Saturday 25 April 2009

When it Raines...

Ho-lee moo-cats, kids. I had quite the eventful week. The work is done, on Earth as it is in Dallas. And by that I mean I finally wrote my thesis. 4/20 came and went. Admit it, show of hands, who went out for Hitler’s birthday? (Seriously, look it up). Anyway, my brain is still a-tingling after all that study, so I’ve got a great new comic lined up for you that takes a nice light-hearted approach to the provoking of the thoughts. But first, more talking. Sorry. The other day my faith in the human race was restored. In these times of economic woe, hardship and general stupidity of mankind, a kind lady let me off paying for something when I realised I forgot my money. I could’ve sworn I’d had cash in my wallet, and I offered to run to the ATM and back so I could pay, but she had none of it. I literally couldn’t believe people do that anymore. I wish her all the best (not that she’s reading).

Raine Dog is a new webcomic by Dana Claire Simpson (of “Ozy and Millie” and “I Drew This” fame), though this comic is quite a bit different. The comic is structured in a ‘graphic novel’ fashion (which she says herself was the original plan for the story), though the artwork makes it look and feel more like a webcomic (which is awesomes). Having only started in January, with weekly updates until recently, this comic has a veteran feel (Veteran? Vet? Get it? Cos the main character is a dog? I’m so funny). And rightly so! Dana’s been doing comics since before I even owned a computer. That’s a fact!

What the heck are we dealing with chief? I’ll tell thee. Raine is the main character. She’s a dog in the big city, living a comfortable lifestyle that she seems well adjusted to. We’re treated (another pun!) to the views and ideas she has on this life, how society and the world in general acts in her presence. In the meantime, we also get Raine’s self narrated retrospective flashbacks of her childhood, or puppyhood, or whatever you’d call it. Amazingly, my spell checker is recognising “puppyhood” as a word. That’s so cool. She talks about some of the trials and tribulation of growing up, as well as the trials and tribulations of her city life. So what? Huh? That’s an old idea, it’s been done, right? Well, son, let me tell you this, it is not an “old” idea, it is a classic. And son? This is what one would term a “fresh perspective”, but not only that, it’s very well executed. Personally, I find myself enthralled with the story, it leaves me at the end feeling satisfied but wanting more. Kinda like sex, or eating a pack of M&Ms. It’s not without humour either, which is used to break up any heavy stuff that is dangerously close to hampering the point of the story.

The artwork is cartoony, but sophisticated. It’s smooth, can be somewhat minimalist, and compliments the tone of the plot nicely. What more can I say? Though the overall format is of a graphic novel, the artwork, as I said, is not. It makes for an interesting combination, and is used to great effect getting the story across.

Should I make another pun or are we good? We’re good.

So give Raine Dog a bone and give it a read, it’s a great comic! I’m giving it 4 outta 5 paw-things, chief.
It updates twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, and makes for a good read if you like clever outlooks on life (see the taster down below, chief!)

In the meantime, have a good week.
Peace and chicken grease

Coyote Trax

Saturday 18 April 2009

As Existential Quandaries Go...

The sky is grey here and has been for a while now. It makes for a nice backdrop against which to write my thesis. Now I’m not used to all this thinking, but recently I’ve found myself reading more “thought-oriented” webcomics than usual. And thus I’ve brought some of the newer and more interesting ones here. Now, I realise these won’t have as much of the funny as you may be used to, but I also realise that funny isn’t everything (“It’s not?” you say, “No, chief!” I reply with gusto). Let this forever be remembered as the time I wrote intelligent reviews.
So sit back and engage your brain-sense processors, chief! Cos for the next couple of weeks you’re in for deep-thought treatment from the latest thinky-dink comics the interweb has to offer!

First up is James Finlay’s “The Republic of Here”. Having started literally only in late February, this comic is still wet behind the ears but shows an awful lot of promise. As mainstream comics go, this will probably never be one of them, though the definition of “mainstream” is getting blurrier by the month in webcomic terms. Nay, I would probably classify this as an “indie” comic. Such a thing may spark debate, so here’s why I think (know) I’m right. First off, its premise is not humour, it is philosophy. Secondly, the art style isn’t comic-like. It’s a unique blend of doodling and fair-trade coffee. And, as existential quandaries go, this is one of the stranger ones. So I dub it an indie comic.

So what’s it all about, chief? Well, at its most basic level, it deals with meaningless existence, and how each character comes to term with it. The main character is a robot, Irving (or 111001, as his robot friends call him) who is capable of thinking outside of 1’s and 0’s and dreams of the number 2. Upon waking up, he finds himself on a new plain of existence, reality or thought. We know not what it is. But here Irving meets the two other main characters, Oswald and Adeline. Both have similar stories to Irving, having been in a place where their existence was unreasonable, and they woke up one to find themselves “here”. (That’s where the comic draws its name from, son!) The story is essentially Irving coming to terms with this new existence. What was once purpose without meaning is now meaning without purpose. I have high hopes for this plot, but it does run the risk of getting real old real fast. I can’t wait to see how it goes.

Art-house magic! Since this is a comic about mundane drudgery and the overcoming thereof, we are treated to shades of melancholic grey, “here” being a lighter shade than Irving’s previous existence. The characters themselves are drawn in a more doodle-like fashion to convey a better sense of non-conformity to the normity. Also their names are written on their shirts. I don’t know why that is, nor can I offer a reason. It makes my job easier though *smileyface*. Interestingly, each character has its own speech-bubble font. I like this aspect. It’s a nice touch. At times there’s a very “Matrix” type look to it, what with loads of quasi-meaningless numbers floating around that are liable to take an eye out if people aren’t careful.

Overall, The Republic of Here is a decent and insightful comic. It might even make you think about your own life! Or not! Frankly that’s up to you, chief. To sum up, it’s a nice allegory for mankind’s mundane existence and how so few of us dream of things outside it. And if worse comes to worse, it could easily transcend the genre into humour! All they need to do is open a bar called “Cheers” on this empty plain of existence and throw a pregnant sassy waitress into the mix! Ahem… But I digress. Read The Republic of Here! I give it 3 out of 5 paw-prints or ‘Trax’ or something. Do you see?

Peace and chicken grease.

Coyote Trax

Saturday 11 April 2009

Happy Egg Day!

Hey kids, guess what?! Easter is here! It’s the time when Christians get together and celebrate their Lord and Saviour Jesus “The Chief” Christ getting pelted to death with chocolate eggs by rabbits while nailed to some two by fours. Needless to say, I’m neither a religious nor educated man, but I likes me some chocolate eggs.
[EDIT: You'll note I didn't go with a "Zombie Jesus" joke cos it's been done to death (excuse the pun). No maliciousness intended, chiefs, just trying to get a joke in.]

Anyway, since it's the holidays, I've no update for you. No, sir! I decided to make y'all a "filler". Yes!

I promise never to draw again. For reals this time! Happy Easter.

Peace and chicken grease.
- C.T.

Saturday 4 April 2009

Why do you think I write this thing?

Ah, there’s nothing like a smooth week to make things seem like they’re alright. Although, my phrase of choice this week doesn’t reflect such good tidings, I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty deep: “Sometimes you have to know that there’s no going back in order to move forward”. So kids, if you’re stuck in a rut like I was, don’t be afraid to burn bridges and get on with things. Anyway, enough “life talk”, let’s get back to what really matters: Webcomics.

A brief note of webcomics news: Artist of insightfully delightful comic Bellen!, BoxBrown is releasing a companion book to said comic called “Love is a Peculiar Type of Thing”. It’s only ten bucks, so if you like his stuff you might consider convincing your local “comix” store to get in a few copies. It’s good stuff, chief, and there are a few previews available on the book’s site.

And now for our regularly scheduled update. This comic, without trying to build up your hopes too soon, is one of the best I’ve read in a while. Broken Plot Device by Lis “Lizardbeth” Boriss is really something, folks. Right from the get-go it’s pretty well done. A solid art style and storyline are clear from strip numero uno and you can tell that this comic won’t disappoint. It’s already got a huge following having only started in June of 2008 and, though I really can’t remember how I found it, it seems to live in relative obscurity next to comics of equal calibre. Oh, wait, I think I found it through random clicking on twitter… Peoples, twitter is the only place to be.

BPD’s modus operandi is self-described as “geek-centric” with plenty of game, and sci-fi humour, dashed with a bit of the magics and some pair-oh-dee (that’s “parody”, chief!). The overall “theme”, you could say, is furry (but in the not-weird sense, son), with the majority of the plot centring on a group of friends and acquaintances living in the Byron Apartment block and the situations they get themselves into. Some involving ninjas, others involving a robot. The main character is Liz, a budding young webcartoonist with everything to prove and a healthy internet addiction to boot (autobiographical much?). The other characters, as mentioned, are tenants in the same building. The main three, I guess you could call them, are Maxine, Sid and Zigfried, all of them good friends with Liz. There are several other characters too, each getting a fair amount of strip time themselves (nobody’s left out, really) over the comic’s run thus far. The writing is done pretty well so the characters develop nicely as the story progresses and there’s the added bonus of the inter-character history imbuing their personas with an added sense of realism. One of the major difficulties in writing something is trying to establish a “believable” back-story for the universe they are in, and one which will hold the attention of the reader. This comic does so in such a way that is not only natural, but also subtle, so it’s not like you have to really try to understand where everything comes from in it. You’re happy to accept it all and read on contentedly.

I’ve mentioned that this comic has a good following, and I would like to think that’s the case due to the most excellent humour involved. And it is. HOWEVER! This comic also has a second gun of excellence in its artillery of awesome. It is a very well drawn comic! I have to say, I’m a fan of black and white comics, so this was very nice to come across for me. Some of the strips are coloured though, for those of you who prefer that sort of thing, but give me clean ink on paper any day of the week, son, and I’ll be happy. Y’know, unless you drew a penis or something, then I’d be less happy and more punching-you-in-the-throat-y. Lis has a pretty distinct style of drawing, and her overall comic layout doesn’t generally throw up anything out of the ordinary. It’s a straight-forward multi-panel festival of laughter for your eyes, chief!

Broken Plot Device updates Mondays and Thursdays, kids and you can follow Lis’ musings on the Twitters too. You wanna see some of the good stuff, then scroll right down past this para, son! Don’t forget to check out BoxBrown’s new book, too. When a webcomic gets going, even when it hits the paperback-mainstream we all gotta pull our weight and help each other out. Why do you think I write this thing?

Peace and chicken grease
- Coyote Trax