Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hotspot #13: So... Am I For Real?

Thirteen is an unlucky number, or so they say. I never did understand the reason behind it, but it must be pretty big, they rename floors of buildings 12A etc etc just to deny the existence of a 13th floor.

So this is my 13th Hotspot... any connection? I hope not.

Anyway a commenter named Bengo (I do apologise, I suppose it reflects badly on me and my 3 year absence that I didn't know who he was) indirectly posed a question I suspect a lot of you have been wondering to yourself but are too polite to ask... am I for REAL on restarting Webcomic Finds? Sure... as you know I posted a long review recently, going on from where I left off as if nothing had happened. But is there any guarantee I won't suddenly disappear again?

I'll be 100% honest:

No. Not really.

Will there be any guarantee I won't come back after disappearing again?

No. Not really either. Not unless I am dead, then you'd probably be guaranteed of that. (Sheesh, I'm not going to to come back from the grave to blog, people. Not that persistent.)

My point is, Life is unpredictable. People are unpredictable, so too shall this blog be. I will not make any promises I cannot be sure I can keep. This product does not come with warranty.

The other thing is: webcomics have become so much more mainstream to be now (to me at least) that there is no longer a "MUST PROMOTE LESSER KNOWN WEBCOMICS" agenda in this blog that I once started it with. That does not mean that I'll be suddenly reviewing PVP anytime soon. It just means I'll be focusing more on what I want to explore and learn and experiment from my travels, less on the political/social aspects of comics/print comic drama. It's about me exploring and reviewing comics. At my own pace. I'll be doing it for me, my enjoyment and those who enjoy reading and discussing it.

Maybe when I feel less like a fish out of the water (or more accurately, a fish that got out of the water, adapted to dry land and dived back in) I'll start reading the other blogs and get up to speed on what's been happening (and update my links), but right now I am presenting to you Webcomic Finds as it is. Just about exploring comics from the point of view of a first time reader, pure and simple. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you still have reservations about my return, I will understand. I do not expect any plugs and I ask for nothing.



All that said....

I do like having the rest of you coming along for the ride. I enjoy reading your feedback and discussing points about a comic I've just visited with you all. Please do continue if you feel inclined to.


Incidentally, I stumbled over this while looking up on Bengo's Blog: Comixpedia's List of Webcomic Blogs. I chuckled to myself when I noticed Webcomic Finds was listed as Dead and Mummified. Probably deserved, but now that it's updated, does it merit being moved out of category? I'll let it sit there for a while while I decide...

And Hmm.... Mummies... Zombies....

Which reminds me...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

34th Leg: The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

Now if you recall, back in my last actual log I checked out Dementia of Magic. So in grand Webcomic Finds' style, I'm continuing from DoM's link page. There are many well known webcomics there, but the absurdity of the concept made this one stand out:

Comic:
By: Chris Hastings (Pencils and Writing), Kent Archer (Inks)

Setting and Elements: Modern Day, Surreal Reality
Content Type: Action, Humour

Art Medium: Black and white, Pencil and Inks
Art Style: American Comic Book

Is About: The story follows the exploits of Dr. McNinja, of the Irish McNinja ninja clan (I cannot believe I typed that out with a straight face). The Doc, as he is known, has rebelled against his family tradition of being ninjas and becomes a doctor. The stories follow his adventures as he tries to run a general practice and cope with his life as a ninja at the same time.

Website: http://www.drmcninja.com/
Frequency: Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays
Availability: Free

First Impressions and Presentation: The white website design is very clinical and well designed. I find it odd that both creators names were not on the frontpage with any sort of copyright notice, but all the information is available on the "About" page.

The illustation on the frontpage, of a ninja in a doctor's labcoat is beautifully rendered, if a little posy and stiff-looking. Overall, it looks to be promising, the premise is definitely unusual. Now to see how it plays out.

There is no "Start reading from first page" link on front page, so off to Archives.

The art style is very old-school comic-bookish, black and white ink lines. It looks pretty good so far. Judging by the preview it's a hugh archive, so looks like I'm in for a long read.

The Concept:
Well to be sure, the concept is unusual. You can have medical sitcoms like Grey's Anatomy and then you can have shows about ninjas. Combining the two is like combining strawberry cheesecake and rice congee. Not something you'd really think of naturally.



The Art:
Like most webcomics, the art starts off a little shaky in the first storyline but steadily improves as time goes on. The comic is in black and white, with clean lines although the artist does make use of what looks like tablet-work for some special effects.

The action looks very well-drawn, although at time I have had a strong feeling that some of the elements in the page have felt traced. Mind you this observation disappears in the later issues, the art is overall very well down and the composition of the pages and panel layout are impeccable.

Character design is very very distinctive. I certainly never had any difficult at any point differentiating between characters even though maybe 50% of the characters are ninjas who never, ever remove their ninja masks. Granted, a ninja who runs about in a white lab coat and stethoscope isn't particularly hard to confuse. Mind you, it's hard to make a ninja in a white lab coat look good, but heck, the Chris Hasting-Kent Archer partnership does it with considerable finesse.

One thing worth of mention is that since the main character is one who never ever (I repeat) removes his mask, all the expression for the Doc is done though what you can see of him, body language and eyes. Speaking from experience, I can tell you this is not easy. And here, it is remarkably well done.


The Writing:
The writing for Dr. McNinja is consistent in a few aspects, mainly that it's funny, and in keeping with the titular character, it's irreverently absurd. All that said, once you can suspend disbelief on the concept, a lot of things make perfect sense.  And it never tries to take itself seriously, and so continually lampoons: internet culture, Batman, the comic book industry, caption boxes, and occasionally, itself.

In short Chris has a very unique, pawky and enjoyable sense of humour, and this really is the hallmark of the series. This doesn't mean that Dr. McNinja is all silliness and no plot however. The plots of the stories, while always absurd, are surprisingly intricate and take care to make sense in the same absurd manner.

Add to this there is some very strong characterization going on in this series. It takes your perceived stereotypes and turns them on their heads. And while the Doc is portrayed something of a wonder (Medical doctors/super ninja) he has is own issues and is flawed and fallible enough to identify with and like. Even the villians are very well fleshed out, and don't get me started on Gordito, Judy (the rather unorthodox receptionist), and the Doc's Fruit and Nut cracker of a family... 


Problems:

Not really much that I can point out, the creators of this comic seem to know what they are doing.

There was one point where I was greatly worried that the comic might have fallen to (Drat I can't remember what's it's called... I just call it GPF syndrome. You can call it the Rowling syndrome too if you like.) the tendency of some humour webcomics to morph into overly serious epic drama comics. But much to my relief, although the overall story took a slightly darker and more serious tone, it never really got angsty or overly serious, and managed to retain the essence of McNinja-ness (there I've coined a new word) that never alienated the reader as much as some other comics did.

The other thing is the most recent storyline touches on a subject I have a problem with. Well, so much that over 3 years ago I wrote an article about it for Comixtalk (previously known as Comixpedia). Granted, it looks more promising this time round given the unconventionality of the writing... Chris might be able to pull this off in a way that doesn't make me roll my eyes. There are always (I am happy to admit) exceptions.

Overall:
I try not to be too gushing or too critical in my review logs, but this is a comic I seriously enjoyed and laughed out loud at. It's a Find, I am very glad I chose it for this leg of my journey.

There's quite a bit of violence, as should be expected from anything with the word "ninja" in it (Unless it's some hunter rolling "Need" on your epic mace in World of Warcraft... oh wait, we murdered a boss for that... nmind) but oddly enough it self-censors profanity, which I suspect is more for comedic effect than anything else.

The Next Leg:
...will be a surprise. There's lot of links in the links page, so you'll see what comes up in the next episode of Webcomic Finds!



Note: I had earlier mixed up names and referred to Kent as the writer when it should be Chris... uh... whoops?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Comicgenesis is Catatonic?

So I haven't been able to update The Longest Sojourn this week due to the site and server being down every time I've tried.

I wonder what's going on?

I guess that kinda rules out me doing any reviews of any CG comics either :(

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Three Years is a very short time.

And yet it is a very long time as well. So many things have happened I don't think I recognize webcomic-dom anymore.

Oh scratch that, I don't think it can even be called webcomics-dom anymore. On return from my self-imposed exile from the world of webcomics I find that it seems more "mainstream" than newspaper comics nowadays. Certainly none of that "GOSH! They've got comics on the web!" vibe it used to exude!

Admiteedly I am no longer a dewy-eyed idealistic college student. Maybe a little older, (the wiser part is debatable) and maybe a little bit more cynical and jaded (sorry, I had to make that pun), but still with a love for comics and writing...

Well I guess it will make re-exploring webcomics a little bit more interesting then!