Monthly Archives: May, 2006

Finders Keepers

It isn’t enough that I must be indebted to Mr. Logan for producing the exceptional work that is Sam and Fuzzy. Oh no, now I have to owe him for steering readers towards Sordid City Blues.

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.

Penny Arcade can be used to explain anything. Seriously.

In my defense, I wanted it to feel like a hard-fought match. I’m back!

Hopefully everyone had a fine Memorial Day weekend. Mine was filled with assorted lounging, graduation parties, and family gatherings that primarily consisted of me being assaulted by small children. (Or, alternatively, nearly losing a chess match to an 8 year old.)

The weather here has suddenly spiked up to near a hundred degrees, and while I’ve been enjoying the heat, others have not been quite so welcoming of it. When I have taken temporary absence from the warmth, I’ve been retreating to the chilled indoors and engaging in more Kingdom Hearts 2.

As of last night, I have found myself with something of a quandary. I reached the final ramp that leads up to the final boss, surrounded by my faithful friends and companions, with danger threatening all the worlds – and I promptly turned around and walked away.

You see, there were tasks yet to be done.

Now, there is a part of me that seeks completeness in things for its own sake. It is not in my nature to leave things unfinished. It is a struggle for me to put down a book with the intent of not finishing it, no matter how vile it may be. Perhaps half a dozen times have I done so, the majority of which were in the last year, when I realized that I was under no compulsion to inflict mental trauma on myself through atrocious writing. But even with that epiphany… it is difficult.

So I already have the danger of obsession – leaving something in an incomplete state is irksome to me. And when it comes to games… well, there is a devil of a powergamer lurking within my heart, and once upon a time, when I played RPGS my goal was to claim total victory. It was not enough to merely win – I need the knowledge that I have demolished and mastered every aspect of the game.

But things change. For me, the game these days is more about the story. And in truth, I did not have the time to invest in fully conquering games when I could simply… finish them. Especially as games such as FF X (and even worse, the atrocity known as FF X2) went on to build realms of completeness that were a time sink beyond all comprehension.

So I turned away from that road, and merely played the game for its own sake.

But now… a dilemma. If I actually want to get the good ending, I need to complete a variety of tasks.
In his defense, Eeyore is an annoying little emo bitch.
Most of them, in fact, are already done with ease. It is merely the final few that are the challenge, that require the extra time of leveling unto infinity – defeating the 50 round tournament. Battling the ultimate optional boss. Etc.

So I’ve resigned myself to the grind.

Similarly, I’ve been trying hard to bring myself to stop reading several webcomics. Some of them I simply started without realizing they weren’t really worth my time – others have, indeed, changed over the years. And I don’t hold this against them – but, as with other things, I have this awful compulsion to keep with them, even after I’ve lost all enjoyment in the reading of them.

Now that I’m done waxing verbose, I’ll come to the point of this little tirade – am I the only one like this?

Do others have a similarly hard time, or is it easy to walk away from webcomics that you no longer enjoy, books that aren’t worth reading, games not worth playing?

Is it easy to identify when something isn’t worth your time – and even once you’ve done so, is it easy to let it go?

Words, Words Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

When I was in the halcyon days of my youth, I read. A lot.

I could be found reading on most any occasion in which I had free time. While on the bus to school, during breaks between classes, while having dinner with my family. Books were my life-blood, and I lived and breathed the written word.

As time went on, I grew less attached to books – in college, while I still read, it was no longer such a vital facet of my life. I had many other activities and entertainments to occupy, and books were just one of many.

(On occasion I would fear that I would go the way of my father, an avid reader of fiction until the age of 25 – after which he never read a book ever again.)

These days are much the same – I read when I come across a good book, and generally savor the writing rather than tear through it. I have many other stories that I enjoy – comics, games, movies, etc.

Which is why I am trying to figure out what has possessed me this last week, as I have been devouring a novel a day.

Perhaps I felt a need for some works of fiction that had an element of completeness, rather than the ongoing serial nature of most webcomics. Perhaps this was in part due to a visit to a local overstock book store, with dangerously low prices on all manner of works.

And perhaps it has simply been one of those lazy summer weeks in Maryland, a mix of warmth and rain, sun and shade, and not much else to do than sit around… and read.

In any case, I suspect I have little to fear of following in my father’s footsteps. And I confess, it has been appealing to lose myself in books, as I have not done so completely in quite some time.

Sometimes a change in the usual can be a nice refresher. I suspect I’ll return to my usual pace and usual habits – but the change from the ordinary, however brief, was welcome nonetheless.

Expectations

Good kitty. You know, I never expected to see any sort of development of the character of Twitchy-hug.

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.

A Label in Time

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.

Dominic Deegan just turned 4, and though its quite a different comic then when it started, it still has its share of great moments – such as today!

(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!

Second Thoughts

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.

Fear the squash.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.
How did we not see this coming?
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.

What a tangled web we weave…

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.

Fuzzy Friday

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.

World of BananaCraft!

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.”

That imagery?

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 problem?

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.

Transitions

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.