Webcomics What’s What: Piled Higher And Deeper

I’m not a regular reader of Jorge Cham’s PHD Comics (which, as the title of this post indicates, stands for Piled Higher and Deeper Comics). It’s a weekly strip about life in grad school. And even though I spent more years than I like count in university and even though my wife is a prof and thus well entrenched in that life, reading tales about academia has long ago lost its allure for me.

Someone needs to write a comic strip about a stay-at-home dad who does a little freelance work on the side.

Oh wait, it’s called Adam@Home and it’s been in newspapers since 1984. Yeah, I’m not going to read that. Too few zombies and octopus attacks. I want something true to my life.

Anyway, I bring up PHD Comics — which is a great and venerable webcomic, with archives dating back to 1997 — because James Brotheridge tipped me to a comic Cham, along with Dwayne Godwin, did for Scientific American on the subject of vaccination. They cover in one page of pictures what it took me 1,500 words to say in our December vaccination article. If I’d known this comic existed, we could have reprinted that and it would have saved me a lot of time.

Click on the image below to see the full comic.

FanExpo ’12: The geeks are alright

The original Batmobile. Adam West and Burt Ward sold separately.

For the first time this weekend, a Comic-Con like convention landed in Vancouver. It seems the local geeks were hungry for something like that.

For two days, the FanExpo attracted almost every fanboy in the West Coast. Besides the traditional comic book sellers and the B-listers ready to sign an autograph, an unexpected number of cos-players made their presence felt. From old-fashioned Batmans to Game of Thrones-type Khaleesis, many were itching to dress like their favorite fiction characters.

The good natured Kevin Sorbo awaits for some Hercules fans.

Only in a place like this Adam West could be the hottest number in town. The seminal Batman had the longest line of fans, more than Star Trek: The Next Generation staples Marina Siritis, Michael Dorn and John DeLancie combined. Kevin Sorbo and Lou Ferrigno seemed to enjoy dealing with fans one-on-one, while Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) looked somewhat mortified.

A couple of security guards would make sure no unauthorized Adam West pics were taken. You could get a portrait with West and Burt Ward (Robin, circa 1966) but it would cost you a hundred dollars.

The most endearing booth belonged to Jeremy Bulloch, a.k.a. Boba Fett. The gentle Bulloch would talk tirelessly about his little screen time on Empire and Jedi, surrounded by photos of the intergalactic bounty hunter. Adoring Star Wars fans would surround him at all times.

Next weekend is the Calgary Expo, with the ST: TNG cast in all its glory (including Patrick Stewart).

Blast from the past: The Fifth Element is still in someone's mind.

Webcomics What’s What: The Abominable Charles Christopher

The weather has returned to nice and that, for some reason, puts me in the mood for wisecracking forest animals. And where better to find them than in Karl Kerschl’s The Abominable Charles Christopher?

Most installments are gags involving sarcastic animals. But there is a running story about the titular Charles Christopher, a mute Sasquatch.

At first glance, the comic, with its masterful inks and washes, looks all serene and pastoral. Like something lifted from a book called How To Draw Wildlife With Pen And Ink. That was written in the 19th century. And then the perfectly rendered fauna open their mocking, cynical mouths and you realize that Kerschl not only captures nature’s beauty but also its cruelty.

There are certainly episodes here and there that count as touching and quaint. Contemplative, even. But personally, I much prefer the head-butting swans (above), the smart-ass mice, and the desperate sparrow.

Oh, and the cats.

This strip has been around since 2007, and unlike a lot of webcomics which are passion projects by amateurs whose art skills improve slowly over time, Charles Christopher has been gorgeously drawn from the start. No surprise considering Kerschl is a comic pro who’s worked on everything from Flash to Superman to Majestic to Weapon X. Charles Christopher is fun project he does in his spare time. For free.

Ultrasonic Alarm Call: Sadness Is My Boyfriend

In this episode of prairie dog magazine’s most audible internet thing, we look at demolition and development around Regina; we ponder the strange, eldritch rituals that were involved in the construction of the downtown plaza; we celebrate the rise of Image comics and Brian K Vaughn’s Saga; and, Aidan for some reason reviews Stallone’s masterpiece, First Blood.

Ultrasonic Alarm Call s02 e02 — Sadness Is My Boyfriend: At the table, Aidan Morgan, Shane Hnetka and Paul Dechene. Music by the Lazy MKs. Runtime 38 minutes of podcastery plus 1 second of bonus hijinks.

Webcomics What’s What: Tiny Kitten Teeth

This strikes me as the perfect webcomic for an Easter weekend. It just screams spring. Which is exactly what I did upon waking this morning. Or, more precisely, I screamed, “What the hell happened to spring?”

Damnable snow.

Tiny Kitten Teeth is hand painted by Becky Dreistadt and written by Frank Gibson. It’s a slice of life comic involving various animals who live in Owltown. And it looks like something lifted straight from a Golden Book from the 60s.

You can start at the beginning of the story here.

And if there is ever going to be a comicbook biography of the Easter Bunny, Becky and Frank are the people to do it.

Webcomics What’s What: Gunnerkrigg Court

Gunnerkrigg Court is a marvel. It was launched in 2005 by Tom Siddell and has been updating three times a week ever since then (With a few hiatuses and holidays in there). Not surprisingly then the sheer number of comic pages available on his website is staggering. But that wouldn’t be much of an achievement if the story he’s telling was crap.

But it isn’t. It isn’t crap at all. In fact, it’s one of the best fantasy story’s for young adults I’ve ever encountered.

It starts out seeming like it will be a strange story of kids at a magic-filled boarding school — kind of Harry Potter crossed with Edward Gorey with a hefty dose of manga thrown in. But it quickly evolves into an epic sci-fi/fantasy tale filled with robots, fairies, romance and ass-kicking, boarding school adventure.

The art is definitely manga influenced but the mythology the story draws from is part Anglo-Saxon, part First Nations. And it all works together really well.

Oh, and I should mention, unlike Harry Potter, the main characters here are pretty much all women. Which is damn refreshing. I ranted at one point about the lack of quality fiction with female protagonists. Since that time, I’ve gone on a hunt for top-notch, girl-friendly fiction and Gunnerkrigg Court is near the top of that list of awesome finds.

Continue reading “Webcomics What’s What: Gunnerkrigg Court”

Webcomics What’s What: Kafka’s Koffee

So far with these weekly profiles, I’ve been looking at webcomics I know pretty well and have read all the way through. But I stumbled upon Kafka’s Koffee the other day and fell completely in love with this series of Batman comics and had to share. If you click on the comic above it’ll take you to the start.

Kafka’s Koffee is written and drawn by Eric Colossal who I know nothing about beyond a sneaking suspicion that he’s using a pen name. And there is a mountain of comicy goodness on his site that I have only begun to explore.

Doonesbury Vs. State Rape, The End

Paul Dechene hasn’t blogged the last installment of Doonesbury’s week-long satire of the state of Texas’ attack on women’s reproductive freedoms* yet today. I guess it’s up to me. Let’s hope Dechene’s happily curled under a pub. Here’s the strip.

*And in general, the whole Republican Taliban crusade against women, birth control, reproductive choice and general fucking decency, sanity and respect.

Doonesbury Vs State Rape, Day 5

Here’s the final penultimate installment of Doonesbury’s comic assault on Texas’ disgusting, anti-woman, forced trans-vaginal ultrasound legislation.

In case you’re wondering what impact that law is having on women, Ophelia Benson at Butterflies & Wheels tells one woman’s horrifying tale.

Meanwhile, here’s an article by Joyce Arthur from 2000 that looks at what happens when women who are opposed to abortion decide to get abortions. It’s called, “The Only Moral Abortion Is My Abortion.”

Finally, in case you’ve missed the whole Doonebury censorship story and have no idea why I’ve been posting these comics on the Dog Blog, here’s Taiwan’s Next Media Animation to sum everything up.

Doonesbury Vs State Rape, Day 3

This is the third installment of Garry Trudeau’s skewering of a Texas abortion law that requires women to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. The series is running as similar laws are being considered in several other American states.

You can read today’s strip in full over at Trudeau’s website.

Rachel Maddow did an interesting piece on the controversy recently. She points out that Governor Rick Perry, who was until recently vying to run for president on the GOP ticket, is on record as an enthusiastic proponent of his state’s pre-abortion ultrasound legislation. And now there are rumors that he may be picked as Newt Gingrich’s running mate.

Considering yesterday’s primary results, who Gingrich picks as a running mate may be a moot point. But still, if Perry were somehow to wind up playing sidekick on a winning Republican presidential ticket, we’d get to call him, VP VP — that is, Vice President Vaginal Probe.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Doonesbury Vs State Rape, Day 2

Doonesbury continues it’s look at a new law in Texas that requires women getting an abortion to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound. As we mentioned yesterday, many newspapers in the U.S. are refusing to run the strip.

Here’s the Mary Sue’s coverage of the situation. And Comic’s Alliance also has an excellent piece on it.

And of course, you can read today’s Doonesbury over on Garry Trudeau’s website.

Doonesbury Vs State Rape, Day 1

Doonesbury cartoonist, Garry Trudeau, is taking on Texas’ ugly, anti-woman pre-termination ultrasound law in a series of strips this week. Several papers in the U.S. are refusing to run them.

I don’t know if the Leader Post carries Doonesbury or, if they do, if they’re suspending it for the week. But, either way, you can read the first installment on Trudeau’s website.

Also, here’s an interview with the cartoonist about the controversy.

Webcomics What’s What: xkcd

I’ve raved about xkcd on the Dog Blog before. But it really is an extraordinary piece of work worth mentioning over and over again.

It’s another one of those geeky, science-heavy comics. (I guess there’s a theme to my webcomic predilections.) It’s written and drawn by Randall Munroe, who Wikipedia tells me used to be a NASA roboticist and programmer.

And his science background shows. Often I have to ask my wife to unpack his jokes for me (she’s a math prof). And I suspect that xkcd will have by now supplanted Calvin and Hobbes and Foxtrot as the most-often-posted comic on the doors of science, math and computer profs.

Munroe’s work ranges from wacky (such as Modern History, Alternative Energy Revolution and Outreach) to sweet (Grownups and Angular Momentum) to nerdy in ways that will curl your brain (Pumpkin Carving, Circuit Diagram, Threesome, Science, Riemann-Zeta, Advertising, Self Description, Science Montage).

By far, though, his most impressive comics are his charts. They are really unbelievable. If you check out nothing else, at least have a gander at Gravity Wells, Height, Online Communities, Movie Narrative Charts, Tic-Tac-Toe and Money. I can’t imagine how much work went into these things.

xkcd updates a few times a week.

Doonesbury’s Sticking Up For Women Next Week. So Naturally, Some U.S. Newspapers Are Spiking It.

I don’t read the strip any more but it sounds like next week’s run will be the kind of Doonesbury I like. Creator Garry Trudeau’s topic: all these bullshit new bills and laws that U.S. states are drafting and passing to make abortions as inconvenient and humiliating as possible. Jim Romenesko has day-by-day descriptions of the strips:

Monday: Young woman arrives for her pre-termination sonogram, is told to take a seat in the shaming room, a middle-aged male state legislator will be right with her.

Tuesday: He asks her if this is her first visit to the center, she replies no, that she’s been using the contraceptive services for some time. He says, “I see. Do your parents know you’re a slut?”

And it continues.

I still have no idea how anyone could think that forcing a pregnant woman to give birth against her will — which is what anti-abortionists want — is an acceptable and ethical alternative to terminating an unwanted or dangerous pregnancy. Not to demonize people who have different opinions than me but, okay, I’m gonna demonize the jackasses:  you’d have to be stupider than fuck or batshit crazy to support anti-abortion laws.* Eff the anti-choicers. Eff ’em!

Maybe one of our enterprising bloggers will post links to Doonesbury every day next week.

*Caveat: being personally opposed to abortion is okay. That’s the flip side of this “choice” pro-choicers talk about so much.

Webcomics What’s What: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal is a daily gag comic that’s been around in this form since 2002. It’s written and drawn by Zach Weinersmith.

SMBC is obsessed with science, god (and/or the lack thereof), comics, academic life and philosophy.

Weinersmith also produces a weekly sketch-comedy vodcast called SMBC Theatre.

If you’re new to SMBC, other particularly funny installments (beyond the one at left) are the Mount Stupid graph, the solution to the Fermi Paradox, mom’s inappropriate children’s book, the Spirit of Science, this year’s Valentine’s Day card, and the one about what people know about Schrodinger’s Cat.

And, it’s worth checking out Weinersmith’s blog post explaining how he responded when anti-gay marriage group, the National Organization for Marriage, used one of his comics on their website. It’s funny.

Also of interest, Weinersmith’s wife is a PhD student in ecology and runs a science blog called, Weinersmith. She has an article there about parasitic fungi and zombie ants. I’ve read about the fungal zombie ants thing before and the phenomena is creepy as hell and proof that nature is out to destroy and defile us in unspeakable ways.

Seriously. Fuck nature.

Webcomics What’s What: Dinosaur Comics

It’s a comic about talking dinosaurs. And the art is exactly the same in every episode. Only the (increasingly bizarre) dialogue changes. How long do you think someone could keep that up? In the case of Dinosaur Comics, that would be nine years and counting.

You have Toronto’s Ryan North to thank for proving that the internet rewards tenacity above all things.

While Dinosaur Comics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I think you’ll agree North’s Time Traveler Essentials T-Shirt is something everyone should own. Because you never know when you’re going to wind up stranded in time.

Webcomics What’s What: Dresden Codak

A nice thing about webcomics is being able to watch an artist’s skills improve over time. Take Dresden Codak by Aaron Diaz, for instance. When it started back in 2005, the drawing was quirky but kind of primitive. Thankfully, the writing was clever — in some installments extremely so (such as Codaakies which is a nice little riff on the Maakies format, and Secular Heaven). And that’s a good thing because the art wasn’t worth sticking around for.

Then in 2007, Diaz’ skills of an artist took a massive quantum leap forward with the start of the Hob storyline. And then they took another one in 2009. Nowadays, I think Dresden Codak is probably the most gorgeous piece of work online.

And while I love reading it, it can be frustrating sometimes. It’s such a mad goulash of science, science fiction, fantasy literature, nerd culture and undergrad philosophy that it can be hard to keep up. I only just barely stayed afloat through that aforementioned Hob story — it really needed a raftload of footnotes or a couple pages of exposition between installments if it really wanted to be coherent.

But then, he puts out these perfectly conceived and executed one-shots like Lantern Season, Harvet Ismuth’s 42 Essential 3rd Act Twists, Dungeons and Discourse, Caveman Science Fiction and the Sleepwalkers and I’m all like, “Holy crap, this Diaz kid is an effing genius.”

And it’s all there on the internets for free!

P.S. Seeing as yesterday was Darwin Day, you should also check out the guest comic he did for webcomic superstar Kate Beaton, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Darwin.

Webcomics What’s What: Scenes From A Multiverse

Hey, how about a new weekly feature that involves neither sprots nor pron? How about capsule reviews of webcomics? Okay. I can do that. I love webcomics.

First up, one of my current favourites, a gag strip called Scenes from a Multiverse.

SfaM is written and drawn by Johnathan Rosenberg and comes out pretty close to daily. It consists of little vignettes from different planets and dimensions in the multiverse. The idea is simple and it gives him the freedom to explore a wide range of political issues and reference broadly from nerd culture. Generally hilarious but occasionally he wanders off on tangents I don’t get. Like, lately he’s been parodying the BBC’s Sherlock series and as I’ve never seen it I don’t really know what he’s goofing on.

Anyway, Scenes From A Multiverse equals one pan-dimensionally worthwhile webcomic read.

Comics’ Super Shame

You know, I was just ranting the other day about how awesome comics were in the late 80s, early 90s. And while there was epically brilliant, genre-changing stuff coming out then (Sandman, Watchmen), I’d forgotten how mainstream superhero comics were right in the crapper. Yeesh, did they stink.

Kudos to Max Landis, the writer of Chronicle, for reminding me of comicdoms’ very lowest point….