Monthly Archives: December 2007

The Webcomic Overlook #23: Nothing Better

I recently read “My Freshman Year” by Rebekah Nathan. Ms. Nathan (which is a pseudonym) is an anthropology professor who undertook a rather unusual task: she enrolled as an over-aged freshman student at a college to observe, professionally, a most intriguing cultural subset: the American college student. She took the study seriously, and she used her anthropological training to good use.

As an observer, she discovered many things that should be apparent to the typical college student, but surprising to her as a professor. As an educator, she thought that assigned reading would lead students to different viewpoints. As a “freshman,” though, she soon discovered that when you juggle four classes, extracurricular activities, and a part-time job, there is just no time to ever open a book. As an educator, she thought that classroom silence came from the typical fear of asking questions. Instead, she discovered that an invisible force — the pressures of “equality” — that prevented intellectual discussions. Students who ask questions (e.g., prize students) are seen as being arrogant — yet if everyone remains silent (except to ask questions about tests and exams), then everyone’s on the same playing field, intellectually.

From a student’s standpoint, there were several eye-opening revelations for me, too. I once used to brag that I could get through college, with only four hours of sleep a night. Ms. Nathan heard the same boasts, too. She noticed, though, that college students tended to schedule classes at later times (around 11 am) just to get some extra sleep. And all that jazz about individuality? You ever notice how dorm room door art practically tries to say “I’m an eccentric and fun nonconformist,” and yet all those decorations are the same — friendship and love on women’s doors, violence and humorous cartoons on men’s doors?

The findings might be anomalous. However, I’ve been a student at two colleges, and I know one thing: her observations of college life feels right.

Which brings me to today’s Webcomic Overlook review, Tyler Page’s slice-of-life comic Nothing Better. I’ve heard some criticisms that it makes college seem too antisceptic, too squeaky clean. Yet, while reading the comic, its observations about college life … they feel right.

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Christmas means … sporadic updates

First of all, I want to give a hearty Happy Holidays to the loyal readers of the Webcomic Overlook.

I especially want to extend a special greeting to Miles Grover of Thinkin’ Lincoln, who I gave a less than flattering review about his webcomic, yet was gracious enough to post a link on his site anyway. He wrote a well-reasoned rebuttal, which I suggest you check out.

Anyway, it turns out that it’s extremely difficult to read webcomics during the latter half of December, what with all the traveling and shopping and whatnot. Fie, if only they had wireless service on American flights! And plugs for the laptop. It would be a fine way to catch up on reading some comics while flying the friendly skies. (I did, however, manage to read the entirety of Jeff Smith’s Bone series. It’s rather good, though it does get very Tolkienesque at some points. And he kinda lost me on the Locust bits.)

Thus, I might only have few — if any — updates heading up to December 25. Too many things to do. But thanks you for reading thus far! I’m in the middle of reading Nothing Better as well as a slew of requests.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

One Punch Reviews #4: Aliens, Zombies, and Scary Little Girls (Alien Loves Predator, Thorn, Awkward Zombie)

One Punch Reviews

The One Punch Review is back! This time, I don’t even attempt to have a theme, unless you find “scary little girls” to be some kind of alien zombie. (I wouldn’t blame you.) Today, I take a look at the toy-based comedy strip “Alien Loves Predator”; the all-ages newspaper strip hopeful “Thorn”; and yet another video game webcomic “Awkward Zombie.”

Alien Loves Predator

Alien Loves Predator
The last strip, published a week ago, seems to hint that this strip may soon belong to the annals of Webcomics past. The release of new strips has been very sporadic in 2007, especially compared to the breakneck pace in 2005. Writer/creator Bernie Hou seems to have other, more important things on his mind, and a comic strip, based around still photographs of some of his painstakingly detailed toys (um, “action figures”) in silly poses, seems to rank fairly low on his priority list. And that’s fine. Life is unexpected like that. Still, I’ll be sad to see if this buddy strip about roommates Abe and Preston is truly at an end. Oh, sure, this strip reveled in the sort of random absurdity that seems to be popular with the college crowd these days. Jesus plays on the Yankees, and he’s also a roommate? Preston’s ex-girlfriend goes on a date with Bill Clinton? Abe’s pal pretends he’s Russell Crowe to go out with Abe’s Mom? Make it so … times THREE!

And yet, “Alien Loves Predator” is also a rather honest account about two guys trying to survive the everyday dilemmas of New York City. Abe and Pres look around for apartments, try to pay the rent, hail taxis, and try to find soulmates in a detached world. I’ve never been to New York, but I imagine the stories here are more true to life than the squeaky-clean “New York” — you know, the propoganda that shows up in sitcoms and dramas to lure unsuspecting college grads to a non-existent paradise of coffee shops and Manolo Blahniks. “Alien Loves Predator” presets a New York where you can smell the cheap hot dogs and break up with a girl just because she roots for the wrong baseball team.

Maybe that’s the secret of the title. “Alien Loves Predator” … perhaps it’s about how, in a teeming metropolis, we must reconcile our sense of alienation with our predatory sense of survival? Ha! Just kidding. It’s called “Alien Loves Predator” because Abe is an xenomorph from the Alien movies and Preston is a, um, predator from the Predator movies.

Anyway, this story is in he middle of a yet unresolved storyline, with Corinna stuck in her room, Pres worrying about her, and Corinna’s BO and Abe trying out the speed-dating scene. There’s a lot of loose end to tie up, and not enough time to do it. Rating: 4/5
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The Webcomic Overlook #22: Thinkin’ Lincoln

I’m not sure how many international readers set eyes on The Webcomic Overlook. With the internet, you never know. I feel I need to spend some time explaining a certain American President named Abraham Lincoln. Unless you are from the United States, you may be puzzled as to why the man is considered by many to be the greatest president of the United States. Why does he appear on so much of our currency? Why is the Lincoln Memorial treated like a sacred shrine? I imagine the bafflement mirrors my own confusion of the Chinese devotion to Mao Tse Tung or the Filipino deification of Jose Rizal.

So if I could be serious for a moment….

We now live in an era where every Presidential candidate seems to be born with a spoon in their mouth. So it seems rather shocking that Lincoln was a man born of poverty, starting from zero and clawing his way to the top through sheer perseverance. Unlike you or I, Lincoln received no formal education. No problem; he taught himself by reading Shakespeare and the Bible. As President, he penned two of the most moving speeches in American history: the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address.

Lincoln was chronically depressed, mocked for his unconventional appearance, despised by more than half the country, and denounced by factions in his own party. Yet he united a divided country and set the referendum on an issue that had poisoned the United States since its founding: slavery. Oh, historians will tell you that there was the matter of state’s rights, but slavery, and its expansion into the new territories, was the only issue anyone was interested in. This adds to entire mystique of the Lincoln Presidency: he entire term is defined by a war about an idea — human rights — and whether or not that idea was worth dying for.

Thus, Abraham Lincoln seems larger than life, legendary. He seemed to exist solely to serve as President of the United States in it’s darkest years. And when that task was over, he was gone. Lincoln died for his beliefs, assassinated at Ford’s Theater. After the deed, the assassin, the actor John Wilkes Booth, uttered the phrase, “Sic Semper Tyrannis.” This only expands Lincoln’s legacy by contrasting his mercy (which was noted by Confederate General Robert E. Lee: “I surrendered as much to Lincoln’s goodness as I did to Grant’s armies”) against blinding, senseless hatred. By the time Lincoln was buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery, he was the American Messiah.

And, because he’s seen as such a stately individual, Abraham Lincoln is ripe for lampooning. A teenage Abe was one of the main characters in MTV’s “Clone High,” the ghost of Lincoln helped the Venture Brothers, he once told us to “be excellent to each other” in Bill & Ted, and once ran amok as “Evli Lincoln” on Futurama.

This trend continues in webcomics. Jesus Christ may be the most frequent target for webcomic creators, but Honest Abe gets some props, too … like the subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook, Thinkin’ Lincoln.

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