The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Monday, June 26, 2006

O'course I'm still tryin' t'figure out the

Vore and Zillion return! From Starslip Crisis.

Most of you probably don't know this, but I really don't like posting more than one thing on my blog per day. I've never been a big fan of the concept of the "blog dump", when you just post up a huge amount of things. That just results in a lot of stuff getting lost in the shuffle. I like to let a post sit at the top long enough at least for people to find it, read it, and post any comments they may have before the post gets pushed on down the page. Also, limiting myself to one post per day helps me pace myself and get fewer of these "droughts" between posts (not that it seems to be helping much).

Well, some days there's just too much going on to not talk about it. Today is one of those days.

Starslip Crisis has been on a rather serious storyline of late, with the reveal of the crisis and the "death" of Jovia. We've gotten to see some new depth from Vanderbeam as he struggles with loss and grief, and learned a lot more about both Jovia's father and Obdrath. The humor has been there throughout, as it should be, but it's been more subdued as the drama has taken a more central role.

And then we get today's strip. At the beginning of a new week, Kris Straub presents us with a radical paradigm shift from the Fuseli and its crew to Vore and Zillion. These two have been sitting on the back burner for quite some time, waiting to re-enter the strip. And I'm glad to have them back, as they're two of my favorite characters (especially Zillion. Love that crazy slang). But it begs the question of why? Why are they back? Are they going to be at all related to the crisis? Does one of them have something vital to add?

A younger me would be racking my brains over these questions. But I am much older and wiser now. I've been through the Chronomantic storyline, puzzling and puzzling to try to see how it was going to fit in with the main plotline. And it never did, except possibly for this one strip. By the way, that's a strip everyone should file away in their memories for later. Who might the greatest time offender be? I've got my guess. But the point is that it was a fully complete storyline that was entirely independent of the Fuseli and it's crew. The last storyline with Zillion was Fuseli independent as well, so this one might be too.

I'm entirely positive that at some point all of the separate plotlines in the comic will unify. How could they not? But I don't know when that's going to happen, and quite frankly I've given up guessing. I'm just going to sit back, grab a nice tall glass of iced tea, and enjoy a couple of my favorite characters re-entering a strip that I love. And that's a pretty good feeling.

There are some things you've just got to steal.

Pure, distilled humor at it's highest proof. From Killer Robots from Space.

Killer Robots from Space is quickly becoming one of my new favorite comics. It makes me laugh out loud in almost every episode. The dialogue in Killer Robots really reminds me a lot of hanging out with my research group at the university, a bunch of grad students who are so embroiled in their own brilliance that the only way they know how to make a joke is to sound out a bit of wittiness with as much elocution and grandiloquence as possible.

Today's Killer Robots strip works on so many levels. But it was panel three (pictured in this post) that really got me laughing. I mean, that line is funny in so many different contexts. I still laugh every time I read it, and I laugh because it sounds so much like the cries of frustration I hear from my fellow researchers when something's just not going right.

And yet, they're talking about bread. I've just got to make that the new tagline for this blog. I've simply gotta. So, thanks and apologies for stealing it, Adam Greengard.

I owe you a beer.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Melonpool having some trouble while interviewing a kid from the Melonpool Quickcast.

So, once again Steve Troop is managing to be ahead of the curve in webcomics. Melonpool is one of the grandfathers of all webcomics, first appearing on the web in the olden days of 1996. Before PvP. Before Penny Arcade. Before... well, before just about everything! Steve Troop saw a new medium, and he grabbed it.

Well, he's doing it again. The hot new technology this time is on-demand streaming video on the web. It's gaining a huge amount of steam with Google Video and the upstart new boy-dandy of the webwide world: YouTube. There are several folk out there that have already managed to leverage the concept of a "vodcast", short video clips once a week or so, into popular online features (such as RocketBoom and the ever-amusing Ask a Ninja). And we've begun seeing some webcomickers provide video-on-demand service, most notable Kris Straub, ever the innovator, with his highly entertaining Slipcast, in which he answers questions and discusses all things Starslip. But Steve Troop has taken it to a new level. He's the first webcomicker to use video on-demand services to bring his characters finally and fully into the real world.

Obviously the puppets have been an integral part of Melonpool for its entire history. The Melonpool Movie existed before the webcomic did. If you went and visited Steve Troop at a convention you probably got entertained by a puppet in one form or another. But actual video content from Melonpool was sparse. After all, video was not in terribly high demand on the web, and the bandwidth costs would have been immense (take a look at some figures from Homestar Runner sometime, which keeps almost all its files under one megabyte). But at the end of last year, accurately gauging how the winds of the web were blowing, Troop put the Melonpool webcomic (which was taking a huge amount of time to keep up every day, and wasn't seeing any appreciable increase in traffic) on hiatus and decided to focus on his puppeteering skills, going out every day and practicing, practicing, practicing, knowing that the most popular thing on the web right now, the thing joe average surfer is most likely to be looking for, are silly short videos.

And then, last Friday, he launched the Melonpool QuickCast. It looks like the gist of it is going to be Melonpool and company interviewing people, probably a combination of random people on the street and fan-famous people at conventions. We'll see if it evolves into more involved adventures in the future. The first episode was Melonpool interviewing little kids, and it had a very "Sesame Street" vide going to it, except for the part where one little like five year old kid said his favorite cartoon was South Park. That part made me shake my head in disgust at parents these days. But I digress...

Interestingly, rather than encorporating the QuickCast as a part of the Melonpool site, or the Melonpool Video Blog, Troop joined up with fan legend Kevin Smith to launch the Melonpool Quickcast as one of the premiere features of Smith's new entertainment website: Quick Stop Entertainment. I don't think Troop could have possibly found a better person to partner with. Kevin Smith like unto a god in fan circles, so you can bet this new website is going to get a lot of traffic. And chances are it will be the perfect kind of traffic for Troop: people who have both never heard of Melonpool and who are likely to be interested in it and keep following it.

So go, check it out, and experience Melonpool in a way you've never experienced Melonpool before. And good luck, Steve Troop! Way to stay on the cutting edge!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Wicca? Wecca? Wokka?

Title banner from the Webcartoonists' Choice Awards (as if you didn't know that already).

So let's talk about the Webcartoonists' Choice Awards for a moment, shall we?

Personally, I'm a fan of them. I think that having an annual set of awards determined by an independent counsel of judges with a very well defined set of rules and bylaws is a good thing. It gives a lot of webcomics increased exposure (I mean, jiminy crickets, look at Inverloch!), it gives recognition to those that excel, it provides an event where fans from all walks of webcomics can come together and share in each other's goodness.

I especially love the awards presentation ceremony, with different webcomics stars actually presenting the awards in comic strip form. That's just so perfect I think I owe a beer to whoever thought up the idea. Last year's ceremony was tons of fun, and with Chex hosting this year, it's gonna be just like Billy Crystal hosting the Oscars. Only better.

All that being said, there are a couple things I don't like about the WCCAs, some issues which I feel need to be addressed for this annual event to truly become a crowning achievement in webcomics. In my opinion, the real problem with the awards is that they just feel so darn AMATEUR. Does anyone else get this impression? I mean, this is the sixth year they've thrown the darn thing, and while I admit I haven't followed the past years with terrible scrutiny, everything this year seems so thrown-together-at-the-last-momentish.

First off, the new website looks nice and snazzy. Great job guys. But after about thirty seconds clicking around the site, you realize this snazzy look is just a thin veneer covering a void of information like the skin of a balloon. They've got a nice announcement that things are underway, a statement of purpose, a much needed but hardly prime content set of rules, and a set of categories for the awards. What they don't have are the pieces of information that people are likely to come to the site looking for: the nominees and the judges. Not to be overly critical here, but without those pieces of information, who cares about the rules and the statement of purpose? I know the nominees have been announced elsewhere on the web, but that's hardly an excuse to not have the information readily available on the WCCA site itself. I mean, come on. And I see a promise of a judge list, but no actual list. Is it really that hard to make a list of people? That's like twenty minutes of HTML work. Tops.

Another frustrating thing about the WCCAs is that there's no real prize for winning. You get a little bit of recognition, I suppose. But in general I don't think you'll see a huge spike in readership from getting nominated for or winning a WCCA. I truly believe that everyone nominated for an award has truly earned their nomination, and has put their heart and soul into their webcomic. And I think those that win are those that truly went above and beyond in the past year, and they deserve to be rewarded with more than just a pat on the back. Now, I'm not saying we should set up a prize fund (that could be rather tricky), but wouldn't it be neat if the winner of each category got an honest-to-goodness, physically real trophy they could put on their bookshelf? I'd donate into a fund to pay for that. There's 27 categories, and guessing on 20 dollar trophies (although I'd bet you could get them cheaper than that) you'd only have to raise 540 dollars, and for an event with exposure like the WCCAs, that wouldn't be too hard! I think a little added incentive would make the awards that much more special.

And now, if I may get a bit snarky, there are a couple of pet peeves I have with the awards. First of all, why is the URL for the site ? It obviously should be , which is actually available, by the way... I know you don't want to change sites, but is it that hard to put up a redirect? Keep both domains for the extra twenty bucks a year and I'll be a lot happier. Secondly, the awards need a better abbreviated name. The Wiccas just isn't working out for me, and I don't think it's the best idea for our biggest annual event to be associated with the practice of witchcraft. But that's me talking. That being said, I'm not sure I can think of a better abbreviation (as evidenced by the title of this post), but hey, the Academy Awards get shortened to the Oscars, so maybe we can think of something completely unrelated. *shrug*

In any case, I encourage everyone to follow the WCCAs as well as you can, and definitely show up for the ceremony when it happens. It's already a good thing, it just needs some legwork to become a truly great thing, and I'm guessing that the sort of thing that will only happen with audience support.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Man, it's been awhile since I've had an updates post. And boy am I behind. I've got a lot of new comics that I've been reading. So let's dive right in, shall we?

Fallen - I keep looking around for good comics drawn in the manga style, mostly because I enjoy manga a lot more than I enjoy American comic books (this is referring to published works, not webcomics). But the vast majority of webcomic manga out there is just fan service junk. It really is. Fallen, however, is not. It's got a different tone than most comics I read, very depressing and beaten-down. But it's an interesting story and and even more interesting world, so I picked it up. Of course, it hasn't updated since last September, so that's a bummer.

Full Frontal Nerdity - An absolute treat by Aaron Williams, of Nodwick fame. I've been reading this one for a long time, I guess I just forgot to actually mention it here. Aaron Williams manages to perfectly capture the essence of the geek without going over the top. The guys in this comic aren't parodies of gamer stereotypes. They're gamers. To me, reading Full Frontal Nerdity feels just like I'm sitting around the gaming table with my buddies.

Joe and Monkey - I don't know if I've mentioned Joe and Monkey here before, but it's another one I've been reading for awhile. This is another webcomic that reads like a newspaper strip, and is consistently on the same humor level as any newspaper strip I've ever read: it'll almost always make you smile but rarely make you lose control with laughter. And that's not a bad humor level to be at. The thing about Joe and Monkey that really stands out to me is the quirkiness of it. The characters aren't over-the-top, theu're just a little off-kilter. They're afraid of ducks, obsessed with getting a bucket down from the ceiling, and generally jusy quirky. It's a fun read.

Radioactive Panda - I honestly don't know what to make of Radioactive Panda. Is it a serious strip with subtle humorous undertones, or is it a humor strip with a thin veneer of seriousness on top? I'm inclined to think the second. But one thing that Radioactive Panda will never fail to be is whimsical. The artwork is almost pulpy in its brightness of color, but the bright colors are contained within very pronounced linework, which gives it kind of a unique flavor. And of course the current storyline, a parody of webcomics drama, is incredibly well-done. It's rare to see subtlety done well, but these guys know how to do subtlety. I'm impressed.

Templar, AZ - This one I just picked up yesterday after listening to the Digital Strips podcast about it (I'm not a big fan of Digital Strips, but I do listen when they cover a topic I'm interested in). It's amazing to me how much acclaim this strip has gotten when it's really still in the very fledgling stages of its development. I guess that's what happens when you have a good comic with a slow update schedule. Templar has been nominated for quite a few Webcartoonists Choice Awards, but the ones I think it really deserves to win are "Outstanding New Character Design" and "Outstanding Character Writing". While many people, including Spike herself, emphasize the town itself as a key part of the comic, it just doesn't read that way to me. What's a key part for me are the diverse characters which make up the town. Even the bit players in the background are obviously the product of a lot of thought and work. This strip is all about the characters, and the characters are quite unique.

The Angriest Rice Cooker in the World - I kind of read this one on and off for awhile, but now I've finally added it to my permanent list. The Angriest Rice Cooker is actually a really good fixed-art comic strip despite being even more fixed than most by having only one image, which is repeated three times. It's basically just a short rant by the rice cooker every day, but Connor Moran still manages to keep it funny and fresh. The only weird thing is that it's like barely a comic. Like Moran could just replace the little images with like a "rice cooker blog" and it would work just about as well. Which is an interesting idea, actually...

Unshelved - Here's another nice newspaper style comic. And, in fact, I'm actually a bit surprised that Unshelved doesn't run in newspapers, because it's really not a part of the greater webcomics community, it's tone very closely mirrors newspaper comics, and the type of readers it appeals to are much more likely to read a newspaper than to read comics on the web. If I had to make a pick out of all the webcomics I read for one "most likely to succeed in newspapers", Unshelved would be it. As a side note, the weekly summaries of interesting books to read that Unshelved provides are really annoying me, because they're rekindling my love affair with books, and I simply don't have time to fall off that cliff again.

So that's the latest that I've been reading. Links to all the comics have been added to the sidebar!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This is actually a really good idea.

A Candi Street Team poster, from Candi.

This is the sort of idea that really makes you want to smack your head and say "Why didn't I think of that?"

I mean, we all know that the only really way to promote your webcomic is through viral marketing. There's no way you can afford to take out a bunch of ads on TV, or even on really popular websites, for that matter. You've probably got like 100 dollars to blow on your entire advertising budget if you're lucky. You could spend it to run a banner for a few days over at PvP. And maybe that wouldn't be a bad idea. But really, wouldn't it be better to get Scott Kurtz to notice you by himself and link you from his blog?

Pretty much everybody in webcomics already relies on viral marketing techniques: telling all your friends, bumming around forums with a link to your comic in your signature, asking those of us that run webcomics review blogs to read your work and throw up a review. And it's rare to see a webcomic site that doesn't have a page with some link banners on it, encouraging people to put up a link back to you on their sites. You pretty much rely on word of mouth to spread your comic and hope that you can find your audience.

So if viral marketing is already your chosen method for advertising, why not make use of some of the more powerful viral marketing techniques? Now, I'm not talking about the more subversive techniques where you go around creating fake accounts on forums, fake websites, and fake blogs all preaching your glory. That may get you some initial curiosity popularity, but eventually it's going to catch up with you and you'll end up with more critics than fans. But I am talking about honest-to-goodness, tried and true, old-fashioned viral marketing techniques where you leverage your fanbase to do the promotion for you. And the best way to do that is with a street team.

The concept of a street team finds its roots in punk rock. Webcomics could actually stand to learn a few lessons from the rise of punk rock music, which was another relatively unknown, niche-appeal type of media until the bands started to come up with really clever ways of marketing and merchandising themselves and the whole scene exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry. Basically the idea behind a street team was that you have all your fans sign up to be on the team, and then whenever you have a show, you look up all the fans in that city, send them all a bunch of flyers to hang up, and after they hang them all up you give them free front row tickets to the concert, or maybe some swag like a poster or something. Another variant was that if people on the team invite their friends to come to a concert, they all get in for free. It's an absolutely brilliant idea, because the fans get what they want (more awesome stuff from the band they love), it costs the band practically nothing, and it introduces a lot of new people to the band that might not have heard about it otherwise. And best of all, because of the grassroots nature of the campaign, it's perfectly natural and fun.

Well, this sort of thing translates PERFECTLY to webcomics. And I'm really surprised I haven't seen more people doing this. In fact, Starline Hodge is the first person I've seen who's really tried to organize a street team in any sort of meaningful way. Here's how it works: Print out one of the flyers off her website, post it up somewhere (after getting permission first, of course) and then email her a picture of the flyer, happily advertising Candi comics, and she'll send you a free button or sticker and a sketch! Super fun!

But I say, why stop there? There's already tons of webcomics out there that give readers little bonuses for donating a buck or two via Paypal, such as exclusive wallpapers (see Dominic Deegan and Girl Genius). Derrick Fish came up with the great idea of having a raffle for someone to be drawn into Dandy and Company: donate and your name's in the hat. Kris Straub, ever the innovator, has a system in place over at Starslip Crisis that gives you stuff just for reading. And let's not forget the infamous animations by Tim Buckley for Ctrl+Alt+Del. I say, why not make these little extras a part of the street team?

You could set up a street team area of the website, where people have to log in with their username and password. Then they can post up stuff they've done, like posters they've hung around town, flyers they've handed out, maybe fun displays they've set up or events they've organized. They could even put up links to where they've mentioned the comic or written about it. And then either you the creator or a small group of hardcore fans could assign people points for things they've done. As they get more points, they get more free stuff, like exclusive strips, wallpapers, sketches, animations, making-of videos, and maybe even eventually physical media like stickers, buttons, signed sketches, prints and posters. I think this would be an absolutely awesome way to market your strip, and I think more webcomickers should give it a try!

If you do try it, be sure to let me know, and I'll for sure spread the word about it. After all, that's all the fun of it!

Monday, June 12, 2006

I think the best way to sum up Piro's expression is: "D'oh?"

From Megatokyo.

The love/hate relationship with Fred Gallagher continues. We've gotten missed updates, Dead Piro Days, and even a dreaded Shirt Guy Dom strip in the past few weeks, but at the same time, the actual plotline of Megatokyo has been moving along briskly, and it's been good.

Really good. "Fist shaking in the air at Gallagher for his inability to update consistently" good. If this kind of inconsistency is what it takes to get such quality material, I'll take it, but it really leaves me wanting more, wishing I could count on Gallagher for an update three times a week.


But I digress. Let's talk about Megatokyo itself. For those of you not caught up, in the current plotline Nanasawa has become something of a phenom amongst the Japanese fanboy culture. And she's learning that this means a lot more "downside" in terms of her personal life than "upside". Turns out most of the fanboys in Japan really are perverts with no lives. While perhaps they are deserving of compassion because they're really just socially maladjusted young men and women who desperately need an escape from their pathetic little lives (which all of us need, to a certain extent), they're still perverts with no lives, and this makes it a lot easier to defend them on a radio show than to actually live with.

But really, Nanasawa's little catharsis is nothing compared to the change we've seen in Piro. He went from the weepy "no girl could ever like me, I'm just useless, guess I'll just read shojo manga and wallow in pity" Piro that we've all come to know and love to: "let's really make a difference and help Nanasawa out." He really performed a selfless act in coming to the diner to help out. Piro's not the conniving type who would come just to look better in a girl's eyes. He really just knows how fanboys act and wants to truly help Nanasawa get through the situation.

And at first, Nanasawa was thrilled. She was in over her head, and was about to completely lose it. Then Piro showed up to help and she looked genuinely relieved, surprised, and happy. And I started thinking "All right, we're really going to see some nice advancement in the Piro/Nanasawa romance storyline. Sweet."

But then things started getting bad. Really bad. Piro tried his best to stave off the fanboys, but they proved too much for him. And Nanasawa finally lost it. And in her cathartic moment she saw the essence of fanboy at its worse. She was having an emotional breakdown, trying to get them to understand that she was a living, breathing human being who had feelings which could be hurt, and what did the fans do? They scrambled for their cameras at the opportunity for a panty shot. They completely ignored her feelings.

And in the end, Piro came up big, confiscating the cameras and saving Nanasawa from a great deal of public embarassment. An all-around fine performance by Piro, start to finish. He went above and beyond this time, and really deserves to be rewarded.

Which brings us to today's strip. And the icy glare. And Piro's understandable shock. After all, in his eyes, and in the eyes of the audience, Piro's been the big hero of the day. The other waitress from the diner gives Piro the encouragement that we would give him: "good job, you really helped out, and revealed those creeps for what they really are. Go have fun with Nanasawa now."

But Nanasawa does not. And that's the genius of Fred Gallagher. He's able to put himself into the minds of each of his characters. Most good writers can present their character with a situation and know how each character will respond. Only the most talented can actually view a situation through the eyes of their characters and see how they perceive it, see how it is processed through their lens of reality, and then play out the reactions as the natural result of that processing.

Of course Nanasawa is going to be pissed. She's probably just experienced the worst night of her life. The very people she tried to defend have just proven every negative stereotype ever spoken about them. Not only have the fanboys harassed her and violated her privacy, they've destroyed her idealistic outlook and basically proven wrong all of her beliefs about the goodness of mankind. She hates fanboys right now. Loathes them. She may get over it after having some time alone to think, but as for right now? She's righteously ticked.

And she knows that Piro is a fanboy. She even said it herself earlier in the day. That's why he gets the icy glare. There is literally nothing he could have done this night to make himself look good in her eyes, because tonight when she looks at him, all she sees is "fanboy", and she immediately ascribes every last character flaw of the fans that ruined her life to Piro, simply because he has that label in her mind.

Is it fair? Of course not. Piro's nothing like those pervs in the diner. Is it consistent? Oh yeah. We were all hoping for the Hollywood ending, Nanasawa embracing Piro in thanks and maybe even a bit more... But when you think about it logically, there's no way that would happen. She's just been to hell and back, and it's "his people" that sent her there. And so he gets the icy glare.

And that's just some damn good writing. That's allowing yourself to get immersed in your story and writing real reactions, not forcing your characters to see things the way you want them to see things. And the results speak for themselves.

Fred Gallagher, I owe you a beer.

Friday, June 09, 2006

In related news...

Forgot to mention this earlier, but I have another article up over at Comixpedia. Basically I took my old Press Start to Play review, spiced it up a bit, added some nice commentary about video gamer comics in general (as this month is the gamer comic issue).

I'm still trying to get the column I want to write going over there, talking about some of the more techie stuff going on in webcomics (since that's really my bag), but that involves doing interviews, and I'm notoriously bad at getting into contact with people in any sort of meaningful way over the internet.

Continuing along the vein of Comixpedia news, it appears that I'm going to be the official Comixpedia correspondent (or possibly one of several official Comixpedia correspondents) at the San Diego Comicon. Woot. So that means I'm definitely going to be haunting the webcomic tables quite a bit this year, as opposed to last year, when I only waded in to buy merchandise, then faded back into the mist of the many, many panels that Comicon offers (although I did attend all three webcomic panels last year, and they were stellar). This year I'm doing it smart, coming in on Preview Night to buy all my merch, which should leave me with a lot more free time for socializing.

So if you're a webcomicker and you'll be in attendance at Comicon, BEWARE. Because I'll probably hound for an interview. Or a sketch. Or something. Anyways I'll be around, and I'll be blogging all my adventures for Comixpedia.

It should be fun.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Giving it up: Everything Jake

Everything Jake being, well, Everything Jake.

Let me preface this post by saying that I tried. I really did. I spent a lot of time reading through Everything Jake, trying to connect with the characters, learn to love them and care about their problems, really connect with them, the way you need to connect in order to enjoy a relationship based comic. I swore that I would get through the archives and by the end it would all make sense, it would all be tied together and it would be yet another comic to add to my list.

Well, I just can't do it. I can't. It seems disjointed, half-thought out, and the characters really take themselves far too seriously. Most of the time, right when I'm getting into a storyline it just abruptly ends, with one character or another telling how it ended.

And don't get me started on the random interjections of like five pages of text. I'm guessing that rather than laziness this is supposed to actually be something stylistic by Mike Rosenzweig, intended to draw us into the heads of the characters a little more, maybe better explain their deeper motivations and shortcomings. But it's not working for me. It feels discombobulated and actually leaves me feeling slightly more distanced from the characters, rather than drawn in.

Everything Jake is a psychological tale which isn't nearly psychological enough. It's a relationship drama that doesn't have enough drama. It's a "crazy college" strip that just isn't crazy enough. The one thing that it's got going for it is that Everything Jake has moments which are almost jarringly true to real life. But this is mixed in with fantastical elements, alternate realities, and who knows what else. And I just can't get into it.

So, I'm dropping it. I just don't want to force myself to read a comic I don't enjoy. I wish you all the best, Rosenzweig, and I don't think the strip is necessarily bad (I drop bad strips a whole lot faster), but it's just not for me.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More catch-up: Book Reviews

A slightly "up-the-nose" shot of the most recent incarnation of my webcomics in print shelf.

I've previously mentioned in this blog how much I love print collections and given a list of all the stuff I've got, so I'm not going to rehash it here. I'm just going to talk about the new books I've gotten in the past month or so: Goats, Dinosaur Comics, Silent Kimbly, and Schlock Mercenary.

First off, we've got the books that are new to me, but not to the public as a whole: Goats Vols. 1-4 (That's four volumes in three book collections, for those of you keeping score). I've got to start by saying the guys over at Goats are some class acts. I ordered the book bundle, and they accidentally sent me two copies of all the books. Naturally, I offered to return the extra copies. And not only did they send me a postage paid envelope to return them in, they also sent me some free stickers. Classy. I've had much worse experience dealing with Ebay types in the past.

As for the books themselves, you get a lot of Goats for your buck. There's not really any extra content beyond some extremely funny forewords (Jon Rosenberg is a master wordsmith), but what you do get is Goats strips printed nice and large, and you get well over 200 of them in each volume. These are some nice, big, weighty books which can compete with any Calvin and Hobbes collection you've got on your shelf. They're black and white, but guess what: so was the strip during the time period they cover. I really hope that when the strips turned to color the books will turn to color as well, because it would be a shame to lose that sublime colorwork.

But in terms of sheer content, the Goats books have got nothing on The Best of Dinosaur Comics. One nice feature of this book is the printing of each comic's alt tag below the comic (hadn't noticed that before? If you hold your mouse over any given Dinosaur Comic on the website, you'll be rewarded with an extra "throwaway" joke). Beyond that and a foreword, there's not really any extra content to this book, but this book's got like 230 or so Dinosaur Comics strips, and that's a lot of Dinosaur Comics. This is like the perfect bathroom book. You can pick it up, flip to a random page, and read five or six Dino comics. No need to read it in any sort of order.

I was a little disappointed at first when I heard it was a "best of" book rather than the whole archive, but when I realized that you really can't tell with Dinosaur Comics when a strip gets cut out, and I honestly couldn't think of any strips I particularily enjoyed which got cut, I got over it. I did notice that Ryan North seemed to cut out pretty much all the strips where he messed around with the template of the strip (such as the mirror universe strips), and I'm guessing this is to enhance the effect when you show the book to a friend and say "check this out:" then flip through all the pages and show them that they are all exactly the same. In any case, no big loss.

Silent Kimbly: Play Time, as opposed to being the perfect bathroom book, is like the perfect book for a coffee table. It's probably the shortest book out of any of the four I'm reviewing today in terms of total strips, and each strip is just a single panel, so it reads pretty quick. But the humor is pretty accessible and the lavish, cartoony artwork is very pleasing to the eye, so it's the perfect book to leave lying around for your guests to peruse if they have a few spare moments. Ryan Sias' artwork is really pretty unique for the landscape of webcomics with its Nickelodeonish feel, and it's a good way to show people how webcomics aren't all just geeks, anime, and gamers. So even though you can read the book quickly, it's a lot more pleasant to appreciate the artwork of each strip and let it sink in before moving on to the next. Plus if you order a book Sias will draw a free sketch in it for you! I got a really nice looking one of Kimbly in my book.

Oh, and by the way, I've loved having Kimbly in color the past few weeks. It's just absolutely beautiful, and it keeps getting better and better. The latest strip (with toast) is awesome. I know it's gotta be tough to try to color in all those strips, but man, that adds a whole new level of vibrancy and life to the world of Silent Kimbly.

And speaking of great colorwork, Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management proves yet again that when a webcomicker takes the plunge and prints his work in full color, it pays off. I think all webcomickers thinking about making a book need to secure themselves a copy of this beauty. It's worth the extra cost for the added value. I would gladly pay the extra money for a colored printing of a color webcomic than save a few bucks and get it in black and white.

The book is a suprisingly long 80 pages (there's a lot of strips per page) and reads more like a graphic novel than a collection of strips. It includes a lot of the typical Schlock-type commentary in the form of historical notes and explanation of scientific jargon, which is nice. The book has a very nice layout, with strips surrounded by lots of sketches, designs, and other artwork spashed around the pages. Again, this is something a lot of other webcomickers could learn from, putting some extra thought into their layouts.

The Schlock book also has the most bonus content, with an added story at the end explaining how Schlock got his infamous plasma cannon. All in all: quality.

So if I had to pick a winner from the bunch, it would be the Schlock Mercenary book. But honestly, none of them are losers. They all have a slightly different method of displaying their work, but they all give you a lot of good comics offline for hours of reading pleasure, and a great way to share your favorite online comics with your friends and get them hooked too.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The really big news about Birdsworth: Talkies!

Talkies! Click on the link to watch the very first test episode of the Birdsworth Comics Talkies.

Ok, it took me all week to get it up, but it's finally ready: The first Birdsworth Comics Talkie is on the air! The dialogue is based on Print #4.

This first episode was really just a test for me to learn how to use Flash. In the future, episodes should be somewhat longer and probably won't strictly adhere to the text of the comic like this one. I'm hoping to make this a regular feature of Birdsworth, and therefore give you guys some fun extra content, hopefully on a weekly basis (although I doubt I could keep that up).

Some notes on the format of the Talkies:

  1. The music was provided by The Walter Boyd Band, which is headed by the artist for Birdsworth, Grant Thomas. But I totally screwed up the link to their website in the credits. It should be:
  2. The other voices in the cartoon are my roommate and his girlfriend. I chose them because they're always around the apartment, so it's easy to get recording time in.
  3. The style of limited animation I used was directly inspired by Blamimation. In fact, I learned how to use Flash from reading the tutorial on their website. Thanks, Kris Straub and Scott Kurtz! You guys are fantasticians of the finest order.
  4. You'll also notice in the credits that under "Hosted By" it says "We'll see..." This is because I don't really want to put up the animations on my own site. I don't have any advertising, so it's not like they'll be helping me that way. What I really want is to present Birdsworth Talkies as a vodcast through Clickwheel. I think Clickwheel is a fabulous idea, but obviously their content delivery method for webcomics isn't that great. However, iPod does natively support videos now through vodcasts, so that would be a whole lot more seamless. I haven't actually officially gotten on board with the Clickwheel guys yet though, so I didn't want to put in anything too official.
So let me know what you think of the talkie! Any constructive criticism you have is more than welcome! I especially need to know tips and tricks on working with Flash! Just making that one episode took me forever.