Category Archives: 4 Stars
So I’ve undertaken quite possibly the most foolish endeavor in my life. I am currently trying to finish reading Homestuck before the end of the year. I picked up at Act 6, Intermission 5, which pretty much induced a headache in about 15 minutes. Who’s this Davesprite guy? Why is the juggalo troll at the birth of the cherub character? Do I really have to read all this page-long exposition where all the “b”‘s are replaced with “8”‘s? What’s this deal about twelve planets and a single dead planet that has to be reborn? Where are my pants?
These unique tribulations would cause most to either a.) drink heavily, or b.) put on gray make-up and head to the local comic con to hang out with the Undertale cosplayers. Fortunately, there is a far less self-destructive solution available: find a cheery webcomic to momentarily take your mind off of your troubles. The internet is not at a loss for charming comics that can put a smile on your face. For my money, there are few more adorable than Joho’s webcomic about her cats entitled Saphie: The One-Eyed Cat.
One of the earliest games I’d programmed, though, was some code available in a library book. It was a text based adventure game. I’ve never played Zork, but through cultural osmosis I can tell you it’s something like that. You could type things like “Go West” and get stunning replies like “You can’t go west.” I suppose I have no one to blame for these geographical limitations since I’m the guy who technically programmed them in.
Anyway, this particular game went something like this. Your Uncle Simon has just passed away. One day, you receive a mysterious letter in the mail. After doing some fetch-quest things, you end up activating a portal to another, fantastical world.
Mysterious packages seem de rigeur im adventure settings. It’s a somewhat humble way to receive a ticket to adventure without necessarily having the ambition to follow the hero’s path. Greatness is basically thrust upon you wrapped neatly in brown paper. It’s a gift that drives the hero of Falke’s webcomic, the superhero adventure Parallax.
The great songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic once wrote, “The only question I ever though was hard was ‘Do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?'” Also he wrote that he memorized Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and his quote were sure to have you rolling on the floor, laughing.
But back to Star Trek. It’s a heady question. One that has likely ruined friendships and spurred a pointless internet discussion or two. Kirk appeals to renegade adventurer types who crave action and diplomacy solved by bare chests and balled-up fists. Picard appeals to those who love class, civility, and French captains who inexplicably talk with a British accent. (Actually, there is a somewhat canon explanation for that last part… but it is beyond stupid and does not bear repeating.)
Webcomic creators seem to fall firmly in the Picard camp. There are parodies. Videos. Erotic adventures. Plus he’s Patrick Stewart, whose dulcet tones are far more seductive than William Shatner’s hamminess. Thus, the fondness for the OG baldheaded captain should come as no surprise. Many webcomic creators are in their 30’s and 40’s, and when they were kids The Next Generation was the jam. Maybe in a decade or so, there’s going to be a ton of Star Trek Enterprise references in webcomics… but don’t hold your breath on that one.
Ah, but what of the great Deep Space Nine? While not quite the pop culture juggernaut as the original series or the Next Generation, DS9 is nevertheless regarded by many Trek fans as the best Trek series. Well, Josh Millard didn’t forget, and DS9 features prominently in his webcomic LARP Trek.
I have a startling confession to make: I’m a pretty big fan of the probably cancelled NBC series Siberia. (I was also a fan of The Cape, so maybe I’m just attracted to failure.) Siberia starts off by fooling viewers into thinking that they’re watching a reality show. Contestants are dropped off via helicopter into the forbidding wilderness of northern Russia. Like all reality shows, they start things off with a silly challenge. Race to the cabins! The last two get eliminated! The trappings are familiar to anyone who’s watched TV in the last decade. There’s filmed confessionals to flesh out character personalities, alliances being formed, and mugging for the unseen cameramen.
Show’s true format and statement of intent reveals itself by the end of the first episode, though. One of the contestants is presumed dead. Brutally mutilated. It slowly dawns on the characters (and the viewers) that nothing on the show is as it seems. Slowly but surely, the safety net disappears. The characters arrived in Siberia with the assumption that, no matter what goes wrong, there’s a support team hiding just out of view to deal with the really serious stuff. Like food rations, medical care, or keeping away dangerous animals or people. Scary moments are initially brushed off as just being part of the show. The real horror creeps in when the characters suddenly realize that nobody is in control, and they are all at the mercy of whatever dark, unspoken mysteries lurk just beyond the campgrounds.
The same sense of primal eeriness permeates Katie Rice’s difficult to spell webcomic Camp Weedonwantcha. (“Weedonwantcha” is a play on words: it’s both a parody of camps that takes on Native American names and what Avengers director Joss Whedon says when he wants to pick up chicks.) The encroaching sense of desperation isn’t at the forefront, though. This is primarily a humorous comic about kids having adventures at camp. One that they seem to be unable to leave. And not because the crafts classes are super fun.
(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!)
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.
The tour of Eisner-nominated titles for Best Digital Comic continues with Bandette, by writer Paul Tobin and his wife, artist Colleen Coover. Best Digital Comic is not, incidentally, the only award associated with Bandette. Ms. Coover is also a nominee for the Best Inker/Penciller Award. Fantastic news, as I am — above all — easily swayed by pretty pictures. Talk about setting me up with ridiculously high expectations!
Bandette may also be the first nominee that isn’t a “webcomic”, per se. The comic falls on the “digital comic” side of things. Bandette is downloadable through Comixology, which means that you gotta shell out a dollar an issue. Being not made of money (or a measly $3, which I then turned around and reinvested in the latest issue of IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye), I did this review based on the first issue (which is currently free) and on the three page previews of the subsequent issues.
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.