Staying Wide Awake With Ada Lovelace

May 7th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Cheryl Lynn threw a link to Wide Awake Online up on Twitter yesterday, with a comment about how she liked the art. I figured I’d give it a look since she’s an Adam Warren fan, like all right-minded people.

What I found was pretty interesting. The artist, Mirco Pierfederici (some slight NSFW down the page), is an Italian cat who’s only done a few works in English, near as I can tell. I read Wide Awake, though, and was pretty impressed. His style has shades of Adam Hughes, Daniel Acuña, and Ryan Sook. I’m fairly certain that he does his own colors, as well, which is very neat. It’s an attractive style, and one that’s good enough for me to keep reading.

It’s a short look at the series, but pretty neat. Interesting, Greg Rucka’s buddy Eric Trautmann and Brandon Jerwa are writing it. Two decently established comics pros doing a free webcomic seems like it should be a bigger deal than it is. The only other guy I can think of who’s doing that off the top of my head is Warren Ellis, and maybe some of the Zuda crew.

The dreams of Amanda Carter, the main character, come to life every time she sleeps. It’s clear that there’s something else behind it, and finding out what that’s going to be is going to be pretty cool, I hope. Trautmann wrote a post about the series here with some background info. It updates weekly.

Johanna Draper-Carlson wrote a post about another new webcomic. 2D Goggles is a comic about Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, Grandparents of modern computing. It’s a fun little ditty about equations, numbers, and science, but manages to be amazingly entertaining despite all of the gross science involved.

It’s a pretty clever strip, with lots of fun bits for careful readers. The Twitter joke is probably my favorite, but Ada thinking “Ponies + Numbers = :D” is also very funny to me. It’s totally a “Girls like ponies” joke, but it works. If you like historical fiction and comedy, or either of them, click on through.

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Are you reading Ants?

May 1st, 2009 Posted by david brothers

The homey Julian Lytle has started up a webcomic called Ants, which stars, yeah, ants. They talk, they play games, and they’ve got flavor. Get up on it before it gets popular so you can shame the scrubs who discovered it late. He updates once a week right now.

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We Care a Lot Part 5: Wrath of the Butterface

December 3rd, 2008 Posted by Gavok

Last time on the Venom Marathon, we discovered that the symbiote is an entity that can extrude itself as a molecular filament and travel along communication cables. In other words, Carnage Unleashed is the greatest awful comic of all time. Yet somehow, Marvel brass decided that Larry Hama should continue writing the series.

Continue he did, with Sinner Takes All. Had they gone with a real numbering system, this would be Venom #31-35, meaning that we’re halfway into his series. I have fonder memories of this one merely because as a kid, I had the entire five issues. Boy were they big issues. The first four came with a Jury back-up story that I’ve never cared about enough to actually read. The fifth issue came with a quick Venom story that I’ll get to after this Sin-Eater business.

The artist here is Greg Luzniak (Ted Halsted takes over for the last issue), who had a really nice art style for the most part. The catch was that his Venom, as you can see, is a little bit overboard.

Yikes. From what I understand, Hama is less into the superhuman and more into badasses armed to the teeth, so this storyline comes more natural to him.

Read the rest of this entry �

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Hope is useless against a superior foe

November 30th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Sometimes (all of the times that have ever been times in recorded history) Dinosaur Comics is really, really good. This is one of those times.

I’m slowly trying to get back to writing those smarty-art posts everybody loves, but getting b.o.m.b. is tough! I’ve got a few things planned to get back into the swing of things and get it hot in here. I’ve been slacking like crazy lately.

Look for the start of a short series on a very specific Frank Miller-related subject later on this week, and I may try to rope some blog pals into talking about it with me. I’m hoping it has legs, but I’m sure that we’ll find out soon.

You can see my views on Batman #681 over at PCS. I’m not sure why the front page hasn’t updated, but there should be a few reviews going up this week, too.

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Why Superman/Batman Is The Comic To Watch II

September 21st, 2008 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

Well. Yes. There is also that.

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On Criticism and Art

August 11th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I saw an interesting conversation on the blogohedron last week. It was about criticism and its place in art. It started here, with Johanna’s review of How to Make Webcomics, which was written by Brad Guigar (Evil Inc.), Dave Kellett (Sheldon), Scott Kurtz (PvP) , and Kris Straub (Starslip Crisis). It’s an overall positive review, though she dings it for proofreading errors (which is totally fair and most likely warranted), but the controversy (or whatever you want to call it) arose from this paragraph:

Oddly, the promotion chapter doesn’t mention either press releases or getting reviews, both sources of free coverage; instead, dealing with critics is covered in the audience chapter. The author of this section, Dave Kellett, breaks them into four categories and says, “each one can be diffused or made impotent by kindness and politeness.” So the goal here is not to listen, but to deflect. And that’s reflected in his categories; not one covers someone pointing out a legitimate flaw or place for improvement in the work. In other words, he doesn’t think critics are ever right. (The categories are the person who’s mean without meaning to be and really loves the comic; nitpickers correcting “useless details”; the hater; and the troll. This section, by the way, was the first piece of the book I read — it’s where the copy I was browsing fell open when I first picked it up. Fate!)

Scott Kurtz talked about the review here, and says this:

I’m not sure how I ended up in so many tug-of-war competitions with bloggers, where the outcome of our match determines the superior position: creator or critic. But it seems to be cropping up again. There is a strange sense of entitlement, an eerie assumption of an unspoken working relationship that I am happy to inform does not exist. Why we insulate ourselves from the notion that the external critic can EVER be right, is because their critique is moot in regards to the progression of our work.

Click through for the rest of the post. I’ll have some excerpts here, but not the full text.

I’ve got kind of a huge problem with this statement. The biggest problem I guess is that no one has ever said this in the history of ever. If anyone has actually said it, they were probably a pretty terrible critic.

I don’t think that any critic believes that he or she is a part of the direct creative process. Indirect? Yes. Direct? No. Critics do not exist to tell you how your work should go as you’re making it. They exist to tell you how you work has gone after you’ve finished. My mental image of a critic is still that first bit from History of the World Part I. The caveman paints on the cave wall, his friends and family praise it, they cheer, and then the critic walks in. And the critic pees on the drawing.

It’s probably a bad example, because the critic pees on the work and I can’t think of anything that’s really worth all that trouble, but it fits my view of a critic. Critics come along after the work is done and judge it. Whether they’re judging the literary worth of the work or just whether or not it made them laugh, they’re there to judge the finished work in whatever form it may take. Whether they pee on it or praise it is up to them.

Kurtz goes on to say–

Think about Star Trek and the Prime Directive. Sometimes, civilizations take a left turn in their natural progression and things go tits up. Sometimes there is a dictatorship or a famine or a plague that is going to steer this civilization into trouble, but the crew of the Enterprise CAN NOT ACT. They can NOT interfere. To interfere with those hardships would be to damage the natural progression of that civilization.

I feel like this is a labored metaphor, but maybe that’s just because I’ve never been a trek fan and had to actually ask someone about the Prime Directive. Anyway, his point here, boiled down and hopefully not misrepresented, is that you can’t interfere at all in the creation of art because that will kill the creativity inherent in it.

Again, I can’t agree. I think he has half a point, here, but feedback is important in the creation of anything. The best teacher I ever had was my senior year IB English teacher who wouldn’t hesitate to hand you a paper back with “rewrite this entire terrible thing” scrawled across the top. Critics exist to point out what you have done that didn’t work. It can give you pointers on what’s succeeding and what’s failing with your audience.

No critic is going to, or deserves to, stand over your shoulder while you’re at the drawing board or your typewriter and go, “Hey hey, hold up! You should change this word here and that line is way too heavy. Lighten that up and try this specific brush. Also make his cape blue.” That’s not why critics exist.

It might just be the critics I read, but I don’t get a sense of entitlement from any of them. It’s more about reading a book and giving your opinion on it. These opinions come in a lot of different forms, be it free association, measured responses, retailer-oriented, rambly new journalism, fairly highbrow, irreverent, worthless fanboy/fangirl screaming at the heavens (too many examples to count), or whatever. It’s up to the artist to read these and decide which ones are valid and which are not. Some of them may valid, all of them may be valid, or none of them may be valid.

The trick is being discerning. Not everyone’s opinion is going to make sense. Discounting the idea that any critic can ever be right seems kind of silly. No one is perfect yet, which Kurtz seems to agree with, but how exactly do you figure out what you did right and wrong? I’ve had things that I think work that turn out to be opaque and terrible. I’ve read interviews with creators who have had things pointed out to them that they never would’ve realized otherwise. Alternate points of view are important.

It’s not that we don’t realize we’re making mistakes. It’s not that we’re oblivious to the fact that our work is imperfect. But if we play it safe and never risk those imperfections, then we’ll never grow as artists. Ultimately, we can’t chart our course based on what our readership or critics thinks is working. We have to go with our gut.

Kurtz seems to be thinking that critics exist to encourage (or force) artists to work inside little boxes and never grow. “Nine panel grids or death! That person better be five heads tall! Why isn’t this three act structure?” There are critics who do that, yeah, but they aren’t the end-all, be-all. Honestly, I don’t even think those critics are any good.

This is kind of how I approach reviewing. I’m not there to try and diminish it, so much as to try and spot what went right and what went wrong. Sometimes comics outstay their welcome. Sometimes clunky dialogue kills an otherwise fun story. Sometimes someone writes a story where two adults with superpowers don’t realize that they’re upside down until eighteen pages in. Sometimes you get a sublime mix of words and art like JLA: Classified 1-3.

If anything, the critic should be a help to the creator. It is something the creator can go to, check out, and judge himself. Maybe they have a valid point. Maybe something wasn’t as clear as he thought it was. Maybe he’ll find something to take away from it, maybe he won’t. That’s the luck of the draw, I guess.

Recently, I called Mike Krahulik to compliment him on a new coloring technique he had used on a recent Penny-Arcade strip. I opened my phone conversation with the following statement: “Mike, Ignore all emails about the new coloring. It’s awesome. Pursue it.” But it was too late. He had already read all the mail and had been sufficiently discouraged enough to just drop the matter. “That’s what I get for trying to innovate.” he said to me.

He was joking, but there was some truth to his statement.

And that’s why there is no chapter in our book on when to accept that, sometimes, the critic is right.

This is kind of a terrible anecdote, though. Kurtz liked something that Krahulik did, other people didn’t, and Krahulik already decided to quit it, deciding that it wasn’t worth the hassle. I’m not sure exactly why that is why there is no chapter on when to accept that, sometimes, the critic is right, but okay?

It did illuminate one thing for me, though. It made me realize that Kurtz holds fans and critics to different standards. Critics exist to give negative feedback and fans exist to give positive feedback. It’s a thoroughly false dichotomy, and kind of an intellectually dishonest one, as well. What Kurtz told Krahulik is just as much criticism as what JDC displayed in her review of the book. It’s offering a critical opinion of a work. The idea that positive feedback is valid while negative feedback shouldn’t be paid any attention is a terrible one. Feedback is feedback, whether positive or negative, and both can help to grow a work.

I’ve got a friend who just screened his movie, Yeah Sure Okay. It’s something new and innovative, both for him and possibly for movies in general. I know that he co-created it with that idea in mind. After the screening, he went around soliciting feedback. What worked, what didn’t, what was hokey, what was awesome, and so on. He did it because he needs to know if he succeeded at his goal, and if he didn’t succeed, what parts weren’t hitting with the audience. He didn’t decide that he should never listen to critics because critics will alter the natural course of his creativity. He decided that it’s important to get feedback so that you can be sure that you’re on point.

That’s what the critic is for.

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Linking it up

December 26th, 2006 Posted by david brothers

— Dinosaur Comics is one of the hands-down funniest webcomics out. Here is my favorite strip. It is a comic about the male gaze (yes, that male gaze) as explained by a neon green t-rex. The red-tinted text is the devil speaking. Enjoy!

— I’m a Wonder Woman fan for very specific stories, and Amazons Attack sounds like one of those stories! Plus, Pete Woods and Will Pfiefer are great together. I’m not sure why they’re attacking, or how, since I could’ve sworn that the Amazons disappeared to another dimension or oblivion along with the Greek gods and didn’t exist any more, but okay. I do like that Pfiefer is going to focus on the foot soldiers, though. That sort of thing has always been more interesting to me.

— Amazons Attack is a great title and I’m glad that they’re actually going to use it. It really, really needs an exclamation point, though. 4thletter!. Amazons Attack!. It’s dynamic, exciting, and cool. Very Silver Age.

— Paul Pope is one of my favorite creators. He is definitely among my ever-growing Top Five Favorite (I’m up to 150!). He has a must-read blog. He’s got a lot of Kirby-related shots up. A little bit of FF, a bit of OMAC (a little Erica in my life). Their styles couldn’t be more different, but both bring a large amount of energy into the fray. Their figures pop off the page. Pope’s OMAC story in his issue of SOLO was great, great stuff. I’ll admit that I haven’t read any of THB (much to my chagrin), but I own 100% (brilliant comics) and One Trick Rip-Off in trade, 3/4 of Batman: Year 100 (and I will buy that trade when it hits), and his issue from Spider-Man: Tangled Web. I love his indie and superhero work equally and I eagerly await everything he puts out. Anyway, read the blog. The stuff about the Batman typeface is fascinating.

— This is an odd thought, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Jack Kirby-drawn Batman. I think at the point when Kirby hit DC, Batman was enjoying the new and gritty revamp, so his style might not have fit? I’d kind of like to see his Bats.

— The 4l crew, as far as we know, are all going to be in full effect at New York Comic-con, Feb 23-25. We’ve got the hotel room booked, flights scheduled, and money saved for getting on a jet plane. See you there? Quite possibly!

— Brian Vaughan’s The Escapists, with art from Phil Bond/Steve Rolston/Shawn Alexander turned out really, really well. Excellent book and possibly my pick for miniseries of the year. Christos Gage and Mike Perkins’s Union Jack, from Marvel, was another surprise hit. It was kind of delightful in a superspy action movie kind of way. The end bit with Sabra and Arabian Knight both not being willing to let go of their prejudices, despite a grudging respect between the two, was pretty well-written, too.

— Come to think of it, Gage wrote that pretty awesome Deadshot mini from a couple years back, too. Someone give him more work. Stormwatch is a start, okay?

— Is it possible to read too many comics? I’ve consistently cut boring or bad comics off my to-read list, so my reading habits are pretty healthy, but I think I try to read everything that’s good. Speaking of good, I think we’re due for a new volume of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster any week now…

— There is a game coming out pretty soon called Arthur and The Invisibles. It isn’t the picture to the left, there, in any way shape or form. It’s based on some movie or another, but I’m so disappointed that I don’t even want to see the flick or play the game! I mean, this thing right here is what you call a killer crossover. You get in the toddlers and youngsters and the dope-smoking smelly hippie crazies! I’d see it twice, even! Arthur Read meets Dane McGowan. The world would never be the same.

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