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The Comics Alternative - Smart Discussions on Comic Books and Graphic Novels

Two guys with PhDs talking about comics! The Comics Alternative is weekly podcast focusing on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics. (There's nothing wrong with superhero comics. We just want to do something different.) New podcast episodes become available every Wednesday and include reviews of graphic novels and current ongoing series, discussions of upcoming comics, examinations of collected editions, in-depth analyses of a variety of comics texts, and spotlights on various creators and publishers. The Comics Alternative also produces "special feature" programs, such as shows specifically dedicated to creator interviews, webcomics, on-location events, and special non-weekly themes and topics.
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Now displaying: Category: webcomics
Mar 13, 2017

For March, Sean and Derek check out three very different webcomics. They begin with Roger Langridge's The Great McGonagall, a biographical treatment of William "Topaz" McGonagall, known historically as the worst poet in the world. This is a very new webcomic, having begun in January 2017, and in it Langridge takes an already cartoonish figure and plays it up for even more humor. As the guys point out, the artist's style is perfect for this kind of send up.

Next, Sean and Derek turn their attention to Sufficiently Remarkable, Maki Naro's ongoing look at the struggles of a young artist trying to get by in New York City. Naro is one of the former contestants of Strip Search -- much like Abby Howard, whom the guys discussed back in October -- and, in fact, is how he first gained Sean's attention. As Derek reveals, this is a reality-based drama of interpersonal relationships, but one that struggles at times with the occasional pull into gag-strip formulas.

Finally, and after a brief check in with Jim McClain about the progress of his and Paul Schultz's Poe and the Mysteriads, the guys round out the episode with a discussion of The Boston Metaphorical Society. Written by Madeleine Holly-Rosing and with art by Emily Hu, this is a steampunk-inspired narrative surrounding the paranormal investigations of a former Pinkerton agent, his uniquely talented colleagues, and the scientific exploits of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Harry Houdini. This is the second webcomic of the month that mines history for its content, although unlike Roger Langridge's cartoon biography, this one uses the past as a springboard for its fantastical flourishes.

Feb 13, 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 - Introduction
  • 00:03:03 - Setup of episode
  • 00:03:50 - The Specialists
  • 00:32:17 - Hominids
  • 01:01:33 - Checking in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz
  • 01:16:16 - The Last Saturday
  • 01:38:20 - Wrap up
  • 01:39:52 - Contact us

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February Fun

For the month of February, Sean and Derek look at three very different webcomics. They begin with Al Fukalek and Shawn Gustafson's The Specialists, an alternate history superhero narrative set in the mid-1940s, with an undefeated Germany flexing its might with its own team of superpowered individuals, Die Übermenschen. The United States fights back with The Specialists, a diverse collection of heroes that is, at times, more propaganda than powered.

Next, the guys look at what is arguably the highlight of this month's episode, Jordan Kotzebue's Hominids. This fantasy adventure is set in world populated by varied creatures, the central of which are a race of jungle dwellers. This is a tale with complex moral undertones, but whose message isn't overbearing or preachy. Plus, Kotzebue's art is outstanding.

After a brief check-in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz -- their Poe and the Mysteriads was launched just last month -- Sean and Derek turn to the last webcomic of the month. Chris Ware's  The Last Saturday appeared in The Guardian during the last half of 2014 and into September 2015, and the guys discuss the ways in which Ware employs the webcomic format. In fact, they both feel that this story never really utilizes the unique qualities of the platform. We could get the same effect in print. Still, this is an engaging narrative whose topic and style should be familiar to any Chris Ware fan.

Check out the books by creators discussed on this episode:

 

Jan 9, 2017

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:28 - Introduction
  • 00:03:03 - Catching up after the holidays
  • 00:04:07 - Listener mail!
  • 00:08:18 - King of the Unknown
  • 00:33:42 - Cosmic Dash
  • 01:12:16 - Checking in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz
  • 01:27:36 - Freedman
  • 01:52:51 - Wrap up
  • 01:53:45 - Contact us

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It's a new year, and the webcomics guys are back to discuss three intriguing webcomic titles. They begin with Marcus Muller's King of the Unknown, an unusual take on the King of Rock and Roll. You thought he was dead? Well, he's actually alive and kicking (and eating), but now he's working in the shadows as a paranormal investigator. This is a weird and offbeat title that both Sean and Derek can't recommend enough, but it's an ongoing webcomic that hasn't been updated since 2013. There are indications that Muller will return to the story this year, but in the meantime, introduce yourself to the 30 pages that are already available.

After that, Sean and Derek take a look at Cosmic Dash by David Davis. The premise is not dissimilar to that of another webcomics the guys discussed, Sean Wang's Runners, but this one is more lighthearted and includes a larger ensemble cast. In fact, the guys spend a lot of time talking about the ensemble nature of the webcomic and how Davis does an outstanding job of providing supplementary material in the way of detailed character descriptions, maps, timelines, design guides, and lore pages.

Then, after the guys check in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz -- their new webcomic Poe and the Mysteriads launches this month! -- they wrap up the episode with a discussion of an already completed webcomic, Peter Quach's Freedman. This is a short story, only 23 pages, but it's an outstanding example of a tightly written and impactful narrative. As the title suggests, the tale concerns ex-slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War, with one in particular who has difficulty freeing himself from the past. The guys also discuss some of Quach's other short pieces on his website, including the hilarious I Am a Racist (and So Can You). It's a story that certainly resonates as we approach the dark days of the Trump administration.

Dec 12, 2016

Time Codes:

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For their last webcomics episode of 2016, Sean and Derek discuss three titles that were completely new to both of them. They begin with Theatrics, Neil Gibson's period drama set in 1920s New York. With art by Leonardo Gonzales and Jan Wijngaaard on colors, Theatrics is the story of popular Broadway actor who must find another line of work after he's physically disfigured due to a brutal mugging. Next, they turn to Brandon Shane's The Monster Under the Bed, a Romeo and Juliet-inspired romance between human and monster. As the guys point out, the art style has an all-age or "innocent" feel to it, but Shane's penchant for occasional nudity and cheesecake illustration may not be to all readers' liking. And then Derek and Sean wrap up with Faith Erin Hicks's Demonology 101. This is a very early work from a creator who has been making quite a name for herself in print -- e.g., Friends with Boys, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, and The Nameless City -- and the guys focus not only on the story, but on the webcomic as a touchstone of Hick's artistic growth.

The Two Guys also check in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz about their soon-to-be-launched webcomics, Poe and the Mysteriads...although Paul is unable to join in due to a winter cold. Nonetheless, Jim catches the guys up on what has been happening with the webcomic's development, including new art and the creators' various plans for their January 1st debut. Be sure to check in at the first of the new year at http://mysteriads.com. And visit their Facebook page for more details!

 

Nov 14, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 - Introduction
  • 00:02:50 - Catching up
  • 00:05:38 - Hubris!
  • 00:31:05 - Hobo Lobo of Hamelin
  • 00:56:35 - Checking in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz
  • 01:08:07 - Runners
  • 01:29:15 - Wrap up
  • 01:30:12 - Contact us

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On the November webcomics episode, Sean and Derek discuss three vastly different titles. They begin with Greg Cravens's Hubris!, a strip that's been going on since 2010 and revolves around the exploits of a small outdoors business owner. This can best be described as a gag strip, reminiscent of the kind of comics you would read in the newspaper (which makes sense, given Cravens's long history in newspaper comics). The guys point out that this is the first time that they've discussed a gag strip like this on their webcomics series, and perhaps it was a long time in coming.

Next, the Two Guys turn to a much more experimental webcomics, Stevan Živadinović's Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. As the title suggests, the story alludes to the legendary German tale of a piper hired by a small town to take care of its rat infestation. What makes Živadinović's version so striking is its complex presentation, with multi-layered visuals that provide three-dimensional depth and perspective. On top of that, the webcomic is structured as a strip to scroll through, not multiple pages to click through, and it includes both animation and sound. Unfortunately, the webcomic hasn't been updated since July 2014, but the ambition and impressiveness of Hobo Lobo of Hamelin take a little bit of the sting out of the long wait.

And after a brief check-in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz, the guys discuss this month's already completed webcomic, Sean Wang's Runners. This richly textured science fiction narrative ran from 2009 to 2011. The series is made up of only two volumes, but the story is written in such a way that the installments could continue for much longer, should Wang decide to return to the property. As much as Sean and Derek enjoy this title, they're saddened by the fact that there is no more of Runners on the horizon. Nevertheless, what there is is definitely worth reading.

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Oct 17, 2016

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Time Codes:

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For the October webcomics episode, Sean and Derek check out three very different webcomics, the first of which highlights the Halloween season. Abby Howard's The Last Halloween is a combination of creepy illustrations and offbeat humor including a monster apocalypse, an ebullient vampire boy, a social media-addicted ghoul, and a grieving father who crossdresses in his dead wife's clothes. The guys enjoy the fun and meandering story, although Derek wonders if the storytelling could be a little more focused in places.

Next, they look at Theora Kvitka's first webcomic, Urbanity Planet. This is a relatively new story, beginning in February of this year, so readers can experience the artist's online voice as it develops. It's a series of vignettes centered on recent college grads who can't find work on earth and, as a result, move to the planet N!#ult0n to earn a living. Filled with quirky observations, the webcomic is an alternate reality glimpse into the dilemma of millennials.

Before they look at the month's final webcomic, the guys check in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz to get an update on their in-the-works webcomic, Poe and the Mysteriads. Things are moving right along, although Jim expresses a mea culpa. Click HERE for new sample art!

Finally, Sean and Derek discuss the completed webcomic, Odysseus the Rebel. This is Steven Grant and Scott Bieser's adaptation of the Homeric classic, but one that doesn't feel the need to be comprehensive or "true" to the original. That's what the guys appreciate about this adaptation, Grant and Bieser's ability to take the essence of The Odyssey and translate it into a contemporary voice. And with its emphasis on storytelling, Odysseus the Rebel demonstrates a particular metafictional bent.

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Sep 12, 2016

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Time Codes:

  • 00:00:27 - Introduction
  • 00:07:03 - Brief comments on the 2016 Ignatz Award nominees for Outstanding Online Comic
  • 00:18:07 - The Red Hook
  • 00:57:28 - Kill 6 Billion Demons
  • 01:21:11 - Interview with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz
  • 01:41:15 - Rice Boy
  • 02:13:55 - Wrap up
  • 02:15:30 - Contact us

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On this extra-long episode of The Comics Alternative Webcomics, Sean and Derek cover a lot of territory on the webcomics front. They begin with a few brief comments on this year's Ignatz Award nominees for Outstanding Online Comic. They also contrast the way that the Ignatz judges classify webcomics with what the Eisner Awards has been doing lately, combining webcomics and digital comics.

After that, the guys jump into the core of this month's episode with a look at Dean Haspiel's The Red Hook. They discuss, among other things, the fact that superhero comics are relatively rare in webcomics and that this title is reminiscent of what Haspiel did with The Fox, for Archie Comics, and with his own comics centered on Billy Dogma and Jane Legit. Sean and Derek also spend a bit of time talking about Webtoons, the platform where you'll find The Red Hook.

Next, they review Kill 6 Billion Demons. Both of the guys are impressed by Tom Parkinson-Morgan's art and the intricacies involved in his world-building, but they are somewhat critical of the webcomic's design and usability. It's not easy to navigate that site, which is surprising, given the fact that Kill 6 Billion Demons has been around since 2013.

Before they turn to the final webcomic of the month, Derek and Sean introduce what they hope will be a new feature of the monthly series. Beginning with this episode, they will talk briefly with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz about a new webcomics they're creating, Poe and the Mysteriads. Every month they hope to check in with the creators about the step-by-step process they're going through in developing the title, from story concept to art choices to the design of the website.

Finally, Sean and Derek look at Evan Dahm's already completed webcomic, Rice Boy. This is the second time Dahm's work has been a focus of the webcomics series, the first occasion being a discussion of Vattu back in January 2015. This is a much earlier webcomic, and the guys discuss the evolution of Dahm's art and storytelling style as the story develops. It's an intriguing fantastical quest narrative, and if you're not already familiar with Dahm, then this would be a great way to get to know his work.

Sample art from Poe and the Mysteriads

 

 

Aug 8, 2016

This month on the webcomics series, Sean and Derek delve into three tonally different titles. They begin with Sam Logan's long-running Sam and Fuzzy. This is a series that has been around since 2001, starting off as a gag strip in Logan's college's student newspaper and then becoming a webcomic in 2002. The creator diligently keeps his Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule of publication, and with almost fifteen years behind it, that's a substantive webcomic. In fact, the Two Guys discuss the intricacies of its storylines, the expansion of its cast, and the evolution of Logan's art. One would be hard pressed to find a webcomic with a more dynamic history, and the guys try their best to cover as many points as possible.

Next, Derek and Sean's discussion takes a decidedly literary turn with Ulysses Seen, a webcomic adaptation of James Joyce's masterpiece. Illustrated and adapted by Robert Berry, this is a project that attempts to capture the novel it the fullest sense. This is no mere graphic Cliff Notes version of Ulysses, but one that tries to represent Joyce's voice and style. Accompanying the webcomic proper are analytical blog postings by Mike Barsanti, contextualizing the story and explicating its many facets. This is certainly an ambitious endeavor -- it even has its own app in the iTunes store -- although the guys do note the webcomic's biggest weakness: its design. It's not easy to navigate the website and find your way around, and there are too many duplicate pages or links to nowhere. What's more, the webcomic doesn't seem to have been updated since 2011 or 2013 (it's not easy to determine each page's publication date), and the adaptation is only up to Episode Five: The Lotus Eaters. But if you're a fan of the classic and have patience, then Ulysses Seen can be worth the wait.

Finally, the guys wrap up with an already completed webcomic, Adam Szym's Biome. This is a short piece that can be found at Szym's website Good Show Sir, along with a number of his other comics. This webcomic stands out for intricacy of art and especially its design for reading. Sean points out that it employs some of Scott McCloud's ideas behind the "infinite canvas," and Derek feels that the reading experience is similar to what you will find with Study Group Comics. But however you approach it, this highly stylized work, with its fantastical tone and sci-fi leanings, is standout example of what webcomics are capable of.

Jul 11, 2016

For the July webcomics episode, Sean and Derek discuss three titles that not only vary in content and genre, but are also different in the ways they are designed and consumed. They begin with two current and ongoing webcomics, Kenn Minter and Clarence Pruitt's Tales of the Emerald Yeti and Jim Francis's Outsider. The former is just one of the comics on the creators' publishing site, Near Mint Press. In fact, the Two Guys spend a bit of time discussing the presentation platform of this webcomic -- Minter and Pruitt use Google's free Blogger service -- pointing out that its navigation and consumption feels antiquated and isn't what they've usually come to expect from most webcomics. Nonetheless, Emerald Yeti is a fun pulp-infused read of post-Vietnam America that has the feel of an old Marvel serial of the 1970s.

After that, Sean and Derek turn to Outsider, a webcomic that began back in October 2001, but whose updates are so infrequent as to make this a relatively young narrative. The guys mention that Francis's combination of 3D settings and 2D hand-drawn artwork are an effective means in presenting this hard sci-fi story. But what gives Outsider such a sophisticated edge is the author's use of mystery and focalization. All the information we get is filtered through the protagonist, Alex Jardin, and his inabilities to thoroughly read the alien cultures he encounters generate more questions than answers.

Finally, the guys wrap up this month's show with a discussion of a webcomic that concluded just last month. Mike Norton's Battlepug is an Eisner and Harvey Award-winning webcomic that takes the sword-and-sorcery fantasy subgenre into parodic, and pet-friendly, avenues. This story has been running consistently since February 2011, and it has been collected in hardcover editions annually by Dark Horse Books. Although both of the guys enjoy Norton's storytelling technique, they differ on its ultimate effectiveness. While Sean feels that the frequency of narrating scenes -- that is, visual reminders that the story of Battlepug is being told by a young tattooed woman to her two dogs -- disrupts from his enjoyment of the story proper, Derek appreciates these constant shifts from one narrative level to another, as it highlights the complex dynamics of storytelling. And this is arguably one of the book's central themes. Still, the guys definitely agree that Battlepug is a sophisticated story well worth reading.

Jun 17, 2016

On this month’s webcomics episode, Sean and Derek have some fun things in store. They begin with two currently ongoing titles, The Abominable Charles Christopher and The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo. The former, written and drawn by Karl Kirschel, is a long-running series that has been around since June 2007. The guys discuss the webcomic’s irregular schedule — Kirschel posts updates whenever his work for DC and Marvel, especially Gotham Academy, allows — and, more importantly, the artist’s obvious love of his subject matter. Margo Maloo, a more recent webcomic, is Drew Weing’s fun all-age story about a monster-filled underworld outside of adult awareness.

The June episode wraps up with a trip down memory lane. Breakfast of the Gods is a completed webcomic tapping into the history of breakfast cereals. Its creator, Brendan Douglas Jones, uses the mascots of General Mills, Kellogg’s, Post, Quaker Oats, Ralston, Nabisco, and other breakfast cereal producers for an epic tale pitting the vitamin-packed forces of good against the shadowy legions of morning nutrition.

May 23, 2016

Sean and Derek are back for another month's-worth of webcomics talk, and for May they discuss three intriguing titles. They begin with Maritza Campos and Bachan's Power Nap. This is the second time the guys have focused on Bachan's art, the first occasion being his anthropomorphic humor/crime series, Vinny, back in September of last year. He provides the art on the Campos-scripted Power Nap, a story set in a dystopic future where everyone uses pharmaceuticals to stay awake 24/7 in order to produce more for their corporations...except if someone is allergic to the drug. Drew Spencer, the story's protagonist, is just such an individual. Sean and Derek enjoy the webcomic's strange melding of reality and dreamscape, although there are occasions when the storyline becomes unnecessarily fractured. Sean believes that this is the result of the sporadic scheduling of the updates, with long stretches between some story events.

Next, the Two Guys check out Jake Wyatt's Necropolis, a webcomic that is fairly new and in its early stages. This is a fantasy where the creator is establishing quite an elaborate narrative world, complete with its own mythology. Derek and Sean are impressed with the art, especially, and they're curious about the fact that, according to the webcomic's "About" page, this story is already set to be published by Image Comics in English and Casterman in French. That's quite an achievement for a webcomic only in its second chapter and with only 32 pages of story, so far.

Finally, the guys wrap up with a webcomic that was completed in March 2013 and published in book form from Alternative Comics the following month. Elaine M. Will's Look Straight Ahead is a moving story about mental illness and the struggles of adolescence. It follows the final high school months of Jeremy Knowles, a 17-year-old who has difficulty fitting in and whose psychiatric state exacerbates his alienation. He comes to use his art as a way of dealing with his condition, and Sean and Derek are fascinated by the way Will represents psychological states through her black-and-white style and her selective use of colors. Whether you read this story online -- and the complete webcomic is still available -- or you buy the book, this is definitely a narrative worth exploring.

Apr 18, 2016

For April, Sean and Derek look at three very different webcomics, each a standout in its own way. They begin with Der-shing Helmer's The Meek, the fantastical story of Angora, a young innocent -- even feral -- girl sent on a quest that could save her world. But Angora's isn't the only narrative thread making up this webcomic. We're also introduce to Luca deSadar and his family, rulers of the Northern Territories, and to Soli Areni, a mercenary with a secret to hide and whose jobs aren't always on the lawful side. In the first five chapters of this webcomic, Helmer subtly weaves these storylines together in a way that should become more pronounced as the narrative develops. Next, the guys check out O Human Star, a science fiction tale that's more about relationships and the way we choose to identify ourselves. Blue Delliquanti, its creator, deftly teases out her cast so that they're fully developed individuals whose lives, and dilemmas, become the scaffolding upon which everything rests. The world of O Human Star is a futuristic one, where robotics and artificial intelligence integrate almost seamlessly into human exchanges. And the boundaries between identities is not only limited to that between human and robot. Finally, Derek and Sean consider Stuart Campbell's These Memories Won't Last, a webcomic unlike anything else they've ever discussed. With the help of Lhasa Mencur (on sound design) and programmer Vitaliy Shirokiy, Campbell tells the story of his grandfather as he develops dementia. Whereas both The Meek and O Human Star contained layers of meaning, The Memories Won't Last is primarily defined by its visual layering. As the guys point out, Campbell and company layer the narration of the experience on top of the grandfather's actual story, and then these are overlaid with a ill-defined cloud that can obscure the visuals, much as the grandfather's growing dementia eats away at his memories. This is a short and poignant webcomic, and one that is nominated for a 2016 Webby Award in the NetArt category. And it's something you have to experience yourself to get the full effect.

Mar 14, 2016

On this month's webcomics show, Sean and Derek discuss three relatively fresh titles. They begin with Lho Brockhoff's The Lost Oracle, a webcomic that began in July 2015 and is just into its third chapter. This is a fantasy about a young girl, Amra, raised in an abandoned city and longing to see the world beyond. Yet, unbeknownst to Amra, some on the outside are seeking her, as well, and it's not entirely clear what this quest will have in store for the innocent protagonist. Next, the guys take a look at a completely different kind of quest, one involving a minstrel skeleton and a talking lump of goo. In Rickety Stitch & Gelatinous Goo, Ben Costa and James Parks create one of the weirdest buddy narratives you're likely to encounter. Their mixture of humor, adventure, and dark overtones make this webcomic stand out in ways that others haven't. Sean notes that the art and tone of Rickety Stitch, as well as that of The Lost Oracle, are reminiscent of Jeff Smith's epic Bone (in fact, Bone gets a lot of love on this month's episode). Costa and Parks have recently announced that their larger trilogy will begin being published next year by Knopf, and the portion of the narrative that is now available appears to be the core of that first volume. Finally, Sean and Derek wrap up with a different twist on the superhero story, a genre that the Two Guys rarely investigate. Ryan O’Sullivan and Plaid Klaus's Turncoat is a short and contained webcomic -- running between August 2015 and March 2016 -- about a mercenary group of villains who are hired to thin out the superhero population. It's protagonist, a malcontent name Duke, is short on generating reader appeal. However, as Derek points out, his saving grace is his pathetic nature, a character trait that generates at lest a modicum of sympathy. And while there's still time, you can get on board O'Sullivan and Klaus's Kickstarter campaign that is bringing out Turncoat in hardcopy format.

Feb 15, 2016

For the February webcomics show, Sean and Derek explore three very different titles. They begin with Christopher Mills and Joe Staton's Femme Noir, a unique twist on the crime noir genre. This is series of tales surrounding a mysterious, unnamed crime-fighting PI who dons an iconic trench coat and fedora, but whose long golden locks and fishnet hose give her away as something wholly other. The guys describe this comic as a blend of BatmanThe Shadow, and The Spirit, but with a female protagonist who is anything but a victim. One of the unique contexts of this webcomic, as Derek points out, is that the stories currently being serialized online have originally appeared in print. What Mills and Staton are apparently doing is using their previously published material to re-introduce their comic to a new audience -- and through an entirely different narrative delivery system -- and the guys hope that this will eventually spawn brand new Femme Noir stories. Next, they turn their attention to Farel Dalrymple's It Will All Hurt. This is yet another intriguing title from Study Group, a publisher (online and print) visited often on The Comics Alternative. (Indeed, last year's July webcomics episode was devoted solely to Study Group titles.) Both Sean and Derek are blown away by Dalrymple's art, which should be no surprise to anyone familiar with the creator's work, but at times they are a little confused by the storyline. However, they speculate that perhaps Dalrymple's surreal, dreamlike narrative is supposed to confound, and that one of the best ways of engaging with It Will All Hurt is to just read it through without pause and let the pieces sink in as the story unfolds. After that, the Two Guys wrap us with a webcomics classic, Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield's FreakAngels. This is an important title for the medium, and Sean and Derek spend a good deal of time discussing its impact and what it meant (and still means) for webcomics. This is an opportunity for Sean to revisit the webcomic, in that he was there reading it from the very beginning back in 2008. Of course, the guys also plunge into the story itself, a fantastic post-apocalyptic narrative that bears the Warren Ellis stamp. And they specifically address Duffield's art, a truly outstanding facet of this webcomic. The guys also mention Avatar Press' links to the project and how they were taking a chance during the title's original run. All in all, this month's webcomics episode is both fun and substantive, so crank up your browsers and hold on tight!

Jan 19, 2016

Sean and Derek start off the new year of the webcomics series with three exciting titles. They begin with Delilah Dirk and the King's Shilling, Tony Cliff's follow up to Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. The latter began life as a webcomic, but then was published by First Second in 2013. Cliff is doing something similar with his second Delilah Dirk book, although this time he is serializing the narrative in webcomic form only until early March, the release date of the hardcopy (again, by First Second). And although King's Shilling may not ultimately be a complete webcomic, what is there is well worth reading and has you anticipating the release of the new book. After that, the guys turn to Reckstar, Joey Cruz and Michelle Nguyen's mashup of sci-fi and comedy with all of the trappings of a classic buddy story. In fact, Sean likens the tale to a space-based Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis team-up, with the immature Finn Wyoming playing the Lewis role in this volatile relationship. The webcomic is just into its third chapter, but there's much to appreciate in its upcoming developments. Finally, Sean and Derek take a long look at Jason Yungbluth's Weapon Brown, possibly one of the most engaging and sophisticated webcomics they've ever discussed on the podcast. This is a parodic sendup not only of Schulz's Peanuts, but of the entire history of American comic strips. The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where a nefarious organization known as the Syndicate (read United Feature Syndicate) is attempting to subdue a rebel force and their grasp on a unique food supply known as shmoo. Weapon Brown, occasionally called "Chuck," enters the fray as a cybernetic right-armed mercenary who ends up helping the rebel leaders Annie (see Little Orphan Annie), Hughie X (The Boondocks), Pops (Popeye), and Hildy (Broom-Hilda), among others. The action builds to a final showdown between Weapon Brown and an unstoppable, merciless, stuffed tiger-toting creation known as a Cyber Augmented Legionnaire version 1.N (or C.A.L. V1N for short). In fact, the entire history of newspaper strips seems to be represented in Weapon Brown, and part of the joy of reading this webcomic is discovering the many references, often subtle, embedded throughout. Derek and Sean also point out the risqué nature of the story, with its (at times) explicit sex, violence, and language. But if you're OK with a little spice in your webcomics, then Weapon Brown should become one of your reading highlights of the year.

Dec 15, 2015

For the month of December, Sean and Derek are back to discuss three very different, very distinct, webcomics. They begin with Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Otertag's Strong Female Protagonist, a title that has been going strong since 2012. As described by its creators, the story concerns "the adventures of a young middle-class American with super-strength, invincibility, and a crippling sense of social injustice." Although that may roughly encapsulate the premise, the webcomic is much more sophisticated than that. In fact, the guys spend a great deal of time discussing the creators' ambitions with the story, both in terms of the art and regarding its subject matter. Derek wonders if Mulligan, especially in the fifth chapter, may be trying to juggle too much at one time, making his narrative almost top-heavy with its intended messages. Sean disagrees, but he does see the philosophical ambitions embedded in the text. And it is on the topic of philosophy that the guys segue into their next title, Corey Mohler's Existential Comics. This webcomic is notable for two reasons: it's the first gag-based, done-in-one kind of comic that the guys have ever discussed on the webcomics series, and it's as funny as hell! It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this is one of the funniest titles ever discussed on The Comics Alternative, webcomics or otherwise. Mohler uses actual philosophers themselves, and the entire history of philosophical thought, as the grist for his absurd mill. In Existential Comics you'll find the ancient Greeks playing Texas hold'em, Franz Kafka at the DMV, Diogenes encountering a commie-killing Abraham Lincoln, Albert Camus thwarting Rudolf Carnap's barfly pick-up efforts, Søren Kierkegaard at a rave, a zombie God (animated by Arthur Schopenhauer) attacking Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone de Beauvoir hosting her own cooking show, and a wide variety of philosophers trying to play Dungeons and Dragons. Finally, Derek and Sean wrap up with a look at Bucko, a short webcomic by Jeff Parker and Erika Moen that ran from 2011 to 2012. As the guys discuss, part of the fun of reading this title is seeing how Parker and Moen kept trying to outdo themselves with unlikely plot twists and characterization that built do an almost chaotic crescendo. Sean, however, isn't a fan of the story's ending, which he sees as too convenient and too predictably Scooby-Doo-like. Still, you could read Bucko -- along with Existential Comics -- as a freewheeling antidote to those holiday blues.

Nov 13, 2015

Sean and Derek are back with their monthly pickings of webcomics goodness, and for November they have some great recommendations lined up. They begin by focusing on Peter Wartman's Stonebreaker, a fantasy adventure narrative with a strong potential for world-building. This is the sequel to the artist's earlier work, Over the Wall, which was also published in hardcopy by Uncivilized Books in 2013. The guys marvel at Wartman's handling of his narrative premise -- this webcomic is only in its second chapter -- and his abilities to subtly allude without confusing or distancing his readers. They're also blown away by his art, which is some of the best they've seen in recent webcomics. Next, the Two Guys move on to The Hues, Alex Heberling's post-apocalyptic tale of teenage adventure. Her protagonists are a diverse band of girls who discover that they each have a special power or magical ability. The complication, however, is that they make their discoveries right around the time that an alien force invades Earth. Sean likens this to a mashup of superpower stories and manga, while Derek can't help but think of the X-Men. Both The Hues and Stonebreaker are currently ongoing, each of which seems what it will be around for the long haul. An already-completed webcomic is the third in the guys' lineup. Silver Saaremaeel and Kaija Rudkiewicz's Run Freak Run is, as its website describes, a "gothic alternative history comic with dark subject matters and romantic undertones. It includes swearing, slight nudity, violence, and lots of sarcasm." That basically sums it up. When the guys aren't fumbling over the creators' names -- and a special apology goes out to Kaija Rudkiewicz, whose name takes the worse beating -- they are highlighting the evolution of this webcomic. What begins in its first chapters as an episode narrative turns into a more interconnected long-form work. And both Derek and Sean are particularly drawn to Rudkiewicz's art, which is perfect for its dark tone and reminds them somewhat of Mike Mignola's work. If you're not already doing so, be sure to check out this month's webcomics recommendations, and then report back here next month for another dose.

Oct 19, 2015

This month on the webcomics series, Sean and Derek review three titles that all keep in the spirit of Halloween: Kris Straub's Broodhollow, Pascalle Lepas's Wilde Life, and Mike Walton's False Positive.

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