Monthly Archives: April, 2006

Friday Frivolities

So, first off. Obligatory discussion of Wii. Yeah.

Like everyone else talking about it, it fails to appeal to me as a name. Or as a gaming system. Or as a philosophical concept.

Of the various rants about it, I think Logan said it best – I’m not all that concerned about the “filthy joke novelty” of it, I’m just concerned that it doesn’t work for me as a word.

It just sounds bizarre, and has trouble rolling off my tongue. Will that change? Perhaps. Give it long enough, and it could forge its way into sensibility.

But still. Wii.

They came so close to an excellent name for a gaming system, too! Ah well, maybe next time.

Moving on – in addition to his wise thoughts on the Wii, Logan continues to show us how awesome ninjas are. I just can’t say no to ninjas! Because, see, they’d kill me if I did.

Finally, the most exciting thing currently going on is over at the Digital Pimp. The big showdown between George and Joe is coming to a head, and this is a moment I’ve been hella waiting for! (Apologies for use of the word “hella.”)

What really impresses me isn’t that we’ve had this big dramatic story in a strip devoted to one-shot weekly jokes. Nah, what really gets me is how much of this little plot was developed not through the comic itself, but outside of it – in the newsposts. In the forums. Throughout the website entire. The comic itself was just part of the medium for telling the story.

Little references to the whole shebang showed up here and there in the strips, sure, and someone reading the comic alone wouldn’t have any trouble reading through the whole arc without pause.

But there was that extra step for those looking behind the scenes. That takes imagination, and that takes skill. I thoroughly approve.

And now we’ve got the pay-off about to hit. I’m all a-shiver with anticipation.

It’s been a great comic from the start. The art is fantastic. The jokes are generally dead-on. I mean, I’ve never been one to see all that many movies, and I used to be dead set against shelling out cash for bad ones – but when I read the comics? I feel the need to get in on it.

Cause Joe Loves Crappy Movies… and now, I do too.

The Burden of Choice

I am afflicted with a most serious Dilemma.

I have finally gotten around to starting Kingdom Heart 2, after various and sundry delays.

It has begun with great effect and style, and proved most pleasing. However… much plot has gone by that I have missed. Plot that occured in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, for the Game Boy Advance.

Thus, the Dilemma – do I hunt down a GBA and that game, and play it before going farther in KH2, for completeness sake? (Ah, completeness – the bane of video RPG fans worldwide…)

Do I merely hunt down the story of the game, and read what I have missed in cold, clinical analysis?

Or do I perservere in KH2 itself, letting the game tell me what it does as it goes, and adapting to the unfamaliar plot whilst I play?

But such are the challenges a young man faces in the world today.

The only bard I’ve ever played was designed on a lark. Hah!

'A bard doesn't get drunk... he get's inspired!' This post is something of a follow-up to my thoughts on guest strips – namely, I noticed that Paul Southworth of Ugly Hill fame is doing “Tales by Tavernlight” – an old strip by Scott Kurtz that still occasionally pops up in PvP.

I think that this is supremely awesome.

First off, from the sample strip given thus far (on the right), Paul’s art style is frickin’ perfect for the job.

Secondly… I’m just a fan of this sort of interaction in webcomics. Artists are often more than willing to let others play around with their characters, and I think that is fantastic.

So hey. I haven’t picked up any of the PvP print issues… mainly ’cause I’m lazy more than anything. But I may well take a look at the upcoming issue with this stuff, and see how well it works. It certainly looks good, and I can’t imagination the brainchild of those two guys failing to impress me.

A World of Poetry

Something is wrong. Gunnerkrigg Court starts out as a deceptively simple comic.

The first chapter was a standalone story about a girl, her shadow, her second shadow, and a robot.

The second chapter was also, by and large, standalone – but it began introducing other characters.

By chapter three, relationships begin to form. Backstory starts to be revealed. The story grows a bit more. More direct mysteries come into play, as opposed to the simple curiousities of where this school is, and what is our intrepid heroine doing there?

We are currently in the midst of chapter seven. Things have developed, as they have a mind to do. We have seen a bit more into the depths of the characters. We still don’t know all that is going on behind the scenes, of course. But we now have a sense that there is stuff going on.

The chapter began with an ominious scene. We have a lot of the characters we know quite well by now, all brought together – Antimony, the protaganist. Katerina, her best friend. Reynardine, a demon now bound in the form of her doll, and bound to her will. Mr. Eglamore, a dragon slayer – and one of her teachers. That strange bird that keeps showing up.

And of course, our friend Robot, the charming little automaton from the first chapter, now looking somewhat the worse for wear.

The chapter pauses for a moment, jumps back a few hours in time, and takes a short break to return to a bit of mundanity, and give out some more background on the nature of things.

However… it appears we are about to return to that opening scene on the bridge. Stuff is liable to, well… happen. Now is a very good time to be paying close attention to the things happening over at Gunnerkrigg Court.

Now, the words I have written thus far may make it sound as though the comic is nothing but serious, heavy story. Nothing could be farther from the truth – every aspect of the strip has a sense of wonder and amazement, and as mentioned, many parts of it can easily be read entirely on their own. There is a clever humor to the characters, a charming sense of youth, and a wondrous design to the world they inhabit.

But right now, it looks as though the storm clouds are brewing, and we may have some mysteries revealed.

Not all of them, I am sure. That is likely a long way off, and there are more surprises and unknowns about Gunnerkrigg Court than I can imagine answers to.

But still. Stuff is happening. The comic is, at all times, highly engaging to me, due solely to the beauty of the strip and the story. But right here, right now, I am on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next installment.

Gunnerkrigg Court is one of the comics I would classify as a masterpiece – and right now, I suspect, it is right about to hit a turning point. I don’t think I want to miss that, and I highly recommend others take a look towards it as well.

Does anyone know what ‘Fleen’ means, anyway?

They are doing something very cool over at Fleen – they are bringing in a whole new wave of webcomic critics, and those who make the final cut will be chosen by the viewing audience!

Ok, so the reality show aspect mildly disturbs me, but as long as they aren’t making people eat bugs or set themselves on fire, I think I’ll be fine.

In any case, they are posting essays written by the applicants, and will be making heavy use of the reader’s comments on those selfsame essays. Now, there are quite a few of these applicants, and as such, it makes for a very heavy dose of reading to pour through – so the more people that wander over there and give their thoughts, the better off they’ll be.

So go. Check it out. They have some good things happening over there, and more activity in the Dialogue can only be for the best!

On a related note, the 2006 Web Cartoonist’s Choice Awards will be getting rolling in a few more weeks, so keep your eyes on that and start pondering your nominations. Or, for those who may not be able to give nominations, start planning which Web Cartoonist will be easiest to kidnap and steal the identity of in order to assure the right comic gets nominated.

The Chosen Ones

Creating a comic strip day after day, for week after week, can often become a tiring thing. Even when it is done for a living, the urge to take a break can become tempting to even the most devoted individuals. Some webcomics, when such a time comes, simply take a break for an extended period of time.

Others, however, may choose a variety of filler material, from simply sketches to elaborate and random gimmicks.

What is quite common, however, is the tradition of guest strips.

A number of comics recently have had a few weeks of such art. Some fans are distressed when this happens – especially for story-intensive comics, missing out on plot and continuity for random shinanigans – sometimes ones not even true to the characters – can be less than pleasing.

For myself, I generally view any week of guest strips with both excitement and trepidation. I like seeing a different take given on characters I know and love – and often I will be a fan of the guest artist as well, making the entire experience a pleasurable medley of two great tastes.

However… some guest strips are less than wisely chosen. Some folks may really get the characters right… but others may mangle them beyond all recognition. I know that when I stumble upon a guest week in many an archive, the strips therein seem to serve only one purpose – filler. Not the good filler, the kind that genuinely keeps the reader entertained during a strip’s absence. No, it is merely there to give some evidence of activity, and nothing more.

Which is why I have been very pleased by the quality of guest strips I’ve seen across my favorite webcomics this year. Sam and Fuzzy had some fantastic ones early on, Scary Go Round recently had some nice ones, and there have been countless others that have impressed me.

PvP is currently running a series of guest strips, and that is really what got my attention. Every single strip was picture perfect, giving a new and hilarious take on the cast. The PvP Crisis in particular floored me.

I suppose that as an artist gains more and more of a following, and connections to fellow artists and comic strip makers, it means that the guest strip submissions will inevitably be well crafted – and in enough quantity for the best to be chosen. Whatever the reason, it is a trend I am a fan of, and I hope will be a sign of things to come.

Friday Pontifications

Webcomics seems to be preceding apace, and I don’t find myself with nearly as much on my mind as usual.

Nonetheless, there are a few interesting developments afoot:

Penny Arcade has been enjoying quite a bit of success with their webcomic creation Podcast. (Guilty little secret: I have never actually listened to a podcast. Ever! Shamefully, nor do I own an i-pod or similar device. It’s true!)

I wonder how many other webcomics may follow in their steps – admittedly there are numerous others that already make use of the podcast medium, but with a bruiser like PA breaking it out, I can’t help but think it may pick up more notice than before. And, as usual, webcomics blur the line between numerous mediums of entertainment.

-Despite any and all claims against the character of Tim Buckley, he demonstrates mad ninja skillz, and as such, any and all trespasses are forgiven. Sorry, Citrus, but ninjas are awesome.

-I may be alone in this, but I am indeed feeling out of sorts with the wonderful world of Goats. I really had been grooving on the uber-storyline they embarked upon, but I felt is somewhat reached its peak… and simply kept on rolling. I do appreciate still the normal humor he has managed to keep cropping up, but the plot itself has left me restless.

-Does anyone else have a bad feeling about why Ornery can understand Brian? I know I do…

Not much else to announce, I’m afraid. On the other hand, it is somewhat nice for things to be on the casual and routine side. Well, no objections here!

Milholland is in his mansion, and all is well with the world (wide web.)

The Internet… Was Once… A Wondrous Thing…

It may come as a surprise to readers of this site to learn that I am, in fact, a gamer. While not partaking of casual entertainment such as comics, books, movies and the like, I might often be found rolling up some 20s with the crew, throwing down with some double dash, or enjoying a heroic afternoon in Azeroth!

I tend, as a gamer, to invest myself in the accoutrements of the genres. I don’t just play the games – I often buy the books, read the novels, unlock the hidden levels. I explore the lore behind the games, find the best combos, and assemble the most powerful deck of them all! So it goes.

One of the other things that I have often done, however, to my both expected and yet inevitable downfall… is to enter the realm of gaming forums.

I had thought, long ago, when I braved the den of the White Wolf, that I had seen things at their worst. The angst, the drama, the despair – cold and black like all men’s souls. I saw the dangers, and wisely turned away.

Time passed, and I walked into the Wizard’s Lair, and I learned again the depth of man’s descent. Senseless arguments, countless rules and regulations, and a desperate flight from any common sense – these things drove me away, and all was well with the world.

Yet more time has come and gone, and I have now seen sights that have scarred me to the soul. The discussion board of Azeroth – a more wretched hive of scum and villainy have I never seen. And yet, I cannot turn away.

With every day I glance at the pages within that board, a little piece of me dies inside. My faith in mankind is shattered whole – and the remaining bits then ground into dust and ashes.

In a full page of posts on the General Discussion area, I counted a single post offering useful information, and a single post asking a reasonable question. I counted no less than 17 posts demanding unreasonable changes to the game, 8 posts that were blatant trolling, 3 posts on the same topic that was answered in a sticky at the top, and one post advertising gold farming.

It worries me. I enjoy playing this game. I do my best to moderate my time at it, knowing well the dangers of an MMORPG. I know lots of fine folk in this game, and enjoy playing with them. I know many and sundry intelligent and reasonable players!

And yet, in this community of fellow gamers, I find nothing but the detritus of the earth.

In another area, a gamer makes a thread to track current progress on the most powerful boss available in the game. He makes a simple plea, for people to treat the thread seriously, rather than turn it into yet another repetition meme, and instead only gave serious posts.

Of the fifty-one replies, twelve are verbatim copies of the specific meme he gave as an example of what people should not use. Five are variations on the meme – including translating it into german, and chinese. Eight are various other memes, including a random reference to “Snakes on a Plane.” Seventeen are arbitrary responses to each other, and to the trolling attempts.

One is a reference to the Great Gatsby. Four are follow-ups to it.

Only two are genuine answers to the question, while there is one post proclaiming the failure of the thread, and one post simply explaining why making such a request in these forums is doomed to abysmal failure.

Now, I am not naive. I am aware of the fact that there is a problem with the internet. I am aware that there are places where attempting to find genuine information is asking for a miracle.

What I cannot understand is why I keep going back.

I can’t help it! Despite the bile that rises at the atrocities commited upon the english language, I keep reading. Sometimes my eye twitches. Sometimes my arm shakes. But I go from page after page, post after post. I no longer even know what I am looking for – useful knowledge, or just more horrible – fascinating – chaos.

I… I am afraid. I have stared into the abyss, and I cannot look away. It stares back at me… and it hungers.

Electrifying Science

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha! See that, over there on the right?

Now that is a cool weapon.

Furthermore, it is a mad scientist’s weapon. As the author puts it – “a gun which pretty much requires the wielder to say ‘Bwa ha ha ha ha ha.'”

It should be noted, however, that Benjamin is not doing just that.

A Miracle of Science is one of my favorite webcomics. As with certain other popular strips, mad science is fun.

We have the main hero, who has been struggling as a recovering user of mad science – and here we find him putting together a ball lightning gun from a variety of spare parts.

Is he returning to his weakness? Is he transcending it and putting that skill to greater use?

Dude, like I care? Ball Lightning Gun, man! Is that not awesome? I say it’s awesome.

And yeah, I’m definitely in it for the story.

But still. Ball lightning gun. Wicked.

Webcomics produce the most improbable protaganists imaginable…

Click for full-sized Death and Taxes! Given how many webcomics I read (a lot), and the amount of time available in the day (not enough), it is rare I stumble across a new comic that immediately pulls me in and gets added to my list of daily reads.

So I was pleasantly surprised to encounter Belphegor. The latest strip thus far (as shown on the right) immediately convinced me the art was to my tastes, with lively (er, so to speak), interesting characters.

I took a walk through the archives and was not disappointed. Despite the prevalance of dick and fart jokes, political humor and obscure references – all things that often aren’t my cup of tea – it works. Perfectly. The concept is great, the characters are great, the jokes are great.

It’s a clever little comic that has a very unique identity, and fulfills its promise well. The cast of characters is enough to have some diversity of behavior without being overloaded. The overarching story is present, but not especially intrusive on the everyday jokes.

All in all, it’s a combination of unexpected elements that comes together to rate very high on my list. For those who haven’t checked it out before, I recommend it.