Category Archives: The Webcomic Overlook

Lauren Davis talks up “51 Eisner-worthy webcomics”

Eisner Awards, eh? What is this malarkey! Some people are bechuffed — bechuffed, I say! — about some of the candidates that were passed over this year! Why, it’s enough to incite a riot!

… OK, so no one is bechuffed. They’re barely even bedraggled. I mean… there’s like a dozen comic-related award ceremonies this year.

But that doesn’t stop Lauren Davis from listing 51 Awesome Webcomics that she believes are deserving of recognition come Eisner time.

The category for Best Digital Comic launched in 2005 and it’s always been perplexing for avid followers of webcomics. We’ve hoped that the category would be an opportunity to highlight independent comics by lesser known creators and in some years, it has done an excellent job of doing just that. However, the nominees tend to include creators who have strong ties to the world of print comics, and sometimes digital offerings by big-name creators edge out people who have been working in webcomics for years. (Case in point, Joss Whedon and Fabio Moon took home the 2008 Eisner for Best Digital Comic for the Dark Horse digital release of Sugarshock!)

You dare impugn the name of the Honorable Master Joss Whedon, Ms. Davis? What, are you just asking for a thousand browncoats to be mailed your way? Because if you are … can … can you loan me one? It’s sorta chilly out here. My size is Extra Large.

Lauren Davis’ list is quite comprehensive, ranging from JL8 to Unsounded to Dresden Codak to Something Positive to… well… there are 51 of them. Read it for yourself, homies!

(Full disclosure, Ms. Davis mentions this humble site in her piece. Thanks for the shout-out!)

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What did you think of STRIPPED?

The Dave Kellett and Frederick Schroeder joint Stripped! hit Kickstarter donators last month. The video was made available last week on iTunes, with the option of getting it on DVD. The movie is filmed in interview style, with a bunch of sit-down chats with comic strip and webcomic luminaries. The narrative takes viewers from the history of comic strips to the newspaper crisis, and provides different viewpoints as to the future of comic strips. Also, Bill Watterson totally drew the poster for it.

But I’ve spoiled too much. What do you, the viewers at home, think of STRIPPED?

News: Amazon buys Comixology

Hat tip to Morgan Wick via Twitter: Amazon buys Comixology.

Amazon has just announced that they will acquire comiXology, a service that offers digital versions of comics from Marvel, DC, and many others.

To date, Comixology offers upwards of 50,000 comics for sale. In 2013, the company launched a self-publishing platform for comics that allows comic creators to upload and sell their own work — a strategy which fits hand-in-hand with Amazon’s own self-publishing efforts for books.

It’s a boost of confidence, I think, that online comics are now considered a profitable medium. Comixology has indeed been doing good business, and the acquisition is a pretty interesting wrinkle in Amazon’s continued quest to expand to the field of entertainment media (what with the Instant Video aspect getting way more press).

WCO#239: Dresden Codak

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Aaron Diaz’s Dresden Codak is a strange creature. It debuted back in 2005, back when webcomics were developing a reputation as the sophisticated alternative to their comic strip brethren. xkcd launched in the same year, and A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible not long before that. Perry Bible Fellowship was starting to gain a strong following. At the core of these comics as a brainy just-out-of-college mentality. The gags were still sometimes juvenile, but at its core were concepts and ideas that were smarter and more clever than ones on the Sunday Funnies. Except Marmaduke. That comic is pretty dang subversive.

And all of them, including xkcd sometimes, would surprise you by hitting you with some great looking art. It may be easy to forget, since a lot of art grads now know of webcomics as a great way to expand their portfolio, but aesthetically webcomic art was pretty dire. The medium, after all, was originally conceived as an amateur hobby where some folks got lucky despite the artistic merit, e.g. tons of pixel comics. As a result, comics like Dresden Codak were incredibly eye-catching in comparison.

Typical of early Dresden Codak is a comic like “Li’l Werner.” It’s a one-shot comic with no continuity baggage. Diaz is still experimenting with his art style: this time homaging the black-and-white cross-hatching of Edward Gorey. The strip hinges around a tongue-in-check parody of Aryan physics (the Nazi nationalist scientific movement to discredit Jewish scientists like Albert Einstein). There’s a sharped-toothed Philip Lenard recalling anti-Semitic caricatures, a tiny Heisenberg, and something about “current momentum.” I don’t pretend to know what the heck any of this is about. But it sounds smart and the multiple tiny Heisenbergs is a cute visual gag. It’s a lovely comic to introduce to your local Tesla fan.

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The 2013 Reuben nominees were announced… and it’s surprisingly a good list

Let’s face it… very few people had heard of last year’s Reuben winners. It was the second year, and the categories were split into two: Long-Form and Short-Form for Online Comics. While it technically spread the webcomic awards by double, I don’t know many people who’d heard of either Ten Cats (the Short-Form winner) or Untold Tales of Bigfoot (the Long-Form winner). Both comics were alright, by the way.

This year’s nominees, though, are a solid mix. Let’s check out the Reuben noms:

LONG-FORM
Dicebox – by Jenn Manley Lee
Family Man – by Dylan Meconis
Red’s Planet – by Eddie Pittman
Tuki – by Jeff Smith

Of these, the only one I haven’t read is Tuki. And, man, it’s Jeff Smith (Bone, RASL). Of course it’s probably good. I really can’t process these categories through the Sugarshock-o-meter to predict a winner, because I think all four have an equal and very deserving chance of snagging the award.

SHORT FORM
Watson – by Jim Horowitz
Buni – Ryan Pagelow
New Yorker Online – Mike Twohy

… I’ve heard of Buni. Still, I am not opposed to the New Yorker competing in a webcomic category. The New Yorker comics have been upping their online presence as of late, running caption contests and commission works from prominent webcomic types. Watson looks alright… if a little unremarkable.

Still, there’s your Reubens, and the fight over who wins the Long-Form category should be interesting at least!

(h/t Robot 6)

WCO #238: LARP Trek

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The great songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic once wrote, “The only question I ever though was hard was ‘Do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?’” Also he wrote that he memorized Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and his quote were sure to have you rolling on the floor, laughing.

But back to Star Trek. It’s a heady question. One that has likely ruined friendships and spurred a pointless internet discussion or two. Kirk appeals to renegade adventurer types who crave action and diplomacy solved by bare chests and balled-up fists. Picard appeals to those who love class, civility, and French captains who inexplicably talk with a British accent. (Actually, there is a somewhat canon explanation for that last part… but it is beyond stupid and does not bear repeating.)

Webcomic creators seem to fall firmly in the Picard camp. There are parodies. Videos. Erotic adventures. Plus he’s Patrick Stewart, whose dulcet tones are far more seductive than William Shatner’s hamminess. Thus, the fondness for the OG baldheaded captain should come as no surprise. Many webcomic creators are in their 30′s and 40′s, and when they were kids The Next Generation was the jam. Maybe in a decade or so, there’s going to be a ton of Star Trek Enterprise references in webcomics… but don’t hold your breath on that one.

Ah, but what of the great Deep Space Nine? While not quite the pop culture juggernaut as the original series or the Next Generation, DS9 is nevertheless regarded by many Trek fans as the best Trek series. Well, Josh Millard didn’t forget, and DS9 features prominently in his webcomic LARP Trek.

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WCO#237: Redd

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In hero fiction, losing an appendage is never the end of the world. In fact, it is an opportunity for more adventure. A missing hand, for example, and be replaced by some sort of robot prothetics, like a claw that can crush through solid metal or a pop-up sword. As a child, who among us didn’t pretend to retract their hands into their long sweater sleeve, then pretend that what came out was a massive Gatling gun, poised to mow down the enemy forces that exist only in a child’s brutal imagination? PVC tubing or bendy straws may have been involved.

Hence, you have a host of super tough dudes who have amazing prosthetics. You’ve got Cable, a beefy mountain of a man who has one metal arm. Surprisingly, he doesn’t tip over or develop back pains. You’ve got Robocop, who’s sort of a jumble of replacement limbs, including a leg that awesomely contains a gun holster. Awesome robo-appendages can also be found on the ladies, such as Kimiko Ross from the webcomic Dresden Codak.

However, all those assume that the characters were born with functional arms and/or legs. What about characters who never had such a luxury? Maybe flippers hands or … perhaps … not even having arms at all? Where is the superhero for the handicapped… or rather, the handi-capable?

What’s that? Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a … plane that seems to be missing its wings! It’s Redd!

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WCO #236: Camp Weedonwantcha

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I have a startling confession to make: I’m a pretty big fan of the probably cancelled NBC series Siberia. (I was also a fan of The Cape, so maybe I’m just attracted to failure.) Siberia starts off by fooling viewers into thinking that they’re watching a reality show. Contestants are dropped off via helicopter into the forbidding wilderness of northern Russia. Like all reality shows, they start things off with a silly challenge. Race to the cabins! The last two get eliminated! The trappings are familiar to anyone who’s watched TV in the last decade. There’s filmed confessionals to flesh out character personalities, alliances being formed, and mugging for the unseen cameramen.

Show’s true format and statement of intent reveals itself by the end of the first episode, though. One of the contestants is presumed dead. Brutally mutilated. It slowly dawns on the characters (and the viewers) that nothing on the show is as it seems. Slowly but surely, the safety net disappears. The characters arrived in Siberia with the assumption that, no matter what goes wrong, there’s a support team hiding just out of view to deal with the really serious stuff. Like food rations, medical care, or keeping away dangerous animals or people. Scary moments are initially brushed off as just being part of the show. The real horror creeps in when the characters suddenly realize that nobody is in control, and they are all at the mercy of whatever dark, unspoken mysteries lurk just beyond the campgrounds.

The same sense of primal eeriness permeates Katie Rice’s difficult to spell webcomic Camp Weedonwantcha. (“Weedonwantcha” is a play on words: it’s both a parody of camps that takes on Native American names and what Avengers director Joss Whedon says when he wants to pick up chicks.) The encroaching sense of desperation isn’t at the forefront, though. This is primarily a humorous comic about kids having adventures at camp. One that they seem to be unable to leave. And not because the crafts classes are super fun.

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