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DC enters the world of online comics on the iPad

Robot 6 and Comics Beat are all over DC’s new app on the iPad/iPhone. (And, in one case, the PSP… holy crap, that thing still exists?) Not actually owning an iPad, I can’t say that this news affects me much (though I think I will download this for my iPod Touch tonight when I get the chance).

Notably, at least as long as this site is concerned, the app offers a few free comics — Batman Black and White, Superman #700 … and the Eisner-nominated Bayou, which I reviewed here and was my personal favorite of the nominees.

I (and others) have railed at the clunkiness of Zuda’s online Flash interface. Quote from Comics Beat: “Bonus: Now we can finally read Zuda comics without that horrible Flash interface, since Flash is to Apple mobile devices what garlic is to vampires.” I wonder, though … does Zuda play better through the iPad/iPhone app? Will the DC Comics app prove to be Zuda’s true home?

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The Webcomic Overlook 2010 Eisner round-up

Now that I’ve done reviews for all the Eisner candidates, it’s time for the guessing game everyone loves to play: who’s going home with the Award? This year’s crop proves to be one of the strongest categories by far.

But let’s never forget that the Eisner voting body has a different thought process than you or I. After all, if you looked at the nominees in 2007, you might have predicted that the award would have gone to the immensely popular Girl Genius (reviewed here) or the delightful black humor of Minus (reviewed here). There’s probably even good cause to root for Bee or Phables. Who could have foreseen that a 12-page Sam & Max: The Big Sleep comic (reviewed here) written for Telltale Games would emerge the winner? Truly the ways of the Eisner voting body are strange and mysterious.

Thus, along with my pros and cons, I am including a Sugarshock-o-meter, named after Joss Whedon’s 2008 Eisner winning effort (which I reviewed here). It’s perhaps the most reliable gauge in determining the true winner. Who will joing an illustrious pantheon that includes Finder, Sugarshock!, Sam & Max, PvP, and Mom’s Cancer? Let’s find out.

Power Out

The webcomic in brief: No video games and no computer makes boy get really, really horny.

Pros: With the unflinching scenes of self-centerness and loneliness, Nathan Schreiber’s comic feels the most awkwardly personal out of all the nominees.

Cons: There is a scene with a naked granny, which is one naked granny scene too many. Also, that main character … Justin? Kind of a chump.

Sugarshock-o-meter: 57/100. The very first Best Digital Comic winner was the sunnily titled Mom’s Cancer. Power Out has a chance if the Eisner voting body wants to return to its more introspective roots. However, Act-i-vate is always the bridesmaid and never the bride when it comes to these things.

Full review can be found here.

The Guns of Shadow Valley

The webcomic in brief: Superpowered cowboys, assemble!

Pros: I mentioned the superpowered cowboys, right? Plus, I appreciate the nod given to the Chinese people who helped build the railroad. It’s got some wonderfully detailed Wild West illustrations, which would not look out of place hanging on the living room walls of some Wild West aficionados I know.

Cons: But who really likes cowboys anyway? I mean, I frikkin’ adore old Westerns, but I also understand that’s not necessarily a popular pursuit anymore. Attempts to jazz ‘em up have met with mixed success: for every Shanghai Noon, there’s a Wild, Wild West. Also, John Henry — the most famous African American Tall Tale character — is Chinese now? Shenanigans! Better keep your hands offa Annie Christmas, is all I’m sayin’.

Sugarshock-o-meter: 68/100. The comic is nice visually, and it packs plenty of action, but it doesn’t quite match the depth of the other four entries. While heavily action-oriented comics can win Eisners — Astonishing X-Men (2006), The Umbrella Academy (2008) — it just doesn’t happen very often.

Full review can be found here.

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The Webcomic Overlook #118: Bayou

If there’s an American mythology, most of us would point to the era known as The Wild West. Fueled by Hollywood imagery, dreams of wide open plains, and memorable gun-totin’ badasses played by John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, the Wild West imagines a world that is dangerous and tough and yet adventurous at the same time. The truth of the era — which is probably more mundane and not quite as perilous for most prairie settlers — gets glossed over. Part of this mythology is evident in one of Zuda Comics’ most popular efforts, High Moon (reviewed here).

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Deep South in the era of the Great Depression and beyond. This time period is often regarded with utmost seriousness, since it’s highlighted by one of America’s darkest dilemmas. The entire region was gripped by fear. White people were still smarting over their loss and humiliation at the hands of the North in the Civil War. They saw their old world of plantations as a modern day Camelot, and the greedy Northerners took it away.

But for every aristocrat, there are about 100 serfs. If the Whites thought they had it bad, the Blacks — their serfs under the system of slavery — had it worse. Blacks were specifically targeted by angry White Southerners who saw “darkies” as inferior and dangerous. The blockbuster movie of 1915, The Birth of A Nation, didn’t do much to help matters: it’s portrayal of the Ku Kux Klan as heroes and Black people as immoral villains was one of the big reasons the Klan’s meteoric rise in popularity during the 1920′s.

So when it comes to romanticizing any aspect of the Deep South in that era, there’s a very real caution in taking any risks deviating from the real life hardships. Fantasize events, and you run the risk of inspiring the wrong kinds of people to do horrible, dishonorable things. (The Birth of a Nation‘s director, D. W. Griffith, seemed horrified by the reaction to his movie. His next film, Intolerance, tried to teach audiences a lesson about prejudice.) Maybe imagination has no place in real world trials and tribulations, and everything should be taken with the same stone-faced seriousness as To Kill A Mockingbird.

Which is why I was rather astounded when Jeremy Love’s Bayou, a Best Digital Comic nominee for the 2010 Eisner Awards, proved that notion wrong. The author doesn’t gloss over the horrors of that era. There are lynchings. Black people are denied the right to a fair trial simply due to the color of their skin. Police turn a blind eye when white people inflict harm on black people.

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for flights of fantasy. Sometimes, that’s jus the thing you need to survive.


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The 2010 Eisner Nominations have arrived!

Comics Beat reports that the 2010 Eisner Nominations have been released. Here are your candidates for Best Digital Comic:

Based on the strength of the two nominees I’m familiar with (plus the positive word-of-mouth I’ve heard about Bayou), I’d say that this is a fairly strong list this time around. Last year, I wrote a two-part overview of the 2009 Eisner nominees. I plan on doing the same thing next month. So watch this space for my take on the nominees, plus my predictions on the winners.

Also representing webcomics: Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge (reviewed here) — which began its life as a webcomic and went on to garner critical acclaim from Wired, Rolling Stone, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, among others — gets a nomination for “Best Graphic Album – Reprint.”

EDIT: Lauren Davis also has her own take on the Eisner nominees up at her site. Her blog, Storming the Tower, has always been great webcomics-related reading, so check it out when you can. She’s much happier about the 2010 nominees than the 2009 version (like I am). She does wonder, though, whether a long relationship in print comics impacts chances of winning.

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