Category Archives: fantasy webcomic
Fantasy is rooted a little bit in actual history. Most of the time, this means the European Middle Ages. Knights in shining armor, kings and queens, towering castles, and legends of dragons and elves. King Arthur stuff. However, there are tons of challenges in setting things at a certain era. As fantasy writer Poul Anderson once elaborated in his essay “On Thud and Blunder,” “Beneath the magic, derring-do, and other glamour, an imaginary world has to work right. In particular, a pre-industrial society, which is what virtually all hf uses for a setting, differs from ours today in countless ways.”
One of the things that writers often do is just ignore the historical nuisances. Don’t worry about people’s hair not looking perfect; just assume that everyone has access to soap, mirrors, and plumbing. Pay no attention that there are no city lights; our heroes can travel by night just as easily as by day. One of the biggest historical running blocks are the roles of women. Joan of Arc aside, women in the Middle Ages were typically not trained to be warriors. It was dudes. But, since in these days it’s not in the writer’s or the reader’s best interest that the adventurers be one big sausage party, fantasy authors tend to either ignore or minimize male chauvinism. Lady warriors just show up dressed in trousers made for men, and the townspeople rarely bat an eye.
The limited opportunities for women, though, is the driving narrative in Ed Cho and Lee Cherolis’ Little Guardians. The story centers around two characters: Subira, an unassuming shopkeeper’s daughter who has great potential, and Idem, an unlucky boy who’s training to be the next Guardian.
I think Homestuck is seeping into the most treasured crevasses of my brain. I had a generally busy October, which prevented me from updating this site too much. And while I can be a typical LiveJournal parody about how real life got in the way, and how I’m totally going to update and blah blah blah blah blah, but I won’t. I’m a bigger man than that.
I’m going to blame Homestuck.
Darius3 made a humorous comment that clearly Homestuck was the reason for lack of updates, and honesty… it’s not that far off. Not the way that you think, though. For one, typically I can catch up on webcomics by, say, pulling up my iPad or iPhone and reading on my free time. Homestuck is so heavily reliant on Flash that I pretty much have to wait until I get home… and honestly, that’s where I have the least amount of free time. Second, it’s very much a time investment. Someone mentioned it’s longer than the Bible, which I will not doubt for a second. However, reading Homestuck means not reading other webcomics, which, in turn has caused this here webcomic review site to lie barren and fallow.
As a result, I have resolved to take a short break from Homestuck and browse around the other fine webcomics available for perusal. Time for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! One that caught my eye on a purely aesthetic level was submitted for my “Shilled” drive and still has a link on the right sidebar. It’s a little thing called Olympus Overdrive. Created by Oskar Vega, it stars a guy … with the horns … and discolored skin….
(This is Part 2 of the massive Homestuck review. Click here for Part 1, covering Acts 1-4.)
I get it.
I totally get it. The appeal of the trolls, I mean.
When Andrew Hussie’s MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck started out, the characters could be best described as perhaps being tied to one personality trait. John is nerdy, Rose is gothy, Dave is cool, and Jade is sunny. They’re pleasant enough protagonists, but they’re pretty much video game heroes. Whether you’re Master Chief, the marine from Doom, Mario, Sonic, or the guy from BioShock, the main character is typically a stand-in for the player (or in this case, the reader). There has to be enough wiggle room for you to, in a way, become that character.
The trolls are different. I have a weird feeling that when Hussie started off Chapter 5, he was intentionally trying to tax the reader’s patience. We’ve been following the same four characters for four whole acts, when all of the sudden they disappear and are replaced by twelve all new characters that we hadn’t been invested in at all. Now, as an avid reader of fantasy novels, I’m pretty used to chapters where we abandon our main characters for long stretches to flesh out and establish new characters and communities. I have a feeling, though, that when this act came out, long time readers were throwing their hands up in disgust but about, say, the fifth troll introduction.
Yet, at the same time, the trolls ended up becoming the most visible symbol of Homestuck. I remember distinctly when the initial supporters (usually posting some variation of “Wake up, boy”) gave way to the cavalcade of troll fan art and cosplayers. I’d read some Homestuck before, though I’d stopped before even the end of Act 1. And I remember scratching my head, thinking, “Wait. This is the same webcomic?”
All the same, I totally get it.
(NOTE: The following review will compare Homestuck to friggin’ James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw. For readers with low tolerance for pompous malarkey, discretion is advised. Then again, PBS and Tor Books’ Mordecai Knode made the same comparison, so nyeh!)
When I reviewed Ant Comic, I figured — perhaps prematurely — that I’d run across this entry’s “weird” nominee. Predecessors include Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld and Cameron Stewart’s Sin Titulo. You know, the ones that seemed like they were written after the creator huffed a ton of paint?
It turns out that I was partially right. While Ant Comic is, in fact, realy weird, I could at least figure out was was going on for the most part. The same can’t be said of all the Eisner nominees. For instance, I have a hard time making heads or tails of Farel Dalrymple’s It Will All Hurt.
Some time ago, I thought about revisiting webcomics that I’d already reviewed, since I was getting an increasing amount of email on it. Girl Genius. Spinnerette. Evil Diva. But I knew I couldn’t move forward unless I revisited this particular sore point.
The last time I reviewed Sluggy Freelance, I concluded it with the following:
(Part Two coming … in about two years. Seriously, when the hell is that damn space moose going to shut uuuuuuppppppppppp?!?!??!)
That was a joke. I was actually planning on reviewing the remaining comic in a couple month’s time. If you recall, I’d given my initial review of Sluggy Freelance a positive score. However, Ocean’s Unmoving II is when I decided I could go no further. Everything had gotten so bogged down by that point. I was perfectly, PERFECTLY happy to drop Sluggy Freelance and never, ever have to look at it ever again. Life was too short to have to deal with the talking space moose over again.
Well, it’s two years later. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.
So here we go! The follow up review that dozens of readers asked for! Pete Abrams’ Sluggy Freelance — this time, covering the era in between “Oceans Unmoving” and “Oceans Unmoving II”, which spans from between 2005 to 2006. It inspires very polarizing opinions. Mention “Oceans Unmoving” and you will inspire either wistful remembrance or deep seated loathing. Admittedly, I’ve run across more the latter. “Dear Lord, Oceans Unmoving isn’t working”, says Websnark’s Eric Burns-White. “Somewhere around Oceans Unmoving II, I started forgetting to tune in weekly”, says Jackson Ferrell. But there are also some blog posts that I’ve run across that Oceans Unmoving is actually well structured, and overall a better re-read than the previous story (that I liked) where Torg was battling demons in another dimension.
Let’s dig in, shall we?
Listen: Bun Bun has come unstuck in time.
Daniel Lieske’s The Wormworld Saga is probably going to get a proper review sometime in the future. But man, I just wanted to bring it up because it’s probably the best looking webcomic I’ve seen to use the infinite canvas in quite some time. It’s fairly simple: it’s just an up and down thing. However, panels blend seamlessly to the next as you keep scrolling downwards. The story itself is sort of a modern day Alice In Wonderland, and the visuals get more and more incredible the further you get into the story. Though, truth be told, I was already plenty impressed by the rendition of a red Volkswagen in the very first chapter.
One of the most mockable aspects of anime is when the characters have a big brother/little relationship when the two characters are not actually related. (And, let’s face it, sometimes when they are.) There’s usually a sizable age difference. The girl will be barely into her teens, and the guy will be college age or older. The girl is typically portrayed as somewhat infantile, especially when mewling something along the lines of “onneeeeeiiiiisaaaannnn!” (Alternately, “neeeesannnnnnn!”) The guy, on the other hand, is some aloof, emotionally distant dude who appends the heroine’s name with “-chan.” While this is typically portrayed as sibling closeness, there’s a little bit of creepiness in the subtext of how that same closeness can easily translate into something more serious. (And it can get really weird when it actually does happen.)
In Strays by Samantha Whitten and Stacey Pefferkorn, we’re introduced to a young 12-year-old girl named Meela. She’s homeless and trying to survive in the big outdoors by herself. Suddenly, a fight breaks down nearby, which destroys her rickety lean-to. She meets the 28-year-old Feral. Feral, while being a silent badass, takes some pity on Meela and decides to let her tag along.
So many alarms were going off in my head.
So many alarms.
(Incidentally, I was writing this on the day before Easter — a huge shopping day, due to the many sales at the mall — while sitting at a window facing an American Girl doll store, which is abundantly populated by many tiny girls. I imagined a terrible scenario where someone called security, and they confiscated my laptop which currently has the first paragraph written up without any further context. I think that chances were high that I would’ve had to register my name on a list of not very nice people. These are the sorts of sacrifices I make for you, dear readers. Blogging is more dangerous than it sounds.)
At some point, I’m going to have to make peace with the fact that exposition is a very hard thing to do in high fantasy comics. It’s more natural in books, where characters can stop at the ruins of an ancient kingdom, then ponder the long elaborate history of Fantasy Magic Land while gathered around the fire eating roast oliphant. It’s actually pretty natural in video games, too. If you ever want to go more in depth into a world’s history, you can head over to the nearest abandoned dungeon which happens to have a fully stocked library regaling the history of Middle Landia.
Elaborating the history of a fantasy land in webcomic form, though, is more difficult. Sure, you can banish all the relevant stuff in a separate tab, but most of the time it functions in the same way an appendix works for a novel: it’s more or less ignored except for the diehards. If you try to do it the same way as the novels and have the characters spout exposition every time they see something culturally significant, it can seriously halter the pace of what is a visual medium. Out of webcomics, Order of Tales struck the balance between plot and exposition the best. The main character was a scribe, which gave the story a ready made excuse to switch to prose in order to flesh out the world’s background story.
In most webcomics, though, attempts to explain the backstory come off as rather forced. This is, unfortunately, what happens in Gaia, a comic by Sandra and Woo creators Oliver Knörzer (from Germany) and Powree (from Indonesia).