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Review: The Zurvan Club

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Review: Zurvan Club
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I guess because it’s 2012, everyone’s talking about end-of-the-world, Illuminati-like conspiracies, and mysteries surrounding the mythological past and how they play into our future. There’s the underlying pervasive super-plot of the Assassin’s Creed games, there’s this movie I recently did the stunt coordination for, and, well, lots of people are still talking about the Mayans.

Now there’s the Zurvan Club.

The Zurvan Club is a Creative Commons project made by Adolf Navarro and Izara Masie. The comic is available for free, sharing, etc. and the first collection is out on their website now. The comic is your basic “mysterious island” story, chock-full of references to mythology and legend, and referencing mysterious ties to the present. The cast of characters is a diverse, colorful posse of specialized geeks who all band together to go find Brigadoon–er, a mysterious island that disappears and reappears once every hundred or so years, and apparently has some connection with the Nephilim’s existence on Earth/their influence on ancient peoples/the Pyramids were made by aliens/that sort of thing. The dialogue about these mysteries is pretty fun to read, and the trip to the island only somewhat exciting. I do wonder whether the Abstergo-like company Julia works for is as shady as I suspect it is. The story is a tad belabored with info dumps, but a lot of the info is at least interesting (to a mythology nerd like me anyway).

However, the digital art is not at all appealing to me, I’m afraid. Mainly it’s the character design, straight out of the Uncanny Valley. The scenes in general are a bit stiff, not conveying the tight suspense and mystery that the story demands. I can see that it’s trying to have a charming, Robot-Chicken-like aesthetic to it, but it’s just too stiff here to work.

One highlight of the project, though, is its very interactive website–you can click on characters and locations and interact with those files, kinda like an in-game encyclopedia for a video game. Which is pretty fun. The art in these interactive bits is actually higher quality than the stuff in the comics themselves (though the creepiness of the character face designs is still there).

Bottom Line: Go to the Zurvan Club if you like Bermuda Triangle type mysteries enough to get around the clunky art.   ~Prof. Jenn

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Comic Review: No More Heroes #1

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Issue: No More Heroes #1
Release Date: March 2012
Writer: Gordon Mclean
Artist: Caio Oliveira
Colorist: Goran Kostadinoski
Letterer: Kel Nuttal

When I was approached to review this comic, the premise instantly appealed to me. I’m a big fan of superheroes, even moreso when they’re flawed in some capacity. In No More Heroes there’s a lot of flawed characters. First you’ve got Dark Justice, whose death kicks off the whole thing. A random nobody, Sid, gets a text message asking whether the mysterious person on the other end should commit suicide. Thinking it’s a joke, and egged on by his buddies, he says yes. Turns out, the superhero Dark Justice was on the other end of the phone. Thus begins the heavy weight that Sid has to carry. Did he really convince a superhero to die? The truth isn’t so straightforward. He gets tangled up with Dark Justice’s unnamed sidekick, who has gone off the rails after his boss’ death, and Jack Slaughter, a lowlife who is actually at fault for the death of the hero. The storyline is just beginning and we will have to wait and see how deep Sid gets pulled into it.

 

For a beginning comic, this was actually done quite well. I wasn’t a fan of the few times the panels were colored, which is surprising to me since I tend to prefer color comics over the stark nature of black and white. However, the simplicity of the color absence helps to heighten the storyline for me. And it is a simple storyline, though not simplistic. For almost the entire first half the plot is carried mostly by action rather than dialogue. That’s a sign of good visual storytelling and one that will serve the creators as they embark on a future in the industry. There were some rough spots, such as the diner scene. Focusing on the mouth seemed to be wasted space to me. The panels are better expressed when layering is present. And the dialogue, in certain scenes, was not as smooth as it could have been. That doesn’t endear it to a more mainstream audience, but since it’s targeted toward the independent comic industry the standards are a bit more lax. Despite these rough-around-the-edges bits, the overall comic has potential and I’m interested to see where the storyline goes.

 

Check out more on this four-issue arc at the official website and keep tabs on these creators. I think they have a positive future in the comic industry.

Interview with Ethan Nicholle

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MinInterview: Ethan Nicholle
Interviewer: Jenn Zuko Boughn

Recently I had the very great pleasure of using my 5-question “Mininterview” format to ask Ethan Nicholle about upcoming Axe Cop vol. 3, and the future of the series. ~Prof. Jenn
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1) How has Axe Cop evolved as Malachai has gotten older? How do you see him evolving as Malachai continues to get older? What’s coming up in Axe Cop’s future that we can get excited about?

Malachai’s tastes and interests are changing pretty rapidly, so Axe Cop’s attention span is at about the same rate.  Whatever is going on in Malachai’s life makes it into the story, for instance the family just got a new dog, so he called me to tell me there is a new dog character in the Axe Cop universe.  I’m as interested as anyone to see how Axe Cop changes as Malachai grows up.  I’m open to whatever works.  The most exciting thing in Axe Cop’s future, next to Volume 3 coming out on March 28th, is the new print-exclusive miniseries titled Axe Cop: President of the World which launches in July.

2) Axe Cop’s fan base exploded pretty quickly. How did this fandom affect how you composed Axe Cop? Did it affect how Malachai composed it? How about the feedback you both have been getting at conventions?

It just sort of rocketed us into making more Axe Cop and really fast.  When I first made Axe Cop I assumed it would be a fun thing to do with Malachai whenever I visit (which is about 3 times a year).  When it blew up, I decided we should strike while the iron is hot and start making more of these things.  It became a lot of fun and quite an interesting project.  Especially working on the more long form stories with him and spending entire months with him.  We get awesome feedback from fans, the support for Axe Cop is huge and people who love it REALLY love it.  I think there are people out there who love it more than Malachai and I combined.  I think that Axe Cop popped up right when people were getting tired of the more negative, gritty and edgy style that was the “thing” for a while, and Axe Cop is such a breath of fresh air in that world.  It is totally sincere and innocent and it inadvertently parodies comics that take themselves too seriously.

3) I noticed in Volume 3, there are many “Ask Axe Cop” episodes as well as a lengthy guest appearance (on the website, there have been several more guest appearances recently as well). What are your thoughts/feelings about the collaboration? Do the guests appeal to Malachai, and does he springboard off of those?

Malachai has gotten ideas from the guest episodes.  He really liked the one where Axe Cop has little axes on his arm hairs.  He pretty much stole that concept for himself and made Axe Cop have sword arm hair.  The guest episodes are a lot of fun, especially the ones where people follow the model and team up with their own kids/nieces/nephews to make an Axe Cop story.

4) How do Axe Cop, Bad Guy Earth, and Bearmageddon inform each other? Do you have a particular favorite issue?

Well Bad Guy Earth is just more Axe Cop, but it is written in a longer format.  It’s more of our attempt at “feature length” Axe Cop story telling.  Bearomageddon I wouldn’t say is informed by Axe Cop much mainly because I created it before I created Axe Cop, I only finally started to release it after.  I think Bad Guy Earth is my favorite thing I have done so far just because it is so out of the box and such a fun/crazy experiment in creativity.  A lot went into making it.

5) Who are some of your artistic inspirations? Is there anyone you even now try to emulate in your work? What is one of your artistic dreams? (e.g. have you always wanted to draw a certain superhero/create a world that you haven’t yet?)

My biggest influences growing up were Bill Watterson, Gary Larson and the many artists who drew the Ninja Turtles.  Later I got into indie comics and became a big fan of artists like Jhonen Vasquez, Evan Dorkin, Ethan Van Sciver (who was indie back then) and Sam Keith.  I have a lot of respect for Doug TenNapel because I like that he emphasizes storytelling and he really pushes creativity and wonder in his work.  I think I try to emulate that.  I have never really dreamed of drawing other people’s characters, I have always wanted to make my own stuff.  So I don’t know what my dream project would be.  I think right now Axe and Bearmageddon are dream projects, and I’ll have other ones down the road.

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Review: Axe Cop Vol. 3

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Axe Cop Vol. 3

I have been following Axe Cop since its inception, so I knew what was in store to some extent when I embarked on Volume Three. Not that anyone can really predict any of the Axe Cop craziness that always ensues.

For any unfamiliar readers, I really can’t explain, only give you the premise: Axe Cop started as a webcomic….well, almost experiment, I guess you could say. Ethan Nicolle decided he wanted to illustrate some of the characters and stories that would arise when he and his 6 year old brother played. Axe Cop is a comic written by a child, illustrated by a (very talented) adult.

This is the reason why Axe Cop is so immensely popular. The insane characters, the wonderful there’s-a-planet-for-everything premise, even the dialogue, is all from the POV of a little boy. It’s fresh, crazy, funny, wildly creative, and gorgeously drawn. It’s that combination of extreme raw freshness of the storytelling, drawn by a hand with immense skill. Sure, I have heard it argued that it’s only the novelty of the kid-telling that makes it good only ironically, and that when Malachai hits a certain age it won’t be good at all. To these commenters, I say: phooey. This stuff is incredibly creative, fearless and wonderful. Any of us who create works of art should hope to be so fresh and fearless. As for the child-style writing, I agree that it will be interesting (and already has been) to see how Axe Cop changes as his creator ages. I can’t wait to see, for example, if Axe Cop will ever allow a girl onto the team. Maybe when his “cooties” stage is over…

I am sure you can tell I endorse reading this series in general. Here is why I highly recommend Volume Three in particular:
1) The inclusion of several “ask axe cop” episodes. It’s even funnier and fresher to hear the sorts of questions readers ask Axe Cop, and the answers to those questions are never boring, and the “episodes” are short one-page gems.
2) Various artists’ poster-style renditions of Axe Cop and his friends. Bat-Warthog-man never looked so good.
3) Dinosaurs, babies and their poop, Chihuahua Soldier, Wexter, the co-op with Dr. McNinja, whom I must now follow, the magicians’ planet, and the Funny Episode! Oh my God, the Funny Episode!

This is the third volume in an ongoing series, but I have a feeling this collection stands alone. There are a few interesting origin stories and nothing that’s really a spoiler or completely reliant on past episodes. And said past episodes are always noted within the text, which is quite convenient.

If anything, just buy this volume of Axe Cop and read if you’re ever depressed, uninspired, or have Writer’s Block. There will be no more stagnation in your creativity once you read Axe Cop Vol. 3.

~Prof. Jenn

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Webcomic Review: Shadowbinders

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Shadowbinders is a bright and shiny new webcomic created by the husband and wife team of Thom and Kambrea Pratt. Combining the daily trials and tribulations of high school with adventures in a futuristic steampunk world is a highly original idea that pays off well. The hand-drawn animation style is simple and charming and the digital colors are vibrant and really bring the stories alive.

Our main character is Mia, a spunky, smart and not-so-popular teenage girl drooling after the “hot guy” in school and occasionally dreaming of smashbuckling adventure aboard a flying ship. One day, these dreams become reality and she meets the crew of The True North and its roguish captain, Crimson Rhen. Rhen reminds me of Captain Jack Harkness and is charming, brave and arrogant.

Adventures and mysteries abound throughout the series and I look forward to reading more. The series is currently in the fifth chapter of the adventure and the artists usually release a new panel twice a week and have a very interactive website.  Until then, there’s plenty of catch up, so if you’re looking for a fun romp, check out Shadowbinders at http://shadowbinders.com/.

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PMS Comics

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What do people have to say about PMS Adventures?
“How many menstruation jokes can I fit into this quote? Bailee and Lauren are bleeding geniuses. PMS Adventures is better than just being feminist- it’s hilarious, and gorgeous, and fun to read. Plus it helps with cramps! It’s so clever, you might even call it post-menstrual.” – Emily V Gordon, nerdist.com
“I was told PMS Comics was about Puppies Making Smiles. Boy was I misled.” – Comics Bulletin
“F*ck off.” – Jeff Katz, GeekWeek.com

PMS (Phemale Super Heroes) Adventures is a weekly web comic written and created by Lauren Pottinger, illustrated and co-created by Bailee DesRocher. It tells the story of three down on their luck girls who stumble upon a paid medical trial. Excited about the prospect of cash in exchange for free birth control, they are injected with a serum that does more than prevent pregnancy. Due to an interaction with high sodium levels in their blood from overconsumption of Bottom Ramen Noodles, the girls are mutated into super-heroines… but only on their cycles. They are taken under the wing of their landlady, Aunt Flo, an ex-cop with a penchant for robe wearing, chain smoking, and gun wielding. She whips them into shape with a series of training montages, and the girls go from underappreciated to empowered.

Introducing the ladies of PMS:
Cassie “Crimson Tide” Taylor is mild mannered (cliché!) literati who transforms into a fiery flame throwing threat when facing fiendish foes.

Maya “Maxi Pad” Parsons is a musical maven … but on her monthly menses her velvet voice turns into a tonal terror, its piercing sound debilitating any man who hears it. She also has wings. Get it? Maxi Pad? With wings? Bwahahaha!

And finally, Teresa “Tam Pon” Pacciano, a rough around the edges engineer. Already equipped with a short fuse, she becomes Tam Pon when provoked, a white furred she-beast who’d rather throw you out than ‘talk it out’.

PMS Adventures pays homage to all the goofy stuff the creators (and readers) love: fun stories packed with pop-culture and puns, while lampooning the comic crafting process at the same time. Released once a week on www.pmscomics.com, this comic will make you chuckle… and probably bleed from your vagina, if you have one.* Synch with the ladies every Wednesday on the inter-webs. Your brain and funny bone will thank you.

*If you don’t have one, you’ll still like it. We love Bruce Campbell, Star Wars, and making fun of women on their cycles… and ourselves… and you!

Image Courtesy of riotnrrdcomics.com

Webcomic Review – Riot Nrrd

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Image Courtesy of riotnrrdcomics.com

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Convention season has been getting rather hectic as of late. Personal issues and business aside, I have wanted to review some webcomics, and as I stated in my last post, I am going to do it.

That said, onward. The first comic I’m reviewing is Riot Nrrd, a comic that is not only a joy for me to read, but one that should prove more than enjoyable to all Nerds out there in Babeland.

Riot Nrrd is the creation of R.J. Edwards, a self-professed nerd who likes to geek out about subjects such as anthropology, linguistics and of course webcomics. The story is focused on a small group of college-aged geek girls from all walks of life, sexual preferences and identities. Edwards states that her comic is aimed at nerds from many walks of life and geekiness, and the prejudices they might face, be it from a disability, race, sexual identity or even fat phobias. While the story focuses on the romantic relationships, friendships and all the awkward and comic moments therein, she also highlights the different levels of geekiness each of the characters have, be it one’s first introduction to the boffer LARP lifestyle, to the planned webcomic featuring female superheroes that are not of the typical swimsuit model variety featured in DC or Marvel comic book titles, but genetically altered and powered roller derby players. What is not to love about that?

Edwards shows a cool angle on how the various fandoms and geekdoms develop in a character. My favorite example of this, as well as the strip that made me into a fangirl myself, is “The Metaphorical Puppyverse” where a main character, Wren, compares following favored television series to owning a house full of active and messy puppies. With the number of TV reviews on this and other sites, fans as well as blog readers and contributors alike can relate!

The artwork is done in Photoshop save for the first two strips that were made using the GIMP program. Cute and very linear, the style reminds me of the art in “Dr. Katz” at first glance. Reading onward, I saw that each character is very distinct, giving the story more realism and credibility.

This is a slice of life comic with a geeky twist, but what sets Riot Nrrd apart from other geek stories are the different races, ages, sexual identities, sizes and disabilities of the characters along with the prejudices they may encounter from time to time in the course of their lives and friendships. All the same, these characters are very likeable and very real geeks, the kind of geeks and people we would definitely hang out with if our paths were to cross!

What do I do with my webcomic idea: Web Space

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So you are an artist with a vision. You decide to tell your story in comic form. You want to share your vision with cyberspace.
So, how to go about it?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve read web comics on and off for the past ten years or so. They’ve been around in one form or another for the past fifteen years. I sat next to an artist who has first published his comic via geocities in 1997 at one convention. I’ve read a few strips such as MegaTokyo, and Twisted Kaiju Theater, who have their own web domain space and started around 2000.

There are ways and means to attain webspace, but one of the first things to consider is what space you will reserve on the world wide web.

If you go to the the webcomic list and take a look at the featured comic sections, the links will direct you to the profile page or to the comic itself. Some artists use blogging sites, such as Blogspot or Word Press. Both of these are easy to use and have a variety of templates. You can also sign up for free, which is always good if you are starting out, not sure of where you want to take your story, or you just want something simple and easy to use. Word Press also offers software called Comic Press which can be downloaded and offers a variety of layouts. I haven’t used it myself, but the comics look pretty clean, simple and effective. Some, an I’m in this category, purchase domain space through providers such as FatCow. You pay an annual fee, but you have to option of using templates, or programing the way you want your web page to look via HTML or XML or however you wish if you are a more advanced designer. Some sites also work with Word Press or other popular blogging sites. Look at the package deals offered. How much bandwidth space can you get? How many email addressed can you create? What kind of templates are offered? Do you have the options for e-commerce or online store space?

Whichever option you take, always shop around for what is best for you, and your wallet. You work well when your web space is easy to work with. I know that there is nothing more frustrating than finishing a strip and being unable to publish because you are having a hard time with your web account!

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Ninja Nightmares

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By stellar webcomic Savage Chickens.   ~Prof. Jenn

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Check Out Blueprints While the Foreman Resolves It

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I absolutely love Hijinks Ensue. Trust that there will be a review from me one of these days. Until then, get into it with a little teaser.

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