewing today, Rich Barrett’s Nathan Sorry, taps into the same anxieties. However, unlike others, he gains a priceless gift: an exit strategy for the curse of a life lived badly.
The sum of Ctrl+Alt+Delete‘s early run can easily be summed up by one of the most notorious advertising campaigns in video game history: the ad for Daikatana. So, basically, creator John Romero thought it would be a good idea to sort of do a parody of gamer talk. So he put together a simple red poster with a very simple slogan: “John Romero’s About To Make You His Bitch.” This was supposed to be ironic, of course.
It went over as well as you would expect.
So far, Buckley’s put together a comic about gamers being moronic troglodytes, emotionally stunted man children, and gamer girls with no personality, while each parody needs to be explained over and over again while the violent punchlines are pretty much telegraphed since panel one. Meanwhile, Buckley’s Mary Sue, Ethan, becomes crowned King of All Gamers, pwns all the world’s religions, and envisions a story where video games can save your marriage. Ironically, of course.
That went over as well as you’d expect.
But now it’s different. Now that Tim Buckley has crossed the bridge from wacky humor to maudlin drama, we’re now reading a totally new comic. the upgrade that finally makes CAD a comic that deals with serious issues.
Welcome to CAD 2.0.
I like Rob Liefeld.
It’s sort of an out there thing to say. Nowadays, when most people mention the name “Rob Liefeld,” they like to talk about pouches, no feet, ridiculous muscles on muscles, impossibly small waistlines on the women, and that one Captain America picture. I get that.
Still, if people were craving artists who drew in “How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way” dimensions, how come there’s no alternate movement to honor the likes of Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, or Jerry Ordway? What people are forgetting is that when Liefeld broke out onto the scene, the rigidly standard character designs were prevalent and, frankly, very dull. A style, though, that placed more value in the visceral over realism? The guy running the “I Love Rob Liefeld” blog summed it best:
I thought it was AWESOME. The energy, the power, the thrill of super-heroes beating the snot out of super-villains. I loved it.
I understand all the criticisms. I know Liefeld can’t really draw well. Look, you don’t have to send me that link to Progressive Boink. I’ve seen it. But I don’t care. Liefeld was one of the biggest reasons I started collecting comics, so he’s OK by me.
I mention Liefeld because, in a way, I totally understand what it’s like to be a fan of Tim Buckley’s much maligned webcomic, Ctrl+Alt+Del. Perhaps no other webcomic has been so widely mocked by critics and by fellow webcomic creators. Yet it still frequently pops up on a lot of people’s “Best Of” lists, including many people whose opinions I value.
Once upon a time, I called Tim Buckley “the Rob Liefeld of webcomics” … maybe he can’t draw, maybe he’s a bit of a hot-head, maybe a lot of his fans hate what he did to the genre … but if you ignore him, you’ll never get a full picture of what webcomics (or in Rob’s case, comics in the 90′s) were really all about. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s time to put that theory to the test.
I became a comic fan in the early 90′s during the debut of Jim Lee’s X-Men. Thanks to my nerdy, obsessive nature, I ended up taking a strong interest in the history of comics. I used to hope up at the Detroit Public Library, head up the stairs to the second floor (which had some fantastic Diego Rivera murals that I didn’t appreciate at the time), and pored through various books about comic book history. I learned about obscure, now-forgotten heroes, reveled in pages devoted to Will Eisner’s The Spirit, and took a passing interest in the Kitchen Sink Comix movement of the 1970′s.
When the book got to the 80′s, a couple of names stood out prominently: the husband and wife team Wendy and Richard Pini. Their comic, Elfquest, was the standard bearer for indie comics of the 1980′s. It was THE sterling and unassailable example that creators didn’t need to sell their souls to the Big Two to create a comic book hit.
However, I never got into Elfquest much. I tried reading the books, which were also available in hardcover at the library, but they weren’t for me. I think the books were successful because they pursued the female comic reader market before manga proved to everyone that they were commercial viable. While a noble pursuit, these delicate fantasy comics filled with dewy-eyed pretty boys were definitely not for me, who longed for nothing more than to read page after page of muscly guys punching each other.
Still, I was filled with giddy excitement when, one day while browsing through the “webcomic” entry of Wikipedia, I ran across Wendy Pini’s name attached to an online adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. Ah, I thought, the perfect gateway into the world of Wendy Pini! I loved Poe’s original short story, and I was excited to see how that would translate to comics.
Imagine my surprise when the webcomic bore less resemblance to Poe’s Masque of the Red Death and more similarities to Anne Rice’s The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. That is to say that Rice, writing under the name A.N. Roquelaure, mainly used a well known story as a framework for erotic literature about bondage, domination, and sadomasochism.
In case it hadn’t bee quite clear to you yet, Wendy Pini’s Masque of the Red Death is similarly and adults-only affair. The review itself doesn’t really go overboard into NSFW territory, but, still, proceed at your own caution.
This was the first year I’d ever heard of a little something called the Joe Shuster Awards. Like many people, I sorta did a double take and went, “Holy crap! One half of the creators of Superman was a Canadian?” Not to insult the Canadians reading this site (of which there are plenty), but the whole “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” motto kinda threw me. It turns out that Shuster immigrated to the US when he was 10, which does kinda make him as American as I am. Still, Canada has every right to claim him as a native son, especially since it turns out his cousin was none other than Frank Shuster of the famous Canadian comedy team “Wayne and Shuster.”
The Joe Shuster Awards have been honoring an “Outstanding WebComic Creator/Creative Team” since 2007. Previous winners have included the team of Ryan Sohmer & Lar deSouza (for Looking for Group and Least I Could Do) and Cameron Stewart (for Sin Titulo). This year’s crop of candidates is pretty impressive. The webcomic nominees this year include Kate Beaton (for Hark! A Vagrant), Rene Engström (for Anders Loves Maria), Karl Kerschl (for The Abominable Charles Christopher), Gisèle Lagacé and David Lumsdon (for Eerie Cuties and Ménage à 3), and Steve Wolfhard (for Cat Rackham). As much as I lauded this year’s Eisner nominees, the crop of webcomic candidates at the Canadian awards may be a better reflection of the webcomic market.
(Both the Eisners and Shusters also share the same candidates, what with Karl Kerschl nominated on both ballots this year, and Cameron Stewart nominated on the Eisners and winning the Shuster last year. I guess what I’m trying to say is, “Hey, American webcomics creators! Step up your game already!”)
There were also a few names I wasn’t completely familiar with. One was Tara Tallan, the creator of the webcomic Galaxion. I knew little to nothing about it, other than it was set in space and all the characters dressed like extras for Star Trek: Enterprise. How could I resist? I’m a sucker for a good space opera. The Joe Shuster nomination only whet my appetite.
Contemplate the title of Nathan Schreiber’s comic, if you will: Power Out. What do you think this comic is going to be about?
The more mainstream among you might theorize that this is some sort of superhero comic. I mean, look at that title! There’s “Power” in there, right? Nope. Power Out is a Xeric Grant winner, and that places it square in the camp of one particular genre: the “indie” comic. And unless you’re doing some ironic and depressing send up of the Fantastic Four or Superman, there will be no capes nor tights.
Perhaps you decided to take the title more literally. Perhaps you guessed that there’s a power outage of some sort. Good for you! That’s much closer! Power Out does, indeed, feature a black-out that envelops the East Coast as one of its central plot elements. However, while that’s probably what the title alludes to, it’s not really what the comic is about.
Now… are there any kids under the age of ten reading this site right now? If you are, please follow the next link and go directly to Princess Planet. It’s a fun, pun-filled romp that’s a delight to readers of all ages! Now shoo, you little scamps. Ah, they grow up so quickly.
Alright, so are there only adults checking this review now? Good. So, you ask, what’s Power Out really about? It turns out the comic is, in fact, about chronic masturbation.
I was first introduced to Evan Dahm’s Rice Boy about a year ago. Everything I’d read were nothing but highly positive reviews, gushing with unfettered praise. Yet, after reading the first couple of pages, I sadly didn’t feel all that compelled to check it out.
The opening scenes look like something straight out of the comic section in a mid-90′s alt-weekly. It’s one-on-one conversation at a bar, where the patrons are some of the strangest looking hombres around. One character looks like a featureless Grateful Dead bear. The other, which has a flashlight for a head that projects still images of movies and cartoons on his round face, is even more unsettling. Plus the bartender was some sort rejected character design from Klasky Csupo’s Aaahh!!! Real Monsters! cartoon. It’s the outsider look that someone like file under other‘s Shannon Smith would love. But me? Those stylistic flourishes actually turn me off somewhat.
Plus, there’s that “-” in the URL. I don’t know about you, but I’m psychologically predisposed to pooh-pooh anything with a “-” in the URL.
But then I reviewed Order of Tales and loved it. It turns out that Evan Dahm’s style was far more approachable than I initially suspected. At the same time, readers started to strongly insist that I pick up the far more heralded companion piece. (So strongly, in fact, that even Mr. Dahm noticed: “…it still seems like more people got excited about Rice Boy? But I don’t care because OoT will be the best comic I have ever done ever.”) So I decided to give Rice Boy another whirl, now buoyed by the bonhomie of the readers and my good experiences with Dahm’s world of Overside thus far.