Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is Webcomics, 3: I Got All Types of Crazy Crap

Okay, so it's December 22nd. Holiday shipping deadlines are passing left and right. Topatoco can't even guarantee delivery by December 25th if you shell out the hundred bucks for next-day air! It's too late to order any of the sweet comic anthologies or tongue-in-cheek t-shirts that your favorite webcomics blogger recommended, and that little turd still hasn't written his promised third installment of his Webcomics Gift-Giving Guide! What are you to do?

Well, have no fear. There is hope for you yet.

I have said before that MS Paint Adventures has the best soundtrack of any webcomic out there, and the cool thing is that you can purchase much of that soundtrack on the nine albums available at Tracks range from electronica to ambient experimental electronica to instrumental/orchestral with a dose of electronica, but in my opinion the standout album is Midnight Crew: Drawing Dead.

Drawing Dead is a concept album inspired by MSPA's gang of playing-card-suit-inspired mobsters the Midnight Crew--and ostensibly performed by them too. It features contemporary noir jazz that evokes both early-90s adventure games and 1940s detective flicks, and it will make you feel like a gangsta. (We're talking pinstripe-suit gangsta, of course. Not the other kind.)

The jams are slick, compositions are tight, and at its best it'll remind you of a Dave Brubeck tune. Best of all, you get 18 tracks for $5.25, and you can sample the full album before you buy. Give it a spin, buy it and burn it for your white elephant gift at your office Christmas party, or buy a couple different Homestuck albums for the MSPA fan on your Christmas list. Bam! And you're ready for the holidays.

I also wanted to mention one of the most creative webcomic products that I've seen all year: Dr. McNinja Battle Magnets. These feature the heroes and villains of Dr. McNinja in various action poses, ready to square off against each other on any metal surface. They look great and are every bit as crazy as the comic, and if you were to get me a set I would not object in the slightest.

If war is an art, these are the combat equivalent of magnetic poetry for your 'fridge. Get one of the two sets (seven magnets each) for $12, or buy both sets for $22 and get a secret bonus character too.

And that concludes your 2010 Webcomics Gift-Giving Holiday Guide Thing. I'm Jackson Ferrell, shameless webcomics promoter, wishing you a merry Christmas and happy holidays. Stay cool, and I'll see you in the new year.

Friday, December 10, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is Webcomics, 2: Give a Shirt

Welcome to the second installment of TWIW's Holiday Gift-Giving Special Feature. Today I am here to share holiday gift ideas that you can wear.

To purchase any of these fine garments, simply click on the corresponding picture, and be magically transported to its online store via the power of hyperlinks.

The first shirt on our list comes courtesy of Alexandra Douglass, contributing artist for MS Paint Adventures' Homestuck. It features Homestuck's four protagonists in their signature colors, expressing themselves through the magic of dance and being-on-a-shirt. It's great how the kids' personalities come out in their poses, and even if you don't know anything about Homestuck, it is a wicked cool design.

The shirt costs $20 and is available in white or blapck. This item is currently for pre-order only; orders will close at 11:59 EST on December 12th and will ship no later than December 20th. If you want one by Christmas, now is the time to act.

This shirt, from John "Pictures for Sad Children" Campbell, perfectly captures my sentiments about America. I can't tell you how long I have wanted one of these for. I can't tell you because I don't keep track of these things, but I'm pretty sure it's been at least a year and a half.

You should get it for me. And for anyone else who thinks America is sort of okay. But also me.

The shirt is $19.00, and can be guaranteed to arrive before December 24th as long as you order by December 15 for first class mail (Dec. 17 for UPS ground). See the TopatoCo website for more information.

I know these shipping deadlines are fast approaching, so I'll have the third and final part of this guide thing up for you as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

All I Want for Christmas is Webcomics, 1: Book 'em, Danno

Ah, my oft-neglected blog. I remember you! You're about webcomics.

Obviously, TWIW hasn't seen a lot of recent activity. Apart from my work on my new webcomic Sketch Comedy (GO VISIT MY WEBCOMIC), there's the usual business of the holidays that keeps us all crazy. I don't expect I have to sell you on the concept, but in my opinion, there's no better time of year to buy merch from your favorite webcomic creators. By shopping online, you can dodge the psychotic traffic, the hunt for a parking place and crowds at the malls, and you can introduce your friends and loved ones to the great strips you enjoy online.

So, with that in mind, I present to you part one of a three-part special feature: All I Want for Christmas is Webcomics, the This Week in Webcomics holiday shopping guide.

As always, we at TWIW are nothing if not biased. Everything on this list has passed the rigorous quality screening of being either something I have bought or want to buy. And I have been anticipating the release of the first item on the list for quite some time...

That's right, it's the F Chords print collection.

Long-time readers of TWIW know I'm an outspoken F Chords fan. Ash and Wade are two studio musicians, recording radio-ad music by day and struggling to get their rock band off the ground by night (that is, when they're not playing World of Warcraft or watching Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles). As dudes trying to keep a dream alive and banging their heads against the wall just to keep it from dying, the lead duo are eminently relatable, not to mention hilarious. While rereading the strips in this 60-page collection, it felt like I was catching up with Ash and Wade at the bar, sharing a laugh about all the crap they'd been through. The Hook Arc is particularly hilarious.

You're At A Nine, We Need You at a Zero makes a great gift for the struggling musician in your life, or heck, just about any artist trying to pay the bills doing what he loves. But don't bother buying one for me. I've got my own copy, suckas! You're At A Nine... is available at Kris Straub's online store for $12.99, plus shipping (see above link).

I'm a huge fan of F Chords. But, as you know, I'm also a huge fan of Blank It, which also launched its first print collection this year. Shirt...Goes...Down captures the first two years of existentialism, absurdity, and hand juice. Given that I've reviewed the comic, interviewed the creators (in comic form!), and basically ran my trap about it at every opportunity, you hardly need a reminder why Blank It is awesome. Get Shirt...Goes...Down for anyone on your list who wishes Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead was a little more like the anime Fooly Cooly. Geez, that's a really narrow audience. Get it for anyone who enjoys extremely clever nonsense, witty repartee, and free-wheeling adventure. It's available in the Blank It store for $25 plus shipping.

Last on the book list is Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show. As a supporter of Multiplex's print collection project through Kickstarter, I received my copy around two months ago, and I'm really impressed with the final product. McAlpin has put together a quality book (no surprise, given that he's a career graphic designer), and he hasn't skimped on the bonus material either: over 30 additional comics, behind-the-scenes extras, and an exclusive 12-page prequel storyline. The whole package looks great. It's worth warning that the average Multiplex strip hovers somewhere between a PG-13 and an R rating, so this isn't a gift for your 10-year-old nephew by any means. However, it's unmistakably a quality present for anyone who's out of high school and really, really, really loves movies.

You can get your hands on Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show for $19.95, or $24.95 for the Artist's Edition, at (where else?) the Multiplex Store.

And that wraps up part one of this extremely special holiday feature. Stay tuned for part two, shirts and apparel, sometime next week (or maybe earlier if I get the chance!), and if you know of any webcomic print collections that you think would make a sweet gift, drop a link in the comments.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Robert Gryfft Reviews MS Paint Adventures

Hi, everyone. Long time no see.

Sorry I haven't had much to post lately--I've been working on a handful of different projects, so the blog has kind of gotten short shrift. But I, like everyone and his brother, have been reading MSPaint Adventures lately, and so has fellow blogger Robert Gryfft of Air Theremin. Gryfft is a screaming raving fan of MSPA, and he has graciously allowed me to share his gratuitous frothy fangushing review here on TWIW.

WARNING: Like MSPA itself, Gryfft's review contains F-bombs.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tweet Dreams

Yesterday, Book of Biff creator Chris Hallbeck posted the following on Twitter:
This morning I woke up from a dream about twitter. #whatdoesitmean

And sure enough, after reading that, I myself dreamed about Twitter last night. I dreamed about retweeting a Theater Hopper strip for Wednesday's Pick of the Day; I forget exactly what the joke was, but in classic form, TH cartoonist Tom Brazelton was making fun of his inner Iron Man fanboy. I then dreamed about reading a webcomic titled "Terry and John's Guide to Time Travel," in which the titular characters attempt every bad time travel idea in the book. The particular strip I read featured Terry going back in time to try to eat his past self alive.

What the crud, subconscious.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: the Movie

Scott Pilgrim is making some noise.

At a Glance:

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Kieran Culkin
Director: Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead)
112 mins
TWIW rates: 4/5
Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novel recently released its sixth and final volume, concluding the story of young-adult slacker Scott Pilgrim's battle for the heart of Ramona Flowers against her seven evil ex-boyfriends. Scott McCloud calls it "the funniest comic book on the planet right now." There's a Scott Pilgrim video game for PS3 and XBox, and "Scott Pilgrim vs. the Animation" on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. And this past weekend, the Scott Pilgrim movie hit the box office.

23-year-old Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a loser. He's unemployed, plays bass in a noisy rock band, lives in a tiny apartment with his "cool gay roommate" Wallace (Kieran Culkin), and has recently started dating a high schooler. But all that changes when he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the literal girl of his dreams: as a courier for Amazon, she keeps showing up in his subconscious because of a convenient subspace portal running through his head. But in order to date Ramona, he must first defeat her seven evil exes. Not only does he have to deal with the same messy relationship history that we all must in meeting someone new, but he actually has to fight out that history in a string of escalating boss battles.

Like the comics, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World captures the ethos of our generation. Scott and Ramona Flowers navigate a sea of "It's Complicated" histories, grappling with the interpersonal relations of young adults who never emotionally graduated from high school. Characters speak in a vernacular of humor based on repetition, repetition, and jokes about how lame jokes are. Scott's battles with the evil exes are peppered with tongue-in-cheek, cheesy pun-liners like "You were a little bi-curious? Honey, I'm a little bi-furious!"

The movie is also steeped in video-game culture, up to the 16-bit pixelated Universal logo with accompanying bleep-and-bloop soundtrack. Contemporary movies often take their action-scene cues heavily from video games (e.g. Clash of the Titans), but SP uses video gaming as a framing device for its love story: battles are laden with pop-up score counters and special power-up modes, and defeated enemies burst into showers of coins. When mistaken for a band member and asked "What do you play?" one character responds, "Legend of Zelda, Tetris..." and a running gag has Scott explaining the history of Pac-Man as a pick-up line. With its audio-visual mash of digitized SFX, comic-book popups, and rock music, it's visceral and entertaining. And director Edgar Wright knows how to use a framing device to tell a comic story: what he did with zombie flicks and buddy-cop movies in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, he does again with video games in Scott Pilgrim.

So there's style. But does it bring the substance? To a degree. It keeps the plot, premise and characters simple, but Cera transcends his usual role of awkward slacker; he projects a Scott who, when given a second chance, steps up to admit his past screw-ups and set things right. As in the comics, Scott is an idiot who learns from his mistakes: a hero with a hair more nuance to him than one would expect. Winstead as Flowers brings a fitting measure of reserve to the table for a character with seven evil exes. The exes themselves rock their performances with outrageous energy; Indian guy Matthew Patel breaks out into bollywood dance-fighting, actor/skateboarder Lucas Lee delivers tough-guy panache, Vegan hipster Todd Ingram exudes arrogance, and sinister music mogul Gideon Graves plays his evil-concealing nice-guy facade to the hilt.

The movie stays as faithful to the comic books as a movie can. It faces the same challenge as Watchmen: condensing a large body of work into two or three hours and arranging the plot into a coherent cinematic presentation. And while Watchmen staggered under a slavish devotion to the source material, Scott Pilgrim enjoys considerably more success in striking the balance. A few elements such as the Katayanagi twins (evil exes 5 and 6) and secondary characters' backstories get short shrift, but the film actually bests the comic in its effective foreshadowing of main villain Gideon Graves. As a result, the film actually has a more fulfilling climax. Certain plot elements are changed slightly or rearranged to fit the cinematic medium, but all but the most diehard Pilgrimite will be pleased with the result.

The big question is, of course, is it worth your eight bucks? I can honestly say it's an entertaining production and a quality movie. Those outside of the comic-con crowd may have accessibility issues with it, as it appeals heavily to the viewer's inner dork, and in some instances I found the pervasive sexual jokes off-putting. However, the action rocks, the humor is laugh-worthy, and Scott is (more or less) a worthy hero for this generation. If you're looking for some quality fun for the dork within, you won't go wrong with Scott Pilgrim.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Weekly Wrap-up with Wes Molebash

If I were giving out some kind of award for building community, I would probably award it to Wes Molebash for what he's done with his latest comic, Max vs. Max. Several times a week, he posts a question to start some conversation, such as "What are the signs of a 'bad' webcomic?" or "Is it OK to read your Bible while sitting on the toilet?" People get talking, interaction happens. It's simple and effective.

But I'm writing this post to tell you about another of Wes' traditions: The Weekly Wrap-Up. Every Friday, he posts a run-down of posts from other blogs, comic strips he's enjoyed, the Tweet of the Week and/or Comment of the Week, and an inspiring (usually cartooning-related) video link that he's found. It's pretty cool, simply because it's a way of supporting cool stuff--it's a way that Max vs. Max points to stuff outside its own site and is like, "Hey, check this out."

And that's a good thing. You know I do the Pick of the Day thing on my Twitter, to share cool comics with you, so no surprise that I think it's a cool idea. When you share a cool comic, everyone wins. (I do tend to share strips from the same handful of comics, though. It's not a perfect thingy.)

I have some other thoughts on that, but for now it's about time to wrap this post up. For now, just wanted to give a shout out to the cool things that Wes is doing over at Max vs. Max. Check it out!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Heck Yes, Space Archaeology

It's no secret to long-time readers of this blog that my favorite part of CAD is the "Ethan McManus: Space Archaeologist" side-series. In these alternate-universe adventures, the fate and decisions of Harrison-Fordian hero Ethan McManus are placed in the hands of the internet at large. In every storyline, there is action, humor, and horrible gut-splattering disaster. And it's tremendous fun.

On Monday, a brand-new installment kicked off, picking up from the last adventure with Ethan crash-landed on a hostile, unfamiliar planet. CAD cartoonist Tim Buckley always seems to put forth an extra effort on the art for these things, and the alternate reality affords him storytelling laterality and opportunities not present in your usual CAD. It's fun, it doesn't take itself too seriously, and it appears that the first two episodes allowed Buckley to iron out the kinks in the choose-your-own-adventure format.

Am I looking forward to this? No question.

Today's comic presents the readership collective with the first crucial choice, so head over, get up to speed, and cast your vote for Ethan's course of action. His fate rests in our hands--and if we end up killing him off, at least it'll be an entertaining ride.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Ultimate Crossover

'nuff said.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Multiplex Celebrates 5th Anniversary

This week marks the 5th year of Gordon McAlpin's movie-theater comic Multiplex, and Multiplex is celebrating with a week of daily updates. In addition to its usual Monday and Thursday updates, it's bringing guest strips and guest art (today's update even includes a poetic ode written by a Multiplex fan!). You can check out this week's guest updates in the guest strip section.

There will be a guest strip on Friday, and even a few more bonus updates next week, so be sure to head over to Multiplex and check out the festivities. Congrats to Gordon on five years of webcartooning!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Pick of the Day

As long-time readers of this blog know, in my Twitter feed I have a "Webcomics Pick of the Day" as a semi-regular feature. Some weeks I have more to share than others, but in the past week or two I feel that we've had some particularly tweet-worthy picks.

Thus, it's time for a special #pickoftheday edition of...

  • In this post-fourth-of-July strip, Greg Dean of Real Life offers a useful lesson on physics and photography for those attempting to photograph fireworks. Informative and irascible!

  • Toy Story 3 has made a well-deserved splash not only at the box office, but also among webcartoonists. I've seen a number of strips and reviews, but what stood out to me was this touchingly geeky tribute from Hijinks Ensue.
    (Also, if you haven't seen it yet, go see Toy Story 3.)

  • In addition to its regular storyline and some timely Fourth of July tales, Axe Cop also brings a one-off spin-off introducing the Zombie Vampire Hunter team Jack and John. It's not the first time Axe Cop has addressed matters of theology, but Jack and John's story sheds further light on the nature of God and good vs. evil in the Axe Cop universe. You know I'm a sucker for religion in comics...

  • Zorphbert and Fred, of Dawn Griffin's comic Zorphbert and Fred, have their own twitter accounts by which to provide an alien perspective on human culture--including their own Webcomic Picks of the Day. Lately they've taken a liking to Max vs. Max and the insights that it provides into the online dating experience. Zorphbert and Fred, you guys have good taste in webcomics!
    One thing I enjoy about Z&F's picks is that they regularly read an entirely different segment of webcomics than I do. If you're a twitterer, checking out their feeds (@Zorphbert and @and_Fred) can expose you to some good comics that you might otherwise not encounter. It's a good way to broaden your webcomic horizons.

Monday, June 28, 2010

TGT Webcomics Interviews Snakehead Games

Hey, guys. I just wanted to cue you in to this interview between Kurt Sasso of TGT Webcomics and Colin Ferguson of Snakehead Games. Snakehead, which creates in-browser MMO games such as Star Pirates and Spy Battle, has previously run custom ad campaigns with Starslip, Real Life, and other high-profile webcomics. Additionally, Tauhid Bondia of Good Ship Chronicles put together some ten comics based on the Star Pirates game, which you can read here.

The podcast is a lively conversation about business, webcomics, and fun, and I thought you guys might like to listen to it.

(Incidentally, the "wonderful guy that [Kurt] met in Chicago" who told Colin about TGT Webcomics is me. :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Internet Dating, Webcomics-style

Interesting. Looks like both Multiplex and Max vs. Max are making forays into the realm of digital dating disasters for their protagonists. Great minds think alike?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: The Adventures of Ace Hoyle

I have only played poker for money once in my life. This past winter, a friend invited me to a $10-buy-in poker night with a bunch of people I'd never met. It was good fun, and I ended up taking first place, through a mixture of luck, skill, and being a stranger to everyone so that nobody knew my tells. I've never watched more than a round of professional tournament poker, and all my knowledge of betting strategy comes from playing five-card stud with my cousin Chad for our grandmother's Life Savers.

When I think poker, I think Penny Arcade's "The Green Harvest," in which Tycho takes advantage of Gabe's ignorance of the game in order to take his money. When I think poker, I think kings hate threes.

So this is the sort of person who, this past week, found himself reading the tournament poker webcomic The Adventures of Ace Hoyle.

Unlike most of what we cover here, Ace Hoyle is not just a comic. It's also a dish made by thinly slicing fresh raw tuna a site dedicated to poker in general and online poker in particular. The site provides tutorials, tips and tricks, recommended and reputable online casinos, news, and...a webcomic. But you came here to hear about the comic, right? So let's talk about that.

At only 28 pages, Ace Hoyle currently has a small archive; you can get up to speed in five or ten minutes. The cast page and the comic itself are equally good introductions to Ace Hoyle and his co-stars, so it's generally accessible. It's also worth noting that the archive is browsable at two different sizes. If your monitor resolution supports it, I recommend the larger size for readability.

Also, the larger size better showcases the artwork. Artist Tomas Batha works in a high-contrast grayscale with spot color and a slight noir flavor. Early on, he adopts a hatched, pencil-shaded style that you don't often see in webcomics--I've only ever seen that kind of approach in Unwinder's Tall Comics and Megatokyo. Here in Ace Hoyle, it works reasonably well. As the comic progresses, later pages are tighter and cleaner, with more liberal use of spot color. There are a few surreal moments where an action scene plays out in slow-motion freeze-frames, and the overall effect halts the scene's momentum. Still, most action sequences keep it dynamic, as in this (potentially spoiler-laden!) example. The art generally improves, but a part of me likes the high-contrast tones of the early installments--good black-and-white art isn't easy.

On the whole, the art is strong, especially the pin-up pages. Characters have expressive faces and body language, along with distinctive designs. For better or for worse, I might even call them "funky." It's also worth noting that Tomas Batha both spends more time on environmental renderings and shows more proficiency at them than the average webcomic artist.

Like I said: pretty strong.

As detailed as the artwork is, I'll say it from the outset of the story: don't expect the plot to be anything deep. Everything you need to know about the character of Ace Hoyle (at least for this episode) you learn in the first page: he's slick, sharp, and ready to play some poker. He has roughly the character depth of James Bond--again, for better or for worse. In essence, Ace and his comic are here to entertain.

So--do they?

Well, the obvious answer is, "Depends how much you like poker."

If you're a complete poker virgin, this comic obviously isn't for you. It assumes a baseline familiarity with terminology and conventions. That said, it's still fairly accessible,and although I encountered some unfamiliar poker expressions, I could follow the action through context and pacing cues. Honestly, I had more trouble following the side-storyline about Ace's lady friend Dolly Finegold, though I suspect that's partly because we're in mid-storyline, with not everything revealed. As long as you have some interest and experience in poker, you can come first for the comic rather than the card games and still enjoy the action.

The comic is more plot-driven than character-driven: motivations are obvious, and character types are easy to read. Like a James Bond flick, it brings just the bare minimum of substance to hang the style on. Writer Phill Provance has some tongue-in-cheek fun with the archetypes he employs; Dick Spadely is a comically obvious jerk of a villain (plus a sore loser), and hard-drinking twins Boris and Vladimir Pultsin parody the stereotypical Russian of cold-war era fiction. As I noted before, none of it's especially deep, but the dialogue packs sharp banter and witty exchanges--dare I say it?--in spades. Obvious pun aside, the clever back-and-forth wordplay is one of the strong points, and it adds a lot of appeal.

However, the title character is carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders: if entertainment is the goal, he has to bring enough style to hook us, and in this department, Ace can't quite match step with Bond. His last-second entrance at the tournament table plays the trope straight where it really needed a twist to make it fresh. Still, he's smooth and savvy at the card table, and he's not too proud to fold when he's dealt a bad hand. Like Bond, Ace Hoyle toes the Mary-Sue line pretty closely, but he's good enough at what he does to keep things interesting, he's affable, and he's a good sport.

And like Bond, he displays a measure of consequences-be-damned recklessness when he punches out a competitor whose bad behavior steps over the line. Hopefully he'll actually have to deal with the fallout from this decision; it keeps things both interesting and believable. This early in the comic, there's plenty of space in which to develop Ace and flesh him out. In order to make the readers care whether he wins, he'll eventually need some more substance--even if, like James Bond, his style is his substance.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed the first episode so far, though perhaps because I had the patience to read through the archives a second time. Obviously, Ace Hoyle will appeal most to the person who thought Casino Royale had too much spy games and not enough poker, but if you can follow the action at the table and don't demand more of the comic than it promises to deliver, it may be worth your while to check out.

And if you're not up to speed on your poker but curious about the comic? Well, Miss Finegold can help you out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: Exploded View

Let's talk about science fiction comics.

No, we're not going to talk about Starslip. And much as I love to talk about Jump Leads, no, we're not going to talk about that either. We're not talking about Marooned (we've already done that) or Moon Town (though perhaps we should).

No, today we're going to talk about Cloudscape Comics' latest comic anthology, Exploded View.

Cloudscape is a collective of Vancouver area artists, and Expanded View is a sci-fi-themed anthology of short comic stories. Their fourth collection to date, it includes contributions from notable webcartoonists Angela "Jam" Melick of Wasted Talent and Kevin Forbes of Simulated Comic Product. A host of other artists contributed as well, ranging from actors to animators to elementary school teachers.

In some ways the collected stories vary greatly; in others they're highly similar. Exploded View showcases a wide variety of art styles, for starters: all of the artists take a different approach to the challenge of working in grayscale. You'll see high-contrast black-and-white; finely graduated shading; precise and tightly-rendered drawings; loose, freeform, quick-and-dirty sketches; and varying degrees of freehand vs. computer-assisted artwork. Generally speaking, it's decent artwork, and a few stories (John Christmas' "Aquanaut Zero," Megan Furesz's "Ctrl Z," and Melick's "Mechanics") really knock it out of the park. "Aquanaut Zero," a tale of undersea exploration, captures the claustrophobia of the ocean's depths with its absolutely oppressive use of negative space. It harrowed me in the best way.

The book's art isn't without its missteps. In Jeffrey Ellis' "Breakdowns," a girl's violent outburst has unforeseen consequences, and in a key moment, she's struck with guilt and grief as she realizes what she's done. Unfortunately, the thematically ambitious plot has written a check that the artwork can't cash, and in that pivotal frame, the cartoonish style makes the moment feel stiff and awkward. Still, "Breakdowns" has good artwork overall, and there are only a few moments in the collection where I thought to myself, "This is not good cartooning." On the whole, the anthology shows craftsmanship and attention to detail.

The collection is thematically strong as well. Science fiction is a genre of many faces, and you'll find many of them represented here: cyberspace and virtual reality, cybernetics, space travel, rapidly-changing technology, and robots. Lots and lots of robots (and I loves me some robots).
These elements are all used to good thematic effect, exploring interpersonal pathos, heights of emotion, complex moral decisions, and technology's effect on what it means to be human. Make no mistake, there's comedy here too: "Ctrl Z" is laugh-out-loud funny, as its snarky down-on-its-luck robot protagonist makes an unlikely ally and strikes back at its equally-robotic oppressors. I was disappointed that the book's one treatment of religion, Colin Upton's "It Came From the Heavens," is not only ham-handed, but implausible--its portrait of Christianity would really only make sense if mankind began to colonize space during the Crusades.

Another way in which these stories are similar: just about each tale brings a twist of some sort, a surprise reveal or a subversion of expectations. Of course, a twist in itself is no story without strong characters and a well-crafted plot, and on the whole these stories flesh out their twists. Paul Soeiro's "Faulty Wiring" takes man vs. machine and turns it on its head, questioning our innate inclinations to sympathize with its human main character. Melick's entirely alien cast in "Mechanics" are still eminently recognizable as people, and the reader can relate to (perhaps even identify with) her protagonist's motivations.

At the end of the day, though, the question is: is it worth your twenty bucks? Make no mistake, it's a good collection with a few truly outstanding stories, but your answer to that question depends on who you are. Not just any sci-fi fan is going to get something out of this anthology. Think of a geologist taking core samples: drilling out a narrow cross-section of the earth, but probing deep to obtain a sample rich with information. You won't be spending too much time with any of these characters, but the best stories here dig into what it means to be human and come up with something solid. It also helps if you like a broad range of art styles and an appreciation for black-and-white art. Basically: if you enjoy tightly-crafted comic stories, sci-fi with substance, and robots--lots and lots of robots--don't hesitate to grab a copy. It's good stuff.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Triumphant Return of Nobody Scores

So, you've been reading this blog for awhile. You know I've got my comics that I particularly like to rave about: comics like Blank It, Max vs. Max, and to a lesser extent, Z'Nuff Dr. McNinja. You know that high on my list of "ravers" is Brandon Bolt's little comic that suffers, Nobody Scores.

Or...maybe you don't. That's cool too. Nobody Scores--for the non-knowers among you--is a comic in which anything that can go wrong, does. Even the things that can't go wrong go wrong. I love it because it's top-notch well-crafted cartooning, it's relentlessly cynical, it's over-the-top with raw crazy energy, and its comics are huge. It's the kind of thing you need hyphens to describe.

And it's back!

Around five months ago, cartoonist Brandon Bolt went on hiatus, citing increased job stuff and cartooning burnout (and if I were turning out twice-weekly comics as tall as his for over two years, I'd have been citing burnout even earlier). For five months I have languished, forced to read webcomics in which sometimes people score, deprived of long-form tales of imminent calamity.

But now Nobody Scores is back and Nobody-Scoresier than ever. The site has been streamlined with an improved design, and also Jane has bangs. The NS cast stars in three brand-new comics as of like last Friday or so:
  • Fantastic Voyage, in which Sara scores a free exploratory trip into space and is thwarted by Einstein,
  • Every Donation Counts, a cautionary tale about the hazards of helping the homeless, and
  • Reenactment Fever, which is exactly what it says on the tin: the historical/cultural reenactment craze, as applied to things it really shouldn't be applied to.

Needless to say, I am very excited, and you should be too.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blank It Presents: Something Completely Different

Visit the webcomic Blank It
Hey, y'all. Today I wanted to talk about something new that's happening with one of my favorite comics.

If you follow this blog at all, you know I'm a big fan of Blank It. Its witty wordplay, dynamic and freewheeling storytelling, and general absurdist awesomeness led me to review it and interview the creators in a comic. It's like Waiting for Godot: the Manga--except that doesn't sound nearly awesome enough.

Last Thursday's installment wrapped up the first major chapter in the BlankItverse; after two years and 204 comics of shovel beams, mysterious robots, and militant cookies, its two protagonists lie down to take a nap. So, what's next? Artist Lem Pew writes:
Aric and I are going to take...a month or so to recoup and get a little break. ...[We] are still going to update the site every Monday and Thursday with a comic, but it’s going to be a totally different tale.

If you haven't read through Blank It yet, this is a great time to get caught up and--if you like what you see--to start tuning in regularly.

This blog is all about sharing good comics, and Blank It is a good comic. I highly recommend it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what further tricks Lemmo and Aric have up their sleeves.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Recommended Reading

Hi, everyone. I just wanted to drop a quick post to let you know what I've been reading lately.

The Fancy Adventures of Jack Cannon: After having read the first volume of Scott Pilgrim, I am beginning to think that Jack Cannon is the best webcomic tribute to Scott Pilgrim I've ever seen. It's funny and freewheeling, with colorful, dynamic artwork, and it's got relatable characters in over their heads with weird events.

Marooned: You may recall that I reviewed Marooned not quite a year ago. I'm still reading it. The new storyline that began last week is a great place to jump in: all you need to know is that Captain John and Asimov the robot have been stranded on Mars and are presently surviving under the hospitality of Martians. Still wondering if it's your kind of comic? Check out my review.

Moon Town: Another sci-fi comic from Wishtales Publishing, Moon Town's artwork continues to blow my frigging mind. You've got a run-in between a rookie security guard and an ore miner on a lunar colony, and in the most recent chapter, you've also got a gigantic moon squid. Things are a little slow at first, but just pay attention to the gorgeous artwork and keep reading ahead. You'll get to the moon squid soon enough.

Axe Cop: Axe Cop is the latest big comic to hit the internet. It's the adventures of a superhero cop with an axe, drawn by a professional artist and written by his five-year-old brother. Like Dr. McNinja before it, it's an affectionate parody of superhero comics that will have you in hysterics at how stupid awesome it is. You probably read it already, but if this is your first time hearing about it, go check it out.

Odori Park: After stumbling across Odori Park a couple of different times, I found myself coming back on my own. It's an East-meets-West romance between a Japan-native bookkeeper and an American ESL teacher, told in newspaper-strip form. It's family-friendly, it's got sharp humor, and it brings the A game with its artwork. Check it out and give it some love.

Tuna Carpaccio, P.I.: Slow to update, but when it does, man is it good. I've also reviewed Tuna Carpaccio before, so rather than recapitulate all my previous praise, I'll just point you to the review. If you're willing to wait around for the next Dresden Codak, and you like a good gumshoe adventure-comedy, Tuna Carpaccio is also worth waiting for.

I always feel kinda like a salesman when I finish a post like this, but if time is money, that's what I am. Except I don't get paid for this.

Alls I'm sayin' is, these comics are worth my time, and maybe they're worth yours too. Only one way to find out, right? Check 'em out.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

C2E2: Part 3 of Is He Seriously Still Talking About This?

Hi again. C2E2 was two weeks ago, but I still have things to say about it. It was such a dense weekend that I feel I would run out of time for saying before I ran out of things to say about it. If that makes any sense.

So, here it is, Saturday afternoon, and I wanted to post some more about my C2E2 experiences and the cartoonists I talked to.

Of course, even though I focused primarily on webcomics, there was a lot going on at C2E2 beyond the world of cartoonists for whom the internet is their cartooning backbone. The big superhero-comic publishers, Marvel and DC and Image, all had a notable presence, with Marvel heavily promoting the upcoming Iron Man 2 movie via comic and video-game tie-ins. (The video game looks awesome.) Local Chicago comic shops occupied a large swath of the floor, and I bought a copy of Scott Pilgrim from one of them in anticipation of (once again) the upcoming movie. On the stage out in the hall, the local folk-rock-about-superheroes band Wednesday Heroes played a set or two every day. There was more to see and do than one person could even conceive of doing.

So, I did what I could. I attended a couple of panels--including one on black comic creators and black superheroes--and I watched the Iron Artist competition on Saturday evening, for me the highlight of which was watching Gordon McAlpin and Tom Brazelton draw their own interpretations of the theme "Snake Pliskin in Escape from the Princess Bride." On Friday night, there was a Webcomics Town Hall, which probably merits its own entry. So I'll save that topic for another time.

Before I go fold my laundry, I'd like to tell you about two webcartoonists I met at the con and about their work. (Actually, I'll tell you about them after I fold my laundry. You probably won't be able to tell the difference.)

Chicago native Sean Archer creates the webcomic Milo the Cloud, about a light-hearted cloud and his eclectic peers (including an aichmophobic balloon and a bazooka-toting cardinal). What struck me about Sean's work is the creativity that he displayed in merchandising and promoting Milo the Cloud. He had Milo figurines for sale at his booth, and he told me about the process of creating and painting each of them by hand. Additionally, he had an a capella CD of unofficial theme music for Milo the Cloud, which he created and performed with some of his musical colleagues. Milo the Cloud is a humor-based strip with some continuity and an idiosyncratic. It struck me as similar to Ed Contradictory, which I mentioned in a previous C2E2 entry, so if you like one of these comics, you should probably check out the other too.

I also got to meet Alina Pete, the creator of Weregeek. Weregeek has nothing to do with Werewolves--at least not directly. Instead, it's about otherwise ordinary people who, when the moon is right and mysterious forces align, are transformed into wholly different beings for their tabletop RPG sessions. It's a tongue-in-cheek look at the role-playing hobby from the inside out, and it's a lot of fun.

It can be a challenge to actually depict the imagined in-game world of an RPG in a comic and still keep it engaging, but Weregeek naturally moves between its characters' everyday lives and jobs and their in-game adventures. Kudos to the creative staff for pulling off that tricky balancing act! I'll have to read some more of this comic when I have the time.

Another thing that I will have to do when I have the time is blog some more about C2E2.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

C2E2: Part 2 of X, where X = (However Many of These I End Up Doing)

Meeting Chris Hallbeck of The Book of Biff for the first time

Our conversation more or less went like this.

When you are a cartoonist, you talk to people by putting together words and pictures. Most of our talking happens with noises we make from our mouths, so cartooning is kind of an unusual way to talk. Some cartoonists are equally at home talking with noises or with silly pictures, cartoonists like Tom Brazelton or Kris Straub, cool guys who generally seem at ease chatting with anyone, even perfect strangers who visit their booths at conventions or dudes they know wholly through the internet.

But some cartoonists are most comfortable talking through cartoons. Nothing's stopping these cartoonists from coming to conventions, and if you go up to their booth, it's not like awkward silence is a given or anything. But your conversation will probably be weird, and if they do feel completely comfortable talking, it's probably because they're talking with you about what you'd like them to sketch for you. At comic conventions, you can meet cartoonists from all across the social spectrum.

I met a lot of cartoonists at C2E2.

It was undeniably cool to meet Chris Hastings of Dr. McNinja fame. I got to watch him draw awesomeness onto a fan's interactive poster, we talked some about creating the kind of comics you want to read and finding something marketable inside your heart, and we had not one but two deliberately awkward silences. I talked with Evan Dahm, who has plans to develop his fictional world of Overside even beyond Rice Boy and Order of Tales. I talked to people whose work I'm familiar with, and I met some new faces too.

Ed Conley creates the comic Ed Contradictory, a bizarre foray into self-aware cartooning, in which the characters berate the cartoonist, search for new characters for the comic, and travel back in time to keep themselves from time-traveling. The central cast includes a cute-mascot panda bear, a gentleman scientist and the fellow gentleman scientist whose brain he placed inside a robot, a mercenary, and the Magical Booze Fish. It's utterly nuts and unabashedly anti-fourth-wall, and Ed Conley was wearing a necktie when I met him. That's pretty cool.

I also got to meet Dawn Griffin, creator of Zorphbert and Fred. Her comic is about two aliens who don dog disguises in order to observe and study humans, but I'm largely aware of her work because her two lead characters have been sharing their webcomics Picks of the Day via their Twitter accounts. Dawn and I talked about a whole crazy spectrum of things, from balancing your day job and your comic, to her illustration work for the Abby's Adventures children's books, to self-criticism and self-confidence and how it's a good idea to get up and actually do athletic things once in awhile. Dawn is a pretty cool person with a pretty cool comic.

Do I have more things to say about C2E2? Certainly. Can I find time to say them? We shall see.

Don't forget I got a new "I am a Purchasing Rockstar" strip going up at Borderline Boy tomorrow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

C2E2: Part 1 of Man I Don't Even Know How Many

Joe Dunn and Phil Chan discuss their college-story comic Matriculated in contrast to their gag-format works (Joe Loves Crappy Movies and Another Videogame Webcomic):

I spent the majority of C2E2 conversing with webcomic creators about their craft, their stuff, and all things webcomics. This is a bit of an actual conversation with Joe Dunn and Phil Chan, writer-and-artist team behind countless comics for the Digital Pimp collective.

Most everyone who stopped by the Digital Pimp booth showed a preference for either Matriculated or JLCM, in terms of which Digital Pimp features they read regularly. Story-based comics and gag-a-day strips attract different sorts of readers, when the comic in question updates weekly, it adds an entirely different rhythm to the mix. Contrast a weekly humor strip like Rob & Elliot with, say, The Book of Biff, or consider the pacing of Matriculated itself.

Stay tuned for further words and pictures from C2E2!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Back from C2E2

Well, after a busy weekend of conventioning in Chicago (and a 5-hour drive home), I'm back from C2E2. It's 11:25 and I've got work tomorrow morning, but I just wanted to say it was a great time and it's given me a lot to think about. I'll hit you with some more posts as this week progresses about the people I met, the conversations I had, and the cool things that went down. But for now I've got some sleeping to do.

Friday, April 2, 2010

April Fool Me Twice, Shame on April Me

If you're looking for a catalog of even more April Foolery, allow me to share with you this little postscript:
Happy Easter, everyone. In all likelihood, I will see you next week!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool Me Once, Shame on April You

It's April Fool's Day, and nobody loves to fool your April like webcomics. April Fool's is a tradition for certain comics, so let's see what brand of frivolity these long-time celebrators of the holiday have foisted upon us this year:
  • Dinosaur Comics teamed up with Nedroid, replacing T-Rex with Reginald and Utahraptor with Beartato in every comic in the Dinosaur Comics archives. The result: a comic with an already bizarre premise becomes all the more surreal. Behold a sample.

  • Questionable Content brings us a page from anime fan Marigold's favorite manga: Magical Love Gentleman. Cartoonist Jeph Jacques is nothing if not tasteful.

  • Past pranks from The Book of Biff have included shortening Biff's signature crazy eyebrows and having him break his vow of silence. This year, failed image compression makes the punchline illegible.

What was your favorite webcomic April Fool's prank? Drop a comment and share it with us.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Convention Adventures, April 2010

Greetings, internet people.

See the announcements about conventions in the sidebar? I'd like to say a few more words about those conventions, because--as the write-up below of my visit to Wes Molebash's exhibition will attest--it is cool to meet other people who are into webcomics in person. I'll be attending two conventions in April, and if you also will be attending these conventions, it would be cool to see you there.

Friday, April 16th, through Sunday, April 18th, I will be at the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo. There will be a large contingent of webcartoonists there, and you will probably be able to catch me hanging out at table WC-B with my fellow cartoonist and boss, Gordon McAlpin, and Joel "Hijinks" Watson. Additionally, you can bet I'll be attending the Webcomics Town Hall panel at 7:15 PM on Friday. You will be able to recognize me by the "I Heart Workplace Romance" shirt that I will be sporting.

Should you wish to purchase an "I Heart Workplace Romance" shirt, Gordon will have them for sale at his booth. They are pretty awesome shirts, because I designed them. I'm just sayin'.

In other, slightly less shamelessly self-promoting news, I will also be attending the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo, April 24-25, in Columbus, OH. This looks like a good way to meet like-minded people, it is only an hour or two from where I live, and plus it is only eight bucks. Tom "Marooned" Dellaringa will be in attendance there, and hopefully I'll get a chance to chat with him and possibly pick up a copy of his short comic story A Tale of Two Robots (I love robots). In all likelihood, other cool things will happen as well: cool things that I cannot foresee, bounded as I am within this space and time.

If you are planning to be at either of these conventions, shoot me an email (DeathbyChiasmus -at- gmail -dot- com). It would be cool to connect with you and talk about--what else--comics.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Fine Art of Doing a Bunch of Things

Updates around here have been rather slow, I know. I have taken on a handful of new projects that are keeping me busy when I'm not working my day job, and I continue to work on my plans for the future of this blog. Additionally, doing Borderline Boy strips regularly is a time-consuming endeavor in itself.

Blatant plug for my own comic, I know. Figured if I'm updating something regularly and it isn't this blog, I might as well let you know about it. I try not to be too obnoxious.

Tune in tomorrow, when I will hit you with some convention news. Will there be unnecessary italics? Almost certainly.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Meeting Wes Molebash, Cartoonist and Living Legend

This past Saturday, I took an hour-and-a-half drive out to Schlegel's Coffee in Chillicothe, OH to see Wes Molebash at his comic exhibition. Wes is best known for his now-completed strip about married life, You'll Have That, and he's done several other comics. For the month of March, Schlegel's Coffee House is showcasing his current project, Max vs. Max, a strip about the personal ups and downs of underdog/everyman Max Stanton.

On Saturday evening, Wes made a personal appearance at Schlegel's, so I made a trip down to see him in person. It was great to see him in person and talk comics--and I suppose that this, for me, is the cool thing about webcomics, the connecting.

The internet (at least ostensibly) is all about connecting. When you're reading a webcomic, if you want to say something to the cartoonist, you don't have to get up and get a stamp and envelope and find the guy's address, as you would with a newspaper strip or comic book. You can easily shoot an email or drop a comment. Your reply back may be a simple "thanks for the email; I'm glad you liked today's comic!", and you may not get a deep and personal connection out of it, but the internet has made connecting easier.

There's no substitute for face-to-face communication, but be that as it may, the internet can facilitate saying "hey" in person too. Thanks to the internet, I got to meet some new people this weekend, including one Wes Molebash, a talented cartoonist and a down-to-earth guy.

If you get a chance like this to meet up with a cartoonist whose work you enjoy, I encourage you to take it. Cartoonists like talking with people who like their work! Sure, it's possible to be an obnoxious gushing fan or an obsessive stalker about it, but most people are pretty cool about their art appreciation, and when people are cool about it, cool stuff happens. Swing by a convention or an exhibition or the Buttersafe Expo sometime. I've got a couple of conventions that I'll be swinging by in April--but I digress. I'll drop some more details on that later.

Point is, Wes Molebash is a cool guy who makes cool comics. If you're near Chillicothe, you should swing by the gallery and check out his exhibit. At the coffee shop, you can purchase original Max vs. Max strip artwork, and Wes is also taking commissions and selling original YHT art in order to fund his upcoming wedding. Further details are available at the Max vs. Max site.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A New Face Joins Wishtales Publishing

Happy Monday, my readers. I've got news to share with you today.

You may remember Wishtales Publishing, which I mentioned shortly after its launch last September. Wishtales is bringing aboard former Disney cartoonist Eddie Pittman and his comic "Red's Planet." I've come across Red's Planet a couple of times before receiving the press release, and I liked what I saw--Pittman's professional experience in storytelling through animation comes through strongly, and it's clear he's put a lot of effort and planning and fun into his comic. "Red's Planet" stars a runaway foster child, Red, who is accidentally abducted by aliens. She finds herself marooned on an unfamiliar planet with a weird alien entourage who are even worse than her foster family. It's sharp, cartoony, and an engagingly weird fish-out-of-water adventure.

Incidentally, I had a chance last week to catch up on Moon Town last week, and Steve Ogden is really knocking it out of the park with this one. I can see why he won the "Best New Comic" award in the 2009 Webcomic List Awards. Bottom line is, if you like quality sci-fi storytelling, you can't go wrong with the Wishtales guys. Give 'em all a look, because I'm sure at least one of these guys has got a comic you'll enjoy.

The press release is as follows:


March 2, 2010 – The independent publishing studio Wishtales has added to their roster of all-ages comics with the addition of Eddie Pittman, creator of the brand new online graphic novel "Red's Planet."

Pittman began his animation career with Walt Disney Feature Animation Florida working on Mulan, Tarzan, Fantasia 2000, The Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo & Stitch. He currently resides in Orlando Florida where he provides a variety of services including storyboard and illustration work.

Pittman recently began publishing his all-ages science fiction graphic novel "Red's Planet" online. Dell'Aringa and Ogden were immediately taken by his wonderful style and smart writing. Emails were exchanged and Pittman eventually provided artwork for Dell'Aringa's first book "Out of Orbit."

Dell'Aringa and Ogden soon realized that Pittman was a perfect fit for Wishtales.

"I brought it up to Steve early in the week and it just seemed like a no-brainer for us. Eddie is not only a wonderful artist, but a wonderful person, too. We share a lot of the same ideas about art and about all-ages material. It's a natural fit. We're just ecstatic Eddie felt the same way," said Dell'Aringa.

Pittman's "Red's Planet" is the story of Red, a 10-year old girl who after running away from her foster home is mistakenly kidnapped by aliens. She soon finds herself across the galaxy and marooned on a deserted planet with an eclectic group of castaways who are much worse than her foster family.

Pittman was happy to join the budding publishing studio.

"I couldn't be more excited to be a part of Wishtales. Tom Dell'Aringa and Steve Ogden are two of my favorite storytellers. Having the opportunity to work with them and bring strong all-ages content to life through Wishtales is a dream come true," said Pittman.

Wishtales we be exhibiting for the first time at the 11th annual Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo in Columbus Ohio in April 24th and 25th, where they will be showing off material from their many creations including "Red's Planet," "Moon Town," "Marooned," "Rag the Viking," "Croaker's Gorge," "Cubicle Pigs" and more.

Wishtales Publishing Studio

Red's Planet by Eddie Pittman

Marooned by Tom Dell'Aringa

Moon Town by Steve Ogden

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I Am Cartooning Regularly Again

Hey everyone. I guess I'll technically be out of hiatus tomorrow, but I wanted to hit you with an announcement real quick. I'm getting back to cartooning regularly, and I'll be droppin' comics over at once a week at the bare minimum. And I've never intended this blog as a vehicle for self-promotion, so that's all I'll say about that.

TWIW has always been about sharing awesome comics created by people who are not me. The Borderline Boy announcement banner graphic above is comin' down at the end of this week, and if you want to check out my comics, now you know where to go. Back to business.

I'm still working on my plans for the future of this blog, so watch this space for details. Until everything comes together, I'll still try to supply you with some sort of comic-related blather every Monday here, sharing with you the cool comic findings I've discovered. And as always, you can check out the Webcomics Pick of the Day via Twitter for more-or-less daily recommendations.

I'll see you tomorrow with a brand-new post.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snowflakes Collaborates with AHA's Be The Beat Campaign

You know me. Even when I'm on hiatus, I can't help posting webcomics news.

A couple days ago, I received a press release in my inbox regarding the webcomic Snowflakes, an all-ages strip created by the cartooning trifecta of James Ashby, Chris Jones and Zach Weiner. The Snowflakes creators are collaborating with the American Heart Association to promote the Be the Beat cardiac arrest awareness campaign to teens and tweens.

When I first received the press release, my first thought was that the project had potential, but I was concerned that it might simply be a shabby token effort. Having checked out the strips that Ashby, Jones and Weiner have created, I can say that they're still producing top-quality cartoons for this project. Weiner stated in the press release, “The opportunity to use our humor and storytelling to promote a great cause was impossible to pass up,” and you can tell the team believes in the undertaking.

It's a challenge to make art that both educates and entertains, but I found myself laughing and learning as I read through the Be The Beat strips. What really carries the day is the characterization: obsessive student Wray's over-the-top, juvenile imagination, as her workbook partner Sloan plays the uptight and reasonable straight man. I'm not in the campaign's target market of 8-to-15 year-olds, but if anything, it shows that just about anyone can get something out of this stuff.

You can read the series at the Be The Beat website, with new comics Monday and Friday through February, or check it out at the Snowflakes website (which also updates on Wednesdays with its normal storyline). My only real complaint is navigability--it takes two to three clicks to see each strip at the BTB site, and on Snowflakes' site, the two simultaneous unrelated storylines keep interrupting each other in the archives. Still, I found it worth the navigational hassles to check out. It's some quality educational cartooning.

On a side note, I also discovered that one of my favorite nerdcore rappers, MC Lars, is also involved in the Be The Beat campaign, with a relentlessly, awesomely, unapologetically cheesy track promoting healthy heart habits and emergency responsiveness. You can scope his dope beats (ha!) at

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Press Release: Guigar Celebrates 10 Years of Cartooning

Hi, everyone. Have a press release celebrating 10 years of cartooning for Brad Guigar, creator of Evil, Inc., and a host of other comic strips both online and offline. Congrats on ten years, Brad--here's to many more!


On Valentine’s Day, as many people celebrated romance, Brad Guigar will raised a toast to a passion that has been a driving force in his life for ten years — daily comics.

His first comic strip, "Greystone Inn," debuted on the Web on Valentine’s Day, 2000, and updated every Monday-through-Saturday for the next five-and-a-half years. The day after it ended in June 2005, his current daily strip, "Evil Inc," began. Although both strips are webcomics, they both ran in daily newspapers, including the "Philadelphia Daily News." "Evil Inc" appears in front of an estimated 1.5 million newspaper readers a week.

"Evil Inc" is a company that was formed by comic-book super-villains who realized that they could get away with more evil if they worked within the law. It’s a satire that pays loving homage to super-hero comics while reflecting on everyday issues — such as the blended family that is formed when a villain secretly marries the city’s top super-hero.

In addition to his daily labor of love, Guigar also produces a weekly comic, "Courting Disaster," and for a year-and-a-half, he produced a weekly full-page comic, "Phables," that shared stories about life in Philadelphia. "Phables" earned Guigar a nomination for the Eisner Award in 2007 — the highest honor in comics.

But Guigar’s obsession with comics doesn’t end there. He has written one cartooning book, "The Everything Cartooning Book," and co-written another ("How to Make Webcomics"). And he is the editor-in-chief of the daily cartooning-advice blog,, where he shares his knowledge and experience in negotiating the tricky landscape of digital publishing with novice webcartoonists -— many of whom discovered Guigar through the popular podcast, Webcomics Weekly, that he co-hosts.

He has self-published over 13 print collections of his work — all available on his Web sites — and appears at a half-dozen comic conventions across the country to promote his work. He has talked comics at San Dieo’s Comic Con International as well as at Harvard University.

Surprisingly enough, his wife of 12 years hasn’t divorced him. In fact, she and their two boys have become almost as enamored with comics as Brad.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Month-Long Hiatus II: Son of Month-Long Hiatus

Thank you all for your feedback regarding what you want to see from This Week in Webcomics. I am now going to reward you all by going on hiatus again.

In all seriousness, I'm taking some more time off from the blog in order to do some thinking and planning about what it will look like in the future. Your feedback has confirmed a number of thoughts and ideas that occurred to me while on my 2009 winter-holidays hiatus, and now it's time to get ready for action: it's time for things to take shape. I'm gonna hash out a game plan, and come March, I'll be ready to roll. (And hopefully have my taxes out of the way, but I digress.)

But! Will you be left floundering without content, out here in the vast reaches of the internet? Lo, may it never be! For I have prepared a storyline over at my former webcomic, Borderline Boy. It will especially appeal to those of you who like role-playing games, or perhaps those of you who do not like role-playing games. Through the first week of March, the storyline will update with a new comic every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It begins with this comic.

So: enjoy the content! I'll see you back here in March.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thoughts on The Webcomic List Awards

It's Super Bowl Sunday, but that's not why you come to this blog. You come because, like me, you are way too into webcomics. And today, Super Bowl Sunday, the winners of The Webcomic List Awards have been announced.

As I've mentioned before, I was a judge for the Best Black and White Art category, and I did a comic-form presentation for the Best Character award. And first of all, congrats to all of this year's winners:

Best Non-traditional Art - The Dreamland Chronicles
Best Black and White Art - The Abominable Charles Christopher
Best Colour Art - Freak Angels
Best Writing - Gunnerkrigg Court
Best Comic - Gunnerkrigg Court
Best New Comic - Moon Town
Best Character - Digger
Best Gag-a-Day - Girls with Slingshots
Best Longform - Gunnerkrigg Court

Of all the winners, I'm only really familiar with Gunnerkrigg Court and GWS. If anything, the list of winners is a reminder that I am but one man, with one man's time. I can't read all the good comics out there! I'm not surprised that Gunnerkrigg won three awards, "Best Comic" among them--it's really an impressive comic, conceptually creative and executed with polish. Freak Angels and Moon Town are both on my "gotta check out sometime because the art is just that awesome" list, so their respective awards just reinforce that for me.

Judging and presenting has been a good opportunity for me to expose myself to some new comics. In addition to winning Best Character, Digger was a nominee for Best B&W Art, and I was very impressed with what I saw while judging that award. As Bengo of The Floating Lightbulb has often pointed out, black and white artwork can be even more challenging to do well than color, and the creator of Digger has got the chops. Plus, the creator has written a compelling main character who is a wombat, so I may have to come back and read some more of this one.

I also had the pleasure of reading several chapters of Scorch, another new comic for me. It makes good use of ragged, Jhonen-Vasquez-esque linework and hatching to convey this totally unhinged energy. The artwork reinforces its dark and creepy Halloween-ish tale of soul harvesting, and whether you're seriously following the story or not, it's a real treat to look at.

Plus, Chris Watkins, the creator of Odori Park, did the presentation comic for Best Comic, which was one of the most amusing presentations of the whole awards "show." Odori Park itself is a sharp strip that I've come across a few times, and if there were a category for Best Black-and-White Gag-a-Day, it'd make a strong contender. Good stuff: consider giving it a look.

That wraps up my thoughts on The TWCL Awards 2009. (Yes, I know "The TWCL Awards" is redundant, like "ATM machine," but you gotta abbreviate it somehow, and The Webcomic List already goes by TWCL, so.) Check out the winners, and come back to this blog on Monday evening, where I'll be dropping a little announcement of my own.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Reader Feedback Time

So, I'm back from hiatus--but during my hiatus, I had a lot of time to think about the future of This Week in Webcomics. Now, I want to know what you think.

What do you think of TWIW? What do you want to see more of? What do you want to see less of? What do you want me to get rid of entirely? Get candid with me. Share any thoughts you have at all. Tell me what new things you want to see in the new year. Tell me how this blog can better serve you, the reader, and what role this blog can play in your webcomics-reading experience.

Monday, January 25, 2010

1/25: Back With a Vengeance

Co-written/co-illustrated by Jackson Ferrell and Keong Chan
Ace Pilot appears courtesy of Tenerence N. Tijuanana
Apologies to Andy Milonakis, and to all of my readers

Friday, January 22, 2010

Other Things to Read

Hi, everyone. I'd hoped to be back from my hiatus by now, but things are impeding my content. Therefore, I present to you: other people's content!

First, freelance writer Amy Cook brings us The 50 Best Free Online Comic Strips You’ve Never Heard Of. You, my readers, have probably actually heard of a good deal of these, because you are so into webcomics like I am, but there are some sections of interest, including the bits on political comics (both left and right!) and the "Best Free Online Comic Books" section.

Second, an article I encountered at Progressive Boink, titled Webcomics Suck. In this article, Kyle discusses what he considers creative stagnation in some of the most popular webcomics. As you would expect, it's a highly critical article, but the interesting thing is that while I disagree with many of its points, I still think it brings up some worthwhile considerations.

Finally, The Webcomic Overlook recently reviewed Superfogeys. In case you've been wondering what someone else--someone who is more exacting of his online comics and less of a raving webcomics fanatic--has to say about Superfogeys, stop by The Webcomics Overlook and read Larry Cruz's review.

When will your regularly scheduled content resume? When indeed.

Friday, January 15, 2010