Candi (by Starline X Hodge) (which is one of those officially awesome names) is one of my favorite comics out there.
It is yet another one of the ones that suprises me when I realize its been around for several years now, and how much plot has developed over time.
Lately the strip has been at absolutely the top of the game, and the county fair storyline (which it has been building up to for over a year) has left me laughing harder than I have in a long while. But despite all the laughs, I’ve got the sense some more intense moments are about to come to the fore.
It’s easy to overlook the more serious plot in Candi. We’re talking about a comic centered around a relatively care-free college student hanging out amidst your typical college crowd, with the occasional flying, intelligent ferret thrown in for good measure.
Now, college being college, that means that one can expect most conflicts to center around drama dealing with relationship, classes, etc.
The current storyline certainly has some, as all manner of badness is cropping up at the same time. Rebecca, who has started dating Jon, has already shown herself to be a bit jealous of Jon’s friends, and threatened when he isn’t devoting his time to her – so she’s off to the fair to make sure he doesn’t enjoy himself without her.
Meanwhile, we’ve got a slightly less down-to-earth plot, as the students’ faithful telepathic ferret Menjou is confronted by the deadly squirrel mafia, and has no one to turn to for aid.
Yeah, I never imagined I’d be writing a sentence like that either.
So we’ve got some pretty ordinary drama going on, and we’ve got some slightly surreal (and certainly silly) plot unfolding at the same time. So far, not too different than what one would expect from most webcomics.
Of course, we’ve also got the sinister reappearance of Andrew, the mildly creepy brother of Jessica. When he first appeared, recently released from a mental hospital, it was easy to give him the benefit of the doubt – he seemed earnest in seeking a second chance. Of course, it was also easy to see why Jessica wanted nothing to do with him… and that nothing good would come of that.
He may well be in collusion with the squirrels, he may well be running around in a ridiculous get-up – but that doesn’t make it any less scary that Jessica is being stalked by her psychotic and disturbed brother. This is a guy who tried to kill her when they were children. That’s not an entirely light subject, now is it?
And there’s the impressive part, the element that has me really excited about the current storyline in Candi. It’s not just that all these different conflicts are interwoven, from the ordinary to the absurd to the downright frightening – it’s that the strip is able to hold all of them at the same level without losing anything of itself.
Each of the different dramas fits equally well into the strip’s atmosphere without missing a beat. I don’t see that often, and unsurprisingly, it impresses me whenever I do. Candi certainly isn’t an exception.
The Future is Now
A little while back Kris Straud (the webcomic tactician behind Starslip Crisis) started Halfpixel.com, a site devoted to “disposable internet humor.” As far as I can tell, it is designed to give Kris a chance to experiment with spontaneous new comics without having to create a new site for each one – as well as all manner of other humor and thoughts as well.
And hey, that’s cool – it’s something between a webcomic artist’s blog and a new comic itself, and is both handy at peaking into his deranged mind and enjoying some random funny on the side.
But what makes the site really awesome is that you can use it too. Users can submit their own posts, and if he likes them, he puts them up. That’s wicked cool. I imagine there are a lot of funny people on the internet, and quite a few of them are part of the webcomic crowd. And quite a few of those don’t have the time to make their own daily comic – but will be able to produce some real gems on a site like this.
It gets even better, too. One of the funny little strips he came up with on the site is Time Friends. Each strip of Time Friends has the same art as the others, but with the joke and punchlines changed. Very similar to many other fixed-art webcomics out there, though few of those were quite as gag-oriented, and tended to thrive more on their own wordiness. (Which is not to say that is a bad thing.)
But Straub’s little strip was quick and easy. So easy that everyone could pop their own words in, and could make their own Time Friends strips. Heck, they didn’t even need to photoshop the strip (though plenty did), but simply post the four or so phrases the comic would consist of. And when Straub saw these goings on… well, at first he was less then pleased at seeing others honing in on his field. After some thought, however, his generous nature won out, and he not only accepted it, he embraced the idea with the Time Friends Maker.
I haven’t done one of these in a while, so here’s several tidbits of news or observations regarding developments in webcomics this week:
NEWS: Gunnerkrigg Court is moving to three days a week, starting next week. Voted as the Outstanding Newcomer in this year’s Webcartoonist Choice Awards, Gunnerkrigg Court has been living up to its potential, and having even more content from it is nothing but good news.
NEWS: Kismet: Hunter’s Moon has come to a close. When I first joined Girlamatic, this comic was one of the top discoveries that convinced me I made the right choice. Even though I’ve since unsubscribed from Girlamatic (primarily due to the sparsity of new content), I still made sure to follow this strip on it’s own site.
It’s a good strip that goes into unexpected places, and I’m eager to see the short stories that flesh out the backgrounds of the strip’s characters, as well as keep my eyes out for the sequel coming next year. Congratulations to Layla Lawlor on a strip well done.
NEWS: Drama has been at an all-time low in webcomics this year, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there – and another scuffle has broken out in a debate between such long time stars as DJ Coffman, Joey Manley, and William G.
What really struck me about the entire debate was how… well, completely silly it was. I mean, not that I don’t normally find most flame-wars a tad ridiculous, but this one seemed to be entirely insults and misrepresentation for its own sake. When all an argument does is paint every single participant in a bad light… well, far be it from me to be the voice of reason, but I’m wondering when will some of these people realize that arbitrary mockery and debate is tarnishing their own reputation as much as the person they are trying to make look bad?
I just feel bad for Xavier Xerexes, since he had to deal with all the hullabaloo taking place on his site.
NEWS: Speaking, however, tangentially, about William G, he’s posted some preview art for his upcoming storyline (which arrives tomorrow, if I don’t have my wires crossed.) And let me tell you, that has to be the most horrifying thing I’ve seen all day.
RANT: Least I Could Do has been running a serious and intense storyline all week, which has been both heart-wrenching and an insight into Rayne’s character. I was really impressed with it, right up until today, when I wanted to reach into the computer and start punching people. (And, let me assure you, I’m usually a far more peaceful sort.)
Let’s talk about Rayne Summers.
Rayne Summers is an asshole. There’s no two ways about that – it’s basically the premise of the strip. And I’m ok with that – the strip is not only aware of this, but bases a significant majority of it’s humor off of this. Rayne’s a dick. He sleeps with women. He messes with his friends, and occasionally comes to their rescue. He’s shallow and self-centered, but charming enough to thrive despite this.
While I typically have a tendency to hate this sort of character (male Mary Sues who manage to miraculously come into dream jobs and have their way with the world without any real reason for it), Least I Could Do pulls it off well enough for me to stay interested, and even enjoy the strip. I tend to enjoy seeing Rayne get his comeuppance, of course, but I still laugh and read along in the storylines when (as is often the case), he comes out on top. (No pun intended.)
But this latest storyline left me intrigued. Rayne get’s his own little christmas spiritual visituation, in the vein of Scrooge before him. We all know where this starts, and we get to see Rayne in his past. We get to see exactly how Rayne became the asshole we know and love. And that was a great scene – it not only worked, it not only was enjoyable to read, but it genuinely was decent character development.
Next step: the present. Rayne waxes eloquent upon seeing the results of his actions, and professes how he never set out to hurt anyone, just to have a good time. And again… I can buy that. It might ring a little false, given some of his behavior in the past, but I can accept this attitude. And seeing him feeling remorse at his actions… not expected, but again – he pulls it off well. I can buy it.
Today, though, we get to find out that Rayne’s not really responsible, however. Apparently, the only women who he hurt are the ones that brought it on themselves.
Look, as I mentioned earlier, Rayne being an asshole has been core to the strip from the very beginning. He has treated women poorly on many, many occasions. Ok, that’s fine. (Well maybe not fine, but it’s basically acceptable within the context of the strip.)
But going on to then say, “Hey, just kidding, he’s actually not an ass – it’s their fault for sleeping with him and expecting something more out of it?” Once again: Fuck. That.
It’s a shame, because Rayne, as a character who was hurt in the past and chose to become a womanizing asshole, but is now regretting the harm he has caused, is an intriguing character. Rayne, as a character who remains infallible and bereft of the responsibility of his actions, is completely uninteresting. It not only doesn’t help to develop the character, it actively undermines what the last week of strips has been building up.
If all that was happening was losing out on Rayne’s character development, that would be one thing – but this is actively sending a pretty terrible message down the line. Oh, I know what you’re saying – why in the world shouldn’t I expect a strip like LICD to be sexist? Isn’t it sexist all the time?
Well no, it’s not. Characters in it are, sure. But you can tell when Rayne’s being a dick, that’s because he’s a dick. There is a difference between that and the strip itself saying, “Hey, it’s ok for a guy to be an ass, he’s only going to hurt girls who are asking for it.”
Maybe I’m reading things wrong. The storyline isn’t over, and we still have (assuming things stay true to form) Rayne’s future to look in on. But seeing the morale of the story – even if only for a single day – be that the only women Rayne hurt were the ones who brought it on themselves? After seeing countless examples throughout the strip where that just isn’t true?
Once more with fervor:
NEWS: Finally, since I’d rather not end things on a bad note, especially so close to the holidays… go check out the news over at Penny Arcade today. In addition to some very nice discussion on everyone’s favorite Cardboard Tube Samurai, it looks like Child’s Play will be going the distance and breaking the one million mark this year.
Go ahead, spend a few minutes grinning about that figure. I know I did. Anyway, I’ll be back next Wednesday – till then, enjoy the holidays!
Happy Birthday, Something Positive.
In the Comixpedia End of 2006 Roundtable, Something Positive’s Death of Faye storyline was mentioned as one of the top webcomic storylines this past year.Mike had a kid.
Jason and Aubrey got married.
And we saw the Fall of Kharisma which I discussed on a handful of occasions.
All those things right there – that’s enough to make a good year. That’s a ton of change. That’s a ton of development – some development’s more meaningful than others.
But Randy, apparently, isn’t so easily satisfied.
He traditionally ends each year of Something Positive with a significant moment. The first three years ended with darkness and depression. Year four ended with a ray of hope.
Year five is ending with a very intense moment, yes – but it isn’t like all the other endings. It’s not actually outright good or bad. Once you get past the sheer shock of it, ask yourself – what exactly does this mean for Davan?
Remember, we’re talking about Davan, who has been drifting through life since the strip began. He has gone from one relationship to another, most ending badly – and even the ones that didn’t end badly still ended. His latest relationship has been casual sex with Kim (which seems pretty clearly to be nothing more than that). He is moving back home to Texas out of a sense of familial obligation.
More than that – he now has had a kid for the past three years, one that has been growing up without him. That’s a bit to take in, yeah? I’m sure Donna had her reasons (whether good ones or not), and I’m sure that Davan is likely to not hold the lapse against her – and feel that sense of familial obligation weighing down on him once again.
Still, speculation about Donna’s situation and how much Davan will interact in his son’s life… well, we’ll see where that goes. I’m not going to hazard too many guesses without knowing enough about Donna (though it seems likely she will need Davan’s help, though seems unlikely to demand – or possibly even ask – for it.)
But you know who this really leaves me wondering about?
A year ago, PeeJee was alone and filled with despair. We’ve all been there – though she was lucky enough to have a friend to show up and remind her that she was loved.
A year later, and she’s alone again.
Well, not alone. She’s got Choo-Choo Bear. She’s not confined to a hospital, and has friends she can visit nearby.
But she doesn’t have Davan.
Does she love Davan? Well, duh – they’ve been friends for years. The two of them, and Aubrey, are bound by ties as close as they get.
But does she love Davan?
That’s a hard question. He’s been there for her through thick and thin, more than any other. He moved to Boston for her sake, and now she’s moving back to Texas for him.
And look at how many of their friends have paired off or left the picture in the last few years… Aubrey and Jason, Monette… even Mike has found a family.
Family. Back to that word again. A general perusal of S*P would indicate that Davan would probably be the last man to want kids, to have to deal with children, to be a ‘father figure.’
But… Davan’s a decent guy, at heart. Angry, bitter, and fed up with the stupidity of the world? Sure, more often than not. But you can’t forget that he was raised by the best. You think that with the example of his parents, there’s even the slightest chance that Davan wouldn’t make a good father?
Now he has a son… and we still haven’t determined just how fully PeeJee cares for him. Her own family… oh, it’s a good one, but while Davan’s family in many ways was a haven against the bitterness the world instilled in him, her own presented it’s own share of turmoil. And let’s not forget that her track record with relationships seems even worse than Davan’s. He at least had Branwen. I don’t know if PeeJee’s ever had someone get truly close to her.
Except for Aubrey, who has now gotten married.
And except for Davan, who is off in Texas, and suddenly has a son.
Regardless of how she loves him or not, PeeJee suddenly is very much in danger of being alone. Well and truly alone. She isn’t at her darkest moment, like she was a year ago. She is simply sitting there, in the middle of her life… and she’s still alone.
You know how earlier I said that the ending of Year Five of S*P was different from the others, because it wasn’t actually outright good or bad, just momentous? Yeah, not quite true.
I’ve got the sneaking suspicion it will be good for some people… and potentially very bad for certain others. We’ll find out next year.
I know that I’ll be watching.
On Bats and Bones and Many Things
I had meant to comment yesterday on the appearance of a familiar face in Scary Go Round, but… well, let’s just say that dodging falling meteorites would have been a less harrowing ordeal than some of the chaos that ambushed me.
But aside from assuring us that the inimitable Rich Tweedy hadn’t simply just ceased to exist, we only had a moment’s glimpse at the blast from the past – and today we’re dealing with far more urgent affairs.
Still, as interesting as the current storyline is (the return of the inimitable Ryan Beckwith! Troubled times for Tim and Riley! Friend Bat is dead; long live Comrade Bat!), that glance back at the days of Bobbins did bring out a certain nostalgia.
Scary Go Round is one of several comics that I still think of as new, solely because I was around when they began. Of course, by now, it’s actually been around for four years, and almost as large as it’s predecessor. It is also sometimes hard to keep track of time in Mr. John Allison’s works due to the very structure of them, and the fact that he bounces from one set of characters to the next with abandon.
Scary Go Round represents a number of curious contradictions in my eyes. Allison doesn’t really like jokes, persay – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny. Humorous dialogue and scenes are as fundamental to the strip as anything else, and Allison shows that his comic can make you laugh at every panel without worrying about setting up punchlines.
Similarly, the plot tends to lack a central focus, and instead have any number of ongoing threads that it jumps to and from at any given time. When the strip started, the focus was a bit tighter than it had been with Bobbins. But over time it’s return to a similar style, and while a more polished work in general, it still seems to move from scene to scene at it’s creator’s whimsy.
Which isn’t a bad thing, mind you. Whimsy is what makes Scary Go Round… er, go round. Allison has never feared change in his comic. He often experiments with new art styles, ditches some characters and focuses on others, and occasionally even kills characters off… even if they equally occasionally come back. And despite the fact he doesn’t simply stick to a single tried and true formula, he’s one of the fortunate few making a living from his comic.
That certainly says a lot to me.
Addendum: Check out Saturday’s post, now that I’ve gotten around to realizing I only posted half of it.
Two Funny Guys
Today is the last day of Bikini Suicide Frisbee Days.It is strange to mourn it’s passing, for it isn’t the end of a webcomic, merely the end of guest filler in a webcomic. Of course, most guest strips are brief things, not weekly reoccurences – nor of they as supremely well done as BSFD.
Clay Yount, one of the geniuses behind Rob and Elliot, was able to perfectly capture the essence of classic Sluggy Freelance. Doing that in a single guest strip is hard – doing it week after week takes skill.
It helps that it isn’t too great a leap from the friendship and wackiness of Rob and Elliot to that of Torg and Riff – but at the same time, he managed to use the similarities without just writing a Rob and Elliot comic with a few names changed.
The previous guest-strip maker on Sluggy Freelance gave us Meanwhile, In the Dimension of Pain… which, let’s face it, just didn’t work. I have nothing against McDonald, but he just had a different brand of humor, and a different style of art, that just couldn’t quite do the job. It is nothing I would hold against him – after all, I don’t expect perfection from most guest strips I see – but it meant I skipped every Saturday strip as hastily as I could.
But Bikini Suicide Frisbee Days? They didn’t just work, they worked well. And at times, I even found myself as eager – if not more – for them as for some of the currently running Sluggy storylines.
Lately Sluggy has had my interest again, but I’ll be honest – I like seeing Torg and Riff around again, but just seeing them wandering around acting like the idiots they were in the good old days just doesn’t work. They’ve been through too much (Torg especially), and while I understand that they themselves want nothing more than to go back to being carefree and silly… it still rings a little false. It doesn’t drive me away from the strip, mind you – but it doesn’t do much for me, either.
We’re waiting for the more momentous events, these days. I know that Pete wants to preserve the humor that the strip was founded on, rather than just run with the more serious storylines it has built up to… but it is already past that stage. Does this mean the comic should abandon humor entirely? No way, certainly not!
But it needs to place the humor within the current setting it has grown into. Bikini Suicide Frisbee Days work because they were outside of continuity, set in the past, set in that atmosphere that really was just about random amusement.
The Bikini Suicide Frisbee days are long past in the main storyline, however – and now they’ve come to a close for a second time.
It is no small act that Clay Yount has managed to create a series of guest strips of such quality that people are sad to see it go. Rob and Elliot is slowing it’s weekly activity as well, due to the coming of Cosmobear.
Which I currently no nothing about, but let’s face it – it’s likely to be just as good as the rest of their works, and I’m sure I’ll be there in two weeks to take in the laughs when it is released.
All the pieces fall into place…
I read this week’s Perry Bible Fellowship, and somehow forgot which comic I was reading. I managed to finish the strip, thinking, “Aw, gee, this week’s PBF was actually nice and happy, with the kid using his gaming skillz to clean his room in a new and innovative way and OH MY GOD.”
Maybe it’s a sign of my boundless optimism that I didn’t immediately notice that this week’s strip was just as horribly evil as the rest of them. Maybe it’s just due to the wooziness from all the strange chemicals they dripped into my eyes during my eye exam earlier today. The world may never know!
No more to report today, but tune in tomorrow for a special Saturday post!
Topics of Merit
I found myself hunting around on the website of Ryan Estrada (artist and adventurer!) Wandering through his site is always a pleasant experience, even if not a fruitful one – it is easy to get sidetracked from one’s original goals, and end up reading through any manner of assorted oddities.
My goal in venturing to the site was to discover when Ryan Estrada (artist and adventurer!) planned to continue the great work that is Aki Alliance. My search, sadly, ended in failure, but I will hold out hope that it shall return when we least expect it, bringing with it salvation and hope….or something along those lines.
Anyway! As usual, despite a lack of success in what I was actually looking for, I did manage to find two things of note. The first was Ped X-ing, his 168 hr comic (yes, he’s aware that he’s stark raving mad.) Aside from the fact that it was, as mentioned, a 168 hr comic, it also stars Aki, of the self-same comic mentioned above. And some other interesting characters, too.
But the real treasure was Gamer’s Edge, World Reknowned Comic Strip of the Future, as produced by Ryan Estrada (artist and adventurer!) You see, there is this website called Acts of Gord. Acts of Gord is a collection of stories about a man named Gord who runs a gaming store, and the myriad and sundry acts of stupidity he must face on a daily basis, and his righteous humiliation of his most incompetent customers/rivals/foes.It’s a genius little gem of a site, and sure to bring many hours of amusement if you haven’t read it before. It’s been around for ages, and though finite (as Gord’s gamestore days came to an end), it is a long honored site in the stockpile of any true devotee of the internet. So to summarize: Act’s of Gord = awesome.
Gamer’s Edge is a comic based on it.
How cool is that?
(Answer: It’s pretty damn cool.)
The comic rendition is a tad more action-packed, but as mentioned above – it’s pretty damn cool. And really, anything done by Ryan Estrada (artist and adventurer!) is destined to be a quality read. So go, check it out, and hope nothing else on his site draws you in for another hour… or three.
Addendum: In other news, while shopping for holiday presents today, I spotted a copy of American Born Chinese in the local bookstore, and treated myself to it. It really does feel good whenever I see this material out in the open for the rest of the world to take a look at, and maybe take a chance on.
Additional Addendum: This is post number 200 of this here blog! It may not be much, but it still feels nice. You may have noticed the new look of the site, which I picked up when converting to the new version of Blogger now controlled by the powerful entity that is Google. I’m not entirely happy with it, but I think we can all agree it is much better than the horror that was the last site layout, yes?
Alternate Additional Addendum: Fleen has hit an even bigger landmark, and turns one year old on this very day! They’ve had some brilliant articles and some silly ones, but Fleen has definitely made itself a place in the wide world of webcomics, and all the more props to them for that. Regardless of the reviews themselves, what makes Fleen great (at least in my mind) is it’s presence as the most prominent news source on webcomics. They’ve done some solid stuff, and they certainly seem to be here to stay, so drop on by and say a few good words.
Something Wicked this Way Comes
R.K. Milholland likes to append a message at the bottom of every comic he posts. Sometimes these are in-jokes, sometimes they are random quotes, sometimes they are a commentary on the comic itself.One such comment, placed at a turning-point in the most recent storyline, was as follows:
“‘You’re supposed to redeem Kharisma.’ Funny. I don’t remember making that promise.”
It seems self-explanatory from the quote that there were quite a few people who expected Kharisma to overcome her own inherently hateful nature. The seeds were there, sure – Something Positive is about people, and no one person is no more than an icon of evil or hate.
(Well, not entirely true – many side characters, from e-bay scammers to perverse gamers, are presented as two-dimensional objects to be mocked and pitied and hated. But all the recurring characters in S*P have at least some measure of depth.)
I’ve touched on this topic before, when Kharisma’s fate was still up in the air. Would she end up like Mike, and find some measure of acceptance… and personal redemption? Or another Eva, whose view of the world would only grow darker as it fed upon itself?
I use Eva as an example here, but it is an imperfect one. We saw Mike’s redemption and development throughout the first years of the strip. Eva’s downfall happened in pieces here and there, often off-screen. She was more scenery than character, and while her flaws certainly grew and grew, it was more as an obstacle in Davan’s life, not as fully a story all her own.
So I suppose I can understand why some people expected Kharisma to find her better side. Randy invested time in her. She’s shown up more and more the last few years – and even had quite a few storylines focusing around her. Like Mike she was an outcast, slowly becoming more and more attached to the main cast.
And for a time, she actually was a sympathetic figure. While working alongside Davan in his hellish job… well, let’s say she was the lesser evil in those environs. And when she left… well, those were the moments when she seemed to genuinely have the capacity to interact with the rest of the cast on an equal level. And when she even seemed to have a heart.And then she embarked on the path to becoming a homicidal murderess.
Kharisma is the counterpart to Mike. Eva wasn’t – Eva started off good, and then her duplicity was revealed. That’s a different story entirely – and one that, for the most part, happened out of sight.
We’ve watched Kharisma. Like with Mike, we saw her fail at being a human being from the very start, but she stayed in sight despite it. And we saw that the possibility for redemption was there.
But it was never promised. It was never guaranteed.
And in the end, she fell, and she fell hard.
I’m not surprised, and I’m not disappointed. I liked Mike’s path to humanity, but if every character was destined to overcome their petty flaws? Then doing so would be absolutely meaningless.
Would I have enjoyed a storyline where Kharisma did manage to overcome her failings? Probably. But this is the story Milholland is telling… and he’s telling it damn well.
This ain’t your momma’s fairy tale…
I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about Erfworld.
It’s a brand new webcomic. It just began last week, with a hefty start in the form of six full pages, each one a pretty impressive production. It came out the gates running, and even had a cast page all ready to go. That’s a damn good start – though it isn’t what caught my attention.
The comic is written by Robert Balder, the brilliant (and occasionally evil) mind behind Partially Clips.
The comic is illustrated by Jamie Noguchi, the enlightened artist responsible for Angry Zen Master.
The comic is hosted at Rich Burlew’s website, Giant in the Playground, most well known as the home of the Order of the Stick.
That’s a pretty impressive bunch of names. That’s a lot of individuals whose work already impresses me, and whose creative opinions I’ll put a lot of faith in. So right off the bat, I’m inclined to expect good things from Erfworld – and right off the bat, it doesn’t disappoint.
The comic takes a graphic novel style format, and seems to be unfolding a lengthy and elaborate story – but despite this, is filled with humor and just plain silliness. As soon as one sees the curiously familiar titans forging the world, it becomes obvious this isn’t just another epic fantasy.
It seems too soon to say much more. But the writing is sharp, the art is gorgeous, and the story is already intriguing. With less than a week under it’s belt, it’s hard to do better than that.