Of all the reasons I’ve seen someone start up a webcomic (be it to tell a story they’ve had lurking in the back of their mind for the longest time, indulging in a whim for humor and jokes, or even to improve one’s artwork through the constant practice that comes with drawing on a regular basis), I must admit that the ironically-named Something Original takes the cake. The cartoonist, a young lady named Amanda (no last name given), just wanted to make a webcomic, and decided to create a journal comic about her life because she had no other ideas. (I kid you not. She states this in her very first comic.)
As such, she joins the likes of Jenny Breeden (The Devil’s Panties), Karen Ellis (Planet Karen), Jin Wicked (Crap I Drew On My Lunch Break) and other cartoonists who decided at some point to create a comic about their own lives in general and the ups and downs they go through. Of these, the only person who continually updates on a daily basis is Jenny Breedan, and to be honest the webcomic version of TDP can be repetitive at times. Much like her peers who’ve traveled this unoriginal path before her, Amanda indulges in showing her readers little snippets of her life, the occasional rant on things that annoy her, her boyfriend, school, and whatever else catches her whimsy. The end result can be be fun to read when she draws something that she feels passionate about.
Unfortunately, Amanda hasn’t exactly had the sort of life experiences that make for captivating reading. Something Original is cute and amusing, and is quite well drawn (even if she doesn’t care for her artistic style and wishes she could draw in a more “cartoony” style that didn’t take as long to put image to paper), but at times I get the feeling she struggles with ideas of what to draw (examples of this struggle including such noteworthy classics as gross dirty dishes and bleaching and cutting her hair). Add to that the intermittent nature of Amanda’s update schedule and I get the feeling that the lack of any real motivation for creating a comic outside of “I want to make a webcomic” is likely a leading cause for the frequent pauses in Amanda’s update schedule.
That’s not to say the comic’s not worth reading. There are times when Amanda hits the ball solidly, and shows a keen sense of humor. These little gems often make up for the comics that fall short. The comment section below the comic also give added insight into Amanda’s mindset (along with the periodic apology for not updating more often). Amanda also isn’t afraid to experiment with her art; while the majority of the comic is black-and-white (or greyscale), occasional color updates stand out and help the artwork come alive. I’ll admit, I wish Amanda would indulge in less copy-and-paste art, though fortunately Something Original avoids abusing CaP too badly. If Amanda could start updating more regularly (or even just start up a reliable update schedule) then I’d definitely recommend this comic. As it stands now, it’s worth a read through and then putting in the “check monthly” folder to read the handful of updates that might accumulate randomly each month.
While the contemporary fantasy comic Blip normally focuses on the life of primary protagonist K and the metaphysical battle between Heaven and Hell concerning if her life should be one of misery and pointlessness (Heaven) or creativity and happiness (Hell), I must admit I’ve been drawn into the recent story concerning K’s ex-boyfriend Bishop and the circumstances that led to his breakup with K. The initial revelation that Bishop was spending time with his ex-girlfriend Terry (along with her losing her job) seemed to be par for the course for K (with the forces of Heaven determined to destroy her life due to her lack of a destiny in a world where everything is preordained and free will is an illusion). It wouldn’t be until K’s three supernatural friends took a “peek” into Bishop’s mind (while deciding what revenge to pull on him for putting their friend through so much grief by cheating on her) that we learned the truth behind Bishop’s odd change of character.
In short, it was all a big misunderstanding, one aggravated by the angels sent by Heaven to torment K and ensure her life is miserable by blocking Bishop’s attempts to tell her what’s going on: Bishop wasn’t cheating on K but instead was helping Terry cope after she was diagnosed with cancer. Mind you, Bishop going behind K’s back to help Terry was idiotic and a violation of K’s trust. I’m not going to give him a free pass just because he’s trying to be decent to someone who apparently has no one else to turn to. But this does help build the background here, and turns this from just another volley in the ongoing battle between the the forces in Heaven who strive to ensure K’s life remains one of banality and unhappiness, and the forces of Hell whose motivations in helping K find happiness remain ambiguous. Instead, we’re given glimpses into wider repercussions, and even the guilt, excuses, and shifting of blame from Bishop as he tried to cope both with losing K and with Terry’s fight with cancer.
Recent strips have shifted focus once more, taking a closer look at Terry’s own past and her previous relationship with Bishop… as well as one last strip showing Kerry fading and finally a walk in the light to gates… and Bishop standing over a coffin. Even though I expected it, cartoonist Sage Leaves managed to craft a powerful and touching comic that hit hard, both with the joy Terry felt as she left her pain and suffering behind, and of Bishop, alone, staring at the coffin. Leading up to that last comic, we were given glimpses of Bishop as Terry’s stalker until finally he saves her from being assaulted, and I’m left wondering something. Bishop struggled so hard to remain in Terry’s life, no matter how hard she tried to push him away. Why then did he just blithely let K abandon him? We have a man who let himself be beaten to protect a girl who no longer loved him. I have to wonder if there’s still some spark of that man in him when it comes to K. Because the angels might be able to block e-mails and text messages to K explaining what happened… but can they honestly stop him from seeing her in person?
Given the sheer number of amateur webcomics out there, it is easy for critics to dismiss it as a niche product that will never amount to anything (despite the fact that several professional cartoonists, including Phil Foglio and Colleen Doran, have started posting their comics online as the primary means of gaining readership). Despite the naysayers, a number of webcomics have achieved some level of fame and notoriety over the years, with the sardonic humor stick-figure comic xkcd leading the pack. But even with my own personal belief that webcomics will be the future medium that print comics will use to gain new readership, I was surprised to see Bill Amend of the newspaper comic FoxTrot posting a guest comic on xkcd while Randall Munroe deals with a serious family illness. Amend proves to be a good fit for a guest cartoonist and jumps in with both feet to show he’s every bit equal to the task of filling Munroe’s shoes for a day while remaining true to his own brand of quirky humor.
One of the more amusing things I enjoyed about the zombie apocalypse comic dead winter was the weapon of choice for one of the two primary protagonists, Liz. Normally when you think of a zombie apocalypse you think of shotguns and handguns as the hero’s weapon of choice… or chainsaws if the protagonist has lost his hand. With Liz, she used a mop. More specifically, she used the mop that she used at her job, and which she claimed for herself when she marched into her workplace and quit (while her boss was being overwhelmed by zombies). While Liz has upgraded to a laser-sighted handgun (and had both Black Monday and Alice giving her pointers on how to shoot), it’s difficult to think of her without that mop in hand.
Thus this latest update, with our being given a glimpse at Liz’s mother Laura fighting zombies off with a broom (while her father left a voice message on Liz’s cell phone) was especially fun and reminiscent of earlier strips. It’s plain to see who Liz takes after, with Laura stowing the broom in the back of her car as they prepare to drive off. As this was still early on in the zombie apocalypse, it also hints that Laura may actually know of her husband’s involvement in organized crime, if not on the specifics of the “hunting game” that first introduced us to Black Monday and his feud against the mob boss who forced him to kill for his amusement. At the very least she doesn’t blink twice at her husband gunning down zombies while calmly talking on the phone.
Black Monday’s presence at the back of panel nine was also nicely done. While Black Monday has shown flashes of a complex moral code, he initially saved Liz to get to her father (who works for the mob boss he wants to kill). S. Dave Shabet avoided any unnecessary dialogue or thought bubbles, allowing Black Monday’s presence to exist more as foreshadowing than anything else. The flashback fades are also nicely done, using Liz’s face as the framing mechanism to move from the call to the scene and back again. The second fade, with her fiance Trevor’s phone call, used a slightly different mechanism with the fall itself transforming into the wall, and Trevor’s sound bubble helping transition the change of venue. The combination helps transform what could have been a static and uninteresting scene into a vibrant, living moment where we’re shown, not told, what happens.
There are times when my cynicism gets the better of me. When I wrote my Secant on Joy’s miscarriage in Namir Deiter last week I allowed other comics’ poorly-written attempts to tell this type of story to taint my opinion on how Isabel Marks would handle this topic. I was wrong. Marks’ latest chapter has been a touching glimpse into the anguish and grief one feels when an unborn child is lost. It’s a topic I actually am acquainted with through close friends I care for deeply… and to be honest, it hurts. It’s something that people don’t talk about. And I respect Marks for her courage in telling this tale. In doing so, she not only honors those people who’ve lost unborn children, but also has helped restore some of the humanity that’s slowly leached away from her characters. While I still have concerns with how Isaac (Joy’s boyfriend) will handle this, when he learns what happened… I have to hope that she’ll treat this part of the story as respectfully as Joy’s. Because the pain of a miscarriage isn’t carried by the mother alone; it is shared by the father… and the friends as well.
Ten years ago (plus a month or so) I pulled a URL off of a cork bulletin board at a little gift shop in downtown Haverhill and was quickly dragged into a contemporary fantasy world where magic was visibly real and young women were forced to turn into panthers due to an ancient curse. While I was busy falling in love with that comic (Clan of the Cats) and a sister comic that it crossed over with (College Roomies from Hell), another comic was quietly starting up (though I could have sworn it started in 1999). Much like a number of older webcomics, the early artwork was rough and the storyline involved silliness and light stories, but over time the anthropomorphic fantasy comic Dan and Mab’s Furry Adventures grew into something special, and while I’ve fallen out of love with several older comics over the years, DFMA has managed to excel, combining humor and drama (along with occasional breaches of the fourth wall) into a tasty alloy that rarely feels forced or leaves me wanting to smack my head into the wall. Thank you, Amber M. Panyko. I know you don’t always think highly of your work, but the webcomic world would be less fun without your comic to brighten our days. Happy 10th Anniversary, DMFA!
To continue with my theme of failing relationships, the most recent Megatokyo update helped solidify my belief that the romance between reformed otaku Piro and voice actress Nanasawa Kimiko is floundering; whether the two remain firmly entrenched in that dire pit of failed romances known as the Friendship Zone, or if Nanasawa is merely biding her time and waiting for Piro to give up remains to be seen. Last chapter’s revelation that Piro and Nanasawa haven’t seen each other for a week has been refined further with Hayasaka Erika’s comments on how her roommate has been paying scant attention to Piro. This actually helps explain away some of Piro’s ire at Ping’s interruption of his brunch with Nanasawa, the first time he had to be with her since the night Tohya Miho disappeared.
What’s worse? That brunch get-together was to talk about Piro’s portfolio, to get him a job, as was her visit with Piro that evening. It’s as if she started dating him out of guilt (if you can call going out with her, Hayasaka, and Largo as a group a “date”) over what she said to him a couple weeks back. Hayasaka even called it even further back: Nanasawa shoves guys away, and if they stick around she tries to smother them. Piro’s lasted through both… and it makes me wonder if Nanasawa is now trying to starve their budding relationship… ignoring Piro until finally he gives up. Her foray into the nightclub Cave of Evil to find Tohya Miho takes on a new meaning as well: she sought Tohya out not because there is no closure between Piro and Tohya… but because subconsciously she’s hoping there’s still something there so she can pawn Piro off and be alone once more. Part of this is situational, of course; if Nanasawa’s job hadn’t become so hectic, then perhaps this budding relationship would have time to actually blossom.
But there’s been plenty of opportunities for them to get together, if only for a few minutes. Piro could have escorted her home from work. They could have gotten together for a quick dinner after she got out of work. He could have swung by for coffee. Instead, we have brief calls and a relationship thirsting for water and withering on the vine. How much of the blame lies with Piro for being too passive, and how much with Nanasawa for not taking the initiative remains to be seen. But the contrast between Piro and Nanasawa and Piro and Tohya is striking: with the former, there seems to be little passion or emotion, while the latter… there is so much emotion between Piro and Tohya it can be painful to watch. And while this chapter deals finally with the mysteries that surround Tohya Miho… I have to think that this is Piro’s chance to shine as well with all of the other actors removing themselves from the stage, leaving Piro and Tohya alone for a long-awaited duet. Zombies need not apply.