Category Archives: western webcomic
Imagine you were in charge of a roller derby team. “What?” you say. “I came here for webcomics! What is this… the Roller Derby Overlook?” But just bear with me for a second. Imagine you were designing the mascot. What would it look like?
The character will pretty much have to be a devil. It’s an inversion of the traditional goody-two-shoes type that, I don’t know, shop at malls and go into marketing. It’s a sign of rebellion. Feistiness. Grrrrrrllll power. Besides, who’s ever heard of a roller derby team without a devil as a mascot? That would be ludicrous. That’s like designing an NBA logo without a basketball in it. So we start with a devil, preferably a shapely female to show that world that your team is both sexy and oh-so-dirty.
But… shoot… everybody has a sexy devil as their logo! How do I distinguish my mascot from every other mascot out there? Well, if the team’s called, say, the “Rat City Mavericks,” then the answer is simple: put some cowboy gear all up on that hottie! But it’s gotta be formfitting, lest you diminish the sexiness of it.
In the end, you would have a character that looked a lot like Kit, the protagonist of Matt Speroni’s The Dreadful.
One of the genres that has surprisingly thrived under the webcomic format is the weird western. Now, I ain’t saying that readers cotton it, particularly — the same way they cotton those comics what make fun of video games, I mean. Weird westerns, though, sure do cut a swell during awards time. High Moon, which is about the Wild West with werewolves, won a Harvey Award. Guns of Shadow Valley, which is about cowboys with superpowers, was nominated for an Eisner. It makes sense when you think about it. Weird westerns hearken back to the Golden Age of movies when heroes like John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and Clint Eastwood lit up the screen. At the same time, they play to more modern audiences when you add some sci-fi, the supernatural, fantasy, and steampunk.
Who could have imagined that The Wild Wild West was the future of storytelling?
Which brings us to Erin Mehlos’ Next Town Over. It sure is a mighty unassuming name. You hear it and you done think to yourself, “With a fancy title like that, this is surely some sort of romance comic.” Which, come to think it it, may not be all too far from the mark. At its heart, this is a webcomic about two lovers. They also have superpowers. And a couple of souped up horses. Set down a spell and you’ll see what I mean.
Windows Internet Explorer 9 — which all the cool kids call IE9 — debuted April of this year triumphantly with exciting previews and press releases and parades and a strong undercurrent that, yes, everything had finally changed!
OK, not really.
I have a hard time remembering when Internet Explorer was still relevant. The IE/Netscape Wars of the late 90′s, maybe? That was a war that Microsoft won. By bundling Explorer for free with Windows while Navigator was still something you had to buy at the local CompUSA, IE jumped to something like 90% of the browser market. It was David vs. Goliath, and Goliath not only beat David, he put on a fancy hat and coat and did a little jig on David’s dead body.
In recent years, though, IE’s been slipping due to increased competition from Mozilla, Google, Apple, and other smaller players. At the time IE9 debuted, it had slipped drastically to 46%. IE9 was designed in part to reverse the trend with exciting new features like … I don’t know … pinned sites? Whatever that is?
Perhaps I’m being blase because IE9 is only available for Windows Vista and Windows 7. All my computers at home are Macs. Thus, I pretty much run all web applications on either Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. No IE9 for me, though not by choice.
To show off the capabilities of IE9, Microsoft produced a webcomic in collaboration with Parisian studio Steaw Web Design. The comic was a short Wild West vignette called Never Mind the Bullets. It was directed by François Le Pichon and Jeremy Thomas, illustrated by Kevin Hamon, coded in HTML5 by Sebastien Doncker, and written by Antoine Laroche.
Again, there’s no way I can view this using the clearly mind-blowing capabilities of IE9, so I’m going to use Google Chrome instead. The comic worked for the most part, but I am going to point out some areas where, I imagine, IE9 was supposed to excel. Let’s take a look, shall we?
If movies have told me anything, it’s that the Wild West was a dangerous place to be. Every corner was filled with gunslingers, bounty hunters, desperadoes, banditos, cattle rustlers, and hostile natives. Stakes are already high enough. But how about you throw some good ol’ fashioned superpowers in the mix?
That’s basically what we get with The Guns of Shadow Valley, one of the five nominees for Eisner’s Best Digital Comic. The webcomic was developed by Scar Tissue creators David Wachter and James Andrew Clark.
After hating them because they were basically the pretty new thing on the block, I’ve warmed up to DC’s Zuda Comics format. I love how you can press the Full Screen button, and the page occupies a huge portion of the laptop screen. It’s a great format for art-heavy comics. The best comics on the traditional image-based format seemed best suited for simple, uncomplicated artwork. The Zuda viewer lets you admire the detail to the tiniest cross hatch.
However, I found myself agreeing with a recently posted rant on the Scienteers website. Zuda Comics is slow. Really. Goddamn. Slow. I run on a home wireless system that runs off a cable modem that is usually quite speedy. Yet each page takes somewhere between 10 to 20 seconds to load. Some readers have informed me that they are still running on dial-up modems; I can only imagine the sort of load times they have to suffer. The problem only compounds when you consider that the type of comics hosted on Zuda are the more traditional types that are meant to be flipped, page after page, as you would a comic book. This is the Era of Instant Gratification, and readers don’t like sticking around when they perceive they’re wasting time.
And this is a goddamn shame, because a part of me says that it’s unfair to judge the comic because of the slow medium it runs on. After all, does one judge an Ernest Hemingway novel based on the quality of its paper? Thus, in reviewing writer David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis’ Western/horror mash-up, High Moon, I’m not going to give the creators red cards because, at times, the suspense and anticipation built by the storyline were completely killed off by the download times, symbolized by a slowly filling word balloon with cruel, mocking eyes.