A few quick thoughts, before they become completely irrelevant…
I find myself torn about some recent developments in some of my favorite comic strips. Namely, Shortpacked (in which the previously insecure Amber blackmails the typically evil Mike into being her boyfriend), as well as Scary Go Round (in which the whimsically nice Shelly starts a civil war so she can get laid.)
Now, both of these aren’t completely unreasonable developments on the part of the characters. But they are, undeniably, developments that make the characters… well, a lot harder to actually like.
The actual results of the storylines are interesting, setting up the stage for big changes to come. Both of the comics are hardly ones to shy away from significant sudden shifts in tone, or the sudden removal or addition of key cast members, or so forth. The storytelling on hand is very promising and has my attention…
…even as I realize the characters themselves, however, do not. The most engaging comics – at least for me – are the ones where I have some investment in the characters. I can laugh about a character like Mike, but it is hard to get me to care about him. Not impossible, mind you – as Willis has shown before the last time someone blackmailed Mike into a relationship. Equal promise might be seen in this story… or it could end up with me losing all interest in the cast.
No idea which way it will go, and I’ve got concern and optimism balanced in mostly even measure. So, with some trepidation, I wait to see what’s in store for these two strips…
A Moment of Zen
I have less concern about Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, which I’ve found to be at the height of its game lately – this strip in particular I found to be brilliantly executed, and his guest comic for Dinosaur Comics was a rare (and excellent) demonstration that he can keep the humor coming for far more than a single panel.
Reborn from the Ashes
Back to mixed feelings as I take a look at the latest offerings of Sluggy Freelance… in this case the result of me trying to temper the immensely awesome recent developments with caution, given how often the comic has fluctuated up and down thus far.
Nonetheless, today’s reveal was an incredibly satisfying payoff to many, many years of plot. I am very hopeful that this latest storyline will really follow through and actually wrap up Oasis’s arc that has been drifting back and forth for nearly a decade now. It has certainly been an excellent resource for Abrams to keep returning to… but I think the time has really come to bring it to a close.
That doesn’t mean retiring the character, mind you – but Sluggy has a lot of characters who can’t really move forward so long as they are mired in the same plot again, and again, and again. Here’s a chance to break forward and keep the development moving forward. I’m eager to see where it goes.
Useful Tools and Other News
Become a Tool!
Erfworld has a new website, and it comes at a pretty key time. Order of the Stick – the main comic at Erfworld’s host for Book 1 – is going through heavy plot, and even upgrading to a new server is only going to go so far with the level of traffic the site is seeing. Erfworld itself is wrapping up the aforementioned Book 1 (The Battle for Gobwin Knob) even as it moves to its new site, and prepares for a less active summer followed by the start of Book 2.
But that isn’t the interesting thing about the move.
What catches my eye, instead, is their plan for financial support. There are many different approaches taken by many different webcomics – merchandise, donations, advertising, and often a blend of all of these – and there has been no one single road to success for those who are able to make a living from their work. Recently, I’ve seen more and more ‘subscription clubs’ offered, where the user pays a monthly fee for a variety of perks: often removal of ads, bonus strips, extra content, private forums, and so forth.
Erfworld now has its own: The Toolbox.
And it brings many of the standard bits of premium content to the table, with various extras, forum perks, ad-free browsing…
…and every single dollar you spend on the subscription gets turned into store credit, that you can go right ahead and spend on anything in the store you want.
Which is just awesome. For anyone who would have interest in buying their current or future products, there is little reason not to sign up. It is a fantastic incentive! It encourages both joining the club and buying stuff in their store, in a nice little profitable feedback loop. There is certainly no guarantee, of course, but it seems a pretty great offer for readers, and will hopefully be quite successful on their end. I don’t think any other webcomics have quite gone down this route, so I’m very interested to see how it does.
This comic has returned! This is obviously good news. This is one of the few comics where what really wins me over is the art – most comics, I enjoy the art, but read for the story. This comic is the other way around – not to say that the story is weak, as I am enjoying it, but it is the gorgeously vibrant colors that keeps me coming back.
Whenever a comic goes on a hiatus – even a reasonably brief one – I tend to feel the need to read through the archives to get caught back up. With some comics, that is too much of a burden, and I either view it as an agonizing task… or a reason to simply ignore its return entirely. With Kukuburi, on the other hand, I’m all too glad for an excuse to dive back in.
Yet Another Starslip Crisis
The brave crew of Starslip have barely encountered a new and unique alien civilization before throwing the race into terrible and cataclysmic disarray.
Which is fantastic!
I had held faith, since the reboot, that the comic would continue to build up to the sort of powerful moments and significant beats that characterized the pacing during its previous, plot-intensive run. My wait paid off in the latest arc, which is suitably intense despite being self-contained… and also, I think, helps one of the more recent cast members to really find their niche in the group.
This remains a comic of superb craftsmanship, and that’s really all that needs to be said.
Penny and Aggie is hardly the first time that a webcomic writer has lost their artist and needed to shift to another. It isn’t even the first webcomic T Campbell has had in that position! And yet… in this case, it still feels like a very powerful blow to the comic.
In this case, the project was very much a collaboration between the two. T Campbell and Gisèle Lagacé both helped make this comic what it has become, and so losing one of the two was going to have an undeniable influence.
On the other hand, they timed the transition as perfectly as possible – following the culmination of the central plot of the entire comic up until now, nearly five year’s worth of development. The status quo of the strip was altered in fundamental ways, and this meant that pairing that change with a shift in the art would not be nearly as jarring.
And to be fair, up until day, it was working. I barely even noticed the change at first, as Jason Waltrip took over and found a style that closely mirrored Gisèle’s, and remained distinct enough from his other work to avoid pulling me out of the scene.
Until… today, a week into his run, when sudden cartoony elements completely throw me for a loop.
Now, this may well be intended – the comic itself has the characters suddenly acting far more cartoony and slapstick, and that may well be the direction in which they want to take the comic. Especially given that a break for some lighter fare is probably a good thing after the intensity of the previously mentioned plot climax.
But it is a fundamental shift in the tone of the comic… and, honestly, in the characters as well, who are really what the strip has been built around. And I can’t help but thinking it is something of a shame – the initial plot of the comic has finally been concluded, and only then did it feel like it was reaching the original promise and potential it had to offer… only to suddenly, with the change, shift gears.
That’s momentum it may never get back.
I’m certainly not calling it doomed yet! Nor rendering any final judgement for the current form it finds itself in. But I am certainly sad to see the change come, just when I had finally felt myself fully invested in the comic.
D is for Dracula, Distantly Destructive
So there’s this comic called Dr. McNinja. When first I encountered this strip, I could describe it as little more than a comic about a doctor, who is also a ninja; or in short, a comic about being awesome.
Since then, the description has proven even more accurate than I could have imagined, since this truly is what the comic is all about – the Rule of Cool. The principle, largely, is that you take a bunch of elements that tend to stand in their own genre – such as ninjas, or robots, or wizards, or whatever – and then you throw them together, producing something that is, in theory, profoundly awesome. Imagine: a time-traveling wizard cowboy, trained by monks in the arts of karate and meditation! And so forth and so on – these characters and scenes are driven more by the sheer concept of them than any actual merit of their use. And this is entirely ok – there is nothing wrong with simply sitting back and appreciating the sheer brilliance, say, of tyrannosaurs in F-14s.
Now, what I find makes me really, truly appreciate Dr. McNinja is that it manages to take these concepts and actually make them work within the story. It has been pointed out that more than a few fans will tend to defend a work by pointing at the bits of “awesomeness” within – but that it takes quite a bit more to make such concepts actually work within the story, rather than exist as a single moment of fun entertainment. Which Dr. McNinja succeeds at – indeed, by this point, the vaguely surreal setting of the comic has become so fundamental that the continual appearance of ghost wizards and robot bears seems not just acceptable, but downright natural.
And there are actually long, elaborate plots built around these concepts – the main characters themselves are all equally absurd, but nonetheless have managed to become well-realized characters with that the reader can be fully invested in. So this is why Dr. McNinja rocks. Also valuable: knowing exactly how far would be too far.
Now, the comic continually seeks to offer new moments of awesome – a challenge that grows ever more daunting, given the various scenes and characters it has already gone through. Among the most recent highlights in the strip was one moment that outshone all others – in which, when Dr. McNinja goes hunting for Dracula, we learn that Dracula has a moonbase, and is able to eliminate vampire hunters via his moon laser.
So, given that this was a moment of crowning awesome in a comic fundamentally built upon such principles, it was with quite a bit of shock when I discovered that self-same scene, last month… in the pages of Marvel comics.
One comic in particular: “Captain Britain and MI13”, Issue number 10, written by Paul Cornell. In a time when I’ve found very little to be excited about in the world of print comics, this series has been one of the few that have stood out as entertaining and worthwhile. This opinion was only further reinforced when this most recent issue opened with a chat between Dracula and Dr. Doom – on the moon. And even more so, when Dracula then returns to his private moonbase, from which he fires not a moon laser, but instead magical cannons that launch exploding vampires at his enemies on the Earth below!
Now, I don’t know if this was done as a reference to Dr. McNinja, or simply the product of two great minds thinking alike. It really isn’t important either way.
What I do find important is this: When the topic of comics comes up, amongst my friends and I, there is quite a lot of talk about webcomics. Discussion over current plots, new webcomics people have discovered, or even simple appreciation for the comics that are always reliably good. There is almost no discussion at all of print comics – and when the topic does turn to such things, it is almost entirely negative.
Pretty much every single one of my friends reads webcomics, and enjoys them. Almost none still read anything by Marvel or DC – and even when there is both good and bad works being produced by both companies, it is only the news of the worst of it that filters down to our topics of discussion. And while I try to talk about some of the worthwhile comics of recent years – Blue Beetle, Iron Fist, etc – it is hard to do so. They are familiar with the big names, and so they can get frustrated at hearing about poorly-written stories dealing with Batman or Spiderman. It is much harder to get interested in hearing about well-written stories about characters they have never heard of.
But when I can point to a comic, and say, “This comic features Dracula and his moonbase, just like in Dr. McNinja!”? That, they get. That, they can understand. And that has a bigger chance of getting any of them back into comics than any big event, or crossover, or crisis. In all honesty, the vast majority of those have only served to drive them away.
I’m not saying print comics need to directly imitate webcomics in order to succeed. Honestly, just writing decent stories is a pretty basic step one – though one that a lot of comics seem to have quite a bit of trouble with. But tapping into the same level of innovation and creativity as what can currently be found online certainly helps get my attention, and seems like a pretty good step in the right direction.
The Smallest Detail
It always bothers me when a small, petty detail ends up distracting me from enjoying a comic.
Take today’s Dominic Deegan, wherein (spoilers!) we discover that the mysterious assassin who has been hunting oracles is not Dominic’s sister, as everyone feared, but instead Luna’s.
It was one of the better done plot twists I’ve seen in the strip – subtle enough to not be completely obvious, but also one that makes a reasonable amount of sense after the reveal.
I had difficulty noticing this, however, because the language of today’s concluding panels produced an irrational rage entirely disproportionate to the crime. Luna says, “The Oracle Hunter isn’t your sister, Dominic. She’s my sister.”
Those last three words bothered me. She could have simply said, “She’s mine.”It is not all that big a difference – the extra two syllables slow down the reveal and diminish the effect and the wording is somewhat redundant. But how big a deal is that, in the end? So Mookie could have used a more powerful line to finish today’s strip – is that worth raising a fuss about in any possible universe?
I suppose not. I’m not saying he should have done it better, or that it was a major flaw in the comic. And yet – it was enough to break me out of the moment. One minor mis-step, and nothing more.
Sometimes, that’s just how these things go.
Anyway! I haven’t posted much of late, for which I have… little to no excuse. Nonetheless, time is likely to remain at a premium for a bit, so despite the fact that there are plenty of interesting things to talk about, I am unlikely to do so until sometime next week.
Fear not, however – the Main Man of webcomics criticism has stepped back into the field and is currently running through a comprehensive series of posts on all the comics he reads. And the snark seems to be flowing in significant quantities, so it makes for a damn fine read. So for anyone desperately in need of some genuinely insightful webcomics criticism, go and enjoy the Websnark.
Four Small Thoughts and One Big One.
Favorite webcomic quote of the day: “Our children are the future! Not those guys from the actual future.”
Current storyline that has me most interested in how things will play out: Bad Haze.
Strangest task I accomplished today: Teaching myself how to make origami cranes – for the specific purpose of enhancing my D&D gaming.
Best joke that remains good despite being used by Tatsuya Ishida many, many times before: I Can’t Quit You.
Most provocative post that completely misses the point: Between the cocoon and the Comics Code Authority.
…and I should probably expand at least a little bit on that last point.
Dirk Deppey has never really pretended to be impressed with fangirl activism in the comics community, and this is hardly the first time he has attempted to take them to task for waging whatever wars they choose to wage. And, to be fair, there are things he says that are reasonable, and there have been times when his disdain may have been justified – fans are fans, whether boy or girl, and it is a very, very, very fine line between legitimate outrage and fannish entitlement.
But the thing that bugs me in Dirk’s latest post is that he seems to be saying that the fine folks over at Girl Wonder shouldn’t be wasting their time complaining about the problems of sexism and misogyny that they see in the industry; they shouldn’t be trying to make the industry more friendly towards female fans. Instead, they should be focusing on convincing Marvel and DC to revitalize their lines in full. They should be convincing them to wipe out continuity entirely, to return to the use of the Comics Code Authority, and to write comics entirely focused at children.
Which, ok, I can see the argument – but are you seriously saying that there isn’t a place for mature, well-written comics that adults of both genders can equally enjoy? Look – I don’t like the current DC environment and the bizarre fetish it has with death and despair. But that isn’t because I don’t believe in serious stories – it is because all the petty drama going around is just that – shallow and mindless.
I don’t want a return to silver age comics. Sorry – that wouldn’t interest me. I want stories with character development and progression. I want stories where the heroes usually triumph, sure – but also ones that involve them overcoming challenging adversaries. I want stories where they are pushed to the limit – and then overcome it. I want stories that are fun and enjoyable while also keeping me engaged in the plot.
They are certainly out there – Blue Beetle from DC, the Immortal Iron Fist with Marvel. Ultimate Spiderman has been succeeding at it for years, and Invincible seems to have a good handle on the concept.
Is it something that can be kept up for decade after decade with the same title and one writer after another? No idea. But clearly quality comics are possible, and I think this is the drive behind Girl Wonder and similar groups – they might focus on little details, because that is really the only way to make progress in this sort of battle. And is it really fair to say it is a ridiculous fight to try and make comics more palatable for 10% of the readership? 10% might not be the whole crowd, but that is not an insignificant amount of people.
And, yes, I think there are others out there that could be and would be reading print comics if they overcame the flaws they are currently afflicted by. I don’t know the actual numbers with, say, webcomics – but this does seem to clearly be a field with a phenomenal number of female creators and readers. And webcomics, let me tell you, are hardly written solely for the benefit of children.
Look, finding a way to save the industry is certainly a good thing. I’m all for it. But saying that you can’t complain about any of the industry’s flaws without dedicating yourself to bringing about that salvation in every way possible… well, it’s a damn silly argument. There are clearly things that need fixing, and even if there are times when elements are blown out of proportion, that doesn’t invalidate the entire movement.
And I think there are goals that can be worked towards that don’t involve dumbing comics down into nothing more than childish fancies. I think there is a place for quality comics with a solid mix of humor and serious issues – and that manages to tell a story without degenerating into softcore porn.
Is that really so outrageous a goal?
On Unlikeable Characters
I find it curious that, when I ranted about Sluggy Freelance a couple months ago – or more specifically, about how unlikeable the characters had become – I heard quite a few others putting forward College Roomies From Hell as having a similar problem.
And since then, I have heard this again a few times over, and I can’t deny that it is true – but the interesting thing is that the two comics have ended up in similar situations for completely opposite reasons. For Sluggy, Pete seems to desperately want to retain a light-hearted tone with the characters. Character development threatens the classic formula of the strip, of a bunch of wacky kids – or rather, twenty-somethings that refuse to grow up – constantly getting into absurd hijinks and acting as dysfunctional as possible around each other.
He seems to have even become aware of it, in recent strips, but still unable to resist having them all act like idiots – the last few months have been filled with moments where the characters say, “Wait, why are we acting like this?” … seconds before they engage in even more juvenile behavior. Caught in this perpetual realm of immaturity, it becomes harder and harder to remotely care about their eventual fate – a death knell for a strip based on long, elaborate plotlines.
With CRFH, on the other hand, the characters have become unlikeable as an intentional part of the plot, as the early humor of the strip has given way to darker storylines and heavy bouts of angst. The characters have been driven apart from each other, and even become enemies after a fashion.
Opposite direction, same problem.
For myself, CRFH hasn’t lost me yet – while I have a hard time sympathizing with the characters, there is an overall plot to follow, and one that seems to be heading for the endgame. Even beyond that, for all that I’m not entirely sure of how I feel about the plot, it has resulted in some pretty fantastic individual scenes.
It’s a really bizarre situation. Character wise, I certainly much preferred the entire crew when they were (mostly) friends, and the petty relationship drama seemed to actually lead towards some sort of resolution. But… the path the strip has gone down was not an entirely sudden one. It might not have been obvious early on, but the elements were being set in place for the strip’s eventual focus on the fight against Satan, and the fact that such a fight wasn’t going to involve the characters remaining bright and cheerful and silly throughout.
I mean… it is right there in the name of the comic itself.
So I have to respect that. But even so, that isn’t what is keeping me reading the strip – while it may have been inevitable, the direction of the plot does somewhat rub me the wrong way at times, and it is rough seeing everyone act so… ugly, towards each other.
But the little moments make it worth staying around. There have been some very nice, very concise moments of drama, accompanied by some of the most gorgeous imagery seen in the comic – and interestingly enough, regardless of my feelings on the characters and the plot, those moments alone are strong enough to keep my attention.
There are few comics that can pull that off. I even seem to recall that this was my introduction to the comic itself – a pretty powerful newsbox led me into a certain scene in the “Gone With the Storm” arc, and that moment was enough to engage my interest. I’ll point out that it is extremely rare for me to remember exactly when or how I started reading a given webcomic – which stands as even more of a testament as to how well CRFH can make certain moments resonate in a reader’s mind.
Something Positive is in a strange place, and I’m not entirely sure what to think of it. Which, in many ways, is a good thing.
From what I can tell, PeeJee has proposed to Davan that they commit to each other as platonic life mates. It is not an entirely illogical progression from their current state – they are close, as close as friends can get, and both have a long string of relationships that have tended to end poorly.
Is there more to it than that? I suspect so… though I’m not entirely positive as to what it may be. PeeJee may see Davan as more than a friend – she has definitely shown a certain level of infatuation regarding him in the strip of late… though that may simply have been recognition of how deep their friendship truly is.
She may simply be using this as an excuse, an easy way out, a retreat into that which is comfortable and non-threatening… but there hasn’t been any specific event that I could have seen to directly trigger such an action.
What I am certain of is this – if Milholland can demonstrate one thing, it is that he isn’t willing to settle for simple relationships (or simple characters) within his comics.
I was amused, the other day, when I saw someone ranting about how S*P was turning into Friends – or more specifically, how the comic was set-up so that everyone was forced to end up with their childhood friends, and that it was shown as evil and bizarre to pursue relationships outside of that original social circle.
Now, there is a lot of nonsense being thrown around in that rant there, but what truly made me laugh was that what had triggered this rant was the recent Old Familiar Faces showcasing Branwen. Branwen, who is one of those very outsiders – she did not start out as part of the underlying social group. She started out as Davan’s girlfriend. And, remarkably, their relationship ended well – the break-up wasn’t fun (break-ups usually aren’t), but it wasn’t nearly as ugly as most relationships in the strip. They stayed friends. She remained a distinctly likeable character.
Her latest relationship didn’t end poorly because of some hidden propaganda to sell the idea that characters will only be happy ending up with their childhood friends – it ended the way it did (and the same way others have throughout the strip) because the comic is filled with an incredibly pessimistic view of humanity and their capacity for disappointment.
One tempered, admittedly, by an equally strong optimism of their potential for hope.
S*P has always been a strange mix of ups and downs. It has gone to some very dark places, and the majority of characters are deeply flawed on many levels – but they are also capable of greatness. And happiness. And caring for each other, and overcoming those very same flaws.
Which, yeah, is what people have been saying about S*P for years – and I have, I’m sure, already done so on multiple occasions… but it still impresses me at how well the characters can resonate, and at how willing Milholland is to take the strip in any direction it needs to go.
Many, many, many strips have trouble with the idea of growth. Once they find a nice, simple formula that works, they stick with it. Change is bad, change risks alienating readers. It is the classic reason people mock newspaper strips. Numerous webcomics show the same problem.
But S*P is constantly changing. Characters move away, characters die off, characters grow into different personalities. Life continues on, the focus shifts from one group to another… and, in the end, nothing remains predictable.
Maybe this is the beginning of Davan and PeeJee having a happy life together. Maybe this is the beginning of Davan and PeeJee having an absolutely terrible life together. Maybe this is when Branwen re-enters the picture, or another new girl shows up.
I can see the strip pursuing any one of these possibilities, and countless more besides. Milholland has never pulled his punches before, and I doubt he plans to start doing so now.
Just one of the things that makes Something Positive a damn good comic.
What Makes a Webcomic
One of the things I like about webcomics – that is to say, comics on the web – is that they are simply there.
The discussion of what really goes into the term webcomics is one that has been going on for years now, without any real resolution. The debate over whether it is simply a medium or if it has managed to capture something more than that – a community, a culture – is an argument where both sides are, in many ways, right.
But regardless of the intricacies of it all, one thing is true – comics on the internet are accessible, and that’s a very cool thing indeed.
Recently I stumbled across a comic called “The Unity of Rings.” It was not an ongoing work – it was a single self-contained issue, only twenty-seven pages in total. It may have been published elsewhere before finding its way onto the web – I could find no such indication, but it would not surprise me given the style of the comic. And it is not something out in the open – placed on the web four years ago and then forgotten, it was only through sheer chance that I discovered it.
What it is, however, is a genius little comic that captures the essence of Planescape, a setting for Dungeons and Dragons that focuses on exploring the various wonders – and possibilities – (and inevitabilities) of the myriad planes of existence.
In twenty-seven pages, this comic manages to capture that idea – no small feat. It is a great comic, prime inspiration for an upcoming campaign I am working – and simply one of the countless surprises floating around the internet, waiting to be found.
What makes a webcomic? Should this count? It reads more like a print comic, in layout and length and purpose. It isn’t tied into any of the networks of webcomic communities. It is formed in the standard print comic design, with an entire crew dedicated to writing and drawing and polishing it into existence, rather than being the work of a single soul, or even the rare duo working together to put something on the web.
And yet… here it is. It may not exist anywhere else. Available for anyone able to find it, a small little treasure there for the taking. No fees attached, no subscription required.
Is it a webcomic?
And – here’s the real question – does it matter if it is or not?
The Whole is Greater
Everytime I realize that the comic that has me the most on the edge of my seat is Starslip Crisis, I feel a moment of confusion. I shouldn’t, of course, given that I’ve been in this situation before… yet it is oh-so-easy to slip into thinking of the comic as just another silly strip with a daily punchline and lovable cast of characters.
The premise revolves around a pretentious curator sailing a traveling art gallery through space, accompanied by an ex-pirate and an alien with paralyzing saliva and a certain lack of understanding of human nature. Along the way they meet crazy artists, tyrannical despots, homicidal robots, benevolent monarchs – it’s your standard set of zany adventures, and Straub has a very good sense of where to land the punchline and unleash the laughs.
Yet somehow he is also able to take those characters and weave a compelling and intense story out of it. To pit these joke characters against epic adverseries and yet have them manage to triumph. He makes it work, and even more amazingly so, he manages to make the transition from one to the other seem entirely natural and, in fact, almost inevitable. The comic never takes itself too seriously, and yet it still manages to forge a connection with the reader and leave them genuinely affected by the plot.
Currently a war is being waged by Lord Katarakis, an insane space tyrant out to conquer… well, pretty much everything. He has control of a specific piece of art that, when viewed in a certain context, renders those viewing it essentially mind-controlled.
The fleet opposing him – of which Memnon, protagonist and curator, has found his ship recruited into – is tricked into viewing a massive projection of the art, thus removing all resistance to Katarakis’s plans.
Except that Memnon realizes that viewing a projection of the art is seperate from viewing it directly, and this changes the context and snaps him out of the control. Because of his pretension, because of his devotion to art, because of his very nature that has been the punchline of the strip since day one… because of all that, he is the only man able to stand against Katarakis. Storylines that have been building up in the strip for years have come to this one moment in which he will have a chance to prove himself, a situation that he and he alone could make possible.
From the beginning it was obvious that Kris Straub had a command of humor, and could ensure the strip was fun day in and day out. And it was not long before I became impressed with the depth he could imbue in the shallowest of characters. And I even slowly came to realize that he could produce some dramatically powerful storylines.
But I think this is the moment were I am really able to see the grand tapestry – to see that the story being told, for all its disparate elements, could not be told without every last one of them. Before, I have enjoyed all the individual pieces of the puzzle – now I am able to see them brought together, and it is hard not to be impressed.
I’m not sure precisely how this storyline will end. Memnon may pull off something incredibly badass, or he might end up fumbling his chance and require Mr. Jinx to save the day. Maybe we’ll even see Zillion and Colonel Samuel Q. Breckenridge… or maybe not.
But regardless of what will happen, all I know is that was has happened has been awesome enough to leave me decidedly eager for more.
Yesterday, Home on the Strange came to an end. Today, Bang Barstal also says goodbye… at least for now.
Eric Burns, of Websnark fame, does an unsurprisingly good job of discussing the end of HotS. It is certainly a shame to see it come to an end, and there is a sense that many more storylines could have been explored – but the comic wrapped things up as well as could be expected, which is more than many fallen webcomics can say. Fading away into memory and the land of the Great Hiatus is no proper way to go, and HotS concluded things in the same way it did everything else – with a mix of professionalism and good humor.
I am sad to see it go, and I do hope we are able to hear the end of Branch’s story – but there are many other webcomics in the same vein, and I don’t suspect I’ll feel its absence for long.
Bang Barstal, on the other hand, will be more thoroughly missed. I won’t claim this is due to some nebulous sense of superiority, though – they are both great comics in their own way. But Bang Barstal was relatively unique in the webcomic world, embarking upon storylines that stood alone, with a “hero” whose sense of style and purpose was both original and compelling. Even the art is visually distinct, something especially felt in the last few chapters of the strip. And the ending, as sad as I was to face it, managed to finish things on an absolutely perfect note.
It is also the creation of one the William G, internet critic and webcomic rabblerouser.
I should make something clear – a few years back, I don’t believe there was a single figure involved in webcomicdom that I had a lower opinion of than William G. This was following the height of his prominence, a time when, it seemed, he was at the height of his troublemaking and attacks on the fools who dared to enjoy popular webcomics.
But you know what? Hating folks for having unpopular opinions is boring. And I came to realize most of my problems with the fellow stemmed less from what he was saying, and more from how he said it. Oh, I still disagreed on any number of topics – but I didn’t regard his presence on the internets as a personal insult. Sometimes, sure, he was still a dick – but there were also times he had genuinely insightful things to say. My view of fandom (and its dangers) isn’t nearly as extreme as his – but I’ve also come to realize a lot of things about it that I wouldn’t have without his rants.
The thing of it is, though, that even when I very thoroughly disliked William G as a person, I was still a fan of his work. That was when he was doing It’s About Girls, which was a powerful and realistic personal drama strip at a time when the web was remarkably lacking in such comics. (It’s still around today, though I am not sure for how much longer, with script still provided by Mr. G, and art done by the talented Sahsha Andrade.)
Now, I’ve done this with other comics as well – I continue to read Ctrl+Alt+Del despite the many signs that Tim Buckley is not all that nice a guy. But I’ve always felt somewhat dirty doing so, at supporting someone who really didn’t deserve it.
I never felt that with It’s About Girls, or with Bang Barstal – because they were just that good. They were strong, solid, independant strips that stood out from the crowd. They were legitimately well done works of art, and they deserved every reader they got. I couldn’t feel ashamed of reading them; I think I would have only felt ashamed had I walked away simply because I didn’t like what the man had to say. And I always felt the biggest crime of all the drama surrounding William G was that it did drive away many others who would have otherwise enjoyed his comics.
Bang Barstal has come to a very satisfactory end… and also left some possible room open for a sequel, some time down the road. Will has sworn off webcomics several times before, and returned every time – and this time even he seems to expect that one day he’ll return to the drawing board.
And I have to say, regardless of all the drama and flames and silliness that has followed in his wake… if his next work is anywhere on par with what he did with Bang Barstal, I’m looking forward to it.