Friday, April 30, 2010

Zuda Bids Bye-Bye to the Ballot

When DC Comics launched Zuda in October 2007, it promised to be the American Idol of webcomics. With all the talented comics creators out in the Infosphere, why not bring a few into the limelight and let the public decide which ones they like best? Crowdsourcing! User engagement! A ticking clock! How could it lose?

Don't get me wrong; I love voting websites. Hell, I used to run a website where people voted on their favorite blog posts. Voting sites are fun. They make readers feel invested in their favorite bits of content. They encourage creators to drive traffic your way. And you get recurring contestants looking to feel that thrill of victory.

But the problem is that Zuda isn't just some website. It's an attempt to create a stable of talent and a slate of books that DC can be proud to stamp its imprint on. It's an opportunity for DC to sell good books that don't fit within Vertigo or the DC Universe, and maybe bring those creators farther into the fold.

To that end, Zuda has always given itself a little leeway when picking contest winners. Each month, Zuda editors choose ten comics to compete for the love and affection of the readers. Based on reader votes and ratings, a winner is selected; said winner gets a year-long contract to keep making their comic for Zuda. If the Zuda editorial board decides it absolutely must have a particular comic, it declares it an "instant winner" without having it compete.

So Zuda gets some truly awesome comics (such as the much-acclaimed Bayou, High Moon, and The LaMorte Sisters), but it's sometimes at the mercy of web-savvy or overly enthusiastic creators. For social voting sites, the tyranny of crowds will put the occasional crappy article on the front page. When Zuda pumps 52 weeks into a mediocre comic, it's a much bigger deal. And that's before we even get to the drama it creates.

It's not a huge surprise, then, that Zuda announced today that it will abandon its voting system in favor of an editorial selection process. Good on you, Zuda. It's your time, money, and reputation that goes into these things and you should promote the comics you want to promote. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see whether Zuda continues to engage its community without the monthly competitions. The next few months will speak a lot to Zuda's relevance in the world of webcomics.

Don't Forget: Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day!

Thanks for that, Mr. Smith.

Yes, it is that time of year again: the first Saturday in May, the time when comics fans and wannabe comics fans trek to their local comic shops in search of swag. You can find your nearest participating shop at the Free Comic Book Day website, and iFanboy has a great rundown of the titles being offered this year. Me, I'm looking to get my hands on Atomic Robo and Friends, Owly and Friends (which includes a Johnny Boo story by James Kochalka), and Th3rd World Studios' The Stuff of Legends, featuring pages from Legend of Bill, Superfogeys, and Pinkerton. And don't forget to thank your retailer by perusing the non-free books as well.

If the idea of leaving your house agitates your agoraphobia, you can also download three titles from publisher WishTales: Eddie Pittman's Red Planet, Steve Ogden's Moon Town, and A Tale of Two Robots from Tom Dell'Aringa (of Marooned). Free downloads are available May 1st only.

In addition to giving out free books, some shops will be hosting writers and artists, including a handful of webcomics creators:

Happy hunting!

    Thursday, April 29, 2010

    Take a Birthright Trip (Even If You Aren't Jewish)

    Contrary to popular belief, I am not Jewish. Yes, my last name is Davis, I'm from Long Island, and a disproportionate number of my friends are of the Hebrew persuasion. But I'm actually the offspring of a Catholic and a Lutheran. So, while my Semitic pals have all traveled to Israel in the last few years on Taglit-Birthright's dime, I must rely on secondhand accounts of King David's tomb and the Wailing Wall.

    But if I'm going to get a secondhand account, at least Michael Jonathan is Jewish promises to be a charming one. Michael Jonathan is the creator of Eros Inc., a bureaucratic urban fantasy about cupids living in Los Angeles. Now, Jonathan is gradually releasing a travelogue of his Birthright Trip.

    Confession time: as much as Eros Inc. has grown on me, I hate hate hate the art (sorry, dude). But Jonathan's style is much better suited for his travelogue than his narrative comic. Maybe it's just that his real (incidentally shiksa) girlfriend gets rendered with a tad more affection and care than the fictional ladies and dudes of Eros Inc. It's more likely that his imprecise brushwork and aversion to backgrounds is better suited to a sketchbook. And I'm beginning to see Jonathan play with his visual language in his travelogue. I'm hoping this exercise translates into some bolder art choices in Eros Inc. as well.

    Michael Jonathan is Jewish is just getting off the runway (we haven't even hit Israel yet), but I expect that it will prove an amusing tour, especially for those of us who are curious about Israel but have never been. Jonathan is a warm and witty writer, and his diary reads like it was written for a friend. And more than being a simple tour of Israel, it sounds like it will also be an exploration of faith from someone for whom religion is more cultural than spiritual.

    [Michael Jonathan is Jewish]

    Wednesday, April 28, 2010

    Look at What Dash Shaw Did to My Book

    Last night, Dash Shaw, creator of BodyWorld, Bottomless Belly Button, and The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century, gave a reading at my local comic book lounge. A few months ago, a friend of mine found this issue of Love Eats Brains, an early Dash Shaw comic, at a San Francisco zine shop. Said friend was not familiar with Dash Shaw, but saw it was a "zombie romance" and immediately thought of me. I'm a little disturbed by this.

    Although I have yet to read Love Eats Brains in its entirety (it's out of print), I rather love the issue I have. The drawings are sketchy and beautiful and very unlike the style that Shaw has more recently evolved. The dialogue and themes are more meandering than in Shaw's later work, but they're also warmer and more natural. Although BodyWorld and Bottomless Belly Button are certainly more skilled works, I actually find I connect better with the rawness of Love Eats Brains. Maybe it channels my inner 16-year-old.

    Shaw doesn't just sign books; he defaces them. He outlines figures on the cover. He adds speckles. He dabs pointillist portraits along the sides. But when I presented him my slim pack of newsprint, he didn't get to the happy defacing. He groaned, "You have that?" Then made a motion as if to rend the book in two. I protested.

    "I can't tear it up?" he asked. "I'll pay you for it."

    I kept insisting that I liked it, and he muttered something about making it after high school and being generally embarrassed to look at it. So, as something of a compromise, he scribbled out the drawing on the cover and wrote "Don't show to anyone."

    "I think it's better this way," he said, as I squinted at the scrawl. "Don't you think it's better this way?"

    "Sure," I said. "But you know this is counterproductive. Now I'm just going to show it to everyone." And look at me now: I'm posting it on the Internet.

    Also, listening to Shaw deconstruct Blind Date is hilarious. Obviously, I need to start thinking more critically about my trashy television.

    The Valleywag Guy Has a Webcomic Now? Huh.

    In the olden days, before it was swallowed whole by its sister blog Gawker, Valleywag had a website of its very own. Valleywag launched under the snark-filled fingers of one Nick Douglas, a college dropout whose true love was Silicon Valley gossip. He mucked through the sex lives of CEOs, pounced on rumors and innuendos, and stabbed nascent startups with his poisoned pen. Then one day, Gawker emperor Nick Denton decided to "go another way" and handed Douglas his pink slip.

    Now, Douglas has had many jobs since then (he now runs a found Internet object blog for AOL). But -- perhaps I, too, have been a Gawker Media serf -- I will always think of Douglas as the Valleywag Guy. And now we get to our point: the Valleywag Guy has a webcomic. It's called Big Damn Deal and it's about -- wait for it -- a Bay Area Internet startup.

    I should probably wait until Big Damn Deal builds up an archive before commenting on it, but I was struck by how little the opening pages grabbed me. Douglas knows all the dark, dirty secrets behind startup culture, and he developed a reputation as something of a dry wit. But the first few pages sound like they could have been written by any old code monkey, and Douglas' name won't be hook enough without the juicy stuff.

    Maybe I'm just crabby because the navigation is backwards. This is America, dude. We read our webcomics from left to right.

    [Big Damn Deal]

    Tuesday, April 27, 2010

    The Hyperactive, Supernatural Boy Detective with a Girl's Name

    Every now and then, I come across a comic and think, "How have I never seen this comic before?" It doesn't happen very often, but it's really cool when it does. It just serves to remind me how many cool comics there are out there that I have yet to discover.

    I had that very feeling this weekend as I archive binged my way through Hanna is Not a Boy's Name, a fun little genre mash of supernatural dramedy and slapstick noir. Our narrator is a zombie who cannot remember his former life or even his name, and shows up on the doorstep of one Hanna Falk Cross, supernatural detective, looking for work. The zombie is expecting a female Mike Hammer with a penchant for magic, but instead discovers that Hanna is, in fact, a young man-child with poor impulse control and a liberal definition of "detective." Still, the two strike up a partnership and immediately take on their first case: ridding a client's home of a pesky vampiric squatter.

    Throughout the first story arc, Hanna is Not a Boy's Name is much like Hanna himself: well-meaning but overeager, competent but in desperate need of restraint. Dialogue seems to whizz and bang right off the page. The typesetting and paneling is eclectic and oddly frenetic. I felt myself getting a little lightheaded just looking at it. But if you hold out, Hanna settles down a bit without losing its sense of goofy fun. As creator Tessa Stone (It's a girl's name and she's a girl. Go figure.) has tempered her style a bit, her characters have thrived. Hanna has an odd couple relationship with the deadpan (har har) zombie, but they both share an unexpected warmth and (thus far unexplored) traumatic pasts. And the cast gets some nice variety in the form of Conrad, Hanna and the zombie's prissy client, the gruff and unscrupulous (unlicensed) Doc Worth, and unfazable artist Toni.

    Perhaps my favorite thing about Hanna (aside from its increasingly strong characterization), is that it is somewhat askew from typical noir conventions. It always starts off well and good -- with Hanna and the zombie getting a new case with supernatural overtones -- but it all quickly goes to pot. Hanna doesn't so much "detect" as "stumble into unfortunate situations," and he's half as likely to resolve the case as get the client killed. And yet he operates with such an infectious joie de vivre that Hanna is Not a Boy's Name remains as fun and offbeat as its title.

    [Hanna is Not a Boy's Name]

    Monday, April 26, 2010

    Webcomic Ladies Bare Skin in the Name of Boobquake

    Head for the doors, it's a Boobquake!

    Okay, so once upon a time (about a week ago), an Iranian religious leader suggested that women dressing immodestly is responsible for the recent (supposed) uptick in earthquakes. Apparently, tight jeans and cleavage lead to adultery and a general breakdown of societal morals, which, in turn, causes God to angrily stomp around and shake up the Earth. Personally, I tend to think God has better things to do, but powerful Iranian politicians agree: boobs lead to earthquakes.

    To test this theory, blogger Blag Hag has declared today Boobquake 2010. Ladies are encouraged to give the girls a little extra air for the day. Either we'll destroy the world with our massive display of boobage, or we'll have to find something else to blame those earthquakes on.

    And some webcomics ladies are getting in on the action. Unsurprisingly, the particularly well-endowed Jamie of Girls with Slingshots is getting her Boobquake on. Over at Something Positive, Monette explains her exposed rack to girlfriend Lisa, and they try to get God angry in their own special way (good-natured sacrilege ahead). And Gods Playing Poker offers divine women a chance to enhance their cleavage  -- the commemorative Virgin Mary push-up bra is a product waiting to happen.

    I'll update with any additional Boobquake sightings as the day goes on. Just cross your fingers that these comics don't get rocked with two-dimensional earthquake in their next installments.

    Boobquake [Blag Hag]

    Friday, April 23, 2010

    Meet Your Webcomic Robot Overlords

    Well, the competition in our poll was heated. Asimov took an early lead, but some mad stumping had T-O-E overtaking him and Ping and Eve battling for supremacy. But in the end, the Gunnerkrigg Court robots emerged victorious, primed to rule us all with an iron (albeit slightly confused) fist. You may want to consider investing in some novelty antennae and telling everyone you're a robot.

    Apologies to the Ctrl-Alt-Del fans who were hoping to see Zeke on the list.

    Also, 250 people voted for Pintsize. Really? Do that many people long to become pr0nstock?

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Odds and Ends: Show Warren Your Webcomic, Buy DAR!

    • Warren Ellis has once again declared it Webcomics Week at his Whitechapel message boards. Got a webcomic? Introduce it to Ellis and the world. Like to read webcomics? The Webcomics Week threads have become a treasure trove of interesting and unusual webcomics, provided you're willing to do a little digging.
    • Here's a fun exercise for all you comic-making folks. Jason Turner has thrown down the gauntlet for the Page 100 Project. Take your favorite book, open it up to page 100, and make a comic out of what you find there. Drawn! and Fleen both link to a couple of lovely literary entries.
    • I don't know why I keep forgetting to mention this (especially since this comes from one of my favorite webcomic creators), but Erika Moen is rolling out the second volume of DAR! and she's now taking preorders. If anyone has some spare change lying around, I could really go for that Erika Moen Super Pack, which contains both volumes of DAR!, a handful of minis, and Erika's collaboration with Lucy Knisley.
    • Edit: And, if you don't follow Meredith Gran on Twitter, she posted the a new Octopus Pie story last night. Eve's boyfriend Park is about to move to Chicago, and this chapter's especially bittersweet.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Serenity Getting CulturePulped

    Quickie post today as I have mice to murder.

    A few weeks ago, I mentioned CulturePulp, Mike Russell's fun and funky comic tour through Portland. It looks like you're going to be seeing a lot more of Russell in the near future, especially if you're a fan of Joss Whedon's Serenity 'Verse. Russell was the editor of the now-defunct Serenity Tales, an archive of fan-made Serenity comics. Now Dark Horse, which publishes the Serenity comics, has approached Russell about putting his funny fan comics in the back pages of the upcoming Serenity one-shots. I was not terribly enamored with the previous Serenity comics, but between Patton Oswalt writing the new Wash-centric story and Russell's backup pages, it might be worth picking up.

    It's also yet another example of Dark Horse reaching into the Internet ether and bringing new talent to print. After all, they've published Achewood and Wondermark, and are currently running a miniseries of Felicia Day's popular web show The Guild. It's something I don't think larger publishers do enough, so it's nice to see Dark Horse onboard.

    Oh, and you can check out the full version of this particularly bloody fan comic -- illustrated by Russell and written by Mark Bourne -- over at ComicsAlliance. Also head over to CulturePulp to see Russell's comic on Browncoat culture.

    [via ComicsAlliance]

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Penny, Aggie, and High School Catharsis

    A couple of weeks ago, I attended WonderCon, San Francisco's smaller, less stressful answer to Comic Con. As I mentioned, I got a chance to say hello to Something Positive creator Randy Milholland. Something Positive is one of those comics that gives me a special happy when it pops up in my reader, so I'm always excited to see Milholland at a con.

    I mentioned that I rather enjoy the current story arc he has running with Helen, a character on the run from T Campbell's Penny and Aggie

    "That's good," he said, "because I hate writing them."

    A little background: Helen began life in the high school dramedy Penny and Aggie. She starts out as a member of the vicious Omega Clique of social outcasts, but gradually drifts into wicked bitch Karen and fledgling activist Aggie's circles. However, as the long-simmering war between Karen and her rivals escalates, Helen spirals into self-destruction, allowing herself to be used sexually and socially. Her fragile social life simply can't survive the fallout.

    So one day, T just ships her off. Seriously, he sticks her on a bus headed for Boston and announces that her story will continue over at Something Positive -- which is to say T browbeat Milholland into dealing with her. He told Milholland he could do anything he wanted with Helen: keep her, send her back, kill her, whatever. From Randy's tone, I suspect T half hoped that an alligator would spring from a trap door and swallow her whole.

    I knew that Helen wasn't the most popular character in the Penny and Aggie Tea Room, but I was surprised to learn she was such a millstone around Campbell's neck. To be honest, I've always enjoyed Helen stories. Yes, it can be frustrating to see a character make the same mistakes again and again, but it's clear why Helen makes those mistakes, and I find the combination of her knowing inner monologue with inexorable pull to keep making those errors interesting to watch.

    But Milholland said something that hadn't occurred to me: many Penny and Aggie readers feel they were Helen in high school, and they want to see her redeemed. You see, I had failed to consider that, for many people, Penny and Aggie isn't mere entertainment. It's catharsis.

    T Campbell specializes in fantasy worlds where we can exorcise our adolescent demons. After all, he's the creator of Fans!, the comic where a group of fanboys and fangirls become the world's greatest heroes. And even though Penny and Aggie is supposed to represent something akin to a real high school,  it still exists in a fantasy universe. It's a Joss Whedon version of high school, sans the vampires: everything is a little brighter, the dialogue is sharper, and just about everyone is redeemable, if not actually redeemed. Penny finds meaning and power in her popularity beyond mere shallow girl posing. Aggie's aimless activist impulse gets an outlet when she stops thinking globally and starts reaching out to the people around her. Even Karen finds some fulfillment in going from ugly duckling to black-souled swan, even if things go badly for her later on. If, in high school, you were the pretty bitch, the rebel without a cause, desperately closeted, hiding an eating disorder, or using wearing your religion/politics/body type as armor, you can visit the P&A world, where your high school history has been somewhat rewritten. P&A is the version of high school where you self-actualized, where you hung out with those goofy drama kids, where you took your nose out of your book and let yourself have fun, where you stopped performing for five minutes and actually connected with another human being, where you had coffee with that cute nerdy guy.

    I can understand, then, when even sour-faced evangelical Charlotte gets a crack at that alternate high school history, that the Helens of the world are a little bitter that they don't get theirs. When I talked to Randy, he teased a little bit of what's next for Helen, and it will be interesting to see how the P&A fans feel when all is said and done. Helen may get her own catharsis, but catharsis ain't always pretty.

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Which Webcomic Robot Should Become Our Robot Overlord?

    As I mentioned before, this is National Robotics Week. The NRW mission statement says something about inspiring students to pursue careers in robotics, increase technology funding, blah, blah, blah. We prefer to reflect on the impending robot uprising, when artificial intelligences will rule our lives. Perhaps someday our robotic overlords will resemble the funny, sexy, and badass robots we see each day in the online funny pages. Which webcomics robot would make the best robot overlord? Let's take a look at the options:

    Pintsize (Questionable Content): QC's artificially intelligent pervert is always ready with a dirty joke or eight gigs of pr0n. It's not clear whether he was programmed to hit on all of Marten's female friends, or if his personality is an amalgam of fetish websites.
    If he became our robot overlord: All human bodies would be used to create an endless supply of increasingly creative dirty pictures. Also, he'd have 24-hour access to Faye's breasts.

    Girlbot (The Intrepid Girlbot): She's a girl and a bot, though she wishes she were a little girlier. She also tries to make animal friends, but it doesn't always turn out so well.
    If she became our robot overlord: She'd love us and hug us and squeeze us and electrocute us and put us back together -- stronger, faster, better, with laser eyes.

    Chester 5000 XYV (Chester 5000 XYV -- NSFW): He's a robot built for erotic play, but he's surpassed his programming and managed to love.
    If he became our robot overlord: Every day would Valentine's Day. With orgies.

    Warbot (Warbot in Accounting): Possibly the most depressed (and depressing) robot of all time, Warbot is a former killer robot now forced to work a white collar job.
    If he became our robot overlord: Everyone would have to be his friend, and touch tone phones would be outlawed.

    Red Robot #C-63 (Diesel Sweeties): Unlike his fellow AI Clango, Red Robot has nothing but disdain for the human race. He seems a bit too lazy for mass extermination, though.
    If he became our robot overlord: CRUSH HU-MANS! Unless his meatbag girlfriend Freyja beats him up first.

    The One Electronic (Rice Boy): Charged by God to find the fulfiller of an ancient prophecy, T-O-E has wander Overside for thousands of years, which has left him emotionally exhausted and a bit snippy.
    If he became our robot overlord: Even if he were our overlord, he'd still be stuck with God. That guy's pretty demanding.

    Asimov (Marooned): Captain John's faithful robot sidekick, Asimov is stranded on Mars thanks to John's relentless stupidity.
    If he became our robot overlord: No one with a passing resemblance to William Shatner would ever be allowed in the space program. And robots get to be the captains now. Let humans be the faithful sidekicks for once.

    The Court Robots (Gunnerkrigg Court): Several robots hang around Gunnerkrigg Court, some awesome, some terrible. They serve various functions around the court, but many are looking for means of personal fulfillment, such as learning how to whistle.
    If they became our robot overlords: They'd do away with those antiquated rules against robot-human romantic entanglements, and spend a lot of time waiting for Godot looking at that picture of Jeanne.

    Div (Penny Arcade): What happens when your DIVX player attains sentience? He becomes the frat boy version of the Monster from the Id: chugging booze, sexing up the other electronics, and slinging homophobic insults at his roommates.
    If he became our robot overlord: All humans would be thenceforth referred to as "gayboy," regardless of gender and sexual orientation.

    The Madblood Androids (Narbonic): The mad scientist Professor Lupin Madblood created 15,000 robotic doppelgängers to serve as his robot army, but they had a tendency to slip from his control.
    If they became our robot overlords: They're more interested in unionizing machines than world domination, thank you very much.

    Moustachio the Thinkonium (Skin Horse): He may seem like a nice enough chap, but make no mistake, Moustachio is capable of bloody slaughter, especially if wound too tight.
    If he became our robot overlord: He'd command the least flakey human on Earth to wind him once a day, not too tightly please.

    Eve (Applegeeks): Built from Apple hardware to be the perfect girlfriend. But despite her sexy exterior, she is overcome by childish tantrums and anti-PC rage.
    If she became our robot overlord: Each morning, we'd have our Five Minutes of Hate, using "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials as political propaganda. Steve Jobs would be enshrined as a god, and Bill Gates would be routinely burned in effigy.

    Ping (Megatokyo): Ping comes to us from Sony instead of Apple, a complex PS2 accessory designed to interact with and care for geeks with poor social skills. She can change her personality, memories, and appearance to emulate different dating sims, which she finds a handy way of avoiding emotional pain.
    If she became our robot overlord: She'd always be worrying that people only like her because she's our robot overlord, and that they don't like the "real" her.

    The Dingbots (Girl Genius): The little robot "clanks" built by Agatha Heterodyne are clever mechanics that tend to build endless inferior copies of themselves. They are fairly useful critters, but most fall apart over time.
    If they became our robot overlords: You would think they'd order all the world's mad scientists to build them sturdier bodies, but really they'd be too caught up in their own internal conflicts.

    Vote for your choice for robot overlord below -- and include any additional choices in the comments.

    Who would make the best robot overlord?

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    How Much Do Webcomickers Make?

    It's generally not considered polite to ask how much people make. But I'll admit, I've always been curious how much the top webcomics creators make. We get a lot of vague "I make enough to live" or "I still have a part time job," but how much can a person actually make off of their webcomics?

    Dorothy Gambrell, creator of Cat and Girl, did something pretty cool. She posted a graph explaining how much she's made this year, complete with a breakdown of where the money comes from. Gambrell sells a lot of clever t-shirts through Topatoco, so it's not surprising that a lot of her income comes from t-shirt sales. But it's handy to see how sales of original art and freelance work factor into her earnings. Check out the entire graph here, and check back each month to see updates on Gambrell's financial progress.

    How Much I Make [Cat and Girl]

    Transmission X Conspires to Take Your Money

    Taking a break from robots today to alert you to a vast conspiracy: the Transmission X Conspiracy.

    See, Transmission X is a group of Toronto-based webcomics creators. When you talk to these people, they seem nice enough, talking about how they just want to make good comics. And they have provided the world with such brilliant webcomics as the Eisner-nominated The Abominable Charles Christopher and Sin Titulo, plus the lovely Raising Hell and Kukuburi.

    But don't be fooled. Transmission X is out to take your money.

    Just look at the print volume for The Abominable Charles Christopher, which is now available for preorder. Just looking at that embossed cover and thinking about 144 pages of funny/sad/heartwarming yeti adventures is making my wallet hurt.

    Also out this week is the first issue of Kill Shakespeare, drawn by Raising Hell's Andy Belanger. I'm not sold on the book itself -- even with the promising premise of Shakespeare's characters attempting to free themselves from the tyranny of the Bard's quill -- but I do love the way Belanger draws a battle scene.

    How will Transmission X plot to take your money next? Will we see a Sin Titulo book on the horizon? More Kukuburi gear? A Princess Planet playset? The possibilities are endless.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    National Robot Week: Warbot in Accounting

    There are few things in this world that I love more than Atomic Robo. After all, he's the wisecracking robotic son of Nikola Tesla, he battles Nazis, he's survived the Vampire Dimension, and he's faced down some bona fide cosmic horrors.

    But not all of the robots created by Brian Clevinger are so successful or get such snappy dialogue. Take Warbot, the start of Clevinger's online comic Warbot in Accounting. Poor Warbot was built to be a superior killing machine, but now that he's been decommissioned, he needs a regular old office job. Tragically, Warbot never got the upgrades necessary to send faxes or engage in water cooler chatter. His coworkers hate him -- or worse, ignore him -- and that's before we even get into the horrors of his dating life. A trip to the Vampire Dimension would probably be a welcome relief.

    Go pay Warbot some attention. Just be warned, you may cry a little.

    [Warbot in Accounting]

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    National Robot Week: The Intrepid Girlbot

    I've just learned that this is National Robotics Week, a time when we prepare for the inevitable robot uprising by placating our Roombas and microwaves with sacrificial offerings -- or something like that. Here at Storming the Tower, we're going to spend the rest of the week honoring robots of the cartoon variety.

    The Intrepid Girlbot seems like the perfect place to start, perhaps because it's set in a universe without human beings. That's right, no people, just robots (of the android, gynoid, and theridroid varieties) and woodland critters. But webcomic robots still have to cope with many of the same problems webcomic humans do: loneliness, an overpowering desire to fit in, and a tendency to cause inadvertent harm to the aforementioned woodland critters.

    Girlbot is a girlbot, the latest in a long line of girlbots. She wants to be the girliest girlbot ever, but she's far more bot than girl. She processes girly magazines, drills flowers to her hair, shocks butterflies into submission, and tries to get the attention of more successfully womanly gynoids. She lives in a strange and sprawling house filled with a seemingly endless supply of fun rooms (Infinite ball pit? Yes, please!) all alone, until the day she fries a hapless raccoon and "heals" it by transforming it into a laser-eyed cyborg. Hilarity naturally ensues.

    Like a certain other (very NSFW) robot comic, The Intrepid Girlbot contains minimal verbal dialogue, instead relying on visual storytelling and some cheeky mouseovers. Fortunately, creator Diana Nock has a nice feel for slapstick, but this means Girlbot isn't a good comic to leave sitting in your reader. It's best to save up a story arc or two, then read them in a single sitting. Maybe we'll luck out and get such an adorably whimsical robot overlord, though hopefully one with a touch less Elmyra in her.

    [The Intrepid Girlbot]

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Even After "Roger Rabbit," the Toontown Cameras Keep Rolling

    After watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit, what kid didn't want to live in a world where Toons were real, living people? Sure, you had to deal with creepy Christopher Lloyd, but every day would be like a Saturday morning cartoon.

    Love Me Nice takes place in a Roger Rabbit-like universe where humans and Toons are two separate races of people. However, unlike Roger Rabbit (or its TV quasi-adaptation Bonkers), it's not such a zany, cartoony world. We don't see anvils dropping from the sky or self-driving taxi cabs (at least not yet). Instead we get all manner of Toons -- visual checks of venerable Disney characters, manga-eyed babes, and girly 80s super-animals with tie-in dolls by Hasbro and Mattel.

    Most of the action takes place backstage at the Fable Company, a cartoon production company founded by Mac the Monkey, a famous cartoon star. Claire Domani, a pneumatic Jessica Rabbit too busty to work in front of the camera, is a young Fable executive trying to manage the remake of Mac Sr.'s show, now starring Mac's son, Mac the Monkey, Jr. But if nothing ever goes smoothly in show business, that goes double for the cartoon business. Claire has somehow found herself in a relationship with Mac Jr., despite his petulant slacker ways. And she's the only one willing to deal with Carolina, Mac's naive co-star who literally has stars in her eyes.

    Love Me Nice has been sitting in my RSS reader for a couple of months now, but lately it's really crept up on me. It has a real affection for the array of cartoons it references, and I love Claire as a main character: a tough chick who loves her job, but still has an immense capacity for warmth, especially toward Carolina -- who could have easily been reduced to a sexual rival. And we're starting to see some nice, slow worldbuilding. Toons may have an advantage in show business, but when so much of Toon culture revolves around entertainment, it's tough on those Toons who lack the talent -- or the body type -- to play on kids' TV. And we're meeting some new characters in the latest story arc, so hopefully we'll get to peer even more deeply into this world of humans and Toons.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Seven Awesomely Pornographic Webcomics to Read Behind Locked Doors

    Warning: The following post is not safe for work, children, iPads, puritanical mothers-in-law, or persons with heart conditions. There are pictures of nekkid folks and naughty bits below the jump, and you should assume that any of the links in this post could make your head (or computer) asplode. [More]

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Spacetrawler Reviews Your Science Fiction

    Now here's something I wish Unshelved did more often.

    For those not in the know, Unshelved, the hit library-themed comic, does a weekly feature called "Unshelved Book Club" where they tease an interesting book. It's a great feature, and a perfect fit for the comic. Incidentally, I interviewed the creators for io9 a while back, and included some sci-fi samples from the Book Club.

    Today, the Book Club was a guest comic, with characters from Christopher Baldwin's new webcomic Spacetrawler discussing Alastair Reynolds' Chasm City. As much as I love Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes' take on all sorts of books, I wish they'd have guest cartoonists review books with themes similar to their own comics'. First, it would be a great way to promote new and little-read webcomics, and second, the effect is pretty freaking cool.

    And while we're on the subject of new webcomics, Spacetrawler is definitely one to watch. Christopher Baldwin is just wrapping up Little Dee, his family-friendly, syndication-style strip. And then there's his masterpiece, Bruno, a beautifully rendered strip chronicling eleven years in the life of a nomadic young woman. Although I never found the central character terribly likable, Bruno is undeniably riveting and impressive in its realism, like reading the diary comic of a fictional personal. With Spacetrawler, Baldwin tries his hand at an entirely different brand of storytelling, a comedic space opera about a group of humans kidnapped by abolitionist aliens hoping to enact social change.

    Spacetrawler just launched on New Year's Day, so the archives are currently a quick read. I'd recommend getting caught up now before Baldwin creates another decade-long epic.

    Unshelved Book Club: Chasm City [Unshelved]

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    This Year's Eisner Nominations Honor Actual Webcomics

    Hello, Eisner Award nominations. It's nice to see you again. Pull up a chair. Can I get you some tea? Maybe a cookie? I apologize about the mess in here.

    You and I had a bit of a falling out last year, Eisners. You came out last year, all fat and happy, nominating short stories like Body World, The Lady's Murder, and Speak No Evil: Melancholy of a Space Mexican. The comic that took home the grand prize was a few pages of Carla Speed McNeil's long-running print comic, Finder. Now it's not that the stories weren't good. A few of the noms were kind of lightweights, but Body World was pretty brilliant and the bits of Finder were fascinating. But they aren't exactly what I'd call webcomics.

    Now, don't interrupt, Eisners. I know you never said that the award was for Best Webcomic. You said Best Digital Comic, and technically, all of these comics (or at least these pages) were first published online. But really, Eisner, is the distribution method really what the separate digital category is about? Or is it about peering into the ecosystem that has gradually formed around webcomics and pulling out the best of what's out there? You don't have to answer that right now; I know I'm putting you on the spot.

    I must say, though, I'm a lot happier about this year's nominations. Karl Kerschl's The Abominable Charles Christopher? Cameron Stewart's Sin Titulo? Tops, really. I've heard great things about Bayou, even though I've been reluctant to deal with reading it on Zuda (I'm lazy, I know). I'm not familiar with The Guns of Shadow Valley and Power Out (the latter is being published with a Xeric Grant), but I'm eager to check them out. It's just nice to see some longer format comics making the cut, including folks who have become genuinely active participants in the webcomics culture.

    One more thing, though, and maybe this is something we can come back to on a later date: how much does a relationship with print comics impact your chances of getting nominated? Kerschl and Stewart absolutely 100% deserve their places on the list, but I can't help but note that they've both had long careers as mainstream comics artists. Bayou has long been Zuda's flagship title, with the force and money of DC Comics behind it. And while Power Out didn't make The Act-I-vate Primer, it did get some nice press earlier this year with the Xeric Grant. I'm sure that each of these comics deserve to be honored, I'm just wondering if creators without ties to the print industry get the same opportunity to see their work so honored.

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Get Your Pre-Order On: Octopus Pie and Family Man

    So, I mentioned this the other day, but I wanted to reiterate: pre-order Meredith Gran's Octopus Pie book. You know, assuming you like awesome cartooning and hilarious stories about a grouchily sharp-tongued Brooklynite on the cusp of a quarterlife crisis and her bouncily upbeat stoner roommate. Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn is the comprehensive OP treasury, containing all the strips from the first three books, plus a new five-page story.

    So why is it so important that you order this particular book? Well, I'll let Gran explain it in her own words:

    This is a crucial time for the success of Octopus Pie. The sales of this book will do a lot to determine whether or not future books can be made. If you love the comic, but have never ordered OP merch before, this is a fantastic way to show your support. Plus you'll be getting an awesome signed book out of it!

    Seriously, Gran is up there with Danielle Corsetto on my personal list of most talented web cartoonists, and I hope will be getting a lot more Octopus Pie. You can pre-order the book here and it comes signed with "mystery buttons." Rock.

    And, if you're still in the pre-ordering mood, I'd suggest moseying on over to where Dylan Meconis is taking pre-orders for the first volume of Family Man. I've talked about Family Man before, and it's the perfect representation of one of my favorite things about webcomics. Family Man is utterly unexpected, a comic starring a Protestant theologian of Jewish descent whose studies have led him to a crisis of faith, one that remains surprisingly accessible despite dialogued peppered with jokes about Spinoza and the letters of Paul. Meconis is printing Family Man in glossy sepia, which puts her costs on the pricey side. She needs $10,000 to print the books and says that, as of this morning, she is 65% of the way toward her goal. If you like post-Reformation theology mixed with werewolves, go and give her another bump.

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    The Battle of the Sexes -- With Supervillains

    Even though I don't read a lot of superhero comics, I really like stories that cast superheroes as giant dicks. Sure, there's something satisfying about battles between the superego and the id, but sometimes it's fun to root for the villain looking to knock that smug superhero down a few pegs.

    It's even better when she's his ex-wife.

    You see, Veronica's a supervillain. She can crack wise with the best of them, has a randomly teleporting base of operations, and hangs with a brilliant engineer whose death rays frequently come with an orgasmic setting. She also has a priggish superhero of an ex-husband who thinks women are better suited to making sammiches than doing science.

    Superhero parodies are nothing new, but Plan B finds its niche in exploring the pitfalls of superheroic (and supervillainous) love. Veronica's ex-hubby Think Tank can't stand that she has managed to elude him for so long, and his obsession with defeating her is somewhat less than heroic. On another front, when a superheroine discovers her own husband is stepping out on her, she utterly misdirects her sense of betrayal. Plus, there's sidekick Claudia's always-amusing (literal) fetish for technology. And even though the most recent arc, "How 2 God Fite," is a straighter superhero parody, we still get Veronica's arch narration and some delightfully messed up scenarios. I can't wait to find out what happens when several dozen alternate-universe Veronicas are unleashed on the world.

    [Plan B]

    Monday, April 5, 2010

    The Wonderful World of WonderCon

    Yes, I'm bragging. Randy Milholland thinks I'm cute.

    This was WonderCon weekend in San Francisco, when the comics industry descends on SoMa and hipsters rub elbows with stormtroopers. Unlike at San Diego Comic Con, which was pretty much an endless blur of panels and screenings, I actually got to spend time walking the floor.

    WonderCon isn't a particularly webcomics-heavy event, perhaps because MoCCA, C2E2, and Stumptown are just on the horizon. But, there was some nice representation on the floor: Phil Foglio of Girl Genius was there (with Narbonic and Skin Horse creator Shaenon Garrity manning the booth), as were Zach Weiner of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, David Malki! of Wondermark, Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie, Aaron Diaz of Dresden Codak, Chris Hastings of Dr. McNinja, Spike Trotman of Templar, Arizona, Randy Milholland of Something Positive, and a couple of folks from Keenspot Entertainment. Unfortunately, I suspect a lot of folks missed Tiny Kitten Teeth creators Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson way out in the small press section hawking their new Tigerbuttah books.

    I was in a weirdly non-acquisitive mood, although I did pick up a Sassy Cavy badge from Spike's table and now need to find the perfect button-down shirt to iron it onto. I passed on the Octopus Pie shot glasses because I'm saving my sheckels to pre-order the Octopus Pie treasury. By the by, if you have any inclination to purchase an Octopus Pie book, you should pre-order this book. It's the comprehensive Octopus Pie, and Gran has said that the print future of Octopus Pie depends on this book.

    And, of course, I got the lovely sketch from Randy Milholland. Milholland likes to cultivate this image of himself as a grump, but in real life he's terribly friendly. I watched as a young child grabbed at the Something Positive sample comic. Milholland quickly warned the kid's father that his comics are not kid-friendly in the least, but then offered to draw the kid's portrait. And he did my portrait, even though I didn't buy anything from him this time around. But if you ever do see Randy at a con, pick up his Super Stupor comics. They're amazing fun.

    In non-webcomics phenomena, this guy was also at WonderCon. His outfit was even more spectacular when paired with a set of cargo shorts.