February 25, 2005

Zapruder #5

The Whiteboard, by Doc Nickel has a small poster up in the shop today, selling a rental car with minor damage.

I like these subtle refs, I have to admit.

Zapruder Kestrel #4

Check the alt tag on the photo under the "Biff Comic" in today's Absurd Notions.

If folks see more Zapruder footage or other bits, let me know. I'm truly curious how far this spreads (and how clever they get. Pease, for example, was very clever.)


(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Curse You Milholland! And scroll down a bit -- it's not the day's strip, per se. It's in the News Box for the day.)

Beyond questions of humor, and I grinned, I admit, at Morgan-Mar's strip (and noticed the biscuit reference, naturally), I'm interested in tracking the etymology of what one person has described as the Kestrel Zapruder Film, both in terms of its spread and also in terms of why it's happening.

I mean, when Walky ended, I don't remember seeing Joyce hit by any cars. When Wigu ended, there wasn't this kind of thing. Same with Flint. Or Avalon (though Avalon didn't end so much as... well, coast to a stop). So why is this a watershed moment? I mean, Comixpedia tracked this as a news item, for Christ's sake.

I think the answer is, simply, "energy."

Aeire's ending of Queen of Wands was fraught with emotional investment. She very carefully set up the ending, resolving necessary plotlines (like Angela and Kestrel's overall friendship and its implications, the birthing of the child -- itself tense with Shannon's medical problems, with Felix's transformation, with the quiet acknowledgement of the Seamus angle, and so on and so forth) while keeping a very balanced, realistic core to it all. And it ended about perfectly. The core cast, the completed circle, the ride into the sunset, the flat tire. It was beautifully done.

And it was wistful, but also built up tremendous emotional energy on the part of Aeire's audience. They were invested. And they were feeling this as a loss, and a beautiful story, and a beautiful ending. That's huge energy, building up (to use the lightning path reference one last time) as static in the clouds.

Randy Milholland's tribute strip plunked a giant-ass lightning rod down. Just like the "Dark Knight Returns" style lightning path in the background, that monumental tension crashed down, with the vast majority of people bursting into shocked, hysterical laughter. It was absolutely perfect timing, a perfect counterpoint, commemorating Aeire's ending exactly the way Something Positive should, and sending shockwaves through the webcomics community.

The Checkerboard Nightmare strip hit just about as perfectly, because it managed to take that same energy and flare it up one last time, and get another round of laughter bordering on hysteria, this time more in commemoration (and a certain degree of bandwagoning) of the Something Positive strip than of Queen of Wands itself. Irregular Webcomics, though not producing that same level of shocked laugher (to maintain the electrical metaphor, as we jump from post to post there's less and less energy in the arcing) manages to bring it back to Milholland's work -- and to Aeire's for that matter.

In a way, the "laughing our livers out" reaction was in part our way of dealing with a kind of grief. We're not going to see Kestrel again any time soon. Not the real Kestrel that Aeire writes, anyhow. (And no, I don't think of her as 'dead,' no matter how much blood we saw in Something Positive or how the purple clad-lego girl reacts in Irregular Webcomics). This was what it was, and nothing more.

I suspect we're going to see a rash of alternate views of the hit, or references, or news stories, or what have yous over the next few days. And they won't seem as brilliant or hysterical to us, because in a lot of ways, Milholland helped us cope with Queen of Wands ending, so we don't have that reservoir of unresolved emotion. What we do have is continued wistfulness and reaction for Queen of Wands itself. And we have a legend now. And a standard for a finale and aftermath that will take some doing to exceed.

Through all of this, I feel for Aeire. It can't be easy to see the character you invested so much time and energy into become memetic on the bumper of a car. But it's a testament to how well she did... well, the whole of her series that such a thing can be a watershed in webcomics. And I'm going to be following with interest and, yes, good humor through it all.

It takes some doing to be noticed. It takes more doing to be imitated. And it takes something really special to have your imitators imitated.

Now. Someone needs to compose a ballad. Preferably in the style of Gordon Lightfoot.

February 24, 2005

If only there was a "lightning path" reference!

(From Checkerboard Nightmare! Click on the the thumbnail for full sized horrific tragedy part two!)

I admit it. Straub absolutely fucking nailed me between the eyes. I mean, Milholland is Godlike, and his strip has caused a tidal wave of reactions almost as much fun to read, but Straub came out of nowhere with this.

Right down to the "whump" sound effect. And the fact that we can't see her face clearly.

I swear to fucking Christ, if she shows up in tomorrow's GPF being treated by that Doctor, I'll start reading it again.

Tasty, tasty biscuit, M. Straub. That's two for the same car accident, so far. It's a biscuit explosion.

Now that's BIG AIR!

You know, it's hard to properly discuss and contextualize today's Something Positive. (No, it's not thumbnailed. It's just not.)

It's hard, that is, because it's hard to discuss anything electronically when you're laughing so hard your liver comes out of your mouth and lands on your keyboard, getting... well, I'm going to call it 'liver juice' all over your keyboard.

Tasty, tasty biscuit, Mr. Milholland. Tasty, tasty biscuit.

February 23, 2005

Somewhere, out there, a Queen of Wands fan is pissed that Wannabe Wiccan Girl didn't show up today.

qowend.pngFrom Queen of Wands.

It was easier when Flint ended.

That's sad to say, because I liked Flint a lot, but let's be honest here. John Troutman has three other webcomics currently updating on a regular basis, and two of those webcomics involve the same "world." And, we know come April something new's coming from him, and it sounds like it'll involve that world too.

But Aeire's leaving us. And though we know she'll be back, there's every likelihood it'll be with something entirely new. And so there's a real sense that... well, this is goodbye.

It was easier when Flint left us, and Wigu too, because we didn't have nearly as long a buildup to the ending. I've been able to turn over and over in my head what I would write today for months -- a piquant tang of wistfulness worked into my daily comics trawl. Both Wigu and Flint just came out one day and said "hey, in a week or two that's it. Thanks." But this time? It's an event long anticipated and dreaded alike. Both methods have their charms.

But, let's put the official stamp on it. The last new Queen of Wands strip came out today. Last night, really, a hint before midnight on the East Coast.

It was a good ending. Extra long -- the lightning path twisting and forking and leading us through a collage of goodbyes and last moments. And it felt like a real life goodbye. We saw Kestrel and Angela make up in an earlier strip, but she wasn't there today. That made sense, both realistically and thematically. Realistically, Angela probably wouldn't schlep out of bed at five in the morning to help load up a truck and wave goodbye. Thematically, we end the strip as we started it, with Kestrel, Shannon and Felix.

The lightning path in the backdrop was one of evolution and dialogue, and today we saw both. While it was our three leads we saw, we also saw the two additions to the household -- baby Adrienne and drugged out drooling Zot. We had echoes of where we came from -- Kestrel bursting into Felix and Shannon's bedroom way too early in the morning to wake them up, for one (though you'll notice that where once they would have sat bolt-upright, Shannon wanting to know what was wrong and Felix mumbling something incoherent, now they barely move. They have a baby now. Early morning wakeups are just part of the fun), a breast joke, baby talk, and even the doll that Linda gave her. And even personal signs of evolution, like Felix's short, blond hair.

Queen of Wands was about a lot of things, from jokes to pain. It did something of a Cerebus Syndrome, and flirted with First and Ten, but ultimately stayed absolutely true to itself. This was a strip about learning, and growing up. Kestrel, who hated all children and got annoyed when they'd crowd around her while she was sitting in the children's section of the library or reading Highlights in the doctor's office, loved little Adrienne enough to joke when she started to cry. Kestrel, who just kind of existed, striving to have fun instead of go anywhere, is going somewhere drastic, now, heading out for a real, grown-up job in a strange city where the only person left she knows at all used to sell her stolen panties on eBay.

I suppose I should make mention of the Something Positive connection. It's been a long standing theory among the Queen of Wands and Something Positive fanbases that Kestrel will become a recurring character in Something Positive. I can't say if that will happen or not, but one thing is absolutely certain -- if she does show up, it won't be as the Queen of Wands. Milholland does a very different strip, with a very different style of humor.

And, more to the point, she'd be a minor character at the most. Anyone excitedly waiting for the adventures of Davan, Aubrey, Peejee, Jason and Kestrel better have packed a snack, because it'll be a long, long wait. If we're lucky, she'll take to drinking at the Saint James Pub, and we can have a little smile of familiarity when we see her. But I seriously doubt she'll become a major player over there. That's my theory, anyway.

There's a funny thing, though. The lightning path -- my favorite infinite canvas trick to date, because it serves to stitch together snapshots in time while dialogue (or in this case, narration) floats between -- doesn't come to an end on the last panel. It trails off, just like it has in every other strip where it's been used. Which makes sense, because the narrator (Kestrel? Aeire? Adrienne eighteen years from now? Who knows?) tells us right from the start of today's strip that things end, and new things "start all over again." We're not going to be privileged enough to follow Kestrel as she follows that path any more, but it's still going on. And that says something about life, too. When our friends move out of our immediate sphere, their stories don't end. We just stop following them.

And Aeire ended on the perfect note. A punchline. Kestrel annoyed. Life giving our red haired heroine the shaft one more time for old time's sake. A moment of sarcasm, and cynicism, right at the end of sentimentality.

That's life in a nutshell. You feel all poignant and choked up, and then something happens to hit you upside the head with the clue stick. You move on.

Next week, Aeire starts rerunning the strips with a director's commentary, seven days a week. I'm looking forward to it -- to seeing this trip from beginning to end with the perspective of having seen it once, and getting her perspective in the bargain. But as for today, Salut.

And now I've got to spend the next four hours rebuilding an XServe. See? Sentimentality, then thwacked by a cluestick.

Thanks, Aeire.

February 21, 2005

Something to look forward to!

Aeire has announced that this Wednesday will be the last new Queen of Wands strip -- which has me sad, of course. However, she did announce an exciting project beyond it. Starting the following Monday, Queen of Wands is rerunning its entire run, in order, seven days a week, with commentary on the strips. In a lot of ways, this is like getting a DvD commentary run. This will give Aeire a good amount of time to get her next strip ready while giving fans like me something to do with our time.

So, I'm looking forward to that, at least.

On the other hand, Flint should have at least thought about Andie's offer. I mean, dude.

flint.pngFrom Basil Flint.

Things steadily improve. The biochemical stew I enjoyed (and I use the term "enjoyed" in its loosest possible definition) over the past several days had and have me mood swinging like a prop comic off his meds. But, some of the best people and readers in the world helped keep me (more or less) on an even keel, and really helped pull me out of the worst of it. And so we're going to give this a try. As there's a certain investment you need to put into a decent essay, I'm going to keep myself on the Snark Disabled List for the moment, but I'll get done what I can get done over the next few days.

I listed out a laundry list of stuff in my last post. I can't speak to Queen of Wands just yet, as it's still ongoing (though the end seems so very near). Hunter S. Thompson I actually wrote about in a Livejournal post. Be warned, there's an undeniable whiff of fanfic about it.

Which leaves Flint ending.

So. Flint ended.

We knew it was coming. Even before the announcement, which came with very little chance for fanfare, you could sense that Troutman was moving on in his head. The changes in style, the dropping of color (and then ink), the shift of writing, the extended break... all these contrast with the energy he brings to Sporkman, the enthusiasm he writes about Felicity Flint, the collaboration of Vigilante, Ho!

You can tell when someone hits the end of the line.

He did some great ways of tying the series up My favorite was, not long after Flint and Amanda kiss, Andie looks out at the hurricane and sees Arthur Fonzerelli (how do you spell that) cheerfully being over a grring shark. He recognizes the Moonlighting problem and deals with it by ending the series with the moment that the tension is resolved.

And he brought back a fedora. Which I was glad to see. Flint needs a hat, damn it.

And so, I'm feeling wistful but not upset. I really liked Flint, even though I came to it late, but I could sense that he had moved on in his head. In "The Tale of the Adopted Daughter," Lazarus Long says he follows the wild geese. As his wife lays near death, she mentions she can hear them overhead, despite the fact that there are no geese on the world where Lazarus and Dora live. It was just time for Lazarus to move on and find something new.

Troutman heard the geese. And it was loud enough that we heard them too. And so Flint had to end. He's dropped hints that his new strip will bring back the most... um... bodacious of his cast members. (Though I bet the new strip is closer to Sporkman's chibi style, leaving the more comic bookish style to Felicity Flint.) And whatever it is, I'll be reading it.

But I'll stop and nod to the hard drinking sarcastic detective. I'll bemoan the fact that Flint won't ever cross over with Lost and Found Investigations. I'll acknowledge the good times, and I'll look ahead.

February 17, 2005

Short phrases convey long meanings, sometimes.

I love Boing Boing. Their links are interesting and fun and exciting and funny. And Mark Frauenfelder is one of my favorites -- the stuff he's interested in tends to be the stuff I'm interested in. (Which isn't to say I'm not interested in Cory Doctrow or Xeni Jardin. The former's one of my favorite writers -- I have an essay on Wuffie as it applies to Slashdot's moderation system I'd like to get around to writing one day -- and the second is brilliant and gorgeous. I like brilliant women. Gorgeous is just an addon.) Frauenfelder just has a perspective that seems right to me.

Well, he managed in a throwaway comment to encapsulate the significant problem I have with Flash in webcomics in one throwaway comment in A link to a "Famous cartoonists now and then" site:

Here's a fun "now and then" gallery of famous cartoonist's work as adults and when they were kids. The fun is only slightly diminished by the use of a Flash interface.

I read that and thought exactly!!!!! He gets it!

Some people do innovative and exciting things with Flash. Patrick Farley's Apocamon leaps to mind. But most Flash interfaces, either in exhibits or comics themselves, are clumsy and simply take the simple task of navigating from one bit to the next and make it needlessly more difficult. It's to the point that when i see the "Flash Loading" bar appear on a comic, I'm instantly predisposed against it. And that's not fair to the people who really are doing innovative Flash work.

So please please please. If you think it would be neat and cool to do your comic in Flash because then you can have a "click next" arrow and a few cheap stock sound effects on your comic strip... do us all a favor. Export the strips to pngs, throw them onto a web page, and put a simple, cheap HTML "next" link at the bottom.

For me. Eric. Your friend.

You know, I think I've seen those sensitivity training videos...

(From Narbonic! Click on the thumbnail for full sized tolerance!)

Sometimes, I can go on for hours about the subtextual relationships we find in stories. Sometimes, I can burble on about symbolism or meaning, or the underpinnings of comedy in webcomics. Sometimes, I can babble on and on about incredible nuances of meaning.


And sometimes I read a given comic strip and just laugh my ass off, because it's that damn funny.

Over to my side, you'll see my ass, over on the floor, because of Shaenon Garrity.

And so Garrity? Gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

February 13, 2005


(From Skinny Panda. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Cheeto Assault!)

Since close to the beginning of Websnark, I've had people e-mailing me to talk about Skinny Panda. It has a huge number of fans, all of whom thought I should read the strip, because they wanted it snarked and -- more to the point -- they thought I would like it. Many people who e-mailed me were somewhat chastened, however, because it seemed Skinny Panda had gone away, having suffered a year-long hiatus, followed by a brief flurry of strips, and then another seemingly endless disappearance.

So, I didn't ever get around to reading it. This wasn't because I thought they were wrong -- far from it. I assumed this strip must be something special to inspire such devotion despite not currently updating. However, with the massive number of strips I have in my backlog that are currently updating, I made the decision that strips that weren't updating would go on a back burner.

Well, David Wright of Todd and Penguin let me know that A) I should read this thing right now, and B) it was updating again, which killed that argument. So, having had an odd morning (I'd discovered that Questionable Content was having server troubles, which led me to figure out where the archives were and start reading them, which turned into rereading the whole of them. I didn't expect it, but there it was) anyhow, and seeing the archives for Skinny Panda weren't that long, I started reading.

Skinny Panda is the brainchild of Phil Cho. (No relation that I know of to Frank "I know Scott Kurtz" Cho.) It started back in 1999, which is to say it started back in the Golden Age of Webcartooning. And it was brilliant. Extraordinarily well drawn, with evocative characters, simple to understand but sophisticated storytelling, a clear understanding of the medium and a willingness to go a little nuts. Every so often, the main strip -- which tells the story of the morose Skinny Panda, his angry friend Gopher, their daisy-like potted friend Flower, and the cybernetic and oddly emotive Robokitty -- would be interrupted to tell the story of Penelope, an intelligent young girl from an upper crust family who seeks to be independent but doesn't really understand how (or why) living like common folks should involve acting like common folks. (Penelope would later run away from home and arrive in the main strip proper).

And then there were the stick figure cartoons. And though I fell in love with the strip proper, the stick figure cartoons really blew me away.

The stick figure cartoons happened on an irregular (and sometimes even regular) basis, and was made up of many many small panels with stick figures drawn in them -- generally there were at least sixteen or twenty panels in each stick figure cartoon, and sometimes considerably more. These panels were small, and as I said the art in them was basic black stick figures without features -- but somehow the stick figures were drawn with tremendous fluidity and flexibility -- rather than being simple art that anyone could do, they were spartan -- the minimum art in the minimum panel size needed to tell sophisticated stories. Objects like rocks that appeared in the stick figure strips still had weight and depth and shading, leading to a sense of solidity. And the stories themselves reminded me of some of the best small-panel storytellers, including Segar's Thimble Theater and -- even moreso -- Carol Lay's Story Minute and Waylay strips.

And I don't lightly compare people to Carol Lay.

You see three -- count them, three -- strips in this snark. These are one of the few Stick Figure sagas with some continuity. These are the story of a young ninja learning focus. That's all. A young stick figure learning focus. And yet, there's Cheetos, and cheese dust, and a brutal murder, and crying. And a denouement that just made me happy to be alive.

And reading through this, I realized that Phil Cho gets the medium. He gets it incredibly well. He knows how to take the most basic drawings -- though the art remains pretty, even in stick figure form -- and turn them into powerful and funny stories. He knows how to strip away all the dross and come up with a pure essence of cartooning.

And that's just for the stick figure comics. When you look at the regular strips, you see someone who's an absolute master at crosshatching and inking and the black and white strip form. There's no computer tricks at all -- he doesn't even cut and paste panels as near as I can tell. The writing is first rate, the art matches it perfectly....

He even conveys ennui well. And in the middle of the archive he suddenly does a Winnie the Pooh parody that captures the essence of A.A. Milne vastly better than the Walt Disney Corporation has done in many, many years. This really is worth anyone's time to go through and read from the beginning. And it won't disappoint you.

So, all those people who wrote to me? You were right.

I have to admit, I would probably surrender.

(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the thumbnail for full sized probing!)

A sprite comic?

A sprite comic?

Pete Abrams needed a filler day because his daughter was sick, and so he threw out an X-Com parody sprite comic?

I love it.

Honestly. The very first week I was snarking on here, I wrote an essay in defense of filler art. In that essay, I wrote the following:

Filler art is exactly what it sounds like. It fills in the space, giving the reader a happy taste of what they come to the strip for in the first place. It may not continue the story, and it may not have quite the same funny as the strip would have, but by God there's something there other than the last strip in the series. It's only one step up from not doing a strip at all, admittedly, but it is a step up, and shows some measure of concern for the reader.

The best filler art may be killer fast, but still fulfills the essential strip requirements. The Something Positive Filler Art, both for today (the deeply offensive and damn funny explanation of what happened to Monette's baby) and yesterday (the evolution of Pepito, the sex midget, which you'll have to go to his site to see, damn it!) hits the top mark. He just had to draw one panel's worth of stuff today, and that pretty simple stuff to boot, and fill the rest with expository text and things that would make the Baby Jesus cry. It's exactly what we go to Something Positive for, damn it, so we've hardly been cheated.

Well, that's exactly what Abrams did today. He did incredibly fast work that brought a quick bit of Funny and made the faithful happy when they came to have a look. That counts big in my book.

Of course, it's worth mentioning that if Abrams had a buffer, he wouldn't need filler art today. But not all artists can work a buffer into their daily effort. Abrams throwing up a sprite comic runs a good second. (A second tied with Randy Milholland's drive to make up strips he missed -- yeah, it means sometimes he has no comic and sometimes he has two, but I still give him credit for that.)

For the record, even though we're working on a buffer, Greg's already asked me about the possibility of putting up filler art or the like on the days when we don't update (Gossamer Commons is scheduled to be a Monday/Wednesday/Friday comic). I know he's doing tons of drawing right now. Not to mention working on Nemesis. The man is some kind of artistic machine.

February 12, 2005

Hey, Aquaman had a great self image!

(From Wapsi Square. Click on the thumbnail for full sized shower ruminations.)

The power is back on, and with it the heat. Which is nice, you get right down to it.

Katherine, in this strip, is feeling isolated and shy, but also comfortable there in the water. She's been thinking about fishbowls a lot. But seeing this particular strip makes me consider water. And showers and the rest.

I love water. I've always loved water. I used to go swimming for six or seven hours at a time, just playing and sporting in the water because I loved it. I actually used to pretend I was Aquaman. In my defense, I was six at the time. But the idea of being able to breathe under water while I was swimming, to be able to spend all my time at the bottom... it just seemed like the coolest thing in the world.

It's worth noting I never pretended I was fighting crime as Aquaman. My imagination only went so far.

Today, I rarely swim. I'm not exactly comfortable showing my skin off these days, because I'm as shallow as the next person. But I do love taking showers for hours at a time, just enjoying the sensations. I'm the sort of person who can use up all the hot water with a full tank. It just feels good.

So I can see where Katherine's coming from, here. When you're feeling like the world is too much with you, at that moment of supreme solitude it's easy to wish it would go on forever.

Anyway, it's better than saying OMG TEH BREASTS! Right?

February 10, 2005

Good guys win! Yay!

(From Order of the Stick. Click on the thumbnail for full sized kitty solutions!)

When people ask me to back up my contention that consistently well written and funny comic strips can get away without having gorgeous art, I point to a couple of well known examples. One is Daily Dinosaur Comics, which isn't bad art, so much as it is... well, the same art every day, but still. Another is White Ninja Comics, where the art can generously be described as 'idiosyncratic,' and the strip itself can conservatively be described as "Jesus Christ, read this comic! NOW!"

And then there's Order of the Stick. Which is somewhere between a stick figure comic (thus the name) and a Paintbrush comic, and is wonderful. It has the best cast page I've ever seen, it has funny plots, it has good solid story skills, it brings the Funny, and even on a purely visual gag like the one I'm snarking it just plain works.

Well, Rich Burlew, who is a fellow member of the unofficial fraternity of Role Playing Game Designers (though I've never "met" him, mind) and who seems pretty cool in general announced today that they had passed 2,000 preorders for his Order of the Stick compilation, and therefore he was leaving his day job to work on OotS full time.

In other words, he didn't do a fundraising drive. He sold merchandise based on his strip and received enough money to be able to work on the strip and nothing but.

That's a dedicated fanbase, kids. And it's because it's a damn good comic strip. I don't care if the art is based on stick figures or not. It's a damn good comic strip. The fact that they've got 2,000 preorders for their book says that better than anything I could say myself.

Oh, and sometimes people get badgers thrown on their faces. I mean, dude!

noe websnark WELL BE GONE TO THE AMERICANS!!!!!!!

(From Filthy Lies! Click on the thumbnail for full sized kill skuls!)

The word "meme" has been desperately abused in the last couple of years. People announce that they're following the hot new Livejournal Meme, which is inevitably some asstard quiz or some kind of randomizer that shuffles a smattering of your Friends List across different categories, ultimately claiming that WilWheaton is your Pimp, Gaimanblog is your best ho, and CNN_Feed is your best John.

The original intent, however, are ideas, concepts, and (oh yes) catchphrases that spread through the populace without any coordinated campaign shepherding them. They're more about the nature of human interaction than anything else.

What "Enigma" (I never know how to refer to the officially anonymous webcartoonists -- especially those who aren't that anonymous) is doing here says more about the nature of legitimate memes than the somewhat pathetic forum post some person made or the asshole who screws other players. For a brief moment, "Jerk Hacker" and "Kill Skuls" and "GONE TO THE AMERICANS!!!!!" are an argot -- a moment of recognition between people on City of Heroes. It's shared, and so even though it's... well, stupid, we find it funny.

And a month from now we'll roll our eyes and make fun of people who still quote it. Or we'll quote it (here's that word again) ironically. Or we'll compare it to "All your base are belong to us," or whatever.

And that's what Enigma's pulling up here. Not the meme itself, but the ancillary aspects of the meme -- the people who quote the phrases to be part of that shared sense of community even though they don't have the slightest idea what 'skuls' are or why you should Go. Hunt. them. They can see other people think that and "Jerk Hacker" are hysterical and cool, and damn it, they want in.

So, I likes me the second order humor here. Enigma...

Holy crap, has it been this long since I gave one of these out? Damn. These are stale. Well, what the Hell. No one actually eats them anyway.

Enigma gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty... well, stale, but hey -- they're graham cracker based and that handles staleness well -- biscuit.

February 09, 2005


I'm a couple of days late for this, but Brendan Adkins's Anacrusis for 2005 February 7, titled "Keisha", is another excellent example of the Anacrusis form. For those who came in late, Anacrusis is a unique forced writing experiment where Adkins writes precisely 101 words of story, making each piece essentially self-contained, five days a week.

"Keisha" is a great example of the form -- fiction, but with a poetic feel. And it hit a great point about the second coming of Jesus, done in few words but very focused.

On the Mac, we got something that looked identical to the Banana Jr. instead of Clippy. I always felt a little superior because of that.

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized assistance, Skipper!)

People know that I can get... tired... of clich»s and pop culture references and jokes that go past their expiration date. The archetype for this is people making jokes about Alanis Morissette not knowing the definition of the word irony, and the fact that that itself is ironic. This is a joke that got played out in 1995, when the actual song came out. It got desperately overplayed out in 1996. Current retreads of the joke just make the Baby Jesus cry and makes VH-1 retrospectives about the 90's 15 minutes longer, on average. (And frighteningly, somewhere in the last 10 years I actually started liking the song. But that's neither here nor there.)

But sometimes, a joke that becomes a clich» and even overtired regenerates. It becomes a part of our shared culture. It becomes a shorthand for a thousand other jokes. I don't particularly want to get into significator theory, but what the Hell, we're here -- it becomes the sign that represents something far more, and brings instant recognition and understanding.

Somewhere along the line, Clippy crossed over into that category. Even though current generations of Microsoft Word have improved their little helpful sprites immeasurably, Clippy is instantly recognizable as a symbol of worthless feature bloat. It's not just that Clippy is paternalism incarnate -- it's that the 'helpful tasks' he pops up to help you with are nothing of the kind. "Would you like help writing a letter?" No, Clippy. I've been writing letters since I was 3. I think I've worked out the intricacies of writing the date at the top. Where the Hell were you when I was putting together a three source massmailing to be printed to PDF, followed by labels?

And so, Clippy showing up in a comic strip gets a grin out of me. Even though it's not functionally possible to hear a new Clippy joke, and even though Clippy humor has, if anything, been more overplayed than jokes about "Ironic," Clippy still works in humor. When he shows up, we have an instant introduction of all of Microsoft's worst traits in a cheerful cartoon sprite, and that can be used effectively and with humor.

Help Desk is of course the king of this, but Morgan-Mar shows Clippy's use to distinction here. Good show as always, sir.

February 08, 2005

The limitations of the Snarkish form

(From The Jaded. Click on the thumbnail to see today's adventurous entry!)

So earlier today, it was brought to my attention that the only snark I've given Fans was when I didn't care for the inclusion of Helen Narbon. And that got me to thinking... because I read Fans, and I like Fans, and it's just plain wrong that it hasn't gotten some pleasantness from me. And so I've been thinking about why that is.

And to a degree, it's the problem with high-story stories. It's one thing when I've been snarking a high-story comic a lot -- then, I'm moderately sure that the audience will know what's going on, or can at least figure it out from context. But it's progressively harder for me to talk about the resonance I felt when I read Guthrie's song to Cassandra, and how and why it pissed her off, and the assumptions people make about genius, because I know it involves explaining the devices involved in a way that makes sense without overexplaining it. And that raises specters on how few words I've devoted to Nahast or Ascent, both of which I read every week, but which have the same issues. Or more to the point, I have the same issues over, since they don't really have issues at all..

And that brings me to The Jaded, which is frankly good stuff, done by Ping Teo, who I adore. And which I don't think I've ever said anything about.

I'm snarking this entry because of the use of chalk on black (I think). It creates an incredibly evocative picture. And when I saw it, I latched onto it, because it's something you don't see nearly enough of in webcomics, even though it's not hugely difficult. It creates a sense of mood, of power, of texture and tone, and Teo handles it well.

And as I set to upload the thumbnail, it really struck me that I haven't talked about the tightness of Teo's story, or the elements of her characterization. Or how it resonated with me that she's including a character who smokes, even though Teo doesn't smoke and is allergic, and how I've done the same thing in fiction even though I don't smoke and am allergic. And her sense of darkness and her sense of dialogue.

But all of that takes context, and context is hard to do.

There's always more that is good than I have the words to say why, and that bothers me sometimes. I think Teo, and Campbell, Waltrip, Melchor, and Migdal and many others all deserve better from me.

I'll work on it.

I'm going to have Joan Osborne in my head for the rest of the day.

(From Overcompensating. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Action Comics!)

You know, if Superman were real, there'd reach a point where he would finally just get pissed off. I mean, he was raised in America, right? And we're trained by movies, television, stories (and yes, comic books) to grit our teeth and bear adversity until the day when the bad guy goes Too Far, and then you go in and start punching and punching and punching.

Of course, the rest of us can't light our breath on fire with rays from our eyes, but he's Superman. He can.

Rowland also declared an end, more or less, to WIGU-TV and the launching of Magical Adventures In Space the series. I'm a big fan of Topato and company, but I'm not as sure about this as I was about WIGU-TV. WIGU-TV gave Rowland tremendous freedom. I'm also not sure why we didn't just flip the channel to watch some MAIS for a while, and then go back to American Platypus when he tired of the MAIS plot.

Anyway, it almost doesn't matter. I'm going to be here through it all, and I always liked Princess Dongle as a character. So, I'm all good with the switch. And also, there's Superman. Dude, he's Superman.

Of course, Cheney's powered by a Kryptonite Heart, so this won't end well any way we look at it.

February 06, 2005

On the other hand, I was into the attractive jumpsuit science babe from the prologue. But then, I'm just like that.

(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Arrrr!)

Folks know I was a fan of the That Which Redeems arc over on Sluggy Freelance. Folks also know I'm a fan of pirates. And, like many people, I've been missing Bun Bun.

Welp, we got Sluggy, we got Bun Bun, and we got pirates.


I'm sorry, this sequence is literally doing nothing at all for me. Now, Abrams has admitted he's having some trouble with writer's block. And honestly, I can see evidence of that. This all feels... forced, somehow. Like he's doing it because he has to do it, not because he's feeling it.

Maybe it's the fact that Bun Bun's been gone a long time, and when we see him again, he's once again at the top of the heap, this time on a Pirate Ship. I know the joke is Bun Bun's unstoppable and deadly and all, but there's no sense that he so much as underwent a setback when he was divested of Holidays and lost his bid for power. This feels like a retread.

I don't know. Maybe Abrams will surprise me and I'll end up enjoying Oceans Unmoving. But for right now, I'm sticking with 'meh.'

February 02, 2005

If they'd been Wombat Zombies, Campbell could have worked a Digger reference in too.

(From Fans. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Hot Cootchie Momma!)

I like Fans. I like T. Campbell. I like the evolution of this his endgame. I like where he's going with the story.

I like Narbonic. I like Helen and her gang. And I like Dr. Helen Narbon -- she of the "heh heh heh." I like them all.

And yet... I read this, like I've read the other Narbon cameos in this plotline... and... well, 'meh.' It's kind of bothered me throughout. And I finally figured out why with this particular mention.

See, the late Robert Reed once made reference to 'Batman in the Operating Room.' He was talking about an episode of Brady Bunch that had pulled out a pointlessly slapstick premise that simply didn't fit with the established comedic tone of Brady Bunch. Now, the fact that no one gave a fuck about the "established comedic tone" of the Bradys except for Robert Reed didn't matter. He gave a fuck, and he explained why it was a problem. It was, in his words, like having an episode of M*A*S*H, funny as always in its cerebral way, featuring Hawkeye and the gang quipping in the O.R. Suddenly, the camp version of Batman bursts in, on the pursuit of some nefarious criminal, operating in his comedic theme.

At this point, the scene cannot work, period. M*A*S*H and Batman were both comedies, but they were entirely different in tone, in pacing and in execution. One could make a credible M*A*S*H plot about a shellshocked soldier who got a Batman costume and was delusional, or one could make a credible Batman plot where he ends up at a battlefield hospital chock full of cameos from M*A*S*H, playing off the camp, but you couldn't do both at once. Suspension of disbelief wouldn't support it.

Well, Narbonic is a funny, funny strip. There is essentially always the setup and execution of humor. Always. I can only think of one strip in the last several years that didn't have a joke in it, and even that strip was paced like a gag. That it has clear Story doesn't change that fact. It is gloriously, wonderously absurd.

Fans isn't. There is always a satirical element to the strip, but the strip is itself paced seriously within that. Its humor tends to be black, or even nonexistent. And it always -- always -- takes itself seriously in the heart of the absurd.

To have Doctor Helen Narbon hurling people into Badger Zombie pits in the midst of that is at best jarring. You don't know if you should apply Narbonic rules or Fans rules. It distracts. it cracks the facade of Suspension of Disbelief.

In short, it's Batman in the Operating Room, and even the brilliant writing of T. Campbell and art of Jason Waltrip -- and Waltrip does one Hell of a Doctor Narbon, artistically speaking -- isn't enough to overcome it.

January 31, 2005

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me *three* times... um... crap, I'm like a webcomics codependent, aren't I?

(From Shortpacked. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Batman!)

So. First David Willis did Roomies, and I read and loved it. And then he went for a Cerberus Syndrome and ended up in First in Ten, and I wanted to pound my head into the bricks. The sweet, sweet bricks.

And then he punched the reset button and remade his strip into It's Walky, and I read and loved it! And then he didn't really go for a Cerberus Syndrome because he knew where he was going from the beginning, but it was still First and Ten and after a while it was too confusing for me, and I did a "You Had Me And You Lost Me" and left it behind.

And then he brought back Roomies for Keensyndicate, but to be honest it didn't do much for me. It's still there, though.

But then... he hit the reset button on Shortpacked. It's two strips into the new Shortpacked Era.

God help me. I am David Willis's bitch. At least this one can't go for a Cerebus Syndrome. I mean, it's a gag strip about toys, right? Right?


(Oh, and he also started putting out new It's Walky strips, on a weekly basis for every hundred bucks he takes in in donations. Which... well, certainly counts as a revenue model, doesn't it?)

Is it hypocracy when we really *want* Brad to get beat into nothingness, though? It is? Damn.

(From Gin and the Devil. Click on the thumbnail for full sized philosophical discourse!)

There are substantial differences between, say, Gin and the Devil and Something Positive. Certainly Matt Milby and R. Milholland have different artistic styles. Gin and the Devil is a little more rooted in the everyday, too -- not only in a singular lack of pliant pussies (get your mind out of the gutter) but in a sense of almost desperation. There's a reason so many of these relationships evolve in bars, in Milby's strip. Milholland has -- though he might try to deny it -- a kind of optimism running through his strip. Things resolve, more or less, even if they take a long time, and no matter how incompetent and stupid the Lesbian might be, there always comes that day when she begins to step out into the light. In Milby's strip, said light is probably the harsh light of dawn on a day that might not improve things.

And yet, today's strip (well, Friday's strip) feels like it could be as much a Something Positive as a Gin and the Devil. The setup feels Milhollandesque, the delivery is just about perfect... it would work just as well with Jason in Wayne's place, ready to reduce someone who just sucker punched Davan into a fine red paste.

Which may say something about the commonality of the two strips, or at least that moment of comeuppance when the bully who just smacked your friend discovers that oops, he had friends who were bigger than he was. It reminds me of an experience back in college. My friend Matt is not the largest person in the world, but he might be the bravest. He's the sort of person who runs towards fights instead of away, because someone might need help. And there was a point where, freshly haven given blood (just to ensure he was at a disadvantage), he interceded between an abusive boyfriend and abused girlfriend. Said boyfriend turned on him, and three of his frat buddies turned to join them as well.

And the contents of just about the entire dorm Matt lived in turned on them. See, Matt was president of his dorm and nice to everyone, so pretty much everyone on Earth liked him. Did I mention several of the people in Matt's dorm were at B.U. on Wrestling Scholarships?

So, the pleasure I feel in seeing Brad about to be made triple jointed and foldable is in some ways nostalgic. And if it reminds me pretty seriously of Something Positive today, I think that's because I like Something Positive too.

I think "Fonzie" and "Shark" should be added to "Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot Deluxe."

(From Basil Flint, P.I.! Click on the thumbnail for full sized multiple panel nudity!)

I have phlegm and little voice to speak of. I cough, I spit, I snort. I drink peppermint and lemon teas by the gallon at the moment.

But my head is clear, my body doesn't hurt, and at any given time I feel like I might actually be awake instead of asleep, given my druthers.

I'm back, and ready to eat some fucking babies, kids!

Now, sure -- I went into today's Basil Flint thinking "Oh cool! Breasts!" Because hey -- breasts! But the sheer moment of actually having Fonzie actually jumping the shark in the actual hurricane that's blowing them to the side, with Fonzie actually saying "Ayyyyyy!" while the shark says -- and I quote -- "Grrr, Argh" elevates the overused clich» into high art.

I'm reminded of the Simpsons. Which isn't a surprise. Meaningless pop culture references and trivia have mostly displaced what social life I once had in Ithaca or Seattle. But to get back to the point, Homer and Marge are getting remarried and Reverend Lovejoy is reading the vow that Homer wrote for Marge:

I will now read the special vows which Homer has prepared for this occasion. Do you, Marge, take Homer... in richness and in poorness? Poorness is underlined. In impotence and in potence? In quiet solitude or... blasting across the alkali flats in a jet-power, monkey navigated -- and it goes on like this!

My point is, I love things that go vastly over the top. It wasn't enough that Homer wrote an overblown vow to Marge -- he went vastly beyond all sanity. It's not enough that Troutman decided to go with a "Jump the Shark" joke in reference to Flint and Amanda kissing. (Wouldn't a Moonlighting David/Maddie having sex bit be more apropos?) Instead, he actually puts in Fonzie jumping over the shark, both of them being blown around in a freaking hurricane, Fonzie saying "Ayyyy" all the while. If you're going to do it, drastically over do it, God damn it!

Anyway. I'm always glad to read the Troutman files, and today's no exception. Plus, nudity!

January 30, 2005

You realize conservative pundits will claim Pardus's team as proof of the domesticated agenda, now.

(From Kevin and Kell. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... er... revelation?)

It's not that this sequence was bad, per se.

You see, I remember Kevin and Kell from the 90's, and from the turn of the century. I remember hidden clues being buried and slowly allowed to develop. I remember situations being set up, then being allowed to grow tense over long periods of time. I remember the payoffs that were built into those situations as a result. I remember Corrie being 'outed' as a sheep (and as a carnivorous one, for that matter) after years of first pretending to be a sheepskin, then pretending to be a wolf (in her father's skinned hide, no less). I remember the saga of Rudy's domestication. I remember the freaking Great Bird Conspiracy.

So... to have a new wrinkle introduced -- Coach Pardus is really a domesticated housecat wearing leopard spots -- on Monday, and have it pay off on Sunday (with Rudy and Kell both publicly admitting their domestication in the same breath, I would add)....

It's not that it was bad, but it was disappointing. I was expecting the conflict to be allowed to season and grow and develop for a while, so that the revelation would be given more weight. Alternately, it would have been nice if they hadn't done the setup at all -- instead doing a whole week of the kids' and Kell's views of Pardus (who's always been something of a cipher in the strip), building up to his award and his being exposed as a housecat at that point. And seeing the reactions of the cast, and not have them be so instantly supportive. I mean, he's been lying to them. Would they all ultimately understand? Of course. But Rudy -- for example -- has had so many of his family and friends give him revelations he didn't want to hear for so long... it seems almost surprising to see him immediately leap out and defend his coach after learning yet another authority figure was lying to him. A week or two of reactions from the cast, and some hypocrisy here and there, would have been nice. As it is... well, there will probably be fallout still, but there's no tension.

Also... given the species registry and the like... is domestication really the issue here? Pardus was literally claiming to be a different species than he actually was. I mean, obviously housecats are domesticated. Is this crossing out of the homosexual allegory and into the racist allegory? I'm a little confused.

Anyway... like I said, this was just a little disappointing, if nothing else because we've seen Holbrook do these things so much better.

January 26, 2005

On the other hand, look at all those breasts. How sad can EDG be when surrounded by all those breasts?

(From Gaming Guardians. Click on the thumbnail for full sized bad potential situation.)

I've been frustrated as Hell by Gaming Guardians recently, because it's been really good, and yet I've never had that perfect strip to snark. This is a sad thing for me -- you want to snark the actually good perfect strip that pulls in the reader if you're grooving on the plot, and yet there's been no perfect strip for that.

This isn't Greg and Webtroll's problem. They're paying off years of setup with Greg/Unprodigal/Jester, and they've been doing it well. But the problem with payoff storylines is there's no good hook for new readers to come in. And yet, this sequence deserves them. For the first time, I feel like I understand what's going on with the Unprodigal and the Jester, and it's all tying together. There's glimpses of the original Greg/EDG dynamic, and yet there's glimpses of just how different they've become. There's still a sense of evil involved....

I don't know where it's going next, but I'm liking it. The Ultima additions are good ones. From here, almost anything can happen and I'm still going to like it. And yet, I'm not sure this was the right strip to snark.

Well, the Hell with it, Graveyard Greg and Webtroll are doing well and have my interest. Honestly, what more can I ask?

January 23, 2005

Live from the Internet Room at Arisia... your reporters are stuck.

So I checked out of my room. I called for my car. I went downstairs, because I know that it's going to take many hours of driving to get to New Hampshire with all the blizzard and snow.

And I discovered, upon trying to leave, that the police were turning motorists away.

So, I'm still at the con, until at least six pm, my luggage safely in my car, and me broke and tired.

Pray for me. Pray for Bobo.

On the plus side, I got measured for a utilikilt. It was... liberating.

January 22, 2005

What is this, the Year of Shocking Wedding Proposals?

(From Superosity! Click on the thumbnail for full sized GASP!)

Arisia is going excellently well. My panel last night, on graphic novels, was amusing and cheerful. I had dinner with old friend and Superguy cohort Greg Fishbone, which was an excellent time all around. Further, to date I have seen no skunk porn. This is a positive and healthy trend I can only support.

I don't have a lot of time before I need to be off and Guestly, but I had to make note of today's Superosity. Chris Crosby can bring resolution and evolution -- he honestly can. After many, many years of teasing a proposal, we now actually have one. Even if Arcadia says no (and I doubt she will), things will have changed. This is a good thing. And he managed to surprise me, and that's a very good thing.

Chris Crosby gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

January 21, 2005

A sudden thought.

Kelly J. Cooper, one of the editors of Comixpedia, devoted to webcomics, is on a panel with me that goes over the best graphic novels and comics available to the discerning viewer.

Alexander J. Danner (yes, he's going to be Alexander "J." Danner for the rest of the day now), the editor of Graphic Novel Review, devoted to graphic novels, is on a panel with me that goes over the best webcomics available to the discerning viewer.

I love conventions. I honestly do.

January 20, 2005

If you're not following, by definition aren't you leading -- even if no one's following you?

(From Sinister Bedfellows. Click on the thumbnail for full sized leadership!)

Someone might ask if there was some reason I snarked this on the day of the American inauguration.

Someone might ask, anyway.

The thing I love about Sinister Bedfellows is the "found art" element of it. This isn't a pose, it's a photo, but Mckenzee makes it art. That still just blows me away.

So help me God, there's something cute about decapitated LEGO.

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized expressions of mourning!)

Just when you thought only Schlock Mercenary can feature primary character death with repercussions, Irregular Webcomic steps up! I mean, who is going to fly the ship? Who will get Paris's cabin?

My favorite part is they're in cyberspace to essentially run a patch upgrade to their systems OS, and then the guys started screwing around with virtual laser swords and then killed off the pilot. Frankly, as someone who works in IT, I'm surprised we don't have more "screwing around" based fatalities.

Don't believe me? Remember, Livejournal's catastrophic loss of power and multiple day downtime was caused by someone essentially screwing around with the Big Red Button. And it's happened twice. If there had been a laser sword rack in Internap's cluster room, someone would be headless now.

Also? If there were a laser sword rack in Internap's cluster room? I would so have a resume in their HR department right now. Which highlights the essentially truth of this strip, doesn't it?

And you know, you can't safely operate a stolen car without being alert -- better steal some coffee for everyone's well being.

(From Freefall! Click on the thumbnail for full sized honesty!)

One of the things I've always liked about Freefall is the way Sam's criminal lifestyle isn't a source of angst for him. He's perfectly cheerful when he's justifying stealing everyone blind, with a certain innocence that's just plain likable. And, as he says, the night is still young!

Also he interweaves between Florence's night out and Sam's "honest day's work," which keeps the frenetic feel to things without overloading either side. this is nicely done.

I'm just mister happy tonight, aren't I?

Also born on that day? TV's Donna Reed! And Cinematic Also Rans Troy Donohue and Bridget Fonda!

(From Planet Earth (and other tourist traps) Click on the thumbnail for full sized cake!)

This is a nice prime example of Planet Earth. It has some surreality (Alien!), it's funny, and it highlights something about birthdays that seems interesting to me, and actually came up earlier today.

You see (well, probably you don't), I have a birthday coming up. For reference's sake, it's the same day as Lewis Carroll, Mozart and nuclear navy ubermaster Admiral Hyman Rickover. Hyman. Rickover. There's a man whose parents hated him. But I digress.

It came up at work today, and it turned into a flurry of finding out what days peoples' birthdays are. And in every case, everyone was excited to find out others peoples' birthdays, but didn't want their own known. It's not an age thing, it's a literal discomfort with becoming the center of attention. You feel like... well, you're older now, in your thirties. You have to be adult about this. But birthdays are fun in general. The party, the cake, the hanging around.

Over at Planet Earth, they've solved the problem. They just declare any given day the alien's birthday, and then they can have cake! Yay!

As for me... well, I tend to have my desire to be low key and self-effacing in such situations go to war with my arrogant desire to be the center of attention. I will say that with the declaration of that particular day "Through the Rabbit Hole" day on Livejournal et al, I'm pretty excited. Even though I have nothing to do with that, I can pretend people are doing all this for me. Anonymous, yet deluded into arrogance.


You know, that would make those silhouette ads a hell of a lot more interesting.

(From Lore Brand Comics. Click on the thumbnail for full sized insight!)

It's been a while since I've mentioned Lore Brand Comics. Given the construction of these strips -- a variation on cut and paste -- it's all about the writing. And SjĖberg is, simply put, one of the funniest human beings to ever stalk the web from behind sunglasses. His Slumbering Lungfish site is interesting commentary, and leads inexorably to the various and sundry funny things he's currently associated with. Though he doesn't link to his original breakout site -- the brilliant Brunching Shuttlecocks site he pioneered with David Neilsen back in that nebulous time we call "the day" -- it remains one of the funniest places on the web, and through Slumbering Lungfish you can find his great Bandwidth Theater, the Book of Ratings, and so much more.

This particular episode of Lore Brand Comics nails the Lore style pretty well, in my estimation. It's a dry humor, it poses a thesis you have to agree with, and it involves comparing consumer goods to vibrators. What more is there to say?

January 18, 2005

So, do we call his hit count "nielson ratings" now, or is that unique visitors?

(From WIGU-TV. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Science Cop!)

When Jeffrey Rowland ended Wigu, it ended with young Wigu Tinkle deciding to watch an episode of Science Cop instead of Magical Adventures in Space. Wigu was beginning to grow up, or at least outgrow Topato and Sheriff Pony. (Or, subconsciously had figured out the pair wasn't exactly helping him most of the time.) Topato and Sheriff Pony briefly mourned, and went out into the world to find a new young lad to get to know, protect and meddle in the affairs of in such a way to keep a healthy cashflow from merchandising coming in to Butter Dimension Quad.

Now, Wigu has ended. And yet, we're now seeing the world through Wigu Tinkle's eyes all the more. Literally, because he's squatting on the couch watching television, and we're watching with him. Specifically, the W-I-G-U Television station, thus recycling an acronym that Rowland has used since When I Grow Up.

I don't know that we're literally supposed to imagine ourselves as Wigu Tinkle, watching television, mind. It seems more likely that this is just what the station is broadcasting, but it's a nice bit of continuity between the two series -- specifically, a bit of continuity that couldn't possibly make any less difference to anything, and that's the best kind of continuity of all.

So, clearly WIGU-TV is going to show television shows, letting Rowland do things while he enjoys them, then letting him switch channels or programs when he's ready for a change. And he's shown skill at doing rapid setup -- in two days of "Science Cop," he's set up the premise, gotten Science Cop on the scene, and done a Kevin Costner joke.

And it's fun. It's clearly fun.

This opens a lot of doors for Rowland. If he wants to do any kind of story, he can, just by switching programs. If he gets a yen to do a Magical Adventures in Space episode, he can. If he wants to do the news, he can. If he wants to do riffs on Reality Television, he can. If he wants to keep us updated on the casts of Wigu or When I Grow Up, he can cut to news bulletins about the shirtless man who just foiled a bank robbery with the help of a small black boy who rapped himself into a seizure, freaking the crooks into surrendering.

Or he can never touch the old stuff again. It's literally what he feels like doing, when he feels like doing it, and from the look of things, he can execute humor in short form with the best, in this new format.

I'm feeling really good about WIGU-TV. This is one to watch.

January 14, 2005

And now we know.

No thumbnail. I glanced at my mail and saw a reference to today's Todd and Penguin, so I had a quick look before I sleep.

So, really fast....

I had my hopes, but I also knew how the story should end. (End... or leave off for now.)

Nicely done, Mr. Wright. Nicely done.

I just hope this story isn't over.

January 10, 2005

This is wrong on so *many* levels.

Yirmumah! Click on the thumbnail for full sized gleaming pate!)

Coffman and McDeavitt continue to experiment with different styles of art and storytelling, and have gone back to a daily format (truly daily, this time), along with color Sundays. I'm grooving on it so far.

Today's strip is a desperate cry for help and the proof that God doesn't care about us any longer. And yet, I laughed for a long, long time. For that, I thank them.

The wide eyed coffee drinking says it all, doesn't it?

(From R.S.I. Click on the thumbnail for... well, actually for the main page, because if there's a way to link to an archive page for it, I can't find it. Of course, that could be because I'm not very bright.)

I've been following Frances Moffatt's R.S.I. for a couple of weeks now, based on yet another recommendation. (Yes, I really do go through my recommendations. It takes a while sometimes, but I get there.) And, when the King of all Weaselkind mentioned her latest, it reminded me I haven't talked about it here. So I am.

This particular strip clicks because of things that happened to me in the writing world. Like the first time a student I knew walked up, paused, and said "Mr. Burns?"

"Yes?" I said.

"I read your website." Note that this is my old website -- the journal/essay one. For reasons I won't go into the current students would have... difficulty reading Websnark. Which is partially because I'd like to keep those halves of my life seperate, and partially because I use the word 'fuck' somewhat often, so the filters keep it out.

I blinked. "Oh."

He nodded. Now, this was one of the cockier students I knew -- with, admittedly, some justification. He generally wasn't at a loss for words. But this time he was flummoxed. "I... had no idea you could write," he said.

"Well... I'm glad you liked it."

"Seriously... you're... you're good. I just... wanted to say that."

And he left, after I thanked him. I knew why he was uncomfortable -- it was like learning one of the authority figures in his life had an actual life. Like I was perhaps sympathetic instead of an antagonist. Like I was human.

At the same time, it also made me uncomfortable, because part of that life had been pulled into my workday, and that's a little weird at the best of times.

So, I can see what Moffatt's trying to say here, and I also think she says it well.

You know. I'm just saying.

Those crocs are just so *happy!*

(From Pearls Before Swine. Click on the thumbnail for full sized double snarked comical strips!)

Pearls Before Swine is one of those strips that's been on my "you really need to have a look at this" list for some time. I've had many, many recommendations that I read it. People I respect like it. It was just one of those things.

Well, as it turns out, one of the LJ people whose LJ I read (LJ -- it's like it actually means something when you say the initials) goes by the Livejournal sobriquet of The Weasel King, which I'd probably have a joke about, but given my own Livejournal sobriquet is Demiurgent, I don't have room to judge, now do I?

Anyhow, TWK posted a few Pearls Before Swine strips over the past week, putting them right. In. Front. Of. My. Face. Go to the Friends Page, read Pearls Before Swine. And that did it. This is so getting daily trawled now.

He put the lower of the two strips above up -- it's part of an ongoing sequence, where a couple of crocodiles move in next door to a zebra in the housing development. And would like, very much, to eat him. Today's just tickled me, so I went to snark it, and as is my wont, I went to the day before's strip to get to the archive page for the linkback... and saw the glorious, hysterical Sunday strip above it.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The newspaper syndicates are not afraid of controversy, opinion or being sometimes savagely funny. I submit to you Pearls Before Swine as a test case.

So, read it.

January 09, 2005

All right, already. It's snarked. It's snarked. Now for Christ's sake, let my cat go unharmed! She's done nothing to you!

(From Schlock Mercenary. Click on the thumbnail for full sized oversight!)

The tagline for Schlock Mercenary is "where military humor meets hard science fiction," and this strip conveys that sense. There's a real sense of the military and the mechanics in this strip.

I'm reminded of David Hartwell's definition of hard science fiction. It's as much method as science -- a sense of rigorous attention to detail, to world construction, to the sense of plausibility as there is actual science. Tayler nails that, and he nailed it in today's strip.

At the same time, it's also funny. And yet, also dark. And it brings the story. And closes a chapter.

Not at all bad for a Sunday. Tayler gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

January 07, 2005

Now this is a tradition I can get behind.

(From Achewood. Click on the thumbnail for full sized motivational message!)

I don't spend enough time talking about Achewood. That's not really surprising, mind. I don't spend enough time talking about 80 or 90 percent of the stuff I need to talk about. But Achewood's on that list. And the pity of it is, there's nothing else quite like it, so it needs to be talked about.

Today's Achewood is 'straighter' than most. And it's funny, which is a bonus. But it's also a good exercise in characterization. On the one hand, there's Ray -- who's exactly the sort of person who'd inaugurate "Fuck You Friday." When Ray and Roast Beef began their inexorable domination of Achewood (in the old days, it was far more about Philippe, Cornelius Bear, Todd the Squirrel and the like), I wasn't very fond of Ray. But Ray grows on you. He gets under your skin. You figure out what's bluster and what's genuine, and you learn to appreciate him. Also, he went to Hell for a while, and met a blues man there. That's Ray for you.

But there's also a momentary glimpse into Pat's psyche. I'm reminded of the South Park Christmas episode where the boys had to travel to Canada and got stuck essentially in the Wizard of Oz. Their nemesis was Scott. And, in the words of their Canadian Guide. "Oh no! That's Scott! He's a dick!" And that was justification enough. "Watch out for Scott! He's a dick!" Well, that's Pat in a nutshell. He typically ends up on the run from the law after shooting a friend of his. (Mr. Bear got it last time.) He's demanding and shrill and annoying. But they accept him. That's just Pat. He's a dick.

And there's a little bit of vicarious wish fulfillment going on, too. I wish I had the nerve to tell telemarketers "no, fuck you." And, since it's Fuck You Friday, maybe I will.

Anyway. This strip may not be typical Achewood, but then they're never typical Achewood, are they? So go read the strip. You'll like it.

January 04, 2005

Looks like she's married, mm?

(From The Ice Queen, a Trespasser's Mystery. Click on the thumbnail for the subscription required full sized renderings! Or, click on the link for today's free installment!)

Many people know Joe Zabel for his critical work, most particularly as the driving force behind The Webcomics Examiner, which is unquestionably the most ambitious and academic journal devoted to the burgeoning field of webcomics and webcartooning, currently.

What people sometimes forget is Zabel is also a webcartoonist. In fact, he works in 3D modeling (I don't want to say "Poser," because if he can make Poser do the stuff he does, I for one don't want to know it, given how horrendous my own Poser work has been), creating rendered work that's just about the best I've ever seen applied to sequential art.

Well, we're fortunate, because he's just begun a new mystery over on Modern Tales. Which means if you're reading this the same day I wrote it, you can actually see the first "real" entry even if you're not a subscriber. (Yesterday he posted the evocative and beautiful cover art to Ice Queen.)

Now, I recommend a Modern Tales subscription regardless. Because, dude. Narbonic. And No Stereotypes. And now The Ice Queen. And if this mystery proves to be as detailed as today's art suggests, you're going to want to go back and review the clues as they were laid out.

But for today, just look at the art. Just look at it. It's not quite Industrial Light and Magic/Gollum, but neither is it trying to be -- it works within the slightly artificial constraints of modeling to produce its effects, and it blends models to photographs (I assume) very very well. The details on his models are phenomenal, regardless, and his use of light and shadow sublime.

We don't yet know the merits of The Ice Queen's story, but it's looking good to begin with. So have a look. And get ready to follow the mystery.

January 03, 2005

You know, this is the kind of trinity I can get behind.

(From Cheshire Grin. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Hosenpheffer!)

So, I needed time away today. It was the last day home with my folks (I'm heading back to New Hampshire tomorrow, and back to the glories of work on Wednesday), and there were Things Afoot, so I'm running late today. And I guess I'm okay with that. I own my lack of posting in this the new year.

But I'll make up for it by talking about Cheshire Grin, which crossed my radar not too long ago.

Cheshire Grin's fun. The art is distinctive, the humor is humorous, the sad bits are sad. And this was my favorite of the strips I've seen of it so far. (Well, that and the dragonslaying enchanted poison dog. I've been in games where those would have been par for the course.) This one isn't really representative -- it's just funny, and that's what I'm in the mood for.

The thing is... the strip takes the ground Dork Tower and Knights of the Dinner Table (and even the tabletop RPG sections of PvP) and treats it less as gagaday and more as a celebration of what it means to be what they call a "tabletop role player" these days. (Don't get me started on the theft of our hobby's name). I've been where these guys have been, way too often. I recognize everyone in this strip. And I've gone through periods where I, like Bill the GM, decided it was time to "put childish things aside" and cut off my nose to spite my face.

This is a sweet, sometimes dark, and funny strip. And right now they're doing a LARP thing that's both fun and beautifully colored. So, read it.

That's what I've got for today. Enjoy.

January 02, 2005

It amazes me just how good a Flip Dr. Pill Mell makes.

(From Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Oh! Um! Oh! (if you have a subscription to Modern Tales. Otherwise, click on the link for today's Narbonic!)

One of the seminal comic strips in history -- the strip people like me always bring up, whether you want to hear about it or not, dang it -- is Little Nemo in Slumberland by Windsor McKay. Possessed of a sense of the surreal, a sense of wonder, and a terrific sense of humor, McKay's strip brought a real sense of dream logic -- which is to say, no logic at all -- to Nemo's adventures as he slept, with certain guideposts along the way. (A sign or indicator that reads "Wake Up" to end the strip with Nemo, possessing epic bedhead, sitting up after awakening with some pithy comment, for example.)

Well, Shaenon Garrity -- a person I have unhealthy adoration for at the quietest of times -- has captured the pure essence of McKay far far far better than any homage I've ever seen, with today's strip. That includes Neil Gaiman's take on Little Nemo in "The Doll's House" run of Sandman (which while brilliant sacrificed the essence of Little Nemo to make a chilling point about abuse -- and raised a dual symbolism for Jed's capture), and any number of affectionate turns. Garrity understands McKay, and what made Nemo work -- particularly what made the strips work as standalone pieces, even when McKay had continuity.

Through this all -- the Princess pining for her playmate, Flip/Mell's amused taunting, Dave rushing to join his playmate and running into himself in dreams, the awakening scene at the end -- there is that same sense of the surreal, the imagination unleashed. This is a dream. If you don't think these are hard, look at any given television script that includes a dream sequence (all right, excepting Sheridan's dream on Babylon 5, though that was more of a vision), and see how utterly literal they are. The worst one I've ever seen was on an episode of Enterprise, because it absolutely captured what doesn't work in scriptwriter dreams. It featured one of the characters having a meeting with a crewmember who had died, realizing it was a dream, and having a wholly logical and rational conversation before the obligatory "waking up before being forced to admit what they need to admit to make their tortured psyche all better" ending.

That's not how dreams go. Not even lucid ones. That was just a plot point, clumsily written. In seeing it done well here, both in terms of dream logic and in terms of a tribute to Windsor McKay, I find myself just plain happy. Especially when you consider that Dave's conversation with himself is a plot point that does reveal something key about Dave, his feelings towards his work and Helen, and even his Time Travel adventures.

And that's not bad for a Sunday morning, now is it?

EDIT: Looking at it again, Mell looks more like Flip and Dr. Pill kind of mashed together. The hat is all Dr. Pill, but the attitude is all Flip. The cigar is something of a toss up.

December 31, 2004

I'm also pathetically happy to learn they haven't gotten to second, yet.

(From PvP. Click on the thumbnail for full sized greedy!)

On the heels of the somewhat disappointing plotline resolution yesterday, Kurtz comes back with what might be the perfect archetype of a good PvP strip. It's not just that the joke is funny. It's that the joke is perfectly executed.

It's perhaps even better that it's Marcy and Francis. I mean, the joke would have worked if it had been Brent and Jade, even though they, to use the Garrity term, goink. It works because Brent and Jade enjoy negotiating these things. But Jade would have had an eyeroll in there somewhere. Marcy's slight smile in panel 2 is perfect.

Anyway -- this is a perfect PvP relationship strip, with a perfect PvP joke.

Kurtz gets a biscuit -- a tasty, tasty biscuit.

Have I ever given two of those in one day before? Not counting the Shortbread list?

Wherein we apply the confluence of Holy and Fuck.

(From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Oh He Did Not Just Say That.)

I've said positive things about Aeire's characterization before. And here's a good example of why. First though, let me say some good things about the art in the strip. Even stepping away from the Lightning Path and all the text, the art is first rate today -- lots of crowding and shadows and blurs for Kestrel in the distance. It all works really well. That's all first.

Now. Let's look at Seamus, walking across the room to talk to Kestrel. And what he says.

Holy fuck. He did not just say that.

Here's the thing. I don't buy it.

Oh, I think Angela does love Kestrel. She might even Capital-L Love Kestrel. But if so, she loves Kestrel the way that Heinlein was talking about when he said that "Love is the condition when another person's happiness is critical to your own." Angela wrestled with Kestrel going away, but came to terms.

Clearly, Angela wasn't thinking about this when she warned Seamus off. She clearly thought he was talking about his own feelings. To the point that she shut down anything about her needing to talk to Kestrel. And she told Seamus to not weigh anything more on Kestrel. But of course he did.

I think Seamus was jealous of Angela, ultimately. Jealous of her friendship and maybe her feelings for Kestrel. He couldn't handle that, ultimately. Which fits his personality, even though we've mostly seen him as a nice enough guy. He let his ex-girlfriend Elaine dictate his life -- dropping Kestrel like a stone when she came back to him -- and clearly sees love as a singular thing. You're with someone or you're not, and there's no room in your heart for anyone else.

Angela isn't like that. She's said so herself. Her relationship with Brad was open, and she was cool with it. She's happy enough to be happy, if the people around her are too. And I think that freaked Seamus. I think he couldn't quite handle not being the most important thing in Angela's life, because that's the only way he knows how to love.

And now he's thrown a grenade into Kestrel's brain. If this were Something Positive, I'd expect Angela to break every bone in his body and leave him a bloody smear on the wall. As it is, I think that yes, Angela and Kestrel will have to confront their own relationship and their own feelings and maybe even their own desires... but that in the end, Seamus is talking out his ass because he's selfish.

That's my theory. It may be wrong, but by God I'm sticking with it.

And Aeire? Gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

December 30, 2004

The thing is, the word 'testicles?' Comedy gold. I don't know why.

(From PvP. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Power to the People!)

You guys know I loves me the PvP. And I've liked this whole sequence. It's been a testament to the ways people can be bastards at the holidays, and most of all, it's funny. And now we have the payoff, and it too is funny, and a distinctive idea.

And... hm.

I guess it just didn't work for me.

In part, I guess it didn't work because I was looking either for Door Number Four (where neither Cole nor Brent gave in, but some external disaster wiped the competition out -- or something happened that caused them both to abandon it because it was more important to help someone else than it was to "win" the competition) or a total Scooby Doo ending as a fourth choice.

At the same time, I understand what Kurtz is doing here. This is the end of the Brent/Cole Christmas feud -- not just for this year but moving forward. Kurtz is retiring this plotline's jersey. And he's giving the people (like me) who think Cole's being the bastard the chance to see him admit it, the people who think Brent's the bastard the chance to see him admit it, and the people who think it's both of them... well, y'know.

On the other hand, I think all three punchlines worked as PvP punchlines. I would have been happy with any of these resolutions, and I like the idea of the Choose Your Own Ending.

I dunno. I guess it just didn't gel for me. Hey, it has to happen sometimes, right?

December 29, 2004

I can honestly say I did not expect this.

(From Goats. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Virtual Reality!)

Gregor Mendel and his mutant plant creatures haven't been "live" in Goats for many a moon. Usually, the nefarious former monk and his mad creations are just recounted in long sagas of dubious accuracy by Diablo. When Mendel actually shows up, it usually means attractive waitresses are put into Princess Leia outfits, and that's never a bad thing. Also, it means adventure!

Fish looks like Hell, doesn't he? That's always bad. Still, it all makes perfect sense now. The trip to California by way of smacking upside the head. Leonard Nimoy. And of course, Reese Witherspoon and....

Wait... they're doing all this to convince Fish that Reese Witherspoon doesn't love him? What the fuck?

God, I love Goats.

December 28, 2004

There's something terrifying about a skunk with magical powers, but I'm not sure what it is.

(From Fight, Cast or Evade. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Walk of Shame!)

There's some nice emotion in today's Fight, Cast or Evade. See, Yerzle used to lead our party of adventurers, but Fubaar (he's the guy giving the orders) wrested control away from him. Yerzle put up with that for a long time, but finally tried to drive Fubaar out. Fubaar humiliated him and made it clear he had both physical and moral dominance in this situation. And Yerzle was forced to accept it.

In watching Yerzle schlep to the back of the party, it's interesting to watch the rest of the reactions, though. Perhaps Fubaar's motivations really are "purer" than Yerzle's, but there are levels of morality and ethics, and it's clear that in the eyes of their comrades, Fubaar's "moral high ground" isn't very high at all.

It's a nice character moment, heading in to the point when skulls begin to be cracked.

December 26, 2004

Nothing says "Iguana Queen" like beards and green taffeta.

(From Annie. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... full sized... Jesus Christ I don't have the words.)

It's been a month since last we talked about Annie Warbucks, the girl long on pluck and short on luck, unless you count the luck of having a multibillionaire arch-conservative adopt her and her dog (who's been AWOL in Alaska for months upon months now). As you'll recall, Daddy Warbucks and Amelia had flown out to Broadcast Ranch to be rejoined with their brain damaged young orphan, taken to wearing Western Getups, funneled massive cash into Broadcast Ranch, propping up the ancient cowboy music show, getting it wider attention and of course having Annie becoming Cowboy Music Singing Sensation (there's four words you never expected to hear in a row) Rosie of the Range.

But this did not make everyone happy. Anton Veil, the bestselling author and noted Satanist, had been applying pressure to Broadcast Ranch's sponsors to drive them out of business, so he could buy the ranch up as part of a nefarious, devil worshipping plot! And Daddy Warbucks had marched right over to have it out with Veil. What, I say, what could possibly happen next?

Well... now we know. And I think I can say without fear of contradiction that we did not expect the answer to the question that we got.

Warbucks and Veil sparred verbally, followed by Veil attempting Satanic hypnosis. When this failed, Veil's reaction was a predictable "Bah! Bah! Bah!" Warbucks then demanded to know the score, and backed up his demands with the financially astute and American Capitalistic power of Mr. Fist and his partner Mr. Knuckle-Sandwich. (Counterpointed with scenes of Annie and the old coots singing songs using the word "YEE-HAW!" of course.)

Veil, thwarted but delusional, retreats back into the less painful realm of words, and gives Warbucks a copy of The Testament of Anton Veil. To Warbucks, it all looks like meaningless gibberish... and that opinion is reinforced when Veil tells Warbucks that the Martian Iguanas would explain it to him... and the Iguana Queen will Reveal All.

Okay, my thought was Veil was blowing smoke up Warbucks's absurdly large ten gallon hat, but as it turns out... no. No, Veil meant it... the old coots back at the ranch remembered that back in the day, there was a terrible, terrible movie called Martian Iguana-Men of the Sagebrush... and Annie and Amelia find both reams of Iguana drawings and at least one Iguana wearing a crown in his book.

That's right. The Satanist... is obsessed with Iguanas. QUEEN Iguanas! MARTIAN QUEEN IGUANAS!

A quick trip to the Internet Movie Database (by Annie -- I'm scared to check it myself) reveals that said movie was directed by noted Hollywood Schlockmeister Enver Drood, and his wife died horribly... and that in the movie, the Iguana Queen was played by... VESUVIA!

Yes, Vesuvia! Italian Film Diva of 50 years ago and old cohort of Warbucks and Plucky Orphan. Think of Scott Thompson playing Francesca Fiore and you're on the right track.

So, they call Vesuvia and ask her -- and she is in torment, torment remembering those days when she was desperate for a part, and so agreed to join this production (so, if it'd been today, this would have been a porn storyline. Featuring iguanas.) Sadly, Drood was part of that whole twisted Hollywood scene. You've seen it on E! any number of times -- the fast times, the nightclubs, the drugs, the alcohol, the blood sacrifices, the being torn apart by coyotes... check up on Robert Downey Jr.'s career if you want more details.

Anyway, as it turned out, the Iguana Queen of the movie was meant to be sacrificed in real life (see? It was a porn movie!) but Vesuvia walked off the picture, so Drood sacrificed his wife instead. It was all too much for the Italian Diva to bear.

Cut to Anton Veil, who's talking to reptiles. And giggling. Giggling.

Back at Broadcast Ranch, Warbucks, Annie, Amelia and the Coots work out that Anton Veil -- the self described son of the Master of Darkness -- must in fact be Enver Drood's child. And now he talks to lizards. Somehow, this is seeming less and less like an immanent threat for Annie to overcome.

But it gets better. Oh, it gets better. Driven wholly insane by the pain of listening to "Rosie of the Range" sing Silent Night on the Broadcast Ranch Christmas broadcast (and to be honest, I'm on Veil's side with that one, though why he didn't turn off the radio himself is beyond me), Veil decides the Iguana he has named queen is little more than a strumpet! A base strumpet. And that he himself is the Iguana Queen! He puts the little crown on his head, giggling with glee! GLEE! And then today... today....

The gown I could cope with. And the stole. And if a bearded Satanist is going to wear a gown and stole, the tiara is just good accessorizing. But it's the blood red lipstick that just makes it complete.

So what happens next? I don't yet know. All I know is that Little Orphan Annie's greatest adventure of all is about to begin... Annie Against the Crossdressing Satanic Son of Hollywood!!!

Okay. Anton LeVay was one thing. But Anton LeVay crossed with Ed Wood, Junior?

And I thought this thing couldn't get any more batshit insane. Ovaltine must contain PCP.

Perhaps she got highlights done while Greg fed pennies into the machine that distorts and stretches them into "commemorative coins," which I believe is against Federal Law....

(From Real Life Comics. Click on the thumbnail for full sized rotating lunch!)

I've been up the Space Needle more than once. It's just one of those things you do when you live in Seattle, which I did for several years. It's a nice place, it's a great view, and the restaurant is indeed both high quality and "tourist priced." But then, I was more likely to go to Beth's for breakfast for dinner (Greg and Liz take note -- you must go to Beth's for food. 12 egg omelets. Hash Browns to die for. Some of the only decent drip coffee in a fucking city of espresso drinks. And crayons at your table) to begin with.

So, I'd like to extol this strip's accuracy and humor, but I'll be honest. I'm distracted by the fact that apparently they opened up a hair salon on the observation deck of the needle, since in the last strip they were about to ride the elevator up, and now they're there, and Liz has gone from redhead back to blond.

Unless, of course, the prices turned her hair grey, but it hadn't quite finished the process yet. You can't rule that out.

December 24, 2004


(From Todd and Penguin. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Christmas Eve traditions!)

On Christmas Eve, warmly decimating my family in Scrabble, smelling a gingerbread candle and listening to A Christmas Story, I find myself in a Yuletide mood. And that was the mood I happened to read Todd and Penguin in.

Penguin, despite being a Penguin, is the most like a little kid I think I've seen in a webcomic. He's innocent and sweet... and also selfish, in his own way. But not in a bad way. I could see any five year old saying the same thing. And Holly understands and teases him just right.

It's sweet, and it makes me hope even more that Holly remains a part of the comic strip. This was just nice.

Merry Christmas, David Wright. And Merry Christmas to everyone.

Now go to bed. Santa's coming, and he's got IR scope equipment.

December 23, 2004

Also, Kim's got the best facial expressions in the strip, for my money.

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized working the angles!)

I look forward each year to the week long "Old Familiar Faces" series in Something Positive, where we get caught up with formerly major characters who've rotated out of the limelight. There's usually a touch of Eva (who seems to have reverted back to being a victim -- either her boyfriend, who didn't seem like a douche when first we saw him, has undergone a vinegar and water sea change, or Eva either has pushed him into distancing himself or is just overreacting to what actually is a legitimate business trip), and some other folks. I'm hoping to see some T-Bob (and maybe some Jesus Mickey) before the end of it.

But I had to remark on the return of Kim, who's always been one of my favorite characters. She mentions she has one semester left, which could potentially lead to a return to the regular cast. (A return I for one would like to see.) Kim brings a somewhat more sophisticated sense of dark humor, in my opinion -- she's as dedicated as Aubrey and Peejee to chaos and suffering, but she's far more subtle in her execution of it.)

And more to the point, the strip is hysterical. Especially because it touches on one of the things I hate most about the Pagan community (a community I tend to be sympathetic to, I would add): the treatment of Christmas as an affront needing to be counterattacked, in a way that's honesty funny and darkly cynical. I appreciate that.

I should mention, I'm not a Christian. I'm what I consider a spiritual agnostic (I think there is more to this world than the eye can see, but I don't know the shape and form of what that is) who honestly respects Faith and has no time for intolerance. That's good for my good Liberal cred, but I tend to get in trouble with my peeps when I defend Christians in the same breath I defend Jews, Muslims, Pagans or Atheists. Especially at Christmas.

Dude, it's Christmas. In American society, that's become a thoroughly secular ritual, in a land where we need all the secular rituals we can get. If that secular ritual grew out of a Christian tradition... well, said Christian tradition grew out of pagan traditions too, and besides, who gives a damn? I have no problem singing Silent Night or remarking on Nativity Scenes or listening to the Choir of King's College perform the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. That sets a tone -- a beautiful moment that brings back years and years of happy times with my family. The fact that there are people out there who don't believe in those lessons or in the central thesis of Silent Night, and therefore shouldn't be "subjected" to them, is patently ridiculous to me. That's like trying to ban Johnny Cash music because there are people out there who don't believe in Boys named Sue.

The core of all of this is a sense that we have to be tolerant of other peoples' beliefs. This is something I agree with. I think we should acknowledge and support Chanukah and Kwanzaa, Ramadan and Agnostica alike. I think there is room for the Yule and the Solstice and Kris Kringle at this time of year. The fallacy of the current pravda is the only way we can be tolerant of all of these festivals and religions and beliefs is to acknowledge none of them. No Christmas or Chanukah or Ramadan in public areas or schools, because there might be students who don't believe in these things.

That's not tolerance and that's not separation of Church and State. That's radical intolerance aping the language of the tolerant. That's saying "because All do not believe, we must act as if None do," and that's not only wrong, it's stupid and unAmerican.

During the High Holy Days, I feel we should celebrate what it means to be Jewish in America. During Ramadan, I feel we should celebrate what it means to be Muslim in America. During Christmas, I feel we should celebrate what it means to be Christian in America. And during all these things, I think we should celebrate what it means to be American in America. And that includes the fat man in the red suit who gives things compulsively, as well as the virgin birth and the miracle of the oil in the temple and the seven Nguzu Saba of blackness, in and around this time of the year.

Milholland touches on this obliquely in this strip. He includes the shrill denunciation of Christmas that I've heard from several Pagans (not all, I'd add -- not by a long shot), but makes it clear that the shopkeeper is more interested in provoking fundamentalists into burning her shop to the ground for the insurance money than in the respective symbolisms involved. Milholland, as always, cheerfully goes for the throat here -- he's not attacking Pagans, he's attacking attitudes on both sides of the equation. And I love it. I really do.

Milholland gets yet another biscuit. A tasty, tasty Christmas biscuit, sprinkled with that green sugar that makes you wonder if it's safe to eat.

December 22, 2004

I wonder if someone's marketed plastic Charlie Brown pathetic trees that droop and raise automatically.

(From Blahsville. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Christmas Spirit.)

Hi all.

Still sick. In fact, looking at the screen seems to give me a massive headache. So each one of the letters I type for this post is at a price paid out in pain.

Which might mean that I'm pretty stupid. I mean, why am I even typing in the first place, given that?

Still, Blahsville is back from hand-injury hiatus, and that should be noted to one and all. And it's Christmas, or put near. And if that doesn't deserve a headache or two, I don't know what does.

The "cat-poisoning-me" theory seems to be holding up pretty well. I woke up at one point and saw her sitting on the coffee table next to the couch I was sprawled on, staring at me with obvious contentment. When I reached to pet her, she play bit my hand and sauntered away. Also, I found receipts for various poisons, and the signature was in her handwriting. Explain that, Mister Holmes -- if you can.

December 21, 2004

A double-snark, for you!

(From Timmy Kat! Click on the thumbnail for ordering information and to consign your soul to the inky blackness!)

One of my overall problems in life is ambition. In another window, I'm working on the first of four Shortbread lists. I'm totally insane. And needless to say, it's got my writing time a little bit consumed. At least it's being consumed for all of you, right?

But I need a break, and fortunately I have the perfect thing to Snark! You see, my copy of Timmy Kat came in today.

Timmy Kat is the first comic book from Mel Hynes and James L. Grant, who are best known as the writer and artist of Two Lumps. (Two Lumps is the Keenspace comic that currently heads my "why the fuck isn't this on Keenspot proper? Don't Crosby, Crosby, Bleuel and Stone like money?" list.) Well, there's some of that good old fashioned Two Lumps humor in this... and a nice healthy dose of humor from Grant's other comic, FLEM Comics.

If that doesn't scare you and thrill you all at once, go click on the FLEM link and read the archives straight through. I dare you.

This is a double-snark, however. Not only is this a fast set of impressions on Timmy Kat itself, it's also my inauguration into ComiXpress's wares. ComiXpress, for those who don't know, is the latest project from Logan DeAngelis, webcartoonist of the brilliant (and underappreciated, in my view) KU-2 and impresario of PV Comics. DeAngelis is trying to bring quality Print on Demand comic books to the Indy Comics community, coupling a certain degree of editorial oversight with the POD model.

So, on the one hand, there was no way in Hell I wasn't going to buy this comic. I'm too much of a Two Lumps and FLEM fan not to. On the other hand, this would be a chance to see the actual execution of the ComiXpress experience and see what kind of quality they could produce. In the Critical Community, this is what we call win/win.

Ordering was moderately painless but slightly frustrating. The site was well laid out, though it kind of insisted on me opening an account (which isn't my favorite thing to do when I just want to buy something). It was easy to use, though, and it featured a Paypal option for paying.

I like paying with Paypal. I always have. It's by far my favorite means of giving people money on the Internet. If took Paypal, I'd never go to Barnes and Noble again. So that got props from me. I went through, punched in my password, hit submit, Paypal told me the money was sent, and redirected me to ComiXpress's website to give me a receipt....

And got a page of PHP errors.

Well, shit.

So, being in a technical field, I did what I do in these situations -- I did a copy/paste of all of them and e-mailed them to their technical support. And I got back a response in like three minutes thanking me and letting me know that yes, the Paypal order went through and I'd get my stuff. Logging back in confirmed this. So, while it was scary, and could potentially lead someone to double-order, it wasn't a dealbreaker and the ComiXpress staff were fast to reassure me. And that's a good thing.

They shipped that same day, by Priority Mail, in a nice flat, solid mailer. And it got to me.

Let me finish up the ComiXpress discussion by talking about quality of printing. This is black and white, including the cover (I believe that covers at least can be printed in color over at ComiXpress, but that's not what Hynes and Grant elected to do). It's about the right size for what we think of when we think of comic books, and it's nicely put together. More to the point, my brain thinks "comic book" when I hold it, not "saddle stapled bunch of paper," which is a good sign. It prints to glossy paper for the cover, and then what feels like a seventy pound laser safe paper for the interior. From the reproductive qualities, I assume it's produced on the current generation of Docutech printer/copiers, or a competing brand that does the same thing as the Docutech. There is a little bit of streak in the greys, owing to xerographic instead of offset printing, but that's expected and hardly a dealbreaker.

Yes, I used to work at Kinko's. I own my McPast, damn it.

The interiors are bright and clear, thanks to the paper choice (quality paper really stands out, especially in the greys). The pictures look good, and the text of the introduction and foreward (by R. K. Millholland and Nick Mamatas respectively) is crisp and clean. The text of the story proper has a little bit of jaggedness to it, but that's more an issue with the font (which really wasn't meant for the size it was printed at) than the reproduction.

Suffice it to say, I don't feel badly for spending five bucks on this comic. I sort of expect to drop five bucks on a 36 page comic with minimal advertising (which is confined to the back of the comic and is all in-house for ComiXpress) these days, and I'm not disappointed with the quality.

So, enough of that. You want to know how Timmy Kat is.

The art is beautiful. Two words: Sand Castle. I don't know how Grant has enough life to draw that. The story hits the tone it was going for -- this is written as a children's book (well, in style. Though my nieces might like it. But then, I have exceptional nieces with dark senses of humor), and it comes across exactly right for that. The pacing was excellent, and the story resolved in exactly the way I hoped.

Oh, and Hynes and Grant are total bastards who will come to a horrible end, and I need to spork out my own eyes and wander the streets in a purgatory of my own creation, babbling incoherently but insightfully until the darkness of sweet oblivion claims me at last.

But that's really what I was looking for in their first comic. Needless to say, I am content.

Now, back to these damn Shortbread recipients. Me and my fucking bright ideas.

December 20, 2004

I suppose I could always leave a print of this strip for my parents to find, with "Crate O' Porn" circled. Of course, then they'd make me leave the house until the New Year....

(From Yirmumah. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Holiday Suggestions!)

One of the things I've always liked about Yirmumah is it's willingness to cheerfully go for your fucking throat. Today's... well, yesterday's... okay, by the time most of you read this, Sunday's Yirmumah exemplifies this. It's so happy, even while its subject matter is so vicious. Go ahead! Pick up a few old people and some medical waste for Christmas! Tis the Season, bitch!

Also... I'm not sure why, but seeing Drew in a hat made me a very happy Panda. I've been grooving on the expanded format strips (and the December 12 strip was poignant, which is not a word I often use with Yirmumah), but seeing a floppy hat on Drew just felt right to me. Mad Stylin', yo.

December 19, 2004

This is getting astoundingly recursive.

(From Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail, if you're a subscriber, for full COLOR and SIZED Burns Sestina goodness! Or click on the link and see whatever Narbonic is today's, if you're not a subscriber!)

Ordinarily, when Websnark gets referred to in a strip I read and happen to mention over here, I put up a "submitted without comment" note at the beginning, and then proceed to comment in like six parenthetical postscripts. It's like humor, only without the laughter part.

But that's not what's happening with this Narbonic. You see, we're officially entering into a feedback loop here, and that should be appropriately noted.

It all started when I put a snark here on Websnark up for auction. It was for charity. And it was really successful, being won ultimately by Jac Olwyn, whose won Snark will be posted in the new year, at Olwyn's request.

Shaenon Garrity, one of the bidders, said that had she won, she would require me to write a snark in the form of a sestina. Which is a poem where...., I refuse to define a sestina again. Just deal with it.

Anyway, while I wasn't obligated to do the sestina, the idea of it appealed to me. And there's nothing that says I can't do stuff that sounds cool just because Garrity didn't win. So I ramped up the difficulty a bit (because while said sestina would be by definition clever instead of great poetry, when you're showing off you might as well go all the way), and I wrote that puppy.

Shaenon asked for the right to reprint it in Narbonic, which she did today, in the post I referred to. And she also did actual hand colored art for it, which makes me bounce happily. Said art is pretty, said typography is decent, and as for the rest....

...well, the rest is something I wrote, so it's not really up to me to say if it's good or if it sucks. But I enjoyed seeing it, and it seemed only appropriate to get another snark out of this whole thing. Next, we just need a Snarkoleptics post about this post, and then a webcomic's rant post about that post, and so on, and so on....

December 17, 2004

A very brief snark about Foxtrot.

(From Foxtrot. Click on the thumbnail for full sized "you know, he has a point.")

This is hysterical, because it is true. And somehow my eyes glazed over it in my daily trawl, but a friend name of Dave Weinstein passed this through a different friend, and it made me look at it again.

Once again. This is hysterical, because it is true.

Thank you, and try the chicken.

Seriously, dude. That cat'll cut you.

(From Diesel Sweeties. Click on the thumbnail for full sized cheerful threats of violent retribution!)

One thing I've always liked about Diesel Sweeties is R. Stevens's willingness to mess shit up. He doesn't rest on the premise, even though he also doesn't hugely stray from it. Indy Rock Pete was a hapless virgin for a long while... and then he hooked up with Pale Suzie for a while, and that was different. The humor stayed the same (this strip is the antithesis of the Cerebus Syndrome attempt), but the situations got shuffled. It stayed fresh.

Well, he's messing with the core relationship of the strip now -- Maura, the alcoholic ex porn star and Clango the extremely pleasant robot are in trouble, romantically. Maura got drunk and had sex with Electron Mike (man, who knew there was that much alcohol in the world), and Clango's headed out on his own. He dated Pale Suzie, which led an outraged Maura (outraged under the theory that she "waited until she was drunk to cheat on Clango!" to come deck the cheery goth. Through it all, Red Robot's been egging Clango on cheerfully... it's just fun.

I'm good with whatever happens next. I suspect that Maura and Clango will hook back up (they always seem to, even though Maura's... well, a pretty crap girlfriend. Once Clango's head got separated from his body, and when his batteries ran down and he seemed to die, her response was "huh -- guess I need a new boyfriend"), but if they don't I'm good with that too. There'll still be good stuff following. It's all interesting, it's all fun, it's all funny. Life's good, man.

December 15, 2004

Cause, then effect.

(From Nukees!. Click on the thumbnail for full sized new media perceptions!)

There is a core reality involved in this absurd joke. In a weird way, it reminds me of Reverse Polish Notation. For those of you who didn't go to college in the 80's (do Engineering calculators still use RPN today?), HP's high end calculators used a different, more efficient method of inputting numbers and getting out results, called Reverse Polish Notation. (No, it wasn't a Polish joke.) In Reverse Polish Notation, you actually input your information the way the calculator processed it, instead of making the calculator convert to it. So, if you wanted to solve for (2+3) x 6, instead of pressing "(" "2" "+" "3" ")" "x" "6" "=" and reading the answer, you'd press "2" "3" "6" "+" "x" with an enter key in between the numbers.

Why do this? I have no Earthly idea. But it makes sense to Engineers, and Engineers make the cars I drive and the electricity I consume in the computers and Tivos they made for me, and launched the satellite that gives my TV. So if Engineers like it, I'm all for it, baby!

My point is, we've adapted our interface to better suit the web and use it more efficiently. There's something terribly counterintuitive about blogs -- we're used to reading the old entries at the top and working our way to the new entries, in traditional media. To have the new entries on the top and scroll down to move back in time seems desperately wrong, when you're first getting used to it. But it makes vastly more sense for the web -- when I update Websnark, why shouldn't the newest entries go to the top of the page -- the bit that appears right in the window when someone shows up to read it. This way, people don't have to scroll to the bottom to see if I've updated or to read something new. It's always presented right where we want it -- at the top.

Well, sooner or later, going back and reading traditionally laid out information's going to seem a little screwy. Almost as screwy as using a standard calculator after you get used to RPN. And so this strip makes me a happy person.

Tasty, 2, Biscuit, Darren Bleuel, x + +

Wiley blinks.

(From Non Sequitur. Click on the thumbnail for full sized hubris!)

Okay, one note before we go any further. Take away any knowledge or perspective of relative situations, change the name of "Scotty" to, say, "Toby," and look at this just as a comic strip.

All set? Cool. Taken in a vacuum, this is actually pretty funny. I think we should mention that -- no matter what agenda or behind the scenes shit is being flung against the walls, this strip will play in Topeka. It Brings the Funny. So Wiley Miller's done his primary job. I think it's important to acknowledge that before we discuss the subtext here.

Okay. The subtext. "Scotty." Scott Kurtz. Get that? Hah hah hah hah hah hah! It's about how the web cartoonists think they're celebrities because they have a lot of people reading their websites.

There's a moment I really love, back when the West Wing was good. President Bartlett is meeting Governor Ritchie, who's the presumptive Republican Nominee running against Bartlett for reelection. Bartlett is in a bad mood because one of his Secret Service detail has just been shot and killed by a petty criminal. They spar for a bit, after Ritchie's oh-so-insightful and sensitive "Crime, jeez. I dunno" when he hears about the murder. And Ritchie makes it clear that he hates Bartlett in a litany of Right Wing catchphrases. "You're what my friends call a superior sumbitch. You're an academic elitist and a snob. You're Hollywood, you're weak, you're liberal, and you can't be trusted."

It was a moment of sheer, unmitigated hubris. Now, no one watching -- I mean, no one watching -- thought Ritchie was going to beat Bartlett's reelection bid. I mean, that's the ball game for the series, and at the time it was a monster hit. But at that moment, the viewing public had a switch click over in their brains. They wanted to see Bartlett come back and wipe the superior smirk off Ritchie's unengaged face. Here he was, inarticulate and insensitive, and he has the gall to call Our Guy weak and elitist and untrustworthy?

And on his way out, Bartlett looks back and says "In the future, if you're wondering, 'Crime, boy, I don't know,' is when I decided to kick your ass." Ritchie looked amused.

And Bartlett proceeded to kick his ass in the election. And we loved it.

As funny as the strip is on its own merits, it's mean spirited and it's ugly and it highlights a sense of close-mindedness. And make no mistake, Wiley Miller is talking about Scott Kurtz, here. He's been very vocal about Kurtz's plan for newspaper inclusion and extremely dismissive about the ability for webcartoonists to make a living or build a following based largely on their online readership.

And it made me stop and think, oddly enough, about Coca Cola and Pepsi.

As long as Pepsi Cola's been taking a shot at the marketplace, they've held "Pepsi Challenges." You know the theory: two cups of soda. The person drinks them both and says which one he likes more. "Gosh," he says. "I preferred the Pepsi!" Cue logo.

You never saw Coca Cola hold those taste tests, or talk it up, or even mention Pepsi. They talk about "The Real Thing," and teaching the world to sing, and polar bears that drink soda. But they don't talk about their competition. They don't have to. They're at the top of the heap. It's the same with McDonald's. Burger King talks a lot about how flame cooked burgers are better than fried, and any number of other invidious comparisons to the golden arches. McDonald's? McDonald's has "I love this place." Burger King isn't in their world.

Of course, Coke did react once to Pepsi. They created "New Coke" to stave off the Pepsi Invasion. Who do you think came out better from that move?

Wiley's at the top of the Syndication ladder. Oh, he's not Lynn Johnston or Cathy Guisewite or Jim Davis or Scott Adams... or Garry Trudeau, Bill Amend, Johnny Hart, Aaron McGruder, Pat Brady... or....

Okay, Wiley's a solid second tier syndication performer. He's certainly doing just fine. He has several collections in print, and that's a sign of success any way you look at it. And if he's not a household name, he's certainly well read on the newspaper page. He's on my daily trawl (the My Comics Page section), so clearly I like his comical drawings and witticisms, and I'm hardly alone.

The point is, Wiley's not a struggling syndicate cartoonist. He's not going anywhere. He's Mainstream.

And when you're in his position, you don't take shots at the people trying to fight their way up. You don't call attention to them at all. You're ahead. You don't need to legitimize your opponents by actually referring to them. When asked about them, you look confused and say "who?"

Wiley blinked today. And if you think Scott Kurtz showed some hubris by announcing his plan... that's nothing compared to the hubris of dismissing the web wholesale publicly. One thing that's incontrovertible is that newspaper circulations (and the newspaper comics page) are on the decline, while the web is still growing, dot com bust or not. If Scott Kurtz gets some traction... if he gets into dozens or hundreds or thousands of newspapers over the next few years... and if his business model continues to feed Kurtz's family and grows... then this strip will be considered a watershed moment. This is when the buggy driver shouted "get a horse!" at the automobilist. And when history of illustration texts are written, this strip will end up reproduced as the point where the newspaper cartoonists began to react to their inevitable decline.

I don't know if Kurtz will succeed or not. I really don't. But someone will succeed. The one thing we can be certain of is things are changing tremendously, and that change can't be stopped.

All I know is this. Up until now, this has been an academic affair for me. Now, it's not. I want to see that smirk wiped off their faces.

In the future, when we all look back to now... this will be the time when the "webbies" decided to kick the syndicates' ass.

December 14, 2004

You know, that dog is aggressively cute.

(From Freefall. Click on the thumbnail... well, to go to the main site page because for whatever reason they don't create an archive page for the current entry, just for past entries, and I hate pointing people to 404 errors, but with luck I'll remember to backlink this to the actual archive entry at some point. And if not... um... go Giants!)

I haven't mentioned Freefall lately, and that's sad, because Freefall remains rock solid and consistent. It first crossed my radar because it was funny. It stomped all over my radar because it was funny and hard SF. Neither of those have changed.

In a way, that's what we've got with today's strip. Oh sure, there are no rockets, but there's solid computer science and sociology and artificial intelligence theory bundled in behind the scenes in this strip and the strips preceding it. Winston was delayed in heading out to his date with Florence when his dust mop with legs dog Beekay ran out into the mud. He wanted to call her and let her know he'd be late, but he forgot her last name. (I've had that problem myself. But then, I'm a jerk.) He asked for the database to find a Bowman's Wolf named Florence, but ran into "non-discrimination code." And that set up today's joke.

And the thing is, I can totally see an artificial intelligence doing this -- mostly because I can see a human operator doing this. The rules for things like privacy are meant to protect us, not hinder us, and an AI for a communications system would be designed to be helpful. So, while it can't come out and say "okay, here's Florence, the Bowman's Wolf," it can helpfully suggest searches that will give Winston what he wants without breaking the rules. Only Winston's annoyed because he can't do the direct search he wants.

I know, I'm overexplaining the joke. My point is, I can see this exact situation taking place, in this exact way. It makes sense to me. And it's also funny.

And that is why I like Freefall so much. It's not just that it's got good jokes. It's that it's got good jokes that have a solid foundation underneath.

December 12, 2004

I'm not just saying this because I'm a proud Mac user either. Well, not completely, anyhow.

pvpbrentsnark.pngFrom PvP.

Every so often, I'm struck with the levels of characterization that Scott Kurtz brings to PvP. You've heard me on these thing before, both in terms of Jade Fontaine vs. Miranda Fontaine as characters and the infamous Max Powers snark. There's usually more than meets the eye going on in PvP, and that's pretty damn cool.

Well, there's something that's been bubbling under the surface in my mind, when I read PvP. Specifically, in what I think's going on with the character of Brent Sienna. Something I couldn't really name or quantify. But the Unsinkable Wednesday White figured a good chunk of it out, and in a post to Snarkoleptics she explained her own frustration. And that post absolutely crystallized my thoughts. I reproduce it here (with her permission):

I'm totally feeling for Brent in PvP at the moment. It's not even been a week since he got dragged out to Blade: Trinity, and already someone else is ragging on him for being critical.

For god's sake, maybe he doesn't like popcorn movies. Maybe the only way he can stand to watch stuff like CSI is to make running commentary (and what's snide about making what sounds like a reasonable point? I'm not familiar with the show, but if that's what they do, then... what's the problem? Sheesh).

I realize the other staff must find Brent's preferences somewhat grating, and I know he can be a bit of a git, but do they honestly believe he'll change his tastes and reactions on a dime to make them happy? Does Cole seriously think Brent can make himself enjoy something because he's told to? (My partner points out, incidentally, that, since Cole is evil, of course he'd do that.)

God, it ticks me off when people do that. I don't see Jade or Cole or anyone else bothering to see "some art-house film" with him. I'd have paid money for Brent to turn round and say, "just for once, could you stop worrying about my attitude and let me enjoy what I want to enjoy?"

I read that, and it hit me. "Holy crap... she's right. Brent's friends are being total bastards to him, pretty much all of the time."

Now, don't get me wrong. Brent is a pretentious git. He really is. And he can be as selfish and self serving as everyone else at Player vs. Player Magazine. (PvP -- where we're all a pack of self-interested jerks. Well, except for Skull. He's a nice guy.) And that's fine -- that's a big part of the Funny in PvP, and Scott Kurtz is absolutely great at Bringing the Funny.

But as self-absorbed as Brent is... there's a lot of ways that his friends are vastly worse to him than he is to them.

Take Cole. Cole absolutely delights in trying to make Brent do things Brent doesn't like to do, because Cole likes to do them and is in charge. He makes Brent (and the rest of PvP) have a Thanksgiving Dinner in the office (finally luring them into it by promising violence and danger). He gives Skull's Thanksgiving With Brent the force of Office Law each year, even though Brent actively doesn't want to have to take Skull every year. He forces Brent to try and get in the Christmas Spirit, when Brent doesn't believe in it and doesn't like it -- and clearly he's enjoying Brent's pain in the process more than he really wants Brent's heart to melt.

Heck, when Brent finally finds a game both he and Jade like to play, Cole jumps in with teasing him as mercilessly as Francis does. Now Francis is a kid. You expect that from him. But you'd expect better from Cole, wouldn't you? Brent doesn't, of course -- all that turned out was Brent was right in not wanting to tell his friends about the virtual date.

By the way, take down notes on that whole Christmas Spirit thing, will you? We'll be coming back to it.

Jade, on the other hand, has demanded vastly more from this relationship than she's given. This goes back to the year long epic storyline of Jade and Brent having broken up. What was Jade's primary complaint about Brent? She was annoyed at him because he wanted too much of her time. What was Brent's complaint? Jade was spending all of her time playing Everquest and gaming on their vacation to Vegas, then getting unreasonably jealous when Brent was kissed on the cheek by another Everquest widow. This is absolutely crucial to understanding the entire breakup of Jade and Brent -- Jade was entirely at fault. Brent might have been sarcastic and annoyed, but for Christ's sake, his girlfriend had chosen chatting with her guild over spending time with Brent on vacation. Frankly, he should have let her stay dumped.

But not only didn't he... and not only didn't he ever get an apology from Jade for what she did... and not only didn't he ever demand that she not see others (including Max Powers, when he took her out dancing)... but he started playing Everquest himself -- a game he hated, on a computer he hated -- entirely so he could build up to a hopelessly romantic moment with her in Vegas. That's right. He sacrificed to put them back together. Jade didn't. And though I believe she does love him -- and was about to walk away from her online boyfriend when she realized she did love Brent (though of course, it was Brent) -- she didn't have to truly sacrifice or apologize to get him back.

This carries through in the recent "online date" strip, by the way. Brent's avatar gives Jade a flower, because he loves her and because... well, I think that's the appeal of these things for Brent, when he does play them. He's a romantic. (Heck, even when he burnt her apartment to the ground, it was entirely to do something romantic and nice for Jade. When Jade did the exact same thing -- a romantic homecooked dinner -- it was to break the news to him that she'd installed Everquest 2 and he'd better get used to not seeing very much of her. How sweet.) Jade accepted the flower... and immediately started crafting it. Because that's what you do with flowers in online RPGs. It's a good thing she's willing to dress up as a bikini elf, because there has to be something keeping Brent coming back.

Brent's relationship with Skull is the cornerstone of Brent's own assholishness. He treats Skull terribly, and no one can claim otherwise. Hell, after he got foisted with Skull for yet another Thanksgiving (and for Christ's sake, why didn't Jade volunteer if she didn't mind Skull coming over for dinner, rather than forcing Brent to be something he doesn't want to be), he kenneled Skull. But when push comes to shove, Brent's the best friend Skull has. Look at last year's "let's give Brent the holiday spirit" campaign by Cole. Francis took in a free cat to try and inspire Brent, then was ready to dump the cat when it didn't work. (Jade just tried to get Brent horny to get the cash prize Cole was giving out, and Cole flat out admitted he just liked making Brent uncomfortable -- merry Christmas to you too, jerk.) But when Cole refused to pony up the money for the cat brought in because of Francis trying to win his stupid prize, and Skull's heart was breaking... who gave up the prize money so Skull could keep Scratch Fury?

That's right, Brent. That hug he gave Skull in the elevator, years back, really speaks volumes.

So I'm with Wednesday. If Brent doesn't want to get in the holiday spirit... leave him alone. He's not asking you to give him presents and then refusing to give them to you, is he? And before you sniff at Brent for not liking cheap popcorn movies (I've seen Blade: Trinity, and while I had a good enough time I could see Brent absolutely hating it) even though he's always happy to go along to blockbusters with you, why not go to a few god damn art films with him? And Jade? If you don't want him snarking (okay, I couldn't resist) during CSI, don't watch it with him, okay?

Of course, they won't stop trying to change Brent, and won't stop poking him with various sticks to make him react. And of course, we don't want them to stop trying to change Brent -- because... well, because this is funny, and conflict in a comic strip is a good thing.

But I appreciate that the joke is actually on two levels -- the surface joke of poking the pretentious git with a stick... and the deeper joke that Brent Sienna is generally a better person than the rest of these bastards.

Scott Kurtz does this stuff well.

Rememberances and Evolution, or Eric goes all Emo on you.

(From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail for full sized bittersweet lullabies!)

When I was twenty years old, I moved from the Greater Metropolitan Boston Area (technically Brighton, though where Brighton, Brookline, Boston and Newton began and ended, I couldn't tell you on a bet, and neither could anyone else I knew) to Ithaca, New York. I did so because I felt like Boston wasn't leading me anywhere, and because I was in love.

Ithaca stands out in my memory as the happiest time in my adult life. Oh, I was dirt poor, working as a temp, rarely breaking ten thousand a year in salary and always living on the far edge. Circumstances weren't ideal between my girlfriend and I (a subject for another story sometime, though it wasn't that she wasn't cool -- she was. And I was... well, me. So if you think I'm cool I guess I was then too), but I was happy, mostly. I roomed with my best friend, Frank, who remains my best friend today. I love the feel of Ithaca, which by virtue of its two full sized four year colleges (Ithaca College and the majestic Cornell University) had almost all the cultural amenities you'd find in a much larger city, while maintaining a certain townish appeal. There was live jazz often played. There was theater. There were mass market movies and two art movie places. There were stores of all kinds, and bars of all kinds, and good pizza made by Greeks, and Blues bands, and the coolest two bars I've ever had the privilege to vomit near -- the Chapterhouse Brewpub, which at the time brewed its own beers and served them in pints, half yards and yards, and the Rongovian Embassy to the United States, which had a bigger beer selection than I've ever seen and the best live music. My official twenty-first birthday party -- which took place some weeks after my actual birthday, and which a number of my Boston friends came up for as well -- was at the Rongo. I still owe about two pitchers' worth of beer in drinks for a Quarters game I disastrously, gloriously lost.

Most of all, I loved Ithaca. And I loved it because I loved my friends -- the ones who lived there and the ones who lived in nearby(ish) Syracuse. Karen, Frank, John, John, Kevin, Becki, Rebecca (two different people), Nin, Christie, Suzanne... all the folks up at the Sterling Renaissance Festival, all the folks at Collegetown Bagels and Ragmann's and the late, lamented Other Side, all the folks at Borealis Books (which has fallen on hard times, I'm sad to say)....

It was wonderful. And it couldn't last. It was a bubble in my life -- my early twenties, when I felt romantic and exciting and immortal, when there were little rules and less money.

Things began to change, of course. Frank and Becki got married and moved on. I went away for a year to finish up my degree and try to shake the logyness out of my life. I got involved with a different girl who didn't end up being that good for me... and ultimately I knew I was spinning my wheels. The world I loved was in the past, and I had to do something to move into the future.

So, I headed West, to Seattle. Which was a fantastic move for me in so many ways....

But there were some months between my decision to go and my actual leaving. And there was the realization that what I most loved about Ithaca were the friends there who I loved... and they would continue to grow and evolve without me. And that they would be all right even when I was gone.

This Queen of Wands is beautifully done. All the things I praise Aeire for are here -- the creative use of text, the lightning path, the fact that she still draws dynamic motion in each panel... and the song lyrics floating along the path unifies and makes it all more immediate. This is a beautiful strip.

And Kestrel's tears in the last panel strike me hard, because this is the very definition of bittersweet -- the recognition that Shannon and Felix and their baby are going to be all right... that the family Kestrel adopted and the life she loved has evolved and disappeared even if she were going to stay... that she's making the right decision for herself by leaving, and that the world will not end when she's gone. They're going to be all right. It's okay. Kestrel really can go.

That moment really resonates for me. It's been eleven years since the day I experienced that same moment. I sometimes go back and visit Ithaca, and those friends who're still there... and it's truly wonderful to see them. I should move back here, I think to myself. But I'm not likely to -- because I can't move back to my early twenties, and I can't move back to Frank being single and he and I living on Raman and having a blast... or to my ex girlfriend, or to our broken down basement apartment. I'd probably love living in Ithaca again... love spending time with the new friends I have there, and the friends I'd make... and if I won the lottery I'd probably move there.

But it wouldn't be my Ithaca. That's gone, the same as "my" High School stopped existing in 1986 when I graduated, and "my" Boston disappeared when my friends graduated or left Boston University, and "my" college disappeared after I graduated that, and "my" Seattle went away when I moved back east, and so did Dominic, who broke up with Annie....

The places we love are places in our past, shaped by events and people. And when we leave them, they change, and they evolve, and the people move on. And they're generally all right. All the people I love are all right, even though I left.

And that makes me happy and sad, all at once. And Aeire captured that perfectly, and I felt like I should mention that.

Man, now I need to go do something cheerful.

December 10, 2004

Of course, Schultz would have had the lettering of the letter much scratchier. But Penguin may simply be precise.

(From Todd and Penguin. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Not Crazy Letter!)

I got paged into work last night, and was there until tennish. I had to be back in this morning for six am, which is where I am now, waiting for the results of a network engineer's tearing through the network with an array of powerful diagnostic tools. I also am drinking coffee like a madman. However, by 1 in the afternoon, I expect to pass out onto the floor. Just, you know, for the record.

Fortunately, there is Todd and Penguin.

This is not the newest joke in the world. But then, they don't have to be. I'm not a member of the cult of "always original, all of the time." Most comedic (and essentially all dramatic) situations are variations on some theme that has come before. The big question is, "does this make you smile."

In particular, this joke reminds me of Peanuts. Charlie Brown or Lucy could be the cat, and Penguin would be Linus or Sally. The joke then could proceed almost completely as written, and be satisfying. As it is satisfying here.

I'm not saying David Wright stole this. He didn't. I'm saying it's a well worn, but perfectly serviceable joke which he has used well. And to be honest, anyone who does a comical strip that makes me think of Charles Schultz and smile is doing something very right.

December 09, 2004

Because I don't want today to just be rants about beloved icons of cartooning, here's some happy Sluggy stuff.

(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the thumbnail for full sized tears in the darkness.)

People ask me why I say Sluggy pulled off the Cerebus Syndrome that so many have failed. That Which Redeems, though it dragged on a bit (as many major Sluggy plotlines do), highlights it well. On the one hand, we have death, and pain, and redemption. On the other, we have Mister Serving Tray and Goddesses in the bathroom. (And the Tarot. The hysterical Tarot.)

And then we have today's strip. We have Zoő's profound, unmitigated joy and relief at Torg coming home... we have Torg's emotional reaction. We have Zoő sensing it, and adapting to it, comforting and welcoming.

And, though it's not as clear from the art as it could be, as the title says, we have Tears in the Darkness.

A successful Cerebus Syndrome comic can go from Mister Serving Tray one day, to Tears in the Darkness the next, and then back again, and lose nothing. It is depth with purpose, Story with Funny. It maintains its own sense of premise and self even as it explores new dimensions. And it never feels cheapened, like it didn't have the goods, like it ran out of jokes so now they're getting gunned down in the streets.

Today was nice, and poignant. Tomorrow may be as well, or it might have me giggling. Either way, it still feels right.

That's what a Cerebus Syndrome feels like when it's pulled off. And that's why so many people try to pull it off.

December 08, 2004

This is the funniest fucking thing I've read in two weeks.

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Festival of Lights.)

Chanukkah is one of those interesting traditions in American culture. A relatively minor festival in Jewish Lore, its proximity to Christmas have inflated its importance in popular culture (which is probably for the best -- I think perhaps Yom Kippur greeting cards and Rosh Hashana holiday movies starring Jim Carrey and a nearly nude J-Lo might possibly bring the Messiah down on us. And the Jewish Messiah isn't known for being forgiving). And yet, so many non-Jewish Americans just don't understand the Festival of Lights at all. They don't know what it commemorates, or the miracle of the oil and how it burned for eight days and nights after the Jews rededicated the Temple previously defiled by the Greeks.

Fortunately, Randy Milholland is here to enlighten us, as well as reveal that one of the most popular characters in Something Positive is Jewish! So. Take a moment, click the thumbnail, and steep yourself in the rituals and traditions of all that is Chanukkah. And then come back.

Okay. Are you back?

Milholland's totally getting a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit. I laughed so hard my sinuses almost ruptured.

Bwah ha bah?

(From Suburban Jungle. Click on the thumbnail for full sized negotiation!)

Okay, this one surprised me a little. Okay, a lot. I know the plan up until now has been to force Woody into a situation where he'd let Leona take the Kitten Kaboodle contract and get some airtime. But I didn't expect Athena to actually make a bid for Leona's full contract.

The thing of it is... Woody'd be nuts to say no. He's had nothing but trouble from Leona. Now, that doesn't mean he won't say no. This is a strip with the mantra "Are you crazy? Is that your problem?" after all. But I think it's at least even odds he'll say yes.

Which raises the issue... just what does Athena intend from all this?

Oh, on one level she intends to make a lot of money. Clearly, that's what she does. But there's also a question of dramatic points. And we just saw Tiffany go through her first spark of jealousy over Leona's singing career....

We could be moving into the Kitten Kaboodle phase... but who's to say Leona won't be the bigger star going into it. And if she is... given that Tiffany Tiger is, at least on paper, the star of this comic strip... where are we going next?

Nice moment of evolution. Nice moment of "What the?' Nicely done, Mr. Robey.

December 07, 2004

It's sort of like Gary Larson collaborated on The Collector.

(From Chopping Block. Click on the thumbnail for full sized X the Owl Tee Shirt!)

Have you ever heard of Delusion of Reference? It's a neurosis that can enter into psychosis, to use outmoded terminology that still means something to me, so what the Hell. Delusion of Reference is the delusion that external events somehow relate to or reflect on you. Say you're walking down the hall, and you see a couple of cute girls quietly talking to each other. If you've got a case of the ol' Delusion of Reference, you naturally assume they're talking about you -- and not very kindly, either. At the far end of the psychosis, you start believing that when the news reporter is saying things, he's saying them to you, but he just can't admit it.

I have this particular condition, in its mildest of forms. I've pretty well intellectualized it out of existence -- mostly by learning not to take myself so seriously. But it can crop up from time to time. (Of course, that could also be called "being insecure, sometimes," which pretty much everyone is.)

Well. I started on August 20 of 2004. On August 23, Chopping Block, by Lee Adam Herold, updated for what seemed like the last time. After the 23rd... nothing.

Naturally, I blamed myself. Damn website, convincing Herold to stop updating Chopping Block.

Well, whatever I did wrong seems to be over now, and Butch the Serial Killer with a heart is back, and that makes me a happy panda. This strip is the absolute epitome of dark humor -- with an emphasis on the humor. Its words are sometimes downright gruesome -- today's strip, not replicated above, casually implies the eating of eyeballs stuffed with deviled ham -- but its images oddly aren't, even with the shadows and darkness and heavy crosshatching and shading.

Old Butch has delusion of reference, of course. And delusion of control, delusion of grandeur, delusion of persecution, auditory hallucinations, erotomanic delusions, a pack of associations, psychalgia, anxiety disorders, and good old antisocial personality disorder (what we used to call being a sociopath or just plain old batshit crazy). He really hits for the cycle. He's clearly got chemical imbalances and environmental factors. And he likes to kill people, have sex with their corpses, and eat them. But if you can set that aside, he's such a sweet guy. And it's very, very, very funny to watch him muddle through as best he can. Especially when you factor in how much of a pain in the neck killing people is.

I'm glad to see him back. I'm glad I've been forgiven. I'm sure everything is fine now, and there won't be any more problems.

And if there are? Well... I've been very patient so far, haven't I? But that will have to end, sooner or later....

On the other side, have you noticed there's a lot of single parenthood in this strip? I'm not saying that's bad. I'm just saying it's true.

(From Ozy and Millie. Click on the thumbnail for full sized zen and the art of single parenting.)

It's traditional, when discussing a comic strip with a certain childlike innocence and pleasantness and great imagination, to compare it to Calvin and Hobbes. Personally, I don't get that at all. Calvin and Hobbes was a triumph on many levels, but part of what made it work so well is Calvin was a perfect child -- selfish, self-centered, with no concept of consequences until it was too late, and largely mindlessly destructive. There's nothing wrong with that. It was funny, and it was accurate (my favorite game to play with my Micronauts was the one where I painstakingly assembled the playsets and vehicles for two hours, then destroyed them all in an orgy of destruction, as the Acroyears and Baron Karza's assault devastated the peaceful home of our heroes, only to be repulsed with a hail of lasersonic fire that also had the effect of hammering the enemy photon sleds and hydrocopters and neon orbiters into shrapnel. Micronaut vehicles were good at shrapnel, because you could so easily disassemble them). A good friend of mine of the time described how he poured gunpowder from his dad's shotgun shells into his Micronauts battle cruiser and literally blew it up -- being lucky he didn't maim himself in the process. That's childhood, in a nutshell, and Calvin and Hobbes captured it perfectly.

Well, the thing about Ozy and Millie is it gets that. Millie is chaotic and destructive and self centered, more than willing to shave all the fur off of Ozy's body for the sake of a good time, then learn a lesson... and then do it again in six months when the lesson has faded. But Ozy and Millie also understands that curious nostalgia that adults feel when thinking about childhood -- that sense of innocence and wonder that people ascribe to Calvin and Hobbes, which is the other side of that chaotic coin.

(And yes, I fully accept that there was a sense of wonder in Calvin and Hobbes. I don't need those angry letters, thanks.)

My point is... with Ozy, Simpson has a character who embodies that sense of inner peace and beauty and wonder. (Senses that also cling to Timulty and perhaps find their perfection in him. On Ozy and Millie's Cast Page, Simpson mentions William Blake and his concept of Primary Innocence in connection with Tim, and that's very apparent.) In other words, he gets both sides of the equation -- he gets both Little Nemo and the Katzenjammer Kids.

I really liked the story of Millie's father, who turned out not only to be a pirate from the dimension found in Llewellyn's sofa, but is aging backwards so that he's around Millie's age now. This is chaotic and whimsical all at once. Well, now we're learning the story of Ozy's mother (there's something about single parents in all of this), who is herself an orderly woman conducting an orderly life. And in today's strip, we learn that Ozy as a baby was already meditating.

I'm enjoying this. And more to the point, I'm enjoying what it represents. And I'm looking forward to what happens next.

And isn't that exactly what Simpson wants? That sense of anticipation, in a story of a single mother ice cream tester and her baby child, who we know eventually gets adopted by a dragon?

December 06, 2004

Also, they're good at banter. But then, they would be, wouldn't they?

(From Questionable Content. Click on the thumbnail for full sized gentrification!)

I want you to have a look at today's Questionable Content.

Then, I want you to click back through the archives for about four days or so.

Go ahead. I'll wait here. I'm good at waiting. I'm patient and I have Propel Fitness Water to drink while you're away.

Back? Oh good.

Jacques has drawn three girls, all within about ten years of age of one another, with Ellen on the young end and (I assume, from today's comments) Dora on the old end. All three girls are attractive.

To draw these girls... Jacques has chosen 2.5 different hairstyles (Ellen and Faye's hairstyles are similar but not exact), three different hair colors, three different skin colors, and three different body types. While all three are clearly pretty, Dora's a rail, Ellen's a bit lusher up top and on the hips, and Faye's heavier in the hip area (to the point that even though Marten has described Faye's butt as capable of giving God an erection after he sculpted it, Faye has made unhappy comments about her weight). And there are subtle differences in the three faces. Eye color's a gimmie.

In other words... Jacques has drawn three different girls... in three different ways, completely.

And none of them look like Supermodels.

This has to be some kind of record.

He did a Herriman reference. There is a place in Heaven for those who do Herriman references.

I don't want to oversnark Checkerboard Nightmare just because I'm (part of) the subject matter, but while I won't do the whole download-thumbnail-upload thing, have a look at today's strip. Particularly the first panel.

Now, one of the things Straub is really good at is the emulation of artistic styles. Have a look at all the other panels for a highlight of his versatility, and then have a look back at panel one.

I have to assume Straub took some kind of pointy implement, like a coat hanger, and fed it through his ear into his brain, and then moved it back and forth until he heard the happy angels singing to him, in order to degrade his artistic skills to the point that he could actually emulate what we laughably call my artistic style. Needless to say, if you've never had a look at Unfettered by Talent (and for god's sake, why would you?), Straub nailed the style perfectly, right down to the lack of straight lines, the child like face, the football shaped head, and the tea pot sign.

The tea pot sign, in particular, means he actually read the Unfettered by Talent archives. Which might have been sufficient to instill the necessary brain damage to be able to draw like me.

Needless to say, I'm impressed, and I wish him well on his convalescence and neurological therapy.

December 03, 2004

Say what you like. That is a kickass aping of Meredith Gran's style.

(From Checkerboard Nightmare. Click on the thumbnail for full sized TPing of the yard!)

Submitted without comment.

(Well, except to say that I've been greeting people by saying "Oh no! My shoulder devil!" since I saw this earlier today. Now, I have a very bad cold. My head is stuffed. My eyes are bleary. I have that vacuous look that comes from medication. Why am I at work? Because I'm an idiot! And my voice is currently three octaves lower than normal. So shouting "Oh no! My shoulder devil!" at people currently freaks them the Hell out.)

(Oh, and I should mention that if this actually is a plotline, as opposed to a one-off mention... I'm probably in a lot of trouble. I mean... Straub typically depicts artists as their main characters (or at least in their style of art). Well... my style of art is the incredibly crappily drawn Unfettered by Talent. I own my shame... but this also means I'm probably going to have lots more shame to own, still.)

(On the other hand, he might choose to depict me as Ursula Vernon's 'Snarky.' That would be kickass!)

(He's probably already drawn it, either way. And for that matter, the next strip probably won't have anything to do with me.)

(Still... shoulder devil!)

A Snark about a Snark on Snarkoleptics. Damn, but Recursiveness is a Bitch.

crunchgood.pngFrom Something Positive.

There's a friend of mine who goes by the online sobriquet of EDG. In fact, the character from Gaming Guardians was named after him, rather than vice versa. Webcomics are everywhere in my life. Anyhow, EDG is a regular commenter here on Websnark under his street name, but as he doesn't have said name listed on his Livejournal User Info page, and since I'm making reference to a post he made on Snarkoleptics, I figure I should respect his privacy. He can take a bow in the comments if he wishes.

Anyway, he made mention of the fact that Randy Milholland, over on Something Positive, posted not one, not two, but seven comic strips yesterday... and got within one of being absolutely caught up.

A full week of strips. In one day. With no cut and pasting or dodging or shortcuts. He drew himself a passel o'strips. And included a major revelation about one of his most popular characters among S*P's fans (that being Pepito... a character who I'll be honest I'm not that big on myself -- no pun intended. I've found him absolutely hysterical in the past... his broken spanish non sequiturs, his being eaten by trapdoor crocs, his willingness to harvest kidneys.) And not only did he give Pepito a kickass plot twist and character evolution (making him more interesting, in my opinion), he then moved on to a Monette plot. And I always like Monette plots -- remember, that which does not kill Monette makes her stronger... not brighter, always, but stronger.

But anyway, this is only tangentially a snark about Something Positive. This is instead a Snark about EDG's Snarkoleptics Post about this feat. He was impressed by it, and cheerful, and excited... and suggested at the end that I, Eric, should give M. Milholland a biscuit, of the tasty, tasty variety.

I responded over there that yes, I was impressed with what Milholland had done, and that he maintained quality through it all. However, biscuits are very specific beasties -- given out to individual strips that exemplify some point I think needs exemplifying. (Said point can be a kickass moment of drama, a technical innovation of startling skill, or a fart joke that has me laughing so hard I wet myself. Whatever. The point is, it's about one strip, not any kind of meta thing.)

EDG's response was that clearly my biscuits are homeopathic biscuits, and that by diluting a single biscuit over seven strips, it would therefore be much more powerful.

David Morgan-Mar has much to answer for.

Endgame: Opening moves

(From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail for full sized soft spot!)

There's a duality in today's Queen of Wands that really strikes me, even as I feel sad. There's a little bit of the earliest days of the strip, with Kestrel speculating to a new mother about the soft spot on her baby's head, and Shannon reflecting on poop and sleep. It's a harkening... it's... dare I say it, the Funny.

And then we have our minds blown. Blown!

All by a haircut.

My friend Sean made a truly excellent point about tonight's strip. To quote from his own snark:

This is where it's beginning to end. The theme of Queen of Wands has been "growth", and part of growth is change. Sometimes that change is gradual. Other times, it's really sudden and dramatic, like today. But the point is that things are changing, and it's soon going to become clear for Kestrel that she can't stay where she used to be, because where she used to be doesn't exist anymore.

Sean's right, of course. We have growth and change. A couple of strips back, Felix called Angela to tell her "he's a Daddy now." Not "the baby was born." Not "Shannon had the baby." Not "Kestrel made an appointment to have her tube tied." "I'm a Daddy now." And that's different. And he's reflecting that difference. At the same time, he's not showing up in a tie and frowning and acting 'serious.' He's still Felix. He's just Felix with short, blond hair. The next step. The next move forward.

At the same time, I'm reminded of the last physical transformation of Felix. That time, Kestrel was the stimulus of Felix's change -- even though Felix himself didn't want to change. He wanted to regress, to go back to the girlfriend and mother of his child who he'd lost. He wanted to go back, and so he couldn't call Kestrel his girlfriend. But in the same way that she caused him to give up eyeliner and goth clothes, she forced him to step into his future... ultimately, to Shannon.

Now, he's taken another step... and he doesn't need Kestrel to say "why exactly is your hair blue, anyway?" to him. He realized while he was out that he wasn't the guy with the blue hair any more. And so he made a change.

This is how the end begins. Oh, the end's been presaged for months now, as Kestrel prepares to move to Boston and the fringes of a different webcomic (perhaps). But this is when it becomes real. Kestrel knew she'd have to leave when Shannon and Felix had a child. She thought it was because she didn't like children... but in the end, it's because Shannon and Felix would evolve into different people with a child, and now we've seen it begin.

I'm going to be sorry to see Queen of Wands go, but this was an excellent... shocking step on that lightning path they all follow. Nicely done. Nicely done indeed.

The question is... did Felix really dye his eyebrows blue all those years, and bleach them now? I mean, ow?

December 02, 2004

God, all I can say is "Meathook!" Meathook meathook meathook!

(From Narbonic Click on the (subscription required) thumbnail for full sized whimsy and wonder!)

Sure, this is a brilliant strip that makes me laugh and hope for the painful death of the overly perky... but I've snarked Narbonic recently so naturally I couldn't snark it again so soon. Pity though. I mean, "meathook."


(From Digger Click on the thumbnail (subscription required) for full sized God Rats!)

First off, I totally stole this snark from Ping Teo's latest Webcomic Finds Stopover. I mean, I stole it wholesale. Honestly, it's 6:40 and I'm just getting to the "afternoon" trawl now -- it was a busy day.

And Ping is utterly right. And utterly cool. So I'm stealing the snark because she got to it first, damn it, but it still must be proclaimed.

Secondly... I love Ursula Vernon. It's official. Yes yes, I know. She's married. She's adored by thousands. I have no chance in Hell. Whatever, dude. I can have an unhealthy fixation if I want, and anyone who would create Oracular Slugs, Shadows of Ganesh, and now God Rats...

God rats.

I so want one in plush.

Don't forget the water. If it's a normal headache, a glass is fine -- for a bad headache, better go with a liter or two.

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized medicine of a sort!)

I'm all for home remedies. I'm also all for the power of the body to heal itself with placebos. For example, I know very very well that if I drink a full glass of milk -- not water, milk -- as quickly as possible when I have the hiccups, I will stop having the hiccups. It has always worked. It has never failed. I'm sure my mother told me it would work when I was three, and it did work, and now that I'm in my thirties it works still. I'm also sure there's some minor truth to it (pressure changes in the abdomen causing the diaphragm muscles to relax, or some such).

But mostly, I'm sure it works because I'm convinced it will work, and so it does. Even though intellectually I know it's probably just a placebo, the subconscious is certain.

(Of course, I'm no longer capable of drinking a full eight ounces of milk quickly because of the surgery, so it's academic, but hey -- that's neither here nor there, is it.)

Anyway, David Morgan-Mar brings the power of science and logic to the question of homeopathics today. Now, there's probably some useful bits in homeopathic medicine. The original basis of some remedies are probably perfectly valid. However, there's also some obvious and complete superstition involved... to the point where some homeopathic remedies are one step below sympathetic magic. And he hits on my own personal favorite -- the idea that the more you dilute a remedy, the more effective it is.

That's right. The more you dilute it, the more effective it is.

I swear neither Morgan-Mar nor I made this up.

So, Ophilia has taken this to its logical conclusion today. After all -- we live in a convenience society. Naturally, a pill form of homeopathic medicine would be optimized for convenience.

Don't mess with scientists who have a sense of humor. They will bring the Mock, and they will do it well.

Don't forget the water. If it's a normal headache, a glass is fine -- for a bad headache, better go with a liter or two.

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized medicine of a sort!)

I'm all for home remedies. I'm also all for the power of the body to heal itself with placebos. For example, I know very very well that if I drink a full glass of milk -- not water, milk -- as quickly as possible when I have the hiccups, I will stop having the hiccups. It has always worked. It has never failed. I'm sure my mother told me it would work when I was three, and it did work, and now that I'm in my thirties it works still. I'm also sure there's some minor truth to it (pressure changes in the abdomen causing the diaphragm muscles to relax, or some such).

But mostly, I'm sure it works because I'm convinced it will work, and so it does. Even though intellectually I know it's probably just a placebo, the subconscious is certain.

(Of course, I'm no longer capable of drinking a full eight ounces of milk quickly because of the surgery, so it's academic, but hey -- that's neither here nor there, is it.)

Anyway, David Morgan-Mar brings the power of science and logic to the question of homeopathics today. Now, there's probably some useful bits in homeopathic medicine. The original basis of some remedies are probably perfectly valid. However, there's also some obvious and complete superstition involved... to the point where some homeopathic remedies are one step below sympathetic magic. And he hits on my own personal favorite -- the idea that the more you dilute a remedy, the more effective it is.

That's right. The more you dilute it, the more effective it is.

I swear neither Morgan-Mar nor I made this up.

So, Ophilia has taken this to its logical conclusion today. After all -- we live in a convenience society. Naturally, a pill form of homeopathic medicine would be optimized for convenience.

Don't mess with scientists who have a sense of humor. They will bring the Mock, and they will do it well.

December 01, 2004

You know... I'd kind of like a girl to GLOM me during a snowstorm. How does one sign up for that?

(From Kiagi Swordscat. Click on the thumbnail for full sized GLOM!)

There's a couple of things going on in this strip that really appeal to me. On one level, the color palette is very soft, and Priscilla looks almost winsome in panel three... (I know, I know, insert "sad girl in snow" reference here. I don't read Megatokyo, guys).

And then the kiss. The "jarring" of the panel borders. The dynamic motion.

And the sound effect.

The sound effect.

Guys? GLOM!

You don't need backstory, you don't need understanding. You can intuit emotions and momentum and the sense of dynamic tension undergoing an almost glorious release.

Aric Hooley gets himself a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Yeah, but if Batman showed up and you were both wearing the same cape, you'd feel even funnier.

(From The Adventures of Sporkman. Click on the thumbnail for full sized faux pas in the making!)

As I hoped would happen, Sporkman has become both a regular strip and is being added to the KeenSyndicate. Today was the first day of new Sporkman strips on the Sporkman site. So, I wanted to draw your attention to Sporkman.

I admit it. It's just fun to type "Sporkman." But today's strip underscore's the strip's strengths in the newspaper arena. Yes, it sets up a continuity, but it brings a very specific funny to the table that doesn't need any kind of backstory. It's a balancing act, but Troutman seems capable of it.

In other news, I have a seminar down in Portsmouth today. So, more in depth posts will either have to wait until it's over so I can shlep out to Panera Bread or else wait to see if there's wireless access in the room and if the topic is so boring I'm willing to blow it off for this.


November 29, 2004

From consolidation to diversification.

So I'm reading today'sPenny and Aggie, and I see that T. Campbell and Gisele Lagace are moving from Modern Tales to Comics Sherpa, in a full on bid for traditional newspaper syndication. That's on top of John "It's not a week if Eric doesn't mention him on Websnark" Troutman and Meaghan Quinn moving off the Manleysites to Keenspot.

Is this a Bad Sign for Joey Manley? Nah. There's probably plenty of other strips queued up for his sites. And, as Campbell said in the letter he sent about this, there's a real "comic book aesthetic" to a lot of Modern Tales/Graphic Smash/etc. (Though to be honest, Narbonic's on there and very successful, so it's not 100% that way). Besides, people move around, looking for the best model and venue for their strip. But Campbell and Lagace really pushing for full out syndication surprises me. I mean... you don't hear about people pushing for the syndicates any more. Not in the webcomics world. The only other strip that's really pushing in that direction is Todd and Penguin, and that was on Comics Sherpa (which is run by uComics, which is run by uClick, which is run by Andrews McMeel Universal, which also runs the Universal Press Syndicate, which syndicates little known newspaper strips like Doonesbury and For Better or For Worse and Gar-fucking-field.

These days... there's a real feeling on the web that syndication isn't needed, that it isn't even desirable -- that if you syndicate, you lose control over your creation and your licensing and you undergo restrictive editorial oversight. It's almost odd to see a couple of webcartoonists saying "hey, I want to be in the newspapers. I want to get paid for this -- paid by someone else, someone who isn't me doing all the grunt work -- and get the exposure of hundreds of newspapers printing my work."

I'm down with that, and I wish them luck. I wish they'd had a deeper archive to start shopping to syndicates, but the premise is one that could work, and Campbell certainly has the writing chops and Lagace's art is both beautiful and strong enough in linework for crappy LPI printing onto newsprint (this is important -- not one webcomic out of ten would look good in the lowest common denominator printing of most newspaper presses. Lagace's art could work without major trouble.)

So I wish them luck, but I wonder if we're beginning to see a trend. A trend away from the online syndicates like Keen or Modern Tales and towards loose affiliations (like Dumbrella) or going it alone (like Real Life Comics after they left Keen) or even... dare I say it... the traditional newspaper syndicates.

The next few years are going to be very interesting.

I want to be Capable of Wonderful Things too!

(From Achewood. Click on the thumbnail for full sized wonderful things capacity!)

I've likened Achewood to jazz music before, and I honestly think that's true. There's the glorious and the grotesque, the marvelous and the mundane, innocence and insanity, and it's all kind of blended together with kind of a back beat and some light piano.

I'm in it hardcore, including keeping up with all the blogs of the main characters. And I'm anxious to see what happens with Mr. Bear in the hospital from the gunshot wound, or whether Tina's bitchiness will infect Molly, or whether Molly and Beef are full on over and what happens next with Beef's robot dog or what. But today wasn't about that. Today was a side-riff. Today was Phillipe getting an "I Am Capable Of Wonderful Things" doll.

I loved it. The whole rhythm of Llewellyn Ash giving his erudite explanations and couching them in baby terms, and Phillipe utterly cheerfully playing along, with that certain level of seriousness Phillipe brings to all things... it was perfect.

Last night, my parents watched Pollyana on Masterpiece Theater. It drove me from the room with its unctuousness. But looking at Phillipe, I see what Pollyana should be -- bright and innocent, serious and yet happy, even as truly horrific things happen all around him. And he is delighted with Llewellyn Ash... and yet Llewellyn Ash is itself odd... in a Twin Peaks sort of way. And just like on Twin Peaks, Phillipe just accepts that it is true.

Remember, just because the dog chases your car doesn't mean he can deal with it stopping

(From Sam and Fuzzy. Click on the thumbnail for full sized landing clearance.)

I have a bad habit with new strips I'm reading. (New to me, that is.) I read through them and I like them... but I don't then actually... well... snark them. I guess because I want the first strip I snark to be so representative of the strip in general that the strips of each day don't encapsulate the experience well enough.

Well, that's just plain silly. So here's today's Sam and Fuzzy.

One of the things I like -- as you may have gathered -- is when the old jokes we've all known for our entire lives get pulled back out, dusted off, and made to work one more time. There's a special kind of creativity needed for a joke that's been done a million times. Logan pulls it off here -- we've all seen many many many examples of the obvious opening being given to a guy to ask out a girl. That doesn't change the fact that this strip gets you chuckling.

The strength, of course, is in the metaphor in the last panel. A good metaphor makes everything new.

There. Pressure's off for Sam and Fuzzy. Now, to figure out how to snark Schlock Mercenary without feeling I'm somehow missing the core brilliance of the webcomic in whatever strip I choose as 'representative...'

Not the Princess Leia fantasy. The Duo Damsel fantasy. Mmm... Luornu....

(From Melonpool. Click on the thumbnail for full sized fantasy!)

It's recently been brought to my attention I haven't mentioned Melonpool's return. Which shouldn't be much of a surprise. I've barely mentioned webcomics for the last couple of weeks. But it got me to thinking about Melonpool, and about hiatuses, and about 'retirement.'

Melonpool is... well, somewhat infamous in its long hiatuses. It's not the worst of the lot when it comes to that (one thinks of Hound's Home, just offhand). At the same time... well, this isn't Steve Troop's job, the way, say, PvP is Scott Kurtz's. And you should know by now that I believe firmly that if it's not the webcartoonist's job, we're lucky to get anything from them.

However... Melonpool has typically been good, and I think the hiatuses are part of why. I think Troop approaches the same state of burnout most artists hit, and then decides "you know what? I'm stepping back for a while." And then he finished his series up, tied up the loose ends, and -- and this is crucial -- ended the overall premise. The core premise of Melonpool has been "stranded aliens," be they stranded on Earth or on Melonpool's Rock or any number of other things. Finally, they were no longer stranded. Melonpool saw the last episode of Star Trek he had yet to see. Jaela's pop career went south and Jaela herself became female. Ralphie and Roberta ended up together.

It ended. Troop turned out the lights. And that was that.

So, I don't see the new "Melonpool" strips now being done since mid-November as a continuation. I see this as a whole new strip, with commonality of cast but new conflicts and premises. The Steel Duck is flying through space now, far from Earth (and hopefully not returning for a long time if ever -- that ground has been well trod). There is wackiness, but feels new. I think that's because Troop took a sabbatical (from Melonpool and webcomics in general), and let the series... well, end in his head. Now, we have sexual tension, depression, duplication, menage a trois....

...and freshness.

If Jeff Darlington had taken, say, three months off after Surreptitious Machinations and started anew with GPF, I'd probably still be reading it. Steve Troop's shown that to be true, by taking his own time away, giving himself a chance to recharge his creative batteries, and deciding that now that his story was done, there were new stories to tell.

I'm a big fan of this concept. And I'm looking forward to where Troop goes next with it.

Okay, that freaked me the Hell out.

(From Daily Dinosaur Comics. Click on the thumbnail for full sized CRAZY!)

The thing about Daily Dinosaur Comics is the writing. Because the same art is used every day, day in and out, but there is effort put in to making the characters consistent... the writing really gets a chance to shine in this strip. Unlike the strip we've compared DDC to the most in the past -- David Lynch's The Angriest Dog in the World -- the writing is given a chance to flourish instead of being non-sequiturish.

This particular strip's all about the execution. We have the typical T-Rex enthusiasm for a subject -- in this case, the neurochemical basis of thought and personality. It builds a bit.

And then, in panel five, we have a switch to a vastly creepier subject, one that's been nightmare fodder for me since Johnny Got His Gun. In fact, it scared me so much that the video for Metallica's "One" gave me nightmares just because it referred to Johnny Got His Gun. And then, of course, we go back to the first topic.

Which is where the Funny comes in. We're given a sense of creepiness at least in T-Rex's mind, though it's nothing that really freaks most of the rest of us out. Then, we're positively squicked with references to being locked inside our helpless bodies, unable to communicate or control ourselves, knowing someone else is driving us forward, and also knowing that scientists have already done this to creatures on this planet in real life. AUIGH!!!!!

And then, right back to the other topic, which seems so... tame afterward.

Now that's funny.

So, nightmares for me tonight. Oh boy.

And now, a little proof I've gotten my money's worth

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized nostalgia.)

I watched some MTV from the first time I had an apartment. (We didn't get MTV in Northern Maine back when I was in high school, so it had to wait for college, and then wait for that faithful time I decided to get a room with Andy Alexander.) But it didn't become a major part of my life until I moved into my first apartment with Frank, in Ithaca.

This was the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties. I was right in MTV's demographic, and they played me like a guitar. It was almost all music videos then, with theme shows for Metal Fans and the like. Exciting special guests like Hulk Hogan introduced videos every now and again. There was MTV News and a few shows about upcoming movies or the like, and Remote Control and Just Say Julie and the soft core porn of Club MTV. VH1? VH1 was dull.

Then, one day... MTV changed. Utterly. My Veejays were sent to the curb. My shows disappeared. And all the videos were hip hop and rap. It was like... like MTV had been reinvented for younger people than I was. And that's when I discovered that VH1 was far more discerning and intelligent.

Never make the rash assumption the good programmers don't know what they're doing at Music Television. They do.

Anyway -- flash ahead to the end of the nineties. Music videos are vanishing (eventually needing two new channels -- MTV2 and VH1Classics) to become the music video channels. And VH1 surfed Nostalgia. First, it was Pop Up Video, which was a transitional show -- it still played videos, but also included exciting factoids. Then there was Behind the Music, which became a phenomenon. And it was still music, if not videos. Besides, the one on Tony Orlando was cool, and Leif Garrett rocked in a pathetic way. And they had Where Are They Now, which was Behind the Music for bands we didn't care as much about.

And now, all of those shows are gone too, and Nostalgia rules, music not required. It's gotten to the point that they have a nostalgia show, paced exactly like I Love the Eighties, for last week I swear I'm not making this up. It's called The Best Week Ever, and instead of Michael Ian Black cracking wise about the Rubik's Cube, it's even lesser known celebrities saying "Dude -- did you see Survivor last week? That was smoking!'

And God help me, I love it. It's like a sieve my brain can pour down into. I know I shouldn't. I know I should hate it and decry it, and I do. I do. I remember when it was about music, damn it.

And yet, I can watch for hours and hours and hours. I kind of wish I could be watching it now, but damn it, I'm still at my parents' house.

And they're wasting my time by listening to music.

November 28, 2004

Actually, I'd hire plenty of bitter goths. Only they'd be in their twenties. Clearly, I need to own a coffee shop where I can hire Baristas.

(From Todd and Penguin. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Snarky Ice Cream!)

Submitted without comment.

(Well, except that I did actually work in an ice cream shop for several months, back in Fort Kent, Maine. It was called "Andy's Variety" and I was 18 years old. I made astoundingly good milkshakes.)

(Well, and also that I could see myself owning an ice cream store with attitude, that college students and art types prefer to go. Maybe one of the cold marble places, with hipsters and indy rock folks behind the counter. Banter skills will be a must, and of course there'd be espresso and places to sit. So more a coffee shop. With marble counters and ice cream and mix-ins. And a Wifi hotspot.)

(Actually, I'd love to own a place like that.)

(And a place like that would go out of business in twenty-four days. But I might get a cute girlfriend out of it. For a couple of weeks. And then she'd figure out I was a dork who couldn't hook her up with coffee and sundaes any more, and that'd be that.)

(I make bad choices in love sometimes. Is that so wrong?)

(Oh, and someone remind me to link to the archive page when it becomes available. For some reason it won't let me pull it up today.)

November 27, 2004

A curmudgeonly week continues in a curmudgeonly way.

(From Meanwhile in Hell, in Sluggy Freelance. Click on the thumbnail if you really feel you have to.)

I'm willing to accept Bruno the Bandit is both good and groundbreaking. And from what I've seen looking through its archives, it's funny and internally consistent and in all ways a worthy strip by a worthy artist, considerable in archive and solid in its place in the history and evolution of webcomics.

I'm willing to stipulate all of this. Ian McDonald is good at what he does. He deserves success and fame and a car full of pie.

But it's official. He's not bringing anything to Sluggy Freelance.

The idea was a good one -- give Pete Abrams a day off but still provide content, one day a week. Create a lighthearted little romp in the side corner of the Sluggyverse, with its own touches of Story and its own sense of Funny. Only... its Story doesn't fit Sluggy. Its Funny definitely doesn't. It's just... not....

What's the word I'm looking for.

Oh, yeah.

It's just not good.

Sam has been unrecognizable in both art and personality through all of this -- the "Puppies" bit fits what we know of Sam, but somehow it was just wrong. And the way the Dimension of Pain had been used before McDonald got involved and the way it was used after Abrams reclaimed it now shows there's just a sense of disconnect between the two styles. It was most pronounced last Halloween, when the Dimension of Pain plot intersected Sluggy's plot briefly. It was just frothy, without substance, without a sense of the zany complexity that is Sluggy's hallmark.

It's especially clear after the last couple days of guest strips by Clay Yount. There's something far more Sluggyish in Yount's figures, humor and handling of the cast. I get the feeling that Yount would be able to create a once-a-week subplot that would better reflect the Sluggyverse.

Or, maybe that's just because it was rare. I liked McDonald's contributions to Sluggy Freelance, Where Are You just fine. Maybe what Abrams and the Sluggites should do is get a rotating cast of permanent guest artists to turn in Saturday strips. It'd mean broader exposure for those strips, and we'd still have fun goodness.

McDonald could even be one of those. I wouldn't mind. But as things stand right now, this just isn't working.

Also -- do we really need the whole "ice cream thing?" Or am I just becoming too sensitive? I mean, it doesn't bother me when bikini babes show up in Narbonic....

November 26, 2004

Because you've drunk your Ovaltine, it's time to check in on the batshit crazy world of Little Orphan Annie.

(From Annie! Click on the thumbnail for full sized confrontation of Satanism head on!)

Long time readers know how much I truly adore Annie -- a comic strip from the old days that's been continuously drawn and produced all these years, where she the orphan without pupils in her eyes fights the good fight against totally twisted adventures.

You'll remember that we left Annie off having fled the hospital where she was being treated for multiple head injuries (and having forgotten her experiences as the playthi-- er, junior partner of the deranged Phantom Commando) because she doesn't like social workers or cops, and having found three broken pay phones preventing her from contacting her billionaire Daddy Warbucks, finally hopped a freight train and disappeared from the scene. Which, as you'll recall, made the Sheriff impressed with her pluck, rather than worried a girl with head injuries who was the key to a triple murder investigation had skipped town. But we've forgotten all about the Phantom Commando now, and moved on to a new adventure.

It started with said freight train traveling for days and days, leaving the cold, hungry and thirsty Annie trapped with nowhere to go for food or water or, one assumes, number onesies. She did take time to mouth her catchphrase ("Tomorrow is just a day away, after all,") but otherwise, she just endured... until her boxcar got uncoupled from the train on a spur in the middle of a desert. Yes, she had been in mountains and forests before then. Now she's in a desert. Give her a break -- this is all just a delusion she's having while lying bleeding to death in the boxcar after all. Or it would be if I were writing it.

Which makes me take a break and mention the now legendary community theater production of Annie that lost the rights to perform when the publishing company discovered that the company had rewritten the ending to make Annie's life with Daddy Warbucks a dream, and she was waking up to a terrible nightmarish life in the Orphanage once more, screaming and sobbing as she realized it was all a fantasy and the reality was harsh and bleak. Weird, how the publishers took a dim view to that, but I digress.

Lost in the desert, Annie started walking. After a while, a helicopter found her. Rather than give her a ride, water or food (or a trip to a bathroom), they demanded she get off the property -- telling her there was a neighboring ranch 30 miles away. So, the starving, dehydrated, exhausted, skull-damaged girl trods 30 miles... to Broadcast Ranch!

Yes, Broadcast Ranch, where three guys dressed up the way they used to dress in children's Cowboy Movies in the 50's put on a daily radio show of Cowboy Music -- once a coast to coast broadcast, now down to one station and one sponsor. Things look bad for them, but they still take the plucky young girl in, feed and clothe her and are kind to her. And let her use a phone. Which is fortunate, because it means her multibillionaire adoptive father and her guardian Santiago learn she's alive and fly out, and give a whole new sponsor to the show (at the tune of $10,000 a week, because what does Warbucks care -- it's only money, after all!) And, when Annie starts singing on the show as "Rosie of the Range," the switchboards start lighting up! (No doubt with concerned parents saying "that cowboy show has a girl who sounds like she's suffered multiple head tramas, malnutrition and dehydration recently. Shouldn't someone look into this?")

The new success of Broadcast Ranch causes a problem for those neighbors, though. You see, they've been trying to drive the old cowboys out for a while so they can take over the ranch... for SATAN. That's right, it's noted Satanist Anson Vail, and he has some nefarious plot he intends to further with a talisman clearly buried somewhere on Broadcast Ranch. Well, Oliver Warbucks determines who Vail is and marches right over to confront him.

"Annie," one of the cowboys says, "Ain't yew the least worried 'bout yore daddy?" [sic]

"Nah," Annie replies. "Daddy's backed down the real devil once or twice -- some altar boy isn't going to bother him!"

So now Warbucks and Anson Vail meet... and from here, who knows what adventures will occur!


First off, the fact that they're actually taking the time to parody Anton LaVey, of all people just tickles me.

Second off... this remains batshit crazy.

Third off... newspapers still print this. This is still syndicated.

Fourth off... what the fuck?

Thank you. We'll check in in just a few weeks, true believers. In the meantime, drink your Ovaltine -- it's got essential vitamins and minerals that Nesquik just can't compare to. Parents appreciate it, kids love it -- more Ovaltine please!

Also -- turn in all communists!

Invoking Murphy is just never a good idea.

(From Lost and Found Investigations. Click on the thumbnail for full sized comic -- what could possibly go wrong?)

It is a beautiful vacation day in Maine. The sun is shining, my parents have triumphal classical music playing on the surround sound system, just because... well, because they're cool parents. I'm mellow on the couch, with tea and flavored water and Trigger Man and online comics. Life's pretty okay today.

I've also been making the painful transfer from Safari to Firefox. Including the transfer of all the damn Safari Tabs for the trawls. Fortunately, I found a tool that facilitated it, but it's still a mess. And Safari is still going to be used to actually write Websnark... in part because, well, the Firefox implementation of the Moveable Type implementation page just plain sucks.

But then, I believe in using the best tool for the best job. Safari, for all its underbody speed, doesn't display as quickly in a practical sense as Firefox, it's oddly broken in places, and it goes to infinite pinwheel all too often for my tastes. So, it's time to move my browsing to a different tool. This, i have now done.

Which brings us to today's Lost and Found Investigations. Now, one of the things I like about this strip is the explicit "Beth and Frank will never get together, because when they do that's the ballgame" policy Milligan has. We have to flirt with them getting together, because otherwise there's no tension -- but it can't actually get there.

Well, over the past few strips, Beth's been attacking the problem head on, and Frank played the "enemies will strike at me through you card." Leading to today.

And... you know it's a clich». I know it's a clich». It's specifically asking Murphy to do her worst. (Yes, I know that the Murphy of Murphy's Law was male. However, my friend Chris came up with the personification of the law being a goddess named Murphy, and that's worked its way into my Imperial Space Fiction -- because who're spacers and soldiers on the epic scale going to take in vain if not the principle of things going all fucked up almost on cue? And if they're going to do that, why wouldn't they make that principle female? We're a sexist race in general, after all. I mean, if E.E. "Doc" Smith's space heroes could swear by Klono's assorted body parts, why can't mine invoke a cute mischievous Goddess of Universal Troublemaking. But my God I've strayed from the topic.) It's saying "please kick me." And naturally in the next panel Milligan does.

But clich» or not, it works. I'm grinning. It's the perfect juxtaposition of Beth's cheerfully dubious face and Beth tied up while Frank bleeds on the floor. And you have to admit, it builds interest in where the story goes from here.

So, nicely done.

(Also, the introduction of a Cast Page... er... several months back... made life much easier for we the Milligan fans.)

November 25, 2004

But... none of the booth babes have superfluous Ys in their name! Where's Taryn or Ambyr?

(From Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Gluons!)

Well, you know I like Narbonic. And if you haven't figured out I like comic strips where there's attractive women, you haven't been paying attention. But for all I love cheesecake and as much as I love the humor of the strip (Gluon Girl indeed)... the things that most struck me were twofold.

First off, there was the lettering. Having the booth babes speak with the silly little hearts and flowers and the like just perfectly set the tone. I can hear their bubbly little voices in my head.

But more than that... there's the three eyed cat.

The three eyed cat.

Gods, but I love Narbonic.

November 24, 2004

God, I love Twisp and Catsby

(From Penny Arcade. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Birdsea!)

I've absolutely loved Twisp and Catsby since their first appearance. I love the distinctive artwork. I love the surrealism. I love the world and almost Hitherby Dragonsesque nature of their adventures. And then there was today's.

The faux antiqued "paper" of the strip, the writing... Ominous!... and the idea that there is a secret to be found from the Turkey's mouth... it's all just fantastic. Maybe there's a pack of P-A fans who loathe anything that has nothing to do with video games, but I for one just fucking love Twisp and Catsby, and I don't care who knows it, and this was a wonderful thing to see in the Safari Tabs today.

Gabe and Tycho collectively get a biscuit. An ominous, tasty biscuit.


On the other hand, there could be a line about putting tongues in tails. And it scares me I do know that reference without looking it up.

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Country Wenches!)

I like Irregular Webcomic. I like the Hamlet plotline. I like obscure references. I like puns. I like office sexual tension involving LEGO.

I've got to say -- today didn't work for me. I guess I don't like it when you need annotations. When they add something but aren't necessary. Yeah, that has bothered me in the past with Penny Arcade too, though I think P-A (and Irregular Webcomic) are usually decipherable in context. Today's....

Look, I'm a lit Geek. I've acted Shakespeare often. I've been paid to act Shakespeare before. And I'm a big fan of Elizabethan double entendre. And I didn't get this one without checking the Cliff's Notes. I think it's moderately unlikely most of Irregular Webcomic's audience did either. It's just the way it is.

November 23, 2004

Hey, if I'd tongue kissed Bruce McCullough on multiple occasions as part of my job, I'd drink heavily too.

(From Real Life Comics. Click on the thumbnail for full sized bubbles!)

Let me say right out the gate I liked this strip a lot. I'm a big Celebrity Poker Showdown fan anyway. I like the professional Texas Holdem stuff on TV, but I love Celebrity Poker Showdown. It's not so much for the celebrities -- I mean, to be honest, I'm never sure who half of them even are -- as it is for the fact that at least half these people don't know anything more about poker than I do. I kind of wish Phil Gordon's infamous pamphlet, given to the celebrities before the tournament begins, would be released online or something, so I could read it and become at least as good as some of the mouthbreathers they have sitting around the felt on that show.

The other thing to remember, however, is that it all takes place in Las Vegas, and everyone at the table is drinking. The cute girls in gold lame pass through giving them drinks as they play, and you know Phil and host Dave Foley are enjoying a few rounds.

Well... the show is edited to be two hours long... but at least once we know they cut a lot out to make it two hours. (Phil and Dave and the celebrities all made jokes about the half of forever that particular round of poker had taken.) And Dave...


Look, the drinks are free.

Anyway, Greg Dean nailed it here. I'm of mixed emotions on the bubbles popping over Dave's head -- on the one hand, I'm a big fan of non-anime iconography. (I'm a little sick of Mangaesque iconography these days, I admit freely). I like the bubbles, I like trailing hearts over heads. I even like the old Dagwood Bumstead exclamation point indicating "shock and surprise at the punchline." (It makes me feel that all of Metal Gear Solid takes place in the same universe where Dagwood works for a defense contractor.) But that's incredibly picky. This is just a well executed strip.

Also, Dave Foley is funny when he's drunk.

November 22, 2004

Sometimes, tolerance means being just as possessive with guys as you are with girls.

(From 13 Seconds. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Parisian Sightseeing!)

13 Seconds is one of those strips on my "list of strips to read through," which means it's waiting for December and the end of Nanowrimo like all the rest. However, I happen to be on Peter Venables's Livejournal friends list, and when he completes a strip he posts it. So I've been kind of following the last few, though I'm not yet to the point that I'd call myself a reader. I need a lot more background, first.

Well, not long ago, there was an arc where one of the characters, in the awkward place where he's coming out of the closet, kissed one of the other characters. Which is all the setup you need for this strip.

And it just struck me well. Marsha didn't freak because another boy kissed Wally. She freaked because another person kissed Wally, and she reacted the same way she would if it were a girl. It was a little thing, but it was still a nice touch.

So, you know, I mention it here. That's what I do.

November 20, 2004

Notes from Panera Bread on a day of writing. Also -- art!

(From Girls with Slingshots. Click on the thumbnail for full sized bitch!)

I'm ensconced at Panera in Portsmouth, writing and enjoying the twin decadence of free Wifi and free refills on coffee. I'm running behind on Nanowrimo (hey, you snark the stuff I snarked from midweek on and try to have time or energy for writing fiction, too), so I needed to get myself away from the Tivo and City of Heroes and other distractions and just let myself bury into fiction. It's working well so far.

I wanted, however, to mention Girls with Slingshots. I got this off a link from Eat the Roses, and discovered that this new strip (from veteran webcartoonist Danielle Corsetto) was new enough that I could literally get in on the ground floor, with very little work on my part.

Corsetto's got over a hundred strips done in her previous efforts -- done during her college years and all available for your perusal at her website. I can't speak good or ill of any of these other strips, because I really am behind in writing Trigger Man, so I really don't have time to surf large archives. Besides, the backlog is huge right now and requires my attention in some semblance of order, so the older strips will just have to go onto the list and wait.

But this one is just thirteen strips long right now. It doesn't take long to read the whole thing. And you can tell Corsetto's learned a thing or nine about art, writing and pacing. It looks to be a slice of life so far, which can be great fun. I'm liking what I'm seeing so far.

So, here's a nice little droplet of snark for you -- a strip most of you probably haven't seen yet, that you can get into right now without too much trouble. Consider it a gift -- and five years from now, when Corsetto is angling towards wrapping Girls with Slingshots up, you can put on airs in her forums or LJ community or wherever that you were there at the start, you started at strip thirteen, and these Johnny come Latelys don't know from Danielle Corsetto.

And really, isn't that what we all want out of our Internet lives?

November 19, 2004

I know people think I'm going to marry John Troutman with all the talking about him I do, but honestly, this strip's about marrying Meaghan Quinn, who is already married. Always a bridesmaid....

(From Vigilante, Ho! Click on the thumbnail for full sized Saints preserve us!)

It's easy to forget, drinking in the lush greys of Eat the Roses, that Meaghan Quinn is an absolutely phenomenal colorist. Now, it shouldn't be -- it's harder to create monochrome gradations that work well, and requires an extremely deft handling of light and dark -- but it is. There's something about the least-interestingly colored comic that causes your eye to gravitate to it before you look at the most incredibly colored greyscale comic. I don't know why.

However, when someone who understands light and dark and monochrome shading and gradation works in color, the results are subtle... and if you take a few moments to really look at them, will kick your ass to the curb and take your lunch money.

Look at today's Vigilante, Ho. Look at it. Look at the folds in the leather of the gloved thumb holding the picture. Look at the composition of the sepia photograph. Look at the almost halo of light formed around the Kid's face in panel two, and at the shifts of light and color in the skin tones of her collarbone versus her face. Look how the shadows around the Kid seem almost to creep closer to her as she tosses the picture away, and the sudden redness of the courtesan's hair (one hope's she'll develop a name sometime soon) surprises as much as her words. This isn't a strip in color. This is a strip that romances color. That whispers in color's ear. That convinces color to do things that color doesn't normally do for money or honor.

Meaghan Quinn gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Blog with Strip, hold the mayo

So, I can't actually snark right now, because the thing that caught my eye is the fact that he's put up a portal-cell of the latest Websnark headlines on it. Which, I have to admit, I find really really neat. For one brief moment, I can feel like I'm Then, of course, I read said headlines and it reminds me that no, I'm not CNN. I write a blog.

But then, Journey into History is also a blog. Only it's a blog with occasional comic strips. And I've been seeing that more and more lately. In a way, it's another "infinite canvas" form, only instead of exploding the artwork, the artist explodes the multimedia. There are strips (HB), which are pretty cool and distinctive. And there are other strips. And then there's his rambling. Rambling is good, any way you look at it.

This seems distinct, to me, from places like Penny Arcade, which use a news page as a gateway to the strip, or things like... well, a plethora of strips, which have a comic strip and a "rant." In those, the strip is the point. The newspost may elaborate on it or the rant may accompany it, but the words that are typed aren't typically the reason people show up. In a Comic/Blog like Journey Into History, it feels like the words are as important as the artwork... and that the reader is expected to enjoy and anticipate the essays as much as the comic strips. I don't know if it works yet, but I like the idea.

I have to wonder. With technology like Movable Type making the convergence of self-served art and text simple, will we be seeing more and more merged comics/blogs? Or will sites like this remain anomalies.

In other news, 'anomalies' is hard to spell.

November 17, 2004

I have rather the opposite disorder, I'm afraid.

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized giving back to the community, bitch!)

Black comedy is one of my personal joys. For those of you who didn't get the memo, black comedy doesn't refer to comedy by people of African descent (for my opinions on that, you have to be more specific. The continuum ranges from my absurd love of Richard Pryor and Chris Rock, down to the abject contempt I hold all but two Wayans family members in), but, as Webster's says: in literature and drama, combining the morbid and grotesque with humor and farce to give a disturbing effect and convey the absurdity and cruelty of life. It's hard to do well. Which is why Something Positive so often warms the cockles of my flabby, distended heart.

This particular strip is the start of a new plotline for Something Positive -- there've been two strips following it, but I've been largely A) busy and B) asleep the last couple of days (I got home after work and then woke up this morning. It was that kind of a day). Still, I like this way too much not to throw it up here.

Eat a Fucking Sandwich, You Walking Pile of Twigs Patrol alone would get me laughing. I deeply enjoy Aubrey and Peejee inflicting violence and abuse on others.

However, the next several strips elaborate on this theme, as the pro-ano community -- that's right, there is an active community of people who support an eating disorder that causes people to starve themselves literally to death because they have such a distorted body image that they can't believe they aren't fat when they're a skeleton. A group that actually does seek to fight negative portrayals of the "anorexic lifestyle" -- gets the television show shut down. And we seem to be gearing up to Aubrey planning how to decimate those people who love the wasted-away look so much.

Hysterical. Because it's hideous, and because it's willing to point at this movement and say you people are fucking sick! You're enabling a horrible suicide and affirming a twisted self-image among people who need medicine and help and calories.

Milholland will get hate mail from people who think he's attacking anorexia-sufferers. He'll get hate mail from people who're into anorexia. He'll get hate mail from people who just don't find this funny. In this case, that hate mail means he's doing it right. Because when we live in a world where anorexia sufferers can be given a positive feedback support group and "anti-anorexia" could ever be considered a bad thing... the only thing we can do is highlight the absurdity and use it to point out the cruelty underneath.

Milholland gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Now eat it and shut up, bitch.

November 12, 2004

Scott Kurtz is a mighty God of snark.

(From PvP. Click on the thumbnail for full sized EXACTLY!)

Kurtz nails it on the head. He nails why the Marvel Comics suit against Cryptic is so, and I use this word sparingly, retarded. He nails why it's doomed to failure. He even subtextually nails why it's stupid -- namely, because it's punishing people for being fans (since Cryptic isn't marketing this as a Marvel Comics game).

Dave Van Domelen, who's noteworthy for reviewing comics on a weekly basis, as well as being noteworthy for having a Mighty Science Brain and a willingness to wear Girl Genius Goggles in public, has posted an interesting essay on Why NOT to boycott Marvel over this. I think Dave's pretty well right in all of his thinking, and in the end I disagree with him. I say, don't buy Marvel's stuff because Marvel doesn't deserve your money. Don't pretend that this'll make them change their ways. It probably won't. However, when people are bastards, don't support them.

I'll say that again.

When people are bastards, don't support them.

Don't boycott Marvel to send them a message. They won't hear it. Don't boycott Marvel in hopes of forcing them to drop this crap. Quite honestly, they're likely to drop it because there's been a huge amount of negative publicity for them over it, and Corporate offices don't like negative publicity. It drives down share prices. So, someone's going to call legal, soon enough, and say "what the Hell are you idiots doing? We can't possibly win that case and in the meantime, people are pissed at us. What the Hell are you idiots thinking."

No, you should avoid buying Marvel because Marvel doesn't deserve your money. Simple as that. They're bad corporate citizens. They're bad creative citizens. They're bad stewards of an important part of our cultural mythology. They don't deserve your money.

If enough people say "fuck those bastards. They don't deserve my money," their behavior will change. Now, sometimes that's going to be hard. It means not going to Fantastic Four even though Jessica Alba is hot and the Thing looks cool as Hell. It means not buying X-Men Legends even though it looks kickass. It means not watching their television sho-- well, no one watches their television shows anyway. It means not buying stuff with the Captain America shield logo or a Backpack with Spider-man on it or the Black Cat Bra and Panties set. Not because those things aren't cool, but because Marvel doesn't deserve your money.

Oh, and don't buy the comics. Not that they'll care, but hey, go all the way with it.

Now, do I expect that to happen? No. No I do not. I expect you to go to Fantastic Four. I expect you to play X-Men Legends. I expect you to beg your girlfriend to wear the bra and panties and the little domino mask on your hands and knees. And that's okay. I'm good with that. Especially because I think this case won't go anywhere, and won't last long enough to matter anyhow.

But don't call out for boycotts because Marvel's screwing Cryptic. Marvel screws other companies. That's what they do. If you're going to stop buying Marvel stuff, do it because they don't deserve your money, and plan for this to be a permanent state of affairs. Otherwise, don't talk the talk.

As for me? I'm not going to buy Marvel things right now. They're acting like bastards, so I'm not going to support them. We'll see if I have the willpower not to see Fantastic Four, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

And either way, Scott Kurtz is a God among Snarkers.

See, now this I'd want in my local paper.

(From Basil Flint Click on the thumbnail for full sized spork action!)

John Troutman did something not too long ago that webcartoonists need a lot of courage to do, and which I'm of mixed feelings at best about, generally. Namely, he found he was working on a plotline, discovered he had no real direction he wanted to take it in, and he pulled the plug. Said plotline, for those of you who don't follow Basil Flint along (and if you don't, then why not?) featured Amanda, continually jealous of series supporting character Andie's tremendous rack, waking up in a Twilight Zone episode a weird amalgam of Amanda and Andie, huge rack and all, and discovering that enormous breasts aren't really all that fun. It wasn't a plotline that could easily be... er... fleshed out, but I give Troutman credit for hitting the real life high points of having large breasts (which went beyond the 'everyone drools' thing any webcomic would do and went into the subsections of 'they get in the way and it hurts when shit smacks into them' and 'you need to own stock in Ben Gay to balance out the backaches you get with those things.') Unfortunately, those high points couldn't last hugely long, especially since without Andie, a lot of the strip tension was gone. So I can definitely understand Troutman deciding "I've played this out as far as I can, and it's time to find something new." At the same time, I'm not a huge fan of the Reset Button. I'll take a comedically implausible in-strip plotline abort over simply throwing up guest art one day and saying "I'm not going to do this any more" any day of the week. (For an example of the former, have a look at Wigu -- Rowland hits a point where he doesn't like where his plot's going, and he'll suddenly have Hugo jump off a building and escape with his parachute pants and get the police, so he can end it. Which kind of works in my book. For an example of the latter which seems to be getting back on track now, there's the "El Pollo de la Muerte" plotline in Suburban Jungle, which Robey discovered was uncomfortably close to another comic strip's plotline (involving crazed, murderous chickens killing off carnivorous anthropomorphic characters -- which I guess conclusively proves there is nothing new under the sun) and punched out, recycling the starting strip a week later and then moving on into new territory. Territory I'll admit I like better, though I would have preferred having Leonard wake up on the floor of the Watering Hole covered in foamy milkshake, having hit his head and passed out and had a temporary 'death chicken' delusion based on a webcomic he used to read. But I digress.)

So, Troutman having aborted his plotline, he decided to take a little break. However, rather than doing the fan art or guest art cha cha, he decided to put up the series of comical strips he'd written and drawn for the Keenspot Comics Page. These go back to Troutman's late, lamented Sporkman character, and are drawn in a chibiesque style.

I love them.

Seriously. I am totally in love with this comic strip. I'm going to be sad when it goes away and Basil returns, even though I like Basil.

Troutman said the reason these didn't run on the Keenspot Comics Page is they're too sequential and serialized for a twice a week comic strip. Well, I've read and reread what we've seen so far, and to be blunt, I don't buy it. There is solid, daily funny whether you're following the serial or not. If there is solid, daily funny, no one is going to care if they're missing the last strip or not. And, having looked at the samples of what is running, there are definitely a couple of strips I'd bump for Sporkman in a New York Minute.

Excuse me?

No, I'm not going to say which ones. Jesus, why make someone feel bad for no good reason?

Anyway, today's strip was clearly drawn after Troutman knew he wouldn't be getting the newspaper strip gig, and he wanted to wrap the storyline up. Which I heartily approve of, because I'm enjoying this storyline a great deal. And, as you know, I'm of mixed feelings on the whole "reset button" thing. But this also saddens me, because I know this probably means the backlog of strips is gone and Sporkman's adventures are about to end.

It'll be nice to have Basil, Andrea and Andie back, but I'm going to miss Sporky when he's gone. And in the end, isn't that exactly how Troutman wants me to feel?

November 09, 2004

Nothing says business travel like doing... exactly the same damn thing you'd be doing at home.

(From Two Lumps! Click on the thumbnail for full sized Meer!)

So I'm in Waltham, Massachusetts. Which is all right, if cold. And... so far I've seen an offramp and a bunch of concrete buildings. But I'm told there are good restaurants and bars not far from me, so tomorrow after the conference I'll have to avail myself of them. Or maybe drive into the city. Or, you know, something.

This particular Two Lumps appeals to me, because I've heard this aria before. Especially at my parents' house. See, Sarah figured out early that if she makes a total nuisance of herself right when my mother gets up, she'll get a little bit of canned tuna or canned salmon for her trouble. It's astounding how much of a nuisance she can make, now. "Meer meer meer meer meer!"

Back at the apartment, she sings on occasion, but she's got me so well trained she doesn't have to sing much. On the other hand, if I'm under a blanket on the couch, she'll walk along the back of the couch, lean down, stretch a paw down with one nail extended, and poke whatever exposed skin she can find, until I lift the blanket so she can crawl under.

It used to be cute, and then she started waking me the Hell up. Bitch.

Meer meer meer meer....

November 08, 2004


(From Her. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Art!)

So... yesterday, as you know, my November Feeding Snarky column came out. It specifically compared and contrasted A Softer World and Sinister Bedfellows.

This morning, Chris Bishop's "Her" had... this.

The likelihood is, Bishop did this some time ago. But, there's a tradition among sites that claim the word "snark" as part of their lexicon, started by Television Without Pity lo these many moons ago. They have a tendency to ascribe any reaction from the television show, movie or what have you that has even the remotest possibility of having been influenced by something they wrote as a "shout out."

So, I consider this a shout out, even though it has nothing to do with me, has nothing to do with Websnark, makes no reference to Websnark, me or Comixpedia, and in fact takes A Softer World on as a subject matter in its entirety. Oh, and probably was done long before my article, which Chris Bishop probably hasn't read yet anyway.

I feel so influential. So delusionally, delusionally influential.

You think this is a battle? You should see what happens when they try to order one pizza for the two of them.

(From Greystone Inn. Click on the thumbnail for full sized battle of the titans!)

Brad Guigar's one of those people who can pull off one of the harder tricks in the webcomics lexicon. He can seamlessly work Story into a gag-a-day strip without sacrificing Funny. The relationship between Lightning Lady and the Fanboy is one of those. We know he's cheating on her (or at least, it seems that way). We know she's still in love with Keegan, but we don't angst about either. We churn along and chuckle pretty much every day. Guigar brings the Funny. It's what he does. It's what doing a daily strip means to him.

Today's an example of the way he evokes the funny out of situations. There's plenty of examples of Superhero Relationship Humor out there, and most of it is lame beyond belief. "Honey, did you crush the remote again" kinds of things. But Guigar knows from Superheroes. He loves Superheroes. And more to the point, he knows from SuperVILLAINS. So yeah, a woman with the power to crush men's wills with her mind, marrying a guy who can raise an invincible defense... there are going to be days like this.

I'm in a mood to appreciate stuff like this anyway, after watching The Incredibles, this weekend. They got it, too.

The Curse of Consistency

Say what you like about Chris Crosby, and I know some of you can say a lot: the man is consistent. As long as I've been reading Superosity, and that's been years and years and years at this point, he has never been late, he has never missed an update, and he has never had guest or fan art. The man updates. Since he started writing Sore Thumbs with Owen Gieni's art, that's been rock solid as well on its three day a week schedule.

Well, Crosby didn't update either strip this morning.

At first, I suspected a KeenProblem. Maybe a server went down. Maybe the cron job got screwed somehow. But no, other KeenStrips updated (including Nukees -- another strip known for its rock-solidness, though there have been a couple of times Nukees didn't update because of technical problems, and I can't say that's true of Superosity). So, the system seems to be running... but there's no Crosby strips yet this morning.

This is probably something minor. Misnaming the files as they were uploaded into autokeen, say. Or just a delay. For Christ's sake, after this many years Chris Crosby has earned the right to be late every once in a while, damn it! He's not on trial here!

Only... Crosby never misses an update. Much less two. (And yeah, I assume Crosby's responsible for uploading Sore Thumbs. Even if Gieni does all the post-processing, which I can't swear to but is possible, the likelihood is that Crosby would do one last editorial pass before letting it through.

Now. Cards on the table time. I love Something Positive. You know that. I'm a total Milholland fanboy. But I've gotten used to a certain... randomness... as to when it gets updated. I don't bitch about it, because I'm used to it. (If I had a decent way to do an "Update Time Pool," the way I once tried to do with PvP, I probably would, because I'm a bastard. But I'm a bastard who knows nothing but love!) I love PvP, and you know I've given Kurtz shit over inconsistency of updates. It's part of my whole "when it becomes your job, it becomes your job" thesis. For strips where they aren't the artist's job, like /usr/bin/w00t!, I cut more slack. It's no big. They'll give us what they have time to give us. But in any case, if I happen to glance at Something Positive or PvP or /usr/bin/w00t! or any of a dozen other strips and they don't update on "time," I don't give it a second thought. It's within my realm of expectation.

But I don't expect Superosity not to update. Superosity always updates on time!

So... now I'm worried. The man moved from California to South Dakota. It's November. It's not outside the realm of possibility that he's frozen to death in a flash blizzard. He wouldn't know how to dress for the weather. He's an innocent in the Cold Miser's domain, damn it!

Plus, how do we know the good people of Carlsbad know how to drive? He might be used to city street gridlocks. He might not expect a high school senior in his first five year old Jetta doing eighty down Main Street. I'm from a tiny-ass rural town. I know the risks! But Chris Crosby doesn't! Damn it! Why doesn't he call or write or let me know he's just running a little late! I'll bet he's out partying with his friends again! I slave and slave and slave and slave....

And, when it turns out that hey, he overslept and wasn't feeling great and decided to update this morning instead of last night, or that he sent stuff to the wrong directory, or whatever, I'm going to be unreasonably, indefensibly, unstoppably pissed. I don't expect this from him!

It's incredibly unfair, because he's earned the right to be late every now and again. But consistency of updating is a blessing and a curse alike.

And if there is some kind of serious problem, I'm going to feel like the world's biggest asshole for writing this post. Just so you know that I know.

November 05, 2004

Now that? That's a smile.

(From American Elf! Click on the thumbnail for full sized beaming! Subscription required.)

I haven't commented on the election over here at Websnark Central. I've had a discussion or two on it over on Livejournal, but I figure that no one here wants to hear that stuff. And I'm not changing it now.

I will say this. The election Fallout has been of slight interest, over on the webcomics scene (I'll try to do a Sore Thumbs snark sometime later, because I think there's something interesting going on there that has nothing to do with the strip itself). No one, however, has gotten the kernel of the whole better than James Kolchalka did in his American Elf strip from yesterday.

The weather is bad, and for roughly half of the country, there is a real pall hanging over us.

But there is still sunshine. If not in the sky, then in a smile.

It's going to be all right.

Clearly, I need to find some means of relaxing. Of course, that's what the scotch is for.

(From Suburban Jungle. Click on the thumbnail for full sized faceplant!)

I love it when we get the classics brought back. Cartoon characters used to do full on backwards headplants and facefaults on a regular basis. Heck, I remember Beetle Bailey doing a whole strip on different kinds of faceplants a full ten years before the web. You hear that? You guys didn't invent comic strip metahumor! Beetle Bailey was doing it years and years and years ago! BEETLE FUCKING BAILEY! The one with Sarge and the dog in the uniform and the sexual predator General Halftrack! They went on to do crossovers, too -- that's right! They crossed over with Hi and fucking Lois! Beetle is Lois's brother! Two different strips, completely unrelated -- ONLY THEY ARE RELATED! You thought it was funky when Trudy turned out to be Gwynn's cousin? BEETLE BAILEY AND HI AND LOIS!

Look, it's actually close to four in the morning, I can't sleep, so I'm writing snarks and setting them up to be published later in the day. I'm also drinking single malt scotch (before Jonathan Rosenberg asks, I'll come right out and say, it's Talisker, which is an urban and smooth scotch that goes down easily and, with my incredible lightweightness, should put me out like a light not long after I finish this post. My other scotches of choice are Dalwhinnie, which my good friend Kevin put me onto years ago, and Laphroig, which is the expensive single malt equivalent of a mugging).

Anyway, it was the inclusion of the classic faceplant that got me to snark this strip, but I also like the implications of it. We haven't heard much from Tiffany's career (or Tiffany in general) recently. It's nice to see some acknowledgment that she's actually struggling, and that Drezzler Wolf hasn't been the phenomenal boost to her career he promised he would be.

Anyway, hijinks should soon ensue.

And, just for the record.


Thank you.

The real Mickey would have laughed nervously the whole time. Also, he has no actual testicles.

(From Achewood. Click on the thumbnail for full sized testicular sacrifice!)

One of the things I really love about Achewood is embodied in Phillipe. He's cheerful and innocent, and a special boy! And the rest of the group understands that. There's a real Naked Lunch feel to Achewood, normally -- Roast Beef lying on his side eating turkey thighs out of the freezer box fits the tone perfectly. But somehow, everyone from Liebot to Ray wants to keep Phillipe safe and his innocence preserved. Oh, they lie to him and scare him for their own amusement, but even their jokes preserve his quiet innocence.

Anyway, this strip and the two or three before it seem to epitomize what Achewood is about. There's only so much I can explain it. You just have to experience it. It's just what you have to do.

Oh man, I hate when that happens. You can't wash that black out of your clothes, either.

(From User Friendly. Click on the the thumbnail for full sized U2!)

I give User Friendly a lot of shit. I really do. I don't think it's evolved enough over the years -- it's kind of stuck in the late nineties. And it doesn't resolve character arcs. Like, ever. It's sad.

And yet, it's rock solid consistent, and that counts a lot in my book. And when Illiad's on, he's on.

This is a solid, funny geek joke. It hits popular/geek culture strong. It makes a person laugh.

Illiad gets... dare I say it... a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Tiki God Demands More M&Ms!

(From Blahsville. Click on the thumbnail for full sized media shill!)

Submitted without comment.

(Well, okay. I should point out that it's EriC Burns, not EriK Burns, though I expect they did the shift in name the way they also claimed Frank Cormier was actually named Frank Damonk. So it's parody. Parody!)

(I'm sensitive about the proper spelling of my name because when I was growing up, there was a cigarette brand called "Erik," and I didn't want to be associated with it. Also, I've seen every possibly variation of my name, when it seems to me the E-R-I-C spelling is the one used 99% of the time except when describing me. I've been Erik. I've been Erich. I've been Erick. Once, I swear to Christ, I was Eirik. So alternate spellings leap right out at me.)

(Oh, even though this is yet another "not-a-snark" about Blahsville, since I can't very well Snark them when they're referring to me, I should mention Erik Burns being dismissed as an 'obvious left wing shill.' Now, don't get me wrong, I am an obvious liberal shill. But it would seem crass to just say. But then I remembered it was "Focks News," and so I considered the source. There is no shame in being called a liberal shill by any derivation of a Rupert Murdoch organization.)

(Oh, and one other thing... wouldn't you softball Mayor Edwards? I mean, he's just the best darn mayor ever!)

(Oh, and it's "Moxie," named for the worst soft drink ever created. My family bears some of the responsibility for that culinary atrocity, so I have to point out the proper spelling.)

(This is a lot of parenthetical statements for a "submitted without comment," isn't it? Hi Mom!)

November 03, 2004

Dear Christ, I'm such a geek.

(From Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Information Technology!)

So, today's strip is a step forward in our plot. Dave has uncovered part of the truth -- though he will no doubt leap to the wrong conclusion in the process. Helen is positioned to be just as conflicted as Dave is, if her own Madblood crush still has any legs. Mell is probably about to injure someone.

And yet, the only thing I can focus on is the IP number Madblood seems to be running Lovelace on.


IPv4 addresses, of which this is one, are 32-bit addresses, generally expressed in 'dot decimal' format. 32-bit dot decimal is expressed in a series of numbers from 0 to 255 separated by dots. This is the only way it can be in IPv4. And yet, Professor Madblood's IP number somehow has 513 subnets in the Class B range and 319 subnets in the D block.

A mistake? Fool. Professor Madblood does not make mistakes! The fools at the Internet Engineering Task Force said he was mad! MAD! But now, with his supramacrotic redefinition of mathematical expression, his domination of packet data will be complete! All will bow down before his ability to force potentially 16 bits into 8 bits worth of the so-called "quality of service" differentiated services datagram! All will accept his unfeasible large total length of packets! Mu-hu-HAH-HAH-HAH!!!!!

Okay, I'm a dork. We all know it. I own this aspect of my life.

November 02, 2004

Thank you, Chris Crosby. Thank you for just being you.

(From Superosity. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Democracy In Action! Well, Democracy Standing Around, which counts.)

You can rely on Chris Crosby. You can set your watch by him.

The rant I did earlier about write-ins for cartoon characters? He did it better, in today's strip. This is generally a good example of the good points of Superosity anyhow -- the naivet», the lesson, the denoument. It was well executed today, too.

And, as tired as I am, I was glad to get the smile from this.

October 31, 2004

And you thought pigs couldn't fly.

(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnail for full sized finger-rock!)

First off, I really should have snarked yesterday's GPF instead of today's, because it was a perfect example of the duality of the strip -- the happy, all too convenient, tied up in a big bow Ki-Nick-Oshiros, and the flooding-tears-from-eyes-fleeing Trudy. And that struck me. But I did little yesterday that didn't involve the monumentally cool City of Heroes Halloween event. (For the record, I want the Witches' hats to become available as a costume option. But I digress.)

However, today I'm sitting in a cafe, a good 60 miles from where 3,000 children (literally -- they bus them in from surrounding communities) are tromping up and down main street of my town, trick or treating. I live on Main Street, and did $300 in candy the one year I chose to hand out at the door. Never. Again. So, I'm down here working on final notes and prep work for my Nanowrimo project (I got some good Physics advice on it, though I plan on bouncing a couple of things off of some of the other folks who volunteered), and glancing at the web, and I saw today's GPF.

And... well, I liked it. I know, it's Nick and Ki, but that got a grin out of me, and I figure the least I owe Jeff Darlington is acknowledgment when the couple does work for me.

(In other news, Wednesday White is working on recipes for tasty, tasty biscuits... more news after I try to cook one of them.)

October 30, 2004

And I'm flyin'... in my Zeppelin... over Ger-ma-ny....

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Zeppelin!)

Where would comic strips be without belabored puns?

No, honestly. I'm asking.

(Man, I want to ride in a Zeppelin.)

October 29, 2004

Eels are just a pack of Historicist Bastards. It's like Post-Structuralism just didn't happen for them or something.

(From Questionable Content. Click on the thumbnail for full sized marine hermeneutics!)

Jacques Derrida died on October 8. He's one of the few people who was so important to the field of philosophical and critical thought that he was eulogized by the New York Times. He's also one of the few people eulogized by the New York Times who was so innately controversial, that thousands of people signed a letter of formal protest to that eulogy, deriding it as inflammatory, inadequate, and sacrificing the legacy Derrida left us to satisfy those academics who, in the words of Bayard Bell, wish to establish their good name by manipulating the press to sully Derrida's.

For those who know nothing about Jacques Derrida -- and my assumption is that describes every person reading my words except for five exceptions, broken down as 3 random people as tragically lit-geeky as I am, my father the Professor of English, and Wednesday White, who knows everything and yet remains the In Girl in All Situations -- was a philosopher whose work primarily centered on Continental philosophy, particularly as it related to literary criticism. While he did work in many fields over a very broad, very detailed career, he was best known for strong developmental work in Phenomenology, followed by a concentration into grammatical and linguistic theory, taking a side trip through anthropology, and becoming the founding mind behind Post-Structuralism and Deconstructionism. The last is what he is most famous for, generally among people who haven't the slightest idea what Deconstructionist theory actually is.

Of course, part of the problem is, almost no one actually does know what Deconstructionist theory is. It defies definition the way positive poles of two magnets defy touching one another. I have a degree plus significant coursework in Literary Theory, and I couldn't define Deconstructionism the same way two days running on a bet. I'm better with Post-structuralism, but then I always enjoyed the interplay of significator and significated. Deconstructionism just makes my eyes glaze over.

(And no, they're not the same thing, though one incorporates the other. There is oxygen in the water molecule, but I wouldn't recommend trying to breath it.)

But honestly, I'm not here to talk about Deconstructionism. I'm here to talk about Derrida. Because Derrida was like a depth charge into philosophical thought. He remade Criticism completely in his wake. And he expanded our lexicon to the point that his terminology is misused by everything from politicians to playwrights. In a darker note, Deconstructionist theory has been used by narrow minded people to attack academia as "ivory-towerism," as if the expansion of thought, concept and consideration -- particularly in a field of theory that exalts the marginal and defines all things in terms of struggle -- were somehow divorced from consideration of the "real world...."

But I'm ranting, and you don't care. But J. Jacques does. He managed to encapsulate the entirety of modern consideration of post-structuralism into a strip that doesn't require you to know anything at all about it. In the end, there are those who care deeply, passionately about critical thought... and everyone else just wants to eat fish. We can see in Ellen the embodied binary opposition between academia and practicality, forever entwined as they combat one another. This is echoed in the opposition of her scientific major and philosophical minor, and echoed again in her attitude toward her studies and her failure, yet the focus of her very attempt. And we yet again see opposition between Ellen, the thinker, and Dora, the doer, who takes on the aspect of the Eel, assuming its qualities and its name alike, setting herself up not as one who cares about Derrida, but instead only wishes to consume fish. In this triplication of theme, we see the core Binary Opposition between sign and significator, between term and use, between stomach and spirit.

See... I can't define Deconstructionism on a bet... but I can bring the Deconstructionism on one. Fear my power, mortals, for I graduated with Latin words after my name!

October 27, 2004

Holy fuck.

(From College Roomies from Hell! Click on the thumb... nail... holy fuck.)


I... I thought....

Holy fuck.

See, I thought Roger was running to save Margaret (whether he knew it or not). It never...

Holy fuck.

Campos gets a biscuit.

Yeah. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Holy fuck.

October 26, 2004

Do you suppose Dean's hand got tired by panel three?

(From Gin and the Devil. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... well, actually it'll just go to the main site because they don't have an archive page for the entry yet. But anyway, feel free!)

I don't have a full snark for Gin and the Devil yet. I haven't gone back very far in the archives.

However, there is a kind of brilliance in the line "You could be stupid for a living." The kind of brilliance that smacks me upside the head and says "hi, Eric. Pay attention to me."

I'll go through the strip's archives when I get a chance. But still, this got a snrk out of me, and I have no argument with that. And you? You have a lovely chance to get a snrk out of it too.

And really, isn't that why we get together in the first place? Well, that and all the alcohol?

October 25, 2004

Well, someone's doing halloween strips, at least

(From Diesel Sweeties. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Flight of the Alpha.)

I'd just like to use what is, after all, a moderately good Diesel Sweeties strip to reminisce about Alpha Flight. The initial run, John Byrne created -- were some of the best team based superhero comics of their time. Well done, well paced, well crafted, with a shocker in the middle and characters you could believe in and respect. And that was a fine, fine thing.

Everything that happened with Alpha Flight after the Byrne run was subpar, and finally went to total crap. I hear there's a new series, with a humorous slant -- I guess because just like She-Hulk, if it's Marvel and John Byrne was associated with it, it must be funny, right? Right? And John Byrne hasn't done a damn thing worthwhile since Alpha Flight. But those issues were about as good as team based superheroes ever got.

So, thanks, M. Stevens. Thanks for giving me a few minutes to remember when John Byrne and Canadian Superheroes were a fine, fine thing.

Yes! Die! DIE!

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Garfield the way it was meant to be!)

There are three things worth noting here.

First off... this is the first time I've ever seen a representation of Garfield act even remotely like a cat.

Secondly... since Jon can actually 'hear' Garfield, in the strip (depending on the week), why hasn't that Vet contacted Mental Health Services to medicate him?

Third, will Jon bake Garfield's corpse into a lasagna after this? The meat has been forcefed whole sheets of pasta and cheese for so long, one has to assume the meat will be perfectly marbled and succulent.

Finally... there's one truly unrealistic thing in this strip, if one looks at the whole. Jon wants to know if Garfield did anything "funny" today. As Garfield hasn't done anything "funny" since 1979 or so (not counting the cartoon, which the Jim Davis machine had nothing to do with -- I'm not saying it was good, just that it had a shot at funny) the question seems too ridiculous to let go.

I wonder if we could get some sequel strips, like "Jon captures the Vet and keeps her locked in the basement" and "Jon leaves Odie in a garage with the car engine running...." Nah. There's just so long you can tempt the syndicates to sue you.

It's a standard argumentative essay technique. Don't you remember English 101?

(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnails for full sized compare and contrast!)

Here we have Saturday and Monday's GPF strips. And in a way, it's like we're seeing two different strips.

We have Trudy at a crossroads, a conflict, her desires, her emotions threatening to tear her apart. On the balance point of good and evil.

And we have Oshiro completely revising his prejudices and deciding to give his blessing to Nick, after a single speech from his daughter, who until now he's never even called by her proper name in her life because he didn't agree with it.

Complex verses simplistic. And, for my money, well produced and engaging versus frustrating and dull.

This is the crux point. In just a few strips of Trudy and Yoshi, we've seen layers of characterization, growth and humor alike. It's not 180 degrees from the preceding storyline but it's enough to interest and intrigue. And when we turn back to "Leave it to Oshiro," we have all the same problems we had before.

There's a point to this romp down simplistic lane. Trudy is about to see Nick ask Ki to marry him. She is so close to turning away from darkness... and now she's going to be at ground zero of the man she loves turning away forever, and not even know he's doing it. This is a milestone on Trudy's path. It makes sense that the proposal happens now, in this way. I have no argument with the structure of the story at this point.

But the question is, can Darlington inject the Oshiros and Nick with the complexity that Trudy has to offer... there's no way to redeem the Nick/Oshiro plotline. But can the new plotline with Trudy at least justify the setup?

We'll see, over the next few days. We'll see.

It's not too late for the Velociraptor in the basement to explode, you know.

No, I haven't been playing City of Heroes today.

(From Wigu. Click on the link for full sized Revelation!)

It was Parent's Weekend at the school I work over the past few days. The students are all off campus right now, so the staff was, quite unexpectedly, given today off. So, I slept in. A nice long sleep in. The kind that makes waking for work tomorrow a hideous concept.

I forgot to turn off my alarm, however, and because I was so foggy and knew I didn't have to get up, I literally couldn't figure out how to make it permanently stop making that noise. So I hit the sleep button about five times. Then, my cat -- who had crawled under the covers -- began licking my leg. It's a sweet gesture and it made me feel all warm inside.

It also hurts. I mean, sandpaper, focusing on one square inch of your leg. It's not comfortable. It woke me to the point that I could remember how to turn the alarm off. I did so, then shifted and closed my eyes, and willed my cat to stop with the tender expression of her love.

Apparently, it worked. I woke up sometime after noon. And here we are now, looking at Wigu.

Paisley's probably my favorite character in the Wigu cast. Less disconnected than her parents, with less basis for her delusions than Wigu, Paisley's own visions are typically based on substance abuse and can lead to unrestrained creativity. Now, she's been declared the Daughter of God in one of those visions. In any other strip, I'd assume it was a delusion. In this one....

Hey, I think maybe a nihilist/goth Messiah who looks good in a corset couldn't possibly hurt.

Okay, maybe 'possibly' is the wrong word.

October 23, 2004


(From Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... full sized... just click, already. Subscription Required.)

Hear that sound? Hear it?

That's the sound of Shaenon Garrity collecting my expectations and kicking them to the fucking curb. That's the sound of my brain being shattered into a million tiny spinning crystal shards. That's the sound of sheer brilliance.

The last several days of buildup have been done extremely well. The payoff still managed to come out of left field, and yet falls back on the core Mad Science principle.

Shaenon Garrity gets a biscuit. That's right. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

October 22, 2004

The Backlog, as of today.

Well, having built up a healthy number of e-mails I needed to go through, I've taken the time to do so. And, because I'm now getting a good, healthy number of recommendations for things to look at and/or snark, I've now got a healthy list of stuff ahead of me, just covering what people thing I'd enjoy. Because the list could get unwieldy (and I own a copy of Filemaker Pro anyhow), I thought I'd whip up a happy to-do list, and export it for you all to see what's on my agenda.

Note that not all of these will get snarked. It's always what catches my eye on the day of the snark that ends up being snarked. Note also that a few of these are things I've read before, but gotten behind on. (Things like Fans or Chopping Block fall under that heading.) Others I've never heard of before, but someone out there liked and thought I would like too. Still others, like The Jaded and Killroy and Tina, I haven't yet read but I've meant to.

Of all of these, the one I've had the most recommendations to read? Schlock Mercenary. So that should probably be first.

If you suggested something more than three weeks ago and you don't see it here, chances are I had a look and didn't end up being inspired. Alternately, I might have missed it as the database is new. So what the heck, send it again to websnark AT gmail DOT com and I'll either have a look or let you know why not. If you'd like to suggest something, feel free to send it along as well!

And now... the backlog:, A Lesson is Learned but the Damage is Irreperable, A Softer World, Alex and Ilia, AmyŪs Suitcase, Anime Arcadia, Arthur, King of Time and Space, As If!, Athena Voltaire, Atland, Authentic Productions, Bob and George, Bored and Evil, Buttercup Festival, Chopping Block, Count Your Sheep, Crooked Halo, El Goonish Shive, Errant Story, Ezra and Ash, Fans, Fetus-X, Fever Dream, Five Bucks to Friday, Freak U., Game Under, Gamers Gone Bad, Gin and the Devil, Guardians, Gun Street Girl, Homestar Runner, Will EisnerŪs John Law, Joe Cartoon, Killroy and Tina, KU-2, Lancaster the Ghost Detective, Like an Episode of, Miracle of Science, Nephilum, New Adventures of Death, Night Shift, No Need For Bushido, Oriyan, Picture Story Theater, Piled Higher and Deeper, Pork Factor 9, Rhymes with Orange, Rolling with the Punches, Sam and Fuzzy, Schlock Mercenary, Shaw Island, Skirting Danger, Sorcerer of Fortune, Square and Circle, Strange Daze, Striptease, Super Real, Terinu, The Jaded, Triangle and Robert, Uberclocked, Venus Envy, Wapsi Square, You Damn Kid!, Zebra Girl, and Zortic.

Clearly, I have my work cut out for me.

(Oh, and one thing I don't need are reasons why I shouldn't read one or more of the above. But you knew that, didn't you?)

On the other hand, both strips are willing to make pants a plot point.

(From Questionable Content and Scary Go Round. Click on the thumbnails for full sized banter!)

We've remarked before on the similarities between Questionable Content and John Allison's Scary Go Round. Well, today's strip seems to highlight the differences far more than the similarities. There is, of course, a similarity of style of banter, though Questionable Content seems more focused on Story elements and a certain realism than Scary Go Round, which seems more and more idiosyncratic and stylized (which is not a knock on Scary Go Round -- it's simply an understanding of what Scary Go Round seems to be trying to do). However, the art highlights a serious difference between the two. Scary Go Round, even as it stylizes more and more artistically (there's an element almost of construction paper cutouts and paper dolls in the current style -- iconic figures instead of realistic ones) also buries itself into lush set designs. Shelley, Amy, Tim, The Boy and all the rest (remember when this strip was explicitly about Rachel, Tessa and their work for Len? And the Bobbins cast was explicitly in the background? Boy, that sure didn't last, did it?) exist inside of panoramas of color and darkness -- blood red Victorian clubs and crowded Tackleford flats abound, and when pretty girls wearing very little wander through kitchens, they have to walk around all of the stuff that's in the way.

Contrast that with Questionable Content. First off, the art is far cleaner -- the figures tend to the realistic (in fact, Faye, while a cute young lass, has a bit of a belly and is 'hippy,' particularly when compared to Dora. And let me just say how bloody refreshing it is to have a female lead who is supposed to be considered attractive who isn't a supermodel, a superheroine or nude all of the time in an online comic. Faye is pretty, and cute, without being drop dead gorgeous. Dora is the same way, in a completely different way. And I for one appreciate it), and the backgrounds, while certainly detailed, have more of an austerity. It's almost like the Questionable Content strips take place on stage (a comedy of manners, as it were) while the Scary Go Round strips take place in an Indy Film (chock full of set design).

When looking closely at the strips, you can see real divergance and a very different sense of the aesthetic. Yes, Jeph Jacques was clearly influenced by John Allison, and also acknowledges it, but Questionable Content is very much its own strip. And I think every so often we need to highlight that, lest we fall into the trap of considering it only by what it's like, not by what it is.

Reread that last sentence. I swear it makes sense. Honestly. You may just need more coffee.

Jesus. If it's going to be this small a thumbnail, why bother putting it up at all? I could have just linked to his site and been done with it.

(From FLEM Comics. Click on the thumbnail for full sized -- and I mean FULL sized -- CHIN!)

I've been waiting for the perfect FLEM Comics strip to snark, and I've finally decided it's not going to appear. Something audacious, like slicing your hand bit by bit into stew. Or something involving a dog and fucking. Or something that underscores the banality of political figures. Or something that echoes the sheer anarchic brilliance of the Jay Storyline. I dunno. The point of FLEM these days is more "whatever Grant feels like drawing," and maybe that's what a FLEM snark should celebrate. It doesn't have to be Angry Patriot Boy. It just has to be FLEM.

Anyway. I delayed for a long time, because of that, and was content to snark Two Lumps instead. But then this strip came out, and I knew it was time. Because it was about... the Kerry Chin.

There is something glorious about a powerful chin. And Kerry's Chin is, as Grant implies, Epic. This strip reminds me, in a way, of Douglas Michael's The Elvis Mandible, which taught us that there is something cosmic in a truly powerful jawbone.

Elsewhere, Grant challenged FLEM readers to write a poem about Kerry's Chin. My entry was a haiku:

In autumnal night,
I need something to follow.
Kerry Mandible

This represents my first successful use of the word 'mandible' in a poem. And that's worth something, isn't it?

On the other hand, this could be an excuse for the strip to move to London....

(From Todd and Penguin. Click on the thumbnail for full sized heartbreak!)

I'm grooving on Todd and Penguin's return from guest stripitis, but today's not one of the strips that makes me groove, I'm afraid. There's a couple of reasons for that. One's the twist, which would have affected me a lot more powerfully if... well, Something Positive hadn't done something on this same riff very recently. As it is, even if it doesn't go the same way, it still feels a little familiar right now. Which is sad, because it's such a different strip in tone.

But that wouldn't be worth a snark, per se. That's just sort of there, and I'm in for the long haul. No, the snark's coming from panel four. I just... um... don't get it. I mean, we know the ring's in his pocket. Is this meaning the ring is suddenly heavy? Painful? Or did it explode into a million spinning pieces?

I dunno. I can tell it's meant to be iconography, but it didn't pull it off.

On the other hand, I'm intensely interested in the next strip now, so....

(I don't think Wright is making a move for a Cerebus Syndrome, though the vision sequence at the end of the accident storyline makes me wonder, a touch. We'll see what happens next. Todd's had the worst day ever, but on the other hand, that could just be comeuppance for spending money on Doctor Bill's books.)

October 21, 2004

There are so many situations in life where swearing helps, you know it?

(From Eat the Roses. Click on the thumbnail for full sized pause for recovery!)

Let's talk for a minute about art.

I know, I know, I don't talk a huge amount about it here. You already know I won't trash a site's art, and I won't reject a strip because I don't like its art if its execution makes up for it. So already, you know I like Meaghan Quinn's art, because I'm bringing it up.

What I want to talk about, just for a moment, is ink washes. Or simulated ink washes made on Photoshop. Or watercolor shading that ends up looking like ink washes. Whatever. You know what I mean.

The gradients in today's strip are subtle, the grayscale evocative. There are strips out there that just aren't in color, and there are strips out there that are meant to be duotone in gray. Today's Eat the Roses is the latter. Color would be a mistake. The grey on pencil becomes an effect -- if the negative space were black instead of white, this would fall into Noir. As it is, there's a dreamlike quality, but an oddly realistic one.

And -- and I say this a lot, it seems -- this would totally not work on a newspaper page. The LPI newspapers use wouldn't begin to resolve this kind of subtle grey at all. Even a graphic novel would have to print at a tighter screen than they're used to. This isn't a knock. I love strips that take advantage of the medium. This is a strip that creates an effect on the web, that couldn't be created anywhere else. Quinn knows what she's doing, and the result is lovely.

October 20, 2004

It's the pose in the last panel that makes the whole thing.

(From Casey and Andy. Click on the thumbnail for full sized dramatic poses!)

Two things.

First off, as a big fan of Irregular Webcomic, I enjoyed seeing this take on them (though it would have been better as a Lego comic with Andy's scowling head appearing in one of the frames).

Second off, Casey looks totally wrong without his hair tapering to a point.

Third off (of two), next time, I expect to see Mary and Jenn. I can accept not seeing Satan. But Mary and Jenn should be a part of the wackiness.

And yet, there has been no Pirate/Robot fighting. Go fig.

(From Goats! Click on the thumbnail for full sized ninjas!)

There are certain cliches in webcomics. They extend to the newspaper sometimes, but in the webcomics, they absolutely flourish. Among these cliches are:

  • Monkeys
  • Ninjas
  • Pirates
  • Robots
  • Cleavage

Granted, these cliches are actually geek cliches -- to the point that Atomic Sock Monkey Press has a Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot Game, a deluxe version of the game, and a Role Playing Game on the natural war between monkeys, ninjas, pirates and robots. (Now, if Chad produces a version of the game called Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot, Cleavage he'd have himself a top seller...)

Several websites and webcomics have been playing on a subsection of this war -- namely, the war between pirates and ninjas. I assume PvP was the first, though I could be wrong. At the same time, James Kochalka has been focusing on the other half of the war, in his book Monkey vs. Robot and the sequels. And many, many people have touched on the power of cleavage in these wars:Diesel Sweeties and Gaming Guardians conflate Cleavage and Robots; many folks, PvP's cosplay among them, touch on Cleavage and Pirates; at the very least, Planet Earth (and other tourist traps) touches on Cleavage and Ninjas... okay, I have no ready examples of Cleavage and monkeys right now -- but having said that, I give folks until the end of the week, at which time I will have to scour the image from my mi--

FRANK CHO! Frank Cho identifies himself as a monkey and is obsessed with cleavage! You don't have to do it now! Don't do it now! I beg you!

Anyway -- the point is, everyone does these things. Everyone. We've seen it a million times. It's. Been. Done.

And yet, I look at today's Goats and giggle. I giggle as much as I did back in the day when The Tick walked by Ninjas pretending to be a Hedge, back when I was in college and half of you weren't yet born. Christ, I'm getting old.;

Sometimes, cliches are cliches because they remain funny. Robots? Funny. Pirates? Funny. Monkeys? Funny. Ninjas? Clearly funny.

Cleavage? Always funny.

A nod of the head to M. Rosenberg. Because Ninjas are funny.

October 18, 2004

Call me, beep me, if you want to reach me indeed.

From Dork Tower. Click on the thumbnail for full sized deference and honor!)

Dork Tower is ubiquitous in the RPG world. It's our comic, whether in print, on Pyramid, on Gamespy, over at Wizkids, or in whatever form John Kovalic is selling it this week. And while it trods similar ground as PvP, it's really a very different experience. PvP is all about the characters, most of whom like to play games, RPGs, LARP, watch geek culture movies and whatnot. Dork Tower is about games, RPGs, LARP, geek culture and the like, with a common set of characters reacting to it. It's not a better or worse approach to the material, but it is different.

This particular strip falls in the "geek culture" category, and it highlights one of the creepiest of phenomena within the fanfic subculture. I'd rant about it, if I weren't busy laughing myself absolutely sick. Needless to say, Kovalic absolutely nails fanfic -- both its justification and ideals (and bear in mind, those ideals do exist and a good amount of the fanfic written is absolutely for those reasons) and for the bits that make fanficcers clear their throat and change the subject.

Of course, this is why parents have to run web searches for their kids when their kids want to find online resources for their favorite cartoons...

Don't you forswear material goods as part of the monastic oath? I'm just sayin'.

(From Sinfest. Click on the thumbnail for full sized hat envy!)

Sinfest does a lot of stylin' and profilin', not that I think Ishida would use that phrase. It works for Sinfest, and sets an Indy rock tone to the proceedings. (He'd probably prefer to set a Hip Hop tone, but I call the tone like I see the tone.)

And yet, a strip like today's really appeals to me. No representing going on. A guy has a hat, and he's proud of it, and Slick, who's probably never wanted to wear a hat in his life, suddenly yearns for one. That's human nature, right there. That's every time you've been perfectly content, then seen somebody walk by in his new pair of shoes, and suddenly you want those shoes more than you want your mother to have life giving oxygen. And you like your mother. But damn it, new shoes.

The fact that Slick is still wearing his Elvis inspired superhero cape just makes it all more surreal.

Well, with the number of penis jokes we had last week, this was sort of inevitable.

(From Planet Earth (and other tourist traps). Click on the thumbnail for full sized groping!)

A couple of things. First off, I meant to write this last week. Which thematically would have made sense, what with the various jokes involving the groping of men in tender ways that showed up here. I can't help that, by the way. I grew up in Northern Maine. We had to watch whatever managed to appear on our televisions until Cable came along. Which meant when Hee Haw was on, Hee Haw was on. We didn't like it. It was just that or stare out at the frozen tundra and wonder when the oxygen would melt off the ground again, and that gets old after a while.

Second off, Planet Earth has added a "permanent URL" section to its main page. A couple of other sites have too. This is a positive movement forward in the science of webcomic criticism. I look forward to a day when people like me barely have to lift a finger to get source links on our blogs. And we'll bitch about having to barely lift our fingers, too. Annoyance and effort is subjective.

Third off, I'm enjoying this sequence, and not just for the boob jokes. There's something very refreshing about the reminder that the event that destroyed your life -- the event you have dedicated your life to avenging -- might have been so minor on the part of the other person that they barely remember you exist. It's like Lex Luthor showing up with a Kryptonite Bomb and a tentacle robot with ray beams, and Superman squinting and saying "what is this all about?" And Lex says "Don't you remember? We were kids! My lab caught fire! You flew in to save me, but you caused an accident and all my hair fell out! My hair! My beautiful red hair! Remember?" "Well... um... you know, I saved a lot of people from fires when I was a kid... and you're not the only bald supervillain you know...."

Finally, I respect the sound effect "boof." I think we should all agree that the comic strip sound effect for squeezing a breast, from this point forward, should be "boof." When Francis reminisces about squeezing Jade's breast in PvP, he say "and then I was all like "there are no consequences, because it's the future, and she was all like yeah, so I reached out and it was all like 'boof' when I squeezed her boob."

October 17, 2004


(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnail for full sized every fourteen year old het boy's dream!)

So we endured the end of the whole Nick thing. We watched the sitcom end exactly the way the sitcoms always end -- in minute 27 (counting commercials), there's a speech given by one of the leads, and then the lifelong racist sees the error of his ways. We just need the humorous tagline. It almost killed me. Killed me.

But now... now... it's Yoshi. And he's got a mystery... and he went into his room, and there's Trudy! Trudy! Trudy has come and she's bringing plot and character development! And we'll focus on them for a while! We will! We will we will we will!

(God, if this plotline sucks, we're in trouble.)

October 16, 2004

Hey, a good investment is a good investment.

From Bob the Angry Flower. Click on the thumbnail to see full sized Genocide!)

Yeah, it's eight o'clock at night and this is my first snark of the day. I went to a movie! Why shouldn't I? You're not the boss of me! I hate you! I'm gonna wear what I want to! All the other kids do it! Don't come in my room, damn it!

First off... I still hate The Twenty.

Second off... I finally, way way late, saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. My God that was a good movie! It was absolutely perfect! The robots! The robots! And ornithopters! And the Mechanical Menace Superman once fought in the forties! And ray guns! And a cameo from a dead actor! And a plucky reporter!

Sorry. I was frothing for a moment. If you haven't seen this, your life is much sadder than mine. If you don't want to see it, I respect that, though I will light a candle for you.

So. Third off. Bob the Angry Flower.

I fucking. Love. Bob the Angry Flower. I was introduced to Bob a long time back, with Bob's Quick Guide to the Apostrophe, Idiots. Which is now a poster. Which I'm going to buy and put on my office door, until I'm told to take it down. From there, I immersed myself into the frenetic world of the angriest, and funniest, of all perennials. I love the dark humor, the joyful, if inappropriate, abandon Bob takes to projects, and the clean pen and ink work.

This is a perfectly good example of the Bobish Oeuvre. A mundane situation. Bob becoming suspicious. Bob uncovering a completely hideous thing. Bob loving it all the more. And then the line "I want one! I want this one!"

I love it. Stephen Notley gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

October 15, 2004

Seriously, dude. What is it with this week and penis jokes? Did I miss a memo?

(From Yirmumah. Click on the thumbnail for full sized legal chicanery!)

I don't have much to say here. Just two things:

1. I trust the doll was to scale. Otherwise, the implication is horrifying.
2. In a strip about action figures with penises, the phrase "kung fu grip" makes me giggle like a 12 year old boy. Exactly like a 12 year old boy. For exactly the same reason.

It's not screaming the name during sex that's the problem. Murmuring "g'night, [name of Ex]" when mostly asleep and lying next to a different girl? That gets you murdered.

(From Sinister Bedfellows. Click on the thumbnail for full sized panic!)

I don't know how to classify Sinister Bedfellows. It's a webcomic. With photos. But it's not a photo webcomic. It has no characters, yet it has a voice. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Lore Brand Comics, only Lore specifically goes for the Funny, and I don't think McKenzee has any mandate.

It's almost like a series of Koans. The photography sets a mood, and the words either reinforce that mood or set apart from it in juxtaposition. I don't go into the next day's Sinister Bedfellowing with any expectations except that I'll think "oh, cool." And that's about right.

There is the occasionally profound piece, too. Such as:

(No, this isn't a double-snark. This is a critical essay. I'm using examples from the work. It's English Comp all over again. Hey, screw you! Consistency is for squares!)

It's the subtlety of the reinforced message, the imagery, and the allusion that get me, here. (For those of you who don't know the Bible by heart, Genesis 1:27 says "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." KJV, for those playing along at home, because King James commissioned himself some pretty language.)

In the end, I can't classify this as any specific type of webcomic. I can only classify it as art.

And that's all the classification needed, isn't it?

You know, I haven't had salsbury steak in years.

(From Gaming Guardians. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Websnark!)

Submitted without comment.

(Well, mostly without comment. This is a webcomic about characters who enter tabletop RPG systems. I'm a professional RPG writer. I've been nominated for an ENnie directly, and could legitimately claim involvement with a Gold ENnie winner if I were willing to lie. As a result... I get a mention for writing this thing. Life. Don't talk to me about life.)

(Wait. only reviews webcomics?)

October 14, 2004

Wow! Irony! Who expected Irony?!

(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the thumbnail for full sized ironic statements!)

It almost goes without saying that, due to a combination of work and fatigue and just plain dumb luck, the week I have by far the highest readership is also the week I've had the lightest output. Life can be like that sometimes. Still, I've still been lurking out there, a few stray thoughts percolating, and now sitting in a cafe listening to a CD of piano jazz puts me in the mood for writing.

Of course, the woman and her sister sitting in the booth next to mind with a six month old child who is trying hard to sleep while they try hard to get her to giggle and laugh for their amusement by mugging and making noises and saying her name loudly puts me in the mood to reconsider my stance on gun control, rather than writing, but we're going to give this the old school try anyway.

That Which Redeems is one of his longer 'epic' story arcs -- to the point that it's two separate storylines in his dropdown (consecutive storylines, no less -- can we really call it "That Which Redeems II" when it's just the completion of the storyline that immediately predated it?). And, with rare exceptions -- "The Storm Breaker Saga" leaps to mind -- they tend to go on too long. Christ only knows how close I came to stabbing myself in the temple with a fork instead of read yet another freaking Gofotron strip, back in the day... but I digress. That Which Redeems is dragging a bit, but it's generally well paced enough that I don't mind. And it has occasional flashes of absolutely brilliant humor to make us glad to be alive.

And that brings us to today. It's a single panel, that kind of puts me in mind of the cartoonists of an earlier generation. It's a site gag that takes a half second, and then just slays you. And I think it's leading to a depressing ending, so I'm glad for the chance to laugh.

(I'm hopeful, by the way, that there's a twist coming up. Because if they're intentionally setting things up for Torg's sword's power to wear off just in time for Zoő2 to throw herself on it and die to give Torg and NotBun the power to escape, followed by the nuclear strike killing off or otherwise eliminating all the primary demons....

Well, it would suck if I called it in advance, wouldn't it?)

On the other hand, if a girl were wearing that dress in real life, I wouldn't recognize her face then either.

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized walking sex!)

I like the joke here, I should say. And I like the art. This one worked for me. It wasn't just the setup and delivery, and the little bit of angst that heightened the pleasure -- sort of like salt is supposed to heighten taste, along with slowly killing you off -- was very deftly done. So I enjoyed this one. This needs to be said.

However... I have no idea if the girl Jason brought in to drape off of Davan is supposed to be Claire, or another girl who I've forgotten, or a random girl from Jason's (former) harem, or a prostitute, or who. If Jason had mentioned her name, that'd be cool because then I wouldn't be wondering. Or if it had been more clearly someone from the regular cast....

Well, it hardly matters. The joke works, the strip is good, in all ways I'm satisfied. This is like getting an itch in the back of your brain. The only reason it drives you insane is because there's no good way to scratch it. Though I do know some people who would try.

The worst thing is, I bet it is someone from the regular cast, and I'm the only one who doesn't recognize her. Which means I now look like an idiot. Dance for us, idiot-boy! Dance for our pleasure!

Lore SjĖberg will pay for this.

(From Lore Brand Comics! Click on the thumbnail for full sized... wait, didn't we do this joke already?)

Lore Brand Comics is a weekly. So it's understandable that Lore missed Penis Joke Day earlier this week.

However, because I'm nothing if not fair, it's worth noting that Lore SjĖberg will pay for this. Dearly.

It's also worth noting that before Sexy Losers, I had no idea what 'Bukkake' meant. It's also worth noting that my sister, who does read this site, probably still doesn't know. So please indulge me for a moment while I send her a private message.

Kris? It's your brother, Eric.

Don't look the word up. Especially don't look it up online. And don't ever say the word to your kids. Just trust me on this.

October 13, 2004

And in the strip before this, there's dismemberment! DISMEMBERMENT!

(From Penny Arcade. Click on the thumbnail for full sized disappointment!)

This is probably an Ur-Penny Arcade strip. In one fell swoop (are swoops really all that fell?), we have a video game reference and implicit positive review, some Funny that depends upon the interaction of our principals, some 'everyman humor,' and profanity. Not bad for three panels and a game I've never played and never have any intention of playing, huh? Gabe and Tycho do this shit well, because they focused in on what their strip was about, and then refined the toolset to provide it. The brief glimpses of Continuity don't feel at all like Story. They just feel like an excuse to do another layer of humor, and then they move on.

If you go back through my archives and columns and the like, you'll find I have a maxim for this sort of thing. "If you want to tell fart jokes, tell fart jokes." While they don't really tell fart jokes on Penny Arcade (fruit raping jokes? Sure. Farts? Generally not), they know the kind of humor they want to do and they've absolutely mastered it. And that's why half of North America's gaming population and a nontrivial portion of the nongaming webcomics fans out there reads this strip.

Paypal presents: a double dose of Narbonic!

(From Narbonic! Click on either thumbnail for full sized RPG action! (subscription required))

So, remember yesterday when I extolled the virtues of Irregular Webcomic putting a permanent link URL right on its front page? And expressed yearning that the Manley sites would do the same? This is because the Manley sites use a somewhat... arcane... archiving method. Not arcane as in ancient. Arcane as in "eldritch knowledge that one cannot intuit sitting on the home page." But this is actually no big deal, because it's actually slightly easier to cope with Modern Tales, Graphic Smash and the like -- the first 'archive' page you go to actually contains the last block of strips, including that day's, so boom. One click, cut and paste. No bigs!

Only... yesterday, I tried and my subscription didn't work.


So, I did some digging, and discovered that because I changed my backup credit card information on Paypal (I had to -- the old ones expired), all of my Paypal subscriptions got zapped. So, no more subscription to Modern Tales, no more, no more American Elf, no more Graphic Smash, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

Well, no bigs. You just resubscribe.

Only Paypal wouldn't let me. Or anyone. Paypal, this whole past several days, has apparently been hosed.

So, because by personal policy, I don't snark stuff I can't link directly to (with exceptions based on the fact that it's my policy and I'll break it if I want to), I couldn't do a Narbonic snark yesterday despite wanting to give them money and despite being able to see the strip I wanted to snark... because I couldn't intuit the archive page I would want to link to.

Today, the sub went through. I did a Year Sub instead of a monthly this time, so this shouldn't come up again for a long time, damn it. Of course, there's all those other subs to do, but they'll wait until I snark something on them, mostly because I'm lazy.

So. I still wanted to talk about yesterday's Narbonic, but I thought today's Narbonic reinforced the point I wanted to make in the first place, and as they're on the same archive page anyway, you're getting them both. I feel justified -- I just paid these folks thirty bucks, and besides, it's advertising. And if Shaenon Garrity doesn't like a double-snark, I suspect she'll make that known. Comedically, more than likely.

The reason I wanted to do yesterday's strip was triggered by Iris's smile in panel four. It occured to me that I really, really liked that smile. And it hit me how much I enjoy the expressiveness Garrity brings to her characters. There is a very big difference between having a style, and having only one face you can design. Garrity's characters are distinctive. Dave doesn't look anything like Mell, who doesn't look anything like Helen. And that distinctiveness also shows up in minor characters -- the gamers around the table are individual. Some look similar to others, but not exact, without being cumbersome. Contrast that with, say, Megatokyo, which has gorgeous artwork but there's not much difference between any of the female faces. Or a number of other strips. I don't mean to pick on Megatokyo just because I enjoy it. Though, admittedly, I do enjoy it.

The other side of this reinforces the snark I did about Gav Bleuel's artwork. Garrity hand-draws everything in Narbonic, including shades and fills. I love this style of drawing, and it also means that every panel is unique. So even though we're seeing conversations between Dave and the same people, there is a dynamic feeling to them that cut and paste strips can't match. These people are moving, shifting their hands around, leaning forward and back, flipping their hair. They're doing nothing 'active' (I've sat around a lot of RPG tables in my time. These are not aerobic affairs), but you can't call the conversation passive. It's not just word balloons floating in space over art you can safely ignore after the first panel. It's body language.

And that's something no other static art form can match.

October 12, 2004

"Hello, this the the Hyundai Department of Motor Vehicles. How may I help you?"

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the link for full sized branding!)

In his annotations, Morgan-Mar says that he's surprised governments haven't already done this. I guess I'm surprised too. Still, given he uses his Nigerian Treasury Ministry strips to hit every corporate Get Rich Quick scheme and internet scam, I think the juxtaposition here is hilarious.

I also want to point out an amenity that will mean nothing to any of you, but is an absolute freaking Godsend to people with websites like mine. In his navigation tool (which remains a best of breed in terms of functionality), he includes a link that's standard for Blogs and almost unknown for Webcomics: "this strip's permanent URL:" Sure. This may seem obvious to you, sitting there in your chair, but there's a lot of steps I need to take to craft the fine, precision blathering you're reading here. I have to identify a strip I want to Snark, download the graphic, upload-and-thumbnail it on my site, and identify a permanent link for the thumbnail link. See, I don't want to just point you to their website: my snarks are typically about specific strips in their archive, so it makes sense to link to that archive page.

Only for the most part, the archive page URL is different from the main page URL, but in many cases the archive page isn't readily available until the next strip comes out. So, I have to trick the site into giving me a URL that I can use -- generally by going to the last strip in the archive, then incrementing it up. Generally, that will either give me the archive page or will default back to the main page for the day, but either way it's a link I can put in.

(In some rare cases, it returns a 404, and I have to delay that snark until the next time the strip updates. Only I don't tend to like snarking the archive instead of the current strip, so in a practical sense it means I don't snark that webcomic.)

Morgan-Mar takes all that away. I just copy, paste and am done. Life is good.

I am praying that when Web Comics Nation rolls out, it does something like this automatically. Praying!

October 11, 2004

Because I keep my promises... the Max Powers Snark

pvp20041009.gifFrom PvP.

I got e-mail from my friend Sean today, and he reminded me that way back when (in a snark where I compared and contrasted the characters of Jade and Miranda Fontaine from PvP), I promised a snark about Max Powers the next time he appear. Well, he appeared a while ago but I didn't follow through. But now, here it is.

Simply put, Max Powers, the perpetual antagonist and foil, is actually the good guy in PvP.


We were introduced to Max years ago -- he was the entirely-too-slick and entirely-too-passive-aggressive school friend of Cole, Brent, Reggie, Jase and Robbie. The one they could never stand. And here he was, launching his own magazine to compete with PvP, in the same. Freaking. Building. Cole balled his fists up and declared what has become a lament for the ages -- "DAMN YOU MAX POWERS!" And so we had a character.

As a side-note, I now use "DAMN YOU MAX POWERS!" in casual conversation. So Scott Kurtz has had an impact on my life.

And since then, there's been lots and lots of adventures Max has figured into. Max's sister Sonya showed up and became Skull's girlfriend (despite Skull's lack of genitalia). Max hired Marcy for a while. He bought Cole's childhood videogames on eBay. He took Jade out while Jade and Brent were broken up. And so on, and so forth. His very existence inspires yet more of the wackiness we've come to know and love on PvP.

Only... none of what he does is bad.

He gave Marcy a real job, where Cole used her as unpaid help, more or less -- and later on inspired Cole to hire her. He gave Reggie a job. When Jase and Robbie showed up on his doorstep after being fired, he took them in, tried to find different ways to make them profitable, and then finally threw out their couch and beer and made them clean up their act -- which worked. Yes, he tricked Jade into going out with him... but he did so when she was already upset and feeling low, and made her feel better about herself. He told Cole about the software audits -- and while Cole assumed he would then rat PvP out (and hijinks ensued), in actuality he was just chatting with Cole. Even the "naked picture of Jade" storyline wasn't any worse than any of the PvP staff would do in a similar circumstance. One could easily have substituted Brent for Max in that entire storyline and it would have fit perfectly.

Cole, on the other hand, has been spiteful, mean, jealous, angry, and crappy to everyone where Max is concerned. When Max offered PvP staff members a chance to go on television -- television -- Cole fired the staffers who took him up on the deal, and then made them go through humiliating interviews to come back. When Max bought Cole's Atari stuff in good faith, Cole was ready to renege because he didn't want it to go to Max. Cole has broken into Max's office, talked behind Max's back, blamed Max for his own mistakes and shortcomings, and in general been a total asshole where Max is involved.

The others aren't any better. Jade isn't above deceit and chicanery to get her own way. Francis has paved his road to Hell with the very worst of intentions. Marcy was willing to set off the sprinkler system and ruin the spring dance (not to mention all those rented tuxedos) for everyone. Skull... okay, Skull's a good guy, but still.

And Brent?

Brent is willing to specifically try and set up Miranda with Max, to get her out of his hair. Just like before he was willing to get her fired and used Skull as a pawn. Brent is as nasty and ruthless as they claim Max is, without Max's track record of success.

Even the other characters can't say why Max is a bad guy. Jade foisted Miranda off on Brent, because she couldn't say why "Max Powers was bad news." In fact, I don't think I can point to a single explanation of why Max is a bad guy listed anywhere in the entire comic. Not one.

The only indication that Max is bad is that he can't perceive Skull at all, but we don't know the full reason why he can't see Skull. Oh, and Max does have an ego -- there's no denying that. But again, he's not worse in any way than the rest of PvP's staff, and there are ways in which he seems to be better than most.

I'm happy this isn't a strip about Max Powers. He's not a sympathetic character, whereas the PvP staff is. But he is a good guy, nonetheless.

And that must drive Cole absolutely batshit insane. Zing.

Or maybe it's "Keenspot Founder's day." Who's in charge of days? Well, at least there are no penis jokes.

(From Nukees. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Badmouthing!)

I keep harping on Gav Bleuel's skill at characterization, but we're going to do it one more time, here. There is more character definition in these four panels than you find in a month of most webcomics. First off, we have the surface bits -- the description of King Luca. Second, there is Gav's own character definition -- we see his self-description of not wanting anyone to be happy, and his pleasure at being a scoundrel. This is of course reinforced by his considering "noble-intentioned paragon of virtue" to be badmouthing. Third there is Cindy, who we learn that, despite her own willingness to be devilish, every now and again, is capable of finding Gav's behavior "deplorable," (and she looks horrified in that panel, not amused).

And finally, of course, there's the fact that both Cindy and Gav like banter better than considerations about good and evil at all.

Nicely layered. Also, I've been informed that Nukees is 100% hand-drawn, without even using computers for fills. I'm pleased to be corrected, because like I said, I love that sort of thing. It's apparently the same with Narbonic, so the connection I drew last time remains true. HAH!

It's Chris Crosby day on Websnark, clearly! And penis reference day. I don't pretend these two things are related.

(From Sore Thumbs. Click on the thumbnail for full sized flabbiness!)

I don't know why there's a plethora of penis jokes on today's webcomics, but they're there. And hey, we have another example of Chris Crosby going way beyond broke! This time, of course, it's Sore Thumbs instead of Superosity, which remains a webcomic that people are polarized about. For the life of me, I don't know why. I can accept not liking Sore Thumbs, as it's the kind of comic people either will or won't like. But being upset by it? It's no more about politics or video games as Jackson Pollack's paintings were about perspective.

In a way, it's about the same kind of thoroughly unpleasant, yet oddly endearing people who populate Superosity. I wouldn't want Fairbanks, Cecania or Harmony anywhere near me (Sawyer is a decent fellow, though I expect I'd get sick of him awfully fast), yet I kind of like all of them. Yeah, even Fairbanks. There isn't a one of them with a well thought out opinion on anything, but it's fun when they do well. This is why Rondel needs to be so thoroughly rotten -- otherwise, we'd have no reason to root against him. (In fact, it might be interesting to have a third game store open up -- this one run by an absolute saint, just for the dissonance.)

The appeal of this strip and the strip before -- which featured such charming terms as 'dick slot' and 'funbags' (And 'potatoes,' but that's neither here nor there) -- was in the thought balloons of their respective last panels. Something about both Sawyer -- who recognizes he has a... deficiency -- and Rondel -- who's compensating for a perceived one -- having such introspective thoughts during their posturing just hits me right. Today's punchline in particular appeals. It reminds me of a Futurama-esque style of humor, where someone makes a traditional speech ranting about destroying all humans, only to have an incidental character next to him turn and say "now, that's just hurtful, Bob."

Anyway. It's a good day to be Chris Crosby, I'd say.

Clothing is definitely not optional.

(From Superosity. Click on the the thumbnail for full sized Greenvember!)

Chris Crosby subscribes to the "if you're going to do it at all, do it over the top" theory of humor, and that's one of the reasons I like him. He's not afraid to make the alternate universes our heroes spawn in the wake of their running around space and time patently absurd, and the people who live in them equally absurd. The fact that we're now going to have three George Bushes running around the base universe -- the original George Bush, who became a baseball player in another universe which then was destroyed by aliens, and who is now frozen solid in Boardy's lab, the evil George Bush from that alien destroyed universe, who had been a baseball player and who is now the evil President, and this third, green haired, naked George Bush, who... um....

Look, I just said Chris Crosby goes absurdly over the top. I didn't say I understood any of it.

Brad Guigar will pay for this.

(From Greystone Inn. Click on the thumbnail for full... sized... oh Christ....)

Brad Guigar will pay for this. Dearly.

That is all I have to say.

October 10, 2004

Still stuck behind a suck ISP...

...but struggling along as best we can. So while this is Yet Another Mention of General Protection Fault, I'm not going to thumbnail it. Thumbnailing against the tide is too painful. Too PAINFUL I tell you!

So. I told you I was interested in what happened next, after Mr. Oshiro showed himself to be a racist. And then Nick sort of called him on the hypocrisy of his bigotry, and Oshiro went nuts. Apparently he attacked Nick sufficiently to draw blood and make a hospital trip a good idea.

So, Nick's heading to the hospital, but doesn't want Ki to go with him. Seems he doesn't want to make Oshiro even angrier. When he gets back after "things cool down," they'll see what they can work out.

Uh... huh.

The incomparable Wednesday White asked me what point General Protection Fault goes on the "You Had Me, and You Lost Me" list. Well, that list requires a pretty systemic breaking down of the elements that once had me following along faithfully. A strip of the Funny eliminating the Funny. Updates so sporadic that it's an event just to get a strip. Storylines getting so convoluted that you need a scorecard and dental records to identify who's talking. That kind of thing.

GPF, on the other hand, is suffering badly from duality and a lack of understanding of who and what GPF actually is, these days. The Nick and Ki stuff (as well as the Dwayne, Trent and slime mold stuff) underscores it, for all the reasons I've already laid out. But there's also the Fooker, Sharon, Dexter and Trudy stuff, and all of it shows promise. There is a lot about General Protection Fault that could still be great....

So no, it's not going on that list. Not yet. If the next storyline doesn't bring back the smile to my face, that'll likely be that.

But I'm now officially rooting for Nick and Ki to break up.

Seriously. I'm rooting for Ki to dump Nick for being spineless, or for Nick to dump Ki because he can't marry a girl whose father won't allow it (I'm not saying I agree with Nick -- it just sounds like a Nickish thing to do). But this couple has no chemistry, no passion, nothing that draws our interest, and nothing that makes us want to root for them. And this plotline has sunk back down into banality.

(Maybe Nick could be kidnapped from the hospital by C.R.U.D.E., seeking to harness his inventor's gene! And Dr. Not could seduce him, with the help of Powerful Mind Altering Chemicals! Nick wakes up nude in her bed, befuddled... realizes what he's done... and discovers he likes it! Ki, in the meantime, wanders the streets looking for him, only she runs into pirates! Pirates who kidnap her for a life of adventure on the high seas! And while she dreams of finding Nick once more, she swiftly takes her Geek Wet Dream role to its conclusion by mastering the crew of the ship, taking over, and entering a full on life of Pirate Queen Debauchery! Meanwhile, back at the Oshiro house, Yoshi is bicycling to the UPS store to ship some parts to Trudy when the Velociraptor he's built in the basement suddenly explodes, killing Mr. and Mrs. Oshiro instantly though with maximum pain and suffering. Shocked and horrified, Yoshi ships himself to the drop point, and he and Trudy begin a new life as mastermind and henchman. The explosion causes the Oshiro family car to be blown into a suborbital arc which lands, coincidentially, on GPF's headquarters, where most of the cast is away enjoying the autumn air but where Duncan and the slime molds are having a meeting. They die, and Nicole receives the insurance money, causing her to get together with Fooker, Sharon and Dexter and found a new, leaner company with a 21st Century sensibility. Trent, hearing all this, laughs so hard he slips and falls into an industrial meat grinder. An adorable and hilarious strip shows baby Sydney being given a hot dog, and looking quizzical at the power necktie that's sticking out of one end of it.)

(Or then again, maybe not. Sigh.)

October 08, 2004

Don't you just know the Dad said "well, at least today can't get any worse" just before pulling into his driveway?

(From Calvin and Hobbes. Click on the thumbnail for full sized sin!)

It's "religious" day on Websnark! (MANNA!)

This strip, coming up as part of the continuing complete archives installation onto My Comics Page, absolutely epitomizes one aspect of Calvin and Hobbes. See, Calvin is pure self-centeredness, living for the moment and not considering the consequences until it's very, very too late. At the same time, he is a kid, so he's both capable of absolute terror and also of blowing things way out of proportion.

This strip is only magnified by the fact that we don't know what Calvin actually did. This might be nothing -- he may have broken a lamp or the like. Or, the entire back of the house might be a smoldering wreck. We don't know.

And neither does his Dad. All his Dad knows is, his day is about to get considerably worse.

All in one oversized panel. This is why Bill Watterson remains a holy figure to so many (though it's worth noting I'm not one of them -- but that's another essay). This perfectly understated strip is just nice to see.

In other words... it's MANNA!

(Told you you'd be getting sick of it.)


(From Two Lumps. Click on the thumbnail for full sized MANNA!)

Sometimes, it's the littlest things that take a standard strip for a given webcomic and elevate it to 'SNRK' level. It's an appropriate take to the camera. It's a play on words that's unexpected. It's gratuitous yet pleasurable nudity. You understand.

Well, Two Lumps hit that, today. It was an okay strip, with an okay premise, and an okay resolution....

And then Snooch says "MANNA!"

Guys, I just about died.

I kind of hope that's what the manna from Heaven was, in the desert for all those days, as the Jews made their way to the Promised Land. I mean, a miracle is one thing. It's God. God is supposed to produce miracles like clockwork. Parting large bodies of water. Changing brackish water into Beaujolais extremely Nouveau. Smiting Fabio with a bird on a roller coaster.

But there's something deeply appealing about the idea that God accidentally knocked his Kraft Dinner over and it rained down to the Israelites, sustaining them on their arduous journey. And God looking both ways and saying "no, I meant to do that. Seriously. Uh... behold!"

So, for the rest of the day, I'm going to be suddenly shouting "MANNA!" for no good reason. So, if you're going to get sick of that, you might want to start now and avoid the rush.

October 07, 2004

You know, I have to wonder if the prey take the place of the school's track team...

(From Kevin and Kell. Click on the thumbnail for full sized manners!)

Checking back in with Kevin and Kell shows us the not-so-good wrestling storyline is over, and we've moved back into the arenas I think Holbrook excels in. As long time readers know, the furry strips I like are the ones where there's a point to the characters being anthropomorphic animals. Kell's becoming an assistant coach both gives some good conflict with Rudy (always a good thing) and sets up any number of gags around the fact that the school's hunting team are... well, hunting. And eating the prey.

I'm liking this. Holbrook's bringing the Funny, in a way that brings the Story. Life is good.

Man, that ugly American in me is gaining strength by the day.

(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnail for full sized you know the drill.)

I'm trying my best to put GPF out of mind. I'm holding fast to the idea that sometime -- hopefully soon -- we'll shift to a new plotline. But I have to admit something. While Nick and Ki remain utterly uninteresting to me, Ki's father has crossed over into the realm of "interesting."

Oh, don't get me wrong. I hate him. But you can't be hated and boring at the same time.

Racism is just plain ugly. It causes a visceral reaction deep inside. But with a side order of hypocrisy, it's nasty. A Japanese man who married a Chinese woman has no call using terms like 'half-breed.' Maybe this is a test he's putting Nick through. Or maybe this is just what Mr. Oshiro thinks of us white-eyes. But I'm going to be very interested to see what Nick does next -- if his almost simpering traditionalism means he'll avoid marrying Ki now, or if he'll actively confront Oshiro, or if the pair just elopes.

And so, Jeff Darlington has done something remarkable. Despite the fact that I don't care about Nick and Ki, and I actively hate Oshiro... I want to see what happens next.

Conflict is a very good thing in a webcomic. Believe me when I tell you that.

I call it. I make this declaration. It is my RIGHT!

Okay, so I'm surfing around, following links from Ping Teo's Webcomic Finds, because I can. It's a free Internet, damn it, and I'm enjoying watching Ping shunpiking around the ol' Web. And so I go to a site she panned, called Gigawhut? (the question mark is theirs, not mine). And on the whole I agree with Ping's assessment of the strip. But there's one thing that sparks to mind, based on the first strip in the archives, helpfully recreated below (click on the thumbnail for full size, as always):

Okay. This is it. THIS IS AN OFFICIAL MORATORIUM BEING CALLED! I am calling it on the basis of the fact that I have a lot of ego and a website, and can you contest either of those facts? No you can't. So do this.

From this date forward, no webcomics character can be named Ash, unless said character is a non-talking pet. I saw Evil Dead and its sequels too, gang. I loved them too. But you're too. Damn. Late. Misfile beat you. Super Magical Transformer Patty beat you. Hell, Weebl and Bob beat you! And that's not counting the several million references to different anime, the movies, or chicks named Ashley out there.

It's been done. If the girl's name is Ashley, let her friends call her "Ashley," "Shelly," "Ley," or "Bitch." If it's a guy we're talking about, name him Bruce instead. Or Campbell. But not Ash. We'll let you know when you can use it again.

As a side note, my gigantic and powerful friend Frank had a cat named Ash, who was a good cat. He was so named because he was a white haired cat with a single grey smudge on his forehead, so Frank decided he was celebrating Ash Wednesday. If you have a story like that for your character, we'll let it go with a warning.

It's like a Chucky for the twenty-first century!

(From Yirmumah! Click on the thumbnail for full sized (in)action figure!)

Yirmumah! is a strip that still feels Freshman/Sophomorish, like it's finding its voice and its way. And yet, there's this bubbling cauldron of talent under the surface. As it goes forward and refines, it's going to go places.

How do I know? Because of strips like today's. While it's still riding the Metahumor train (it's not easy to do a comic strip about doing the very comic strip you're reading -- one reason why Checkerboard Nightmare's not on my trawl these days) something like a merchandising strip can ride that train for a few stops pretty nicely. And there's just something about a talking doll that drives its owners to a morass of despair and homelessness that's just plain fun.

So, Coffman and McDeavett share themselves a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Yes, they share one between the two of them. Look, I'm not made of biscuits, here.

October 06, 2004

She's getting more and more like her sister every day....

(From Nukees. Click on the thumbnail for full sized agreement!)

I have a confession to make. When I visualize a webcomic I want to create in my head (and, let's be honest, that's as close to me creating another webcomic as I'm going to get), the art style that I've magically become capable of for that webcomic is somewhere between Shaenon Garrity's in Narbonic and Darren Bleuel's in Nukees. And it's likely canted towards Bleuel's. I love pen and ink. I love cross hatching. Yes, I know all the good and fine reasons to use a computer for shading (or coloring), but it's not what brought me to the comic strip dance. Good old straight penwork, using tricks of line to create depth and contrast and texture, is just one of those artistic styles that can have me just floating on air.

Today's strip is a great example. There's some computer assisted tricks here and there (Gav's black vest is a fill, I assume, and I'm not convinced the foliage hatching is all real hatching -- though I might be wrong), but for the most part it's sweat and detail work. The lines of Miss Gee's skirt. The depth of the Flake's entryway. The bar.

It's not the kind of art that wins awards or has thousands of screaming fans begging Bleuel to draw Cecilia wearing nothing but soap suds and an evil gleam in her eye (well, at least I don't think it is), but to me it epitomizes what the four panel comic strip is all about, and that makes me a happy panda.

October 05, 2004

Daily Comics Trawl: The Afternoon List

So, I've been slowly building up more and more "daily comics" to my daily comics trawl. Not a huge number, mind -- it took me a few years to build up the three trawls you've already seen into the unstoppable juggernaut of comics reading I now enjoy. But given that I'm being exposed to a lot more comics now than before (I have a robust correspondence life, now), strips are being added at a good clip.

So, we have a whole new trawl. And, since we're desperately late in snarking today, we might as well show what's currently in that trawl, to give some good meaty... um... goodness. With one strip you've seen, I would add -- I've moved American Elf from the Day trawl to this new Afternoon Trawl. Once again, these are (in no particular order) the Safari Tabs that pop up when I click the bookmark bar item. Enjoy!

  • Ascent, by Sylvan Migdal. I got into Migdal's work with Mnemesis, a fantastic Graphic Smash strip about lifestyle after death, more or less. I migrated from there to Ascent, which is something of a fantasy and something of... um... not. Ascent is funky and fresh and a lot of fun, and has something to say about magic and attitude. It's also funny without slamming your face with funniness. Also, I seriously love the artwork. Seriously.
  • American Elf, by James Kochalka. Good God. Why on Earth aren't you reading this? A daily weblog in comic strip form, as done by one of the most experimental and artistic sequential artists working today. It takes several strips to get into its rhythm, but after you manage it, its simple beauty and statements about life will sink into your skull. Also, it has a talking dog.
  • Basil Flint, P.I., by John Troutman. There's an unusual number of detective and noiresque webcomics out there. Enough that it seems like the major comic book companies are missing out on a nice sized chunk of change by not providing a detective outlet. Troutman does the form very nicely indeed with Basil Flint. his characters are flawed, which good Noiresque characters should be. They're also often hysterical. It's a good combination. Though to be honest, I miss the hat.
  • Daily Dinosaur Comics, by Ryan North. Once upon a time, there was a cult director named David Lynch who a lot of people liked a great deal. And, because he wanted to write a comic strip, he decided to do so. He named the strip "The Angriest Dog in the World," and in that strip he literally one-upped talking heads comics -- he used exactly the same artwork every day, with just different dialogue. It was a clever idea, but quickly grew tired because the dialogue wasn't nearly as clever. Well, enter Ryan North. Daily Dinosaur Comics exists under the same principle -- North clearly used clip art of dinosaurs to put together six panels of cartoon art, and then redialogued it every day. The difference, however, is that North has a tremendously mighty sense of humor, and the strips deal with philosophy and ethos and good clean fun, with occasional continuity thrown in as a kind of kosher salt. North acknowledges "Angriest Dog in the World," up to actually incorporating the entirety of "Angriest Dog" into "Daily Dinosaur Comics's" backstory. Which must be some kind of first.
  • Digger, by Ursula Vernon. One of several reasons Graphic Smash deserves your money, Digger is an absolute gem. It blows me away with its artwork, its pacing, its execution, its humor, and its lead character, a semianthropamorphic wombat (she looks more like a wombat perched up on its hind legs than a woman with furr) named Digger, who has found herself wandering a foreign land despite her best wishes. Digger is one of my absolute favorites these days. You should all read it, and then send Vernon coupons for free day spas and fresh baked whole grain bread.
  • Felicity Flint, Agent of H.A.R.M., by John Troutman. My second Troutman on this list (I also read Vigilante, Ho!, which he writes, but it's not on a daily trawl just yet), and the newest addition to this list. I just started reading Felicity, which had been on Graphic Smash but now is on Keenspot alongside Basil. It's been restarted from the beginning, so there's just a few strips to get caught up on. So this is an excellent time to start reading, don't you think? You do! Excellent. It hits me the same way Basil does, and that's nice.
  • Freefall, by Mark Stanley. A good old fashioned gag-a-day strip, with clean artwork that puts me in mind of Crockett Johnson and a geniality that often is lacking in webcomics. All that disguises the fact that this science fiction strip (the lead characters are an alien squid man in an encounter suit, an anthropomorphic uplifted "Bowman's Wolf," and a robot) is actual hard science fiction. Honestly. It works. It all works. It's astounding. So, it's a strip that kids will love because it's funny and cartoony, adult non-SF fans will love because it's funny and intelligent, and SF fans will love because it's funny and accurate. And all of the above will find themselves learning without ever realizing it -- in part because it's not trying to teach. It's just being accurate. Glee!
  • Home Run, by Andrew Lin. A somewhat minimalist comic strip (the art puts me in mind of Jim's Journal, though with a Jules Fiefferesque feel to the characters), Home Run just feels nice. Part of it is the minimalism -- you need very little to embrace the characters and situations. This is one of those comics that, no matter how much or how little you know about what has come before, you can jump right in and start snickering. Also, there's Alton Brown jokes. Alton Brown fans have to stick together.
  • Nahast: Lands of Strife, by Alejandro Melchor. One of the best paced pure adventure strips on the web, Nahast balances story with pacing almost perfectly. Action and a sense of dynamic tension pervades every strip, whether there's violence going on or not. Melchor would have been at home drawing a weekly page for a newspaper Sunday Comics section in the thirties, and that's a very, very good thing.
  • Narbonic, by Shaenon Garrity. If you people haven't figured out I've fallen hard for Narbonic, you're just not paying attention. The absolute best strip I've started reading this year, and one of the best strips I've ever read, Narbonic is hysterically funny, bringing Mad Science and humor together into a perfect blend, with a soup-son of Story to tie it all together and drive the plot forward. Garrity is a true student of the art form, and she lets that show. This is damn good, and you should read it. Or you'll be doomed! DOOMED!
  • No Stereotypes, by Amber "Glych" Greenlee. The strip that got me to give money to Modern Tales. Amber Greenlee has an artistic sense just about perfect for the web. She's the only artist I've seen who could bring the concept of decompression into her strip on a regular basis and do it well. The panel by panel movement and dance between the characters in the strips enchants us, where most people would have us going insane wanting something to happen. Something is happening here, and I want to see it through.
  • Penny and Aggie, by T. Campbell and Gisele Lagace. Marking a return to cartooning by Lagace, who was the celebrated creator of Cool Cat Studio, Penny and Aggie was a strip I took on faith -- slow starting, but I was sure this team would make it worth my while. And we've reached a point where my faith is being rewarded. Between realistic characters (they feel like teenaged girls) and honest situations, this is a coming of age story crossed with a romance comic crossed with a twenty-first century's dose of cynical humor. I'm grooving on it.
  • Questionable Content, by J. Jacques. Let's get one thing straight right out of the gate. This strip owes a lot to Bobbins and Scary Go Round, by John Allison. We know it. Jacques has acknowledged it. The humor, the dialogue, and on one level the character design (though QC's art is distinct from Allison's Modisms) have been informed by the good people of East Tackleford. Fine. That doesn't change the fact that this situation comedy is hysterical, with good relationships interweaving between the characters, interesting tensions (including a dual romantic and sexual tension between Marten and Faye that's richer than either tension would be on their own), and a willingness to go highbrow or lowbrow as Jacques feels. As long as Jacques keeps drawing them, I'll keep reading them.
  • Rip and Teri, by T. Campbell and John Waltrip. One part James Bond adventure, one part X-Files, one part romance, shaken together with a Sixties Adventure Strip feel to the art and a real sense of danger -- this is the rare adventure strip where I feel like all bets are off, Teri might lose an arm in the next episode, and Rip's probably not going to make it no matter how hard he tries -- combines to make an honest thrill ride in a webcomic. How Campbell can do this, Fans, Penny and Aggie and Christ knows how many other strips, keeping their distinctive styles and voices in his head, is beyond me. That he can go on to edit Graphic Smash means he doesn't sleep and is some kind of robot. Well, shine on you crazy machine.
  • Todd and Penguin, by David Wright. This is a simple, sweet comic strip that I really enjoy. Todd might be worn out by his life, but he's not truly cynical. Penguin is an honest innocent. Hijinks, as they say, ensue. Wright admits to being strongly influenced by Calvin and Hobbes, and that's clearly true... but to be honest, I think I like this better. Calvin was a little self centered bastard, pretty much all of the time. Penguin, on the other hand, has Calvin's imagination but also seems to really love other people. It's a nice balm from the rougher kinds of humor I dive into on a daily basis, and I'm always glad to see the next strip.

October 04, 2004

See? Layered storytelling. This is why he got to marry Jane Pauley and I didn't. Also, I was twelve.

(From Doonesbury. Click on the thumbnail for full sized life moving on!)

There's an awful lot layered in today's Doonesbury. On the one hand, we have a political/topical joke. On the other, we have the resolution of one level of B.D.'s plotline, as he moves out of Walter Reed and over to somewhere else. On the third, we have the tacit subcontext -- the War isn't over, and soldiers are still dying, and our recovery infrastructure is still being taxed. And there's the curious lack of interest in that war on a day to day basis, both on B.D.'s part and through him the American people's.

Also, take a moment and look at the art. Four panels, four perspectives, including one in silhouette -- which gives the whole thing a "dawning light" feel that subtextually sets up the joke in the fourth panel.

This is why Trudeau is the king. This is how to do politics and topicality in a strip and not make the strip an editorial cartoon, right here.

On the other hand, it'd make the Speak and Say toy more interesting....

(From Overboard. Click on the thumbnail for full sized nice doggy!)

I haven't loved the introduction of Raymond and Cecilia to Overboard. At times it seems like a retread of the Charley/Marlene relationship, which ended just before this one began. And at other times it just seems too cumbersome. I mean, at first, Cecilia was intentionally leading the Captain along because she wanted access to his treasure. Now, she seems legitimately interested but Raymond doesn't like him.

And yet, today's strip really made me smile. Go figure.

Wait. Wait. What the Fuck?!

(From Annie. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... wait, what the Fuck?!)

Okay, I know. I just snarked Annie. But... but....

He's a cop. And he's being bitchslapped on the phone for losing an underaged star witness with a head injury, who ran off for no reason, and all he can think is "clever girl?"


Here's a concept for you! "Holy Shit! We have an injured eleven year old runaway who's the key to finding a vigilante murderer out running around! We need State and Federal backup and we need it right now! God, I hope she's not dying of starvation, exposure or blood loss out there!"

Dear God I love this comic strip.

October 03, 2004

Sigh... times are tough.

(From RPG World. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Resolution!)

It's going to be a good time for the end of hiatuses. Next week, the oft-brilliant and terminally pleasant Todd and Penguin's supposed to return from guest month, Questionable Content is due back from guest week, and we've just seen the return after a long while of RPG World.

I've missed RPG World. I like the conceit and premise alike. I like Jim, the guy who plays RPG World. I like the interweaving of what we would now have to call "classic" turn based RPGs with the characterizations. I like Hero. I like Cherry. I like Diane. And I like Ian Jones-Quartey in general.

The return of RPG World hasn't been phenomenal -- he's got a little bit of what the wrestling world calls ring rust -- but it's been solid. And his artwork continues to evolve. There's a little bit of Rowland's (and even Carol Lay's) influence in his facial expressions now, which is kind of cool. And there is actual resolution in this strip. That's a major thing. Though it also implies that either someone's going to horribly die (hey, I played Final Fantasy VII) or that we're beginning the endgame of RPGWorld. (Though of course, Blacksoft will hopefully put out a sequel....)

Either way, it's fun to watch Hero's strategic ineptitude and Cherry's slightly embarrassed smile once more.

(And next week? Todd and Penguin!)

October 02, 2004

The idea is to tease people, not piss them off.

So, I read a recommendation for Lottie vs. the Dead, over in a forum post on Comixpedia. And the description sounded appealing -- it's Superhero Satire, which is a form I know well. (I've, frighteningly enough, written just shy of a million words of Superhero Satire in my time.) It features a cynical heroine. And the guy recommending it says he likes it. It's on Wirepop, which is Yet Another Subscription Webcomics Site, but they boast having a robust free preview. So I go.


I can see today's entry free, a la Modern Tales, though it doesn't exactly pull me in. And checking out the "free preview," I discover it's the first episode of the first chapter.

The first episode of the first chapter is nothing but a relatively boring, utterly cliche Zombie Attack.

I look to the gallery, to see if I'll at least think the art fits the whole "superhero parody" genre well. Only the Gallery is subscriber only.

The gallery is subscriber only!!!!!

Okay guys. Marketing 101 for you. If you're going to give away a freebie, make sure it includes enough hooks into your series to make people want to read more. Absolutely make sure it actually involves your main series. And gallery artwork? Gallery artwork isn't a premium bonus. It's an advertisement. There's a good number of people out there who won't plunk down even three bucks a month on a superhero story without knowing if there are hot babes. There are others who won't commit without some sense of artistic style. And as for me? I'm not going to commit without having some concept of what kind of story you're telling.

(Yes, this means I think Modern Tales needs to remarket too -- but at least with Modern Tales, things like Gallery pages aren't locked away.)

As for me? I have no idea if Lottie vs. the Dead is worth my time right now, and I'm not that interested in finding out. And that is not good for Wirepop.

Want to get me interested? Give me a six page Lottie story. Just enough to let me know a bit about her and a bit about what I can expect. And for Christ's sake, if you're going to rip off George Romaro, figure out what made George Romaro work, first.

You realize, if Frank Cho had drawn this, Erwin would be reacting to a statuesque brunette with large breasts, right?

(From User Friendly. Click on the thumbnail for full sized premature fragging.)

I give User Friendly a certain amount of crap. I think Illiad does a little too much coasting and a little too little resolution for my tastes. However, I keep reading it, and days like today are why. This is downright hysterical. The reason is what I call execution, but might also be called timing.

We have setup in panel one. We have a Chekhov's Law of Flamethrowers in panel two (Chekhov's Law of Flamethrowers states that if an flamethrower with an automatic firing mechanism is put on the fireplace's mantle in panel two, that flamethrower's automatic firing mechanism must go off by panel three. Chekhov was very specific in his laws.) We have the two coming together in panel three. There is also implied violence. There is geek humor, yet the strip doesn't rely on the geek humor to bring the Funny.

Good, good strip, and part of a good arc. Life is good, damn it.

Okay. Aeire is smarter than I am. And cooler. Smarter and cooler. Yay!

(From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail for full sized lack of epic!)

I've expressed some concern that Queen of Wands was about to go into another extended flashback, where Angela -- the last almost always unremittingly fun character -- would expose some trauma in her past. I've expressed some concern that QoW was on the brink of the dreaded First and Ten Syndrome that folks can read the Lexicon to learn more about. I've expressed some concern that, while I dearly love Queen of Wands and there was no chance I'd drop it soon, I would soon be in deep frustration-land.

For the record? Not only didn't any of the above happen? Aeire just kicked my ass. She just kicked it to the fucking curb. Aeire just proved that she is vastly, vastly cooler than I am, and what's more she got my Force Commander and Oberon matched pair from my room, assembled the two together into centaur mode, and then set it on fire while I watched, just because she could.

"Geez, Kestrel -- not everything has to be an epic story. Sometimes, shit just happens."

Not only did this completely torpedo the expectations I had -- in a bright and cheerful and most all life affirming way, I would add -- but it completely recasts the multiple layer (and often very depressing) flashback sequences that Kestrel herself underwent earlier in the series. This becomes a defining moment for Queen of Wands and for Kestrel's own character development; not only does that mean that QoW isn't about to go all First and Ten on us... it means that it was never in danger of it in the first place.

This was a cute strip, if you're not a regular reader. If you are a regular reader, it seems subtle, and then suddenly goes off like a firecracker in your brain. This is what the whole series is about, right here! Kestrel is learning. She had to learn first off that it was all right to start looking out for herself and her own needs instead of simply living for her friends. Kestrel isn't at the end of her lightning bolt path journey just yet, but she's made a major turn on it, even if she doesn't realize it.

Aeire? So gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

October 01, 2004

Checking in on the batshit crazy world Annie lives in...

(From Annie! Click on the thumbnail for full sized hobo lifestyle!)
When last we left little Annie Warbucks, it was believed by Daddy Warbucks and her faithful traveling companion Amelia Santiago that Annie died when her jet crashed into a lake. However, the brain damaged, amnesiac, fevered child was stolen away by a lunatic who thinks he's a two-fisted vigilante named the Phantom Commando. Hiding Annie from all search parties, the Phantom Commando systemically brainwashed and abused Annie until she too believed she was the plucky sidekick he had always known would come to his Commando's Cave, and the Junior Commando was born. ("DEATH TO SPIES! DEATH TO SPIES!")

Well, after the Phantom Commando shot several people dead (including at least one who apparently was a spy), the police discovered the existence of the Junior Commando when they found the too-small pair of boots the Phantom Commando was making his sidekick wear. After staking out a comic book shop, they gave chase to the motorcycle driving Commando. During the chase, the motorcycle's sidecar came loose and Annie plunged off a cliff and slammed into a tree. As with all extraordinarily deadly looking skull traumas involving amnesia victims, Annie's memory was restored (though she apparently doesn't remember the Phantom Commando). She was then placed in a hospital awaiting her treatment.

However... for no reason at all, Annie immediately took a hating to all the police and the social worker who came to talk to her, giving them a false name and sneaking out as soon as possible, thus leading to a county-wide manhunt for the child. She stole clothes from a line and tried to call Daddy Warbucks, but all the payphones she found were broken. So now she's hopping a freight train to get her out of the county....

Does anyone have any idea how fucked up this is? I mean... I keep waiting for her to take up smoking and mescaline and eventually writing for Rolling Stone.


(From The Suburban Jungle. Click on the thumbnail for full sized take to the camera!)

John Robey is good at many things. I've said positive things about him before. And you know I love to be longwinded about why something works.

Well, this strip works. Because Robey is truly great at bringing the suddenly absurd in, and then moving it right back out, leaving the characters just a little stunned.

For the second time in two weeks, Robey gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

September 30, 2004

My friend Matt refers to taking control of a situation as "picking up the shotgun." Does that apply in high fantasy?

(From Nahast. Click on the thumbnail for full sized getting serious!)

You haven't seen many pure adventure strips on Websnark. That's not because I don't like them, but because they're hard to do. It's hard to balance the needs of the individual strip's execution with the needs of the overall story's pacing with little to no Funny to balance the Story. Adventure strips typically need a lot of action to keep them moving, too. Not necessarily violence, but dynamic motion. It's rare to get all that right. But then, Nahast is rare in many ways.

Alejandro Melchor is a friend of mine, I should disclose. He's an RPG developer, same as I am, which is where I know him from. He's done a ton of work for Mongoose Publishing. He's very, very good at it. And when he put together Nahast, it was an idea of both synthesizing an adventure webcomic and a d20 RPG world at the same time. These aren't necessarily complimentary goals, but he made the right choice in the beginning -- focus on the story, and let the mechanics follow if they can, or fudge them if they can't.

The story is very good, because Melchor paces it well. More to the point, his execution is nearly flawless. Something happens in each strip, whether it's an action or a bit of exposition, so that there's always a sense of movement. That builds momentum and excitement. You want to know what happens next, but you don't have to reread six or seven strips in a row to grok what's going on.

Pacing and execution -- an excellent trait in a role playing game. An even better trait in a webcomic.

Good, good soup.

Mmm. New York City post-death. Think of the music scene, man.

mnemesis.jpgFrom Mnemesis.

A month's worth of Graphic Smash is $2.95. Some people figure it's not a good investment -- I mean, how will they know they'll like enough of Graphic Smash to actually justify three bucks? Maybe there's a strip or two that looks intriguing, but how will they know? (This, by the way, is one advantage PV Comics has -- they have lots of free preview stuff on their site.)

Well. Here's my answer to that. For $2.95, you can read the entire 84 page run of Mnemesis, beginning to end. And that's worth a lot more than three bucks all by itself.

Mnemesis is an entry into Magical Realism taken to the next level. In the afterlife, everyone simply is, and things are what you will them to be. Rather than becoming a power-trip, however, Mnemesis uses that as the springboard for a couple of newly dead people coming together and trying to remember their lives and how they died -- seems that amnesia comes hand-in-hand with death, at least at the beginning.

I won't spoil the series. I will say it went in directions I didn't expect, and employed very sophisticated storytelling without ever forcing 'sophistication' down your throat. Sylvan Migdal (the creator of the currently running Ascent, which I briefly mentioned a couple of days ago as "good soup") paces this story almost perfectly, and his artistic style is perfect for what he was trying to say.

I liked this webcomic immeasurably. I hope Migdal returns to his own particular afterlife someday to tell us more stories. I'll enjoy Ascent in the meantime, of course.

And you? You (more than likely) have Mnemesis ahead of your reading pleasure. And for that, I'm jealous.

September 29, 2004

It's rough when your subconscious sets you up as a straw man....

(From Penny and Aggie. Click on the thumbnail for full sized realizations!)


I knew I just needed faith, and I'd start to full on groove on Penny and Aggie. I like the subject matter in potential. And, if it's not L'Agencie VADO, neither is it trying to be L'Agencie VADO. Today? The character just clicked for me.

I don't know yet if this series is really trying to bring the Funny or the Story, per se, but it started vibing on Cool Cat Studio's vibe today, and that's a very good place for it to be.

Man, I have a whole new Trawl I need to detail for you guys, don't I?

Do you suppose Jeff Darlington wishes I'd just "you had me and you lost me" GPF and be done with it? Alternately, do you suppose he even knows I exist?

(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnail for full sized ENORMOUS SHOES!)

So. We're still on a Nick and Ki storyline with GPF, which means I still don't much care. Only there's more to it, and it kind of crystalized for me while reading today's strip. Or more to the point, looking at today's strip.

I should point out for the record: I liked the Fooker plot that came before this one. And I'm hopeful that there's Fooker, Sharon and/or Dexter goodness to come. This is why I'm still here. But while we're treading water through the "Nick and Ki enact the transparent sitcom plot" storyline, I've been trying to analyze just why this doesn't just bore me, but actively bothers me. And then it hit me.

Darlington made a play for the Cerebus Syndrome. But when it failed, it didn't devolve into First and Ten Syndrome. It went somewhere else. I need a new crappy pop culture reference.

(You can pause for a moment, and check the Lexicon for definitions of "Cerebus Syndrome" and "First and Ten Syndrome." This will also give those who hate these terms a chance to do some deep breathing exercises, then decide they still hate them. I might not be responsive to criticism, but at least I'm willing to give a moment to let it fester. All set? Cool. Carry on.)

The incumbent danger of failing at Cerebus Syndrome is, rather that developing your formerly Funny-based strip into a delicately nuanced and sophisticated Story-based strip, you end up making it cheap pathos because cheap pathos is easier than maintaining the Funny -- which we call First and Ten Syndrome. (Despite my continued love of Queen of Wands, QoW is the strip most in danger of First and Ten Syndrome these days. You don't know how much I dreaded seeing we were going into another flashback sequence, this time from the last character who's designed more to be fun than unhappy left. But hope springs eternal.) And GPF certainly took a shot at Cerebus Syndrome. A very palpable shot. The extended news posts and FAQ entries during Surreptitious Machinations insisting that the Funny would return, he swore, just give it some time was testament to that.

Well, Darlington didn't pull it off. He didn't reach Cerebus Syndrome. Which is fine. Most people don't when they try it. Only you can't call him in First and Ten, either. He doesn't throw in cheap pathos to avoid trying for the Funny. But what he has reached doesn't work, and today's strip really epitomizes why.

On the surface, it's an innocuous enough strip. Oh, sure, my Idealized Geek Girl senses start tingling when we discover that the easily-mistaken-for-a-supermodel-unix-hacker-gamer-grrl Ki is also an expert golfer, but what the hey. Golf is moderately esoteric for the geek population (Gabe notwithstanding), so that could be chalked up as interesting character development. Or, you know, uninteresting character development. You milage may vary. And yes, we have the continually scowling father figure there, to provide us with "chances for big comedy," because God knows this whole "oppressive father makes his daughter's life a living Hell" schtick is Big Funny. And then we have Nick. Seen full figure, next to the other two.

With his enormous pontoon boat feet.

And it hits me. Nick looks ridiculous drawn next to Ki and her father here. Not disjointed, not funny in an intentional way. Ridiculous. He looks like he's a theme park employee wearing the cartoonish "Nick" suit out on the golf course with a couple of tourists. And he absolutely epitomizes the problems I have with GPF in that single panel. Nick is a cartoon character, born of a cartoonish tradition. But Darlington has been introducing more and more characters -- by his own admission -- born of a cartoon take on the superheroic tradition. Some of his characters, like Ki, have undergone some physical evolution to meet the changes. But Nick hasn't, and he looks goofy next to the more realistic Ki and her father.

And we can move this from the practical to the conceptual. Darlington is still trying to hit that Cerebus Syndrome -- he still wants there to be the serious Story and the increasingly complicated and nuanced characterizations. But he's also wanting there to be the simpler gag-a-day Funny. That comes out most cleanly when we deal with characters we either had on hiatus for a while -- like Fooker -- or more recent creations -- like Sharon and Dexter. When we take the older, more gag-a-day-born characters without complicated personalities -- Ki, Nick, the slime molds, Dwayne -- and toss them into these environments, the result is disjunction. You don't know what to expect. You don't know how to feel when you read it. Is this Story, or is this Funny? How can we tell.

I think this sequence is supposed to be bringing the Funny. But it doesn't come across. It's Ki and Nick and there's tension, so we think "ooo! Story!" And so we step away from Funny expectations. Minus those expectations, Ki's father isn't humorous or endearing, he's an actively spiteful character with no redeeming features whatsoever. And, as a result, I don't expect there to be any consequences from what's happening. If he absolutely forbids Ki to go out with or marry Nick, I expect Ki to tell him to go take a flying leap. If Nick decides that he can't marry Ki without her tyrannical father's permission, then Ki needs to dump him. But I don't expect that to happen. Hell -- Ki's mother jokingly asked if the pair had already eloped. If Ki's father forbids the marriage, that's clearly what they're going to do. There's no way I can foresee that the pair will come out of this except together. So there's no dramatic tension here at all.

So. This is clearly all supposed to be Funny. But he's using the more realistic models, and his pacing and execution are Story-oriented, not Funny-oriented, so we aren't embracing it as humor. And smack in the middle of all of it we have Yoshi (another "not my favorite character" though I enjoyed his interaction with Trudy, and think there is possibility there) actually apparently pushing the Story along....

There's a phrase I've stolen from Robert Reed, before. It's clearly entering the Lexicon, because it describes this to a tee: this is Batman in the M*A*S*H Operating Room. Batman, the goofy and silly and camp 60's version, could not work with his style of humor and storytelling on M*A*S*H, which used a blend of satire and realism (well, for the time period) to tell its story. If they showed up together, one or the other would have to break or the viewer simply would not accept the result.

Nick, with his clown feet and simple sketching and lack of sophisticated motivation, does not work next to Ki's father, with his more realistic design and serious demeanor and more sophisticated motivation. The slime molds and Dwayne's simplistic solutions and Trent's $1.98 "Evil" personality don't work next to nuanced relationship humor or Mercedes de la Croix's motivations or the weirdass evil twin thing going on with whatsername or....

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Darlington should have ended GPF with the end of Surreptitious Machinations and started a new strip with his new modified cast. He should have either left Nick and Ki, now united, there and brought them back only after a hiatus where they could simmer and mature the way Fooker did, or not brought them back except for guest shots. As it is, he's trying to blend his first year's expectations and motivations with his fifth year's (true -- GPF turns 6 on November 2), and it's just not working for me.

Well, sooner or later we'll get out of this and hopefully back to the interesting characters. I just need patience. Maybe this needs to go back onto the "Sporadically Checked" list. Maybe.

September 28, 2004

All right, I sort of lied. But this entry is crap, so there.

For the record? Ascent seems to be pretty good soup.

And I know a thing or two about soup.

September 27, 2004

Well, damn.

I'm not going to put a thumbnail up for this evening's Something Positive. If you want to see it, go read it.

You want to see it, I'd add.

If you think the strip lacks heart, you want to see it.

If you want to see a strip that brings daily Funny not bring any Funny at all and get no complaint from me, go see it.

Milholland gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Do you remember when blue screens were blue instead of green? Is it because of the whole Blue Screen of Death thing from Windows or what?

(From Real Life Comics. Click on the thumbnail for full sized green screening!)

So a few days back, I get e-mail from my friend Sean. Sean's a damn good writer (he's done a significant amount of work for an RPG company featuring albino canines who lack domestication) and a cool guy, so I like to get mail from him. And he brought up the last several strips of Real Life Comics in said mail, because... well, because.

To be honest, it was a sequence I was torn about. On the one side, we had metahumor -- the whole Cartoonist as character thing, with a side order of "our characters are really just actors though they're just like their characters in real life," which frankly isn't my favorite narrative device. On the other -- and this is the part that Sean brought up -- the artwork has been gorgeous. It's more than just a parody with scanned in backgrounds to ape the whole Sky Captain thing. He's selected a perfect color palette and saturation level to match the remarkable cinematography on the movie, and then added in just the right amount of gaussian blur (yeah, I know some Photoshop. Why?) to make the whole thing just work. This was definitely a sequence of strips where the behind the scenes work was much more labor intensive than the actual drawing of the strip.

Today's strip goes back to the metacartoonist thing, but oh well. Go back through the last several days and just revel in the artwork. And for those of your playing along at home, this was a whole sequence that just couldn't work on a newspaper page, period. (For one thing, newspapers don't print at a high enough LPI to make gradations this subtle work at all.) Dean deserves major props for even trying this, and he deserves a cookie for making it work.

(No, no biscuit. Metahumor needs to bring a lot higher degree of Funny before someone gets a biscuit from me!)

September 26, 2004

Breaking an unwritten rule, for your snarkreading pleasure

(From Freefall. Click on the thumbnail for full sized shiny, shiny button.)

You know, I don't have many rules for Websnark. Try to get something written. Credit the sources for the stuff I'm talking about. Try not to suck.

And don't snark about the same site two days in a row. Heck, I prefer to have many days between snarks on a given webcomic. Sometimes, I fail at that, but I still try. You're going to get sick of me talking about stuff if I don't shake it up, and I don't want to pull from peoples' archives too often. You're supposed to go to their sites.

And I sure as Hell don't snark the same site twice in a row. That's just silly.

Well, I started reading Freefall today, on a recommendation. I posted a snark when I laughed hard enough to piss my cat off. She was sleeping sprawled across my chest at the time, you see. Yeah, it was pretty damn cute. That's not important there. And I kept going.

This shouldn't be as good as it is, damn it. It's got a pile of cliches in it. Plus a furry. And a cheerful robot. Except it transcends cliche. It has a purity to it. The characters are what they say they are. The art is clean and pleasant. And there is daily Funny. Good daily Funny.

That's not enough to get a second Snark in a row. I mean, Jesus. This is the unwritten law we're talking about! I have some standards! I HAVE SOME STANDARDS!

And then it hit me. Like a gunshot. Only without the bleeding or gangrene.

This strip is hard science fiction.

Let me say that again.

This strip, despite having a wolf-girl, robots conditioned to shout DOGGIE, squid-con men in encounter suits and homicidal computers, is hard science fiction.

The last sequence of strips, which spanned from October 13 of last year until the current strip, has covered the group getting their first mission -- launching into orbit to deploy 20 satellites. They went through launch window. They underwent magnetic acceleration and multiple stages, using air as propellent until they were too high, then water as reaction mass, then magnetic scoops to pull in iron particles. They then had to deal with Sam learning how to maneuver in microgravity (so-called). And filter changes on the air recycling system. And dealing with problems in the cargo bay, requiring cycling into EVA suits. And rechecking everything because of the danger of incipient death!

I'm an SF fan. I've been an SF fan for... well, ever. I'd be a card carrying member of the Heinlein Society if those cheap bastards sent out cards, but they don't so I have to be a dues paying member instead. I love hard SF. I love reading extended ballistics lessons in the middle of novels featuring attractive red haired supergenius women who love octogenarian men. I love the philosophical dimension to Asimov's robot stories. I. Am. A. Geek.

Freefall nails that love. And yet, there is Funny brought every day. Every damn day! The strip proves you don't need to have bikini babes, lightsabre jokes or artificial gravity to have a funny strip that pulls you in. Mark Stanley (if that is the cartoonist -- not only doesn't he have a Cast Page, he doesn't even have his fucking name on the site anywhere I could find. The copyright notice on the cartoons reads Stanley and a "Mark Stanley" moderates the Freefall forum. So no, this strip isn't perfect, damn it) has easy to follow characters, good humor, and hard SF, all on the same.

So damn the unwritten law. You get two. So there.

You know, I keep thinking I have a sophisticated sense of humor. And then someone says the words "spider monkey" and I start giggling....

(From Freefall. Click on the thumbnail for full sized computer reports.)
I'm new to Freefall. It has a certain clarity I'm enjoying. It is what it is, and the gagaday works nicely.

Then, trawling the archives, I hit this strip.

I frightened my cat I was laughing so hard.

Just, you know, for the record.

September 25, 2004

Maybe next we can have Gerald Fordmire walk through and trip. That's always a laugh-riot.

(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... puppies. You have to be kidding me...)

There are very few political figures who retain their comedic value over time. David Letterman and Jay Leno have done their level best to keep the Clinton Joke at the forefront of American Consciousness, but it's more a measure of how dominant a public figure Clinton was that it remains even somewhat effective. I can't imagine we'll still be telling George W. Bush jokes four years after he leaves office, any more than we told George H.W. Bush jokes after he left office. (Dana Carvey's an exception, based wholly on the fact that he had nothing else going for him. Sort of like Richard Belzer telling Reagan jokes until deep into the Clinton Presidency).

Still, seeing this particular Clinton trope dragged out again just seems kind of sad. Maybe it's because we yearn for the days when Clinton's sex life was the biggest national tragedy we had to deal with. Or maybe it's because on the whole, the Clinton years were generally happier ones for pretty much everyone. But it just seems like time to retire Clinton's number and move on.

I mean, to get into serious long-term Presidential sex-jokes, you should really go back to Kennedy. Go retro, man.

September 24, 2004

A brief note

Still not feeling good, and I ran out of Digger to reread, so I read Rip & Teri instead.

T. Campbell is more than the hardest working writer in Webcomics. He's an absolute expert at pacing. And Waltrip is phenomenal at superspy action.

That's all. I'm going to close my eyes for a bit.

How does one say 'payback's a bitch' in properly nuanced British Stockbroker's dialect?

(From Alex. Click on the thumbnail for full sized performance anxiety!)

It might seem unfair to the casual Alex reader that Clive is making Alex's life such Hell. But not to me. I'm enjoying every teeth gnashing moment of it. I've always liked Clive, who can best be described as 'hapless,' and who tries his best to be as underhanded and nasty as Alex is but just fails. He always fails. He is failure given form. There will come a day when Clive loses his position as Head of Department and ends up back at the bottom of the totem pole. I am as confident of this as I am of anything in this cold, hard world of ours.

At the same time, Alex has this coming to him. After Megabank fired both Clive and Alex in the post-dotcom bust purging of their stockbrokers, they both ended up at loose ends. Alex recovered first, taking a job with Mr. Hardcastle -- one of the core clients Alex had at Megabank, putting Alex in a position to make Rupert and the rest of Megabank's executives miserable. And because Alex is a decent chap, he found a place for Clive....

...that place was as Alex's chauffeur. And Alex treated him miserably. Far far worse than Clive is treating Alex now. After all, making the workers dance for their bonuses is an ancient perk of the Head of Department in the City. This is just some well deserved grilling that Clive is indulging in.

Of course, Clive will fail. Be certain of this fact. And Alex will rise to the top of the materialistic heap. He always does. For a while, anyway.

And he's swung, Tom... he's connected... it's going... going... yes! It's a CLICHE!

(From Kevin and Kell. Click on the thumbnail for full sized 'shocker!')

Every so often, even the very best of webcomics can fall into the Mister Belvedere trap. You know the Mister Belvedere trap, don't you? No? Then let me explain! The 'hapless father' on Mister Belvedere was played by Bob Ucker, who made his career out of his inability to play professional baseball. Which to me implies I have a career in show business just waiting for me, but I digress. And said father would get himself into wildly implausible situations, and have wildly implausible things happen during those situations, and then Mister Belvedere would save the day with dry British wit and something even more implausible.

Any time a webcomic falls into a contrived circumstance that would make for an episode of Mister Belvedere, minus the dry British wit, you've got Mister Belvedere syndrome. You could as easily call this "Night Court" syndrome or "Hello Larry" syndrome or "Ozzy and Harriet" syndrome or "Happy Days" syndrome.

So, Bob Eucker, to make some extra money, has returned to his roots as a professional wrestler. And he's in trouble in the ring, but he's making a comeback... but under the mask, his opponent... oh my God, it's Mister Belvedere! Oh wait, I mean it's Dan Fielding! No no! It's Lenny and/or Squiggy! No wait, it's....

You get my point. This plotline was kind of weak to begin with. Surprisingly so, given Holbrook's usual finesse and skill in setting situations up. Not too long ago, Rudy found a tape that implied Kevin was once a masked wrestler. Kevin denied it. Then, gosh, Kell lost her job for no reason at all (despite being one of the few people who knows R.L. -- and at this point, most of the upper levels of Herdthinners -- is domesticated, which makes firing her a particularly bad idea since she could tell the world and ruin R.L. But she's decent and kind so she doesn't do this. Kevin returns to his roots as a wrestler, despite being years out of shape (and described as middle aged, though the cast page lists him as in his thirties, which as a person in his thirties himself I take exception to, greying hair be damned!). And now it turns out that his opponent in the ring is R.L., because God only knows that business tycoons moonlight as pro wrestlers in spandex in the real world....

This is just plain silly. And it's beneath the standard we expect from Holbrook, who generally lays the groundwork for "sudden surprise twists" years in advance and touches on them enough so we never feel lost in backstory. It's implausible at best, contrived at worst, and takes the reader completely out of the story.

Also, wouldn't Herdthinners's investors want to devour R.L. now, for embarrassing the company and moonlighting. And losing a televised wrestling match to a Rabbit, I would add?


September 23, 2004

Leaping faith with a ten speed bike...

So I've been thinking about PV Comics. I like subscription models, as you know, because I like paying my way in the world of webcomics. And I've had an interest in PV Comics. If Modern Tales and the other Manley sites are the collective "Alternative Press" of our medium, and Keenspot is the "Mainstream Syndicate" of our medium... then PV Comics is lining up to be the Image Comics -- the upstarts coming in, with more of a rockstar feel than the Manley or Crosby approaches.

And yet, there's a feeling of youth to the strips, too. A Freshman feel, with the potential to grow into massively cool things, but a sense they aren't completely there yet. And unlike the Manleys, it's an up-front committment of $15 for unrestricted access to 18 strips. Nothing at all compared to comic books, but significant compared to, say, My Comics Page, which offers close to 140 strips for twelve bucks a year. Of course, most of MCP's strips are also available (with 30-day archive limits) for free, but that may be a perk instead of a bug.

I dunno. It's hard for me to just pay the cash on faith. Some of the strips -- Amy's Suitcase, for example -- absolutely kick my ass right out the gate. Others, like Yirmumah (which has its archives available right now) are strong Freshman strips, but still very much Freshman -- heavily influenced by the Kevin Smiths of the world, Yirmumah could turn into a hysterical daily read, but it's a hair clunky right now, and that makes it hard to jump into it. Yet another strip -- KU-2 -- really really intrigues me, with distinctive art and a real alternative-art feel to it, but the lead character hasn't grabbed me yet.

Still other strips that I've been able to sample don't interest me at all, though exposure might change that.

And then there's Nephilum.

Guys, I write for In Nomine, by Steve Jackson Games. I love myself the Antedivulian horror. I love myself the angels among us. I own two different translations of the Book of Enoch. I have written about 25,000 words of a home grown RPG based on the Grigori and the Watchers. I should be leaping into any comic called Nephilum with both feet.

Only... well, there's nothing but a prologue available without paying, and I'm not generally hooked by exposition. Especially when it's a variation of exposition I've already written myself, for a very different medium.

There's so much else to see and talk about. Atland could grow into a lot of fun, though it's not yet distinctive. Dewclaw's look and feel is gorgeous, but the flash comics interface leaves me cold (for one thing, it takes me way too long to click click click through things, when I could just scan a page quickly....)

I dunno. I get such a vibe of dynamic flow, of action, of excitement. I get the feeling like if I jump into PVComics now, I'll be at ground zero for something huge....

But it hasn't pulled me in yet. I've got some of its stuff on the "sporadically check" list, but nothing's moved into the daily trawl, and without regularly updating content on some of those strips, they're never going to end up on that list.

One of these paychecks I'll take the plunge, and then we'll see. But until then, I'm on the fence. And I have to wonder about people who aren't nearly as nuts about this stuff as I am -- what would it take for them to take the plunge?

I'm still left with the nagging feeling there's something we're all missing. That there's some magic bullet that will be shot into the hearts of financial difficulty and make it possible for art to flourish in this ultimate medium of distribution.

There has to be a better way.

And today's award for most out of nowhere pun goes to....

(From Home Run. Click on the thumbnail for pun action!)

No whey?

No whey?

This strip is so going into the daily trawl.

Saved by the Bell of Evil: The New Generation

(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the thumbnail for full sized tasty tasty cats!)

It might be because of the "Meanwhile in the Dimension of Pain" strips, but the classic demons from the DoP have... well, grown up. Reakk, Mosp, Isp and Osp, and the rest are a bit more seasoned, a bit more sane than they used to be. I personally enjoy the thought of them ruling over a world of Sheep, and the thought that Canada's the country that's defying them just warms my Northern Maine heart.

But the Dimension of Pain has always been fun. Madcap fun, full of innocence blended with horror in a way that just makes me giggle. That's right. Giggle! And Abrahms has pulled off a very difficult trick in keeping that element alive: he's introduced new characters with all the qualities of the old ones, and he's managed to keep them from sucking.

Tryka and Sweral are great, "old school" Dimension of Pain characters. I like them, I care about them, and they don't feel like interlopers just because they've been added in. They honestly feel like the fuckups among a culture of screwups, but they're still chipper, damn it!

I don't know if they'll end up on McDonald's plate at the end of this plotline (actually, I kind of suspect McDonald's going to be sticking with the Dimension of Grief after this -- I think we're seeing the end of the Dimension of Pain in these strips), but I honestly wouldn't mind seeing Tryka and Sweral accidentally end up on Earth with Torg and become secondary cast members. Of course, if I saw a lot more of the pair, I might think differently.

Also, Tryka's recurring excuse for killing and devouring the other demons' pets makes me laugh. Laugh real laughter. Out of my head.

September 22, 2004

Now this is In Media God Damn Res!

(From The Suburban Jungle. Click on the thumbnail for full sized tension!)

So. Comfort and Dover have been building for this Wedding for a long while. They met all the way back on April 5th of 2000. They got engaged in November of 2001. (Setting the date, I would add, for 2004. Say what you like about Robey -- the man sticks to a plan.) Comfort's mother joked about whether or not Dover would be able to say "I do" by then.

Here we are. And we went from language lessons into the heart of the wedding in one freaking day. Most cartoon strips would do days and days of buildup, of wedding planner jokes, of last minute jitters, of assassins staking out the rooftop of the building opposite the cathedral (okay, that last was unique to Greystone Inn, but still....)

Robey? Robey has exactly one point of tension -- will Dover be able to force his lips to say "I do" without saying it in script form. And so we went from him failing his training straight to the moment. Dive into conflict! Damn the torpedos!

That being said, I kind of hope he fails. Dover is Dover. Comfort knows what she's marrying. If she doesn't want a groom that says 'set Dover.married="yes"' in answer to the question, she should have dated Woody Wolf. And then devoured him. Just like Leona should have. There should be more big cats devouring the people who piss them off, damn it! They're big cats! That's what they do! Meat is meat, damn it! It doesn't have to be antelope if it pisses you--

I lost the point again, didn't I. You really need to speak to me about that.

Anyway -- I really, really like how we jumped straight into this. Set robey.biscuit=2*'tasty'

Misery loves company, and continuity can be Hell.

(From Diesel Sweeties. Click on the thumbnail for full sized shriveled metal.)

R. Stevens does misery well. Clango is miserable because his ex-porn star girlfriend (who truth be told hasn't ever been that concerned about Clango -- when he lost his head and 'died' she moved on pretty fast) kissed someone while drunk. Li'l Sis has been sleeping like crap since she dreamed that she was married to Metal Steve, working at a bowling alley, and had Indy Rock Pete as a son--

Fuck that, now I'm scared.

--anyway, both look like crap now. And are both miserable. I am anticipating the ensuing of hijinks, especially when Maura thinks that everything's fine, and besides she's probably drunk again.

I do love strips that have no need for characters with redeeming qualities.

Man, when Kestral thinks you're nuts, you're officially far gone.

(From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail for full sized askance looks!)

People who've been following my ravings for a while know that I'm a fan of Queen of Wands, but prefer it when it goes for the Funny. These days, I've been perfectly content with the balance, I should add, and today is a prime reason of why I like it.

It's a pretty standard three panel talking heads today, though it highlights the power of Aeire's "lightning bolt path" approach. The path itself is a little more noticeable today (in autumnal colors, no less), and like always it gives her room to grow. She can develop her idea smoothly, taking 85 words to set the joke up and let it fly, where a traditional newspaper comic would have to compress it (and more than likely weaken it).

Anyway, it made me chuckle.

September 21, 2004

Moonlighting Syndrome and the modern webcomic.

(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnail for full sized annoying little brothers.)

I honestly don't know what it is. I enjoyed the whole redux of the Fooker vs. the Brotherhood. I enjoyed Yoshi and Trudy's meeting. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with this plotline. It's lined up to bring the Story while bringing the Funny. It's got hijinks built into it. It has classic situations (though I get so tired of "immigrant parents who get offended when the American doesn't conform to every detail of their culture upon entering" as a riff -- I know it has some reality to it, but to be perfectly blunt my inner ugly American crops up and says in its most snarky voice "you moved here, boychick. We didn't move there. Burden's not on us to learn your ways"), is well drawn, updates on time and is really trying.

And it's a total burden to read. I just don't care about Nick and Ki any more.

I used to. I cared a lot, before they got together. I cared a lot when Trudy was in the mix. I cared a lot when the relationship was just beginning to form. I cared a lot when they finally looked like they were about to seal the deal. I cared a lot when the whole Mr. Pookel thing threatened to sink the deal.

Maybe this is yet another casualty of Surreptitious Machinations for me, but I couldn't possibly care less about either of these people. Give me a Sharon plotline, or another Fooker plotline. Or go check in with Trudy again. Or Dexter. Dexter deserves some long running plots. Any of those would at least keep me interested.

I think it has to be Moonlighting Syndrome. America loved Moonlighting when the sexual tension was thick and the romantic tension was thicker. And then one day it exploded, and David and Maddie humped like rabbits in heat. America rejoiced!

And stopped watching the show. They got to the sex, rolled over and went to sleep, then didn't call the next day. And Moonlighting died.

Nick and Ki haven't had sex, but honestly, so what? The point is they got together. They're involved. Even if Ki's father absolutely refuses to accept Nick, we know that Nick and Ki are going to get married at some point. It's boring.

I rolled over and went to sleep on these two sometime back in 2002. Get them married and get them offscreen, and let the unresolved characters back out to shine.

Oh, and let Trent, Dwayne and those fucking slime molds go with them. They can set up a little office somewhere while Fooker, Sharon and Dexter foil Trudy's new schemes, or something. Every so often, Sharon can phone up Nick and ask him a question or two, whenever Darlington has a yen to draw Nick again.


(From Doonesbury. Click on the thumbnail for full sized sadism!)

I don't have much to say here. Oh, I could bring up how important it is to reinforce the sacrifices our troops have gone through, or the continuing weirdness of seeing B.D. without his helmet, or how weird the rerun this weekend was showing him in the helmet... but that's really not why I'm here.

I just found myself giggling for ten minutes when I read this. That's all.

If we built a time machine and went back in time, would the time machine turn black and white or would we reenact Pleasantville?

(From Calvin and Hobbes. Click on the thumbnail for full sized explanations.)

There are many things Bill Watterson gets credit for, when people talk about Calvin and Hobbes. The sense of imagination. The sense of freedom. The Funny -- oh yeah, Watterson brings the Funny.

But there's one thing that leaps out at me that I really wish more strips would do. It's the deeper lesson than Watterson's (or Breathed's) surreal humor. It's what makes the whole strip hold together. And that's Watterson's willingness to let Calvin be a little kid.

Yeah, he sometimes uses words a kid his age probably wouldn't, but for the most part Calvin has a child's understanding of the world. He believes what he's told, if it fits his childlike world view. And that's very, very cool.

Alice is the strip that's come the closest to echoing this, in my opinion. (Though Alice has sadly dropped onto my "You had me and you lost me" list -- though I haven't looked in on it for a while so maybe I can be pulled back in.)

Also, Watterson was unafraid to make Calvin's father a complete bastard. Seriously. We see redeeming qualities in Calvin's mom from time to time, but Calvin's dad clearly takes what amusement he can from the kid and couldn't care less the rest of the time.

You, madam, are tattooed. In fact, you are extremely tattooed. And tomorrow, I shall be sober.

(From Scary Go Round. Click on the thumbnail for full sized flirty ensemble!)

I love the banter between Tim and Amy. In fact, I love the banter of Scary Go Round in general. It's a strip of gigantic heaving potent banter, throbbing with barely restrained wit and aplomb.

That might be the most suspect sentence I've ever written. You don't get that kind of double-entendre from Comixpedia, kids. Okay, sometimes you get cover art of women having sex with iMacs, but there's nothing double about that entendre. That's some decidedly singular entendre action. But that's off today's point, isn't it?

The thing about Scary Go Round's banter is it's unashamed. Most banter comes across as self-conscious. There's an assumption that somehow it has to have some kind of point, or connect to the strip, somehow. I think this is because so many Americans grew up watching the "banter" on sitcoms. Aside from Seinfeld, which elevated American banter considerably, American sitcoms don't banter so much as they trade clumsy insults and wait for the laugh track. Cleverness isn't encouraged. Sex references are. Do you have any idea how boring sex references become after you hear the fourteenth reference within a single hour?

Er, let's just ignore the double-entendre I opened this entry with, shall we? Thanks.

Allison comes from the British tradition, where banter has a deliciousness all its own. If P.G. Wodehouse were writing webcomics today, he'd toss in banter like this. We used to have a Banter tradition, but I fear it remained in the past with the Algonquin Round Table. I'm reminded of Steve Martin in Roxanne:

"We haven't had any irony here since about, uh, '83, when I was the only
practitioner of it. And I stopped because I was getting tired of being stared
Questionable Content goes for the heavy banter points, but for the most part we're stuck with repartee that claims its banter. You know, like pretty much any exchange between Slick and Monique in Sinfest. It's funny, but it ain't banter.

Shiny on, you crazy Brit. Shine on.

Is it me, or is Artie just in the wrong line of work?

(From Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized partings if you're a subscriber, or click on the link to see today's strip if you're not. And then subscribe.)

And so we come to the end of the road trip. Well, not really. In fact, this isn't an ending at all, because Artie and Dave still need to get back to Narbonic Labs and Dave needs to explain to the rental agency how the truck got trashed and we don't know who the programmer is who's going to "remove" the order-taking compulsion from the Madblood Androids, or what the programmer will actually do to them. (This is assuming the programmer doesn't turn out to be Madblood himself, of course.) The revelation of Zeta's past is left hanging as she moves on, and Dave's jealousy over his brother persists.

And yet, this feels like the plot's end, so we're declaring it the plot's end. All else is denouement.


It means "the events following the climax of a drama or novel in which such a resolution or clarification takes place." According to

Look, I've used the word before. Just try to keep up, okay?

September 19, 2004

So it was a light day. Give me a break. I got drunk and saw many pretty girls. Now, look at the cats.

(From Two Lumps. Click on the thumbnail for full sized shinies.)

So the wedding was nice. It was a beautiful day, the food was fantastic, the bride was radiant and the groom had a sense of humor. Also, there were large bladed weapons and many girls in bodices. I had a small amount of alcohol... but I've also lost over a hundred pounds of mass, so it didn't take much to get me to the point where I was singing "Hit Somebody" by Zevon to my tablemates, all of whom were good friends.

I'm not loving this strip, today. I like Two Lumps very well. You know that. But while the drug strip last time rocked, today's is just kind of 'eh.'

Still, I like the unexpected splash of color at the end. So, some positives after all.

Still dancing for his amusement, after all these years.

(From Men in Hats. Click on the thumbnail for full sized cool breezes!)

A full-on Men in Hats strip needs to have two things: a dramatic assertion of dubious fact, and schadenfreude, This one has both. It's not that Gamal is in tremendous pain, it's that Aram takes such pleasure in the circumstances. Cartoon strips of all stripes are way ahead of the curve when it comes to total heartless bastards.

September 18, 2004

It's been a little while. We're due to look in on Something Positive again. Right? Right?

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized slashfic wrongness!)

Randy Milholland is guilty! Guilty of having built up a sizable cast, that is. He's good at making them distinctive and giving them depth, while still bringing the Funny even when he brings the Story. This is a good thing. I've really loved the evolution of Monette, started as a one-note joke idiot pseudo-Lesbian character and now one of the sweetest, if still stupid, characters, slowly crawling into the light of full evolution. I've liked how he's been gradually doing the same with Mike. If we reach a point where Jesus Mickey becomes a well fleshed out character, I'll be forced to pay Milholland's beer bills for a month.

But the cost of that is the gradual loss of the core relationships -- namely, the friendship between Davan and Aubrey and Peejee. Each has had their own plots, and each has their own supporting casts, which often don't cross over at all (Wednesday White's latest Comixpedia Article touches on webcomics that have the same core cast involved in all things, from saving the world to sleeping with each other to going to movies, and her love of /usr/bin/w00t/ for giving Sarah a life where her coworkers != her romantic interests != her gaming partners. And I agree. And Something Positive has delivered in that department. Every major character (and most minor characters) has developed a supporting cast of their own, plotlines of their own, interests of their own and relationships of their own.

But there is a cost to that. When Aubrey was feeling the pain of Branwen and Davan's soon-to-end relationship, there was something evocative involved... as well as a sense of gulf. Aubrey didn't know what was going on, and she added stress to Davan's life, and it made her pretty old depressed. And we the reader could empathize. It makes sense that Aubrey isn't plugged into Davan's life and moods right now -- there's a lot of other stuff going on in both of their lives. And now, we see Davan and Peejee today, with Peejee being drawn into the play Davan is directing.

There is that sense of gulf, again -- two years ago, Jason and Aubrey and Peejee would have been involved with the Shock Treatment production from the beginning. As with Nailed the extended cast would have been involved in all aspects, there would have been several injuries, and Claire would be both in the play and almost naked by now. Now... it's not a given that Peejee will be involved... but it's nice to see this connection being reopened.

And if you look at the progression, the pacing, and every step Millholland has taken to get from there to here, you won't see any sudden moment of now we are sophisticated. He's let it grow, naturally... and let this reconnection occur just as naturally.

Millholland gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

September 17, 2004

Hey, does J. Jacques pay John Allison royalties? I'm just wondering.

(From Questionable Content. Click on the thumbnail for full sized orifices. Wait, that came out wrong.)

You know. I love this strip. I really do. It pings my Scary Go Round and Bobbins! senses, and that's a hardcore good thing. And Jacques is an expert and balancing the Story he wants to bring with the Funny he always, always brings. And that's good bringing, any way you look at it. I still have some trouble with Faye's lack of contractions -- it seems clumsy, sometimes -- but I can deal.

And if you're going to go to the Moonlighting well, it's best to go way overboard -- not only are Faye and Marten not yet having sex, but pretty much everyone in the strip is demanding that they do. It's the old comedy rule -- you can do a joke once, you can do a joke three times, or you can do a joke a million times, but four is deadly. Jacques is going for the million and to date he's pulling it off.

You know, it's nice to see teenagers act like teenagers in a comic strip

(From Penny and Aggie. Click on the thumbnail for full sized movie star smiles! (subscription required after today))

I got a smile from Penny and Aggie today, which is nice. I'm trying, on this strip. I really am.

I'm trying because I like T. Campbell, and back in the day I was a serious Gisąģle Lagacą© fanboy. I love her expressive, yet clean artwork. And I like Fans! and other projects Campbell has done -- he brings the Story well, and he's brought the Funny before, too.

But I haven't fallen in love with Penny and Aggie yet. I'm hoping to, but it's not there yet.

Maybe it's because I'm shallow. Or maybe it's because I'm secretly yearning for Campbell and Lagacą© to do some more L'Agencie VADO -- I reread that sequence of Cool Cat Studio a couple of days ago, and it was just really, really good -- there was chemistry, and the characters were compelling, and it was funny and it brought the Story in a big way....

I understand if they don't feel the yearn to do more VADO. And I think the art in Penny and Aggie is beautiful, and the pacing of the story is good. And....

And I'm hopeful. Today gave me a smile. It wasn't my first smile for Penny and Aggie. That's a good sign.

Wait. What the Hell does 'Fert' even mean?

(from For Better or For Worse. Click on the thumbnail for full sized ferting!)

Beyond the fact that we're having kind of a fun 'seniors aren't dead yet' sequence in For Better or For Worse, I think I should point out any time one of the more beloved of family friendly strips includes a clear reference to farting on the comics page. Because even substituting an E for the A doesn't change the fact that when a Fart becomes Old, he becomes an Old Fart.

Besides, kids need something to snicker about for twenty minutes.

Because I can't live a lie any more... you deserve... you deserve to know the TRUTH!

I get asked one question that's hard for me to answer, these days.

Oh, I get asked a lot of questions. I'm kind of surprised at how many questions show up, in fact. But there's one that just crops up over and over again. And the most interesting aspect of that question is just how mean spirited it is.

"Hey," it typically opens. "Why don't you snark [Various comic strips]? They really, really suck! It'd be funny to read your snarking about them."

Well, like I've said before, I don't stick with strips I don't like -- especially when I'd be reading them just to get material for insulting them. "Websnark" or not, that's not why we're here. I like the art form too much to denigrate it just for the sake of denigrating it. So no. I won't read [various comic strips] just to insult them. Sorry.

"Oh," they say. "Well, okay -- but why not just mention how hideous the artwork is? That wouldn't take long! And the art on [Various Comic Strips] sucks! I mean, really really sucks! I mean, a retarded vole could do better than this!"

And I answer, in a somewhat small voice, that I never make fun of other peoples' artwork. If I don't like a strip, or don't like the execution of a strip, I'll say so. I'll even try to be funny, and fail. If I really like either the overall art or an artistic choice of a strip, I'll say so. But I won't trash someone's art. I just won't.

"But... why not?" they ask.

The answer is simple. And terrible. And you need to know it.

I don't insult other peoples' art, because I wasn't always just a smartass with a Movable Type installation. Once... for one brief, shining moment, from April 8, 2002 to May 1, 2002, I was a webcartoonist. I was yet another black and white line art strip creator, parked on Keenspace.

And I sucked, really, really hard.

The strip was called Unfettered by Talent. That's right. I was going for ironic -- because I was so bad at drawing, I thought to make that the hook of the strip. The strip starred Deke, who looked like a character out of the old "Sunday Funnies" kid's activity section of the Maine Sunday Telegram (starring Mighty Funny, a super hero with 'mighty funny' written on his shirt, who would always say "that's Mighty Funny!" after a bad joke), Rhoda, who looked like a particularly bad puppet from Mister Rogers's Neighborhood of Make Believe, and the Demiurge, who created them both.

That's right. An avatar for the cartoonist appeared in the strip. In other words... you know how I say using the cartoonist as a character in the strip almost never works? I know from what I speak. I did it. And you know what? Didn't work. Even with Gnostic overtones and a funky font for the speech patterns.

I started the strip for a perfectly valid reason: I wanted to. I always wanted to do it, and it hit me that I could. Oh, I had no illusions about being able to draw, but I had seen -- sometimes many times over -- that a lack of talent or skill was no barrier to putting a comic strip on the web. And besides, the more I did it, the better I would become. Sure, I'd be embarrassed by my first few months' worth of strips, but so were most webcartoonists. I'd get over it.

And I deserve some points for effort. In the four weeks of strips I actually produced I never missed a day (I was a Monday, Wednesday, Friday updater). Sure, that's just twelve strips, but hey -- it's twelve strips. I only resorted to the 'cut and paste panel' tricks for the last two strips, when my time had already been consumed. I did experimentation. I tried to do backgrounds. Even on 'talking heads' strips I would change the camera angle in each panel. I was trying to evolve as an artist, and I was trying to make it at least fun.

A few people read the strip. A couple even still ask me if I'm ever going to update it again. After all, I didn't quit it, per se. See, It was right in this area that I got two larger projects as an RPG writer -- Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures and a supplement for Star Trek: The Role Playing Game that ended up never getting published when Decipher dropped their RPG line. I had a full time day job plus several tens of thousands of words to write that I was being paid for; something had to give.

That something was Unfettered by Talent. And I never went back to it. A forlorn hiatus notice remains on, declaring my overall personal suckiness, and Deke, Deke's unseen but heard cat, Rhoda and the Demiurge lie fallow, waiting for an artistic return that will never come.

So no, I'm not going to mock peoples' artwork. Because I know that even if they can't draw well now, they'll get better. If I had stuck with it, we'd be two years and 366 strips into it. I wouldn't be mistaken for someone who'd learned draftsmanship or taken courses or spent their life drawing, but I'd be competent at the least. And I won't mock someone over something that deep down I know I couldn't do better.

Have I ever considered cartooning since? Yes. A bad stretch of my day job turned into 8 four panel strips called Figurehead Todd, which sit in a sketchbook. The art's even worse in that one, but I felt a lot better. Maybe someday I'll put them up on the Unfettered By Talent site, so that the six people who actually noticed would have something new to look at. But for the most part, the only sign that I was ever a Keenspacer, ever a webcartoonist, ever one of Berkeley Breathed's 'strippers' is a livejournal icon I still use, featuring Deke's head and wearing a goatee, drawn as an icon for strip I contributed to the late, lamented 2002 Shakespeare's Birthday Celebration.

I know... you've seen these strips, and now you can't look at me the same way any more. I've... tainted myself, in your eyes. I understand that. But... I... I couldn't go on like this. I couldn't take the chance that one day you'd be pawing through the attic and come across the scrapbook and see it. If you never want to see me again... I understand.

I'm on the road, even as we speak...

...driving to Ithaca, New York! I have a few short strips and one longer one queued up for your reading pleasure. I hope you enjoy!

September 15, 2004

So, next year on the fifteenth of September, I need to remember to buy flowers for some guy named Jeph? That doesn't seem right, somehow.

(An excerpt from this particular strip of Questionable Content.)

You know how, after a couple of years of being in a committed relationship with a wonderful girl (or your preferred sex for committed relationships -- I'm open minded), she turns to you one day at the Food Court at a mall, sipping a frozen cappacino drink delicately, and says "when is the exact moment you fell in love with me?"

And of course, you have no idea. Or else it's actually the first time you ever had sex, and that's not what she wants to hear. So you think back to the first time you met her, that you remember, and come up with some vaguely plausible moment where she did something asskicking, or might have done but she was drunk so she won't remember, and you says "do you remember, that party at Stan's? You told Mike Davis to shut the fuck up and die. You had fire in your eyes. I knew right then you were it. You were the one. You were the perfect girl. I can't believe you went out with me."

Or something like that.

I don't want that, this time. I want this to be real. So, two years from now, when asked "when did you fall in love with Questionable Content," I will point to this panel. And there? True love.

We need more superheroes with -Man after their name, damn it. Quartzman! Tileman! Pretentiousman!

(From VG Cats. Click on the thumbnail for full sized X-Ray Vision!)

I don't know why, but I have an inordinate love of the Pantsman episodes of VG Cats. It's not just the absurdity of the concept. It's that he absolutely runs with it. If you were a totally crap superhero with a totally crap gimmick, you'd be a little shit stirrer too. Batmobile? Egg that mother! Hall of Justice Reflecting Pool? Make your presence known!

What really nails it is the Superman delivery, though. Superman comes across as that one police officer who no matter what they do knows, in his heart, that things can be talked out. So he's just going to stand there and be reasonable. Of course, he can afford to do that. He can burn them if they won't be reasonable. Burn them with his eyes.

September 14, 2004

Will she do Tate's "Ode to the Confederate Dead" to try and get ten more minutes at bedtime?

(From Ozy and Millie. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Multitudes!)

Every so often, one must confront the essence of living within a poetic lifestyle. Simple truths have complex motivations. The world is never quite as basic as it might appear on the cover. Peanut butter can exist alone or with jelly to add flavor and liquid to the peanuty goodness. And as someone whose academic work was actually in American Poetry, I appreciate the Whitman ref. Though I wouldn't mind seeing more of a Robert Lowell thing going on the funny pages. Come on, gang!

I'm not as big an Ozy and Millie fan as I once was. The surreal humor tends to feel forced these days, and there's more and more sense of 'retread,' with less and less magic. Understand, Simpson is one of those artists who really pushes the "Calvin and Hobbes" button in my brain, so seeing the magic slip away is actively painful -- as it was when "Calvin and Hobbes" itself began to feel tired. I'm not a huge fan of the early retirements of the 80's/90's comic superstars (I think Breathed, Watterson and Larson punching out early after being moderately contentious did quite a lot to reinforce the idea that strips like Garfield are safe for syndicates, because their artists aren't so uppity and the revenue stream won't go away when they get tired, and that's just sad), but towards the end of Calvin's run it felt like he was falling into a rut. I've been scared "Ozy and Millie" was heading down that path.

Well, today's strip doesn't reverse that trend, but it certainly pauses it. This to me is what "Ozy and Millie" is all about -- something profound juxtaposed with something mundane. Millie being weird and yet Millie making sense, all at once. The Funny is brought, but makes you think, too.

Say it with me. Simpson gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

You know, "Trading Spaces" is on the Learning Channel. Why? Why? WHY?

(From Wigu. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Learning!)

One of the cool things about Wigu is the references to Rowland's earlier strip, When I Grow Up. Long time readers know the teacher, Miss Jackson, is really just Gina. And that's cool. Very very very cool. And it also means that those kids are being taught lies! Lies from a filthy whore.

Well, it's better than them sitting at home watching Zoe on television. Or watching the Learning Channel. Seriously. What is up with "The Learning Channel?" I mean, at least the History Channel has some history on it.

It it? No... no, it couldn't be... no wait, it is... it's an IRREGULAR WEBCOMIC SNARK! YAY!

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized LEGO archeology!)

I've been trying, desperately, to Snark about Irregular Webcomic for days now. Every time I start an entry, something comes up, and by the time I can get back to it the spark is gone. It's like doing Reader Response in English 101, only without the smell of chalk and sitting next to attractive 19 year old Freshman girls. So it kind of sucks.

But Irregular Webcomic doesn't suck. And it proves a couple of things. First off, you don't need to be able to draw to make a webcomic. Secondly, physicists with coding backgrounds can take overwhelmingly large casts and multiple themes and make them comprehendible through the power of User Interface Design.

David Morgan-Mar is an Australian scientist with a love of role playing games and lego. A longstanding GURPS contributor, his webcomic is based on the idea that he runs many many roleplaying games. The different miniature figures and LEGO creations represent his campaigns. Along the way, he's broadened into surreal areas (I don't think GURPS Crocodile Hunter has come out, for example, and the whole sequence of William Shakespeare as advertising copywriter just came out of nowhere.) Because there are so many different campaigns and ideas he works with (he calls them themes), his "previous strip" bar breaks down by theme -- so you can look at the last strip he did and backtrack, or look at the previous strip in the same theme, or the like. When themes cross over, he puts navigation bits for each of the previous themes on one page. Clearly he spent time on the coding to make it all pretty seamless. Either that, or he's obsessive-compulsive and doing it manually. If I were him, I'd claim the former even if the latter were true. But of course, I'm not him.

It's one of the few comic strips where the cartoonist-as-character schtick works, since Morgan-Mar's self-photos generally represent him-as-gamemaster, which makes sense. It's silly, and funny, and it's amazing how expressive you can get LEGO men. Today's strip (yesterday's really, by the time you read this) is in the Cliffhangers theme, which centers on a family of archeologists in the Jones family named after states (Montana 'Monty' Jones, his father North Dakota Jones, his grandfather Schliemannian Chair of Archaeology Minnesota Jones, and apparently now a Doctor Ginny Smith -- Ginny I assume being short for Virginia) fighting various Nazis and Hitler's brain in a jar. There are also Space themes, Nigerian Finance Ministers raising money through spam, Harry Potter gone horribly wrong, the Crocodile Hunter, hobbit puns, occasional guest strips, and amazingly high production values for photocomics (on the Space strips, for example, Morgan-Mar snaps pictures on his little built LEGO set with a blue screen behind a window, then screens in Hubble space telescope pictures of starscapes. Say what you want -- this is not a lazy comic strip).

This strip brings the Funny in a laid back kind of way. Morgan-Mar does what he does because he likes doing it, period. He's a total geek in a good way, unafraid to let his massive brain for science influence his humor, and yet also unafraid to do a whole sequence of jokes based on lego Death-figures who are given very specific jobs (Death By Insanely Overpowered Fireballs, Death by Being Sat On By A Giant Frog, and so forth). It's good soup, damn it.

September 12, 2004

Kill all the Oompas! Kill them all!

The incomparable Wednesday White made mention of this. Like a madman or a fool I followed the link. Suddenly, I was back rereading Joseph Conrad. Suddenly, Tim Burton was revealed as a sham and a poseur. Suddenly...

But there is no describing it. There is no describing what Stephanie Freese has done. You can only click the thumbnail yourself.

The horror. The horror.

Dis is whut we get today? Chee!

(From Superosity! Click on dis tumnale for full sized hully gee!)

Comics history time, kids. Richard Felton ("R.F.") Outcault created newspaper comics, for all intents and purposes, with Hogan's Alley, featuring the Yellow Kid, first published in Truth Magazine in 1894, then making the jump to Joseph Pulitzer'sThe New York World newspaper (and then other papers) in 1895. He was popular, so William Randolph Hearst lured Outcault away with a big salary and put newspaper cartoons on the map. Cartoons quickly became seen as important commodities for newspapers -- especially the "Yellow Newspapers" known for more sensational news as compared with the more staid, non-tabloid papers. Pulitzer and Hearst both published Yellow Kids comics for a while, and both merchandised the character, proving the market for such things. Consider the impact that had on cartooning through the new century, leading up to today. Outcault eventually returned to Pulitzer, by the way, and created Buster Brown for him.

Clearly, when Chris, Bobby and Boardy traveled back to 1895 to celebrate the first Labor Day, Richard Outcault's lesser known brother Ralphie met them and had his future changed, causing him not to die in a pile of pig manure and to take his brother's role as the grandfather of newspaper cartoons.

Which means Superosity was the very first Comic Strip! And you thought Chris Crosby wouldn't ever amount to anything. Sadly, this also means that Chris, Bobby and "Irony" are all in the public domain. But naturally, Keenspot will exercise its titanic merchandising muscles and force changes in Copyright Law to protect their huge profit potent--

Oh, who am I kidding. No one would be that nuts about comic strip characters.

September 11, 2004

Gerbils and dinosaurs, and I'm very tired.

(From Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized revelations (subscription required)!)

I really was tired. And still am. I woke up bright and early but then fell back asleep, then woke back up, over and over and over again. It wasn't very fun -- I almost wonder if I was fevered, because I had some weird weird dreams during it all. But I'm not going to take my temperature. It's more fun to wonder.

I may go back to sleep, but before I do, I want to actually snark about Narbonic for a bit. I came late to Narbonic -- Hell, go through the backlog and you can see when I finally discovered it and started running through the logs. It was fun. Very fun. This strip is demented, but never loses the thread of Story (or should we call that the thread of sanity). Plus, there are gerbils, and said gerbils are amazingly cute.

Now we have the revelation that Zeta is part gerbil, which we knew from her light sensitive eyes anyhow. Or suspected. But when she takes her glasses off, she doesn't look unlike Dave, and her name of course is Zeta, which makes it sound like yet another Narbon clone.

I suspect that Zeta's got some Dave genes and some Helen genes and some Gerbil genes, either from Doctor Narbon using bits of DNA she got when Dave visited her in the past, or from Helen, who spliced various DNA into one of the gerbils she loves working with, then fired the result into the past to gestate and grow because she didn't want to wait. We know Zeta and Helen have History, and that it isn't pleasant. Or at least Helen doesn't want to talk about it. Or see Zeta.

Alternately, Zeta might have merged with Dana, somehow.

No, I'm not making this particularly easy for you to understand. What part of "I'm tired" don't you get? Coherence is beyond me right now.

Plus, I've been backtracking through the archives of Daily Dinosaur Comics, on the advice of a friend. They also linked to me, though the friend recommended them before the link. There is an amazing zenlike quality to backtracking through those strips... and the oddest sense of Deja Vu. As well as some element that reminds me, for some painfully obvious reason, of David Lynch's The Angriest Dog in the World. Only, you know, Daily Dinosaur Comics is funny.

September 10, 2004

Dear God I'm tired. Oh, here's an update on a snark I did yesterday.

(From Greystone Inn. Click on the thumbnail for full sized told ya so.)

I'm tired. Very, very tired. I should be asleep, but as of now I am not. Next week, our students return (we start late, because we're 6 day a week -- it's a boarding school. We want to maximize the time the kids spend with their families.) The playtest is going very well. The comments are good and spirits are hi. I got some playtest comments from one of the people behind White Lightning Productions, which is one of the better run adult comics/webcomics sites (adult being the point, unlike, say, Sexy Losers, where the Funny is the point and the adult bits are the premise) out there. I don't think the playtester knew that the Websnark guy was the person he was commenting about, but WLP was one of the first sites to actually link Websnark even though I hadn't snarked them (and honestly don't plan to, as I'm not generally into adult webcomics without more of a hook -- Story or Funny or the like), so I was aware of him. And one of his artists is a friend of mine -- and a damn good artist, I would add. It's a small world sometimes.

I'm very tired, and the "scheduled updates" system promised in Movable Type 3.1 hasn't worked right, so I need to place a service e-mail in (the joys of paying their price) and see if I can get the damn thing troubleshot. The Cron job is running, but it's not doing the updating. So my master plan of doing late night snarks to run in the morning and give you all regularly updating content despite my irregular hours has been scuttled. Damn my eyes.

I'm very tired, but I wanted to update you on a snark from yesterday (which is where the strip above came from). Guigar did in fact follow up with the traditional denouement graphic designers face -- he got the blame for all the crap he was forced to do, but on the bits he did without interference, the editor gets the credit. It's the story of the Desktop Publisher's life. Guigar clearly has worked in this field, or knows someone who has. He groks it.

I've very tired. But I'm wired. So more later. Maybe I'll finally successfully snark Irregular Webcomic. We'll see.

In other news, my Skull plushie is en route...

(From PvP. Click on the strip for full sized manly facial hair.)

It's been too long since we've looked in on our friends at PvP. It's time we rectify that, because things have been interesting. For one, Kurtz continues to nail opportunity square in the forehead with a high powered rifle. In a good way. He's doing a bundle of City of Heroes, which is frankly brilliant. He's already produced the definitive City of Heroes webcomic sequence -- and I say that as a dedicated and obsessed CoH player myself. So he's proven he can handle the material in a way that CoH players enjoy. And he brings in a broader audience for City of Heroes in general.

But on the other side of it, he pushes PvP out to many, many more people. And he gets paid to do it. Scott Kurtz gets merchandizing and advertising. He honestly does. He's not the only success story out there, but he may be the smartest.

As for the above strip itself? Well. It's actually one of his more clumsy executions. And yet, I had instant identification. Not with my mustache (yes, of course I have a mustache. And a beard. It's required for my brand of geek), but with my hair. And that brings up my Big Friend Frank.

Frank and I were apartment mates back in Ithaca, New York, when we lived under a bridge in an apartment we called Trollhome, within easy staggering distance to the seminal Chapterhouse Brewpub. (And just slightly further down the road was the ABC Cafe, which had bad tea, good coffee, and live jazz. Live jazz. On the street where I lived. After growing up in Northern Maine, this was like winning the lottery.) Frank was, and is, for that matter, the manliest man I have ever known. He is huge, with bulging muscles. I've never been small, but he used to casually lift me over his head as a demonstration. He looked like a pro wrestler, with his thick beard. And wearing a Greek fisherman's cap he loved, he looked like Tolstoy after undergoing the Super Soldier Formula. Think about how that would have changed comic books.

One could easily have felt inadequate next to Frank. Once, when he was walking through an alleyway leading off the Ithaca Commons into a parking garage, a guy with a board attacked him to mug him. Frank sidestepped the attack and one-punched the guy, then calmly headed to the Police to tell them what had happened. While both of us had relationships, he was the one who got it right, marrying his perfect woman and raising a family of cool people. He is artistic as Hell, producing graphic work that blows me away.

But I've never felt inadequate... because I have hair.

Male pattern baldness is a sign of testosterone, and like I said, Frank is the manliest man I have ever known. The baldness came on slowly, and he grew his remaining, thinning hair long until he got sick of it and shaved his head. Now, of course, he looks more like a pro wrestler than ever with his gleaming pate. And it looks damn good on him.

And then, there's me. With my thick, luxuriant, full head of hair. It's beginning to go grey on the temples in that 'distinguished' way that pisses the less fortunate off. It's thick and rich and has a healthy shine. It is hair, glorious and full, and is the reason why (some) men who don't have it buy products with Rogaine in them.

Looking at today's strip, I can easily see Cole's easily grown mustache -- and his jab at Brent -- as an echo of my (excellent) hair, and Frank's gleaming skull. Brent may have the unbelievably hot girlfriend, the pony tail, the artistic talent, the Macintosh, the sunglasses and the considerably trimmer build... but Cole has a mustache he can grow at will.

So there.

(Update! Today's comic came out extra special early... because... um... Kurtz is away, I guess... and yes indeed. The overcompensation of Brent's scalp hair versus Cole's lip hair has begun. I now identify with both of them. Which makes sense, because I'm a pretentious Mac user by day, and by night I'm a total geek.)

September 09, 2004

Can you get next day shipping?

(From Lore Brand Comics. Click on the thumbnail for full sized online convenience!)

Cut and paste comics live and die in their humor. For most humor strips, the execution consists of phrasing, of art choices, of panel sizes. When your figures barely move and generally only talk, however, language becomes all, tone becomes crucial, and your job gets a lot harder.

Of course, Lore SjąŹberg is humor on a plate. He doesn't bring the Funny. He's taught the Funny to heel, retrieve the newspaper and not urinate on the rug. One of the architects of the late, lamented Brunching Shuttlecocks website and still the purveyor of the hysterical Book of Ratings, among other sundry projects, Lore is a Comedy God. Or at least a Comedy Demigod.

Lore Brand Comics is Webcomics's equivalent of Steven Wright. The delivery is deadpan, and sometimes it takes a second or two, and then brilliance washes over you. Dissecting the humor is like synopsizing a Three Stooges cartoon -- it's technically possible, but why would you ever do it? You just kick back, enjoy, let it wash over you, and accept that yes, this is funny.

Casey and Andy: brought low by MAD SCIENCE HOSTING

Casey and Andy is currently down, which makes that link worthless, doesn't it? WORTHLESS! By checking their forums, I found out that their hosting company is switching servers and DNS and other such things are currently -- this is the technical term -- screwed.

As it works out, the latest comic is at a Livejournal Mirror. And is pretty funny. So if you're grooving on the Casey and Andy fun, check it out. If not... this post meant nothing to you.

That's it, Gleek! Take his Exorian punk-ass to the curb!

(From Liberty Meadows. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Ack. Subscription required. There's nothing I can do about that.)

I don't really have a snark here -- I mean, these are all reruns anyway. I just want to say this has to be the funniest Cathy related joke of all time.

And for those who are bummed out because you can't see the full sized without paying, here's a different thing from Cho's site. Click it for full sized. He's going to burn in Hell for a very long time, so be sure to thank him for making you laugh while you can.

And Brad Guigar goes for the Snark... he's up on the vault -- NAILED it! That's impressive Snark, Bob.

(From Greystone Inn. Click on the thumbnail for full sized snarky goodness.)

I worked in Desktop Publishing for years. Years and years and years and years. I had this conversation more times than I can count. It's always the same things. Someone comes in with a project (often a totally crap project, but I digress). They detail what they want. And by detail, I mean "they make vague comments about how they want it 'Strong' or 'Sensitive' or to have 'Impact.' You ask for clarification and they repeat the exact same thing, over and over again, as though you're a foreigner and, like all foreigners understand English perfectly if it's spoken slowly and with an accent.

Oh, you show them fonts and graphics and samples, and talk about design elements. You try desperately hard to get hard guidance on the vision in their heads, but they have no vision. They have a glimpse through soft focus of a piece of paper with maybe a bit of color and a title, but that blurry hint of something is the absolute Holy Grail they seek. They don't know what it is, but they know that if you, the designer, just give it to them they'll recognize it instantly -- and if you don't give it to them it's because you're stupid and lazy and just don't want to be helpful.

Guigar nailed that sentiment in this strip. He nailed the frustration. And he nailed the driving, yearning need to drive a spike through the eye of the client.

I have to wonder if tomorrow's strip will end the way all of those projects end. With the irate client (editor, in this case) coming back and saying "that's not what I meant at all," demanding a free redo and money off besides, and then filling out a comment card on your substandard work. Dollars to doughnuts it is.

September 08, 2004

I've had workdays like this. I have a nasty slice, though.

(From Overboard. Click on the thumbnail for full sized treasure!)

This is kind of the archetypical Overboard strip. Equal parts traditional pirate and modern day life, bringing the Funny without braining you over the head with it. Also note that Charley, the short pirate, isn't exactly kind to his boss. This is a strip where it's considered standard procedure to feed your boss to a sea monster to get out of doing laundry.

The playtest is going well, as are preparations at the school for the arrival of those punk kids (we're a six day a week school, so we start late and end early). It's really, really busy -- which is why you barely heard from me today. For that, we are very sorry. And yet, you were warned, so.

September 07, 2004

That was the phone I learned to play the 1812 Overture on... good times.

(From Achewood. Click on the thumbnail for full sized jilapidation!)

I've likened Achewood to jazz music before, and it comes out here. In the phone interference from Ray's old cordless, Waterbury's secret mission crosses lines with the relationship between Ray and Roast beef. Ray's the melody line, but two different soloists doing improvs around it slide around his phone. The art connects and cross connects, and makes something different than a strip on either one would be.

I understand about the phone. When I went off to College in 1986, I bought a cheap Radio Shack phone -- not a cordless. Back then, those were pricy -- but it had like twelve autodial buttons on it. My roommate of the time told me it'd never last. It was just cheap junk. My parents still had their rotary phone with real bells inside -- the few times electronic phones had entered our lives, they'd proven to be shoddy and untrustworthy.

I finally retired that Radio Shack phone in 1998, after a year in my first apartment right here in town. It was falling apart, the number pad driven into the unit at a weird angle, but it was still hard to give it up. That phone had seen me through College, through Boston, through Ithaca (twice), through Seattle, through returning to Maine and finally into New Hampshire. I had history with that phone. I still own it, piled up in the back room along with a bunch of other useless junk.

But you probably don't care about that, do you?

Is explaining a comic strip another way to make something even duller than school?

(From Superosity. Click on the thumbnail for full sized fraternal ennui!)

It's somewhat difficult to point to any one Superosity strip and say "There! Hah? Haaaaaah?" Superosity is a little bit like pointillism -- each strip is a dot unto itself, and the whole forms something remarkably different. Reading a pack of Superosity strips is a way to get myself in a good mood, enjoying the tone and Crosby's utterly warped sense of humor. It also allows me to enjoy the sheer consistency he brings to his craft. Crosby has never, to my knowledge, missed an update. Certainly he hasn't in all the time I've been reading Superosity, though that was after he made the strip -- and Keenspot, which surrounds it -- his profession.

This strip is neither particularly good nor particularly bad at evoking the overall sense of Superosity. A bit clumsier than usual in execution (Bobby's tacked on "idiot" when talking to his brother is perfectly in character, but feels clunky) yet setting up a plotline that frankly tickles me something fierce (why shouldn't there be a plot on "the true meaning of Labor Day" or "the first Labor Day." Just because a national holiday isn't Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter doesn't mean it doesn't deserve an animated special, you know!), there is a lot of promise for Crosbyesque weirdness offing.

One note, however. As clumsy as I think today's dialogue between Chris and Bobby is, I note it also nails the casual disregard most people in Superosity have for even their most beloved friends. Chris is matter of fact about how boring Boardy is, and would be the same to Boardy's face. Bobby's disdain is genuine. One gets the sense that some obligation to his own sense of the universe motivates Bobby to follow along with Chris -- certainly, it's not affection.

So I don't know if there's a core reason to point to this strip as representative of Superosity. However, it's the strip we've got, today, and it looks like something's about to start. So, there you go.

September 06, 2004

Jesus Christ. If you love Something Positive and Queen of Wands so much, why don't you marry them?

I promise to drop M. Milholland and Mlle. Aeire for a while. I really do. And I won't even put thumbnails up or anything.

I just wanted to note... in today's S*P, Davan expresses a decision that is materially opposite to the opinion Kestrel makes in today's QoW.

There's plenty of good reasons for it, of course. Kestrel is leaving her friends to take a good job and forge a new life, where Davan is deciding to not follow his girlfriend to Vancouver and try to make a life for himself. They're both choosing to live for themselves, not for those closest to them. But still, Kestrel is leaving Angela, Shannon and Felix behind, while Davan is staying with Peejee and Aubrey.

I'm hoping that Kestrel becomes a S*P character when she moves. There's been speculation that she and Davan will end up involved. Me, I'm pulling for her to wake up, nude and hung over next to T-Bob. Or Jesus Mickey. Or both.

I mean, if she's going to enter Something*Positive, she has to be ready for trauma and lots of it, right?

Oh get over the "kidnapping" thing already, King Luca. Everyone else has.

(From Nukees! Click on the thumbnail for full sized Jenga!)

Bleuel has a real gift for dialogue. He honestly does. Oh, I could sit here and nitpick King Luca's use of Elizabethan dialect until the cows come home (for example, "sometimes thou kidnappeth people and strappeth them to cots?" It doesn't work. It should be "Sometimes thou dost kidnap people, who then be made strapped to cots." Just because it's archaic doesn't mean there aren't grammatical rules to follow, skippy. But I digress.) but that doesn't change the skill Bleuel brings to the table. Cecilia's shift from vulnerable to scared to determined to enthusiastic is frenetic, but also handled deftly. And King Luca's responses are perfect. It's odd to have such an insane ruler over the Berkeley Nuclear Engineering department as the straight man, but sanity is relative and Luca does it well.

You might notice a slight flush around your face. That's your self-esteem trying desperately to reassert itself.

(From For Better or For Worse. Click on the thumbnail for full sized snarkiness.)

Lynn Johnston makes her points with a kind of sarcastic humor that comes out of left field. People take the tremendous amount of Story she brings to the party and use it to forget she has a wicked sense of humor. Well, for the last week or so the Junior High April has been complaining because she wants to wear a whore dress to school, and her mother makes her wear it with tee shirt and tights. Once there, we see a number of the other girls dolled up for streetwalking.

I've seen schools that are draconian with dress codes. (I don't even count the school I work at that way, by the way. It's a private school. You go to private school and you should expect to wear a tie. It's as simple as that. They should be glad we don't make them wear catholic school outfits.) My own high school, my senior year, outlawed sunglasses and Hawaiian shirts. I guess because they wanted to ensure we didn't adopt hedonistic hawaiian values. But at the same time, I'm on the other side of the desk now, and being a full on adult I think a certain amount of decorum -- and a certain amount of "you're thirteen years old, stop trying to pretend your nineteen and a dancer in a hip hop video" is appropriate.

I love the execution of today's strip. It kind of sums up the whole -- there is a practical side to clothing, and if it takes keeping the Gym at 62 degrees to remind kids of it, that's a good thing.

By the way -- the whole "whore clothing" thing? I only feel that way in August and September. Come April and May, those first few warm days when (admittedly a hair more post-pubescent than this) girls crack out of their woolen cocoons and emerge, near naked and stretching their still-winter-pale limbs to the sun, I am simply and humbly pleased to be alive.

September 05, 2004

Dear God, HERO was a good movie. Now, webcomics

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized parental love and respect.)

It's hard to write a snark, having just come in from seeing HERO. This was a movie that shows that someone on Earth understands how to make a movie that has a moral stance at its core, epic in scope, that does not talk down to its audience. This movie blew what little mind I had, and will stay with me for a long, long time. If you haven't seen it, go see it. If you don't want to go see it, go see it. If you know you're going to hate it, go see it. If you won't go see it, you're stupid. Got it? Good.

Oh, yeah. Something Positive.

The thing I liked about this strip was how far we've come with the evolution of Monette. Yeah, Monette's still dumb as a bag of hammers, but she's now truly, officially a Macintyre -- right down to being browbeaten by her adopted father. Personally, I have no problem with peanuts in Coke, and I'm not a lobster fan -- not because of the truly hideous way we cook it, but because I think it tastes like rubber dipped in butter, which is why I can't actually live in the State of Maine. They'll let me be from Maine but won't let me actually live there. Not if I won't eat the sea-bugs.

For the record, I also don't like Moxie. But that's considered "sane."

But the trappings of the strip are just that: trappings. Monette's over the trauma in her life and has found where she's happy -- where she belongs, with people who care about her. And the remaining reticence on Mr. Macintyre's part is essentially gone now. She is in the family: ergo, he can bitchslap her verbally with impunity. He'll absolutely kill anyone who hurts her, but that doesn't make him a nice guy.

Anyway -- I liked it.

Now go see HERO.

September 03, 2004

The question is, does the iconography come from the Sims or did the Sims just use the iconography?

(From College Roomies From Hell! Click on the thumbnail for full sized tartan goodness.)

You've seen me rant before on the subject. You've seen me waste time and electrons on it before. And deep in your heart, you've heard the sobbing in yourself as well.

"Jesus Christ -- these situations are contrived! These characters are dumb as posts! How do I suspend disbelief that large? Are we supposed to actually believe Miranda would have left all this to A.J.'s idiocy for so long? Damn you, User Frie--"

Right. College Roomies from Hell. I can focus.

Well, here it is, kids. In all its pristine glory. Resolution. We had setup for conflict, and we had conflict resolved. And we actually get a feeling that Blue likes Dave for who he is, not who she wants him to be.

I think the heart iconography (which I like. I like the language of cartoons that allows us to just know that "yes, it's official now." I liked it when Mike forlornly fell for Peejee in Something Positive, and I like it here) is the perfect endnote. Blue knows what she's got in Dave, and when he explains -- not excuses, because... well, there is no excuse... but explains, she accepts, wholly. And she covered for him with Mike, who would have Dave killed, horribly.

But that heart... that heart just jumps out at me. Because we've always known that Dave loves Margaret, but he's never really had any good reason to. And now, he loves Blue. Who he does have a reason to. And Margaret did everything in her power to set them up, because she loves Dave too, but she knows her life is going straight to Hell.

So. My immediate assumption is if Dave doesn't stand by Margaret in her hour of need, the whole world dies in flame, and the forces of darkness win. And damned if I'm not rooting for Dave/Blue now.

Maritza Campos? Biscuit. Tasty, tasty biscuit.

It's okay, man. You're keeping us informed. Don't worry, already

This is about Something*Positive. Read this strip or suffer your friends calling you stupid.

I love Something Positive. Chances are likely you do, too.

Randy Milholland has had the worst possible thing happen to him, though. See, he vented. It was a good vent. A proper vent. A vent the size of his native Texas. When some cretin was bitching about a spelling mistake, he lost it, and said, in effect, "ALL RIGHT YOU SONS OF BITCHES! YOU WANNA BITCH ABOUT SOMETHING YOU'RE GETTING FOR FREE? PAY MY SALARY FOR A YEAR!"

And they did.

I mean, holy shit.

I know, this is old news by now. But the problem is, Randy's discovering the down side to having rabid fans. Having paid him his money, they now think they own his ass, and so the same assholes who were hounding him before are hounding him all the more virulently now. If he misses a day, they smack him down. If he's not funny in their opinion, they smack him down. If he offends them (which by now they should just expect), they smack him down. When he went on vacation (which he's entitled to do by Federal Law, you know -- even if you did donate five bucks to his fund) and had a couple of filler strips -- still there, interesting, funny, with art, the works -- they still bitched him out.

Now he's back, exhausted from traveling. And he got out a strip and promised a second strip "tonight," to bring himself up to date.

As of this typing, he has six minutes on the East Coast, and I for one couldn't care less if he makes it or not.

"But wait, Eric," you're saying. "You're Mister 'It's your Fucking Job!' Mister 'PvP Update Pool!' Mister 'You Had Me and You Lost Me, Megatokyo!'" Why aren't you raking Milholland over the coals now, in an entertaining fashion?"

Because he was on vacation, God Damn It!

Look, I do put him in the 'it's your job' category. And I publicly snarked (long before I had this website) when he got self-righteous during the early days of "S*P is my job," when he was finding his rhythm. And further, I'm of the opinion he should simply set his daily update time to midnight, get up whenever he wishes (God knows I would), do the strip whenever he likes during the day, dump it into the auto updater and move on with life, so that his readers' expectations would be met while not screwing with his own schedule.

But Jesus, people. If he tells us his situation in advance, don't bitch. Accept, and enjoy the Funny as it comes. And Mr. Milholland? You told us well in advance there would be a gap. Don't kill yourself to fill it. Take your time, get rested from the trip, refresh yourself, and don't sweat the bastards.

Including me.

September 02, 2004

The single greatest filler comic of all time.

(From Karn. Click on the thumbnail to embrace the fullness of its glory. I'm serious. A thumbnail can't do this justice. Just embrace the trueness of Karn #7.)

The bitch of it is, he probably really did miss her.

(From Diesel Sweeties. Click on the thumbnail for full sized ulterior motives.)

There is a certain purity to Diesel Sweeties. While he sometimes goes too often to the well with some jokes (dude, seriously, we don't need to see Maura e-mailing on the toilet any more), Stevens builds our expectations and then lives up to them. Indy Rock Pete and Pale Suzie were a good couple, because she was understanding and he was an asshole. Understanding people are necessary to perpetuate assholes in the species. And assholes are necessary for the good of the breed as a hole because without them, we are forced into introspective self-examination of the kind that eventually leads to the kind of extended Disney Theme Park existence that Jean-Luc Picard talks about so longingly in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Admit it, after you got finished having sex with supermodels on holodecks, you'd get bored out of your skull in the Federation.

Here, we see Indy Rock Pete slinking back to the ex because he has to. But you also get the feeling he'd really like it if she took him back, because, y'know, he likes her. And Pale Suzie can sense that and is touched. And will probably also brain him with a tombstone. It's been a while since someone got crushed in this strip.

Contrariwise, being lonely doesn't necessarily mean you are alone.

(From No Stereotypes. Click on the thumbnail for full sized loneliness (note: requires registration. Click on the link for the most current strip free.)

Let us stop and consider Amber Greenlee. I first saw her art when she guest stripped for Melonpool, lo those many moons ago. I was stunned at how well her artwork suited Melonpool -- but how distinctive it was, too. There wasn't anything quite like it. I wasn't sure how much range her wide eyed (though not truly Mangaesque) characters would have, but I liked the playfulness they conveyed.

Well, I can certainly see the same style at play in "No Stereotypes," but it's a whole different experience.

The blending of the visuals with the text is evocative, here. Jody's descriptions blend with Atom's reactions. Tension builds. And we feel something building between them. It's a nice moment -- a calm between the storms.


September 01, 2004

Really fast, so I can go home and eat.

I'm new to it, but I'm kind of grooving on Vigilante, Ho!, over on Graphic Smash. I always liked Basil Flint, though it's not currently on the Daily Trawl, and it looks like Troutman's stretching his storytelling a bit. It's a bit freshman yet, but it's going somewhere nice.

Of course, I have absolutely no idea when the last one was posted, as the Modern Tales/WebComicsNation database engine doesn't date entries. So it might be orphaned or current, and I wouldn't ever know. I'll see if it updates tomorrow, though.

Now -- food!

Does one pronounce it like "Ae-REE" or "rhymes with 'hair.'" I'm never sure.

QueenWands20040901.jpg(From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail for full sized hospitalization!)

Mmmm... now there's the Aeire-created goodness I've been wanting. A sweet moment, some Funny, some implied asskicking, and the potential for sweet sweet resolution. You have no idea how sick I get of webcomics where there is no resolution, especially in areas like this one. Yes, yes. I know. A.J. and Miranda have the hots for each other. It says so right here. But no, we're not going to resolve it. We're User Friendly! We don't have to resolve things! It just hangs there, like an open HTML tag, and we beat our heads into the fucking wall...

Oh. Queen of Wands. Right. Heh.

I mentioned this before, but I'll mention it again. This strip takes four panels and makes elaborate conversations readable and uncrowded. The art works well. It's just plain good. And there will soon be resolution. Aeire gets a biscuit.

That's right. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

In Nomine fans: Balseraph alert. Everyone else: I'm a geek.

st20040901.gif(From Sore Thumbs. Click on the thumbnail for full sized capitalism!)

This strip shows a good trend for Sore Thumbs, which is still a freshman and is still having some issues with finding its voice. One simple route to go would have Fairbanks as hopelessly incompetent at everything, but that would get real dull, real fast. I like the Fairbanks and Harmony dynamic in general, and having Fairbanks begin to apply conversational judo (or Zen and the Art of Gouging) effectively and begin to build a success is a good thing.

I'm also glad (knock on formica) that they're not touching on the Republican National Convention. I'm firmly convinced that Sore Thumbs isn't a political or gaming strip, and the times they try to become one or the other tend to fall flat. There's nothing wrong with going political, and I don't mind the hammering both neoconservatives and ultraliberals get in this strip, but I still sigh in relief when they let the anvils go undropped.

August 31, 2004

It's a corpse. In a copse. Get it? Hah? Haaah?

(From Dick Tracy. Click on the thumbnail for full sized MUR-DAR!)

There is a popular perception in the broader cartoonist community that continuing strips after the original creators have passed on is a bad thing. I'm honestly not of that opinion, so long as the successors do right by the original vision. I think it's better to keep the legacy of Chester Gould, Lee Falk and Segar alive by keeping the characters they created in the public consciousness. I think it works by far best with the adventure strips, because those are, after all, continuing adventures. With something like Nancy or Blondie, it doesn't work as well -- all apologies to the Gilchrists, but despite their love of Ernie Bushmiller and their efforts to duplicate his style, it just hasn't happened. It'd be better to simply reprint the originals, to my mind. It's not like anyone reading the newspaper today has read them before.

But adventure lives in the hearts and minds of those who read, and so with Annie, Dick Tracy, the Phantom and their ilk, it's better by far to expose them to a new generation in all their two fisted glory. Dick Tracy does a particularly good job -- the strip continues its tradition of grotesque villains with punnish names, gunplay still exists, and the stakes remain high. In today's strip, inaugurating a series where Dick and Tess's daughter is heading to college, we see what appears to be the leg of the corpse of a girl we saw being shadowed by a dark figure yesterday, heading to the dorm. This is harsh, and cold, and dark. And Chester Gould would smile if he saw it.

Looking through my beloved Smithsonian collection, I read through some of the Gould strips archived therein. These were bloody and violent and dark affairs. If Dick Tracy were sanitized "to protect the children," I'd lead the charge to eliminate the poseurs. As it is, I think it helps maintain Gould's legacy.

Does anyone think it's weird Isolde has hair?

(From Ozy and Millie. Click on the thumbnails for full-sized FABULOUS!)

As part of an extended plot, Ozy's cousin Isolde needed to soak her dragon scales in mercury to turn them silver, so she'd look better in her new on-camera role on television (dragons, you see, control the media. It's a conspiracy. Dragons are all about conspiracies). So, they hijacked a shipment of thermometers and emptied them into a bathtub, so she could soak.

(It's worth noting that most thermometers don't use mercury any more, but I digress.)

Naturally, since the strip is in black and white, we don't see Isolde's color change (though he did post a color picture of her in a filler strip). However, that's not the point. This gave Simpson the opportunity to do a more general makeover of Isolde, and in so doing age her. Look at her in the first strip -- the pony tails, the untucked shirt with tie -- this is traditional Isolde, gawky in a post-adolescent way. In the second strip, she's not only on television, she's got her hair down (cue Eighties movie Journey music), an updated wardrobe, and seem fully ensconced in young womanhood. For a dragon, but still. While Ozy and Millie seem to be in the same ageless condition that comic strip kids have enjoyed since at least the Katzenjammer Kids, Simpson has found a way to shift one of his regular cast to an older incarnation, opening up a new raft of possibilities for the character. That's some subtle mojo, kids.

Is it disingenuous to call this a personal shout-out?

(From Gaming Guardians. Click on the thumbnail for full sized recap moment!)

Morning, everyone. Back to work, so I'm also back to taking five minutes here and five minutes there to serve you up some snark. Hope you're all sitting comfortably in your seats and paying attention. If you brought gum, I hope you brought enough for everyone.

Graveyard Greg and WebTroll (what do I call someone called "Graveyard Greg" in a snark? Normally, I use the last name of the webcartoonist when discussing his work. For Webtroll, he's just got the one name, so he's like Madonna. But do I call Graveyard Greg just 'Greg?' Do I use the full name? Do I call him "Mr. Greg?" And if I do call him Mr. Greg, does that make me sound like a Jamaican Houseboy from a 50's sitcom? Haven't we come farther than that as a society?) have a nice little strip over at Gaming Guardians. I like the premise, because it gives them an excuse to satire... well, everything in the RPG community. (Sure, they've never parodied Sidewinder, but I think that's because they've typically chosen RPGs most people have actually heard of. And would it kill all of you to buy the stupid game? Reloaded's in PDF format. You could get it twelve seconds after reading this.) However, after four years of comics, plus the Powergamers spinoff and other such sundries, it's become... how shall we say... 'difficult' for a new person to jump in.

Yeah yeah. Another snark about cast pages. Look, it's important, okay?

Anyhow, because we're clearly doing a Recap Momentí—Ę, this would seem an ideal time to start checking Gaming Guardians out. And with luck, they'll either link to the moment off the front page afterward or use it as an excuse to put up a cast page. Either way, this is a good step. A fine step. A TEXAS step.

Yes, I'm from Maine. What of it?

August 30, 2004

Trodding the caves: Ursula Vernon's Digger.

Digger(Images all taken from Digger.)

I chatted a few snarks back about Graphic Smash. And I mentioned a few GS/Modern Tales webcartoonists by name. There's several on Graphic Smash worth mentioning. Graveyard Greg and Webtroll. T. Campbell and Jason Waltrip. Stephen Notley. Amber Greenlee. Yadda yadda yadda. We could be here all day.

I'm not here to talk about them. I'm here to talk about Ursula Vernon. I'm here to talk about Digger.

Complete disclosure time: I know Ursula Vernon, somewhat, via the internet. We have friends in common, which have led to some chatting. I wouldn't say she'd let me sleep on her couch for a month, but if she were to meet me face to face at a party, she'd have a look of recognition at my name and then feign interest in me with the best of them. She also knows I like her artwork.

And when you look at Digger, so will you.

Vernon brings a perspective fewer and fewer Webcartoonists bring to their work: an artist's perspective. She didn't come from comic book fandom or comic strip fandom. She came from a fine art background. She's produced paintings and illustrations alike for RPG companies galore, and she's built up a fanbase purely for her beautiful (and admittedly) quirky art. Hit her website to see some of that. Heck, looking at that art's wholly free. And if you buy the "Tea with a Griffin" painting before I get a chance to, I will hunt you down and kill you like a dog. Just, y'know, so you know.

wombat118-kidney.gifDigger is a female wombat, technically in the anthropomorphic animals category, though no one can call her a furry. For one thing, she... well... she looks like a wombat. No breasts. No hands, really. She looks far more like an illustration out of the Wind and the Willows than a funny animal cartoon. She's trying to get home, and has discovered that's not as easy as it seems. She has fallen into adventure, and is really quite ready to leave it now, thank you. And unlike most 'unlikely heroines,' you honestly get the sense that when Digger makes it home, she's going to go to bed, get up the next morning, apply for an Engineer's job and get on with a proper sort of life, thank you anyway. I have faith, however, that Vernon won't let that happen for some time to come.

This is a strip that brings the Story. The Funny is here, too, but it's subtle and mild -- liver jokes and rabid vampire squashes aside. Vernon is drawing what she wants to draw and making it as funny as it needs to be, but the point isn't humor. The pacing is slow -- far more bookish 'page at a time' than daily strip comic art. Now, if you've been paying attention, you know this is one of the things I knock Megatokyo for. The difference here isn't that the pacing works better (though the simpler cast and backstory help make it work better, in my opinion). It's still very slow. But Vernon is absolutely rock-steady on updating. She's under contract to Graphic Smash and she treats this like a job, making her deadlines and having new pages out every Tuesday and Thursday, on the dot. And so a slow pacing is excusable, because twice a week there's new stuff to see. We get a sense of momentum from Digger, and the Story she brings is well served by it. If you plunk down the money for Graphic Smash and get access to the archives, it's a good read, and because new stuff comes out regularly you don't lose the narrative thread.

Let me diverge for a second and say how refreshing it is to see a strip that updates Tuesday and Thursday. In a world of Monday, Wednesday and Friday updates (to the point that Comixpedia has done articles extolling Wednesday as "webcomic day," since the daily, thrice-weekly, and a good percentage of the weekly strips all update on that day), it's nice to have something to look forward to the other days.

And as for the art....

Oh dear God, the art....

This strip is astoundingly beautiful. Its linework is sublime, with a sense of woodcuts and of children's book illustrations and of japanese calligraphy all wrapped up into one. I've asked permission of the artist to reproduce one of her strips here -- clicking on the thumbnail to the right of this paragraph will pop up a full sized version. Just look at her use of positive and negative space, her line work. Just drink it in and relish in it. It might not be what you expect a webcomic to look like, but by God you can't look at it and not groove on it. It's stunning, and it feels like it's more than we deserve, almost.

There's a few bits that would improve Digger. Like I said, the pace is slow, though I doubt that will change. (An eventual graphic novel will be a welcome thing, though.) And it needs a cast page, badly -- it doesn't promise us one and the retract it, but especially given the nature of Graphic Smash, where you can read the latest strip for free but must pay for the archives, actually getting a page letting us know who the principles are and what they're doing is absolutely necessary. Still, these don't mean I don't look forward to the next strip.

And so should you. Damn it, read this thing. Indulge yourself.

Shouldn't that be Night Goggle?

(from Planet Earth (and Other Tourist Traps). Click on the thumbnail for full sized missiles!0

We get back to the regular strip (as opposed to the Cartoonist strips) in PE(aott) today, which is a goodness. And this one highlights a good way to launch a new plotline -- it's one step away from In Media Res. "Hey guys, let's do X!" "But that would be stupid." "I'm in!" Short, formulaic, to the point, and effective. Since this screams "we're starting a new plotline," this also gives notice to new readers that this is probably a good place to start reading from. Nice bonus, I think.

Also, the obligatory "Alien" arrow still cracks me up.

Great moments in comic strip history. Maybe

(From Bloom County, naturally. Note that clicking on the thumbnail to get the full sized image involves going to a subscription only site. LCBLT.)

Bill the Cat was always something of a bellweather for Bloom County. I still remember where I was the day that Bill the Cat returned to life in the strip. Mostly because I was at a gifted and talented high school students camp at Bowdoin College when it happened happened, and we sat around and goobed about it. The trial of Bill the Cat over Communist Treason was just one of those bellweather moments.

The reason I bring the strip up, however, is the fourth panel. If I Recall Correctly, this was the only time we ever heard Bill actually speak. I don't count the time when Donald Trump's brain was implanted in Bill's Body (which marks The Donald's only good hairstyle in history). It didn't feel right then. It doesn't feel right now. But, it came up in turn in the archive, and so we note it.

I hope no one tells Chris about "Oh Heavenly Dog." Because that movie sucked.

(From Superosity. Click the thumbnail for full sized dead dogs.)

The Vacation continues to be enjoyable. Later today, a quick drive over to Maine to see the mother and father and their dogs, neither of whom look anything like the traditional Benji mold.

I always thought it was kind of creepy that the famous dogs -- Lassie and Rin Tin Tin and Benji and the like -- were more brand names than actual animals. We're supposed to just accept that any dog who looks more or less like a Collie is Lassie, for the purposes of making the movie. I know it's not unlike the many different actors who play James Bond, but at least those actors get their names in the credits. We're supposed to just say "oh, there's Benji" and not think about those Benjis past.

I dunno. Maybe I overthink dogs in movies.

Anyway, this Superosity kind of nails what I enjoy in Superosity. (More than yesterday's did, I'll admit -- if you're going to go scatological, you either need to imply it or go so over the top that it becomes absurd. Crosby shoots for the over the top and usually hits it -- as with Vomitland -- but yesterday just didn't do it for me.) Chris makes some kind of statement that Boardy can't agree with, but Boardy isn't willing to contradict Chris casually. Then, wackiness ensues. Or in this case, the nagging feeling that maybe Chris doesn't deserve to have his feelings spared. Setup, execution. The Funny.

August 29, 2004

On Style versus Skill

crfh20040827.jpg(From College Roomies From Hell. Click on the thumbnail for fullsized... um... action. Yeah. That's it.)

I don't usually comment on other people's reviews. This isn't really a review site, for example -- this is a snark-site, where I point out things I like and things I don't like, often somewhat sarcastically. However, while the overall review is positive, I feel like I have to bring up this guy's review.

Dude. It's a comic strip. One which, in the parlance of Websnark, brings the Story first, and sometimes brings the Funny. And as you yourself say, the Story is prime. Almost too prime -- it makes it hard to keep track of what's going on, sometimes. But you go on to grade the art harshly.

If you want photorealistic art, read comic books. Mocking a comic strip's art for being stylized is like mocking baseball players for wearing caps. Looking at the strip I referenced here, and the several before it, show that Maritza Campos is an expert at dynamic action, motion, color and effect. She brings the toolset. So, if their noses are big and their eyes are big, it's because she wants them that way.

In the last plotline, whenever Dave passed out from lack of blood or whatever, he dreamed about scenes we've already seen -- and all of those scenes had much more 'realistic' figures. Campos was telling us something then. She was saying "yes, I can bring the comic book style illustration. It's right here, in my tool chest. I don't want to. I want to draw the characters the way I draw them. That's the price of admission."

Comic strip characters don't have to look like Mary Worth. They can look like Charlie Brown or Pogo instead. And webcomics can show Anime influences (all too often), or Latin American art influences, or traditional comic strip influences. Or even Mary Worth.

You hear me extol the virtues of art I like. You almost will never hear me insult a webcomic's art. For one thing -- say it with me -- "we're not paying for this." For another, it's damn hard to tell the difference between a limited toolset and a stylistic choice. For yet another, if you're reading it for the pretty pictures and you don't like the pretty pictures, go read Megatokyo. Or Alice. Or any strip you like the art for.

If, on the other hand, you like the story, which you say you do... accept that the art's style is a part of that story. Read into it what the webcartoonist is trying to say to us. Drink deep of it. Breath it in. And reflect on the glorious nature of a world where one comic strip doesn't have to look exactly like another.

We've seen it done right. Now here it's done wrong. It's like a textbook.

boondocks040829.gif(From the Boondocks. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Billboards.)

Yesterday, I praised Non Sequitur for setting up a situation where we had a sight gag and someone commenting on it. It was well executed. "Any fool could misspell illiteracy," I mentioned.

Now, we have today's Boondocks. And we see the dark 'other side.'

The joke itself works, but Huey and Caesar's commentary is wholly unnecessary. It weakens the impact. Had that panel been left out, and we just see the billboard with the pair looking at it, the Funny would have been better and the Point not so belabored.

You see? You see? Good example... bad example. It's like Sesame Street, only you need to operate a web browser.

Joe Sunday better watch out! There's a (very) new colorist in town!

Sluggy040829b.jpg(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the excerpt to see the whole thing!)

Joe Sunday, the guy who usually colors the Sunday Sluggies, wasn't able to do today's -- in large part because Pete Abrams had major computer trouble this week. Rather than do a black and white Sunday, however, Pete had his four year old daughter Leah color it with crayon.

The crayon coloring actually adds quite a bit (I wonder if he told her she was coloring Leo's maiming scene) and makes the denouement extra-sweet. But the idea that Leah Abrams -- who I still remember most clearly from the period of time right after her birth, when the webcomics community came together to produce Sluggy guest strips (the legendary Sluggy Freelance, Where Are You sequence) -- is now old enough to color with crayons and insist how the art should be scanned and produced is mind boggling.

So, in summary, I'm old, damn it. Screw you, Pete Abrams.

Dropping a bit of cash in the till -- how much is it worth to you?

We all have expenses, out here in the wide digital world. My own are modest right now -- just paying for bandwidth, and even if my costs have gone up in that regard, Google ads look like they'll take care of the increased costs. But, clickthrough advertising isn't the way for everyone to recoup their costs -- especially those who actually want to make a living off their art. Right now, that means tip jars, more extensive advertising, merchandising... and subscriptions.

Which is really what we want to talk about now. See, I'm not feeling very well, and I can't sleep, so I'm thinking. Largely about subscription webcomics.

I was asked, a couple of days back, what I thought about them -- asked by someone pretty high up the food chain in webcomics, who shall remain nameless because the question is more important than me namedropping. He mentioned things like Modern Tales and Graphic Smash and Girltastic, and left the question of things like Keenspot or My Comics Page as an exercise for the reader.

Me? I love subscription web sites. Like I said in my last post, Joey Manley gets a good abount of money from me each month -- as of this typing I sub to three of his main websites (Modern Tales, Serializer and Graphic Smash) and one individual website he hosts (American Elf, to no one's surprise). While I'm not made of discretionary money, the value is pretty damn high -- for my eleven bucks or so a month I have access to somewhere over two hundred strips, including stuff by T. Campbell (and the returned Gisele Lagacą©), Amber "Glytch" Greenlee (who deserves about six snarks all on her own), Sunday comics of Achewood, and many, many more. Manley has a love of sequential art that can't be beat, and so all the sites I frequent have an Alternative Comics feel to them -- pushing the boundaries forward, seeing where and what the medium has to offer... good stuff.

This isn't an ad for Modern Tales and its affiliates, though. The point is -- this is a means by which I can contribute back to the artists and to the art form directly, and that in turn encourages others to give it a try. There's tons of free webcomics on the web, of course. More than any twelve people could read. But quality? Quality is hard to find.

And that raises an interesting point about the newspaper syndicates. One that is painful for people to admit. There is a positive aspect to having a barrier to entry -- you have to push beyond a certain limit before you can get in. Like I've said before, having an editor is not a bad thing. And having to prove you don't suck before you get to be read by the masses isn't bad, either.

There's plenty that is bad in the syndicates, of course. For one thing, they're not looking for quality, they're looking for a specific formula -- the right kind of look, the right kind of humor. Something they can sell. It's not nearly as innocuous as so many people say -- The Boondocks is hardly inoffensive, For Better and For Worse hardly ducks controversy, and no one can claim Mallard Fillmore is apolitical -- but it is entirely motivated by commercial concerns. With the rise of the web and comparatively inexpensive publication ability, the barriers to entry for subscription websites aren't commercial, but aesthetic. If you can show you're reliable and pushing the boundaries a hair, Manley will give you a shot. If you can build a readership and show you're reliable, Chris Crosby will give you a shot at Keenspot (which counts for this -- Keenspot Premium is certainly a subscription service). Anyone can publish on the web (Hell, that's proven by the fact that I'm out here), but not anyone can get a taste of the Modern Tales action.

That's what makes Modern Tales, Serializer, Girltastic, Keenspot and all the others so important. They give you and me, the webcomics reader, some recourse -- some place where we can go for very little money and get strips that meet a certain level of quality. We can be drawn in from some random factor (Modern Tales got me because Glych Greenlee guested a Melonpool strip a while back, and blew my tiny little mind with her expressive artwork. Serializer gets me because Achewood deserves a couple of bucks from me all by itself. Graphic Smash gets me because of Graveyard Greg and T. Campbell. And so on and so forth), only to find ourselves surrounded by a buffet -- not all of it to our taste, but guaranteed to have been cooked with talent.

As we break down the idea of what webcomics -- and sequential art in general -- are and can be, it's the paid sites that are going to make it possible for it it continue to grow. Strips like GPF gets an immeasurable boost purely from not having to pay crippling bandwidth fees, for example. By codifying the relationship (beyond the 'tip jar' concept), we both place a value on the art and give artists and publishers alike a certain commitment. And that is a very good thing.

On the other hand, if you think I ride people who have made their strips their job's asses hard over update issues, you have no idea how much of a tool I can be when I'm paying by the month....

August 28, 2004

Why don't they just jump through the giant picture window?

(From Overboard. Click on the thumbnail for full sized broadsides!)

You've probably gathered that I like Overboard. One of the more unique newspaper strips, detailing the adventures of pirates in the modern day -- still on the pirate ship, still fighting other pirates and sacking cruise ships and using swords and maces and cannons and the like. I like the cast and crew, which take the concept of "casual disdain" to new and exciting heights. While Chip Dunham phones it in more these days than in the older days of the strip -- the rare Overboard print collections show a savagery of humor rare on the newspaper page -- I still like it and I think it still kind of works.

That being said... I don't like metahumor strips as a rule. In my own brief foray into webcartooning (the less said about the better) I used that kind of "cartoonist as character" device. Dunham uses it. Frank Cho uses it (his infamous "monkeyboy Cho.") And it just. Never. Works. The only exception is if they go whole hog -- make the characters actors, so when the cartoonist shows up they break character and go to get a smoke. Sort of Greystone Innish, only Greystone Inn tries to have it both ways which doesn't work.

So, the joke above doesn't work for me, even though the trappings do. I love the idea of employee relations involving a morningstar and a 6 pound cannon. I just wish it didn't have to invoke "the cartoonist" as part of it.

Meanwhile, in the dimension of wireless cafes with a latte by my side....

(From Sluggy Freelance Click on the thumbnail for full sized potence, baby!)

Before getting on to the snark, I want to point out the sheer decadence one gets to feel sitting in a Fresh City cafe/restaurant with a laptop, connected wirelessly to their network, sipping healthy smoothies and lattes (tall nonfat with a shot of sugar free vanilla, for those of you who like to go to coffee bars anywhere but in Seattle. Seattlites, that's a tall skinny no foam vanilla. I'm not sure how to say "sugar free" for the flavor shot, as I haven't lived in Seattle since 1997 and I never ordered sugar frees then). I sit in air conditioned splendor (necessary today, as New Hampshire has apparently been thrown into the Tropic of Cancer while I was sleeping). Thanks to the power of Wifi, I get to sit where staggeringly good looking women wearing very little (see the aforementioned "Tropic of Cancer" comment) wander in to get smoothies, buy needful things, and still sit down and bang out a snark. These are the kinds of conditions that led to the Fall of the Roman Empire, and all I can say is "the Visigoths better start with Massachusetts, because I still have most of a strawberry and yogurt smoothie to drink and I don't want to die unsatisfied."

I'm afraid one of the strips I don't currently read is Ian MacDonald's Bruno the Bandit. The times I've tried to jump in and do the backtrack through his logs, it hasn't grabbed my attention sufficiently. I can tell he's talented, and I know he has a dedicated fanbase, each and every one of which has better taste than I do, clearly. But here we are.

So, my experience with Ian MacDonald has been entirely devoted to his part of the "Pete's wife just had a baby so his fellow cartoonists are pitching in and doing guest strips/Sluggy Freelance Where Are You" sequence a while back, and the "Meanwhile... in the Dimension of Pain/Dimension of Grief" strips that have been running on Saturdays for a while. And in a way, the DoP/G strips deserve to be considered separately from Sluggy, though unlike most guest strips they are considered in continuity with Sluggy.

It's a pity, by the way, that Pete typically doesn't put guest strips in Continuity. The idea that Zoąī makes her money by wearing lingerie and a mask for a webcam gives me the giggles. Then again, that sequence was done by the Foglios, and they're some of the few who can do exploitive strips and make them seem acceptable to all.

I really like the idea of the Meanwhile... in the Dimension of Wherever strips. Pete had been doing Saturdays, but figured out that with the expanded Sunday strips and all, he needed to cut back. Instead of truly cutting back, though, he got a collaborator with sufficient cred to have his hands on Sluggy Freelance once a week and let him go to town. But in a lot of ways, I wasn't a huge fan of the execution. Oh, I liked the whole "angels take over the Dimension of Pain" bit, and the idea that Fallen Angels have really just tripped (and MacDonald set up that particular solution some weeks in advance absolutely brilliantly -- remember, if a Fallen Angel is on the Mantlepiece in the First Act, that Fallen Angel must be used in the Third. It's Chekov's Law of Webcomics). However, given that the Dimension of Pain has been a part of Pete's toolbox from the beginning, having it go in somewhat incompatible directions made things a bit strained. As was most clearly shown when a Cutified Demon went after Torg as a part of the yearly Halloween Party strips -- even though things were weird that Halloween anyway, it was still, to quote the late Robert Reed, "Batman in the Dressing Room." It was two different visions of humor trying to reconcile, and it didn't quite gel.

Then, when the Dimension of Pain began to pay off in the main Sluggy strip in a big way -- as is still ongoing -- MacDonald's weekend strips moved wholly into the Dimension of Grief. This let him draw a hot female hideous demon lead on a weekly basis (which obviously is part of the fun for MacDonald), let him develop a mythology (and humor style) that fits his brainspace perfectly and still retain a tie to Sluggy without really walking on Abrams's toes.

This is a good thing. And MacDonald does bring the Funny. And while I don't like it quite as much as Abrams's regular strips, that's a Hell of a standard to try to live up to. It's certainly not on the "Why Am I Reading This Webcomic, Again" list.

Maybe it's time to give Bruno another shot. Or time for another latte. Probably the latter. Also, I'd like to dedicate this entry to the beautiful girl in the brown shirt who just walked in. Which, I would add, almost never happens when I'm snarking from my living room. Ah, decadence.

The Simpsons are going to Delaware!

(From User Friendly. Click on the thumbnail for sitcomish wackiness.)

I try very very hard to not be the kind of snarker/critic/commentator/reviewer/whatever the Hell this thing is who disdains the popular and embraces the obscure. I like what I like, and I try to tell everyone why I like it, and I don't like what I don't like, and I try to do that too.

That's the problem with snarking User Friendly. It's on my "Why Do I Read This Webcomic, Again" list, and I have less and less of a good answer to that question. Take this strip. It's perfectly fine. There's nothing wrong with it. Only... meh.

Part of the problem is User Friendly never really adapted after the ascendence of tech comics gave way to a broader spectrum of geek comics. Oh sure, A.J.'s a gamer and they did a whole sequence on his having to upgrade his machine so desperately so it could play Doom III, but it's ground Penny-Arcade trod better. Hell, I got more of a laugh out of /usr/bin/w00t!/'s take on the subject. That was more about Doom III having enough of a copy protection that poor people couldn't pirate it easily. That was more interesting than yet another "our hero eats cardboard rather than spends money on food because he's all about teh gamez" strip.

And now we have this strip, inaugurating another in that long line of "urban/tech types find themselves in natural/nontech situations," snow covered variant. And gosh, it was all because those damn marketing types like Stef are such jerks! But no, wait! He has to go too! And then Miranda and A.J. will get jobs in the candy factory, only the assembly line will go too fast, and they'll be overwhelemed, and they'll have to try to cram candy in their mouth so it doesn't go all over the floor....

I'm sure Illiad will do a workman's job with the story. And he'll bring the funny his fans expect him to bring, but while it's the funny, it's not going to be the Funny. And that's just kind of sad.

The medium is the message

(From Non Sequitur. Click on the thumbnail for full sized spelings an gramer.)

This shows where Wiley's real strengths are, in my opinion. It brings the Funny, it's random, it's out there. He does more and more strips in one (or more) continuities these days, and they're just not as good as when he's just throwing shit out there and seeing what sticks to the wall. For me, the killer stroke is the woman's comment. Almost anyone could show a couple of people staring, bemused, at graffiti misspelling illiteracy. A lot of cartoonists could even make it funny, though layout and pacing.

The woman's comment, however, is the joke in this strip, in my opinion. It's got just enough resignation to it that you can honestly see she's trying to put the best face on the situation. Illiteracy does suck. And hey, at least they tried.

More of a laugh than I usually get from Non Sequitur.

It puts the lotion in the basket, Annie Warbucks!

(From Annie. Click the thumbnail for full sized death to spies! DEATH TO SPIES!)

I admit I'm on an Annie kick right now (and here the Google ads have finally stopped pimping her merchandise. It's like that pet food thing -- I can't leave well enough alone). But I have to admit it. I'm into this creepy Collector/Silence of the Lambs/Rorschach thing she's gotten herself into. She seems stronger now. Healthier in body, but a good little soldier. Say it, Annie! SAY IT!

God, I need to get out more often. And maybe take another shower. This thing is just creepy. But you have to admit -- it's not boring.

It was a late night for all of us, it seems

(From FLEM ComicTwo Lumps. Honestly. Not from FLEM Comics at all. Really. Click on the thumbnail for full sized FLE--two lumpishness. Heh,)

I'm up. I'm up. It was a late night. For one thing, I was waiting for my hosting company to finish churning access logs and statistics for yesterday, and then applying Webalizer to them. Which finally happened a couple of hours late, because... well, because there was a lot to churn through.

I decided, early on, not to comment on people linking me here in the page. It seems... I dunno. Garish. Yesterday, though, I got linked by three different places with audience, one of which has high audience. Which I appreciate a lot, because... well, I actually like for people to read this stuff. I know, it makes me weird. So thank you, one and all.

The totals? Heh. Well, when you factor in that on the first day of Websnark I did about nine megabytes of bandwidth, most of which connected to RPG resources I have up on my home site -- no surprise there, as no one actually comes to a site they've never heard of -- you can understand my amazement at doing close to two and a half gigabytes of bandwidth yesterday, comprising thousands and thousands of unique page visits.

In other words... I was PvPdotted. And that was a very fun feeling. Er, not that I'm acknowledging PvP's linking of me. That would be garish, even if I appreciated it, which I did. Or Lore SjąŹberg for that matter. Or the good folks at Comixpedia and their 24 Hour Pixel People blog. Because then I'd have to mention the Snake Farm especially since they were the first, and... and....

I am such a tool. Jesus.

Anyway, so I slept somewhere close to 11:30, awakened by a phone call from a pretty girl, which if you get right down to it is a good way to wake up. It just is. And then, after running water over my head and drinking tea, I settled down for the day comics trawl.

And saw... well, Twolumps. You know, J. Grant's comic about the cats?

You might be wondering why the thumbnail doesn't look like Ebenezer and Snooch. Well, readers of FLEM comics will recognize the Angry Patriot Boy, of course. And we know J. Grant's been busy -- he just put out a new novel (a novel with a minor misprint on the cover. Something about his name being spelled wrong. Writers -- so sensitive) and of course it was a Friday night, and Grant has an active social life....

Look, when you're uploading comics, it's the same process for them, no matter which site. So he made a little mistake. He's only human. You're not paying for this, you know!

Man, we should probably be thankful it wasn't a strip about dog fucking, shouldn't we? I mean, that'd wake the Two Lumps audience right up, even on a Saturday....

August 27, 2004

The Daily Comics Trawl:

Time for another ambling walk down my daily comics reading. You know from earlier trawls that usually I set a block of comics up as a series of tabs in Safari, so they download more or less at once and let me breeze through them. Well, thanks to the the combined power of the Internet and money, I have a different option for many of the newspaper strips I follow.

My Comics Page is connected to uComics, which is one of several sites the newspaper comics syndicates 'syndicate' their comics through. Like most of these sites, about a month's worth of comics are available for many of their offerings. However, for twelve bucks a year, you can also aggregate all the strips you want to read on a single page, plus get access to a number of special strips -- including some people are usually willing to kill their pets to get access to, like Bloom County. And, what makes it all exciting for a continuity nut like me, massive access to archives.

Here's what I'm currently reading through the site. Note that Garfield and Cathy are both also available, should you choose to want to read them. I elected not to, after checking to see if Garfield did in fact still like lasagna that Cathy feels makes her fat. Clearly, they should get a room and be done with it.

  • Annie, by Jay Maeder and Alan Kupperberg. The little orphan keeps on chugging along. I don't read this strip for nostalgia, though. Not even for the musical, which like pretty much anyone else whose family visited New York City in the late Seventies I had to see. I also saw A Chorus Line, the Pirates of Penzance, Non Pasquale (sic -- it was a Shakespeare in the Park thing only without the Shakespeare), Ariadne Auf Naxos, The Marriage of Figaro, Der Rosenkavilier and Regis Philban wandering the streets, on various other trips. Most of those don't have a comic strip, though. I read Annie because it's totally batshit crazy. Seriously. Often right wing to the point where the Minnesota Militia thinks its overdone, with a paranoid streak a mile wide and a willingness to let an eight year old be kidnapped twenty-seven times a year. Also, a small inventor boy named Tom had an airship, which led to his being thrown into a North Korean Prison for months, while Daddy Warbucks went undercover with the C.I.A. so he could punch Arabs in Ratznestistan after 9/11, leaving an exact body double to run his billionaire's empire from the city they built as a tax shelter on the Yucatan Peninsula. I didn't make any of that up. I will read this comic strip for the rest of my natural life, damn it. Oh, and recently Annie got amnesia in an airplane crash and was taken in by a clear satire of The Phantom, who is running around Canada shooting at innocent people because he thinks they're terrorists. He's systematically broken her already confused mind, so now she wears the uniform of the Junior Commando shouting "Death to spies! Death to spies!" in a brainwashed stupor. And they wonder if Sinfest is safe for kids to read.
  • Andy Capp, by 'Reg Smythe.' I put Reg Smythe in quotes because the original Reg Smythe, who wrote and drew Andy Capp from 1957 until the day of his death in 1998, obviously isn't doing the strip any longer. His signature is still put on the strip, however, which implies there's a Cartoonist Lich out there. Or that the creator of Andy Capp managed to put off actually leaving this mortal coil, which is a particularly Andy Cappish thought. Ahhh, Andy Capp. As Homer Simpson once said, "oh you wife beating drunk!"
  • Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. The depth of archives they're making available for this strip is incredible, and each day we get the next strip in the sequence. We live in the finest of all possible worlds. Except, you know, we don't. If I have to explain why I read Calvin and Hobbes to you, give up webcomics. You don't get it.
  • Dick Tracy, by Dick Locher and Michael Killian. Like Annie, this has been in continuous production since the forties. Also like Annie, this strip makes those people who think the newspaper syndicates only produce bland, inoffensive fair out to be complete liars. Filled with grotesque criminals and hideous crimes, generally solved by someone dying in a horrible, yet ironic way. Not too long ago, one of Dick's friends left the bad guy to be eaten alive by starving pigs. God, I love the American Newspaper.
  • Doonesbury, by Garry Trudeau. This links to the Slate home of Doonesbury, but My Comics Page is better, because... well, it's got it all. All. Over thirty years of Doonesbury. And it's searchable. Want to see the series of strips Trudeau wrote about John Kerry during Vietnam? It's in there....
  • For Better or For Worse, by Lynn Johnston. Another strip that makes people who point at Garfield and Blondie and swear that newspapers are hollow mockeries and that they keep the real talents down look downright delusional. A strip that brings the Story to an admittedly obsessive degree, For Better and For Worse is gentle, but not unflinching. Pets die, kids grow up, trusted employees turn out to be petty crooks, and one of the major characters flies off to the Northwest Territories to teach. Lynn Johnston has much to teach you, young one. She has knowledge to impart, of the dark arts of layout and pacing, of linework and shading, of denouement that she sets up twenty years in advance. Respect her power, and learn her lessons well.
  • FoxTrot, by Bill Amend. This, on the other hand, is the closest to a straight webcomic as you find on the newspaper's page. Gag a day, but generally pretty good, and not afraid to embrace Geek-fu.
  • Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet, by Peter Zale. Ballyhooed for years as the success story of webcomics, back from the days when everyone thought success meant graduating from the website to the syndicate. I read it because I feel like I should, though it's weaker than many other strips on my Mycomicspage. It lost some edge in the translation, but it tries, and if it suffers from not quite emerging from the late nineties geek strip, it also holds to its course.
  • Liberty Meadows, by Frank Cho. The rockstar of the last few years, but like so many before it, Cho decided he'd be better off going wholly for comic books. In the meantime, the archives are filling out and will eventually have the complete Liberty Meadows, and that's a perfectly good thing.
  • Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller. I have no freaking idea why I read this, but I chuckle sometimes.
  • Overboard, by Chip Dunham. I freaking love Overboard. While it's not as strong as its early days, it retains its charms -- the charms of a pack of pirates who genuinely don't like each other and are unafraid to show it. Not unlike Dilbert in its choice of workplace humor, save that the workplace has swords and cannons and Overboard is actually funny. Which you see, makes it not like Dilbert, which is not.
  • The Boondocks, by Aaron McGruder. Yeah. Keep telling yourself Sinfest didn't get picked up by the syndicates because it was too real, man. Keep telling yourself the syndicates just want The Wizard of Id. Keep telling yourself that, man. But whatever you do, don't read the Boondocks, because it's going to kick your ass. Hard.
  • Shoe, by Chris Cassatt and Gary Brookins. When Doonesbury went on hiatus back at the end of the seventies, beginning of the eighties, two things happened in The Bangor Daily News which was the paper my family got every day. First, Shoe moved to Doonesbury's spot on the Editorial Page for the duration. Then, Bloom County got Shoe's spot on the Comics Page. As a result, I have always felt Shoe is special. So, I keep reading it now. I don't ask you to understand. Just accept.
  • Tom the Dancing Bug, by Ruben Bolling. An independent strip of considerable skill. Willing to tear into its subjects with all the verve of Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World, but always -- always -- bringing the Funny.
  • Bloom County, by Berkeley Breathed. They do six strips one day, then a Sunday strip the next. They're building the complete archives, which will then sit there. Twelve bucks a year, people, and you get all of Bloom County, eventually. And pick up all that's there now. Including early strips that frankly I've never seen in any compilation. (They did a lot more with the major than I remembered. What do I have to say -- it's Bloom Fucking County!
  • Too Much Coffee Man, by Shannon Wheeler. I'm still new to this strip. It's weird, but fun. I'm groking it slowly.
  • The Academia Waltz, by Berkeley Breathed. Another one they did one strip a day of until the whole archives got loaded into the machine. They're there now. These are the strips Berke Breathed did in the seventies, while a college student. They're a very different style than Bloom County, and much rougher (in many ways). It's a very different take on Steve Dallas, who is the star, and his friends. One of whom, Saigon John, turns into Bloom County's Cutter John after getting a haircut and clear mediciation. Respect the power of the Izod.
  • Waylay, by Carol Lay. I've adored Carol Lay's work since first reading Story Minute. She doesn't update that often these days (or at least it doesn't get put onto My Comics Page), but it makes me happy whenever it does show up. Carol Lay is one of the best of the independent newspaper cartoonists. Drink deep of her work.

See? SEE? THIS is what Furry strips should do!

(From Suburban Jungle. Click on the thumbnail for full-sized maternal angst!)

I don't have a problem with the Furry community, despite a seeming curse that says that whenever I go to a science fiction convention of any stripe, I will encounter skunk porn. Not even anthropomorphic based skunk porn. One year at Arisia I looked to be in the clear, then went to a midnight showing of Mystery Men. The next thing I know, the Spleen is having his leg humped by a skunk, while the Invisible Boy acts like its romantic. I don't blame the Furry community for this. I clearly insulted a pretty gypsy with a white stripe in her black hair at some Renaissance Festival without realizing it.

(Why a pretty gypsy? Because damn it, it's my story, and I like pretty gypsies. Don't take pretty gypsies away from my life!)

Anyway, like I said, I have no problem with the Furry community. I do, however, generally have little interest in Furry webcomics. Setting aside the porn comics for a moment (which I put no higher or lower than any other porn comic, but as I consider all explicit comics a separate category in general, I'm not going to consider them for the purposes of this snark. And now, you have read my action Disclaimer) I get a touch bored with furry comics where there's little reason for the characters to be anthropomorphic animals in the first place. This is especially true for comics where the anthropomorphic animals are all the same height and all act exactly the same way. It's why I never got into The Class Menagerie when it was around -- there just wasn't any reason for these not to be average college students, and why's the Rooster the same height and muscular girth as the Bull, the Lion and the Gator? That's not how the animal kingdom works! And when they all act like... well, normal people, only with fur... it just doesn't work for me.

Note that I don't consider true Funny Animal strips -- a la Pogo or Ozy and Millie -- to be in the same category. Funny Animals are supposed to look funny. That's all they need to do. Furries are supposed to be... well, anthropomorphic. There should be some point to their being animals.

The 'Furries acting differently than people' stipulation is why I like Kevin and Kell, where the fact that these are anthropomorphic animals makes a real difference. They have dietary differences. They have different instincts. They have economic differences. And all of these differences drive the Funny. Kevin and Kell marrying is scandalous, because rabbits and wolves aren't supposed to get married and have children. Wolves are supposed to eat rabbits then scatter their broken skeletons to the four winds. It bugs me that the general sizes of the animals are so close to each other, but you cope.

Suburban Jungle, on the other hand, gets it all just about right. The animals have real differences. Mice are the size of mice, even if they stand on two legs and have opposable thumbs. There are different cultures all at work with each other. And when predators aren't trying to eat prey, they're pretty much just hanging out. The name of Leonard's Bar is "The Watering Hole," with no predation allowed -- this is brilliance! Brilliance! It's the way it works! Lions and antelope compete, except when they're at the watering hole!

And we have a strip like today's, which reinforces an even deeper element of the differences between animals. Lions in the real world have group marriages, so they have group marriages in Suburban Jungle -- making Leonard and Tiffany's relationship difficult, because not only don't Tigers have group marriages, they tend to mate and walk away from each other. Tiffany has abandonment issues stemming from that quality of Tigers. Comfort's mother naturally assumes that Comfort and Dover will break up because that's how marriages work for tigers, and Cheetahs aren't much better. Robey even got some milage out of Tiffany's love of swimming (which is a true Siberian Tiger trait) where other felines (like Dover) hate water as much as my former cat Gandalf did. (Years later, I still bear bathing scars).

There's a point to the Suburban Jungle being about a pack (heh) of animals who walk like man, and that makes all the difference.

Plus, he has a cast page. Though he doesn't make it very obvious.

One step away from "oh get over it."

(From Doonesbury. Click on the thumbnail for full sized morons!)

I don't have a long snark for this one -- I just thought it needed the strip's thumbnail, so didn't really fit in the Random Webcomics Commentary.

Those who know me know I had my share of medical fun over the last few years. Nothing worth rehashing here. Suffice it to say I'm fine and getting finer with each and every day.

However, this strip is absolutely one hundred percent true. People get kind of freaked over medical issues for a while, and then you turn right back into the dumbass they've always loved and ragged on.

Is that a syringe in your pocket or are you just happy to see... oh.

CnAStrip376.gif(From Casey and Andy. Click on the thumbnail for full sized supple, pouty lips!)

Something weird has happened to Casey and Andy. I don't think Weir meant it to happen, and yet it did, and I don't think it's a bad thing.

His strip is named Casey and Andy. It stars Casey and Andy, with their romantic leads Mary and Satan.

And somehow, Jenn Brozek has become the strip's protagonist.

Seriously. Jenn's time travel plotline was by far the longest in Casey and Andy's history, and highlighted an important truth: the Normal Person makes for the best person for weirdass things to happen to. "The Mary Tyler Moore" show wasn't just starring Mary Tyler Moore because her name was in the title -- it's because surround