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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Grumpy Cat grumpily absconds with Vagrant meme

Robot 6 reports controversy surrounding a Grumpy Cat T-shirt. Being a person of the Generation X persuasion, everything about it astounds and confuses me, but apparently Kate Beaton was involved. In summary:

Among the most popular shirts, Gawker points out, is one that combines a photo of Grumpy Cat with the caption “I HAD FUN ONCE/IT WAS AWFUL,” which, after a stop off at Reddit, where it became attached to the feline, actually originated with cartoonist Kate Beaton’s popular webcomic Hark! A Vagrant! Gawker, which concluded that the best way to get rich from memes is to “steal other memes,” contacted Beaton for her take.

Things I find baffling:

1.) That people are willing wearing an internet meme on a gray shirt
2.) That Kate Beaton apparently had a Gawker?
3.) That there’s even such a thing as Gawker?
4.) That the entire quote I posted above would baffle and confuse English teachers from 20 years ago.

For the record, Ms. Beaton seems to be cool with it:

“No, I never authorized anything. And some people will argue that I never wrote the joke, that it’s ‘been around forever,’ she tells the website. “But I made a comic, and one panel became a meme, and that’s fine. The nature of a joke is to take on a life of its own. At some point, the meme was applied to Grumpy Cat, where it fit well. It is only how Grumpy Cat is aggressive about protecting their brand with that joke as part of it that has ever rubbed me the wrong way.”

Also, apparently the people behind Grumpy Cat said something like, “We’ve got a saying over here in team meme: ‘Respect the cat,'” and it makes me weep for our generation.

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DC asks artists to draw Harley Quinn … and controversy

A recent contest by DC has drawn the condemnation of no less than American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness. Man, that is, like, some high-level people getting irritated! My earlier post about an angry Rich Stevens? Absolutely pales in comparison.

Robot 6 reports:

Their comments capped off a week of growing criticism about the panel, which Harley Quinn co-writer Jimmy Palmiotti clarified on Tuesday is part of a surreal dream sequence intended to have “a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach.”

“We believe that instead of making light of suicide, DC Comics could have used this opportunity to host a contest looking for artists to depict a hopeful message that there is help for those in crisis” the three groups said in a joint statement, published by USA Today and The Huffington Post. “This would have been a positive message to send, especially to young readers,” the statement continued. “On behalf of the tens of millions of people who have lost a loved one to suicide, this contest is extremely insensitive, and potentially dangerous. We know from research that graphic and sensational depictions of suicide can contribute to contagion.”

Which in turn caused DC Comics to release an apology.

Here’s the panel in question as drawn by webcomic creator Philip M. Jackson, who draws the furry webcomic Sequential Art (reviewed here):

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EDIT: Ah, my reading comprehension is terrible today! The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness were not railing against Mr. Jackson’s panel (that was just an example of one of the entries, perhaps the tamest one) but against the contest itself, which is still ongoing.

So here was a glimpse into the script:

PANEL 1
Harley is on top of a building, holding a large DETACHED cellphone tower in her hands as lightning is striking just about everywhere except her tower. She is looking at us like she cannot believe what she is doing. Beside herself. Not happy.

PANEL 2
Harley is sitting in an alligator pond, on a little island with a suit of raw chicken on, rolling her eyes like once again, she cannot believe where she has found herself. We see the alligators ignoring her.

PANEL 3
Harley is sitting in an open whale mouth, tickling the inside of the whale’s mouth with a feather. She is ecstatic and happy, like this is the most fun ever.

PANEL 4
Harley sitting naked in a bathtub with toasters, blow dryers, blenders, appliances all dangling above the bathtub and she has a cord that will release them all. We are watching the moment before the inevitable death. Her expression is one of “oh well, guess that’s it for me” and she has resigned herself to the moment that is going to happen.
– See more at: http://www.dccomics.com/node/305151#sthash.13tn1bO4.dpuf

Jimmy Palmiotti addressed the controversy with the following statement:

I should have also mentioned we were thinking a Mad magazine/Looney Tunes approach was what we were looking for. We thought it was obvious with the whale and chicken suit, and so on, but learned it was not. I am sorry for those who took offense, our intentions were always to make this a fun and silly book that broke the 4th wall, and head into issue 1 with a ongoing story/adventure that is a lot like the past Powergirl series we did.

I’ve actually retooled this post pretty majorly due to my blunder (which originally implied that Philip M. Jackson had won the contest) (which I think he should, by the way).

Soooo… now that there’s some distance… that PAX East thing

From the Producer of Law and Order

You know, I debated a while on if I should report this or even bring it up. I missed the controversy for a couple of days as I was off doing something that weekend. Also, I was a little brained by my Homestuck marathon. But… this being a site that does report on the big going ons in webcomics and this being perhaps the biggest thing to happen in a while… something happened last week at PAX East.

Rachel Edidin discusses things in her Wired piece, “Why I’m Never Going Back to Penny Arcade Expo” (which should clue you in as to what this is going to refer to):

… on Monday at PAX, in front of an audience of thousands, Krahulik told business manager Robert Khoo that he regretted pulling the Dickwolves merchandise from the Penny Arcade store — merchandise he had created as a “screw you” to rape survivors who had had the temerity to complain about a comic strip. While the audience burst into applause, Khoo nodded sagely and said that now they knew better; now they would just leave it and not engage.

This prompted quick response from online types (from who I understand were primarily from Tumblr, but this is second hand knowledge and I have no energy to do a search on this). There was even a response from fellow webcomic creator Rich Stevens from Diesel Sweeties who called them “bullies” and “Rush Limbaugh with tattoos”:

Cartoonist Rich Stevens of Diesel Sweeties reached out to WIRED when he heard we planned to report on the PAX incident. “It’s just so disappointing to see people I’ve known since we were all new and broke turn out to be such tone-deaf, old man bullies. He’s Rush Limbaugh with tattoos. I could get over the original comic if they’d just moved on or apologized, but they had to make merchandise out of rape just to poke back at people and then encourage fans to wear it to a convention that supposedly has pro-woman policies,” said Stevens.

“It’s like he never got the point of growing up having been bullied as a kid. You’re supposed to get older and not repeat it … I wish more people in our field would be open about this, but I think there is a lot of social and economic pressure not to be… I really want to let them know that not everyone in webcomics is scared to stand up to them.”

Again, I was willing to ignore this, but the core of it is a debate that I think will affect webcomics for years to come: free speech vs. responsibility. Penny Arcade, and — let’s face it — a lot of webcomics hit the big time because they were unencumbered by the censorship issues that tamp down the creativity in the more mainstream print fields. The early jokes were how Garfield had been reduced to Monday and lasagna jokes because that’s all he was allowed to do.

But now we’ve reached the point where, while webcomics aren’t exactly mainstream, they’re mainstream enough to garner attention. Most don’t seem to have a problem with the original comic so much as the follow-up responses from the Penny Arcade guys have been really rather cruel.

And, well, compounding that issue are that Krahulik and Holkins aren’t young guys trying to make it in the world anymore. I mentioned during the Strip Search reviews that attempts at being edgy just seemed forced. On the other hand, if Penny Arcade were somehow neutered of that edge? Well… then it’s not Penny Arcade anymore.

Again, there’s no easy solution, as the “free speech vs. responsibility” thing easily boils down to “young and wild forever vs. grow up already.”

On the other hand… I really should’ve gone to CafePress and made a bunch of these shirts for realsies, dontchathink?

WCO #231: MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck (Act 5)

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(This is Part 2 of the massive Homestuck review. Click here for Part 1, covering Acts 1-4.)

I get it.

I totally get it. The appeal of the trolls, I mean.

When Andrew Hussie’s MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck started out, the characters could be best described as perhaps being tied to one personality trait. John is nerdy, Rose is gothy, Dave is cool, and Jade is sunny. They’re pleasant enough protagonists, but they’re pretty much video game heroes. Whether you’re Master Chief, the marine from Doom, Mario, Sonic, or the guy from BioShock, the main character is typically a stand-in for the player (or in this case, the reader). There has to be enough wiggle room for you to, in a way, become that character.

The trolls are different. I have a weird feeling that when Hussie started off Chapter 5, he was intentionally trying to tax the reader’s patience. We’ve been following the same four characters for four whole acts, when all of the sudden they disappear and are replaced by twelve all new characters that we hadn’t been invested in at all. Now, as an avid reader of fantasy novels, I’m pretty used to chapters where we abandon our main characters for long stretches to flesh out and establish new characters and communities. I have a feeling, though, that when this act came out, long time readers were throwing their hands up in disgust but about, say, the fifth troll introduction.

Yet, at the same time, the trolls ended up becoming the most visible symbol of Homestuck. I remember distinctly when the initial supporters (usually posting some variation of “Wake up, boy”) gave way to the cavalcade of troll fan art and cosplayers. I’d read some Homestuck before, though I’d stopped before even the end of Act 1. And I remember scratching my head, thinking, “Wait. This is the same webcomic?”

All the same, I totally get it.

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(NOTE: The following review will compare Homestuck to friggin’ James Joyce and George Bernard Shaw. For readers with low tolerance for pompous malarkey, discretion is advised. Then again, PBS and Tor Books’ Mordecai Knode made the same comparison, so nyeh!)

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Battlepug wins the 2013 Harvey Awards for Best Online Comics Work

The Harvey Awards were announced this weekend at the Baltimore Comic-Con. Among those were the award for Best Online Comics Work, which generally has gone to works that are more easily identifiable as webcomics than, say, the Eisner Award winners. Past winners, for example, include American Elf, PvP, Perry Bible Fellowship, and Hark! A Vagrant.

This time, the award’s going to a large dog, a Conan the Barbarian fellow, and a naked lady telling the story. That’s right: Mike Norton picks up a Harvey Award in addition to his already-won Eisner for Battlepug. The other nominees included Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin for Bandette, Lora Innes for The Dreamer, Noelle Stevenson for Nimona, and Dave Kellett for Sheldon.

(h/t Robot 6)

Digital Comic Overlook #5: Batman ’66 #1-9

dco

So, kids, once upon a time there was this TV show in 1966. It featured a somewhat pudgy guy in a Batman outfit and a teen sidekick in short pants. He was such a great detective that one time he foiled a sea crime, and deduced that because it took place in the “sea”, it was a clue to the letter “C”, which means one of the culprits was “Catwoman.” Giant letters like “POW!” and “BAM!” would show up on the screen during fights, there was a catchy as hell theme song, and Gotham was sunny Santa Barbara, California, for some reason.

I am talking, of course, about Electro Woman and Dyna Girl.

No… wait! I mean Batman. Despite repeated attempts over the last three decades to turn the Dynamic Duo into a grim Dark Knight, and despite the show not being available on DVD due to entangled rights issues, no one has ever been able to fully erase the goofy fun and colorful campiness of the megapopular 1960’s TV show. I wasn’t around back then, obviously. Guys, I’m old… just not that old. However, I did catch whole runs of the show back when it was on FX. (This back in the day when that channel was promoting itself as an upscale lifestyle network and not a gritty drama network. It’s… a weird fit either way.) In my opinion, the show got a lot right. It had the best ever live-action depictions of both the Riddler and the Penguin, and it captured the wacky Silver Age feel that comic creators are desperate to recreate these days.

The show’s spirit shows up every so often, partly because a lot of comic professionals are secretly in love with it. From time to time, characters created for the show, such as King Tut, reappear in the comics. (In fact, the Riddler would haved been a forgotten minor character if not for his prominence on the show.) Batman: Brave and the Bold was essentially an animated sequel to the show. And now there’s this: Batman ’66, an digital comic on the DC2 imprint featuring the new adventures of the Dynamic Duo.

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Metapost: A quick Homestuck aside

Just a quick aside about the next review: initially my plan was to split the Homestuck review into write-ups of Acts 1-4 and Acts 5-6. That was the past. I was not prepared for how long Act 5 was. I’m pretty sure I have actually reached a point where Act 5 is longer than the entirety of Acts 1-4. So…. Act 5 and Act 6 are getting separate reviews. (Seriously, my nights are now filled up read/keeping track of Homestuck. It is not an unpleasant experience, but there are many times when I’m looking up at the clock, it is 2:00 am, and I had been spending the previous 5 hours reading a webcomic. You might say that in the evenings, I have become … homestuck myself. Badum-tisshhh.)

Also, there might be a quick, non-Homestuck digital comic review up tomorrow. About Batman.

2013 Hugo Awards announced, no webcomic wins

The 2013 Hugo Awards — the Oscars for the science fiction community — were announced two days ago at LoneStarCon 3 in the lovely city of San Antonio, Texas. Among the winners were The Avengers (for “Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form” … what?!?!? This qualifies as sci-fi now? WHAT?!?!?!?!) and the Game of Thrones TV show. Something called Redshirts won the Best Novel award. Also, for the first time ever the “Best Graphic Story” award did NOT go to a webcomic.  This time around, it went to Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga.

The Best Graphic Story award was introduced in 2009, and Girl Genius its inaugural winner.  The comic went on to win the next two awards (2010, 2011). 

The Foglios then recused themselves, hoping to spread the joy to other nominees. The next year, Ursula Vernon’s Digger was up for nomination right as the saga was coming to a close. It won in 2012.

This somewhat momentous streak of webcomics being recognized in a field that’s not primarily about sequential art comes to an end, though. Saga, that comic with the demon lady breast-feeding her baby on the cover of Issue One, puts the ball back into the court of the print-media types (though with same-day-digital being such a big thing these days, even that distinction is incredibly blurry). Always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride Schlock Mercenary was on the list of nominees, but missed out on the big award again this year.

Let’s take this meaningless award and extremely phallic trophy back in 2014, webcomics!

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