Pro Grapplers Episode 48: The Gable-dy Gooker and the Cena-phobic Kurt-fuffle

Punjabi Prison playsetKurt Angle’s big angle has come and gone, so what’s left? Will he get big breaks thanks to his big daddy? Will Gable take on a new partner? Time will tell, but time will also bring us the Battleground PPV event, where these questions will be answered: Will Natalya fart a hole in her tights? Will the Punjabi Prison at least be memorable? And will the Wyatt Boys take on Breezango? Listen in and tune in on Sunday!

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Today I Learned (Nothing) Episode 40: Fish Stick In Your Mouth

That kiss from The SandlotSteve spent some time at Shanghai Disneyland recently and it only served to remind him that youthful infatuation is the same around the world, Chinese T-shirts can be horrifically offensive, and tube tops are always a bad idea on roller coasters. Meanwhile, Jason has a T-shirt that sends mixed signals to Russians and Americans alike.

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Questioning Content – Maxwell’s Demons and Alice Grove

Longtime fans of Jeph Jacques’ webcomic Questionable Content may have noticed the comic has taken a bit of a turn in recent years. What once used to be a story about a group of predominantly 20-somethings, their relationships and the indie music scene of middle America has become, in Jeph’s own words, “a comic about robots that want to kiss.”

So it’s no surprise that when Jeph started his new webcomic Alice Grove back in 2014, it quickly became a story focused around sci-fi themes as well. So far those themes have included everything from your everyday, run-of-the-mill AI uprisings and man-made nanotech, to spaceships, aliens (both pretend and real), and giant floating space trees. But since the comic’s earliest pages, the reader has been left with the question of how the titular town witch, Alice – and in particular, her abilities – fit into these overall themes. Until now. But although the descriptor of ‘demon’ might seem to fit the town witch we have got to know over the past few years, what exactly is a “Maxwell’s Demon” and how does it play into the overall theme of the comic? Continue reading

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Pro Grapplers Episode 47: Kicked In The Tozawas

Kurt Angle speaks with his mysterious partner as Monday Night RAW goes off the airThe first-ever Great Balls of Fire PPV event is in the books, and man was it a scorcher! The intensity was high and it gave us some great matches. Other thoughts this week: quoting songs doesn’t require a bibliography, Steve thinks Slater is set for a push, Joe better get his due, who does Kurt Angle LOOOOOOOVE, and SEXY FASHION RANGERS.

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Digital Strips Episode 484: We’ve All Got Wolf Fanfic, Right?

BaltoWe always knew webcomics were rad and deserve attention, but a spot in the Library of Congress? What wonderful news! We’ve also got some wonderful webcomics like Fantasma, Off White, and Genji Cat.

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Your Spaceships do What? Webcomics and FTL Travel

So, I’ve been catching up on Dave Kellet’s excellent sci-fi webcomic, Drive. Trawling back through the archive not only reminded me how much I love the universe Kellett has invented, but also how unparalleled webcomics are at ‘driving’ innovations in storytelling and genre. In this case, bringing ever new and unique takes to the ubiquitous faster-than-light travel of Space Opera.

If you’re unfamiliar with Drive (pretty mild spoilers ahead, but be warned nonetheless!), Kellett’s FTL technology follows some pretty familiar concepts – on the surface. Each of the starships that use the drive technology are fitted with a ‘drive ring’, the unseen technology inside which is used to manipulate gravity fields. By doing so, the rings create singularities through which “pinches” space, therefore allowing FTL speeds. Where it gets interesting, though, is that Kellett implies the technology in humanity’s drive rings may be sentient. And that little development becomes the driving force behind the conflict in his plot – because the alien race that invented the technology which humans copied view it’s budding sentience as an abomination, and take exception to our using it to forge our empire.

It speaks to the value of webcomics – and sequential art in general – that Kellett is able to develop and explore the implications behind this technology, and spin an entire galaxy-spanning plot around it. And he’s not alone. Longtime webcomic fans will recognise the parallels found in Kris Straub’s Starslip and Howard Tayler’s (recently mentioned) Schlock Mercenary. These classic webcomic space operas also spend a great deal of time and plot centrality focusing on FTL technologies – much more than you get in other forms of storytelling (such as film or television). For example, the hyperdrive of Star Wars is certainly used as a plot device, but the way in which it actually operates is barely mentioned. Neither is the warp drive of Star Trek central to the development of plots in the movies or the TV series’ – it’s just a device to get you to the place where the story happens, or break along the way so the characters have something to do.

By contrast, the crisis that resulted from using Starslip engines to jump between parallel universes was the whole focus of the original series’ plot – and marked the separation between original narrative arc and the new focus of time travel in the soft reboot. In a similar way, the invention, spread and subsequent ubiquity of the the teraport drove the plot of Schlock Mercenary’s first two books, the ripples of which still play out in the background of the series.

It’s an approach you can only get from webcomics – taking the time allowed by months and years of updates to develop the narrative around these technologies and make them more than simple window dressing in the background. Even better, by having the time to play around with new things, webcomics get to invent the sort of complex and weird technologies that you couldn’t get through to the audience of a movie. Or which end up getting TV series cancelled. Kellett, in Drive, is taking full advantage of the format and the creative freedom it allows. And even if it’s a little frustrating to wait soooo long for the answers we’re slowly getting, it’s still thrilling to watch him spend the time to really develop and explore his technology and from that fabric, weave his grand narrative.

What do you think? Do you know any other space-sailing webcomics with a unique take on FTL travel? Or is our interest in this getting lost in space? Let us know in the comments!

And until next time, remember – don’t eat the clickbait!

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Pro Grapplers Episode 46: Big Beefy Boy Smashfest

Kane attaches jumper cables to Shane McMahon's grapefruitsVacation’s over and it’s time to talk about a LOT of wrestling! Money in the Bank came and went, Carmella stole the briefcase (twice), and that lovable bearded maniac made his return. Things are going pretty well, so let’s talk about our hopes and fears for the first-ever Great Balls of Fire PPV event!

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Today I Learned (Nothing) Episode 39: The Pop-And-Lock Explanation

Will Smith and Jimmy Fallon perform the Pop and LockIf someone doesn’t know what popping and locking is, how do you show them? Steve wants to know. If you play video games around your kids, how do you hide your competitive ugliness? Jason wants to know. And everyone wants to know the best creative curses to utilize when the children are around.

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Magic and Mythology – The real Coyote of Gunnerkrigg Court

The story of Tom Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court is a sweeping tale of magic and technology, the clash between the old and the new, and the coming of age for main characters Antimony Carver and Kat Donlan. Overseeing this tale are two opposed factions, the shadowy leaders of the eponymous Court, and the flamboyantly-non-shadowed Coyote, God of the forest that surrounds the school. In fact, Coyote and his machinations have had an increasing presence in the comic, following the relatively early appointment of Antimony as the forest’s representative in the court, the summer she spent living in the forest, her growing relationships with Coyote’s minions Reynard and Ysengrin and more recently (minor spoilers ahead!) the freeing of Jeanne, the guardian spirit who separated the denizens of the forest and the court. But who is Coyote, and what resemblance does he bear to his real-world mythological counterpart? Continue reading

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Book Club Bookmark: Schlock Mercenary

Back in 2014, our very own Digital Dynamic Duo took on a challenge of truly diabolical proportions – bringing the vast, 16-year old sprawling universe of Howard Tayler’s Schlock Mercenary into your earbuds, through the tried-and-true stalwart of the airwaves: the Digital Strips Book Club!

Turns out, though, that reading through every update of a webcomic that’s being going since June 2000 is a galaxy-sized task all of itself. So rather than saddle you, dear readers and listeners, with the boredom a grind like that can bring, the Geek and the Midnight Cartooner moved on to greener pastures vowing that they would, one day, return.

And so, in the spirit of that fine tradition we introduce the Book Club Bookmark: A look back at the comics which have been covered by the podcast in Book Club form, and seeing where those comics are today (if they are still updating at all). Continue reading

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