romance


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Servants of the Imperium

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Things take a personal turn today, as I bring to you the webcomic Servants of the ImperiumThe 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….

Soti page 3

This is a comedy set in the grimmest setting western literature has ever created. I don’t know how he pulls it off.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: The Horror Comics of Emily Carroll

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Today’s selection is actually a collection of brief short stories by artist Emily Carroll. At times haunting, at times terrifying, Emily Carroll’s comics are always vibrantly colored to great and disturbing effect. The writing has the feel of a old campfire story, a cautionary folk tale passed down from generation to generation. Carroll also makes use of her webpage’s “Infinite Canvas” potential by positioning her images onscreen outside of the traditional comic format, taking the reader on twists and turns across the page. Some stories also have additional programming in the images, with some panels changing as you hover your mouse over them and some with links to the next portion of the story subtly hidden among them. I highly recommend pouring over every image in the comics section of her portfolio to find all of the hidden secrets. Be warned, it’s not something to do in a room with the lights off. Or alone in the house. And for the love of your sanity, don’t read them during a thunderstorm! My three favorites are below, but be sure to check out the others on her site!

His Face All Red

Perhaps the most infamous of Carroll’s comics, His Face All Red is a chilling tale of guilt and betrayal.

The Prince & the Sea

A romance of two different worlds, a tale of treachery and misunderstanding.

Anu-Anulan & Yir's Daughter

Lest you think Emily Carroll’s talents are limited to scaring you witless, here is a beautiful and romantic original fairy tale.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Narbonic

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Because I had written about Girl Genius and Dresden Codak in the previous weeks, I now have MAD SCIENCE on the brain. Specifically, mad scientists of the female variety, which brings me to the now classic daily webcomic Narbonic. Narbonic is the story of Dave Davenport, a chain-smoking recent graduate in Computer Sciences who lands a job as a henchman with Narbonic Labs right out of college. His new boss, Dr. Helen B. Narbon, is a certifiably mad and and gerbil-obsessed scientist with a penchant for buggy doomsday machines. Her cheerfully amoral gun-toting intern Mell is searching for some direction in life but until then has a large stockpile of grenades. Later on one of her experimental gerbils, Artie, achieves sentience and tries to be the voice of reason, but usually fails miserably. Dr. Narbon’s lair is frequently attacked by her rival, amorous mad scientist Lupin Madblood, the vigilante hero Antonio Smith: Forensic Linguist, her own twisted creations, and her diabolical mother. What at first appears to be a light-hearted comedic strip seductively lures you into an intricate story of madness and morality, love and the fear of intimacy, and the many different shades of good and evil. Many a “throwaway” line becomes a Chekhov’s gun much later, so pay very close attention!

Dave and Mell

Narbonic is mostly a black and white daily strip with the Sunday strips in full color. The colored Sunday strips are very rarely part of the main story line, but are usually some type of side story,  fan art, fan songs, or fan poetry of the main story. This includes long palindrome songs sung by Helen’s Giant Ur-Gerbils. This is another opportunity to watch an artist evolve and refine her technique, although the artist’s style remains consistent.  In the beginning it is a much rougher hand drawn style and smooths out beautifully over time.  Not only is the comic a long cohesive story, in the original website Dr. Helen Narbon’s secret origin story was hidden in the file names of the images, a few words at a time. A fan compiled it into this text file.  The comic ran from 2000 and was completed 2006 and the comic has been re-running with Director’s Commentary for a few years now. I recommend reading it and the hidden backstory file after reading through the original comic. It has also had a few print runs, and the books can be acquired here.

The Author and Her Other Works

Narbonic was Shaenon K. Garrity’s first webcomic, but it thankfully wasn’t her last. She’s either created numerous other webcomics, as well as numerous published short stories columns and you can peruse her body of work in her gallery. I shall draw attention to Skin Horse, her current long running project which has some connections to the Narbonic universe  She has been an editor with Viz Media since 2003, a colmunist for Comixology, and is a long time volunteer and advocate of the Cartoon Art Museum located in San Francisco. The Cartoon Art Museum is the only Comics and Cartoon oriented museum in the western Hemisphere. You should visit and/or give them money. You should also read Garrity’s brilliant retelling of The Trouble with Tribbles in the style of Edward Gorey.

Meet Helen. Meet her Ur-Gerbil.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Girl Genius

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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.

Girl Genius Online Comics Weasel Queen Intro

The intro from the Girl Genius Short Story “Revenge of the Weasel Queen!”

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. 

Handsome Schmott Guys- The Jaegerkin
You might not believe it now, but they really are irresistible to women.

 


Wednesday’s Webcomic: A Girl and Her Fed

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Wednesday's Webcomic

A Girl and her Fed is an exciting, complex and romantic thriller.  It has conspiracies, civil rights abuses,  science and Big Government gone wrong, and a lot of dick jokes. It begins when a Girl discovers she’s been put on a Terrorism Watch-list by a shadowy government organization and decides to track down the culprits with her long-time friend, a hallucination of Benjamin Franklin. The Fed assigned to watch her, who was part of a failed government experiment to hook bionic communications chips into their brains, can see her hallucination and she realizes that she is in fact being haunted by the ghost of Ben Franklin, as he has been telling her all along. She can also see the cranial chip’s interface, which (unfortunately for the agents in whom it is installed) resembles George W. Bush’s floating head. After the mysterious death of another agent, the two discover there was a lot more to the microchip program then anyone originally suspected and that it is somehow connected to the busybody ghosts of the founding fathers. They begin an investigation and adventure, also aided by a foul mouthed, genetically engineered super Koala. And that is only the beginning!

A girl and her fed

This has been one of my favorite webcomics to watch evolve and grow, especially the art. Arc 1 is complete and Arc 2 recently started. Through sheer charisma and writing quality it has amassed a very big and devoted following  and through the authors efforts and what must have been a LOT of practice the art style has evolved from rudimentary and expressive to clear, colorful and dynamic.  From the very beginning, the chemistry and sexual tension of the unnamed Girl and her unnamed Fed is absolutely scrumptious and gets even better as the art is upgraded. The comic is currently mid-upgrade with one redone page every week, so sometime after starting it you will run into the old art style. As the pages are upgraded some of the text also  becomes unnecessary and is changed at the author’s discretion and all of the original pages are hidden neatly behind the new ones. The art is primarily being redone so as to make it easier to publish and enough has been completed to publish the first book.

A Girl and Her Fed Classic

This is why you should practice, practice, practice!

The Author

K.B. Spangler puts an incredible amount of time and energy into creating side-story material for the comic in addition to her other profession as a researcher. While the comic is available for free, there’s a dazzling array of short stories, wallpapers, pins, tees, and this incredible plushie of Speedy the Koala for sale in her store. Also, a full-length thriller novel about a side character is due to be released soon! The first three parts have been released on a sponsorship basis as a sort of self-run Kickstarter. The main character of the novel does not appear until very recently in the comic timeline, so I would definitely recommend the comic first. Speedy the Koala also has a hilarious in-character Twitter feed.

Armed Speedy

You should follow @speedysays on Twitter… Or Else…