Shaenon Garrity has started up a Kickstarter for the fourth volume of Skin Horse, her and Jeffrey Wells’ mad bureaucratic science webcomic (and spiritual sequel to Garrity’s award-winning webcomic Narbonic). Interestingly Garrity and Wells haven’t included bonus goals for exceeding their 4,000 dollar goal. Interestingly, they do include retailer-only pledges, which is a rather innovative method of getting comics in the stores. Other pledge offers include PDF copies of the comic along with signed copies and even for a select few (who bid enough money) being drawn into the comic.
Mad science webcomic Girl Genius has launched an accelerated Kickstarter to generate funds for a print run for a paper edition of “Girl Genius Volume 12” – this volume will actually run 192 pages rather than the usual 120 pages, and the Foglios plan on printing 9,000 copies due to how quickly they ran out of a previous print run. As of their first day, they’ve already reached over 23K dollars, nearly half of their minimum goal of 55K dollars. In addition, if and when they reach other monetary goals, other volumes will be reprinted as well, and Girl Genius medals will be cast as well for supporters. And to be honest? Of all the Kickstarters I’ve mentioned here in the News section… this is the one I want most to reach its final goal. Hey, if Order of the Stick can get a million dollars over Kickstarter, then Girl Genius can garner 220K dollars. (As a brief aside, I must admit to being amused by the “Tea Party” offer for a patron who bids 10K dollars. Having met Kaja Foglio, I must admit I could see her coming with tea and cakes. And a nice hat. ^^)
Just as a heads up, I’ve altered how posts are accepted by the system. This prevents the rapid posting-and-deletion of comments on the system that has apparently corrupted several files to date. This shouldn’t affect people unless they are trying to post a one-line comment or are copy-pasting. In short, this is to catch automated processes that spammers use.
In addition, a new story has been posted on the Fiction section of the board, Deus Ex Liber. This is actually one of the first fanfics I wrote back in 2001; while it’s definitely not one of my better works, there are several elements in there that worked quite well… especially near the end. So if you have a spare minute, definitely check it out.
Perhaps one of the toughest characters to develop in any story is the straight-man. The very nature of the straight-man is that he plays a support role from which the humorous elements can expand upon. Unfortunately, this can impede on the character taking a central role in the story (unless the story puts aside its more humorous elements for a bit). But while this is a central element for the character Sweetheart in Shaenon Garrity and Jeffrey Wells’ Skin Horse, today’s update had me realize there is another aspect to her personality that helps to explain much of her behavior and her actions toward her teammates.
But first I need to rewind a little to a previous storyline in which Sweetheart was upset that her coworker and subordinate Unity was busy gorging on lab-grown brains… and in doing so, becoming more intelligent. She would become downright dismissive of Unity and do her best to ignore Unity’s perceptions as to what was going on; as a result, the Skin Horse team failed to realize what was going on until it was nearly too late.
Looking forward to the latest update, and I noticed this pattern was unfolding once more. Sweetheart was dismissive of Unity’s perceptions concerning WhimsyCorp (which Unity either hallucinated or was visited by). Further, the moment Unity comes up with a logical and reasonable reason for Skin Horse to try and save WhimsyCorp (in that corporations are persons but not human… and thus under Skin Horse’s jurisdiction), Sweetheart accuses Unity of being on brains.
This is the moment I realized Sweetheart is threatened by other people’s intelligence. Nor is this a recent thing; when Tip first joined Skin Horse, Sweetheart was threatened by his obvious intelligence (and disdainful of Tip’s eccentricities, despite the fact these “non-professional” tendencies have helped the group on multiple occasions). Similarly, when Unity becomes smart, Sweetheart immediately becomes dismissive and brushes off any suggestions Unity may make. This distrust of other people’s intelligence even can be found in her opinion of their boss, the sentient bee swarm Gavotte.
As to why Sweetheart is so distrustful of other intelligences, I have to wonder if part of it lies with the fact Sweetheart is just an intelligent dog. She’s not even necessarily brilliant by human standards; she seems to thrive in a structured environment where there aren’t a lot of surprises. Within that setting, she does quite well. Outside it, however, she becomes defensive and unwilling to consider the opinions of others. And she’s aware of her limitations… and may very well be afraid that if she’s revealed to be just ordinary, she’ll lose everything she’s built.
The question ultimately is, what’s next for Sweetheart? What are her motivations? Is she afraid of being shown up by Tip… and later by Unity? Does her rank as team commander mean so much to her? And if so, why? In time, Garrity and Wells will likely expand on this and on Sweetheart. In the meantime, it’s clear Skin Horse has room to grow, even as the Skin Horse team slowly learn more of the subversive elements operating in the background of their world and why the massive cover-up on the Old War. And perhaps along the way we’ll learn more about Sweetheart… and see if she can overcome her fear and disdain of other intelligences before it’s too late.
I first started reading comic books in the early 90s, nearly a decade before my descent into the world of webcomics. As with many people, my gateway comics were the varied Marvel titles, though I did branch out into DC and then the independent titles along the way. But finally, a lack of money and the declining quality of the stories put out by DC and Marvel left me uninterested in the superhero genre. Given the relative lack of the genre on the Internet, I suspect I’m not the only one to feel this way; I do know that the Internet has given rise to a wide variety of genres… with superhero comics in the distinct minority despite their continued dominance of the American print comic world.
To be honest, the parody comic League of Super Redundant Heroes reminds me more of the multiplayer superhero game City of Heroes (and its varied brethren) than of the print comics. Part of this lies with the general premise: we’re not following the great heroes of the land who regularly fight forces that threaten reality, nor are these the secondary heroes who help fill in while the Big Bad Heroes fight the good fight. No, these are the Z-rated heroes. The losers, who are only heroes because they’ve got powers and thus feel an obligation to wear the costume and fight the good fight… even though they’re honestly not needed.
Needless to say, LoSRH isn’t a grand epic tale in which the heroes are striving to overcome great odds. Instead, the heroes are mundane and fairly pathetic. For the most part the comic focuses on the “redundant” heroes, including Lazer Pony, who has the ability to fire lasers from behind his eyes. Mind you, his eyes are not immune to his lasers, so the first time he used his power he went blind. Oh, and he’s also such an idiot that Forrest Gump looks like a genius in comparison. His compatriots (and flatmates) include Good Girl, whose backstory is she was a good girl who was mistakenly exorcised by a priest… and thus became too good. At least, until her halo comes off. And there’s Gyrognome, their landlord, and Buckaress, whose only abilities are the Most Common Super Power and being the group’s straight woman.
If LoSHR has a flaw, it’s that it has suffered character-creep. The comic periodically gives us glimpses at some of the other heroes (such as A-lister Asstronomicus, whose chin has so deep a cleft he should wear underpants on his face), or Flying Fox-Man (whose secret cave apparently is located underneath Lazer Pony’s rental home)… or for that matter the Z-rate villains who Lazer Pony has befriended. In addition, the female heroes tend to be someone two-dimensional (ironic, seeing they all possess the MCSP); admittedly, with Mary Sue (Lazer Pony’s girlfriend who only flaws are clumsiness and the inability to remain in a long-term relationship) this may be more a design feature than flaw.
The comic tends to switch between gag-a-day strips and short storylines that don’t seem to have any significant impact. The primary cast is unable to do anything effective, while the secondary cast has grown so great that there’s insufficient plot to go around. That said, the comic seems to enjoy poking fun at the superhero genre as a whole. Fortunately, the superhero genre has more than enough material that if all the comic did was ridicule the genre, it could update daily for years without repeating itself. And for that alone it’s worth reading.
Today’s the 10th Anniversary for Gina Biggs’ truly enjoyable webcomic Red String which I’ve gone on at length about in the past. While the comic is in the process of wrapping up as her varied characters prepare to graduate and move on in life, it is still a superb comic that has tackled such topics as persecution in school, slut-shaming, lesbianism, and the power of friendship without magical ponies. And if you’ve not read it? You definitely should, whether by picking up Biggs’ print compilation or reading the archives online.