Category Archives: WCO Big Review

WCO.242: Never Satisfied


People, let me make a stark confession here.  I have no idea what’s cool, especially with regards to webcomics.  I am a total poser.  I pretend like a cool person with some semblance of authority, but the reality is that I am a fraud.  I crave the desire to have people look up to me, despite knowing zilch about how to make webcomics or how to judge them by their quality.

These characteristics place me on roughly the same level as Lucy of  Never Satisfied. Apparently it’s got quite a few fans. One such is Comics Alliance, which awarded this title as the Best New Webcomic of 2015.  “A delightful webcomic by Taylor Robin, with sharp artwork, artful storytelling, and a colorful, diverse cast of characters” raves the revered comic website.  Shamefully, I’d never heard of this comic before, but, you know, I’ve already explained my poser credentials.

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WCO.240: The GaMERCaT


Once upon a time, two guys write a webcomic about video games.  This got everyone’s attention because no one had ever done it before.  The comic seemed to say, “Hey guys, we have a hobby that no one has ever made jokes about really. Come here and enjoy our gamer jokes and our references that people in the mainstream won’t make because they  think it’s too obscure.”

There guys got successful, and people paid attention.  Many readers loved video games too and also loved to draw.  Suddenly, new comics seemed to pop up all the time with jokes about video games.  People kept reading them and buying T-shirts depicting licensed products like the kind you’d find tightly sandwiched between other shirts on a table at the  neighborhood flea market.

But as video games became more mainstream, a lot of the humor seemed tired and repetitive.  There are only so many times you can mock politicians who are critical of video game violence, after all.  Especially when that fount of rage ceases to become a pressing issue anymore.  After almost 20 years, there had to be some way to keep the humor fresh in a world where The Big Bang Theory is the highest rated show on television.

What about a website that combines the internet’s biggest obsession in the aughts: video game webcomics … and cats?

No, not that one.  A different one.  I’m talking about The GaMERCaT, Samantha Whitten’s far more recent webcomic with a feline twist.

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WCO#239: Dresden Codak


Aaron Diaz’s Dresden Codak is a strange creature. It debuted back in 2005, back when webcomics were developing a reputation as the sophisticated alternative to their comic strip brethren. xkcd launched in the same year, and A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible not long before that. Perry Bible Fellowship was starting to gain a strong following. At the core of these comics as a brainy just-out-of-college mentality. The gags were still sometimes juvenile, but at its core were concepts and ideas that were smarter and more clever than ones on the Sunday Funnies. Except Marmaduke. That comic is pretty dang subversive.

And all of them, including xkcd sometimes, would surprise you by hitting you with some great looking art. It may be easy to forget, since a lot of art grads now know of webcomics as a great way to expand their portfolio, but aesthetically webcomic art was pretty dire. The medium, after all, was originally conceived as an amateur hobby where some folks got lucky despite the artistic merit, e.g. tons of pixel comics. As a result, comics like Dresden Codak were incredibly eye-catching in comparison.

Typical of early Dresden Codak is a comic like “Li’l Werner.” It’s a one-shot comic with no continuity baggage. Diaz is still experimenting with his art style: this time homaging the black-and-white cross-hatching of Edward Gorey. The strip hinges around a tongue-in-check parody of Aryan physics (the Nazi nationalist scientific movement to discredit Jewish scientists like Albert Einstein). There’s a sharped-toothed Philip Lenard recalling anti-Semitic caricatures, a tiny Heisenberg, and something about “current momentum.” I don’t pretend to know what the heck any of this is about. But it sounds smart and the multiple tiny Heisenbergs is a cute visual gag. It’s a lovely comic to introduce to your local Tesla fan.

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WCO #238: LARP Trek


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.

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WCO#237: Redd


In hero fiction, losing an appendage is never the end of the world. In fact, it is an opportunity for more adventure. A missing hand, for example, and be replaced by some sort of robot prothetics, like a claw that can crush through solid metal or a pop-up sword. As a child, who among us didn’t pretend to retract their hands into their long sweater sleeve, then pretend that what came out was a massive Gatling gun, poised to mow down the enemy forces that exist only in a child’s brutal imagination? PVC tubing or bendy straws may have been involved.

Hence, you have a host of super tough dudes who have amazing prosthetics. You’ve got Cable, a beefy mountain of a man who has one metal arm. Surprisingly, he doesn’t tip over or develop back pains. You’ve got Robocop, who’s sort of a jumble of replacement limbs, including a leg that awesomely contains a gun holster. Awesome robo-appendages can also be found on the ladies, such as Kimiko Ross from the webcomic Dresden Codak.

However, all those assume that the characters were born with functional arms and/or legs. What about characters who never had such a luxury? Maybe flippers hands or … perhaps … not even having arms at all? Where is the superhero for the handicapped… or rather, the handi-capable?

What’s that? Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a … plane that seems to be missing its wings! It’s Redd!


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WCO #236: Camp Weedonwantcha


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.


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WCO #231: MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck (Act 6)


(For the rest of this multi-part review, check out my thoughts on Acts 1-4 and Act 5.)

You’ve got to hand it to Andrew Hussie. They guy seems to go out of his way to be as alienating as possible. Just when it seems like the story’s gaining traction, he’s all, “Nuts to that sh*t. Time to roll with something that makes even less sense.” When MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck started, it bore a lot of similarities with its predecessor, Problem Sleuth, as a parody of an adventure game, complete with confusing inventory systems and glitchy controls. But then, all of the sudden, it became this complex world-building mythology, with multiple planets and a core system of light and darkness anchored by two planets with two moons.

And then Act 5 rolls around. Hussie introduces a bunch of abrasive new characters with orange horns that were so myriad that they seemed impossible to track. Oh yeah, and they’ve got their own alternative world and a complicated system of romance. Clearly, Hussie has disappeared straight up his own butt, right? Well, that maybe so… but the gamble paid off, and Homestuck became more popular than it ever had been before. At least with the costume stores supplying gray facepaint to all the troll cosplayers out there.

When we get to Act 6, then, the question isn’t, “So, what’s Hussie going to do to answer all these puzzles and mysteries?” It becomes more, “What sort of ridiculous bull is Hussie going to make up just to needlessly confuse and deliberately obfuscate the story even further?”

There are drawbacks to being this experimental, though. At some point, the mythology can get too top heavy, and the characters the readers learned to love over the course of the story get lost in the shuffle. Hey, Losties: remember Lost, Season 6? The experimental one that discarded the format, explored all new characters with a sideway universe where the cast had different adventures because they were living in a parallel world?

Me neither.


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The Webcomic Overlook #235: Hobo Lobo of Hamelin


Ladies and gentlemen: how do we know we’re in the future? Is it when we get flying cars? Is it when we can replace our arms with cyborg parts? If comic pundits will have you believe, it’s when webcomics realize their full potential and embrace the infinite canvas. No more being restrained to the rigid static confines of a piece of paper, developed hundreds of years ago! Why live within those archaic limitations? We’re living in the future, son!

And just like how flying cars and prosthetic limbs exist in real life, so too are there examples of these futuristic comics. Some do nothing more than scroll in one direction for a long time. Others contain significantly more bells and whistles by incorporating sound and simple animation.

A relatively recent effort is Stevan Živadinović’s Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. And by “relatively recent,” I mean that it began in 2011 and was updated as recently as September 2013. I actually mentioned this comic when it first came out and had hoped to review it when more became available. It looks like not much progress has been made in the intervening two-and-a-half years, though. Note to pundits who still lean on the “motion comic” approach to webcomics: if you’re doing one by your lonesome, they’re a massive time sink.

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