Friday, December 25, 2009

Max vs. Max, a new strip from Wes Molebash

Merry Christmas, everyone. For Christmas, I wish to give you a gift: the gift of information.

Specifically, I wish to inform you of Wes Molebash's latest comic offering, Max vs. Max, a strip about being your own worst enemy. The main character Max grapples with faith, insecurity, and guilt feelings in the wake of his recent divorce, and with help from friends and family, he tries to make sense of his life.

So far, the strip's off to a strong start; it's open, honest, and human, and it plunges right in with Max and his friend Reese discussing getting back in the dating game. That segues naturally into a story arc in which Max dreams about God showing up in his bed. Currently, the strip has begun a third story arc about visiting family for Christmas, and apparently Max's mom makes a mean meatloaf.

I'm glad to see Wes Molebash making comics again. He's refreshingly personal in his cartooning, and his characters are real people with real flaws. You can't help but root for them, though, because you can see something of yourself in them. Wes also brings a refreshing approach to faith in his comics that I find sadly lacking in the webcomics scene at large.

I certainly missed Wes' comics after he ended You'll Have That, and I missed them again after he put Myron and Charlie on hold to take a break from cartooning. It's good to see him back in the saddle. And you've got to love a comic whose underlying theology allows for a God who goes for coffee at 1 in the morning.

I may be giving you a Christmas present right now, but Wes Molebash gives you a present every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and it's pretty awesome. Give his new comic a look--I bet you'll enjoy it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Can't Catch a Break

Brent Sienna is not about to host This Week in Webcomics by a long shot
Jackson Ferrell can't find a This Week in Webcomics co-host to save his life

Continued from the previous installment
And of course everybody knows who Brent Sienna is

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Webcomic List Awards

Hi, everyone. Once again I break my hiatus to drop a tiny item of news for you.

As you may or may not know, The Webcomic List ( is having its first annual Webcomic List Awards. The awards are an opportunity to recognize good comics that have excelled in a wide spectrum of different areas, and for that reason alone I'm pretty jazzed to be a part of them. This coming Sunday, the 13th, is the final date they're accepting nominations, so if you know of some good comics that you'd like to see recognized for their excellence, stop by and drop some nominations.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Superfogeys: Revelations are in Store

2010 looks to be an ambitious year for The Superfogeys. SF creator Brock Heasley writes, "In many ways, I've been waiting since 2006 to tell the stories I'm gonna tell in 2010. Longtime readers, your patience will be rewarded." As I've noted before, Superfogeys is a quality comic that hits all across the comedy-drama spectrum, and it executes its retired-superheroes premise with creativity and style. If you're not already up-to-speed on Superfogeys, now's a good time to get on board.

And if you're already a regular Superfogeys reader, you've got a lot to look forward to.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Hi, everyone. I just wanted to take a moment to wish you a happy Thanksgiving and to do a Thanksgiving blog post.

First, I am thankful for Jesus Christ. I'm thankful for the forgiveness and grace that God has shown me.

I'm thankful also for my family. I'm thankful that my parents were able to come visit me and my brother for Thanksgiving, and I'm thankful for my brother. I'm thankful that we all have time off to celebrate the holiday and spend it with each other.

I'm thankful for my friends. I'm thankful for the friends I've made online and offline. I'm thankful for people who care about me that I can count on, and I'm thankful that I have people to care for too.

And I'm thankful for Blank It.

Have a good Thanksgiving, everyone.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Press Release: Haunted Goes to Print

As I take my hiatus for the holiday season, looking over the webcomics-related emails in my inbox, I begin to realize: receiving a press release is like receiving a blogpost already halfway written for you.

Here is a press release concerning Joshua Smeaton's comic Haunted.

Haunted, the Xeric-winning web comic by Joshua Smeaton, makes its graphic novel debut. It is currently available for preorder from Orion Books.

What did you do for Halloween when you were 12? Trick-or-treat, bob for apples or run from a psychotic ghost bent on ripping out your soul?

It was supposed to be a night of carefree fun for a group of junior-high friends. All they had wanted was to sneak into the high school Halloween party thrown at an abandoned mansion. Unfortunately they aren’t the only uninvited guests.

Haunted is an adventure story about a group of kids that get trapped in a mansion with a murderous ghost. The story is a fantastical thrill ride with moments of calm made all the more enjoyable with its colorful vibrant art.

Haunted is a 104-page full color graphic novel priced at 12.95, ISBN 978-0-615-31563-8. Scheduled to be released January 2010. It is available in the November Previews catalog. Order Code: NOV090896.

I took a look at Haunted for myself, and if it sounds like something you've seen before, that's because it is. The familiar teens-in-a-haunted-house trope is played entirely straight, with no major twists or turns on the basic concept. That said, it takes a done-to-death idea and does it reasonably well: the art is good, the dialogue is authentic, and the characters are an interesting, individuated bunch of quasi-delinquent teens. For all the familiarity of its premise, it doesn't really do anything wrong.

Might not be worth a buy for you, but it might well be worth a look. Ladies and gents, judge for yourselves.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We Interrupt Your Regularly-Scheduled Hiatus to Bring You a Publishing Studio

So, the blog may be on hiatus. But the other day I got an email with some webcomic news worth mentioning, so I figured it was worth taking fifteen minutes and compromising my principles to bring you this newspost.

Tom Dell’Aringa (Marooned) and Steve Ogden (Moon Town) have launched their own indie comic publishing group: Wishtales Publishing Studio.

Tom's the one who emailed me. I took a look at the new project, and from the site and the info in Tom's email, I gotta say I like the ethos of this thing. The About page gives an explanation: these guys are willing to take some chances on unusual projects in an industry driven by doing more and more and more of the same. Their first book will be Marooned - Out of Orbit, which begins preorder next week. A book for Moon Town is also on their agenda, at some point in the future.

In short, Wishtales looks like it's worth your attention. I know Steve Ogden produces some jaw-droppingly good art (just check out the sample above), and Tom Dell’Aringa is a good cartoonist in his own right. They both produce some really creative work that isn't afraid to take chances, and I expect that even more awesomeness will result from their joint venture into publishing.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Life, the Universe, and Webcomics

Hi, everyone. Today I've got a couple of reflections on comics to share, and an announcement to make. I was reading through Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics the other day, the section where he talks about the universal relatability of a simplified human face rather than a detailed one. And I've been thinking a bit about relatability in comics in general.

Why do we like comics in the first place? I think it's because on some level, they reflect the realities of our own lives. Yes, they often contain robots and wizards and other unreal things too, but I don't think any of us would read about the adventures of Spider-Man or Dr. McNinja if we couldn't relate to how they deal with highly stressful situations through wit and humor. Nevermind that their stressful situations involve bizarre mutated supervillains and conflicts resulting in massive property damage! The humor-as-a-coping-mechanism schtick is something we can grab onto, and we do: because on some level, that's us.

Comics are about life. In comics, no matter the medium, you will find people working hard to make ends meet, people who hate their jobs, people who love their jobs, people messing up their interpersonal relationships, good friends, loves lost and won, conflict, challenges, and hope for the future. In comics, there are characters doing the exact same things you are doing--just doing them in space, or in a sparsely-populated void of absurdity, or with the disembodied heads of historical figures, or maybe just failing at doing them with hilarious results. Comics take real life and look at it through a funhouse mirror--but in doing so, they affirm the value of real life.

Comics have to be about something, you know? Something besides just comics. And on some level, comics are about you and me.

And recently, I've been reminded--in some ways through comics!--that I need to pay less attention to comics, and pay more attention to just living my life.

The holiday season is coming up. I'm gonna be visiting relatives, doing Christmas shopping, and getting a lot of things together. Also, I'll be pretty busy at my job--the business of liftgate and snowplow parts is highly seasonal, and things pick up this time of year. And then there's the webcomics stuff I'm already doing: I've been chosen as a judge for The Webcomic List's TWCL Awards 2009, and there's the work I do at the Multiplex Store. Couple that with the racquetball, running, and role-playing stuff that constitutes me having a life, and yeah, there's a lot going on.

So, TWIW is going on holiday hiatus until the new year. Of course, I'll still be reading comics and talking about comics, and I may even drop a post or two here--because, as you all know, I can't shut up about comics. But this holiday season, I want to pay attention to my whole life, not just the "comics" part.

I'll get back to posting regularly in this blog after New Years--sometime between the 1st of January and the 8th. As I said before, I may even drop a couple of posts between now and then too. If you want to stay up to speed on TWIW, there are a number of ways to keep yourself informed: via Twitter or TWIW's RSS feed. If you want, you can even shoot an email to DeathbyChiasmus -at- gmail -dot- com requesting a notification, and when I make the first post of the new year, I'll email you right back.

Today is my brother's birthday. Today he turns 25. I'm not sure what we're doing to celebrate, but I know it'll be fun.

I'll see you back here in 2010. Keep on reading good comics, and don't forget to live your life.

Monday, November 2, 2009

11/2: Week in Review

Welcome back, everyone. I hope you had a good weekend, and now it's time to start your week with webcomics. In the tradition of This Week in Webcomics tradition, let's look over the past week and see what's been good.

In Monday's Real Life strip, what starts as an exchange between nerd couple Greg and Liz turns into an exploration of the different forms of geekery. It goes on to expose the face of a prejudice deeper than racial and economic biases: that of nerdism.

Nobody Scores dished out several quality comics this past week, but this update casts Jane Doe's life as a movie, and her circle of friends and acquaintances as the supporting cast. The image of Sara frowning in the playplace ball pen is fantastic, and the riffing on movie trailers is pretty humorous overall. It takes an abrupt and hilarious twist for the postscript, so check it out.

Also, this week I found out via press release that the webcomic SMASH has finished its 12th episode, with almost 140 pages of comic content under its belt. In the Episode 12 finale, ten-year-old superhero Smash faces off against his arch-enemy, an insane mastermind known as the Magus. I haven't had time to check it out fully, but I can tell from a brief read that the creative team of Chris and Kyle Bolton are putting out a quality comic here. The art looks like one part Calvin and Hobbes to one part Marvel Comics, and it's dynamic and well-detailed. You can read the season finale, or start reading from the very beginning of season one. If you like reading offline, you can even download season one in a PDF.

It's been a busy weekend, but when I have the time, I'm definitely going to have to come back to this comic.

A few other comics from this week that I thought were good:

I was going to do a whole rundown of Halloween comics, but instead, let's get a little reader interaction going on. Did you come across a memorable Halloween-themed strip this past week? Drop a link in the comments and share some Halloween webcomic funtimes with us all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Product Review: Theater Hopper, Books 1 and 2

About a month ago, Tom Brazelton's movie-themed webcomic Theater Hopper had a fire sale to raise funds for producing its third book. I decided to take advantage of the sale and purchase myself the first two print collections, Theater Hopper: Year One and Year Two.

For those unfamiliar with it, Theater Hopper is Tom Brazelton's movie-themed webcomic starring exaggerated versions of himself, his wife Cami, and his friend Jared. It updates with three full-color strips a week (MWF) and has been running since 2002, making it the internet's longest-running movie comic. Together with movie-themed webcartoonists Gordon "Multiplex" McAlpin and Joe "Loves Crappy Movies" Dunn, Tom talks movies on the "Triple Feature" podcast every Monday evening.

Now, it's one thing to check out a new webcomic; the only investment it requires is time, and if at any point you decide the comic is not worth your time, you just cut your losses and close your browser. But merch is a different ballgame entirely. Before you lay down the cash equivalent of two and a half hours at your day job, you want to know you'll get your money's worth. How can you tell you'll get a quality product? It's not like a trip to Barnes and Noble or Old Navy, where you can see the goods for yourself and actually pick them up. There's a good chance the cartoonist has a photo or two of the goods in his online store, but the difficulty remains: you don't want to get a bum deal.

On that note, let's start talking about these books by showing you what you get:

Book One includes Tom Brazelton's introduction to Theater Hopper, the first 155 TH strips with creator commentary, 11 guest strips by other cartoonists, and a crossover storyline with Carrington Vanston's concluded webcomic "Movie Punks." Book Two contains a foreword by Tom's wife Cami, 153 more TH strips with further commentary from Tom, several pages of bonus sketches, an index of movies referenced, 7 guest strips (including strips by Joe Dunn, and Scott and Kent from White Ninja.

The first thing that struck me when I received the two books in the mail was the presentation. The cover art looks great, ludicrously referencing classic movies 2001 and Ghostbusters II with the TH cast. It's not stellar, but it's solid, and it's clear the creator went the extra mile on the covers. Inside each, you'll find 200+ slick full-color pages of comics, commentary, and additional content. Brazelton openly admits in Book 1's disclaimer that he did not create early strips with print in mind, and while he has tried to restore the artwork as best he can, some strips suffer from fuzzy colors or jpeg artifacts. Still, it's clear he's made an effort to improve the presentation for print, and by Book Two the artwork is largely sharp and snappy.

So it looks pretty good--but how's it taste?

Overall, it tastes pretty good too. I have to say, though, that Year One suffers in quality, as it would with any comic, simply for being Year One. Theater Hopper's humor style is less of the well-polished comic strip gag, the "craft of the joke," and more of the banter you throw around with your friends. Rather than building up to the punchline with immaculate timing, a TH strip will likely have a handful of funny moments--at least in theory. In early year one, Brazelton is still finding his voice, and some punchlines lack the punch even to carry the strip. The art has similar difficulties, and it cribs a bit from the Penny Arcade stylesheet. It takes several strips before it starts to resemble present-day Theater Hopper in quality.

To its credit, though, Brazelton's self-deprecating commentary on each strip in Year One goes a long way. He's utterly transparent about the first year's shortcomings, and the commentary's conversational tone makes the print edition a more personal experience than browsing online. Additionally, the collection contains a collaborative storyline with cartoonist Carrington Vanston that pits TH's Jared and Tom against the protagonists of the comic Movie Punks. The back-and-forth strips in the storyline are some of the book's strongest material and do a lot to add to its value.

Plus, the first book contains this strip. I laughed out loud right in the airport lobby at that one.

By Year Two, Brazelton is really getting a feel for his comic. The humor's more solid, the art is more solid. There are a number of inspired sight gags on par with the "small cola" comic referenced above, plus an increased predilection for
off-the-wall storylines that develop several jokes on a theme, such as the introduction of "Goth Jared" (whom Comic Tom has apparently encountered before). TH story arcs (at least in these two books) often begin in the middle, unexpectedly, with no explanation and perhaps even the suggestion of some backstory that is never explained. I like it, and I think it works. But I digress.

It's also worth noting that I didn't find the humor to be at all dated. With a movie-commentary comic, it's always a danger that comedy value will decrease as the humor ceases to be topical, but not so here. Theater Hopper doesn't stray too far from the mainstream movies and actors that we all know and love to make fun of, so you'll have no problem recalling relevant films from 2002 to 2004 as you're reading. There were a few isolated cases where the commentary had to explain the joke, which of course kills the joke, but these are the exception.

So, what's the final verdict? Was it worth my ten-bucks-per-book?

Overall, I think so. I found the books to be entertaining, and I got a different experience than the kind the TH site offers for free. A 200-page book with extensive full-color artwork is the kind of thing you'd usually pay upwards of $20 to $30 for, and I got two of them for this price. Compared to Year Two, Year One is rather lacking, and perhaps a better purchase for TH fans than for newcomers to the comic--TH: Year Two makes the better introduction.

Even though I'm not a huge movie enthusiast, I enjoyed both books. With the holidays coming up, TH: Year Two could be a good purchase for any friend or relative who's way too into movies. If you're thinking of getting either book for yourself, you can always sample Tom Brazelton's humor for free at to figure out if it's your style of comedy. Apparently, the two books are still selling at the fire-sale price of $9.99 each. It's also worth noting that the third book is available for pre-order, and from the preview provided, it appears to raise the bar even higher for quality.

Theater Hopper Volumes 1 and 2 are available for purchase in the Theater Hopper store.

Friday, October 23, 2009

10/23: Week in Review

It's been awhile since I did a bona fide week-in-review Friday post, but this week I ran into some cool webcomic strips I wanted to share, and evidently I've managed to balance writing this post with all the other things I'm up to in my life. I'm sure you're all thrilled out of your minds.

Duck and cover, y'all, 'cause it's time for

  • The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon
    Here's your new discovery of the week: I saw this comic advertising here on my blog, I clicked through, and it hooked me. The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon reminds me of The Wotch, only actually pretty good instead of pretty bad. The art is a step up; even though it'd benefit from more unified color schemes, the artist has a better grasp of composition, basic anatomy and stylization. The storyline doesn't drag, the main character is much less of a Mary Sue, and there's no fetishy pandering to make you feel icky for reading.
    So what the heck is it about? Titular character Jack Cannon is the new guy at high school, and he instantly runs afoul of a gang of hackers. When it turns out that the hackers can hack reality, ridiculous action sequences ensue. From there, it only gets crazier.
    Just for example, there is a character named Max Facepuncher. "Max" is short for "Maximum."

  • Max Facepuncher in "So Now I Hate the Moon"
    The creator of Jack Cannon also created a 24-hour comic starring Max Facepuncher, in which Max is hired by a government agency to punch out the moon. Like Jack Cannon, it's totally madcap and thoroughly entertaining.

  • PVP
    On a similar note, PVP this week brings us a parody of the original Superman movie, featuring internet-meme superhero the LOLBAT. It's some seriously great stuff. For those who play City of Heroes, there's even more LOLBAT to be had, as Scott Kurtz recently collaborated with developer NC Soft to create a LOLBAT-based City of Heroes mission.

  • Blank It
    If you aren't following Blank It yet, you should be. Between its ridiculous absurdity and its treatment of existential themes, it has the best mix of smart and dumb humor I've seen yet in a webcomic. This week's strips, following an action-packed escape from the City of Cookie People, have got some truly inspired writing. I actually laughed out loud twice while reading Monday's strip.
    Yo, Aric and Lemmo. When are you guys going to go to three updates a week? C'mon, I crave the goods!

  • Fanboy Radio: interview about Kickstarter
    Kickstarter--as Multiplex readers already know--allows independent artists of all stripes to fund their projects through support from their fan communities. This past Sunday, Fanboy Radio interviewed Multiplex creator Gordon McAlpin, as well as Kickstarter co-founder Yancy Strickler and kickstarting cartoonist Jamie Tanner. If you're interested in the self-supporting and business side of webcomics, definitely check it out, but even if you're just looking for something fun to listen to at work today, it's an entertaining and engaging interview. Behold: the link.

And that's a wrap! Tune in Monday for your regularly-scheduled post. I, in the meantime, am off to work, and then off to the weekend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Eben07 Operation Mongoose Review: Follow-up Thoughts

I have a small addendum to make to Monday's review of Eben07: Operation Mongoose. Through an unidentified source, I was given an exclusive look at the additional content of Operation Mongoose's print edition, and from what I've seen, the extra material in the print edition really adds a lot to the story. The prologue and epilogue provide a context to the story that helps to set the tone more clearly, and they definitely add to the quality of the production. Again, Project Mongoose probably isn't the best jumping-in point for new Eben07 readers, but if you check out the comic and like what you see, it may well be worth your while to snag a copy of the print comic.

Operation Mongoose's pre-order deal may be a particularly good purchase for those fans of the comic who need to cover their walls and torso.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: Eben07: Operation Mongoose

Gentlemen, behold! Following up from yesterday's post, it is time for the promised review of:

The first thing to note is that this chapter is a quick read, at a brief fifteen or so pages. However, it's not necessarily the best intro to the comic--for starters, its focus is not the present-day protagonist Agent Eben07, but rather his grandfather Abel, founder of the ICA. The storyline, told in flashback-style black-and-white rather than the brighter colors of Agent Eben07's contemporary adventures, covers Abel's assignment during the 1970's to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Truth be told, I'm not sure what to make of it.

It's not the art--I've always been impressed by Eben07's artwork, and although it loses a little without color, it's still a strong point. And the story succeeds at its goal of placing the ICA and its founder into American History. What it comes down to is the tone.

There were spots I found funny. Abel's present attempt on Castro's life is interspersed with his reflections on his mission, accompanied by snapshots of past attempts, which are absolutely ludicrous. Plus, the seriousness of Abel's internal monologue and the whole "men in suits" vibe are juxtaposed with such images as Abel in a dress. But that's the thing: the seriousness. Throughout the storyline, there are some rather gravitous musings on the nature of choice and fate in a political context, and Abel, it appears, is intended to be taken as a sympathetic victim of greater machinations, a pawn trying to maintain some semblance of human dignity.

There are numerous moments of humor in the fifteen-page story, but it ends on a deadly serious note. If it's trying for that whole-spectrum-of-human-emotion thing that I discussed earlier with Marooned and Superfogeys, I can't say it succeeds as well.

In all honesty, I've never been sure entirely what to make of Eben07. There's no denying that it's a well-executed comic, but the whole thing is so odd that at times I wonder about its accessibility. The janitor/secret-agent juxtaposition at the core of the thing has a lot of potential, but there's some inscrutable part of it that seems to be taking the whole endeavor too seriously--or perhaps taking it seriously in the wrong way. It's not mine to say that a secret-agent-janitor story can't have its serious moments.

But neither is it mine to say exactly how you can take a secret-agent-janitor story seriously. Such answers are decidedly beyond me.

To conclude, despite everything it does right, Operation Mongoose may not be the best introduction to the comic. Fortunately, though, the latest version of the site includes a page for new readers, and if the comic has piqued your interest, that may be the best place to start.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

An Introduction to Eben07 (Now with More Musings!)

It's been about a month and a half since I started my full-time job, and lately I've felt unsatisfied about the quality of the posts here at This Week in Webcomics. It's Sunday afternoon, here I am sitting down to write a post, and I can't remember the last weekend where I wasn't putting together something at the last minute. I suppose it's to be expected--I have less time to work on the blog now, especially if I have a busy weekend, and I guess that's as it should be. But none of that means I have to feel completely at ease about it.

I just wanted to get that off my chest, and it also sets the tone for the upcoming post, which will discuss the comic Eben07, specifically the chapter "Operation Mongoose."

As the Guy Who Does This Blog, sometimes I get press releases from various cartoonists. There's a side of me that feels kind of weird when I do, because--tying into the quality thing I discussed before--I'm not doing serious journalism here or anything. I'm just a guy who can't shut up about webcomics. Still, it's cool to catch word of new it's not as if I don't appreciate the press releases.

As you know if you've noticed the You-Choose-the-Reviews polls lately, I've been batting around Eben07: Operation Mongoose as a possible subject for review, and on Friday I received a press release announcing that the print edition of Operation Mongoose was up for preorder. I figured it was as good a time as any to finish reading through the chapter and give my assessment.

First, though, a word of introduction for the comic Eben07.

Eben07 is, in essence, a comic about a secret agent janitor. Its titular main character works for the Intelligence Cleaner Agency, whose task is to ensure that the classified operations of America's intelligence operatives stay classified. The Eben07 website presents itself as an official publication of the ICA, disclosing to the American people the information that it is required to disclose by an obscure clause of the Patriot Act. In the form of a webcomic.

A bizarre hook if ever there was one, but it certainly is inventive.

I've seen Eben07 a number of times across the internet, first finding it through the now-defunct comic site At the time, the website was a confusing mess of HTML, and the "Official Declassifications of the ICA" presentation did little to alleviate my confusion. The site insists on presenting the ICA as a real entity, and framing the comic in a reader-friendly way without breaking character has always been a challenge for it. I've seen the website go through several versions, each one an improvement over the last, and the archives are now accessible and navigable. Presentation-wise, the current version seems to know what it's doing.

Which, in turn, makes it eminently possible for me to review

Full review to follow Monday evening; it's been a busy weekend. Be sure to check back then.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Congratulations to Doug Wilson and K-9Lives

A week or two ago, I mentioned Doug Wilson's webcomic and short film, K-9Lives, about a conjoined cat/dog duo. A quick update: "K-9Lives" was nominated for best animation at Marbella International Film Festival alongside "Leonardo" by Pixar artist Jim Capobianco, and "Body" by Zhivko Dimitrov. I decided to see for myself what all the fuss is about, and the animated short is decidedly strange. If you like surreal animation, give it a look.

Congrats, Doug! Prestigious accolades are yours in abundance! I like big words.

I also like comics, so be sure to tune in on Monday when I talk about a comic. It will provide ample opportunity for me to use big words.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Zombies Are the New Ninjas

So, this weekend the horror-comedy Zombieland tore up at the box office, and I couldn't help but notice that numerous webcomics are getting in on the zombie craze. To commemorate the zombie-comic epidemic, for the rest of the week the TWIW Pick of the Day will feature only zombie comics! This even includes Saturday.

For those not familiar with Pick of the Day, you can find my daily webcomic pick by checking out my Twitter account. Just search for the hashtag "#pickoftheday" and you'll have each of my Picks of the Day in one handy feed. You'll also have other people's Picks of the Day, plus some unrelated crud about Betty Crocker and whatnot. I can't help it if other people want to use the #pickoftheday hashtag for stuff that's not related to webcomics.

But I digress. Stop by Twitter and come check out the zombie action. We're kicking things off with Wednesday's cliffhanging installment of Multiplex, and there's more zombie action to follow from comics all across the 'net. If you spot any zombie comics yourself, I encourage you to join in and tweet 'em up!

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Bullet Points Monday

Greetings, everyone! This weekend I have been traveling, visiting my parents and a certain friend who lives in Chicago, and with all this travel and people-visiting, I haven't had time to archive-binge a comic from my review list. Thus, it is now time for everyone's favorite blog feature where I deliver a bunch of random links that are somehow related to webcomics:

  • After listening to Andrew McDonald's interview with Gisele Lagace (mentioned in this recent TWIW post), I decided to check out one of Gisele's newest projects, Eerie Cuties. Much like Miles Grover's Creep House, it takes horror/fantasy archetypes and places them in a mundane setting for comic effect, but Eerie Cuties puts a high-school spin on the whole thing. It's entertaining and it has Gisele's excellent signature artwork, but it also has a bit of her signature salacious humor, so read at your discretion.
  • As usual, I can't write a genuinely short bullet point to save my life.

  • Speaking of Andrew McDonald, he's got another interview up just this morning. This time, the spotlight's on Brad Guigar from Evil, Inc.. I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but the first two were good, so I'm definitely gonna check it out.

  • Webcomic Planet is now accepting nominations for the 2009 Webcomic Readers Choice Awards. Scope it out, make some nominations.
  • This isn't news of any sort, but with my new job as a purchasing agent, I have to track shipment ETAs and account for manufacturing lead times when I place orders. It occurred to me the other day: arranging for shipping dates often feels like this Penny Arcade comic.
  • This past weekend, Doug Wilson's wordless comic about a conjoined cat and dog, K9-Lives, competed in the Marbella International Film Festival. The comic features not only 100 traditional strips, but also an animated short. I haven't had time to check it out fully, but it looks interesting, so give it a look yourself. I may have a bit more to say about it in the future, too.

And that wraps things up for this installment of Bullet Points. I'll see you guys next week! Or later this week. I do that sometimes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

10/4: It's Time For

  • Wednesday's Penny Arcade features another appearance of everyone's favorite savior of mankind. It always surprises me that Penny Arcade's depiction of Jesus, if not entirely accurate theologically, is actually fairly reverent.
  • Some people believe that there's no reconciling science and religion. In considering the theological ramifications of the many-worlds hypothesis, however, Rayne from Least I Could Do sees no conflict at all. In fact, when science and religion collide, it's pretty awesome.

Tune in tomorrow for your regularly-scheduled TWIW post.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Review: Tuna Carpaccio P.I.

Tuna Carpaccio is many things. First, it is a dish made by thinly slicing fresh raw tuna and serving it with a savory and often spicy sauce. Second, it is a webcomic by Josh Dunlap and Tony Chavira. Third, it is the main character of said webcomic.

It may be still other things. I'll let you know if I discover any more.

Albacore Melt Carpaccio, better known as "Tuna," is a private investigator in a city of crime and mayhem. He's hard-headed, hard-hitting, and hardly competent. Even his secretary Pamela is more skilled at detective work than he is.

Tuna, however, is entirely oblivious to his own incompetence. He cracks cases with fisticuffs and copious property damage. He fancies himself on par with the city's Police Detective, Aurora Malta, even though his investigations (and I'm being generous with the term) constantly interfere with hers. Despite her low opinion of him (which she makes clear in no uncertain terms), he relentlessly hits on her. Tuna believes he is the sharpest detective in the shed--and he ignores all evidence to the contrary.

Carpaccio's primary adversary is the elusive mob boss Jose Maria De Jesus, but the road to the Hispanic crime lord is strewn with recurring "theme villains" in the vein of Dick Tracy or Batman. These include psychological psycho Ink Blot, zombie hipster Dead Beat, the bowling monarch King Pin (my personal favorite), and the Christmas criminal Coal Miner, whose slugfest with Carpaccio stretches out in a ridiculous infinite-canvas showdown that is sure to give the creators headaches when they're putting together a print collection. In these side excursions from the hunt for De Jesus, the comic both satirizes and revels in the bad-puns-and-punchouts villain-of-the-week style, but in a recent surprise move, all these crooks Carpaccio's put behind bars turn out to be relevant to the plot. It's one of many nice touches that make the comic such a kick to read.

Another is the art. Josh Dunlap's style is evocative of film noir, with a little animated-cartoon thrown in for flavor. It's got an inky look to it, with gritty backgrounds, sharply-rendered characters, and loose linework splashed with black shading. Fight scenes are rowdy, cacophonous affairs, the comic keeps things dynamic right down to the panel layouts, and characters have signature fonts for their dialogue. In less-competent hands, this would be a cheap gimmick, but from Pam's longsuffering all-lowercase lines to King Pin's regal script, it's a nice touch and an important part of the comic characterization. In short, Tuna Carpaccio looks good.

But don't let him know I said that. It'd go straight to his head.

Tuna, oblivious as he is to his own incompetence, can't help but remind me of Michael Scott, the bungling boss from The Office--which brings me to my only major criticism of the comic. Both Tuna and Michael have no idea how truly unproficient they are, and they make us laugh even as we cringe at their ridiculously unprofessional behavior. With Michael, however, you actually feel sorry for him: you get the sense that he actually cares about people, and his only real vice is that he cares more about getting people to like him. Tuna, on the other hand, more often you just shake your head and mutter, "I cannot believe this guy."

At this point in the story, to be perfectly honest, Tuna is a serious cad, and I'd be hard-pressed to name a redeeming feature beyond his right hook. He's persistent, I'll give him that much. But that's not much to hang your hat on when you're persistently bad. In essence, what I'm saying is that even though the art is great, the characters are funny, and the plotline packs more twists and turns than a retro dance move, it really loses some potential when you strain to sympathize with the main character.

Still, Tuna Carpaccio is well worth your time to check out, and it's going to be well worth my time to follow in the future. It's a comedy comic with a quirky sense of humor (I can guarantee you've never seen a comic with as bizarre a beginning as this), and it's very slickly executed. For all his vices, Tuna is hilarious and his misadventures are entertaining.

Tuna Carpaccio is a quality comic. See if it's your style--give it a read.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Brief Intro to Tuna Carpaccio, P.I.

Slated for review tomorrow is Tuna Carpaccio P.I., but before I deliver the review, I wanted to make a few opening remarks. When I first heard the title, I imagined a four-panel gag strip starring an anthropomorphic fish detective--a sort of film noir Sherman's Lagoon. Tuna Carpaccio, however, is no such thing.

There aren't any anthropomorphic ocean-dwellers, for starters. The entire cast is human (or, in the case of a few weird villains and one supporting-cast bartender, more or less human). Second, the format: it's a long-form-comic detective-adventure comedy with a slightly gritty veneer. And while I went in with a few reservations, I must admit that many of my expectations were either exceeded or subverted.

Don't judge this book by its cover. Tuna's got more than a few surprises up its sleeve. Tune in tomorrow for the full review.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's Interview Friday, Everybody

Happy Friday, homepeople. So it's Friday, and you read a bunch of webcomics over your morning coffee before starting in on your work. And you're entering data into the database, or you're laying out a PDF, or you're analyzing the inventory report, and you're all, "Man, I wish I could somehow listen to something webcomics-related while performing these mindless tasks!" Because you are way too into webcomics.

Well, you're in luck: I have some links to feed your unhealthy obsession. Andrew McDonald of A.P.N.G. Enterprises shared with me two interviews he conducted, in which he and his interviewees talk about professional webcomicking and how the industry relates to other comic industries, as well as his guests' own webcomics. That makes it sound like very serious business, but it's also a lot of fun. Interviewed are:

Load 'em up and listen to 'em in the background as you accomplish today's menial tasks. I'm not even too familiar with Paul Taylor's work, and he's still interesting to listen to.

So, that business should tide you over until Monday's review of Tuna Carpaccio, P.I.. But I'd also like to say that after several updates, Miles Grover's new comic Creep House is off to an excellent start. Miles' fresh spin on archetypal horror and fantasy characters is producing some quality comedy. I especially dig the writing on this strip--a party vith hella chicks, indeed!

Party hardy this weekend, you guys, and I'll see you right back here on Monday.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Superfogeys, Chapters 4-6

Tone is tricky business.

The usual route is to give your work a single, general consistent tone. This adds an additional level of cohesion and consistency to the work, and you can easily see it in film. Pay close attention to the next movie you see, and it'll quickly become clear what sort of reaction it's trying to evoke from you, regardless of how well it succeeds. Many webcomics take the single-tone approach too, from newspaper-style daily doses of humor (Sheldon, The Book of Biff) or ongoing character-driven plot threads (Multiplex, Girl Genius).

However, life doesn't always stick to a single mood, so why should art? Some creative works try to capture a broader spectrum of human emotion. The phenomenon is especially common in anime. There's a risk involved in such an approach, and's article on Mood Whiplash notes: "Done well, the contrast in moods can make each emotion all the more poignant and effective. Done poorly, the contrast can jar the reader/viewer right out of the story."

In reading chapters four through six of The Superfogeys, I realized that this full spectrum of tone is exactly what Brock Heasley is going for.

A lot happens in these three chapters--more than can be treated in detail in a single review. It also contains several important reveals and reversals that I won't spoil. Suffice it to say that The Third Man has assembled a powder keg of personalities at the superhero retirement home Valhalla. By gathering pint-sized villain Dictator Tot, senile superheroine Star Maiden, and super-anti-hero Tangerine among the current denizens of Valhalla, he can turn incident to injury, casual encounter to casualty, with very precise results.

I'm reminded of the quotation from Fight Club: "All a gun does is focus an explosion in one direction." And yes, someone does get shot here, and yes, someone dies. It's sudden, it's jarring, and it reminded me of a moment from a few years ago when I was playing baseball with some of my extended family. One moment we were all laughing and having fun, and the next moment my uncle's thumb was bent at a wrong angle. I didn't know how to feel; I couldn't believe what had happened. The death in chapter 5 left me with a similarly bizarre feeling.

But what exactly is the Third Man aiming at? Despite sparingly-given hints, his reasons have yet to be revealed. A lot hinges on the believability of his motivations, but that's a task for future chapters.

Chapter Six contains another of Captain Spectacular's reminiscences: his and Dr. Rocket's origin story. Overall, it's one of the more effective blendings of tone in the Superfogeys. Its jokes are generally humorous, its drama develops the characters of the Captain and the Doctor, and in particular it gives Dr. Rocket some very human motivations for his life of villainy. The story is also notable for its non-intrusive but interesting inclusion of religious elements. In short, it works.

Unfortunately, not all such multi-toned scenes are as successful. Captain Spectacular's marriage proposal to Spy Girl is treated with such casualness and humor that I found her acceptance hard to believe. In my opinion, without any ceremony or romance to it (not even a ring!), by all rights the Captain's proposal should have fallen flat on its face. On occasion, a strip ends in a punchline where a dramatic "punch" would have been more effective. Some moments are so surreal that I have trouble classifying their tone entirely. The musical number by the Healer and Captain Emo is an out-and-out dud, and I can't help but feel embarrassed for them.

These chapters of Superfogeys have some decidedly hilarious moments, though. A cameo of Clovis the Bear from Imagine This yields one extremely funny strip, plus a handful of additional jokes. Dr. Rocket's litany of crimes in this strip (spoiler watch active!) escalates the humor all the way to the knockout punchline, and this extracanonical comic makes an excellent and humorous introduction to Superfogeys as a whole.

I really can't say anything bad about the artwork. It's not the best in the business, but the linework is efficient, panel layouts are diverse and effective, and overall the art exhibits notable consistency. Many webcomics have artwork that is all over the board in terms of quality. In every strip, though, Brock Heasley exhibits a level of competence that, while not especially flashy, does the job, and does it well.

Brock Heasley is at the top of his game when he is presenting the lives of his elderly superheroes just as they are. It's most noticeable with Swifty, but his cantankerous cynicism is just one reaction to old age. Consider this strip where Captain Spectacular flashes back to his first meeting with Dr. Klein. There's a joke, but the humor underscores the reality that the Captain and the world have parted ways. He's in a dark place--literally.

On the whole, I feel like I can recommend Superfogeys as a quality comic at this point. I've read a good deal of it, and while the humor is about three parts hit and one part miss, there's more than just humor to its appeal. It has suspense, an engaging ongoing plotline, and a well-developed cast of unusual individuals. Plus, where else can you find a comic that takes the concept of elderly superheroes and doesn't stop at just playing it for laughs?

If you haven't already, give Superfogeys a look. Early chapters were shaky, but I've found it to be worth sticking with.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Further Poll Results

And Tuna Carpaccio, P.I. has been slated for review. I'm looking forward to giving it a thoroughly thorough read-down!

Thanks for the votes, y'all, and applause to the Eben07 crew for declining their spot in the runnings. A truly noble gesture, and worthy of note.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: Polkout

(Guest review by Ari Collins)

Polkout is a webcomic with the hyperbole and dirty jokes of Penny Arcade, only without the video games and not as funny. But hey, who is as funny as PA? Not many, I tell you, sir! This is still quite the kneeslapper comic. If you like your humor intentionally and ridiculously offensive, Polkout is the comic for you.

Only occasionally does Polkout have anything particularly substantive to say in its comics section. If Polkout were a person (and perhaps it is, from reading the blog entries), it would be the drunk guy at your party who is never at a loss for a dirty joke or an insulting but funny quip. Not the smartest or cleverest guy at the party, but really funny nonetheless in a knowingly obnoxious way.

My favorite moments in the webcomic, actually, are when the main character insults someone by accident instead of on his usual purposeful insults, and wants to take it back. Then, inevitably, he ends up digging himself a deeper hole. (If you've ever watched the show Coupling, imagine the main character here is Jeffrey. Same idea.) Some examples are here and there.

So that basically sums up the comic. I rather like it, but I'm a fan of this kind of humor, and the only real negative about Polkout the comic is that if you don't like the humor, there's not much else there for you.

But there's actually more to Polkout than the comic. See, the writer of Polkout also keeps a blog, both as a newspost under his comic and as a separate blog. In his writing (yes, without pictures), the Polkster covers a wide range of topics in a freeflowing and engaging way. Same as the comic, he's dirty and offensive, but in his writing you get the full range of what he wants to say without the space limitations of a comic. It's like the webcomics are just excerpts from the blog. And with that added space to dance around in, the Polkster can let us get to know the guy who writes the comic, which casts a new light on the comic itself. The blog, and the posts under the comic, come highly, highly recommended.

Overall, I give Polkout an eight and a half on my scale of one to ten that I have never used before and may never use again. So if you need a frame of reference: this isn't the genius of a Penny Arcade, Dinosaur Comics, or xkcd, but it's right there in the second tier. Shits and giggles, man. Shits. And. Giggles.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Poll Results: You Guys Like Superfogeys

The masses have spoken! Thanks to Brock Heasley's inundation of the polls with his many readers, Superfogeys has carried the day and earned itself yet another review. To be entirely fair, I have mixed feelings about how fair such tactics are. On the one hand, I hold these polls in order to let you, my readers, choose the comics you want to see reviewed, not complete strangers who only came here because a cartoonist asked them to. On the other hand, those who voted may well come back to check out the review, since if they cared enough to vote for their favorite comic, they may also be interested in what people are saying about it.

On the third hand, I love traffic. So, cartoonists, send me your voters. Let's get a new poll going on here, with the following options up for grabs:

On a note only related insofar as it is about comics: long before I got into webcomics, long before there was even a web of note to put comics on, I read comic books. Specifically, I read Valiant's Nintendo Comics System titles. In second grade, I spent many an afternoon enjoying the selection at my local comic shop, reading the adventures of Captain N, Link, and the Super Mario Brothers, and I, like Chris Flick, have many fond comic-book shop memories.

Sadly, I found the following in my basement just recently:

Just look at that mildew! My childhood dreams are covered in nasty grossness.

What were your first comic experiences? What are some of your favorite comic-reading memories? Drop a little nostalgia my way, because all my nostalgia is moist and wrinkly.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Review: Capes 'N' Babes

Capes 'n' Babes is a strip about a strip mall--specifically, a comic book store in a strip mall. It's a black-and-white strip with occasional color, updated three times a week (MWF), drawn by professional graphic artist Chris Flick.

The webcomic centers around Marc, the manager of the titular comics store, Capes 'n' Babes. The store's owner is frequently absent (a fact lampshaded blatantly in more than one comic), so it often falls to Marc to tend to business. An early storyline introduces Joey, the "girl next door" who runs a hardware store and helps Marc build a studio for the comic shop's video podcast. Joey makes frequent subsequent appearances, as do recurring gags in which Marc interviews comic-book superheroes and characters on his podcast show. Throw in Roy, Marc's lecherous werewolf friend with dreams of becoming a comic-book artist, and the strip is ready to roll.

(A word of disclaimer before continuing: Roy's lecherousness and the language in general set the dialogue content at a PG-13 level. Early strips especially play up Roy's werewolf horniness, which readers such as myself may find off-putting and not terribly funny. Your mileage, as they say over at, may vary, so read with discretion.)

Creator Chris Flick greatly enjoys comics of all stripes, and it shows. The strip is filled with references to and parodies of superhero comics, webcomics, general sci-fi, and the fact that Capes 'n' Babes itself is a comic: goodbye, Fourth Wall. In fact, some of its best moments occur when it's poking self-deprecating fun at itself. Gags take aim not just at superheroes and comics, but at comic creators, and a recurring joke involves the appearance of H.R. Giger's "xenomorph" alien from the movie series of the same name. Some Alien strips are more successful than others.

Which brings us to a major criticism of Capes 'n' Babes: the humor. Gags all too frequently fall flat from overwriting or poor comic timing. Consider this strip poking fun at The Ghost Whisperer and another about Sonic's drive-thru burger ads. Both strips try to pack too much dialogue into the last panel, none of it especially amusing. Another strip, in which The Thing of Fantastic Four fame strikes out at a paper-rock-scissors tournament, has potential, but the joke is hampered by needless repetition and an overwritten punchline that hits the reader over the head. A visual, reveal-based punchline, with Grimm and his juvenile nemesis underneath the contest banner, would have sufficed.

Nonetheless, Capes 'n' Babes does have its humorous moments. A few strips, with bizarre out-of-left-field punchlines that leave you asking "Where did that come from?", elicited genuine laughs from me. If you enjoy a good pun--or a good joke about puns--the Capes archives have a few pun-liners for you. (Cue groans.)

So if you do tune in to Capes 'n' Babes, it likely won't be primarily for the humor, which lacks the polish of strips like Sheldon or Sinfest. However, the webcomic does have two things going for it that bear mention.

First of all, it's a strip for comic fans by a comic fan, and the sincerity shows. Creative works can run the risk of getting too self-referential and self-indulgent: whether a novel about a writer, a movie about a producer, or a strip about a cartoonist. Flick neatly averts that with his comics-shop-manager protagonist. Marc's job, as a guy trying to make a living off something he personally cares about, allows him to observe the industry with a bit of healthy distance. And Marc is as human as the next guy--his perspective is by no means immune to blind spots.

Marc is a likable guy--friendly, reasonably hard-working, and a bit of a marshmallow, though not without his sarcastic side. It's easy for readers to identify with him. His developing not-quite romantic friendship lends some strong social tension to the strip (again, blatantly and hilariously lampshaded). Readers can likely sympathize with Marc and Joey's hesitation to risk ruining a perfectly good friendship with something more, and the ongoing subplot has yielded some of the strip's best writing. Most recently, Marc has accidentally let slip a "love ya, bye!" to Joey before leaving for a comic shop owners' convention. I'm interested to see how he tries to defuse that relationship bomb.

Capes 'n' Babes, in summary, is a pretty decent webcomic. Like many comics, its interesting characters if nothing else may make it worth the ride (Sluggy Freelance, anyone?), and the competent caricature-based artwork is a plus. It's a comic for diehard comic book fans in particular, but the light-hearted look at relationships may provide some appeal for the casual webcomic reader.

Capes creator Chris Flick is an avid comic convention attendee, and should you wish to meet him in person, you can find him at Pittsburgh Comicon this weekend (Sept. 11-13) and at the Baltimore Comicon October 10 & 11th. Additionally, Flick has a weekly geek-humor strip, CMX Suite, that you may enjoy. If any of his work sounds like your cup of tea, be sure to check it out.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Schedule Change Announcement

Hi, everyone. As you are reading this, I'm already at my new full-time job with National Liftgate Parts, learning the ropes and managing product. It's one of many exciting recent developments in my life (another one would be, oh say just for example, being merch guy for the freaking Multiplex Store). Obviously, with so much going on, I won't have nearly so much time to peruse webcomics at my leisure.

However, this doesn't mean you'll be getting any less This Week in Webcomics! I still plan on bringing you the weekly post by whatever means possible, because that's just my style. To accommodate my new work schedule, you can expect each week's post on Monday rather than Friday.

Also, you can expect an increased focus on reviews in the future, which I'm sure all of you who voted "you should review MY comic" on our last you-choose-the-reviews poll will be glad to hear. Vote in the poll above, and check out links to the comics up for voting in the post below.

Keep on tuning in, and I'll keep talkin' comics with you guys. I'll see you next week with a brand new review.

Slated for Review: Poll Options #1

Once again, I find myself polling my readers to see what they want to see reviewed. For your consideration:

Check 'em out, drop a vote in the poll at the top of the blog, and look forward to reviews of the comics you want reviewed. Let it never be said I didn't give the peoples what they wanted!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting Nifty with Sluggy Freelance

Welcome back, everyone. Today's post follows up on Wednesday's, in which I shared a Sluggy Freelance experience. Today the ensharening continues, with further reflections on Sluggy Freelance and some of my favorite Sluggy memories.

Like I said before, I'm well aware of Sluggy's flaws: a convoluted accumulation of backstory, a rocky transition from high weirdness to epic drama, and artwork that's decent at best. But no matter what John "Your Webcomic is Bad" Solomon may say have said, I don't consider a bad webcomic. It's no Penny Arcade, but if you can appreciate a "when weird things happen to normal people" story, it's worth reading.

Well, some of it, anyway. Thing's been running daily since '97--that's a lot of comic to read.

As I mentioned before, what I most enjoy about Sluggy is the central cast. They have genuine personalities, and as you spend more time reading their adventures, it gets to be like visiting good friends. Moreover, in a weirdness-driven strip, much of the fun comes from their diverse reactions to the bizarre phenomena around them. Torg meets the weirdness with boneheaded optimism; Zoe faces it with frustrated sarcasm or the occasional freak-out, and later on starts rolling up her sleeves and tackling things herself; Riff's basic response is "more firepower." Riff and later addition Gwynn are instigators of weirdness themselves. Sluggy's got the kind of cast that you can throw into a situation and just let them be themselves, and it's at its strongest when it does precisely that.

The art, moreover, has improved. It started off sketchy, with its share of stiff poses and proportion gaffes, but over time it's shown definite and substantial progress. Characters are drawn much more consistently now; Pete Abrams has developed particular strength with dramatic use of shadow and camera angles. Sluggy Freelance demonstrates that if you consistently pick up a pencil and go to war with the blank space, you will become a better artist. Never underestimate the value of dogged daily perseverance.

And that's true of more than just the art. Sluggy Freelance is significant for the webcomic world in that it showed new possibilities for cartoonists. As one of the longest-running comics online, and one that supports its creator as a full-time job, it's one of the success stories. Moreover, much of that support comes from its donor club "Defenders of the Nifty." As much as merchandise and ad revenue, Sluggy is supported by its fans simply saying, "We like what you're doing, and we want to enable you to keep doing it." Pete Abrams is willing to experiment, develop, and grapple with the balancing act between comedy and drama, and the cumulative effect of his tenacity is greater than any single flaw.

With that said (and said and said and said...get to the fun stuff, Jackson!), it's time for my favorite Sluggy memories.

Probably my favorite storyline of all time is when, after Torg has gone missing in the Dimension of Pain, the gang reach into the wrong alternate universe for him and retrieve a purple-haired Portuguese-speaking Torg. Meanwhile, the Torg we know finds himself in an alternate reality where everything is nice. The weirdness and humor are vintage Sluggy, including the fourth-panel reversal in this strip. In "Fire and Rain," a reference back to this story alleviates the drama with some much-needed humor. Sluggy often relies on classic setups with reversals and "What could go wrongs?" for its humor, but you've never seen them done with purple-haired Portuguese body doubles.

Another of my favorite storylines is Sluggy of the Living Freelance. It's a textbook example of the dynamic between the main cast that I mentioned before: Pete Abrams coops his cast up in a cabin, surrounds it with zombies, and lets the panicked terror do its work. The gags are entertaining, and the conclusion has two ridiculous twists to it.

One last strip bears mention in my Sluggy experience, but first a bit of backstory. In high school, my brother David began wearing gym shorts under his pants everywhere he went. If his pants developed a stain or a hole, or if he suddenly decided to go swimming, he would simply take them off. "You never know when you'll need them," he told us. One day Charles IMed me a link to a Sluggy Freelance accompanied by a single word: "Dave." As they say, great minds think alike.

What's been your Sluggy experience? What are some of your favorite strips or storylines? Drop a comment--I'd like to hear what you've got to say about Sluggy Freelance.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sluggy Freelance: Jackson Gets Personal

It's Saturday as I start writing this, and I'm sitting here staring at a blank blogpost form. I know I have to write this. It's not that I don't know where to begin; I know where to begin. But sometimes beginning is hard.

I'm going to open up in this post, and it's going to get personal. And that can be uncomfortable. I know we're all comic fans here, but still, it can be embarrassing to admit that comics mean something to you. What kind of a nerd-boy gets into webcomics this much? But you gotta start somewhere, so here I am: starting.

Let's start with high school.

I first got into webcomics in high school. Or rather, I got into webcomic in high school. My friend Jason introduced me to Penny Arcade, and while I didn't tune in for every update, I'd check it from time to time in the library before school started. That was 2000: when Metroid Prime was just a news headline at IGN, when there were still things to be filled with cream. I graduated in 2001.

College afforded me much more free time, and I began to fill that free time with more webcomics. I made new friends who introduced me to their favorites. I pulled late-night archive binges and caught up with Megatokyo, Real Life, Mac Hall, and Rob and Elliot. I started keeping up with update days. And my friend Charles introduced me to Sluggy Freelance.

I'm well aware of the criticisms of Sluggy Freelance. It's been accused of Cerebus Syndrome, bloated continuity, and artwork that one cartoonist has said makes him "want to murder puppies." Moreover, the charges have a measure of validity. All the same, it's a good thing I had more relaxed standards for artwork then, because otherwise I would have missed out.

Because Sluggy was funny. It had a freewheeling, make-it-up-as-we-go quality to it. The characters' schticks, from Zoe's beleaguered-everygirl bit to Riff's "let me check my notes," lent familiarity and consistency to the madcap sci-fi and parody adventures that befell the core cast. Pathetic, overconfident Sam Sein got turned into a vampire; it's only slight exaggeration to say that Sluggy Freelance lampooned the Twilight trend ten years before it started.

At 1 in the morning, I was stifling my laughter and trying not to wake up my roommate. Oh, the relentless puns! Puns saved the world.

But as I made my way through the archives each day, the cast began to feel like good friends to me. I tagged along on their bizarre adventures because I liked being with them. I got invested in their world; I genuinely liked them, and their ups and downs affected me. By the time I'd caught up with the archives, the recent dramatic storyline Fire and Rain had reached down in my chest and grabbed tight. I was hooked.

That was 2002. As I kept reading over the years, while Pete Abrams' art improved to decent levels, his storytelling spun out of control. I didn't get hooked on Sluggy because it had epic grand-scale plots spanning time and space. I got into it because I cared about the characters. Zoe and Torg's star-crossed, never-quite-on relationship was central to my interest in Sluggy's continuity, and as the central cast's lives took a backseat to weird events and cosmic power-plays, I lost interest.

Somewhere around Oceans Unmoving, I started tuning in weekly rather than daily.

Somewhere around Oceans Unmoving II, I started forgetting to tune in weekly.

And shortly after Years of Yarncraft, I stopped tuning in at all.

It had been about a year since I'd had a real look at Sluggy. Then, Friday night, I came across this post at Damn Good Comics. Apparently, Pete Abrams had recently opened up the Zoe-Torg-Oasis Love Triangle of Death again, and the story thread was pushing toward a resolution.

I busted open the start of the story arc in a new tab and tore in.

There's a lot this story arc did right. Pitting the unstoppable force of Bun-Bun against the immovable object of Oasis was a good move. Riff's Mark 19 robot was another one: in a throwback to Riff's previous mecha, everything that could go wrong did, at first comically, then with mounting gravity as failure mounted on failure. Bottom line is, after so much time away from Sluggy, the storyline got me engaged again. Fast.

And by the time I reached the resolution in Friday's strip...sure enough, Sluggy had reached one of those moments where it reached down inside of me, grabbed my heart, and jerked hard.

If you've been away from Sluggy Freelance, this is worth coming back for. It's sad, and it changes things irrevocably, but if you're invested in these characters like I am, it'll move you.

It's funny how things coincide sometimes, how they all seem to come full-circle at once. Somehow this arc feels like a lot of things in my life: there's a tragic side to it, but at least you've gotten some closure. It's time to stand up and move forward now. And yes, this post is personal and a little rough around the edges, but I felt like I had to get this off my chest while it's still fresh. Sluggy Freelance is not without its shortcomings, but despite all its flaws, I've enjoyed it, and I'm not ashamed of that.

Check back on Friday, where I'll be revisiting a few of my favorite Sluggy moments. Also tune in this coming Monday for an important announcement. A few things are gonna be changing, but many things will be new and cool.

Friday, August 21, 2009

8/21: Friday Bullet Points

If you haven't seen yesterday's comic-form interview with the creators of Blank It, I'd encourage you to hop down an entry and check it out. But now it's time for...

  • The Multiplex Store launches today. This is especially exciting for me because I am the merch guy! If you place an order, I'll be the guy shipping out your t-shirts and stuff to you. Stop by the store and check out the selection--Gordon McAlpin and I are both very pleased with the shirt designs we've got available, and more are in development right now.
  • In shirt-related-but-non-me-related news, Real Life has done something innovative and awesome this week. Every comic this week was scripted by a Real Life reader! Greg Dean sorted through each day's submissions and created the strip whose idea he liked best. It's a hilarious Shirt Ninja adventure with an epic climax, and it's well worth checking out.
  • Cat and Girl has been similarly at the top of its game this week. It brought us comics about the youth-afflicting social disease sickle cell bohemia and late-80s edutainment software Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. I learned to type with Mavis Beacon, and I, like Girl, always thought Mavis Beacon really existed, as some celebrity of education. Only thing is, what the heck was Thursday's comic about?

And that's the news. Have a good weekend, and buy lots of shirts! We at This Week in Webcomics are nothing if not shameless.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Comic-Form Interview: Aric and Lemmo (Blank It)

Visit the webcomic Blank It

Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It
Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It

Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It

Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It

Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It
Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It

Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It

Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It
Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It
Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It

Aric McKeown and Lem Pew provide webcomic recommendationsJACKSON: Customarily, I close out the interview by asking for some recommendations. What comics do you guys keep up with? What are some of your favorites?

LEMMO: Girls with Slingshots, Dr. McNinja, Wapsi Square, and check out Joe and Monkey's return from hiatus.Aric McKeown and Lem Pew provide webcomic recommendations
ARIC: I love Nedroid, Scary Go Round, Pictures for Sad Children, Hark, a Vagrant!, and Overcompensating the most.Aric McKeown and Lem Pew provide webcomic recommendations

Jackson Ferrell interviews Aric McKeown and Lem Pew of Blank It

Be sure to check out
Visit the webcomic Blank It