Sunday, January 29, 2006

I just wanted to say

That's pretty awesome.

The next step would be having articles devoted to each and every one of these people (or, you know, adding more detail on that page. Some of the descriptions are rather lacking in content.)

Just finished reading the archives of 8 1/2 by Eleven. School's starting to pick up, though. I'll make every effort to work on the review when I can.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Alien Furries, Implied Nudity, and Sexual Humor

(All pictures from Our Home Planet by GD. Click on them to see them within the context of the website. (warning, this site might not be for sensitive viewers. See the title of this post to know what you're in for. The comic has tons of all three.)

Now, you may be wondering why I would choose this particular comic to review. Well, I wanted a a comic that hasn't been reviewed that much and Our Home Planet seems to be pretty much unknown in the circles I hang out in. Where did I find it? I'm not sure. I think it was a review, actually, but a quick search on Google doesn't bring it up so I can't verify it. Also, I wanted to develop my reviewing style, and this is a good one for doing that since I classify it as a "not too good, not too bad" comic.

But anyways, the comic.

Our Home Planet is a humor comic with a story attached to it. The humor is mostly situational and character humor. Most of the jokes have something to do with sex. As for whether or not the humor is good, it depends on your tastes. Personally it was hit and miss for me. There were comics where I got the joke but didn't find it funny and others which I thought were rather good. This may turn out different for other people.

Even though the comic is rather humorous, there are very few hard punchlines. It consists mostly of soft humor, or humor where you aren't necessarily laughing at a specific line or action, but rather at the situation as a whole. Comics that end on a punchline are even more rare. Many end one panel or line after what can be a considered a true punchline.

The comic is a mix between regular comic updates and one panel by itself. Usually these single panel comics are without dialogue and seem to be to try to catch a moment in time. It's an interesting way of doing things. None of the single shots really add much to the story, but they don't really seem to take away either.

The story itself is rather interesting. Rika and Mai are enjoying a massage when they find out their masseuses are a pair of alien space pirates named 'Dbo who want to eat them (two sisters with a rather.. interesting relationship). After they are tied up, they are rescued by Pepito, a bounty hunter. The plan to capture the aliens fails, and Pepito is left with Rika and Mai, and a need to hide from the 'Dbos. Rika and Mai offer to smuggle him away. That plan fails, too however. The 'Dbos find Rika and Mai's apartment and try to kill Pepito. However, they also fail miserably and are captured and tied up by Rika and Mai. The rest of the story continues pretty much in that vein.

There is something interesting I've noticed about the story which I kind of like, though, but to talk about it, we have to take a short history of literature lesson and cover Greek tragedy and the concept of hubris. Hubris is a sense of pride which ultimately brings the hero down. The Greek playwrights took great joy in building a hero up and then beating him down at his point. Usually the downfall is the pride itself, but sometimes it's the intervention of fate.

Our Home Planet works in much the same way. Everytime someone starts acting prideful or thinking they have the upper hand, they're brought, whether it be through fate or their own bigheadedness. Believe me, the characters in this comic have plenty of excess pride to take advantage of. It's not Greek Tragedy, but I think it's cool that a concept that old can still be applied to literature today.

So recap. Our Home Planet is good, and shows enough promise for me to hope it might get better. I don't think it's ready to go on my reading list yet, but I'm still willing to check in every once in a while.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Now That it's Finished: Checkerboard Nightmare (oldschool)

(All images from Checkerboard Nightmare by Kristopher Straub. Click on the pictures to see them within the context of the website.)

So Kris Straub was able to stop making Checkerboard Nightmare strips for a full two weeks after he finished, meaning that I was most of the way through the archive crawl when I found out Chex was back. Anyway, it looks like the entire strip has been revamped and a few rules have been added, so I'm going to pretend those new strips don't exist and give Checkerboard Nightmare its proper review.

I found out about Checkerboard Nightmare through a review on Webcomics Examiner. Since I already liked 1/0 I decided to give it a try. Checkerboard does work with fourth wall breaking like 1/0, but it does so in a completely different way.

The Concept

Checkerboard Nightmare is a satire strip. Kris Straub uses his characters to provide a commentary on the state of webcomics, and later entertainment in general. As a result the characters are fully aware of their existence and have no regards for continuity. One strip they could be doing one thing, the next they could do something completely different. Despite this, there are still some full storylines and an overall arc. Also despite not following continuity, the characters themselves remain quite consistent throughout the entire story.

Also since it is a satire strip, and is based on parody of a few popular comics, there are quite a few jokes within the archive where you have to know the context to get the humor, or which aren't funny if you don't know the context. This might pose a problem to a webcomic newcomer who decides to do an archive crawl. Checkerboard Nightmare is truly for the webcomic geeks.

The Story

The official idea behind the strip is that Checkerboard Nightmare(better known as Chex) is a comic character trying to increase the popularity of his strip besides a lack of talent. He does, however, have an at least passable knowledge of basic marketing and a willingness to exploit anyone and anything he can, even to the point of stealing ideas and styles from other artists. Ultimately, however, he fails in every scheme he comes up with.

Chex has done everything from breaking the fourth wall to breaking the fabric of space/time. His schemes constantly end up putting him in court. This forces Lyle to bail him out multiple times.

The one person who Checkerboard takes the most advantage of in the strip is Dot, a more successful character who stole his look (which he in turn stole from his next-door neighbor). Chex is not one to shy away from controversy and makes many enemies, which is ultimately what leads to the end of the strip.

As for the ending, well, with so many disparate storylines, it's hard to come to a satisfying conclusion. I can't think of a better ending, but it is definitely not the high point of the strip. Still it feels like an ending, so on with the review.

The Characters

As I said before, despite a lack of continuity, the characters are surprisingly consistent. The only thing that seems to change is they get smarter or dumber in order to make a joke work. It helps that the characters are caricature more than actually characters. The two-dimensionality of the characters is maintained for the most part throughout the entire strip. Each character does grow in their own way, though.

Checkerboard Nightmare

Chex is, of course the star of the strip. He's an optimistic, opportunistic webcomics character with an idealistic stance on life and a distorted view of reality. He is also blessed with a single-mindedness that goes way beyond what would normally be healthy. Chex has no problem stealing ideas from other cartoonists, especially when the stealing of those involve as little work as possible.

Chex is one of the more static characters of the strip. In fact there are many times within the strip where he realizes he's about to develop as a character and fights against it. I think, deep down Chex realizes that he will never achieve the fame he wants, and he also knows that if he ever grows he will come to realize it and give it up. So he fights, and he goes into a rage whenever things seem futile.

Chex is a stubborn person. He is so absorbed in himself that he sometimes doesn't notice his friends. He actually laughs at their pain a few times. He has no respect for property, intellectual or material. He bases his entire personality off the trends. He's arrogant and immature. And that's why he's such a great character.


Of course, every comedic team needs a straight man. Lyle is the straight man for Checkerboard Nightmare. He's the person the audience can relate to, and the sounding board for Chex's schemes. He is the voice of reason and the lawyer who usually saves Chex whenever he gets in trouble. In short, he's the father from "Father Knows Best."

Though I've never really seen anything from that show.

That's not to say Lyle is completely devoid of personality or humor. In fact, his sense of humor is just fine. He has a wonderful sarcastic side which shows every once in a while, and he's very creative. He has to be when he's defending Chex all the time.

Amazingly, despite being rather fed up with all his shenanigans, Lyle is quite loyal to Chex. This may be because he's part of an organization dedicated to letting stupid people take over the world, but he still sticks with him and remains a friend until the end of the strip.

Lyle does, however, have a life outside of the strip. In fact, he's one of the few characters that do. Dot used to, but she keeps losing it because of Chex. Vaporware was built by Chex and is basically programmed to stay with him. Lyle has a family outside of the strip and is able to keep them through the entire run. (It seems to be a healthy family, too, or at least a relatively healthy family.)


A robot built by Checkerboard Nightmare himself with one goal: Come up with new and interesting ways to choke Lyle Zebulon. At least, that was his goal at first.

Vaporware is pretty much your stereotypical robot. Lacking emotions, sometimes trying to seem like he has some, bent on destroying humanity and running his robot minions. You know, typical stuff. He's also bitter because he feels like he's stuck in that niche, and doesn't like it, although he still enjoys choking Lyle every chance he gets (although, deep down, I think he actually cares about him (it's like those elementary school romances)).

Like Lyle, he serves as a source of sarcasm and cynicism within the strip. However, he tends to be a little more cruel than Lyle is. However, since he was built by Chex, there are many times where he's forced to do things because of his programming, even if he doesn't want to. However, he is in many ways his own robot, and is fully capable of reaping the benefits whenever they present themselves.


Dot is Chex's competition and friend. She's also the person who Chex screws over the most in his schemes.

Dot is your typical male-fantasy female comic character, submissive and kind to a fault. (that's what Straub says, at least) While she has sued Chex more times than I want to count, she's always willing to drop the charges, and even hope that somehow Chex will learn his lesson, which, of course, he doesn't, but it doesn't hurt to hope. Does it?

However, even though Dot is pretty much the only female character in the comic, she is not a romantic interest. Chex is too caught up in himself to really have a true romantic relationship (although he did try once) and Dot is only attracted to anthropomorphic animal characters, mainly cats, like Schrodinger.

However, Dot, unlike all the other secondary characters, still maintains a sense of naivety, which of course causes her to be proven wrong with almost every assumption she makes. She thinks her audience will accept her for who she is, but once they find out she dates a cat they throw her out. She thinks Chex will change and he keeps finding new ways to prove her wrong. She thinks there is still good in the world she lives in, and that there is good in Chex. Who knows, she might be right on that one. It's nice to have a chracter that's optimistic, but not suicidally optimistic (like Chex is), though.

Winona Ryder

Okay, Winona's not a true character in the comic, but you sure hear about her all the time. Chex has what I would call an unhealthy obsession with her, as evidenced by the comic that picture came from. She does turn out to be a deity at the end, though. I just thought it would be cool to have a gag character in there.

The Wrap up

You can't deny Checkerboard Nightmare's place in webcomics history, nor can you deny the impact Kris Straub is still having on webcomics today. This is a person with his foot firmly within the community. He's good friends with most of the major names, and I'm sure some of those people look up to him. Checkerboard Nightmare is just part of the influence he had, and even though there are many jokes that need context there's enough humor in there for it to be a fun read even if you don't get all the references. To tell you the truth, I don't get all of them either. I still like the comic, though.

Sorry about taking so long to write this. Writers block just hit me hard. The way I write, whenever I get writers block, it's like a wall comes crashing down right in front of me, and I can't get anything finished. Ideas don't come. Luckily when I'm inspired I tend to write a lot so it evens out.

You'd think these thing would get easier as I write more of them, but no. They're getting harder. I could use a break. I'm going to start work on my next review now. I don't know if I'm completely satisfied with this one, but it's done and I've said all I want to. Moving on.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Updates (because I'm not dead)

I admit I have been slacking. I had intended to finish my review for Checkerboard Nightmare before winter break. Obviously, I failed. Miserably. The good news there is I'm currently doing character synopsies, so I'm more than half way finished. I'm going to start with that again very soon.

After Checkerboard Nighmare I have a review of Our Home Planet to write, followed by 8 1/2 by Eleven, since it was requested by the author, followed by in whatever order.

Built for Comfort

Coffee Acheivers

Sacred Pie, and

Sam and Fuzzy

I might provide links later if I feel like it.

Also once I get through the long archives crawl, I'll update my reading list. There are a few comics I haven't been reading before that I am reading now.

William G's blog is of the link list since he's no longers reviewing comics. No offense to William G himself.

Also on the agenda: Finish compositions for my recital in Spring 2007. Get back to writing for my movie review sites (yes, they're both fully written by me). School work. Practice for Phantom Regiment. Eat. Sleep. Other projects that I have set aside, since I intend to finish them all.

I might announce some of these projects on here because they may or may not be comic related. However, I'll only do that when I finish them.