Friday, 29 September 2006

Maybe Fred Durst will now front Noosehead (Sam and Fuzzy)

I'm really enjoying the direction that Sam and Fuzzy has been taking lately, if there was any strip that deserves to be congratulated for pulling off a 'Cerebus syndrome' well, then S&F deserves that prize. Sam Logan has subtly positioned the strip towards a continually evolving narrative without losing the humour. This recent Noosehead subplot could have turned into some bloated 'Oceans Unmoving' psych-out but the balance evident here shows us what a good webcartoonist is capable of doing.

Sam and Fuzzy has never really had a gimmick to separate it from the rest of the pack and the strip could have continued in the relatively shallow and amusing vein of the first hundred strips but slowly and surely surrealism and tragedy have melded together into a consistently good webcomic.

Tuesday, 19 September 2006

What lies beneath: Victim 12 & Schism

If you read slice of life strips you probably won't like this dystopic excursion, I find that most of the better webcomics I've been reading have either been mangae styled or come from a genre fiction background. Here are two examples of cyberpunk's contingent online:

Victim 12 is an examination of memory loss and underlying conspiracies, there's not much there yet but it looks like a narrative that's ready for the long haul, there's not much action as of yet but the narrative is a stand-off between two varying forces. This is a classic conspiracy theory/dystopic narrative that bodes well to my perverse sensibilities.

The artwork is mangaesque but not noticeably so and the lightness of the line work is a welcome change to a lot of the heavy-handed inky sludge online. The background to the story is also relatively profuse, a good sign in a comic-verse of piss-poor background management. We haven't really delved beneath the intro but it's showy enough to keep you coming back for more.

Schism is a different kettle of fish altogether, the story is far more attuned to the regularities of everyday life, but underneath it all of this a mystery. This is quite a dense strip in terms of the background information delivered and its primary aim is to distil a sense of paranoia in the reader. It has gathered together much more of an archive and there is far more use of personal background present here in this dystopic harsh realism.

If you're so inclined you'll find hints of the Matrix series here but it's clearly more of an old school cyberpunk anti-authoritarian narrative. The use of colour is clever, it isn't overbearing, more of a bruised smear than a bright intensity, more chiaroscuro than pastel blandness. I like the intent shown here and the sensibility that mixes family and corporate mismanagement together, an enthralling read.

Fun in Babylon: Girls with slingshots

I feel guilty about finally looking at Girls with Slingshots, it's the hidden webcomic that I've neglected in favour of reading genre strips. Sometimes its easy to lose one's faith in slice of life strips, the parameters  centre upon what 'life' mean and they can become mere humour strips that are sugared with sentimentality. GWS is a strip that deals with externalities of average sexed-up twenty-something American life.

The current link to Wapsi Square on the site is quite telling because the scheming girls that are the central characters remind me of something that's a rarity in Webcomics: a female-centric strip.So, it's a slice of life strip and I can't shake off the resemblances to Butternutsquash, but the difference is there's an underlying jaded slacker vibe that's a welcome change. A lot of the time humour strips only deal with the geek world view, it's why I can't stand gamer strips such as PVP or Penny Arcade. I'm not willing to make the mental leap to pretend to laugh at inane binary jokes.

The opposite happens where a hipster strip like Questionable Content lays on the indie music cred as a conversation piece, it dates easily and Jeph Jacque's taste in music is a narrow kind of indie. In opposition to this, GWS is general enough in its parameters to work on numerous levels. There's angst, a talking Irish cactus to operate as a mascot, boy trouble and enough non-sequitur humour to lift this up from drab predictability. It's a subtle substrata of unmined existence that gives us something joyous and chaotic. Check it out.

Monday, 11 September 2006

Shadows out of the corner of your eyes Elsie Hooper

I prefer darker webcomics and genre fiction in webcomic form, Elsie Hooper delivers this to me quite well. The protagonist Ridley is searching for his sister Elsie Hooper through the deserted town of Campbell falls, their hometown. 'Shadowmen' have taken her and as Ridley engages in this quest he encounters other people who have survived the vicious enslaught.

Elsie Hooper is also a first for a webcomic as it has been optioned for a film, it uses small succinct strips and black and white is usually de rigueur for good horror strips, there's a dark new wave feel to this strip. The smallness of the beginning strips are offset by an attention to detail. An interesting point is that the 'shadow people' were created after a particularly harrowing hallucination the creator Robert Krzykowski had while he was ill. The pacing for this is very good, you can certainly see the filmic influences here, there's a lot of stream of consciousness evident that elevates this strip from mere action or adventure. The gore level is pretty high, Robert K does murky blood splattering very well!

(Audio accompaniment: New Order, Ceremony, your lead singer Ian Curtis has just died, well, do you give up or do you go on and make a killer record?)

Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Zelda gets an upgrade: Myraclice

I have been drawn in against my will into the world of Myralice, I'm usually not a big fan of fantasy strips but Myralice is a good example of a mangaesque strip that I think can translate well for a mainstream audience. The cross-over using a video game as an entry point into a fantasy world brings back memories of The Chronicles of Narnia. The artwork is just sublime, it's a soft deft touch of ink on the page, the colouring is so subtle that it revokes my preference for black and white manga.

So, Myralice is a video game world created by Sarah Nevers and a team of friends. As with most manga and mangaesque strips there's also some goof ball humour here amongst the game developers. That takes the shine off the fantasy webcomic's biggest drawback, plodding exposition and dullard serious characters with noble goals and hopes of conquest. Myralice deflates this tepid genre-standard by inserting modern scepticism into this wondrous dream-world.

Monday, 4 September 2006

Your goofball gothic fix for the week: Hellbound

Hellbound feels like a throwback to Sluggy Freelance before Abrams went all mopey and overly narrative-rich. It's the adventures of Guy and a ragtag bunch of antagonistic goofballs and their inane adventures. There's not a lot of webcomics that cause me to laugh out loud, I mean, I like Rob & Elliot and Butternutsquash but with those strips it's more a series of chuckles.

Hellbound takes pacing causality and really mixes it about until it totally implodes, it goes off on to tangents that shouldn't work but they do. Guy's uncomfortable pauses are really good and filmic.

Usually 'funny' webcomics go all
'Cerebus syndrome' because their idiocy was a ultimately forced silliness that gave way as narrative concerns emerge. The only way to really avoid this is to include a planned mixture of comedy and some cogent narrative structure from the start of the strip. Sore Thumbs does this and so does Hellbound, it's a hard equilibrium to force together and Hellbound has created a good consistent strip.