The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Breaking the rules (again)

I know when I first started this site it was with the promise that I would write about nothing but webcomics (not that the promise is really binding at this point, since I doubt anyone who frequents the site now has even read that post...), but I've found lately in my life that it's always a great temptation to compromise your morals at any given opportunity, and I am the type of person who makes those compromises.

So here's a compromise. I'm not talking about webcomics in this post. I'll make a brief reference to one of my own webcomics (I have two exercises in futility currently that really deserve more analyzation on this blog simply for instructing others that hey, not all comics are instant successes, and many have a great deal of trouble even getting off the ground. Mine are typical of the type of comics that never get off the ground, so it's worth mentioning why at some point so people can learn from my mistakes.), but other than that this post is about writing. Specifically, Nanowrimo.

For those of you that haven't figured it out, I like to write. In fact, I like writing much more than most of you probably realize from just reading this blog, because I do entertain writing projects in other venues which I don't discuss here. Nothing paid, mind you, just other opportunities to wax eloquent on various subjects. When I was in high school, I got about halfway (that's roughly 100 pages, for those of you keeping score) through writing a Star Wars novel before I realized that it sucked and I was a hack. The basic plotline was that Boba Fett goes to Tatooine, where he is hired by the Jawas to start a separatist movement against the New Republic. How exactly is this to be accomplished? Through some stroke of luck the Jawas have found a Victory Star Destroyer buried in the sands of Tatooine which they are rebuilding. Why Jawas would want to separate, or why Boba Fett would join them, is completely beyond me. I even managed to write in Jabba the Hutt's father, Zorba the Hutt (no, I didn't come up with the name.). I go back and read it now only for a laugh.

But I've realized that, on a whole, I haven't done much creative writing since that project. I've done some fan fiction (ok, technically the Star Wars thing was fan fiction as well, but I like to think I went beyond that to at least a new and different storyline), and I've written a fair amount of source material for my currently defunct detective comic, Gideon D. Ragon, but nothing really substantial. Enter Nanowrimo. This offered the perfect opportunity for me to get off my keister and actually do some creative writing. So I went ahead and signed up. Now, don't get me wrong, I hardly expect to actually write 50,000 words in a single month (especially since I'm not going to be within striking distance of a keyboard the entirety of Thanksgiving break). I'm probably one of the few official entrants in the contest who is actually coming in EXPECTING to fail, which is kind of a different experience for me. But that doesn't negate the goal. I want to get as darn near to 50,000 words as I possibly can. So I'm mapping out my plan. I figure with all of Thanksgiving week gone (that's Saturday to Saturday, mind you), I've got 22 days for writing. That's an average of 2272 and change words a day. My two weekends before Thanksgiving are pretty much wide open, so if I can really sit down and hammer out 10,000 words in a Sat/Sun (which is feasible), that lowers the daily average to a more manageable 1666 plus change words a day. So that's my gameplan. I won't stick to it, I'm sure, but it's nice to have a game plan.

But here's the problem. As I sit in front of my keyboard right now with t-minus 2 hours to take off, I have NO CLUE what to write about. I originally considered writing for Gideon D. Ragon, but the rules say that you're expected to start from scratch, not to add onto an existing work. While I could write an additional 50,000 words to Gideon (which I would enjoy doing, I might add), that would merely be complying with the letter of the law and not the spirit, and in this sort of competition, the spirit is what it's all about. The work you write for Nanowrimo is supposed to be an entirely self-contained work, written in it's entirety over the course of November and able to stand alone at the end as a monument, not simply as some 50,000 word piece of the puzzle. And I respect that concept.

Only, it still leaves me without something to write about. I've got a couple of ideas I've been kicking around in my head. One of them is sort of a "Biblical epic" type of story, taking legendary characters and really trying to bring them to life. That sort of writing is a unique challenge in and of itself, trying to portray the humanity of characters which have so often been elevated to the status of demigods without making it seem trite and especially without losing those traits which actually elevated the person that must remain in a more human form. I've also been kicking around a very anime idea about gunslingers in a quasi-futuristic Old West setting engaging in quickdraw competitions. Sort of a The Quick and the Dead meets Trigun type of feel. Of course, the challenge with a project like that is carefully crafting the characters and story to prevent it from becoming either a cheap, formulaic "let's duel for no reason but to have cool matchups" episodic structure or an overly melodramatic story that really takes itself much more seriously than it should be taken. That's a much tougher line to walk than most people realize, and when it's done well the results can be really satisfying, but when it's done poorly the resulting dredge can be downright sickening.

So I'll sit here pondering, and probably end up doing some other writing and reading some webcomics while I wait for 12 midnight to roll around, then I'll most likely just flip a coin or roll a die to determine what I'll write about, and go with that. Because, when it all comes down to it, Nanowrimo is't about WHAT you write, simply that you WRITE it. So I probably shouldn't stress over it.

Expecially since I'm already ready to fail. That makes it a lot easier.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Grammar policing! Because I've got nothing better to talk about.

Grammar violation! (Or is it?) From Daily Dinosaur Comics.

It's been a very busy week for me, so I haven't had a lot of time for writing. Really, the only opportunities I do get to write are when I'm procrastinating on some project that I should be spending more time on.

In addition to that, pretty much all the comics I read are having fairly boring weeks (except PvP, but we already talked about that), and I'm currently wading through some fairly lengthy archives (Daily Dinosaur, Housd, Arthur King of Time and Space), so there's not really anything to post a full review about (except Panda Xpress, which I recently picked up, but I wouldn't want to scoop William G).

That being said, there is something which has come to my attention that needs to be brought to the table. It is perhaps one of the most pressing issues of our time, and yet no major new source seems to be willing to cover it. I personally suspect a massive government conspiracy which may or may not lead all the way up to the Secretary of the Interior, and as a small-time blogger I feel it is my duty to blow the whistle on this horrendous sequence of events.

I am, of course, referring to the slow but steady replacement of the subjunctive mood with the indicative in the English language.

For those of you troglodytes that don't know what I'm referring to, go read this article and take your first step on the road to grammatical enlightenment. Now back to the topic at hand. There has been a slow but steady push, at least among Americans, to completely eliminate the subjunctive mood from the English language. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. I mean, it was Americans who were responsible for making split infinitives an allowable grammatical structure, and their insistence on ending sentences with prepositions is quite simply an insult to grammar up with which I cannot put. Of course, I am an American myself, but I pride myself as an American who uses proper grammar, even when engaging in colloquial speech. And so it causes me no end of irritation when people improperly use the indicative form of the verb "to be" (was) when speaking in the subjunctive mood (were).

Up until now I was willing to deal with it. I figured people just said "I wish I was at lunch" for the convenience of decreasing the number of verb tenses they had to keep active in their brains at any given time, thereby freeing up vital grey matter for more important purposes (such as deciding what to order when said wished-upon lunch hour should actually arrive). In fact, Loudon Wainwright III wrote a very funny song entitled "I Wish I Was a Lesbian" which encouraged not correcting people on this sort of mistake, and heck, if it's good enough for Loudon, it's good enough for me. As long as proper writing contained the subjunctive form when necessary, I could put up with inaccuracies in the vernacular.

But now, more and more I'm starting to see indicatives creep into proper writing, and it's got me worried that the subjunctive is an endangered species, soon to go the way of "hither" and "yon". My first indication of this was when reading through the Melonpool archives, when I noticed that Steve Troop NEVER uses the subjunctive. But I figured, hey, Steve Troop never claims to be any sort of grammar king, so I guess I'll let it slide. I've seen subjunctive form mistakes in other webcomics as well, but these comics tend to have so many grammar mistakes that an incorrect indicative is hardly worth pointing out at all.

Then, I started reading through the Daily Dinosaur Comics archive, and I arrived at the strip linked at the top of this post. And in this strip we have both T-rex and Utahraptort clearly using the indicative form where the subjunctive ("I wish I were never born") was called for. And this worries me. Severely. You see, Daily Dinosaur Comics is a strip which relies entirely on the text to provide the content of the comic. The art remains constant from day to day, so there's nothing being added there. If the text weren't completely solid, then the comic would be pretty awful. And overall, Ryan North is completely solid. He has made it a point to write the strip with a very scholarly and academic tone, with the dinosaurs engaging in very scholarly debates, which provides a great deal of the humor. As such, it is necessary that his characters speak with proper diction and grammar. And in general, they do. In fact, I'd be tempted to chalk this one up as an intentional error introduced to accentuate T-rex's overly enthusiastic nature if not for the fact that grammar has actually been discussed in the strip on several occasions, and T-rex has been shown to have a strong grasp of the rules. And what about Utahraptor, who actually suggested the erroneous statement? He's never been portrayed as having any sort of grammar problems. So my only conclusion can be that Ryan North intentionally used the indicative in place of the subjunctive, working under the assumption that it was grammatically correct.

And if even Ryan North, a master wordsmith, favors indicative over subjunctive, it seems that the wheels of fate are against me and I'll be stuck having to read and listen to sentences that, to me, seem wrong.

*Sigh* I just wish that wasn't the case.

Er... I wish that weren't the case. Weren't.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Quick Note

If you run a webcomic and you've got a readership in the "couple thousand" area, and you'd like to know how to make some sideline cash to help justify your hobby, you need to read this. In fact, you ought to bookmark it, or add it to your RSS feed if you're into that sort of thing.

It's pretty rare to have someone who's been through the struggles of trying to make money off a webcomic be willing to give a full out TUTORIAL on how you too can succeed, and it's even more rare that they would present this in a blog type format with continuous updates on what works, what doesn't, and really up-to-the-minute advice.

Think what you may about D.J. Coffman, this is a pretty awesome thing that he's doing, and if more people get involved we could see a lot of advancement in the concept of the "webcomic business model" beyond what's been proposed by good ole Scott McCloud (the man responsible for making "micropayments" a dirty word). What I've read so far looks like good advice, and the more people that try his advice and add their own to the mix, the better this project will be.

Monday, October 24, 2005


The expected, from PvP.

I guess I'm not really surprised. If there's one thing that Scott Kurtz has taught us over the years, it's that he's not really interested in making major changes to the premise of his strip. Sure, we do see the occasional mixing up of things, such as Cole firing Robbie and Jace, or Max taking over control of PvP magazine, but they don't really have a big effect on the premise of the story as a whole. By the time Robbie and Jace got fired we barely ever saw them in comics anyways, and has anyone noticed even one change in the way the PvP magazine is being run since Max took over? I haven't. But introducing a baby to the story would be a radical change. It would move both Jade and Brent into a completely new phase of their lives, probably resulting in them getting married. It would change the dynamics of the relationships around the office. In short, it would fundamentally change the premise of the strip, and Scott Kurtz is not in a terrible hurry to do that.

But I'm still a little disappointed. On a selfish level, I want to see Jade and Brent get married. I want to see what it would be like for them to have a kid. I think it would be interesting. But on a more academic level, I honestly think a change at this point in the life of a strip would be a good thing. You've got a solid readership who'll stick by you 'till the end, and a change in premise could draw in new people. And while introducing a new baby is a cliched device (I think just about every family based sitcom in existence has done it), it is one of the safer ways to introduce a change. If you have one of the main characters leave, you're going to alienate some of your fans who may have particularily enjoyed that character. If you just randomly introduce a new character, there's a good chance it won't be accepted by the fans (the famous episode of the Simpsons in which Poochie is added to the Itchy and Scratchy dynamic is a perfect parody of this situation). But if you have two of the main characters get together and produce a new character (if you get my drift), then it feels like that character is a natural part of the world of the strip and is easily accepted by the audience. It makes changes the dynamics of the strip without destroying them.

Scott Kurtz chooses not to change the premise of his strip, and that's his prerogative. In fact, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Many of the greatest comic strips of all time have used static premises and unchanging worlds (Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Dilbert, the list goes on...). But the difference between those strips and PvP is that Scott Kurtz is always teasing us with potential changes, dangling them in front of our noses like carrots and then pulling them away at the last second and saying "Nah, I think I'll keep things pretty much the same." And that's just mean.

I think I'll get a big bowl of ice cream and go pout for a little while.

It's a small world after all.

Wallpaper action fighting go! From Mousewax

I never posted a full report of my trip to the San Diego Comicon. There was too much to say, and quite frankly, con reports in general are pretty boring. I mean, you may have had the most awesome time in your entire life, but when you put it down as words on a page it ends up sounding like "and then we did this, and then we did this, and this was cool, and I really liked this..." and it's pretty, well, boring! But in spite of this, I did learn quite a bit at the con about webcomics and the people that make them.

For instance, I know why the Penny Arcade guys are not in the least bit afraid of Jack Thompson because I attended a panel discussion where one of the panelists was their business manager (who is also a lawyer). And he was a very competent, very smart individual, who is not one to be trifled with. And oh, the stories he had to tell. When the Penny Arcade guys say they've dealt with people with a lot more clout and actual ability to sue them into the gutter than Jack Thompson, they ain't kidding, folks.

I also know that Scott Kurtz is a much nicer guy than he makes himself out to be online, and has near infinite patience with his fans. I know that Jeph Jaques looks nothing like I expected him to, but can still make an awesome sketch of Pizza Girl on a moment's notice (speaking of which, are we ever going to see Pizza Girl again? I hope she's not another Techno-Bill. Oh, remind me sometime that I need to explain Techno-Bill. That's another lexical term.). I learned that Kristopher Straub is the kind of guy you'd like to go have a beer with (not that I actually did have a beer with him, but maybe that's a good goal for next year).

In general, I learned that the vast majority of webcartoonists are just normal, average people who are very approachable and generally just happy that people are interested in their work. They're not big celebrities who hide behind a wall of fans, bodyguards, and hangers-on at all times. You could pretty much walk up to any of the webcomic booths and just start chatting with the creator right there, and really have a meaningful conversation if you wanted to.

And this was something of a jarring realization for me. Before the Comicon, webcomic creators were to me a faceless void behind the markup of their websites. I figured they were pretty much the same as any celebrity or major comic artists (be it newspaper or graphic novelist). They provide you with product, and then remove themselves enough to be basically untouchable. Try sending a letter to your favorite actor or newspaper stripper. You'll probably get a nice form letter in return, maybe with an autograph or something. So I figured webcomic creators were probably the same way. They dipped into the internet long enough to post today's strip and maybe make a newspost or two, then retreat to an unreachable state so you can only know them through their work. I never imagined that the majority of webcartoonists were pretty much like me, and spent a lot of their time visiting other people's sites, interacting with fans on message boards and through emails, and generally just bumming around the web.

So why am I bringing up all this right now? Well, if you follow the link at the very beginning of this post, you'll see that there's a new wallpaper up at Mousewax. If you read the corresponding newspost for the wallpaper, you'll see this line: "Ever since Gilead Pellaeon took me to task for having out of date wallpaper for download I haven't been able to sleep. So in order to get back on a schedule I present to you a new wallpaper featuring a contemporary MouseWax character." This is in reference to a post I made awhile back about how I like to have wallpapers for all the webcomics I read, and I was slightly disappointed that the only wallpaper for Mousewax was one of a character that isn't even featured in the strip anymore. And he actually went out and made a new wallpaper, just because I said that.

I actually laughed out loud when I read that because I remembered back to the Comicon and I remembered attending a webcomic panel and seeing someone in the crowd who I was almost positive was Brandon Lewis. And I wanted to go up and say hi, but I didn't, with this exact thought in mind: "Oh, I won't bother him. He probably gets enough hassle from his fans as it is. I don't want to annoy him." And here he is, actually taking a suggestion from what was really a passing comment in a post that I wrote.

It's a small world after all.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Truth. Unabashed truth from Real Life Comics

No big long rant today, just an "Amen, brother" to Greg Dean over at Real Life comics. I totally love all the aspects of home design mentioned in Thursday's comic. But oddly enough, everything comic-Greg claims as hallmarks of 80s interior design are demonstrated in the Brady Bunch house, and that series aired from 1969 to 1974, so is he actually talking about 70s design? Or was home decoration so similar between the 80s and the 70s that you can't really tell the difference? Or is it that in the 70s that style of design was the "new thing" and it didn't really hit mass market until the 80s? I feel like I should do some research on this, but at the time of this writing both Google and the Wikipedia are DOWN (which is quite a feat... I suspect foul play), so that pretty much deep-sixes any potential research avenues I might have explored.

But the point is, I totally agree that the style of decorating described by Greg in this comic was the absolute epitome of home architectural goodness. In my opinion, the house the Brady Bunch lived in was the greatest piece of interior design masterwork the world has ever seen. The huge flagstone wall in the main room. The staircase with a wrought iron railing posts. The kitchen and tv room decorated almost entirely in wood paneling. THE INDOOR PLANTER WITH PLASTIC PLANTS. In a word, AWESOME. And what do you expect? The dad was an architect, after all. He should know how to pick them.

I've always loved that style of house. In fact, if I could get away with it, when I buy a house I'd like to decorate it all retro like that (heck it'd be cheap, I could buy all my furniture at the Salvation Army), but I doubt either my future wife or any contractor in his right mind would go for it, so that's sad.

But even sadder is this: I ALMOST got to live in an apartment this year that was a throwback to the eighties. If you don't believe me, check out these pictures I uploaded:

I mean, that place just screams of 70s-80s philosophy. It's even got the orange and brown floral print drapes with matching floral print DESK CHAIR. It doesn't get any better than that. Unfortunately, my roommate has three (count em, three) cats, and the apartment had a strict no animals policy. So now I'm stuck in a place with every wall painted good old sterile white. And we don't dare paint the walls, because we did that at our last place (giving them a nice two tone brown, definitely adding a lot to the apartment), and got slapped with a couple hundred dollars off our damage deposit. *Sigh*

Hopefully someday the pendulum of interior design will swing back to the styles of the 70s and 80s, and I will be a happy man. Until then, here's hoping!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Because I can't keep waiting forever, Dangit!

This is just the beginning, from Penny Arcade

I'm writing this post because Eric Burns hasn't yet. I really shouldn't be writing this because I'll never do it the justice it deserves. Burns even mentioned that he was going to write about it, but I guess sickness has gotten the better of him.

Well, I just can't wait any longer.

For those of you that have been keeping up, this story has got quite a bit of history to it. I don't really have the wherewithal right now to give it to you completely, but that's what the Wikipedia is for. A short summary would be: Jack Thompson is an extremely vocal, extremely angry, and extremely driven man who wants to put an end to all violent video games. The Penny Arcade guys are a couple of level-headed but arrogant jerks. Their paths happened to cross. Hijinks ensued. Now, feelings seem to be hurt on both sides, and neither one of them if going to let up. And I'm pretty sure this isn't going to end pretty.

To see Penny Arcade's spin on what's been going on, check out their newsposts here and here. I'll get to the details of the goings-on in a moment, but first I want to comment on how torn this whole situation makes me feel. It really bugs me that all this grandstanding and one-upping seems to be obscuring the actual problem, which is violence (and to a lesser extent, sexual content) in video games. I'm reminded of an old Calvin and Hobbes comic in which Calvin is talking about violence on T.V. in the form of the following soliloquy: "Graphic violence in the media. Does it glamorize violence? Sure. Does it desensitize us to violence? Of course. Does it help us tolerate violence? You bet. Does it stunt our empathy for fellow beings? Heck yes. Does it cause violence? Well... that's hard to prove. The trick is to ask the right question." And I think Watterson pretty much hit it right on the head there. Video game companies have been hiding behind the "there's no causal link between video games and violence" argument for far too long. And someone needs to call them on that.

Except... someone already has. It's called the National Institute on Media and the Family. They're pretty much the people responsible for the current video game rating system (or so I understand... I know they don't make the ratings themselves, but they're the ones who lobbied to get them in place, right? right?), and they have a wealth of information available on their website for parents who are concerned about what sort of content their children take in. And I think it's very telling that in recent weeks they've actually withdrawn from their relationship with Jack Thompson and pretty much condemned his tactics. It shows some common sense.

Which seems to be exactly the thing Jack Thompson lacks. If there's one good thing I can say about the guy, it's that he's absolutely devoted to his cause. No one can doubt him on that. But the problem is, he only sees things as black or white. You're either 100% in agreement with him or you're an enemy of the public, a defamer, or a crack-head. There's no middle ground with this man. And the problem with being a hard-liner is that eventually you set the line so far that no one could conceivably live up to your standards, and that's where Jack Thompson has put himself now. He's become so obsessed with finding every possible link between video games and violence that he's begun making wild accusations without checking the facts. He's started attacking games that haven't even been released yet, which means they haven't even fully defined their content yet (see Bully). And that's alienated him from his former supporters. Without any support, there's really only one way to continue a crusade, and that's to start doing things that are so crazy, people have to pay attention to you just because you're a spectacle. I believe it was the great evangelist John Wesley who put it so eloquently: "If you light yourself on fire, the world will come to watch you burn." (This quote has also been attributed to several other sources, but you get the idea).

And that's where Penny Arcade comes in. They recognized that Jack Thompson had essentially degraded himself to the level of a sensationalist, and they decided to call him on it. And boy, did they ever call him on it. It started out relatively innocuous, with a simple email letting him know that a $10,000 to charity is really not a whole heck of a lot. Well, Jack took offense at this, but we'll cut him a little slack because I'm sure he's been receiving tons of hate mail recently and if I were him I'd be darned sick of it myself. Still, instead of responding with a curt "Shut up, I really could care less how much you give to charity," which would have been appropriate, he decides to call up the PA guys and vent on them for a few minutes. Now, Gabe and Tycho being the guys they are (arrogant jerks, remember?) decide they simply can't let this go, and decide to tweak the guy a bit more. Of course, you've got to remember here that they aren't just thorwing out wild accusations, even though that is what Thompson is accusing them of. They are systematically tearing down everything that he has said and coming out looking like the better men, which is significantly more irritating. I've got to hand it to Penny Arcade, they know how to irritate the heck out of people without ever actually getting in trouble for it. Donating $10,000 dollars themselves, in Jack's name, was a masterwork stroke that I'm sure has driven Thompson to the brink of insanity, prompting his call for their arrest because THEY ARE MAKING HIM LOOK LIKE A FOOL.

But you know what? They have taken it a step too far. It was not a crazy statement on his part to say that Penny Arcade was selling t-shirts against him, it's the truth. And while he doesn't have a legal leg to stand on (people have been making shirts declaring hatred for Bill Gates, or George Bush, for year and no one's shut them down), that is a personal attack on Jack Thompson himself, as opposed to his beliefs or his tactics, and that's just uncalled for. So no one's completely innocent in this case.

So here's the scorecard. Points to Jack Thompson for bringing more attention to the problem of violence in video games. Because it IS a problem. But severe demerits for basically making it look like everyone who is concerned with violence in video games is a nutjob, and really doing much more to hinder progress in this area than help it. Points to Penny Arcade for exposing Jack Thompson for what he really is and eloquently rebutting his flimsy arguments. But demerits for being willing to stoop to his level and try to make a little money off the contreversy.

As I've been writing this post, a very excellent and lucid opinion by Tim Buckley has been posted over on Ctrl+Alt+Del. Go read Tim's article. He points out the inherent foolishness of Jack Thompson, but he also makes a few points about Penny Arcade's reponse as well. The points directed at Penny Arcade are much more subtle (I'm sure he doesn't want to alienate his readership, which has primarily come from Penny Arcade), but they're there. I agree with Tim Buckley here. Let's focus on what is important, not on petty squabbles.

That being said, I'm sure the feud between Thompson and Penny Arcade is far from over. And I'm sure that some more VERY interesting things are going to happen before it is over. so stay tuned.

Monday, October 17, 2005

I feel like I need a cold shower now...

Ok, this isn't really webcomic related, but has anyone ever actually tried that "Next Blog" button at the top of Blogger?


Poor me and my old school internet mindset. When I saw the "Next Blog" button I assumed it meant Blogger was pretty much organized the same way that Geocities used to be. Remember old school Geocities? Where all the pages were divided up into "towns", which were divided up into "neighborhoods" which were divided up into "streets"? You could actually navigate through Geocities like you were walking through a city and coming upon little shops and houses. I distinctly remember that when you got to the street level, each person's site was represented by a house, and you could travel from site to site by clicking on houses. Sure, it was a little cheesy, but overall it was kind of fun, in a 1996 sort of way. My friends and I used to have a site on Geocities in high school (oops, I just hinted at my age there!) and I always remember that the site "next door" was the Official Slope of a Line Page, which was a very impressive single page with maybe one image that explained the classic y = mx+b equation.

So, silly me, I thought that maybe Blogger was organized similarily to Geocities and the "Next Blog" button would take me to my neighbor, who is probably the person who next created a blog after me, or the closest to me in the alphabet, or something. I figured, hey, I'll go pop in to my neighbor's blog, maybe say hi or something, you know? But apparently this button takes you to a somewhat random blog every time you click it. Now, based on the few I saw when clicking, it seems to take you to a blog that has recently updated, so maybe it's not entirely random (or maybe the majority of blogger users just update alot), but the point is that it sure as heck doesn't take you to the same blog every time and it DEFINITELY doesn't take you to blogs with similar content to your own.

And, quite frankly, some of those blogs had content in them that I would like to scour from my mind with a wad of steel wool. So, if you're ever thinking about browsing blogs using the "Next Blog" button, consider yourself warned.

On a side note, why the heck couldn't Google make that "Next Blog" button take you to a blog with similar content to your own? They've certainly got the machinery to do it (look at Google Ads, for instance), and it sure would make a whole lot more sense than just sending people to random "steel wool scour inducing" places, don't you think?

Sunday, October 16, 2005


More strips to add to my reading list. I'll catch up with you someday, Burns!
Melonpool (Ok, I've only finished reading three out of the five collected volumes, then I have to catch up on the internet strips past volume 5, but still, it's on the list now.)
The Pet Professional
Argon Zark (Yeah, yeah, send your complaints about my being behind the times elsewhere, ok?)

Melonpool and Argon Zark are both from the old guard of webcomics, while Pet Professional is a new rising star. I've got to say, Argon Zark is a different experience for me because it has a very "Scott McCloudian" view of webcomics: innovation in both layout and navigation, clever hidden "easter eggs", and really striving to take advantage of the medium of the internet as opposed to simply using it as a vehicle to post the strip. It comes off kind of artsy-fartsy to me, which isn't really my style, but at least Zark doesn't seem to take itself too seriously, which is a good thing.

And by the way, everyone should buy Steve Troop's collected volumes. At 7 bucks a pop they have provided me with more interesting content than any other comic book collection aside from The Prehistory of the Far Side (a Far Side tenth anniversary collection with annotations by Gary Larson). Steve Troop liberally includes liner notes and behind the scenes looks along with the comics, as well as providing a trove of extra material, especially in the first volume where he goes back and shows us everything that has been Melonpool from its conception when he was SIX. If you've just been reading the internet archives, you've missed out on a lot of good stuff. Interestingly enough, in the Blank Label Podcast with Steve Troop, Troop mentions that Prehistory of the Far Side book, and I think he draws a lot of his inspiration in compiling his books from that volume. He couldn't have picked a better book to emulate.

As for Pet Professional, maybe I'll give you guys a full review of that one at some point. If not, just read the archives. They're only like 50-60 strips long.

Oh, and I changed the little tagline at the top of my blog, replacing the quote claiming that people on the internet are as dumb as monkeys. I thought it was funny when I read it, but sitting at the top of the blog it just looked kind of cynical. I replaced it with a line that I find myself typing quite a bit when I post to this blog...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

This is EXACTLY how I feel

Understanding. From Dandy and Company

For those of you that are curious as to why I'm always putting strips on the left hand side of the post now, even when it makes a lot more sense to put them in the center and write below them, it's because for some reason whenever I try to put a picture in the center of a post on Blogger, it screws up all my double line breaks for paragraphs and I have to go back and add them all by hand. So this is a lot easier for me. Just thought I'd mention that.

I've commented on Dandy and Company before, so I don't need to tell you again that Derrick Fish's skills as an artist are amazing, and I don't know how he keeps up his daily pace without his hand falling off. That's not the point of this post (although the art in this strip is pretty good, and all that inking in the fourth panel must have taken a lot of time...). What I want to comment on here is how perfectly Derrick Fish has captured the heart of every geek.

Poor Bernard is going through the same phase in his life that every geek goes through. The point where everyone else suddenly turns "normal". When you're a little kid you love reading comics because they're so vivid and exicting. You love cartoons because they're simple and extremely entertaining. You like Star Wars and Star Trek even though you don't really understand them, because, hey, those gadgets and spaceships and aliens are neato. Halloween is your favorite holiday because you get to dress up like your favorite hero. And, pretty much all your little kid friends think the same way you do. Then, sometime around middle school, your friends start changing. Suddenly, cartoons aren't cool anymore. Primetime TV is cool instead. Comics are dumb, you should be reading magazines or nothing at all. Star Wars and Star Trek are lame compared to those blood and gore shoot-em-up movies. Dressing up is lame.

The trouble is, YOU still think those things are cool. You still want to watch cartoons and watch Star Trek and dress up like Darth Vader. And so you're torn between the things you love and the things you're supposed to do because its "cool" and it gets you friends. This is why so many geeks look back on their middle school and high school years with disdain. Many of them became outcasts. Many of them felt their friendships were really shallow and boring. I was one of the lucky ones, myself, as my school had a chess team (that's right, the CHESS TEAM, the ultimate haven for the geek) and I was able to form lifelong friendships with the people there. But a lot of people aren't that lucky. Fortunately, those that persevere usually find other geeks when they go to college, or when they get out into the real world, and they finally feel like they fit in. They go to conventions, have anime marathons or cosplay parties or get together and draw comics, and all is well.

But Bernard hasn't reached that state yet. He's still at the "I want to be cool. I want to be accepted. I've gotta give up the stuff I love." But Dandy won't let him, and although it's being played off as Dandy being the bad guy, I think Fish expects us to read between the lines and see that, really, it's just Dandy showing how much he cares about Bernard. He doesn't want Bernard to give this stuff up because he knows Bernard truly enjoys it, and it's also one of the things that the two of them have in common in their friendship. In fact, if Bernard really becomes obsessed with being cool, he'll probably stop hanging out with Dandy entirely, because who hangs out with a talking dog? I mean, come on... So in a way, making Bernard wear a Halloween costume is a way of saving their friendship, and as long as they're friends Bernard can be a geek and still be accepted and have fun. He's trying to ease that awkward transistional period in a geek's life where you feel like no one understands you and everybody thinks you're a loser.

Well, more power to you, Dandy. All us geeks out here are rooting for you. Don't let Bernard turn his back on the things he loves just to seek popularity and shallow friendships that don't last. Keep him a geek. Eventually, he'll discover that overall it's a lot more fun.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Oh... NOW I get it.

The payoff, from Count Your Sheep

Sometimes, I just want to grab the world by the throat and strangle it for not properly recognizing real talent. How is it that a strip like Momma can be running in newspapers while Adrian Ramos toils in obscurity?

Ok, well, not COMPLETE obscurity, but still. The dude ought to be a millionaire by now. Count Your Sheep is consistently one of the funniest, most heartfelt, and all around most enjoyable strips that I read on a daily basis. It's won so many webcomic awards it's hardly worth counting anymore. And yet, it doesn't even have a printed collection out yet, and is only running a suboptimal CafePress store for merchandise. I mean, dude. Where is Keenspot on this one?

But I digress. The point of this post is to comment on the recent "storyline" in Count Your Sheep which consisted of a bunch of riffs on Beatles songs. The strips started around here, and continued, with a few brief interruptions, until yesterday. And I've got to say, I wasn't really a huge fan. In fact, a few days ago I considered putting up a post here to the effect of "Ok, Adrian, we understand that you like the Beatles. Give it a rest already." There was at least one really groundbreaking strip in the bunch which was eloquently summed up on Websnark, but overall it was just a bunch of bad puns, which frankly aren't really Ramos' strong suit.

What I missed was that interspersed in the punny jokes, we were slowly learning the backstory of Laurie and Marty, how Ship became involved in Katie's life like he was in Laurie's, and how Laurie struggled with both the loss of her husband and having a brand new baby at the same time. And then we see how the Beatles are interwoven into all of this. We see that while Laurie may not be a big Beatles fan, Marty really liked them. Then we see that Laurie is trying to find a way for Katie to connect with her deceased father. And finally, in the strip I posted above, we see the payoff. Laurie uses the Beatles music as the connection between Katie and her father. If Katie learns to love the Beatles like her father loved the Beatles, then maybe she'll get some understanding of what kind of man he was, maybe she'll even feel like she knows him a bit through the words of the songs that meant so much to him.

I don't know why I didn't see it coming. I read back through the strips in the archive and I'm amazed that I didn't. And now when I read through those same strips, they seem like such a clever and well-crafted way to tell a story, rather than simply a series of bad puns. There's a layer of depth there that could never have been achieved by simply telling the story outright. And that's pretty amazing.

Bravo, Adrian Ramos. Bravo.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

That seems about right.

Stunned. From PvP

Today's PvP is the perfect example of why the strip has remained so consistently popular over the years. For those of you that missed it, the setup for today's strip came yesterday, when Brent overheard Jade talking on the phone, stressed out that she might be pregnant (I can't imagine WHO she's talking to, but that's not really important). That strip was pretty typical of Scott Kurtz' work, launching into a new storyline extremely quickly, without a lot of setup. If this had been, say, For Better of Worse, we probably would have gotten a series of strips in which the girl in question begins seeing signs that she might be pregnant, maybe some hints at it from outside observers, and then it would have built up to the strip with the guy hearing the girl talking on the phone, and it would be a really dramatic moment. But that's not Scott Kurtz operates. His pacing is more along the lines of the neighborhood gossip: "Hey, guess what? Jade might be pregnant!"

But I digress. The point of this post is to highlight today's strip, not yesterday's. The thing I love about this strip is how well it imitates reality. What would you do if you happened to overhear your girlfriend theorizing that she might be pregnant? A more soap opera-esque strip might have Brent run into the room with a "How could this happen?!?" attitude. An off-the-wall humor strip might have him yelling out the cliched "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" while the camera pans out. But in PvP Brent does pretty much what most real guys would do in this situation: he stands completely stunned, unable to take any action at all. There's so many thoughts running through his head, so much information to process about a potentially life-changing event that he can't free himself from his own thoughts, fears, and confusion to even respond to Cole. He doesn't even move a muscle the entire strip.

And then, on top of that Scott Kurtz is able to add a layer of humor. And it's really funny humor too. Cole, being the generally self-centered individual that he is (like pretty much everyone in the PvP office except Skull, and occasionally Jade), completely fails to notice that something is up with Brent, as evidenced by his complete lack of response to anything Cole says. He just makes a few casual quips, assumes Brent is in agreement with him, and leaves. And Brent, for his part, completely ignores him. You laugh at Cole completely failing to grasp the situation and you laugh just at the overall visual effect of Brent standing motionless, especially with the first and last panels implying that he's been standing that way and will continue to stand that way, for quite some time.

Having characters that act the way people act in real life is always more interesting and more full than having them act out the extreme limits of human behavior. It may not be as "laugh out loud" funny or as gut-wrenchingly heartfelt, but it has a richness to it. I mentioned this richness when I was reviewing Tweep, and PvP also has it as well. And that's why it's so popular.

I just hope Scott Kurtz actually finishes this storyline. We've had far too many dangling storylines in PvP lately (like what heck happened with Max and Miranda? Surely there's SOMETHING more to be explored there!)

Monday, October 10, 2005

A matter of bragging rights

I think I've mentioned this in an off-hand comment once before, but one of my little hobbies that goes along with reading webcomics is collecting webcomic wallpapers. It stems from the fact that I picked up a really nice desktop changing software awhile ago (from, it was free when I got it, I'm not sure if it still is), which I set to pick a random wallpaper from my library every five minutes and change my windows background.

At first I used this software with a library of anime wallpapers, because anime was my big obsession at the time. But once I started getting into webcomics, I switched over to webcomics.

So why am I telling you this? Well, it's been a somewhat frustrating procedure as I've begun to read more and more webcomics to keep up the wallpaper collection. I've been trying to have a wallpaper for every webcomic I read, but oftentimes the artists haven't gotten around to making one, or more annoyingly to me, they've made a bunch of wallpapers that DON'T USE THEIR CHARACTERS. That annoys me to no end, when there's tons of wallpapers with lots of different artwork, but none that actually have the characters themselves on them. I read your comic because I like your characters! It's your characters I want to have popping up on my desktop! That's what I want to see!

So, for awhile now I've had a pretty incomplete collection. So I started making my own wallpapers. They're usually not that great, but hey, it's better than nothing. I spend a lot of time searching through archives, cast pages, sketch dumps, even Google image search trying to glean enough images at a high enough resolution to put together some semblance of a wallpaper. It's been a long and harrowing process, but I'm proud to say that I've finally got a wallpaper for EVERY webcomic I read! YES!

And so I'm posting them all here for you to see, as a matter of bragging rights. I'm sure I'm breaking like forty copyright laws by doing this, so all I can do is ask: "Please, no one sue me?" If anyone takes offense at my grabbing their artwork and displaying it on this site, despite the fact that I have a permanent link to their website in the navigation area that shows up on every page of this blog, let me know, and I'll take your wallpaper down. All wallpapers are 1024x768, because that's the size I like on my computer.

So without further ado, here they are, in alphabetical order:

From Applegeeks. I pulled this one straight out of the "Downloads" section of the Applegeeks website. One thing I can say about Hawk, he provides a lot of quality wallpapers of his characters. Good job. This is actually my CURRENT Applegeeks wallpaper, I've used a couple of other ones in the past. There are just so many good ones to choose from.

From The Adventures of Brigadier General John Stark. This wallpaper I made myself using the original photo Eric Burns posted on Websnark and the logo from the comic's site, then adding my own textboxes. I tried to make up some text that sounded similar to the stuff in the actual comic, but I don't know how well I did.

From Count Your Sheep. As I recall, Adrian Ramos put up this wallpaper in commeration of some special event in the history of Count Your Sheep. Maybe it was the hundreth strip? In any case, I like it a lot.

From Ctrl+Alt+Del. This wallpaper can be found on the actual Ctrl+Alt+Del site in the Wallpapers section under the Funbox. Ctrl+Alt+Del is one of those sites that has a lot of "non-character" wallpapers, but they have a lot of wallpapers with the main characters as well, so it's cool. I have also used the wallpaper in which Ethan and Lucas have glowing Xbox controllers (which was made by Hawk from Applegeeks), but this is the one I'm currently using, so it's the one I'm posting.

From Dandy and Company. This wallpaper is also actually from the Dandy and Company website. Derrick Fish has some wallpapers under the "extras" link. I just liked the poses in this one the best.

From Dork Tower. This is not actually a wallpaper, but it's about as close as you can get from that comic... Since Dork Tower is one of those "print comics that just happens to appear on the web as well" John Kovalic doesn't seem to be terribly interested in making wallpapers. I'm pretty sure this is actually a poster he has for sale in his shop.

From Elf Only Inn. Yet another one that I actually got from the artist. This is available on the Elf Only Inn website, along with a couple of other wallpapers. I just had to use this one because it's the only one with Nimoy in it, and he's my favorite character (sure, Woot may be funnier, but Nimoy's got CLASS, man).

From Fantasy Realms. This one I made myself. Riiiiiiiiiight. Seriously though, I had trouble with Fantasy Realms because I wasn't really a fan of the two wallpapers they had available. This one shows a couple of the characters as kids (and they're not kids in the actual comic), and the other one is a fanservice wallpaper with a bunch of characters that haven't even been introduced yet... I wanted to make my own wallpaper but there's no way I'm piecing together panels from that comic and making anything decent, so I had to be happy with this wallpaper.

From Freefall. This one I actually did make myself, as evidenced by the very boring background. I picked out the characters from some of the Freefall in color strips and upsized them a bit. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out, but it definitely shows how limited my artistic talents are.

From Gossamer Commons. This one is a composite in the truest sense of the word. I snatched the color version of the intro to Chapter 1 off the Gossamer Commons forums, and pasted the banner at the top of the Gossamer Commons website to the top. It's pretty hacked together, but it ends up looking ok becase the original art was good and the coloring job was pretty decent too.

From Inverloch. Sarah Ellerton was kind enough to make really nice wallpapers for each of the characters in her comic. And since Acheron is the hingepin of the whole story, it makes sense to use his wallpaper.

From Mac Hall. This one was a trip to find. On the Mac Hall website there are quite a few wallpapers, but NOT A SINGLE ONE with the actual Mac Hall characters in it. So annoying. So I did a Google image search on Mac Hall and actually managed to find their OLD website on Keenspace, which actually had some cast wallpapers, drawn with the characters copying Cowboy Bebop characters. This one had the most characters on it (although they are all outlines...) so I went with it.

From Megatokyo. I was lucky enough to pick up this wallpaper off an anime forum. Megatokyo is quite popular with the anime fans. I don't think it exists anywhere on the web anymore, so it's nice to be able to share it with you guys here.

From Mousewax. This wallpaper is actually kind of out of date now that Brandon Lewis has changed the focus of his strip and actually removed the Hamsterman strips from his archives completely. He needs to make a new wallpaper with the new characters. For serious.

From Nodwick. Unlike Dork Tower, Aaron Williams has actually been nice enough to put together a couple of Nodwick wallpapers on his website. I like this one best of all because it perfectly fits the theme of Nodwick spoofing all the cliches of Dungeons and Dragons. Also, those are realistic stats for a character like Nodwick. :-)

From Nowhere University. I actually put together this one from artwork on Allison McMullin's Deviantart page, where she posted character art of all her characters. It's pretty shoddily done, but there was NO WAY I was going to try to cut out the characters from those backgrounds. So I tried to stick them together as best as possible. I've still got to get around to posting a review of Nowhere U at some point...

From Penny Arcade. The PA guys have put up a lot of wallpapers recently, which has made me happy. This one is especially nice, and is also available as a poster, which I've been considering buying for quite some time now. I'll get around to it at some point, I suppose.

Also From Penny Arcade. I just had to have a Cardboard Tube Samurai wallpaper in the rotation, because the Cardboard Tube Samurai rocks. For awhile I had the really formal looking one where he's crouching by a koi pond, but this one is pretty awesome also. I like the contrast in this wallpaper.

From Poppycock Circus. Sure, Poppycock Circus has come to an end, but that doesn't mean I can't still enjoy them in wallpaper form. I made this wallpaper using images from the cast page, and once again you can see my wanton use of the single color background! Whoo!

From PvP. For a long time, I actually had a PvP wallpaper which I made myself. It was constructed from a scan of the box for Steve Jackson's PvP version of Frag and one of the PvP linking banners. It was pretty cool. But then Scott Kurtz posted this wallpaper on the site last week, and it's pretty cool, so I decided to use it instead. Sure, it doesn't have all the characters, but it's definitely got Brent pinned.

From Questionable Content. In this case, I actually found a fan site that had about 50 different Questionable Content wallpapers, which was pretty awesome. This one was my favorite, since it had all the characters on it, and they were fairly recent incarnations of the characters (looking back at the archives of Questionable Content is a weird experience. It looks SO MUCH different now than it used to).

From Real Life. I pulled this one off the Starline Media website. I'm not exactly sure what Starline Media is, but they had a Real Life wallpaper. I think Greg Dean used to use them for his online store (and may still, I'm too lazy to check), but beyond that I know nothing. In any case, I'm pretty sure that art is from the cover of the first Real Life book, and that's a darn good wallpaper.

From RPG World. Like Count Your Sheep, this wallpaper was made in celebration of some major website event. Probably some hundredth division of comics. There are some other wallpapers on the site, but this one has both Hero and Cherry on it, which makes it pretty awesome in my book. Plus it's hard to find, which gives it the added "indie" flavor.

From Staccato. This is yet another wallpaper that I created from the cast page of a webcomic. Why do I keep using cast pages? Because usually the cast page is the only place you can get decent pictures of the character apart from backgrounds, props, etc. Also one of the only places you can find full body drawings of characters. This was one of the first wallpapers I made, and like most of my homebrews, it's not too exciting.

From Starslip Crisis. This is actually one of my favorites from the bunch. I really like the artwork on this wallpaper, and of course Starslip Crisis is at the top of my list in terms of favorite webcomics, so altogether it's pretty awesome. I saw that Kristopher Straub was selling prints of this image and I'm tempted to buy one, but I also kind of want to hold out for him to make a poster. That would be SWEET.

From Todd and Penguin. Yet another wallpaper constructed from images found in the cast page. And David Wright didn't even give me great cast images, so I had to piece something really kind of random together. Still, I like all the penguins eating cookies in the background.

From Tweep. I was happy when I found this wallpaper buried in the Tweep news archives, because the format of Tweep makes it exceedingly difficult to pull any art out of it, and Tweep doesn't have a cast page. In case your curious, the characters are copying a very famous Cowboy Bebop pose in that image. Apparently Cowboy Bebop is pretty popular with the webcomics community.

From Ugly Hill. The vast majority of the Ugly Hill site seems to still be under construction, but at least the Extras page is up, and it's got some good stuff. I love Hastings, he's the combination of every bad coworked that everyone has had in their lives and yet somehow Paul Southworth still manages to make him sympathetic. It's amazing.

From VG Cats. VG Cats is interesting in that while it has a lot of wallpapers of it's characters, it's always the characters AS SOMEONE ELSE. But that makes sense because that's pretty much how the comic goes as well. Anyways, you can't beat a kitty dressed up as Keanu Reeves from the Matrix, so that's the wallpaper I use.

From Websnark. I made up this wallpaper quite awhile ago when I first started reading Websnark, from the few pieces of Websnark related fan art Eric Burns had received. I like the way it turned out, but it's sad that I couldn't really find any way to tie together Snarky and Eric Burns. They still pretty much look like two separate images on one wallpaper. Ah well.

From Gideon D. Ragon, Private Eye. this last wallpaper is a wallpaper I made for one of my own webcomic projects, Gideon D. Ragon. I can't really say much about it without giving spoilers to upcoming comics (if they ever get made... *sigh*). Sadly, I haven't been able to make a wallpaper for my other webcomic project, MiSTEam, since I haven't converted all the characters to digital format yet.

Ok, well, this post has taken WAY longer than I expected or intended it to take. I've really got to go get some work done now. Looks like another late night!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A brief comment

So, I was just perusing the WebcomicWiki (which seems to have have changed its name to simply, not to be confused with, which is the review site...). I actually was looking at their list of webcomics, and a thought struck my mind, so I went ahead and counted how many entries the list had.

And my suspicions were correct. The list contained 541 different comics. Now, in a recent interview, our good buddy Eric Burns of Websnark mentioned that he reads between 600-800 comics a day, which is a staggering number, but it becomes even more staggering when compared with the wiki. This means that on a daily basis Eric Burns reads more comics than the WebcomicWiki even has entries for! And this is the wiki that will include any webcomic, regardless of popularity, unlike the Wikipedia, which requires that a webcomic have a certain following before it can be included. That's insane.

Eric Burns truly is a man with too much time on his hands. I just thought I'd mention that.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Blind. as. a. bat. Actually, he's even blinder, I think.

(Piro being a real dummy from Megatokyo)

Let me start this post by reminding everyone that I actually enjoy Megatokyo. I think it's got way more interesting relationship dynamics than most other webcomics, and it actually tries to explore those dynamics in detail, which is I think why it remains wildly popular despite it's erraticism.

I find myself caring what happens to Piro and Largo and "the girls". I root for them. I really, truly, want to see how this thing turns out in the end. I'm willing to put up with Fred Gallagher's little quirks because he turns out a quality product, dammit.

That being said, Piro really is being pretty dumb here. I mean, he's just gotten off the phone with Nanasawa, who called him first when she was in a crisis, then proceeded to confide in him her fears and frustrations about being an overnight sensation. She could have just as easily called Hayasaka who actually has experience with this sort of thing, but no, she chooses to call Piro for advice instead. And now, not more than about five minutes later we have Piro responding to someone asking if she is his girlfriend by saying "No, she's not my girlfriend, and I probably shouldn't get my hopes up either. I don't have a chance with her."

Wow. Just wow. I have an easier time believing that Largo could rent a Godzilla and rampage through the city than I have believing Piro is THIS oblivious. I mean, come on...

The saddest part is that I'm pretty sure I know where Fred is going with this. He's drawing parallels between Piro and Nanasawa's relationship and the broken relationship between Hayasaka and her old boyfriend (Inspector Sonada? Is that right? Was that revealed somewhere and I simply forgot it?). They've both got essentially the same problem: The guy feels he isn't worthy of the girl, the girl doesn't care, she just loves the guy. If I had to guess, I'd say that as things progress Piro will begin to see that Nanasawa is interested in him and then feel that he's got to discourage her from it, pushing her away. At some point Hayasaka will probably intervene, to prevent Piro from making the same mistake that her old beau made, and it'll come down to Piro having to come to a realization that he IS good enough. At that point he'll probably have broken Nanasawa's heart or something and he'll have to go win her back.

And that works as a plotline, I suppose. It's certainly got potential for some twists and turns, and there will obviously be a lot of interesting development on the side to see how all the other relationships are resolved (Largo/Hayasaka, Piro/Ping, and let's not forget about Miho, the "villian"). But it kind of annoys me just how much he seems to be forcing the plot this direction. I mean, any normal guy in this situation would be saying to himself, "wow, this girl is really interested. I mean, she called me, she chased down my drunk friend, she even tried to make me more confident." Not Piro though. Nope, he all gloom and doom.

It's pretty sad, really, because I see a lot of potential for the story if it played out in something approximating real life. Piro asks Nanasawa out. Maybe she says yes. Suddenly, the two of them are an item, a target for the obsessive-compulsive fans. They can't escape from the fans. Everywhere they go, cameras and ninjas and magical girls. This is an opportunity for both a lot of humorous hijinks (Piro asks Largo to keep the fans at bay, or even better, Nanasawa asks Hayasaka to keep the fans at bay) and potential for drama (the stress begins to strain their relationship. Nanasawa wonders if her career choice will keep her from finding peace and happiness. Piro doesn't want her to give up her career). Maybe she says no, she doesn't want to drag him into all this mess. This also has potential for humor (Piro tries to convince her he can handle the mess, that he can take the fans because he's such a fanboy himself) and for drama (both Piro and Nanasawa being torn by wanting to be together but just not able to be).

Instead, we get "sad Piro in snow". I'm not good enough, boo hoo hoo. Everyone come try to convince me I'm good enough. Boo hoo hoo. See couldn't really like me. Boo hoo hoo. And it's gotten to the point of unbelievability that it's become more melodramatic than dramatic to me.

Hopefully Fred can turn this around. It'd be a shame for a strip with so much emotion in it degrade to something more like a soap opera.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Because community is a good thing (Updates)

Ok, updates time. Only two new webcomics to add to the checklist:
The Adventures of Brigadier General John Stark (abbreviated to Brig. General John Stark because that's a freaking long name)
Ugly Hill

Eventually I'm just going to have to put all those links in a post, or maybe Javascript up some kind of pop-up menu, because that list is starting to get a bit long.

More importantly, I've also added some other webcomic critical commentary blogs to the "Webcomics Related Stuff", not so much because I read them on a consistent basis (because I don't, really. I do check them out from time to time, though) but because crosslinking between different sites is one of the first steps to building up a Webcomics commentators community, which I think would be a pretty sweet thing to have. Recently we've seen a lot of build-up in the webcomics community as a whole, with collectives forming such as Blank Label Comics and WebcomicsNation, but we have yet to see a real comprehensive webcomics commentary community, which I think would be a pretty neat thing.

So anyways, commentary sites that I've added links to in this update:
Packbat's Journal
Comics Rock

(Note: I don't sanction any unrelated-to-webcomics personal life discussion on either of these sites. Just the webcomic commentary. Death to pointless blogs!)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Just to prove I don't like *everything* I read (A review of Wondermark)

(A typical comic from Wondermark. At the time of this posting the main Wondermark site seems to be down, but there appears to be a backup here.)

Looking back through my archives so far on the Webcomicker (which are short, sadly, but I am getting more consistent, which is good), I've noticed that in general when I post something it tends to be a glowing review highlighting some aspect of a comic that I really enjoy. In fact, the only really negative post I see at all is when I chastise Scott Kurtz for being insensitive, and he's insensitive so consistently that my post seems like just a bit of white noise.

And I guess that's just the way I am. I'm generally more inclined to write about stuff I enjoy rather than stuff I dislike. There have been comics I've read in the time frame since I've begun this site which I haven't terribly enjoyed, ones which I decided not to keep up with (Yirmumah and Casey and Andy are a couple of examples), but I didn't really feel the need to come on here and yell out "I DON'T LIKE SUCH AND SUCH COMIC!" It just doesn't strike a chord with me. I'd much prefer to talk about comics that I do like doing stuff that I don't like, but the comics that I do like so rarely do things I don't enjoy (which is why I like them...) that it doesn't give me much opportunity to gripe.

Which brings me to Wondermark. I was first introduced to Wondermark by the Hurricane Relief Telethon, and then reintroduced to it when it began advertising on Blank Label Comics. It's a novel idea, constructing a comic strip from old 19th century pencil drawings, many of which look like they've been lifted from patent applications, or illustrations from old novels. It provides an opportunity to create a dischordance between the art of the strip and the dialogue, and that dischordance provides humor.

Unfortunately, in my eyes, that's pretty much all the strip has going for it. Sure, it's pretty funny at first to see some dignified Victorian woman talking about a chicken butt, but it just gets old after awhile, you know? Many of the punchlines fall flat and rely fairly heavily on the juxtaposition for making the strip "work". And while this is an effective measure when used sparingly, in Wondermark it's used week after week, until all the strips just kind of start to blur together.

Wondermark does have some other interesting content on the site besides just the strip, such as the Comic Strip Doctor and the "Making of", which are both amusing diversions in their own right, but not enough to keep me coming back to the site. In fact, even though the fake process outlined in the "Making of" section was a very amusing parody of how some comic strips actually are produced, highlighting the sterility and committee thinking which takes the life out of a strip (see also, Garfield), I really would have liked to see how David Malki actually makes Wondermark, where he got all those old-timey images from and so on.

So I won't be reading Wondermark anymore, and you shouldn't expect me to ever mention it again, really. And there's a sample of how I write a bad review.