Sunday, February 26, 2006

And Stu Passes, In Much the Same Way as Mercutio, Except Without the Cursing

(Picture from Sluggy Freelance. Click on the picture to see it within the context of the website.)

It seems that "Oceans Unmoving," Pete Abrams try at epic storytelling, is finally winding down. It was a long haul, and many people didn't like it, but it wasn't without its good points.

If you could ignore for a little bit the fact that the only regular from the Sluggyverse in that story was Bun Bun, what you had was a strong story with many twists and some pretty good character development as well.

I mean, to see Calix move from being a naive islander to vengeful first mate of the Bloody Bun to a sort of romantic lead to revolutionary to a man in his own right. All his changes made since. He was forced to change his outlook because of Bun Bun, and because of the situation around him, yet he still kept some of his core personality throughout the entire storyline.

Kada has changed a lot too over the course of the story. She's lost a little bit of her cockiness, and gained a little bit of maturity as well. Even the greys have evolved, changing from pure comic relief to characters with personality, and the caribs, well, the less said about the caribs the better. They're kind of like the Jar Jar Binks of this storyline.

However, I will say that Stu's death is a fitting death indeed. (Did I mention there would be spoilers in this review? Well, too late to warn you now.) As a purely humorous character who never lies even if it would probably be in his best interest to do so, he ends it all by telling a lie, and a pretty big one at that. Yes, this one got a laugh out of me. It's just so wrong and so unexpected. Makes for a good end to an okay character.

I'm going to put Sluggy Freelance in my top 5. Hopefully Abrams lives up to that in his next storyline.

Friday, February 24, 2006

F. A. Q.

I think it's time, even though nobody's really asked me any questions, to put up a F. A. Q. Why? Well, because it's nice sometimes to be able to define oneself, and what this site is about. That and it helps fill the time between writing reviews. Let's start.

1. Who the [insert expletive here] are you?

Thanks for asking.

I'm Andrew Araki (pronouced "a rock key"). No I don't draw a comic, nor do I have any natural artistic talent to speak of. I'm a music major. I read comics in what little free time I have.

I also like being a critic, which is why I started this site. I was of course inspired by Eric Burns, but the real reason I thought starting this site was feasible was because of a blog called The Living Comic (which hasn't updated in a while (that proves I have longevity, people)). What I liked about The Living Comic was the fact that he didn't write comics, and didn't much seem to be part of the community, yet he still got noticed because his writing was good.

I didn't really expect to make much of an impact on the webcomics community. I just like writing in any form, and I decided to start this blog for fun. I was planning on once I had enough posts and I felt I was good enough to start commenting on other blogs to get noticed. That plan didn't quite go the way I thought it would, since Phil Kahn linked to me before I even considered making myself noticed. That led to a soon forgotten link on Comixpedia, and here I am today. I never expected to get as far into the community as I have, so I'm definitely satisfied with that.

2. What's this site about?

Comics Rock is a website about webcomics. I mostly focus on reviews, with Now That It's Finished Reviews getting first priority. I also review comics still running by request and on a whim. I also discuss comics theory every once in a while. The comics theory essays are more to give the audience a feel for my taste than to say what should and shouldn't be in a webcomic. Every once in a while during the lull between posts, I will do a comic one-shot, where I pick one comic, post the picture on my site, and talk about it as much as I feel it needs talking about.

3. Why did you choose a stupid name like "Comics Rock?"

Who says it's stupid? I understand that the name isn't a very searchable name. Put "comics rock" into google and by the third page you might find something that references my site. (Apparently, however, I'm the only Andrew Araki in the world.) I wasn't really thinking about that when I chose the name. Truth is, the name's a triple meaning. Really.

First meaning is the obvious "comics rock" in that comics are awesome.

Second there are quite a few cities or landmarks that have the word "rock" in their name. In that sense "comics rock" is a place that has something to do with comics. That's why the subtitle says what it says.

Finally, my nickname in high school, which I still go by sometimes today, was "Rock." The reason I was nicknamed that way has to do with my last name (see pronunciation in first question). So I can say, "My name's Rock and I review comics. I'm Comics Rock." It's a silly thing, I know, but I think it's cool.

4. Why don't you review art?

Because I'm not an artist.

Really, there's just too much about art and drawing that I don't know about. Cross-hatching, anatomy, brush strokes, perspective, whatever. I can't tell if art's good by objective standards, so I just don't try. There are enough blogs out there that pay good attention to art that I don't have to. Personally, as long as I can tell what's happening, I don't care. Pick your own style and stick with it.

5. How do I get on your top 5?

Simple. Impress me.

If I see a comic that's worth talking about because it's very good or a storyline turns out to be more than I thought it would, that comic goes into my top 5. The top 5 works on a rotation system, so a comic remains on the top 5 until five other comics have received that honor at which point it gets taken off.

6. How can I remain on your top 5?

Simple. Impress me twice.

A comic won't go through more than two rotations on the top 5. After that I'll take it off to give another comic a chance.

I also tend to avoid talking about a comic multiple times within a short period, so the second comic actually has to be a little better than the first to stay on.

If that happens I give the comic a buffer.

A buffer is defined as a substance which resists change (basically (it's actually a little more complicated than that).

What happens when a comic gets a buffer is it moves back down to the end of the top 5 and starts the rotation all over again.

Because of that it will remain in the top 5 longer.

7. Why aren't you reading [insert comic here]? It's awesome.

Well there could be many reasons.

I might not have heard of it, or I might have heard of it, but wasn't interested. A good way to get me to read a comic is to request a review. That's almost guaranteed to put me in an archive crawl.

I might have read it, but didn't like it. Even though I have varied tastes, I don't like everything. Somtimes you'll just have to accept that I don't like everything you do.

It might be too short. If I can't get a good feel for a comic, I'll usually wait until I can, then decide whether I like it or not. The shorter a comic is, the harder it is to get a feel for it. I might like it once the archive bulks up a bit, but for now I'm not sure.

That's all the questions I have for now. I'm going to be posting the permanent link for this post in the sidebar. If anyone else has any other questions, put them in the comments.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

You Can Never Go Wrong with a Futurama Reference

(Picture from Anywhere But Here by Jason Siebels. Click on the picture to see it within the context of the website.)

I've been meaning to update my top 5 for a while. Even though quite a few good strips come out during this lull, I was either uninspired to write or too wrapped up in something else to be able to do so.

Luckily I found this strip.

Anywhere But Here is an amazing comic. Jason Siebel is able to provide enough hope for the relationship between the one guy (who hasn't been named yet) and Chris while at the same time keeping the tension really high. Near the beginning they had a really rocky on-again, off-again relationship, mostly because of misunderstandings. Now they still don't quite understand each other, but they have stabilized, or so I thought.

So now the one thing that was the biggest causes of these tensions is coming out, the sexual frustration.

The Dude (as he is so called) has been driving Chris crazy by turning down her advances again and again (among other things, like forgetting to call). Now it seems he can't wait any longer.

I'm not sure how Chris is going to react to this. She just barely got used to the idea that he doesn't want to have sex with her until the time is right. This unexpected switch may be too much for her, or she may go along with it and it will be an absolutely amazing experience (or not).

Either way, this is a pretty hilarious strip. The buildup to lust escaping is quite good.

Top 5.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Updates and such.

I just got done with an absolutely huge archive crawl which started last year. I read every comic that is on the Waiting List. This means that there are a few new comics in my reading list. Check it out. If you have trouble finding them, they are

Anywhere But Here


Faux Pas


Penny and Aggie



I will start reading the archives to Built for Comfort this weekend so I can review it. After that, I think I'll read Perry Bible Fellowship so I can write a little bit of a tongue-in-cheek review about that. After that, I'll decide when I get there.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Review: 8 1/2 by Eleven

(All pictures from 8 1/2 by Eleven by Lucas Teodoro da Silva. Click on the pictures to see them within the context of the website.)

Since the author himself requested this review, I'm going to write it as if I'm adressing him rather than a reader that may or may not be interested in the comic. Hopefully everyone else will come out with something too.

Now, I know you want to make your comic as good as it can be, or at least better than it is now. Otherwise you wouldn't have asked for a review, so be warned. I'm going to be focusing more on what needs improving than what's good. I ask that you not take offense and view it as the constructive criticism I'm trying to make it. Thank you.

There's quite a bit of potential in the strip, or at least there's potential for you to become a good writer. You seem to know how to set up a good arc. Personally I think you could afford to go a little slower, but there could very well be people who will argue the other way. The premise, while not being the best premise in the world is a workable one, and if used right should give you lots of material. You decided to set the comic in a place you're familiar with, which is a good choice, and you obviously have a good feel of the area (though I haven't been there myself).

The characters need work, though. I don't know what it is, I just don't feel them. You seem to have their basic shell, but not their essense. I can't help you farther than that, but you might want to try to dig with your characters a little bit.

The one thing I would work on fixing the most, however, is the dialogue. The dialogue seems to be the weakest point of the strip. Now, I know the hardest part of writing is writing good dialogue, or making sure the rhythm works. How much you improve on this depends on how much work you're willing to put into it. A few pointers, though.

First, you don't need a joke in every strip when you're writing a story driven webcomic. There were a few times while reading the strip where you set up a mood nicely, but ruined it by trying to force humor in. If the moment is fighting against the joke, don't put it in. I mean, Randy Milholland of Something Positive is known for having a dark sense of humor, but when the moment is intense or heartfelt, he suppresses the humor, or ditches it altogether. He knows when it will or won't work. You have to decide that for yourself.

When I was reading through your strip, I was constantly reminded of Scary Go-Round. You have the same sort of non-sequitur/free association style of writing dialogue as well as a penchant for inventing English. I don't know if that was on purpose or not, but if you're going to imitate the style of another person in a public setting, make sure you can do it better than they can. If you in any way invite comparisons, people will compare. However, you can look at someone else's style, pick what you like and make your own. That has been done successfully by many artists.

So what can you do to improve? Read. A lot. And read critically. Go through the archives and write down what you like and dislike about the strips you are reading (focusing on dialogue of course). Read those two strips I suggested up there. Also read Dominic Deegan for ideas on how to use bad puns in your work. Read Queen of Wands or Questionable Content for silly dialogue based in reality. Read Mixed Myth. Robin Meyer also has a humor driven story strip that every once in a while sacrifices humor so the story can be told. Read strips that you don't like as much and try to figure out why you don't like them. Like any movies? Read their scripts. Find out what you like and don't like about them. Movies and comics are closely related. Above all, keep writing and don't stop assessing your work critically. Hope that helps. Good luck.