Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Reflections

Click for full size Forgery!A few brief thoughts from some comics this week:

1) Order of the Stick

Rich Burlew continues to show his mastery of the craft, as he managed to pull off a very powerfully cinematic piece here. We've just had the latest big plot arc come to a resolution... but this strip easily gives us the sense that we are only in the calm before the storm.

I can't stress enough how much I like the pacing right here. As I said before - it is very cinematic. A classic build-up to whatever is coming, and I definitely am eagerly awaiting.

I like the fact that he is able to fit a good half-dozen plot points into the strip without them feeling out of place. I like the fact that, as in most of his work, he pays attention to all the characters. I like the fact that even with a serious set-up like this, he still pulls out a punchline.

And as good as this strip is... strip number 300 is only 2 strips away.

I can't imagine he won't do something special for it. I can only eagerly await and see what he's got for us next...

Click for full-sized Bearded Davan!
2) Something Positive

Davan with a beard looks old.

I was really startled by how much it changes his appearance. We'd seen the start of the growth recently, but this was the first time we saw a full beard - and, as I said, it makes him look a lot older.

Now, it is admittedly true that growing up is one of the comic's big themes.

I also recall that Davan's father showed the signs of his age - take a look at his appearance over the years.

I'm not going to make any speculation on exactly what Davan's new appearance might mean - it may just be as simple as pointing out that he is too busy and too stressed to have time to shave.

Still, it came as a bit of a shock to see, and I figured I'd make note of it.

Till next week!

Get your Jam on!

Click for full sized cartoon acid trip!
Jam-O-Gram is the latest project of Jam Torkberg, and seems to be an exercise in creativity. The strips are each almost always solitary, and often highlight whatever whimsically strange idea has caught the artist's mind. For a time, he based each cartoon off a random comment chosen from the day before.

Now, a comic being experimental does not, in and of itself, make it a good comic. As within any other genre of comics, it is the quality of the work itself, not its trappings, that determine its value. On the whole I've found Jam-O-Gram to be worth reading more often than not, but the humor can be very hit or miss.

Some days get no more than a shrug from me, others I find clever without really laughing at them - but some definitely get a chuckle or two, and there are ones that I can keep coming back to, and grin every single time. There are days when I find the work to be masterful, and days when I just don't get it - but in the end, that shouldn't be unexpected, given that pretty much each comic is trying something new and unusual.

Today's comic left me with a lot of different things I wanted to talk about.

Aside from the comic itself, Jam mentions himself to be an avid fan of Rejected. Now, it you haven't seen Rejected, you should go do so. I'll warn you right now - it's not for everyone. Some people might just find it puzzling. Others may be actively horrified, disgusted, or traumatized. But I know that the first time I watched it, I found it so horrifyingly amusing that I was in physical pain from laughing too hard.

Rejected is an exercise in... the surreal. In the unusual. Absurd things happen without reason or expectation. Scenes are set-up and perverted - happy laughter going hand in hand with physically disturbing events. Sometimes there is nothing perverse at hand, merely the bizarre - unusual figures screaming out gibberish.

In this case, simply hearing mention of Rejected instantly changed up my view of the comic itself. I couldn't read it without hearing the character's screaming out their lines of gibberish in the same wild and vocal tones as are featured in Rejected. Without that, I don't think I would have found the comic itself actually funny - but visualizing the lines beind said in that fashion, and it actually worked for me.

That said, I don't believe the words are intended to be gibberish, but rather code. (Or at least, so I must conclude from a cryptic sequence of numbers posted beneath the comic.) Yet for me, I actually prefer the words to be meaningless. It is hardly a gag I want to see everyday - but right now, with this set-up, I like it.

The other thing of note about today's comic is that it was created entirely with the left hand. If we weren't told that outright, though, I wouldn't even have known. Not because the quality of the work is perfect - it isn't, you can clearly see the result of using the left hand, though it still came out very impressively.

But the reason I didn't notice was because so much of Jam's art is fluid and dynamic. I often expect characters to have loose, squiggly lines. Wavering features and strange perspectives works well with the oddities of his strips.

As I mentioned before, this is by and large an experimental strip. Jam tries new and unusual stuff all the time, and I imagine the work he does is more for his own sake then for his audience. This latest experiment, regardless of whether the characters are speaking in code or not, I'd rate as a definite success.

Monday, March 27, 2006

He's back!

I just wanted to announce Wes Molebash's return to webcomics!

Things really weren't the same on the internet without him, and its a relief to see him return to the fold. Some might feel that his departure was ill-thought out, and his return bespeaks a lack of determination, but I for one am glad to see his comic continue.

You'll Have That has always been a clever mix of poignant romance and heart-wrenching drama. It is easy to see the poet's soul that is behind the work, and how such an individual could be beaten down by the ill winds of the internet. It is refreshing to know that such an artist could rise from the ashes of his despair, invigorated by his love of the art, and resume his work after such an absence!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pleasant Perplexity

I admit I probably have not been paying as much attention as I should to the latest happenings in Nukees.

I'm not entirely sure why the dynamic duo are currently trying to get information about... whatever they are trying to find out.

I'm also not sure why the trip involved a detour to Gav's parents.

But I think it says quite a bit that, despite not really following the current overall storyline, the strips have remained brilliantly funny. Especially the latest two - watching Danny and Gav's o-so-cliche misadventure in secretarial seduction has proven a high point in my week.

Sorry for the short posts this week! Life's been busy giving me lemons... or however the saying goes... but hopefully things will have settled a bit by next week.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

George is the Man now!

Not as much as George. You know, it isn't every day a comic can swap out the main character, and then keep on doing its thing without even slowing down.

Joe Loves Crappy Movies is an awesome comic. Funny strips, funny reviews, funny newspots.

But out with the old, in with the new!

George Loves Crappy Movies is also an awesome comic. That is all.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

MetaParody can be MetaPerfect

Return of the RainmakerToday, I am a happy panda.

The reason for this, for those who may be pondering why, is that I just got my latest issues of PS238. And them's some good readings.

I've always been a fan of the work of Aaron Williams, and the two comics he updates on the web - Nodwick and Full Frontal Nerdity - are both pretty rad.

But I really love Public School 238. The premise - a school specifically designed for the eduction of metapowered youth. It starts out fun and silly, playing around with all the cliches and jokes that can come out of the genre... especially when dealing with kids, and school teachers.

And then... it really gets good. The humor is still there, but it embarks on ambitious storyline after ambitious storyline, each one leaving the reader wanting more.

I got my daily dose today, and can only hope the weekly doses of Nodwick will be able to tide me over till the next issue...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Just a few quick thoughts before I dash off for more of my wild life of adventure and excitement~

1) I thought the idea of the Inside Joker to be totally awesome, and "Butterfly" continues to be a hella fun strip.

2) Despite never having been able to enjoy reading Achewood, and steadfastly refusing to read a story arc without full immersion in background plot, I've been keeping abreast of the Great Outdoor Fight. It's big, it's brutal, and all the other bloggers have gone into more educated discussion of it than I ever could.

3) The final panel from yesterday's strip of the Green Avenger was really, really funny. The facial expression are just perfect. I keep going back to that strip and giggling at it.

4) Mr. Milholland is done with his play, and comics are back not just for Something Positive... but also Midnight Macabre! Not only that, but I was struck by one quote from the recent strip: "Viewer's aren't going to give me that kinda money. People don't pay for what they are used to getting for free."

The similarity between Gaspar's situation and Randy's own from a few years back... well, I have no idea what it means. But I was definitely struck by it, I tell you what! Definitely eager to see where the strip is going from there.

5) And now to distract you all with kittens whilst I make mine exit. Caio!

Monday, March 20, 2006

The thing dreams are made of...

Click for full sized internal monologuing and external smooching! For a good while now I've been a fan of Kathleen Jacques' Intershadows. I had lost track of the comic for a time when it was transitioning from Coolsville (a fun comic with a lot of potential that was hindered by rough art and wandering storylines) into its current state: a very powerfully drawn comic with a lot of solid, connected plot.

The latest comic reveals that two of the secondary characters, Corey and Rain - both rather sad and lonely individuals - are, in fact, 'getting it on' with each other, as the kids say.

This came as a complete shock to me. It completely blew me away. Not because of the two character's suddenly revealed homosexuality - that actually fits into the story surprisingly well. But it came as a surprise because the two of them had both been set up as tragic figures, constantly driven deeper and deeper into solitude and sadness.

And suddenly the two of them are given unexpected happiness.

It's not an ending - the story will still be going on from here, and it is hard to say how it will end for these two - but it's as welcome as it was unexpected. I think there's a little someone in all of us cheering for everybody to find a happy ending.

Intershadows in general is a great comic, and well worth checking out. And the cast page, which some critics have proclaimed an integral part of any comic?

Is a flowchart. In haiku form.

Goddamn but that is cool.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

"See? I know how to write happy endings... kinda."

One of the things Something Positive is well known for is its dark humor - and its cynicism in general.

Year One ended with Davan facing the death of his best friend from his youth.

Year Two ended with Aubrey dealing with a bleak job situation and a loss of independance.

Year Three ended with Davan's home and possessions burning to a crisp.

Especially in the early years of the comic, there was a lot of reason to assume that the comic was, at its heart, pessimistic. The main characters get to deal with a ton of shit the world throws at them. Jobs are lost, relationships fall apart, friends and family move away... or pass on.

But the longer the comic goes on, the more and more optimism I see in it.

Oh, it doesn't have things end in happy perfect fairy tales. Life doesn't magically get better.

But for every moment of darkness they face... there is also a ray of light.

We'll get back to that idea in a bit. For now, let's take a look at the characters. Recently Randy provided a bit of fan-service by setting aflame Kharisma Valetti, one of the most despised personas in the strip.

Now, the obvious question one has to wonder is what this will mean for Kharisma. I mean sure - the fans hate Kharisma, and Randy thought it might be a nice tough to burn her face off. But... where does it go from here? She may well recover from the incident - but how intact will he beauty be? Given that her beauty - and the contempt she bears the world because of it - is her largest defining characteristic, what will this mean for her?

She doesn't seem to have instantly woken up into being a good person by any means. Self-absorption remains pretty integral to her. And yet... what does Randy have in store for her? It wouldn't be the first time a character has undergone an integral change by any means...

Something Positive is a story about people. There aren't some set good guys and bad guys. There are just... people, getting through life. Sure, we have the protaganists - Davan, Aubrey, Peejee and their friends. But the troubles they face are anything from the world around them to each other.

The characters themselves aren't perfect people - by and large they are an angry, violent and belligerent lot. They are more than willing to beat up, abuse or mock anyone who isn't in their circle of friends and who deserves their antagonism - or simply happens to be in their way.

But we love them. Because they come off as real people, and they aren't evil - they care about each other, deeply. They are a circle of true friends who simply happen to have a fair amount of megalomania, self-loathing and violent tendencies. And hey, its a comic strip - we can accept the sometimes overblown heights they reach.

One of the earliest true antagonists in the strip was Mike. Good old Mike. He represented everything bad about gaming nerds. He couldn't show up in the strip without actively being an asshole to the characters we cared about. He ruins games. He ruins cons. He actively drives away the only people in his life that remotely care about him.

He is universally detested by the fan-base. He shows no redeeming qualities whatsoever... at first.

Time moves on. He comes to realize how much his own nature is responsible for the sad state of his life. And he does his best to try and get better. It helps that there are those who, even after all he has done, continue to show pity for him. But in the end - it is Mike, himself, who finds the desire to improve.

He still fucks up. Over and over again, he fucks up. But one day... eventually... he is accepted. The fans are actively rooting for him to finish becoming a decent human being.

It isn't the first time a character has shown maturity. All the cast and crew have gone through moments where they have grown up... or moved on. Life continuing on is one of the underlying themes throughout the entire strip. Even Monette - who starts out airheaded, adrift, an objection of amusement and pity - finds herself. She finds a job, a family, a girlfriend - and more often than not, shows herself as mature and responsible enough to lead her own life.

People grow up. People mature.

Now, admittedly, there are those that don't show any emotional depth in the strip - generally one-shot caricatures such as gamer nerds, plushie abusers, and the like. And there are those in the strip who might occasionally try and improve, but keep failing. Kyle, PeeJee's faithless boyfriend. Eva, Davan's faithless girlfriend.

Eva is the biggest example of this - she dated Davan. There were good and bad times during that period. And eventually, she cheated on him and went back to the boyfriend that beat her.

She quit him again. Found a new boyfriend, one that treated her right. And dumped him at the altar to, again, go back to a disastrous relationship. And then pines after Davan again. And then acts like an asshole to him again. And so forth.

She isn't shown as actively evil - just misguided. Just unable to really understand what is good in the world. And for all that you have to hate her... you have to pity her, too.

So now we have Kharisma. From her first appearance, she came off... poorly. She's arrogant, not very intelligent, and self-obsessed.

But... there have been moments when she hasn't come off quite so terrible. For all her outlook on pretty people first, she seems to genuinely care about Davan.

So here we are. What's it going to be? She's faced with a crisis. Will she end up as a Mike or as an Eva? It's a story I am definitely eager to see.

Because for all the little bits of bleakness and biting humor in Something Positive, the title is very, very true. It is a story about life. About real people. It is not a perfect world. It isn't filled with perfect people. But... it isn't filled with perfectly evil people, either.

Even in the worst of those we meet, those who started out as vilified as they could be... there's a little bit of something positive.

Friday, March 17, 2006

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!

Thursday, March 16, 2006


So, has anyone else noticed, over at Sluggy, that Bun-bun seems to have mellowed out a bunch since his return? I mean, as if he... say... actually misses nerd boy and crew?

Well, I suppose 2 or 3 strips is too few to really draw any conclusions yet.

Still. I'm liking it.

Oh, I'm eager to see what's up with Torg, and some resolution to all the loose threads of Oasis and Zoe and Aylee and whatever. But that will come in time, I'm sure.

For now, I definitely feel Abrams is getting his groove back. And if I might actually have reason to not entirely hate Bun-bun... well that will be something special in its own right.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

What the future may bring: Modern Tales

I've been a subscriber of Modern Tales (and Graphic Smash, and Girlamatic) for about a year and a half now.

As such, it is with quite a bit of eagerness that I look forward to the upcoming changes in the pipeline. I am not entirely sure when those changes are coming, but they've been in the works for a few months now.

Part of the change is that the comics will no longer be subscription based. Or at least, mostly so - the announcement indicates that some subscription aspects will remain. Hmm. We'll see how it goes.

So, obviously, as a paying subscriber, that's good news to me - but that's not really the part of the changes I anticipate.

Eric Burns is the new editor of Modern Tales. That's obviously a big thing. He has done a lot for the field, has a lot of good outlooks on the way things should work, and will no doubt do a lot of good things in the position.

But again... not directly what I care about.

All I truly have, deep inside, is a small, tiny little hope that maybe Modern Tales will finally have an infrastructure that doesn't totally suck balls.

Ok, that was a bit harsh, towards a system that features a lot of comics I know and love. But I stand by the statement anyway.

A year and a half of subscription to Modern Tales is not a vast amount of time. The total cost for that much subscription time is, say, around $150 bucks. Not a ridiculous sum of money.

Nonetheless, looking back upon my experience with them, I'd say that I've spent much of that time disappointed with the service.

I joined Modern Tales for one reason - Narbonic.
I joined Graphic Smash for one reason - Fans.
I joined Girlamatic for one reason - Li'l Mell.

Since joining, sure, I found other comics in the system to enjoy. But in each case, it was one single strip that pulled me in - two of them being strips I had read for years previously, while the last one was obviously something of an offshoot from one of them.

Fans ended. Fortunately, Graphic Smash continued to offer me a variety of comics to read, which updated consistently and in quantity.

Girlamatic had a few comics I read. It went through a low stretch where many of my favorites - Astronaut Elementary, Kismet: Hunter's Moon, Smile - left it behind, but it brought in a variety of very good new strips.

Modern Tales itself, however... simply withered.

It still had Narbonic, of course. And Narbonic is good enough to carry the collective on its back singlehandedly. Access to the Narbonic archives is worth the subscription price alone.

Still. That is a distressing state of things.

These days, a bare handful of strips update on Modern Tales on any given day. Less than half of those are ones that I specifically am interested in - which in and of itself, I expect. But when that ratio translates to one or two comics, and nothing more... it is shameful.

Now, when Eric Burns joined the staff, he began accepting submissions for new comics to join the fold. So no doubt the quantity will improve.

Part of the problem, I suppose, is that webcomics are constantly in motion. New ones are started, old ones end, or fade away, or move elsewhere. With the strips that are part of the collective, many will move on towards striking out on their own, or leave the medium entirely. It is not something that I could see any easy solution to, of course. Despite this - when someone pays a fee to get access to a strip, and then suddenly that strip is elsewhere - either freely available or gone for good - it is disappointing. Finding a better solution should be the exact sort of goal one would think would be set by Modern Tales.

These days, it is a wasteland. There is Narbonic. There are a few others - some of which I enjoy, some of which don't interest me, some of which are simply republished work from earlier. But... a bare handful at best. It is barren, empty and lifeless.

As I said... a distressing state of things.

Strike one.

My other concerns regard the navigation of the site. Namely, the organization of the comics.

Lets look at Graphic Smash, as it actually has enough comics of interest to me to be relevant. Assuming all goes well, I am able to easily browse the comics.

I log in every morning, take a look at what comics have been updated, and read the latest updates. That experience - which is, in fact, the one faced by one who browses the site for free - is perfectly fine.

But we don't always get to read every comic every day. Let's say something goes wrong. I miss a week of updates. Fortunately, thats why I subscribe - access to the archives!

I log on, and see which comics were updated that day. Now... how do I tell which ones were updated yesterday?


I don't.

I have to manually go into every comic and see whether or not it has updated. And scroll back through the archives to see whether I missed multiple updates.

So, no automatic function listing what pages updated when. Well, maybe that is a bit too much to ask - after all, I suppose it could be a bit tricky coordinating a backlog of listings like that. I'd think that to be exactly the sort of service a site like Modern Tales would want to provide... but no matter.

But I can't even just take a quick glance at a strip's archives to jump back through the dates.

Because the dates aren't. even. freaking. listed.

I mean, c'mon! Dudes! What the fuck, man, just... what the fuck.

Strike two.

So, Modern Tales is a subscription based site. As such, at the core of the system, it requires a log-in service to browse the subscription content areas of the site.

Which is why I find it sad, and a bit distressing, that it cannot easily store your log-in info between sessions.

I mean, that would be handy, right? Quite a convenience.

But, ok, fine, not a necessity.

So, I find myself wanting to look up a specific strip in the archives. I go to Modern Tales. Select the comic I want. Go to the archives. Select the story-arc. Select the specific strip - at which point it requests a log-in.

Sure, no problem. I log in.

And... bam, back at the front page. Oh, gee, thanks. Time to dig through four layers of infrastructure once again.

Or say I click on a link from another site to a specific strip. Again, it requests a log-in - and once I've logged in, I'm at the front page.

Does it ruin my comic reading experience? No, of course not. It is an inconvenience, and nothing more.

But I really don't like to pay for inconveniences.

Strike three.

Joey Manley created this new collective, the Modern Tales family. It has been around for... what, four years now?

And at its core, it is built on a navigational system that seems cobbled together. That has countless little quirks that make manuevering the site frustrating - and that haven't been fixed in the years it has been around.

The majority of the free webcomics I read have far better, far easier, far more convenient browsing systems. I can find my way through archives without difficulty. It isn't an ordeal.

Modern Tales doesn't offer that, despite being, supposedly, professional.

They've realized, apparently, that the subscription model is not the key to success. Other means of financial gain are being utilized.

But at least for me personally, I wonder whether it would have met with, at least, more success had the system actually been designed properly. Made user-friendly and kept up to date. Perhaps including a link on the site for feedback would have helped - sure, the forums are there, but it requires quite a bit of effort to hunt down how to directly contact the editor of each site if you don't already know who they are.

That doesn't scream professionalism to me.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is some magic button you can click to fix the problems I run into. But I haven't found it yet, and I've taken a look around. All to no avail.

In any case, changes are coming.

I don't know, yet, what those changes will mean. I don't know how much they plan to alter the site, and what will be left once the new work is revealed.

But I hope the changes involve revamping the site entirely. I really hope that things get fixed, and are user-friendly. I hope the experience of using the site becomes an enjoyable one, not an exercise in frustration. Modern Tales has a ton of potential, several truly great comics, and some very dedicated editors. I'd really, really like to not feel bitterness when using their service.

We'll see what happens.

For now, all I can do is hope for the best.

Know when to hold 'em

Penny Arcade vexes me.

I find that their epic sagas to be both a blessing and a curse.

They are good. Full of the potential for... story. For adventure. For sheer awesomeness.

And then... as soon as begun, the game is up. Three strips is all the sacrifice they dare give in to the dread spectre of continuity, and after that, it is back to business as usual - a commentary on current events in the gaming world, spiced up with a crude reference to wangs, that requires intense delving into the news post in order to understand.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love PA's standalone strips to death. They are brilliant, and when I'm sitting around with my friends quoting Penny Arcade strips for hours on end, its those strips that provide the fuel for our terribly nerdy activity.

But even so.

I like Penny Arcade as it is. But I also like the glimpses granted when they tangle with continuity and plot. O cursed fate, to be torn between such fields!

A blessing and a curse, indeed.

Creative Endeavors

I like Tailsteak.

The site is a collection of various little creative works by Tailsteak.

This includes several different continuing comics, my favorites of which are the band (fantastic), the blue android (kinda neat), and TQ (clever).

It also features drawing exercises such as twenty questions with a coin, which are nifty and relatively entertaining.

And sometimes is comes out with something entirely out of the blue - such as this recent little flash sudoku game.

Now, I'm not a fan of Sudoku. I've recently expressed my public disdain for it, in fact.

But this game was fun. I liked it.

For all that I like the standard webcomics that bring the same story to the table with every update, I like being able to drop by Tailsteak's site and, more often than not, be pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

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.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The curse of an interesting life

Journal comics can't be easy to do.

On the surface, oh, sure - you just take what happens in your life and make a comic out of it. Anyone can do that.

Of course, anyone can make a comic about talking rabbits or space ships or what-the-hell-ever - that doesn't mean those comics will be good.

Take a look at a comic like Malfunction Junction. It 'brings the funny', as they say in the industry, with damn fine consistency. Funny stories about his life, and the crazy things that happen to him.

I mean, not everyone can say they wake up and - bam! 8,000 dollars! How about that?

I know a remarkable number of people who that sort of thing would never happen to. If you asked them to share some of the fascinating tales of their life, they'd likely come up short. It simply isn't the case that everyone can live a life of adventure and excitement, right?

But back to Malfunction Junction. Matt Milby's life, one would argue, is not a life of adventure and excitement. His description of the comic, and his life, explains that he is an art-school drop out who works at a gas station.

That is not a life that exactly screams entertainment.

And yet... he keeps the comics coming. And they are funny. And filled with little stories and interesting things that you wouldn't think happen to most people, right?

Well... wrong.

He describes his reason for making a journal comic as follows: "I am most inspired by everyday stuff that happens to me."

Every day there are plenty of fascinating things that happen. To us, to our friends, to strangers. But sometimes it can be hard to actually notice them.

For the longest time, I would feel out of place when my friends would share humorous stories. I mean, I didn't have any anecdotes of my own to share. I'd never been driven out of an ice cream store by angry and cantankerous cops, or amassed a cult following in my high school years. I didn't have any exciting convention stories or tales of drunken debauchery.

I blamed myself, of course - I blamed not having an exciting life doing exciting things. Stuff like that happened to other people, not to me.

And sure, that is part of it - the world does need a person to walk out into it in order to experience what it has to offer.

But it was also a matter of perception. I didn't think I had anything interesting happen to me. So I just didn't notice when it actually did.

Once I realized that mistake, and started actively paying attention... started feeling a bit of inspiration... well, soon enough I had my share of stories. And they weren't always about me - sometimes they would be about coworkers or friends, or random strangers I saw along the way, or whatever.

And there isn't anything wrong with that - sometimes people do crazy stuff, and it makes for some funny tales to tell. Sometimes you notice some simply odd people. Thats part of noticing the world around you, and letting everyone know exactly how fucked up it is, in a way that makes everyone laugh.

It's a good thing, to share a bit of humor about everyday stuff. And it doesn't require living the life of a secret agent to do so.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

That Good Old Drama

No, this post isn't about any drama out in the wild world of webtoonists - this is about the actual use of drama within a comic, if you can fancy that!

Suburban Tribe is a webcomic that, a year ago, I wasn't always entirely sure why I read. It had a cast of folks trapped in miserable jobs at a marketing agency, who were by and large crude, hateful people who went through many of the same jokes about their circumstances. I read it, and had some laughs, but it didn't really have much staying power at keeping my interest.

And then John Lee, the creator, decided to have a bit more of an intense plot. He decided it was time for the Big Story, and took a gamble that many folks have - keep some of the humor, but turn the focus towards plot, and character development, and so forth. After over two years of doing a different thing, changing a comic like that can be pretty dangerous.

In this case... it worked. I couldn't get enough of the comic, with the government conspiracies, love triangles, secret agents and all that jazz. It took a gamble, and it paid off big.

The Big Story wrapped up, and things returned to normal - but the comic seemed a bit stronger for the struggle. The characters had a bit more tangibility. We could see lasting effects from what had happened, and future questions still to be resolved.

Then came along the second round of Big Story. The same elements came back in - conspiracy, romantic tension, spies and action. And... it's still great. I am glued to my seat waiting for each update.

So sure, sometimes it can be a risky business to try and make that shift from humor to drama. But John Lee did a damn fine job of it, with a comic I never would have expected it from.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Oh boy... comics!

The Official Strategy Guide for World of Warcraft includes a number of WoW specific comics done by the fine lads at Penny Arcade.

I'd read a friend's copy back when the game came out, before I had actually played it myself, and, as is often the case, the comics were funny as hell.

Quite some time beyond that, I began playing WoW myself and could finally appreciate the comics - but alas, the nearby game stores had a poor selection of literature on the strategical arts, and no book to be found. Aside from that, I was too lazy to order it online, and buying a guide I wouldn't use solely for the comics seemed a bit silly.

But lo and behold! Blizzard has been placing the various comics on their site for all to see!

So for any of those who like hunting down all the non-PA stuff done by the Penny Arcade guys, here is a good selection that can be appreciated with or without actual knowledge of the game.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Piece of the Pie

I know a while back I gave Accidental Centaurs a bit of grief over the artist's methods of getting donations; namely, actively threatening and ranting at the readers.

That said, he is currently having a guest month storyline done, and giving the guest artists a share of the donations that come in during that time.

Now that's pretty cool.

In Other News...

Debate and discourse ensues over the webcomic review medium!
A new contender enters the fray!
Bitter rivals resolve to join forces to work for the greater good!

Man, I'm just glad all the crazy in-your-face drama has died down to everyone having a good laugh at each other... or whatever the current state of things is.

Seriously, if only WvW was here to save us all, and/or set us back at each others throats. Is it a shame that such a brilliant thing fell into nothingness, and was left only as a repository for redundant spam?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The easy part is going crazy

I like characters that I can understand in the webcomics I read. I don't have to know every secret and hidden twist to a character, but I like a character that makes sense to me. That, at least in some regard, I can understand and accept as something more than random gibberish.

That concern of mine is what drives my biggest beef with Ctrl-Alt-Delete. This gamer comic is the subject of much controversy, from its quality to the artist's behavior to its current foray into animation.

For myself? It's a fine comic. I've enjoyed some of the stories, I like the art and the jokes are sometimes clever. I haven't exactly been impressed with some of Tim Buckley's behavior in the past, but I don't always have to agree with an artist in order to enjoy their work. And I think if his animation is fun for those who watch it, awesome! More entertainment is a good thing.

But the main character of his comic, Ethan? Pisses me the hell off.

The character is a crazy video game addict. Period. The joke is that he has no connection to reality, and hence, acts crazy. Doesn't think things through, doesn't seem to understand how the real world works, and thus, gets into crazy hijinks and so forth. And the entire world seems built to accommodate him. It is infuriating.

It is not that a character who acts off the wall is inherently bad. The most recent Loserz does a good job of showing a character doing something random and batshit crazy, but it makes perfect sense. We can see Ben's thought process, twisted as may be, that leads to the batshit craziness. It is good characterization.

Ethan's craziness exists for one reason - to let more random zany adventures occur. Period. And because he's the main character, and perfect, the world accepts him having no depth whatsoever. His boss is fine that he doesn't actually come in and work, his girlfriend doesn't care about his behavior, his best friend always forgives him after he burns their house down.

It isn't that I dislike Ctrl-Alt-Delete. I like the comic. I like most of the other characters on their own, and I especially like the stand-alone strips.

Call me crazy, but I just really hate Ethan.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Minds of Monsters

Thinking about That Which Redeems also left me thinking about The Minds of Monsters, a recent interlude in The Wotch. Like Sluggy, the Wotch has both wacky hijinks and epic storylines. This little story arc in particular had at least one 'monster' that reminded me of a similar character from That Which Redeems.

The conflict - especially internal - between dark and light is something I've been grooving on quite a bit of late. In any great tale of good and evil, well-designed villains can make or break the story. It is the reason I was so enthused about The Sundering. It is the reason I enjoyed Night Watch, a intriguing movie I saw the other day. It is the reason why I suddenly have much more appreciation for one of the characters recently discussed in Dominic Deegan. It is similarly one of the reasons why I've been completely unimpressed with the evil empire in GPF.

It isn't that a villain has to be conflicted in order to be interesting. Maniacal dictators can work well, especially in the right setting. There can certainly be a bad guy who really is just out to gain power. Or to get revenge. Or to kill stuff just because he can.

But any villain you want readers to be interested in needs to be tuned beyond the surface alone. That is why so many conflicted characters are so engaging - instant conflict equals instant interest. And even for the characters that are fully evil, it becomes a lot harder to simply hate them if we have a glimpse of understanding for why they do the things they do.

It can be funny to just have a hate-on for a foe, sure. But with a villain that I can understand and even empathize with... well, it is a lot easier to get drawn into the story. Even if you know that, irregardless, the bad guy will lose in the end... there may be a tiny part, deep inside, hoping it doesn't turn out that way.

The Minds of Monsters does a good job of giving some of those insights, and covers its share of villains - from the ones we can feel free to hate, to the ones we are rooting for deep inside. With all the silliness that goes on in The Wotch, it can be easy to overlook the more serious elements going on in the background. But they are definitely there, and definitely done well.

Once More into the Sluggyverse

So, another week begins.

Sluggy Freelance has concluded Oceans Unmoving, ending the tale on a cliffhanger that left many of its former haters (myself included) wanting more. The story started weak but ended strong. Now it is left behind regardless, and the normal cast and crew are back in the picture. Will things return to that which we know and love? It's Sluggy Freelance, man. I've got faith.

In response to this event, I decided to treat myself to reading back through That Which Redeems, which is easily one of my favorite storylines in webcomicdom.

I've heard on more than one occasion people lamenting Oceans Unmoving, and discussing a desire for the good old days where Sluggy was just zany adventures and silliness.

And those may have been the good old days - but Sluggy's greatest triumphs haven't just been its crazy humor, but its epic tales. The Bug, The Witch and the Robot. Fire and Rain. That Which Redeems.

These are the areas where Abram's art shines through. Where we really see the potential of his characters. And, sure, its full of the jokes and the puns and all the other funny stuff that keeps it Sluggy, and that is part of what makes it great.

It's hard to read back through any of the great Sluggy stories and not have high hopes for the future of Sluggy.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Spirited 'Discussion'

There you are, in the middle of an argument.

Both sides have a point. Standing between them you can see -oh so clearly- the middle line.

And you have the words. The perfect, perfect words. That will make it all better. That will fix it all. Words that need to be said, because they are exactly what the people arguing need to hear.

And so you have your say, because there is some optimism hovering deep within you that knows that people are rational, thinking beings, and will take your words to heart.

And man does it blow up in your face.

I can't enumerate the number of times I've felt like this. Where I've either tried to help, or known that trying to help will only make things worse, because most of the time? People just don't want to list.

It might still be worth it. Your words may stick with them. Your message might get through... eventually, and you might have done them a grand service.

But having to wade through the fire and brimstone that comes before then is a hard path to take.

I applaud the dude for taking that path, and I applaud Anywhere but Here for capturing that sentiment perfectly.

It is a stellar comic all around, even if it does stray into some pretty crazy levels. And right now it is doing its thing, and doing it well.

What makes webcomics unique - the real deal, part 3

It may seem like an ironic time to discuss this element of the webcomic world, but in many ways the recent events have only underscored my beliefs regarding this subject.


All areas of media and entertainment attract their share of fans, admirers, and commentators, both professional and amateur. Book review clubs form in libraries. Conventions are held the world over. Students analyze and discuss everything from poetry to graphic novels.

Many of those discussions find their place on the internet as well, in forums, websites, and the like.

So what is it about the webcomic community that stands out?

Personally, I'd say it is the interaction between creators and readers, as compared to all those other fields.

There are many amateur comics on the web. Many of those, nonetheless, find themselves with a following and a degree of influence. Similarly, there are numerous webcomic review blogs that enter the field without credentials or connections - just ordinary folks having their say on the topics.

Many of the webcomics that rise to 'fame' do not have authors that are rolling in piles of dough. They have respect and make a living doing what they like - that simple goal is the aspiration of most of those in the field.

The people making these comics often have their own forums and emails where they will chat with their readers. Some of them will include nods to others in the community, or to their own fans. Many of those forum boards develop their own nature, and the fans of one comic or another might even get a nickname for being part of that following.

And yet, despite the connection - despite the fact that many of those authors are ordinary Joes (and Janes!) - a lot of them do have significant 'power', at least in the form of their hordes of fans.

There is a degree of interactivity among all these areas, in the weight the readership has on the creators, the creators have with the readership, and the various creators have between each other. There is no test or trial to move from one area to another, and anyone can publish their own webcomic, regardless of quality.

And yes, in some ways that means there is a lot of amateur elements out there. And favoritism, and, of course, drama.

But in most such communities built up around elements of entertainment, the community is formed entirely of the fans. Movie stars don't hang out with their adoring public, they wave to them from afar.

In webcomics, the creators and the fans not only interact, but in some places, the line between the two can blur entirely. That's a valuable thing. That's pretty damn unique.

They visit each others sites. They give advice, and sometimes band together to face the forces of evil. Some stay independant, others work together. They talk with their readership, and sometimes rightfully tell the people 'advising' them to shut the hell up - and sometimes they see inspired comments and take them to heart, and one reader's words might result in a flourishing change in the comic.

And of course, the community has drama. With the ability to toss out so many opinions, and have so much response between parties almost immediately, with so many outside folks weighing in on the subject, of course drama rears its ugly head. But it passes as quickly as it springs up, most of the time, and quickly enough becomes just a matter of history.

Look at the latest drama, regarding the "History of Webcomics." Most of the hubbub has died down. Aside from the odd late-arriving anonymous poster over at T's blog, the discussion there has turned to matters of looove. The thread over at Websnark has degenerated into webcartoonist slashfic. The hurricane has passed, and everyone is back to their normal depraved behavior.

T has posted his offer to take final comments and advice on his work. It will still be produced, and maybe some of the issues people have with it will be removed. So, a day of drama, and the result being something that may actually be... handy.

Now, that isn't to say the entire thing couldn't have be handled better - how much better would things have been without the insults and flames and rhetoric, and just the rational questions and concerns? That would have been just fine and dandy with me.

But in the end, the fact that even though we might be stuck with one, we still have access to the other, is inspiring. I like the fact that there are people in the community that can look at the situation and simply be reasonable about it. I can listen to them, and I can ignore the others.

There are a lot of things that make webcomics unique. I'm sure plenty of others could come up with answers beyond the five I've talked about, as well as go more in depth into these topics.

Each of these areas has the potential both for good and for bad. The ability to experiment with infinite canvas yields both impressive successes and awe-inspiring crap. The ability to self publish yields edgy, wicked humor as well as sketchy, illegible typos. The ability to communicate at the speed of the interweb yields both constructive discussion and degenerative rambling.

But I'll take the good with the bad. Given how webcomics are doing these days compared to when they started, and the pace they are going at... I've got this funny feeling that other folks may feel the same.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What makes webcomics unique - the real deal, part 2

Alrighty, time to get back to the discussion of webcomics themselves, and continue talking about some of the things that webcomics have to offer, both to their creators and the adoring public.


Webcomic artists, by and large, do not have editors.

They may solicit advice from their friends or family, maybe have them review a strip before it goes live. They might have a creative partner, and be part of a writer/artist team that checks things over together before posting them.

But they rarely have someone whose job is it to stand there and tell them: "That strip is crap. Throw it out."

They don't have someone to correct typos and other basic mistakes.

And they don't have someone there to tell them what is, and is not, proper material for discussing in one's comic.

There are two real results of this.

One is that the quality of strips isn't always consistent. Typos and mistakes can be tossed out there. They can, of course, be fixed after the fact, though not all artists bother doing so. But there isn't always a quality control, even on the best of strips.

But nothing is funny or perfect 100% of the time, and if the comics we find in our newspaper are an example of what editors think is quality humor, I'm content to take webcomics instead.

Which brings us to the other big impact of the self-publishing nature of webcomics - freedom of material.

Webcomics can be made about anything. With some strips, you might have a warning right up front about where the comic will go. Others might start off light, and abruptly descend into death and tragedy and premarital hanky panky, to the consternation of those who were expecting a 'G' rated comic.

But in the end, those comics don't have ratings. They are the product of the author, and they alone determine the direction the comics go. And with the ability to not have to satisfy constrained limitations, out of fear of offending the public... comes unexpected quality.

There are more than a few webcomics that sport a wicked, dark humor than many people appreciate. I like having access to that. There are webcomics that are just used to promote people's personal agenda, or spout off their latest barb at their foes. I like that less - but that doesn't mean it isn't there, or isn't the right of the artist to do so.

Because by and large, in the end, the comics being produced on the web? (And here is an important statement, so don't miss it.)

They are being produced for the artists themselves.

Oh, this isn't to say that there aren't artists out there for the money, or that they don't want to have people actually enjoy and discuss their comic. But while there may be a number of comics that make money now, they didn't start out like that.

Most webcomics started out as a hobby. As a chance - an opportunity - for the artists to get their work out. Tell their story, do their thing. 99% of the comics on the web remain as such, and even as there are more every year that turn a profit, they are turning a profit for the creators, who are finally getting to do what they love, and make a living off of it. Without limitations, without having to worry about pushing the line. Some comics practically live off of that sort of independance.

Comic books and newspaper strips often change property. DC produces Batman - and while there might be a team working on it for a while, it is never theirs.

Webcomics belong to their creators. They might be forced to change hosting services because of content, but they can still find a home. They might have to deal with lawsuits because of what they say, but they can often weather it. They might have to face drama for the things they say or do, but that is just part of life on the internet.

The ability to own their own strip, and have it take on the life that they alone choose to give it? Priceless.


Yes, it has to be mentioned - the wonderful world of infinite canvas.

The power of the internet is the power of a medium without the standard limitations of pen and paper.

Many popular strips, of course, follow a standard model - several panels in a row. Clean, consistent art.

Others may follow more of a comic book format, producing full pages at a time where the action may require large or small panels as the scene determines.

And others choose to make use of the wonderful things that can only be done with webcomics.

So. Infinite Canvas is obviously a good thing. You can do all the things you can do without it, and you can do a bunch of other nifty stuff too - though that stuff may very well not be easily publishable.

In many ways, infinite canvas is a double-edged sword. The web allows for some amazing creations, but at the same time, has the potential for shoddy browsing interfaces. For unnecessary flash and dazzle. Some webcomic layouts are inspired - others, just confusing.

What is important, though, is that it is a new medium. It is something that gives access to devices unavailable outside the digital world.

Whether it is used for good or for evil, for artistic experimentation or annoying flashing lights, its presence is significant, and the subject of a sizable amount of discussion.

Tune in tomorrow for the stunning conclusion to this epic journey through the fascinating world of webcomics!


Alright, crazy mode off. I've got one more element that I think is the most important yet, and I'll be wrapping things up tomorrow with my thoughts on that.

We Interrupt This Daily Blog for Breaking News in Webcomics Drama!

While I've still got a few more thoughts to finish up on the nature of webcomics, I thought I would give my opinions on the latest controversy in webcomics drama.

T Campbell, webcomics aficionado, has been an important figure in the webcomics industry. He has produced numerous comics, some more notable than others. He has also had a variety of pet projects, seemingly always trying to expand the technology available to the field. He has collaborated with many other comic artists and authors, served as editor of Graphic Smash, and in general, been doing everything he can to help make better comics, and help make comics better.

His latest work is possibly one of the most important to date - the History of Webcomics. A book that will, presumably, attempt to cover the important people and events in webcomics history. A relative brief history, admittedly - but time moves quickly on the internet, and there are surely events and change enough to discuss.

The latest controversy involves the two creators of Megatokyo, and their breakup as a creative writing team, and what the facts are behind the matter.

Now, I haven't actually read the book. I haven't actually seen what it says, so I can't say, for myself, exactly how well it covers the situation. Scott Kurtz and Rodney Caston and T have all said their pieces about exactly what is going on.

Essentially, the dispute at hand is that T compiled much of his information from impersonal fact finding - reading websites, observing dialogue, and so forth. He had some interviews - but many important people (such as Rodney, the 'forgotten' member of the Megatokyo team), were not contacted or consulted. The question at hand is, in short - how valid will his book be as a history?

Now, I can understand that interviews could become too much. When you are attempting to chronicle the history of thousands of webcomics, I can see far too great a difficulty in trying to interview every single person involved.

But part of T's explanation is that he came to distrust the interview process itself. He had to deal with too much 'spin' - too many people trying to put themselves in their best light. And admittedly, that is one of the hard things about an interview - it is getting one person's opinion alone, and only one side of the story.

However... that is no different, in my opinion, than any other source of information T could use. Blogs and newsboxes and comics and rants - every single one of those will be just as full of 'propaganda.'

Typed words are not somehow exempt from inaccuracies. Typed words do not ordain the utter truth. In many ways, written word is often more likely to be part of putting one's 'best face forward.'

There are no unbiased sources, and part of the work of assembling a collection of facts about the situation is compiling as many different sources as possible in order to see the bigger picture.

Which is possible, in theory, with or without interviews.

But when Scott describes what he has seen of the book - such as chapter 3, which covers the seven most important people in the creation of the industry... there seem to be a few names that are missing. Some names are weighted more than others. And the question arises - in light of the lack of consultation with certain involved entitied, how much of the information the book contains is influenced by the bias and perspective of the author himself?

And the answer is, well, all of it. Duh. He is writing the book. It's impossible, in many ways, for an author to distance themselves one hundred percent from what they write. Every history book ever has been similarly influenced.

However - that does not mean that they shouldn't try. That doesn't mean they should not seek out every single possible bit of information to try and get, if not an accurate picture on things, at least as accurate as perspective as possible.

And in my mind, failing to even contact 'Largo' demonstrates a break down in his research. When dealing with how the split between Rodney and Fred occured, just looking at the seperate descriptions on their respective sites shows me distinct omissions and different portrayals of what happened. The truth is no doubt somewhere between the two - yet it strikes me as difficult to really find the heart of the matter without digging a bit deeper than the surface.

Is this an area that should be pursued, of importance enough to the "History of Webcomics" to merit fact-finding? It is hard to say. But when one of the creators of one of the most successful webcomic strips is left out as an influential figure in the early days of webcomics, it does leave me questioning exactly what spin on things the work is taking - and what other such ommissions may exist.

I agree with a lot of the things that Kurtz says in his rant - there seem to be views in the book that I won't agree with. And I can't say for sure until I truly read the book - and I can't fault T for having his own opinions - but that worry is there.

Of course, I think Kurtz, as usual, comes off way to strong, running out with both guns blazing at the slightest alarm. He accuses T of just trying to ride the webcomics world to fame and fortune, an accusation as ludicrous as it gets. He accuses T of various deceptive information in the advertisement for the book - but in the end, thats the nature of advertising. Were there significant mistakes made with that ad? Well, yes. Not seeking permission, hyping inaccurate facts - definite mistakes.

But ones that T recognized and apologized for as soon as they were pointed out to him. I don't think he actively thought that it would be easier to seek forgiveness than permission - I don't think it even occured to him. I think it was overlooked in his eagerness to finish creating this project that he has invested so much in.

T Campbell has always struck me as desperate - as eager - to do all he can for webcomic world. On a lot of counts, he has succeeded. He has accomplished some amazing things. He has an intense dedication to the industry - not to his works in the field, but to the industry as a whole. That is more than could be said for many, many people out there.

I don't think he would ever intentionally go out of his way to harm another in the field by his actions - but sometimes carelessness can be as great a danger.

He has talked about his greatest fear - to one day discover that he has misplaced his principles without even noticing. One of these goals - to give credit where credit is due.

Did he fail here? Again, I can't say for sure until I've read the book.

But the fact that this discussion has even come up bodes poorly. There will be a taint on his work from this - from worries over how valid it is, how accurate. From those who wonder how they may have been misrepresented without consultation. From those who disagree with the views T shares in his book, and the methods he used to research them.

For myself, I think that the book will be filled with a lot of good information. I suspect it will be valuable resource for a lot of people, and that the goal of the work - to help people - will be met.

But again - from the discussion thus far, it does seem as though the work will not be as complete as it could have been. Which is a shame - though, in my opinion, a forgivable one... at least by myself. But I'm just a student of the field, not one of those directly harmed.

The book is already in its final stages. I don't suspect much could be changed at this point, so whatever damage may have been done... is done.

When explaining his greatest fear, T made a request of his friends - to tell him when he has made a mistake.

Now, I can't lay claim to being his friend, or anything more than a concerned outsider. I've met him once, at a con, when I was just another fan, and that has been the extent of my contact with him.

But I do want to give him my thoughts. I think a mistake was made in not seeking out more direct consulation with those discussed in the book. With not, at least, giving them the chance to give their perspective on the words written about them.

I don't think it will be a fatal mistake. I don't think the industry will abandon T because of this. I suspect he will have as many on his side as not... and that, eventually, the drama will die down, and be, for the most part, forgotten. Some friends may now be merely associates, but others will stay true, and T will still remain one of the prominent figures in the community. The book itself will succeed, by and large, and be treated by many as the resource it was meant to be.

But I still feel a mistake was made. And if nothing else, an apology is due to those wronged.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What makes webcomics unique - the real deal, part 1

What do webcomics have to offer that makes them unique?

A lot of others have talked about this topic, and given their own answers. There are those who have written entire books that no doubt answer that question. It is something almost every webcomic review likely at least thinks about - what makes this field special? I know these comics are cool, and innovative, and I like them... but why?

Well, I can't promise I'll be able to give the perfect reply to all that - but I've thought about it myself, and there are definitely reasons that come to mind.


Novels are written seasons to years to decades in advance of when they may actually see the light of day. Comic books are put together months before they are actually released. Even daily comic strips in the paper are often stockpiled weeks in advance.

These delays give time for them to be edited, and ensure they are on hand to meet deadlines, and to go through the process of being published. They aren't just tradition - in many ways, they are a necessary part of the procedure, and just one of the limitations enforced by working in that medium

On the internet, the deadlines that exist are self-enforced. The process of creating a webcomic strip may be a day's work, or it may be something briefer. But the process of publishing it often involves no more than pushing several buttons.

That is not to say it is an easy and flawless procedure, as many webcomic authors could no doubt attest after their fair share of technical difficulty.

But it is a set-up that allows webcomics to be updated on a daily basis, often with strips drawn that very day.

This gives the authors a powerful amount of ability to respond to the present. To respond to other webcomics that might give them a cameo, and tip their hat with their own such nod the very next day. Or to give commentary on current events even as they occur. Or to respond to any other concerns that they choose - to change a planned comic for something new, something immediate.

Even those comics with month-long buffers can do this. They aren't bound to a schedule - they can adjust as they see fit, and adapt, and change.

In the middle of a story, and it just isn't working out? They can pull the plug and drop it entirely. Or make the alterations that the readership seems to be desiring. And yes, they can even stick to their guns and do it their own way - but they don't have to.

When a comic book is published, its done. Complete. If the story has some horrible flaw in the beginning, its likely that flaw will stick around until the end.

Webcomics are constantly in motion. It is, in many ways, a power granted by the medium - the internet. But it puts them in an entirely different world than published comics, which have a time-delay with even the simplest works.

This is one of the biggest reasons that the webcomic world is, in many ways, a living organism - like everything else on the internet, time moves quickly. It is one of the reasons why it is so easy to partake in webcomics discussion - there is so much information constantly being presented, and all of it is based in the now.


This is another area I've discussed before - the accessibility of webcomics.

First off - by and large, webcomics are free of charge. Bam! End of story - you want to take a look, feel free.

Obviously this gives them a larger audience - namely, the audience of people who will gladly enjoy free entertainment. On the internet, thats a lot of folks.

But it also makes it so much easier to share webcomics.

I have a roommate who is a math teacher. I see a clever math joke in a strip. In under a minute, I can send him a link.

He doesn't have to be an avid webcomic reader. He doesn't have to have time to consume the entire archives of a comic. He doesn't need anything more than a few minutes online checking his mail, and bam! Free humor.

Now suppose that it was a comic strip in the newspaper I saw. Well, easy enough - I could clip it out and show it to him.

But what about friends who aren't nearby? Well, I suppose I could... clip it out and... mail it to them?

Seems like such a bulky process, with the internet around.

What about a good book? I read a book I like, I can recommend it to friends, and hope they go out and hunt it down. Maybe shell out some cash if they can't find it in the local library. I can lend it to those I see, though only one at a time.

If I see a good webcomic? Bam! Instant linkage.

This is especially handy for webcomics criticism. If I want to review a book, or movie, or television show, most of what I say will be lost on anyone who hasn't seen it, unless I spend an inordinate amount of time setting up the background.

Even if they have seen it, they might not remember details closely enough to really get what I'm talking about.

With webcomics, I can link straight to what I am talking about - and if someone hasn't already read it? They can check it out directly - even if only a few strips to catch them up on the basics, or to refresh it in their mind - and then go see what I'm saying. And if I'm saying something really complicated, discussing story arcs from year one of this comic, and year four of that comic, and so forth? I can link straight to each little obscure arc without difficulty.

Whereas if I start reviewing the full works of Robert Jordan, it might take readers a good bit of digging around to find my references.

Free stuff, immediately available. That can make a world of difference - both in bringing in new readers, and in being able to review the field.

Even outside of anything else - it makes webcomics convenient. It makes them easy. They can be browsed by someone with only a few minutes of time, or someone with hours to burn.

And for a medium that is, at its heart, about entertainment - thats handy.

-To Be Continued-

A good bit more to come, later tonight or tomorrow...