Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Webcomic: A Daily Dose of Creativity

Rough couple of weeks, eh? I swear, in this time I've kicked about the ideas for so many angry, analytical blog posts, the kind where I set myself at a tangent to everybody and wring some sense out of my confused feelings regarding the dreadful stuff happening in the world and a narrative critique of it. I could do that right now. I've woken up every morning with a little burn of anger in my stomach that has been hit with a thousand comment pieces or new bits of god-awful every time I check into social media, or chat to friends, "Did you hear about...?"

Things are dark out. It's January, a tired, dirty month. We've had enough of winter, of injustice and violence. I could scream out against those things, say the necessary and bring another little patina of hopelessness to your day.

But for all my pretensions of politics, this is a blog about books. Stories, at their best, are the little lights we kindle against this dark, they are sanctuaries into which we can fold ourselves, temporal anomalies where we can play our favourite times over and over again, worlds closed off from decay and pain.

I read a lot and this is the place where I write about it. Still, a whole stream of my reading tends to get bypassed on this blog - the webcomic. I check them in the mornings, when I wake up at the weekend, or getting back from the school-run in the week. A single screen shot of story; fantasy, comedy, superhero or erotica. It's just a moment that lifts me out of diurnal drudgery, a gift from someone I've never met. There is so much to be angry at, to be saddened by that today I just want to celebrate a daily moment of pleasure, of joy taken in creativity, to thank those who make it and to pass it on.

So, here's the stuff I read, in no particular order. NB: I'm only putting in comics with an ongoing storyline.

Namesake by Isabelle Melançon and Megan Lavey-Heaton
Updates Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
The Beginning / Most Recent Update
 Let's start with my favourite shall we? Namesake is a fantasy adventure comic, suitable for a YA audience.
It's the story Emma Crewe, a young woman who discovers an ability to visit fictional worlds. This is the power of a Namesake -  a person who shares the name of a protagonist and must complete their quest - but what is Emma's story? And why have her powers carried her to the wrong one?
Pros: Wonderfully written, engaging, large cast piece. Brilliant characters. Lots of sub-plots. Very clever handling of a premise. Beautiful artwork. Totally YA friendly, SFW. And, er, Flawless Warrick.
Cons: Addictive. Quite a big undertaking. Linear narrative

Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto
Updates Monday-Friday
The Beginning / Most Recent Update 
And to the other end of the spectrum. Girls With Slingshots is a real world comedy webcomic aimed at adults. It follows the misadventures in life, love and alcohol poisoning of surly writer Hazel Tellington and her exuberant best friend Jamie 'The Rack' McJack. Romance detectives, ghost cats and a talking cactus feature in the perfectly realistic and ordinary lives of 20-30 something American women. Generally funny, occasionally hilarious. It can be read from the beginning as a single arc, or you can dip in at any point into the ongoing story.
Pros: Funny, thoughtful and occasionally very touching, another one with a brilliant cast of characters, lots of mini-arcs and a wonderfully rakish handling of a tired premise. SFW.
Cons: It's ending this year *sob*. Despite being SFW, it is quite rude in places - this might be a problem for some people.

Something Positive by R. K Milholland
Updates Monday-Friday
The Beginning / Most Recent Update 
Another real-ish world webcomic that occasionally crossovers with GWS. Slightly darker in comic tone, it follows the tribulations of misanthropic geek, Davan and his smilingly maladjusted friends from malacious irresponsibility to reluctant adulthood. There is some very moving stuff in some of the arcs, but also some truly wicked laughs. Again, it can be read from beginning to end, or picked up from the more recent strips.
Pros: A story that really grows as it was told, a webcomic that is currently firing on all cylinders. Also, scroll down for 'The Last Trick or Treater' watercolours.
Cons: The early comics are a little uneven in quality and tone. At times, not for the faint hearted. The suspicion that liking it makes you a bad person.

Chester 5000 XYV by Jess Fink
Updates with depressing irregularity
The Beginning / Most Recent Update
Steam-punk erotica about love, loss and robotics. Unable to satisfy his wife, inventor Robert creates a mechanical gigolo, Chester 5000 XYV. But love is more powerful than programming in this sweet, wordless, pornographic comic.
Pros: Astonishing artwork, so expressive that the text is not missed at all. A real capturing of the aesthetic of late 19th/ early 20th  pornography.
Cons: NSFW - if you hadn't already gathered that. Very NSFW. Seriously. Also, it doesn't update often.

Blindsprings by Kadi Federuk
Updates Tuesdays and Thursdays
The Beginning / Most Recent Update
Gorgeous webcomic that's really only just getting going. YA pitched but politically astute, it's a tale of a magical power struggle between authoritarian Academists and the hereditary Orphic Witches. Following a revolution in which the tyrannical Orphic aristocracy were deposed, anti-Orphic feeling is high. Marginalised and discriminated against, they form a tenuous resistance. Into this unstable situation is brought the naive Tamaura, a lost, Orphic Princess hidden for centuries as part of a deal with the ambiguous Spirits. Freed by a renegade Academist, she offers the key to a return of the old magics - but at what cost?
Pros: Gorgeously drawn, clever and thought provoking piece. YA friendly and SFW.
Cons: As it's still quite early in the run, not sure where this is going yet.

Center Of Somewhere by Luke Foster
Updates Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
The Beginning / Most Recent Update
Sweet and strange, a quirky comedy-webcomic set in perfectly ordinary small-town America, with everything you'd expect to see there: delusional fish, boy-detectives, bad tempered blue jays who live with neurotic squirrels... Can be read either as a single arc, or picked up from a more recent strip. It takes a bit of getting into,but there's something very charming about this one.
Pros: SFW, YA friendly, playful and occasionally hilarious.
Cons: Can feel a little episodic at times. Very difficult to spell correctly if you are English.

Moon Freight 3 by Luke Foster
Complete Arc
The Beginning 
 This is actually the first webcomic I read. Another comedy webcomic based on the time-honoured premise of a bunch of guys stuck in space and bored witless. The art is pretty shocking at the beginning, but does smooth out to tell a pleasingly-off-the-wall story workplace skiving. A slightly more adult focus than Center of Somewhere, but equally YA friendly.
Pros: SFW, YA friendly, silly and entertaining, bit of a Red Dwarf vibe to it.
Cons: Somewhat unsteady in quality.

The Young Protectors by Alex Woolfson, Adam DeKraker (pencils) and Veronica Gandini (colours)
Updates Saturdays (and Wednesdays as a bonus).
The Beginning 
Kyle (aka, Red Hot) is a young superhero struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and to come out to the other members of his team (The Young Protectors). Early in the comic begins a covert relationship with Duncan (aka, The Annihilator), one the planets more dangerous super-villains. Equal parts world-saving adventure and emotional narrative, The Young Protectors is a refreshing take on the superhero form. One of the nicest things about it is the lack of objectification in the artwork. While pitched at all readers, the 'gaze' is decidedly homosexual and male, and therefore inhabits the characters as subjects while presenting them as desirable, meaning that nearly everyone wears proper clothes and stands in natural poses. As a woman, it's very restful not to see bodies like mine aggressively sexualised, leaving me to enjoy the story without rage-gasms.
Pros: Excellent story-telling, engaging and moving. Mostly SFW. A really quality webcomic.
Cons: Not YA friendly, while excellent at representation in some ways, a little lacking in others. Also the website does not automatically take you to the most recent post which gets a touch annoying.

Mystery Babylon by Val Hochberg
Updates Mondays
The Beginning / Most Recent Update

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where - it is implied - superheroes are worshipped as Gods, Mystery Babylon (aka Kick Girl) is charged with keeping the seal to The Pit intact, and the other demons trapped beneath it. Angry and cynical she takes few things seriously; not the cultists who revere her, and certainly not Zero, the Vestal Priest who claims a angel bestowed a vision upon him that will lead them back The Pit and prevent it being opened.
Pros: Very interesting and original adventure narrative. SFW.
Cons: Quite long, and needs to be read from the beginning.

Alice and the Nightmare by Misha Krivanek
Starts February 14th
 I'm a little awkward about putting this one in here as there's nothing up at the minute. Alice and the Nightmare ran last year only to go on hiatus in the summer. It's now restarting on Valentine's Day. Taking it's cue from Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, it was shaping up to be an fascinating story of intolerance, compassion and eerie danger, told with beautifully cutesy art-work. I suspect the reboot will be all of these things, but we shall see.
Pros: The first run was looking to be very good.
Cons: Not enough info as yet.

So, there you are - the narrative webcomics I currently read. Any suggestions (including your own) are more than welcome in the comments below.

Enjoy. x