For a while now it’s felt like transformation comic Misfile has been spinning its wheels, at least when it comes to the primary protagonists Ash and Emily. Of late it even feels more like Ash is a girl who says she was a boy, rather than a boy trapped in a girl’s body; there’s been no real sense of body horror (the sense of Ash losing her very identity as a male) or even Ash making small mistakes that a guy would make in her situation. Nor has the Ash/Emily relationship saga gone anywhere; outside of a few brief teases and some emotional moments a couple years ago, they’ve settled firmly into the Friendship Zone (though considering both are girls and Em doesn’t identify as gay, that’s not as much of a concern as you’d think).
So it’s probably no surprise I have been identifying with the secondary cast of Misfile; the ongoing drama with the varied angels that have descended into Ash’s life has proven to be of much greater interest. Of particular interest is Rumisiel’s personal little antagonist, Cassiel, who has been slowly growing more sympathetic the longer we know her. Her antagonism toward Rumisiel is somewhat amusing when you consider how alike the two characters are (both have a fondness for partying and humans), and I must admit I’d love to hear sometime her side of the story about her relationship with Rumisiel and their breakup.
When you consider this is a many-thousands-year-old entity that’s only taken the form of humanity to fit in, her personality strongly suits her setting; she acts the perfect spoiled teenage brat, both in dialogue and in actions. (In many ways, it feels like the angels are more human than some of the human characters here; at the very least more human than Ash and Em.) But it is Cassiel’s reaching out to the teenage girl Eponine that has truly fleshed out her character. I’ll admit I felt bad for her when she got dragged into the whole murdered angel business… but now? I think I might actually be beginning to like her, if only a little. It’ll be interesting to see what she does in the face of this friendship that is forming, and I hope to see more of it in the future.
As any long-time reader of Tangents knows, I don’t particularly like it when cartoonists use Copy-and-Paste artwork. Part of this lies with the fact that it is through practice and repetition that artists improve their artistic talents; by using CaP, webcartoonists ultimately cheat both themselves and their readers. That’s not to say that CaP doesn’t have a place in artwork when used in moderation (and primarily for background elements or patterns). At first glimpse the artwork in today’s Questionable Content looks to be CaP (and to be honest, Jeph Jacques utilizes Copy-and-Paste frequently for his background art).
But looking closer there are subtle differences in each panel; each of the five characters moves slightly in each panel, with different body postures and facial expressions culminating in the final strip. Any hack can utilize CaP to save time. It is only the best of artists who can draw the same panel four times (with perhaps the basic shapes copied before being expanded upon) and make it appear like Copy-and-Paste when in fact each panel is something new. My hat’s off to Jacques, for pulling the wool over my eyes, and masterfully creating the illusion of stillness while retaining movement and life for each panel.
There are times I wish I wasn’t inept when it comes to learning foreign languages, especially as my GPA in high school and college suffered because of the education system’s insistence that children take several years of language studies to “round out” the person. My grades in these courses would take a parabolic curve downward, starting with a low C and ending in grades that cannot be depicted even through Euclidean mathematics. Luckily for me, most webcomics are either in English or are translated at some point into English to help expand readership. This is fortunately the case with Maliki the webcomic, a quaint little comic in French that shows what I assume to be a fictionalized depiction of the cartoonist’s life, along with her cats and whatever else manages to catch her fancy.
Unfortunately, only a fraction of the nearly 300 comics in the French archives have been translated into English (just about ten percent, in fact). This is a shame because from the handful of comics I’ve scanned in the French archives (mind you with me having barely any idea of what’s being said seeing that French is one of several languages I was unable to learn), there are definite signs that there’s actual storylines to be had (along with a most amusing flash animation of the cartoonist watching Peter Jackson’s King Kong; despite my not knowing what was being said, I was able to match the background sound effects with the movie itself… and understand Maliki’s reactions to the movie even if I had little idea of what’s being said).
Needless to say, this leaves me with a dilemma. Much like the German webcomic She !s Me, I’m left with an incomplete picture of what’s going on here. While the English-language section has nearly reached the critical mass I consider the point when a comic is viable, it would appear that the strips chosen for translation were done so to showcase those strips the cartoonist considers her favorites or the most humorous rather than those that help paint a picture to better showcase what Maliki is about. So we get little things like rants against chain letters (among other topics) and childhood anecdotes and of course the inevitable cat-related hijinks (which can be rather imaginatively depicted, as that last link demonstrates).
According to her website, the cartoonist has actually managed to print three French-language compilations of her comics. It seems the cartoonist hopes to build enough of an English readership to do the same in the various English-speaking nations (I’m not going to be arrogant enough to assume her plans are solely for the U.S., seeing that Britain is almost the skip of a stone away north of Normandy). And I will admit there is a bit of potential here; the comic is well-drawn, imaginative, and considerable charm. For any of my readers who can read French, I definitely recommend this comic; for those of us who (for one reason or another) never learned French, the English language translations are quaint, but the comic itself may seem confusing until more pieces (especially the earlier comics that lay Maliki’s foundation) are translated.
One of the side-benefits that comes with drawing a webcomic (especially one that updates fairly frequently) is the improvement of one’s artistic skills. (Mind you, this can be a two-sided coin, as artists rarely like their earlier work due to the rougher nature of that early work.) While watching an artist strive constantly to improve his or her work is enjoyable, you risk the occasional artistic stumble as artists try new things, as recent updates of Jeph Jacques’ surreal slice-of-life webcomic Questionable Content reveals. I can understand Jacques is trying to age his older characters; unfortunately, he’s fallen short of the mark when adding age-lines to Marten’s mom (especially as her previous appearance didn’t bother with these, resulting in a rather youthful-looking mother back then). The age-lines end up looking more like a thin mustache; the lines under her eyes are more natural-looking, but doubtlessly Jacques felt that alone they wouldn’t have differentiated her from Hallelore or Marten (both of whom don’t get enough sleep). In this case, less would have been more; a subtle aging of Marten’s mom would definitely have worked better, as would lightening the age-lines around her mouth to hint at their appearance.
In many ways I find Something Positive to be a bit of a guilty pleasure among my webcomic readings. Randy Milholland seems to delight in tossing out disturbing twists that you laugh nervously at while reading; in many ways I relate it to hearing a salacious joke that you laugh at while a little voice in your head says “I can’t believe I’m laughing, what’s wrong with me?” But every so often Milholland pulls a different rabbit out of his hat of many tricks (before putting it on a handy snowman that will likely go off on a frosty holicidal rampage) and manages to surprise us with a moment of heartwarming and sweetness. Watching this happen with the merry sociopath Aubrey (and her happily-whipped husband Jason) is just icicles driven into the cake.
In a move that is sure to delight fans of both S*P and Girls with Slingshots it seems Davan has finally found a home for the last of Choo-Choo Bear and Sprinkles’ litter, with Aubrey and Jason’s adoptive daughter Pamjee. Showing that the TSA not only misses loaded pistols in the laptop bags of Texan businessmen but boneless felines as well, the kitten snuck into Davan’s suitcase (with a handy mouse snack) in preparation for the trip. As the story commenced, Milholland managed to switch between sweet and scary with an ease that years of twisting the knife into the sides of readers has only honed to an art.
As we watch Davan play straight man to Aubrey’s twisted sense of humor (I still have no idea how she and Jason managed to get approved to adopt a child, and it’s too late at night to do an archive crawl) we also get small doses of sweetness with Pamjee and our semi-hairless jelly-kitten getting to know one another. Obviously Milholland is concerned that too much cuteness would result in his readership suffering from insulin shock; despite this, the last few panels of this story go tumbling down the path of cuteness into a crowning moment of aww… with Pamjee naming the kitten “Woogie.” This is par for the course with Milholland, with sociopathy cheek and jowl with heartwarming, and misanthropy writ large at the same time gentle charm rises to the fore. If there’s something Milholland has perfected in nine years of webcomicking, it’s keeping his fans guessing. And we’d have it no other way.
Given that it is the Season (with all of the insanity and horror that comes with it; dread Cthulhu has refused to rise from the oceans for decades now because of humanity’s insistence in invoking this yearly ceremony that drives most quite mad), I thought the latest SSDD comic was most apt at describing my own feelings concerning this time of year. To be honest, I have no idea how people who work retail are able to do so; nonstop Christmas music has driven me from stores, forced me to turn off televisions and radios, and pretty much exile myself for several months until finally the dread music stops. (It’s not even the music itself that I hate; I have downloaded several Anime Music Videos set to various Christmas songs that I rather enjoy. On my terms.) Perhaps it’s just the thought of people going nuts because of the drone of Christmas music in the background appeals to the cynic in me, somehow. And whatever else the rest of this short “Christmas story” plays, Alan Foreman has managed to make my day with this sardonic nod at something that ends up annoying most of us at some point in the Season.