The Kea's Nest

The Kea is a well known, cheeky, mountain parrot from New Zealand. What better name to take for myself to comment on the funny drawings I find online?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Welcome to the Third World. Yorkshire.

When that lovely lady in charge of programming over at Medium Large announced that Brit week was beginning, I wasn't paying much attention. I was laughing at Mr Blobby and the way Teenage Girl Prime Minister's were dressed in drag. As The Family Guy knows, all British men find Drag hilarious and probably indulge whenever possible.

But then it sunk in to my shallow mind that the entire week was Brit focused. Andy Cap, Mods and Rockers, the inevitable conflict of superheroism and class stratification. The whole week should show up at this link later. I checked the blog part of the website but I couldn't find any reason for the theme, such as a recent holiday or something. Ah well.

While this sort of a theme was amusing and created a different emphasis for the usual pop culture skwering of Medium Large, it was the comments that really tickled my fancy. If you don't understand why the advisors were dressed in Drag than you will never know.

I think many of the simpler one-shot strips could use ideas like this. Taking a theme and creating a slew of jokes centred on it. You could even time them together and have everyone laughing about the way Hummingbirds don't hum all around the world.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

That's my girl.

Some days I want my daughter to be this girl. Bald faced lies, geek references and an insatiable desire for ice-cream.

At others I realise she already is the young girl who swears with malevolent glee in public.

Should I be so encouraging?

There, but for the grace of God...

I started this blog because of Fleen's recent call for fresh meat talent. The only reason I didn't submit any entries myself was because I wasn't sure if I would be able to keep to a strict once-per-weekday update schedule. Two weeks in and I am, but it might not stick. Life gets in the way, as even the big guys can attest.

However, the new writers have been winnowed through and Fleen has a bunch of reviews and things from them (most of the random reviews so far seem pretty stern, though I haven't really gone over the strips being reviewed). Go and comment on things you liked.

Big Ba-da-boom?

Ah, Starslip Crisis. How can you not love the noseless denezins of Kristofer Straub's strange worlds. I was lucky enough to really discover Checkerboard Nightmare just as he decided to wrap that all up and start Crisis, so I've been watching from the earliest stages. The speed at which he developed a book was amazing, I'll have to get some money together some day.

I was pointed to The Webcomicker who has a theory that the recent storyline will bring together all the odd elements that have been shown previously in Starslip Crisis and create some huge event, possibly in time for the first anniversary of the strip (Geez, has it only been a year!?).

I find myself agreeing with what Simon Roberts says here. I never conciously thought about the formula that seemed to happen in Straub's strips before, but it was something that had tingled in my head. I've often felt that Straub races through some of his ideas and it can be a little dissapointing to realise that what one might have been really excited over is rapidly vanishing into the archives. However, the flip side of that is when you get arcs that don't grab your attention one can be sure that the status quo will probably return soon.

That said, I think continuity would be a very good thing for Crisis. I recall Straub saying something about the weight of continuity becoming a burden to Chex, and that is clear. Chex wasn't able to be a critique and parody of outside events as much because there was too much internal baggage to sort through. But Crisis seems to be aimed at creating a world and part of that is allowing change to work through.

So, while I haven't seen much that really says big shake up to me (although this is interesting...) I hope I'm wrong. Let's watch.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I may be slow, but I get there.

Today I realised that I could actually read what Haley is saying in Order of the Stick. I had foolishly believed that it really was just gobbledygook coming out of her mouth, frustrating as it was for her.

But we see her mind, telling herself to say 'Elan, I'm in love with you' and then the gobbledy matches the punctuation. Too much coincidence, I realsie, and begin the conversion.

'Elan, I'm in love with you' becomes
'Yrhw, N'u nw rdjy mnck vdg.'

So we have a key.

But unravelling the rest of her words is turning out much trickier than I had hoped, and I only have so much time to spend on it. So, I ask if I'm just abysmally slow and everyone else already knew this? Because then you can all supply me with a key or translations. Alternatively, can anyone help fill in this key:

a - h
b - a
c - l
d - e
e - y
f -
g - p
h - k
i - n
j -
k - t
l - r
m - u
n - w
o - d
p - z
q -
r - f
s - b
t - c
u - g
v - j
w - m
x - q
y - v
z -

Which leaves 'i, o, s & x' unassigned to 'f, j, q & z.'

So the strip reads:
Elan, I'm in love with you.
Elan, I'm in love with you. Completely in love.
Love, love, love, love!
My dad is being held ransom by an evil dictator.
I'm not really in the Thieves' Guild anymore.
I cheat at Solitaire.
I kissed a girl once.
Ok, Ok, more than once.
Elan, it turns out I may not be exactly what you would call-

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Anzac Day

It has only the most tenuous links to webcomics, but it's an important day, indulge me.
Nearly one hundred years ago New Zealand answered the call to join its colonial leader, Britain, in the First World War. It became a moment that helped create a sense of ourselves in the world. It also lead to a tragic campaign in Gallipoli where one in four New Zealand soldiers died. To commemorate their sacrifice Anzac Day was created (Australian New Zealand Army Corps) as a day of memorial and tribute.

Today there will be thousands of people attending sombre ceremonies, while wearing poppies, at small memorials in towns across the country. As seen in one cartoon (I'm sure there will be more, but I'm not likely to get online to make a post about today later), it is important to make sure that the younger generations know what they are remembering.

One thing that I find important about Anzac Day is that, generally, we do not celebrate the war. The day commemorates a hideous military failure. Although we are thankful that so many were willing to give themselves to defend us, we also note that their sacrifice was largely pointless. We can see that war is foolish and must be held back from if unnecessary. As Dean Parker said in an opinion piece yesterday, let's remember the eleven conscientious objecters from so long ago who, when asked why they refused to go to a war on the other side of the world, simply wrote that they were scared. I would be too.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Neil Gaiman and Comics Online

I admit it. I will do just about anything Neil Gaiman tells me to.

Recently he mentioned that someone he knew was doing webcomics and, possessing no will of my own, I immediately visited the link. I was surprised by what I found, because I haven't seen many online comics versus online cartoon strips.

... And, interestingly, he mentions more recently that his opinion of Webcomics has climbed since a post in 2002 (quoted here) because Scott McCloud keep making him read the good ones. His old point stands, but he seems to acknowledge that it is a medium that has good things in it.

Family Man is a comic. Each update appears to be at least one large page of story (although it might be more than one page. This would make a difference to something I'll get to soon) and it is humorous rather than funny. Clearly something momentous (even if only in a domestic sense) is coming.

The sounds of the comic are placed so that, even though you are reading words, there is a sense of hearing them. Meconis has thought carefully about exactly how to spell some of the stranger ones and it pays off.

There was something that came to mind out of reading it though. Doing an actual comic in this way online seems to lose a little in translation. Whereas if you buy a physical comic and are left at a cliffhanger there is still a sort of resolution simply in closing the pages of the comic. You can begin to envision what might come next. Whereas one of the benefits of the interent is immediate gratification which dissappears by doing a comic in this way. Suddenly you reach the last page of story and you're stuck. Now, obviously, there is time needed to create the next part, but because it is much larger and intricate than the average small strip style webcomic, the wait must be longer and some readers are going to fall away. If Family Man is updating in chunks, then this problem is alleviated somewhat, but it still seems to be losing some advantages of placing it online.

Sluggy Freelance seemed to try and blend the two by doing daily strips that were longer and intricate for the Oceans Unmoving storyline. Unfortunately it seemed that fitting that much work into such a small space resulted in something that didn't quite please the audience or the artist (I would, however, be interested in seeing a print of Oceans Unmoving as someone who barely got their toes wet. With it all in one place to absorb, would it go down better?). It seems the medium of the net really does apply better to regular punchy items than longer works.

I'll keep checking on Family Man but it's not the sort of thing I'm after in my moments online. Anyone got any similar projects to recommend though?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I want that t-shirt.

Okay, I mentioned Unshelved not too long ago, but this is an example of a more regular strip rather than the book reccomending Sunday strips.

The recent storyline has follwed Dewey's attempts to artificially increase the number of reference calls the library receives. And he's done well. But in today's strip it doesn't appear that he is doing anything, just making a joke about why.

Unless you look really close at that T-shirt. That T-shirt is all class.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Man, that's a lot of words to say nothing much about movie comics...

I started this blog in direct response to Fleen's call for fresh writers. I figured it would be safer to write somewhere where I didn't 'technically' have to write something new every single day. The flip side of that is that I am challenging myself to bring something new each day.

Which meant I was reading through a lot of comics today and laughing and in the back of my head wondering what on earth I should write about. And then I read that Comixpedia's next theme will be movies. I hope this doesn't seem like some sort of obscure new-media thought theft, but I had a few things to say about movies and comics. In case you think it is, go and read how real commentators discuss this stuff. And check out the list of movie-themed comics, I like them so far.

Anyway,I was wondering about the reverse. That is, how about making movies based on webcomics? I know there exist certain... hybrid versions, but these have to be short enough to download and are generally of a less than professional veneer. I hear about other experiements with animation, even so far as some becoming TV shows. This seems very much like Newspaper Comics in a way to me.

We have all seen that newspaper comics can result in more and more types of media being used to spread the comic-y goodness. Witness Garfield's TV shows, TV specials and even an eventual live-action movie. Of course, in my opinion, Live action kind of removes the point and such versions of comics tend to the poor (with certain exceptions).

And I wonder. Because here in New Zealand we had the very, very popular cartoon Footrot Flats, which doesn't seem to exist in any online archived form. this is a shame. It was a simple long running newspaper comic but it got it's own movie in the mid eighties and the movie is a classic of New Zealand film (heck, it had a theme park for awhile, but that went bust. One of my fondest childhood memories was going along with a family friend and tearing it all down for a bonfire.).

So, what is the difference that allowed us to do that in our country with the population of a small city while much larger markets don't? And with the way webcomics can spread out beyond certain regional restrictions, isn't there the chance that they could grow large enough to do it too?


You know, I just realised that there are now two movies where Ben Affleck convinces a lesbian to sleep with him anyway, Chasing Amy and Gigli. Something about that seems very, very wrong.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A couple of addenda.

Immediately after my last post I began to think about the implications of the man who killed a young girl. I myself have a little girl who is just more than two and the thought of her being snatched off the street brings a sick dread to my throat. So I wanted to make sure it didn't sound like I was simply pointing at an event and then dismissing it.

That in mind I don't think there are any particular implications for this. It's not the first time I've heard of or seen a blog by someone who did something terrible and I'll bet it's not the first time for most of you either. People always find things to blame these events on, be it violent TV, violent games or fantasy games. The fact that this guy enjoyed reading a few webcomics didn't actually rate a mention in the CNN story and I doubt it will come up in any other conversations.

My only concern is for people who make webcomics like Chopping Block. Will their audience suddenly feel more self concious about their reading material? Will the artists decide they feel uncomfortable providing potential ideas to the audience? I hope not.

Quickly, secondly, Gordon McAlpin tells me that Stripped Books and Multiplex were part of one website but that the audience showed very little overlap. So, I guess my hunch was off. Apparently Stripped Books will taking some form of break. I hope it doesn't last too long. In the meantime, keep reading Multiplex.

Thank goodness that rabbit is make-believe. And no-one better try to prove me wrong.

Apparently my commenting on Chopping Blocks style of humour was particularly well/mis-timed. A clearly troubled man did something awful and it is noted that he read webcomics. All I can say is, whoops.

So, let's move on to slightly fuzzier though no less rabid topics. Sam and Max.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I see a large swathe of a particular demographic being represented in Webcomic subject matter. That demographic responds well to fantasy and science fiction, and is at home with computer gaming. Therefore, I was surprised not to see many people cheering at the discovery of a Sam and Max webcomic.

The Sam and Max game, Freelance Police, provided me with hours of fun as a young lad. The absolutely ludicrous plot. The surreal characters. Oh, the joy. And it was based on a comic back then. So to see Sam and Max literally rise from the grave to take their place in the new media was a wonderful thing.

Steve Purcell has done something interesting with the medium. It's not amazing and seems to make my poor little dial-up connection faint, but it is interesting. The dialogue to each panel appears only when you move the mouse over it. So you get a clear view of all the artwork and then activate the nosies as you are ready. They even appear in order, staggered one after the other, so that you almost see it happening in front of you.

So far we have seen an earwig lay eggs and leave a cellphone in a Dog Dectective's ear and a wierd hallucination. The only problem is not knowing exactly when it updates. It seems to be going for a roughly monthly schedule. I guess I can't complain about not getting enough free entertainment, but I really want to.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

I'm gonna get me a Butch doll. Some day...

It's dangerous business, starting a webcomic about a very touchy subject. The life and times of a vaguely lovable serial killer, as found over at Chopping Block, could very easily become simply horrific and something most sane people avoid. You have to have a very particular sense of humour to laugh in the face of this sort of thing.

But Lee Harold accomplishes it wonderfully. And I think there's a very particular reason why. Harold makes sure that his star is very much aware of the role he is supposed to play as a serial killer. He is the villian in the horro movie, and must be that mysterious. He is the smiling face on the news and must be that insidious.

But being this self-aware also opens up other paths to humour. I flinched when I read this strip at first because it fulfills the same 'family' horror that terrifeid me about Red Dragon. But then we see Butch knows that, as an adult, he is meant to be an example. And so he will struggle on, despite wanting to quit. It is this down-to-earth quality, in the midst of stark fear, that makes us laugh, sometimes jsut for the shock.

And then there's the times that we find being a serial killer isn't all it's cracked up to be.

[Edited To Add:]
Diablo appears to think that the niche is larger than I give it credit for.

Yes, I love books.

Guest strips are a fun way to see how others look at a comic. The recent guest strips at Joe and Monkey showed me a strip where humour came from a really odd combination of unrelated punchlines and stupid behaviour. Just my kind of thing. I followed over there from Kris Straub and now I stay.

But the recent guest strips on PVP have shown me something else. I recognised the work of Multiplex's McAlpin and thought it was cool to see his take on the staff of PVP, even if it came down to a fart gag in the end (and isn't Kurtz encouraging that genre splendidly?). Interestingly, Kurtz also pointed out something I had missed over at Multiplex. McAlpin also does a more relaxed comic thing called Stripped Books. As someone who loves reading, this is cool. Especially his illustrated version of Neil Gaiman's Nebula awards speech.

I'm not sure, but in my opinion, people who love movies enough to follow the adventures of a group of people who work in a cinema will probably love stories enough to follow a series of literature related comics too. So why is there no obvious link on the front page of Multiplex? Or am I just blind?

Then we have today's guest spot, from Paul Southworth who does a strip called Ugly Hill. I have just recently added Ugly Hill as something to keep an eye on, so you can see that I'm not familiar with it. However, apparantly Southworth's idea of humour is so wonderful that he can turn Skull and Brent into Stimpy and Ren quite convincingly, pull off a really wierd fart joke and draw in a way that supports both (and go along with that whole fart gag thing Kurtz has been encouraging...). This encourages me to pay attention to Ugly Hill.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Oh, read that as soon as you can.

In the lofty tradition of pointing out comics that reference authors I enjoy, first seen all of four days ago, check out this Unshelved sunday strip. Terry Pratchett is, of course, one of the best things to happen to fantasy in a long time, but I would have recommended Guards Guards to new readers. I'm sure the dragon and all the secret societies would have made for a fun comic too.

I first came across Unshelved when another top author, Orson Scott Card, linked to a sunday strip about his classic Ender's Game. At first I thought the premise was too simple, drawing quirky jokes centred around book recommendations. Then I realised that Unshelved offered so much more.

The life of Dewey, the main character, covers alot of ground. There's the usual bookish humour to be expected from a comic set in a library. However, they manage to stretch out by focusing on things like the pointless bureaucracy of the head staff and weighty issues like censorship and recent politics , all without losing their simple charm and friendly humour.

The Sunday strips that hooked me in are a clever addition to an otherwise great niche strip. Rather than simply drawing a bigger joke than usual, Abaum and Barnes show that the setting isn't a gimmick (cue Pamela Anderson's Stacked...) but a location they understand.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Webcomics as blogs

I have seen a few places where people wonder why they keep reading particular webcomics. The one that is often cited is Greg Dean's Real Life. I can understand what they mean. Real Life is amusing and friendly but not one of the most hilarious webcomics out there. I really enjoy finding strange and surreal, laughter-inducing comics; I want to roar with laughter in my study and scare the wife. So why do I keep reading Real Life even though my connection is slow and Dean sometimes fails to update regularly?

It's the same reason I keep reading all my friends journals on LiveJournal. Although we may not share some interests or we may have differing opinions on various issues, they are my friends and it's nice to keep up to date with them. So it is with Real Life. I see the comic almost more as a blog or journal, highlighting the amusing moments out of Dean's life and showing them to his friends. And I like Dean so I keep reading.

This is something that I've seen in a few comics. Most of the time they don't interest me, because it's not what I'm looking for. That's what I see Something Positive as which is why I tend to only read it when someone points me to a particular strip for some reason. However, Home on the Strange works on a similar level but seems more interesting to me. More like a group of people who I might actually be friends with.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Something for everyone

I really enjoy Penny Arcade but PVP got it right in that long ago strip where Francis shows Cole all the news posts and information one needs to actually understand the strip of the day (which I couldn't find to link to. Hopefully this new site overhaul will include some way to search PVP somewhat and a better blog system).

And that applies somewhat to today's strip. You need to understand what a Gold Farmer is in context of online games. You needs to know that they exist far from here, that they are not really a good thing. You need to know the lengths gamers can go to.

But even if you don't understand all of that, you can see the nervous fear in one man's eyes as he wonders whether those are cries for help and the subtle threat in the other's as he delivers his warning.

Those eyes are fantastic.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A collection that'd be worth it.

Of the political cartoons I read online, one of the most abrasive is Ted Rall. I mean that in a complimentary way, though it might not seem so. Rall manages to find absurdities in any situation and isn't afraid of tackling issues that most would deem outside the target range (he made fun of widows from 9/11 and Pat Tillman, a man who volunteered to go to Afghanistanand was killed by friendly fire). He is quite comfortable depicting George W. Bush as a bestubbled milatary dictator with violence and stupidity reigning supreme. Alternatively, he absolutely thought every single newspaper in the world should have reprinted the Muhammad Cartoons in support of free speech.

This isn't really about him.

Rall appears to want to encourage others to write cartoons and has put himself behind two collections of cartoonists material under the heading Attitude. The first two were about political cartoons, drawing that pushed the boundaries. I knew a few of those artists.

But this post is about the new collection. It is specifically about webcomics. The artists found in Attitude 3 are all based online, trying to make use of the interconnectivity that comes from its creation. While some of the other cartoonists had online presences (some of them primarily) this is the first collection that focuses on that.

Of the 21 features artists, I have read:
Mark Fiore: "Fiore Animated Cartoons"
These short animations can be very funny, but I don't read them very often unfortunately.

Dorothy Gambrell : "Cat and Girl"
These are very surreal and witty comics. Not usually gut laghter but lots of smirking.

Nicholas Gurewitch: "The Perry Bible Fellowship"
One of the most outstanding comics I've read in a long time. Surreal, slightly morbid and obscene, but in a family friendly way. Can be simple gags or complex jokes. Probably partially repsonsible for my half broken sense of humour.

Ryan North: "Daily Dinosaur Comics"
I don't read these that often actually, but the concept is brilliant. Its exactly the same artwork every day but the text changes. It's incredible how much character can be found in that process. Oh, and everyone is dinosaurs.

August J. Pollak: "XQUZYPHYR & Overboard"
I actually only ever read one of these. But it was funny.

D.C. Simpson: "I Drew This"
A weekly politcal cartoon that makes me laugh a lot.

Richard Stevens: "Diesel Sweeties"
Very odd but stylish. Can be gags or clever too.

Bigger Than Cheeses takes on the big boys

Bigger Than Cheeses is a very... Over the top webcomic. It suffers from an update schedule that doesn't feel very regular (though the seven part series on superman vs Batman (Here's a hint. Gadets don't beat being a crazy alien) makes up for it somewhat). But the level of violence can be traumatic (even when offstage). In this, and its large breasted females, it reminds me somewhat of the Perry Bible Fellowship. PBF is certainly the more family friendly strip though.

Anyway, I bring it up to mention Neil Gaiman. Do you know Gneil? If not, then you need to just go and get a copy of American Gods or Smoke and Mirrors and come back when you're done. Actually, given the subject matter, read The Sandman while you're at it to avoid the spoilers in the comic.

Everyone up to date? Good.

In my opinion Gneil is one of the best storytellers that is living today. I am sure that the upcoming Henson film Mirrormask will be just as good as Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal and the movie of Stardust is probably going to be good too. Don't take my word for it, Stephen King says we 'are lucky to have him' and calls him 'a trove of story.'

Therefore, when someone takes his materpiece (the piece of art that an artist creates to end his apprenticeship and prove that he is truly a master of the craft), Sandman, and skewers it in four panels (not even four panels! It's really only two because one's a title card and the other is a joke on Gneil!) I have to say, that person is either a comic genius or an uncouth nerfherder.

I say genius.