Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Welcome Back, Me

Hi, all. As you already know if you've been scoping out my Twitter Feed over there in the sidebar, I have returned from my vacation at the Outer Banks, which was excellent. I don't think a single day went by that I didn't see at least one helicopter. But now I'm back to my usual Pick of the Day and babbling about webcomics.

Tune in on Friday for the customary week-in-review. Plus, I'd like to share an interesting resource with you: if you haven't seen it already, The Webcomic Crossover & Cameo Archive is a handy repository of comic characters' appearances outside their comics of origin. It's fun to see what other comics your favorite characters have made guest appearances in. If that sounds interesting to you, go ahead and give it a look.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hi! Jen Mau here guest blogging while Jackson's on vacation. As a female, something that I greatly appreciate is an emerging awareness of talented female webcartoonists, and I decided that my update would highlight some of my favorites :)

Girls With Slingshots - Danielle knows how to keep it classy with a storyline (started last week) about Hazel's gassy kitty. My favorite from this week combines a fart joke with a pun.

Octopus Pie (kinda) - With Meredith moving from Easthampton, MA to Portland OR, she has enlisted some very talented webcartoonists to provide some guest strips. My favorite is the one done by Erika Moen, with Eve's line in the last panel super-awesome. And speaking of Erika...

DAR - I really appreciate that Erika Moen is open and willing to share her personal experiences regarding her sexuality (although this particular strip is ok, a lot of her strips are NSFW), but from the stories she's told it really sucks that, as a lesbian who's married to a guy, she gets a lot of flack from a lot of people. However, based on her ustreams, tweets, and other interactions with webcartoonists that are chronicled on the internet (I'm hoping she'll be at SPX becuase I would love to meet her), she seems like a really sweet person.

Bobwhite - My dear Magnolia never ceases to amuse with her hilarious webcomic. The last panel of this strip, with "UNFOLLOW" in giant orange block letters, is the best. I also love her "Rejected Bobwhite Storylines" strip from today - it's so cheeky I love it!

Of course, this is just a tiny drop in the bucket - there are a bajillion more where these came from :) I hope you enjoy these and that you have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Good Journal Comics, Anyone?

Hi, everyone. Right now I'm at the Outer Banks in North Carolina, enjoying the beach with my family, as you read these words that I typed last week. Automation is a truly magical thing.

Anyway...once I come back, I've been thinking about doing a feature on journal comics, and I'm interested to hear from you on the subject. Do you read any journal comics? Is one of your favorite comics a journal comic? What do you think about the idea in general--creating a comic that is expressly about oneself and one's life? Drop a comment and share your thoughts on journal comics.

Be sure to tune in this Friday for a guest entry from Jen. I hope that you're enjoying your summer, whether on vacation or not...I'll see you next week!

Friday, June 19, 2009

6/19: Religion Watch

Hey, everyone. This coming week, I'll be on vacation, but you won't be without new webcomic-related content. Through the power of automated updating, I'll be delivering a small reader-interaction post scheduled for Tuesday, and returning TWIW guest blogger Jen Mau will bring you Friday's regular post. But that's next week in webcomics. This week, I it's time for...

1: Shortpacked!, Monday, 6/15

I'll just come right out with it--I wasn't impressed with this comic. It has all the wit and insight of the familiar joke, "You know what happened to make God mellow out between the Old Testament and the New Testament? He got laid." It's not even clear why Robin is sitting around reading the Bible; it strikes me as David Willis using her character as a vehicle here for his opinions.

And the thing is, Willis can do better. He has done better. Just look at his comics featuring the theological-fiction Bus Stop: here, he makes a substantial, valid criticism of Christian hypocrisy regarding standards for children's fantasy novels.
Plus, I think Aslan's longsuffering, dignified demeanor and wit help temper the criticism, elevating the comics above mere "Christians-are-such-nutjobs" gags.

It's quite a contrast to this past Monday's strip, with its frat-boyish caricature of God--and a similarly frat-boyish level of depth.

2: Joe Loves Crappy Movies, Sunday, 6/14

Here, Joe Dunn takes his review of Moon in an unexpected direction with his own caricature of God. Taking the idea of a personal deity to its logical comedic conclusion, he depicts God with the same insecurities and self-esteem problems as any other person--an odd juxtaposition for the all-powerful Creator of the universe. I'm not sure why I prefer it to Willis' caricature, but I do. It could be that it's trying to make a joke rather than a point. Maybe it's that his caricature of God is more sympathetic.

If you'll allow me a tangent...even though He hasn't made an appearance in this week's comics, I really like Dinosaur Comics' God. He's a silly God--somewhat self-important, with his boldfaced capital letters and authoritative pronouncements contrasting with colloquialisms like "dude"--but you get the sense that Ryan North is more interested in exploring religious ideas through Him than making a statement, even if he (North) does happen across some truths about religion and belief along the way. North gives religion a fair shake, and even when he's criticizing it, you get the impression that he's taken the time to understand the other side. Am I just picking on Shortpacked here? What do you think about depictions of God in these various webcomics? Drop a comment, let me know your opinion.

So much, then, for heavier considerations. Let's wrap things up with a few religion-related bullet points.

And that wraps up the Religion Watch. Tune in on Tuesday for automated updates from beyond the grave while I'm on vacation, stop by Friday for Jen Mau's guest entry, and I'll see you all again in a little over a week!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Thanks for the Links

Recently a handful of sites have linked to this blog--sites that are worth visiting in their own right--so I wanted to take a moment and give a few shout outs to a handful of TWIW linkers.

Registered Weapon: The guys from RW have been linking to This Week in Webcomics for a long time now. RW is a gritty-humor cop comic; its protagonists are seasoned, hardheaded detective Frank Gorman, and his artificial-intelligence cash-register partner Detective FELIX. Yes, an AI cash register. It's a very weird comic.

Firman Productions: Michael Firman's site is home to the tastefully crass webcomic "Moe." It's also home to a recent blogpost that linked to TWIW. If you follow my Twitter feed, you've probably seen a link or two to Moe as a "Pick of the Day."

Webcomic Finds: a blog with a very similar focus to this one--finding and talking about good webcomics--but with more organization. Ping Teo relates her online comic discoveries in various categories: "Journey Legs" (full-length reviews), Postcards (short, requested reviews), Hotspots (rants and brainstorming), Pinging Art (art-centric entries), and Stopovers (short news items, etc.). In a recent "Stopover," Ping plugged my review of Rice Boy--thanks, Ping!
UPDATE: As you can see from the comments below, Webcomic Finds recently changed its name and URL to LonelyPanel.com. I've changed the links accordingly!

Artpatient: Delos has linked to a variety of TWIW's features and entries from his blog, Artpatient. The "Strip News" feature at his blog is very handy; it is essentially like reading every webcomics blog at once.

The Webcomic Overlook: Larry "El Santo" Cruz does some of the most balanced webcomic reviewing I've seen. You can always count on him to deliver a reasonable assessment and give each comic he reviews a fair shake. He also links to various pieces of webcomic news--including, from time to time, this blog.

Props to y'all, linkers. Peace out.

Friday, June 12, 2009

6/12: Week in Review

Delivering the news rapid-fire, Jackson Ferrell brings you

(formerly known as Update Boxers and News Briefs, but no one wants to see me in my boxers)

And that's a wrap for this week. Tune in next week for more crap about webcomics!

Monday, June 8, 2009


Today I want to talk with you about Ctrl+Alt+Del. On this blog, we always talk about what I want to talk about--except when there are guest bloggers. For better or worse, this is pretty much how blogs work.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is a popular comic--but it's also an infamous comic. Offline, I've found several fans, from my friend Dave to the guy at the Micro Center customer service desk, but on the internet, CAD is the subject of scathing criticism. I was first introduced to it by John "Your Webcomic is Bad" Solomon's characteristically vitriolic review, and thread topics at the Dinosaur Comics message board include "justify CAD's existence" and "Christmas Miracle: [CAD Creator Tim] Buckley Somehow Becomes More Terrible."

I personally don't think all the CAD hate is merited. Beyond the obvious fact that I'd much rather celebrate and share good comics than talk smack about bad ones, I simply don't think it's a terrible comic. I could defend specific charges against the art, the writing, the overall comic craft, and I could accede the validity of other charges...but I'm not interested in convincing or refuting anyone.

Comics are a communication medium, whether for stories or jokes or webcomic reviews, and I recently had an insight into just what CAD is trying to communicate. Buckley has described it as "a gamer comic, not a gaming comic," and I believe that he's simply trying to present a cross-section of life as a gamer. The humor isn't the tightly-paced three-panel comedy of Penny Arcade or the consummately-crafted "art of the comic strip" of Sheldon. Sometimes the funniest moment occurs in the first or second panel. It's the humor of gamer culture, for better or worse: the sarcasm, the needlessly verbose insults, the snarky elitism, and the occasional bursts of genuine wit that make you lol, even lyao.

CAD has its problems, to be sure. It's wordy, and even if it means to present a slice of gamer life, it needs to make some concessions to the comic format in order to communicate effectively. It doesn't always have to be funny, but its characters must develop beyond one-dimensional caricatures if we're going to take Ethan's game-store business and his relationship with Lilah as seriously as Buckley would like us to. His art is known for inexpressive character expressions and copious use of copy-paste, but over the past year, the art has grown more varied and less static. Honestly, I think the interactive Ethan McManus: Space Archaeologist adventures have been the most successful CAD undertaking yet. With crisper sci-fi artwork and more dynamic panel layouts, they just look better, and the non-canonical, reader-influenced storylines allow for such repercussions as the death of significant characters. Buckley puts forth effort and takes risks on these things, and I think it pays off.

But fundamentally, I'm not most interested in making pronouncements or justifying CAD. I seem to be the only person on the internet who simply thinks it's "sometimes not bad," and I want to know your opinion. I don't just want to talk to you about CAD--I want to talk with you about CAD. Is it a good comic? A bad comic? You tell me. I want to hear what you think.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Review: Rice Boy

It's been a long time in coming, but here it is: the Rice Boy review. It's a rather daunting task, reviewing a work like this, because Rice Boy is a different strain of webcomic. It tells a complete and self-contained story, to begin with; it's evident that comic creator Evan Dahm put a lot of planning into the storyline, from beginning to end, even as a lot of other webcartoonists are content to dive in and see where their comic takes them. And Rice Boy's story is epic: a full 439 pages.

So what's the story about? A diminutive armless person named Rice Boy, who looks sort of like a Fisher-Price toy. A machine man, known as "The One Electronic" or "T-O-E," informs Rice Boy that he is a possible "fulfiller" of an ancient prophecy. Despite his doubts, Rice Boy decides to set off and "give the prophecy a shot," so to speak. As T-O-E finds himself enlisting the help of his brethren the machine men, and Rice Boy journeys through such trying realms as Lonely Land and Underside, they encounter various adversaries. In pursuit are the hard-drinking, one-eyed mercenary Golgo (who has some past ties to T-O-E), and the ruthless King Spatch II, leader of a nation of militaristic xenophobic frogs. The story builds to a climax as all the peoples of Rice Boy's peculiar world take sides, invested in the ultimate success or failure of his undertaking.

Rice Boy's world is a strange one. It is populated by a variety of strange entities, not human but possessing very human personalities: not humans but still people. "Magical" or otherworldly phenomena are accepted as normal, and surreal Seussian landscapes and cities make up the native environment. The whole thing is drawn in a colorful style, simple but fairly detailed, which helps convey the unique character of the world. One gets the sense that one could live in the Rice Boy universe: that time and place run just as deep here as in our own history, as in the spaces we ourselves inhabit. One could live here.

Rice Boy's story is just as rich thematically as its world is rich in texture; its surreal inhabitants grapple with the same weighty and human issues that we all do, which helps to ground the comic. Religion, religious authority, uncertainty and faith are all a part of the world. T-O-E has met with several failures and false starts on his "mission from God" to find a fulfiller, Rice Boy himself wonders if the prophecy is not true, and T-O-E openly admits, "The whole business with God is pretty ambiguous." T-O-E speaks with conviction of the Creator of his disc-shaped world, but elsewhere confesses the distance and vagueness of the deity he serves. He openly admits a belief in a "god of the gaps." As if formulating an Agnostic's Creed, he declares, "My god is what I don't know." The themes of uncertainty resonated strongly with me, and even as a Christian, I could identify with T-O-E's dubiety over his distant deity. And I think we all can identify: whatever answers we've come by, at some point we've all had to admit some uncertainty on metaphysical matters.

Rice Boy also deals with self-doubt and self-confidence. Its titular character, as noted before, approaches the prophecy with reservation, a handful of "maybes," and little conviction that a small person like himself could restore order to his world. On the other hand, as a result of T-O-E's (incorrect) pronouncement that the first King Spatch was the fulfiller, Spatch II is convinced that he can do no wrong as a successor-fulfiller, and that his destiny is to conquer all lesser kingdoms in the name of the prophecy. T-O-E grapples with all of his past incorrect pronouncements, the false fulfillers that he was certain were the real thing. The tale's protagonists have to come to terms with themselves, and it subtly suggests that their self-questioning and realistic self-appraisal perhaps better qualify them to be heroes.

Even as the kingdom of Spatch, in Evan Dahm's words, "satirizes the bad bits of Christianity" [*], Rice Boy simultaneously echoes the paradoxical idea of "strength in weakness" found in religion. Rice Boy and T-O-E are unlikely heroes, who do not save the world through external force, nor even through force of will, but in spite of--perhaps even through--the hesitancy of their convictions. When thinking of "power through weakness" as it plays out in Rice Boy, I can't help recalling the Christian idea that Jesus Christ could save the world through death, suffering, and the ignominy of crucifixion.

Death, and death cheated, are also common themes here: the fulfiller must die in order to fulfill the prophecy, and T-O-E is the last standing member of a three-man cadre who were given immortality as long as they continued to search for the fulfiller. Later, T-O-E receives a mortal wound with a poisoned blade and is living on borrowed time, and more than once he is left for dead only to return. All of this is to say that Dahm, in creating this, clearly had his finger on the pulse of myth and has created a highly evocative story.

And this is as much T-O-E's story as Rice Boy's. In his choice of Rice Boy for a potential fulfiller, T-O-E apparently attempts to find redemption for his previous incorrect selections, for the tyranny that Spatch II has wrought. His travels are as much a focus of the narrative as Rice Boy's, and in reuniting with the machine men that he once left, he must return to his past (mistakes and all) before facing the future. Additionally, with an unforeseen twist at the end, T-O-E plays his role in the final conflict, and the story truly becomes as much his as Rice Boy's. It's a moment imbued with significance, and I won't give it away.

In short, Rice Boy is good, and if you enjoy a large, well-told story, you will enjoy reading it. There's a lot to talk about in this comic, and I've only touched on a bit of it. Also, Evan Dahm continues to tell stories set in the same world as Rice Boy, with his regularly-updating Order of Tales. Visit his website and read his comics--I fully expect that the visit will be worth your time.

Interview w/ FF6 Comic Creator @ Coloring Dragons

Good morning, everyone. Today's post will be going up later today, but in the meantime...remember the Final Fantasy 6 comic? This past week, the website Coloring Dragons published an interview with creator J.E. Simon (AKA Orinocou). The interview provides insight into her ambitious fan project: its aims and motivations, its challenges, her approach to the subject material and characters. It's an interesting read, especially for video game fans--but as noted before, one of Simon's goals in creating the comic is to make FFVI's story accessible to comic readers, regardless of their video game stripes. And this comes out in the interview as well.

Anyway, enjoy the interview, and in the meantime I'll be working on today's post.

Monday, June 1, 2009

6/1: A Few Items of News

Welcome to a new week and a new month, everyone. Let's kick June off with a few items of webcomic news.

First: This past Friday, Luke Surl wrapped up his guest artist month, which has featured comics written by Luke and drawn by other cartoonists. The guest artist month showcases a variety of cartooning styles, including some instances of particularly good cartoon artwork and entertaining comics about Superman. For tasty humor in a variety of art styles, you may begin reading with the first comic in the series.

Second: Gunnerkrigg Court similarly completed a change of pace from its usual art on Friday, with its short comic story "City Face." A story about a lovestruck pigeon only tangentially related to the world of Gunnerkrigg Court, City Face features several funny moments and a hilarious ongoing commentary about the "casting," "filming," and "production" of the comic. Throw in a twist ending, and you've got yourself a thoroughly amusing diversion. I especially liked the pigeons' style of speech.

Road Crew, the comic about those underappreciated behind-the-scenes workers who make the rock-and-roll happen, has recently started up a new storyline, "The Legend of the Golden Kick Drum Mic." Protagonist Jim Soundman, having died and gone to heaven, must return to the land of the living, undertake three trials, and find the legendary kick-drum mic in order to become "King of the Crews." It looks to be an entertaining story for music enthusiasts, drawn in Road Crew's appropriately funky art style. I'd also like to remind readers that Road Crew is intended for mature audiences.

Which brings us to our final item of news: the website Family Webcomics. A useful tool for parents and anyone concerned about the content of online comics, Family Webcomics gives comic listings, content ratings, and detailed information on the content of each listed comic. Additionally, it features several comics suitable for all ages under the FWC banner. Webcomics run the gamut in terms of content, so I'm glad to see a resource like this.