Category Archives: fanservice

The Webcomic Overlook #90: Locus

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It’s a shame that the Grindhouse movie entered and left theaters so quickly. I’m too young to know what real grindhouse movies looked like, so I would’ve appreciated the experience. Now all we have are two separate DVDs for Planet Terror and Death Race… though everyone who’s seen all of them tells me that the original theatrical release was the superior version.

I guess what I like most about grindhouse is the poster designs. One of my favorite SomethingAwful Photoshop Phridays was the one that re-imagined famous movies as grindhouse posters. The aesthetic is partially reflected in the site redesign. Hell, I spent the weekend designing an online invite for my brother-in-law’s bachelor party, all done up in a font called “Feast of Flesh” and rendered in half-tone with images looking like they were clipped out of the local newspaper.

Today’s review focuses on a comic that seems to be the modern embodiment of a grindhouse film, steeped in viscera, horror, and gratuitous full-frontal nudity. Oh yes, there will be boobs. So many boobs that eventually you mind tricks you into a trance and you have to rind yourself that boobs in comics is kinda risque. It’s impossible to keep your mind out of the gutter after you’ve finished reading Locus. Now it ain’t no Oglaf or Sexy Losers; if Locus were a movie, it would likely score an R rating rather than a hard NC-17 or X. However, I feel I should warn you that everything after this paragraph should be considered NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Click on links at your own risk.

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The Webcomic Overlook #86: Boss Noodle

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Back in the early days of this site, I once ran afoul of Dave Cheung fans. The drama stemmed from a small comment I made about John Solomon’s return:

I just finished reading his “Chugworth” review, and … what can I say? The webcomic deserved John Solomon.

This managed to touch off some colorful replies from the creator and his fans. Words were said. Tears were shed. Yet, in the end, I finally conceded a tiny point. I hadn’t read all of Chugworth Academy.

Really, I’d only read the 20+ pages on the review after all (written by Solomon associate Lilith Esther), and, while it seemed like a good sample, those few incompetent, atrocious, and borderline racist panels might not be representative of the 300+ pages that Mr. Cheung put out. Who knows? Perhaps those 280 other pages dealt with Mr’s Cheung’s personal relationship with his Lord and Savior. I have no idea! I’d be a blind fool to left a few unspeakably awful panels color my entire opinion.

Still, I vowed that one day, some day, I would review Chugworth Academy in vengeance. That day will most likely never come. Chugworth stopped updating last year, and I don’t typically review out-of-date comics. Instead I’m reviewing Dave Cheung’s brand spanking new webcomic, Boss Noodle.

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The Webcomic Overlook #81: Raven’s Dojo

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Hero spends about seven episodes training to fight an unstoppable villain. Hero and villain meet, and, after spending an inordinate amount of time staring at each other. They have inner monologues which last for several minutes on how they’re going to beat the other guy with their unstoppable techniques.

Finally, they fight. Which lasts for thirty episodes or so. The good guy and the bad guy trade the exact same punches for the first episode, after which the bad guy boasts over the next episode how he has this hidden technique that he hasn’t used yet. He spends the next three episodes powering up, where the heroes just sorta stand around with their mouths open. And then the villain unleashes his powerful move… which is totally ineffective because the good guy has his OWN unstoppable technique, which is, apparently, IMPOSSIBLE!

Repeat.

Congratulations. You’ve just watched an episode of Dragonball Z.

The show is quite infamous among anime circles for running, say, a string of 70 episodes with perhaps 10 minutes of actual content. Even the most diehard fans will admit that Dragonball Z was one of the dumbest things on TV. Yet, somehow, creator Akira Toriyama somehow created the most influential anime in history. Several anime, from Yu Yu Hakusho to One Piece, followed in its footsteps.

The show is a favorite on the internet, from popular memes (“Over 9000!”) to AMV’s (which range from gleefully ridiculous to surprisingly touching) to one of the most infamous webcomics of all time (which, incidentally, also inspired its own AMV).

Unfortunately, we’re not going to be talking about BUTTLORD GT. Instead, the Webcomic Overlook is reviewing a newer entrant into the burgeoning field of Dragonball Z parodies/homages/shameless rip-offs: Raven’s Dojo, written and illustrated by Raven Perez.

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Eisner Watch, Pt. 1: Bodyworld, Finder

It’s time to look at the hopefuls for this year’s Eisner Awards. The nominees this year are a motley crew. They’re an interesting group that raises many questions … mainly, “Who in the world has even heard of these comics?” Let’s just say when most people start doing webcomic blogs or podcasts, most won’t check out the comic about the plight of migrant workers. We are far, far more likely to check out that Sonic the Hedgehog pixel comic.

Which, to me, is fine. Hollywood hardly selects box office winners for the Best Motion Picture nominee list, either. Is using awards to boost the profile (or, to put it more crudely, advertise) of little-known creations the correct reason to determine who deserves to get an award? That’s probably another discussion altogether.

And then there’s the delightful content of the webcomics themselves. It looks like the Eisner committee has gone emo this year. Let’s see: one’s about rampant drug abuse, another is about hermaphrodites, a third is about a murdered strumpet, a fourth is about a mutilated migrant worker, and the the fifth switches it up a bit and stars a grouchy shut-in. Wow, webcomics… they’re not for kids anymore! (Or, more accurately, “not for gamers anymore!”) Tip for you aspiring webcomic creators: if you really want to game the Eisners, you gotta create a murder-mystery starring a shut-in hermaphrodite migrant worker who’s high on something other than life.

Remember back in the day when all we had to worry was if the winner was going to be the one about the cuddly sasquatch or the short story about rock stars who do battle in outer space?

The most positive thing I can say is that this year, I feel confident that the award won’t be presented as a second-class “also-ran” prize. Still, my faith in the laziness of the Eisner judges has not been shaken. I have a notion on who’s going to win, and once again it’s not going to boil down to overall quality.

But we’ll save that for last.

I’d originally planned on reviewing all five nominees at once. However, once this piece started crossing the 2000 word mark, I decided that it might be easier for you — and, more specifically, ME — to have this broken up into two sections. The first piece will look at Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld and Carla Speed MacNeil’s Finder. The second will take a tour of The Lady’s Murder, Speak No Evil, and Vs. It actually works out pretty well. The latter three are stand-alone short stories, while the first two are either much longer or part of a continuing series.

Ready to get your Eisner on? Let’s get started.

Bodyworld, by Dash Shaw

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So Bodyworld is all like, what if we’re all like part of one global consciousness, dude? And what if, like, you let go of your rigid conformity by mellowing out, man, you would be able to share your consciousness with every other human being who let their guard down? It would be like telepathy, only on a more mind-blowing scale.

Bodyworld stars Professor Panther, a hands-on faculty member who injects himself with so many drugs that he’s got bandages running up and down his arm. The guy’s also seen with a joint in his mouth pretty much 24/7. He blows into Boney Borough, a total squaresville, to check out the properties of some phallic-looking plants. In the process, he trashes the bathroom on a train, hooks some students on to drugs, seduces a girl many times his junior, nearly burns down a hotel room, actually burns down a field, and runs afoul of the police.

He’s also our hero.

Of course, you can’t totally blame the Prof. Smoking joints is part of the work requirements of his job. As a researcher, he chronicles the effects of different plants on the human body. There are, however, some plants that deliver unforeseen consequences.

Meanwhile, a bald, scarred dude in sunglasses hangs in the periphery, popping up from time to time to remind you that is comic is more than just a stoner’s fantasy. His name is Johnny Scarhead, and he gets his own classic-comic inspired origin story. About this time, the story — which contained hints of the typical bizarreness you find in a comic about smoking hallucinogenic drugs — shifts into bizarre overdrive. The science fiction element, which had been window dressing, moves to the forefront as metaphysical concepts become more important than a drug addict’s struggle to fit in with a conservative society.

Without spoiling much, the main theme of the comic is introduced early on in Chapter Two. It’s about “Superorganism.” Basically, it’s how a colony of ants behaves more like a creature than an individual. It’s the sort of theme that’s been covered many times, from the non-fiction The Lives of A Cell by Lewis Thomas to one of the lesser known works of P. K. Dick, Galactic Pot-Healer.

The art is the sort of thing that comes to mind when you think “indie comic”… which is to say it looks like it was drawn by fourth grader. It employs simple symbolic imagery — a tiny Venn Diagram and overlapping faces being two of the recurring styles — and gets downright experimental once the characters start getting bad trips. Images devolve into nearly undecipherable chaos. Now, it’s not the sort of style that I like, necessarily … however, it was probably the only appropriate aesthetic for Bodyfinder. Art and story fit each other like Thai take-out and MSG.

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The Webcomic Overlook #57: Sore Thumbs

My fellow Americans, our long national election is over. Now that we’re a week past Election Day, it’s time to spend some time reflecting on the past year and ask the hard questions. Such as: Why is the Washington Redskins game before the election (win: Republicans take office; lose: Democrats) the best political predictor ever, boasting a 94% success rate? Who are these people who still display “Kuninich for President” and “Ron Paul ’08” bumper stickers? And, most importantly, was there any point in the Obama and McCain campaigns where things would devolve to the point where the next present would be decided by three rounds in the steel Octagon?

I mean, take a look a one of the most brutal elections of all time, the 1828 election pitting incumbent John Quincy Adams against war hero Andrew Jackson. You had the Jackson camp claim that Adams struck a corrupt deal in the first election, turned the White House into a casino, and was pimping out women to foreign dignitaries. The Adams camp shot back that Jackson was a brutal, bloodthirsty killer who went beyond his duties on the battlefield and portrayed Jackson’s wife as a bigamist. Given Jackson’s love for shooting and Adams’ love for skinny-dipping, it’s not too unreasonable to believe that if that election were to last just a wee bit longer, we would be reading in our history books about the first election decided by naked underwater dueling. (Which, incidentally, would make an awesome T-shirt for fratboys.)

Sad to say, when you look back at Election 2008, you might notice that Obama and McCain were highly cordial toward each other. Those dudes were all smiles and respect and preemptively shutting down unfair critics in public forums. Seriously, that episode where the two were Ocean’s 11-like thieves working together to steal the Hope Diamond? Not that implausible. Maybe it’s because the two senators are, in essence, coworkers. I’m guessing they work out a lot of their personal issues over a game of Parcheesi during lunch breaks at the Senate cafeteria.

But another big part of it is that both candidates seem to have outsourced all of the controversial negativity to the internet. Why spend millions of dollars and a strategy that could potentially backfire when you can just sit back and let an army of bloggers do the dirty work?

Since this site is about webcomics, though, protocol sorta demands that I tie this in somehow. Unfortunately, I can’t. There are several politically-themed webcomics online, but I can’t say that any of them are what you would call “influential.” No, not even you, Stephanie MacMillan. Which is sad, because political cartoons are far from being irrelevant. Remember the furor that broke out when the cartoon of Obama as a terrorist graced the cover of the New Yorker? Imagine the awesomeness if that controversy had broke online! Unfortunately, nastiness is par for the course on the internet, and a particularly scathing cartoon is just one among many.

The subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook, Sore Thumbs, is one such political webcomic. This is arguably the flagship title of the formidable Keenspot group. Sore Thumbs merges the political comic with two already familiar webcomic standards: the gaming comic and the roommate comic. Can this odd amalgam repair false comic divisions, like the incoming administration promises to heal the partisan agendas that are dividing our country? (Incidentally, if staring at the computer screen causes you uncomfortable neck strain, Sore Thumbs is also available in print … though only one volume seems to be available on Amazon at this time.)

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The Webcomic Overlook #56: Ménage à 3

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Welcome back to the show that never ends! The Webcomic Overlook is back from its month-long, wedding-driven hiatus to bring you the what-for in webcomics opinionating. Now that I’m back from getting married, honeymooning, and all that jazz, what should we talk about? She we cover a political webcomic in honor of our new president-elect? Should I cover yet another video game webcomic? Or perhaps a video game webcomic that dabbles in politics? I’ll cover those eventually. But today, I’ll cover a subject that’s first and foremost in the hearts of every American man. Yes, I’m talking about sex.

(Hint to parents: you might want to push your kids toward some sanitized fare for this one.)

Ah yes, sex. Some have claimed that there are studies that show men think about sex every fifteen minutes. To which I say, hogwash! How does one even conduct a study like that, anyway? Do they lock up a guy in a room and ask him, every fifteen minutes, if he was thinking about sex? And if that’s how the study was done, wouldn’t the man have no choice but to think about sex, especially if the question was delivered by a nurse in a peek-a-bo outfit? Look, if I’m reading an article out of “The Economist,” you can bet I’m not thinking about whoopie every fifteen minutes. I’m more likely to be thinking about the ramifications of the Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson trade. Thus, I suspect that this particular nugget of knowledge is entirely bogus and was created by the fine people behind “Redbook” or “Mademoiselle” to sell extra copies.

Anyway, it’s impossible to read the subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook without thinking about sex every fifteen seconds. The comic stars a geeky, down-on-his-luck loser who shares his apartment with a sassy brunette and a giggly blonde. The comic version of “Three’s Company”? Close. Today, the Webcomic Overlook reviews Ménage à 3. (But really, the “Three’s Company” analogy is not too far off. There’s even a grumpy landlady.)

I feel it’s due diligence to reveal that the comic does, in fact, feature several scenes with frontal nudity, a scene or two of R-rated non-political congress, and a heaping spoonful of dirty sex talk. Thus, like the creators, I must warn you that Ménage à 3 is for readers 16-years-old.

According to the Keenspot blurb, the comic — created by Gisèle Lagacé and Dave Zero1 (which I suspect is not his real name) — “follows the lives of comic book geek Gary and his way-sexier-than-he-is roommates in their Montreal tight-as-a-sandwich apartment where the walls are so thin there are virtually no barriers between their rooms.” Oh la la! Sounds like quite an opportunity for a little je ne sais quoi, non? Also nekkidness. Copious amounts of nekkidness that somehow involve sandwiches.

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The Webcomic Overlook #48: Pinky TA

I should put together a list of early warning signs if a webcomic is going to be terrible or not. I speculated on my review of Antics that telltale signature is if the first chapter is spent in the company of airheaded girls who gossip, giggle, and do nothing tho forward the plot. However, an even bigger sign are shamelessly exploitative ads. Exiern is one of the biggest offenders. Its creator bought unavoidable ad space on what seemed like every webcomic site in existence. Every one of those ads featured its heroine half-naked. A rule of thumb with movies is that if bare flesh is flashed within the first 10 minutes, then you’re in for a particularly bad movie. The same rule can be modified for webcomics: if the comic has to resort to ads with naked girls to draw you in, then the writer is desperate to get new readers to his webcomic because the writing and the art just isn’t doing the trick.

Exiern, though, is hardly the only webcomic to try this shamelss ploy. If you’ve spent any time hanging around Drunk Duck, you may notice ads of a pink-haired gal and substantial focus on … um … all that junk inside her trunk. Now, I’d like to apologize ahead of time. This review may contain more crude language than I typically write. I stylize this blog so that it’s generally PG. But kids, you can go ahead and sit this one out. It’s summer. shouldn’t you be outside playing marbles or hula hoops or pogs or whatever it is kids do these days? (Who am I fooling? These disclaimers are just drawing you in like flies to honey, aren’t they?)

Why, you ask? Well, when the webcomic being reviewed is called Pinky TA, you better believe it’s not about a brainless albino lab rat who suddenly becomes a teacher’s assistant. If you have any doubts — any doubts at all — about the raison d’être for this particular comic, I refer you to the sample art immediately below.

Yup.

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The Webcomic Overlook #4: Lowroad

[NOTE: It seems that since I've reviewed "Lowroad," Carlos G. has revamped his site, and it's now "The Amazing Adventures of the Bottemleys." The original "Lowroad" is still available for download at his site, but in *.RAR or *.ZIP format. Thus, this review is still valid. It's just that all the links in this review ain't gonna work no more. ---- El Santo, 1/19/08]

[NOTE 2: I have uploaded the referenced links onto this site. All the links should work now ... it just doesn't go to the Lowroad site like they used to. --- El Santo, 2/25/08]

So, it’s come to this.

When I began the The Webcomic Overlook, I wanted to avoid duplicating any of the subject in John Solomon’s excellent blog, Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad. After all, there are tons of webcomics out there. I have yet to review such items as the long-running 8-Bit Theater, Brooke McEldowney’s Pibgorn, The Lore Brand Comics, the Lego-based Irregular Webcomic, and of course Dave Willis’ excellent Shortpacked!

However, I have a lot of catch-up to do on those strips. In some cases, I have to read up on a year or two of backlog. In other cases, I haven’t gone to the beginning to see the early days of the strip.

I am deeply ashamed that I have read today’s subject from beginning to end, and it’s all the fault of John Solomon’s review. To sum it up, he said that this was a terrible webcomic. He was right. Yet, there is some strangely compelling, some might say evil, power that manages to propel the reader to plow ahead, knowing fully that every additional page read was slowly eating away at his soul.

If you want to read a quality review, check out Solomon’s review. For the rest of you, I give you the Rooktopia review of … Lowroad.

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