Friday, February 27, 2009

What I'm Reading... The Monthlies

It's been a long, LONG time since I did my weekly review thing so I've decided to do something a bit different to catch up. Basically, here (quickly) is everything I've been reading as of late because to be honest, I can't remember what I've reviewed and what I haven't. And I'll probably miss a few books that I've forgotten that I collect, I'll try to add those as I think of them. I'll start with the monthlies as I like to call them and save the TPBs for another post...

Elephantmen -- I think this one may be my favourite monthly. I may have been a bit disappointed with the ending to the Spore Wars but it did leave a few dangling possible stories that seemed intriguing. And I kinda like that some of the recent stories are showing more of the importance of some of the earlier ones.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- I'm not a big fan of the whole "Harmony going public" thing and such but I guess it makes sense, it was bound to happen and seems to connect with what's happening in LA in Angel. Overall, the book has been pretty consistent but I'd like to get back to more of the Twilight stuff soon.

Angel -- Man, the ending of that series felt like a kick to the crotch. Yeah, I know that sounds harsh but I did not like it at all. And I wasn't even the biggest fan of this series to begin with. I did kinda like the latest issue though.

She-Hulk -- I know some people are upset that Peter David didn't try to do what Dan Slott had been doing but I still felt this series was very well written and had some interesting storylines. The art was rather inconsistent but pretty good at time and not terrible at other times. I'm sorry to see this one go but I won't be giving the "new She-Hulk" a look, it just bugs me too much.

Skaar -- I'm rather glad to see Lim taking over the art chores on this book. The series has been struggling a bit to work for me but it has had its moments. The last couple issues seem to have picked things up a notch so I'm sticking it out for now. And I'm looking forward to the Planet Skaar storyline.

Tek Jansen -- I know, it's silly (or maybe even "stupid") but I expect nothing less from Stephen Colbert. Though the fact that it's a limited series probably helps. :)

Runaways -- I haven't read this month's issue yet but I've been fairly disappointed with this series. Last month's issue had a pretty good ending to the storyline but the art still rubs me the wrong way. It may be on the chopping block for me which is surprising.

Echo -- Speaking of the chopping block, this series still seems to be going a little too slowly for me. Every issue barely seems to get started when I suddenly realize that I'm done. I'll be picking up next week's issue but I'll most likely be dropping this and maybe coming back for the TPBs.

Mouse Guard -- Again, I haven't read this week's issue yet but I'm sure it's go great art and an interesting story. But it may be another one I'll be picking up in hard/softcover when each chapter is done. It's good and paced well but the time gap between issues and such make it a little tough for me to get back into it by the time each issue comes out.

Stay tuned for my TPB list. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ramblings on Webcomics

I've been recently asking the question "Why aren't webcomics working for me?" a lot. And by "webcomic" I'm going with a comic that is created for distribution on the web, and not print comics that are eventually put up to attract new readers or what not (though some of what I say apply to them as well). Some times I've been mulling it over in my own head and some times I've been discussing it with anyone who will listen (including some who probably didn't want to) so why not post some ramblings here. I have to post something after all. :) This also means that not all the ideas were originally mine. In fact, I'm not sure who came up with some of them so if you're reading this and think "Hey, that was my idea!" feel free to take credit in the comments.

I will get back to doing reviews eventually but my ability to pick up my comics is pretty sporadic at the moment. So until then, I'll go with a random ramblings when I can.

As a comic enthusiast/nerd/geek and someone who works with and is familiar with computers/the internet you'd think the combination would work well for me. But it doesn't and I don't know why. So here are a few random thoughts on the topic.

So let's look at some differences between webcomics and print comics as I see them.

Content: On the one hand, webcomics appear to have a much wider range of content with varying themes and styles (of course I can't prove this). Although you may have some people trying to replicate an already successful book you'll also have people exploring the freedom that comes from just being able to do whatever you want without having to prove to some guy in a business suit that it's marketable or fits in with their money making strategy. Though I should say that the "some people" who are replicating successful ideas is actually a pretty big number too but I guess that adds to the variety in a way. So having said that there should be something for everyone including me.

Schedule: With comics you have a monthly (or something resembling monthly) schedule or a longer gap if you're going the TPB route. For webcomics, the strips are often daily while ones with more elaborate pages or stories are often a page or two per week, or several pages at once every few weeks. Ignoring the daily strip webcomics for now, that's a pretty significant difference in how the work is presented especially if the creators don't take that into consideration. With a monthly book a single page is just a small part of a story, connected by the pages around it. When you are reading a webcomic that updates a page at a time it can lead to problems. If the page is just a small part of the storyline then it feels more disjoint with large gaps of days between these small parts. The tempo is different and it's harder to build a flow from page to page. Though anyone reading through the archives will probably find it less noticeable. Updating a few pages at a time can improve this as long as it's also taken into account. I find a lot of webcomic creators (including myself) trying to find a balance where a page is a worthy story element on its own while at the same time fitting into a narrative for someone reading the full story. How well that is achieved is left to the reader but I often find it's not a good idea to try to balance these.

Money: Here's a funny one. Most webcomics right now are free online. There may be a special print version or some features that you can pay for but the ones I stick to trying are freely available. And other than free comic book day, print comics are not free. You'd think that would be a plus for webcomics right there but there's something else I'm considering at the moment and that is that the money I've spent on books are actually keeping me spending more. Sounds weird doesn't it? But if you take some series (call it "series X") and say I buy the first 7 issues. Now say I'm only kinda liking the series, I may stick with it at least until the current storyline ends because I figure I've already invested money in the first 7 issues, and if I drop it now it might feel like I've wasted my money on those first 7 issues with no closure on the story. And for an ongoing book that doesn't really have closure with the end of each storyline, who knows how long this can drag on for. So I'm thinking the money has created an investment for me in the series, though it may not be the "financial investment" one may think of. I know, you probably think this is a stupid argument but it seems to be the situation for me a lot of the time. And so with webcomics, if I hit a bad patch the only real "investment" I've made (if it's not an emotional investment) is the time I've put into it. So just giving up on the book means I may feel like I've wasted my time reading it up until this point but it won't feel like I've wasted money. I think this also ties in on the idea of "ownership". People complain about not owning a copy of a webcomic (or a print comic put in a digital library). Sometimes it's about being able to go back and read the book any time they want or at least knowing they have that option but I think on some level there's more of a connection going on. That when you "own" the comic you feel a bit more invested in it. Feel free to tear this point apart.

"Guarantee:" Print comics generally have a company behind them and "guarantee" of continuing, sales and company solvency permitting (is that the right term, "solvency"?). This is a pretty big one. I've been burned too often by getting into a webcomic only to have it stop abruptly when the creator lost interest or just got too busy. No conclusion, no closure, just stopped. Companies generally don't do this. Even if a book is failing you'll usually see some sort of conclusion. Not always a good one but as long as you see it on the solicitations you feel safe in believing the book will be there for the next few months. There is also the issue of the "hiatus" which seems to happen much more often in webcomics as well. And with companies, they'll usually provide some sort of "filler" (ie. a book with that character that's not really relevant to the current story) if you really want it. For webcomics this may mean "fan art" which really isn't "filling".

Quality: This one is very debatable as beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. At first glance I find print comics to be of a higher quality at least in terms of art and appearance. They have more of a budget, more time to invest in it, often a team of artists, etc, etc. And they are often professionals who have been doing this for a while and have learned to do it well (for the most part). And they probably wouldn't have made it to print if their work didn't connect with a large number of people. Webcomics don't usually have that filtering so you'll get a lot of people whose work only really connects with a handful of people. But on the other hand, there are some incredibly talented individuals working on webcomics that just haven't been given the break they need or choose to go the webcomics route. And they usually have a much invested interest in making it work as it's their own character and their own story. It's often more than a job (not to say that many people working in print comics feel it's just a job, but if they're on a monthly book they generally have an issue or two here and there that were of the "I just have to get something out there" variety). But here's the thing, with print comics you are generally looking for really high quality amongst books that are already deemed by people to be of a high quality. With webcomics, you are often left searching for high quality amongst a sea of comics ranging from extremely amateurish to extremely high quality (with, let's face it, a lot more in the amateurish range). Though that's also not to say that some of the amateurish books can really improve as time goes on and could become a great book too. You can try looking at certain sites (limiting yourself to Zuda or only looking at the books "feature" on drunkduck or some other site) and getting suggestions from various blogs or "Top 100 webcomics" lists but that's not always that easy either. Some have ulterior motives while others just have extremely different ideas of what makes a quality book. It is getting better though.

Access/Ease of Use: This is actually two points that I'm trying to merge here. You'd think by "access" I mean "everyone with the internet has access to a free webcomic" versus "everyone with the money or maybe a library card has access to a comic" (provided the local library carries comics) but actually I mean how you "access" the comic. Do you pick it up at your local/online store or do you surf on over to a website looking for an update (or checking your RSS feed or whatever). Now I'm showing my age here but for me it's become a ritual of heading out to the local comic every week to mingle and check out the new books (both the ones I have on reserve and other stuff). I just don't get that same feeling when I turn on the computer and start surfing around trying to find out what books I normally check out or possibly other books I haven't noticed before have updated. And when webcomics (especially the non-established ones) can bounce around from site to site or have me going from site to site to find all the single page updates I just don't have that same feeling as when I sit down to read a printed comic. Which leads me to ease of use (sorta). When I buy a printed comic I can read it on the bus or wherever else I go. Webcomics I need an electronic device of some sort and often an internet connection to read. So I'm fairly limited there. Overall, the print comic experience (from heading to the store to sitting down reading them) just seems more enjoyable.

Proper Use of the Medium: This one is pretty far out in left field and I know a lot of people don't see things the way I do but here's my thing, I believe that in order to create a better work you have to factor in the medium that you are using. I find even print comic "professionals" sometimes miss out on this, from writers who don't really know how to write a comic to artists who lack the ability to effectively tell a story and make the reader's experience more of a chore and much less enjoyable. But in general, print comics go through several sets of eyes, all having the opportunity to say "hey, some thing's not working right here." The web opens up a whole new universe of possibilities (look at the "infinite canvas" for example or other new presentation formats) that I think we're just beginning to explore. But I think we're at a pretty young stage where creators are using the same mentality that they use in comics. And the funny thing is that some print comic creators are probably stuck using methods from other formats (such as film or traditional text novels) instead of making use of the comic format. And again, this ties in to some of my previous points but I'm just rambling here. :)

Or maybe it's just me, none of this applies to you and you now think I'm pretty insane (or more so than you originally did). But what can I say?

Wow, that was a much longer post than I thought it would be and probably much longer than it should be.

Friday, February 06, 2009

New York Comic-Con

So the New York Comic-Con starts today and I'll be missing it again this year. Every year it seems to be the same story for me, I talk the talk but don't walk the walk. But I still have a mission to experience the New York Comic-Con at least once.

So what would I have done had I gone? Or perhaps that should be "what would I have HOPED to have done had I gone" considering how busy these things are. I would have liked to try and meet Richard Starkings of Elephantmen, I've been blown away by that series since it started so that would have been cool. Then there's David Gallaher, Steve Ellis, and several others at the Zuda panel. I probably also would have checked to see if anyone from DrunkDuck would be going and maybe meet up with them.

Aside from that, I'd probably just play it by ear. See if I could get a sketch (of the Hulk of course) or two from artists selling sketches, get something Hulk oriented signed by Peter David, attend an educational panel or two if I'm able to, and just soak in the geek atmosphere. I wouldn't even try for the main Marvel, DC, or Image panels, not only would I not get in but they aren't really appealing to me at the moment.

Yeah, it's probably a stupid thing not to go in with more of a plan but I think I'd enjoy it anyways.

So for those attending New York Comic-Con, I hope you have a good time. And feel free to let me know how it goes for you, good or bad, so I can live vicariously through you. :)

Monday, February 02, 2009


Moving on...

Until the buses get back up and running my ability to pick up and review my regular monthly books remains up in the air. So hopefully once we get enough buses running next week I'll be able to make it to my comic store on a semi-regular basis. I had been hoping to get down there this past Saturday as Tom Fowler was signing copies of his new book, "Mysterius the Unfathomable", but it wasn't to be.

So let's talk about what other books I've been reading in TPB form. We have the latest volume of The Walking Dead (volume 9), a really moving volume after the events of the previous one. This series continues to be engaging and keeps me guessing as to what will happen next. Then we have Powers, I'm still waiting on volume 5 but the first four were a great mix of... well, pretty much everything you'd want. I laughed, I cried, I loved it more than Cats... Okay, that's a lie, I don't love anything more than Cats.

A friend is also lending me the Sandman TPBs and I've been making my way through them. I'm currently on volume 7. Engaging stories but not exactly an easy comic to breeze through, it seems no matter how hard I try it feels like I'm missing story elements.

I also picked up the first volume of Locke and Key after hearing much buzz about this book. I liked Gabriel Rodriguez's art on the Great and Secret Show, at first I didn't think I would but the style really seems to fit these weird horror type stories. And it continues to be great here. The story is well crafted and I'm really happy to hear it will be continuing, I'd hate to have it end where it did.

Hmm... I'm sure there's more stuff I've been reading since I last posted but I can't think of what at the moment.

As an aside, webcomics seems to be becoming a hot topic at the moment. Either it's because of the economy, Diamond's announcement of raising their benchmark, or something else, or maybe it's just time for the comic news media to talk about it again. Hopefully I'll be able to assemble my thoughts on the topic soon, whether it's about people trying to make a living off webcomics, or just seeing them as a stepping stone to "real"/print comics, or how many webcomics just get deserted (possibly linked to the first point), or just what webcomics I recommend (though that didn't go so well last time).

That's it for now. Take care!