Archive for category Rants: Webcomics

2011 in Review: Novels and Webcomics

2011 was a good year. I thought I’d share some of the amazing stories I came across, in no particular order:

Novels

For seven months, I challenged myself to read only books by female authors. I’ve tended towards reading mostly white male (hetero?) authors, and I figured if I could pick up some new insta-read authors, I could help change the disparity in publishing (if not literary criticism) with my money. As expected, I found a lot of great fiction by incredibly talented women:

  • Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon: Has a different flavor than the movie, but both are equally entertaining. The abridged audio is read by David Tennant, who does all the voices (squee).
  • Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett’s Shadow Magic: By far my favorite book from Jones and Bennett. I don’t care for Rook, a protagonist of Havemercy and Dragon Soul, and his absence in this book allowed me to enjoy the worldbuilding and the authors’ trademark ability to play characters off of each other.
  • Ursula K. LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness: Classic sci-fi about an ambassador trying to obtain the trust and understanding of a foreign world with a unisex race. The worldbuilding is excellent.
  • Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell: Positively beautiful, elegant prose. Reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s books, where the magic often occurs in the shadows, just out of the corner of your eye.
  • Robin Hobb’s The Farseer: The Assassin’s Apprentice: I bought the trilogy for $3, but these books are definitely worth a lot more. In this, the first book, the bastard son of a prince is given a place to stay and a vocation by his grandfather, the king. The characters give this book heart (and kept me from putting it down).
  • Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought: Civil War-era steampunk and zombies. A quick-and-dirty read, with possibly some of the best action scenes I’ve read.
  • Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games: I’ve been recommending this to people right and left. It’s like Battle Royale, but not nearly so dark and definitely not as sexual. And even if you’re not normally into darker books with good people dying at the hands of other (good?) people, it’s short, often cheap, and you won’t lose much by picking it up. But really, I don’t expect you’ll be able to put it down until it’s over.
  • Melanie Rawn’s The Exiles: The Ruins of Ambrai: Liz recommended this to me years ago, and I finally picked it up when the C-U Borders closed. (I am now kicking myself for not grabbing book 2 in the series as well.) The book follows three sisters, separated from each other early in life, as they take very different political paths. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the primary culture in the book is matriarchical, and that Rawn is very careful to make the matriarchy feel realistic (think power struggles, institutionalized misandry, ‘protecting’ men from the female gaze by having them cover their hair).
  • Toni Morrison’s Beloved:
    “Paul D did not answer because she didn’t expect or want him to, but he did know what she meant. Listening to the doves in Alfred, Georgia, and having neither the right nor the permission to enjoy it because in that place mist, doves, sunlight, copper dirt, moon – everything belonged to the men who had the guns. Little men, some of them, big men too, each one of whom he could snap like a twig if he wanted to. Men who knew their manhood lay in their guns and were not even embarrassed by the knowledge that without gunshot fox would laugh at them. And these “men” who made even vixen laugh could, if you let them, stop you from hearing doves or loving moonlight. So you protected yourself and loved small. Picked the tiniest stars out of the sky to own; lay down with head twisted in order to see the loved one over the rim of the trench before you slept. Stole shy glances at her between the trees at chain-up. Grass blades, salamanders, spiders, woodpeckers, beetles, a kingdom of ants. Anything bigger wouldn’t do. A woman, a child, a brother – a big love like that would split you wide open in Alfred, Georgia. He knew exactly what she meant: to get to a place where you could love anything you chose – not to need permission for desire – well now, that was freedom.”

Webcomics

I mostly read newly-begun/short-archived webcomics in 2011, because I hadn’t the energy to go through massive archives (with one notable exception). Linkage goes to the first pages of each one.

  • Homestuck: What can I say about Homestuck? It’s epic in scope, with amazing worldbuilding. And the characters – Hussie keeps introducing new ones, yet each one is distinct and interesting. And there is so much wordplay, my god, it’s beautiful. (Last link put in ironically.) Check it out, if you haven’t already.
  • Power Nap: Go read the first three pages. (Giggle furiously.)
  • Monster Pulse: It’s like Pokemon, except that your monster was once a part of your body! Cute art and characters, plus ongoing intrigue as to the origins of the monsters. The formatting and art style made me rethink my plans for Multivers’d.
  • Ever Night: Kind of slow going, but definitely worth a look for the worldbuilding, action sequences and beautiful art. I recently reread the beginning narration (as research for a bit of fanart I’m planning), and it wowed me all over again.
  • Widdershins: By the author of the recently-completed Darken. This comic pairs a hapless wizard (okay, so he dropped out) with a bounty hunter, and shenanigans ensue. Hilarity!
  • Shadoweyes: In a dark and grimy future, a young woman decides to be a superhero and turns into a mutant (in that order). Like most of the webcomics on this list, the art makes me drool in envy. (Bonus: curvy ladies!)
  • Leftover Soup: As anyone who has read 1/0 knows, Tailsteak is at his best playing philosophies and worldviews off of one another, while keeping characterization high and strawmen out. This webcomic gives him plenty of opportunity to do so.
  • Dumbing of Age: This comic is set in a different universe than Shortpacked!, though the enterprising David Willis fan will enjoy seeing familiar characters in new roles. For everybody else, enjoy four-panel humor strips that might just make you think.
  • Adventures of Superhero Girl: A funny take on the superhero genre.  Faith Erin Hicks also does Friends With Boys, which is more story-oriented and character-driven.
  • Sinfest: I’m linking to the front page, because I’ve been reading this for a few years. Within the last year, however, Sinfest has picked up some enthralling plot – Fuschia’s romance with Seymour, for instance. My favorite development was the introduction (?) of the Patriarchy storyline, which is so dead-on in its Matrix comparison that I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.
  • The Secret Knots, “Music for Stray Days: made me smile. Listen to the song and reread the comic after.

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Emerald Knight

Let’s do wallpaper, shall we? Build up that neglected little category of mine? ^^

I made this one because I wanted a Green Lantern wallpaper, and there are no good ones of my beloved Kyle Rayner. Well… okay, none that I’ve found. Of course I then ran into another problem – I only own three collections or so of pure GL, and the art in them sucks, to be frank. And the JLA artists aren’t going to devote full-body solo panels to a member who isn’t Superman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. So I took the only good full-body image I could find, from the JLA: Divided We Fall collection. He’s not in his regular costume, but hey. I know it’s Kyle under that distinctive-crab-mask-looking helmet.

I will make more as I get my hands on more GL issues and graphic novel collections. I know that the GL art gets better – the Sinestro Corps. War proved that. Now if I owned the Sinestro Corps. War I could make a nifty one of Parallax!Kyle and the ring constructs he makes of himself in his hero costumes…

Sigh. Why do I love it so much when my favorite characters go evil? Probably the duality of character, not to mention all the mind games that the real villains tend to play in order to tip the heroes over the edge… Speaking of, I’m busy squeeing over the latest Ten Doctors page. The last panel, specifically. Half-naked Ten being converted into a Dalek… Mmm, I can’t wait to see how this twist gets resolved! ^^

NaNo news: Yes, I’m ‘still’ happy… Though yesterday I was cursing myself out and feeling like a dumbass for not finishing my Graphics assignment. I’ve got an extension, since my professor couldn’t help me figure out a couple bugs for awhile. Unfortunately, I haven’t written any of “Spyder, Spyder” in two days, thanks to that franticness. I’m waaay behind now, and I keep cheating with MSW. -_-

And the programming contest is tomorrow. Still need practice, and since I won’t get back until 5-ish, I may not have the time or energy to write… But I will. You watch me. Even if I can’t succeed, even if I’m utterly useless at the contest, I will at least have my story. And I will catch up. I will finish this thing. Mwa-ha-ha and all that. ^^

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Self-analysis of a webcomic addict: Linkage chains

I became interested in webcomics sometime in 2005. A random Google search for pictures led me to Jett Atwood’s Xena fancomic Battle On!, which in turn led to her take on superheroics, Red Sparrow. Another Google search brought me to Red Sparrow’s profile on the Webcomic List. Not too long after, I was exploring the genres, picking out titles at random and plowing through archives with an increasingly insatiable hunger.Lately I’ve become interested in the way I’ve come across new webcomics. The process I went through can be roughly divided up into stages:

Stage 1. I only read through randomly-selected archives found on the Webcomic List. Because I hadn’t read many webcomics, I did not yet know what I was looking for genre-wise, art-wise, or humor-wise. I had not heard of the ‘big names’ in webcomics (Penny Arcade, PvP, Megatokyo, Dinosaur Comics, etc.), so exploration had less to do with finding the popular trend than figuring out what I wanted to read, and how I wanted to read it. There is only one webcomic I found during this stage that I still regularly enjoy: The Tao of Geek.

Stage 2. I discovered link pages, in which webcomic authors shared their own favorite webcomic reads. The sprite comic Bob and George has a link page that neatly covers many popular webcomics, for example. Tailsteak‘s exhaustive list was also quite influential. Between these and other lists, I began to figure out which webcomics were well-known and well-respected. Since ‘well-known and well-respected’ often means solid plot, stylistic artwork, and regular updates, I found it in my best interests to keep these webcomics in mind. During this period I began reading Real Life, PvP, and El Goonish Shive.

Stage 3. I turned to sources within the comic archives themselves. Crossovers gave me a taste of another comic’s plot; cameos, a taste of influence; guest strips, a taste of artwork and humor. For example, the Clan of the Cats crossover here led to College Roomies from Hell!!! A cameo in Tao of Geek led me to The Gods of Arr-Kelaan. And frequent guest art from Hawk convinced me to finally pick up Applegeeks.

Stage 4. The previous stage had lasted a good while – from late high school to early college. This stage, however, could never have been possible without a university setting. As I wriggled out of my shell of solitude, I began to find others who shared my interest in webcomics. Whether that interest was minimal or passionate, I generally walked away from such conversations with recommendations, many of which I may not have found on my own. Recent examples include Cyanide and Happiness, Looking for Group, and Girls with Slingshots.

Stage 5. No webcomic can survive without some form of advertising, but it was only recently that I let myself click on interesting links to other comics. I have always felt a vague outrage towards advertising. An evil though it is, I eventually had to admit that a strong, stylistic (and possibly humorous) demonstration of a webcomic can draw my interest just as thoroughly as a guest comic. Even better, I could help support a webcomic artist while feeding my own curiosity and archive cravings. A few webcomics with intensive (and intriguing!) advertising: Weregeek, No Need for Bushido!, Dresden Codak.

That’s where I stand right now. There’s some overlap, but this is overall the way I’ve been able to break down my quest for new webcomics to read. I should say, too, that old sources didn’t simply go away as I discovered a new stage. Every once in awhile I’ll return to Teh Archives, find a cameo and follow the link. I do still check the link lists of Tailsteak and Joe England. These simply aren’t the only sources anymore.

To better illustrate the connections I’ve made (click on the legends to see the full linkage chains):

Linkage Chain 1.2:
Webcomic Chain 1.2

Linkage Chain 2.3
Webcomic Chain 2.3

Conclusion? Probably nothing that hasn’t been said before. It’s probably a good idea for new webcomic authors to advertise through Project Wonderful and submit guest strips and fanart to other strips. Of course, it’s even better to have the content first – plot? humor? Something that will keep the reader interested, keep them coming back for more. Regular updates help too.

However! This is only an introspection of my own webcomic-finding methods. I’ve heard of webcomic readers who keep within their ‘webcomics community,’ only reading comics from DrunkDuck, say, or Keenspot. There are other methods out there. But my own experiences are the only ones I can really analyze.

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I wish my classmates would stop giving me sexual poems to critique

I know that there are a lot of hormones floating around on college campuses, and I know some of that is bound to make its way into the poetry of my fellow English 91 classmates. I can deal with the intimate stuff, but there are always two or three people in the Poetry Workshops who submit heavily S&M, somewhat mind-scarring stanzas. I know I’m an innocent (or sexually-repressed prude, take your prick – I mean “pick”), and I just can’t handle writing in-depth critiques of these poems. I can’t. That requires me to read carefully at least two times, something I would rather not do, even given a ten-foot, non-phallic-symbolizing pole and a pair of binoculars.

I think we only have two more Workshops left. I’m praying so, because I am way too uncomfortable with the situation as it stands right now.

In NaNo news, if I had kept to my 1,670 words per day schedule, I would have been able to read my five webcomics yesterday. Instead, I am left with around 3,000 left before I can partake of my first reward. I feel kind of guilty about not keeping up, and fairly desperate to read my dear, dear webcomics. Withdrawal has set in, I guess you could say. I found myself reading my printed volumes of “Megatokyo” yesterday, and had to put them in my closet so I would not be tempted. Also, I keep thinking about old storylines from webcomics that I did not think I’d miss too much… Agh, it’s driving me a little crazy. I have to keep focused, and I’m beginning to doubt whether having webcomics as a reward was a good idea – what if the Piperka proximity to so many other links leads me into temptation…?

The other affect of not reading webcomics is that I check my email five or six times a day, and visit Facebook a minimum of three times. Vaguely worrying…

Before NaNo started, I did manage to finish the Sprite Door IDs for my roommates. They are now hanging cheerily on our door. Here’s Liz’s and Anne’s posters.

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I still like Anne’s best.  The outfit?  The katana?  The flying penguin?!  So. Awesome.  The last two posters, plus photos of the printed versions, will follow in the next post.  Yeah, I’m a stinker.

—————-
Now playing: John Legend – Ordinary People
via FoxyTunes

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Maximum verbosity

I am thoroughly enjoying my fall break. The family dog Holly can’t seem to believe that I’m back, and my sisters find themselves having to curb degrading usage of the word “nerd” (“Why you dissin’ mah homeboys?” I replied with a smile), and as far as I can tell all is well in the world (but then I’ve been wrong before).

I have been doing slow but steady work on the door sprites – but that progress is sadly at the expense of my homework. I always have problems juggling my time while at home since I can never say no to hanging out with my family. Nor, in fact, do I want to say no. I’m too much of a hermit.

I also find myself missing people. Tien, Shilpa, Josh, Jessica. Holly (the friend, not the dog). I even miss Dominick a little bit, but that’s the lingering effects of the crush I had on him back in eighth grade. We’re just Facebook pals now. When I get back to school, I plan to take some time to call people, ask how they’re doing. Reconnect. Mmm. There’s so many I’d like to see face-to-face again, but I might have to settle for phone calls.

In webcomics news, I visited the Webcomic Crossover and Cameo Archive lately, and noticed this in the FAQ:

  • A Crossover is when the same event (usually a plotline) is taking place in all the involved comics at the same time. Events where characters from one comic turns up in another for a longer span of time, and yet still go about the normal business back in their own strip, are to be taken as an extended cameo, not a crossover!

By these definitions, “Starslip Crisis: Alterverse War” is not making use of crossovers, since the included webcomics only submitted their sci-fi ships for inclusion in Kris Straub’s world. There are no other mentions of the War in those webcomics’ own plotlines. So the Alterverse War is really a giant mess of extended cameos, not the giant mess of crossovers I thought it was.

However.

This does not dissuade me at all from loving the Alterverse War. Extended cameos are just as fun as crossovers, and I don’t have to click multiple links to get the full story. I just want to set this down straight, since I previously mentioned the Alterverse War was a crossover.

I also previously mentioned that Kris Straub had quit updating Halfpixel with little experimental comics and knick-knacks. Well, he’s started again. As you might imagine, I am ecstatic. And constantly checking it, like the fangirl I am. Yeah, I’m a nerd. Just hangin’ wit’ mah homies.

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Why Kris Straub is a sexy man, and other subjects

My cold cleared up yesterday afternoon, and I found myself once more feeling great happiness and optimism for my coming classes and homework.

And then I went and added six very long webcomic archives to my list of Webcomics to Go Through, which darkened things a bit. I simply don’t have time to go through archives right now. I’m chipping away at “Irregular Webcomic” and rereading a few pages of “Universal Voyage” every couple days, but I could be at that for months. Seriously. It took me a month to read the entirety of “Schlock Mercenary,” and it would have been longer if the school year hadn’t ended, leaving me with a plethora of free time.

This may sound like the whining of a webcomics addict, and maybe it is. But I still read a good handful a day, which fulfills any craving I might have. What is important is that my time is being used differently, in a way that seriously undermines how much I devote myself to reading or rereading webcomic archives. Now, I have Facebook to keep up on, and books to read (right now I’m working through “V for Vendetta”). My roommates like to watch anime and play video games, and I join them a lot. So when I say that I added over 10,000 comics to my Webcomics to Read list, is it any wonder that my heart sank a little?

***

One more item on webcomics and I’ll stop, I promise. Here: Kristopher Straub has started a crossover in his daily webcomic “Starslip Crisis.” The crossover is called “The Alterverse War,” and includes the spaceships (and crews!) of many a Sci-Fi webcomic. Straub had 29 entries, and of the ships that appeared on page three, I knew at least 5. A few ships are from comics I haven’t read yet, but are on my list (another reason for my sinking heart). So no matter what happens in the Alterverse storyline, I will probably remain very interested.

It is worth noting that I really love Kristopher Straub. Among those I idolize, he is right up there with Neil Gaiman, vying for number 1. He kicked ass with “Checkerboard Nightmare” and is currently creating wonderfully funny, cute, and touching storylines with “Starslip Crisis.” And he’s hot. Especially when he’s choking to death. The only thing that upset me about him was that he pretty much stopped updating his blog at Halfpixel. But the crossover! I love crossovers! He’s redeemed himself.

***

Finally, a poem I wrote last year during an empty tutoring session for the Writing Workshop. I’d forgotten to bring extra paper, so I wrote it on the back of my math homework. My Calculus teacher liked it. I do too.

 

My Dream Library

If I could have a dollar for every other thought,
I’d build myself a library with my own wages bought.
I’d paint the walls with sunshine, with joy splattered here and there.
Every room would smell of flowers and there’d be magic in the air.
I’d import darker floors to remind me of my fears –
Fine, crystallized disasters mined from the hardest years.
There would be no windows but there’d still be lots of light –
A million phosphorous-emitting fishes to confuse the day with night.
As for the books themselves – it would be hard to stem my pride,
For their covers would match the radiance of the words hidden inside.
But once a book was opened it would be like an open door,
And I’d leave behind this library to return nevermore.

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Chaos-bringer

So, apparently there’s this Facebook group called “Webcomics Anonymous,” after a magazine of the same title. I decided to join, right? But after I confirm that I want to join, I go to the members list and stop. It’s alphabetical. My name is first. Right above Greg Dean‘s. Greg Dean, man! The author of “Real Life”! One of the first maybe twenty webcomics I started reading religiously. And while I am considering letting it go (it just doesn’t make me laugh as much anymore), the fact remained: I cannot just sit at the top of this illustrious list. I cannot be first above Greg Dean. I was – am – cowed by the sheer enormity of this. My last name starts with a C. His starts with a D. Oh cruel fate!

Maybe one day, when I grow a pair, I will actually join the group. It isn’t just for webcomic authors. At least, it never said it was just for them. So maybe. One day.

***

My creative offering today is a binder cover I did for my old novel “Past, Present and Probable Future,” which actually doesn’t need a binder cover, but still.

I used myself as a model for both the scared face and the angry head-woman.  Both are supposed to represent character-Ashley (c-Ashley), my counterpart and general god-moder.  She is a seer, and spends a good third of the story trying to prevent herself from becoming the evil, black-magic-using sorceress pictured above.  I like the picture, though goodness knows the story could use more work.  I don’t think I’ll ever publish it (it’s a self-insertion and a Mary Sue), but I’d still like to work on it.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll change the names and my mind.

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