A Brief Tour of the Web and Comics – Part 1 of Some?

Recently, Alan (frequent VFcast guest and the guy who can be counted on to help us earn our explicit rating on iTunes while forgetting to talk about comic books) asked me to put together a list of webcomics that I thought he would enjoy reading.  I consume webcomics the way that Cabel feeds upon the innocence of the young, so it made sense.

Dinosaur Comics

It is a comic about dinosaurs.  The same dinosaury panels every day.  You wouldn’t think that would be funny.  It’s totally funny.  It’s amazing how fresh Ryan North keeps the dialog within such a constrained medium.  Why does it work so well?  Is it because T-Rex will teach you the secrets of love, linguistics and erotic fiction?  Is it because Ryan North is Canadian?

Achewood

Chris Onstad seems to be taking the sort of whiny hiatus that only the academically priveleged can successfully pull off, but start from the beginning of the archives and you’ve got a gold mine of thousands of strips about absurd cats.  The in-character blogs provide an uncommon depth of insight into this motly crew of anthropomorphic animals.  The whole thing comes together like a season of Cheers produced by Dan Aykroyd and David Lynch.  Seriously, it’s mad genius.

The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

Whack, but in a good way.  This comic was born when a dude and his buddy endeavored to blow to lid off an insidious flatulence conspiracy led by Ronald McDonald.  Now Dr. McNinja is published by Dark Horse and Chris Hastings is writing some issues of Deadpool.  Few have risen to such great heights propelled mostly by farts.  You go, Chris Hastings.

xkcd

The best geek comic on the web.  Randall Munroe inspires me to engage in some hot wikipedia action once or twice a week.  Seriously, this guy needs only simple arrangements of penciled lines to make me want to be a better geek.  Legit.

Templar, AZ

An ‘alternate present’ comic about a mild mannered journalist and his adventures in the big city.  Way cooler than that makes it sound, also the art is fantastic.  Spike’s great at getting a whole lot of the world she’s imagined into each panel with a rare and subtle elegance.  So many of Marvel’s creative teams could do to take a page.

Lackadaisy

Say what you will, I think prohibition-era bootlegger cats are awesome.  Really mind-blowing webcomic art, which is unfortunately reflected in the release schedule.  I am especially in love with Tracy J. Butler’s layout chops, these panels breath like you’ve rarely seen.  The fact that this is free content on the web is exciting, it’s an example of the best possible application of the web medium, and everyone should probably buy volume 1.  Just when you think it’s too adorable there will be someone getting stone cold shot in the mouth.

Penny Arcade

Everybody reads this strip, it’s just one of those things where to be a part of the zeitgeist you pretty much have to be exposed.  And it’s funny.  I could say more but I feel like PA is so big, and is under such a gigantic lens all the time, and I would be pointlessly treading over well-worn paths.  I like to think when posting content like this I can maybe do something to drive a little bit of traffic to some creators that I happen to think are really cool, but Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik swing some of the world’s biggest webdicks.  That’s cool with me, they seem like nice guys, they mostly use those dicks to help kids, and they have no use for a thoughtful but firm critique from my little blog.

Questionable Content

Cabel and I both really like this strip.  I’m not always sure why, it’s basically hipster melodrama and Dan Savage redux with an occasional robot using a strap-on dildo to sodomize a roomba.  I think the stories resonate with me because I see so much of my personal scene in these panels.  Also, I would generally appreciate it if going to bars was more closely associated with wearing bowties.  The characters have been developed pretty extensively over the run, which means it’s probably best to start at the beginning to get the nuance.  Of all the webcomics I read, QC has had the most mutable art.  This is mostly, I think, because Jeph Jacques has slowly learned to draw over the course of the last 8 years.  Good for him!

Three Panel Soul

There once was a comic called Mac Hall about some guys living in a dorm together, and it was great.  Then those guys graduated from college and Mac Hall went up to the frozen north to live in a Yurt and pull a sled full of logs around for a few months.  It came back lean, direct and [maybe] ready to take on Apollo Creed.  3PS is unusual in that Ian McConville liberally uses the strip as an outlet for experimenting with different visual styles, and the art is fresh by any standard.  With Mac Hall Ian and Matt pushed boundaries by embracing the flexible nature of the webcomic medium.  It’s cool to see that same creativity applied within artificial constraints.

There you have it, 9 of the many webcomics that I think are worthwhile.  The list wasn’t really compiled based on any criteria outside of my gut feelings about what a specific dude might be willing to spend some time reading.

Does anyone have any other thoughts?  Are there grave omissions or misrepresentations?  Do you hate cats and hipsters?  Let me know with the power of comments!

VFcast Episode 5: That’s Some Cosmic Shit

A Podcast, for sure!

In which we discuss:

  • We also talk about FF #1. Spider-man is in it, so it doesn’t go as well as it could have.

  • We review Thor 620.1. There are hammers and living stone and Alan eats the table.

  • NEXTWAVE: AGENTS  OF HATE! 20 MINUTES. CABEL IS HAPPY LAND!

I WANT TO READ THIS BOOK!

The best comics image ever!.

Comic Book Movies

As you can likely tell I like comic book movies a lot when they are done well. Lee would like to like them but does not always. We are looking to come to an accord so we where talking about good ways to enjoy the upcoming Summer of Wonder. We’ve had a few ideas. Many of them seem a lot like the ideas of a Masochist who has been locked in a room with nothing but the full run of Secret Avengers. I’m sure there are better ideas. Do any of you have ideas for how to celebrate, one or all of the films coming out? Save us from our own darker imaginings!

Quick Review: Silver Surfer 2

As I’ve said before I really, really, want to like the Silver Surfer. He is touted as Stan Lee’s cosmic and cerebral creation. He is supposed to be smart, driven, introspective, and philosophical. His power is on Superman‘s  level, and he fights interesting enemies. Unfortunately that all usually adds up to super boring stories most of the time. How fighting Thanos for the survival of the universe can seem boring is completely beyond me. Silver Surfer #2 is just part of a long chain of Silver Surfer thinking his way through boring, boring books. His introspection comes across as whining, his intelligence comes off as pedantic self-indulgence,  he stuck fighting a random non-national army, and his powers are stripped. Its a boring book. Move past it an find something new and interesting.

Comics As Public Debate

I’m about to go and spend an hour of time teaching a friend’s High School class aboutI should really read this... the fundamentals of policy debate. Being the geeky geek with geeky interests that I am, I’m thinking about comics’ role in the public discourse. Comics, like any art form, have the ability to enlighten, inspire, reveal, and move us. I’ve been uplifted, made physically ill, and almost cried as a result of moments in graphic novels. Why then have I never been asked to seriously re examine any of my political, economic or social views? Literature definitely does not balk at the political line, so why do comics.

Marvel made a bold attempt with their Civil War. I was really, really excited about that event. Marvel’s press machine, as well as interviews with Millar himself suggested that we where going to get a balanced, thoughtful, and thought-provoking look at the debate between liberty and security that had been so critical to our national identity since 9/11. We did not get that. Instead we got this:

Black man in chains in the grave? Some one put him there.

The pro-registration (read pro-security) side killed a black man and then tied him up in chains and a white cloth and threw him in an open grave with no casket. It was super hard to root for those guys after that. Even before then Millar was showing his liberal biases with little reticence. Millar took the book from a balanced debate about a hotly contested political and social issue and forced it into the trite and tired superhero versus supervillan game we all know so well. It was to see Ironman and Mr. Fantastic as reticent villans , and the fallout was interesting from a character development standpoint, but none of it ended up adding to the national political debate is any serious way. The saddest thing? This is the closest comics have come to a meaningful political statement in a long, long time.

Well at least their is hope in Fear.

Replacability and why its a bad thing

None of us like the feeling  feeling that we are replaceable. We like feeling unique, useful and valuable. However, ts become clear to me that comics writers could do themselves a great deal of good if they started thinking about how replaceable most of their leads are.

The most recent offender is the Crossbones comic reviwed by Lee and I in our Wednesday podcast. One of the problems with this book, I think, at its core, is that Crossbones could be replaced by any number of other anti-heroes without changing any plot details.

The best stories comics tell have unique, powerful, interesting characters. Great characters drive events as much as events drive them. They react to the plot development in unique ways, and often initiate changes in the worlds they inhabit. Half of why people read literature is to learn about how people grow, change and react to the world around them. When after reading Captain American and Crossbones I thought”Wow! That was a great Wolverine or Electra or Agent 13 story, too bad it had Crossbones in it, that dude sucks,”the authors have  either missed the chance to say something interesting and compelling about your lead character, or the lead character has nothing interesting to say (if its Crossbones).

Still WAY more fun that the Crossbones book!This  problem is all over the place in comics. It makes comics hard to defend to an outsider or someone who has left the medium. Except for the odd Archangel jokes there is no reason Iceman And Angel couldn’t be Johnny Storm and The Thing, or even better Rockslide and Anole. Lots of Superman stories could sub in Thor and some faux Shakespearean dialogue and do just fine, sometimes arguably better. There is no story with Solo can’t be told straight up as a Punisher story, and without the terrible, terrible catchphrase.

I’m not opposed to people telling fun, fairly generic stories, and reducing characters to their archetypal elements makes a lots of sense in team books. When generic characters are as widespread they are in the Superhero Comics we have a problem. Generic stories mean we are not adding to the public consciousness, the most basic requirement of an art form. The industry can do better. They have and they will.

Digger, by Ursula Vernon

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Header image - Digger

We don’t give a lot of time to webcomics on TheVestrymen Dot Com.  I’m not entirely sure why, because we sure as Hell read them.  That being said, I just finished something so rad that a break from the status quo is in order.

It’s not all that often that I get to say that I finished a webcomic.  I will often read until an artist suffers a sudden alien abduction and no more strips are to be forthcoming, but that’s different than finishing a story.  The Adventures of Dr. McNinja serializes encapsulated story arcs and therefor doesn’t count.  Ian and Matt wrote a great strip to close the book on Mac Hall but the saga more or less continues in Three Panel Soul.  This isn’t a problem, and I’m never excited to see a strip that I have enjoyed burn out, but it’s sometimes satisfying to be able to sit back, give my courvoisier a swirl and relish the fact that I have born witness to the adventures of a pragmatic wombat in their 750+ page entirety.

I’m not going to spoil the moment with a review, nor am I going to bore you with a synopsis.  I’m going to strongly suggest that you find yourself a comfortable chair, start at page one of the archives and see for yourself why Ursula Vernon deserves your undying adulation.

Digger, Vol. 1

Read about a wombat!

VFCast Episode 4: Don’t Fear the Irish Lone Ranger

Raise a beer and drink to COMICS!

Tommy would often unwind with his murder buddies after using his mind powers to get a date!

In which we discuss:



I thought you might need these panels in the same image! Your welcome!

  • I put the two ‘hitting space vampires with corpses’ panels together just for you!

Next week:

  • Cabel will think about drinking less coffee so the podcast posts have fewer exclamation  marks! Don’t hold your breath!
  • We will review Thor #620.1, FF #1, Warriors Of Dharuk #1. We will also have a super secret feature!

P.S. – You should read The Absorbascon’s review of Young Justice for a more in- depth look at this TV show.

Quick Review: Superboy #5

This is a comic book where everything happens TWICE. But not in a good way.

Superboy #5 is a bunch of things. It is a continuation of the rad tradition of Superman/Flash races, it is the fallout from Connor and Cassie’s breakup in recent issues of The Teen Titans, and its very nicely drawn. Unfortunately before it can get around to being any of those other things it has to make it clear that its a filler book.

It is often the case that single issue, self-contained stories,  are rad. They are often made produced out of someone’s genius vision for a quick one off. This book does not read like it was built that way. This book reads like Demirk was late and under editorial pressure to turn out the required number of pages. Lemire’s very nice, very human art is just not enough to get past the fact that there are 4 pages of expository catch up at the beginning of the book and pages like this throughout.

Guess what guys? The phantom stranger showed up!

What used to take one aside is now worth a whole page!

The result is the worst kind of decompressed story telling. Nothing happens and it happens twice. Its a Flash/Superman race homage and the plot moves like molasses that keeps retreading the same ground.

I’ve enjoyed Superboy’s Smallville adventures both in Adventure Comics and in his own book. I hope this creative team can refind their mojo.