Monthly Archives: October 2010
“Darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse.” — Japanese proverb
There’s something deeply mysterious about lighthouses. Part of it is the setting. They’re generally located in areas remote from town centers: up atop rocky cliffs, down windy roads, and on desolate islands — some occupied by prisoners. Their very nature recalls darkness, chilliness, and desolation. It’s no wonder that there are more than a few people who are convinced that more than a few of them are haunted.
Today’s webcomic review deals with a girl who must keep the fires burning at her lighthouse … only it’s not only the encroaching darkness she must keep at bay. In The Watcher of Yaathagggu by Robyn Seale, there are horrors that live beyond the fading edges of the lighthouse beacon lights.
Earlier, reader “David” mentioned on my original Blade Kitten post, “You do realize that this title KILLED the studio don’t you? Closed down and already forgotten.” I went to check the Krome Studios wiki entry, and he was right: Krome Studios, Australia’s largest video game developer, ended operations last week, with Blade Kitten (based on the webcomic) being one of the last two titles. (The last title was the video game adaptation of Legend of the Guardians: the Owls of Ga’Hoole. It probably wasn’t a good idea to latch your fortunes onto that underperforming movie, either.)
So did Blade Kitten kill Krome? So far, there hasn’t been a mass outrage over it, though there’s at least one person who seems to think so. The lesson, I suppose, is that if you’re going to be making video games out of webcomics, maybe pick up a property people might have heard of beforehand.
… because the day of the micropayments is here.
Shaenon K. Garrity’s controversial Ten Things to Know About the Future of Comics has been making waves lately. Some readers agree with the points presented. Judging from the comments and reactions, though, many more take issue, partially because the tone of the entire list was rather confrontational. Gary Tyrrell of Fleen was especially affected when she started talking about webcomics. Specifically:
5. But there is a canon. As best I can determine, the majority of comics-loving people under 30 have at least a passing familiarity with the following:
Calvin & Hobbes
…and a handful of webcomics, but the latest big thing in webcomics shifts so frequently that I can’t even add titans like Penny Arcade and xkcd to the list with any confidence.
Is this the canon I would have chosen to lead the next generation into the great big beautiful tomorrow of comics? Probably not, but it’s not bad. Definitely better than the canon I cut my teeth on, which contained far more Batman than was healthy for the nerds of Generation X.
I don’t want to sound like I’m challenging Ms. Garrity’s expertise on the matter. She is, after all, managing editor at Viz Comics, which means that she has a better feel for the market than I do, as well as a webcomic creator in her own right. However, that list of stuff that under-30 readers have a familiarity with seems completely arbitrary. First of all… that list is hardly a very good representation of “general comic knowledge.” At least three of those (Death Note, Naruto, Watchmen) are on there because there was a TV show or a movie made out of them. Which is then contradicted by Ms. Garrity two points when she says that “Superheroes are not comic book characters” because people know them from other media.
(Incidentally, I have a weird feeling that Scott Pilgrim, the darling of the “comics aren’t for kids anymore” crowd, would have made that same list if the movie hadn’t bombed hard in theaters.)
But back to webcomics. Here’s something to consider: the top circulating webcomics get 680,000 (Penny Arcade) to 1.4 million (xkcd) unique visitors. Can most manga, which Ms. Garrity has promoted as the way of the future, really top that? Especially when 2010 has been marked with stories of how sales of manga comics have been declining?
But how about penetration with regards to public perception? I’d say it’s fairly strong at the moment. It was Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik who made Time‘s 100 People list, not Masashi Kishimoto (creator of Naruto, the top manga property of 2010, according to ICv2.com).
I will concede that Ms. Garrity at least raises many interesting things to think about, eventhough webcomics were once again given the “secondary citizen” status in a discussion about the future of webcomics. And from a webcomic veteran, too! First Joey Manley and now Shaenon Garrity? Personally, I think the future of webcomics is pretty bright, PHENOMENALLY BRIGHT, despite my own sometimes dour observations on this site.
So, as a response — mostly good natured — here’s my own list of Ten Things to Know About Webcomics, or 90% of this is stuff I’m pulling out of my butt but should make a handsome list to post on your kitchen refrigerator:
1.) Boys will eventually find a way to make it in webcomics. Unencumbered from the boys’ club system of the comic shop and the traditional bricks-n-mortar publishers, female webcomic creators have flourished. Kate Beaton, Meredith Gran, and Spike Trotman are probably even more well known that most of their male counterparts.
Boys? You need to step up your games.
2.) The webcomic canon will, in fact, replace the existing comics canon. Despite the breadth and variety of webcomics out there, plenty standards fuel the common discussion in webcomic threads. Comics like Penny Arcade, xkcd, Questionable Content, Megatokyo, MSPaint Adventures, Achewood, Perry Bible Fellowship, Hark! A Vagrant … and yes, CAD. You know what? I think that more people read these comics than read actual manga.
However, I do agree that manga does get a better grip in the consciousness of young people because its support in other media. Hence….
3.) Webcomic creators need to be picked up to be translated in other media — TV, movies, video games. Look, this is the number one reason superhero comics and manga are recognized by the public more than webcomics. Superman would not ever have gotten the kind of traction he did if not for radio shows. Naruto would be no where near as popular if it wasn’t for anime. Webcomics are approaching the day when they become valuable media properties. Right now, the foot in the door is video games, the infant media market which, thanks to the burgeoning indie games sector, has lowered the barriers to entry. Penny Arcade and Blade Kitten are there already, latching on the new media of choice for the new millennium like Superman did during the early days of radio. Who will join them?
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South Park once did a two-parter called “Pandemic” and “Pandemic 2: The Startling.” It was partially a parody of horror movies, partially a parody of Cloverfield. While I don’t remember much about the episodes, I have a vivid memory of the central joke: live action footage of guinea pigs. The city of South Park gets invaded by supposedly giant, fearsome monsters who are, in reality, adorable critters with twitchy noses, oftentimes wearing silly costumes — like the Guinea Pirate (a guinea pig in a pirate hat) and Guinea-saurus Rex (a guinea pig in a dinosaur outfit).
I remember when these episodes were released, fans were complaining that this was a pretty flimsy premise to base a two-parter on. Now, imagine that same episode, only in webcomic form… and the guinea pigs are limited to wearing only one costume. What you’d get is something very close to Scott Ferguson’s Motokool.
If you have ever heard of Buster Brown, it’s probably because of the popular line of kid’s shoes. But did you know that the shoes were named after a popular comic strip character, which was in turn named after an infamous child star who would become one of the silent film era’s greatest stars: Buster Keaton? It’s true!
Nah, it’s not webcomics or big crossovers or the usual culprits for once. Over at The Beat, there’s a new theory: too many good reviews.
The general crap economy and general malaise among many comics series are mentioned, and a new threat is raised: too many comics that were lauded on the internet. According to a theory espoused by several commenters, over the last two or three years, a whole class of must read books were promoted by internet reviewers — and a lot of people got on board, only to find they are now on “bored.” reader “QwayLewd” advances the theory:
I’ve cut way back, but it’s more to do with my personal stack problem. I went on a buying orgy the last 3-5 years, spurred on, to no small degree, by iFanboy and other online communities and podcasts. I sloooowwly realized the need to downshift because of that finite resource: my time. Have others experienced this? Is there a slow deflation of the comics bubble that resulted from the “new golden age” of the past several years.
Reader “AvengersAssemble” backs it up:
I completely agree! The internet reviews and online trade buying made it so simple to find a good jumping on point!
Some 2 years ago I read the one or other great-awesome-cheering review and instantly bought 3-4 trades to get in and catch up.
It was just during the last 1 1/2 years, I more and more realized, how crappy those titles have gotten /been-are at some times.
We really are onto something, aren’t we?
I sorta sympathize with The Beat’s and “QwayLewd”‘s position. It’s why I don’t subscribe to the general theory that “only good webcomics should be reviewed” … hence why this site makes serious effort to mix negative reviews in with my positive ones to temper the perspective.
I do wonder though: can webcomics also fall victim to the same malaise? Good word of mouth only gets readers so far before the fatigue sets in. And remember that qualifier that “QwayLewd” put in his quote: it isn’t so much the economy as it is “time.” That’s a limitation you can’t escape whether you pick up a comic from the store or read it on the internet.
In fact, I wonder if the effect may be magnified in webcomic world. After all, there’s probably a thousand webcomics for every print comic out there. Which means way more recommendations from blogs like the Webcomic Overlook and online communities on the hot new thing to read. Does the online nature of webcomics accelerate readers’ fatigue?
“The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that hand! The window! The window!” — H. P. Lovecraft
I’ve got a confession to make. By an large, I am not that huge a fan of H.P. Lovecraft. I can count the short stories I’ve read on one hand: “Dagon,” “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” and parts of “Call of Cthulhu” (which I tried to reread before writing this review). I also generally liked the movie Dagon, which was apparently based on a different short story entitled “The Shadow Over Innsmouth.” (Dagon was probably deemed the catchier title by studio execs.)
However, I understand why there are plenty of Lovecraft admirers, whose ranks include Neil Gaiman, Benecio Del Toro, Stephen King, and the members of Metallica. The horror imagery is creative, enduring, and highly influential. Movies like Alien, comics like Hellboy, and games like Halo 3 are covered with Lovecraft’s fingerprints. No wonder the internet’s in love with him. Google “Cthulhu,” Lovecraft’s infamous deity with the “pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque scaly body with rudimentary wings”, and you get 4.3 million results. Meanwhile, “Leopold Bloom” only gets you 88,900 results. Take that, Joyceans!
Still, I’m man enough to admit that I’m a relative newcomer to the Lovecraft mythos. Yet, here I am, reviewing Larry Latham’s Lovecraft Is Missing. Maybe I’m not the right guy, stripped as I am of any Trekkie-like obsessive knowledge of the Lovecraft mythos. But the new Star Trek movie thrilled both hardcore Trekkies and newcomers alike. Dare I hope against all hopes that Lovecraft Is Missing provides a gateway to the world of eldritch horrors for the uninitiated? (Incidentally, the phrase “eldritch horrors” will pop up multiple times in this review. It’s sort of required when you’re writing something about Lovecraft.)