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.

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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

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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.


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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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.

Friday, January 13, 2017

2017 Wild Webcomic Quasi Award Nominees

Welcome once again to the Wild Webcomic Quasi-Awards.  The goal of these awards has always been about recognizing the achievements of the various comics out there.  When the field numbers in the tens of thousands, standing out with great art, great story, great characters or just being great in general is difficult.  So here, at least, there is some recognition.  That said, as I am the lone judge and nominator of these awards, only comics I have read and reviewed for this blog will be considered and only my opinion will be used to determine who gets the award.  On to the nominees.

Best Black and White Art - Nominees should express great use of line, form, shape and shading using a mostly monochrome pallet on a consistent basis.

Blue Blaster - Despite the title, this comic manages to show superheroes, villains and everyday people in great detail without ever actually showing the title character's true color.
Namesake - A multitude of fairy tale worlds come alive through the sparing use of color in this epic adventure.
Our Time in Eden - The characters in this long running comic carry a weariness that is hard to match in any other comic.

Best Color Art - Nominees should express great use of line form and hue using a multi-color pallet on a consistent basis.

Stand Still, Stay Silent - Color plays a important role in this post-apocalyptic comic, often setting the tone of a scene as much as the action and words spoken.
Paranatural - The cartoonish look of this comic allows for flexible characters that move and flow to enhance any and every joke that it puts forward.
Blindsprings - Great pains are made in the art of this comic to show the break between the colorful spirits and the depressing reality in this fantasy tale.

Best Gag Comic - Nominees should express excellent use of timing, word play and humor within a single strip or page on a consistent basis.

Three Panel Soul - While only weekly, this comic manages to get a laugh nearly every time.
Chainsawsuit - Never quite the same thing twice, except for Two Cops, which is.  Silly and fun.
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal -While often dense and hard to understand, the jokes, in the end, are just what is needed for a daily dose of chuckles.

Best Shortform Comic - Nominees should be able to tell coherent and independent stories based around a small cast or idea without requiring an overarching plan or story to the comic as a whole.

Broodhollow - While there is an overarching mystery to the town of Broodhollow, each chapter covers a small corner of it effectively.
UnCONventional - The stories aren't as distinct as they could be, but they are broken up in reasonable ways as it follows the various people running a convention.
Cosmic Dash -  Serious, yet light and fun, each chapter of adventures of the Lucky Strike and it's crew is a wonderful romp through space.

Best Longform Comic - Nominees should be able to tell a coherent and consistent story over a long period following a character or cast from the first strip to an eventual last strip in an interesting and engaging way.

Girl Genius - Yes, they are out of the castle, have been for a while, and it's still fun to read.
What Birds Know - Nearly finished, this epic tale of birds, gold, greed and rage is worth the time it takes to read.
Sluggy Freelance - Tying up the loose ends of this long running comic finally turned it into a more epic piece than anyone ever imagined.

Best Cast - Nominees should have a cohesive cast of characters who support and build each other in ways that make each essential to the other and creating a great whole from the sum of their parts.

Dumbing of Age - David Willis manages to take his various characters across multiple comics and brings them together into a single, new comic that explores them in new ways.
Between Failures - A varied collection of characters all work or are related to a failing store, but it's a positive look at their lives.
Bohemian Nights - 20 somethings spend their off hours partying, drinking and having fun, but it doesn't always go positively

Best Character - Nominees should be a single character that stands out from the rest of the cast with a strong personality, history or story, but also one that drives the story through their actions.

Joyce from Dumbing of Age - Wide-eyed and innocent to start, being exposed to the world changes her view on the life she once knew.
Robert from Subhuman Sanctum - Former street thug is exposed to hippie aliens and finds a new, more interesting world to be part of.
Arron Rung from Blue Blaster - Super powers do not a hero make, at least not strictly, as Arron struggles between using his powers for heroics, and making a bit of cash on the side.

Best New Comic - Nominees should show general excellence in the creation and publication of a new comic starting between now and the previous nomination announcement.

PopChromatic - Jade doesn't like pop bands, but the things she'll do for her twin sister.
Namesake - Storytelling comes to life in a magical journey Ellen take through those stories.
Paranatural - Ghosts, magic and weird conspiracies dominate the world Max suddenly finds himself in.

Best Completed Comic - Nominees should be naturally completed comics that stand out as great pieces of fiction and art.

Errant Story - The fantasy epic that is the classic of webcomics today.
Skullkickers - Baldy and Shorty (they have actual names) fight monsters for fun and money eventually resulting in a battle to save the multi-verse.
Punch an' Pie - A loving relationship fails, and the story follows as the two characters move on with their lives.


Best Overall Comic - Nominees must show general excellence in the fields of art, writing and publication over the length of the comic's lifespan.

Derelict - The post apocalyptic tale of strange creatures, the sea and young woman alone in the world is something that should be read.
Sunstone (NSFW) - It may have started as a series of fetish pinups, but this tale of love and misunderstanding deserves the time to read through it.
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja - He's a doctor, a ninja and a hero in this amazing comic that is only just winding down.

Next time, the winners.  Until then kiddies.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The 2017 Quasi-Awards Pre-Award Post

Wow, that's an awkward title.  Okay kiddies, it's time for the 3rd, now biennial (yes that's a word) Quasi-Awards.  For those unfamiliar, this whole mess started way back here, with another site's webcomic awards, which annoyed me because it was unclear what was going on.  No rules, explanations, no nothing.  The result was, well, a whole category on my blog for A) trying to fix it and B) doing my own version.  Twice!

And as will the last awards given out in 2015, I will start with a review of the rules and any changes.  So let's get to the rules:

1.)  Comic can not have previously won in the given category.  Comics also cannot win more than one award per award event.

2.)  Comic nomination must be for the award period (in this case the last two years).  Things like "best new comic" have to be within a very specific time frame, other comics can cover longer periods

3.)  Comics must be active for the length of the award period.  This means the comic updated regularly over the award peroid.  Only exceptions are for the "completed comic" award or the "short comic" award.

4.)  Comic must qualify for the given category.  A primarily color comic cannot be entered in the black and white category, for example.

5.)  If a comic wins "Best Overall" it cannot be nominated for another category ever again.  Unless it's a special "legacy" category.

As with last year, there will be only 3 nominees per category as I am the only judge and it's hard to nominate from my rather small pool of comics.

Not any other serious changes.  That said, I suspect this might be the last time I do one of these.  Mostly because my pool of comics isn't deep enough to support a fourth edition.  Hell, I'm surprised I can do three!

Next week, and yes, I said WEEK, the nominations for the 2017 Wild Webcomic Quasi-Awards!  Until next time kiddies.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Successor: Cityface

Tom Siddel's comic is amazing in the end.  Through Gunnerkrigg Court he has created a world that is both familiar and fantastic, characters that are relatable and inscrutable. and a story that is both tragic and humorous all at the same time.  There aren't many comics that can do all of those things.  Bet you can't guess 3 of them.

I think, though, the thing that really keeps this whole thing rolling is how Tom relates to his readers.  Most of his initial comments come in little blurbs at the bottom of the pages.  These are quick, often silly comments like "This guy!" or something equally goofy.  Though when things get serious, those comments vanish very quickly, a quiet sign that the reader should be paying attention to what's going on.

He does videos where he reads through earlier chapters of the comic and makes his own comments.  I haven't watched them yet, not because I don't want to, but because the comic is good enough on it's own to not need it, but it's something I've NEVER seen another comic artist do.

I believe he probably reads his own forums regularly, though I doubt he says much.  He's very much aware of how people respond to his comic, as I mentioned back here.  Ultimately this led to Chapter 55 and, well, my brief response.

Which leads to the fact that he really has a good sense of humor, and knows when to pull back and be silly.  Whether it's his own "about" page, or his vacation filler strips featuring this post's title character, Cityface, he knows when to have fun and be very, very silly.  And his readers love it.

Ultimately, Tom Siddel is probably one of the best story tellers in comics today.  He combines excellent, ever evolving art (which he isn't afraid to admit to, BTW), imagery, character, seriousness and silliness all into a single package and creates a story that likely will only grow stronger with time.

If there is any comic I would recommend with no information (and I try not to), it would be Gunnerkrigg Court.  It has a little of everything and deserves to be the new king of the list.

Next time it's the return of the Quasi-Awards.  Until then kiddies.