Saturday 27 June 2009

Dazed and Confuzled

RIP Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson

With Drunk Duck being my webcomic haunt of choice (due to an overwhelming lack of html knowledge) I’ve been poking around it a bit, checkin’ out a few new comics. There’s some good stuff on there so it’s worth perusing if you’ve got the time.

Today I’m reviewing a Drunk Duck comic by Andy Cramer called Week Daze. It only started back in mid-December and, having read the archives; it’s still a relatively quick read. Reading through archives can be a dual experience, both enjoyable but tiresome, like eating a whole pizza by yourself and oft with the same intense shame afterwards. If the webcomic is good, then that outweighs the negative parts, and the whole thing was worth the effort. Week Daze is such that the balance is tipped in favour of the good, at least for the most part.

The story is set mostly in the office environ (less like Dilbert, more like Business Casual), with the two main characters being life-savvy workers who hate their boss. One of our two heroes is Johnson, a shaggy haired guy who loves to draw. He’s just a normal dude, workin’ 9 to 5, just trying to make a living, guy. And then we have his good friend Puck. For those who don’t know, Puck was a mythical sprite who causes mischief and the name was changed to mean ‘devil’ upon the conversion to Christianity. This explains a lot about the character. He’s a metal-head who advertises his most favouritest bands on his corpulent bodice in t-shirt form while tormenting the other employees. Then there’s their boss, nemesis and paymaster, a slick-willy type of guy and is presumably smarter than he looks, quite the sly boots.

Week Daze is really a story-based comedy-styled jeremy with most of the laughs coming from the lead characters’ sarcastic and flippant natures. Puck, especially, gets his kicks out of his seething sardonic nature and fuels many of the funnies in this comic. Johnson acts more as a straight man to Puck’s antics but has a sense of humour all of his own. This style is simplistic, but effective. There are no real surprises, but a couple of gems definitely make this one a decent read.

The art style is too us above par. Wait… Is it sub-par? Isn’t it better to be under par in golf? Have I gone through this before? I feel like I’ve said this before. I’ll re-phrase, the art style is better than par. There we go. Again, nothing overly spectacular, but the lines are clean and the colouring is great. The backgrounds and foregrounds and objects and things are all very well done, no hack jobs here let me tell you. The character design, too, suits their personalities quite well. Here’s a sampler of the latest guff, chief.

The place where Week Daze falls short is mostly in the writing. It’s funny, but not often LOL out loud funny. Some of the dialogue can be a bit tired. Puck saying “Word” makes me want to punch him in the gusset. He is neither black nor a rapper, so it just looks too out of place. Call me a propagator of the stereotype. Call me a presumptuous radish. But such things are best left to the black rapping community and white metal-heads ≠ black rappers. Also, we see the occasional fracturing of the Fourth Wall a bit. Not too much to be bothersome, and when it does it’s mostly for the sake of comedy, but like I always say “Never break the Fourth Wall unless you’re writing for Boston Legal or your name is Checkerboard Nightmare.” That’s as true today as it was in the time of our monkey ancestors, who made tools from fish bones and ate bronze as vittles.

This gets 3 out of 5 paw things. It’s a good, solid comic and it has a lot of room to grow. Getting funnier every week (roughly when it updates) it’s worth checking out over there on Drunk Duck. Week Daze: For people who have nothing better to do at work.

Peace Out
Coyote Trax

Saturday 20 June 2009

Ha, He Does Say 'Rack' A Lot

ATTENTION: Musings by Evan Diaz (reviewed here) is now Pajama Forest.

I’m sure you guys all know of The Rack. The webcomic set in the comic book store, Yavin IV? “That’s no moon, it’s a comic book store!” No? Well you’re clearly not a comic book junkie. I am no such thing either, so I don’t really get all the humour. You may shame me for not giving a flying figurine about D.C. or Marvel, but I know enough to know that Superman could kick the X-Men’s collective asses now that Professor X is gone. Anywho, to get back on t’Rack, The Rack recently created a spin-off webcomic about one of the characters, Lydia. Writer Kevin Church stays on to script things up, but Max Riffner now provides the art talent.

Lydia, which started on May 1st, follows the story of Lydia Park. Formerly the assistant manager of Yavin IV Comics, she now plunges haunch-deep into her new cube-jockey role as Associate Products Manager of Analytics (so sayeth the plaque) in some big corporate business thingy. So it’s kinda like Dilbert, but the characters have personalities. And it’s actually funny. There’s also some crossover with The Rack, to help the transition for the new comic. We hear mention of Lydia’s boyfriend, Billy, and we also see Abegail, both characters from said Rack. There’s also some reverse-crossover (what?) where Lydia reappears back in the The Rack. She’s a sassy lady who takes no shizzle (lip) from any hizzle (one).

Kevin Church’s writing style differs just enough from The Rack to make Lydia a different (i.e.: more bearable) and interesting read. She retains all of her character qualities, the aforementioned sass, as well as her often-biting sarcasm and sharp wit. I can’t write this without comparing Lydia to The Rack. The setting, obviously, is different. But office humour isn’t really much of a jump from the comic book store laugh-a-doodles (except now I get the punch-lines). Both are set in the work environment and Church maintains a good balance between situational and character driven storylines. He’s an imaginative man to be able to write so unambiguously about the same person and coax the funnies out as she makes this life change.
In terms of the art style changing, well, Riffner clearly has a different style to Benjamin Birdie. Birdie’s work starts off with very busy panels and with a fair bit of detail compared to Riffner. Recently, his work more of a simpler black and white style and has gotten less crowded. Riffner, who did some guest art for The Rack, uses his unique style for Lydia. Check out this sampler, son.
Riffner delivers his usual good job with the artwork. And this is where I have my only problem with the comic. His definitive, semi-minimalist, smooth, black and white style is almost exactly the same as in his other comic, Drunk Elephant (reviewed here). Personally, I was hoping for something else with Lydia, but he went with the status quo. I mean, there’s style and then there’s stale (that's a bit harsh, but I liked the phrase too much not to use it). Take Chris Jones’ (Snowflakes, Grumps) for example. He has a very distinct style, but I can’t say that all of his work is the same. Here, Lydia’s boss Ashley may as well be Kacy the bartender from Drunk Elephant. Riffner’s work is still top notch, don’t get me wrong, and he’s a fine artist (see his site here). I guess I’d just have liked to see him shake things up a little for the new comic. I’m glad that he doesn’t try to imitate The Rack though. That’s a big plus. The whole point is to have a fresh start with a new story and a clean look. If it had looked the same, I’d have been slightly upset. Spin-offs are meant to stand apart. Nobody wants another Joanie Loves Chachi on their hands.

I’m giving Lydia a 3.5 out of 5. It’s a well written, well drawn piece that makes the inter-comic transition quite smoothly. Church and Riffner have a great dynamic that makes Lydia a quality comic and a pleasure to read. Updates M/W/F so get a followin’, kids.
As an addendum, I’d like to thank everybody who checked out Star Trax. Hits are better than I expected. Seriously, you guys rock. Updates Monday and Thursday. (Pssst - the sketchblog updates today!)

Coyote Trax

Saturday 13 June 2009

Harry Potter and the Milking of Media

So this week I’ve been spreading the word about my new comic, Star Trax. Updates Mondays and Thursdays. God, I hope it doesn’t get reviewed. I’ll get some excuses ready just in case. Trying to advertise on a budget of feck all is tough though. It’s all about trollin’ forums and things with links. And Space Pirates. Everywhere I look there’s advertising for that new Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince: The Motion Film. I honestly couldn’t care. Sure, like many, I read some of the books. But then they became a mile long and dragged out for no reason. So I stopped. Also, I grew up. If I could get that kind of advertising… *eyes glaze over*…. Well! That’s where you kids come in. Advertise Star Trax and I will… Um… Be eternally grateful? I really can’t offer much else.

Man, so I’m a little late with this, but Good Ship Chronicles by Tauhid Bondia has now seemingly returned to regular updates. This means awesome space-based funnies for all involved! GSC is excellent from the get go, being well drawn and hilarious. It’s gonna be big. Bigger than it already is. I prophesied this.

And now on to today’s review. D. Long got in touch with his comic “Edmund Finney’s Quest to Find the Meaning of Life”. I read this right the way through immediately (I am unemployed after all) and I was taken with it. It’s the story of Edmund Finney, a writer and traveller who yearns for adventure… Though not as much now that he’s tasted it. This comic is a good read, and to accompany it there’s many a random strip. EFQtFtMoL (so much for abbreviation) started on March 8th (New-Webcomic and Give-Trax-a-Gift-Day eve) and maintains a solid style throughout. This is a story comic that’s worth hopping on board with now while it’s young. I mean, like, new, as in fresh? Don’t hop on the young. It’s frowned upon.

How is this comic written? The humour style is situational/observational. The various plot points drives the comedy stylings, with many of the main funnies coming from current affairs. It’s extremely well written. Occasionally we see what Edmund has written in his journal, as well as his thoughts, but we also get some good comic dialogue going. It’s written as one main story, with shorter arcs. I don't think we can mention the 'meaning of life' without touching on Monty Python. There are some slight elements of Pythonesque humour here and there, especially in the juxtaposition of the character and the scenarios he faces, but it's all entirely original and doesn't once allude to Python at all. As well as the main storyline, there are also semi-random updates not relating to the story. They’re mostly sketches or off-beat funnies that wouldn’t fit.

The artwork is very good. At first it reminded me of a similar style to a newspaper comic, but then I remembered that it was from the Horrible Histories books. Anyone not from Ireland or the UK probably has no idea what I mean. These are a series of history books aimed at teenage kids. The illustration (by Martin Brown) is comparable to D. Long’s style. Not the same, mind you, there’s a lot of differences. Mr Long’s work has quite a bit of detail, and the character design is very well done. Kinda sketchy, but it gives it a nice “down-home cookin’” feeling. And seeing his off-comic sketches in the random stuff proves exactly that. The overall black and white motif works very well with the content. Check out my favourite part here:

This comic is outstanding, in its humour and its drawing style. I’m giving it 4 out of 5 paw-things and I’ll be definitely keeping up with it.

Edmund Finney updates every Tuesday and Friday. It’s a great read, and is one to watch for the future. Seriously, if you don’t check it out, I’ll come after you.

Peace out.
Coyote Trax

Saturday 6 June 2009

Confrontation Has Varnished My Buns

Welp, college is finally over for me. I’m now officially in the ranks of the unemployed. A science degree is now officially as useless as an arts degree in this country. Anyone out there need a biologist? Or a spunky writer with everything to prove? No? Ball. Well, you know where to find me if you do.
Also, I got a couple of extra questions. Since I probably won’t do another of those question things for a while I’ll answer them now. First off, “Why don't you post your comic in keenspot or comicgenesis?” The answer: Because I don’t know any html. Yet. Secondly, “Will you ever change the appearance of this blog?” Again, don’t know html, when I do I’ll try and add something cool. In the meantime, I’m pretty happy with it. Thanks for the questions, now on to the webcomics. Also, Star Trax is starting up this Thursday (weather permitting) with “Captain’s Prologue”. More news on the site come Thursday.

This week, I have been mostly reading ‘The Book of Biff’ by Chris Hallbeck. Single panel funnies galore featuring the angry man himself, Biff! Check it out if you like that sort of noise. I sure as heck do.

Today I have a proper treat for you, son. Yes, you. Son! Today’s review is of the masterpiece collaboration between Chris Jones, James Ashby and Zach Weiner. Zach and Chris worked together before on Captain Excelsior which was just plain fantastic on all counts. Their new project, Snowflakes, which really got going in April, is nothing short of excellent. Following the story of several orphans in their nun-run orphanage high in the Andes Mountains, Snowflakes is a snow-bound, traction-packed misadventure for all involved. Adding the whole “orphan” angle into the mix, you have the only adoptions occurring at Christmas *suspense* when only the youngest or cutest get adopted *drama*.
There are quite a few main characters in the story, and executing all of their appearances is a tricky but beautifully done undertaking, a testament to the skill of both writers and artist. Here’s the 411 on the main cast. (So what if nobody says “411” anymore, I’m takin’ it back!)
Lusitania: Or just “Lu” for short. She’s the oldest (or is it eldest… Can you say “eldest” in reference to orphans? I thought it was a family thing. Am I typing this? Ball). Anyway, she’s 10, and is worried she won’t ever be picked for adoption. Ever!
Priti: Lu’s bestest friend who undertakes the impossible task of making Lu acceptable for adoption.
Wray: Tough as nails and thrice as sharp. She’s a lean, mean, tormenting machine.
Sloan: She seems pretty institutionalised. Who cares as long as she’s happy?
Glory: The fat kid. Kinda reminds me of a guy I went to school with, “Plimpton Waddams”.
Greg: Neeeeeeeeeeeeeerd.
Enzo: He’s new and he hears things. I wonder how…

So what’s the writing like? One word: supercalifornicationalistic. In several different words, it’s really good. James Ashby covers the story and plotting (and scheming, always scheming). I assume he has a pretty good idea of where this comic is going, because the story moves with such fluidity, knowing when and where to ease up and when to push on. Mr Zach Weiner, of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal fame, scripts things up something fierce in Snowflakes, writing some excellent jokes that fit the characters’ personas to a tee. I should mention that Snowflakes is written as a PG comic, so, I dunno, if you’d rather your teenage son/daughter/pumpkin read something good and wholesome, this is the thing for them. Strap ‘em down, tape open their eyes and make ‘em read. They’ll thank you for it. But the real humour in the writing, I think, lies in the dichotomy between the characters’ dialogue and their ages.

If you’ve seen Captain Excelsior, Grumps or any of Chris’ other works, you’ll be familiar with his general style. “Snowflakes” is no different. He gives us his impeccably unique character style done in the most professional and proficient manner. Between the writing style and Chris’ art, the characters become very believable. I’ve always loved characters’ facial expressions and, I have to say, that Chris is my favourite artist in that regard. He can get so much emotion out in the funniest way possible without compromising the quality of the comic. Fantastic. Here’s a taster of what I’m yammering on about.

Well, I’ve conferred with the judges, and Snowflakes has won itself a 4.5 on the Trax scale.

Great writing, interesting storylines and fantastic artwork makes this comic what it is. And just between you and me, I think the division of labour gives each of them more room to be creative and push the boundaries of their collective awesomeness. And it is awesome. James Ashby, Chris Jones and Zach Weiner. The Trifecta of Funny. Snowflakes updates M/W/F, get ready to bookmark it. It’s too good to miss.

Peace out.
Coyote Trax