Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Mitch Clem's New Tangents

Okay, so maybe Mitch Clem hasn't been updating Nothing Nice to say as much now but I think San Antonio Rock City is a far better vehicle for his talents. It uses a far smoother style, more fluid, it's a clean start and I think NNTS was Clem's 'trainer strip' and SARC is the culmination of his warped vision of existence. Mitch Clem has always been about slice of life and here he evades the usual rut journal webcomics fall into by some welcome self-deprecation. There's some music trivia referenced here but it falls into the background of daily life.

Monday, 28 August 2006

Crazy Train: Paper.Eleven

Finally someone has created a worse train ride experience than Estancia. Paper.Eleven is part of Daniel Kim's Clone Manga series which is a great dark slab of surreal manga with some of the most delicate linework I've seen online. When you see the ammount of quality manga he's done you'll think the bloke is a living marvel. I like the gleaming darkness evident here and the sheer scale of the micro-detail is above and beyond the call of artistic duty. I think using black and white (and shades of grey inbetween) adds a constriction that forces the artist to work harder. The puzzle of a narrative also quite tickles my fancy.

There's so much unseen experimentation happening on the fringes with mangaesque webcartoonists that is typically ignored. If a mangaesque webcomic does break free from the pack (aka, Megatokyo) the webcomic critical community doesn't understand it and the rules of the genre and josh it as mere emotive trash. Visually, this is one of the best webcomics I've seen this year and the minamalism present in its storyline pleases me greatly.

(Audio Accompaniment: DJ Signify's Sleep no more, dark noir beats with both Sage Francis and Buck 65 on the mike, totally ace.)

Mysteries and hysteria

I don't know why but against my better judgement I really like the Minus strip on Kiwis by Beat, there's a childish simplicity here, it's like Counting Sheep done right, with lots of magical realism added to spice things up. It's a hard genre, the 'childlike simplicity' gig because it can often devolve into mere simplistic whimsy. Instead of going down this track some of the comics here are laugh-out-loud funny.

There's also the sadness present that is implicit in a lonely childhood that Ryan Armand truly understands. Boundless imagination is on display here and frankly you don't get this feeling from a lot of webcomics.

The use of shade is interesting as well, the colours aren't really copperresque intense but within its metier it works. It's filled with lots of pastels swirling around on a white background so there's no colour overload, just a softness floating on the screen.

(Audio Accompaniment: The Grates; Gravity won't get you high, heh, all that high-spun energy, florid colours and punky shouting, perfect.)

My MegaTokyo dilemma
I'm unsure as how to grade this latest strip from Megatokyo. This is either the Lovegirl mafia's first open move or Gallagher has really warped with the consciencespace/realworld continuum and decided to finally go buck wild on us. I think it is really the first option though, the world in which Megatokyo functions works in two streams, Largo's sci-fi Zombie/Zilla hyperactive world and Piro's introspective romantic comedy world. Gallagher hasn't ever fully melded these two streams together and I don't think he intends to do so. The inclusion of the CEA Sera into the real world would completely change the dynamic of the comic and make it far more chaotic, so I'm eagerly awaiting what this all means.

Some old School humour
Usually I try to stay away from printcomics on Zhi but I
think that
Barnacle Press is a good portal of old American comics that anybody with an interest in the artform should check out as a part of their visual education. (Unless you're a lame gamer freakazoid who drools out Leetspeak and other sub-vocal mangled rubbish.) As my childhood comic background is in TinTin and Asterix; it's a good eye-opener into the basics of American sequential art.
Now, milquetoast from The Timid Soul is not a word I have often used before but I think it will be now. The American Heritage Dictionary lists it as part of an ongoing osmosis between comic culture and general pop-culture:

The first instance of milquetoast as a common noun is found in the mid-1930s. Milquetoast thus joins the ranks of other such words, including sad sack, from a blundering army private invented by George Baker in 1942, and Wimpy, from J. Wellington Wimpy in the Popeye comic strip, which became a trade name for a hamburger.

Now if only 'sad girl in snow' became part of the general lexicon, then that would show me that webcomics have truly engaged with the general public's imagination.

Tuesday, 22 August 2006

Blood trickling through the canals: Verardi Famiglia

I think I'm going to enjoy Verardi Famiglia's particularly vicious brand of violence. Set in Venice, its emphasis on the misadventures of Valerio as he navigates life after betraying his mafia 'family'. Admittedly, it is hard to tell if this is going to be a great webcomic as there's less than twenty pages now written, however it looks as if Sires has a masterplan already set up. The addition of some Italian into the script is also a nice addition, it makes the strip less whitebread. There's a lot of complex perspectives here and some very clean linework. Hopefully it will develop into a consistent and violent Noir-style webcomic.

(Aural accompaniment: You know that really dodgy Ja Rule song, 'I think the rain is calling murder, I think the rain is calling muuurder!', the filmclip has Patrick Swayze as a corrupt cop and Irv Gotti trying to play hard as a gangsta, anyway, I think a corny song like that would really help because of all the violence in this strip.)

Monday, 21 August 2006

Darkness at the edge of town: Either way, Blue Zombie & Jump

I don't know why I'm attracted to horror and supernatural themes, I was raised as a Pentecostal so there must be some kind of nascent spirituality underneath all my neurotic agnosticism. I seem to be attarcted to genre fiction because all that slice of Life Stuff out there isn't really good for webcomics in my opinion. Lately, horror webcomics seems to be a good springboard for emotional intensity in a way that fantasy hasn't been able to do so far. So, here are three webcomics that use horror as a springboard for something else.

Either Way made a false start but I quite like the look of the artwork and where the story could be heading. It uses the supernatural as a backdrop to various dramas and it adds some sly humour to what can be a particularly dour subject. The level of cross-hatching is pretty heavy and I think Nekko started off with Blacklight Twilight as a trainee comic and moved on to this one once she was confident enough to do so.
I'd seen her around on
comic genesis and I'd been put off by BT but I think this webcomic is good enough to launch her into something different. The creator's emphasis is on how horror impacts on real life, so it's traumatic thriller and a slice of horror on the side and enough self-consciousness to drag it out of mere genre-fiction status.

(Audio Accompaniment: horror and weepy tendencies, so, The Arcade Fire: Funeral)

Blue Zombie has a lot more back-story to it than what it looks like at first glance. It's mangaesque without overtly showing any influences, it's also able to transform blue into a gothic colour and I also like the clean level of shading here.

It also keeps on alternating between bleak streams of consciousness and goofball adventures. It's an alternate version of our world with all its real-world problems with the intricacies of magic and demons added to make things just that little bit harder.

Also, the
character section is essentially a how-to for upcoming webcomicker's, it's really dense with information, now if only Fred Gallagher was willing to learn some new tricks...

(Audio accompaniment:um...really ashamed to say this...Portishead; Dummy, mellow depressed menustrating women, yep, bet all you blokes are really uncomfortable now...)

Of the three horror webcomics I've been looking at,
Jump, is probably the bleakest in terms of narrative texture. It's also the most stylised artisically and the one more in keeping with the conventions of the horror genre, but if you read through you'll see some sinuous sleek magical realism hidden underneath, it's dark and seething with neurotic desires. Even if you have to wade through the pencil sketchy style at the begining, the lushness of the colour added later on adds some Wildean glamour to a narrative filled with the tropes of sin and redemption.

(Any thing by My Red Cell for some really psychotic violent tendencies)

Tuesday, 8 August 2006

I wish my cat was as cool as Mr. Pickles!: Lola, Wasteland, The Dreamwalker Chronicles

Victoria Smith has pulled off an unnoticed coup in creating Lola, the strips are somewhat self-contained but also lead on to a continuing narrative, obviously I've been entrapped by the gothic meanderings of Lola's existence but it's the slow subtle build-up of the story that really impresses me. It uses a bleak style, all black and white and very minimalist. There's hints of an anime fluidity here but I like the fun behind all the gloom, Lola's just trying to work things out, if the story-template is gothic then Smith veers away from that pretty well, it's more a journal of an alternate version of Smith's teenage angst years. It's very successful in its balance between kitsch and deliciously morose teen ramblings.

(Aural accompaniment: this is one webcomic that is able to take the playful moroseness of the Smiths, so, The Queen is Dead.)

The Dreamwalker Chronicles is a narrative concerning a small boy who finds himself in the woods and some distorted fairytale version of our world. The use of colour reaches a Copperesque sheen and the fantastical logic behind the story really impresses me.
It's as if all of childhood's creepy darkness has come to us in sequential art form and we have to decode it! The inclusion of native American mythology also adds another layer to what could become a dense and subtle work. The monsters have climbed out from under your bed and are now getting proactive about catching you! Delightful stuff!

(Aural accompaniment: So dreamy and melodic, The Coral; Magic and Medicine.)

You probably haven't heard of
Wasteland but this is a good example of psychological distress and sexy sketchy mangaesque mystery. There are so many tangents here that I don't know where to fully start! It retells a crime scene from a number of angels, it's full of fortellings and dour murderous dreams and pale fey youths moping about, It's like a guilty pleasure and the artwork is a sketchy black and white style, there's so many red herrings but I guess I prefer chaos to a petite narrative. I still have no idea about what's fully going on after the end of chapter two but I 'm truly enjoying putting the pieces together.

(Aural accompaniment: Emo sad, crazy linework, screaming ex-Can member crazy, Sixtoo; Chewing on glass and other miracle cures.)

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Horror comics get vicious: Agnes Quill and Revenger's tragedy

I only occasionally look around at all the decay that the webcomic community has to offer and it occurred to me that my viewing habits weren't as broad as they could be, we always put up various biases between ourselves and new experiences and it's sometimes hard to get out of a webcomic rut, so I went looking...

The multi-authored approach to
Agnes Quill creates a sense of the underlying character, the artists that Dave Roman works with all operate using a lush template that suits the particularly baroque world-view of the writer.

I usually don't read adventure webcomics, even though I was brought up on various Francophone Ligne Claire style adventure comics I've felt that nothing has ever lived up to Tintin and I thereafter neglected the genre. Either that or I saw the usually shit selection Keenspot has and that turned me off for life (That or
Everything Jake got way too emo and tainted me for life.)

But AQ doesn't use the usual static clean lines I'm used to and regardless of the artist, there's always a sense of movement here. The artwork is a stunningly rendered black and white rendition of a complex world and the creator's own cartoony version set out in story-lines such as , 'Invite only', add another dimension to the strip. So, it's horror and mystery mixed up together and once you get past the initial unsettling acceptance of the undead then it becomes a good plot-driven read. Slave Labor Graphics is putting out a AQ anthology and I'm going to try to pick it up if at all possible.

The gothic aesthetic in webcomics usually exists in a morass of linework and that's usually a good thing, thus, I additionally like the way
Revenger's Tragedy uses various typefaces, for example:

As it stands, horror seems to add an edge to artwork, it adds vistas that would otherwise be unseeen, it can also go all Poe and stifling on us but the majority of horror webcomic writers look like they know what they're doing, horror might not have the cachet of arthouse webcomics like Cat and Girl and a lesson is learned... but these two webcomics impress me mightily. RT takes off where Dante's Inferno left off, it's an ambitious examination of how an underworld would work in practice and if Smith isn't as crash-hot at human bodies, his backgrounds have an expansive feel to them that carries the whole work, his artwork doesn't look like anything else, it's sometimes more like art connected to a story. It sometimes looks sketchy but sketchy can be good sometimes, some webcomics have too much of a polished sheen to them. The early exposition is heavy but you can hardly explain the geo-political scheme via pictures, overall, a good solid webcomic.