Monthly Archives: January 2008

The Webcomic Overlook #29: Penny and Aggie

Does anybody still read Archie comics? Archie and his Riverdale pals haven’t really been relevant since they topped the pop charts with “Sugar Sugar.” I know that there are a bunch of Archie digests available at the grocery store checkout aisle next to the Disney Adventures, so somebody must be reading it. However, there’s something strangely anachronistic about the comic, you know? Some of the recent comics can still be entertaining in their innocence, like Betty’s temporary foray as a goth, but most of the time it’s a sanitized, kid friendly view on high school life that seems straight out of the 60’s.

Which is a shame, because there’s definitely room in the comics world for a lighthearted teen comedy. The manga shelves are filled with many entries into this genre, and readers are eating them up. When you think about it, they’re not too different from the Archie formula. Is the academic rivalry between Yukino Miyazawa and Maho Izawa of Kare Kano any different than the Betty-Veronica blood feud?

You have to wonder: what would Archie comics look like if it were written by someone, who, I don’t know, had at least some clue of how high school teens act in the 21st century?

Today’s Webcomic Overlook reviews Penny and Aggie, a comic that seems inspired by both Archie comics and romance manga. The comic was written by T. Campbell (is his first name just “T”? Were his parents letter-philes?) and illustrated by Gisèle Legacé.

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One Punch Reviews #5: The Abominable Charles Christopher

One Punch Reviews returns with a reasonably short take on a webcomic about a yeti that’s so ugly, he’s kinda cute: “The Abominable Charles Christopher.”

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The Webcomic Overlook #28: Applegeeks

There is no person in the world more obnoxious than an Apple elitist. Boston sports fans come pretty damn close, but typically those are somewhat pudgy guys with hilarious accents and not nerdy hipsters with smug faces you are sorely tempted to slap or punch.

It’s always, “Why would you waste your money on a PC when you can get a Mac?” Or “Macs are way more reliable than PC. Have you ever seen a Mac get a computer virus?” Or “Look at that god-awful Zune. Why would anyone ever pick that over the graceful simplicity of an iPod?” Or “Microsoft totally stole their Windows interface from Mac. God I hate Microsoft.” Or, if you ask them to help you out with a computer, they snicker and shake their heads with mock sadness and say things like, “Well, if you’d gotten a Mac, none of this would’ve happened.”

It’s like some sort of inferiority complex, bourne by the ubiquity of Microsoft PCs. They’re the sorts who laugh and nod at those “Mac and PC” commercials, which every normal-brained person finds obnoxious. Dave Barry was right when he said, “To this very day, Apple is not considered by us cyberwonks as a truly serious computer. It is viewed as a computer that is popular mainly with your flaky or artsy-fartsy type of individual.”

By the way, I’m totally writing this review on an Apple PowerBook*. Suck on that, PC users! Or should I say, PC Looooosers! Yeah!

So today, I’m reviewing a webcomic by two of my fellow Apple elitists, artist Mohammad “Hawk” Haque and writer Ananth Panagariya. It’s a webcomic called “Applegeeks”, a love letter to the wonderous products that Apple Inc. provides. All hail Steve Jobs!

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The Webcomic Overlook #27: Evil Inc.

In the wacky world of comic book superheroes, the supervillains are usually far more interesting than the superheroes.

Look at the respective rosters of the Justice League and the Legion of Doom. At the Hall of Justice, you have a bunch of fit, handsome do-gooders clad in tight spandex and blessed with a winning smile and perfect hair. They’re heroic, no doubt, but kinda bland. (Well, except for the Batman.) Who do we find wandering the halls of Legion HQ? There’s a genius talking ape, a purple alien with a long forehead, a lady in a kitty suit, a bald megalomaniac, and … Bizarro. Seriously, who would you rather be meeting over strawberry daquiris?

Villains almost always get the best lines, too. Dr. Doom prattles on in third person and issues grandiloquent dialogue like, “Doom commands that you kneel before him!” Unlike most top tier heroes, villains can be supremely goofy. What possessed the Riddler, for example, to rationalize that the “sea” in his latest clue was supposed to stand for “Catwoman”? “Sea,” “C,” “C for Catwoman,” get it? And villains tend to approach their work with a maniacal glee, like when Joe Quesada diabolically ended the marriage between Spider-Man and Mary Jane. (Ooohhh! Snap! Burn! Take that, Marvel Editor-in-Chief! You son-of-a- … *sob*)

And say what you will about supervillians, but they have a better record for equal opportunity employment than the good guys. Can you imagine the Superfriends admitting a chalky-white, super-strong zombie into their ranks?

Perhaps Brad Guigar harbors a similar affection for supervillians. After all, he’s the creator and artist behind Evil Inc., a webcomic about a corporation run by supervillains for supervillains.

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Crabcake Confidential: Beachnuts

When you start a website about webcomics, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get a bunch of requests from webcomic creators asking you to review their comic. There are some bloggers who openly mock such requests, calling the creators out for their pathetic self-promotion.

I take another stand. I sympathize with the webcomic creators. It’s tough to get new viewers when the internet boasts thousands of webcomics and millions more distractions. Heck, I struggle to get viewers to this blog, and I get a shiny, happy feeling when it gets linked on ComixTalk or other reputable webcomic sites. So when requests started trickling in, I was up to doing a few requests. Besides, everyone who sent a link asked nicely, and that counts for a lot.

There’s a small problem, though. How do I rate these reviews? What if I truly felt a webcomic was terrible and I gave it a low rating? Doesn’t that seem kinda low since the creator was nice enough to send a link to their comic along? And if I rated the comic too high, I would be forever wondering if I compromised the integrity of my review just to be nice. What kind of person would I be if I liked everything I reviewed? Probably Roger Ebert, but that’s beside the point.

So I came up with an innovative solution: the rating will be totally arbritary … like the name of this feature. Oh, it probably will have something to do with what I felt about the webcomic, but the meaning will be so vague and enshrouded in mystery that you could probably debate what I really meant. It’s all very zen and post-modern. Perhaps you can tell how I felt about a webcomic by the text of the review itself. This is the internet, though, where amateur reviewers tend to be crass about a movie or game that they liked … just because it’s funny to complain (supposedly). So when I start rambling like a grouchy old war vet, am I being truly vicious or am I just trying to be the next Yahtzee Croshaw?

It’s a core duality that powers my art. That’s, like, deep … I think. Hopefully, one day some college student will reference this post in their Senior thesis, “Metaphysical Methods for Reviewing Webcomics,” using words like “avuncular” and “egregious.”

So the inaugural “Crabcake Confidential” is about Beachnuts, a comedy webcomic by Mike Vincelli about surfer culture. “Beachnuts” is to surfing what “Penny Arcade” is to videogames, which is to say that it’s burns with a dangerously obsessive passion. I’m no surfer myself, so I essentially viewed this webcomic as an anthropological guide to the surfer lifestyle.
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The Webcomic Overlook #26: No Pink Ponies

NOTE: This will be the last Webcomic Overlook post that will also include a linking post from my parent blog, Rooktopia. For the next month or so, I plan on doing a lot of updates to the Webcomic Overlook. I’ve got a few reviews in the pipeline I want to finish, plus a new feature I hope to launch. Consequentially, there will be fewer updates to Rooktopia. Thus, if I were to update Rooktopia every time I did a new review, the self-proclaimed “Total Dork Wasteland” would, unfortunately, turn into a blog with a ridiculous amount of links to this site. Frankly, no one wants that. So if you primarily reach The Webcomic Overlook from Rooktopia, please bookmark this blog or add me to your WordPress Blog Surfer. As for Rooktopia, I could get around to updating the site around February or so. A hearty thanks to all the readers of both blogs!

While I wasn’t much a fan of Bobby Crosby’s webcomic, Marry Me (reviewed here), I did like the artwork provided by Remy “Eisu” Mokhtar. Usually, I’m not too thrilled when a webcomic artist imitates the Japanese manga style. However, I do like Mokhtar’s work. He has very distinct and expressive character designs. He goes beyond being a cookie-cutter manga imitation. His style part bishonen and part Peter Chung, but ultimately it’s a personalized style that is uniquely Eisu’s.

When I found out that Mokhtar had his own series, I was curious to see how he would pull it off. Needless to say, I had no reservations about that art. But could Eisu handle the rest? Could he overcome the narrative shortfalls evident in Marry Me? Could he prove to be a better writer than Bobby Crosby?

So, right off a weekend marathon viewing of the excellent Justice League Unlimited cartoon, The Webcomic Overlook delves back into the nerdy world of superheroes and the comic book store experience. Today, I will look at Eisu Mokhtar’s No Pink Ponies.

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The Webcomic Overlook #25: Gunnerkrigg Court

I’m going to make a statement that will make me sound like the perviest perv that ever perved. Or at least attract several nervous sidelong glances from random strangers on the internet. (How does that work, anyway?) But I can’t help it when reviewing webcomics for this site have, time and time again, support an undeniable truth.

I like webcomics featuring young schoolgirls.

Creepy, huh? A couple of months ago, I reviewed three webcomics prominently featuring schoolgirls — Minus, Aki Alliance, and Alma Mater — and I thoroughly loved each one. What are the chances? Did each creator craft a great webcomic on their own, and the whole “schoolgirl” theme is a happy accident? Or does the schoolgirl, or the popular concept of one, tend to infuse a webcomic with a mixture of mystery, romance, and sheer nuttiness that would not be present if the cast was made up of schoolboys or adults? Is there a dynamic where readers identify the principle characters with their little sisters?

Or maybe perhaps there’s something more sinister going on here? Are webcomic readers, predominantly male, I presume, subconsciously piqued by widespread culture taboos regarding underaged girls? Can we, in any way, blame this on the Japanese?

It’s time to explore these thoughts again, because we’re plunging back into the world of pressed uniforms and knee-high skirts. (And, at the risk of making me sound more like a creepy pederast, the school uniform and the innocence it embodies is essential to the appeal of these schoolgirl comics. I doubt there would be much demand for a comic where the main characters dressed like Bratz dolls.)

Today’s Webcomic Overlook reviews a series with a unique title that keeps tripping up my spell check: Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court. The comic has won several Webcartoonists’ Choice Awards for Oustanding Story Concept, Outstanding Use of Color, Outstanding Long Form Comic, and Outstanding Newcomer.

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The Webcomic Overlook #24: Sugary Serials

Happy 2008, and welcome back to the Webcomic Overlook! If you are looking for a site that reviews online comics, this is one of them.

Recently, I came across a a blog for video gamers lamenting on the dearth of in depth video game reviews. The writer began thinking about the silent film era, and that even in those early days film goers co get a hold of little newsletters publishing film recommendations. The writer of that particular blog post was highly enamored that he might be a reviewer in video gaming’s “silent movie” age.

Now, I don’t know if I’m a reviewer in “silent movie” age of webcomics. I wasn’t there during the heyday of Charlie Chaplin, obviously, so I can’t make a fair comparison. However, I’d like to say that we’re in the “Doom” age of webcomics. Remember Doom? That game where you picked up big guns to messily destroy demons on Mars. I was there when it was first released. (If anyone tells me to “Go to bed, old man!” I will rap them on the head with my old man cane.) The popular 3D shooter truly turned the world upside down. The energetic and confusing era to follow which saw countless, indistinguishable imitators (Heretic? Hexen? Rise of the Triad?) Across the ocean, the Japanese meshed the style with anime/manga visuals (Final Fantasy VII). And while a few developers tried for something off the beaten path, they weren’t really that different … since most developers knew that they were all reaching out to the same adolescent-to-young-adult market.

Does this sound a little like where webcomics are now? Or do I have to remind you how, despite the diverse tastes and experiences that we can see displayed by individuals in the human race, a solid majority of webcomics are still about video games?

There will be some entrants, too, trying to hold on to the glorious past. In video games, it was Donkey Kong Country, reminding players of the glories of 2D platformers. In the case of webcomics, there are some that harken to traditional print comics. Nothing I’ve read so far has felt more unironically old school than today’s Webcomic Overlook subject, Sugary Serials.

Equalizers of the Divide
Oh Mandle… you came and you gave without taking….

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