The webcomics blog about webcomics

Fleen Book Corner x 2

Two reviews on tap this week — one brand new (but not quite a book), and one that’s not exactly new (but an actual book). Let’s take ’em in order.

Actually new last week was issue 1 of DJ Coffman‘s Hero By Night. I don’t read a lot of superhero comics, but this was pretty enjoyable. The art is bright and clean for the modern-day segments of the story, slightly muddied and 4-color looking for the parts that took place in the past. Coffman’s got a good sense of pacing, an interesting story hook on the “misfit stumbles into being a hero” trope, and some pretty snappy dialogue. If I had to describe it, I’d say it was more in line with the “Origins” storyline at Yirmumah than Coffman’s other work. It’s only a couple dozen pages, so it’s tough to get a feel for the overall story, but early indications are good.

Obligatory nod towards controversy: much has been said of how Platinum Studios is not an actual comic book publisher, and how their Comic Book Challenge is merely a mechanism to strip-mine ideas from creators. Whatever may be true, Platinum has now managed to publish at least this one comic book, and in all his public statements, Coffman has expressed that he’s happy with the deal. As long as everybody keeps their act together long enough to finish Hero By Night (and do a trade reprint of the four issue run), then I’d say things will have turned out about as well as could be expected.

Next up: Penny Arcade Volume 3: The Warsun Prophecies, which continues the comprehensive reprint of strips into calendar year 2002. Curiously, Dark Horse appears to be shipping the Penny Arcade books to mainstream bookstores first, leaving the direct market comic shops out of the loop for weeks.

2002 was a pivotal year for Penny Arcade, with creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik making a living on reader donations and “Club PA” gift art; it was into this marginally sustainable business model that one Robert Khoo introduced himself, and began the transformation of Penny Arcade, webcomic to Penny Arcade, viable business. Struggle and deprivation can force creativity to new heights, and many things that would become hallmarks of Penny Arcade made their debut in 2002:

  • The first rear-angle shots of characters appeared early in the year, as Krahulik’s art evolved past a talking heads model (including his interpretations of other art styles, like classic Kirby energy blobs or educational films)
  • The [in]famous Fruit Fucker (curiously missing from the archives, originally running 11 Feb 2002) made his visual debut; he’s practically the symbol of the strip now (true story: I saw Krahulik doing sketches at San Diego last year, greeting each person with a sketchbook with a cheerful, “Fruit Fucker?”, and 98% of the time the reply was a hearty “Yeah!”)
  • The Tube, later to become key to some of the strip’s most imaginative stories and art
  • And, critically, Carrot Cake Soup, easily the most delicious idea of 2002

As with previous volumes, nice job of printing, although two or three strips appear slightly blurry, probably the result of being reproduced from low-res originals. All in all, a good year for the strip, a good collection of laughs, and a critical year for Holkins & Krahulik personally. Oh, and an intro by Scott Kurtz, full of bile, invective, and more than a little love.

Thanks for checking out HBN dude. Minor correction on Platinum, many webcomic folks might not know, but since January they’ve had a regular section in the back of the Image Comics section of Previews magazine, putting out books like Unique and Blood Nation, and of course that crazy KISS comic series. With Hero By Night, we have the 4 issue miniseries, then they’re putting out the collected webcomic journals in a hardback edition and THEN, we’re doing something crazy and never been done before for the comics market… That’s my obligatory Platinum cheerleading session.

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