Category Archives: WCO Big Review
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!)
It’s time once again to delve into the world of comics in the digital medium, where your eyes are bombarded not by inks and tree fibers but rather by the warm, embracing glow of an LCD monitor. There’s been a pretty big gap in my reviewing back catalogue, which for some reason includes something called Loviathan and something called Glam but for some reason doesn’t include the webcomic whose cosplayers overtook Emerald City Comic Con this year.
That’s right, readers: it’s time for yet another review of Andrew Hussie’s MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck!
Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Homestuck, or maybe you’ve heard about it in bits and pieces but really don’t know much about it, there’s one thing you should know right off the bat: it’s a very long webcomic. A VERY long webcomic. And deceptively so. As a result, I’m splitting this review into two segments. The first will reivew Acts 1-4, which focused mainly on the players of John, Rose, Dave, and Jade. (I will call these four “Pesterchums.” I don’t know if that’s the official term for them, but that’s how they appear categorized in their chatlogs.) The second will deal with Acts 5 and beyond, which seems to focus on the trolls.
Is this a fair dividing point? I think so. Back in the day (holy crap, this comic started back in 2009?) fans on the webcomic seemed to be split on how to take Act 5. The focus one trolls cause some to quit. On the other hand, trolls seems to be what maneuvered Homestuck to the big leagues. How much fan art is devoted to trolls vs. that which is devoted to the original crew? I’m guessing a million to one. As a result, my scholarlycomparison of trollspeak to Li’l Abner‘s cornpone dialects is going to have to wait until Part 2. Doesn’t that sound exciting?
… yeah, I didn’t think so either.
It’s getting to be a familiar site these days to see animators flexing their creative juices in webcomics. Just about 5 years ago, it seemed like a novelty when Chris Sanders, animation director of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, brought his verve to the little electrical screen with Kiskaloo. An actual animator! Deigning to illustrate webcomic! How about that! Man, webcomics aren’t just for bored college liberal art students with a poor grasp of MSPaint anymore!
Nowadays, it’s a little more commonplace. Katie Rice, the winner of this year’s Strip Search, to point out one of the most prominent examples, is herself an animator. I suppose it makes sense. As an animator, I’m thinking that most of the time you’re shackled to someone else’s brilliant vision… like, say, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted. Sure, there’s some creative leeway there. Maybe suggestions on the character design. Or ideas on fun little background elements. Or animating the letters “S-E-X” in the clouds near Aladdin and Jasmine.
I, too, wanted to be an animator once. Inspired by the Disney Renaissance of the early 90′s, I even once bought a book about how to break into the biz. If these animators were anything like I was, I’m guessing a lot got into the field because they wanted to tell stories. Their stories. There’s a creative force gnawing inside, waiting for the day when it can be finally unleashed on the world. Something like … a crazed little demon.
Speaking of crazed little demons, that’s sort of the premise for Ava’s Demon. The webcomic was created by Michelle Czajkowski, who, as I understand it, is an animator at Dreamworks.
A couple weeks ago a buddy and I were watching Game 6 of the Miami Heat/Indiana Pacers game. Guys like Chris Bosh and LeBron James were flopping to the ground to get the referees to call the fouls, our discussions turned to our favorite teams. My buddy was a big fan of the Heat. (He was pretty much the only one in the bar rooting for them. Everyone else was pulling for the Pacers to upset.) Me, though, I had to vouch for the team nearest and dearest to my heart: the Detroit Pistons.
And when you’re talking about the Pistons, inevitably the discussion turns to the legendarily thuggish team of the late 80′s-early 90′s called The Bad Boys. Dennis Rodman. Isiah Thomas. Bill Laimbeer. Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson. Joe Dumars. “Man, I miss those days,” I said, pointing to the players as they gingerly hit the ground after every foul. “Back then, not only would they have taken the elbow to the stomach, they would’ve come back at you and returned the pain tenfold.”
(Ah, the glory of being a Pistons fan. Even when they’ve won the championship as recently as 2004, you never forget your first love that is The Bad Boys.)
Am I naive to dream of earlier, more brutal time? Maybe. But maybe it’s also… the future! At least, that’s how it looks in Scott Sava and Alex Kolesar’s basketball themed webcomic, Hoop Fighter.
Out of the Eisner-nominated titles, Ben Towle’s Oyster War is probably the one we’d most conventionally associate with the term “webcomic.” By that, I mostly mean the layout. This Will All Hurt is a metaphysical zombie comic where all the pages of the chapter are laid out vertically. Bandette is available as a digital comic on Comixology, the preferred format for the big piracy-averse publishers and arguably not really a webomic. Our Bloodstained Roof is a short story (most webcomics have runs longer than four installments), and Ant Comic is a bizarre little creature that looks like it would be more at home in the pages of an alternative magazine.
Oyster War, on the other hand, is a webcomic webcomic. Handy navigational buttons at the bottom of the page, familiar layout with a snazzy title header and sidebars, and a sensible pace of one page per post. It’s about as standard-looking as you can get on the no-frills WordPress format. There’s benefits to trying something new — in fact, it could be argued that because they’re more experimental, that they’re more deserving of award attention.
Oyster War shouldn’t dismissed, though. Mainly because it seems to have earned Eisner consideration on the merits of it being good.
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.