Monthly Archives: March, 2006

Friday Reflections

Click for full size Forgery!A few brief thoughts from some comics this week:

1) Order of the Stick

Rich Burlew continues to show his mastery of the craft, as he managed to pull off a very powerfully cinematic piece here. We’ve just had the latest big plot arc come to a resolution… but this strip easily gives us the sense that we are only in the calm before the storm.

I can’t stress enough how much I like the pacing right here. As I said before – it is very cinematic. A classic build-up to whatever is coming, and I definitely am eagerly awaiting.

I like the fact that he is able to fit a good half-dozen plot points into the strip without them feeling out of place. I like the fact that, as in most of his work, he pays attention to all the characters. I like the fact that even with a serious set-up like this, he still pulls out a punchline.

And as good as this strip is… strip number 300 is only 2 strips away.

I can’t imagine he won’t do something special for it. I can only eagerly await and see what he’s got for us next…

Click for full-sized Bearded Davan!
2) Something Positive

Davan with a beard looks old.

I was really startled by how much it changes his appearance. We’d seen the start of the growth recently, but this was the first time we saw a full beard – and, as I said, it makes him look a lot older.

Now, it is admittedly true that growing up is one of the comic’s big themes.

I also recall that Davan’s father showed the signs of his age – take a look at his appearance over the years.

I’m not going to make any speculation on exactly what Davan’s new appearance might mean – it may just be as simple as pointing out that he is too busy and too stressed to have time to shave.

Still, it came as a bit of a shock to see, and I figured I’d make note of it.

Till next week!

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Get your Jam on!

Click for full sized cartoon acid trip!
Jam-O-Gram is the latest project of Jam Torkberg, and seems to be an exercise in creativity. The strips are each almost always solitary, and often highlight whatever whimsically strange idea has caught the artist’s mind. For a time, he based each cartoon off a random comment chosen from the day before.

Now, a comic being experimental does not, in and of itself, make it a good comic. As within any other genre of comics, it is the quality of the work itself, not its trappings, that determine its value. On the whole I’ve found Jam-O-Gram to be worth reading more often than not, but the humor can be very hit or miss.

Some days get no more than a shrug from me, others I find clever without really laughing at them – but some definitely get a chuckle or two, and there are ones that I can keep coming back to, and grin every single time. There are days when I find the work to be masterful, and days when I just don’t get it – but in the end, that shouldn’t be unexpected, given that pretty much each comic is trying something new and unusual.

Today’s comic left me with a lot of different things I wanted to talk about.

Aside from the comic itself, Jam mentions himself to be an avid fan of Rejected. Now, it you haven’t seen Rejected, you should go do so. I’ll warn you right now – it’s not for everyone. Some people might just find it puzzling. Others may be actively horrified, disgusted, or traumatized. But I know that the first time I watched it, I found it so horrifyingly amusing that I was in physical pain from laughing too hard.

Rejected is an exercise in… the surreal. In the unusual. Absurd things happen without reason or expectation. Scenes are set-up and perverted – happy laughter going hand in hand with physically disturbing events. Sometimes there is nothing perverse at hand, merely the bizarre – unusual figures screaming out gibberish.

In this case, simply hearing mention of Rejected instantly changed up my view of the comic itself. I couldn’t read it without hearing the character’s screaming out their lines of gibberish in the same wild and vocal tones as are featured in Rejected. Without that, I don’t think I would have found the comic itself actually funny – but visualizing the lines beind said in that fashion, and it actually worked for me.

That said, I don’t believe the words are intended to be gibberish, but rather code. (Or at least, so I must conclude from a cryptic sequence of numbers posted beneath the comic.) Yet for me, I actually prefer the words to be meaningless. It is hardly a gag I want to see everyday – but right now, with this set-up, I like it.

The other thing of note about today’s comic is that it was created entirely with the left hand. If we weren’t told that outright, though, I wouldn’t even have known. Not because the quality of the work is perfect – it isn’t, you can clearly see the result of using the left hand, though it still came out very impressively.

But the reason I didn’t notice was because so much of Jam’s art is fluid and dynamic. I often expect characters to have loose, squiggly lines. Wavering features and strange perspectives works well with the oddities of his strips.

As I mentioned before, this is by and large an experimental strip. Jam tries new and unusual stuff all the time, and I imagine the work he does is more for his own sake then for his audience. This latest experiment, regardless of whether the characters are speaking in code or not, I’d rate as a definite success.

He’s back!

I just wanted to announce Wes Molebash’s return to webcomics!

Things really weren’t the same on the internet without him, and its a relief to see him return to the fold. Some might feel that his departure was ill-thought out, and his return bespeaks a lack of determination, but I for one am glad to see his comic continue.

You’ll Have That has always been a clever mix of poignant romance and heart-wrenching drama. It is easy to see the poet’s soul that is behind the work, and how such an individual could be beaten down by the ill winds of the internet. It is refreshing to know that such an artist could rise from the ashes of his despair, invigorated by his love of the art, and resume his work after such an absence!

Pleasant Perplexity

I admit I probably have not been paying as much attention as I should to the latest happenings in Nukees.

I’m not entirely sure why the dynamic duo are currently trying to get information about… whatever they are trying to find out.

I’m also not sure why the trip involved a detour to Gav’s parents.

But I think it says quite a bit that, despite not really following the current overall storyline, the strips have remained brilliantly funny. Especially the latest two – watching Danny and Gav’s o-so-cliche misadventure in secretarial seduction has proven a high point in my week.

Sorry for the short posts this week! Life’s been busy giving me lemons… or however the saying goes… but hopefully things will have settled a bit by next week.

George is the Man now!

Not as much as George. You know, it isn’t every day a comic can swap out the main character, and then keep on doing its thing without even slowing down.

Joe Loves Crappy Movies is an awesome comic. Funny strips, funny reviews, funny newspots.

But out with the old, in with the new!

George Loves Crappy Movies is also an awesome comic. That is all.

MetaParody can be MetaPerfect

Return of the RainmakerToday, I am a happy panda.

The reason for this, for those who may be pondering why, is that I just got my latest issues of PS238. And them’s some good readings.

I’ve always been a fan of the work of Aaron Williams, and the two comics he updates on the web – Nodwick and Full Frontal Nerdity – are both pretty rad.

But I really love Public School 238. The premise – a school specifically designed for the eduction of metapowered youth. It starts out fun and silly, playing around with all the cliches and jokes that can come out of the genre… especially when dealing with kids, and school teachers.

And then… it really gets good. The humor is still there, but it embarks on ambitious storyline after ambitious storyline, each one leaving the reader wanting more.

I got my daily dose today, and can only hope the weekly doses of Nodwick will be able to tide me over till the next issue…

Brevity

Just a few quick thoughts before I dash off for more of my wild life of adventure and excitement~

1) I thought the idea of the Inside Joker to be totally awesome, and “Butterfly” continues to be a hella fun strip.

2) Despite never having been able to enjoy reading Achewood, and steadfastly refusing to read a story arc without full immersion in background plot, I’ve been keeping abreast of the Great Outdoor Fight. It’s big, it’s brutal, and all the other bloggers have gone into more educated discussion of it than I ever could.

3) The final panel from yesterday’s strip of the Green Avenger was really, really funny. The facial expression are just perfect. I keep going back to that strip and giggling at it.

4) Mr. Milholland is done with his play, and comics are back not just for Something Positive… but also Midnight Macabre! Not only that, but I was struck by one quote from the recent strip: “Viewer’s aren’t going to give me that kinda money. People don’t pay for what they are used to getting for free.”

The similarity between Gaspar’s situation and Randy’s own from a few years back… well, I have no idea what it means. But I was definitely struck by it, I tell you what! Definitely eager to see where the strip is going from there.

5) And now to distract you all with kittens whilst I make mine exit. Caio!

The thing dreams are made of…

Click for full sized internal monologuing and external smooching! For a good while now I’ve been a fan of Kathleen Jacques’ Intershadows. I had lost track of the comic for a time when it was transitioning from Coolsville (a fun comic with a lot of potential that was hindered by rough art and wandering storylines) into its current state: a very powerfully drawn comic with a lot of solid, connected plot.

The latest comic reveals that two of the secondary characters, Corey and Rain – both rather sad and lonely individuals – are, in fact, ‘getting it on’ with each other, as the kids say.

This came as a complete shock to me. It completely blew me away. Not because of the two character’s suddenly revealed homosexuality – that actually fits into the story surprisingly well. But it came as a surprise because the two of them had both been set up as tragic figures, constantly driven deeper and deeper into solitude and sadness.

And suddenly the two of them are given unexpected happiness.

It’s not an ending – the story will still be going on from here, and it is hard to say how it will end for these two – but it’s as welcome as it was unexpected. I think there’s a little someone in all of us cheering for everybody to find a happy ending.

Intershadows in general is a great comic, and well worth checking out. And the cast page, which some critics have proclaimed an integral part of any comic?

Is a flowchart. In haiku form.

Goddamn but that is cool.

"See? I know how to write happy endings… kinda."

One of the things Something Positive is well known for is its dark humor – and its cynicism in general.

Year One ended with Davan facing the death of his best friend from his youth.

Year Two ended with Aubrey dealing with a bleak job situation and a loss of independance.

Year Three ended with Davan’s home and possessions burning to a crisp.

Especially in the early years of the comic, there was a lot of reason to assume that the comic was, at its heart, pessimistic. The main characters get to deal with a ton of shit the world throws at them. Jobs are lost, relationships fall apart, friends and family move away… or pass on.

But the longer the comic goes on, the more and more optimism I see in it.

Oh, it doesn’t have things end in happy perfect fairy tales. Life doesn’t magically get better.

But for every moment of darkness they face… there is also a ray of light.

We’ll get back to that idea in a bit. For now, let’s take a look at the characters. Recently Randy provided a bit of fan-service by setting aflame Kharisma Valetti, one of the most despised personas in the strip.

Now, the obvious question one has to wonder is what this will mean for Kharisma. I mean sure – the fans hate Kharisma, and Randy thought it might be a nice tough to burn her face off. But… where does it go from here? She may well recover from the incident – but how intact will he beauty be? Given that her beauty – and the contempt she bears the world because of it – is her largest defining characteristic, what will this mean for her?

She doesn’t seem to have instantly woken up into being a good person by any means. Self-absorption remains pretty integral to her. And yet… what does Randy have in store for her? It wouldn’t be the first time a character has undergone an integral change by any means…

Something Positive is a story about people. There aren’t some set good guys and bad guys. There are just… people, getting through life. Sure, we have the protaganists – Davan, Aubrey, Peejee and their friends. But the troubles they face are anything from the world around them to each other.

The characters themselves aren’t perfect people – by and large they are an angry, violent and belligerent lot. They are more than willing to beat up, abuse or mock anyone who isn’t in their circle of friends and who deserves their antagonism – or simply happens to be in their way.

But we love them. Because they come off as real people, and they aren’t evil – they care about each other, deeply. They are a circle of true friends who simply happen to have a fair amount of megalomania, self-loathing and violent tendencies. And hey, its a comic strip – we can accept the sometimes overblown heights they reach.

One of the earliest true antagonists in the strip was Mike. Good old Mike. He represented everything bad about gaming nerds. He couldn’t show up in the strip without actively being an asshole to the characters we cared about. He ruins games. He ruins cons. He actively drives away the only people in his life that remotely care about him.

He is universally detested by the fan-base. He shows no redeeming qualities whatsoever… at first.

Time moves on. He comes to realize how much his own nature is responsible for the sad state of his life. And he does his best to try and get better. It helps that there are those who, even after all he has done, continue to show pity for him. But in the end – it is Mike, himself, who finds the desire to improve.

He still fucks up. Over and over again, he fucks up. But one day… eventually… he is accepted. The fans are actively rooting for him to finish becoming a decent human being.

It isn’t the first time a character has shown maturity. All the cast and crew have gone through moments where they have grown up… or moved on. Life continuing on is one of the underlying themes throughout the entire strip. Even Monette – who starts out airheaded, adrift, an objection of amusement and pity – finds herself. She finds a job, a family, a girlfriend – and more often than not, shows herself as mature and responsible enough to lead her own life.

People grow up. People mature.

Now, admittedly, there are those that don’t show any emotional depth in the strip – generally one-shot caricatures such as gamer nerds, plushie abusers, and the like. And there are those in the strip who might occasionally try and improve, but keep failing. Kyle, PeeJee’s faithless boyfriend. Eva, Davan’s faithless girlfriend.

Eva is the biggest example of this – she dated Davan. There were good and bad times during that period. And eventually, she cheated on him and went back to the boyfriend that beat her.

She quit him again. Found a new boyfriend, one that treated her right. And dumped him at the altar to, again, go back to a disastrous relationship. And then pines after Davan again. And then acts like an asshole to him again. And so forth.

She isn’t shown as actively evil – just misguided. Just unable to really understand what is good in the world. And for all that you have to hate her… you have to pity her, too.

So now we have Kharisma. From her first appearance, she came off… poorly. She’s arrogant, not very intelligent, and self-obsessed.

But… there have been moments when she hasn’t come off quite so terrible. For all her outlook on pretty people first, she seems to genuinely care about Davan.

So here we are. What’s it going to be? She’s faced with a crisis. Will she end up as a Mike or as an Eva? It’s a story I am definitely eager to see.

Because for all the little bits of bleakness and biting humor in Something Positive, the title is very, very true. It is a story about life. About real people. It is not a perfect world. It isn’t filled with perfect people. But… it isn’t filled with perfectly evil people, either.

Even in the worst of those we meet, those who started out as vilified as they could be… there’s a little bit of something positive.

On the internet, only spam is truly eternal.

It’s always weird when I realized I haven’t checked my e-mail in a month.

Well, it wasn’t all my e-mail. Like most internet junkies, I make sure to routinely check my inbox for new messages several times a day, though I’m proud to say I’ve moved away from the habit of sitting at my desktop and pounding the refresh key every 5 minutes…

But I have one e-mail address that, more and more, I keep forgetting to check. It is one of three main addresses I’ve got – one with hotmail, one with yahoo, and one with gmail. (This doesn’t account for the numerous addresses made for all manner of ulterior purposes, from roleplaying games to nefarious world plotting.)

The hotmail account came first, and I eventually upgraded to yahoo because I liked it better, and eventually to gmail, ’cause I liked it best.

But I never really phased out the old emails. I still had mailing lists that went to them that I couldn’t be bothered to change. I’ve got old friends whom I never see anymore who have that email as the only means of contacting me. There are countless documents on the web that mention my name and list that email alone. And in the end, it only takes a few moments time to check the old emails.

So I’ve kept them around, ignored the growing spam they recieve, and occasionally rescue some email or another from the festering morass.

But I hadn’t checked my hotmail account in a month.

That came as a shock to me. I mean, I’m a pretty wired guy, and even for an email account that is no longer my primary, it still receives a solid amount of traffic from friends and associates. The spam it gets is annoying, but only that and nothing more. I didn’t stop checking the email out of effort… I just forgot about it.

The internet is an easy world to misplace things. The websites and email addresses of our youth are eventually forgotten, and left to 404 away into oblivion. No different than most things in life, but, as elsewhere, the internet moves at a much faster velocity.

Part of what worries me about this sort of thing is that I have, as some may say, a fucking shitty memory.

There’s too much crap about books and gaming and comics and whatnot shoved in there, I suppose, so that recalling events from a few years back results in hazy memory – at best – and further back, nothing more.

So it is that I rely on saved e-mails and old diaries and all other manner of electronic artifacts to preserve the past. Not the most substantial things to place my memories in, admittedly.

Now, losing those things… it isn’t the end of the world. So I can’t remember or find my first website, first e-mail address. So what? It isn’t truly worth getting worked up over – and I’m not really that upset.

But nonetheless, it bothers me. I could lose all those emails, all those files. I might not notice. I might carry on, and might not even note the loss – I might not even remember anything of significance was in there. Which doesn’t mean that it is insignificant – it just makes the loss a bit more scary.

Just a reminder of the impermanence of things, I suppose.

Speaking of impermanence, over in the wonderful world of Something Positive, Kharisma appears to have lost her famed beauty. Via fire. In that her face was burnt off.

Ok, that was a lousy segue. Meh. But it is something on my mind, and I plan to go much more in depth on it. Today you had to listen to me wax philosophical about freaking e-mail; tomorrow, I’ll talk about Something Positive, and Milholland’s special touch with crafting characters we love to hate!