Friday, June 27, 2008

Hello again, from a more wakeful hour! I'm Peter Metzger, and I'll be your guest host for this week's installment of "This Week in Webcomics"

I get the feeling that I'm not quite of the same caliber as Jackson when it comes to webcomic connoisseurship, storyline assessment, or variety of webcomics read. I will, however, give my opinion on the webcomics I do read, and hopefully this is good enough for you.

At this point, I'm putting the post on SPOILER WATCH (which I think should really be a general warning covering the blog as a whole...)

So, enough with random jibber-jabber, let's dive in.

Monday's Penny Arcade comic was a little disappointing for me, being a bit funny in a disturbing kind of way, but not so much satisfying. Wednesday's and Friday's PA comics, however, were compelling and beautifully illustrated. Even though I didn't notice the "opening crawl" until today's comic, I still picked up on the basic idea of the storyline with the help of the regular PA blog post - albeit with some mystery sprinkled on top. For me, though, this only made the new development more exciting and interesting. The backstory provided by the opening crawl definitely sets things up a bit more clearly, but I'm not convinced that's an entirely good thing. I look forward very much to reading the rest of the story - even if the plot and dialogue turns out to be a bust (though I think it will be wonderful), the artwork is sure to be a treat.

Toothpaste For Dinner is a comic my brother turned me on to nearly two years ago, maybe longer, and I usually check up on it every day. It definitely brings its own brand of funny, though lately it seems that the typically mixed results are of atypically lower quality. I did enjoy several of them from this past week, however - particularly "dogosphere" (though mostly for the clever title) and "sat scores." I'm hoping that we'll see a return to the sorts of gems that got me hooked.

Random: I saw that today's xkcd comic was on digg, and given the copious amounts of Discovery Channel programming I've been absorbing in the past month, I particularly enjoyed it. In the event that you don't get it, here is the advertisement the comic is referencing.

Oftentimes, when I find a webcomic I like, I will go back to the very beginning and read every strip, so as to be all caught up. I have done this with Penny Arcade, Real Life Comics, Pungirls, Borderline Boy, and I'm in the process of doing this with Dinosaur Comics. I've already brought you up to date on Penny Arcade, Borderline Boy is taking a Borderline Break, and Pungirls has sadly been shut down for the most part. (Am I allowed to bug Jackson about bringing back Pungirls in his own blog!? ooh....)

Anyway, let's have a look at the week in Real Life Comics. I feel that the quality of Real Life has gone up dramatically since Greg Dean decided to go full time with it, and I particularly enjoyed this week's run of comics. Now, I'm not claiming these to be the best five comics Greg has ever written/illustrated, but as a whole, they're definitely a solid set of work. I appreciated in Tuesday's comic the fact that once again, Greg has managed to make some facet of World of Warcraft not only accessible also humorous to someone such as myself who has never played the game. Wednesday through Friday's comics made me happy for Liz, reported on what's happening in the Dean household, and were funny, all at once! I believe this constitutes the essential Real Life Comics experience. I also enjoyed a good chuckle at Greg's apparent enthusiasm regarding private (i.e. not public) nudity - a position I may or may not share.


Enough said there, let's move on to Dinosaur Comics. As I said before, I've been reading through since the first comic. I am up into the early-800s at the moment, so I'm about two-thirds of the way to catching up. I don't typically read the current comics until I catch up to them but given that I had to write about the series here, I took a look at the latest few comics. I must say, I am very impressed at the level of quality Ryan North has been able to maintain throughout the series, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the way through the comics I've not gotten to yet.

I'm not quite sure if Homestar Runner counts as a webcomic or if it's more of a web-based cartoon, but I would like to mention that I've been disappointed lately with the lack of 1) updates, and 2) funny. I realize they're working on a game, but it's the dry times like these that make me stop checking up on the site so often. If other people are like me in this regard, it can't be all too healthy for their site. Just saying...

Alright, I guess that about does it for this post in "This Week in Webcomics," I hope you enjoyed your stay and please come back next week when I believe Jackson Ferrell will be back with us to deliver his insights into the world of webcomics.

Please exit quickly and carefully to the right side of the train, collect any and all personal items from bin number two and bin number two only, and enjoy the rest of your day here at Jackson's Point, the internet's comic coast.
Of Time Zones and Authors:

Hello readers, Peter Metzger here. I'll be guest-writing this week's post, but will be doing so at a later hour. You see, while it is probably in the vicinity of six A.M. where most of you are, I happen to be in Hawaii at the moment, where it is nearly midnight. As such, I will be writing (just realized "it's Friday!") and posting (can't post it 'till I write it eh?) this week's webcomic update tomorrow during the day, which I presume will equate to afternoon or evening for most or all of you.

Thanks for understanding (I hope!)

-Peter M. Metzger

P.S. shameless self-promotion time (as long as Jackson doesn't tell me to remove it...)
If you need to occupy your time while waiting on the new post, feel free to check out my Hawaii photos here:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Feature: Chase from Multiplex

Hey, folks. Jackson Ferrell here, reporting in from on vacation. It's not Friday, but stuff has been goin' on at the Multiplex what bears mention. Let's get up to speed, 'kay?

Multiplex is a biweekly workplace-humor-and-movie-commentary webcomic about the staff of the (fictional) Multiplex 10 Cinemas. Since he first signed on as a Multiplex 10 employee, Chase has been the resident skeezy guy, hitting on anything female that's not underage. The week before last, the release of the Sex and the City movie gave Chase ample opportunity to ply his trade, resulting in a string of turned-down pick-up lines. The five-strip, week-long series culminated with Chase, shall we say, getting lucky with two ladies who turned out to be dudes. Chase later has a personal conversation with his assistant manager about the experience: "Hypothetically, would something like that mean you're gay?" Neil: "Probably..."

Next time Chase shows up, he's gone from lust-for-the-ladies posterboy to 100% gay-guy stereotype. Yeah, you know Jack from "Will and Grace?" The new Chase makes him look straight.

The whole "Chase sequence" has had several funny moments (if you are able to tolerate a measure of South-Park-style gross-out comedy). In this entry, I'd like to take a closer look at Chase and what makes him funny.

To my thinking, Chase is a funny character because he's just the right mix of earnest and oblivious. It's not like he's trying to hide anything with his hyper-heterosexual girl-chasing antics. You get the impression that on some strange level, he really means it when he wants everything to be a euphemism for something. Similarly, after his turnaround, he throws himself into his new fruit-flavored persona because he's utterly certain that this is what being gay really is. Either way, Chase is so thoroughly confused that he doesn't even know how confused he is. He is really sincerely convinced that he's got a handle on his own identity! And that's funny.

Something else that's worth pointing out: whether you believe homosexuality is a choice or not, you can still enjoy the humor in Chase's plight. It would be easy to make some heavy-handed point here about sexual orientation and identity, something about Chase "accepting this facet of himself." But here's the thing: an artist's worldview influences his work, but a creative work should never be merely a vehicle for one's worldview. Multiplex creator Gordon McAlpin understands that, and whatever his views on the subject, he's not going to dilute the comedy by getting preachy on us. As a result, even a guy like me with conservative sexual views can get a few laughs out of the comic. There's a time and a place for talking seriously about sexuality issues, but Multiplex's focus is first and foremost entertainment. Creative people, take note--you could learn a lot from the Chase sequence!

Anyway, I've got to get back to the serious business of vacationing. But tune in on Friday for your regularly-scheduled "This Week in Webcomics," this time guest-hosted by the illustrious Peter Metzger.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's time for another review of the week in webcomics. I'm your guest host Daniel, filling in for Jackson while he's off doing family stuff and generally being lazy. So, without further ado, the week in short.

Over at Penny Arcade the site has been chosen as one of Time magazine's 50 best websites of 2008. Not only that, but the comic continues to amuse in a continuous recovery from a long lack of funny.

Speaking of lacking in funny, Ctrl-Alt-Del continues to pursue a rather unfunny storyline. While I understand his motivation in trying to bring a plot circle to a close, and can certainly see some logic in what he's done...still. Even if it is, as he says, a "gamer comic," about gamers rather than gaming, I see no reason to so drastically change the tone of the comic by introducing something so heavy to the plot.

Speaking of plot heaviness, Megatokyo is still around, and still confusing the hell out of me. As if the intricate plot wasn't hard enough to follow, the irregular schedule of updates for the past few months has made my understanding of the story (and I'll wager that of a lot of other readers) pretty lousy. Now I'm not going to lie: I love Megatokyo. It's the first webcomic I ever read (with the possible exception of VGCats), and although the plot is as intricate as that of any Dostoevsky novel, I stick with it. That being said...I'm glad it's on a side track right now, and I'm finally going to reread the last few chapters and find out what the hell's going on.

Octopus Pie continues to delve into Eve's relationships with her former friends, and naturally the best way to expose true feelings is to have it out in a huge laser tag battle.

Oh, and if you haven't been reading Gunnerkrigg Court, you should be. It's well written, well drawn, and just when I think that I've predicted the path of the story it always switches things up.

Another well drawn and well written webcomic is Girl Genius. I was turned on to this by a friend earlier this year, and I have to say, it's quite good.

Questionable Content is exploring Faye's insecurities again, which is typical, because she does have a lot of them. This last comic is a nightmare for clean freak Hannelore - in fact, lately she's been getting a lot of grief.

That about wraps up my foray into weekly webcomic review. Check these out too:


Thinking Ape Blues

Flaky Pastry

See, wasn't that better than an SGD?

Friday, June 13, 2008

I will try to avoid spoilers if possible, but you gotta talk about these webcomics somehow

I've got to admit that after over 1200 comics, Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics sometimes seems like there's nowhere left for it to go. But I've also got to admit: this comic made me laugh out loud at Dinosaur Comics for the first time in awhile. T-Rex piles on all kinds of convoluted faux-academic high-school-paper-style jargon, and then there's the surprising twist at the end. Funny times, especially if you're a regular DC reader.

Today's Penny Arcade features none other than Mr. Period, imparting his grammatical wisdom to us all, especially reviewers of Metal Gear Solid 4. In characteristic style, Mr. Period slowly points out the painfully obvious in his patient, instructive tone, as if his viewers are five years old. And I'll be danged if the non-sequitur punchline (I'm not gonna spoil it for you!) didn't crack me up! I give it a 9.3.

In more serious news, Starslip Crisis this week has dealt with Curator Vanderbeam's voluntary reassignment to the Sai Kan. Highlights include the introduction of the concept of the "pirate divorce" and today's strip, which features a significant and awkward development for Meridian Holiday's crush on Vanderbeam. Straub has really been at the top of his game in writing recent storylines about Holiday's crush, so I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

In other news, Dr. McNinja continues to be awesome. Come on, Dark Smoke Puncher! They warned you about this!

I was thinking about Dr. McNinja the other night, and I realized that we don't just tune in for the ridiculous ghost-wizard-and-raptor-bandito antics, we tune in for Dr. McNinja himself. But what is it about the character of Dr. McNinja that we find so compelling? Is it the fundamental dichotomy of his identity, at once powerful to kill yet sworn to heal, the paradox of the doctor and the ninja? I was thinking how--apart from the aforementioned internal conflict, which I guess he kind of already dealt with--he's an extremely angst-free hero.

Take this illustrative example from last week. Dracula tries to coerce our hero into throwing the fight via threats on Gordito. Drac claims that he can enhance the ghost wizard's power to where he can and will kill Doc's sidekick. Doc's response? He doesn't waste a second worrying about what choice to make. He basically says, "Gordito may only be twelve, but he's got a BA in being BA, and if you think he's going to do anything but wipe the floor with your ghost wizard, you've got another thing coming!" And from time to time he expresses incredulity at the preposterous events of his life. There's a way in which superheroes take the ridiculousness of the world around them way too seriously, and Dr. McNinja treats shamrock shurikens and ninja zombie hordes with precisely the seriousness that they deserve. And that's one of the main reasons that I like him. Why do you like Dr. McNinja (the character)? Tell us with a comment.

And now it's time for...

Update Boxers and News Briefs:

And that's a wrap. See you next week!

Friday, June 6, 2008

So, welcome to This Week in Webcomics, the blog where I tell you what was awesome in internet comics this past week because I love you. Wouldn't it be ironic if, as I told you what comics you should totally read, I were to mention spoilers for those same comics? So I will try not to do that. All the same, consider us to be under a Spoiler Watch. You know, like Tornado Watch vs. Tornado Warning.

I tuned in to Dr. McNinja on Monday morning and immediately knew that it was going to be a good week. As soon as I saw the last panel of Monday's comic, I was like, "Man, they just totally went there." Drawing a situation like that (notice how I am avoiding spoilers?) takes serious artistic chops, but it opens up some possibilities for sweet action that subsequent installments have totally delivered on. I look forward to seeing where this battle with Dracula on his Moon Base goes.

I'll confess, Penny Arcade has been hit-or-miss for me lately. I expect the work they've been doing on that crazy video game of theirs has something to do with it, but now that they've polished that off, I hope they'll be able to devote more creative energy to their comic-style humors. A noteworthy development: I never thought I'd see the Broodax again, figuring it for a one-off gag, but sure enough, here it is today. Broodax: the Twisp and Catsby of '08? Only time will tell.

Strips that feature children playing make-believe often idealize the experience. The vibe you get from them tends to be: "Oh, look at that, the children are playing pretend, how creative and adorable." (Family Circus, I'm looking at you.) However, Sheldon this week has been doing a strip series in which Sheldon and friends play Lord of the Rings, and Flaco and Arthur insist on making up back-stories and motivations for the villains they're playing. Strangely, it's Sheldon--the actual kid--who's making the observation that kids' games can get way too ridiculous sometimes. It also works as a subtle commentary on the tendency of webcomics to get incredibly stupid when they insist on injecting drama where it's really not necessary at all.

Speaking of kids, it's a rare occurrence that Cat and Girl acknowledges that Girl is an actual child. Seriously, with all her social commentary, it's easy to forget that she doesn't even technically have a degree yet.

Oh, yeah. And Tim Buckley's latest storyline over at CAD is a big tall glass of Cringe Juice. No, I'm not going to link to it. It's that bad.

Did I miss anything? Did anything else great or significant happen in the world of webcomics this week? Let me know if something slipped past my radar--that's why there is a comments feature.