The webcomics blog about webcomics

Let Candorville Be Candorville

Much like Allison, I’ve come down with some nasty sinus infection that has me writing in misery. I’m painstakingly trying not to misspell anything, or use “its” instead of “it’s” or “further” instead of “farther”. This was supposed to go up yesterday, but I didn’t surface from unconsciousness until 5am when my alarm went off for work this morning.

 The comic that I found to be a very funny, very political comic was Candorville. It’s sort of a Boondocks-esque comic through the eyes of adults. Some of the perspectives the comic offers are so spot on they become disheartening. Politics not your thing? No problem, there are plenty of issues to go around.

Candorville has its eyes on syndication and is not ashamed of it. I recently purchased the book and am eagerly waiting its delivery. The creator, Darrin Bell, emailed me when he got my order to promise a defacing of the book with an autograph and sketch. I’m so excited.

It shows up in 30 day groupings through so unless you get your hands on the book, the archive is off limits. That’s too bad, but Bell makes up for it in his regular blog posts. His writing style reminds me of the journalists from the SFGate. I wish I could invite Bell over for dinner once a week so that we could talk politics and his clever banter would make me a smarter commentator. I live vicariously through his journalism. 

A Few News-Like Items As I Get Caught Up From A Long Weekend

Yesterday I said there would be a review of a very good political comic, but I lied. Journalists, man, what are you going to do?

Instead I’m catching up on four days worth of missed comics because I left for an extended weekend. With that being said, this is what I learned from comics this week: Questionable Content tapped into my food neurosis this week. I check my food religiously for anything that looks bug-like. So I don’t know where this OCD instinct came from but reading this comic was very hard on me.

Gunnerkrigg Court started Chapter 8 and the official start of Book 2 on the 29th as well. I’m hoping that Book 2 explains much of the unsolved mystery that was unraveled in the first 7 chapters.

One of Family Man’s most unique pages went up on the 31st. It seems like nothing is happening until you look very closely to see that the last two panels are individually drawn. It’s almost impossible to tell but for the fact that all the clocks have ticked a minute forward from the previous panel. Dylan Meconis blows my mind.

No Rest For the Wicked brought out one of the most fun pages yet. And today Ctrl+Alt+Del posted their 5th animation short. It’s in the premium section of the website and while there are differences of opinion about having a premium section, that’s a debate for another day. I like the shorts. I feel like I get enough bang for my buck.

Purity: A Tangent

Originally this article was supposed to be about a political comic that really impresses me, but I ended up in a tangent about the definition parameters of the Webcomic. So I’m just going to stick with the tangent for today and delve into the comic tomorrow so that the argument doesn’t overshadow the comic and then we all end up wondering what the hell my point was. There are many opinions on the matter; I’ll just skip straight to mine.

I think if we can treat books printed by online comics as extensions of their work then the same should be true of print to web comics. But I’ve read the hysterical comments made by readers and artists alike who are outraged at being lumped with primarily syndicated comics (hell, there are arguments against collaboration threatening the salient purity, but I digress). Living in Omaha, Nebraska, home of the indie-kids’ wet dream Saddle Creek Records, I bear witness to a great number of so-called purist discussions, much to my discomfort. The web is a medium and not a genre. Comics are comics are comics, even though how you read them may change. There, I said it. People who call online comics “Sell Outs” that want to become syndicated make me crazy.

So tomorrow when I talk about a comic that is primarily syndicated but can be found on the web and if it angers your purist sensibilities because I squandered adjectives on them, well then we’ll just have to discover a way to live at peace with one another, regardless. 

There’s A Reason Why There Are More Comics About Video Games Than Politics

Political comics are a dangerous place to make a stand. In general, I feel that political commentary in comics isolates people who both agree and disagree with you and then runs the risk of not making a sticking point or being uninformed. It feels too much like grandstanding and its’ rarely funny.

Monkey Law is a fairly old (as far as online comics go), fairly unknown comic about monkeys and the lives they lead living together under the fascist regime of the U.S. White House. The comic has clearly defined character concepts, archetypical heroes, stoners, little girls and hipster girls. There is a continuation in all the storylines that is predictable and relatively well scheduled. Without handing out adjectives like a Pez dispenser, I can say that Monkey Law is a good comic. This is a good liberal comic. It takes everyday political woes out of the op-ed section of the newspaper and puts it into the everyday lives of a household of monkeys who represent the basic framework of the every-man.

There is no doubt that the creator of Monkey Law, Brad Hawkins, is smart. His brain is integral to the play out of his comic. I’m concerned about his political commentary though. More than one storyline is a rehashing of something I read on Google news or in someone’s Livejournal. Very little of the actual political commentary is a unique perspective when it should be a microcosm of the whole U.S. political problem in the living room of his monkeys. At its most generic it resorts to Bush-bashing, a sport I am not unfamiliar with, and at its worst I’m not even sure what issue he’s trying to stick. Sometimes it feels like he doesn’t know either. During Hawkins’ most shining moments though, I know he gets it. I’m just not sure why it feels so muddy in the interim.

Tripping Down Memory Lane

I had the rare and prized opportunity yesterday to trade favorite online comic names and a name came up that I hadn’t thought about in so long. It got me thinking about forgotten and unfinished comics. So in the spirit of nostalgia, I’m going to dredge up some old comics that once shined star-like before plunging into nameless oblivion. There are dozens to choose from, but I’m only going to mention two today that break my heart the most.

Return to Sender has sat dormant since 2004, waiting poised at the end of a chapter. This fantasy story was made up completely by the creator, so we are left with no way of knowing what happens, what was happening and what mysterious forces are at play. The talented woman behind the comic has made no updates or given us any news. She doesn’t tell us she won’t return, she just doesn’t tell us anything; leaving us wondering and hoping. I still check it every few months.

Who here didn’t fall in love with Fallen during its life? I knew people who didn’t even like comics who had Fallen artwork on their desktops. The last dozen updates had been slow coming, one every few months, and then after September of 2005 there was just nothing, and we’ve continued to get lots more nothing. Fallen has some of the prettiest artwork on the web and like Return to Sender, a very unique fantasy world rich in texture and mythology.

What happens next? Will we ever get closure?

Do It Yourself Comics

I discovered Witty Comics by accident when I was doing some research for work. It fell into my lap, this giant time waster, and I’ve decided to share it with as many people as possible so that they too can feel the joys of time wasting and procrastination. In college, procrastination becomes an art form, as you get older it is the yard stick to which character can be measured. How good are your excuses?

There are people who can make the most beautiful art structured with clever characters and jokes that are funny. For the rest of the 98% of us out there, we live to serve, to read and devour our very favorite stories from the people who spend their lives giving us free fun. On the remarkable days when we’ve got ideas but not the heart or the talent to reproduce them, we’ve got Witty Comics, which allows people the briefest glimpse of comic stardom in cut and paste glory, much akin to Dinosaur Comics and Red Meat. Except that they are good at what they do, and we aren’t.

To use Witty Comics, you pick two stock figures, a background and then fill in the word balloons with whatever punch line, political commentary, 4th wall explosion you want. If you log in to the site you’ve got the option of saving the comic. There’s a handy list of freshly created funny by all the other would-be comic creators out there. What in the world do a random lot of people find funny? Not surprisingly, there’s an enormous amount of phallic jokes to be made. And if our egos hadn’t had enough yet, there’s a handy rating system. There are no hard feelings though, everyone sucks here.

What kind of funny did I create? Well, probably nothing anyone would actually laugh at. It was sort of cathartic; cheapest therapy I’ve ever needed. Give it a try. Who is worthy of your funny ire?

The Art Of Swag

You know that dark weight of disappointment that forms in your tummy when someone you really admire does something ridiculously irritating and when it comes time to call them on it you actually end up feeling worse about that than what they did in the first place? Give me a clear and present enemy any day and I can face it with bravado. That being said, let’s talk a little bit about what happens when you purchase products from your favorite Webcomics only to find the process of getting said items to be a demoralizing and strained experience.

Webcomics have found a very wealthy pocket to pick from in regards to merchandise. Swag has been made especially popular by quirky t-shirts labeled with inside jokes that only another reader would get. Selling swag has made it possible for some artists to quit their full time jobs and work on their comic full time. For many popular comics, they don’t even handle the process of selling swag anymore because it’s so daunting.

So two months ago I purchased a poster from one of my favorite comics, one I’d read since the archives were in double digits. Two months, $20 dollars later, weeks of silence, a handful of emails and I still don’t have the poster. My confidence is waning while my disappointment grows. I’m curious now about how comic creators deal with the art side and the business side of what they do, and is mixing the two worth it in the end? It’s a subject I plan to explore in depth in the very near future. I like the comic and respect the creator too much to be a vile consumer whore and rip it to shreds until I feel vindicated. However, I do feel it is an important subject to bring more attention to.

We want to be loyal readers and support our artists so that they can continue to bring us what we love and continue to enjoy doing what they do. I hold out hope that most people have very good experiences, and that mine is the exception.

Check Out The Series Finale Of My New Mommy And Stick Around For The Beevnicks

It is a very big deal when a Webcomic comes to a purposeful end. Many comics just taper off into non-existence because the artist no longer has the time or the will. So when a creator makes it a point to bring their comic to an end, even though it’s because they want to move onto different things, it’s commendable. Creators might be doing this work for themselves, but they’ve brought us along for the ride. So with that, I give you a fond (and a little disturbing) farewell over at My New Mommy.

Dig into the very lowest scrapings of what makes us human and you’ll find soap opera-like stereotypes that make up the width and breasts of the cast of My New Mommy. When a middle aged man wins the lottery and his wife dies, why not marry a Vegas stripper? The kids remain unconvinced of her mommy-hood, but that’s nothing compared to the guy with the gun. Turns out I’m a little late to the party for My New Mommy. Owen Dunne’s wrapping up its run starting May 22th with the last 6 strips.

With the closing up of MNM, The Beevnicks are jumping in to fill the gap. There’s even a nice grin and nudge transitional nod to My New Mommy to kick things off. There is dark and sleezy humor here and at least one character I absolutely love to hate.

The last comic Dunne ended was Nippleshine Manor, a vulgar, obscene and depending on your disposition, hilarious comic. It has some vague resemblance to British nobility and eccentric old people but mostly it just makes you feel dirty. Why can’t more people learn how to use “Fecal Saturnalia” in a sentence? NM is not for the easily offended. Or people with classic good taste.

What I learned about Dunne from the comics over at You Damn Kid! is that not only can he write familiar, believable kids but he writes agreeable, dysfunctional grown ups as well. Dunne is one of the few comic writers that I think could write fiction as well as he writes comics.

My one complaint is that navigating the site and all the comic archives is maddening. There is no rhyme or reason to it. That being said, the range of funny this guy can do is nothing short of amazing. But all of his comics and characters are not universal for everyone. If you don’t like the shock value of Nippleshine, try a little home grown You Damn Kid!. It’s a web comic buffet over there.

Grumps Indulges Our Inner Curmudgeon

I’ve mentioned in the past how it’s unfair to judge a blossoming new comic during its early stages of life, even when the creator may be brave enough to request a review. Well, I’m about to blatantly ignore my own advice by telling you about a very youthful comic that’s just riddled with the aged.

Chris Jones could doodle on a napkin with a sharpie and I’d covet it. There is something delightful in the very round and emotive characters he draws. The comics and illustrations he works on animate with whimsy and quirky neurosis. He could do a comic about hanging out in a waiting room and it’d be entertaining. And to my good fortune, he has.

His newest work, Grumps, follows the mocking world of two old men and their zany nursing home exploits. He shows that in old age there are still hot nurses to chase and paw at, there’s always time for drugs and swearin’ and every adventure must be shared with your best friend. With every wrinkle and every sagging breast I’m convinced that nursing homes are the hippest place to be. Man, being old looks like a riot.

Even the website itself is professionally done. There’s an air of sitcom influence to the masthead. Even the layout and fonts seem expertly chosen to promote a specific look and feel. I get the distinct impression that Jones probably knows his way around marketing his work and that having a complete package, right down to the background color, can make all the difference in the world. This comic may be new, but it’s going to look amazing in book form.

Note: Because of the way the Grumps website is set up, I cannot link to any specific comic page. Don’t be shy though, go over and check it out.

Moose River Is Great If You Don’t Mind Squinting

I’ve been casually watching Moose River for a while now with only a small but genuine interest. I like comics like Moose River because they are not birthed from Adobe Photoshop and their simple hand drawn look takes on a life and atmosphere of their own. Written and drawn by Phillippe Van Lieu, it’s strangely entertaining, though not quite addictive.

I am especially interested in Phillippe’s news posts as they chronicle his growth as a comic artist as he navigates the medium and the business. He talks about his own short comings and the complications that arise as a new up and comer. He deals with reviews and criticism with acceptance and admirable compromise. I like being able to follow his own story – beginning with the excitement of a new comic, then flustered excuses about his updating schedule, then taking responsibility for his creation, adding a little bit of doubt, and finally emerging with a new adaptable excitement ready for the next stage of the comic’s life. It’s impressive on its own merit.

Some of the comic is not as impressive as Phillippe, but only by a little. I like his hand drawn work as much as clean, digitally colored work. I like how the background color cues us into story focus changes. I even like the shameless use of stereotypes. I do not like, however, the hand drawn dialogue. The poor handwriting holds this comic back. Few people will be willing to get passed this amateur look to discover a fun storyline. Few will even stay on the site long enough to notice there are characters to care about.

Hey, on the plus side there’s swearing and nudity, and that always sells.