wednesdays


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Manly Guys Doing Manly Things

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I love comics that are as intricately layered as a well-made buttery, chocolate croissants. Manly Guys Doing Manly Things is good enough to be relished with only the finest cappuccino. On the surface is a hilarious rough-and-tumble parody of macho video game heroes and their chest-beating tropes, but if you peel back the surface you find a densely packed subtle commentary on the often ludicrous expectations of masculinity presented by the media and video games. The setting is a temp agency for the impossibly macho men trying to readjust to the world after their video games are complete.  Kratos and Duke Nukem doesn’t last long the the day to day working world of retail and office jobs. Their guide to the real word is the reasonably well-adjusted Commander Badass, time-travelling Hitler-punching single dad, and the Pokemon League reject Jared and his Gyrados, Mr. Fishy.

Jared and Gyrados

Gyrados is always a good conversation starter.

The various video game characters are very accurately rendered and their facial expressions in the midst of their various rage-benders and personal meltdowns are hilarious. The author seriously knows her source material for games and comics.  The backgrounds are detailed and intricate as well, with loads of little Easter Eggs on the background posters and t-shirts. Most of the pages are stand alone, with some short and long story lines. There is one excellent long story line loving parody of JRPG adventures featuring were-bishonenism. The main character of Commander-Badass has really impressive depth and history. In addition to being a red-blooded American space marine fighting for truth, justice and the God of Masculinity Marlon Brando; he is a loving father, caring mentor and a patient boss. He’s a very laid-back person aside for his rivalry with the Canadian Guy, the pinnacle of Canadian Masculinity, who keeps beating his Robot Unicorn high score. There are occasionally pauses in publication, which are admirably brief seeing as the author is a professional animator.

About the Author

Animator Kelly Turnbull, who frequently uses the name @Coalasquid, created the comic as a one-off contest entry but continues it due to popular demand. She is a Canadian transplant to southern California who has worked on such shows as Ugly Americans for Adult Swim and Good Vibes for MTV, as well as other.

Dedicating this column and sending a very happy birthday to my good friend Trin! You should check out her wonderful vlog series about friendship. She’s been one of my biggest supporters, and she’s also marrying her super cool sweetie this week too! She deserves a mountain of congratulations in the form of adorable kitten pictures.

Canada

Apparently if you pallette-swap the Commander and dial up the Northern accent, you end up with the author’s father.


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: Scandinavia and the World

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Every nationality has an image of their nation as a person in their collective  mind or in their propaganda, and we certainly have a stereotyped personification about other countries, particularly our nearest neighbors. Frequently, other country’s stereotypes clash with our own, and one creative author, who was a reader of Axis Powers Hetalia decided to put her own native spin on Denmark and its closest compatriots Sweden and Norway. After several strips poking fun at the dysfunctional Scandinavian “family” their neighbors and rivals came on the scene, giving birth to the long-running comic parodying national identity, Scandinavia and the World

 

America's Thor

 

The countries interact with each other as discreet individuals, and are portrayals and parodies of international stereotypes from the Scandinavian point of view. All of their relationships are portrayed in their fully dysfunctional and very intimate glory, with some countries that are lovers and some that are bitter rivals. There are also personifications of the different country’s women portrayed as the “Sisters.” The artist uses her own Danish bias to point out every country’s tendency to have itself at the the center of the world. Be prepared for adult humor, cartoon violence, and your beloved country of origin to be viciously skewered. The art style varies on the author’s whim and the comic’s tone, ranging from deformed and cartoonish to more realistic and romantic. Each comic is standalone, with a varying range of lengths. The update schedule is “when the author has a good idea” so it’s good to use a service like Comic Rocket to follow her. She can be inspired by current events, a cultural misunderstanding on a bus, or the Eurovision song contest. The author is also aware of her multicultural audience, and frequently has a comedic blurb under the comic explaining the things her global audience might not be aware of.

Iceland Ain't Right

Apparently Iceland is the gateway to Hell, or “Hekla.”

The Author and her Other Works

*humon is a Danish cartoonist who recently relocated to the United Kingdom. She has a number of other strips written in a similar format to Scandinavia, all of them originally published on  Deviant Art, but which are now also being published on a new, central website. Her other comics have more sexuality, gender roles, and other adult themes, so I wouldn’t read them at work. Her semi-regular posting schedule unfortunately took a hit as she has received a lot of unpleasant backdraft from people misinterpreting her comics, but supportive friends and fans have successfully lured her back into publishing. Her recent move to the UK seems to have provided a lot of inspiration. Be sure to really dig through her Deviant Art archive as well, because she has some truly beautiful paintings of Norse myths and Scandinavian folklore!

Wife-Carrying

The noble Finnish sport of Wife-Carrying. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wife_carrying


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Monster Pulse

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Wednesday's Webcomic

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!

Bina Meets Ayo

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!


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Bucko

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The comic Bucko begins with Rich Richardson, dubbed Bucko by the woman whose couch he’s passed out on, rushing through the streets of Portland on his bicycle as he tries to get to his job interview. Remembering he almost had a threesome with the woman, Gyp, and her roommate before he passed out destroys just about all the confidence he has, and then the post-drinking diarrhea that strikes mid-interview is about the worst thing that can happen… until he finds the dead body in the men’s restroom. What follows is a mystery, although the objective of it does end up different. The city of Portland seems weirder than the Wonderful Land of Oz as Bucko and Gyp, his almost hook-up, stumble on oddity after oddity encountering Juggalo queens, ghost bicycles , and a candle-making Suicide Girl.

Bucko Page 1

Bucko is complete as of January 2012, and has been bound up by Dark Horse Comics in one volume. The artist and writing duties are split between Erika Moen and Jeff Parker respectively. The story call itself a comical murder mystery, and while it is comical, there is a murder, and there is a mystery, the three are not exactly interconnected.  It’s a very offbeat and winding love poem to the city of Portland and the people who’ve chosen to live there and make it so darn odd. It’s also riotously funny. This comic gave me more than a few stitches in my side! I don’t feel I can say much more, or feature more images, as I don’t want to be one of those movie trailers that spoils all the jokes.

The Authors and Their Other Works:

Jeff Parker has an illustrious comics writing resume including many  Hulk titles, Agents of Atlas, X-Men: First Class and UndergroundErika Moen is a cartoonist, well known for her always honest and often raunchy autobiographical webcomic Dar! which I find incredibly inspiring. It’s worth watching her for the incredibl print work she does, which I regularly covet and mug little old ladies to acquire. Well,  not quite mug. More like work in exchange for wages to acquire, but old ladies are involved. Both of them work out of the freelance hive Periscope Studio in Portland, where I’m sure brilliant cartoonists are cultivated in tanks.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: Bite Me

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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 Page 1

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.

Bite Me cover

The cover sums up EVERYTHING I love about this comic.


Wednesday’s Webcomic – Digger

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Wednesday's Webcomic

Digger  is nothing short of a true epic of mythology, gods, and a wombat. Digger-of-Unnecessarily-Convoluted-Tunnels, or Digger to her friends, becomes disoriented from noxious fumes and subsequently very lost underground. She ends up stranded far from home in a distant and strange country where the statues talk, the slugs are prophets,  and the squash thirst for the blood of the living.  The practical and courageous Digger, who has no use for either gods or prophecies, is the reluctant and unlikely heroine in a short chapter of an ancient battle between good and evil.  She may not be happy about it, but if she has a job to do, she’ll do it right!

Left Hand Purple Ink

digger hyenaDigger is complete as of March 2011, and won the Hugo award for best Graphic Story in 2012.  It was part of a paid subscriber collective for most of it’s run, but it is now available in it’s entirety for free. It was originally a short story of just the first five pages which then grew into six volumes. It is also entirely in print with bonus short stories in the print volumes. While Vernon’s incredibly fascinating world of multicultural legends and bizarre creatures will draw you in, it’s Digger herself who really holds everything together. Her practical and genre-savvy nature and her deadpan wit give you a heroine who won’t put up with any nonsense from demons, trigger-happy monks, or packs of hungry hyenas. She will introduce them to the business end of her pickaxe if necessary.

 I must warn my readers of two things: Do not read the comments on the archived pages as many previous readers have left spoilers. Also, there are scenes of domestic abuse.

Remember tunnel 17The Author and her Other Works

 Ursula Vernon is an award winning painter and children’s book author. She’s the author of the children’s series Dragonbreath, where a young dragon will teach you about biology and myths, and had a big hit on the message board 4chan and subsequent memedom with The Biting Pear of Salamanca.  She also illustrated the game Black Sheep.  Almost every single painting on her website and Deviant Art also has a bit of back story and flavor text, so those are definitely worth a browse through.

Please let me know what you think of Digger in the comments area below! Did you enjoy it? Do you hate it? Is it just… meh?

Troll hyena cute

Aren’t the trolls are just the cutest? There’s an extended feature about them in volume 3 of the printed comic.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: JL8

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Wednesday's Webcomic

I’m going to take a chance that you haven’t heard about this week’s webcomic today, because if you haven’t there is a HUGE gaping hole in your life. That hole is in the shape of JL8.  Often fans of mainstream comics will get a little burned out from the intensity and the grandiosity of their favorite franchises and need a good dose of their favorite characters diluted into their purest forms. Traits such as Superman’s nobility and his naiveté,  Batman’s cleverness and his ego, and Wonder Woman’s loyalty and her poise. Distilling and scrunching these character traits into adorable costumed preschoolers complete with super powers, author Yale Stewart tells short stories of justice and friendship in the format of old-fashioned newspaper superhero strips.

JL8 Spiderman

JL8 is adorable and sweet but it doesn’t shy away from conflict. The kids in another class room are a familiar bunch of villains and ne’er do-wells, led by a mini Lex Luthor,  although younger Lex still has lustrous shampoo commercial hair.  Behind the scenes comic heroes such as Jules Schwartz and Neil Gaiman make unnamed appearances and many comic tropes are lampooned and lamp-shaded with abandon. The series thankfully never tries to explain why a bunch of super-powered children go to the same school and why they all live within flying and walking distance. For the sake of your enjoyment, please take your logic and put it in the back of your closet with your cynicism and the roller skates you never use.

JL8 Luthor and the Legion of Doom

The Author and his Other Works

Yale Stewart is creating JL8 as a true labor of love. It’s unfortunately impossible to earn money with JL8 since he does not have legal permission to use DC Comics characters. He even had to abandon the series’ original name, Little League, since the Little League baseball organization is extremely zealous in it’s protection of their trademark. Fans have been rabid to support him, so thankfully Stewart recently released the semi-autobiographical comic Gifted on the pay-what-you-can model.

JL8 Dodgeball Darkseid Gym class


Wednesday’s Webcomic – That Deaf Guy

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Wednesday's Webcomic

This week’s webcomic is very simple, very funny, and that is also a big eye-opener about lives that maybe different from your own. Matt & Kay Daigle’s That Deaf Guy is a weekly newspaper style strip about a mixed deaf and hearing family. It’s sweet, funny, and heartwarming with straightforward and expressive art. The comic is semi-autobiographical about the Daigle’s own family. Hand signing and audible speech are portrayed the same way to help show the hearing that there is no difference in the complexity of communication available to ASL-Speakers. Since I don’t have any deaf people in my life, many of the situations or obstacles for the deaf in the comic have never occurred to me before. Such as how Snuggies take on a whole new level of usefulness when you need your hands to talk to your wife on a cold night, or not realizing how loud you are being while doing something that seems completely innocuous to you.

Screeech Chair

Desmond is a deaf stay-at-home dad and graphic designer and Helen is a professional ASL interpreter who is on-call 24/7. Their son, Cedric, is hearing and mischievous; much of the series’ humor comes from him being befuddled by other peoples wonderment and confusion at actions completely normal to him, or trying to explain to other hearing people his family’s day to day life. Cedric can often get away with a great deal of shenanigans since has no shame in using his father’s deafness and mother’s work schedule against them.

Loud Family

The Authors & their Other Works

Matt Daigle has always been profoundly deaf, so his reliance on visual communication has given him a gift for clear and concise logo design, such as for the International Breast Feeding Sign. He has been publishing cartoons online since 2008, although many of his earlier jokes were based in Deaf culture so they were hard for the hearing to understand. That Deaf Guy is co-written by Kay Daigle, an ASL interpreter, who helps interpret the day to day life of a deaf person for the hearing for the writing of the comic.

Deaf Guy Bathroom


Wednesday’s Webcomic: The Non-Adventures of Wonderella!

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Wednesday's Webcomic

The Non-Adventures of Wonderella deftly skewers tropes both comic book and mundane in a weekly Saturday strip. Fighting for truth, justice, and product endorsements, Wonderella herself would much rather be at home with a Jack and Coke watching American Idol. Unfortunately for her, a girl has to make a living and her superpowers are the pretty much the only job skill she has.

11406 Wonderlla

She can’t fly, though.

The comic has been published weekly since September of 2006. The vector art is vibrantly colored and cheerful, with a complete full page story every time. Wonderella herself began as combination Wonder Woman/Superman parody.  Creator Justin Pierce has said “I started out Wonderella to make an off-the-clock superhero who was an average woman instead of some 24/7 warrior… though somewhere along the line, ‘average woman’ became a cross between Elaine Benes and Zelda Fitzgerald.” In early strips big name heroes like the Flash and Batman were mentioned as off screen characters, but Wonderella’s own super powered cast of colleagues grew, as well as a regular rogues gallery that is one of the real draws of the series.

wonderella 92212

The real charm lies with the fact that while she is often self absorbed and would rather not be bothered, Wonderella’s  genre-savviness is often her greatest weapon. She has a real world logical streak that doesn’t mesh with her super powered universe, which is probably contributes to her drinking problem. Her own sidekick, Wonderita is more of a teenage stalker and useful hostage for villains than any real assistance. The other heroes she fights alongside are catty and competitive, and she generally gets along better with, and sometimes briefly dates, the villains and villainesses she fights agains. Her mother, the original Hitler-Punching Wonderella, is a super powered Lucille Bluth who didn’t give her daughter much of a choice to be anything other than her successor.  She’s an everywoman with a lot of baggage, but Wonderella might not be the hero her world wants, but she’s probably the hero they need.