Archive for August, 2006

Update at last


technocracy.jpg I dunno where does the time go. Well time for a double bill to make up for my absence. The following two webcomics are both marked by their offbeat comedy.
First off Aaron Diaz’s Dresden Codak strip is more like a traditional funny in the newspaper. However, the similarities end at the form. Each full page strip manages to use obscure science and philosophy to crack jokes. Now this isn’t for everyone and I’m beginning to suspect I may be an uber geek but it is actually very funny. It is also quite thought provoking.
This a finely crafted comic that matches beautifully coloured art with excellent writing. This a quirky but entertaining strip that I’ll be keeping an eye on. Give it a try and I recommend the strip about Schrodinger’s cat.

The second comic for your consideration is I am a rocket builder. This is just as mad as Kodak’s work but takes on a narrative form. I should really say it takes on a multiple narrative as different stories are interweaved from the rise and fall of the sparrow’s king and their war for lebensraum against the squirrels.
The artist, Cave Monster (I don’t know their real name), experiments with flash animation as part of the strip and the last panel of each page has an interactive element that adds to the charm of the strip rather than seeming gimmicky.
This is a great comic and I am it’s newest devotee, you must check it out.

Mythology – A work of Art!


Hey folks of the ether,

I’m a long-time listener, first-time blogger, so be kind! But anywho, my good friend W.C. (snigger)G. [Web Comic Geek for those a bit slow on the up-take] has asked me to contribute something to the world (bit like my grandmother does on a regular basis) by posting my worthless ramblings on his blog. Therefore, several glasses of cheap white wine in (and I mean cheap! You know the stuff, comes in a box that refuses to be glued together and, regardless of how long you put it in the fridge, will always remain 0.5 degrees above room temperature!) and I’m ready to go.

At this point I feel I should point something out – I’m not particularly well-read, either in the massive comic-book or general literature genres. Therefore, my thoughts and theories are based on my very limited exposure to all things graphic-y and novel. However, as our host Geek-meister is responsible for exposing me to a world of Superheroes and Supervillainy beyond that represented by the movies and TV shows from the 1960’s to early 90’s, I feel I owe it to the old-timer (hell, I may have been Darth Vader to his Boba Fett in our formative years, but he was definitely Alfred to my Bruce Wayne – in that he taught me how to shave at least!), so, rather than leap in feet-first with my thoughts on Superman Returns, I thought I’d start with Mythology: the D.C. art of Alex Ross.

I got Mythology as a birthday present from somebody I barely know (but, as it freakishly turns out,I share a lot of tastes with in terms of films, literature and all that jazz), so it came as a genuine pleasant surprise! Shockingly enough, I had never previously considered the artist’s influence on the overall impact/success of a comic. For me the story had always been paramount – that’s what made a great comicbook and the art was a bonus if it was good – afterall, surely Superman was Superman or Batman was Batman, regardless of how they are pictorally represented -It’s the character mythos that counts (shows my niaivity I know)!

Anyway, Mythology sucked me straight in and within minutes, like the Fresh Prince, my life was flipped, turned upside down! This was because, coincidentally, many of the graphic novels I was first introduced to (by W.C.G) were some of Alex Ross’ best works, including Superman, Batman and J.L.A – especially Kingdom Come! I was immediatetly struck by Alex’s photo-realistic style which I hadn’t really appreciated previously. But, seeing his interpretations of illustrations from both the golden and silver ages, I was stunned by how much weight, power and emotion he was able to give to otherwise 2-dimensional characters.

But, Mythology is more than just an egotistical homage to Ross’ published work, it also show’s his development from a (gifted) child to the artist he is today. There are examples of his college work, where he explored and researched human anotomy, that would eventually develop into his signature style. There are examples of how his parents have influenced his vision and works and, perhaps most importantly for a novice to the genre, there’s a step-by-step guide to the process he uses to capture and refine his art.

To cut a long story short, this book is a great introduction to the world of comics. Not only does it highlight the theory, talent and clear dedication it takes to reach Ross’ level, but there is also a wealth of fantastic illustrations to keep even the most shallow of obsevers turning the pages. As I said earlier, this book has really made me re-evalute my relationship with comics. More than that, it has re-ignited a fascination with the darker and deeper side of some of comics’ greatest character creations – something that I’d all-too-easily forgotten thanks to Hollywood’s recent whizz-bang, but still sanitised offerings.

As an amateur voyeur at best in this genre all I can say is that, while it may not be deepest, most profound exploration of the artist-character relationship, which may leave your comicbook veteran a little deprived, I do think that this is one of the best introduction to the comicbook world going. Not only does it inform, it also empowers – Hell, thanks to this book I even managed to engage my 40-something brother-in-law in several discussions about some of comics’ greatest characters and how the universe goes so much further than Hollywood’s or TV’s portrayals. Something that not even Kevin Smith’s Brodie Buce had enabled me to do (converstions about Kryptonite condoms can only get you so far!)

So, with the wine glass, as large as it is, almost empty, I shall now end my diatribe in order to refill it. No doubt there will be comment on either my thoughts or (lack of) prose style. Regardless, I look forward to hearing from you.

Keep the faith,

Jim42

Hero: beautiful but empty?


val0.jpgHero is an experimental comic by Hwei that follows a nameless narrator on his journeys. The narrator lives with a witch and recounts his experiences living with her and when he eventually leaves her home.
The artwork is gorgeous and has an ethereal quality that matches the tone of the comic. Well executed fine lines are accentuated by subtle washes, black and white backgrounds and beautifully coloured panels. The art clearly takes precedence here and a clever bit of web coding allows the reader to appreciate it in its full glory as the text is only revealed in a tooltip by hovering the mouse above the page. This also adds to the overall air of mystery that permeates this tale, as the story appears and disappears. This takes some getting used to but it is a great innovation.
However, the story is very gently paced and the comic could be accused of being a little too obsessed with art at the expense of story. I for one will persevere with this one and see how it works out. After all this kind of talent and innovation need encouraging. Look upon these works Spark Tan and despair

Red Panther: Less of a flash more of a fizzle


rphp10.gifRed Panther by Spark Tan, is a flash based web comic that tries to add an element of interactivity to the form. In principle I like the idea. In execution it leaves a lot to be desired. Artistically it comes across as average wannabe manga artist at its worst. The mutimedia veneer does little to hide its shortcomings, the sound effects simply annoy and the opportunity to choose how the story should progress seems a little cheesy.
The sub-standard manga feel carries through to the the entire premise of the comic. The Burea for Paranormal invistigation (hmm similar to the BPRD) are humanities defence against vampires, werewolves and Aliens. So far so predictable. The characters and overall style continue in this vein with the title character Red Panther sounding like a Bandai action figure (come back masked rider all is forgiven).
The first issue follows the new team member Sophie on her first mission, which sees her battling werewolves and being wolfwhistled by her new team mates. She is a typically mawkish Manga ingenue complete with her cat Twinkle (I ain’t making this up) and her team mates are equally well rounded (in other words more stock manga characters).
This showed a lot of promise when I heard about it and I thought the comics execution would match the writer’s introductory spiel. I was sadly mistaken. Finally only the first comic is free to ‘review’. I can’t believe that this guy thinks he will get paying members, but then there are bound to be people who like annoying cheesy plots, characters, sfx and art.

Why web comics and prestige formats?


Why do I review webcomics and collections? Well the answer is simple: time, money and space. As I’m nearly thirty, with a wife and a baby on the way. I’m in that awkward section of society that is unable to collect and more importantly store endless comics. The best that I can aspire to is the prestige graphic novel format, which take up less space. Web comics by their very nature take up no space at all and tend to be cheap or free. I’m also really impatient, I always want to read the next installment now rather than later, so the graphic novel suits me as is fairly self contained. This does lead me to the biggest frustration and drawback of webcomics: updates. Artists and writers will insist on having their own lives and take their time between updates. On saying that the wait is often worth it.

Demonology 101


demon101.jpg

This series by Faith Erin Hicks is now complete. It tells the tale of Raven, A half-Demon, teenager and her battles against the evil Jenner’s and their demon allies.

The events prior to the story that unfolds in the comic are compelling and intriguing, they would make a great book in their own right. This is always a positive point in a narrative in my view. While Hicks does offer an origin story for one of the villains we never really find out all that has gone on before between the Network and the Jenners.

In tone the dialogue takes on a buffyesque quality from time to time, but I guess this is only natural as it involves teen characters in a high school setting. This the only point were this series can be compared with external influences. The witty banter and repartee gives this comic a lot of its charm as do the complex relationships between characters. This is most importantly a character driven piece that has compelling, sympathetic villains that are more than simple two dimensional stock bad guys. This is more of a cold war between good and evil that has suddenly warmed up. Most of the villains are evil because of family tradition or ’cause they’’re demons and that’s what demons do right?, rather than any particular zeal for the cause.

The major positive with this series is that it’’s complete, you get to read the whole story without having to wait for updates. This is also a major negative because you will get to the end of this comic and still want more.

Demonology 101 is a superb comic and en engaging read. Read it now.

Ghost Rider: The Road to Damnation


ghost-rider1.jpg

Written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Clayton Crain.
This book was something of a gamble for me . I’m not Garth Ennis’ biggest fan, while his work is of high quality he does have a tendency to crassness. However, in this book he resists. While some of his characters still retain a preacher like quality, such as Buttview to name but one, overall this is a finally crafted tale. Ghostrider is pitched into a struggle between heaven and hell. As you’d expect Ennis portrays the hosts of heaven and hell as nasty as one another. Humans are expendable to both sides. It is difficult to find a sympathetic character in this book. Ghostrider spends too much of his time at the center of the action to act as a moral fulcrum, that role falls to humble mortal Jemima Catmint. Crains’ artwork is lush in detail and colour and provides a worthy stage for the oldest cold war in creation.
As you would expect from a Ghostrider title this is a hell for leather action adventure. Not really deep and thoughtful but a diverting read nonetheless.