Monthly Archives: June, 2007

A Micropayment by any other name…

I saw this article over at ComixTalk today, as well as its predecessor, both revolving around the continual struggle to make micropayments work.

Now, the battle to make micropayments successful was pretty much lost before it began, and even the most dedicated proponents finally set it aside. But that was, really, only the original conception of micropayments itself – Joel Fagin wants to look at new and improved ways to try and make money for webcartoonists.

His main proposal is the sale of downloadable high quality collections of comics – paying a small bit of money so that you have a permanent electronic collection of the strip, allowing you to avoid internet load times when reading from comic to comic, and though these strips would be the same as the ones available online, you would benefit from much higher quality, no ads, easy browsing – lots of little advantages designed to make it worth the $2-$3 price tag.

Now, the articles themselves are very well-written, and analyze some interesting ideas. The proposal of the downloadable comic archives is… well, not a terrible idea. At the core, there is something solid there. I don’t think it is something the majority of readers will care about, as Joel seems to believe – but there could definitely be enough to make a production of it.

At the moment, the biggest weakness I see (outside of the market for it being much smaller than imagined) is that there really isn’t any software capable of fully presenting such material – not in the way they want. CBR is the format they are using, and it is certainly serviceable – but the entire idea is to boost the experience well beyond reading it online. CBR gets the job done, but that’s pretty much it. If there was a really dynamic bit of software out there that could truly enhance the reading experience, then I’d start seeing it as worth-while. As it is… it isn’t quite there.

But it did get me thinking on Joyce and Walky, which I realized is both a successful micropayment and subscription system – and just about the only one out there in webcomics. The deal – $2 gets you access to a month of strips (updated on Tues and Thurs). The strips continue the adventures of Joyce and Walky (a-duh), and unlike the free strip he updates each weekend, they have their share of the classic drama for which he is reknowned. They are good stuff, primarily designed for the more dedicated fans – and despite costing around 25 cents a strip, people are willing to pay the price.

The advantage of them is that, once paid, you have indefinite access to the month of strips you’ve purchased. Unlike with ModernTales, where you are cut off from the archives when your subscription ends, you are effectively purchasing lifetime access to the month you buy. The downside – especially now that this has been running for almost two years – is that anyone who wants to catch up on the plot has to purchase pretty much every single month they’ve missed out on.

But still – it works. It’s been working since August, 2005.

Now, I don’t know the numbers on it. I don’t know how many subscribers Willis actually has. But it seems to be enough to make it worth continuing – and seems to be proof that somewhere, somehow, something resembling micropayments can actually work.

We don’t need to call it micropayments, of course – but it is darn near the closest thing out there, and the only thing I’ve heard of that is remotely successful.

So… what makes it so?

Well, Willis had a built-in audience when he started it up – It’s Walky ran for years and ended up with a decent sized following. More importantly, I would estimate it had a much larger percentage of truly devoted readers, likely due to the intricate nature of the story. When it ended, readers proved willing to pay for more content – so Willis was able to start the subscription system without walking into it completely blind.

The Walkyverse is, at heart, one that focuses on elaborate characterization and plot development. So unlike a daily gag strip – though it has those too – it brings with it a lot of motivation for audience members to keep reading. And once they get into the habit of buying their monthly subscription, it is awfully easy to keep going.

Willis is also a webcomic powerhouse. He’s able to crank out content at an unbelievable rate – such that he can offer free content in the form of three to five Shortpacked strips every week, plus a weekly Shortpacked!@TNI and Saturday Joyce and Walky strips, in addition to the two strips a week for subscribers. He’s able to retain a presence with those who aren’t subscribers, and that in turn lets him potentially attract new readers. Very few webcomic artists could produce that much material without getting burnt out – that’s probably why few have tried it, since in order to move to subscription strips, most would have to halt their primary work in the meantime.

Willis managed to make it work. Not everyone could do so, of course, and it is only part of the income Willis gets from his comics – he’s also got plenty of advertisements, merchandise, and the occasional limited prints.

But still. This is a demonstration that it is possible to sell webcomics directly.

It might be in a limited form, it might require a very specific set-up and set of circumstances to make happen – but I suspect there are more than a few out there that would be able to pull it off. I don’t know if they should, of course – but I also don’t think the discussion over micropayments is quite as dead as some people think.

Joyce and Walky is proof of that.

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Practicality

I recieved my copy of Start of Darkness yesterday, along with the rest of the OotS books, and it is just as good as I was expecting it to be. It arrived a little weathered from the journey, unfortunately – just enough dinged and dented to be frustrating, but not enough so that I would feel justified in doing anything about it.

But as for the content within the book, I have no complaints. It serves as a good example of the changing state of Order of the Stick – while the first prequel book was from the days when humor held a stronger presence than plot, Start of Darkness stands as a very clear example of the primary focus on story. The jokes are still there, of course – but they take a back seat to character developments and plot twists.

Art, of course, comes in a distant third between plot and humor, but is nonetheless an undeniable aspect of the comic. I’m sure most everyone has heard about Josh Lesnick’s artistic critiques by now, but it is a post worth reading – though in this case, his discussion on OotS was one of the few areas where I disagreed with his analysis.

Now, I’m not going to argue that OotS is the subtle work of a master artist. I like the look of the strip, yes, but is by no means an artistic triumph.

What it is, however, is profoundly functional.

Josh L’s argument is that Rich should spend “the time he saves to really go broke on the expressiveness and body language of the characters,” but as much as I enjoy Girly – and I do – it’s own brand of chaos wouldn’t have any place in OotS. One of the comments in Josh’s critique – and one I was disappointed in how easily he blew it off – argued that Rich uses his time “on elaborate sets and subtlety in expression” – but I don’t think that is necessarily true either.

The expressions are generally appropriate to the moment, but they are usually not subtle. Backgrounds are fleshed out, but they are not elaborate.

What Order of the Stick does have is twelve-panel strips detailing entire action sequences, fully colored and with backgrounds and props – however simple – always present.

One of the things that has amazed people is the sheer amount of happenings in OotS. I would argue at least part of that is due to the art. It is practical – it allows for an easily identifiable cast and the ability to pack a ton of action into every page. It is simple, sure. I am confident there is room for improvement within that style, at least from an artistic perspective. But functionality is not something that should be so easily dismissed.

Too much expression can be cripple the personality just as much as too little. That's not a character - that's a muscle spasm.I read too many comics that are fantastically good strips, but are immensely hard to follow. Not just from day to day due to complicated plots or dialogues, but often within the strips themselves. Templar, Az, as I mentioned the other week. Girly itself, which is wild and unrestrained – but as Foibos very succinctly described it, is approaching the webcomic equivalent to WRITING IN ALL CAPS. Even Penny and Aggie occasionally loses me in exaggerated expressions and sudden panel transitions.

These are all comics that are right near the top of my daily update list. They are some of the best strips out there, both in general and artisticly speaking. And they are perfectly free to draw their comics however they desire, regardless of what it means for me.

But as a reader, I have learned to appreciate accessibility.

I’m not saying that OotS is artisticly better than any of the above comics – it isn’t. But analyzing it without paying heed to the benefits of its functionality is doing it a disservice, and one I wanted to comment on.

The Best of Drunk Duck: Culture Shock

A knight from the fourteenth century and a japanese ninja arrive in the big city and end up working together for a computer hacking gangster crimelord.

Hilarity ensues.

Culture Shock is really just a comic that is just good clean fun. There really isn’t much than that I can say!

The art is bright and clean and nicely shaded. The characters – who range from the trio mentioned above to well-meaning cops and innocent elven mages – are not incredibly deep individuals, but this doesn’t stop them from being all remarkably likeable. And as much as each might be built from a very simple idea, they each have moments where something more shines through.

Also: Most awesome cast page I’ve ever seen.

Sometimes you don’t need complicated plots or earth-shattering drama to make a good comic. Producing something nice to look at, with a sense of style and a likeable cast, can be all it takes to win an audience over.

There aren’t any superheroes in this comic. But in a day and age when Marvel and DC are busy killing, raping and maiming characters in every blockbuster event, just to get some attention, coming across a comic that remembers what it’s like to just tell a fun story… well, it’s a breath of fresh air.

It’s what comics is really all about.

Two Good Moments

Every once in a while a comic will deliver a strip that really takes the bar to the next level. Now, this isn’t to say that these comics are delivering weak content the rest of the time – far from it! But with most gag strips, the day to day laughs tend to fall into a nice, comfortable pattern.  There is nothing wrong with this, after all. We enjoy the familiar. A strip that regularly brings a smile is enough to stay on our radar – we don’t need every update to knock us out of our seats, whether in laughter or in tears.

But this makes it all the more rewarding when a strip really manages to nail it. To capture a scene that not only uses their common style of humor, but practically defines it.

I’ve seen two really good moments in webcomics this week. The reason I know that they are good is that I can’t get them out of my head – my mind keeps drifting back to the images they left in the back of my mind and chuckling. Given how easily my mind normally tends to leak information, that tells me quite a bit about how good a job these guys did.

Well that went downhill quickly.

There are more things than I can count that really make this scene work so well for me. How happy the genie seems to be as he cluelessly carries out his owner’s desires. His wild little hand gestures as he works his magic. Or simply the speed from which the normally unflappable Charlotte (the drow making the wishes) descends into utter panic, and how well the expressions capture that transition.

The concept itself is nothing new – poorly worded wishes that backfire on the wisher is practically a staple of the genre. But that’s the thing – I was expecting this to turn out poorly, but I didn’t see remotely how fast it would go downhill. Look at panel one, wherein Charlotte is cool, confident and collected – and totally in control of the situation. Within a handful of panels she hasn’t just lost control, but has degenerated into crazed, hysterical screaming, while the genie with the omnipotent powers doesn’t bat an eye at what he’s done, or the reaction it’s provoked.

Managing to take a concept that has been seen countless times before, and not only make it new and funny, but make it perfectly capture the core of the idea – yeah, that’s pretty good stuff.

The genie himself is a new addition to Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, but seems a perfect fit. Once again, it seems an easy win to have a character where Rich can go for broke on lively, cartoony expressions.

Meanwhile, if the above strip perfectly captured the concept of the monkey’s paw, a recent strip from Dr. McNinja perfectly epitomizes the fun and zaniness that drives the comic.

First off, we have the quote. This is an eminently quotable comic, and what that means to me, is that it is a comic I can appreciate with my friends. I can walk up to them and say, “I don’t much care for your tone, Mr. Clone of Benjamin Franklin” – and instantly, they get the reference, recall the scene, and can share a quick laugh. Here we have a similar moment, so immediately I have a phrase that will be stuck in my mind for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, we have the standard heights of absurdity that Dr. McNinja has risen to. Out of context, this is more than bizarre – it is outright surreal. For readers of the strip, we know why the boy has a mustache, why he is talking to an ape, and why there is a zombie dressed as a ninja – but to the uninitiated, it would seem almost like random images tossed together. Even for the enlightened reader, the introduction of the uncola is essentially inexplicable – and yet, the page flows smoothly, the story rolls on, and we move through the strange moment without the slightest hesitation.

This, then, is Dr. McNinja’s strength. It does not so much revolve around punchlines as much as it throws the entire world off-kilter, letting loose a realm where positively anything can happen. It feels like walking through a dream, and putting together all these moments of absurdity almost physically compels the reader to laugh.

What’s the capital of Poland?

Just a note that Krakow is extended the pre-orders of the strip’s first book until tomorrow night at midnight – and since the pre-orders will be the only copies printed, that makes this an opportune time to order.

Krakow is a fun comic that started off centered around two roommates and the usual wacky hijinks – and then became more and more focused on the girlfriend of one of the aforementioned roommates, and her family. Who all happen to be demons in Hell.

It is light-hearted fare that manages to still have solid characterization and clever storylines. Pretty much the perfect match for printing as a nice little webcomic book… aside from the price tag. At $24.95, it isn’t unaffordable, but still pricy enough to give a moment’s pause. The price isn’t without merit – even aside from my confidence that the material inside will be enjoyable, the book is 128 pages in full color. But it still seems like a lot, and I suspect it is the main reason pre-orders have been lackluster.

I’m hoping it still does well – and that if it doesn’t, the artist isn’t discouraged. This comic has a lot going for it, and I even prefer it over their other webcomic, Marilith, which might be a more professional strip – but doesn’t quite have the same amount of heart going for it.

Which isn’t the sole element of a successful strip, in the end – but it will always be something I’m glad to see.

My Favorite Comics Where I Don’t Actually Know What’s Going On: The Templar, Arizona Edition!

I laughed at Ben's pain and confusion, and for this, I have been punished.I really, really like Templar, Arizona. Of this, I am pretty sure.

It’s hard to be certain, though. The art is wonderfully dynamic, I don’t think anyone can deny that. The setting seems wild and alive and full of surprises. The story… well, I’m not sure if we’ve really gotten to one yet, but hey – walking around, seeing characters interact, that’s all well and good!

I just wish I knew who these people were.

Ok. This might be a bit of an exaggeration. Of the characters in the current scene, I certainly recognize Ben, the main protagonist of the strip. Reagan and Scipio – we’ve seen them a bunch, so hey, no problem.

We’ve got the members of Borndown, a band. I know this, cause they told me, for which I am grateful. One of them, Gene, we met early on – I remember that much, at least. And then we’ve got someone named Curio, and her friend, who does Freeform Naturalist Eurythmy, and who I guess we are supposed to recognize from earlier?

And I think there were some people playing ice hockey, or something, only now they are gone and everyone is just hanging around and talking and why is there a dog in that man’s armpit???

So I’m lost. Which is pretty much par for the course with this strip – it is basically all about this slightly skewed vision of a world similar, but not quite like ours, and the people that live in it. And that’s cool, and I like it, and the characters are really awesome and individual and unique… only I’m getting sensory overload.

I mean, this comic has, hands-down, some of the most absolutely brilliant character design out there. Every single person looks distinct visually – and the art and writing is able to convey a similarly distinct personality in a handful of pages. I like Ben, who we’ve gotten a chance to know, and I like these crazy members of Gene’s band, who we’ve only just had thrown at us.

But it feels like it is spiraling out of control. I know some comics suffer from the artist forgetting that the audience doesn’t have access to all the knowledge they have, but I suspect that isn’t the reason here. My guess is that it is intentional – much like Ben himself, we’ve been thrown into this strange place with these strange people and we have to make sense of it on the go. Which, at heart, can work, confusion can be good and fun – up to a limit. It just feels like it’s going overboard, when there is barely room in a panel for half the characters present, when characters pop from one location to the next without any sign or reason, when the scene is simply descending from agreeable chaos into raw white noise, and…

Well. You know. It’s a shame.

I’m not going to say the comic needs to change, because it may well be my own flaws that are leaving me bewildered. I suspect if I went back and read through the archives at least one in three of my questions would find an answer. But I really wish the discord was turned back just a notch, just the tiniest sliver… because I shoudn’t have to do research to understand every update. I shouldn’t need to make a diagram just to track what’s going on.

And I could just stop reading, sure – but I don’t want to. Because this is a fantastic comic with fantastic characters, and I’d really hate to be unable to interpret it as nothing more than random pictures and sound.

On Criticism

There has been some discussion, recently, on the role and value of webcomics criticism, and it has me thinking about the posts I write here – both their nature and their purpose, and how they relate to the field itself.

First, a brief summation on what I percieve as the ongoing debate over webcomic discussion. On one side, there are those who are frustrated by seeing the majority of “reviews” consisting of butterflies and sunshine – endless praise that sounds nice and swell, but doesn’t actually accomplish anything, other than to make the reviewer feel good about the nice words they’ve written. Beyond that, many webcomics have enough devoted followers that offering honest criticism is an invitation to be assaulted by thousands of rabid fans, and that scares people from writing what they feel.

On the other hand, there are those who see the countless diatribes about the flaws of webcomics in general, repeating the same vague points over and over, and focusing on how terrible webcomics are – rather than what can be done to improve them. More than this, so many of these pieces fail to look at specific webcomics, and pinpoint the areas of weakness, and explain why that weakness exists.

So. Both these opinions are extremely valid ones, and while I personally agree with elements of both sides, neither side really seems open to dialogue with the other. My own posts break down into five real categories, and each one is pretty different from the rest.

I admit it – I tend to write exuberant reviews. I do so often, and without remorse – when I like a comic, why shouldn’t I talk about how good it is? The series of posts I’ve been running lately on the Best of Comic Genesis and Drunk Duck falls into this category – but it is important to realize the purpose for which they are being written. I’m not writing them to discuss the flaws of a comic, but its strengths. Yes, I will tend to mention the elements that need improvement, but that isn’t the focus of the piece.

Because the piece is being written for webcomic readers, not creators. The point of the reviews is to say: “Hey, here is a cool comic I’m reading, why don’t you read it too?” And sure, not every comic is for everyone, but there are enough good ones out there that I can easily find one or two good news ones a week. So I’m spreading the word on quality comics – usually ones that deserve a bit more exposure, for the theoretical benefit of both artist and audience. Yes, they aren’t filled with criticism, but they aren’t meant to be. So that is category one – recommendations. The goal? Simple reviews of good comics, shared with those looking for enjoyable strips to read. Who is it written for? Webcomic readers.

On the other hand, I do occasionally do proper critiques. It doesn’t occur nearly as often as basic reviews – but when I see something that merits mention, I’m going to say what I think. As long as I feel it isn’t going to simply be a waste of time.

See, when I write criticism, it is something primarily aimed at webcomic creators. Let’s take a hypothetical example – say I notice that Spamusement has an unhealthy obsession with pterodactyls. This, clearly, is a travesty. The comic would be perfect, if only it had less winged dinosaurs! I can go run and scream this to the masses – but what’s the point? It won’t accomplish anything, unless I feel that Mr. Spamusement is going to notice the clamor and take my anti-dactyl ways to heart.

I can criticize for its own sake, and point out what I might think to be the worst comic in the world – but that’s honestly just called drama. It isn’t productive. It won’t make people thoughtful, it will just make them angry. So I tend to criticize the comics I like – ones I find to be good comics with a few specific flaws. I want my criticism to make the artists think. Sure, maybe serve as an example of what not to do to other webcomickers – but the main goal, at its focus, is to try and get the creator of the comic to look at what they’ve done, and ask themselves if it could be improved. So, category two – critiques. The goal? Earnest discussion of a comic’s flaws, and what can be done to fix them. Who is it written for? Webcomic creators.

The third category is probably the one where I am most guilty of shameless flattery, and I readily admit is an indulgence on my part – when something totally awesome or intense happens in a well-read comic, and I’ve just got to sit down and comment on it. I’m sure everyone knows what it’s like – a major plot twist is revealed, or the hero defeats a bad guy in a moment of supreme badassitude, or something simple and heartbreaking is captured in a single picture. And you have to talk about it.

So I do. These are often among the most popular webcomics out there, so they don’t get anything out of me talking about the how and why of their awesome moment – but I feel the need to recognize them, nonetheless. They should get praise, and applause, and biscuits. Not because they need them, but simply because they deserve them.

And because, hey, I like talking about the exciting moments. Sure, you can call it rampant fanboyism – but if a scene resonates with me, I’m going to discuss it. If something really makes me think, I’m going to talk about why. Category three – reactions. The goal? To recognize moments of true quality, and analyze my own response to such scenes. Who is it written for? Myself.

The fourth type of post is what you see before you – discussion of webcomics in a more general sense. Thoughts and ramblings on more abstract topics such as criticism, website design, crossovers, etc. Basically – a look at the bigger picture. These tend to be few and far between, if only because it is difficult to compare the many diverse elements of webcomics – but at the same time, I tend to think of these as the important posts. Noticing trends, talking about what elements work and what doesn’t – this is useful information I am trying to share.

I’m not always right about these ideas, either – but they are topics worth discussing, and if I can get other people discussing them as well, that’s success right there. Category four – discussion. The goal? To try and analyze and understand more general aspects of webcomics. Who is it written for? Everyone involved in webcomics.

And the final category isn’t really of much relevance to this topic – news posts. These are often about strips starting, ending, restarting, returning from hiatus, going on hiatus, or simply hitting important landmarks – not always vital information, but worth sharing. After all, if I always find out a comic has returned six months late, I have to imagine everyone else is out of the loop of one thing or another, and anything I can do to fix that is worth it. Sometimes I might mention something of real consequence, though those are far from common. Category five – news. The goal? To share information that is worth sharing. Who is it written for? Anyone that needs to hear the news.

The above covers pretty much every post on this site related to webcomics (which is most of them.) Why did I write it? Largely because I wanted to help people understand what is going on in my mind when working on different kinds of reviews – and more than that, to try and deal with the fact that there are different types of reviews. Some lend themselves towards flattery, others towards criticism. There are different goals for different posts, and there is a place for all of them.

Yes, there is a place for praise, for the comics that deserve it. Yes, there is a time when one should point out the things that need fixing. And people need to accept both those types of reviews, as well as accept that they are both out there – and that both those voices need to be heard.

The Best of Drunk Duck: Hero by Night

I was never the biggest fan of Yirmumah. This was in part because DJ was at the height of his trouble-making days, and actively causing grief high and low across the internet – but it was also ’cause I didn’t really like the comic. It just wasn’t my type of humor.  

So when DJ started up Hero by Night – especially with Yirmumah having taken a turn down some genuinely decent sequences – I decided to check it out. I found the name itself a little silly, but DJ had shown some flare for a good dramatic story, and I was interested in seeing what he could put together.

While the comic itself was being released in stores, the Hero by Night Journals were being posted online, telling the tale of the original Hero by Night. I enjoyed the diaries and their format – they were essentially snapshots in time rather than fully fleshed out tales, and it was an interested format for presenting a character. At the same time… it didn’t really compel me to go out and buy the series. The character was enjoyable, but didn’t feel more compelling than any standard comic icons – it felt like just another superhero.

There wasn’t anything wrong with that – but it wasn’t groundbreaking as some seemed to be saying. Every few weeks I stopped by to catch up on the diaries, but that was it.

Then DJ started posting the Hero by Night comic itself. The story of a young kid who finds the magic ring the once belonged to the first Hero by Night, and deals with the consequences thereof. And… it was great! It was fun and exciting, and I couldn’t stop reading. It still didn’t feel like it was anything new – but it was compelling enough to make me eager for every update.

I credit the journals themselves for much of this. One of the greatest strengths of print comics is the sheer amount of background the characters have – the momentum they have developed over the years, with supervillains and sidekicks, triumphs and defeats, personal discoveries and growth. It lends them weight and impact – when done right. Unfortunately, that background is also one of their greatest weaknesses, as they threaten to topple from the burden of conflicting origins and different writers and the need to keep them locked in a perpetual stasis while they can still adapt to – and reflect – modern culture.

With the Hero by Night Journals, DJ managed to capture that same sense of background and history, all neatly defined and delineated. Neither the journals nor the comic were able to grab me independantly – one was the shadow of an already finished tale, the story of a hero whose time had already ended, while the other was no different than countless other comics, with a kid finding a magic widget and blundering into superpowers. But together they formed something more than the sum of their parts – a story with a firm sense of past and present, which manages to keep the reader all the more interested in the comic’s future.

Even though I could simply sit back and wait for Hero by Night to be released online, an issue behind the comics coming out in stores, DJ has finally managed to amp up the tension – and my investment into the strip – that I’m left interested enough to buy it if I see it in the comic shop.

I’d say that’s one form of webcomic success in action.

Oh, also…

I also wanted to congratulate a couple webcomics that hit some major milestones today:

Freaks N Squeeks just hit strip number 1000, which deserves some definite praise. While I unfortunately have only been able to read through the early strips (what with the 1000 count archive), it seems like a fun look at the life of a couple of rather relatable people that just happen to be mice. It is also done by the same person that did Aces High, one of the strips I most mourned the passing of, so discovering more work from the Marvelous Patric was a fine surprise.

Meanwhile, the Noob just turned three! With the death of Flintlocke’s Guide to Azeroth, the Noob seems to have taken the throne as the reigning MMORPG Webcomic Champion. While Looking For Group might be offering something of a challenge, it isn’t enough to displace the comic that brought us the Greatest Fantasia Parody Ever.

Zombies, Mark 2

Updates for next week may be scarce, as I’ll be moving this weekend. For now, I’ll leave you with a few final zombie reviews, and hopefully will be back as soon as can be!

First up, The Zombie Hunters, which I first heard about by way of the Ferrett. He is a fellow who likes zombie movies, and this makes him a hell of a lot better prepared to talk about this sort of things than myself, and his review of the strip covers things well.

So, instead, I’m going to focus on the opening pages of the comic. Specifically, the first twenty pages, which manage to feel like they were straight out of a movie, wherein the pages alternate between a few moments in time – glimpses of the characters the story is about, as they wander through this apparently deserted town, clearly ready for danger – and stark credits of the strip’s creators and contributors, white text on a black background. The tension keeps rising and rising, until the zombies pop up, we hit the title page, and it launches out into the action, and the energy just doesn’t stop.

I’m impressed by this. Really impressed. It would be very, very easy to employ a set-up like this and have it feel forced, or frustrating. But the sense of pacing in this strip is fantastic, and we instead have me feeling a rising sense of drama through the first handful of pages, instantly pulling me in. And if it can do that in the opening sequence alone, that is awfully promising for whatever else may come.

Next up, Little Terrors. The premise is a nice one – zombies and other horrors appear to have mostly wiped out humanity (at least in the area in which the story takes place.) Our protagonist, Jacob, is a young boy who has woken up, pretty much without any memories, and discovered that despite looking similar to the zombies, he isn’t like them. He then runs into a pack of other young kids, all of whom have found themselves similarly changed into iconic monsters – with a werewolf, cyclops, frankenstein, ghost, etc.

There is an element of humor to the situation, but it seems to be a drama at its heart – and one that is really starting to come into its own. The art has vastly improved since the story began, which is easy to notice – but all the other elements have begun to come together as well, with a smoother layout, more elaborate plot, and more concise writing.

Finally, I was prowling the Wotch’s totally awesome links page, and came across Dead Winter. The strip currently only has twenty-six pages to its name, but that doesn’t stop it from winning me over. Hell, it did so in under ten.

I blame the cast, who are pretty much all instantly awesome, from our hero Lizzie and her lovable attitude (along with her complete inability to notice when she is surrounded by zombies), to the altogether badass individual known as Black Monday Blues.

Also, the art, which is amazing and vibrant and alive. (Unlike the zombies.)

Perhaps the story as well, as I’m already interested in finding out how her boyfriend knew about the zombie invasion, why he has to leave her behind, and what will happen when she inevitably kicks ass, survives the zombies, and confronts him over his dastardly behavior.

Aw, hell, just go take a look.