The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

And our collective might grows! And swells!

Ok, I've got some new additions to the Robot Army. By the way, some people have asked me recently where the whole "Robot Army" name comes from, and it refers the to incident last year in which Scott McCloud and Penny Arcade got into an argument about an upcoming documentary on webcomics, which was dubbed "Penny Arcade vs. Scott McCloud's Robot Army". I figured most webcomic critics would be more likely to take Scott McCloud's side, so I started calling the webcomics criticism community in general the "Robot Army". So there ya go.

Wax Intellectual - Started by the guys from Terror Island (who I still owe a review), this blog is pretty new, but my only real qualifying criteria for being on the list is that you write about webcomics and you are actively updating. They're trying to get a Fleen-like structure over there, with a bunch of different writers submitting stories, so if anyone's interested in joining I suppose you could just send them an email.

Zhi - Scott Thorton seems to be much more interested in manga webcomics than the average webcomic reviewer, which is great. The world needs to see that more than just angsty high school nerds enjoy manga, and the world needs to be introduced to good manga online, since so much BAD manga exists online. Thorton is able to highlight the differences in both artistic and storytelling style, and he's got some nice writing chops too. This is a blog to keep an eye on.

Mr. Myth - Somehow Mr. Myth has been actively commenting on The Webcomicker for quite some time without me ever remembering to add his blog to the Robot Army. I am ashamed of myself. Mr. Myth's blog is a fun read, and he actually reminds me of me in posting style (not to say that I'm any great thing, but, you know).

So be sure to check these guys out.

I KNEW IT. Well, ok, I can't really back that up. But still.

Intrigue! From PvP.

I've discovered a rule of life. And I think it's a hard and fast rule (it certainly is in my life). And that rule is as follows: "The less you have to do, the less you will do."

When my life is full with schoolwork, my various jobs, and my extracirricular activities, somehow I find time to make everything fit in, and still write on this blog and produce Birdsworth and MiSTEam comics. But over this past summer, I've had pretty much nothing but time on my hands. In fact, in this past week I've had roughly zero committments. And I've managed to drop the ball on a lot of things. The blog and Birdsworth have been sporadic. MiSTEam has disappeared. My thesis work has languished.

Well, the new school semester has started, and it's time for change, dangit. And I'm getting my life back on track, starting right now. I know I've said it before and then disappeared (last week is a testament to that), but this time instead of making empty promises, I'm simply going to say that GileadPellaeon is back at work. I'm punching in the timecard for my life. I can't promise smooth sailing from here on out, but I can promise that I'm not going to be phoning it in anymore.

But enough about me. Let's talk PvP. PvP is one of those strips that lives in what I call a "static dynamic" world, which actually requires a great deal more willing suspension of disbelief from its readers than a purely "gag-a-day, characters never change" or "realistic, evolving storyline" strip. In many ways it is reminiscent of The Simpsons in its storytelling structure, with various things about the world changing over time, such as Apu getting married or Maude Flanders dying, or the obvious changes in pop culture references, and yet through it all Maggie remains a baby, Bart and Lisa stay in the second and fourth grades, and the whole town of Springfield stays in a somewhat static equilibrium. In PvP we've seen characters get together and break up. We've seen Max take over PvP magazine. Characters have had cathartic moments and matured. But through it all, Francis has remained the sixteen year old computer nerd. Brent has remained the younger-middle-aged hipster. It's obvious that time flows in a different way in the world of PvP.

But this strip represents a fundamental change in PvP. In fact, it's pretty much the most fundamental change since Brent and Jade broke up a few years back. This strip is not just Brent trying to "out-romance" Francis. This is Brent taking advantage of a fortuitous situation to do something he's been planning for a long time. Anyone remember this strip? Also notice this strip. Brent didn't just get this engagement ring. He'd been keeping it in his desk drawer at the office. He's been waiting for the right time to ask. In fact, he wasn't even planning on asking her on this date. Notice how he had to make Skull go back for it? If the proposal had been planned, surely Brent would have brought the ring with him rather than having to rely on the bumbling Skull. So that makes it pretty clear that this isn't just some "let's show up Francis" stunt.

But here's the thing that makes it so great, and the reason why Scott Kurtz is winning Eisners while the rest of us are just making "dick and fart jokes", as it has been so eloquently phrased: This little proposal has been built up to for almost a year now.

Did anyone else notice how Brent has slowly been changing over the past year or two? First he gives up coffee, and in spite of a few hilarious mishaps, when he finally does decide to reintroduce coffee to his diet it's tempered with, er, responsibility. Brent's the one who is willing to go to Max Powers to save PvP magazine. And he seems to be pretty well ok with it. And of course, let's not forget the storyline where Brent thinks Jade is pregnant. He has a pretty stunning dream about the whole idea of fatherhood, which culminates in his realization that he's really not averse to the idea, then ends with the reveal that he's seriously thinking of marrying Jade. There's more progression too, but you get the idea.

Scott Kurtz has been laying this out for quite some time, and yet he still managed to sneak it by us by putting the proposal into what was supposed to be a classic "blow up in your face" scenario involving a hidden bet and both sides playing against each other. And I've got to say, that's pretty impressive.

We'll probably have a few strips after this one with some confusion as to whether this a genuine proposal or just an attempt to win the bet, but the fact of the matter is that the proposal is now on the table, and whether or not Jade chooses to accept it, PvP will be changed forever. In Simpsons terms, this is roughly on par with Marge and Homer getting a divorce (a real one, not like the ones they've solved in the span of a single episode), and that's pretty impressive.

So keep up the good work Scott. Go win some more Eisners.

Friday, August 18, 2006

New Webcomic-related goodness!

It's been awhile since I've updated my Robot Army and the "Webcomic Related Stuff" links, and there's some a-changing that needs being done.

First off, some cuts. It seems Eyeballing It and Writing About Webcomics have gone the way of the dinosaur. So I must bid them adeiu. If they ever decide to come back, they can let me know, and I'll add them back in. I also reordered the blogs in what I would consider "importance level", although obviously that's somewhat debatable. Oh, and if anybody out there has a webcomics critical commentary blog (I'd prefer a blog which talks only about webcomics, but something in the Websnarkish vein is fine as well) can feel free to pop me an email and I'll add you to the robot army. Soon we commentators will strangle the life out of these creators and bend them to our collective wills! Woo hahahahaHAHAHA!


As for some neat new webcomic related stuff, I never did get around to adding a link to the Webcomic Crossover & Cameo Archive, which is a superfluous site for keeping track of trivial information, and therefore is of vital importance to webcomic fandom. Rock on. That site is lots of fun for Easter Egg hunters.

The guys at Terror Island illuminated me to Webcomic Battle!, which is a ridiculously awesome idea. I think the concept has been done before, but the execution here is so simple and so clean that it really just sparkles with ingenuity. Basically the idea is that a bunch of people submit a comic they have made, and the comics compete with each other, one-on-one in a series of competitions. Every day your comic is paired against another random comic. When a random person visits the site they are shown a random one of the battles, and they simply click on the comic they think is funnier. If your comic is voted funnier than that comic at the end of the day, you survive and the other comic is "retired". The longer you keep winning battles, the more people will see your comic, and if you make it long enough, you may even get into the Hall of Fame. It's a great way to promote your comic, a fun way to kill a couple minutes if you're a webcomic reader, and a good way to get some feedback on your comic's quality all rolled up into one! The more people we can get participating in this, the better.

Oh, and let's not forget I'm Just Drinking, the Webcomic-inspired mixed drinks wiki, brainchild of Phil Kahn. This site needs a fair amount of work, as the many of the drinks on there now are just ripoffs of actual mixed drinks with the names tweaked. I just checked it when making this post and it's made a lot of progress since its inception, but it still needs creative people inventing totally new drinks that have a strong connection to the webcomics they are being mixed for. I myself plan to make a few entries for Birdsworth in the near future.

And lastly we have Arbuckle. Arbuckle is the result of a lot of webcomic-types speculating on how Garfield could be made, well, funny again (some say Garfield was never funny. But in my opinion is was one of the funniest strips out there for about ten years, and then Jim Davis ran out of jokes and passed the buck to a committee of cartoonists). It began with the Garfield Randomizer (which has since disappeared thanks to Cease and Desist letters), which took random panels from Garfield strips and threw them together in a dada-esque, mish-mash style.

Then came the idea to have a strip which showed the world from Jon Arbuckle's point of view, because technically according to Garfield canon Jon cannot actually hear or otherwise ascertain Garfield's thoughts. The original version just had people remaking the strips by removing Garfield's thought bubbles. Of course, that got Cease and Desisted pretty quickly as well. But the latest incarnation actually has people redrawing the strips in their own styles, keeping Jon's dialogue the same but removing Garfield's. And I think that actually adds more power to the concept because many people draw Garfield as a very normal looking cat, and we begin to see the truth in Jon's life.

Arbuckle shows us that Jon is really a very sad and pathetic man who tries to somehow cope with his depression and loneliness by talking to his pets and imagining them to be his best friends. Some strips are pretty funny, some are a bit surreal, and some are just downright depressing. But in all cases, it's taken Garfield, which was essentially a soulless "fat, lazy, and sarcastic gag-a-day" strip, and given it a huge amount of depth and soul. Anybody who wants can create and submit an Arbuckle strip, and this is yet another website that will just continue to get better the more people get involved. And since it involves both alterations to the script and original artwork, Arbuckle is well within the realm of parody and protected from copyright law. So we shouldn't have anything to worry about cease and desist on this one.

It's sites like these that really highlight both the innovative spirit and the strong community of webcomicdom, and I'm proud to link them from this site and partake of their goodness. Heck, I'll probably even contribute something to them.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ratcheting up

Ok, let's get things rolling here again. First of all, you'll probably notice that the big list of links to webcomics I read is gone, replaced with a link to the actual list of webcomics I read on Piperka. I did this for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I doubt anyone is really seeing any increased traffic to their site from people clicking down the links on my blog. Secondly, that list was becoming way too big and fluid for me to update manually. Thirdly, this gives me yet another chance to plug Piperka, which is a fabulously useful site for keeping track of your comics that everyone should use. Seriously.

Now, I still plan to make periodic posts updating everyone on new stuff I've picked up, so don't worry about getting blindly added to my reading list and never discussed here. If I start reading your comic, you'll at least get one link from me. Speaking of which...

Here's the new stuff I've picked up in my absence. Now, I haven't actually gotten around to reading all of the comics I got interested in at Comicon, so some of them may yet make the list. But as it stands right now:

  • Bug Bash - A new comic by the creator of Where the Buffalo Roam, which is a tome in the world of webcomics. Bug Bash is about geeks when they grow up and get jobs at huge software corporations. It's like Dilbert if Dilbert actually had real technical knowledge and then characters acted like real people instead of overblown stereotypes. Not that Dilbert and its overblown stereotypes are bad, mind you. Just different.
  • Dresdan Codak - Dresden Codak reminds me a lot of Copper in tone, except with a lot more experimentation in the art style. It's a very beautiful strip to look at, and each strip often takes quite a few twists and turns and ends up in a different place than you expected. I especially liked this one.
  • Evil Inc. - Yet another Blank Label comic drags me in. Evil Inc is just good, plain and simple. It's got a clever premise, colorful characters, and it manages to never take itself too seriously. But I'm not going to go back and read the Greystone Inn archive. Not een if it provides useful context for the current comic. Not gonna do it. Nope. *hand drifts toward mouse*
  • Joyce and Walky - I talked about this more extensively in the post immediately preceding this one. Soul ownage.
  • Multiplex - A webcomic about people who work in a movie theater. I'm pretty sure that's been done before, but Multiplex never gets over-the-top with crazy situations and unbelievable circumstances. It's content to simply poke fun at the foibles of movies and the people who watch them, and the people who dispense the tickets for that allow the people who watch movies to watch their movies. Yeah. It's kind of like the "Dave Barry" of movie humor strips.
  • Rob and Elliot - The classis roommate strip. Both Rob and Elliot are a little wacky and a little psycho in their own ways, and it plays off well against each other. Sure the "wacky roommates" strip has been done a million times before, but it's more of a "tried-and-true" mechanism than it is a cliche, not unlike the workplace comic. As long as the jokes are fresh, it's cool.
  • Terror Island - It's the photocomic that's not a photocomic. Somewhat reminiscent of Irregular Webcomic, the photos seem like more of a means to an end than the end themselves. It's not like A Softer World, where the photos focus you in and the text provides poetic juxtaposition, where it had to be done using photos. It's just like using photos is the chosen art style for the comic, much like using sprites or using black and white lineart. Terror Island is still pretty early on, but already we can see that the humor is very much of the "obsessive compulsive characters who obsess far too much over simple things" variety. I'm going to write a full review of this at some point.
  • The Order of the Stick - Somehow I managed to read the entire archives, follow the comic strip for a couple months, buy all three of the collected volumes, and reread the entire strip in the collected volumes without ever mentioning it once here. Weird. So, uh, yeah. I like Order of the Stick. I like it alot. Heavily D&D themed humor without requiring you to have a Players Handbook handy to get all the jokes. And characters whose colrfulness is only accentuated by their simple designs. Sometimes it's better to leave things to the audience's imaginations.
Ok, there's also some neat webcomic related sites that need plugging, but I'll get to that in another post.

David Willis is the owner of my soul.

Ok, sorry for the big "lack of posting" thing. I'm now officially back, and will try to get the posting pace back up to the "near daily" schedule I was keeping a few months ago. I've got the time, it's just a matter of overcoming inertia now.

So, I just finished reading through the Roomies/It's Walky/Joyce and Walky archives for the first time. In one day. That's over 2400 pages. Took me basically an entire 24 hour block of time. That's how frighteningly addictive and amazing It's Walky was/is. And then, I was still jonesing for more so I reread the entire archive of Shortpacked. And I am so paying the monthly fee for more Joyce and Walky. That's how hooked I am. Scary.

David Willis has now been added to my list of people who are not allowed to die, ever. We can only hope that cybernetic implant technology moves fast enough for this dream to become a reality.