Category Archives: Meta Posts

Words, Words Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Short Post…

Nothing from me today, as I am busy having my ass kicked by allergies.

All hope is not lost! I have discovered a cache of allergy medicine I had secreted away. It is, admittedly, a year old, but the label says it doesn’t expire for another week! So hey, what’s the worst that could happen?

I’ll be sure to let you folks know if I end up with some hideous freak mutation. I’ll post pics, even!

In any case, I’ll be back tomorrow in strength (and hopefully sans mutations.)

"You can make an awful lot of lions fly with that much faerie dust."

It’s not yet Monday, yet here I am, delayed from sleep by increasingly more agonizing allergies and increasingly jumbled thoughts rolling around in my head.

The solution, as always, is to write. As I said back when I started, if you don’t write when you have the words there, you risk losing them entirely. Or, to quote some words of wisdom: “There’s nothing to it but to do it!

So. I’ve been spending much of the weekend enjoying the sites and sounds of a local gaming convention. One of the few I’ve been to in the last year, and one of the only two I make sure to attend on a regular basis. One is the world famous DragonCon, filled with more types of entertainment than any one man can hope to partake of in a single weekend.

The other, the con in question at the moment, is a small and humble affair by the name of JohnCon. The con of my alma mater, and one I had lent my aid to for many years.

But time comes and goes, and this year I had no part in the running of the show. I was there to enjoy myself and nothing more – and pray that, in the absence of myself and my fellows, the con was not an abysmal failure.

Hmm. That may, perhaps, sound a trifle conceited. I’ll explain a bit, shall I?

My days at the good old Johnny Hopkins, and the SciFi Club thereof, were a time of great success for the club. Attendance soared, events were kick-ass… and most of all, the members of the club (we called ourselves ‘fen’) were supremely cool people. There was all variety of gamers and nerds and dorks – but by and large the majority happened to also be socially well-adjusted individuals. It was, if not a golden age, a silver age of sorts.

Elder fen from years past were a common sight, lending experience and wisdom to all. Younger fen were excited and eager for new things. It was a grand age for gaming and anime – as well as boozing and clubbing and other brands of excitement.

Good times, it was agreed, were had by all.

There was, of course, the usuall drama and emotional chaos that comes about with any group of close-knit people… but that’s all part of the show. Part of being, in the end, a family.

Fast forward several years. Most of the current fen are now elder fen. Most of the elder fen are no longer a presence at the club – many have left the area entire. Last year graduated the last remnant of the old guard from my days, and the club was filled with almost entirely new blood.

And I have stopped by hither and thither to see what I may see of the state of things… and been left wondering.

The club remained intact. Events were held, games were run. And yet… some certain spark seemed gone. The club seemed entirely too fannish, and not enough about fans. (Aha! A comic reference! It’s, um, sealed behind the double-secret doors of Graphic Smash. Ah well.) The point at hand – they had the fervor and obsession with games, but without any degree of moderation. That is not a mark against them entirely – I, of all people, can give little criticism for that. But it was a difference, and a clear one.

I could not entirely be sure how much things had changed. Did I just see my days among the fen as better because I was there and part of it? Was it perspective more than truth? Good questions, and ones always worth asking… and yet, from all I saw, all I could tell, that spark was not there.

And so, with trepidition, I come to this year’s convention. No obligations, no duties – I was there as myself, in search of fun and nothing more. I was not sure what I would find.

I was, in fact, in luck. The con itself was intact, with all the normal trappings in place – a dealer’s room, video games, anime, bad scifi movies, board games, card games, tabletop games – and so forth.

Most important of all – other elder fen were there, in the same state and concern as myself.

And they had their own games to play, and there own games to run. And so after spending the obligatory time dilly-dallying about the con, I sat down with them to play their game – and thus enjoyed the best con experience I had in years.

Elder fen for the motherfucking win!

The game in question is the real reason behind this little monologue. It was a roleplaying game, making use of the new World of Darkness rules system. (Like the old system, only with the life drained out of it. Ironic, that, no?)

Several names were given for the game: Happily Never After. The Wonderful World of Darkness. The final choice: Magic Kingdom Come.

The premise: 10 years have passed since happily ever after, and we return to our beloved characters from the disney tales. The allied nations of Wonderland and Neverland are under seige by a mysterious plot that has its sources back in the Magic Kingdom, and the throne of Prince Charming himself.

Now that, my friends, is a goddamn plot.

Let’s take time out for a little tangent. We’re going to talk about Something Positive! And here you thought this talk wasn’t going to have anything to do with webcomics, didn’t you?

Click for full-sized Poultrimancy!
S*P has had comics about gaming. And yet, when we have been priviledged to have some scenes from their games captured for us, it isn’t always quite the usual fare.

We have had sodomizing treant hillbillies and Overlord Barbie. We have been offered stat blocks for infernal tax collectors, and similar such creations.

Kyle describes the games as nothing more than “monsters that are puns and spells whose name are plays on words.”

Look, I know Kyle is both an idiot and a terrible human being. I’m aware he is one of the few cast members who are pretty darn close to irredeamable.

Despite this, I found myself almost… agreeing with him.

You see, I just didn’t get it. It was, sure, funny in the comic – but I couldn’t see it as a game. The games I played were about slaying dragons or besting ancient gods of darkness! Sure, I played sessions that that had in-jokes here and there, modules with inappropriate pop-culture references, games with their share of humor and puns and jokes.

But they were all just tossed in here and there – the games themselves, invariably, had a solid story I could get behind. Epic adventures, serious struggles, dangerous foes. Those were the games I played… and ran.

(It should be mentioned I even ran a game – populated entirely by male players – whose characters were, essentially, a magical girl squadron – but even that was only a small tie-on to a larger, epic game. A joke that grew rather stale, rather quick, and ended up being used more as a medium for conveying plot for the bigger story.)

So when I saw the terrifying visages of Regular and Extra-Crispy, I just. sorta. shrugged. It wasn’t for me. In my view of game and gaming, I couldn’t see the appeal of that sort of… nonsense. Gimmickry and childishness, it seemed… and nothing more.

And yet, I found myself playing Magic Kingdom Come.

It was, suffice to say, a view-altering experience.

My own character was Dumbo, a burnt-out but still feisty ex-child star of the Big Top. The other players were Rambi, the gun-toting psycho deer; Pinochio, who went all emo once he became a real boy, and the three ex-wives of the dashing but callous Prince Charming: Cinderalla (now head of the Neverland pirates since Hook had been ‘taken out’); Snow-White, an ice-queen professional businesswoman with no patience for lesser folks; and Sleeping Beauty, lesbian mistress to Alice, Queen of Wonderland (who happened to be in a marriage of convenience with Peter Pan, King of Neverland.)

…I can feel the fanboy in me bubbling to the surface. I can feel the desire to regale my captive audience with the stellar tales of battle, from the consultation with the Cheshire Cat to the vanquishing of Simba, or the final showdown with Prince Charming himself! I resist, for the most part, that treacherous urge.

But it may be said in no uncertain terms that I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed the frivolity, the goddamn puerility of it all! There was something soothing in letting go of all my premade conceptions of what made a good game – and instead I took something fun, and sat down with my friends, and played the goddamn game.

I get it, now, and can’t help but feel remorse for having ever sided, however momentarily, with the villainous Kyle Cheng. It might be safe to say I learned a valuable lesson today, even if it might have been learned through the mangling of my childhood stories.

Because sometimes it can be more than enough fun to trounce through the tales of our youth, freely butchering the memories of our favorite heroes and villains as we go. Sometimes it can be fun to let loose and ignore the serious, the rules, the regulations of dragon slaying and monster vanquishing. Making our own rules, playing our own games – isn’t that what it’s all about?

In the end, the goal of gaming is to have fun. To enjoy yourself. Not to kill a dragon – though if that is what you enjoy, then by all means partake of it! But the true fun is sitting down with friends and having a damn good time.

There are many ways to do that – and all of them are the correct one. Hang out. Have fun. Make the game fun, however you want to do so!

I mentioned, long ago at the start of this little talk, that I had been worried as to the success of the con. The attendance seemed sparser than normal, the events a bit less substantial.

But I had fun. I found what I wanted to do there, and had fun… old school style, with friends I only see once or twice a year.

And as I walked the halls of the con, I know now quite well what it was I saw – happy congoers. People that were playing games or watching anime, mocking bad movies or laying down the smackdown on a video game. People that were, in the end, having fun.

With that, I can’t call the con anything less than a resounding success.

I’ll be back for the last day of it tomorrow, to poke around a bit more and see what other old friends might show their faces.

And I know that I’ll enjoy it through and through.

My allergies seem to be remitting a bit, and sleep has been heavily calling for the last half-hour. But the words, as always, have their own demands.

It is rare I have been up this late in recent days, and I know not what sleep I’ll find before I rise, nor what dreams may come. I may dream of a fallen fairyland, or I may, nostalgic, dream of cons in days of yore.

But I go to bed a happy man.

And that, in truth, is all that I can ask for.

Friday Reflections

Another week comes to a close, and I am sitting around eagerly awaiting some tasty latkes my friends are currently concocting. While I do enjoy reflecting on the things to be thankful for, and the stories of the various holidays currently upon us, I must also confess to enjoying all the fine food produced for these events. Especially when they aren’t produced by me, and don’t involve setting things on fire.

(I am aware that all these attempts at Latke creation aren’t occuring during the holidays with which Latkes are normally associated, and I do assure you that I am partaking in the appropriate foods, such as my personal favorite: Matzoh Ball soup. That said, there’s never a time that isn’t right for latkes!)

There seems to be quite a few folks taking a holiday from webcomics as well, as a sudden rash of guest strips has broken out across the interweb. I suppose, however, that this is counterbalanced by the return of Gossamer Commons, after only a brief hiatus… and the renewal of Framed, returned to us from the long dark!

I’ve talked before about how much more mobile webcomics are than many other industries – it is easy to accept them when they fall behind their schedules, or cease output entirely, and also perfectly unsurprising when they return after long and lengthy delays. It might be on account of how easy it is to jump to the next comic on our list when one is currently absent – and how easy it is to wait for word of mouth to herald the return of missing comics. Whatever the reasons, I’m glad to see these two comics back. (Even if it means I’ll have to dig back through Framed to try and have any clue as to what in the world is going on!)

In other news, David Willis is being a gentleman’s gentleman, and providing some hefty fan service for the ladies. Meanwhile, over in Wapsi Square we get to see a just punishment to fit the crime. (Personally, I enjoy all the scenes with Katherine, and the latest little story is proving as good as any.)

Suburban Tribe has wrapped up its latest storyarc, and continues to raise my opinion of it by leaps and bounds with every strip. Having a conclusion to the story arc that keeps all the fanboys happy doesn’t hurt, either. I think Lee has done a damn fine job of keeping the story moving along, and maintaining the tension between the lead characters – without actually resolving it. Generally it’s hard to keep that pace up without it feeling like stagnation, but he’s doing a damn fine job.

I expect to be doing similar posts most Fridays – giving general thoughts on the latest in webcomics. So expect another rambling post like this in a week!

I’ll be back on Monday with the usual stuff – ’til then, enjoy the holidays!

On the internet, only spam is truly eternal.

It’s always weird when I realized I haven’t checked my e-mail in a month.

Well, it wasn’t all my e-mail. Like most internet junkies, I make sure to routinely check my inbox for new messages several times a day, though I’m proud to say I’ve moved away from the habit of sitting at my desktop and pounding the refresh key every 5 minutes…

But I have one e-mail address that, more and more, I keep forgetting to check. It is one of three main addresses I’ve got – one with hotmail, one with yahoo, and one with gmail. (This doesn’t account for the numerous addresses made for all manner of ulterior purposes, from roleplaying games to nefarious world plotting.)

The hotmail account came first, and I eventually upgraded to yahoo because I liked it better, and eventually to gmail, ’cause I liked it best.

But I never really phased out the old emails. I still had mailing lists that went to them that I couldn’t be bothered to change. I’ve got old friends whom I never see anymore who have that email as the only means of contacting me. There are countless documents on the web that mention my name and list that email alone. And in the end, it only takes a few moments time to check the old emails.

So I’ve kept them around, ignored the growing spam they recieve, and occasionally rescue some email or another from the festering morass.

But I hadn’t checked my hotmail account in a month.

That came as a shock to me. I mean, I’m a pretty wired guy, and even for an email account that is no longer my primary, it still receives a solid amount of traffic from friends and associates. The spam it gets is annoying, but only that and nothing more. I didn’t stop checking the email out of effort… I just forgot about it.

The internet is an easy world to misplace things. The websites and email addresses of our youth are eventually forgotten, and left to 404 away into oblivion. No different than most things in life, but, as elsewhere, the internet moves at a much faster velocity.

Part of what worries me about this sort of thing is that I have, as some may say, a fucking shitty memory.

There’s too much crap about books and gaming and comics and whatnot shoved in there, I suppose, so that recalling events from a few years back results in hazy memory – at best – and further back, nothing more.

So it is that I rely on saved e-mails and old diaries and all other manner of electronic artifacts to preserve the past. Not the most substantial things to place my memories in, admittedly.

Now, losing those things… it isn’t the end of the world. So I can’t remember or find my first website, first e-mail address. So what? It isn’t truly worth getting worked up over – and I’m not really that upset.

But nonetheless, it bothers me. I could lose all those emails, all those files. I might not notice. I might carry on, and might not even note the loss – I might not even remember anything of significance was in there. Which doesn’t mean that it is insignificant – it just makes the loss a bit more scary.

Just a reminder of the impermanence of things, I suppose.

Speaking of impermanence, over in the wonderful world of Something Positive, Kharisma appears to have lost her famed beauty. Via fire. In that her face was burnt off.

Ok, that was a lousy segue. Meh. But it is something on my mind, and I plan to go much more in depth on it. Today you had to listen to me wax philosophical about freaking e-mail; tomorrow, I’ll talk about Something Positive, and Milholland’s special touch with crafting characters we love to hate!

Bitter Winds

There is a bitter cold wind blowing outside.

This is strange, for the last few days have been warm enough to necessitate a brief return to AC. And yet… now it is chill once again.

Strange, but that’s Maryland weather, I suppose. The only thing consistent about it is that it isn’t.

In any case, no worries for me, for I have hot cocoa and pastries to soothe me.

The pastries, admittedly, are of the toaster variety, and the chocolate isn’t even mine, but ’twas stolen from my roommate… though given it has gone a year without use, I suspect my theft will not even be noticed, let alone minded.

Hmm. So.

Comics. Let’s talk about them.

I see that Scott Kurtz has posted an explanation as to the specific relationship between Max and Skull.

It, well… it’s a good read. It explains very well exactly why things are the way the are, with Max, with Skull, with Sonja.

And yet, it is a shame it needed to be written. A lot of it worked very well without being said in the comic – just by being there, and showing it to us as we went. I think Kurtz feels this keenly, and views the need to say it more as his own failing, which I think is hardly the case.

I think, personally, he had reached a very good level of balancing how he knew things worked behind the scenes, and how much he revealed, bit by bit, to the audience. It is what made the jokes work – every time we thought we knew exactly what to expect, it didn’t quite meet our expectations.

I liked that. It was subtle.

But, well… sometimes that is too much for people. And they want to know more. Want to have the details laid out clearly for them – and aren’t afraid to make that demand quite clear.

Admittedly, there can be a fine line to walk between inaccessibility and exposition. I recall some years ago the same such commotion occured with It’s Walky, and Willis responded to those confounded by an especially enigmatic strip by given them a version with all the details laid out, painfully clear.

Looking at those two strips, neither one is really satisfying. The overwhelmingly expository one is obviously unneeded. But the other one, as dramatic as the silence of it may be, can be a bit hard to comprehend even by those fully observing it within the context of the series. The answers to its mystery come in time, of course – and it becomes a question of whether one can wait for answers, or feels the need to have understanding promptly.

Hmm. I’m not sure I know where to make the call on whether or not people should feel justified in wanting more clarity.

But I do know this – it is a choice to be made by the writer of the strip, not the audience.

If Kurtz or Willis felt that they were satisfied with how much information they’ve got in their strips, then they should leave it at that, regardless of those who feel the burning need for more explanation.

And if they hear complaints, and feel there might be some truth to them? Well then – roll with it, and let a few more crumbs of info make their way into the comic.

Tossing out a full reveal, though… I don’t think is ever the best solution. I can understand it, sure. You’ve got all these people clamering that they just don’t get it, no matter what you do. But its the easy way out, the easy way to give in to them.

Kurtz says he hopes he “didn’t ruin things more by trying to explain things out.” I don’t think he has to any significant extent.

I just think its a shame he had enough people feel the need for an explanation, and that he felt the only way to answer them was, well, to give them one.

It’s a cold and windy night out, I’ve got a half-full mug of hot cocoa too rich for my own tastes, and this has been me, talking about comics. G’night, folks.

Time Moves Quickly

It came as a bit of a surprise to realize I’d passed the one month mark already with this blog. I had been worried about running out of material, but, well… the world of webcomics is constantly in motion, and that leaves a lot of room for content.

I was a bit startled to find how much easier it was to discuss webcomics versus other mediums, as I certainly had plans for much more normal book reviews and such – but as I mentioned before, webcomics really are the easiest to discuss, because they are right there for easy perusal.

I hadn’t expected to get quite as much initial viewage as I did, but some early and unexpected links, along with a few compilations of webcomic blogs, and I found myself with a bit more early readership than I was really expecting.

Anyway, thanks for reading – I hope I haven’t disappointed, and here’s hoping for more good stuff to come!

What makes this strip different from all other strips?

A year and a half ago, the most challenging food preperation I faced entailed boiling water.

Since then, I have made an effort to develop skills pertaining to preparing actual food, with relatively pleasing success.

Last night I took on an experiment in producing latkes, a typical Jewish food that are currently a few months out of season. (As they are often prepared for Chanukah in December.)

Latkes are similar to hashbrowns, and are essentially potato pancakes. Good stuff – one of my favorite foods, hence my desire to learn how to cook them.

The attempt last night was an unmitigated failure.

I burnt the first batch. Then the smoke detectors went off. Moments later, the stove caught on fire.

Round 2 went no better, as I drowned the latkes in oil and produced something resembling an ancient and primordial ooze.

At long last, I managed to produce 4 specimens of perfection, complete with shimmering, golden-brown cover and the beautiful smell of cooked potatoes.

The taste? Like the very souls of the damned.

So, my cooking failures aside, the latest storyline in Gossamer Commons also deals with Jewish holiday foods!

I’ve actually been enjoying some of the banter and jokes in the strip of late. Possibly just due to getting all the references, but in general it has simply been good fun.

This is unusual, because I tried the longest time without success to really enjoy the strip. I mean, the premise was great, I was already a fan of Eric Burns, I loved the artistic stylings of Greg Holkan

But it just hadn’t really clicked. The layout of the art didn’t quite work, the pacing seemed difficult to adjust to, and some of the characters just threw me off – like Trudy, who kept coming off looking like someone’s hipster, gambling grandma.

Which isn’t to say I deplored it – there was enough there to keep me coming back. I loved the introduction of Malachite and the entire first interaction between him and Keith was intensely good stuff in every way.

Lately, though, the comic as a whole has been working pretty well for me, and going back through the archives, the rhythm of the series flows a whole lot better, and I didn’t even realize how much I liked a lot of the old art until it was gone.

But in the end, its really the Passover jokes that have won me over.

How to Succeed at Failed Resolutions

Well, it’s been a month and half since the new year, and I can’t help but wonder how resolutions are going for most folks.

I know that I made a good number – from ones carried over from the year before (Resolution One: Cook more genuine meals, Or How I Learned to Stop Boiling Ramen and Love the Oven), to the generic ones with my own little twists (Resolution Two: Exercise every day, DDR if nothing else!), to ones tackling my own specific problems (Resolution Three: Get up on time every day, since it’s all too easy to be lazy when working a job where the only repercussions are the ones self-enforced.)

Like many folks, I failed at pretty much most of them. Utterly. Within days.

And I’m ok with that.

I’m ok with it because I didn’t give up. I kept trying to adhere to them. And on some days I’d fail, and on others I’d succeed. And I’m getting to the point where I succeed more often than not. I’m proud of that fact that I’m failing, and not letting it stop me. The fact that I keep working at it is the important part.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t want to succeed – but there are different of levels of failure, in the end.

When I originally was thinking this over, I hadn’t expected it to end up connected to webcomics – but the recent return of Avalon convinced me otherwise.

There are a lot of webcomics out there – many of them with a small enough audience that when the fall by the wayside, no one really notices. But then there are also big hitters. Some of them bow out in a graceful fashion – a lot of them are designed as complete stories. They are meant to end – and when it comes their time to go, they do so.

But there are also the ones that, well… burn out. Or have others things come up. Sometime life takes priority. And those webcomics go for weeks… and then months… and then years without updates.

And sometimes they come back.

That’s what impresses me. That the drive behind people to finish them properly can be so strong, that they want to make sure to go through with it, even years after the comic’s height has passed. The fact that I can think of multiple webcomics that have returned from the brink – some to wrap things up, others to go on as normal – is inspiring. It’s the reason I keep checking back, every so often, with many of the other former greats that have meandered into silence. Some of them might not make it back, sure, and some people might have given up from the start. But the story is still there waiting in the mind of the artist, and one day it might make it back out into the open.

Because it isn’t over until they decide it is.

On This Blog: An Introduction

Well, now that I’ve been rambling on this thing for about a week now, I suppose a proper introduction is called for.

The goal of this blog, by and large, is to give me a place to put down all the random thoughts and emotions that webcomics (and other works) inspire in me.

It will not be entirely limited to webcomics alone, though they are far more often to be the subject of discussion than books or movies. There are a variety of reasons for this – webcomics move faster than most other forms of media. Even normal comics come out on a monthly, rather than daily basis, and even when they have crossovers spanning dozens of comic titles, they will still be moving at a slower pace than most webcomics.

Webcomics are constant output of information, from a lot of different sources – not necessarily a great deal from any single one at any given time, but enough different products fed at a pace such that it is very easy, on any given day, to have several strips ring emotional chords, or inspire analysis and discussion.

It is also a media that we have directly at our fingertips for commentary. I can say, hey, how about that plot twist, eh? Some crazy stuff, amirite?

And bam! The reader can directly go and see what I’m talking about. If it is something new to them, they can find out about it. If it is something they are familiar with, they can refresh themselves on it while I discuss it. A very handy tool, this internet thing, yes indeedy.

So… webcomics are likely to be discussed quite a bit. However, other topics will arise, and hopefully those will be interesting reads too.

I’ll be updating on a fairly regular schedule, if only because my mind can only handle pondering so much crap before I need to unleash my meanderings on you lucky folk. But circumstances can never be predicted, so there will be times I may have other concerns at hand. Fair warning given, in any case!

Finally, I’m welcome to comments and criticism. I’m perfectly glad to have people let me know they like what I have to say – but I’m also glad to have discussion and disagreement. Just, you know, do it nicely. I’m looking for respectful dialogue, not just blind flaming.

So those are some of my thoughts on what this page is about. Take them for what they’re worth, and hopefully they won’t set up any false assumptions.

See you in the funny pages, people!