Life in the Crescent
Web Comic of the Week Archives
Saturday, November 29, 2003
Inspired by a thread on the Comixpedia Forums, I decided that I would choose one web-based comic each week to highlight and hopefully bring to the attention of a few more readers. There is no voting committee, just a personal choice from what I like to read or from what others put me onto. I hope I can remember the regular updates (those of you who know me evenly slightly will doubt this).
But what on Earth do I choose as my first Web Comic of the Week? It could be... Or... There are so many good ones. In the end I decided that the first honour would go to Johnny Public by Sean Frost and Wendi Strang-Frost, a husband and wife team.
There are three reasons that I chose this:
Please take a look - I'm sure you won't be disappointed. If you enjoyed it, please let Sean and Wendi know.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
I can't believe that a week has already passed by since I posted the first of these - it must be my age.
This week's choice is one I nearly made last week's choice and the only reason it wasn't was that I've known Sean and Wendi online longer than I've known Steve. Anyway...
Web Comic of the Week for this week is Acid Keg by Steve Hogan.
Steve creates the kind of artwork that instantly speaks to the viewer. It's comparitively simple look is very deceptive because beneath that simplicity lies skill, knowledge and talent that only ever comes from years of hard work and dedication to creating the best possible artwork. If it was for the art alone I would return to Steve's site regularly, but when it's combined with the superb, off-the-wall and thought-provoking writing, then Acid Keg is a must for everyone's favourites list.
Please visit the site, read all of the strips, take a look at his other artwork, fall in love with it, tell him so, form a fan club...
Saturday, December 13, 2003
I agonise quite a bit when I make these choices. I hope I'm not offending people by choosing one comic before another, or that I'm misinterpreting what the creator is trying to achieve with the characters, the stories and the strip as a whole. In my choice this week, I think I'm fairly safe in my assumption that the creator is developing characters the readers care about, writing stories that are in tune with those characters and ensuring that the strip is consistent in style and humour throughout.
My choice for this week is PvP - Player vs Player by Scott Kurtz.
I know that there will be a lot of people surprised by this choice as I've seen a number of posts in various forums which say it's not funny and by which I'm always astonished. To me PvP is one of the most consistently funny webcomics in existence. Admittedly, you need to have read a reasonable amount in order to understand some of the humour as it's based upon knowing the characters and the dynamic they operate under. This actually makes PvP much richer as it allows Kurtz to explore storylines that wouldn't exist without such rounded personalities. There have been strips which have had me rolling on the floor, but I expect would leave a casual reader a little cold. Invest some time in getting to know the characters and I'm pretty certain you'll get to love the comic too.
If you wish to read PvP from the start, be warned that the visual style is a little rough around the edges, but it's interesting to see the development of the comic over time. The comic went through a bit of a shaky patch about a year later, but then Kurtz started afresh with a more developed style and has gone from strength to strength since.
I hope you'll give the comic a look.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
I've been reading a number of online strips for quite some time and although I've enjoyed and appreciated the ones I've returned to regularly, it's always been very private, aside from the occasional e-mail of appreciation. Writing up these little pieces gives me the chance to make my feelings a little more public and share some of the reasons I enjoy the comics I read. It's also brought home to me what a diverse range of ingredients can be brought together in varying measures to create what I define to be a quality comic. Sometimes the mix is rather surprising, occasionally baffling, often clever, regularly moving, frequently lyrical, beautifully drawn and constantly developing. Harldy ever does this happen in the same comic, but with this week's highlighted web comic we have such an entity.
My choice for this week is the incredibly delightful Bruno by Christopher Baldwin.
Though the central character is of a different gender to the comic's creator, Baldwin manages to make the whole work very personal and by doing so develops a richness hardly seen in any comics, let alone in web comics. For example, the theme of Bruno working to become a writer echoes Baldwin's desire to become a successful comic strip creator. In many ways he is already a success, though this has yet to translate into making a comfortable living from his endeavours. Hopefully, time will make it happen for him.
To enjoy Bruno is not an easy task. This isn't because of anything lacking, but simply because there is so much of it to enjoy and to get the most out of it requires a huge investment of your time. The archives cover nearly eight years of six strips a week, and with much more to read in each episode than most comics, you soon realise that familiarity with your computer monitor will increase considerably. But you also realise that the time you will spend will be much like that you'd invest in reading a rich and weighty novel.
Supporting characters are very well developed and often tell you more about Bruno than she ever could herself. You miss them when they leave, not knowing if they will return later. Sometimes they carry the comic without the appearance of Bruno herself and while that's not unique, it works here at a higher level than I've seen elsewhere.
Finally, I couldn't complete my comments here without a mention of the art, for what would a comic be without its artwork? Each of the strips is a single panel (with the occasional exception) and although there are dialogue exchanges in each one, Baldwin manages to make this seemingly static approach work in the comic's favour. The artwork is beautifully rich and well-considered with characters that are clearly defined to match their nature. The backgrounds, too, are beautifully drawn, helping each strip to maintain a completeness with itself and with the work as a whole.
Please read it. Give it a chance. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I do.
Saturday, December 27, 2003
I nearly forgot. Christmas has completely thrown out my week and I only realised it was Saturday a short time ago.
This week's choice is not something that can easily be described in a few words. As a web comic it's been so successful that not only has it helped define an aspect of the medium, it has also made the transition into print in a big way for such a small book. It has also spawned a huge number of imitators, which is flattery at its best.
My choice for Web Comic of the Week this week is the wonderful Megatokyo by Fred Gallagher.
Megatokyo is the story of two friends - both crazy about gaming - who become stranded in Japan with no funds to return home. Largo has an obsession with evil zombies that causes him to lose his grip on reality to the point where he might as well be in an alternate dimension. Piro, on the other hand, is a little more in touch with the real world, though his picture of the world is defined by all of the Japanese Manga he's read and this is how he sees the culture of his new home.
There are so many levels this comic works on that it's hard know what to discuss in a few paragraphs. A comic where people's consciences are organised by a central bureau that's so understaffed that they have to bring in temps and where the staff bicker and fight with one another. A comic where the latest gaming accessory is a full-sized female robot that's suposed to work with dating sim games yet has a life of its own. A comic where the two main characters barely have any contact with each other for months at a time yet when they do it works so well in the overall context. A comic which develops the plot lines and characters so well yet seems to be no nearer to a conclusion than it was years earlier. A comic which constantly makes you question what's happening and intrigues instead of bewilders.
Presented in a beautifully rendered way that ignores the tradition of inking over pencils and presents us instead with the pencils themselves in all their subtle beauty. The style has a clear Manga influence, though Gallagher has managed to stamp his own style and voice quite firmly on the work as a whole. This is one of my truly favourite comics and I rarely let more than a few days go by without checking for an update.
With it having its origin as a gaming strip, those of you who are not gamers may not understand some of the references, particularly when the jokes are completely based upon knowing the specific games and companies referred to. Which is a bit of a shame and a weakness in some ways because I'm sure more people would love it if it were more accessible.
This is definitely not a comic you can start reading and hope to get into from the current strip. You need to start from the beginning to understand what's going on with the story and to fully appreciate the way the whole work has developed and matured with time.
Saturday, January 3, 2004
I've been criticised in a couple of places for seemingly concentrating on comics that need no additional promotion. But I don't see it this way at all. Megatokyo and PvP, for instance, are very popular, but why should that make a difference to what I include in my choices for WCOTW? I'm hoping to show people what I consider to be the most enjoyable comic strips currently online. Which brings me neatly to my choice for this week, and considering that it is a supplement to an ongoing print comic, it's not what you would call small time.
My choice for this week is the beautifully rich and intriguing Brother Matthew by Arvid Nelson and EricJ.
"Brother Matthew is a stand-alone web comic supplement to Rex Mundi, an original limited series from Image Comics, available now at your local comic book shop."
So says the information on the web page, but for me Brother Matthew came first with Rex Mundi coming along later, not surprisingly, picked up by Image.
I can't remember exactly how I came to find out about this particular online comic, but I remember being astounded by the quality of the writing and artwork and surprised that something so good could be found online and for free. I was hooked from the first moment and although there were already a number of episodes already posted, I read through them in one go and then eagerly awaited each new episode.
The online story is now complete and there have been no new instalments for some time, so to make it my Web Comic of the Week may seem a little strange, but I enjoyed reading it so much that I think it would be more strange for me not to include it at all. The strips themselves are downloadable, rather than viewable on a series of web-pages, but this should not deter you from checking out this quality web comic.
The world that Brother Matthew (and Rex Mundi) is set in is that of France in the 1930s, but in a world where the catholic church has great power and where magic is a real force to be reckoned with. From the very outset, the artwork sets up and supports this parallel world, making the suspension of disbelief a very easy task and you become embroiled in the world very quickly. Eric creates some beautiful characters with the great distiction of being both believable and always easily recognisable. But it is Arvid's marvellous writing that gives the whole piece its real edge. He always delivers the right amount of dialogue, from rich exposition to understated moments where he is more than happy to allow the visuals to carry the drama. Because of this the whole has a very filmic sense with a quality that would be very much at home on the big screen.
Please check this comic out as I'm certain you will find it to be one of the best comics in any medium.
Saturday, January 10, 2004
It's that day again when I suggest to you another of my favourite comics. Until two minutes ago I had no idea which one I was going to choose, but as soon as I opened my favourites list this one jumped out and suggested itself to me. So, who am I to argue with a suggestive favourites list...?
My choice for Web Comic of the Week is the brilliantly thoughtful Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim
This story is complete and not an ongoing story like many other strips are. Though Derek has plenty of other comics to read once you have finished this one, all of which can be found by starting from his comics page.
What really makes Same Difference such a wonderful piece of comic strip brilliance is the way he uses the characters, not only to tell the story, but make you think beyond the story. The way you do when you think, "yes, I can relate to that." And he defines those characters so completely that the story unfolds in such a natural way it almost takes you by surprise.
Not only are the characters all so beautifully drawn in a clear line and muted tones, they are also defined by the story and dialogue in a way rarely seen anywhere. When I say they are beautifully drawn, I want you to understand that I am so totally impressed by the way Derek manages to use his linework to make the characters richly vibrant, but in a cleanly rendered style that gives the impression of being much simpler than it really is. Each panel has a beautiful clarity and works within the whole piece to give the visual story-telling an almost invisible quality because you are never jarred by the process taking place as you read.
The story itself I am not going to discuss for I fear to do so would rob you of your own interpretation and the way it could relate to your own past experiences. Suffice to say that there were a few instances of soul-searching during and after reading this wonderful story.
The dialogue is beautiful. Initially it may seem that there is a high percentage of the page covered by the spoken word, but not only is this really on the nail dialogue, it's perfectly natural for each character and if all they ever did was sit around in the restaurant and talk it would still be a better comic than 95% of all the comics out there. Maybe that's even on the low side.
As you can probably tell, I really love this comic. Try it yourself and if you don't like it I'll give you your money back.
Saturday, January 17, 2004
One of the beautiful things I've found by doing these regular pieces about my favourite online comics is that it makes me re-evealuate the reasons why I like what I read. This in turn has an effect on my own work as the comments I write can act like a mirror on what I create. Thinking about anything in a critical manner, even the bad, will help a person as long as what you learn from this analysis of others can be applied to your own work. The real strength of analysing quality comics is when you can see how the writing and art come together in a clever and beautiful way. Today's choice is a prime example of that in action.
Web Comic of the Week is Welcome to Heck by Bob Corona - a talented guy who deserves lots of success.
Welcome to Heck has a style and feeling all of it's own. This is partly down to the simple, yet stylish artwork, partly down to the beautiful choice of colours and the way they blend, and partly down to the characters' individual points of view and how they spring some unexpected twists. Which in turn leads to some of the funniest strips I've read online.
I would have chosen this comic strip sooner, but Bob has been in the process of moving to another location and I thought it best to wait until that process was completed. Heck is now hosted at PVComics, a subscription site. Now I'm not advocating that you all sign up and the link I point you to above takes you to the first of sixteen free episodes that previously appeared on the Komikwerks site. You can then make up your own mind if the subscription is worth taking up to continue with this strip.
My favourite episode of those that have appeared so far is the wonderful "Monoculture". I laughed so hard at this one when I first read it that my jaws ached. It still tickles me even when I only think about it. Needless to say, I'm going to keep quiet about the details or the whole thing will be spoilt.
The cast are an incredibly divergent group who arrive in Heck with no real explanation, but it works straight away because the writing and character visualisation fit together to give the reader everything that's needed. And when one of the characters is a cactus called Pablo, what other reason do you need to go there and read it.
There's a kind of philosophical sub-theme to the whole thing which can make you think long after you've had your laugh. It's difficult to nail down, but once you start reading you'll see what I mean. Take a good look and let Bob know what you think.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
You know how you keep meaning to do something, but everything seems to conspire to prevent you from doing that thing? Well this is exactly what's been happening with this week's choice. I've known of it for some time, but it was only relatively recently that I read it through and loved every bit of it. I could have kicked myself for not reading it sooner.
This week's choice is Wapsi Square by Paul Taylor.
Now Paul is a bit of a tease. He plays an excellent game of leading you on with each episode, but somehow managing to leave you hanging, waiting for the next episode. Classic episodic technique and is part of why I enjoy reading this strip so much. When you read the archives from the beginning, you get to a point where it's really difficult to take a break from the reading. Just one more strip, then I'll go to bed. Just one more strip and then I'll get on with some drawing. Just... well, you get the picture. And once you've caught up, each strip just never seems quite enough and you can't wait until the next.
The reason why this works so well is that as a reader you really get into the lives of these characters - sometimes it seems a little more than a comic strip. A window on the lives of the people contained within. "Wapsi Square follows the day to day stories and relationships between a group of five post college friends and a school teacher turned bartender." It's easy to read Paul's description of his strip and get the wrong idea - it's certainly no cliche-ridden wise-crack-driven "I've seen it all before" strip. It has warmth, humanity and its own original voice.
Paul has done an excellent job creating Wapsi Square and maintaining its consitency throughout.
Saturday, January 31, 2004
As I sit here typing this I'm not feeling too well, but I'm not going to let that keep you from reading my comments on another Web Comic. As with the previous strip I highlighted in this series, I'm impressed by the consistency of style.
This week's choice is Freefall by Mark Stanley.
I don't know if Mark is a little shy, but his name doesn't appear on his strip, other than a tiny copyright label you can only just read. I had to go to one of the pages he links to to find out what his full name was. But whatever his reasons might be, he still manages to create a comic strip that, although it doesn't always make me laugh, it always makes me smile. There are few strips out there that can lay claim to that.
There are only three main characters, but it's a testament to Mark's talent that he's able to maintain an ongoing storyline and keep it humourous with no sign of his work feeling tired. Although other characters do make an appearance, much of the time they are trivial. Mark's work is an embodiment of Bill Watterson's statement that good characterisation will always give you opportunities for humour.
Reading from the beginning is a must for this series, because of the ongoing nature of the story. And there is plenty to read in the archives with more than 900 episodes stretching back over seven years. Take a look and have some fun.
Saturday, February 7, 2004
I received a really good e-mail from Mark Stanley after last week's choice (which reminds me that I need to reply in turn) in which he recommended lots of books and thanked me for choosing his strip. I love the feeling of closeness that the internet can bring in spite of the physical miles between us all. This brings me neatly into this week's choice because in many ways it's a story of distance - the protagonist's distance from home and the distance between her and the culture she finds herself in.
This week's Web Comic of the Week is Reman Mythology by Amy Kim Ganter.
The best thing about Reman Mythology is that it's compelling. The story and the characters build and develop and you continually find yourself wanting to know more, urgently awaiting the arrival of a new page to read. And if that isn't successful story-telling, then I don't know what is.
The story centres on Tabetha Cohen, "a quiet and shy high school student beginning her junior year in the small New England suburb of Northbrooke". A bit of a loner who doesn't fit in, the story borders on the cliche, initially, but without actually giving in to it and by giving just enough to keep you interested, the story soon establishes that this seemingly normal world is anything but. A chance meeting with a handsome stranger intrigues her to the point of following him, which in turn leads her into an adventure greater than she could have imagined.
While I think that the drama and conflict directly relating to Tabetha herself could be increased in the interests of story-telling, this would only improve what is already an excellent comic. Created with a distinctly Japanese Manga feel, Amy has stamped her own style within that framework. In fact, it's when her own style comes through strongest that the best artwork is created with some beautiful background landscapes which help develop the world she has created.
There's already a lot of comic to read, but I've a feeling that there's still a tremendous amount still to come. To which I am looking forward greatly. To help readers get a fuller picture of the series, Amy has also created background material as well as a forum where you can discuss the work. All-in-all, an excellent comic that should be on everyone's list of regular visits.
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Thinking up the preamble to these pieces is often much harder than the piece itself. How do I get a lead into the
main feature, as it were, that doesn't seem overly contrived? I've been racking my brains for the last ten minutes
when suddenly it came to me.
This week's choice for Web Comic of the Week is Ramblers by Danielle Corsetto.
"This is the story of four college kids and their adventures at a small West Virginia school."
As I said above, I first got to know Danielle's work through an earlier strip, Hazelnuts, which was just getting into its stride when it went into a hiatus it doesn't seem to have come out of. Though I'm informed that there's going to be a print volume of Hazelnuts later in the year. There appears to be a definite link between that strip and Ramblers in that both of them have a semi-autobigraphical slant to their approach. This works very well for Danielle as she resists the trap of in-jokes and obscure reference.
Although Ramblers is well written and is often hilarious, it's the drawing style that's the real strong point for me. The art has a strength of line that gives the strip a strong design sense and a dynamic feel at the same time. In the snippet below, for instance, I love the way that the end of the scarf just looks as though it's twitching in response to the overall movement of the character.
Line weight is also used very well to convey depth within a panel. A classic technique, but not always handled as well as it should be. For me, Danielle's work is crying out for a larger canvas where she can use the greater freedoms to explore her own developing ideas and skills to the utmost. There are some of the strips that don't work as well as others; not through lack of effort, but for the fact that her ideas are a little large for the confinement of the format she's chosen. It's almost like the words and pictures are fighting one another in places and it's only the sense of design that carries it through, making the two work together even within that confined space.
The very best thing about Ramblers, though, is that it's still in the early stages of development (36 strips so far). It will be an exciting time as we all watch this talented woman flex her creative muscles - I'm sure the best is yet to come.
Saturday, February 21, 2004
No Web Comic of the Week this week.
My mind is all over the place and I don't think I could do justice to the strip I chose. Sorry.
Sunday, February 29, 2004
I started out writing a new entry last night and then realised that I didn't feel the same way about this particular strip as I do about the previous choices. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading it as the new installments appear, but somehow I didn't feel it quite deserved the acolade of Web Comic of the Week. I know this may seem somewhat arrogant on my part, but I'm looking to try and set my own standards by which to judge these things so that if I look back in five years time I can still be pleased I chose the comics I did.
This actually leaves me with a problem - I have nothing to choose for this week's WCOTW. This isn't to say that I read no other comics, but that they either fall into the category of not quite making the grade, or I'm still working my way through years of archives for that strip. My reading time is more than a little limited because of my day job and the creation of my own strips.
What I have decided to do, then, is to make Web Comic of the Week a more occasional thing. Of course, this will make the name a little silly so I will attempt to come up with something more catchy. Perhaps even create a logo.
What I am going to do, though, is to create a separate "column" which will take a broader look at what I'm reading and cover other things as well as web comics. Keep watching for further announcements.