Monthly Archives: September 2007
There are very few webcomics in existence whose artwork would translate well into the traditional print medium. Most webcomic artists would not be offered a paying job at a comic book company since the art is usually passable at best.
That’s why I was thrilled when I saw artwork from the webcomic I’m reviewing today. My first impression was that the art that would find a good home at one of those counterculture alternative imprints, like Vertigo or Fantagraphics. The content and namge suggest a dark comedy with Harry-Potter-esque fantasy elements. My expectations went through the roof.
I’ve always been a fan of well-done stories that placed fantasy elements in modern times, from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics to Mike Resnick’s oddball Stalking the Unicorn. I consider them to be the proud continuation of a noble tradition, which in the past have included some great works like Alice In Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. And for you anime lovers out there, there’s InuYasha.
Of course, it’s quite easy for a fantasy/modern world story to go off the rails. Terry Brooks’ Magic Kingdom of Landover series, anyone? But I pressed on with giddy confidence anyway, hopeful that the artwork I’d seen would be the x-factor that would place webcomic firmly in the win column.
Today’s Webcomic Overlook will look at John Allison’s Scary Go Round.
Do you know the two characters that decorate the banner of this site? Casual Transformers fans would know that they are Arcee, the most famous female Transformer, and Ratchet, the beloved Transformer medic. However, hardcore Transformer fans would recognize where the pictures came from. They’re both pictures from Dreamwave Productions, a Canadian company that once published Transformers comic books.
Dreamwave eventually folded when it went bankrupt in 2005. Its legacy, however, lives on. Matt Moylan, a former Dreamwave editor, is the writer and artist of today’s Webcomic Overlook subject: Lil Formers.
The world of comics is littered with examples of shameless cross-promotional product tie ins. These range from the beloved yet corny one-panel Hostess Fruit Pie ads to the Crest Cavity Fighting Team, which probably came in the same baggie you dentisted gave you with the free toothbrush and floss. And then there were Alex and Shanna: The Tandy Computer Whiz Kids. I think I received one of these notoriously cheesy comics when I was in grade school. Together, these middle school ragamuffins fought drug dealers with their awesome array of Radio Shack products. (Radio Shack doesn’t even sell half the stuff shown in the comic anymore. The Tandy, the kids’ namessake, is a defunct computer brand that’s now best known as Strong Bad’s first and worst computer. Heck, the last time I went to Radio Shack, it was to get some ethernet cables. One shudders to think how the secret war on drugs turned for the worst when Radio Shack began to reduce their product offerings.)
And, of course, there ae the comic books handed out by your local electric company or water waste treatment facility urging kids to turn off the lights or save a billion gallons a day by turning off tap. It’s all pretty innocent stuff … except the PETA comics, which tells kids that their dads are vicious psychopaths for going on that fishing trip.
The Simpsons payed homage/made fun of these comics in their episode “Worse Episode Ever,” where a naive Milhouse purchases 1,000 copies of Biclops (presented by Lenscrafters) for the comic book store. It was only a matter of time before the much mocked genre made its way into webcomics.
Or … is it?
If there’s a rule that penetrates every aspect of life in Japan, it’s this simple credo: it has to be cute. And by cute, we mean “Hello, Kitty” cute. In fact, the origin of “kawaii” (cute) culture can be traced to Sanrio’s market saturation in the ’70s. It’s not just in the manga. “Kawaii” penetrates the fashions, the corporate pitchmen, government functions, and the sports logos.
So why are the Japanese so obsessed with the cute? An article in Wikipedia gives two viewpoints. One one hand, Tomoyuki Sugiyama says that the Japanese embrace “kawaii” due to their love of harmony. On the other hand, Professor Hiroto Murasawa says that “kawaii” breeds a mentality of non-assertion. Who’s right?
These are questions I contemplated while I was reading today’s subject: Meghan Murphy’s Kawaii Not.
There are times when a single, foolish act can forever taint a celebrity’s credibility. Just ask comedian Michael Richards or Pacman Jones, whose single Las Vegas fistfight turned him for a star cornerback into a TNA wrestler who has an NFL injunction preventing him from actually wrestling.
In comics, the most notorious example is Dave Sim, the creator of Cerebus the Aardvark. He was originally heralded as a hero of the independent comic scene and a poster boy for creator’s rights. He had an ambitious and much heralded goal set near the beginning of his run to finish the comic at 300 issues, a Herculean feat for an independent artist and writer. However, things fell apart near the end. Starting with issue #265, Sim began filling up the last pages of his issues with misogynistic essays called Tangents.
And so it was with me and Brooke McEldowney, the creator of today’s webcomic. While I was pretty ambivalent toward his print strip, 9 Chickweed Lane, I at least admired the man for his bold artistry and his chutzpah for including characters which are still highly unconventional for a comic strip — such as a lapsed preacher and a gay dancer. That was before what I call the “Unicorn Saga,” where, in some of the most smug prose committed to the funny pages, Mr. McEldowney reveals his total, utter contempt for normal, everyday people who are too uncultured to see that ballerinas can be making a lot of money. Before, you could forgive a character like Edda for being a self-centered ass because it’s good characterization. But when she becomes your mouthpiece for how annoyed you are that people won’t take you seriously, then it taints everything you’ve written — before and after.
This is why it’s difficult to approach today’s webcomic without factoring the preconceived notions I already have for Mr. McEldowney.
Today’s comic is Pibgorn, which, in a way, is a spin-off of 9 Chickweed Lane. And that “Pib-Gorn,” which is some sort of Welsh musical instrumennt, not “Pig-Born,” which means being born from a pig.
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Many years ago, when I was a young lad in Detroit with the funny pages spread out before me from the city’s two major newspapers, I tried to tackle the ulitmate challenge: to read the soap opera strips. Every other strip was breezy and readable. But, ah, those soap opera strips: they were impenetrable. Rex Morgan, Gil Thorp, and the crown jewel of them all, Mary Worth. Before the days of the internet, it was impossible to follow thier storylines unless you subscribed to every damn newspaper throughout the week. Read them Sunday to Sunday, and it made absolutely no sense. So why would I even bother undertaking such a challenge? Because I wanted to understand why in the world these strips even existed. I mean, they were in the papers… someone was reading them, right?
It wasn’t until recently, when I came across The Comic Curmudgeon, that I managed to follow entire storylines. And I still have no ideas why they exist. They storylines are ludicrous, and the writers seem to have no idea what the modern world is like. Most of the current crop are hold-overs from earlier eras when the comic pages were read by a more diverse audience.
With the exception of For Better or Worse and Funky Winkerbean, there haven’t been any new soap opera strips in the American funny pages for a while. Japan’s another story, and soap opera comics exist in manga form. I can’t think of any recent examples, but Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku and Kimagure Orange Road are often held up as shining examples. They combine humor, sweetness, and the common theme of unrequited love.
Are these any soap opera comic strips in the webcomic world? This brings us to today’s subject: Marry Me, an online graphic novel written by Bobby Crosby and illustrated by Remy Mokhtar.