Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas 2004! Happy New Year 2005!

Just a quick blurb to wish you guys the best forthe holiday season.

I'm sorry for the lack of Finds lately, firswt work, and then losing my computer kinda distracted me.

It should be fixed by New Year, so watch out for new Finds then.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Hotspot: The Insularity of the Webcomics Community

As I write this, I feel compelled to admit I'm in a somewhat furious state right now, and I'm breaking my self-imposed rule of not writing when in a state of anything other than moderate calmness.

But this is my blog of sorts, damnit. Once in a while, I'm going to pull an Eric Burns and write what I damn well like on it.

That important confession out of the way, I shall proceed to start my first Hotspot, which I think can be classed as 'Polemically Moot Sessions". I'm sure that must be gramatically incorrect, and neither is it important right now. And no, the acronyms are not a coincidence.

A few months ago, I shared an observation of mine about the webcomics community in general to another person who shall remain unnamed. (unless they don't mind going public, then by all means, go ahead) The exchange in question was brief and the circumstances that led to it were a direct result of this blog, but what is important that in that exchange, I made the observation that:

The Webcomics Community is Deeply Insular.

This should come as no surprise. With the vast reach of the Internet, it's only natural people would confine their interactions in a limited scope, and stay where they feel comfortable and established.

An example of what this insularity is the little grouping of webcomic communities we currently have. My personal breakdown of the webcomic groups, in no particular order, they are:

  • The Keen Family

    • Keenspot
    • Keenspace

  • The Modern Tales Family

    • Modern Tales
    • Graphic Smash
    • Girl-a-matic
    • Serializer
    • WebcomicsNation
    • Talkaboutcomics
    • Graphic Novel Review

  • Drumbrella
  • Drunk Duck
  • PV Comics
  • Wirepop
  • Buzzcomix
  • TWC

  • The Independents

I'm sure I'm missing out a few collectives, but these are the ones that first came to my head at first thought.

"The Independents" are the webcomics that don't belong to collectives, and are usually self-hosted. Some of them have their own domains, and the big guns of webcomics (PvP, Penny Arcade, Megatokyo etc) form this loose association of non-associated comics. Dizzy yet?

Anyways, in the majority of cases (not all) the people who make these communities are deeply insular. That is, there's not much mixing. Most webcomickers (or webcomic fans) will stay in their respective circles for most of their webcomicking life.

The thing about this is that one person who may be well-known in one circle may be virtually unknown in another. For example, I don't expect everyone in Keenspace or Drunk Duck (No disrespect intended, and I said everyone, not anyone) to know who Barb Lien-Cooper, Steve Bryant, Joe Azabel, Derek Kirk Kim or Xavier Xerexes is. Heck, at one point I didn't even know WHAT Modern Tales or Graphic Smash was until one of the comics I read moved there. (And eventually, when T Campbell recruited me, but that's another story.)

Similarly, I don't expect anyone from the Comixpedia or Drunk Duck or PV comics to know who Mr. Bob from Keenspace is (Incidentally, Bob Oosterwijk has his own... erm... worshipful following now, and is one of the few people to has his own theme song). Nor I do not expect anyone who isn't in Keenspace to know why "customer" is a considered deadly insult.

Back to the topic, on realising the existence of this insularity and my own inclusion, I have tried my best to break out of it. In a typical month, I go through as many different sources of webcomic information as I probably can. Most of them are web-zines and news/creator blogs, The forefront of which is Eric Burn's excellent Websnark, Comixpedia and Sequential Tart. Other sources like Silver Bullet Comics and The Webcomics Examiner, Joey Manley's blog also deserve mentions, although those are more periodical things that I read every once in a while but not regularly.

I trawl various forums, and lurk in many more. I read people's posts, discussions. Sometimes I contribute to them.

I also started the Webcomic Finds blog in an attempt to break out of the reading cycle of the same few comics over and over, and try and explore more comics that I wouldn't read otherwise. I liked to think that unlike the sedantary others, I was a traveller, exploring new frontiers, going where few people have bother to explore. (Sorry for paraphrasing TSG. You'll forgive me, I'm sure)

And in all honesty, for all my attempts, I am still insular. I may know quite a bit about webcomics by doing what I do, but I will never know enough of it. And travel the web though I may, the comics I read will still be only webcomics. I will know little of print comics. I will know little of newspaper syndication, the manga-movment or the indie and mini-comics rebellion.

My 'travels' are still contained within a limited sphere, although the sphere changes shape and expands I'm still stuck on the goddamned same planet.

And thus I have no right to look down my nose at the 'sedantries', and pride myself that I'm more well-travelled, less squestered, more open-minded than they are. I'm not going to stop 'travelling', but I'm going to stop thinking I know more just because I do.

Why am I saying all this? Because I have to be responsible for my mistakes.

I'm learning the valuable lesson that it's easy to start a meme, and much harder to stop it later. On my forum trawls, I'm beginning to see my own words, mouthed by someone else, being thrown at other people, in the form of an insult.

The meme has spread. And this hurts me deeply. I can make observations. And with all my heart I believe those observations are accurate. My intention was to use this observation to improve things. Maybe integrate communities and spread awareness. I never intended it to be a form of derision.

People have a right to do what they want to do with their lives. And 'travellers' and 'outsider observers' have no right to feel superior just because opinions differ. In Alex Garland's novel The Beach the main character felt he was superior to the people who never travelled. But he was wrong in the end. And so was I.

So, the next time someone tells you you're insular prat who stays closeted in your own zone, even though if you're not, then you know who to blame for planting the idea there in someone else's head the first place. (Or maybe it's just arrogant of me to assume they wouldn't have thought of it on their own. Well, I'm at least responsible for speeding up the process and helping it spread.)

No doubt I'll regret this when I wake up in the morning.

Ah well, a little bit of spice won't do this blog too much harm. I'll just go get the fire extinguisher ready.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Stopover at Keenspace Forums: 188 Lines about 99 Spacers!

Yes, Elsie Hooper on the way. It's a particularly bad time for me right now, the last two weeks of term before Christmas ALWAYS are. I don't even get to celebrate my 21st birthday (Monday) because everyone will be too busy.

But this is just too cool to not mention here:

Phalanx was a girl of action
Don't mistake her for a man!

Nice fanart, isn't it? Now imagine 98 more of the same. All by the same guy. Staggering? Yes!

188 Lines about 99 Spacers!

For those of you who don't know what this is about, Spacers are generally the denizens of the Keenspace Forums. The above list is pretty much (unintentionally) a character guide to the Keenspace Forum regulars.

Even if you're not interested in this kind of thing, the fact that Mr. Bob churned out 99 pictures should still raise an eyebrow or two. And not crappy sketches either. This is honest to goodness full-on art.

Bob Oosterwijk, you are amazing, and I'm not saying that just because I'm in there.

(Although that might have influenced it a bit... maybe) ;)

If the fanart is this good, I can't wait to see what happens on the second episode of Star Bored.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Stopover at Digger: Oh my Ganesh...

I hate pigeons. They stalk my kitchen window, and if the window is open anything bigger than a crack, they sneak in the moment I turn my back. After they've wrecked the loaf of bread or my home-baked cookies (SACRILEGE!) or whatever food's around, they leave unwanted offerings on the table and floor that require me and my flatmates disinfecting the kitchen afterwards.

In short, they're rats with wings.

Except that I've never seen the inverse called a pigeon... until now.

(Actually, I don't think I've ever seen the inverse either, now when I come to think of it... heh)

But the CUTE! First oracular slugs and now winged temple-rats... what wonders will that woman unleash next?

One thing's for sure: if Ursula Vernon makes a shirt out of that, I know where my next Graphic Smash paycheck is going...

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Stopover at Magellan: Hey, if someone thought my dad was sexy, I'd feel freaked out too!

I originally discovered Magellan through Loxie and Zoot, which is a comic for discussion for another day. But as the reason I started reading Magellan was because it was done as the same guy as the one who did Loxie and Zoot, it's somewhat ironic that I like Magellan more than Loxie and Zoot now.

Generally, I'm not crazy about superhero comics. It might be because I had minimal exposure to them during my childhood (a few X-men episodes, maybe some Fantastic Four, Spiderman and Batman, and none of them complete series.) and that wasn't enough to really turn me into a full fledged-fan. I mean, I don't even know what Rogue's real name is, now when I think of it.

So I think I must have been a bit on the oldish side when I finally moved to an area where there were actually comic shops and I had the freedom to peruse them. Now the problem is, I look at these comics through the eyes of a semi-adult, and not as a kid. As a result, I see mostly the flaws and loopholes instead of what presumably people call "The Magic".

It's a shame, but as a result the superhero genre didn't really hold any appeal for me, except maybe the challenge of seeing if I could do better.

Magellan is a superhero comic. But the reason I really like Magellan is that it defies the conventions of traditional superhero-ism, and actually tries to make sense scientifically. Stephen Crowley has really worked things out in the background, and the characters are believably portrayed. Flawed. With quirks and habits. Human despite their inhumaness, you know?

Most of all, the main character, Kaycee is a norm (person without superpowers) trying to keep up with a whole bunch of people WITH superpowers. Of all superheroes, the ones I like most are the ones without powers (i.e, Batman). Most superheroes tend to be defined by their powers (The energy blasting character, the speeder character, the powerhouse character etc).

A super-hero without powers is special, not because of he/she was born with abilities other people don't have, but because he/she worked for and gained abilities people don't have. They start off with the same attributes we did, but somehow they pushed themselves into doing much more. Yet because they don't have god-given (or not god-given), powers, they're still as vulnerable as the people they strive to protect.

And despite all this, they do what they do. It's compelling. And for me, that justifies the 'hero' in the 'super-hero'.

Oh, and today's comic showing at Graphic Smash:

Gotta side with Charisma on this one. If someone my age thought my dad was hot, I think I'd feel freaked out too.