The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Monday, February 27, 2006

This is news?

Preview of Volume 4 cover, from Megatokyo.

So, today at Megatokyo Fred announced to the web (having previously announced at the New York Comicon this weekend) that Megatokyo was being picked up by DC Comics.

This immediately prompted from me a "Wow... a webcomic is being printed by DC Comics. That's pretty awesome." But after about a minute of thinking about it, I realized, "wait, this is Megatokyo we're talking about... what's the big deal?"

I mean, this is hardly a huge step up for Megatokyo. The first three volumes were all published by no less than Dark Horse, and while they're certainly not DC or Marvel they are the third largest comic book publisher in the U.S. (guess who's ahead of them). Megatokyo already appears in basically every bookstore around the country and has even been used on those fricking "READ" posters. DC is not really opening up a whole new world of opportunity for Megatokyo here. Now, if DC were to pick up something like Dominic Deegan or Inverloch, then we'd have something to talk about. But Megatokyo? For Megatokyo this is just like a baseball player getting traded to a new team. It's the equivalent of a mid-tier webcomic switching collectives. It's really not huge news.

But, I suppose congratulations are in order anyway, as the first webcomic to break into DC. So, congrats, Fred. *shrug*

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A tribute.

Celebration of a milestone from HOUSD.

So, HOUSD reached it's 1000th strip yesterday. Bravo. Bravo to Ali Graham for producing 1000 quality strips, and doing them on a 7 day a week basis. I don't know how he keeps it up.

But that's not what this post is about.

See, in reading the 1000th strip of HOUSD (go ahead, read it. Click on the picture to see the whole strip. I'll wait.), for some reason it just reminded me so much of Scott McCloud's infamous "story that could take any number of panels to tell," The Carl Comics. It was a theme he did quite a bit of experimentation with, so I think most people are familiar with it. If not, just follow the link and check out that crazy Carl.

So I got to thinking, "Hey, someone should do a Carl version of the HOUSD 1000th strip." Then I got to thinking, "Hey, why don't I do it?" So I did.

I present you with: CARLSD.

A tribute to Ali Graham for making it to 1000 strips, and a tribute to Scott McCloud for... um... being Scott McCloud, I guess.

Enjoy. Oh, and please don't sue me for stealing your art, Graham. I'm just trying to give you a tribute.

A preliminary lexicon (because not everybody needs to rip off Eric Burns)

Ok, I've finally managed to get myself to the point where I enjoy webcomic criticism. People have interesting things to say, they highlight portions of a strip which I personally would never have noticed, they show me the good points in strips which I generally consider to be universally bad. Reading criticism gives me a better understanding of the medium as a whole and enables me to make more informed decisions when choosing what to read (although ultimately in the end it comes down to: Do I enjoy reading it?), and can really create some great discussion when people build on each other's posts.

That being said, if I see one more webcomic critic use the word "snark" on his site, I'm gonna puke. I'm literally going to disembibe stomach acid on my keyboard. The same goes for "Cerebus Syndrome" and "First and Ten". I'm ok with it when Burns uses them, because they're his terms. But seriously? Show a little creativity. I know most of us were inspired by Burns. Heck even I openly admit that the sole reason I started The Webcomicker was because he demonstrated to me that the concept of webcomic criticism was cool. But I've never once stolen any of his terms. Outside of this post, I've used the word "snark" once, and that was when I was specifically referencing Burns in my very first post. And I've never used "First and Ten" or "Cerebus Syndrome".

That being said, it is useful to have some shorthand terms for referring to common events or circumstances in your field of criticism. Where would art criticism be if they had to explain the concept of "avante garde" every time they wanted to reference it? And as I've made posts on this blog, I've come up with some useful lexical terms that would be helpful to make known to the readers, so I don't have to explain them again in the future.

So this is the kind of post that will probably get a permanent link (although perhaps a version of it without all the ranting at the beginning, to save face), and get periodically updated as I think of spiffy new terms. Feel free to use these terms if you like (I think they're pretty good), but keep in mind that overuse of the terms will make them cliched, much like Burn's stuff has become.

(Note: as of this writing only one of the terms defined here has actually been used in a post: sidequesting. The other ones are terms I've had kicking around in my head and look forward to using sometime in the future.)

Sidequesting: In the world of RPGs, a sidequest is an adventure that is completely tangential to the main storyline, and is typically used as an element to length the playtime as a game. Sidequests are usually performed to make one's characters stronger or purely for the enjoyment value. In webcomics, sidequesting refers to the situation when a webcomic that is primarily storyline driven has the characters engage in some kind of side adventure or mini-storyline which is tangential to the plot as a whole. This occurs to some degree in almost every storyline driven webcomic, and sidequests vary wildly in frequency, length, and quality.

Techno-Bill: Techno-Bill is a minor character from the Dilbert comic. He only appeared in two strips, but was hugely popular with the Dilbert fanbase, and his moniker is still widely used on the internet today. So the lexical term refers to exactly what Techno-Bill is: a hugely popular bit player in a webcomic. Techno-Bills are pretty rare in webcomics because when readers latch on to a character, they tend to bug the creators to reuse them so much that the creators cave and make the character more regular (because fanservice is much more necessary in webcomics than other mediums). Some examples of characters which began their careers as Techno-Bills but ultimately joined the rotation are Chef Brian from Ctrl+Alt+Del, and the infamous Homsar. A good example of a real Techno-Bill is Pizza Girl from Questionable Content, who to date has appeared in two strips.

Respawning: Ok, this one's got a history to it. Obviously the term respawning originally came from the world of first person shooter games, where after you die your character magically comes back to life back at your base (or some other location). Beyond that I have nothing concrete to say about the etymology of the word. In the world of webcomics, respawning refers to when a strip fundamentally changes its premise. Note that this is not the same thing as retconning. In a retcon much of the history of a strip may change, but the premise is typically the same. The need for this term arose from a recent post of mine where I wanted to describe how the premise of Ctrl+Alt+Del had changed. I used the term "jump the shark", but later was made to understand that jumping the shark contains the implicit implication that things have turned for the worse. And while jumping the shark typically includes a shift in the premise, this shift does not necessarily indicate a downturn in the strip. Note also the difference between respawning and the ever popular "Cerebus Syndrome". Cerebus Syndrome specifically entails that a gag-a-day strip has become more serious, has taken on some dramatic elements or at least a running storyline with consequences. None of this is required for a respawn, just a change in the premise. Examples of strips that have respawned are Ctrl+Alt+Del (as mentioned in the post linked above) and Real Life.

Now, for those of you curious types, here's how I ultimately chose the term respawning. I was looking for a good term after the aforementioned Ctrl+Alt+Del post, and lacking inspiration, I tried to think of strips that had undergone similar changes and hoped I could find some good term from their discussion of it. So I went searching. And what I ultimately found was this strip at Megatokyo. If you scroll down the page a bit, you'll see that this was when Fred Gallagher (Piro) first announced that Rodney Caston (Largo) had left the project. This signalled a fundamental shift in the premise of the strip, from random adventures with zombies and robots to more serious relationship drama. And what was the title of the strip when this announcement was made? "Respawning tactics." I knew I had my term the moment I read it.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Some thoughts on changing artists

A look at some art change over at The Pet Professional.

Here's a topic I've been wanting to discuss at length for awhile now: webcomics changing their artists mid-run. The idea of a comic strip changing it's artist has been kind of a hot topic lately, with the whole announcement about Unfit wanting a new artist and the fact that the fans got to be part of the decision-making process (that and the fact that Scott Adams was captaining the effort, and he is nie unto a god in the world of comics these days).

Really, Unfit only got this much attention because of the rather curious way in which it went about looking for a new artist, with an open call and publicly viewable tryouts. The idea of comic strips (and comics in general, for that matter) changing artists is by no means something new. All the old-guard comic strips have done it. Blondie, Hi and Lois, Hagar the Horrible. Superhero comic books do it on a near-constant basis, and in some regard it is the lifeblood of the industry. What makes Unfit any different?

Well, one significant difference is that Unfit was actually looking to change its artistic style. Not a bad idea, really, considering Unfit is about the ugliest mofo on the comics page right now, but this is a relative oddity. Most of the time when an old comic starts being captained by a new artist, the goal is to make the new artwork as close as humanly possible to what was already being done so as not to alienate the fanbase. Even in superhero comics where this restriction is loosened somewhat, generally the artist tries to keep to the original design of the characters fairly closely on the whole, with most variations being on the "cosmetic" side of things. Unfit underwent a complete and total overhaul, and will in no way resemble the strip it used to be. And it'll be interesting to see how it pans out.

Which brings us to the discussion of webcomics changing artists. And it's important from the outset to understand some fundamental differences between when webcomics change artists and when more traditional comics change artists. First of all, when a webcomic changes artists, it is universally as a result of a writer/artist pair splitting up, with the writer wishing to continue the project and the artist wishing to move on to something else. It's interesting to note that if this split happens the reverse way (writer leaving artist), in almost all cases the artist will simply pick up the writing duties and continue on solo. But when the artist leaves, it is almost never the case that the writer will begin drawing the project. This is a rather interesting distinction between writers and artists, that artists seem to be able to pick up writing skills as they go along, while most writers fail to pick up any artistic skills. My guess is that this is because the process of developing the art for a story teaches someone a lot about storytelling, while describing the desired art to accompany a story teaches someone practically nothing about drawing.

But the point is that when an artist leaves the writer holding the ball, in almost all cases the writer can't run with it by himself. He needs a new artist to help him out. So he'll put out an open call for anyone looking for a project, advertise it around a bit, and try to find someone new who's willing to take on the "art monkey" duties. We've seen this happen in a few webcomics recently, notably Pet Professional (which I demonstrated above) and Gossamer Commons. And because of the limited pool of artists available willing to devote hours of their time for little or no compensation, and the fact that any artist willing to do that is typically looking to develop their own style as opposed to strictly copying someone else's, the comic ends up looking different. Not necessarily fundamentally different (you can still tell the Pet Professional is the Pet Professional between the two panels above), but different enough that the structure of the comic has changed on a somewhat fundamental level.

And, based on what I've seen, when a webcomic changes artists, it is generally detrimental to the health of that webcomic.

Now, I'm not quite sure why this is. I mean, even when a webcomic doesn't change artists its art typically changes quite a bit over time (see: Goats, Penny Arcade, and Questionable Content, to name a few), and people seem to be more than willing to stick with it. When a writer changes there may be some rocky times, but some strips have proven more than able to come out on top. So why is it that when an artist changes, a webcomic just can't seem to recover? My guess is that the fans develop more of an emotional attachment with the artist, because no matter who's in the background pulling the strings, it's ultimately the artist's work that we see on the page every day. The artist's contribution is staring us right in the face, while the writer's contribution hangs nebulously in the background.

Another problem could be with the different visions of the project. Typically when a writer and an artist pair up, they bring a single, unified vision to their project. The writing and the art fit together perfectly because the writer and the artist specifically joined up together for that reason. When a new artist is added to the mix, he brings his own vision to the project, and there is frequently a clash between his vision and the old artist's vision, and therefore a clash between him and the writer, who shared the vision of the old artist. And reworking those visions into something cohesive and unified is an extremely difficult process, which can ultimately end up severely blunting both the artist and the writer's desires and result in a much more mediocre end product. I speak this from bitter experience, as this sort of conflict is what ultimately deep-sixed my first webcomic project, Gideon D. Ragon, Private Eye, when I was forced to seek a new artist after my original one ran out of free time. The new artist I found just didn't have the same vision for the project that me and my old partner had, and in our attempts to compromise with each other into something workable we ultimately killed the project.

Now, this is not to say we couldn't have a strip get a new artist and see it flourish. Heck, I think both Gossamer Commons and Pet Professional have a shot (although, in both cases I preferred the old artist. But is that just because I had an attachment to them?). I'm just saying it's really hard. Say Gabe decided to suddenly leave Penny Arcade. Would Tycho be able to find a new artist? Heck yeah. Would the strip still be good? I think Tycho is a smart enough guy that yes is a safe answer to that question. Would it be as popular? At first, definitely not. We've come to love Gabe's take on the characters over the years, and any new artist, unless he was able to exactly reproduce Gabe's work, would be seen as worse than Gabe, no matter how talented he was. It would be worse because it would be different, and what we want is more of the same. But ultimately, I think the quality would speak for itself and Penny Arcade would be able to reestablish itself on the top of the pile. I think success stories can happen.

So if you find yourself in the situation with your webcomic that you have to change artists, think about the ramifications. It might be better for you to find a new artist and start a new project with him, rather than trying to keep a burgeoning property alive. You might even want to start a new project with yourself as the artist and develop your own artistic skills so you don't ever find yourself in this situation again. This is not to say that you should give up on your original vision, you might get lucky and find another artist who shares it with you. But you'll have to realize that you'll be starting from the bottom again, and it's going to be another long climb up to where you were when your other artist left. So think about what you'd rather do.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

For those of you desperate to do some reading

Ok, since it's come to my attention that there are a lot of good webcomics criticism sites I don't read, and there are people out there who want to read AS MUCH criticism as they can, I added some links to my "Webcomic Related Stuff" section. Here's some reviewers I found by the exhaustive search process of "checking out the websites of everyone who commented in my last post":

I can't promise I'll keep up with all these reviewers (in fact, I probably can promise that I won't), but I'll try to read them from time to time to be sure I'm giving you guys a well-informed perspective here.

And, as always, I'm going to try to post here more often. I've got stuff to say, I'm just short on the time to say it in.

Ctrl+Alt+Del jumps the shark!

Ding-dong the bells are going to ring! From Ctrl+Alt+Del

Ok, I waited awhile, but now I'm going to say something, because apparently no one else in the world of webcomic criticism (by which I mean Websnark, Phil Kahn, Fleen, Comics Rock and Comixpedia, the only criticism sites I read) cares about what goes on in the Ctrl+Alt+Del strip itself, and only sees fit to mention when Tim Buckley does something controversial.

Anyhoo, this week saw something HUGE happen in Ctrl+Alt+Del. Something monumental. Something shark-jump worthy.

Ethan and Lilah got engaged.

Now keep in mind the definition of the term "jump the shark". To jump the shark means to fundamentally change the premise of your strip (it applies to other media as well, but we're talking webcomics here). Jumping the shark isn't the characters embarking on some crazy new adventure. It isn't even the addition of deletion of a major character. This can often accompany a shark jump, but by no means signals one. For example, Questionable Content recently introduced a new character in the form of the OCD girl upstairs, but it has by no means changed the premise of the strip.

No, jumping the shark implies a much more fundamental change, a change in the very premise of the strip. And for Ctrl+Alt+Del, that premise has been Ethan and Lucas, living together and driving each other crazy. Even recently when Tim Buckley played out the huge storyline of the apartment burning down, when didn't see the premise change. We just saw the setting change.

But now... things are different. If Ethan and Lilah get married (and presumably they are. Them breaking up would be a bit too much drama for Ctrl+Alt+Del, methinks), the relationship dynamics are going to change. Ethan's going to have new concerns and responsibilities as a married man. Being Ethan, he'll probably ignore the majority of them, but still. The relationship between a man and a woman changes when they get married. And your relationships with your friends change as well. The whole gang is probably still going to live in the same house, but it'll be different when one of the sets of people is married.

I think it's cool that Tim Buckley is willing to let his characters evolve like this. I get bored of webcomics that have their couples dating forever and the relationship never advancing *ahem*PvP*ahem*. If you're going to do a comic with a story, let the story advance, don't just pretend that it's advancing while desperately keeping your premise the same. Let things evolve and change.

Now, as I say this, I hope that Tim Buckley actually does let his characters evolve and change naturally, and the comic doesn't just become "Hey everything's exactly the same except Ethan and Lilah happen to be married now". I want to see marriage change them, like it changes real people. Heck, at some point I'd love to see what Ethan would be like as a father (and let me tell you, it'd be comedic GOLD).

So, let it flow, Buckley. Let it flow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Review: On the Rocks

Just one of the many misadventures from On the Rocks.

Sometimes all you need for a good comic is simplicity. Over the years, the medium of webcomics has evolved over the years into sort of a haven for those artists who want to balance gag-a-day humor with long-form storytelling. This combination is a feat that has really only been reproduced outside of the web with one other comic strip: For Better or For Worse. It's really neat to watch how different webcomics perform the balancing act. Each strip needs to execute by itself: setup, delivery, punchline, possible counter-punchline. It needs to be funny in its own accord. But then you also need to weave the strip into the overarching continuity, and whatever individual storyline may be going on. So you've got to introduce daily humor without losing the overall flow of the storyline, and that's a very difficult thing to do. Seeing people do it successfully is one of the joys of webcomics.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Some webcomickers have thrown out the notion of needing each piece to stand alone. Inverloch does this, as does Dominic Deegan, on occasion. And, of course, many comics go the other way and take the more traditional approach of simply having no continuity and just doing daily gags. There are a myriad of these that I could list. On the Rocks is one of them.

On the Rocks is almost archetypal in its formula: You have two friends, a polar bear named Wally and a penguin named Osbourne. They live in Antarctica. They have humorous adventures. There's no large continuity, any storylines that do pop up tend to be variations on a theme and not longer than a week (with one distinct exception I can think of), and in general it reads like most newspaper comics: "Let's crack open the website and see what ole Wally and Osbourne are up to today."

Now remember, it does not take originality of concept for a webcomic to be good. Having a very original concept can help distinguish a certain comic from the pack initially (take, for example, The Pet Professional), but ultimately it's quality and it's resulting popularity and success will rest in it's execution. Execution beats concept every time, and it becomes even more important when using a tried-and-true concept if you want to distinguish yourself from the pack. So the question is, does On the Rocks execute well?

And the answer is: "Sure, I guess." Here's the things that struck me about On the Rocks, as I was reading it: It has good, clean artwork that perfectly suits the tone of the strip both in linework and in colors. It has pretty decent jokes, on the whole. A few of them made me laugh out loud (I particularily liked the one I linked above). The website design is great, with easy navigation and a color scheme which perfectly suits the comic.

But the strip does suffer from some deficiencies, the most crippling of which is the relative dullness of the characters. Wally is "the dumb guy" and Osbourne is "the normal guy". They're really not developed beyond that. Now, don't get me wrong. Flat characters are fine by me. In fact, one-dimensional characters are usually some of the absolute funniest and can carry a comic (for example, Sam in Freefall). But there's a difference between flat and dull. If you have essentially one-dimensional characters but you don't fully develop that one-dimension, then your characters become boring very quickly, and without interesting characters you can't have interesting interplay, and you very quickly expend your supply of quippy jokes and run out of steam. I see On the Rocks being in danger of that.

But for the moment, it's a pretty good read. No real commitment level to speak of, and a high degree of "chuckle-factor" make it a strip to keep on your radar, at least. I'm going to keep reading it and hope that Wally and Osbourne start to come into their own and really begin generating their own comedy, as opposed to right now when it seems as if their following scripts.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ok, I admit it. I'm intrigued.

Intrigue! From Starslip Crisis.

So, I just realized I never did my monthly roundup for January, something I'll have to remedy in short order. But not right now. Right now I want to talk about Starslip Crisis.

The latest plotline in Starslip has been rather interesting for several reasons. First, it began very abruptly with two men speaking in archaic modern English in what can only be assumed to be a roughly medieval setting. No explanation of what was going on. No helpful "meanwhile, back in 1505" text box, no setup by our plucky gang of museum caretakers in 3441. In fact, the previous strip was just a one-shot gag by Cutter about eyepatches. Kris Straub just threw something completely random at us.

And that's interesting because that's not the sort of thing that Starslip Crisis does. In its roughly one year run, Starslip hasn't been known for wild plot twists and random turns. While some of the plotlines have been somewhat silly, none of them have been complete deviations from the normal plot. The closest we've seen is with the Hardware Pirates storyline, but even that started out with a known character in Vore.

So we've been ripped violently from our usual Starslip Crisis universe to something completely different, with no explanation of where or when we have gone. We can only assume that this storyline is going to intersect with the usual Starslip Crisis universe somehow, but that leaves us with the question: How? My first conjecture was that this was just some kind of strange planet that chose to have all the trappings of ye olde England, and they were going to end up in need of some obscure piece of ancient Earth artwork, then enter the usual cast. But then we got to today's strip, and now I'm not so sure...

It's obvious that the character introduced in the third panel of today's strip doesn't fit in this world. It's also fairly obvious that he belongs in the normal Starslip Crisis world. He talks in "normal" English, he uses the usual Starslip Crisis voice font as opposed to the serif font which is being used by the archaic characters. He's dressed in a futuristic fashion. He's a member of the normal Starslip Crisis universe.

But how does he fit in? Who is he? What's his relationship with the Fuseli crew? And where the heck are we right now? These are the questions that are keeping me on the edge of my seat. My current guess now is that he's a time traveller, and we actually are in medieval England (and I have my reasoning behind this guess. I can't give away all my secrets), but that still doesn't explain what he's doing there (he claims that he's not "doing" the queen, if you catch my drift, but what IS he doing?), and how he's going to be hooked into Starslip Crisis as a whole.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Weird stuff going on

Ok, so my new posts seem to keep disappearing. I wrote a couple of fairly lengthy posts over the weekend, one about podcasts and one about Ctrl+Alt+Del: The Animation, and both of them have inexplicably gone away. I'm not sure right now if this is just a glitch in Blogger or if someone malicious has compromised my account (I'm inclined to think the former, since I haven't seen any defacing at all, just a few posts disappearing into the ether). In any case, I don't want to write anything major until the issue gets cleared up, so things might be quiet here for a few more days. I've been in contact with the Blogger help staff, and hopefully they'll be able to clear this whole thing up.

Just so you know

I've become something of an "on again, off again" writer for Comixpedia. Hopefully I'll become more on than off as time goes on. Anyways, I wrote a little piece for their February issue, a retrospective on what happened in webcomics during January. Not the most exciting thing I've ever written, but I think it sums things up pretty nicely. Give it a look.

By the way, Comixpedia issues are now featuring Checkerboard Nightmare comics, which brings me much joy. Last month's was pure hilarity, and this month's is pretty good, too. So be sure to visit Comixpedia at least to check those out.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ctrl+Alt+Del: The Animation

A "still" from Ctrl+Alt+Del: The Animation (Hooray for the Print Screen button!)

Ok, so let me start this post with a little bit of the so-called "snarkiness". First of all, I'm amazed at the amount of people who have said "Eh, I'm not a huge Ctrl+Alt+Del fan, so I'm not going to watch this new animation thing he's got going on." Seriously. Get over your little "Ctrl+Alt+Del is just a ripoff of Penny Arcade and PvP, leeching off their success" high horses, people. No matter what your personal opinion of Ctrl+Alt+Del happens to be, this is an auspicious occassion for webcomics on the whole. Here we have Tim Buckley, who has gone through all the trouble of hiring a professional animation studio, gotten professional voice-talent, and really assembled an entire team of people to make a professional quality animation. This ain't no homebrew Blamimation (not to say that I don't like the Blamimations I've seen. They are actually quite funny. But there is definitely a huge difference in terms of overall quality).

This is the first time something like this has ever happened in the world of webcomics. We actually have someone crossing over into professionally made animations. And it's a major step. So it's at least worth checking into, your personal opinions aside. And it's only gonna cost you two bucks. Are you seriously trying to tell me you don't have two bucks to spare? Come on...

Well, I've got two bucks to spare, so I signed up for a month of Ctrl+Alt+Del premium just so I could watch the show. Now, mind you, if you're actually (god forbid) a fan of Ctrl+Alt+Del, then there's literally no reason on Earth why you shouldn't sign up for this. In addition to the animations you get a lot of other cool Ctrl+Alt+Del related stuff like exclusive comics, wallpapers, a special forum, and other behind the scenes stuff. Definitely a good amount of fan service. If you're not a fan that stuff's not so interesting, but still: two bucks.

Now some snarkiness aimed at the Ctrl+Alt+Del folk. I absolutely could not get the video to play in Internet Explorer. Once I switched over to Firefox I had no problems, but quite frankly it annoys me that so many people are coming out with "Firefox only" content these days. Internet Explorer is just as good as Firefox in every way except it's somewhat less secure (but that's really more of a Windows thing than an Internet Explorer thing), and it's better than Firefox in many other ways. Sure, it's not 100% "standards compliant", but that's only because the W3C people make up these so-called "standards" pretty much out of thin air and then demand that everyone else follow them, and quite frankly it makes me sick.

But I digress. In any case, if you want to watch the Ctrl+Alt+Del animations, you're going to need Firefox. Now, let's talk about the actual show itself. First off: The animation actually is very good. The characters' movements look natural, the lip-syncing is pretty good, and there's some very good camera work with pans, zooms, and spins (or whatever the technical term for moving the camera around a character is). Whatever Tim Buckley paid for the animation, he got his money's worth. There are times when it looks kind of blurry, but I'm not sure if that's an animation problem or a result of the compression for the web. In any case, well done.

Now, as for the voice acting, it was kind of a mixed bag for me. Obviously the voice actors were well-trained, and the dialogue seemed natural and not too over-acted or forced. Most of the episode revolved around Ethan and Lucas, so they're the only characters I can really say anything concrete about right now, and in a nutshell I liked Lucas but I wasn't a big fan of Ethan. Something about Ethan's voice just seemed off to me. I don't know if the pitch was off from what I expected, or if it was the kind of energy which was put in the voice or what, but it just didn't strike a chord. It's like when they made the Dilbert animated series and there was just something inherently wrong about Dogbert's voice. You could never quite put your finger on it, but you just knew that wasn't really what Dogbert would sound like. Lucas, on the other hand, I think they hit perfectly. And even if Ethan's voice was off a bit in my head, it wasn't unbearable.

As for the content of the show, this episode was basically about Ethan and Lucas fighting for control of the TV. It began with a pre-credits sequence introducing Ethan's character by having him make fun of someone who doesn't know anything about video games, which fits his character pretty well, and the rest of the episode was him and Lucas pulling stunts on each other to try to get the TV. It's a pretty cliched storyline, especially in the world of cartoons: two characters both want some particular object, so they battle for it in escalation-style warfare. But just because it's cliched doesn't mean it's bad. There have been entire SERIES built around this premise, so what's important is the execution. And the execution was pretty good. It seemed rushed at times, and definitely could have been expanded into a longer cartoon, but those things that were done played pretty well.

So, overall, in terms of the world of cartoons, Ctrl+Alt+Del: The Animation is not terribly ground-breaking at episode one. Decent animation, decent voice acting, decent execution. Kind of short, not a terribly interesting plot, and not too much information to make us remember and love the characters just from the animation so far. If you were to take this to Adult Swim and pitch it, they'd probably tell you "it's got potential, keep working on it." But from the point of view of webcomics, this is absolutely ground-breaking. The whole project just reeks of "professional", which is the sort of image that webcomics do not give you very often. It's a huge step forward, and I'm highly anticipating what the other big names in webcomics are going to do to try to keep pace. It's going to be an exciting year.

Various Random Things

Ok, I keep writing this post and Blogger keeps deleting it. It's getting quite annoying.

A couple of things:
-Further apologies for lack of consistent posting. I am busy and lazy at the same time.
-Two new comics added to my reading list: Schlock Mercenary and On the Rocks. If you like sci-fi you'll like Schlock Mercenary. Full review of On the Rocks coming forthwith.
-I got mentioned on the latest Blank Label Comics podcast. I'm a big fan of those podcasts.
-I listened to the first Keenspot Podcast (Keencast) and wasn't terribly impressed. It lacked the energy and humor of the Blank Label Comics podcasts. I did like the news section at the end, but if the news section is the best part, your podcast is in trouble.
-Why is it that all the webcomics podcasts have an eighties-sounding theme song at the beginning? I'm referring here to the BLC podcast, Keencast, and (at least the most recent) Digital Strips. Let's see some originality here, people!