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?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Not about webcomics but I do have something in mind.

Kia ora,

This post is a day late. I'd like to say it was because I was busy attending the appropriate Anzac memorials, but in fact I was recovering after a hard night at a friends'. I digress.

One of the things I find good about the Anzac tradition down here is that it remembers a great loss due to hideous blunders in World War One. But there's something about a screw up of this sort that binds people together.

Last year a comment reminded me that the Turks must have lost many times the young men that the Allies lost at Gallipoli and that was a good point. Somehow this attempt at invasion that ended in bloodshed for both sides resulted in a kinship even with the enemy.

The leader of the Turks, Ataturk, made this speech after the end of the war.

"Those heroes that shed their blood
and lost their lives;
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies
and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
here in this country of ours.
You, the mothers,
who sent their sons from far away countries,
wipe away your tears;
your sons are now lying in our bosom
and are in peace.
After having lost their lives on this land they have
become our sons as well."

As Neil Gaiman said recently: There are no Other People, there's just Us.

Ka kite

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dead Comics: Anne Frank Conquers The Moon Nazis

Kia ora,
One of the things that I love about webcomics is the amazing breadth of form that can be found in one basic setup. I have seen plenty of blog/real life comics and yet the boundaries are huge. Then comics with a story and characters in a set location can be interrupted by these self same 'real' interludes and sometimes even single gags with no relation, also a whole extra catagory of comic.

But we'll talk about some of those another time. What I'd like to take the oppourtunity to discuss with this Dead Comic post is high concept comics.

I don't know if I've been looking in the wrong places or if my temperment attracts me to the simpler sketchier gag type strips, but I haven't seen many original complex stories on the web. Goats has certainly sprung into that realm. Girl Genius could count but from what I've seen I could lazily claim there were plenty of steampunk stories out there. Family Man (which unfortunately fell away from my check up schedule) likewise, though well executed, could be tempting to place into a niche somewhere.

Which is why I was delighted to run across Anne Frank Conquers The Moon Nazis. When some one says High Concept or Original, I have to assume this is the sort of thing they mean. A comic wherein a janitor becomes friends with a replication of Anne Frank given exceptional powers and they both set off to destroy the Nazis hideaway on the moon. It's hard to say you've heard that one somewhere else isn't it?

With such a brilliant concept under its belt I would not have been surprised to begin reading Anne only to discover that the art was incompetant and let down the story or that the story was an incoherent mess that didn't live up to the concept or a meld of the two. But, thankfully, my fears stayed unrealised.

The very first strip introduces a pencil shaded lumpy bulgy cartoony style that one recognises from older animations. That loops stretchy sort of reality where Goofy might reach across a ten metre gap to grab his hat or something. We know this is going to be a fluid universe we are entering. But then the punchline for the strip is good too. How can one recognise the fact that Nazis and Jews are two subjects that will just automatically inspire powerful feelings that aren't humour when you want to make something funny? By making it up front. The camps finished, see that bulldozer? But still, they are trying to pretend it didn't happen in the most unsubtle heavyhanded way, simply putting a new sign over the old one. It might be a tight smile, but its bringing that conflict straight out before it can laugh at anything else going on.

The strip is poignant and crude, beautifully presented and the text beneath the panels is almost like watching a subtiled movie. I love this comic and its one fo the few story based comics that pulls hard enough to make me want to come back and find out where the artist is taking me. I'd don't have enough time to be hooked by story but I can easily be hooked by gags that don't need plot to understand. For Anne, I'd make the effort.

The strip ends just as Anne and Fleisch have met and mutually been shocked and angry and then gotten themselves sorted. We haven't seen the resturant seen with Anne as just a head that is on the cover and we've seen no sign of them venturing forth to stop the return of the Nazi's, under Walt Disney's command. And, dammit, I want to know why and if we ever will!

I'm not sure why the flashes of some other comic (Firefly fanfic?) keep showing up though...

Ka kite

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

New Statement of Intentions

Kia ora,


My my my, the world of webcomicry has gotten busy hasn't it? Along with the storylines to be found in classics like Order of the Stick, Sluggy Freelance and Elf Only Inn, it looks like I left the blogging business at just the wrong time!

I love reading comics and the stories going on behing the scenes are just as intriguing. But for the foreseeable future I think I'll be limiting myself to commenting on strips and such that I love on any particular day rather than trying to analyse and comment on the lifestyle.

This couples with the fact that I don't have as much time to read as many comics as I used. So, I'd be pleased to hear recommendations of moments or new strips, but I may not get round to doing large reviews or even mentioning them.

Ka kite

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I knew this had to be coming since I saw the Guitar Hero and SingStar plugins.

Here in New Zealand we sometimes find ourselves lagging behind the rest of the world. Things don't make it down to us until the hype has already faded in internet conversation. Well, there are some exceptions, movies such as Children of Men and Black Sheep were visible here before the States, so that helps.

What that means is that this christmas, as I was looking for something to act as a consolatory balm, I decided to get the Guitar Hero game for the PS2. Yes, everyone else has loved it for ages, but even my more with it friends had only picked it up about a month earlier.

That game is wonderful, my mates and I refer to it as SingStar for guys. I spent many hours buttoning away to the mighty strains of DethKlok and the Trogdor theme song.

Anyway, this is meant to be about webcomics. And so I shall turn my subject to Penny Arcade. We all know Penny Arcade and its hard to think of anything new to say. Sometimes the comics require that you have a fairly in depth knowledge of gaming news. The blog posts are very wordy.

But what this recent post and comic made clear for me is that Penny Arcade are really my gateway into the world of gaming that I haven't actually been a part of for a long time. My computer is old and crappy and I don't have money for PS2 games very often. But by reading Penny Arcade, I know what I'll like if I get the chance to grab it.

So. Not very much on comedy or webcomicy-ness but an aknowledgment of the role Penny Arcade plays for me.

Also, they're making a computer game now?! WTF? Awesome.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mallory Celery *snerk*

There was something wonderful about the little sketches my friends and I used to draw in our school books at college (that's New Zealand College which equals High School. Not to be confused with University). They were quick and there were silly and sometimes they incorporated the day's subject matter in ways that seemed much more high brow than one might expect from a classroom doodle.

When I was first reading The Mulberry Gallows Project, that same sense came through. Now, that was about 6 months ago if not more and so there has been a shift. As I go back through the archives right now, looking to remind myself what I'd like to say about it, the memories of the comic that was seem brighter.

Maybe its that the artist has improved on his visuals. The addition of a Russian (?) marionette with an amazingly familiar open personality must take up a lot of time to make the wobbling flailing limbs seem suitably complex. And many of the other simpler characters (Angry Chef, Abacus the Gnome) are showing a little more movement than earlier days. While this is good for the reader in that it looks much nicer, could it detract from the immediacy that those college sketches acheived? That line that smeared the truly absurd with the fiendishly clever? There are still moments that make me double over like when my friend in school did a small funny scene that had a tree in the background and he wrote "Look! A Tree!" next to it for no reason. In fact, that example is remarkably like that.

In his book Planet Simpson, Chris Turner talks long and in detail about his idea of Pop culture. He shows the clash between high culture and lowest common denominator through specific examples found in the show, often involving Lisa, Sideshow Bob or some ancient anachronism that no-one knows about invovling Mrt Burns. But his point is that these two extremes are not really seperate cultures but are both elements of Pop, as represented by the show.

I think that something webcomics have thrived on is the culture of the internet that grew up in that same cultural space as the Simpsons. The humour doesn't have to be 'clever' but it might be. It doesn't have to be crude, but it can if it likes. The examples of this abound and would be as simple as asking you to open up your favourite comic and look for something crass and then a flash of high minded intelligence.

And that was something I remembered from my earlier reading of Mulberry Gallows. Single strips such as this. Storylines like the one where the gang decide to dig up and revitalise the corpse of Duke Ellington in order to discover what his opinion on downloading music is. A blurring of the simple and gag-riffic with the thoughts and ponderations of someone with a mind they enjoy using. This is very much a good thing, all my favourite comics manage to ride this mixture with verve and style.

For awhile it seems Marien got bogged down with the mysterious story behind Anastasia and Angry Chef, and as I read over the archives I began to think that this is an area he might be pushing to work on for himself. A longer, more involved story than a series of related jokes. If so, then I wish him well because I have certainly noticed his learning curve and admired it since I first read the comic. I would be interested to see what Fleen's opinion is now also.

What gives me ongoing hope and expectations for Mulberry Gallows is this latest strip. Mallory has drunken a beaker of logic and begun to devolve to binary. Let's see what xkcd do with that!