Sunday, March 31, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: How to format a webpage in a logical manner

I'll say it here, I'm not a web designer or even a graphic designer, normally I don't deal much with design at all. However, I go on a lot of webpages every day and I'm generally considered to be a smart person, if I go on your website and can't find the information I want then something has gone wrong. And for about 70, 80% of the webcomic websites I come across, regardless of whether or not I like the comic the website works just fine and I'm able to find out everything I need to know about it. But for that remaining percentage, well, here are the basics you need to have a well organized website.

To start, I get on a webpage and immediately look for either the first or the latest page of the comic. It can be either and it can be on the main page or I can go click on a link like "new readers start here", both of those are totally fine and I have no idea what attracts/keeps more potential readers. Once I've gotten to that page though and whatever is on the page intrigues me I look for five buttons below the comic, first, previous, archive, next, and last pages. Sometimes a comic doesn't have all those buttons but as long as I can easily navigate and find the archive that's okay. And you really, REALLY need to have an archive page. Baby stuff I know but I can think of one or two instances where a comic didn't have one. And, in the cases I'm thinking of I had read some of the comic before, wanted to try it again but didn't want to start at the beginning but there wasn't an archive and the pages URLs weren't numeric. So I decided that they weren't worth the trouble and haven't looked at them since, guys just make an archive page and keep it up to date.

So, I've looked at a few pages, they grab me, the next thing I do is to look at the about page to see what exactly the comic is about. Here's what I'm hoping to find.

A two sentence to paragraph summary of the plot. Any shorter and there's not enough information for me to tell if the story is original enough to be interesting/is going to be a really good take on an older idea or if it's going to be terrible. Any longer and you're just getting waaaay too deep into world building.

And then credit the staff!
Because it's rather awkward when I
have to dig through the copyright information to find
someone's name or even a handle to call them.

And credit everyone involved! Got a
colorist? Inker? Artist who does everything? Co-writer?
Whatever, just give me a name to use, occupation, and something
funny/silly to make me connect with them.

Again, most of the time I can find both of these things, about 60-70% of the time, but plenty of people only have one of these on the page. And I swear once I found an about page that looked like this
Handle is a cat who likes cheese and sleeping.

Needless to say I wasn't impressed, guys don't be that person, or at least have a plot summary as well! 

After that, if you have a lot of characters, or at least a number of point of views which don't often overlap, then I recommend a character page. However, you really really have to keep those up to date or they're a bit pointless for the reader ( "Hmm, don't remember this character but all the other characters seem to know them, let me look on the character page. ....kay they're not there which could mean their a minor character BUT there are other people who aren't on the page that the plot has indicated are major characters and should be here, help I'm confused").

Link pages are also pretty cool, when I first started reading webcomics I'd read one, like it, and then check to see what comics the author recommended and read those. I noticed quickly that just because I liked what someone wrote didn't mean that I was necessarily also going to like what they read (something which still confuses me) but I wouldn't have found nearly as many amazing comics as I have if it wasn't for that. Also, it's super awesome when webcomics have their own banners that I can use here instead of having to screenshot the logo and steal that to put in my reviews, just saying.

And that's about it, so far everyone I've seen who is selling books or other merchandise already have a store page, plenty of people have a page for fanart/other fanworks they've gotten which is rather nice, honestly it's not that hard to set up a good website and there are plenty of non-webcomic websites I've seen with the same problem (photographer websites that I've been looking at for my homework I'm glaring at you guys right now). I do wonder if some sites, like Smackjeeves, limit how much you can change the design since I've seen an awful lot of SJ sites missing an about page, but even then I have faith that people can get creative and figure out how to get all the necessary information across anyway.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Witch's Quarry, Worsted for Wear

And the month is starting to wrap up, I'll have one more post on Sunday (a bit of a rant about how to properly set up a webpage, spoilers most people are doing it right to start with) and then I'm going to take the rest of the week off (mostly to write-up reviews for all the currently ending anime, some of them had some really interesting endings) and start back up April 7th (and until further notice anime reviews are moving to Tuesday night because I just can't find the energy to write them up Monday nights after the rest of the day). In any case, let's talk about these final two webcomics and why I think they're worth reading!

Witch's Quarry by Jen Lee Quick

Sir Veolynn Moreshire wasn't expecting to go to her brother's wedding only to find that he's swapped places with a body double and run off with his lover. And she certainly had no way of knowing that her brother's fiancee to be a selkoi who picked him out soley for his genetics and isn't above turning his sister into a man so she can still obtain it. Thus Veolen, her brother's double, his fiancee and her sisters have set out on a journey to find her, now his, brother while tensions between various factions and countries begin to rise in the background.

When I first stumbled across this comic I was a bit surprised I hadn't heard of it earlier, it has pretty solid art and plotting and updates rather frequently so it has a more than a few chapters under it's belt too. But, assuming it's been hosted on smackjeeves from the beginning, the comic is just over a year old so I'm even more impressed, over 300 fully colored pages in not even a year and a month is nothing to sniff at! The story feels a little less strong currently that it did in previous chapters since it's focusing a lot on the magic of the world and we (the readers and in some cases the readers and Veolen) are still in the dark on a lot of the ins and outs of magic. Hopefully there will be an infodump or such soon  or maybe I just need to go back and reread part of the story, even when a story updates this fast it's still really easy to forget details if you only read it a page at a time.

Witch's Quarry can be read on it's Smackjeeves site or the MangaMagazine site (which has nothing to do with manga, they're all English webcomics, nor is it presented in a magazine format so I'll admit the name irks me) but you have to be a subscriber to get the updates as quickly or something strange like that. No print version as of writing.
Worsted for Wear by Rachael and Joshua Anderson

Knitters, speaking from my own personal experience, tend to be odd ducks to start with and Camden is a bit weirder than most. Thankfully she has plenty of friends who are also into various fiber arts to try and keep her in check or to even encourage her more insane ideas.

This isn't the first knitting webcomic I've read before, I know I talked about Knit Princess a few years back, but I think that this one is the much stronger comic. The larger cast of characters helps (I'm of the opinion that there is a limit to how strange even a fictional character can be so having multiple characters to focus on in the story really helps), since it talks about more than just knitting it has a wider range of gags available to it, and recently they did a flash-forward comic which makes me excited since it seems like the characters will develop in the next few years (of comic time). Even if it's a gag a day comic I still like to see character development, my favorite comics in that genre do that, so now I'm more excited about the comic than I used to be and should probably recommend it to more of my knitting friends now that I think about it.

Worsted for Wear can be read online and they are also currently holding a kickstarter which should be winding down in just a few days and has already met it's goal. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Take Off! Tripping Over You

So when I was originally getting my list of comics to talk about for this month I noticed that I had a lot of BL and not much GL, even though I do like both equally, and was going to talk in one of these intros how that was interesting and how it seemed to be because a lot of the BL manga published in the US was rather explicit, hence I turned to webcomics, but the GL was just fine. Then JManga shut down and threw a wrench in my plans because that's where most of the ALC titles I know of went on and I've heard what numbers they did, 300 volumes for a top-selling book which was just enough to cover translations, they aren't going to be putting these in print and that's certainly not enough money to build their own platform, maintain/advertise for it and still bring over new stuff. So now all I can say is that I have had a few people recommend me places to find more gl, a list which I throughly perused (and just didn't like most of the titles on there) and a tumblr which I haven't had time to tackle yet, and would love if people knew of any specific webcomics since my reading is a tad more unbalanced than I would like. And one a similar note, Daniella Orihuela-Gruber of All About Manga recently bought quite a bit of BL and has resolved to review a volume a day until she's done and she's managed to find some good stuff and some crappy stuff, totally recommending people check out her reviews especially considering just how much crappy BL there is out there to avoid. 

Take Off! by Meaghan Carter

In a world called Inbetween a great race between many different creatures and their riders is at the heart of everyone's lives so when Grey the dragon's rider is killed the four heads of Inbetween are scrambling to find him a replacement as fast as they can. They settle on Cassidy, a girl from Earth with some problems but it seems like they're going to have an even larger problem to get the still-grieving Grey to accept a new rider.

It took me a little while to get into this one but once Grey and Cassidy started to accept each other (key word is start, as of writing they're still not on great terms) the story started to fit together. The other characters are interesting as well and the plot, while nothing exceptionally original, works for the moment and is paced well. The art looks fine too, it's been solid since the beginning and while the coloring and shading are a bit on the simple side it looks like a deliberate stylistic choice, not like Carter is unskilled. So far the story seems to have a good idea of where it's going, how it's going to get there, and who it's characters are so even though I don't have a lot to say now I'm sure that by this time next year I'd have to restrain myself to keep the review quick.

Take Off! can be read online and does not have a print version as of writing. 

Tripping Over You by Suzana H. and Owen W

Liam is a bit of a high strung kind of person, frustrated by a lot of people including his roommate (who keeps dragging him along to events to be a third wheel to help him out) and his sorta-friend Milo. But Milo seems to have some distinct feelings for Liam and, well, as long as the rest of the school doesn't find out and make his life hell with bullying, he's okay with the feelings he has back for Milo. 

Like a couple of other webcomics I've talked about over the years, this comic is one where the first chapter doesn't quite hit the mark and then suddenly does starting in the second chapter with no trouble at all which I guess goes to show that both art and writing have rather steep learning curves. By the second chapter the creators seem more comfortable with the characters and know how to place them in the story, how to make them interact, and all the relationships (both romantic and platonic) start to progress quite nicely. I'll admit that I'm biased between romances that focus more on making the relationship work rather than "will they or won't they?" and that's what we have here. I also like the direction the art takes starting with the second chapter, the font is changed to something a bit more legible and the lines become a bit less sketchy (also, I honestly wasn't 100% sure if Liam was the person with the black hair as seen in the top picture when I read the first chapter and he thankfully starts looking a bit more like that in the second chapter as well). I do think that you can tell from the first chapter if you'll like the series or not, the mood and tone don't change very much but if you try the first chapter and aren't sure how you feel about it try a few pages of the second chapter too. 

Tripping Over You can be read online and actually has a kickstarter going right now for the print copy, looks like they easily passed their goal and have about a month to go if you want to try out the comic first and then scrape together the funds to help out.

2012 "T" comics
2011 "T" comics

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Seed

Alright, gonna try and get back on track here with another one comic post tonight, Seed. Phillip also works on another webcomic that I follow, Battle Creek, NE, which I do enjoy but it just wasn't far enough along for me to talk about this year. So if you try Seed and enjoy it check that one out too or vice versa!

Seed by Julia "Drobvirks" Philip

Dominique would like to think she's a normal girl but has no idea if the fact that she has blue skin and can do magic is normal. Sure some other people have odd colored skin and, even though it's outlawed, some people still practice magic but Dominique can remember barely anything from when she was little and can't recall anything about her family. But after a chance encounter with a young doctor in the city she might finally be on the right track to figure out what's going on with her.

This is another comic where I really love the use of color, but for a totally different reason from A Redtail's Dream. Right from the start the comic uses a bold and vibrant color scheme, Philip isn't afraid to use bright colors and it really grabs your attention, so much so that I was surprised to see how much simpler the art was in the beginning when I skimmed back through the comic before writing the review. Honestly it's also possible I didn't notice because it improves fast, it doesn't take many pages before more complicated backgrounds start appearing in every panel, by the second chapter the shading has gotten more even, and the character's look more and more balanced (if that makes sense, not exactly realistic but more like a deliberate, stylistic choice in design rather than an artist working with the skills they have) as the story progresses. The plot has been a bit slow to get going, the story has been setting up a lot of world building and given it's emphasis on the religion and the fact that the summary on the site mentions a war I'm sure it will all be important later, but it is moving. I would like to see a bit more plot sometime soon but regardless this is a solid comic that is deliberately moving forward and I'm sure that when the plot does kick in more that it'll be great.

Seed is available to read online and sadly has no print edition as of writing (because I would seriously buy this in a heartbeat, it's so colorful it simply demands to be put in print!).

2012 "S" comic
2011 "S" comic

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: A Redtail's Dream

I only came across this comic a few months ago, which is strange since I've seen ads everywhere for it since then, and I have to admit I'm really impressed by it. Not just by the art or because I like the story, this comic updates in full color six days a week and has a five month buffer. It has such a large buffer because Sundberg works on it nearly every day while managing her college work as well and is doing this completely for free as well. Obviously this has no bearing on how good/bad a story is but, well, every time I see an artist trying to get by without a buffer now I do have to just raise my eyebrows 

A Redtail's Dream by Minna Sundberg

One night the foxes in the sky call a meeting and leave the youngest, Puppy-fox, in charge of the northern lights to keep him out of their fur. Unfortunately Puppy-fox isn't as capable as his relatives hope and manages to trap an entire human village in the auroras, somewhere between life and death, and grabs the only two people not trapped, Hannu and his dog Ville, and charges them with regathering all the people trapped in this dreamscape before their time runs out. Of course, as people they meet along the way point out, their time is even more limited since Puppy-fox doesn't want his family to know he messed up and he's not above erasing whoever is still trapped to do so....

First off, for some reason I don't understand, even after reading it a few times, the prologue is a bit wonky so get through that and then see if you like the rest of the comic before deciding to follow or drop it. The art however looks great from the very beginning and only gets stronger as the comic progresses; Sundberg doesn't shy away from experimenting with different color schemes, settings, or playing with the light. The plot is pretty straightforward, Hannu and Ville end up in a new location and need to help people before they agree to move on, although this has resulted in far less character development in Hannu than I would have expected. But even that isn't terribly surprising, for them it's been far less than a week (mentally, in the real world I don't think it's even been a full night) and in the latest chapter he has shown signs of starting to change and there's around 200 pages left to go, plenty of room for that to happen. It's also paced well, I can't believe how long some of the chapters are since they move along so quickly, it's a really solid comic in every respect I can think of and among the comics I've discovered in the past year it's easily one of my favorites and one of the ones I make an effort to read every day, no matter how busy I am.

A Redtail's Dream can be read online in English or Finnish on Sundberg's website. There isn't a print copy yet but, after a few surveys, Sundberg says that she is tentatively planning on releasing the comic in one, 600 page, full color, hardback volume that will go for about $60 and, since she's in Finland, shipping will be about $30 so if you want this in print start saving your pennies now!

2012 "R" comic

2011 "Q" comic
2011 "R" comics

Friday, March 22, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Penny Dreadful, Polterguys Prince of Cats, Princess Princess

Whew, got the biggest batch of reviews for the month here, even though I'm a little sad I don't find as many great webcomics every year I have to admit it's nice that I don't have to make as many huge posts as this. Oh and the ComicMix March Madness tournament is still going on so if that's your thing make sure to go out and vote, think they've reached the quarter-final round as of writing this so it's going to finish up pretty soon!

Penny Dreadful by Maggie G Vicknair

The 20th century is barely a decade old and Penny Hart has found herself lost and alone in it. Through a series of strange events she finds herself in the employ of the Harker Institute of Super-Natural Studies and while she finds herself starting to enjoy her new life of adventure it's still a bit much to simply take in a stride.

As a heads up, this is one the webcomics which has a fairly dramatic art shift early on, apparently Vicknair completely changed the way she drew it starting in chapter two, so if you don't like the art very much in chapter one be sure to look at a later chapter before writing off the comic for that reason (and of course the art style does change and become more sophisticated as the story progresses as it does in practically every comic out there). As for the characters and plot I'm really fond of this one since the characters are just a touch sarcastic (well, more than a touch at times) and being a sarcastic person myself I occasionally wonder why characters aren't commenting on how strange their lives are. Despite this little extra self-awareness the copious supernatural elements of the story manage to feel just right for the story without anything out of place (although a little more exposition about how magic works in this world would be nice, I'm assuming that's simply coming later) and the story seems to be slowly revealing that there is a greater plot lurking behind the events of the individual chapters, can't wait to see what's going to happen!

Penny Dreadful can be read online and does not have a print version as of writing.

Polterguys by Laurianne Uy and Nathan Go

Fans of shojo manga will undoubtedly find something familiar about Polterguys but in a fun, enjoyable way. Like many a heroine, Bree finds herself living with a bevy of cute guys under strange circumstances but her's are a bit stranger than normal. While she's simply moved out of the dorms for a bit of piece and quiet the five guys living in her old house are all dead, none of whom can remember how they got that way, and there are demons out there who will happily hunt down a lost soul and send it off to wherever those souls go. In a moment of impulse Bree puts her own life on the line to give the boys a chance to find peace before they move on but can she really do anything to help? 

Bree is a likeable heroine whose relatable, has spunk, and also has a rather realistic experience of having college turn out to be different than she expected (although most of us didn’t have demons and ghosts to make the shift even harder). This first book neatly wraps up one plot while leaving plenty more for future installments and introduces a new one which might prove even more interesting in the end. I'm not sure when the comic is going to start updating again (as far as I can tell, from twitter and tumblr, I think Uy and Go have started outlining it but haven't gotten much farther so it's likely to be a while) but even if it's only as consistent as this first installment then I think it'll be worth the wait.

Polterguys can be read for free online or purchased as a book.

Prince of Cats by Kori M. Handwerker

Lee might be able to talk to cats but frankly that isn't a really big problem or concern in his life currently, high school is. In a small, conservative town where you can be rich or poor but never anything but straight and that certainly doesn't help when his relationship with his best friend Frank starts to change and neither of them feels quite sure where they want, or even expect, it to end up.

Yep this is another story with queer characters in it and, while there hasn't been anything that would be considered graphic by anyone so far, the about page does indicate that there will be some non-graphic sex scenes later on, readers with delicate sensibilities or a habit of reading webcomics at work be warned. Funny enough this is also yet another comic done in watercolors which I'm seeing more and more of these days and I rather like it. Obviously this has no impact on the story but I still like the feeling it gives. Getting to the actual story, it's a little slow moving and awkward but honestly that sums up a lot of high school as well. I am happy to hear that there are going to be other gender/sexual identities present in the story as well (since it always seems odd to me whenever you have a large cast of characters and every single one of them is straight and Prince of Cats is developing a pretty large cast of background characters), although a bit sad that it sounds like there will be an asexual character but they won't even recognize what they are in story. I can certainly relate to that, and it sounds like they'll be a minor character in the story anyway, but I at least hope I can recognize who it is.

Prince of Cats can be read online and the first few chapters are also available in print form.

Princess Princess by StrangelyKatie

I know I said that I wasn't covering any finished comics this year but I completely missed that this one was in fact finished so I'll just slip it in here. Princess Princess is a rather quick tale about a princess locked up in a tower whose recused by, well, another princess. The story is based on that simple idea but fleshes out its two princesses quite well into distinctly different people with their own problems and lives, it doesn't just change one of them from a prince and call that a day. It's cute, quick, funny, yes the two girls do like each other as well, and smarter than you'd expect so I recommend everyone to check it out over here if you have some time. And while you're there I'd also recommend another of Katie's comic's, which I've seen around on tumblr before but hadn't realized it was hers, which is even shorter and nicely bittersweet.

2012 "P" comics

2011 "P" comic (which weirdly enough also finished up within hours of me writing about it, I'm amused by the similar timing anyway)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: O Human Star

Sorry about no review yesterday folks, Mondays are quite tiresome with my schedule and I thought I needed to also write a little post on tumblr about something that would come up in this review (so I wouldn't just ramble on in the footnotes) but then it turned out that I didn't have too much to say on the topic after all. I am going to probably push back the rest of the reviews by a day to compensate (although this means I'm supposed to post another review next Monday, that might not work). In any case, let's just get to the review!

O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti

16 years ago Al Sterling died and despite all the work he had done in robotics he never got to see the robot revolution. That is, until he wakes up those 16 years later in a robotic body with an artificial, yet complete copy of his mind and no idea why he was brought back. His old partner Brendan also has no clue why or even how Al was resurrected since he already tried many years ago and got a rather different result.

The premise alone for this story has a ton of things in it that I like, it's a seemingly happy future (or at least, not one where the world has gotten worse), it's got a large focus on technology (personally I like my science fiction to have a focus on, well, the science, hence part of my problem with dystopias, which was going to be my tumblr post for those curious), and queer characters! All of this has blended together very well and even though the story is only on it's third chapter it's already fleshed out it's main three characters incredibly well and has good pacing. I feel like I'm seeing more comics that are partially colored, like this one where instead of being in grayscale everything is in well, blue-scale (or red-scale for the flashbacks) and I rather like this trend since seeing everything in black and white gets boring after a while and I know that coloring a single page takes hours. Delliquanti uses a wide range of shades on each page, the character all look different from each other, and the backgrounds strike a nice balance between being simple and yet still working*. This one grabbed me from the start and I can't wait to see where it eventually goes!

O Human Star can be read online and the first two chapters are in print. Also, like TJ and Amal, while there isn't any outright pornography the story doesn't bother to hide that two of the guys are having sex so some of the pages certainly NSFW, just wait until you get home to read them.

*as opposed to "simple because the artist doesn't know how to draw backgrounds" which is completely understandable but I'd rather an artist draw backgrounds and improve rather than just leaving them blank, although that's REALLY a personal preference.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Manly Guys Doing Manly Things

So, I don't think anything weird happened online in the past two days unlike last time but I could be forgetting something, heck I had to triple check all my old webcomic review posts to make sure I hadn't already talked about this one. Probably because I've seen friends post links to various pages in the comic for a few years now yet I must not have started following it until last year and I think that's because, much like Thursday's comic, I looked at it, expected something kinda bad and then was pleasently surprised to be completely wrong.

Manly Guys Doing Manly Things by Kelly "Coelasquid" Turnbull

Commander Badass is a time traveling navy seal from the future but these days he runs a temp agency for helping macho men adjust back into every day life. Hilarity ensues.

Yep, I've been around the internet long enough that a title like "manly guys doing manly things" reminds me of  MRA people and that plus the fact that I normally don't get a lot of video game humor (simply because I don't have time to play the games and get the jokes) made me stay away from the comic for a long time. But thankfully when I went through the archives one day and read all of it I discovered that I was quite wrong, not only was it funny but it was able to have guys be macho without being sexist, awesome! A lot of the humor works since it's more based on a situation set up in the comic than based on some reference  yet the comic manages to also fit in a few running gags and even a full arc without losing steam or interest. And it holds up on a reread which I always think is a good test for gag-a-page comics, it's a pretty funny comic and I think a lot people with nerdy interests would find it amusing (assuming they haven't already checked it out, it seems to be one of the webcomics that just about everyone heard of or run into at least once).

Manly Men Doing Manly Things can be read on it's website and sadly does not seem to be in print at this time.

2012 "M" Comics
2011 "M" Comics

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal

WELL it's been an exciting 24 hours in the in the comic-reading section of the internet and sadly I don't mean the fun kind of exciting. Last night google announced that they would be discontinuing their RSS reader, google reader, come July and I saw a lot of webcomic artists going "but wait, I use that to read comics!" I never used google reader, found the interface a little too clunky, I use feeder which is a plugin for Chrome which works for me since I subscribe mainly to webcomics feeds and I want to look at every single update that comes through. But after seeing what some alternate feed aggregators can do I think I'm going to try out some of the alternates that people were suggesting for following blogs, hope everyone finds a good fit before July!
And then this morning I woke up to an email in my inbox saying that JManga was shutting down by the end of May and absolutely no explanation for that. Manga fans can imagine the conversations that followed on social media/various websites (hell they may have been part of it) and as per usual one of the factors was blaming pirates/scanlators/people who want to read comics for free for it. It was the phrasing of that last group of people, people who think that comics should be free, that irked me a bit since, while I agree with the statement, there seemed to be an accidental implication that if you don't have the money you can't have access to fiction and to suck it up. As someone who is now on their third year of promoting free-to-read webcomics and gets most of their other material from legal streaming sites and libraries I think you can guess what my opinion on that is. There's not much more to say on the matter that hasn't been said elsewhere, constructive or mocking, so I'm just gonna continue doing what I've been doing and tell y'all about some pretty cool comics that are out there, for free, no DRM, and this one in particular is also available in print!

The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by EK Weaver

Amal has had a bad day, he's called off his arranged marriage and come out to his traditional parents in the process and can't even remember what he did that night. But when he wakes up he realizes that he's agreed to go on a cross-country trip with a complete stranger, TJ, paying for the way. It may be crazy but Amal needs to get to Providence anyway to see his little sister graduate which is coming up soon so why not?

I'll admit it, I started to read this comic once before but got a bit worried by the mature readers sign and backed off*. Thankfully I did give it another shot and from what I recall there is implied sex but nothing on screen. Suggestive scenes, enough to for me to easily see why Weaver warns people about importing the print copy, but this story is not "porn with plot", the mature warning page lays it out rather well. That said, this story has fantastic character development, vital considering the story is entirely character driven, and the story gives it's setting much more detail than I see many realistic fiction stories do. Sure many of them will consider the importance of the location on the character but I haven't seen one take the year into consideration so much and I love when stories do that. The art is great (yet another reason your run of the mill yaoi manga feels like a slap in the face after this, the characters look completely distinct, all of them!), it's paced well, stays on schedule, seems to be a good chunk of the way through the story already, I'm saying people should check this out even if a story about two guys, who happen to have sex with each other, isn't really your thing because this is a pretty good thing.

As noted earlier, TJ & Amal  is available for reading online and the first two of three planned books are in print and it's also been translated into half a dozen other languages, all of which can be found on the right hand sidebar of the front page. 

2012 "L" comic

2011 "L" comic

*I just don't like reading sex scenes, kinda not relevant to my interests, see the Ignition Zero post from a few days back.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Knights Errant

Meant to talk about this a few days ago but it slipped my mind, I seem to have finally found a partial solution to keeping up with all my comics. I've mentioned in the past that when I started reading webcomics (using Safari as my browser) I just made bookmark folders but that hasn't really worked for Firefox or Chrome. But this winter I installed an RSS feed collector right into Chrome and about 80, maybe 90% of my webcomics these days have RSS feeds so I've been able to keep up with everything nicely. Some comics don't have RSS feeds, or have ones but don't seem to be working (and whenever I mention it in the comments section I never an answer) and for those I still use twitter/facebook as a way to follow them but thankfully most of those comics also update promptly. I've seen more people using feed aggregator sites, such as Comic Rocket and Ink Outbreak, in the past year and while I can see the appeal I just follow entirely too many comics and when I find a new one I don't want to go to all the hassle to see if it's on the site already or not. In any case, onto tonight's review!

Knights Errant by Jennifer "theyoungdoyley" Doyle

Wilfrid is a mercenary who rather likes being one and is thrilled when a war breaks out between the nations of Aster-Morgaria and Vetal. They join a group of mercenaries known as the Errant Knights due to their reputation and discovers that their young commander, Oswald Dytel, is even more intriguing than he first appears.

Normally I wouldn't read a comic like this because, well, the characters are asses. But they are well-developed, amusing, and interesting asses and I like a story with good character development so why not! The summary mentions a war going on and while that's certainly a driving force lurking in the background of the story, so far everything has been rather character driven, although if the prologue is any indication that plot will kick in sooner or later, for better or for worse. The art style varies quite a bit from section to section, I have yet to figure out if there's a pattern or reason why some pages are in full color and others are not (believe me I have been trying for months now) but regardless of whatever style or color the pages are in the art is dynamic, expressive, and as it goes on increasingly detailed as well. I find the art style rather attractive, and thankfully not overly gorey, so while a bit inconsistent it's not jarring enough to take most readers out of the story. 

Knights Errant can be read on it's website and does not seem to have a print edition yet, although I'm sure one is coming down the road. It can also be read online in Russian which appears to be only a few pages behind the English version.

One thing that does have me worried about this comic is how it has a rather complicated set of character relationships and politics, which is awesome, but it hasn't updated in a bit and I'm worried that I'm going to start forgetting who was who and where they stand. And this is a worry I have with a lot of webcomics actually, the one great failing of webcomics is how they update so much more slowly than print comics (some might put out a full chapter a month, very few, and others will barely get a chapter out in a year) and that just completely messes with the pacing. I'm sure this comic will start updating again soon, I'm not too worried about that, but it does make me ruminate on what the proper way to read it is, there's no point in reading scattered updates if I know that I'll forget what happened in a month but I want to read it regardless, maybe someday I'll find a happy compromise between the two of them.

2012 "K" Comic

2011 "J" Comic
2011 "K" Comic

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Ignition Zero, In The Air

Skipping a few more letters and weirdly enough this is the first year I've had comics that start with I and none of them started within the past year. I guess it just goes to show just how much is out there and how long it can take to track down really awesome comics. 

Ignition Zero by Noel Arthur Heimpel

Robbie and Orson met online years ago and really clicked but due a rather large different in location they never met until Robbie moved up to Maryland to go to school near Orson and hang out. At which point he discovers that a lot of the stories he had heard from Orson over the years are not only crazy but true, it's going to take Robbie a bit longer to adjust to living in Glory than he expected it seems.

Plenty of the webcomics I read I can't remember where exactly I got the recommendation from but this one I remember clearly, it was from tumblr with a person posting that holy crap, they found a story with asexual main characters in that. Not only that but it's an urban fantasy story, with cool watercolor art, where the fact that Robbie and Orson are aces isn't the main point, it's just part of their lives. Considering how few stories I've found out there with asexual characters (and the fact that I take, issue with half of them) this was pretty amazing and I'm thrilled that Heimpel decided to make that issue only part of the story and instead focus on the more exciting part, the fey and a secret part of the city that few people know about. The comic has been on hiatus for a bit lately but it's scheduled to return sometime between the end of March and early June, can't wait for it to come back!

Ignition Zero can be read online on its website and should be out in print rather soon asa well.

In The Air by Brenda Hickey

Sandra is a bit spacey for a high school student, it seems like half of the time she has her head in the clouds and the other half of the time she's being picked on by some of her classmates. Neither of these things changes when a cute guy named Fred moves in next door, instead this seems to create new problems in her life, ones that are slightly more magical than romantic ones.

Not sure if I'm cheating with this series or not since I did read everything that was available of it last summer but then back in November Hickey changed sites (because originally she hosted her comic on wirepop which no longer exists) and she's re-uploading the comic with three pages a week. As the comic currently stands there is nowhere enough information for me to be happy doing a review on it and it looks like it's going to be almost a year before she starts posting new material (there was a way for returning readers to see the next chapter before it was posted but I wasn't able to get it to work/realized that would mean it would be even longer until there were new updates for me). But I have read the first three chapters and did like them, like Fragile from the other day it felt like a comic that took a lot of the elements of shojo manga to use in it's own work but not slavishly follow them at the expense of it's own creativity. The first few chapters also seemed to be paced well, revealed some backstory involving Sandra and Fred, started the main conflict of the story, it was a strong enough story that I want to recommend to others. It's just, like Ignition Zero above, don't feel bad if you can't try out the story right now and that it might be a few months until you can, that's probably for the best anyway.

In the Air can be read on its own site and you can purchase the print version with the first five chapters as well if you like what's already been put up.

2012 "G" comics
2011 "G" comics

2012 "H" comics
2011 "H" comics

Friday, March 8, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Fragile

Oh good, this was a webcomic that had started by the time webcomic review month 2012 rolled around, just wasn't sure if I wanted to talk about it since it was so new so I decided to put it off for a year and cross my fingers to hope that it didn't stop updating in the meantime. And it didn't, I love it when that happens! Also makes me feel a bit better with choosing to wait another year before talking about some other comics but for the moment let's just talk about this one.

Fragile by MarĂ­a Victoria "Shouri" Robado

Marian and her friends are starting their final year of high school and while some of them definitely know what they want to do with the rest of her lives others don't. Add in work, romance, and strange new students and it's certainly not going to be a boring year in any case.

Slight clarification on the summary, the story actually starts a bit before Marian and co start their senior year of school but judging from the summary on the site itself the story won't be continuing beyond that so I think that mine is still an accurate synopsis. In any case, in case you can't tell from the summary this is practically a shojo manga in webcomic form (if not in the age/demographic definition of the word then certainly in the way it borrows a lot of popular shojo tropes). Yet, unlike quite a bit of OEL manga I read when TokyoPop was still around, this story feels like one that merely borrows from the genre rather than tries to mimic one of its stories. It's a bit slow to get going, heck the story feels like it's still getting going even though it's four chapters in now but I'm hoping that once the characters get a bit more established and some more time has passed (in-comic) that the pace will pick up a little bit and that everything with progress nicely.

Fragile updates every Tuesday and Thursday online, there is a print edition for the first half of chapter one but I haven't seen any more plans for a print version so if there's one coming (which I strongly suspect to be true) then it's a bit of a ways off. The story can also be read in Spanish although it seems like only the first chapter has been translated so far.

2012 "E" comics
2011 "E" comics

2012 "F" comics
2011 "F" comics   

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Dumbing of Age

In another bit of business for Webcomic Review Month, in addition to not having a finished webcomics review I won't have one for Pokemon Nuzlockes either. Not because I don't enjoy them or because I didn't think anyone read it (quite the opposite there) but again, just didn't find any new ones to read this past year that I really enjoyed and I didn't want to pick up any more just for this. Ah well, that said if anyone knows of some really good nuzlocke comics, or regular old webcomics in general, please be sure to shoot me a comment or a tweet on twitter to tell me about it, one can never have too many recommendations after all!

Dumbing of Age by David Willis

It's the fall semester at a college in Indianan where you have both the upper classmen who are starting to become disillusioned with their college lives and the new freshman who are various amounts of excited and eager for this new part of their lives. And if there are two things guaranteed in life (death and taxes) then there are two more things guaranteed in college, drama (especially of the roommate variety) and just plain weird life events. 

While the names of Willis' other webcomics are familiar to me (Shortpacked! It's Walky! It's Joyce and Walky! Roomies ) I hadn't read any of them prior to looking up a bit of background information for this review and frankly after seeing how different the characters are I'm rather confused. So if you're a new reader heed Willis' recommendation on the comic's about page, it's totally fine and possibly better if you come in knowing nothing to this story, the changes in character dynamics will just confuse you. Regardless of all of that, I only started reading this webcomic very recently but the humor clicked with me immediately and I was struck by how a lot of the characters have arguments on more, let's call them morale, issues and neither side is a strawman, both sides just debate themselves into a corner much the way arguments of that kind tend to play out in real life. The story also manages to balance a good sized cast, see banner above, and give all except one or two enough time in the limelight for character development which again is pretty impressive. I do wonder if the story will ever progress timewise (they still seem to be in the first semester of their freshman year) but as regular readers should know I always prefer stories where the cast does grow up and the story eventually ends (think For Better or For Worse) versus stories where that never happens (80% of all other newspaper comic strips out there). And who knows, hopefully this will remain the rare comic where the characters might not age and change a ton yet still keeps my attention for years, Girls with Slingshots and Questionable Content have all managed to do that so it is possible! 

Dumbing of Age updates Monday through Friday on it's website and the first book is also avaliable for purchase at the series' store.

2012 "D" webcomics
2011 "D" webcomics

Monday, March 4, 2013

Webcomic Review Month 2013: Chaos Life and Cooking Up Comics

Nope, didn't skip B, just didn't have any comics for that this year that were far enough along in their stories for me to feel comfortable reviewing but next year I should have some! And as another quick note, apparently the rest of the universe also thinks that March is a fantastic time to talk about webcomics and Comic Mix is holding their annual tournament bracket involving webcomics. I think I saw some complaints about it last year (the usual popularity contest/people spamming the polls stuff, although sweet Jesus you can technically buy votes this year) but at the very least it's a great way to find new webcomics, they're starting with 300(!!) this year, so go give that a look!

Chaos Life by A. Stiffler

A semi-autobiographical, but often exaggerated, comic about the life of A. Stiffler and her wife.

I don't read as many autobiographical comics as I used to these days since, well, if they go on for years and years you just get a little bored by them (I certainly don't want people to go through tons of drama but some people are just better than others at humorizing their lives) so perhaps it works in my favor that Chaos Life has a bit of an erratic update schedule. Of course the fact that this comic appeals to my sense of humor, more than a bit whacky and Stiffler makes fun of herself just as much as anything else in the comic.

Chaos Life updates a bit erratically, usually once a week,  but can be found over here and they have plenty of ways to let you know when it has updated, no print edition as of writing..

Cooking Up Comics by Alisa Harris

Weekly recipes in comic form!

I was a little hesistant to talk about this comic, while I do talk about autobio comics, which are non-fiction, this almost seemed a bit too non-fictiony for my blog. And then I remembered that I review whatever I want and that I want more people to read these recipes so of course I should talk about it! The recipes are all easy to follow, her illustrations and written directions are quite clear, although I'll admit that I haven't used any of the recipes yet since I've been too busy since I discovered the site (she also posts a lot of vegan recipes which I'm less interested in but I know that's a big plus for other people). But she has a wide variety of recipes (all handily laid out in a single page and arranged by type no less!) so if you enjoy cooking at all peruse the site a bit and see if anything catches your eye!

Cooking up Comics updates every Wednesday, although it looks like it might currently be running guest strips right now instead of the regular comics and it sounds like the comic will end and be collected into a book in the next year or two.

2012 "B" Comics
2011 "B" Comics

2012 "C" Comics
2011 "C" Comics 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

An Introduction to Webcomic Review Month 2013 and Ava's Demon

And now for my third year running I will change my schedule from it's usual 4-reviews-a-week rotation and will spend all of March talking about webcomics. Partially to help me build up a buffer to survive April/exam week in May and partially because I really love webcomics, there won't be as many titles as last year, which didn't have as many titles as the year before, for the same reason as last year, I simply find fewer comics each year that I both like and that are far enough along that I can feel confident about reviewing them. That's a new thing this year, there are at least half a dozen titles I found this past year which I do enjoy but are still so early on in their story that I want to give them some time to mature, time to see if the creator(s) really do that have the time/drive to tell the story all the way through, especially after posting about a few titles last year and having them simply stop updating with no news less than six months later. Also it appears that there were no webcomics that I followed that finished this year so there obviously won't be a post on those either. All in all I should be updating every other day so at the very least this month shouldn't lack for updates!

Ava's Demon by Michelle Czajkowski

Ever since she was born Ava has had attached to her what other's called a mere figment of her imagination but what she knew was really a demon. This demon seemed determined to torment her, isolate her, and eventually try and make her kill herself and Ava has fought back her entire life. But after a strange turn of events Ava finds herself listening to her demon and making a pact to get rid of her once and for all.

One trend I'm noticing in webcomics is how more and more comics each year are starting to take advantage of how the web is a multi-media platform and adding in sounds, music, unusual formats, and even animation. Ava's Demon is both an unusual format (each page is one square panel) and has a few, simply animated movies at the most dramatic points*. The setting for the story really caught me off guard, it seems to start in a bland, modern day setting (although there are some large hints upon re-reading that we're actually in a science fiction setting) and then has a rather dramatic setting change and Ava's relationship with her demon also changes rather rapidly, to the point where it's hard to not spoil important plot points when just trying to give a synopsis. So the best way to put it is this, the story is a science-fiction story of revenge with great attention to color with pretty good pacing and rather creepy at points as well.

Ava's Demon can be read (obviously) on it's website and you can subscribe to the tumblr for updates (or use that as a way to subscribe to it's RSS feed). It's not in print form yet but Czajkowski said recently that they plan to try and get the book printed once it hits 500 panels. As of writing we've just passed 350 panels so I suspect the story will hit that number later in the year, curious to see how the movies will be printed. The story updates every Thursday with multiple pages.

2012 "A" webcomics

2011 "A" webcomics

*a just as interesting bit about the videos is that they are hosted on Vimeo so anyone can see the stats, the first two videos are over 40k watches, with a drop-off of less than 5k between them, and then the latest one only has 16.5k views as of writing this. That may seem like a huge drop off but that video was posted this last Thursday, I don't know much about American superhero comics but only the top selling manga in the US could even dream of reaching 16k purchases from what I understand, much less in only three days!

TV Series Review: Doctor Who: Tomb of the Cybermen

As a head's up, tomorrow (erm, later today EST) starts webcomic review month so I guess I just won't get my last anime review of the month in (which is fine since I've had barely any time to watch a full series anyway) and I'm planning to try and post every other day so I can get through all the titles I have. Planning anyway, as you guys can tell this semester has been a bit of a ride and this blog just isn't as important as any of my classes.

In any case, this was the second Classic Doctor Who serial BBC America decided to show this year, although I missed it since the tv was otherwise occupied and this one is not streaming on Netflix (in fact, I'm not sure if any Second Doctor serials are streaming on Netflix, they only have 13 Classic serials avaiable for streaming to start with). It can be found elsewhere on the internet however, and surprisingly easy, and obviously is available on DVD for the US and I would assume in the rest of the English speaking world and elsewhere.

Doctor Who: Tomb of the Cybermen

Summary: The (second) Doctor and assistants Jamie (the kilt wearing Scotsman) and Victoria (a Victorian-era young lady) arrive on a distant planet to investigate what is believed to be the tomb of the cybermen and run into a group of archeologist doing the exact same thing. However, some of them want to do more than merely investigate the cybermen and there are many people in the group hiding secrets.

The Good: I've been told that Victoria has a really good character arc through out the show and it seems like she just joined the Doctor and Jamie the previous episode so it's interesting to see her start changing even as the serial progresses. The Doctor has some more quite moments with her which I also really like, I love it when the show contrasts his adventurous side with a quieter side that shows that he does care about the people who travel with him, and I still like Jamie as well. 

The Bad: I had a bit of a hard time keeping track of which characters were backstabbing who by the end of the episode (I think, including the Doctor and company there were three or four, maybe five, different factions?) and at one point I thought one character was actually a cyberman but either they abandoned that idea halfway through filming or they just had some really weird writing at that point. There were a few too many handwaves involving the technology for my taste ("how do we figure this out? Oh it's based on logic so it's going to be easy!") but that's hardly a new thing in the show. Again it seems like BBC America has chosen some rather solid serials to show so I don't have many bad things to say about them.

The Audio: Everything sounded fine, honestly I was so distracted by some of the costuming that I didn't really notice anything weird here.

The Visuals: I know that classic Doctor Who had a (practically literal) shoestring budget and I've seen that in the past. However, the cybermen costumes were literally the crappiest costumes I have ever seen and guys, I've been to half a dozen anime conventions where half of the cosplays there were thrown together out of someone's closet. Not to bash those outfits but those costumes that people put together for fun with no budget still look eons better than costumes from a professionally produced show which supposedly had a budget. Honestly I don't want to see any more older cybermen stories (since it sounds like this wasn't the first time they had appeared) if this is the kind of quality I'm going to get, at least the actual video quality wasn't that bad for having been discovered (if I recall correctly) in someone's private collection a decade or two back.

Based on the current pattern I'm not expecting them to show the Third Doctor classic serial until late March (right around when the new, erm, half season starts) and that I'm really curious about, like the First Doctor I've only see the Third Doctor in the The Three Doctors special and I didn't like him as much there. So BBC America, show me what you have in those archives!