The webcomics blog about webcomics

Fleen Book Corner: BLC Times Three

Okay, the news of the webcomics world seems to have subsided for a moment, giving me the opportunity to run some reviews that have been delayed. Also, by a peculiar corinsidence, the books in question all belong to members of the Blank Label Comics collective, giving us a handy-dandy-theme for the day.

First up, Howard Tayler offers the complete run of Schlock Mercenary from August 24, 2003 to March 13, 2004 in Schlock Mercenary: The Blackness Between. It ties up the story from the previous collection, sets up story hooks for the next two years, contains more than its share of BLAM, and finishes the Sergeant Schlock backstory bonus pages (featuring space clowns — reader discretion is advised).

As with Schlock Mercenary: Under New Management, Tayler includes all his (at times, extensive) footnotes for his delightfully thought-out futuretech, and somehow continues to print on the heaviest, glossiest color stock this side of … hell, I don’t know. What’s printed on heavy, glossy color stock besides these books? The colors pop right off the page (and your grimy little fingerprints will show up forever, so wash before you read and don’t kill anybody with one of Tayler’s books, or Gary Sinise will have you hunted down by the end of the first commercial break).

Secondly, Dave Kellett delivers up The Good, The Bad, and The Pugly, featuring Sheldon strips from 2005 and 2006. As with his early tome, Pure Ducky Goodness, Kellett eschews the reprint-every-strip model favored by the plotline-intensive Tayler, and graces us with his choicest strips instead.

Does this mean that we don’t get every single strip of Sheldon at summer camp? Sure, but the important storylines — Sheldon missing his parents at Christmas (you made me tear up, Kellett!), and how Oso and Flaco came to join the family — are fully represented in all their glory. Also fully represented: General Zod, who not only features in strips, but was kind enough to pen the forward to the book (you know the drill by now: kneel).

Rounding out the book is The Ballad of Rex Chestington, which is desperately crying out for the full audio treatment. Since it apparently wasn’t practical to include one of those black flexi-records that National Geographic used to such great effect (yeah, I know: I don’t have a record player either, but I still have my flexi of U Stink But I ♥ U), I call upon Kellett to place a recording of Rex Chestington somewhere on the web for all to hear and enjoy.

Finally, we have Kristofer Straub’s A Brief History Of Webcomics, which seeks to be for webcomics what Stephen Hawking is for cosmology, but also apparently acts as a continuation of sorts to the explorations begun in T Campbell’s A History of Webcomics. I had been treating this tome with all the due respect that it deserves (one may recall that I spent nigh on a month reading and rereading Campbell’s work, carefully following his assertions and analyzing his conclusions) and felt that ABHOW was worth no less consideration, but the author has forced my hand:

[T]he Checkerboard Nightmare tell-all expose on the world of webcomics has been available in the store, but hasn’t been reviewed by the webcomics community yet. Oh, it’s been praised up one side and down the other by readers and webcartoonists alike, but no review sites have pulled their heads out long enough to mention it.

That’s all right, guys. You can’t handle it, I understand. You keep on keeping tabs on all the comics that zoom in and out, or scroll a dozen screens left and right. I’ll be over here blowing minds.

Well, sir, you may consider my head to be “pulled out”, but perhaps without the time needed to fully consider the nuances of your work. Nevertheless, I will state that Straub’s ABHOW is bold, almost revisionist rethinking of what we “know” about webcomics.

His analysis of “movers” and “shakers” in the early days, his dissection of business models, his insight into the nature of collectives (Blank Label Comics: [Y]ou do exactly what every other collective did, except you issue a press release saying you were the first.), and his recognition of significant milestones in webcomics (up to September 2006, and the acquisition of Drunk Duck by Platinum Studios) are all neatly formatted and contain a minimum of spelling errors.

However, his predictions for the future of webcomics are clearly the product of a diseased mind, and bear no relation to reality. For instance, he states categorically:

In 2011, Eric Burns of Websnark will replace PBS series Masterpiece Theatre‘s current host Russell Baker, who replaced Alistair Cooke. The theme song will be updated to feature Burns on two kazoos simultaneously.

In 2017, Jon Rosenberg of Goats will die of radium poisoning from glow-in-the-dark Goats-related products. Weeks after burial, his cemetary plot will be too hot to walk on.

Bold! Controversial! HOT! But, unfortunately, completely implausible. For example, Straub completely overlooks the fact that due to supply-chain problems, Rosenberg has yet to deliver any glow-in-the-dark products. A simple examination of shipping schedules would reveal that Rosenberg has at least until 2023 before succumbing to excess rads.

Similarly, an extrapolation of Hollywood Reporter articles clearly lead to the conclusion that Aaron Sorkin will condense into a ball of pure self-reference so dense that not even a walk-and-talk snippet can escape by mid-2009 at the latest. Burns will, naturally, be tapped to replace Sorkin on each of his four half-completed projects at this time, and will be too zonked out on psychedelic mushrooms by 2011 to do anything but bang out scripts that make reference to Wednesday White via extended baseball metaphors.

Most tellingly, Straub utterly failed to predict the launch of PvP: The Series, despite being involved in the project as co-producer and co-writer! Clearly whoever first said, “Know thyself” had Straub firmly in mind. Apart from these egregious and crippling flaws in the final chapter, ABHOW is worth your time, in that it is at least preferable to being stabbed in the face with lasers. It also contains a handful of cartoons from Straub’s minor side-project, Checkerboard Nightmare, and content from Lance Sharps and Isobel Rai Belpheger, who quite frankly are lowering themselves slightly.

Make that four.

Don’t forget Brad Guigar’s Evil Inc. Vol. 2 in the BLC bookcorner. The first volume reprints the strips broken apart and reformmated in a graphic novel layout. Three of the characters add a “commentary” to the action which adds to the humor.

They’re a must for Evil Inc. fans.

there’s a lot of cash I’ll need to spend this year that I won’t be able to spend on beer and hookers.

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