Thursday, October 8, 2009

What about the content now?

Well at long last a hole has opened in my schedule, so here I am, only a day late and several thousand dollars short, but that’s why we try to get famous right? School has actually been kind of fun now that we’re learning the stuff that I entered the program to learn exactly a year ago now. Also, preparations for Otaku-Con (Spokane’s only Anime and Gaming Convention) are well underway, so I’m pretty excited about that. Also, it seems I’ll be receiving some kind of gift towards the end of this month, so I’m very stoked for that as well. Enough about me, let’s get to the webcomics!

Now last Tuesday I told you that I’d be blogging a bit more about Lavapunch 2. Unfortunately that was a pretty much a flat out lie because I realized that it wouldn’t be the greatest idea to talk about a bunch of work that can’t be seen unless you go spend twelve dollars or so. As a result of these factors I’ve ditched further reviews on some of those pieces in favor of something that everyone can actually see. For the record, LP 2 will be back on this blog, but I’ll be a bit more careful about the stories I choose from it, ie: I’ll ditch the ones that don’t have a working website attached to their end notes.

Anywho, yeah, webcomics. The amount of blathering I’ve done in this particular blogpost borders on the questionable… which reminds me: Questionable Content! Yes, the name is descriptive and indicative of some of the things you may find there, but it mostly concerns the robot, whom we’ll get to in a moment. QC (as it is thankfully abbreviated) is a webcomic about a young music major living his life in Boston, Massachusetts, which is incidentally the most annoying state name to spell. His name is Marten, and he’s basically your all around pretty cool dude. The comic, which in itself covers somewhere between two and six months comic time, has actually been published every weekday for at least three years if not more, so there’s a lot of material to catch up on. This is not a comic that you read once in a while for kicks and giggles. It’s a time investment. The characterization skills of the writer are simply beastly, so if you really want the full picture you need to read the entire thing from start to finish.

We’ll talk about the robot for a minute. He’s a weird dude, and most if not everything he says is NSFW, so read at your own peril. For the most part the comic keeps its hands clean, from Swartzchild Radius jokes, to the incredibly awkward situations we’ve all experienced and come to enjoy in a perverted sort of way. Now the robot, he’s amoral much like Fuzzy of Sam and Fuzzy fame, but let’s just say that his amorality stems from an obsession with something that robots just can’t do. That being said, I skip the vast majority of the robot pages because that kind of humor is just not something I’m into.

Jeph Jacques is dang good at what he does. I personally don’t think of him as the sort of guy who writes stories in the normal fashion. He doesn’t generate vast and conclusive story arcs, and the comic isn’t really designed to end at any point, or at least that’s how it seems from my side of the table. I think the comic’s infinite nature is actually a strong point. It cuts out slices of people’s lives; sometimes he’s quoting your life, and sometimes he’s referencing the life you always wish you had. Be careful when reading it, especially if you attack webcomics in the same way I do. I mean to say that I read them non-stop for hours on end sometimes, so while that may help me finish them faster, it also tends to generate emotional attachments to the characters. On the day that I caught up to the current date, I felt a pang of sadness. So just to forewarn you, it’ll jerk you around in ways you didn’t think a comic could.

I don’t know why I always talk about the art last of all, but it’s just something I do, ya know? The art has varied over the life of the comic, and that is something I say with the utmost amount of respect possible. His artwork has done nothing but improve over the years, so much so that you may see random people on the street and think, “Wow, that totally looks like Dora!” It went from being very square and gray to being full of curves and vibrant colors. Though it appears that his art has probably reached its plateau, that is absolutely nothing to be sad about. It’s drawn a lot better than a majority of the stuff I’ve seen, so I think we can give him props for that.

So it appears that I’ve lied to you all. I must mention this before I leave you. The writer really fleshes out his universe. Marten has a blog, and all of the main characters, including some of the not so main ones, all have highly active twitter accounts, so it’s just kind of something fun to do if you decide to let these characters take over your life.

This comic is for people who want to laugh at their lives from afar.

QC gets a rather non-questionable 8.5 out of 10.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

We don't punch bunnies.

Well, I must really and truly apologize to all of you, who have surely begun to ignore me by now. A lot of things conspired against me all at once and in rapid succession. Work was madness, I spent some time out of the country without a regular internet connection, school started back up, and for the last few days my only coherent thoughts have involved the love of my life, video games, and Full Metal Alchemist. Anyway, that’s my sob story and I’m sticking to it! While I was away I managed to read something webcomicky (gosh my spell check hates me), and I think this material ought to carry us along for a great while. What was it, you may ask? I read the wonder that is Lavapunch 2. These reviews won’t be exactly like our regular reviews. Normally I review the body of work as a whole, but since the book uses the work of many different artists and contains many different stories, I’ll be reviewing each as a standalone.

And where better to start than at the beginning? Dokodetsuka: Unagi Jane and the Skullbunnis is beautifully drawn. It looks a little bit like a manga, but without some of the things that most manga artists do, for example, Unagi Jane’s mouth is never just a simple line, rather, her lips are always drawn very full. Her ears are very detailed, and her eyes and hair aren’t blown out of proportion. These factors make the character easy on the eyes, although you may wonder why she always seems to be pouting, or what the deal is with those weird blush marks on her cheeks. Character drawings aside, the focal point of the story, the ridiculously cute Skullbunnies, are drawn in an idealistic fashion. In other words, while an actual skull is pretty scary to look at, a bunny skull just looks like a bunny without fur and eyes. Probably the best thing about the whole comic is its backgrounds. There are tons of gnarled trees everywhere, and the ground is appropriately textured for the setting. Though the lighting suggests that it must be broad daylight, the design of the trees gives the impression that this particular forest is a scary place that school girls such as Unagi Jane should probably avoid.

Now the short story, or short comic in this case, is a medium that everyone should be able to appreciate because it has its own unique set of challenges and rewards for both the reader and the artist. My favorite thing about short fiction is its noncommittal nature. When you sit down to read it you know that it won’t trap you for hours on end, maybe just ten or fifteen minutes. The foremost challenge for the artist or writer is to hook you in for that fifteen minutes be eliciting an instant emotional response. This story’s appeal occurs by the third page, and you arrive quickly as the first three pages contain a grand total of four words. It’s there that the intrigue starts, and it’s there that you’re hooked. I won’t give away anything, but let’s just say that the story is magical, despite the artist’s obvious personal identification with what we in the anime biz know as “furries”. Don’t google that if you’re easily disturbed.

Dokodetsuka: Unagi Jane and the Skullbunnis is a cute piece of short fiction for those of us who enjoy the slightly surreal. This comic gets an impressive 7.8 out of 10.

(PS: This guys original website is no longer viable, so I’m waiting for an email because I might have found his blog. If it is his, I’ll put the link up.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Are his eyebrows attached?

Clearly there is something wrong with me. First of all, I have started saying the word ‘clearly’ far too often, and second of all, yet another week has gone by with little or no webcomic action from yours truly, and for this I do apologize. Since most of you have probably given up on me I feel like I can start fresh with this audience of nothing that I adore almost as much as real people. This last week I have been so busy that I haven’t even read anything, much less written anything, but right now I’m waiting for a ride to someplace (because the car is down and out for now) so I figured, What the heck? Why not write something?

Today I would like to talk about Sam Logan’s Sam and Fuzzy. Why the main character is named after the writer is something we will hopefully find out if and when Mr. Logan does a questionnaire for me. Anyway, I must start off by saying that this comic is buckets of fun. If fun were a tangible substance you could fill those Gatorade thingys up with it and dump it on yourself. There are a lot of reasons why this comic is so good, and I will go into them for you starting… now!

First of all, we have the one that many might consider the star of the entire thing, the man, the legend, Fuzzy himself! Clearly Sam (a young adult male with funky hair and a button nose) is the main character. There are long stretches of time in which Fuzzy doesn’t appear at all, so you may wonder, “How can a member of the supporting cast be the star?” Well my dear reader, let’s just say that Fuzzy is all of the things you sometimes (in moments of insanity of course) wish you could be. Fuzzy is an amoral, insane, psychotic, sociopathic, egomaniacal, bear sort of thing… It is certainly unclear that he’s a bear, especially since he has the most amazing eyebrows of all time. I envy them.

Fuzzy, despite his personality, is very smart, and despite ruining portions of Sam’s life, he tries to be a good friend. Fuzzy is heavily dependent on Sam even though he may sometimes talk and act like he needs no one but himself. Mr. Logan has done a wonderful job of adding mystique to this character. Constantly, we readers wonder where this thing came from and why he can’t remember his past. Obviously this is a story for another time. Mr. Logan is very happy to give us small tidbits as things drag on.

Sam, of whom Fuzzy is a mere sidekick, is a very nice and likeable guy. He’s got a good heart and he tries to be kind to others regardless of their status in life, be it ninja, death metal band lead singer, delivery girl, spoof of Edward(Twilight), or fridge possessed by a demon. As nice guys go, he fits most of the clichés. He has a hard time standing up for himself a lot of the time and he can come off as being quite wimpy. In spite of appearances, he’s pretty hardcore. His ideas are good most of the time, and though he might be afraid, he does what he needs to.

The comic itself is wacky, and I’m sure by now you should be noticing a trend in the sort of things I read. It starts off in the way of many comedic comics, a joke every four panels. Soon however, we discover that Sam Logan has quite a knack for weaving a decent story arc: twists, elaborate back stories, exciting finishes and all. He’s quite skilled at toying with your heart as well. You will find yourself wanting the protagonists to succeed so badly that you become frustrated when things don’t go quite how they were hoping. These are the marks of a great storyteller. I imagine that in the future, Marvel and DC, along with Boom!, Dark Horse, Image, and all those other comic companies, may want to start looking seriously at webcomic artists as writers.

Sam and Fuzzy is a strange and off the wall comic about everything for anyone who would like to add a little more surreality to their life.

Sam and Fuzzy gets a very respectable 8.6 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

He missed a Jamie Moyer fastball?

Yes, I know, I am a complete and total slacker. After establishing a glorious pattern of three updates weekly, I have fallen utterly short. I have a good excuse though, involving my favorite person in the entire world, and a long week/weekend spent with her. I write this post now to ease the pain of her absence, which has unfortunately, already begun. Anyway, enough sobbing and explaining from me, I do have a topic for today!

It’s called The Dugs and it’s a webcomic about baseball. ‘Dave!’ you say, confused, ‘Where on Earth did you find such a comic?’ Well I’ll tell you where I found it: after interviewing Chris Hastings, a few people emailed me about some stuff and these particular people asked me if I would read their comic sometime and tell the world what I think. Yes, I will do this for just about anyone, especially if your comic is as new as this one is. According to Jeph Jacques, the majority of webcomics fail before they hit page fifty, and these guys ain’t that far along just yet.

I don’t want to do too much bubble bursting, but the nicest thing I can say about this comic is that the humor is a little raw and unpolished, in other words, it is about as hit or miss as your average curveball. I do have a major complaint… PHOTO COMICS!!! BLARG! I need to figure out how to do an angry eyes smiley! (put suggestions in the comments) Oh and Mark Twain, I apologize profusely, but the exclamation marks are just necessary okay? Anyway, yeah, photo comics. Ugly, classless, lame, boring, lazy; the list of nasty adjectives goes on and on.

Thankfully, the only real photo comic action takes place on Monday. For some reason, the writers (because I think there are a couple) all take a different direction on their assigned days, a little like Cyanide and Happiness. Mondays center around the front office activities of a fictional AAA team named the Las Vegas Tsunami. Frankly Scarlett, it’s just not that funny. Yes, I am a huge proponent of madness in webcomics, but at the same time I demand a slight touch of sensibility. Does that make sense? Probably not, so I’ll explain. If you’re going to write something crazy, it needs to be laid into a framework of similar insanity. In this case, there is simply not an ounce of consistency. Sure, making fun of Sammy Sosa has a lot of potential, but random screaming is just not the right kind of humor. It’s dumb like fart jokes are dumb.

On Wednesdays things improve with a pair of ghosts who hover over baseball stadiums and crack jokes about stuff. Even if you don’t know baseball, the ghosts say the sorts of things that are funny in just about any setting, for example, puns with stupidly long set ups such that even if the pun whizzed right by your face, the fact that it took about fifty words to set up is at least amusing. These comics have a very simple look to them, but at least the ghosts are hand drawn and they have personalities which, while not yet distinct and clearly defined, are at least vaguely different. I’m sure such things will come with a little bit more practice on the writer’s part.

On Fridays, things deteriorate once again. These pages are centered around the players of another fictional team, the Portland Wheatshippers. Its only saving grace is that it’s hand drawn. Early on, these pages are probably the most idiotic of the lot, playing off of overused stereotypes by way of annoying spellings and creating quite a few unappealing characters. Eventually the humor picks up a bit, because telegraphing your pitches via Twitter is actually pretty funny, but there’s just not that much to like here.

The Dugs is a comic for hardcore baseball fans with little appreciation for art or humor.

The Dugs gets a pitiable 4.3 out of 10.

Dave *_*

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How to find that special something

Me? I love stalling for things I want, like interviews! (Please email me back!!!) Believe it or not, if I didn’t have any readers, stalling would be a lot easier, but since they demand content from me, I can only oblige them as quickly as is humanly possible, juggling this alongside my many other responsibilities. (HA!) Anyway, enough random screaming! I actually have something to talk about today and that is:

Finding new webcomics! I can’t really drone on about this for too long because it’s really quite simple. It’s odd, when I first considered writing this post I thought: “Well gee, I’ll write about two things and that’ll be the end of it.” However, I’ve just realized that there’s more to it than I first thought, so here goes nothing.

1.) Your friends know what you like. It’s true. Always take the advice of your friends when it comes to webcomics. XKCD was the webcomic that opened my eyes to the world of webcomics, and I never would have found it except for a friend of mine that loves the Ender’s series quite a bit more than I do. A well placed email is often all it takes to find your new favorite thing.

2.) Guest comics. Don’t ignore them! Yes, other artists/writers tend to take your favorite characters and skew them in some sort of unfavorable light, and you may feel angry, but what you should be paying attention to is the humor in them. Most sites I know of have a guest comic week. How such things got started is something I do not know, but most artists feel that they are obligatory. (Especially Sam Logan) Now while I personally have not found any webcomics I actually liked using this method, it can still turn you on to some good art, and what the heck, you may even find new love.

3.) Links. Yes, I know it’s obvious, but it’s crazy how many people can forget about something like this! Pretty much every webcomic I read has a page that is just chock full of links to other comics. If you’ve got nothing better to do on a Saturday evening, just go ahead and click on a couple. Okay, so you hate everything you’ve seen so far. What does this mean for you? Don’t stop clicking. The internet is too huge to give up so fast.

4.) Read my blog of course! But I’m sure you saw that coming.

I hope that helps someone! Don’t feel overwhelmed if you’re looking for something new, just don’t give up.

Dave *_*

Friday, August 7, 2009

We can't pronounce this word

Well I guess it’s that time again. Time to chip away at the source of my material, time to write yet another article on one of many webcomics that everyone should be reading. I must stress though that you’re probably not the same as me. Everyone’s got different tastes, so maybe you just can’t dig whatever I tell you to read, and it’s cool, because that’s just how we are.

Anyway, that’s just me stalling for the purpose of being wordy. Today, I will discuss the uber-popular and uber-awesome xkcd. Is it silly to review a webcomic that everyone has heard of? Maybe, but it was this comic that got me into the whole scene in the first place, so it holds a place that is near and dear to my heart. The first page I ever viewed was this one, about Ender’s Game, and I thought, “Wow, it’s just so nerdy!”

That’s probably the thing about this comic that will slam you in the brain the moment you start reading: to get any enjoyment from it nerdiness is a strong prerequisite. I’ve heard mixed definitions of the word, but it makes me think of someone who loves sci fi and might just dabble in theoretical physics for kicks and giggles. I know that certainly describes me to a large extent, so anyone who reads the comic might feel like they’re coming home for the first time.

It’s a tough comic to classify. It’s not exactly a joke every four panels, because you’re not guaranteed four panels, much less even one. Not every comic is even funny for that matter, but oddly enough, you don’t feel like the comics need to be. Anyone who reads it looking for a real good “LAWL!” every day had better search elsewhere. My favorite comics are the ones that give away something about the writer as a person, for example, his endless obsession with Summer Glau and Firefly as a whole, or his adorable sense of what’s romantic on a nerd level. Gentlemen, take your cues from this guy. He probably has a girlfriend, which is more than a lot of us nerds can say.

But enough insults, let’s get back to the material! I highly recommend reading the comic from the very beginning. The about section of his (I keep using impersonal pronouns… His name is Randall Munroe) website tells us that random drawings from earlier days first inspired him to write the comic, and that a link to his server flooded him with a bunch of accidental readers, whom he of course had to keep happy. The early comics aren’t about much; they’re interesting drawings with even more interesting titles, a combination that drops an overwhelming sense of intrigue on your shoulders. As the works progress Randall leans towards characterization, which seems strange at first, considering that all stick figures look pretty much the same. After a while though, you’ll get the feeling that it’s the same three or four people every time, and you’ll grow to like them as if they were your friends.

What would a webcomic be without some ridiculousness? XKCD has its fair share, from presidential candidates traversing the country in giant blimps, to hoverboard races against Nathan Fillion. Does it have to make sense? It’s a much better comic for the madness, so don’t knock it until you try it!

XKCD is for the nerds among us who love to have our favorite things endlessly referenced and respectfully made fun of. (If that makes sense…)

XKCD gets a record high 9.9 out of 10.

I sure hope Mr. Munroe answers the email I’ll be sending! Until then I’ll try and stall for more related material. I guess this just means I need to read faster.

Dave *_*

PS: I can't believe I almost forgot this. Don't forget the alt-text in every image!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

So Mr. Hastings emailed me back...

and he filled out the questionnaire I asked him to! So without further ado, this is the interview.

Q: We know from reading the "About" section of your website what gave you the idea for the comic's name and why you first drew it, but what influences the story's direction?

A: When I first started thinking about making this comic, my ideas came from the question, "What sort of world would allow for this doctor ninja character? What other characters could fit in that world?" Mostly the story is driven by ideas I just think are fun. And then I make those ideas work into a sort of twisted logic that is behind everything in the comic.

Q: Are any of your characters loosely or directly based on people you know in real life? Which, if any of the characters, reflects your personality on some level?

A: Frans Rayner is a mix of an old boss of mine, and Jean Claude Van Damme. Dan McNinja's look was very loosely based on my father. I honestly can't think of a character that really reflects me, which is silly because they have to in some way, right?

Q: It's obvious you like Batman. To what extent does Batman influence the comic? (Apart from the hilarious references) How long have you been reading Batman? Are there any other superheroes you follow?

A: Well originally, I was going to have Dr. McNinja ACTUALLY know Batman. Then it became clear I couldn't do that, so I just changed it up so that he was just a fan boy. Then I got some humor out of that. The "bat family" is a big influence on the cast of Dr. McNinja, the way a supporting cast takes their roles. I've been a fan of Batman since I was 14, I think. It was when Grant Morrison relaunched JLA, and I really saw how badass Batman was. I also recall reading the Robin comics too... But currently, no I don't have a "pull list" or anything like that. I wait and hear what's good, and then I buy them when collected in trades.

Q: What was your initial motivation for bringing the comic to the web? Were there any contributing factors to this decision?

A: I pitched Dr. McNinja to a few publishers, and hadn't heard back from them in months. I was tired of not doing anything, so I decided I would just make it as a webcomic, get it out to some people. I was a fan of a few webcomics already, so I took a closer look at how they did things, and adapted it for my purposes.

Q: How does a story arc come together for you? Do you script the entire thing before you begin drawing?

A: I've got a few story concepts floating around, waiting to get used, and as I find oppurtunites to use them, they'll get next in line for the comic. I will usually have a beginning and end in mind, and I'll write out a bunch of notes, and build on ideas, and when I start, I will have the opening scene of a story all scripted out. And then I just write more pages once a week, improvising the middle of the story.

Q: Any thoughts on why so many webcomic artists love velociraptors?

A: I think we all just love dinosaurs in general. They were dragons that were REAL.

Q: If you could collaborate with another artist on a webcomic, who might that be and why?

A: I would love for JH Williams III to draw something I wrote. He is an amazing artist, with awesome design skills.

Q: Have you got any advice for aspiring webcomic artists out there?

A: Why are you aspiring? It's easy to get a website and put pictures on it! Get started, and don't stop!

Q: What comics do you read on a regular basis?

A: Nedroid, Hark! A Vagrant, Scary Go Round, Overcompensating, the list goes on. That's just what I think I read in the last hour.

Q: Final thoughts?

A: Live your dreams. I am Galatron. (I wrote this in a notebook I had where there was a robot on the bottom of each page, so I made him say that. I lost this notebook and I miss it dearly.)