Monday 27 July 2009

The Horror!

Ladies and gentlefolk, in celebration of Hallowe'en being JUST 3 months away, I'm going to review for you a horror webcomic! (Note: Do not confuse with a "horrible" webcomic - that's what 'A Softer World' is for, ha-ha!) But seriously guys, there is only 96 days until the next 'We'en. I'm not kidding, that's 2298 hours as I type this. Whoa! I gotsta go get my costume soon. I'd love to dress up as Checkerboard Nightmare, but my ass isn't quite good enough yet. Another year of squats and maybe it will be. Checkerboard Nightmare - 2010.

Anyway, like I said, horror webcomic. But not just horror, there's humour. Horror and humour. That's a good, but infrequent, combination. Byron Rempel has for us a just such a combination with his webcomic The Zombie. As you can probably guess, it's about a zombie, doing what zombies do. Y'know, eating brains, killing people, blood, gore, Republicans, etc.

Now, what strikes me about zombies, is that they're like brainless vampires. But! They can walk around in the Sun. That's me, always looking for the positives in life. Any life. Or afterlife. What I like about The Zombie's story is that we hear a good bit from the zombie's perspective. His inner thoughts. Why he's so frickin' angry. He's a zombie! If I were a zombie and capable of sentient thought, I'd be angry too.

This comic at first doesn't seem to go with certain comic standards either. I think it's the 5th page where you actually get the first speech bubble. Until then, it's slightly different. Zombie inner monologue written in scrawl. What I'd image a cross between the characters of JD from Scrubs and Jack from The Shining would be like. Yes.

Anyway, the story quickly moves onwards. We don't always follow the zombie, and more characters are introduced, though not much is given about them individually yet. This webcomic is still very, very new.

Let us discuss the art, shall we? Mr Rempel's style at the beginning is sketchy. As in, it looks to have been sketched. Very well sketched, I might add, but simple. It's also in colour, where available. The style retains its sketchy quality throughout, but gains a cleaner look as time goes on. Colouring is especially good for the forest scenes in the latest strips. Kudos on that, bro. There's something about the faces/facial expressions that bothers me sometimes, but I can't put my finger on it. Some are a little too bland compared to others, while some are too cartoonish compared to the background, which is of excellent quality. Tis confusing for my eyes. But here's a sampler anyway.

Now, I know you're all expecting the big criticism to be "Yeah, whatever, zombies have been done to death (Pun!)". Well, that's not the critique. If anything, high praise goes to the use of zombies. If you're going to do a horror series in anything, even webcomics, always go with an industry standard. Zombies, vampires, mummies, werewolves, etc. What happens when you step outside that box? You get shit like "The Blob". That's not scary. That's a goddamn jell-o.

The Zombie gets a 3 outta 5 paw dealies. Give it a read. I'm taking a break from this blog for two (count 'em, 2) weeks. I'm working on a new Star Trax and have a boat-load of freelance guff to do. If I've got time, I'll re-do this site a little! And who knows, I have plans for new features, twice weekly-updates maybe? Interviews? Nap times? I like that last one... Anyway, see y'all on August 15th. Keep on readin' Star Trax! And also, these other comics!

Peace outy,
Coyote Trax

Saturday 25 July 2009

Brief delay!


Ok, working on freelance stuff, trying to develop the new Star Trax series (also sketchblog) and in the last week I've watched an unholy amount of House. So no update this weekend.

INSTEAD: UPDATE IS ON MOONDAY. That is, Monday. Day of the Moon. Lunedi. Oui.

Peace outy,

C to the Trax

Saturday 18 July 2009

Tails: The Title is a Pun, Son!

And that subtitle was a rhyme, guy. I could do that forever. ‘Please don’t!’ you cry out with anguish not felt since Aramis the Punster roamed the ‘Jovial Plains’ in the ‘Dark Ages of Comedy’… Ok, I’m done being weird.

Today’s comic for review is more than a treat, nay it is a privilege for your viewing pleasure. Young Ethan (better known as Ethan Young) has adapted his award winning, best-selling graphic novel ‘Tails’ into the webcomic format for your eyes.
I’ll admit that I was sceptical at first. I firmly believe that if something wins an award in these so-called “modern times” then it’s likely to be an art-deco piece of trash. But boy, were the socks of shame stuffed firmly down my gusset when I read Tails.

The story is of a young man, freshly dropped out of Art school, who works at the animal shelter while nursing dreams of becoming a famous cartoonist. The story of everybody’s life, right? I’m looking at you, Porter House, ya lazy hippie.
Anyway, since this tale (tail) is “semi-autobiographical” (note: this is quite dissimilar to “semi-national geographical”), our main character is named, yes, Ethan. We see his trials (trails?) and tribulations as he juggles his artwork, his girlfriend Cynthia (Sin), his job and several kitties all at once.

Let’s “genre” things up a little here, son. Tails, to me anyway, is presented as a dramedy. As said above, it’s semi-autobiographical, so Ethan (the author) is serving us up the dramatic points and notions with a side of comedy gravy to help it go down smooth. Comedy gravy is a real thing.
Now, here’s the lo-down or “the four-one-one” on new webcomics. They’re often terrible, awful, painful tragedies to start off with either due to the artist’s lack of talent or lack of ability to be funny. And in many cases they get better and they get funnier. There are a few exceptions to this rule of thumb, and I’m glad to say that Tails is one of them (in case you got lost there, I'm saying Tails kicked ass from the start). Since it’s an adaptation from his graphic novel, Mr Young already has a handle on the style and presentation of his story as a comic. And it is a story comic, so start from the beginning. Don’t feel like trawling through an archive? It started in June, guy! No chore-filled reading for you, no sir.

So Tails is literally the excellent thing. The characters are very well thought out, as you’d expect. Being semi-autobiographical (there’s gotta be a shorter way of saying that) you automatically get the feeling of depth in the back-story as well very believable personas. The comic’s presentation is similar to that of a graphic novel, not taking on any particular structure other than a sufficient array of panels to present the day’s story point. Each strip always gives away enough information, you’re never left floating as sometimes happens with story-based comics.

As for the artwork, well, Mr. Young is very talented. He presents us with a clear black and white style that’s not altogether “cartoonish” it’s definitely more than that.
As a style, he creates a unique infusion of comic-book and manga modes and distils it into an elegant but detailed design that defies the eyes (see how it rhymes?). To say that Tails is good is an understatement. See the sample, then look at this paw-thing rating. 4.5 paws. Fantastic.

I was literally blown away, like a fart on the wind, when I read Tails. You will be too. Someday I’ll think of less unappealing similes. It updates Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it’s totally worthy of your viewership. Heck, I’ve already favourited it. Can “favourite” be used as a verb? No. No it cannot. Read Tails!

Peace and elbow grease,
Coyote Trax

Saturday 11 July 2009

Juvies: Yeah

Scott Kurtz once professed that webcomics about college life are a done to death medium. I’m between two minds on that. Firstly, yes, there are as many college webcomics as there are cigarette butts on the floor of Britney Spears’ SUV. In fact, the three most abundant things on the interwebs itself are porn, credit card scams and college webcomics. But also, there are some college webcomics that are written by people who can skew them with their own warped sense of humour to make it noticably funny. It’s rarely the genre’s fault if something isn’t hi-larious though, it’s the writers. But who reads college webcomics for clever, witty, Frasier-like guff anyway? I read them because for a simple laugh that usually involves a penis joke. And so do you. Don’t deny it.

Juvies’ by Jarred Cramer may not fall into the category of a “college webcomic”, but the style of humour is much the same. We’re given three main characters, each one more different that the last, but all as tight as a nun’s purse (I’ve cleaned up the joke for the kids, you see. It’s PG13 all the way.) Scott, based on Jarred himself (not that it’s in ANY WAY OBVIOUS) is the main character. He’s more down to earth, occasionally playing the straight-man to the others’ antics and he has provides us with bushels of funnies himself. Then we have his two friends, Roger (or Super-Beer-Disposal 37) the stereotypical drunk guy and T.J. (more muscles than the Muscles from Brussels, do you see dear?) the guy who lifts weights, pulls chicks and makes the other two look bad in that respect.

I like this comic. I wouldn’t say that it’s particularly outstanding in every respect, but it’s certainly above average for the style of comic that it is. The artwork is really great, particularly now. It starts off not as shakey like what most quivering new webcomics do, but it doesn’t look like it’s in comfort zone straight away. It soon finds it though, and boy does it look good.

In terms of humour, this is the Ronseal 5 year woodstain of webcomics. Does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s called “Juvies” for a reason, guy. These characters are immature and juvenile and liable to put their cocks in places they don’t belong if you turn your head away long enough. Yes. Juvies doesn’t pretend to be anything other than simple man-humour (queue Tim ‘The Toolman’ Taylor grunting). There are fart jokes, pee jokes and awful, awful puns. So why am I reading it? What the frick is the possible allure of such stupid, tired and generally bad jokes? I’ll tell you! Because that’s my job. AND! Because these jokey-schnacks, awful and cringe-worthy as they may be at times, are executed in such a bold way as if to say “I know it's a bad joke, but THAT’S THE POINT!”

And you know what? It works. Juvies somehow makes this work fantastically well. Almost in direct defiance of the laws of humour. You will laugh, that’s not a promise, that’s a fact.

My only major problems with this comic are that, for one, the story line veers wildly from one-offs to an arc of some description. If it was alternating between the two, that’d be cool, but this is happening during arcs and upsets the flow of the story. Secondly, the Fourth Wall is shattered at once stage, yes for comic benefit, but it’s a nasty habit to get into unless your comic is based on breaking The Wall. Fortunately, a habit isn’t made of it thus far, so all’s sound on that front.

Overall, this is a very good comic and deserves much attention. Yours, specifically. I’m giving it a 3.5 out of 5 paw-things. Juvies is hosted on DrunkDuck (along with my mediocre-by-comparison Star Trax series) and updates usually about once a week.
Check it and tell ‘em Coyote Trax sent you.

And sign up to DrunkDuck to make comments, it’s free and you don’t have to get spam if you don’t want to (it’s a tickable option or something).

Peace and chicken grease,
Coyote Trax

Saturday 4 July 2009

Gibber Me Timbers

What do you get when you cross ‘A Softer World’ with ‘The Far Side’?
Until today, I thought the answer was “A piece of crap that doesn’t make a lick of sense.” (Alternative punch-line: Government Policies!)
Chris Smith has described his comic to me as “the bastard child of Far Side and A Softer World”. I have read Mr. Smith’s comic, and I can sort of see where he’s coming from. Now, this is no judgement on Chris’ comic in the slightest but, I don’t like ‘A Softer World’. It’s one of the few comics I physically can’t read. It’s the most pretentious piece of crap I’ve ever read. Is it feigning the whole ‘dark’ thing? Is irony the jibe at the end of the gloomy rainbow? Even so, then it’s a poor attempt. I’m talking Patrick Kielty poor. If you don’t know Patrick Kielty, youtube him. He’s the worst comedian in the history of EVER.

I think I’m getting off topic a little. Lisped-up festive-holiday Chris Smith (do you see?) got in touch with his comic, Gibberish. Don’t be thrown by the look of the website. Sure, it looks like a 5 year old or Michael J. Fox designed parts of it, but I make it a point to judge comics on their content, not their flowery appearance. Gibberish started in August ‘08, so there’s a good bit of content to read, all delivered in succinct single-panel chunks. Observe with your eyes below!

Gibberish is aptly named. Reading the archives, I noticed a multitude of styles in there. There’s some fantastic little story arcs, told one panel at a time of course as well as some completely off the wall comics. Gibberish definitely caters more to people who have that “random” sense o’ humour, though the darker strips I find are the least funny (The Softer World Paradigm) but you Softy World fans will probably eat it up like cats eat up the things they occasionally cough up. Those strips are generally wordier, too. Also, there are times where I can detect subtle hints of xkcd-style quasi-romantic undertones.

The art style is just as diverse as the humour, ranging from (intentional) scribbledy-doodles to some pretty decent drawing. If you start the archives from the beginning, I’ll tell you know that it starts a little shaky, like most webcomics that start off anew. It finds a comfortable zone pretty quick though. I won’t lie to you and say it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. I know you’re all too smart for that. But Gibberish offers us a very nice slice of dark or random humour, often crazy to point of “WTF, mate,” but that’s its charm right there. I’m giving Gibberish 2.5 outta 5 paw things. It’s a fair comic, worth your viewership. Updates Tuesdays and Thursdays and some points in between.

On a personal note, I’m debating whether or not to cut my long luxurious hair. I need yays or nays on this from you (yes, YOU!) because I’m an indecisive twit.

Peace and chicken grease,

P.S.: Happy 4th of July, Americans! Don't blow everything up. (That last one is more of a general statement, and doesn't necessarily have to apply only to today).