Monthly Archives: June, 2006

Snapshots in Time

In Memories. It may not come as a surprise that I am avid fan of print comics as well as webcomics.

Print comics were my first love with the genre, and I still remain attached to them in this day and age. Some of what I read has changed – I have ditched all the original Marvel works, though I do read the Ultimate versions. I am still also quite the fan of DC, though my focus is much more heavily on the bat clan than Superman and friends.

As such, I can sympathize all too well with the concerns of Anne, part of the creative team over at the Wotch.

See, two characters from the DC universe – Stephanie Brown, the Spoiler, and Cassandra Cain, Batgirl – have been poorly treated of late.

I won’t get into specifics – Anne has a post at the Wotch that covers the details.

There is a danger in print comics, one that is much less likely to rear its ugly head on the web. You see, the characters of DC, of Marvel… they are part of the company. They are not one individual person’s work, and writers can – and will – change.

Which means the characters change, as well. Sometimes for the better – and sometimes the writers throw out everything that has come before, have their new test subjects completely break character, and have some ‘dramatic plot point’ happen just for the sake of something shocking.

It’s infuriating.

I still like my print comics. Even as things change, sometimes those changes are well done. Sometimes I can see heroes die, or fade away, and accept it as the conclusion of a well-written story.

And sometimes it is meaningless, and serves only to incense.

Anne said it well, and drew a scene that captured well who these heroes once were. And I think all those who were true fans of the characters appreciate her for it.

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Whatever happened to Sam?

I’ve been surprised that I haven’t seen more discussion on the recent events in Sam and Fuzzy.

So. Half a year ago, Sam and Fuzzy wrapped up one hell of a storyline. And then the dynamic duo took the last bus out of town, and drove off into parts unknown.

Since then, well… stuff has happened. What I’ve really been grooving on are the little vignettes with the blank mask ninja – a rather likeable character – tracing the path they took, prepared to hunt them down for… well, vengeance, death, etc, presumably.

The rest of our time has been occupied by the band Noosehead, which has added a whole pile of new characters to the show. They’ve engaged in hijinks and drama – often instigated by our good friend Fuzzy, who seems to have joined their crew.

And it’s good stuff. I mean, I don’t think Sam Logan could make a bad comic if he tried. The strip still brings the funny, the strip still brings the story.

But still…. somewhere, in the back of our minds, we’re wondering – Where’s Sam?

Well, guess he’s been right under our noses all this time.

Shocking!
The last few strips have hinted at, and then outright revealed, the truth: Aaron, one of the random roadies we’ve been introduced to, turns out to be Sam in disguise.

And it works. I mean, once you know what to look for, you can see Sam underneath. Looking back through the archives, you can see some of the signs. Heck, maybe everyone else figured this out months ago, and it was only a surprise to me.

Anyway. Sam’s back. Sam is back!

Where does that leave us?

Sam has the right of it – all the mafia ninjas may have wandered on their merry way, but one still remains, tracking him down. We don’t know much about him, but it seems clear that we’re building up to a showdown.

From there? I suspect we’ll be bidding Noosehead goodbye for a while. While there is still conflict within the band itself, I don’t think it will stay that way forever.

Of course, things are nice and peaceful back in the world Sam left behind, too.

(Also, anyone notice that the person ‘Aaron’ really looks like is Lance?)

Anyway, I can’t really tell where Sam and Fuzzy will be heading in the long run. But I sure as hell am glad that Sam is back in one form or another, and suspect the upcoming showdown will live up to the caliber of story that Logan has been recently cranking out.

So welcome back, Sam. Ninjas and all.

Ow.

Ouch. Just... ouch. Right. Don’t fuck with Fineas.

Duly noted.

Man, this sequence might well be a fine demonstration of the little orange fish kicking ass, but the eye-popping thing?

Really wigs me out.

It seems to be a theme of late – Ornery Boy has featured a bit of the same, and the threat of dangling orbs has made me hesitant to keep an eye on it (so to speak) to check for updates.

I know at least one other comic recently had something similar, though I can’t receall exactly which one – my own faulty memory keeping me safe, perhaps.

Oy. I don’t know why it gets to me, given how little I am usually phased by graphic violence. Tear out someones heart? Whatever. Stab them in the neck? Meh.

But popping out eyes? That’s just creepy, man.

What’s a friday without a good bit of evil, eh?

So I realized that every post this week was about strips that I had discussed, or at least mentioned, at some point in the past.

Well now, every blog needs a bit of diversity, so today, let’s take a look at a comic never before mentioned by me! (cue echoes, ominous music, yadda yadda yadda.)

Ok, here it is: Evil Inc.

Oh, you say. But isn’t that already a pretty well-known, mainstream webcomic?

Well… sure.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised to realize I hadn’t talked about it before. Even aside from being one of those wickedly cool people over at Blank Label Comics, it’s a pretty solid comic in its own right.

Still, I haven’t really had much reason to talk about it before now. I had never read the prequel, Greystone Inn, and it was only when Evil Inc came out, and was garnering some sizable acclaim, that I checked out both comics.

I found that Greystone Inn was crazy awesome, but that I was only mildly attached to Evil Inc. The humor was ok, but not really my style, and there wasn’t nearly as much character investment. (Though, I must say, I was quite a fan of the ‘illicit’ relationship between Miss Match and Captain Heroic. That, more than anything, is what convinced me to stay with the strip.)

So why am I talking about it now?

Well, I realized that it had finally won me over. This is certainly in part due to the big storyline current at hand, and the future fate of the company. I realized that after months of disliking Evil Atom, I’d finally started to take a shine to the big lug. Much like Straub built up the Crisis in SC, he’d managed to slip in development and get me invested in the series without me even really noticing.

When I first started reading it, my biggest gripe about the comic? “That’s a silly premise. A supervillain company? Psh.”

I think it was only once I realized that, like, half of the stories out there – including many of the greats – are built on perfectly ludicrous premises… only then was I able to actually sit down and, you know, enjoy the series.

So I count that a success. And I’m looking forward to the big news we’ve got coming…

Simply an observation

Hat! I’ve mentioned No Need for Bushido before. When last I did so, I focused not on the comic itself, but on the many tasty extras scattered about the site, and how that level of content was very, very appealing.

It strikes me that in doing so, I may not have emphasized the fact that the comic itself is incredibly kick-ass.

Ok, see, here is the thing I like. We’ve got this comic with samurai, and ninjas, and monks. They’ve got bad-ass martial arts and the obligatory dude with a freaking huge sword. Plenty of action, drama and excitement.

Of course, what anyone reading the comic will notice right off the bat is that it is unrepentantly funny. It refuses to take itself seriously, as it demonstrates time and time again.

So what impresses the hell out of me is how well the story is developed despite the humor. Despite all the jokes and laughs and nonsense, you grow attached to the characters, you grow invested in the story. That takes some skill.

In any case, things have been heating up of late. Which means, of course, lots of moments for our cast and crew to demonstrate how supremely badass they are. That’s always a good thing. I mean, can you look at our friendly blind monk above dramatically don his hat, and not know that some serious ass is about to be kicked?

Anyway, in summary? No Need for Bushido: Awesome site, awesome art, awesome story. Awesome comic. End of story.

Is there a name for this brand of repeated-image comics? Cause I can never remember.

I was going to do an extended post about the webcomics, er, anti-drama currently going on, but I think it’s easy enough to just say:

Hey, people getting along.

Awesome.

Regardless of anything else, the first strip remains as well-crafted as they come.

Anyway, on to an actual review. Birdsworth has been going on for a little over a month now, and has been my first true experience with a comic of its genre.

Overall? I’m liking it. I’m a fan of language, and a writing-driven strip works just fine for me, whether it features recycled art or otherwise.

The one thing I am finding interesting / irksome is that the action matches the dialogue on some occasions, but not on others. Which is to say, everth fourth panel Bywren (I just realized how great that name is. Man, I’m slow. Anyway, tangent over.) exits stage left, followed by Shelley a panel later. Sometimes these departures seem perfectly natural – sometimes the departure seems to come just before the actual reason for it – at other times, the characters seem to simply depart mid-conversation.

That said, I have to imagine even getting the flow of action right half the time to be a daunting task, so I can forgive it if the template sometimes takes a backseat to the dialogue.

In any case, this element of the genre struck me as interesting, if only because it is a very rare genre where the action matching the scene is a plus, not a requirement. It only came to mind since Birdsworth normally delivers so smoothly, that when one or two scenes struck me as ‘off’, it stood out all the more.

Final analysis? The strip is staying strong, and I’m having to resist the temptation to dig up similar comics of that field. That’s certainly a winning recommendation in my book.

The more things change…

Storytelling at its finest! Hahaha, vomit is funny!

Ok, in all seriousness, I’ve really been enjoying the Shecky storyline. I like the little guy, and I like seeing his interaction with the rest of the cast and crew – especially Skull.

Sure, the entire thing has been rather predictable – but that doesn’t really detract from how enjoyable it is.

What I didn’t expect was that the storyline would make me realize exactly how much I was a fan of Skull himself. It is something that has been developing more of late (especially since reading the Origin of Skull in the PvP comic book.)

In any case, these story arc seems to be coming to a close, and Kurtz continues to deliver. I, for one, am glad he was willing to stick it out.

"I dreamt of distant places, I dreamt of distant times. I dreamt of butterflies and barren deserts, and my own forgotten crimes."

So last week I used Starslip Crisis as an example of a comic with stellar pacing.

For the last few months, Anywhere But Here had decided to represent the other side of the road – the comics that don’t have a sense of pacing. The ones with interminably long, slow, dragging scenes.

In this specific case, we’ve spent the last several months watching two characters sit in the same place and talk.

And talk.

And talk.

Now, Siebels tells a good story. And I love plot. And characterization. And backstory.

But several months of blank exposition, flashbacks, and talking heads?

Agony.

Now, for most comics, this sort of thing would be a mark against them.

But, see… Siebels recognized what he had done. He came forward, apologized. He didn’t intend it to go like this. But… life happened. (It tends to do that.) And he didn’t have the time, he didn’t have the energy, he didn’t have the life to devote to the strip, so he half-assed it for four long, painful months. He knew it was crap, he knew that we knew it was crap, and he was sorry.

It takes balls to make a confession like that, and he gets mad props for that.

And when I saw that admission, I was happy. I mean, the strip had been dragging, but here was a chance for change, and that’s all I was looking for – it was enough for me to know the strip would be leaving this stretch behind to the bowels of history.

But, see, he didn’t leave it there.

Apparently he decided to make it up to us, as his latest post is a 26 fucking page sequence.

And it isn’t just filler – this is a long, detailed, beautifully organic dream sequence. This is action. This is characterization. This is showing, not telling. This is the man at the top of his craft, and it is incredible.

I’d post a small sample of the strip, but Blogger is being a bit of a bitch. So just… go. Check it out.

Comics change. I can’t count the number of strips I read that no longer bring the same delight they first did. There are many strips that make me wonder why. Why do I still read this? Why do I cling to a vain hope it will return to its former glory?

And sometimes, every once in a distant while, I find an answer.

Five for Friday

Notable things this week, at least in my humble opinion:

Queen of Wands is back! It is still on reruns, but even those are pretty quality reading, especially with the daily commentary.

-All that stuff I posted about My Nemesis? Yeah, I was wrong, Kal’s still a dick. But hey! the strip is still very pretty and has its own fun brand of humor. I’m not entirely sure where he is going with it all, but its fun to read nonetheless. (Now, as to whether this latest development makes the strip more or less deep I’ve not yet decided. Of course, as long as I’m enjoying reading it, it probably doesn’t even matter.)

Some interesting stuff going on over at Girls with Slingshots, and not just because they are at a strip club. Rawr!

-I’ll admit, it was kinda fun seeing Rayne end up in over his head. He’s one of those guys that always seems to come out on top (no pun intended), so having things not end up perfectly for him was perversely satisfying.

-Finally, I just started reading Goblins. It does the gaming parody riff rather well – but it also seems to have a good sense of more serious elements.

Aaaand, that’s all for this week.

A slip in … space… makes pace? Hmm, somewhat lost myself with that little line…

At heart, I read comics because I like stories.

This isn’t to say I don’t read my fair share of gag-a-day strips, or strips that emphasize art over writing.

But the comics I really find at the top of my list, the ones I find myself the most invested in… are the ones with a powerful story.

I’ll confess something – I never read Checkerboard Nightmare.

I tried. I really did, several times. I tried reading from the beginning. I tried starting in at some later storylines. But… it just wasn’t for me.

And that’s fair, I can respect that.

Then he started Starslip Crisis. And I was able to get in on that right from the start, and hey – that worked out well. I found myself reading it consistently, and enjoying it – a random humor strip about an art museum in the far future. A chance for him to poke fun at certain elements without having be blatant about it. I tossed it on my list as some light reading material, and it was fun.

And because I started out with that mindset, I didn’t really notice exactly what was going on in the strip. See, Starslip Crisis has a very good sense of pacing. It was developing a story right under our nose – but it was subtle enough I almost didn’t notice it.

Gilead Pellaeon, however, saw the mechanics for a deeper plot being set into place. He was right – there were a lot of characters being developed in the background. Tensions were rising. We suddenly had rogue time travelers, killer robots and evil overlords in the picture.

And recently Kris Straub has been, how you say, taking things to the next level.

Yesterday we discovered the Starslip Crisis itself. And today… well, today things get a bit more personal.

So. It’s possible that Straub will return to his normal style – tone things back down after the excitement, and them start bringing them up again.

But with every rising storyarc, things only get more intense. And with the way momentum is currently building, I’m having a hard time judging how far this current arc will go.

There is no denying Straub has something awesome going on here – and even more, there is the sense of more awesomeness to come. The fact that the story in the strip took me completely by surprise only impresses me more – and leaves me eager for more.

I can’t wait to see what Straub has planned for the strip next.