Friday, July 7, 2017

The Masterpiece: Black Belt

You try walking a straight line without bumping into wave functions of neighboring realities.

Blackbelt is dead.  Twice.  Horribly dead twice.  Three times if you count being turned to stone first, then being brought back with part of his head missing as two deaths.

Of all the characters, it turns out I remember Black Belt the least well.  In fact, I was completely mistaken about him.  My memory of him is that he was Fighter 2, the sequel.  Just as dumb, if not more so, just a better fighter.  His death, my memory tells me, is because he wasn't necessary as they already had one Fighter and having a second one was stupid.

Most of that isn't true, it turns out.  In fact only one part of my memory was right, he was killed because he wasn't necessary, but not for the reasons I thought.

His role was simple:  be someone for White Mage to talk to.  She doesn't officially join the Light Warriors, and this leads to her being more off screen than on, and having someone she can walk and talk with as she chases the rest of the party around the world isn't a bad idea.  Giving Black Belt the ability to get lost walking in a straight line kept the two of them just behind the party, often able to witness only the aftermath of their passing.

That said, it turned out he wasn't really necessary.  After his death (second death), White Mage either was with the main party, talking with Sarda, the Wizard that Did It, or doing something noble (like creating the universe, we'll get to that later).  She didn't NEED Black Belt for that.

Later his death would serve a role in White Mage's character development, but beyond that, he wasn't needed any more.  Which means, sadly, there isn't really much to talk about with him.  He didn't undergo any development, have no story arc, or anything.  He was there for a few jokes and then gone.  Much like Dragoon, who was really just there to deal with Muffin, or Evil Princess Sara who, while having cameo appearances, is basically done as soon as the Light Warriors cross their bridge.

Would the comic have been better if Black Belt had more of a role?  Hard to say, as I'm not sure WHAT role he could have had.  Even White Mage, easily a main character of the group, was absent from most of the comic, and even missed the bulk of the final battles (aside from the important one).  In the mean time there were the Other Warriors who did many of the same things that Black Belt could have done, but were more entertaining at it, and then Dragoon who had ONE job, and did it once he realized his parrot was a dragon.  I will argue Sara could easily had more to do, but that's another story all together.

Really for Black Belt, he is but one of dozens of side characters who didn't get as much screen time as the main four, but ultimately didn't really NEED that time either.  Most of these characters are one note, one joke types and are there just to keep the rest of the story interesting.  Keeping the comic focused on the main cast kept it from wandering too much, and when it did wander, it was short, funny, and didn't over stay it's welcome.

Next time, the crazy one.  No, not him.  Or her.  Not that one either.  Yes, that one.  Until next time.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Masterpiece: Thief

Shut up and give me all your monies and fineries.

Thief is all in the name.  Well mostly.  It is true that Thief is what he is, and an amazing one at that.  Whether it's stripping the gold walls of a castle as they walk by, or stealing things that don't actually exist, Thief can and has lived up to his title.

Yet, he's also the only character that, at least initially, was actually on a heroic quest.  That quest disappears rather early in the comic, not because it was forgotten, but really because he completed it!  Yes, that's right, a Light Warrior, in a comic where comic failure is rampant, common and expected, actually successfully completed a quest without it back firing horribly or unleashing a far worse evil on the world. . .

Wait, it meant Thief wasn't bound any more.  Forget I said anything about that last part.

My point is when we're introduced to Thief, he is on a noble quest.  Doing it in the most Thief way possible, of course, but it is noble.  His father, King of Elfland, is ill, so he's out collecting funds to finance a cure.  Which only makes sense because Elf logic (serious, isn't pulling all the stops for a cure kind of the thing you do for a king anyway?).  He does this by stealing everything that isn't nailed down.  Then going back for the stuff that is.

Of course, eventually the quest is over, though not until after the worst pun ever kills the villain behind the King's illness.  At that point, Thief is freed from his obligation and he becomes the avatar of Robbery we all know and fear.

That said, of the all the characters, he is the most practical.  Yes, he leans heavily on the "can't have it, steal it" line of thinking, but you can't argue with how successful he often is in that regard.  He also acts as a moderator for the more, um, impulsive and insane ideas of the rest of the cast, giving them more focus when the time comes.  Then he takes off to hide because he knows he's just cannon fodder otherwise.

He is the team's leader, despite the fact that he got that role by stealing it.  He is very effective at it and the group dynamic kind of needs him or they might just not make it all.

Which isn't to say he's a good guy, oh dog no.  Evil might be a stretch, but he is classicist, racist and arrogant, to a hilarious degree.  And he can be influenced to feed into his lesser desires.  His hatred of dwarfs combined with Black Mage's desire for death and destruction resulted in a campaign of genocide across the Dwarf Kingdom.  Given the lack of any kind of law enforcement in a small town, he took on the role, of a mob boss.  Placed on the kind direction of White Mage, he's actually develops an excellent economic restoration program that doesn't involve stealing anything from anybody.  Truly he was cursed.

Ultimately, he gets what he deserves.  The only Light Warrior to not really earn his class change, he is made to pay for it at the worst possible moment, but having it stolen from him, by himself, from the past.  Only fitting I suppose.

Thief does get overshadowed by the other cast members though.  He is often the straight man to their madness, and as straight man, gets more forgotten than not, but when he shines, he shines, and that will likely cost you a small fee to witness (it was in the contract he forged your signature to).

Next time, the character who can't walk down a hallway without getting lost.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Masterpiece: Fighter

Also, I can block any attack and kill anything that bleeds.  Hint.

Fighter is stupid.  Well, kind of.  He's certainly naive, and he has his stupid moments, but he's not completely stupid.  He's not Bikke for dog's sake.  But he isn't smart, that's for sure.

In a comic where "stupid" is the standard, Fighter isn't really that high on the list.  Oh, he's on it, but there are far, far worse.  Bikke, I mentioned, is one, Dragoon is pretty dumb, and King Steve is, um, well he's probably inanely stupid.  Most of the unnamed characters are pretty oblivious to things going on around them, which doesn't make them stupid per say, but they might as well be in terms of the comic.  Which actually makes Fighter pretty smart, all things considered.

Fighter is a master of the physical arts, even before his class change he was a whirlwind of death and destruction.  He has some education, he can read, and write, and is smart enough to know he isn't that smart.  Still, the other characters often treat him as stupid enough to be an actual threat, to the point that they tell him to go bother Chaos in the hopes that the stupidity will kill it.  It doesn't work.

When it comes time for quick thinking though, he can do it.  Sure, it's probably not the best thoughts at any given moment (Mr Pibb and Dr Pepper are not a conspiracy, really), but it can work.  His magnum opus is blocking the ground so the party survives a massive fall.  His logic is impeccable, if improbable, still, it was his thought, no one suggested it to him or anything, he just did it.

That's because he is a hero, the stereotypical dumb hero.  He WANTS to do the right thing, and as long as the people who he considers friends tell him it is, he'll do it.  Of course his best "friend" also happens to be the most evil person on earth, so you can see where this can go wrong quickly.  Despite this, he is genuinely a good guy, and ultimately the architect of the entire comic.

It is HIS decision to try to become a Light Warrior that starts everything off.  HIS vote allowed Red Mage to join the group, and his insistence that Black Mage be part of it, rather than White Mage, likely changed the entire path of the story.

He was rewarded, eventually, he got to wander the land with is best friend.  Of course, that also became Black Mage's punishment, but that's another story.

That said, throughout the length of the comic, Fighter did get dumber, but given that it's a comedy, I suppose that's a given.  Even so, there is some depth to him and he's not just a dumb meat shield.  I mean, he's MOSTLY a dumb meat shield, but when push comes to shove comes to hack and slash, he's not the dullest knife.  Mostly because he has swords, lots of swords, and he knows how to use all of them.  Honestly, he's probably the most dangerous character in the entire comic.

Next time, the one character you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley, without a lawyer.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Masterpiece: The Introduction

My favorite joke is the one played on the reader.

When webcomics began their massive growth at the turn of the 21st century, lots of people wanted in on it.  It was new, exciting, an infinite canvas upon which new worlds and creative works could grow and expand.  The problem is a lot of people can't draw.

The age range of these people were all in the same area, college or post college students, and they had nostalgia for the things of youth, namely video games, and the old 8 and 16 bit games of the early 90's.  The sprites of those games, well, that's a ready made source of characters for a comic.  This doesn't take into account copyright and such, but the early days of the internet didn't pay heed to that kind of thing.

So sprites made it easy to make comics, right?  Quite the opposite because there were only so many poses to pick from, so to make any action the comic creator must compose the image and write and, well, then it gets hard.  The result was that most sprite comics, as they came to be known, were pretty bad.  In fact, of the four I've read, two were some of the worst comics I have ever read.  The other two, though weren't bad.  Bob and George really isn't that terrible, fun even, but definetly of another time.  The other one. . .

Every comic I've done one of these long reviews for is, at least to me, worth reading.  They highlight the highs and lows of every comic in some way shape or form.  The Standard covers most of the lows of not understanding the audience, but also not taking chances, all while linking a massive cast and story together at the end.  Best Overall points out how the sum of a comic's parts, and a regular update, can make an above average comic into something great.  The Classic shows how old ideas can be changed and updated, even if there's an overload of dialog at points.  The Successor takes the same approach, only expands on it and goes on to point out the flaws in the fans as well as in the characters.  All are the masterpieces of the creators, the best they've done, at least for now.

For sprite comics, however, there is only one Masterpiece.  It captured the spirit of what these comics were based on and coupled them with wit and humor that is actually hard to match even against those previously mention comics.  Brian Clevinger took the sprites from the early Final Fantasy games and create something that practically redefined the very game it was poking fun at.  It helped that it was based on the original game, which had virtually nothing in terms of characters or dialog and make something wonderful out of it.

The result is something that transcends the comic itself.  Most people hear the name "Black Mage" or "Fighter" and they picture Brain's reinterpretation of them.  The comic is called 8-Bit Theater, the idea was that he would move from game to game, but in the end, it was just a comic about the original Final Fantasy game, and that's all it could really be.

It's harder to talk at length about this comic as it is a humor comic, it's all about the jokes.  Humor is subjective, of course, but the core of each joke is the characters involved, and while they're not complex, they are are the center of attention.  Whether it's the Light Warriors, Dark Warriors, Other Warriors, the Fiends, or even King Steve, it's all about the next gag, and about that one, long joke.  So to cover it, I will talk about the jokes of each of those iconic characters, or try to at least.  Through them, I hope to establish that this is The Masterpiece.

So next time, we talk about swords.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Future of The Wild Webcomic Review

So I meant this for the beginning of February.  I also meant for the Dr. McNinja Retrospective to be at the beginning of February, but bleh.

If you hadn't noticed, I've been kind of falling off updates for the last couple of years.  My job is SO chaotic in it's scheduling even a "regular" set of hours can range from 10 to 50 if things go rotten really quickly.  I honestly spend most of my off time staring into space because I can barely move.

That's not a bad thing, really.  The reason this blog exists at all is because I got laid off from a 5 day a week job and I needed something, ANYTHING to do besides stare at the computer screen.  First thing I did was travel cross country, then I started a blog about webcomics.  I had lots of topics, comics I wanted to review, things I wanted to say.

Ultimately, though, I've just about run out of topics.  That plus the job that requires more attention and energy anything I've done before has made it so I just don't have much to say or time to say it.  Which has made me very sad, actually.  I love doing this, but in the end, I'm near the end of it.

I'm not ending it NOW, obviously.  That's silly.  I have a promise to keep, to write about Sluggy Freelance when it ends (well, kind of ends, I really don't think he's going to wrap it up by August at this rate).  And I want to squeeze in ONE last set of reviews.  Nothing special, of course, just 5 comics that catch my attention (I've got two so far).

Also, I've got one more long series I want to do, which will dominate the bulk of the year.  Then, that's it.

The blog will stop regular updates probably at the end of the year (one last Can't Live Without post).  Will I never update again?  Can't say.  Something stupid is bound to happen.  Maybe I'll actually sort out the articles into topics so I can find them easier later, or not.  The point is, I won't be going out of my way even for a monthly update.

So now you know the plan.  I've enjoyed doing this and will have a nice big long thank you thing at the end, but for now, this is the plan.  And hey, things could change.  I could get fired tomorrow and have nothing better to do again.  We'll see.

In any case, next time I begin my next and last long series of a comic that I love, and actually finished rereading very recently.  Hopefully it goes well.  Until then kiddies.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Retrospective: The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

EDIT:  Okay, I'm dumb, I forgot to actually schedule this to be posted.  Only didn't notice until now.  BAH!

Well, I was going to talk about the blog, but wouldn't you know it, Dr. McNinja ended right as I nominated it for Best Overall Comic.

I knew it was ending when I made those nominations, of course.  And by the time the articles were going up, I knew it would end the week of the awards.  Still didn't award it, but not because it failed to win, but mostly because the actual winner did so much more.

I figured 2016 to be the year of all the comics ending, with Dr. McNinja going first, but instead it hung on into the new year.  And it was a great final story.

Much can be said about the run of McNinja, from it's humble beginnings as a joke to a time traveling epic that went from the moon to the Radical Lands, featuring characters from all over the map, and nearly all are memorable.  It's only in the last chapter, though, did all of them come together to make one hell of an ending for such a great comic.

Not that it was always great all the time.  King Radical, despite being the main villain of the comic, got old after a while, and only by revealing who he really was did the comic finally find a good use for him.  And no, I don't mean him being from the Radical Lands.  But the duds were often out shined by the fun and awesome of the comic.  For every repeated King Radical story, there was one where McNinja surfed on an robotic Dracula back into the Earth's atmosphere.

The comic tried to be outrageous, and yet kept things reasonably grounded.  You could believe these things could happen, ALMOST, which is the best part.

The ending, as I said, was perfect.  King Radical died in the most radical way possible.  Dracula finally met his end, thanks to hacking, and Dr. McNinja retired from the ninja life to be just a doctor, with his new name being the perfect choice given the history of the comic.

It'll be hard to fill the space on the list where Dr. McNinja enjoyed his adventures.  I still find myself reflexively visiting the site, even though I know it's over.  Christopher Hastings, the creator, artist and writer and moved on to print comics, including Gwenpool and Adventure Time, and I'm sure his time with the irish ninja who happens to be a doctor helped him immensely to get those jobs.  I wish him the best of luck in the future and I might even try to read some of his books if I get the time.

And money.  Stupid video card is dying.  Bleh.  Anyway, until next time kiddies.

Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 Wild Webcomic Quasi Award Winners

Welcome to the 2017, and perhaps last, Wild Webcomic Quasi Awards.  This post will pass out the awards to the comics that excel at the categories for which they were nominated.  I give these awards out myself, based on my own judgement from my time reading these comics.  This year's nominations can be found here, with the rules for this contest posted here.  Without further ado, the first award.

------------------------------------------------

Best Black and White Art

There are lots of reasons to award Our Time in Eden, from it's excellent writing to it's character development, but the art truly stands out.  Especially when it comes to those characters.  There's a hauntingness to each character that is hard to really describe.  They look like the world has crushed them under it's weight and they just want it to go away.  Ben Steeves' art truly makes the sad tale written by Gibson Twist to life in a way that likely wouldn't come across the same way in a purely written format.  There isn't much action, if at all, but each page is filled with details, large and small, that give an amazing sense of detail into the events described no matter how small.  It is a wonderful looking comic, despite it's less than happy story.  This has earned it the award for Best Black and White Art for 2017.

Winner:  Our Time in Eden

------------------------------------------------

Best Color Art

Last year, Stand Still, Stay Silent was the winner of the Best New Comic award, one it earned based on it's updates, story and especially it's art, and in the last two years, it never let up.  The art itself may have improved, but since it was already amazing, it's hard to see how much it could have.  Characters are easy to identify, colors are bold and used with amazing effect, and some of the monsters are just downright terrifying to see.  Minna Sundberg is an amazing artist and her level of production at such a high level cannot, and should not be ignored.  Even cutting her production from 5 days a week to 4 just so she had time to focus on a video game side project didn't slow the comic down at all.  It is by far one of the best looking comics on the web today, and thus the winner of the Best Color Art award for 2017.


------------------------------------------------

Best Gag Comic

Kris Straub has issues with his larger comics, but the one comic he hasn't slacked on is his gag comic, Chainsawsuit.  It's topical, without being insulting, silly without being stupid, and funny while being, well, funny.  It's never the same thing twice, with rarely a repeated joke, or if there is, the joke is that it IS a repeated joke.  Kris has a definite grasp on comic timing and silly comments, so while his darker, less funny comic might have stalled out, he can at least fall back on his silly strip named after an idea he's mentioned maybe twice over it's life time.  The award for Best Gag Comic in 2017 is given to it with no reservations.

Winner:  Chainsawsuit

------------------------------------------------

Best Shortform Comic

There's a cartoony feel to David Davis' Cosmic Dash, one that might throw off those looking for a more serious science fiction comic.  The thing is, that it IS serious, but it's not dark.  Each of the shorter tales through it are very positive in attitude without being silly or goofy.  There is drama, but it doesn't crush the comic, and the positive mood of the comic keeps it fresh and interesting.  The sheer number of shorter vignettes keep the comic moving and fresh.  Some are only a few pages long, especially compared to the larger segments, but all are positive, all are fun, and all are some of the best science fiction out there.  Cosmic Dash receives the Best Shortform Comic of 2017 on this positive attitude.

Winner:  Cosmic Dash

------------------------------------------------

Best Longform Comic

It might be a cheat to talk about Pete Abrams' Sluggy Freelance in terms of "longform" since early on it wasn't such a comic.  The last few years, and it's attempt to wrap up the various loose ends, have changed the game significantly.  Now old plot points are coming back from the dead, to finally be put to rest, old ideas and theories are being brought in, up and finished and the comic as a whole has taken the light feeling of an epic and really expanded it into a grandiose piece of fiction.  It's not a comic that anyone can come into and pick up, not easily or quickly, but the overall plot for those who are long time fans is a wondrous thing to see in action.  It helps that this is likely it's last, regular updating year, and with that in mind, the award for Best Long for Comic of 2017 goes to webcomic that set the standard by which all comics are measured.

Winner:  Sluggy Freelance

------------------------------------------------

Best Cast

Giving each character time and development is something that, at the very least, is hard, and gets worse with every additional character.  It helps to have a basis to connect them all, and Jackie Wohlenhaus' Between Failures has that linkage, a failing entertainment store.  From here their stories can be explored and examined, their relationships built and expanded upon, all while not strictly forgetting the rest of the cast exists.  The fact that Jackie keeps creating characters that sit on the edges of his central cast and keeps them interesting and fun is something that cannot be ignored.  This fact alone is more than reason enough to award this comic Best Cast of 2017.

Winner:  Between Failures

------------------------------------------------

Best Character

Corridor Realms has quite a collection of comics, and through them some more than interesting characters.  Blake J.K. Chen's creations range from the alien, to the, um, inscrutable, but probably one of his best is Robert, or Bobby, from Subhuman Sanctum because he is, ultimately, the most human.  He has no real special powers, though he can fight when needed.  He's no special snowflake, often getting in more trouble than he intends, and he falls for a girl who is probably an out right alien.  Well, that's probably special, but the way he handles it all comes from a very human place and make him the winner of the Best Character of 2017 award.

Winner:  Robert from Subhuman Sanctum

------------------------------------------------

Best New Comic

The very premise of a comic can often make or break it for a reader before they've seen a single panel.  Even after that initial hump, the premise can still haunt the reader and turn their opinion against the comic even if it probably shouldn't.  Which makes MJ and Jesse Fanta's PopChromatic a unique piece as it's very premise can be poisonous to most people, a comic about a pop star competition is less than appealing to many, yet manage to make it entertaining and engaging.  Sure that competition is the core of the comic, but realistically, it's about family and their relationships with each other, whether it's between Jade and her twin sister Amber, or Justice and his father.  This elevates it above the basic premise and makes the comic far better than many would assume it should be.  Because of this, PopChromatic gets the Best New Comic of 2017 award.

Winner:  PopChromatic

------------------------------------------------

Best Completed Comic

I'm going to slip out of award mode for this one.  The last two times I did these awards, Michael Poe's Errant Story was nominated, but never awarded.  It was less because Errant Story failed in some way, and more that other comics, at that moment, deserved it more.  I have covered, in detail, why I think this is one of the best comics ever.  I really don't have more to say about it than that.  If this really is the last time I do one of these awards on my own, then now is the time to officially give it the respect and award it deserves.  As such, I am giving it the Best Completed Comic of 2017 award, and no you can't stop me, it's my award thingy.  Now back to the award mode for the final category.

Winner:  Errant Story

------------------------------------------------

Best Overall Comic

Stjepan Sejic has created quite a few comics, all very good with fun dialog and interesting ideas.  Several have been published, but despite that, his most popular comic is the one that started as a series of erotic bondage pin ups, Sunstone.  That identity, the bondage pin up thing, really is just the hook for readers, because the comic itself doesn't dwell on it much.  Oh it's there, but the comic is really a love story, a romance, between actual characters for whom the bondage thing is a hobby they enjoy.  It's about these characters, their flaws and triumphs, and their relationships so that bondage thing almost becomes background noise.  Even now, with the completion of the first volume of the story, it carries on with another pair of characters and their rocky relationship, and it looks to be just as interesting and engaging as the first.  With it's amazing art, dense updates and great story, it is with no shame that Sunstone, a comic that isn't quite safe for work, is awarded the Best Overall Comic of 2017.

Winner:  Sunstone (NSFW)

------------------------------------------------

And that wraps things up.  As I said earlier, this likely the last time I will do this award thing on my own.  While I have enjoyed doing it as an exercise, honestly I just don't read enough comics to do this even every two years.  Still, I hope that you found it interesting and maybe encouraged you to give a few of these comics a read, either the winners or the nominees.  That is the point of all this after all.

Next time, February 3rd for those keeping score, I'll be posting about the future of the blog.  Then, well, I have an idea, but I need to sit down and reread the damn thing.  Until then kiddies.