Category Archives: Meta Posts

State of the Blog

State of the Blog: The Current Plan

So, here is the state of things – I’m working on getting back into regular writing, including keeping this blog up to date as both an opportunity to share my thoughts (typically as they relate to the current happenings of comics, primarily those on the web) as well as keep my writing at least somewhat regularly active. I aim to do this while keeping up with several other writing pursuits, so I’m planning on a weekly update on this blog, though not bound to any particular schedule beyond that.

I don’t imagine returning to the output I originally had with the blog – in part due to the time I have to devote to this, but more importantly, there are only so many topics I can write on. With a lot of those comics, I’ve already written about them and said what I have to say – and I find my webcomic list to be shrinking rather than growing these days. For one thing, I’ve found it less and less feasible to dive into new strips (often with extensive archives) and add them to the list;  for another, I’ve realized there are more than a few comics I read out of habit rather than actual entertainment.

This isn’t to say I don’t occasionally have a brilliant new comic sent along to me, and rapidly find myself immersed in it – but it is the exception rather than the rule. For all of those who have sent me comics to review, I definitely appreciate it, and do promise to take a look – but certainly can’t guarantee anything more than that. That which really stands out will definitely be read, bookmarked and likely reviewed, but its going to have to be really stellar to do so.

So! That was largely all I wanted to put forward – reviews are coming and continuing, likely at a weekly pace. If I can’t get anything up during a week, I’ll generally put forward a short post – much like this one – making mention of the fact, along with any other current webcomic news or commentary that seems worth sharing. That’s the plan, at least for now.

Webcomic News: Someone in Need

The first big news – the only news really, truly in need of sharing – is that Karen Ellis, of Planet Karen at Girl Wonder, has lost nearly everything in a building fire that essentially claimed her home and the vast majority of her possessions. Even the smallest donation can be of help to her as she recovers from this tragedy – this link covers what can be done to help Karen. (And this link gives a lot of very good perspective on how to help someone after this sort of disaster.)

Even for those who don’t have money to spare, simply spreading the word is extremely valuable – the more people that know about this, the more people that can help.

Webcomic News: The Endless Debate

The last week has seen a brief resurgence of the debate over webcomics, how to make them into profit, and the future thereof, with a somewhat new spin – Valerie D’Orazio of Occasional Superheroine puts forth the idea that DC or Marvel (or some other similar powerful media company) might try to snag up the biggest webcomics with lucrative deals, assembling them into a private subscription service. A lot of feedback immediately rose up, largely from the webcartoonists themselves – both in the comments of the post as well as elsewhere. The response was largely that such a proposition (for Marvel or DC) simply wouldn’t be viable – mainly because they’d have to offer too much to get the top webcomics to ‘go corporate’.

I can’t really disagree with that claim – especially having seen some similar scenes with webcomics entering negotiations with newspaper syndicates. For webcomics that are already doing well enough to have a vast audience and make a living – and for the top webcomics, usually a pretty good one – while leaving the authors with full creative control over their work, full rights to their creations, full control over their websites, their activities, their merchandise, etc…

Well, there just isn’t any incentive to be bought out, without being offered far more than is really viable for them to be offered.

Now, Valerie’s post might be right that a company will still think this is a good idea and try going down this route – I simply don’t see them having any success in doing so. I see even less success from trying to enforce a subscription system, since I somewhat feel that ship has sailed in the webcomic world – Modern Tales (and related sites) were a very big effort to make that system work, with some very impressive strips to lure people in. Modern Tales is still around – but the core subscription elements have largely been scuttled. Now, many webcomics seem to be having some success with bonus subscriptions that provide extra content, and I think that seems to be a very promising route – but blocking the comic itself behind a subscription barrier seems to generally hurt more than it helps.

Honestly, what I’d like to see is DC and Marvel starting to draw on the elements of webcomics, rather than the webcomics themselves. They have started some basic digital programs, with Zuda and so forth – but I think the next step will be figuring out how to get their core properties online and successful on the web. Take some of the comics that underperform at selling regular issues, but have a good fanbase and decent interest in the trades, and launch them online. Stuff being cancelled like Blue Beetle – figure out how to manifest it in webcomic format, use it to build interest, and I suspect it would hit a much vaster audience than it ever did in shops, with a very good turnaround on selling completed trades.

But… that’s just my theory. The companies seem to be very unwilling to step down that route thus far, so I’m not holding my breath to see anything along those lines – but I do think we’ll see them trying something, one way or another, and sooner rather than later.

Webcomic News: Scary-Go-Round

Scary-Go-Round, the fantastically surreal comic by John Allison, might soon be coming to an end – though the assurance is given that should it end, something new shall rise in its place. Given that this happened before, with S-G-R itself being an offshoot from the earlier Bobbins, I don’t see too much cause for concern.

Indeed, I see it almost as a superficial difference. The cast of Allison’s comics has always been somewhat fluid, with main characters being regularly supplanted, or simply vanishing entirely, or ending up working for the devil. New characters have developed over Scary Go Round… and then have themselves moved out of the picture. As the author says when talking about the comic: “Characters just get worn out after a while.”

Given the comic has already proving willing to completely shift cast and crew with abandon, or jaunting off to the afterlife for a spell, I don’t feel any real worry about what is coming next. I imagine there will be a shift of focus, of characters, perhaps even of locale – but the real humor and entertainment in the work has always been independant of any specific characters, and I imagine that whatever new stories Allison has to tell, the same bizarre fun will be found in the telling of it.

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Day of Atonement

These things I have not done:

1) Delivered the promised post on Starslip Crisis the weekend I proclaimed I would… or anytime within the next month, or even the month after that. Or, in the end, at all.  

2) Followed through on my claim from the month before that, even in the absence of proper content, I would post at least one brief update each week to keep the blog from vanishing into the dreaded indefinite hiatus. As, in fact, it did.

3) Live up to my goal to, if nothing else, keep open a line of communication with my readers, since I have always proclaimed that while constant and regular updates are nice, they are not the most important thing, which is to keep readers informed on when updates would be… and when they would not be. As, of course, I have failed to do.

I’m not altogether pleased with my failings in this matter, and I’m sure my readers are even less so. and while it is a disappointment that I’ve fallen behind in not just my writing here, but all my writing and creative work in general, it is even more of a disappointment that I retreated into absolutely silence, rather than even given an indication that posting was likely to be absent for a while. That has always bothered me when I’ve see it done, and now I find myself just as guilty. I can offer little explanation nor can I give a guaranteed date when my posts will return to their former abundance.

All I can say is this: I resolve to do better in the year to come.

That said, let me also try to answer some of the questions sent my way during the downtime:

Have I been ill/dying/dead/suffering amnesia on a desert island?

No, I can’t say I have. 

No major illnesses have struck me down during my absence, though I have been plagued by a thousand petty annoyances and frustrations, each one more bothersome than the last. I have a particularly amusing story to tell about how the very medicine I was taking to combat one afflication did, itself, traumatize me even further – and when I solved that problem by cutting back the dosage, and decided to compensate by increasing my fruit intake as a home remedy for the original problem, I thus discovered that, as a matter of fact, I’m allergic to a wide variety of fruit.

So that was fun.

I fnd myself taking drugs for blood pressure, which has always been a danger in my family. I find myself being warned about cholesteral and other elements of my diet in need of fixing, and so I have been working on eating healthy and adding more exercise to my schedule, even as my responsibilities at work grow ever more hectic – which, I suspect, is not exactly helpful for any blood pressure concerns.

Yet I am, by any genuine standard, healthy. Allergies and diet concerns and the hustle and bustle of life are no more than the norm, challenges intrisic to the walk of life, and I am threatened by solely these such minor vexations, which merit only the complaint I have given them thus far, and nothing more.

Have I lost interest in the ways of comics?

No… and yes.

On the whole my interest remains. And in many ways, I am pleased to say, the comics that stand out are the ones that excel and continue to surprise, with brilliant plots and gorgeous art and characters I feel genuinely connected to, rather than frustrations over comics that have failed to live up to their promise or proven a disappointment in some way. Which is a good thing, since that was the original goal of this blog – to focus on the accomplishments, and recognize work done well.

Yet… in my webcomic queue on Piperka, I’ve got well over 2,000 updates floating in wait. Oh, the majority of those are from a few dozen comics I’ve fallen behind on over the last few months… but it has become a trend. Many comics I’ve always followed because they were “good enough” for me… are no longer. I’m willing to follow the best of the pack, but I don’t have the time or motivation any longer to keep track of the rest – let alone to go hunting through new ones. To all the many souls who have sent me comics for review: I appreciate the sentiment, and would certainly love to take a look at all the ones presented to me, but I’ll tell you know – don’t hold your breath.

And unfortunately, as my reading list does drift towards focus on a smaller section of quality comics… it also means it is focused on comics I have reviewed before, and talked about all that there is to talk about, so long as they keep the quality at the same level of excellence. Simply writing a post to say, “Hey, this update was just as awesome as all the rest!”… well, it only goes so far.

In spite of this, I do have things to talk about. In the last few months, I’ve seen several of my favorite comics come to an end, and some came to an expected conclusion in a satisfying fashion… while others simply stopped. Webcomics has had the usual share of drama, and somewhat more than the usual share of theories on how to make a living from it – and while many of these discussions are over, they are sure to crop up again, as they always inevitably do.

So in summary – yes, I plan to continue writing. I’d like to say I hope to get regular posts started back up within a week or two. (Likely the ‘two’, as I am largely without internet access in the upcoming week.) And I’d like to say that I do have a wide variety of topics on which I’d like to share my thoughts in the usual rambling fashion. But given my past few posts, I think any specific promises of content may well be met with disbelief… so I’ll simply say that is the plan, and let the future bring what it may.

One of those…

You know how people always take about having “one of those days” – you know, where things are just constantly going wrong, you fall further behind with every moment, madness is cropping up in every direction, yada yada widening gyre, yada yada the centre cannot hold?

I’ve never really had one of those days. But lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve had one of those months.

And it has been lots of little things, really – one project at work finishes up just in time to get started on a paper to write; the paper gets finished up just in time to plan out upcoming summer trips; that gets taken care of, and it feels like there is a few moments to rest, and then – hey, what’s that dripping sound? And – my, but isn’t that a large puddle of water fleeing the air conditioning unit? And- hmm, what excellent timing, what with the temperature creeping up to new and unusual heights!

But the work gets done, and the paper gets finished, the trips scheduled, and the AC gets fixed… and, then it is a week later, and a whole new set of business on my doorstep.

So I’ve got one of those moments of breathing room here, and am wanting to write something, and… unfortunately, I’m way behind on all my comics. I mean, this isn’t like me, but Piperka is currently telling me I’ve got a backlog of some 700+ updates and… well, the more that pile up, the harder it is to really dive back in and get caught up. I’ve been keeping an eye on my favorites, but even then, it has been more skimming through things than anything else.

On the other hand, I’m almost glad I haven’t had the chance to talk about PvP. It seems like Scott has had some new twist every week, each one ramping things up to the next level in one way or another. I’ve been impressed – mainly because it has felt a natural way to make a normally somewhat static strip suddenly grow – but it feels like there hasn’t been a moment to really sit down and take stock of the new state of things. That the strip hasn’t yet fully settled down into its new status quo? Does that make sense? There’s been a lot of change, but it feels like we’re still waiting to see all the fall-out.

And, to suddenly shift topics again, I realize today is Friday the 13th. (I realize this, primarily, because my friends’ blogposts are abruptly warning me of the sudden zombie outbreak. The internet is a wonderful thing.)

It has been my tradition, when a Friday the 13th comes along, to try and take note of a quality webcomic in the genre of horror, and give all due recognition for such an accomplishment – horror seems to be the least represented genre in online comics, and thus it is rare indeed to find one that really works.

But… this year, I find myself without any recent finds to put forward. And, as mentioned, being behind on all my comics means not knowing if any are currently bringing the scary or if it simply the usual assortment of laughs and drama.

And my one real candidate, the delightfully twisted 5ideways… is currently on indefinite hiatus, with a decidedly less-than-functional website. Which is a shame, because it is was really just starting to hit its stride, and while the overall plot was still unwinding ever so slowly, the action itself had gotten to the really juicy parts.

The plot is… hard to explain, but I’ll try. As far as I can tell, one day the world broke. Things went bizarre, and we follow an unlikely pair of… survivors, I suppose is the best term for them. Though they themselves may be far more than the really seem to be, or are even themselves aware of.

Life proceeds onwards from there.

Now, this is a very different comic from Friendly Hostility, the other comic produced by K. Sandra Fahr. Friendly Hostility, like her previous work, Boy Meets Boy, Those comics are all about relationships, really – and they have their share of intense storylines and the occasionally surreal, and they are undeniably good comics at heart… but they aren’t much different than a lot of the other comics out there.

5ideways is largely unique. It reminds me of watching certain mind-twisting anime, where incredibly dark, incredibly bizarre events are… routine, even in their unreality, which somehow makes them all the more horrifying.

And 5ideways is very much the same, current hiatus or not. The fact that the most recent update ended on an especially monstrous note, and has left things dangling there for months on end… well, in many ways, it seems almost appropriate.

Thus, I award my Fourth Friday the 13th Webcomic Horror Award to 5ideways, for being exceedingly casual about being very, very frightening.

It Isn’t That

It’s not that I don’t have anything to write about, because I do.

I easily have other a dozen notes jotted down on topics to discuss, complain about, celebrate, etc.

(And by “jotted down,” I mean “typed up in Notepad,” as that is far more accessible than an actual notepad, and has benefits such as not being covered in incomprehensible scrawl.)

Every week a few more items creep on there… even as a few get taken off, now that their moment of relevance has already passed, relegated into history by the speed of the internet.

So I have things to write about, certainly.

And it isn’t that I don’t have time to write about them. I mean, I don’t, but only inasmuch as the time I would spend writing them is instead being spent on such worthwhile tasks as rereading Discworld novels, or playing Lost Oydssey, the only RPG I’ve come across in years that I’ve actually been impressed by.

Is it a matter of not having had the opportunity to post anything on this site?

I could potentially make an argument along those lines – for the last month, my internet service has been erratic and often inaccessible. Indeed, I have had a great deal of difficulty even keeping up most of my regular reading list, so I suppose I could use that as the reason why I’ve been silent for just under a month.

But that both is and is not the actual cause of my absence. I could have posted, certainly, and I had both the time to do so and topics on which to write. My internet difficulties didn’t prevent me from doing so directly. But indirectly? That’s a different story entirely.

As I said above, I found myself falling behind on many webcomics. With my internet time limited and unreliable, I had to restrain myself to reading only the cream of the crop, the best and the brightest of the world of online sequential art. The ones I was eager to read each morning, or caught up in the grip of a compelling storyline, or simply confident would present some small measure of enjoyment at the start of the day.

The rest were left to… summer, with Piperka faithfully recording their updates, ready to give me a treasure trove of comics to catch up on when I finally had the chance to do so.

And when I did finally find the time and opportunity to engage in said task… I realized, with many of these comics, that I hadn’t missed reading them in the slightest.

I’ve talked before of webcomics I read out of habit, even though enjoyment may have long since fallen away. Strips like Megatokyo, which I read almost for the thrill of disdaining it… or something like Ctrl+Alt+Del, which every so often I find enjoyable, and simply skim through the usual lackluster updates. Or even Sluggy Freelance, which I might have grown disappointed with, but retain hope of it picking up the pace and returning to a truly compelling storyline.

But there is another category of strips outside of that – ones that I don’t even notice, even as I read them from week to week, day to day. Ones that crept onto my list, and which were enjoyable enough when I read their archives… but that I didn’t even notice when I went without them. I could take or leave them, in other words, and only kept reading them because I’d fallen into the habit of doing so.

Because they only took a handful of seconds each day to keep occupied with, and it was easy to not think about that adding up until I was faced with weeks worth of unread strips… and felt no real desire to dive back into them.

Thus, in a similar circumstance, I found myself pondering this blog. I had stuff which I wanted to write… but where to start? How should I begin?

So, here I am, back to writing. With a plan. I aim to update twice a week – and on Mondays, I plan to focus on the strips that I’m purging from my list, and examine exactly why I’m doing so. I’ve done this sort of thing before – and it proved reasonably cathartic then.

Meanwhile, on Fridays, I’ll be posting some more upbeat reviews – the best moments in comics during the week, or simply a look at comics that are going strong and remaining in my reading pool. Potentially looking at any new strips that have made their way onto my list, or any current events worth noting among the webcomics crowd.

It’s a plan. We’ll see how long it remains a good one.

Irregular Webcomic… Reviews.

Despite my claim that more regular updates would resume post-NaNoWriMo, that hasn’t quite happened. I’ve got a good half-dozen topics lying half-written, and other ideas just floating about in the back of my mind, but events have conspired to keep me busy. Holiday presents, the sudden plethora of decent movies in theatres, catching up with old friends back in town, etc.

Today, additionally, I have turned 25, and have not even had time to truly indulge in the philosophical meanderings such an occasion inevitably deserves. So I feel no shame in taking the day off from discussing webcomics, and announce that updates shall likely remain similarly sporadic until the holiday season has entirely passed.

Enjoy the holidays and the last days of 2007!

There’s No Wrong Way to Eat a Reese’s

First, a brief mention that yesterday’s Multiplex was totally awesome, and I look forward to seeing where this is going.

Now, on to a potentially far more silly topic – the way I read my webcomics.

Despite my recent efforts to remove comics from my list that I read out of habit, rather than due to genuine interest, it remains the case that at any given moment some comics are much more appealing to me than others. This isn’t to say the others are bad comics, not at all – but there are many strips whose quality occilates up and down from one storyline to the next, and sometimes I’m interested and sometimed I’m… not.

Most days I avoid having to pick and choose simply by reading in alphabetical order – even easier to do these days, since Piperka has streamlined the process and removed my need to figure out what comics have actually updated that day. Even so, I have a few quirks that show up in the process.

First off, I try and read in equal divisions of the total comics available. To explain, I usually open a dozen or so comics in multiple tabs, read them one after the other, and then open the next set. When doing so, however, I try to space things out evenly. If there are sixty new comics that day, I’ll aim for six groups of ten comics at a time, or five groups of twelve, etc.

What makes this even more exciting is that I also try and read all of any given alphabetical section at a time! In other words, I’ll try and read all the A’s, B’s and C’s in one jump, then the D’s to G’s, then H’s to M’s… all while also trying to stay as close to my numerically even distribution as possible. Isn’t it fun to be mildly OCD?

On the other hand, this has had the surprising result of noticing where some of the best webcomics are clumped together. I have found the G section to be especially prime material, while the S’s (which also has some top comics) is the largest section of them all, sometimes taking multiple groupings to get through!

The final rule of the reading is to always end on a good note. The addition of Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic has made this a relatively easy task, but prior to then I tried to save a few good strips for the finish, on the belief that whatever strips I read last would be the ones most affecting my mood afterwards.

I will admit to violating this rule on occasion – if I’m in a rush, I might read the top ones first, choosing a few choice highlights and leaving the rest for later. But, by and large, I follow the above formula. Yes, it is strange, bizarre, and slightly ritualistic – but honing my daily webcomic reading down to under a half an hour is a more than a worthwhile accomplishment.

So – how do you read your webcomics?

Good News, Bad News

Good News: I finally read Watchmen the other day, and thus have had the way I view comics entirely redefined. Well… not quite, but I was impressed with the work and pleased that it lived up to the hype. I still haven’t come to a conclusion on how I feel about the ending and the messages of the book, and I suspect that alone is evidence of how great it is.

Which is, by the by, one of the signs I’ve been noting about a number of specific webcomics lately. Clearly on a different scale, yes, but they are open to multiple interpretations of right and wrong, and that complexity leaves them all the better for it. I’ll toss out Punch an’ Pie as an example, and a comic I really wish I had the time to do a proper discussion of… but that unfortunately brings us to the…

Bad News: Work is busy. Life is busy. NaNoWriMo is a week away. Which means the time I have available to spend on reviews is unfortunately dwindling. I’m still going to try to get out at least a post a week, especially as there remains quite a bit I’ve been wanting to discuss – but consider this fair warning that updates will be down to once or twice a week, at least for the next month and a half.

I will try and keep any posts blathering about NaNoWriMo to a minimum, but… no promises.

Triumphant Return

This was the first time I truly enjoyed flying.

Now, to be fair, it is only the third time I have flown. The first time I was 10 months old, so I doubt I was even aware of the fact I was hurtling through the sky a phenomenal distance from the ground. The second time was only seven years back, and was plagued by delays, detours, and other assorted bad things that begin with the letter ‘D’.

The third time I flew… was this weekend, on the way to and from Dragoncon. I had a window seat – but was above the wing, so my view was not all that amazing. Despite this, the flight was comfortable, quick and not much else – and there is something to be said for simple pleasantness.

Especially given where I was heading – Dragoncon is anything but simple.

It was an enjoyable convention, as always. An exhausting, draining, painful sort of enjoyment by the end of the weekend, but it was there, nonetheless. Gaming, panels, concerts, costumes – the great part about the con is simply the sheer amount of activity packed into a handful of days, far more than any single person can absorb. But I had what fun I could… and I was pleased that fun with webcomics was among the highlights of the weekend.

Awesomeness the first: Order of the Stick Costumes! A couple of my friends went as Xykon and the Monster in the Darkness (I’ll try to coerce some pics from them), and later had a showdown with a Haley and an Elan they found roaming around. Sometime later, whilst I was in the gaming room, another pack of costumers wandered in, and I spotted Roy, Redcloak, Thog, and another Monster in the Darkness – and while the costumes were cool, the true highlight was watching gamers suddenly gravitating towards them from across the room, setting down dice and characters for a chance to see the OotSers in action.

Awesomeness the second: Webcomic panels! I have to admit, the large majority of webcomic panels I’ve attended in the past (at previous Dragoncons, at Otakon, etc) have been somewhat… lackluster. This was occasionally due to it being late in the con, and the panelists being exhausted, or due to exceptionally small audiences because of scheduling issues. Whatever the reason, these sort of panels haven’t stood out in the past… but this year, I was astounded.

The big panel I saw featured a pretty stellar cast – Pete Abrams, Jennie Breeden, Rob Balder, The Gneech, Indigo, Bill Holbrook, John Lotshaw, and Kittyhawk, from what I can recall. This wasn’t just a large panel, but also a lively one – having so many creators on stage meant both a wealth of information and different perspectives, as well as a fast-paced, joking atmosphere that emphasized that these are all exceptionally smart, funny and talented people. There was a lot of banter, and the panel was as much about entertaining the audience as enlightening them.

Another panel followed shortly thereafter, and was something of a smaller event – which ended up meaning it focused more on some of the technical aspects of the webcomic process. (Which, for my money, was a worthwhile follow-up on the previous panel.)

All in all, despite the fact that webcomics are just one small element of the countless topics that make up Dragoncon, I felt their presence was strong and successful, and that was a pleasant thing to recognize.

I’ll be back with proper comics discussion tomorrow, once I’m completely caught back up on things. There are a lot of topics floating around I want to mention (including a number of webcomics that have recently come to a close), but for now, I’ll just direct folks to Sam and Fuzzy, whose recent storyline was a brilliant example of… well, of everything the comic has been doing right for the last few years.

The arc doesn’t involve any great world-altering changes or epic battles… but it does highlight adept characterization, undeniable humor, and some subtle messages about life in general. (And, of course, maintains the usual standard of quality art and reliable updates while doing so.)

There isn’t much more about it to say, other than point out a job well done. When a webcomic can pull something like this off in less than a dozen strips, I’d say it’s most certainly worth a mention.

After These Messages, We’ll Be Riiight Back

Which is to say, I’m going to be taking a short break from posting – I’m in training the rest of the week, and then off at DragonCon through the weekend. Updates will likely commence next Wednesday (the 5th of September), but that may change depending on exhaustion levels/smoothness of the trip back/amount of swag to play with/outcome of ninja duels at the con – so in short, no promises!

If you’re looking for more reviews while I’m gone, check out Brian Roney’s Webcomic Reviews, which is a recent addition to the webcomic blogging collective. Most of his reviews are primarily of big name webcomics, but they are thorough and well-thought out – and sometimes it can be a good thing to sit back and take a look at the rulers of the playground.

Succinct

Back from Otakon, which went well. I ended up being bereft of cash my first run through artist’s alley, and getting detoured elsewhere when on my way back with cash – which was probably for the best, as otherwise I’d have ended up with more webcomic books than I really know what to do with. There were quite a lot of webcomic people there!

Anyway, still in recovery from the con, from Potter mayhem, and from other assorted madness, so updates will resume on Wednesday. If you’re looking for a good review before then, hop over to Comixtalk for a nice look at Vulcan and Vishnu, a comic I’ve always had a lot of respect for.