See, Sordid City Blues isn’t actually a new comic for me. Some months back I devoured the entire archives in one sitting, and discoveredI quite liked it.
…at which point I promptly missed adding it to my daily links, and when I remembered it a week later, had forgotten its name, address, and any location that might help me find it again.
(Have I mentioned I have a really bad memory?)
Fortunately, after having given up all hope of finding it again, bam! There it is.
Reading back through it again (it’s a relatively quick read) reminded me exactly how much I liked it – down to earth characters, some of them funny, some of them crazy, all of them dealing with the stupid little troubles everyone has to deal with. The characters are also nicely color-coded for convenience, which is just one of several little nice touches it has!
All in all, its a good comic, and as mentioned by the Sam-man, it is at the start of a new story arc and in a good position for people to check it out.
I certainly didn’t expect the direction the current plot arc took us through (in a relatively short amount of time.) (This in spite of the fact that there was, in fact, a bit of set-up leading up to it.)
And I didn’t remotely see coming the conclusion of this little arc, nor the cameo appearance at the end.
The lesson learned here? I should predict the most dreary, banal things, since the unexpected apparently rocks my socks off.
While giving my props to MT yesterday, I neglected to give mention to a few events of note:
Blank Label Comics just hit its 1st Anniversary, and mad props to them for still going strong.
(Though I still wish it wasn’t the epitome of the comic that forced you to scroll down to read the daily strip.)
And, well… ok, so not all that many momentous events. Nonetheless, congratulations and appreciations for all those folks who have perservered with their entertainment, and kept bringing humor and plot to us humble readers!
I have, in the past, been somewhat critical of the Modern Tales collective – or it’s current state, in any case.
So I felt it would be the honorable thing to do to give a shout out to them in appreciation at the quantity of good stuff I noticed today.
First off, the infamous William G has been added to the line-up at Graphic Smash. For all that I’ve rarely agreed with his rantings and ravings, I’ve always been impressed with his comics, and glad to see one of them in a place it will be easy for me to keep track of it.
Next up, in Digger, it looks like the pursuit of the dark, malevolent entities is to be cut short by an attack from vampire squash. Man, how often do you get to write a sentence like that? Not very, is the answer.
I don’t really have anything special to say about the Guardians, Magellan, or Reckless Life, save that they are all rock-solid awesome strips, and getting all of them the same day is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Picture Story Theatre continues its latest bizarre but entertaining piece. There are several other strips updating at Modern Tales, and even if not my cup of tea, I’m glad to see the activity.
Paradigm Shift is to my tastes, however, and its return from hiatus remains a pleasant surprise.
But the big winner, unsurprisingly, is Narbonic. We’ve been meandering of late, you see. The characters have grown distant, gone their seperate ways. There has been a dying down of the previous storylines, as the past is fading and the mood is subdued.
But now the spark just hit the fire. I mean, Lovelace. Whoa.
So yeah, I’d say we’ve got tension again.
Man, Narbonic rocks.
If I sat down and tried – and I mean, really tried, bent my mind to this one sole task – I could probably come up with a premise for a webcomic that was as convoluted as the premise behind Arthur, King of Time and Space.
But I don’t think I’d have a shot in hell in showing the creator’s skill at realizing that premise in a fashion that avoids overwhelming the reader with sheer complexity.
The concept at hand is that the comic follows the adventures of King Arthur and his merry band, and interprets their story over the course of 25 years.
(As an aside – plotting out a 25 year long comic is innately awesome. Anyway, back to the business at hand.)
The twist on the traditional story is that we flip-flop from one alternate reality to the next, following the story as we go – though each setting has its own variations.
So we have fairy tale Arthur, space Arthur, modern Arthur, cowboy Arthur, superhero Arthur, etc, etc.
(Another aside: I mispelled Arthur as Author every time in that above paragraph before realizing my mistake.)
So, A:KoTaS is obviously filled with a significant number of complex, interweaving storylines, each with its own subtlely different cast and crew. Somehow, Paul Gadzikowski pulls this off without hopelessly losing the reader.
This isn’t to say there is never confusion or turmoil – there is, and the occasional strip will be hard to follow, especially for those not already familiar with the legend of King Arthur. But such confusion is the exception, not the norm.
It helps that Mr. Gadzokowski seems to be a quite organized individual. He color-codes the characters. Arthur is always in yellow, Lancelot red, Guenevere blue. He has a cast and FAQ page that details a lot of these little factors that can help new readers keep things sorted out.
I only just read that FAQ myself. Some of those elements – such as the colors corresponding to each character – I had easily caught onto while reading the archives. Other elements I didn’t catch – the background of each strip is color-coded as well, reflecting whether it takes place in the present, past, or future of its specific continuity. So such understandings aren’t required to read the strip – but getting more insight into the way of things is certainly handy.
And that’s really one of the things I like about the strip. Sure, it has a good story, good characterization, and good jokes. The art… well, the art isn’t my cup of tea. But even if not exceptional in my eyes, it is functional, and that is enough for me.
But what makes the comic so unique is the way it weaves all these realities together. The way those connections are set-up, the order and organization behind it all – that is original and exciting.
It lets one read it plainly if they wish, without paying any heed to the levels of development. And it allows readers who want to go a step further to help understand all the connections, and interpret them as they wish.
I kinda like that.
Despite the perhaps misleading title, this post isn’t actually about Sam and Fuzzy…
Though, now that I think about it, I feel the need to mention that I really like where the current storyline went. I wasn’t feeling much attachment to the band cast, but the last few strips have really pulled things together nicely.
So I guess my first sentence was a lie.
Anyway, moving on.
What I really wanted to comment on – emphasize, even, if I may be so strong – is for artists to do their best to make comics viewable. The goal of a comic is to communicate with the reader. Regardless of how or why it goes about this, if the communication fails, the comic fails.
I’ve seen blurry, fuzzy images that have been poorly scanned or rendered. I’ve seen strips with confounding directories that make it impossible to actually go through the archives. The latest offender is a recent Deathworld strip, which decides to use a painful lack of contrast in a font choice.
(As a note, I actually like Deathworld quite a bit, and like, in that strip, the ghostly Allison, even if she does look uncannily like a startled castmember from the Botmaker.)
Choose your colors wisely. Choose your fonts wisely. And this isn’t just about art – lay out your webpage well. Avoid browsing systems and subscription directories that actively impede the ability to browse the comic.
Make it easy, in every way, for the reader to enjoy your comic.
Because if you make it so people have to work at it, have to spend significant effort to decipher your comic… they’ll take their time elsewhere.
And that’s all I’ve got to say for today.
So I got into work this morning, and found a notice that a coworker had placed “Banana Bars” on the free-for-all table. I’d never heard of such things… but man, I do like bananas, so I went over to check them out and find out what they are.
For the record? What banana bars are? Is supremely delicious.
Anyway, on to serious stuff. I’d like to take a few moments to talk about World of Warcraft.
(Ok, not so serious.)
I’m sure many people have heard of WoW. World-reknowned best-selling Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game, blah blah blah.
But what I’d like to talk about it isn’t what most conversations generally revolve around. Rather, I’d like to talk about the story.
I like playing WoW. Like many, I probably play it a bit more than I should. And I enjoy the aspect of the game that involves taking on the most challenging encounters, and walking around in the shiniest loot. Not due to the elitism of it all, but due to the sense of accomplishment.
But that isn’t what got me into the game. What got me into the game was the story. The lore. I had played Warcraft 2 in my youth, and enjoyed it as a game – but when I played Warcraft 3, it transcended into something beyond that.
And so, despite my oath to avoid the dangers of MMORPGs at all cost… I delved into WoW.
Now, for all that “RPG” comes in the title, many people avoid the roleplaying aspect. It is a game of numbers, of strategy, and immersing themselves in the fantasy has no place in that.
But the fantasy remains there regardless, and even if all my in-game banter is completely OOC, I still value the background behind it all – from a personal standpoint, if nothing else. I have a sneaking suspicion many others are the same – they enjoy visualizing their character as a triumphant hero, even if they enjoy spending most of the time just sitting around chatting with their friends.
Recently Blizzard has been releasing information on the upcoming expansion to the game – and with it, of course, more story. More lore.
Some of it is good. Some of it is interesting. And some of it is sadly flawed.
The long and short of it is as follows: When writing the background for a new race being introduced into the game (a race of demon-descended paladins, which is certainly a fun concept to start from), a number of mistakes were made.
Mistake number 1 was an emphasis on technology that scared those attached to the full fantasy elements, and this mistake was more a measure of the terminology used. The game already has a measure of steampunk tech, and the new technology being introduced could easily fit alongside it all – but the language could have been worded better than to say: “Their dimensional ship crash-landed on the planet.”
Just a bit too forceful.
I don’t think we’ll have guys running around with laser pistols and space ships. I think the reality will be far, far different.
But presentation counts for a lot, and tossing out such a quick little gimmick threw a lot of people into a state of concern.
In any case, the other mistake is one of the big ones, the one that really had everyone up in arms. The writing team at Blizzard simply fucked up. They took the lore, and made a completely amateur mistake, and screwed up the continuity.
This new race, who were one known as the Eredar, were peaceful and wise until visited by Sargeras, lord of the Burning Legion, a fallen Titan who now seeks to bring destruction across all the universe. He tempted many of them into demonic magics, and made them into a race of evil.
The backstory for Sargeras himself is that he was once a goodly Titan charged with keeping the worlds free of bad guys. Upon encountering the demonic Eredar, he slowly grew disillusioned with his cause…
So, basic paradox mistake. Blizzard forgot to check their backstory, and left a gaping plot hole that needs fixing.
The writers are ashamed. The fans are up in arms.
Myself? In a way, I am almost perversely pleased by it all.
See, it is a mistake, sure – but one within their capabilities to correct. The head writer, after apologizing for screwing up, has said he intends to leave the new lore, but also to find ways to integrate it with the old. I can see plenty of ways myself. Fans have given out any number of suggestions, many of which would make for even more engaging history.
No lasting harm done, I suspect. What pleases me, though, is the response to such a thing as this.
Because it is easy to think of the game a collection of numbers. Of the players as powergamers out for loot and nothing more.
So seeing so much support thrown behind the lore, the story, the background… it is refreshing. Seeing that to so many playing the game, whether they delve deep into the roleplaying or not, they believe in the setting, in the tale being told. Seeing the writers accept that concern, and showing a genuine willingness to address it.
At the core of it all, I play the game for the same reason I read books and comics, watch movies and anime, and play most of the other games I play – for the story.
And sometimes, amidst all the worries over class balance, styles of play, guild drama and the like – it’s nice to know that others feel the same.
One of the things I have found most frustrating about the Modern Tales collection – and this one, admittedly, is in no way their fault – is how easy it is to lose track of comics that leave.
Partly it is due to how many of them have inconsistent updates – and as such, I don’t always register, promptly, that a comic hasn’t been updating for a while. Sometimes the comic is simply on hiatus – at other times, it has left. Even when comics do announce their departure, it may be a while before they set up shop on the web again, without any way to explicitly track where.
I have lost count, I am sad to say, of the number of good comics on those sites that have fallen by the wayside – some entirely, and some merely by my own radar.
As such, it is always pleasing when I stumble back across one of them.
Now, as is also often the case, their archives at a new location may be a bit behind, and I will still find myself awaiting new content…
But it’s good to know the content is there and coming, ya know?
Johnny Saturn isn’t anything special, itself. It’s a good comic, and a fun comic – one of the ones that really worked for Graphic Smash as an action comic. It has some attempts at throwing off stereotypes, but also lives up to a lot of cliches – but it generally does so with its own sense of style.
But while it may not be one of the heavy hitters on the web, it was still a comic I was glad to rediscover and toss back on my reading list. Some days, I suppose, that’s enough.