Category Archives: slice-of-life webcomic
The AV Club website has been running a weekend piece called the Comics Page. On a periodic basis, new artists are brought in to write a comic that features pop culture commentary. A recent piece by Luke Meeken caught my eye, and I wrote in saying it was a shame that he didn’t do webcomics more often.
He replied back with a link to a previous project he’d worked on, currently archived at his website, Gilded Green. The series, entitled “A. V. Dreamzzz”, are stream-of-consciousness musings about how you process pop culture as you drift off to sleep. For example, leaving your headphones on and mixing up all the different podcasts you have on queue. Meeken heightens the dreamlike state by mixing in animated gifs to great effect. Most other webcomics use these gifs to elicit humor or horror. Here, the effect recalls how you cede control to the dream world in your subconscious.
Animation is one of those tools that are rarely used, likely due to the time commitment in creation and implementation. However, it’s also one of those things that only webcomics can do, and it can never be effectively translated to paper.
So since I started blogging about webcomics, I’ve been massively curious about the entire “webtoons” thing. That’s one of the benefits of taking two years off. When you’re blogging consistently, change never seems to happen. It’s mainly because you’re observing things on a constant basis, making actual changes seem static. But the moment you step back, you’re forced to catch up. Every change over the last two years are compressed, and revolutionary events start to shift more into focus.
And webtoons, to me were the most exciting new thing to pop up in quite sometime.
But wait… what are webtoons even? Are they like motion comics or Flash comics or whatever new fad that claims they’re going to replace webcomics? Not exactly. Webtoons are webcomics. Or rather, they’re a term interchangeable with manhwa, which are South Korean webcomics. While similar, webtoons evolved in a path that seemed to favor mobile devices over desktops and laptops. Which is to say: the panels are layed out vertically.
Apparently, quite a few of these became huge successes. Early webtoon Ragnarok became the MMORPG Ragnarok Online. Others have made inroads in TV and movies. Orange Marmalade, a romance webtoon about a vampire girl, ended up getting a live action TV series in 2015.
I’m assuming that there may have been some followers in the West through fan translations. (Hmmmm…. I wonder if manhwa was subject to an entire “subs vs. dubs” debate?) A Google Trends query, though, kinda shows that the term itself didn’t gain much traction until about two years ago. Most of this is probably attributable when publisher Naver launched an English service (snagging the all important webtoons.com domain) in July 2014.
It’s a great looking site, though it’s at the same time daunting and overwhelming. The design reminds me of an iTunes or app store. There are all sorts of different icons representing different comics, and each comes with a mouse-over description and a star rating. Curiously, only a few of them appear to be of the manga-style variety. As part of their branching out into new markets, Naver seems to be adding artists with more Western sensibilities. The one that resembles a traditional webomic the most is Shen’s Bluechair, a slice of life comedy strip.
So writer’s block for a new article has struck me again, so I decided to share one of my projects that didn’t get off the ground because of all the down times my sites were having last year.
Most people have probably heard the horror stories of famous creators dismissing criticism, even if it’s well thought out and presented constructively, as just trolling or bashing. And with the internet, those types can just ban and delete as they wish. But what if someone like that had to live with someone who could not stop pointing out their flaws?
I’ve referred to the website That Guy With the Glasses in a couple of my past columns. I used to be a big fan of the man himself, Doug Walker, but around 2011 he stopped appealing to me. Nothing bad, it just was not my thing. In 2012 he brought an end to the website’s flagship title, The Nostalgia Critic, to move onto a show called Demo Reel, which was a comedy that parodied well known properties, while also following the lives of the studio making said parodies. I gave the pilot a chance, but it just did not grab me. A day or so after the first episode premièred, I was talking to a friend about the show. I told him I wasn’t going to be following the series and he started to get a little defensive, which he tended to do whenever he felt someone was attacking something he cared about. I might have been, actually, I could be a little over critical back then. So we go back and forth, arguing about the series, until he delivers his trump card: “Well how would you do it differently?” I was unfazed and told him that I would just take out the parody angle and make it a sitcom about an indie studio struggling to find their big break through original properties. We dropped the conversation, but the idea stuck with me for a while until it started morphing into something else.
There are generic sounding webcomic titles, and there are generic sounding webcomic titles. There’s one variety that follows the Perry Bible Fellowship nomenclature and just tosses some random sounding words together. And then there are the ones that look like they’ll never show up on any online search engine whatsoever. Such is the chase of Internet Webcomic by Mary Tanner, which, against all odds, is somehow the first result to pop up on Google when “internet webcomic” is typed in the search field. Seriously, I expected this to be buried on page 3 or so.
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.
I remember it vividly as if it were yesterday. The skies were clear this morning, but the temperatures were below zero. I had a scarf wrapped around my mouth and nose because it almost felt like ice crystals were forming. I was walking from my the parking lot to the building I work at. It was about a quarter mile walk since city restrictions prevented a parking garage from being built, so the company compensated by making the parking lot very, very large.
Fortunately the walkway was covered. However, as I walked down the path, I noticed something weird. There were lumps on the ground covered in frost. At first, I thought they were leaves. As I looked a little closer though, I discovered to my horror that they were birds. About a hundred birds, all littering the ground, dead and frosted. They’d taken shelter under the roof in an attempt to escape the cold snap. It was in vain. The frost had killed them.
Ryan Andrews, the writer of the Eisner-nominated Our Bloodstained Roof, taps into the same chilling realization that death is senseless, and how guilt has an unforgiving way of making our lives miserable for the rest of our lives.
I think we are entering a somewhat mature era for webcomics. Not necessarily “mature” in the sense of “growing up and getting a job” or “mature” in the way cable channels like Starz and Cinemax use it. (Though there are examples of both if you’re looking for it.) I mean mainly that it’s been around a while. When CAD aped the style of Penny Arcade, there was plenty of hoo-ing and hah-ing that somebody was getting their style ripped off. We’ve reached a day, I think, that if someone copped the same style these days, you could say, rather, that the comic was “influenced by” it’s more well known predecessor.
Can we seriously fault any new webcomic if it builds upon the precedents set by Penny Arcade or Kate Beaton or Scott Kurtz or Pete Abrams? After all, they were the ones who proved what worked and what didn’t. They’re the ones who know the safe route to success. Sure, it somewhat puts the limits of creativity. However, while a very few of us can be Pablo Picassos, most of us would be happy being Norman Rockwells: low in pizzazz, but just high enough in appeal for the masses at large.
These are the thoughts that flitted through my mind while ruminating over Citation Needed, by Christopher J. O’Brien and Amy T. Falcone. It’s a comic that stubbornly conforms to the established narrative as to what a webcomic should be. Namely it’s a roommate webcomic about wacky characters and totally random humor. Which means, bottom line, Citation Needed looks like pretty much every other webcomic ever.
Ah, the alternate universe. Those of us who are familiar with print comics may have heard of Marvel’s Ultimate Line in which all the Marvel characters were re-introduced with new origins set in modern times with none of the prior canon that could scare new readers away. It was a new universe with an established starting point that new readers could enjoy without any prior knowledge of the original continuity. And that’s what we have here today.
Before Scott Kurtz was paving the way for cartoonists to work online, David Willis was a college student with a strip in the paper called Roomies! The strip was enjoyable, and is currently being re-uploaded on a new site, which was part of celebrating its 15th anniversary. The art was blocky, the story telling weak and the tone schizophrenic. Eventually Roomies ended and a sequel series, It’s Walky, came around, a bizarre drama/comedy/action series with even weirder problems with consistent tone. It was an improvement, but oh dear God is it hard to pitch the strip to an outsider without it sounding stupid. “Just trust me, it’s good” tends to be how I go. And the that ended and Shortpacked was launched, which was reviewed here, and also a direct sequel called Joyce and Walky, which was subscription based. Both again were marked improvements although Shortpacked had a slow start but did get much better.
However, it’s hard to get people to read four different webcomics and thousands of strips, especially when the creator was still learning his craft. So, Willis decided to take his 10,000 hours of experience and return to where it all started, college, with the characters everyone loved in a new world. The goal was to make a comic old readers could enjoy but new readers could get into.
And he did a very good job at it.
Dumbing of Age is set at Indiana University with most of the core cast being the freshman class. The over the top theatrics are gone, the premise is much more down to earth, the drama and comedy are much more evenly balanced, characters have more depth and the main villain only exists as a comic book and cartoon character. And we have a comedy about that awkward period of life where you’re trying to figure out what being an adult means.