This week, Cody Gough of Game/Life Balance U.S. is joined by special guests Andrew “AC” Yoshimura of Game/Life Balance Australia and Chris Ferrell of the All Things Good and Nerdy and Official GonnaGeek.com Podcasts for a VERY SPECIAL REVIEW of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch. Will you like this game even if you aren’t a long-time Zelda fan? And how does the Nintendo Switch hold up? Tune in to find out!
I make a rare case for an incomplete comic that needs funding today: Terminally Illin’ is one young woman’s fight against cancer, documented in an irreverent, surreal, and psychedelic story described as “Alice in Wonderland on Chemo.” The completed first issue is available for free if you submit your email address, and I highly recommend donating to support the comic; as your donations contribute to cancer research and the free copies of the comic for patients. I backed the second round of funding on Kickstarter for the full color graphic novel eighteen months ago and I couldn’t be more pleased with the first part of the comic I received; on page three there is a chemo-merkin joke. Our heroine, the writer’s avatar, pokes fun at every moment of the process: the day an old lady yelled at her for laughing before her treatment, her insincere doctor who disapproves of her chemo-mohawk, and the massive quantities of drugs she was consuming at the time make a song and dance about their skills. The actual blog posts the author made at the time are spaced through out the book. The comic also aims to educate about the biology involved and tries to be factually correct about all of the scientific matters, even if you can’t actually fight tumor-Hitlers with your sewing scissors and pet cat. The vivid and expressive art accentuates the often grotesque subject matter in the style of R. Crumb or Gabby Schulz, and while the subject and illustrations are dark and close to tragic, there is a palpable sense of hope and vigor that comes through in the writing and in the playful and bright eyes of our heroine as she journeys through her own body.
The writer, Kaylin Andres was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, and was both troubled and inspired by the lack of cancer resources available for young adults during her treatment. She documents her experiences, battle and victories and recurrences in her overwhelmingly popular blog Cancer Is Hilarious. While producing the comic, she unfortunately experienced a Cancer recurrence and has started agressive treatment for it, but somehow managed to finish the first book of the comic as well as begin her fashion design career! She and her story were featured on the MTV documentary Series World of Jenks. She is now a three-time cancer survivor. The artist, Jon Solo, is a long time friend and experienced graphic designer and comic artist.
Please enjoy this adorable video of the birth of the Chemo-Hawk and the heroine learning to fire and AK-47.
Things take a personal turn today, as I bring to you the webcomic Servants of the Imperium. The comic, I believe, is heavily reminiscent in humor and art to the epic The Order of the Stick, but distinguishes itself by being set in the Warhammer 40K universe created by Games Workshop. I will confess right here, to not originally having little love of the 40K universe. I had always found it a depressing, heinously violent, and overly testosterone-driven setting with overpriced miniatures and an antisocial, unpleasant fandom. Not very open-minded of me, I realize, but nothing about the single minded Space Marines of the miniature game really caught my interest. Then I fell in love with a man who was not only obsessed with tabletop gaming of all kinds but had many boxes of lovingly assembled Space Marines, volumes of the “Black Library,” played the RPGs with his friends, and thanked/blamed-it-on the Pestilence God Nurgle when he got sick. Since this man also tried knitting, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and Jane Austen for me I made an effort to see the good side of life in the 41st Millenium. This story really helped me get there.
I will stress I wasn’t a complete novice in 40K terminology when I started reading the comic, but I feel a novice with familiarity of science fiction can enjoy and embrace the setting. It starts out with a few one-shot gags in black-and-white but quickly becomes a longer story in full color. The art style is in simple but expressive stick figures. The story follows Lord Severus Hunt, an Inquisitor devoted to hunting down the heretics against the God-Emperor in the Imperium of Mankind 39 millenia into the future. His (mis)adventures protecting the galaxy from the forces of evil are accompanied by a growing roster of acolytes, including the trigger happy, oddly chipper bounty hunter Krin, the socially backward and deadly assassin Brianna, and a sarcastic Psyker with a penchant for exploding heads named Lyle. As the plot develops, it is not only darkly humorous, but takes a few nods from the grand adventure stories such as Treasure Island. There’s action, treasure, treachery, intrigue, monsters, romance, and lots of comedy! The comic really showed me what is human about the grim and dark setting that is the 40K universe.
The author, Rob Leigh, pulls a lot from his experience as a GM from the 40K series of Roleplaying books from Fantasy Flight, especially the Dark Heresy series. There was a longer hiatus earlier this year while he was a bit burned out by his surprising success, but I am happy to say that the comic is once again in full swing. He also reviews 40K roleplaying books in the website’s blog section, but does not seem to have any other projects online.
Stumbling on this comic really showed me coolness and charm of the 40K universe; the hard scrabble for survival, the strangeness and similarities of the culture, and the glimmers of humanity in the vast, cold horrors of space. I was able to go from here to the Roleplaying books, then to fluff of the actual miniatures game. I can finally wrap my head around the motivations of the Space Marines, and even recently latched onto a chapter to call my own, the Blood Ravens. Maybe my sweetheart will even talk me into painting some miniatures….
Sometimes a webcomic is born from a strange place. In this case, an established mainstream print comic artist designed a t-shirt on the fly. The characters on the silly t-shirt became so wildly popular that a weekly webcomic had to follow, because the clamors of internet could not be denied. I mean really, who could deny the sweet, gigantic face of Battlepug? The Battlepug itself is the giant, fearsome mount of mighty barbarian mage-warrior, who is on quest for vengeance against those who destroyed his family. In an age lost to time, where bandits roam and kings squabble over petty grievances, a malevolent wizard is using giant, adorable beasts to destroy a seemingly random sequence of towns and villages. Our hero, the Warrior, is the lone survivor of one of these attacks. As he journeys to find vengeance against the mage he is joined on his quest by the massive and lovable Battlepug, a mad old hermit, a foul-mouthed and powerfully magical child, and a fearsome female soldier.
Battlbug is a tongue-in-cheek look at the pulp novels of the past, and the characters almost always approach their absurd situations with complete seriousness. This is a sword and sorcery comedy, although there are hints of a more serious storyline beneath it. The art is reminiscent of pulp novel covers and illustrations as well. It is brightly colored and richly detailed. THe characters are expressive and original, and every single one of the massive Battlepug’s sweet, derpy expressions warm my heart and make me squee! Even if he is rampaging through a battle! Who can say no reading more comics with that face? As an added bonus, fan’s pug pictures are featured on Fridays! The comic itself updates with excellent punctuality on Mondays. In 2012, it won the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic. The first volume has been published by Dark Horse.
The Author and his Other Work
Mike Norton is the writer and artist for Battlepug, and is the owner of a pug named Ninja. He has an impressive comics resume that includes the Waiting Place, Runaways, and Green Arrow/Black Canary as well as many others. He has also recently been working on Revival with Tim Seeley, to much critical acclaim. The colors are done by Allen Passalaqua, a photographer and colorist who has worked on Justice Socitey of America, Spiderman, Green Arrow and Black Canary.
I spent some time when I began this column trying to set a limit when a webcomic would become “too big” to recommend. Too many daily hits? Too many spin off projects? A massive video game convention held in its name? I quickly realized that if I thought that anyone’s life would somehow be less without knowing that the comic exists, no matter how many people already know about it, then I should recommend it on the off chance that they have not. Mostly I want to go on and on about one of my favorite comics ever to come to the web, Girl Genius!
Girl Genius is what the authors, Phil and Kaja Foglio, have dubbed a “Gaslight Fantasy.” I would describe it as part Victorian science fiction, part romantic fantasy, and 100% MAD SCIENCE. On another and nearly unrecognizable Earth, some humans are endowed with a gift and a curse called the Spark. The Spark gives a person incredible genius, vision, and charisma, but also frequently causes uncontrollable rages and an inevitable descent into madness. The world of Girl Genius has been ruled by mad science for thousands of years, and it has done a horrible job. Our heroine, Agatha, begins as a hapless student of Transylvania Polygnostic University when one scary run-in with some wandering soldiers in an alleyway sets in motion a chain of events that not only shakes the foundations of Europa but leads Agatha to discover the secrets of an ancient and feared Spark dynasty long thought dead. What follows is a tumultuous and fast-paced journey as she wins true-hearted allies, outwits foes, enamors handsome geniuses, and defeats giant monsters in a pulse-pounding pulp adventure spanning ELEVEN volumes and counting!
Girl Genius was originally printed in paper form in 2001, but made the transition online in 2005 and has been updated with astonishing regularity since then. The setting of the comic has an incredibly well-planned history and culture which has barely been hinted at. The anatomy is well-studied and the facial expressions are dynamic. The rich intricate illustrations and embellishment of the machinery and clothing lead to an incredible amount of hidden details in the artwork. A few short stories are interspersed with the action at chapter breaks in the comic. The comic is also available in book form as well , with eleven of the volumes in print. Three of the print volumes have won the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story, as well as numerous other awards. The first two story arcs have also been adapted into two Girl Genius novels! Girl Genius really sets the bar high for epic webcomics.
The Authors and Their Other Works:
Girl Genius is the work of the married team of Phil and Kaja Foglio. Phil is the primary illustrator and Kaja is the primary writer and web designer and the world building is very much equal between them. Both of them are written into the comic as bystanders and chroniclers of the saga. They each had long separate careers prior to starting Girl Genius, which has been their main project since 2000 and has led to the novels, riotously funny podcasted radio dramas, and a devoted and massive fanbase. A major contributor is their colorist since Volume 5, Cheyenne Wright, who has many other fascinating projects, many of which are of the steampunk persuasion.
As an aside, I am loathe to end this recommendation without mentioning my favorite characters: the charismatic, adorable and brutal Jägerkin. They will pillage your heart and conquer your mind, all while singing a jaunty tune.
Monster Pulse is a supernatural horror adventure story written for young adults, with expressive black-and-white art and truly cool and original subject matter. A couple kids in the Pacific Northwest stumble on a secret government experiment to create life from life, which pulls an organ from their bodies and turns it into a powerful and devoted monster. The organ is now permanently removed and independently alive but somehow still capable of performing its intended function. In the case of Bina Blum, her heart is now a six-foot-tall, incredibly strong and protective creature that still somehow pumps her blood from outside her body, as she can still check her pulse. The energy creatures that are seeking out specifically children to bond with are being hunted by their creators, the shadowy organization SHELL, which is taking extreme measures to capture or destroy them, regardless of the fact that the destruction of the monster means the destruction of the original organ. In Bina’s case at least, this means evading and fighting the agents of SHELL is a fight for her life!
In the midst of all this, the kids must still deal with being pre-teens. While the monsters and evading SHELL brings them together, they don’t necessarily have much holding them together beyond that. They have to deal with learning their parents are human and not always to be relied on, jealousy amongst friends, those first romantic feelings, and heavier issues like death and responsibility. One of the kids, Abel, is homeless for as-yet-unknown reasons, and has had to engage in petty theft to survive. All this combined makes an incredibly deep and riveting webcomic-in-progress. I was glued to the archive until I was caught up! These are very realistic characters, which is rarer and rarer in the ever widening pool of webcomics that are out there. The author has small breaks in between chapters, but otherwise sticks to a regular update schedule.
The Author and her Other Works
Magnolia Porter is a freelance illustrator, who created Monster Pulse partially out of a love for Pokemon and the Kids-And-Monsters genre. She’s also written the complete comic Bobwhite about young women in art school. Monster Pulse Book 1 will soon be released, thanks to a successful Kickstarter!
If you’ve been reading this column for a bit, perhaps you’ve been wondering, “Gee whiz, Jeanette, how did you get so hooked on webcomics?” (You probably haven’t but I’m going to tell you anyway.) Well, I got bitten by Bite Me! by Dylan Meconis. It wasn’t the first webcomic I had seen, but it was the first one that really showed me that webcomics could really challenge all the things I that disappointed me about mainstream comics. Here was something that was funny, action-packed, historically based, bloody, full of puns, and most of all original. I hadn’t felt like I’d seen anything unique happen in the mainstream comics I had read for a long, long time. And then here was this hilarious romp through the French Revolution with some old-school Undead vampires loaded with decapitation puns, Anne Rice references, and history jokes!
Bite Me! begins with Claire, a sassy and bored tavern server who is passionately following the revolution in Paris. In walks in this smooth, dashing, and heroic gentleman and Claire; who is a heroine who pursues and doesn’t wait to be pursued, unfortunately stumbles… literally… into a new life as a Vampire. Lucien, our dark chevalier, must save his coven from the bloodthirsty new government and take this over-eager new fledgling along with a bizarrely useful skill set along for the ride. They are joined in their mission by Ginevra, who takes being EEEVIL very seriously, and Luther, Lucien’s sarcastic, German werewolf BFF. The comic was begun when the the author was in high school and completed over a few subsequent years as she did a lot of growing as an artist. She keeps the art style admirable consistent as her skills grow, but you can also see her shading and anatomy drawing smooth out. Watching someone’s art skills grow is something I always love doing! The comic is also complete as well, and recently had it’s tenth anniversary.
The Author and her other Works
Dylan Meconis is a freelance artist and illustrator. She’s worked on illustrations for some of the illustrious Thursday Next series and Portland’s Alt-Weekly the Portland Mercury. She works out of the Periscope Studio, a Portland, Oregon freelance art studio that seems to be a think tank of brilliant artists and writers. Her current ongoing webcomics project is Family Man, a more serious prequel for Bite Me, a surreal historical fiction telling Luther the Werewolf’s origin story. (You can bet I’ll be writing about that soon, but don’t wait for me if you want to read it.) Bite Me! was unfortunately out of print for some time, and for the tenth anniversary a Kickstarter was successfully funded to print a special edition as well as some of her other digital comics that had never been printed.