Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Favorite Webcomics: Part 3 of, Apparently, 3

The First Part of the List
The Second Part of the List
Share your own favorites with us!

As I summarized back on Monday, this is the third part of a special series in which I share with you the comics that I check regularly. After losing my old list of favorites to computer troubles, I rebuilt my list of regulars from scratch and learned which webcomics I most enjoy. Let us continue to continue the sharing!

Rob and Elliot: Surprise is a key element of humor, and Rob and Elliot consistently pitches some of the web's most hilarious curveballs. Like this! And this. It's only updated once a week, but it's good.

Three Panel Soul: Also good for a weekly update, 3PS is a clever look at the tension between adult life and one's inner child. It's autobiographical comics from Ian McConville and Matt Boyd, a kind of sequel to Mac Hall. Sometimes in color, but even the black-and-white is some of the strongest, most evocative black-and-white artwork I've ever seen.

Nothing Better: Oh hey, speaking of real good black-and-white artwork...
NB resonates with me personally. It's a college story with a pair of odd-couple roommates and self-discovery, but it's unique in that it seriously tackles the deeper religious and spiritual questions of its characters. It takes religion seriously and gives religious matters an unusually balanced consideration. Good stuff. And if one update a week isn't enough, you can get more of cartoonist Tyler Page with his Page-a-Day.

Unwinder's Tall Comics: What Nobody Scores does for catastrophe, Unwinder's Tall Comics does for bad ideas. Unwinder is a kid who is unable to discern impractical, overly-elaborate ridiculousness from true inspiration, much to the chagrin of his friends and neighbors. Okay, so the art isn't as polished--but it's still really creative, really bizarre, and really funny. And tall!

Cat and Girl: Isn't Cat and Girl just the cutest little deconstructivist metanarrative? Yes it is! C&G is genuinely clever cartooning, and the juxtaposition of Girl's incisive insights with Cat's inspired randomness never fails to amuse. Some of the sharpest, most intelligent cultural commentary I've seen from a comic. Heck--sharper even than a lot of books.

The Princess Planet: Hilarious escapades on a planet where every girl is a princess. It's a crazy blend of mythology and sci-fi. The premise: Princess Christi says goodbye to her cooped-up palace lifestyle and goes on exciting adventures. It's largely humor-driven, but from time to time there are recurring themes, such as Princess Christi's fake "treasure inspector" schemes, threats from evil sorcerers, the great self-important hero Smirkulees, and the Rasta detective Dreadlock Holmes. Oh, and did I mention the fun with puns and portmanteaus?

Honorable Mention:
I don't tune into them for every last update, but I also wanted to mention Calamities of Nature, The Robot is Sad, Dinosaur Comics and A Softer World. These are all good for a daily laugh, and on occasion for a little more probing insight into the nature of the world. I particularly recommend A Softer World: it's sometimes touching and often just plain touched.

And that wraps up what I've pared my reading list down to! I'm still eager to hear more about what's on your regular reading list. Familial holiday activities prevent me from proceeding with my Special Christmas Post as planned. However, if you're jonesing for some holiday webcomics festivities, Larry "El Santo" Cruz is sharing with us some of his favorite holiday-related comics from across the internet, over at The Webcomic Overlook. And there's no sense in replicating his work, right?

Enjoy your holidays, folks, and I'll see ya next Friday.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Favorite Webcomics: Part 2 of Something

The First Part of the List
Share your own favorites with us!

Welcome back, friends. Where we left off, I was sharing with you the comics that I continue to read since trimming down my list of regulars. Let us continue the sharing.

Penny Arcade: Okay, that doesn't really count as sharing, because you read Penny Arcade already. There's a reason why Penny Arcade is the number one gaming comic anywhere: top-notch artwork, relentlessly honest commentary on the gaming industry, and hilariously inappropriate graphic violence.

Dr. McNinja: I like Dr. McNinja for basically two reasons. On the one hand, it's an ingenious extended parody of ludicrous comic book plots exposing the more ridiculous conventions of the superhero genre, illustrated with exceptional full-color artwork that complements the parody perfectly. On the other hand, a ninja doctor escapes Dracula's moon base by surfing back to earth on Drac's robotic duplicate.

Penny and Aggie: Intelligent teen drama that does a great job of capturing the vicious high-school clique atmosphere. Ostensibly, it's about the rivalry between the razor-sharp queen of the popular crowd and an ambitious counter-culture chick with a penchant for activism, but there's a wide supporting cast of fleshed-out characters. Quality full-page black-and-white artwork with a measure of manga influence. Funny, engaging drama that's well worth reading.

You'll Have That: I confess, I've got a thing for realistic comics. I'm not super-keen on the whole magical-time-traveling-with-robots thing. YHT is a down-to-earth humor strip about a semi-geeky guy named Andy and his practically-minded wife, Katie. The two of them deal together with life's ordinary difficulties: obnoxious co-workers, strained friendships, visiting in-laws for the holidays, and learning to forgive each other's shortcomings and quirks. At its heart, it's a funny strip about everyday love.
And sadly, it's ending on January 2nd. Still, cartoonist Wes Molebash has got a new project in the pipes, so I'm looking forward to what he's got in store.

Joe Loves Crappy Movies: Joe Dunn is a killer and funny cartoonist with an enthusiasm for movies. He's got a brash, colorful art style, and his friendly, easygoing personality comes through in his comics. He also likes to crack a nerd gag or sex joke from time to time. From time to time, I'll also check in on his other cartooning projects: the college-life strip Matriculated and his user-determined animal race adventure, Turtle vs. Bunny. Dude is a webcomic machine.

Multiplex: Joe likes to watch crappy movies, but what's it like on the other side of the ticket counter? Multiplex looks into the lives of theater employees--the workplace drama, the antics to alleviate the boredom, the movie-geekery, and everything else that comes with the red-vested uniform. It's very professional, very funny, and features one of the most engaging and varied casts of characters I've seen in a webcomic. Their interactions are really what make the comic for me. JASON AND BECKY WILL YOU GUYS PLEASE JUST GET TOGETHER ALREADY

Theater Hopper: I don't really check out Theater Hopper regularly, but if I'm gonna mention the other two of the Big Three movie webcomics...well, y'know. Theater Hopper is a good comic, and even though it's not on my list of regulars, it might just call for a spot on yours.

Nobody Scores: Brilliantly illustrated, utterly manic, and relentlessly cynical, Nobody Scores is the comic where everything that can go wrong, does. Its lovably-unlikeable cast of ruthless capitalist Sara, crazy alternative-girl Jane, untalented pretentious artist Beans, and alienated intellectual landlord Raoul endure inevitable disaster several times a week in Brandon Bolt's loooong-form ridiculous cartoonery. Sometimes you have more subdued catastrophe, say that of the daily morning routine. Other times, it's over-the-top cataclysm: time travel gone awry and matter-devouring nanorobots. And continuity is optional: plunge in anywhere and embrace the madness!

Further installments on Wednesday, and then a Very Special Christmas Message from TWIW on Christmas! In the meantime, share with us your favorites.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Favorite Webcomics: Part 1 of Something

Greetings, webcomic enthusiasts! After an extended period of guest blogging (special thanks to Jen, Daniel, Peter, and Alec), I have returned to that noble task of talking with you about webcomics. And we have a lot to catch up on!

See, the week before Thanksgiving, my old computer died on me. Fixing the problem was a good deal more complicated than it had to be: going to one guy for the diagnosis, another guy to recover my data, and (after much shopping around) purchasing a new computer from a third place entirely. During this time, I was without my comic bookmarks, having to go to libraries and coffee shops for internet, typing in comic URLs from memory.

And it's funny how an experience like that changes your perspective. Some of my old regulars I only remembered to check a few times during that period. Some of 'em I didn't miss. And the comics that I did remember to check, I gained a new appreciation for; it made me realize exactly why it is that I keep checking back with them.

So, ladies and gentlemen, here it is: my list of regulars, and why I read them regularly.

Real Life Comics: I read Real Life because Greg Dean is a solid humorist. Every now and then the comic blows me away with something like the recent Tony's-Space-Station-Explodes Storyline, but even when it's not at its peak, it's consistently good. The art's sharp and serves the gags well, it updates reliably, and it's always good for at least a smile.

Shortpacked: Shortpacked is ridiculous. Its cast of young-adult toy-store employees are pretty much all case studies in arrested development. And then there's the over-the-top unrealities like the talking car working for the store. Willis does have a penchant for heavy-handed drama that is most apparent in Shortpacked's early years, but I think he's learned that the strip is best served when he's parodying his own over-the-top melodramatic proclivities. And he does full-page full-color comics five days a week!

The Book of Biff: A one-panel comic with a cast of one, The Book of Biff is always good for a quick laugh. Absurdity, nonsense, and unorthodox solutions to everyday problems, five days a week.

Sheldon: Dave Kellett is a consummate craftsman when it comes to comics. He's got a sharp and expressive style characterized by very expressive characters, plus a great sense of comedic timing. It's also one of the most accessible geek-humor strips I know. You don't have to get every nerdy reference to appreciate Kellett's humorous dialogue and punchlines, and underneath there's a weird but warm family vibe with Sheldon's quirky household.

Thinkin' Lincoln: Famous historical dudes and ladies have anachronistic adventures. Very weird, often funny. I hardly even mind the disembodied-head thing anymore.

F Chords: Kris Straub has got a little something for everyone. There was Checkerboard Nightmare for lampooning webcomics, Starslip Crisis for fans of sci-fi humor with an ongoing developing story, and Chainsawsuit for random, sarcastic, crudely-drawn "indie" comics. And now there's F Chords for musicians and people with unrealized dreams. In my opinion, this comic has the strongest cartooning voice of all Straub's work to date, and the reader can immediately connect with Wade and Ash's maybe-hopeless rockstar ambitions. There's a Charlie-Brown vibe of failure and self-conscious lameness to the two main characters, but the most recent storyline ended with the boys playing a modestly successful rock show to a crowd of maybe ten, so we'll see where things go from here.

Huh! Even with the trims I've made to my list of regulars, this is turning out longer than I thought! I think I'm gonna break this up into a couple of posts here. Expect a continuation of the list on Monday, and the final installment on Wednesday. In the meantime, I'm interested in knowing what's on your list of regulars. I'll start a thread for discussion, and you can share your regulars with us and (if you wish to go into detail) why you like 'em. Head to the thread, and let's do a little talkin'.

It's good to be back in the saddle. See ya Monday, and happy holidays to all y'all.

Your Favorite Webcomics

So, what are your favorite webcomics? What's on your list of regulars, and why do you read them regularly? Drop a comment and let me know what you like to read, what strips you think are top-tier cartooning, what's funny, what's awesome. Have you ever had an experience where you trimmed down your check-regularly list and gained an increased appreciation for the comics you continued to read? I'm looking forward to hearing about your favorites.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Announcement: Calamities of Nature Guest Strip Contest

Sometimes, webcomics run guest strips. Sometimes the cartoonist asks a handful of his cartooning associates to create some guest strips for his comic, and other times he solicits openly to his entire readership. The cartoonist gets a brief break from his regular update schedule, and the guest cartoonists get a bit of publicity for their own projects. But with its upcoming guest strip contest, Calamities of Nature offers a little more than just publicity.

Calamities cartoonist Tony Piro has asked me to inform you: Calamities of Nature has announced its first guest strip contest. The 3 best strips submitted by December 22nd will have their comics featured as the December 28th, December 31st, and January 2nd updates. In addition, each winner will receive a signed copy of the Calamities of Nature Volume 1 collection. If you don't win, it's still all good. All other submissions will be featured in the blog individually on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have their comics saved in the gallery. For further details, see the official contest announcement.

You've got one week left, cartoonists! Get crackin'!

Friday, December 12, 2008

forgive me for not knowing how to do links on this blogthing

Hello, folkses! This is Alec, Jackson's friend, guest posting for this week's scheduled update of This Week in Webcomics. Now, Jackson and I do read a lot of the same comics, but I read a few others as well, so don't be surprised if some of the ones I'm going to be mentioning are familiar and some of them are not. So let's get on to the details then, shall we?

First off, a few comics you might want to take a look at: Nothing Better, by Tyler Page; and Goblins, by Tarol Hunt. These are both one-page-a-week comics, so they don't fit the TWIW paradigm exactly. A college comic, Nothing Better(1) tackles college life, and is currently wrapping up a nightmare sequence where an angry God confronts avowed Atheist Kat of the cast - and Goblins(2) has been in the throes of a confrontation between our heroes and an entire town of guardsmen and goblin killers for quite some time. Head to the main page of Nothing Better and hit the back button once to see all of the current issue up to this point all at once; for Goblins, I wouldn't start reading any earlier than the third book heading in the archives, or maybe even from the beginning :/

Several prominent webcomics have wrapped up some heavy stories this week: I am thinking of Sam and Fuzzy(3), Dr. McNinja(4) and Penny and Aggie(5), to be specific. Sam and Fuzzy just completed a storyline that was years of regular updates long, a feat rarely seen, and of course this means that new is the perfect time to catch up on this wonderful comic. Head to the Noosehead storyline and see for yourself how well all the pieces have been put together -, people.

Dr. McNinja's plotline completed just today; the Doctor's final thoughts are available for perusal, and we, the readers, can puzzle for ourselves over what the future place of King Rad in the comic universe may end up being. I, for one, am hoping that there will be a bit more pseudo-medical expertise involved in his next caper - not that I'm complaining overly about the extreme antics of his ex-college buddy during the fight scenes in this chapter overmuch.

Penny and Aggie, an old time favorite of mine, is beginning to step into particularly difficult subject matter for me to grasp - girls being awful to girls, terrible cliques plotting school domination, and the like - but the emotional impact in the final pages of the story closing out this week was completely arresting. I won't say that it's undeniably entertaining or anything so ambitious, but I will say that for those of us who have been following the comic from the beginning and wondering what kind of a friend Penny is really, this was a real eye opener.

One more piece of comic recommendation for you folks: Princess Planet (6). I don't know if you'll all like it, but I do know if you read the most recent update and love it then you should start scouring the archives immediately.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Surprise Post!

Hey, it's Dan again, doing a completely unsolicited (and therefore unapproved) little spot.

Basically I'd like to call your attention to Ozy and Millie, which somehow I've never mentioned before. It's a sweet and intelligent strip, and even though it's run forever (since 1998!), a read through the archives is, in my opinion, completely necessary. And to think that I thought talking animals were overdone.

I would also like to point out SuperFogeys, which I just now decided is one of my favorites. Superheroes and super-villains in an old age home together? Awesome sauce.

And...that's enough for now. Also, hilarious. Enjoy! And please don't hurt me, Jackson.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Here it is! Here it is!

Welcome to December! Peter Metzger here, poking around these parts and guest-blogging my life away...

Let's jump in, shall we?

I've been a fan and regular reader of Real Life Comics for many years now, and after the epic-and-awesome fall storyline brought Tony and Dave back into the mix, I'm glad to see they'll also be appearing in comics actually based on real life! As noted in an earlier post (scroll down to the bottom), Greg and Liz are moving back to California. As a result, they (and hence, we) will be more likely to run into Tony and Dave - which I welcome gladly. The strip remained awesome while the Deans were in Texas, but I think the reintroduction of these two characters will bring back a dynamic that had been fading in the comic and will give Greg more material to draw from using characters we already know.

As a side note, the move back to California has necessitated a few guest strips over there at Real Life, and Monday's strip was provided by none other than our friend and author, Jackson Ferrell! Fun story about that - when I opened up the page on Monday and saw the comic, I thought to myself, "man, this guy draws a lot like Jackson... I ought to send him the link in case he hasn't seen this!" ...and then I scrolled down.

The other comic I've been reading for years, Penny Arcade, continues to fail... fail to disappoint, that is! (ooh, see what I... wasn't that clev... ok, never mind.) This week brought us a nice variety of comics, and as a tech support worker I particularly enjoyed Wednesday's comic. It was also nice to see the return of an old friend in Friday's strip.

On Monday, Gabe announced that last year's culinary contest of dubious artistic value (bottom of page) will return this year... so if you'd like to make some questionable cookies, you have until Monday (Dec. 8) to get pictures sent in.

In other news from the Penny Arcade front, the Child's Play charity is approaching the $750,000 mark in donations, which is 1) awesome, and 2) an amount I have trouble actually comprehending. At any rate, it's really cool that the charity is going to bring some joy to a huge number of sick kids this Christmas.

That's about it, we'll finish up with a quick sweep through a few other towns in webcomicland:

Borderline Boy continued to truck along this week, even with a dead computer! Wednesday's strip reminded me of this video, if only because Jay's coworker's name is Chad... the reference is from 1:30 into the video.

The latest Rob & Elliot was great - clay continues to tweak the artistic style of the comic, and the strip itself felt like a perfect blend of Penny Arcade and Pungirls... which means it was pure awesome.

Speaking of Pungirls, I will take this opportunity to officially continue to bug Jackson to draw a few more of them from time to time... I realize that it's basically a shelved project and that his focus is on Borderline Boy right now, but I love Pungirls so much I can't help but hold out hope for more! ...Also, I promise you Mr. Ferrell had nothing to do with the content of this post.

I just realized that I haven't read Toothpaste For Dinner in about a month, so I went back and caught up - there have definitely been some good ones lately. That's the nice thing about TFD - it's easy to consume them en masse if you so desire. It only took me a few minutes to catch up on a month of comics, while I've been trying to catch up on dinosaur comics for over a year. (I'm about halfway there).

That's all for this post, see you next time I'm conscripted for a guest entry!

-the pedro

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ctrl-Alt-Del Runs 2nd Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Storyline

Greetings, the Internet! I emerge briefly from my webcomic-blogging hiatus to bring you important news.

A little over half a year ago, Ctrl-Alt-Del ran a choose-your-own-adventure-style comic storyline, in which readers voted to collectively determine the fate of Ethan McManus, space archaeologist. It was easily the most fun I've ever had reading CAD. I generally regard CAD as a mediocre gaming webcomic that does just enough right to enjoy disproportionate popularity, but frankly, I was impressed with Buckley's artwork and plotting for this one. Well, except for the sudden grisly ending, but nobody's perfect.

Anyway, I am momentarily taking a break from my blogging break to tell you that a second CAD choose-your-own-adventure is presently underway. I had a lot of fun reading and participating in the first one, and I wanted to let you know about the second. When the latest comic presents the readers with a choice, you can email your vote to CAD.VOTE (AT) GMAIL.COM. Together we can shape the fate of the universe.

And now, back to hibernation. I will see you all later.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Guest Bloggery

Happy Black Friday everyone! My name is Jennifer and I will be your guest blogger for this week. Now that you've gone out, bought that HDTV you've been waiting to go on sale all year, and have fully recovered from waiting in line since 1am this morning, let's get to some webcomics goodness. :)

- Although Multiplex only had one front page update this week, it was a mighty good update. I really liked that Franklin rallied behind Calvin and gave such an encouraging speech. You can read a future strip that happens after the game in the forums.

- McPedro, the loveable talkin Irish-Mexican cactus in Girls With Slingshots, is on the hunt to reclaim his mustache. Unfortunately, his mustache has a bit of assistance hiding from him. Danielle Corsetto's strip is well drawn and I always enjoy her storylines. After the drama-heavy story arcs of the past couple of weeks, it's nice to see some lighthearted strips and McPedro pop up.

- As if Joe Dunn isn't doing enough already, he and Phil Chan have teamed up again to bring you Another Videogame Webcomic. But why read it when there's Penny Arcade, Ctrl-Alt-Del, PvP, Applegeeks, VG Cats, Dueling Analogs, etc.? As Phil describes it, AVW is "Tron meets Office Space. Our characters literally work in the video games." I think it's a clever premise and look forward to reading this strip every Friday. There are only 3 strips up so now's a great time to get on board.

- Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is for this chainsawsuit to come true.

- I'm sure a lot of people can relate to this week's Bobwhite story arc. Or maybe not. I know I can. I like Magnolia's writing because it's how college students act and talk. Plus, her comics are drawn in a unique style that I really like.

- Although it's not from this week, I really liked Jackson's strip in Borderline Boy about Twilight. I won't go near that book and movie because the only people who seem to like it are teenage girls, and as I'm not a teenage girl then no thanks.

- Rob and Elliot is trying out a new style, and I like this week's better than last week's. Removing the outline around the characters was a good choice.

- A big congratulations goes out to Alina Pete for two years of Weregeek! It's one of my favorite webcomics because, although I do not get half of the jokes, I appreciate the geekiness. Girl geeks rule. ^_^

Final plug: Kukuburi. Visually beautiful with a compelling story. I wish it updated more than once a week!

And now I'm going to go stuff myself with leftover turkey. Have a great weekend!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Guest Panel!

Hey all, this is Dan giving you the blow by blow for webcomics this week. It's gonna be a rough ride, so let's get into it.

has made some serious plot advances in the past weeks, so it's a treat to go away from the plot heaviness for a while with a series of gaming strips.

Oh boy.

Cat and Girl
gives us some commentary on the economy and the like; to drift into a little opinionated tangent here, it looks like the bailout of the auto companies may not be happening. Whatever does happen, we can always be secure in blaming the executives.

Megatokyo has given us a surprising week of updates, but honestly I've lost track of Megatokyo, and it hasn't pulled me in in the way it used to. It was my first webcomic, and for a long time my favorite, but for some reason I just haven't been able to enjoy it as much lately. My best guess is that at some point I stopped trying to comprehend the multiple storylines, and when I did that I lost a substantial amount of interest.

On the other hand, I recently discovered Sinfest, which is frankly amazing. Eastern art with Western everything else, and it's simply fantastic.

Side note: anyone who hasn't seen Dr Horrible should get on that. Now. I'm listening to the soundtrack right now, and it's making me very happy.

Back to webcomics. Penny Arcade is 10 years old! There have been highs, there have been lows. But overall, a triumph. And that's all I have to say about that cultural monument.

Freak Angels is another recent discovery of mine, and although the artwork is a little strange to me, the story and comic itself are more than enough reason to read it. It updates every (usually) Friday, with a six or so page spread of color, and it's a good read.

Well, that's it for my guest post. Enjoy these comics, and have a good weekend. Turkey Day is near!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Guest Bloggers, Comin' Up

Just wanted to let you guys know, for the next few weeks some friends of mine are going to be giving you the Friday webcomics reports. I need to take some time to focus on other undertakings, so while I take a break from this blog, others shall "regale you with their sagacity," as they say. So don't be surprised when you start seeing posts from people who are neither me nor Ari! And I may pop in with a little blurb now and then too, you never know.

Just wanted to give y'all the heads-up. Stay cool, everyone.

EDIT: the more I think about it, the more this chainsawsuit is my favorite chainsawsuit ever.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Time to get right down to business: the business of webcomics.

First of all, I owe our regular readers an apology. Last Friday, I promised a weekend post from my fellow blogger Ari Collins. As no post materialized over the weekend, I talked with Ari throughout the week, and although he tried to find time, he couldn't make up the post. I made the promise to you guys. Not him. That wasn't fair of me, so: sorry. To both you guys and Ari.

But now, let's get to the weekly rounds! It's been a pretty good week for the funny.

Quite honestly, I think Penny Arcade has been on fire lately. In my humble estimation, PA has been hit-or-miss for the past year now; when they're good they're great, but at times they just don't bring the comedy like they used to. But recently? They've been on a winning streak. You've got this one from last week, with a punchline that is vintage Tycho. And then you've got this Wednesday's comic. I'm not even sure what that game is, but I certainly laughed out loud. Inconsistent reality in video games is always a good source of humor--heck, Katie Tiedrich of Awkward Zombie practically builds her comic on it.

But the point is, you can't go wrong with the past three or four weeks of Penny Arcade. Which two years ago would have gone without saying, but such are the troubled times we live in.

It's certainly been troubled times down at the Multiplex this past week. The videogame rivalry between the theater and Flickhead Video Store, journalist-snoop Gretchen's information-mongering "friendship" with Calvin, and assistant manager Allan's general sleazy laziness have all converged and come to a head. The result is bad news for Franklin, who's been breaking the rules with his after-hours video games tournament and betting pool. Catch up on the action and intrigue starting with Monday's strip.

It's always fun when comics pack more than one laugh into their space, so as much as I can appreciate the economy of a well-crafted newspaper strip, lately I've been gravitating toward long-form humor installments. And Wednesday's F Chords delivered. Ash interrupts Wade's recording of a bubble bath commercial jingle to deliver some awesome news. Practically every line in it is funny, building up to a punchline coup de grace in the final panel.

Similarly, with its extended tales of drawn-out catastrophe, Nobody Scores! never fails to amuse me multiple times per comic. And this week it's delivered two standalone disasters: one murder investigation (by which I mean an investigation into the benefits and drawbacks of murder) and one housing purchase gone horribly horribly awry. Plenty of comic suffering in each: well worth reading.

Then there's today's Cat and Girl. Cat tells Girl a bedtime story about the Mainstream, which thrived and thrived until it was defeated by the internet. The notion of counter-culture bedtime stories--and the scary things that keep counter-culturists up at night--is a funny and clever topic, and C&G's social commentary is sharp as always.

Since its return last week, Nothing Better continues with a new update, as Kat comes face-to-face with the force that tore the roof off her dorm. It's God! God looks stern and imposing, but not threatening; he simply asks Kat why she won't believe in him. Considering that this is probably a dream and therefore indicative of Kat's perception of God, I'm interested to see where this dream goes.

I also meant to note that Undwinder's Tall Comics has staged a recent return. A little bit of social commentary, but mostly just ridiculous humorous weirdness driven by its absurd characters. Unwinder's parents chain him up in his yard for trolling on the internet; hilarity ensues. Be sure to catch up on all the new comics.

Finally, we have another sighting for the God Watch: today's Calamities of Nature discusses theism, atheism, and agnosticism in down-to-earth terms. I am one of those weird guys who both thinks there is a god and thinks he has good reasons for thinking there is a god, but despite disagreeing with the comic on that level, I think it's a good comic. I mean, it does make the bigger point that adamancy of belief promotes conflict, and conflict sells, so you've definitely got people on both sides of the fence belting out their views to create marketable spectacle. Hey, it's worked for Richard Dawkins and for the folks at the Creation Museum.

So, that's a wrap for this week. See you next week sometime! And this time around, I won't make promises that I can't keep.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Read Webcomics Religiously

So, what's up in webcomics this week? Religion.

(There are some other things that are up in webcomics this week, like the election results, but frankly I am pretty tired of politics, and this blog is nothing if not biased. I don't even read Octopus Pie regularly, what the crap kind of webcomic enthusiast am I. But anyway. Religion.)

This week marks the long-awaited return of Tyler Page's Nothing Better, a serial tale of two reluctant college roommates with a lot to learn from each other. Pretty much the instant I discovered it, NB became firmly cemented in my "comics I can't get enough of" list: it regularly delves into issues of religion, life, and meaning that most other webcomics would treat with an innocuous quip, and what's more, it manages to be thoughtful and sympathetic in its treatment of its characters' deeper convictions. This past Wednesday, the first page of Chapter 13 dropped readers into the middle of what I can only guess is a weird dream for Kat, unless the roof actually did come off their dorm in the middle of the night. I'm interested to see where this goes.

Page is also beginning a daily feature, Page-a-Day, for those of us for whom one or two weekly pages of Nothing Better is not enough. Woot!

I also made a new discovery this week: Evangeline. Originally debuting as a print comic during the 80s, Evangeline chronicles the adventures of a nun who tackles missions for the Vatican in the 23rd century. The creators were dissatisfied with the simplistic, "nun-and-gun" turn the original storyline took, so they are rebooting it for the web, with the first three chapters as the base. On their site's About page, Chuck Dixon & Judith Hunt state, "We...wanted to do a fun-to-read comic with some serious thought behind it."

The art is solid, and definitely reflects the 80s comic-book ethos; you can tell it's from the same period as Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns and The Watchmen. So far, the story looks like it may tackle the theme of how personal faith can survive and persist in the face of religious corruption. We'll see. In the meantime, it's updating with a page every weekday, so check it out.

More "restarts" news: on Monday, You'll Have That creator Wes Molebash announced that he will be concluding his comic on Friday, January 2nd, 2009. This is sort of sad news, as Wes will be wrapping up his comic's loose ends and bringing everything to a conclusion, but he also promises: "In February of ‘09 I’ll be launching a new comic feature here at this site." I'll miss YHT, but I'll also be glad to see what new project Wes has in store.

One thing I appreciate about Wes' work in YHT is the subtlety with which he addresses religion. One can infer from certain comics that focal couple Katie and Andy are Christians, but the strip is never too overt about it. The two never beat their friends and acquaintances over the head with religion; instead, they simply try to live and love in a manner consistent with their faith. Wes himself is a confessing Christian, and if Angie Kurokami from Multiplex is an example from a non-christian's perspective of a Christian who's unobtrusive about her faith yet takes it seriously, then Andy is the same, but from a believer's view. The parallel just now struck me, and I find it kind of interesting.

I'd explore it in greater depth, but I have a headache from searching through the YHT archives on my slow-as-Christmas internet connection, and my brother and I are going to eat lasagna and watch some Heroes this evening. So, that's a thought for another day--or perhaps left as an exercise for the reader.

So, that's all the religion-in-webcomics news this week (unless you've got something to mention in the comments, which is of course always welcome!). A few quick shots of funny, and we'll call it a wrap.

So that's that. Be sure and tune in sometime this weekend, when Ari Collins will deliver a post as well. No, really.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Interview: Chris Hallbeck from The Book of Biff

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Hallbeck, the creator of The Book of Biff. Biff, the titular character distinguishable by his shaved head and crazy eyebrows, has bizarre, full-color, single-panel adventures every weekday over at His strange problems and stranger solutions make for a fun daily diversion, and cartoonist Chris Hallbeck regularly delivers glimpses into Biff's surreal world, often in themed weeks such as "magic tricks" or "childhood playthings." He and I sat down over email for a closer look Behind the Biff. (And by "he" I mean Chris, not Biff.)

JF: So how did you come up with the Biff character, anyway? And why did you decide to name him "Biff?"

CH: Biff evolved from a doodle that I did in my friend's student planner. We had lunch together and I would draw things to try and make him laugh. Biff became a reoccurring character in those doodles. I liked the name Biff because I didn't know anyone with that name and it could also be used as a sound effect.

JF:I always think of truck drivers when I hear the name "Biff." Or that guy from Back to the Future. But Biff seems to have a very different personality from Biffs like those.

CH: Biff is more of a childlike mad professor.

JF: How does it feel to take Biff from his humble origins to a widely-read webcomic with two print collections? Did you expect Biff to be this successful?

CH: I think one of the most important things to happen was that when I got out of college I tried to get Biff accepted as a syndicated newspaper comic. I still have the stack of rejection letters in a box somewhere. I stopped drawing Biff for a number of years after that but when I decided to start it up again it was without any dreams of success. I realized that I just wanted to draw comics for the sake of drawing them. I made zero dollars from this project for the first 2 years but that wasn't a problem since it was not my original goal. The main attraction to me to the concept of drawing a webcomic was that it would cost me a very small amount of money to make it available to a large number of people.

JF: It also allows for more immediate fan feedback; I imagine that's a plus too. What's your favorite facet of being the creator of The Book of Biff?

CH: I like the challenge of it. Each comic is a new puzzle to solve and it's satisfying when I find the solution.

JF: The Book of Biff is a unique webcomic in that it takes the single-panel approach. Apart from the ubiquitous Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, it's the only single-panel webcomic I can think of. I'm not sure where I'm going with this question, but do you have any thoughts on Biff's single-panel-ness? What made you decide to go with that format?

CH: There are definitely a bunch more single panel webcomics out there. Savage Chickens is one that I read daily. The reason that I draw a single panel comic is The Far Side. My cartooning developed from drawing in the margins of school books and notebooks. Those small spaces are better suited to a single drawing with a caption than a strip format. I think those early doodles wired my brain for thinking one panel at a time.

JF: The Far Side really is the iconic single-panel comic; it's what everyone thinks of. But one thing that sets Book of Biff apart from The Far Side is its recurring cast—of one. What do you think being able to center the weirdness and humor around a single individual does for your comic?

CH: On the positive side, it can give me speed and focus. The writing can go faster because I only have to figure out what Biff's reaction will be to the situation. And unlike a multi-character comic I don't have complex character relationships and storylines to maintain.

I think having a single character can also be very limiting. There are a lot of jokes that I throw out because they won't fit into the limits of one panel/one figure/one sentence caption.

JF: For a typical comic, what does the creative process look like for you? How do you take an idea from…wherever your ideas come from…and carry it to its completion? Is there a lot of variation in the process, apart from the particular content, or is it pretty standard?

CH: I have a few different writing strategies. Sometimes I think of a funny image and try to reverse engineer a caption to fit it. Sometimes I'll think of a theme and write a list of objects or activities in that theme to bounce ideas off of. Usually I think of some sort of problem that Biff has to solve and then explore a few successes or failures he may experience and then I write down the one that I think is the funniest. The writing is the hardest part and it is the most random in the amount of time it takes. Some comics pop into my head fully realized. Some take days of chipping away at them. I know there's a comic in that idea somewhere I just have to peel off enough of the bad punchlines to find it.

The physical part of the comic is pretty straightforward. I do the drawing in Flash and the coloring in Photoshop.

JF: The relationship between what's weird and what's funny is a weird one. What do you think makes weird things so funny?

CH: I think it's just enjoying something that's new or unexpected.

JF: I'm surprised to discover that you draw the comic in Flash. The linework looks really hand-drawn, at least to me. Do you have a personal preference for digital or traditional craft? Any thoughts on how new digital tools are changing cartooning?

CH: Well, I still draw the lines with my hand. I think there is sometimes confusion when I hear comics described as either "drawn by hand" or "digital." As if artists in the "digital" category are somehow bashing their face into a keyboard to create their images.

The reason I use Flash is because my computer is not powerful enough to draw in Photoshop at the file sizes I like to work in. For me, drawing digitally allows me greater speed an I'm more fearless with my brushwork since I can always undo. I was actually afraid that I was going to lose my pen and ink skills when I first started drawing in flash but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the speed and line quality improvements carried over when I did my first post-digital ink on paper drawing.

JF: Thanks for your time and responses, Chris. Do you have any parting advice for aspiring cartoonists? If you could give one single piece of advice, what would it be?

CH: Keep drawing. If you look back on what you did every 6 months and you hate it then you are going in the right direction.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Hypertext Happenings

So here's the comics I'v been reading and found noteworthy! Jackson's far-superior version is two posts below this. Read that one too, because he reads different comics than me. And is better at this. And pretty much everything. (Especially religion. He totally wins at religion.)

Here's what's happening in:

Not Included. After doing a lot of good one-offs, NI has returned to a storyline. And it's an awesome storyline, as evinced by the title "Time Cops". It's got dinosaurs and angels, and really what else could you ask for? The answer is that you could ask for really beautiful art. And you'd get it! Check out the start of the storyline here. And take note especially of one of the greatest lines of dialogue EVER in the sixth Time Cops comic.

Wondering where Dresden Codak would go after ending the Hob storyline? Dresden Codak - the Show. For serious. Watch the trailer.

Rice Boy is still awesome. I don't know how it can continue to be so consistently awesome. It has to have some lulls in awesomeness, right? Not so far! Six new pages this week, continuing the part of the story set in the town of "Tenshells". And it looks like the plot's gonna be moving pretty fast now! Where it's going, now that's a fairly difficult question. Guess we'll find out.

And finally: the last two comics from Achewood, starting here, are one of the sweetest odes to the romance of the socially awkward I've ever seen. A must-read.

That's it for now. Hopefully I'll have something to write and the time to write it next week. I'm shooting for early rather than late this time around; Wednesday may just be a bad day for me.

How to close. Umm. Excelsior! ?

Friday (Epic) Fail, uhh... Farfugnugen

So I failed to update Wednesday or even my fallback day Thursday because my girlfriend got me into playing World of Warcraft. That's my excuse.

My pre-excuse for today is Halloween, which this year will include a 10-year-old future-niece-in-law (uhh what?) and possibly a party later.

(My pre-excuse for next week is that I'm going to be doing National Novel Writing Month.)

BUT. If I can get things done in my busy life of mostly reading political blogs all the time, I will today post my own weekly summary of this week's webcomics, in honor of Jackson and the fact that I have no other ideas at the ready.

You can read his probably-better version in the post below this one. Enjoy!
Hey, welcome back! Good to see you here. Let's talk about webcomics I liked this week! We can also talk about webcomics you liked this week. But we will do that when we reach the comments section.

First of all, let's get that complicated continuity stuff out of the way. Real Life continues its Plot-Hole/Alternate-Gender-Universe/Government-Agent storyline this week, as the crew escapes the destruction of Tony's space station...minus Tony. I am, of course, sworn to avoid spoilers, so in order to find out what fate truly befell Tony, I recommend that you read this week's installment from the beginning.

In other continuity news, Nobody Scores continues its Ultimate Death Martial-Arts Tournament, where kung fu meets reality TV in a grisly battle royale. This week: Sara's mom drops by to criticize her daughter, and Jane gets masterfully drunk.

And finally, for Penny and Aggie fans who have wondered if Aggie would ever reveal her affections for Marshall, wonder no further. ...Ouch. It's been a hard week for Aggie. I really feel for her.

But okay! With all that continuity and development of ongoing plotlines out of the way, we can turn our attention to standalone humor and randomness!

Let's start off with a few selections from this week's comics at Thinkin' Lincoln. It turns out that to cheer himself up, Lincoln likes to draw turtles having fun. And we get to see his drawings! Hand-drawn elements in Thinkin' Lincoln are always a fun change of pace in my book, in part because I will probably never fully get over that whole disembodied head thing. Abe subsequently overdoes it, however, and we may never see the turtles again.

And speaking of Thinkin' Lincoln, this Dinosaur Comics could have been a Thinkin' Lincoln strip. I know that DC is a major influence on Thinkin' Lincoln, but it's interesting to see the influence extending in the other direction. Frig yes, people.

Continuing on the subject of one-offs and discontinuity: after its recent Emaline-dates-Omar storyline reached a climax with Steve punching Omar Patel in the jaw, You'll Have That abruptly switched tracks on Monday. The comic in question is well-crafted, sweet, and is a thoughtful expression of the cartoonist's religious values without being aggressive or pushy...but its context in the archives is sort of weird. Especially when it's followed by Andy "bringing back the circle game". Still, bottom line is that it's a good strip, and I'm always on the lookout for religion in webcomics, so I figured it was worth mentioning.

And now, let's conclude my part of this entry. Take it away, Update Boxers!

Update Boxers and News Briefs

I'll be back on Monday with a new post. In the meantime, it's time for your part of the entry. Got a strip from this week that you'd like to share? Reactions to stuff I mentioned? Thoughts on webcomics in general? Share 'em in the comments!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Jump Leads, Chapter Two

Man. You ever about to go to bed, and you realize you made this promise you gotta keep before you go to bed, and it's not a huge trouble and it's even sort of enjoyable but frankly you'd rather be in bed? That's me right now. But I'm a man of my word, so...time to read through chapter two of Jump Leads, and then talk about it with you.

This installment picks up where the last chapter left off: Meaney and Llewellyn, stranded in an alternate universe, find themselves aboard a cargo ship that's harvesting the energy of a nebula. The crew, immediately suspecting that the newcomers are hostile, hold Llew and Meaney for interrogation...which is interrupted by the intrusion of something else. There's plenty of action and danger, but it turns out that things aren't always as they seem. Not to give the ending away or anything, but the resolution of this episode's conflict did remind me I was reading a humor comic. I felt a little bit cheated, but overall this installment was also worth reading.

A big part of that was the art. JjAR, the artist, continues to go the extra mile--environments and characters are skillfully rendered and colored, conveying a strong sense of three-dimensional space. Adding to the effect is the level of artistic detail on the technology (for instance, these backgrounds). Perspective changes (e.g. lofted camera angles) and foreshortening are employed for dramatic effect, with technical precision. JjAR uses his fancy visual tricks liberally, keeping things dynamic, but thankfully he doesn't overuse them. To sum up: continuing the trend of the first issue, the art here is decidedly above the bar set by the average webcomic.

Another plus is the humor and characterization. Llew and Meaney's personalities continue to bounce off each other, the perpetual tension between idealism and realism forced by circumstances to cooperate. There are some clever one-liners, like this quip about how sinister companies pay better than the moral ones, although Llew is a bit of a broken record with his cynical prognostications of interrogational horror. The supporting cast of the nebula-farming ship gets about as much development as you'd expect from folks we won't see next episode, but they provide a setting for our heroes' adventure in the unknown.

And the characterization of our two protagonists is solid and engaging. Llew's wit and Meaney's zeal make for good comedy, and when danger strikes, we care about their fate because they're entertaining. We're invested in their well-being! It's not a deadly serious adventure, but for all their faults, Llew and Meaney are likeable guys that we want to see get out of their predicaments alive. Just as JjAR is a above-average artist, Ben Paddon (the writer) is an above-average writer.

Well, I'm done! That was a fun little exercise, and weird as it may sound, I feel like I've earned the right to go to bed now. I enjoyed reading through chapter two of Jump Leads, and if it sounds from this review like you would also enjoy it, I encourage you to check it out. Ari Collins will be around sometime midweek to deliver his usual alliterative analyses, and I'll be back on Friday with the weekly rundown. Good night, everyone!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Hey there once again, everybody. It's 12:30 as I begin this entry: it's time for lunch, and it's time for webcomics.

At Starslip Crisis this week, Cutter and Holiday have been watching their favorite show: the 21st-century crime-drama, Concrete Universe. Frankly, I didn't get a lot of laughs out of it. "Concrete Universe" tends to be a one-note joke, as the show's writers' tenuous grasp of 20th-century history results in anachronistic technology and slang. I mean, sure, there's another level there where it parodies the inaccuracy of our own "historical" films and TV, but it's just the same dang joke over and over again. Nonetheless, I chuckled at the punchline to this strip. It would seem that, whatever else may change, ham-handedly "clever" television dialogue is a timeless phenomenon.

Also this week, the judges over at the WebComic Readers' Choice Awards have selected their winners! You can check out the website yourself and see how your favorite comics placed, and maybe get introduced to a new comic. Particularly interesting is that to celebrate Angie Kurokami's first-place victory for "Best Supporting Character," Multiplex creator Gordon McAlpin produced an Awards-Ceremony acceptance speech comic in which Angie thanks the readers for their support. It's pretty neat, and it captures all the traits that make Angie such a strong supporting character.

Also over at Multiplex, in a reference to recent news of Don Cheadle replacing Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2, apparently Franklin has been recast as well. But wait, now there are two Franklins? It must be a time warp! The whole thing makes a nice balance to the heavier Religulous storyline of two weeks ago, and plus it's really amusing.

Also, Dresden Codak's Hob Saga reached its final installment today. I'm still a little unclear on what actually happened toward the tail end of the storyline, and the final comic has done little to clear up the muddled plotting that preceded it. Still, it at least sorta brings things full-circle thematically, and ends on a light-hearted tone reminiscent of the Hob story's beginning. I do think DC is at its best when Aaron Diaz is doing unpretentious intellectual weirdness, and of course I'm interested in seeing what's ahead for DC now. Hopefully it'll be either a return to form or a more successful experiment. We'll see.

And finally, let's close out with miscellaneous humor from Thinkin' Lincoln, F Chords, and The Book of Biff. And:

Real Life Corner
about Real Life the webcomic, not about life outside of the internet

In Real Life's current extended storyline, a visit to supergenius Tony Flansaas intended to fix the plot hole in X-Tony and X-Greg's home dimension has met with unexpected complications: namely, the appearance of Tony's arch-nemesis, the Government Agent, accompanied by a clone of Tony. Last week, the clone engaged Tony's base's self-destruct sequence, and this week, everyone hurries to escape. Well, almost everyone. I'm not going to give it away, but rather than a cliffhanger, today's strip ends with a big twist. Does this mean what I think it means? Is Clone Tony not the only casualty from this catastrophe? Next week, we'll find out.

read this week's RL installment
start reading the entire story arc from the beginning

Aaaaaaand we're done. Check back on Monday--maybe I'll say a little something about Rice Boy, or maybe review another chapter of Jump Leads! Until we meet again, have a good weekend, everybody.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thurthday Thoughth on Thequential Art - Meanwhile

(If you have a lisp, that title works.)

Do you like time travel? Do you like Choose Your Own Adventure? Do you want to read a groundbreaking comic that actually broke ground eight years ago? Then you ought to read Meanwhile.

Meanwhile is a non-linear webcomic by Jason Shiga. Since a picture's worth a thousand words, check this out.

Start in the upper left corner of that page, where our main character, Jimmy, says "Thanks for letting me use your bathroom, mister." You can see the "pipes" that lead from one panel to the next, often in a very unconventional order. From that panel, you go right, right, right, left, left, left, then to the opposite corner of the page, then down, left, up, left, down, and left, before branching off depending on which of the professor's inventions you wish to play with. And now, hopefully, you're getting the general idea.

But wait! There's more! Many pages in the comic, including this one, have multiple threads sharing the same space. The two panels that you skip over when reading are part of the story that happens later on. Although, being a supernonlinear story, even "later on" isn't quite right; we're talking more like branches of a tree here. Though even THAT'S not quite right, since I don't know any tree where the branches loop back into themselves and each other. (That would be a kickass tree, though.) In fact, the story is shaped like this.

If you're not interested yet... well, maybe the formalism, time travel, non-linear CYOA-ness of it isn't your thing. But the story itself is rather charming, with main character Jimmy bumbling his way through technological disasters, trying to fix his mistakes and often making things worse.

Hmm. Feeling uncharacteristically laconic tonight. (Look, this is succinct for me.) Once again, I highly recommend reading Meanwhile! Good-bye!

Until Next Week,
I Remain,
Some Guy Who Likes Comics

Monday, October 20, 2008

Thanks to Our Linkers, and Some Other Things

In recent weeks, a number of people and webcomics blogs have not only been reading us, but linking to us. That's pretty cool of you guys! I'm glad you enjoy reading mine and Ari's and occasionally other guys' webcomic thoughts. But I just wanted to note that--and this is something that you probably already recognize if you read this blog--the real heroes here are the creators who work hard to craft quality comics on a timely schedule, for you to read for free.

Still, I wanted to recognize some of our linkers here. These sites also talk about webcomics, and they can point you to fun material with some interesting remarks. Perhaps you would like to visit them? Perhaps!
Webcomic Asylum
The Floating Lightbulb
Webcomic Overlook

Another note, real quick. From a link at Multiplex, I came across No Pink Ponies and found myself checking out the archives. It's enjoyable, roughly comparable to prime-time TV in terms of entertainment value (emotional drama and hilarious antics!), and the art is pretty good. Subject matter? A girl starts a comic book store in order to attract the attention of a guy she's got a crush on. Not a bad comic, and maybe you'd like to check it out.

Finally, a joke for you. How is 24 Hour Comics Day just like an abusive mule herder? Both of them kicked my

Friday, October 17, 2008

Good morning, everyone! That's right--morning. I've been up since 7:45 AM, and tomorrow I'm going to wake up at 6:30. What could drive a man to get up at half past six on a Saturday? The answer: 24 Hour Comics Day.

Tomorrow, October 17th, people all over the world will be taking Scott McCloud's 24-hour comic challenge, attempting to complete 24 pages (or 100 panels, if working infinite-canvas style) in 24 hours. I will be one of them! Will you? If so, drop me a comment and tell me where to find your comic when it's completed. It'd be cool to read your comic, and if I like it a whole lot, I may mention it in a future entry.

So that's what's going to happen in webcomics. Let's talk about some comics that already happened this past week.

First of all, it's been a guest week over at Dinosaur Comics! Ryan North has had David Malki!, John Campbell, Kate Beaton, Anthony Clark, and Randall Munroe creating this week's comics for him. Ryan, you lazy bum. But in all seriosity, Dinosaur Comics is one of my favorite comics to see guest weeks for. It's fun to watch all the other cartoonists reinterpret the static DC art into their own style. One of my favorites of all time was Aaron Diaz's take on it, DC meets DC so to speak. At any rate, you can catch the guest-comic funtimes right here.

Malki! and Kate Beaton and their ilk aren't the only ones doing comics in someone else's style. This past Sunday's Sheldon was a tribute to George Herriman's newspaper strip "Krazy Kat." I'm only somewhat familiar with Krazy Kat, but Dave Kellett's little homage was an interesting and weird change of pace, with its unusual color scheme, weird phonetic dialogue, and quasi-stick-figure-esque Flaco. The cool thing about guest strips, tribute comics, and the like is that it gives the artist an opportunity to play with art style and do something different.

Of course, we wouldn't keep tuning in if the regular material weren't also good on its own. So let's turn our attention to regular material--like Joe Dunn doing his usual movie reviews.

Last week at Multiplex we saw some heavy religious discussion sparked by Bill Maher's "Religulous," and this week Joe weighs in on "Religulous" over at Joe Loves Crappy Movies. He created a funny, expressive strip, and I really appreciated the sentiment of his review. Talking about bigger issues like religion is hard enough without people launching snarky barbs or belittling the other guy's position with sarcasm. Joe Dunn is a stand-up guy, and I think that really comes out in his comics and movie reviews. The dude sure knows how to draw, too.

On a...less pleasant...note, over at PVP, this week has been Fart Week. Now, fart jokes can be funny, but a whole week of them? That's just oversaturation. And by the end of it, the whole concept is about as humorous as a very small living room after a Texas-style-chili-and-bean-burrito party. Pheu, that's rank! Don't get me wrong, sometimes I enjoy PVP, but after that, I really need some fresh comics to clear the air.

So let's look at comics about Heroes!

For the past two weeks or so, my brother and I have been renting DVDs from the first season of Heroes and watching the crud out of them. For those of you who--like me--spend your life under a rock when it comes to network TV, Heroes is a grisly but compelling live-action-drama take on the superhero genre of comics. It's got an ensemble cast, some of which I find more interesting than others, but Heroes is never a dull moment. And furthermore, it is a source of humor for webcomics nerds! In a comic from this past week, The Robot is Sad gives us a rather silly joke about the time-and-space-bending powers of office-working otaku Hiro Nakamura. Then, an older comic from Left-Handed Toons ruminates on the similarities between the power-sapping serial killer Sylar and the protagonist of a certain video game series. If you've seen any other Heroes comics lying around the 'net, let me know!

Heroes is pretty awesome. So are other things. Thus, it's time to finish things off with another...

Awesome Watch:

If you haven't been keeping up with Real Life's most recent storyline, I highly recommend that you start from the beginning. And on that note, I bid you adieu!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday Thingamajig - Grouchy Poker Man Tells You About Zuda Comics and Darkhorse Presents

I can't believe that guy called with nothing better than Ace high.

Anyway, I've been real busy trying to get back into playing poker online for a living, which is why I didn't update yesterday, and why this one is short. And why I am Grouchy Poker Man.

And it was his only overcard! Three outs!


So I'm going to tell your briefly (if I can forget that last hand) about Zuda Comics and Darkhorse Presents.

Zuda is something you absolutely must read. It's an online comicking competition run by DC. Each month, fans vote for their favorite comic from the many awesome submissions. The winner gets some kind of deal from DC comics. (I'm not sure if it's a good deal, and whether it's just for them to host your comic online and get you tons of readers or if you get actual dead tree publication.) But the comics on there are from people I've never heard of. I ought to have, if there were any justice in the world, because I've never seen a collection of better (and more diverse!) comics on one site. In the current competition, you've got a postapocalyptic world of undersea living, a photorealistic fantasy tale, a superhero story about a girl with prehensile feet, and... several others. I'm still reading them! And you can too!

So then after the turn, he only had a 7% chance that Ace would hit.

Dark Horse Presents is another collection of polished comics, the difference being that many of them are well-known and established comickers. Once a month, you can read comics by creators like Joss Whedon, Tony Millionaire, Peter Bagge, Mike Mignola, Gilbert Hernandez, Steve Niles, Evan Dorkin, Larry Marder, and Chris Onstad. And those are just the people on the list that I know! There's no competition here, and it's much less webcomicky, but these are still some fantastic comics on the web, which makes them webcomics!

So of course, he hit the Ace on the river.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Got a lot to talk about for this week! Let's get down to business.

First off, today's the last day of the Sheldon Caption Contest--check out this earlier post for the details and links. Also over at Sheldon, the recent economic downturn has hit Sheldonsoft, so Sheldon's gone to the only place on earth that could conceivably grant him a loan to keep his company afloat: the country of Dubai. All of the strips in the Dubai arc so far have been decently funny, but this one I found especially good. And it wasn't the punchline either! It was the fact that Arthur's approach to gaining wisdom is precisely what someone with a lot of facts but not much wisdom would do. Clever comic there, Mr. Kellett. (Because Dave Kellett is totally reading this blog right now, no really.)

In addition to the Sheldon Caption Contest, I have some other old news that I should have mentioned earlier. A couple weeks back, Thinkin' Lincoln had a guest week, featuring the likes of Eli Parker from Tall Comics, David Malki! of Wondermark, Reprographics' Chris Yates, Justin Pierce from Wonderella, and even the illustrious Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics fame. In case you haven't checked Thinkin' Lincoln in awhile, the guest comickery starts here.

Monday's Thinkin' Lincoln was also noteworthy for cracking me up. It features Amelia Earhart misunderstanding Lincoln's use of a common idiomatic expression. I won't spoil it for you--go check it out.

Nobody Scores finished up another tale of protracted suffering this week: "Nobody Scores with the Chip Invasion." One of the longest Nobody Scores comics to date--and the longest since its Summer Formatting Reboot, clocking in at eight separate installments--The Chip Invasion features an obnoxiously sociable friend of Sara's who turns out to work for the NSA. As the arc spirals toward its inexorable horrific end, we have spy robots, Chad's crush on Jane, insidious marketing schemes, and repeated incidents of police brutality (all of them perpetrated upon Beans). Also, out of nowhere, fungus. The carnage begins here.

Nobody Scores will also be starting another epically huge comic series on Saturday, so we can look forward to even more tales of misfortune and comic violence in the very near future. Hooray!

Another of our favorite long-form infinite-canvas comics nears the end of an extended storyline: none other than Dresden Codak. And I've got to say, Aaron Diaz has kind of made me eat my words. In the most recent installment, we discover that mankind did not evolve to a new level of machine consciousness and merge with the Hob after all; as always, it's difficult to piece together, but the dream sequence that began in Hob #20 apparently didn't end there. Kim's been in the hospital the whole time, left with one arm from her scrape with the time travelers, who seem to have been driven off. As always the art is good, so even if stuff is confusing, it's worth tuning in for that.

Boxer Hockey also updated this week, which has been a rare occurrence lately. And that's unfortunate, because when it does update, the action is quite well-rendered and pretty dang funny. Check out this week's installment to see what's going on with lost-at-sea Not-Gay Chuck, and how the team is faring without him.

So there's been a whole lot of funny this week, but for those wanting something a little deeper, turn your attention to Multiplex. With the release of Bill Maher's Religulous, this week's Multiplex arc picks up where Angie and Jason's dispute about Expelled left off several months ago. Angie finds Maher's go-for-the-throat brand of abrasive comedy insulting, so she walks out of Religulous. She and Jason get to discussing God and science again, and once again they hit a dead end. To be completely honest, I'm feeling kind of tired as I near the end of this entry, but it's customary for me to take note when religion shows up in webcomics, so: there it is. Religion at Multiplex.

And let's wrap it up with some Chainsawsuit. Thursday's comic had a big surprise in the second panel that cracked me up. It was Kris Straub's random standalone humor at its finest. And Chainsawsuit has been generally good lately, so if you're looking for some absurdity and a few good chuckles, take a browse through the recent archives.

So, that's what I liked this week. As always, the comments section is your own open invitation to tell us what you liked this week. Drop us a note and share the funny.

P.S. Real Life continues to be awesome. 'nuff said.

Sheldon Contest Notice

Hey, folks. I'm just now starting to write this week's week-in-review post, but if you happen to be reading the blog right now, I want to let you know about something that I really should have mentioned this week.

Over at Sheldon, Dave Kellett is having a contest, and today's the last day to enter. Simply take a look at this comic, think of something clever to put in Arthur's wordbubble, and post your entry here. (You can also find the complete rules there, too.) I really should have mentioned this last week, but it slipped my mind. If you want to enter the contest, it's time to get crackin'!

And now it's time for me to get crackin' on summing up this week.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wednesday Webcomic Wordiness - "I Like Your Early, Funny Ones"

by Ari Collins

I think a lot of webcomics have the same problem lots of people say Woody Allen's movies have. "I like his early, funny ones," his fans always say. I'm sure you can think of a webcomic that you used to read, and thought was really funny, only to realize eventually that the funny was gone. That's what I'm here to talk about today.

Sometimes a comic starts out funny, only to become serious. Unfortunately, you sometimes find the cartoonist isn't really well-suited for ultraserious. Dresden Codak, to me, is a perfect example of this. The Hob storyline is big and epic and full of neat sci-fi ideas, but it's poorly paced and plotted and just plain not as FUN as the early stuff. The epic storyline feels stilted, with details glossed over and character unexlored. One reason for this, I think is that the epic Hob story is in the same scenes-from-a-story setup (almost microfiction-esque) that Dresden Codak has always used (with great success). I'm not sure if everyone would call the early stuff "funny", anyway because half the time it's the kind of bleak, gotta-laugh-cuz-otherwise-you'll-cry funny, but you don't find stories more literarily and artistically absurd and imaginitive as The Bear That Steals Ideas, Dream Employment, D&D: The Philosophy Students' Version, or Absolute Truth in Liquid Form.

In some cases, though, perhaps you find that you love the serious turn a comic has taken more than you ever loved the early stuff! Goblins began as a humorous look at Dungeons and Dragons through the eyes of minor monsters. The whole first part of it is about a group of goblins who are about to be raided by a group of players. They don't understand why their leaders are doing things like placing all of their valuable weapons in the middle of the village in an unlocked chest. But even partway through this first, jokey storyline, the comic becomes a heartrending look at the ugliness of intolerance and violence. With occasional gut-bursting humor to relive the tension. And you know what? It's actually better now than when it was a silly parody. It's great to see an artist grow in ability and tackle more mature material at the same time.

And then there are the comics that never become "serious". Some such comics keep changing their style or level of humor to keep it all fresh. Others keep doing the same joke over and over again. Sometimes you don't even mind that. (Newspaper funnies have been doing the same jokes over and over again for years. Even decades. Which is why only old people read them.) One comic I'm sad about these days is Buttersafe, which is a comic I absolutely adored in the early going. But even with two different writers, the jokes haven't really changed for over a year now. It can coast for quite a while on the strength of the original jokes, mind you. The Buttersafe humor is really strange and kind of meta/postmodern. Ridiculous things like daydreams of watermelon monsters, relationships with skeleton harvesters, and the classic puzzle of one brother who always lies and one brother who is always a rabid coyote. And while I think these and maybe a dozen other Buttersafes are some of the funniest things I've ever, eventually the two Buttersafers kind of... ran out of steam, I guess? It's still basically the same jokes, only now they're simply variations on the originals. Oh well. We'll always have The Ham Smash 'Em Up Sandwich.

So what about you? Do you have any comics that stopped being funny, either in a good way or a bad way? Tell me about them!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jump Leads, Chapter One

Hey, folks. Jackson here, with an impromp-Tuesday evening update. 'bout a year ago, I started coming across ads for a comic called Jump Leads. I read a handful of pages from the first issue, and it was one of those comics where you recognize it's a quality job, but it fails to grab you. Largely because you read a buttload of webcomics already. But this evening, on a whim, I picked it back up and read all the way through the first issue.

What's the deal with Jump Leads, then? It's reality-hopper sci-fi: a couple members of the Lead Service, a sort of reality enforcement agency thing, go on a live training exercise that goes wrong and strands them in the multiverse. It's also got a fairly humorous tone (the references to pop culture and sci-fi strained the verisimilitude a hair for me, but overall it's good humor), and its protagonists have a familiar comic-and-straight-man vibe going. Meaney is the overenthusiastic numbskull--except that he's got a fairly decent grasp on the rules behind the multiverse, owing to his overenthusiasm. He's very much committed to his career as a Jump Lead. Llewellyn, on the other hand...cynical, detached, not sure what he's doing with his life. Both of them are still trainees--Llewellyn for the fifth time. I found Llewellyn the more interesting of the two, though Meaney is kinda likeable for his youthful energy too. When he's not being annoying, that is.

Overall, I liked the first issue. It's a solid intro story script-wise, nothing too fancy, takes a couple chances but largely a standard setup. Entertaining. The presentation is comic-book-style (a prudent business move, as it makes it easy to produce a print version), and the art is good: well-rendered angular sci-fi machinery, and a good grasp of both realism and stylization. One of my turnoffs on my initial read from a year ago was that the character designs looked kind of monkeyish, but they're very expressive and suited to the humorous tone. An additional fun touch at the issue's end are the pages from the training manual, complete with Meaney and Llewellyn's notes scribbled in the margins. So is it worth a read? Well, it's good quality, and you've heard the premise--you know better than I do whether that sounds like your cup of tea. I know I'll probably head back to read the second issue at some point. Your call, amigos.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Good evening everybody. For a change, I'm going to start today's post off with a Sunday strip. Just because there are so few webcomics that update on weekends, the ones that do tend to get short shrift in this blog...which is really a shame, because you get some really nice full-color strips from the newspaper-style dailies on Sundays.

Take, for instance, this past Sunday's Sinfest. It's a clever recasting of the current socio-economic/political situation as Star Wars Episode III: with the US as (Uncle) Samakin Skywalker, Liberty in the role of Padme Amidala, and Jesus as Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Devil corrupts Samakin by turning him to the corporate side of the Force, resulting in the death of Liberty (sniff). It's witty and well-illustrated, so go check it out.

Here at TWIW, we've been following storylines from a couple of the big dailies for a couple of weeks now: Real Life and Starslip Crisis. Over at RL, the mess that started with Tony, Fem-Tony and the Plot Hole continues to escalate: as the Government Agent crashes the party (having gone indie), Tony breaks out the Battlemech. I totally enjoyed the original storyline that introduced Tony's Battlemech--and maybe it's just because he's working on the comic full-time now, but Greg's mecha-drawing skills have become dramatically more realistic. Not only is this some of the most engaging material from Real Life in a long time, but it's also some of the most artistically impressive. And true to form, today's comic revealed yet another twist to end the week on a cliffhanger. You've got my number, Greg Dean.

So, while the Real Life storyline continues, we turn our attention to the conclusion of Vanderbeam's ordeal with the horrifying mask exhibit at Starslip. In the end, Vanderbeam's solution amounts to chickening out--and Starslip moves on. A couple of strips from this week interested me, in which Vanderbeam and Jinx muse amusingly on the topic of a higher power. Even the normally light-hearted Starslip Extra has Vanderbeam contemplating the elegant cosmic functioning of stars, a little Starslip spin on the teleological argument. Vanderbeam might well make a case for a Cosmic Designer based on the order in the universe, but his tenuous grasp of astrophysics riddles his mini-monologue with scientific inaccuracies...which Jinx calls him on. In the second philosophical Starslip strip, Jinx's alien thought processes (and other processes) deliver the humor, as Vanderbeam inquires into the deepest beliefs and convictions at the core of the Cirbozoid's being. Bill Watterson once said of Hobbes, "An animal perspective sheds some light on religious questions," and apparently the same goes for space aliens.

Over at F Chords, Kris Straub delivered another strip that was interesting to me, if for no other reason than it contained old people. Turns out that Ash owns an apartment in a complex largely inhabited by senior citizens. Ash's neighbor Oscar seems like a nice ol' codger, and I hope we get to see some more of him. In this strip he's mostly there to provide characterization for Ash, but he may get some development of his own down the road. We'll see.

In other news, Thursday's Book of Biff was not just good for a laugh, but also well-crafted. The art on this one is nothing complex, but I think it's really effective. The varying line weights and quasi-isometric perspective really make that cement block look like it's hovering surreally over the sink basin, which is what really sells the punchline for me. I seriously enjoyed the quality and efficiency of the art.

And now, in the interests of time, let's wrap this up with everyone's favorite...

Update Boxers and News Briefs

And that's a wrap for this week. The promised in-depth look at Rice Boy is in the works; my plan is to start reading through it again tomorrow, gather topics to talk about and comic pages to link to, and work on the entry as I get time next week. Ari will see you on Wednesday, and I'll be back next Friday with the usual rundown. Thanks for tuning in, guys, and have a good weekend!