Monthly Archives: January, 2007

WCCAs 2007, Part 1

The list is out, the usual discussion has ensued, the usual drama has flared, and despite the different date, the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards are proceeding pretty much as normal.

Here is my list of the categories, who I’m rooting for in each one, and occasionally who I actually think will win the award.

The biggest surprise for me, this year, was how many comics I simply had never heard of. Admittedly, I have been actively trying to keep my webcomic reading list in check – but given the frightening number I read already, and how many of the categories I looked at without having any sense of most of the comics, I’m wondering who really is capable of genuinely evaluating each category.

OUTSTANDING COMIC:
Let’s be honest now – after Narbonic wrapping up in their grand finale, it would be surprising to see anyone else take this one home. All the nominees are quality strips, and if it wasn’t for the sheer emotional impact of the end of Narbonic, I’d have a tough time deciding.

OUTSTANDING NEWCOMER:
I was very, very sad not to see Minus make the list. The ones on there… are good, but none of them really knock me out of my shoes. I’d be happy seeing Out There as the winner, but suspect Lackadaisy will be the popular choice.

OUTSTANDING ARTIST:
Given that Perry Bible Fellowship is the only one of the lot that I read, it seems like the natural choice. Still, even after glancing at the other strips, I’ll stand by it – it isn’t the fanciest or most visually cinematic, but Gurewitch is able to very effectively, very vividly, capture and display his ideas. That seems like a good qualification for the title in my book. I think Lackadaisy will win it, though.

OUTSTANDING WRITER:
I suspect this will be another win for Scary-Go-Round has really floored me this year, so I’m rooting for John Allison.

OUTSTANDING LAYOUT:
I’ll stay Stuff Sucks, just cause it’s awesome, and should win something. The only one of the lot that I feel fits the category is A Lesson is Learned… who didn’t quite have enough content this year for me to really feel they qualified.

OUTSTANDING BLACK AND WHITE ART:
Gonna be Digger. It’s won it the last two years running, and honestly, hasn’t had any others that could really challenge it.

OUTSTANDING USE OF COLOR:
I’d really like to vote for Copper, because it’s gorgeous. But, again, it’s been absent much of the year in question.

OUTSTANDING PHOTOGRAPHIC COMIC:
I don’t read any of these, but from the little I’ve seen, I’d say A Softer World is where my money lies.

OUTSTANDING CHARACTER RENDERING:
There has to be a better name for this category. Templar Arizona all the way, in any case.

OUTSTANDING ENVIRONMENT DESIGN:
While Gunnerkrigg Court hasn’t been quite as intense at dominating the field as last year, it this is one area where it just rocks the house.

OUTSTANDING USE OF THE MEDIUM:
This is a tough choice, as for me, it usually comes down to “Which of these elaborately designed sites least impairs my reading endeavors?” However, this year both Halfpixel and I Am A Rockey Builder actively had some good stuff going for them, so I’d be happy seeing either of them win.

OUTSTANDING WEBSITE DESIGN:
PvPs new design really is slick. And yeah, he didn’t design it, and doesn’t want the award ’cause he’s busy being a grouch, but credit where credit is due – it is the best of the lot.

OUTSTANDING CHARACTER WRITING:
Now this… this is a tough choice. I’m betting Something Positive takes the title back, though I’d personally rather see it go to Scary Go Round.

Tomorrow… the Genres!

Moments in Time

I had a lot of different topics I was thinking on writing about this weekend. The WCCA nominations have been listed, momentous happenings have been ongoing in The Order of the Stick, and the fact that little blog of mine has now been around for one whole year.

Instead, I must give props to Arthur, King and Time and Space, for the following strip:

Rumination
It isn’t the funniest joke in the world. I’d go so far as to say that, as far as many of the jokes Gadzikowski makes, this is one of the weaker ones.

But the second I saw the strip on Saturday, it instantly got my attention. You see, I have always been a picky eater. Less so now than when I was younger, but the fundamental nature remains. And when I was younger, in my highschool days, I would invariably eat in the same manner as L does above. Take one item on the plate. Clean it out, precisely and efficiently. Move on to the next. Repeat.

My parents pestered me about it. For years. That very same question!

And suddenly, a decade later, I stumble across a comc that perfectly captures that moment, and the frustration of hearing that question, yet again. And I connect. Bam.

It wasn’t the strongest joke in the world. It wasn’t the strongest set-up. And there are probably a lot more people who won’t get any connection than those that do.

But when you can capture a moment like that – something real, something that people will recognize, remember, and take to heart – you’ve managed to get their attention in a much more personal way. You’ve given the joke a little special meaning that they can see as their very own. And they’ll keep that with them, and keep coming back, because your comic seems that much more real.

That’s a touch that’s hard to fake, and one that will stay with people a lot longer than just another punchline.

As usual, I’m a sucker for stories focused around the bad guys.

Richard is officially the best name for a warlock, ever.Looking For Group is a comic by Ryan Sohmer, the guy responsible for Least I Could Do. While they are rather vastly different comics on the surface, any reader of LICD will know that Sohmer is as much a geek as the next man, and it’s no surprise that he now has a comic more directly focused on it.

More of a surprise is exactly how well his humor works in the new setting. LFG, which is a pretty clear-cut parody of a certain MMO out there, follows a band of characters from the horde side of things, and their merry travels across the land.

Despite being loosely based on Warcraft, though, Sohmers is telling his own story. In WoW, regardless of the faction you join, your characters are presented as the good guys in their own fashion. The characters in Looking For Group, on the other hand, seem to have no qualms about being the evil guys on the block – though ones with character, and their own brand of snarky humor that Sohmers excels at.

So it’s a good comic. Big, brilliant pages of art, good characters, good humor, yadda yadda. Now it’s moving to twice a week, which floors me – given that will be in addition to the six pages a week of LICD, plus the work on the LICD animated series, and the running of Blind Ferret in general. That’s a ton of output from Sohmers – as well as Lar DeSouza, the artist behind the constant, full color output. Credit where credit is due – Sohmer gets a lot of notice as the public face of the comics, but DeSouza must be a working machine to produce all those strips.

LICD might not always appeal to me (what with my ‘morals’, and ‘sensibilities’), but I have to give props for the quality strips these guys keep on delivering.

Surprisingly Fulfilling

Killroy and Tina, brilliantly funny to the end.Today was the last Killroy and Tina.

It might return somehow, someday – but when an author puts his comic on indefinite hold, it tends to be the exceptions that return to life. Justin Pierce has put Killroy and Tina to rest, and the safe bet is that they won’t be seen again.

He’s done so masterfully, admittedly. When you consider that the strip was all set to build up to a grand, epic story, when you had glimpses of the future to come, you would imagine that cutting things short would be a recipe for disaster.

But he ends it well. He finds the point where we can disengage from the story without feeling cut off. Where we can appreciate the five years of comics he’s given us, rather than despair over the fact that there won’t be five years more.

When I first heard the news, I’ll admit I was distressed, despairing, dismal, and sundry other words that begin with ‘d’. But that state has passed, and we do still have nonadventures to embark upon, and in the end, I suppose we can safely say, everything is fine.

In a galaxy far, far away…

BanishedBanished returns.

For me, this was unexpected.

It is not that I thought poorly of Banished in any way. It was an enjoyable comic, sure. It had a good sense of humor and was developing into an interesting story.

But the artist left. And while that isn’t a guaranteed deathknell for a comic… well, I’ve seen too many fall by the wayside. Rising from the ashes is the exception, not the norm.

Banished seems to have pulled it off.

Now, there is only one strip by the new artist thus far. We’ve yet to see if they can maintain a solid schedule, etc. But that one comic… damn, but it is promising.

Previously the strip has been more of a gag comic than anything else. The art was very cartoony, which worked perfectly. Freaky aliens, silly robots, even mammazons – the strip was clearly driven by laughs.

Over time, though, story began to develop. And with the emergence of the new artist, it looks like the story will have the chance to shine. The new art is really, really forceful. Before, the cartoony looks helped convey the jokes and punchlines of the strip – now, while the laughs are still around, there is instantly a much more powerful sense of action and drama.

Making that change can be good and can be bad, but with this one strip, I’ve got high hopes about what is coming. That in itself is pretty promising.

The Fundamentals

Well, *I* found it clever.I was pleased to discover a new comic, Alma Mater, over at Modern Tales today. I was surprised to discover it – namely because I hadn’t heard of it before, and MT has a tendency to pretty thoroughly hype new additions to the collective.

But there it was, updating 3 days a week, apparently available for mass consumption. With nothign to lose, I took a look – and was rather glad I did so.

It wasn’t the strip’s characters that won me over, though they are good, quality characters. It wasn’t the humor, though it definitely had moments where it shined. It wasn’t the art, though I really enjoyed it once I got used to it – and thought was especially cool on occasion.

No, what did it was that the creator, Whitney June Robinson, knows her material, and knows it well.

Given the name, one can pretty easily extrapolate that the comic is about going to school. But a comic could easily be set in a school without being about one, and in a lot of cases, setting is just that – background material, scenery, nothing more. Alma Mater, on the other hand, perfectly captures a lot of the school experience, and delivers that material brilliantly.

It may not have experiences that will tap into absolutely everyone’s memories – what with being set at an all-girls secondary school – but it manages to capture a lot of the fundamentals, and that can be all one needs to connect with an audience, and win them over.

Who says superheroes have to be filled with angst?

Click for full hero-worshipping fun.There are surprisingly few good webcomics about superheroes. I suppose on the one hand it is understandable – superheroes have been done. You’ve got as many as you can handle in the print world of comics, and it is hard to find a story that hasn’t been already written a dozen times before.

A few good ones do still manage to crop up – and the latest one I’ve stumbled across is Special School.

The name… yeah, leaves a bit to be desired. But the comic itself is good.

The premise of the comic, as one might surmise from the name, is that is about a handful of young, super-powered kids who are taking a government-sanctioned class training them to be heroes. So it is both a superhero strip and a college drama, and maybe that’s what works so well.

See, the characters have character. They are normal, fun-loving college kids – who just happen to have powers. The powers aren’t irrelevant, but don’t define them. They tend to reflect their personalities, sure – but they are themselves first, superheroes second, rather than the other way around.

At four panels a strip, gags and punchlines about, but that doesn’t stop the strip from developing a story – and generally doing so with ease. We’ve got one conflict after another within the first dozen strips. The ability to blend drama and humor without letting either take control is the sign of a very talented creator.

And, of course, he pays homage to the evil overlord list. Which gets him a free win in my book.

So check it out – Special School, by Andy Mason. Enjoy.

Dancing with the Devil

Skull's favorite movie is clearly The Little Mermaid.Ok – I’ll admit I was rather dubious when the latest PvP storyline seemed to be an arbitrary strike against those who weren’t entirely happy with Skull’s voice in the upcoming PvP animated shorts. Grinding the point into the ground… well, it seemed to be doing the very thing that Kris Straub spoke out against not long ago.

Kurtz wants to use a high-pitched voice for Skull. That’s how he views the character, it’s his property and his show, so no problem – that’s his call to make. Of course, he shouldn’t be angry at fans for giving their honest opinions on the topic – they are entirely able to feel however they want about it, and certainly free to not spend the relatively insane price of purchase if they don’t want to. Regardless of which side you are on, it’s not worth continuing to beat the topic to death – which is what I was afraid Kurtz was doing in this sequence.

But while the first strip or two seemed along those lines, I was pleased to realize that wasn’t entirely the case. Kurtz has taken the topic and run with it, with some very funny results. But more than that, I realized what was actually going on.

See, one of the worries about this just being a grudge-fest on Kurtz’s part is that it would be meaningless to the majority of readers. If they didn’t watch the animated PvP teaser – or if they did so, but didn’t pay any attention to the discussions that sprung up regarding it – some of the strips just would have neither point nor punchline.

But what Kurtz is doing is establishing Skull’s voice within the story. Readers generally have to invent within their own minds how each character sounds. Given that this is a character that clearly engenders all manner of different possible voices… Kurtz is putting his view of the character clearly in the story.

This way readers who have read through this arc won’t be as startled if they go on to watch the tv series. More than that, it allows Kurtz to flesh out details of the world that normally he can’t convey on paper.

So I’m ok with that. I’m hoping the storyline doesn’t feel the need to make any more low blows at those who originally imagined Skull’s voice different than Kurtz did, because attacking a loyal fanbase over such an irrelevant detail is… well, let’s just say that Kurtz has spoken out against other webcomic creators who have acted like that, and here is his chance to prove he is better than them.

In other news, given that I realize that I’ve had a lot of posts on the same strips of late, I’m making an on-the-spot, Third-Tuesday-Afternoon-of-January Resolution to spend the next few weeks focusing on new comics, or ones that have fallen by the wayside. So if Kurtz does descend into rampant villainry, or if the current Sluggy storyline proves to be as inane as it looks to be, you won’t hear about it from me!

I’m Back!

When Randy first introduced the little blue… thing… during some of the holiday filler at Something*Positive, I was officially horrified. Despite the desensitization of the modern age, I finally had found something in a webcomic that seriously made my skin crawl.

But it was just filler, right? I can live with that.

Horrors man was not meant to see...When he mentioned he had a way to work it in as a ongoing cast member, I again felt that feeling of absolute dread sinking into my stomach. S*P has some odd characters, but Choo-Choo Bear and Pepito – even Twitchy-Hug – managed to work within the confines of the strip. And I couldn’t for the life of me think of any possible way the blue thing could be worked in without entirely disrupting the strip. I pondered, with no avail, what possible bribe I could offer to keep this monstrosity from appearing.

I should have known better than to doubt. It’s in the strip… and it works perfectly.

Nothing Special

Starting off the new year sick has not been the best experience to me, and refreshed me on exactly why I dislike the common cold. Despite thinking I was just about over it, it decided to hit me for one last day of ‘fun’.

So no rants or insights today, I’m afraid. Instead, I’ll just share that my day was fortunately improved by the unexpected (at least by me) return of CRFH, along with noticing the eerie similarities between today’s Sam and Fuzzy and Something Positive strips. How about that, eh? Coincidence or conspiracy, the world may never know.

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