Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cross Country - MK Reed

Another longer work that I picked up at this year's SPX is the book Cross Country by MK Reed. I was excited to pick it up as I really enjoyed the two smaller works of hers that I picked up last year. For a tiny blurb on 'I will feast on your whore heart' and 'Myrtle Willoughby' go here.

Cross Country is a story about a guy named Ben who has taken a job as the assistant for an heir to a big chain store as he goes on a road trip visiting various stores as they celebrate milestones or have events, etc. Greg, Ben's boss, is a spoiled self centered frat boy asshole, and Ben is immediately sick of him, but he does his job and puts up with it.

Ben is a decent guy, but he has not gotten over the girl who left him in college, and is subjected to frequent and sometimes disturbing dreams about her still. Ben keeps in touch with his best friend Tara, via phonecalls and postcards, and ends up getting back in touch with his ex, and staying with her for a day. Greg ends up facing some consequences for his actions, and everything ends on a sort of promise of things getting at least somewhat better for Ben.

It's a great story with excellent and enjoyable dialog. It's smart and comes across as very genuine. The dream sequences are interesting and well done, and give us additional insight. Reed's art is simple, but well done and consistent. The story is dialog heavy, but in the way that a car trip and a reunion with an ex would be. It doesn't feel unrealistically padded or anything. The characters are distinct and there is a good bit of humor as well.

In a very basic and complimentary way, this book reminds me of the movie Sideways. There are a lot of basic similarities. Not even close to exactly the same, just the basic feel and some of the themes with the characters.

I highly recommend this. You can read a preview of the book, or order it for 10 dollars through the author's website

You'll Never Know, Book One: A Good and Decent Man

Carol Tyler was a VIP at the 2009 Small Press Expo. I had never read anything by her before this weekend. I had seen her name, and read a very little bit about her, but that was it. That was another one of those situations where my ignorance is my loss, whether I realize it or not. Fortunately for me SPX was there to help me. I attended the Q&A that comics critic Douglas Wolk did with Carol on Sunday of the show. I am really glad I did.

Listening to Carol Tyler talk was a highlight of the show for me. I think a lot of the creators and exhibitors there would have been greatly served by hearing the parts of her story and her approach to cartooning that she shared. She spoke at length about her new book from Fantagraphics that deals with her father's time in World War II and his long silence about it. Part of what was really driven home in her talk was how her father's story is not an exceptional one, how from the time of the war forward he was part of a great fraternity that includes pretty much anyone that has gone to war, and his tendency to be closed lipped about it is the rule of his era.

Her father is a poster child for that era in my opinion. He pursued the woman he was attracted to, he was a bit of a goof and a wise-acre when he was younger, he served his country because it was what people did, and after the war he didn't speak of it for decades. He was crusty and could be a real son of a bitch, but he did what he had to to support his family. I could go on further with traits like that. All of those things make him identifiable and also give the story it's impact.

We are served the story in the context of the artist herself. Her husband left her and her daughter, and she is doing what it takes to keep things going for the two of them. Throughout her life she saw evidence of his involvement in WWII, but it was not a subject her father would talk about. It was an empty space in his story that she thought must hold some clues to understanding him as she knew him. His unwillingness to talk about his war-time past ended with a phone call she received from him one day, and that kicked off what would become the impetus for this book. The book contains an account of her life at the time, focusing on the rebuilding of a scrapbook of his army days, and recounting his story from that time.

The art is wonderful, and I believe she said it was done entirely in inks. Her style is one of cartoony but expressive and identifiable people set against lush and beautifully detailed backgrounds that are just superb. Her caricature of herself is one of the most honest representations I have seen from an artist. The book itself is over sized and reminiscent of a family album in its dimensions. She stated in her talk that she wanted it to be something you really had to sit down with and take slowly, rather than some other format more fitted to a fast read. It was a real pleasure hearing her talk, and also having her sign my copy. I am sad that I have to wait until the end of 2010 for the next installment, but I am certain it will be worth the wait.

One of the things I was most affected by was her imperative to collect and tell people's stories. She has her class do exercises in that vein, interviewing real people and relating real stories. She speaks of the stories she has collected that she hopes to actually produce some day, and it is just magical. It's hard not to be affected by the enthusiasm, or impressed by that gift for seeing things that way. If you have a chance to meet her, or see her speak about anything, really, I recommend it.

Here is a link to Douglas Wolk's write up of this book in the New York Times.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Post SPX... post

I volunteered at SPX this year, and attended both days. It's a great experience. I didn't meet a single person among the volunteers who wasn't just great, and the volunteer coordinator is pretty awesome, and made me feel welcomed and useful, even when I was standing around with nothing to do. They keep a good number of people on hand just in case anything comes up, and I stayed and worked when there was something I could do, so I didn't feel like a freeloader. I carried a ballot box around for the Ignatz ballots so that exhibitors could get theirs turned in without having to leave their booths, and later I went around to a couple rows of exhibitors to show them where to go when they left for the day. It was fun, and it was a good way to get around and make eye contact with a lot of exhibitors. For instance, I really wanted to meet Kate Beaton and say hi, and tell her the usual 'your stuff is really cool, etc' but there was always a crowd around her... So instead, I got to tell her where to exit when she left... it was almost like talking.

Some high points for me from Saturday were getting to meet Eden (from the comicsgirl blog) and Dan Govar (Saulone on Zuda, creator of the comic Azure) in person. I walked around the exhibit hall with Dan, and it was a lot of fun. I have been watching him draw on livestream and chatting with him a good bit lately there. Eden is responsible for my even knowing that I could volunteer, through her enthusiastic advocacy of volunteering at spx, etc. It really was a great experience. I also got to say hi to a good number of people I had met the previous year, and meet a variety of new and awesome people. I really enjoyed meeting Miss Lasko-Gross, and the other folks in the House of Twelve booth. She was funny and nice, and I had a lot of fun yammering at her. I hope to buy 'a Mess of Everything' at some point in the future, but it wasn't in my budget for SPX.

I attended one panel on Saturday, and it was the critics roundtable. it was absolutely worth sitting in on, and I will make a point to get to that sort of thing any time I can. It was absolutely packed with a pretty broad range of people who write or post about comics. It helped me understand some things about myself, and appreciate some of the panelists a little better.

I was absolutely dead and my feet were screaming in pain when I got home last night, but I took a hot bath after my Wife and daughters wouldn't stop laughing at my wincing everytime I moved my legs. The bath and sleep certainly helped.

Sunday morning I got up and went back. I picked up most of the things i had made mental notes about. I stopped and saw Joe Flood again and picked up a comic I had wanted to get from him. I attended two panels, One was the Carol Tyler conversation, and the other was about comics and community. The Carol Tyler one will be the subject of its own post at some point. She was wonderful and insightful. I broke a rule of my own and risked castration by walking right out of the panel when it was done and buying her book so that I could have her sign it, but most importantly because I have to read it now that I have heard her talk about it... It's become important to me. Seriously, It was a funny and touching and insightful talk. Things like that really make a good con even better. The comics and community one annoyed me a little, but was not without some good stuff, and was still worth attending. My thoughts on it will probably pop up again somewhere.

I will make a point to volunteer next year. There was no downside to being there... If I had to pick one, it would definitely be:

Rob makes an ass out of himself in front of people he respects... SPX edition.
I was running around telling the exhibitors how to leave the showroom when I walked up on Joe McCullough and Tucker Stone talking to people at one of the exhibitor's tables. I am a big fan of both Joe and Tucker. Joe writes insight filled smart wordy posts with a comics scholar's knowledge of the material and the greater 'world of comics' that it exists within, etc. I did an ok job telling him how much I respected his work. Tucker was talking to someone, so (assuming they are friends, as they drove down together I think, and they seem to have some camaraderie at least), I then rambled like an idiot to Joe about how much I appreciated Tyler's work as well. Sometimes I can't make myself stop talking. I related that when I first read Tucker's work I was appalled by it and wanted to act as sort of the anti-him, but then I read more and more and realized that regardless of how he was conveying it, his words generally echoed my sentiment, just with the word 'fuck' appearing more in his work, and with his showing a bit more passion and a sharper sense of humor. I think at the core of his criticism is some of the most honest comics writing you will get. It doesn't wear a pretentious overcoat like a lot of people with his kind of exposure seem to, and I appreciate it.

So instead of saying anything coherent directly to him I think I made Joe worry that I might have had a knife on me or something, or wonder how I had changed out of my hospital gown on my way to the expo...

It was still a good time.

Coming soon I will start reading and posting on the great volume of mini and not so mini comics I picked up at the show.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Tick ongoing series

What is better than the idea of a new Tick ongoing series? Maybe one that is written By Benito Cereno and Drawn by Les McClaine? Maybe one that kicks off with a holiday special?

Yes, really.

Don't let this one slip by you. If you want to pick this comic up, you will most likely have to order it in advance. Tell your local comic shop that you want it (Diamond code SEP09 0937 ) or order it at a savings from some place like... this for instance:

I am genuinely excited about this. There really aren't many comics that I have been this excited about in a while. The Tick is absolutely a sentimental favorite of mine. It is great to see it in the hands of two people who seem completely qualified to function on the level such a title needs and deserves... no pressure guys... just ALL THE PRESSURE IN THE WORLD!

Insert some sports metaphor about success here.

While you are waiting for the book to come out, you should check out Benito's LJ, or follow him on twitter or both.

SPX - Small Press Expo Sept 26, 27 Bethesda, MD

I am very excited about going to SPX again this year, and just as excited about volunteering(for the first time) as I am about going at all. I had a lot of fun going last year, and many times more fun going over all the things I got, and thinking about the people I met and posting about the Mini comics and things like that.

So, if you are interested in going this year, here are some links...

Check out the SPX site if you haven't. Lots of great people will be there, including Kate Beaton, Liz Baillie, MK Reed, Danielle Corsetto, Josh Cotter, and many more!

Fistfull of SPX - This is the series of reviews of all the mini comics (and not so mini) that I picked up last year

comicsgirl has some very helpful posts related to SPX in the form of a survival guide, and a food guide. If you are going, you should read them.

I will most certainly post about the experience, as well as anything I pick up. I may be twittering off and on during the event as well. I am talkinboutcomx on twitter

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CBD 09/16/2009

Beasts of Burden, Tiny Titans, Batgirl, Batman & Robin, Atomic Robo

It's really nice when the comics I get meet the level of excitement that going to the store and getting them generates in me.

Beasts of Burden #1 - I am surprised that there was a copy of this on the shelf. I am guessing that it was purchased for someone and then accidentally got shelved. Yay me! This comics is written by Evan Dorkin and illustrated by Jill Thompson. I described it to my daughter as sort of like scooby doo, only the gang is all dogs, and a cat I guess fills the odd person out spot that Scooby occupied in his group. That is really only a valid comparison on the surface, and even then it's a sketchy comparison, but it made me laugh. The story is cool, the setting and the premise are even cooler, the characters are distinctive. There is humor and drama and right there tying it all together is art that is cute and stunning and fully capable of conveying the sort of horror/supernatural element of the story as well. Burden Hill is a town with dark and sinister secrets, according to a paragraph on the inside of the cover, and it is up to the animals that live there to protect the town and its other inhabitants. The Dogs and cats and scenery are all just beautifully done, and the animals work together using their wits and resources (including a dog that can cast spells!) to get through difficult situations (in this case a giant frog that is eating pretty much anything or anyone it wants to.) This isn't a kids title exactly, but I would certainly let my 10 year old daughter read it.

Batman and Robin #4 - Still good, even without Frank Quitely on board at the moment. There are some points where the art me be a bit confusing, but I don't see it as particularly bad or anything. I am viewing it like I am supposed to think it's awful, because everyone has worked hard to create that expectation. I am pretty sure Philip Tan is not a fan of that assumption. Frank Quitely is a pretty great artist. It would be hard to follow him on a title. Nothing in this book makes me unable to follow or enjoy the story, so I find it hard to have a negative opionion about the art. So I will say. Good job guys. We get Red Hood and Scarlet popping up in place of Batman and Robin, or ahead of them, and doing very un-Batman sorts of things. I don't really dig the whole 'let the punishment fit the crime' catch phrase, but 'who am I to judge' (maybe that will be my new catch phrase)

Batgirl #2 - I really like the Phil Noto cover to this. There is a sort of old school sexiness to the shot of a fully clothed woman pulling up or adjusting her boot. It is not done in a lurid way, it isn't cheesecake, or even overtly sexual, but I like the picture. The comic is ok, and features a good bit of Oracle seeming jealous of the new Batgirl, or overly protective or something. I liked it, but I don't think i will continue picking this up, unless I am in the situation where I can get it and still come out under 20 bucks.

Atomic Robo Shadow from beyond time #5 - This is the final installment of the third volume of Atomic Robo. I loved this series. This issue, for being strong and funny, and resolving things nicely, is probably the weakist issue of the series. That distinction still allows this issue to be better than a majority of comics I read. I loved it, it just didn't have the bang for me that some of the other issues did. It's still funny as heck, and has a really great take on non-linear time that feels almost like time travel but isn't, because time travel is impossible... There is a description of evil computers vs normal computers that is hilarious and brilliant as well. If you didn't read this as it was coming out, do yourself a favor and pick up the trade. Great stuff. Clevinger, Wegener, Pattison and Powell is certainly one of the all time best groups of four names to see together on the front of a comic. Here's looking to volume 4!!

Tiny Titans #20 - The latest installment of the Eisner award winner for best publication for kids, continues to delight. This issue deals with magical holes created by Raven, and their many uses. The best part of the issue is the spread where Alfred is polishing the Eisner! I would do that if I had an award winning comic that I wrote and drew. Good job Baltazar & Franco!

Wednesday Comics #11 - I will be very sad to see this over. The awesome thing about this issue in particular is how big everyone is going. I would say this specific issue has the greatest concentration of oversized panels of the entire run. The Flash wins for layout design, but Green Lantern and WonderWoman are also just beautiful. There is a lot of good in this issue. Looking at the whole run so far, I would say that Teen Titans is the only feature that didn't seem to work for me on any level. Even Emo Superman went big and bold art-wise. Once it is finished I will go back and read each feature straight through. This has been a very successfull experiment in my opinion. I sure hope they continue to push boundaries of art and design and such in other ways. I would love to see another weekly collection like this at some point.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

CBD 09/10/09

Models Inc., Wed. Comics, North 40, The Unwritten, Ult. Comics Avengers, Nomad, Kick-Ass

The Unwritten #5 (Mike Carey & Peter Gross) I think this is one of the best single issues of comics I have read this year. In this issue the story steps back a bit and shows us just how deep things go, and how the literary conspiracy/cabal stretches back probably as long as stories have been written. This issue focuses on Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde, and Mark Twain. The primary focus is Kipling, and it is just brilliantly written. It wraps the realities of Kipling and Wilde, for instance, in the fabric and context of the story, and ties them together in an achingly sad story. Fantastic stuff. You could almost read it out of the story context and still have it be a meaningful read. I highly recommend this series.

Models Inc. #1 (Tobin & Villagrasa) - I kind of wish that Marvel Divas was more like this title. I don't Dislike Marvel Divas, and I like Tonci Zonjic's art a lot, but this title seems to have a lot more going for it in characters, interaction, a fun spirit, and a better cover. Why Couldn't Marvel Divas get the sort of cover treatment that this has. Divas had Super ladies drawn in unsexy 'sexy poses' on the cover, this has a relatively classy magazine cover feel in which the character is drawn sexy and pretty, but much more realistically, and not in a pose that only occurs in a Men's magazine. You get Model stuff, fashion stuff, some action stuff. It's really not bad. The Tim Gunn backup is especially great if you have Tim Gunn Fever! as all right minded folks should, and as far as celebrities dropped into comics go, it's a good bit, and is funny and pretty well done.

North 40 #3 (Williams & Staples) - This really looks to be a great series. It is genuinely creepy as well as funny. It feels like a perfect TV show setup. Seriously. There are a lot of good characters in a relatively limited environment. There is a great deal to be discovered regarding what the full effects of the event are, as well as an effort to set things right somehow, and in the middle of it we have a Sheriff just trying to keep order in a small town that's turning into freak central. The art continues to be great, and really provides the right atmosphere. I think the writing is well done and is paced nicely. Really good read. If you like horror, old gods, monsters and small town sheriffin', you are well covered with this.

Kick-Ass #7(Millar, Romita Jr) - I wanted to hate this. I wanted to stop getting it. I don't always love things that are sold as brutal and bloody and over the top. I don't actually have a problem with Comic book as movie sales pitch, especially if it's a good comic. Kick-Ass is really a good comic. Written extremely well, and drawn great too. This issue absolutely pushes all the right buttons for me. I am unable to resist a good 'Rocky' style comeback, and this has one of the best comebacks ever. Kick-Ass gets absolutely destroyed in this issue, and then formulates a plan to get out of it by getting beaten mercilessly until he can get his pants back on. It's brilliant. There may be a message about the dangers of comic books in this, but I think it really is more about the awesomeness of comic books.

Ultimate Comics: Avengers #2 - This is looking pretty good. I sort of stopped reading vol 3 early on of Ultimates, and I didn't really follow Ultimatum. This series seems to grab some middle ground between the two, and is off to a good start. I know I'd cut my face off if I had Steve Rogers' good looks. Pretty good, but I can't afford to keep getting everything I like.

Nomad: Girl without a World #1 (Sean McKeever, David Baldeon) - I didn't know what to expect from this, but I was compelled to pick it up. It's about Rikki Barnes a girl from another earth who is inexplicably on this earth now. She is the Bucky of her world. She wants desperately to meet the Captain America of this world, but something comes up every time she tries. In this issue that something is the Black Widow. BW tells Rikki that plenty of people know about her, etc. and that She's not going to let Rikki meet Cap. There is also the plot line where Rikki has chosen to be where she is on this earth because although she doesn't exist in this reality, her brother does, so she puts herself close to him. This comic gives us High School drama, dimension travel, Action, and butting heads with adults. I think if it keeps this balance it will be a good title, and maybe one that kids (boys and girls both I would hope) can like.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

No such thing as a Wednesday without comics

In an attempt to make Disappointment Wednesday a little less so, I went the webcomics route. There is a ton of really great stuff out there for free just waiting to be read, and even still I don't tend to read enough of it. I read a large number of items on Zuda, and have a handful of others that I frequent, but still I don't even touch a fraction of even the most well known and regarded comics on the web. I went the easy route and started at ACT-I-VATE.

ACT-I-VATE is a webcomics collective that was started by Dean Haspiel in 2006. It provides a place for talented, hand picked creators to host their comics and serialized graphic novels. There is a great lot of great and recognizable talent there. There are dozens of offerings, and previously I have only read one or two. Not sure why, but then I am never sure what keeps me from reading good stuff that everyone else is smart enough to read when it's new.
Here's What I read there:
Adventures of Maxy J. Millionaire - Paul Maybury - This was a Zuda contest entry at one point. I loved it there, and I love it here. Especially wonderful is the last page where Maxy confronts Paul about the book that he's supposed to do about Maxy. Maxy J. is a stuffed toy who loves chicken nuggets and writing checks. He leaves his girl after she has grown up and put him through the indignity of having sex with someone in his bed. It's sort of cute and sweet and sad. Maxy is naive and self centered and a bit delusional. It's a really good character. I love Maybury's art, and would love to see this go someplace.
Beanbots - Kevin Kobasic - I may use the word sweet alot in this post. Beanbots focuses on a Dad and his two daughters (I am a father of two daughters, so it really resonates, but it is good regardless of that) The art is sort of soft focus and cute, but in a way that drives home the whole raising girls thing. If you have girls, or know them, or were one, or are one, you know that especially when they are little they can be a cross between the cutest thing you have ever encountered and a Tasmanian devil, or sometimes the actual devil. They can undo anything you are secure in, and make you love more than you thought was possible. This is a very funny strip, but there is a reality to it that is just perfect. One of my favorite strips has the Dad taking care of the two girls and walking with them in public. They have angel halos and he has a superman cape. By the end of the strip both of them are bawling and he has an ass for a head(hopefully you follow that link to see the whole thing).
Flowing Wells - Andrew Dimitt - This is another comic that was in a Zuda competition once. 8 screens and the sort of storytelling that this is didn't translate well into the Zuda model. That is a sort of Weakness in the Zuda concept, but it certainly isn't damning in my opinion to Zuda or this strange but excellent comic. Flowing wells is almost entirely narrative so far. The art is really great, and very clean. I am seriously a big fan of this. I don't fully get it, but the concept as I understand it is very cool. It is something that really needed space to grow and develop, and given that, draws you in well. As I understand it, Flowing Wells is like if the Sims took place on an actual planet and everything was actually built upon the planet and the sims that were created there suffered under various mods that caused all sort of problems, including giving them free will. When we join the story there are very few 'people' left there.
Underwire - Jennifer Hayden - This is perhaps my favorite. These pieces are absolutely from a woman's perspective, but they are less gender specific than they are just true to life, easily identifiable pieces of on the human experience. The art is absolutely perfect. It is personal and accessible and expressive. I have linked to my favorite panel of my favorite story. Visit the link then start at the beginning of the story. Each chapter is a 12 to 18 panel strip that comes off as a short story or vignette. They all work for me and give us looks at real and different every day sorts of occurrences elevated to art. I highly recommend this. The panel I have linked to is a situation that my wife and I definitely experienced ourselves with our oldest. We pointed out the moment things changed as well. Hayden is working on a graphic novel - "The Story of My Tits" which is scheduled for 2011 from Top Shelf, according to her website . It is definitely on my list as something I need to get when it comes out.

For the final webcomic I read, I looked no further than someone I follow on twitter, and whose blog I regularly visit - Keven Church - I have only read a few entries of his webcomic The Rack, but it is definitely something I want to read. Today I chose to Read the 'limited series' spin off of the Rack-
Lydia: A comic strip about corporate culture. - There was no issue with understanding and enjoying this, despite my limited experience with The Rack. It was very funny, very well drawn, and extremely well written. It wasn't Dilbert, and it wasn't The Office, it was yet again unique, despite covering an angle on a set up that has been done a good bit. This takes it from a slightly different direction than we have seen it before, and works. Lydia went from working in a comic shop to working in a corporate environment where it was immediately clear that management was flaky and imbalanced, but not immediately clear what the job was that she was hired to do. Good clever stuff, go read it now.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sympathy for the Zuda

I have been trying to figure out what I wanted to say about Zuda for a while. Zuda is a webcomics competition and site that is owned by DC Comics. It seems to get more aggressive negative press than it does positive for no good reason in my opinion. Non-Zuda webcomics people seem to become elitists when it is brought up(or when they constantly bring it up), and many comics bloggers seem to find some way of giving a negative spin to whatever they say about it. People who don't read the comics there seem to lay in wait for opportunities to post comments about how they don't read it for one weak reason or another.

It is not uncommon to see people bashing Zuda and then giving the disclaimer that there are some great comics there, but for whatever reason, despite great comics (and happy creators) Zuda is depicted as somehow bad or doing it wrong, or secretly going to sneak into your houses and delete your non-Zuda favorites from your computer. I don't get it. I have read what I have seen written and most of it just makes me wonder where the need to slam things comes from.
I have no vested interest in Zuda. I get the bulk of my comics from my LCS and my local library, and sometimes from Amazon. I read a number of non-Zuda webcomics and know that there are a lot of really good ones out there. I also acknowledge that there are certainly a great number of areas for improvement. There are bound to be. Few things start off perfected. I am going to talk about my personal experiences with Zuda and where I think they excel.
The comics - Zuda is home to a large number of comics that I would rank among my favorite comics I am reading these days (regardless of format). Bayou, Celadore, Azure, Night Owls, Imaginary Boys, and High Moon are all very well written and drawn, and are every one of them very different from the other in style and substance. Zuda has a monthly contest that puts a lot of 8 screen 'pilots' in front of my eyes, and has introduced me to a great deal of talent I might not have otherwise found on my own. Contest winners may go on to have their comic become an ongoing series, and this introduces variety and freshness to the mix.
The Format - I like that Zuda is community and feedback -centric. This is not unique to Zuda, but I appreciate it a lot in a webcomic. It's one of the things I think can really set webcomics apart from their print only brethren. Each comic has its own open thread that everyone can post in, ask questions, leave feedback, etc. and in most cases the creators actively keep up on the posts and reply regularly to the people taking time to read their works. There is a real sense of appreciation there. All of the creators I have encountered really seem to appreciate their fans and readers. The Zuda interface itself is a flash viewer. This gets an awful lot of the hate. Zuda recently made a good number of changes to their site, and improved a number of navigation and viewing features, but that still doesn't seem to appease critics.
I have been looking at a lot of webcomics sites lately. I don't use feeds for my comics reading. I guess I am behind the curve, but that doesn't stop me from reading and enjoying webcomics. I genuinely like Zudas viewer. No, I can't read them on my iphone, but there aren't many webcomics that are practical for reading on my iphone in my opinion. In IE, Firefox and Google Chrome (yeah, I use three different browsers...) I am not currently seeing any real issues in accessing and using the Zuda site and the comics viewer. Here is what I like about the viewer
  • You can browse the screens in a small view that you can still more or less read in most cases. I don't like to read them this way because...
  • You can go to full screen and really see the comic in a screen fitting format that gives you the best view of the art, and is even easier to read.
  • It remembers the last screen you read of any given comic and starts you out there when you revisit
  • There is a thumbnails view that can scroll across the bottom of your screen for easy navigating
  • Comics are submitted in a specific aspect ratio so that they fit most monitors in full screen view, so no matter which view you use you don't have to scroll around.
I just don't understand people who suggest that any of those things is just an insurmountable barrier to their accessing and enjoying comics. I could read some really good comics on the web for free, but screw that, I refuse to maximize. I refuse to use a flash viewer, and I refuse to sit for a screen load time that is generally about the same amount of time that many other webcomics take to have their whole page refresh when you click 'next'. If people have systems that flash is incompatible with, then that is a real issue, and I hope that it is being looked into or considered as an issue to be resolved in a later update, etc. If the percentage of potential viewers affected is too small to justify changing or fixing, then that is just the way it is. Those sorts of things happen sometimes, and it is unfortunate.
The sense of community, and the sense of genuine enthusiasm for the medium of comics, and appreciation of their peers and the guidance and support they get through their organization is really palpable among the creators I have had the pleasure of chatting with. It's genuine, and it's refreshing. No I don't expect that every creator needs to be my 'friend' in order for me to read their works, but I do appreciate the sense of really trying to make something work, and really appreciating their readers and peers. It's a lot like following a local band and seeing them break into a greater music community.
If you haven't given Zuda a chance, give it a chance. It isn't the enemy of webcomics, it is another avenue of opportunity for webcomics that can exist right out there alongside every other comic you like. I don't like every comic on Zuda, but you are missing out on some exceptional ones if you write it off. Zuda is on twitter, as are many of its creators. Following them is a good way to know when updates are available without visiting the site, or hearing about upcoming events, etc.
I am also not implying here that Zuda is an underdog either. I doubt it really needs me defending it in any way. I get a good bit of enjoyment from the site, just don't understand what seems to be a steady assault of it. I am tired of everything being about tearing down instead of lifting up. That is part of my general philosophy here. I realize it doesn't make me look like an important critic of the industry, but that's just not an aspiration of mine.

Friday, September 4, 2009

CBD 09/02/2009

Chew, Strange Tales, Wednesday Comics, Sweet Tooth, UltCom Spider-Man, North 40

You are correct that not all of the comics I listed there are actually new this week. I found Chew #3 not long ago in a store that is not my LCS, and I was happy to see the 4th and 3rd printings of 1 and 2 show up on the shelf long enough for me to buy them. North 40 #2 is one I should have gotten when it came out, but didn't. The good news is that my LCS hunted it down for me, and now I have it.

Chew #1,2,3 - John Layman and Rob Guillory - The concept for this, which is: In a world where poultry is outlawed... one man with the ability to get sort of psychic impressions by eating things will... do cool stuff as an FDA agent. I wouldn't wish Tony Chu's ability on anyone, as it means he will routinely be called upon to eat really nasty stuff, and experience all the horrors of the food processing industry as well. In the three issues so far he is solving crimes, hearing that the bird flu panic is a hoax, going from cop to FDA agent, and falling in love. I guess I read a lot of clever things, but this series is clever, it is interesting and funny, and the character design / artistic style is really great. I plan to grab the rest of it as well.

Wednesday Comics - I think my comments on this have been pretty consistent. I will just jump to the thing that for no good reason jumped out and me and made me laugh.
Supergirl - Amanda Conner's art continues to be the cutest most endearing stuff ever. I love that it is in WC because it is just fresh and light and fun. The writing is cute and funny as well. They are at Dr. Midnite's and he has alerted Supergirl to something fishy going on in the sun. I would love an ongoing like this is, done all ages style. The thing that made me laugh was that all rear shots of Streaky and Krypto have their butt-holes drawn in. Maybe it's been like that the entire series, but still it made me laugh. I am 12, and I am living with it.

Sweet Tooth #1 - Jeff Lemire - I really like the distinctive style of the art in this comic. I haven't read any of Lemire's other works, and I will need to remedy that. This a very well told story so far, and definitely uses the medium well. The dialog is spare, and most of the story is told solely in pictures. It is the story of a boy with antlers who was raised by his father in a strict religious environment, in a secluded area. We find out that there have been other children born similarly, but possibly with other animal characteristics. It's pretty compelling so far. I think I will give it a few issues if I can. It shipped with a $1 cover price, which is a sure fire way to get me to read something.

North 40 #2 - This is just getting better. I am enjoying the developments a lot. The writing is great, the art is great.

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man - The second half of this issue really just made it for me. Spidey fights a mother/daughter team and it is just awesome classic spider-man fun.

Strange Tales #1 - Exceptionally funny takes on Marvel characters by a varied and unexpected collection of artists. James Kochalka, Nicholas Gurewitch, Jason, Johnny Ryan, Dash Shaw and more. The bits range from cute to just wildly funny. Certainly worth getting the next 2 issues in my opinion.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ranma 1/2 vs Usagi Yojimbo

I am pretty sure that before this week I had never read any Ranma 1/2, or any Usagi Yojimbo. These 2 series are unrelated except for the facts that 1. I picked up 2 volumes each at my local library, 2. I just read 2 volumes of each of them, 3. I am talking about them now (or' talkin' 'bout' them, as it were).

Usagi Yojimbo - Stan Sakai - This is a pretty straight forward lovingly done tribute to a genre. It also uses anthropomorphic animals to tell its stories. I am a big fan of Kurosawa's samurai era films. I also bought a lot of Lone Wolf and Cub when First Comics put out the English language editions with the Frank Miller covers in the late 80's. Usagi Yojimbo started around the same time I think, and I have been aware of it, and thought it was cool, but never read it because sometimes(most times) I am slow to pick up on things.
The volumes I got from the library are numbered 2 and 3, and are put out by Fantagraphics. In this case I don't think starting with volume 2 was bad because it contains what was the first 6 volumes of the Usagi Yojimbo comic, and starts right off with a very nice origin story retelling by the main character himself.
You should know by now that I tend to like nearly everything I read on some level or another. Even I have a ha
rd time believing me when I re-read my reviews. That being said, and unnecessarily apologized for... I really love this series so far, and can't believe it has taken me this long to actually break into it.
The really great thing about this, is that the art is fantastic. It's dynamic and expressive (I think those are important things for art in a comic like this), and allows you to distance this work from its 'source' material. It makes this telling of things completely its own. I don't feel like the use of Animals here is completely allegorical in nature. I don't feel that every animal represented is directly representative of some characteristic of the specific character. Some are, but I don't think it is trying to be that deep all the time. I consider that a very good thing. The way it is done is light, has a good bit of humor, but also comes across as having more depth than just that. Usagi is a real character and we are on his journey with him. He is very much cut from the same cloth as the heroes of the genre I mentioned earlier, and his story is expertly told. Plus... You have to admit that a kick butt samurai rabbit is an extremely cool character design.
This is well written and well drawn. If you like the stories of Zatoichi or Miyamoto Musashi, or any of the others I mentioned, you should give this a shot. If you aren't sure about those things, give this a shot anyway. I think this is a pretty accessible window into the genre.

Ranma 1/2 - Rumiko Takahashi - I am not a big consumer of manga. I have read a number of titles, but nowhere near the hundreds that my daughters have read. I have seen Ranma 1/2 for a LONG time, my library has a ton of it, but I have never tried to read it, and never really understood what it was about. I decided on my last trip or 2 to the library that i would specifically pick up some things I had sort of avoided reading for a long time, and make an effort to read them.
Ranma 1/2 is the story of a father and his daughters who run a martial arts school. He has arranged with an old friend that one of his daughters will become engaged to the friend's son, sight unseen. When the friend and his son show up, it becomes clear pretty quickly that something strange has happened to them. Ultimately it boils down to the fact that they had gone to China and chose to train in an area covered with cursed springs. Anyone falling into one of the springs comes out of it oddly and mostly comically transformed. The transformations are triggered by hot and cold water. The father turns into a giant panda when he is splashed with cold water. The son turns into a girl. To change them back they need to be doused with hot water.
Ranma Saotome is the boy in question. He is an expert martial artist. Akane Tendo is the daughter that ends up engaged to him. Her sisters decided that since Akane seems to hate all the boys she has met, that a boy who is also a girl would be ideal for her. There isn't a ton of depth here, but there is a lot of action, and even more humor. There are also a lot of boobs. lots and lots, but no sexual situations. I will probably let my 10 year old read this. As far as nudity goes, it is about as inoffensive as you can get, and is generally used for humor one way or another.
Akane is also extremely skilled in martial arts. Prior to Ranma showing up, she was able to beat up all the boys in her area. She is not keen on being anyone's fiance at the moment, especially not someone she didn't choose. She is hard-headed and has a quick temper, but she is not without her endearing qualities as well.
In addition to Ranma and his father, we get another character that has had misfortune at the cursed springs. He blames Ranma for it, and is intent upon destroying him. Unfortunately for him, his changed form is that of the cutest little black pig you will ever see.
Obviously this is filled with improbable situations where the changing characters are doused with water far more than anyone should ever expect to be doused with water. I laughed out loud constantly as I was reading this. The second volume moves into the realm of odd specialty fights that Ranma must be a girl to help out in. First it is a Martial Rhythmic Gymnastics battle, and then it is a Martial Figure Skating battle. I admit that those things seem kind of dumb to me, but they are really pretty funny, and very smartly executed. Again, there isn't a ton of depth, but there is a lot of action and cuteness and humor.