The webcomics blog about webcomics

Grumps Indulges Our Inner Curmudgeon

I’ve mentioned in the past how it’s unfair to judge a blossoming new comic during its early stages of life, even when the creator may be brave enough to request a review. Well, I’m about to blatantly ignore my own advice by telling you about a very youthful comic that’s just riddled with the aged.

Chris Jones could doodle on a napkin with a sharpie and I’d covet it. There is something delightful in the very round and emotive characters he draws. The comics and illustrations he works on animate with whimsy and quirky neurosis. He could do a comic about hanging out in a waiting room and it’d be entertaining. And to my good fortune, he has.

His newest work, Grumps, follows the mocking world of two old men and their zany nursing home exploits. He shows that in old age there are still hot nurses to chase and paw at, there’s always time for drugs and swearin’ and every adventure must be shared with your best friend. With every wrinkle and every sagging breast I’m convinced that nursing homes are the hippest place to be. Man, being old looks like a riot.

Even the website itself is professionally done. There’s an air of sitcom influence to the masthead. Even the layout and fonts seem expertly chosen to promote a specific look and feel. I get the distinct impression that Jones probably knows his way around marketing his work and that having a complete package, right down to the background color, can make all the difference in the world. This comic may be new, but it’s going to look amazing in book form.

Note: Because of the way the Grumps website is set up, I cannot link to any specific comic page. Don’t be shy though, go over and check it out.

Ah, Feeling Human Again

SDCC wears more heavily on my aged, stooped body every year, so please forgive the lateness of this post; it’s also going to be a big one, to cover my travel tomorrow, and then I can see about actually reading webcomics again. I’ve fallen a bit behind in the last five days.

  • First up, news from Zach Weiner, who was at his booth with fellow SMBC Theater principal James Ashby. It was a bit odd meeting Ashby, as he’s specialized in playing some monumentally unlikeable characters on SMBCT, and I found him to be affable, funny, and not at all somebody who would kill me at the first opportunity. Probably.

    Weiner and Ashby presented me with a copy of SMBCT’s first DVD compilation, and it looks like an hour and a half of pure, distilled fun. I can’t say for certain, since the netbook that I’m travelling with has no optical drive, but it’s getting watched at the first opportunity. Weiner also shared the news that one of his previous projects (Captain Excelsior, with Chris Jones on art) is getting a book release via IDW — look for it in October, or heck, just pre-order it now.

  • Speaking of pre-orders, I bumped into Ben Costa of Shi Long Pang, who was kind enough to gift me with a copy of his brand new (you can still pre-order, actually) first book. All I can say is hoo, the Xeric grant gives you a lot of options when it comes to printing your book. It’s got a gorgeous, solid visual appeal, the colors are vibrant or subtle as required, and the paper stock is thick and satisfying. It even smells good. This is going to require a leisurely read to provide a more worthwhile review, but for almost 200 pages, full color, in hardcover? $20 is a steal.
  • Speaking of new print ventures, Ryan Sohmer had some interesting news about his first non-comedy comics work. BOOM! Studios will be publishing a Sohmer-penned, Jean Diaz-drawn 6-issue series (with the possibility of ongoing) called Messiah. Sohmer described it as the story of an ordinary guy called by God to be the new messiah — but not the first one. Turns out, God’s been calling messiahs for millenia, but gives them free will to redeem and save the world or not. Capitalizing on Diaz’s work with Mark Waid on Incorruptible, Waid may end up editing Messiah, which would just slightly be a good thing.
  • Speaking of good things, Jeff Zugale came by to talk about some of his projects, and has said that there are discussions for a print/poster release of The Greatest Painting In The History of Art.
  • The Webcomics Lightning Round panel produced a lot of information in a very brief timeframe; to keep this page from bogging down, the “transcript” (it’s not a word-for-word of what was said at the panel, but it’s as close as I can make it) is below the cut, and it’s a long ‘un. Groundrules: Brad Guigar, Robert Khoo and Scott Kurtz were given 20 seconds to answer each question, with no repeat answers — if one panelist agreed in essence with another, he just said so and moved on. Answer durations were enforced by Airhornsworman official timekeeper Erika Greco (PA designer extraordinaire), who cut off the panelists with an insistent WOOOP if their actual answer went on too long.

    The panel was held in a room with a posted capacity of 500, and was pretty much full up; however, it became apparent during the panel that a portion of the audience were camping out for a LOST panel that was being held next in the room. This earned multiple digressions onto the topic of LOST by Kurtz, each of which led to at least one forlorn LOSTie slinking out of the room, presumably upset by spoilers. That was awesome.

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To Have A Dog Is To Willingly Invite Sorrow Into Our Lives; Oh, That They Could Live As Long As We Do

When I get home and my faithful hound (she’s nearly 9 and is becoming a literal grey-hound) comes over to say hi, I’m going to look her in the eyes and whisper, “You’re going to break my heart some day.” Then she’s going to lick me because she thinks I taste like food, and she’s going to get a million skritches. All those of you with dogs in your life will hopefully do likewise. Requiscat in Pace, Kirby; our condolences to Scott & Angie Kurtz.

  • Okay, happy thoughts, happy thoughts — how about, new webcomic from some proven talents? What do you get when you combine an isolated orphanage deep in the Andes with a bunch of kids desperate to be elsewhere with new families? Judging from the launch strips of Snowflakes, the answer is “a laugh riot”. Tell me that the history of kid warfare tortures doesn’t make complete sense, I dare you. Snowflakes comes to you from Zach Weiner, Chris Jones (who previously collaborated on the now-concluded Captain Excelsior; Jones did Grumps and Weiner does Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) and James Ashby. And it’s all-ages friendly!
  • You know what’s not all-ages friendly, generally speaking? Comics by Internet Jesus; case in point, the new-this-week Ignition City (which is where the space heroes of yesteryear go to drink and die) is full of colorful language and ray-gun evisceration. But the art is gorgeous and more than a little reminiscent of Kitty Hawk (which is somewhat more barnstormery, less spacey, and so far absolutely safe for work if a bit pulpy for the wee ones). If you like the one, try the other.

Time to go hug my dog. Have a good weekend, everybody.

In Which I Neglect To Add A Title Again, Dammit

Wired issue 15.09 (on stands today) has a pretty extensive profile on Penny Aracde (perhaps the first instance in a Condé Nast magazine of somebody calling their artistic/business partner a douche); it’s not online yet, but may be soon. Be interesting to see if PA gets a bump out of it — I’d imagine the demographics of “reads Wired” and “has heard of Penny Arcade” overlap pretty substantially.

In other news, fake history gets a workout in the new collaborative project The International History Club, with contributions from the likes of Chris VanGompel, Chris Jones, and Chad Diaz, Wiz Rollins, and KC Green. History is more frightening than I remember it.

From the Milestones Department:

  • Benj Christensen’s I Am Geek hits one hundred strips,
  • Kevin Wasden’s Technosaurs starts book 2, and
  • Jason Sigler (my nemesis at Digital Strips, The Midnight Cartooner) celebrates the 3rd anniversary of The Amazing Superzeros with that most superhero-y of all traditions: the big-ass cast splash panel

And finally, a new project for all of us here at Fleen: Scott asks:

What’s the deal with Wowio? How is it ‘compensating’ its content creators? The site’s ‘about’ page briefly and vaguely mentions sponsorship, which can mean a bunch of different things, and the Wowio site itself doesn’t seem to have ads. I figure if anyone knows, it’s the good folks at Fleen, and if I’ve got the question, then others may be wondering, too. (The current ‘most downloaded’ eBook on the site is a Sore Thumbs collection, btw.)

Good question, Scott. We’ll look into it and get you an answer as soon as we can.

With All Congratulations To Mrs Martin

Tyler Martin does the charming all-ages webcomic Wally & Osborne, at their own site and over Lunchbox Funnies way. And as of yesterday, he’s a dad. Congrats to the new family, and best of luck to the new little guy for having to grow up with a Dad that’s a cartoonist. How on earth will you be embarassed in your teen years about how uncool your dad is? Reminds me of how Neil Gaiman once told the story about his daughter being unable to successfully complete her goth phase, because all her friends would get giggly and ask her for his autograph instead of being mopey.

So as not to overshadow the wee tyke’s achievement at making it into the world, some brief news bits from around webcomics:

  • Brock Heasley’s SuperFogeys (think Grumps meets Legends of the Superheroes) is publishing its first print collection next month; pre-orders are available now.
  • Einser Award loser Brad Guigar’s Evil, Inc. (“A corporation by supervillians, for supervillians, because you can do more evil if you do it legally” … now that’s an elevator pitch) is wrapping up a year-long story arc for the next week and a half or so. With typical Guigarian promotional skill, he calls on his loyal readers (or henchpeople) to get the word out this is a good point for jumping-on.

    Pretty clever, actually — get somebody hooked on Nexting their way through a year’s worth of setup (critical to understand the modestly-titled Climactic Conclusion), you’ve probably got ‘em as a long term reader. Trying to bring in new audience or to convert a casual reader to committed? Find some of your stronger work 6 – 12 months back and tell ‘em that’s a good place to start.

Holiday Recovery Day

Seriously, why are people even showing up at my job today? You should have taken vacation this week, people! At least webcomics offer a respite:

  • Via ¡Journalista!: A Photoshop spot-fill how-to with your host, Hope Larson. I don’t even know most of what she’s talking about, and I can feel myself getting more skillful.
  • Webcomics-by-mail? Benson is a collaboration between Tristan Baumber (found here) and Peter Durston (found here). They swap off frames in turn, until there’s enough for a strip (a technique with some literary precedent); the process is described here.

    Most interesting: in a time of global electronic communications, Benson is sent by postal services, as much as six times, before being inked and scanned. Apart from the sheer insanity of the technique, I was struck most by how consistent the art is from panel to panel, and how far in advance Durston & Baumber must have to work to update on a daily basis. Insane, I tells you!

  • We’ve written of Ninja Bunny on this page previously, and having reached 200 strips yesterday, creator Phillip Spence celebrates this week with guest strips starting today (courtesy of Furry Black Devil); look for contributions from Head Injury Theater and Grumps later this week. Grumps, we should note, today has a strip from Paul Southworth, who himself is almost running self-made guest strips this week at Ugly Hill (showing his original concept for the strip, circa 2002). If this keeps up, every single webcomic in existence could be part of a grand guest strip circle at the same time.
  • And finally, I confess: I LOLed (or here, if the subscription kicks in).

In Non-Theft-Related Webcomics News

Some things threatening to get lost in the shuffle, so let’s take a few minutes to send some love in deserving directions:

  • Today’s Little Dee (only good for 30 days, it’ll be in Baldwin’s archive eventually Now in Baldwin’s archive!): oh hell, yes. Hey, newspaper editors? This is what you want in lieu of BC cut-and-paste jobs.
  • Lauren O’Neal has made a webcomic as a final project for a class. First of all, mad props to whichever professor at Stanford accepts webcomics as final projects. Second, O’Neal would like to apologize for the ugly URL; I wasn’t going to pay to host a final project, you know? No worries, Lauren, but if you create any more webcomics in the future, check out the hosting services.
  • Okay nerds, ‘fess up — you’ve been arguing over whether or not female dwarves have beard since you first read LOTR in Junior High School. Answer: yes. Now get to work on the whole Balrogs/wings thing.
  • You can never have too many dinosaurs; the tall one looks like a cross between late-Cretaceous hadrosaurs and dragon-man Trogdor. He also quotes The Princess Bride, so that’s all right.
  • And from Chris Jones, news that Neil Swaab’s Rehabilitating Mr Wiggles is moving to a new domain by name of mrwiggleslovesyou.com. I’m actually getting an error when using that address, but I’m sure it’ll just take a day or two to propagate the address. Then 400+ strips of psychotic teddy bear love will be all yours.
  • Okay, a little Goldman-related: Two Lumps adds their two cents today, and Penny Arcade may be stepping into the ring as well (but we’ll have to wait for Tycho’s post to load to get the full impact).

Minireviews And Random Thoughts

The mailbag is gettin’ a mite full of webcomics that cry out for review; rather than taking the time to go through each thoroughly and do a full writeup, we’re grabbin’ random strips and doing the free association thing. The validity of these minireviews is highly suspect, but it’s not fair to leave ‘em in limbo forever.

Popped Culture, by Justin Stewart: The problem with pop culture gags is, even when your audience hasn’t heard them before, they think that they might have, so it’s tough to stay ahead of the curve and come up with jokes that get past the meh stage. That being said, little bits of weirdness (like season salt) help Popped Culture feel fresher than you’d expect. Also: velociraptors, so all former NASA roboticists are advised to stay away.

Random: Do you love Canadian webcomics and want them to win awards?

Natural 20s, by Tyler and Mimi: The art in this thing appears to be the perfect intersection of a Nintendo Mii, Scott Pilgrim, and Genndy Tartakovsky‘s sketchbook. Into this oasis of cute is thrown a surprisingly sharp sense of humor, what with screwin’ unicorns and all (no permalink to that strip yet, but odds are it’ll eventually be #59). Plus, check out the moustache on that guy! It’s like looking in the mirror.

Random: Weirdly rambling hate mail to Rich Stevens.

Captain Excelsior, by Zach Weiner and Chris Jones: Ever wonder what a bitter, washed-up Superman hittin’ on chicks would look like? Well, you don’t have long to wait, ’cause that happens within the first three strips. Our heroes are just as rotten as we are, so they’ve got no possibility but to improve as metahuman beings. Great fun potential.

Random: Wapsi Square has gotten pretty darn dynamic in its staging; Paul Taylor’s had some significant challenges in his personal life over the past year (hopefully improving), which may account for the simpler layouts that’ve been seen for a while now. Coincidentally, Girly creator Josh Lesnick trepidatiously took Taylor to task not long ago over the (in his view) unnecessarily-static turn the art had taken, so perhaps the feedback and art changes are related? In related news, apparently I’m a moron who dishes out blinding praise to Taylor, which is apparently unwarranted and unhelpful. I just report ‘em, folks.

Things Happening, Oh, Now-ish

It’s Anniversary Monday in webcomics, apparently. Today, Stuff Sucks hits 100 strips, Byrobot hits 250, and FODI hits 400.

In other news, Pet Professional is updating every day this week to finish up its current story arc, and the ranks of those experimenting with doing a webcomic continue to expand.

In the you always knew there was something about that guy, didn’t you? section of today’s news, check out the two Project Wonderful ads in the centerthe meme has spread! at Goats today. I’m not sayin’ it’s true … I’m just sayin’ that Jeff Rowland might be in a position to spill some secrets.

In the homage section of today’s news, facial hair combat continues to spread. Careful who you homage there, Chris Crosby. Just sayin’.

In the evil beaten back section of today’s news, webcomics continue to convert away from ActiveX.

And in the but did you get Kris Straub? section of today’s news, Grumps now has a theme song. Happy listening, peoples!

[Insert Bwow-Chicka-Wow Porn Music Here]

We got new comics, we got review requests, we got nudity. Onwards!

From Brian Wilson:

I have been reading fleen for quite a while now, and really enjoy you’re professional reviews and insights into the comic world. I have found alot of strips through fleen that i really enjoy and would never have found otherwise. Anyway, I was hoping you guys could take a crack at reviewing my strip. I really think your readers would like my strip, and professionally it would bragable on my end.

and similarly from Kevin Forbes:

Simulated Comic Product is a chronically under-reviewed webcomic. Just sayin’ :)

Guys, your heartfelt appeals touch me, on the inside; consider yourselves in the Queue of Review.
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