Category Archives: The Webcomic Overlook
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.
All it took for me was one drawing by Chris Samnee.
Not too long ago, Chris Arrant at Robot 6 wrote a piece entitled “DC Digital: Best Kept Secret or Worst Covered Gem?” While all the press has been on the New 52′s same-day-digital initiative, the DC Digital brand has silently be cultivating some interesting titles. It started when they launched Smallville Season 11, the follow up to the popular TV show. (Some fans attest it’s better than the mainline Superman titles. I’ve only read one Smallville issue, but from what I’ve seen of the New 52 Superman, I don’t find it hard to believe.) While New 52 remain controversial, dropping and adding titles on a regular basis, the DC Digital titles have been steadily building up. Batman Beyond Unlimited. Legends of the Dark Knight. Arrow. And, um … Ame-Comi Girls. (Which is… written by Jonah Hex‘s Jimmy Palmiotti. Oh, Jimmy.)
But let’s get back to that Chris Samnee image! That’s all I needed to download the first three issues of Adventures of Superman. Look at that glorious thing. Is there any current artist out there who’s perfect for illustrating Superman than Chris Samnee? Before the New 52, I mean? I mean, he can just draw him and I’m all, “Yes. YES. That is Superman… not some impostor running around wearing red and blue tights.” Here is a man that makes you want to go “Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” every time you lay your eyes on him.
Well, it turns out only the first issue is illustrated by Mr. Samnee. (And it’s written by Jeff Parker.) Adventures of Superman is an anthology series… a bunch of short, low impact stories. Superman tries to talk a guy down from causing mayhem, two kids play around in the yard, and Superman deals with Bizarro.
Very few punches are thrown.
If you want to read about Darkseid’s ongoing plan to rule the world, this is probably not the comic for you. But you see… I love those stories. One of the best things about Superman from the Silver Age was how it was more focused on character relationships and wonder at the world than, say, Superman punching out the latest supervillain. It’s something that the previous incarnation of Superman really got wrong. Throughout the 80′s and the 90′s, it was about Superman beating up on villain after another. (Culminating in the best selling issue where he dies after being punched to death by Doomsday.)
Some weeks ago, I solicited the readers for links to their comics or recommendations to webcomic that they liked. There were plenty of fantastic entries, some which I mentally bookmarked to slot for a review some time down the line. This is the first one, recommended by reader
Why Piti Yindee’s Wuffle: The Big Nice Wolf? The reason is perhaps quite shallow: it was really, really pretty. I mean, the header shows a big yet cute cartoon wolf with a white volleyball under his arm that turns out to be a chicken. Look, people, there’s no big secret to getting me to pay attention: I’m like a moth to flame when it comes to cute things.
The Eisner nominees for Best Digital Comic often include some absolutely bizarre entries that look like they were done under some sort of chemical influence. I think Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld may have been one of them, but the geometry-based digressions, while challenging from the standpoint of linear storytelling, were so lucid it makes me doubt my assessment. Still, the webcomic itself was about smoking drugs, so I think it fits in some way. The thing about these sorts of comics is that the writer can wave away inconsistencies, plot holes, and artistic decisions under the catch-all excuse of “Just not getting it.” Which isn’t entirely untrue. But still!
Here’s what you need to know about Michael DeForge’s Ant Comic: the first sequence shows a depiction of two homosexual ants having sex. The second shows some ants marching into a giant ant vagina.
I was tempted to put up an NSFW tag, but I think most curious co-workers looking over your shoulder would have an impossible time figuring out what was going on. Still, probably not something you’d want to recommend for your kids.
Gather ’round children, and let me tell you a tale of webcomics past. Webcomics of yore! You see, there used to be a time when young men and women made webcomics based on unlikely prompts. Spam email! Palindromes! Ah, but the world is a more sophisticated place now, with no time for such primitive..,.
What’s that you say? There’s a Twitter: The Comic?
Yessiree, my friends, Mike Rosenthal (or, as he’s known on Twitter, “@vectorbelly“) has been moderating a posse of webcomic artists on Tumblr to create comics based on Tweets. They’re often quite funny. It helps that most of the Tweets selected tell a sort of minifiction in under 140 characters. Do you know anyone who actually tweets:
WELCOME TO APPLEBEES MAY I TAKE YOUR ORDER. DID U SAY “A PLATE OF SPIDERS” TOO LATE HERE IT COMES. U HAVE TO EAT IT ALL OR WE CALL THE COPS
Me neither. But apparently it got 1,000 retweets… and this rad webcomic.
I remember it vividly as if it were yesterday. The skies were clear this morning, but the temperatures were below zero. I had a scarf wrapped around my mouth and nose because it almost felt like ice crystals were forming. I was walking from my the parking lot to the building I work at. It was about a quarter mile walk since city restrictions prevented a parking garage from being built, so the company compensated by making the parking lot very, very large.
Fortunately the walkway was covered. However, as I walked down the path, I noticed something weird. There were lumps on the ground covered in frost. At first, I thought they were leaves. As I looked a little closer though, I discovered to my horror that they were birds. About a hundred birds, all littering the ground, dead and frosted. They’d taken shelter under the roof in an attempt to escape the cold snap. It was in vain. The frost had killed them.
Ryan Andrews, the writer of the Eisner-nominated Our Bloodstained Roof, taps into the same chilling realization that death is senseless, and how guilt has an unforgiving way of making our lives miserable for the rest of our lives.
I need to make it clear that I don’t hate it when authors bring up the issues in our society regarding how women are portrayed and treated, especially in the media. It is an important topic and one that should be talked about. I personally find it quite disturbing how people will attack an author for even mentioning that the problem exists. And I am a big fan of Sinfest, I think Tatsuya Ishida is one of the best writers and artists on the internet. He has given us some excellent characters and some great, heartfelt moments. He can even make Satan himself sympathetic.
I think the main source of vitriol comes from the fact that despite the idea of feminism being about breaking down gender barriers so that men and women can truly be seen as equals, most people are likely more familiar with straw feminism, in which the movement is portrayed as women trying to dominate the world by enslaving men. This is because it’s the version that gets portrayed more often in the media as it is an easy story telling trope with more opportunities for drama rather than the reality of women just wanting respect and to feel safe.
There seems to be two schools of thought in how to present comics these days (and these include webcomics). The first is storytelling in the most traditional approach. Explain events using little comment boxes and exposition. It paces things out so you can get a somewhat complete story in around 22 pages or so. Generally, webcomics in this category are Spacetrawler and Order of the Stick. Simpler pictures, heavy on dialogue.
On the other end, there’s the “show, don’t tell” school or comics — decompressed storytelling. These are usually the ones heavy on mood and imagery. They take their time. The joke with some recent comics, for example, is that it takes 6 issues now for comics that used to take 1. (I think Bendis’ run on the Avengers titles are good examples of this.) In this category, more contemplative comics like Ectopiary and What Birds Know.
Both have their advantages, and it usually boils down to narrative vs. visuals. There are also plenty of comics in the middle ground. However, between the two extremes, which do you prefer: compressed or decompressed storytelling?