Posting Apocalyptic

In the last few years, the post-apocalyptic genre seems to have really exploded – with children, and road warriors, and zombies (oh my!) all dominating our current popular media. Steve and Jason’s review of Weapon Brown last week got me thinking about the genre and just how it’s come to be such a big part of the media all around us whether that be film and television, literature, gaming or webcomics – and I was surprised to find how long and how often we have, in our stories, been living beyond the end. Continue reading

Share

Widdershins: What your Magic says about You

Magic, by its very nature, is a force which can be infinitely variable when used in fiction. So it’s remarkable how often we come across the same recycled tropes over and over again: wizards with wands or staves, sorcerers weaving magic out of thin air, latin incantations or innate magical abilities like flight, strength, etc. So when something comes along that is a little out of the ordinary – like bargaining with a spirit  to imbue magical properties on an object – it’s worth a closer look. Welcome to the world of Kate Ashwin’s Widdershins. Continue reading

Share

ARG-xiety: Andrew Gregoire and the silent struggle

On April fool’s day 2016, one of my favourite webcomics posted it’s last update before what would, eventually, become an indefinite hiatus: Andrew Gregoire’s I Am Arg! At the time (like most webcomics which lapse into a cycle of non-updates), Gregoire didn’t give a whole lot of reasons why that happened – one day the webcomic stopped updating, and the next, it never did again.
Two and a half years later, Andrew has revealed some of the struggle he was having with the comic in its final days, and it’s a story that will sound familiar to far too many of us: the battle with anxiety and the crippling expectations we place on ourselves day-to-day.

In a Twitter thread on 3 September 2017 (which starts here), Gregoire goes into detail about the circumstances that led him to quit his comic; how the mental toll of the workload – that is, the workload his anxiety was setting for himself by forcing him to write up to twelve drafts for a given comic before finally ‘settling’ on something he was still unhappy with – was affecting his sleep, his work, and even his relationships with his wife, family and friends. In this, Gregoire is not alone – the incidence of anxiety-related stress disorders in America and across the globe have been on the rise for well over a decade, and is now believed to affect between 18 – 30% of Americans (and about 10% of Australians, too). Part of the reason the exact number is not known, is the suspicion that many people are either unable to recognise the symptoms, unwilling to face the reality that they are living with anxiety, or simply anxious about coming forward and facing treatment.

In his Twitter thread, Gregoire confesses to the latter. As someone who witnessed their father struggling through a medicated approach to treatment, Gregoire was faced with what is a very common fear of artists, musicians, and creative people battling mental illness: the fear that they will lose their creative spark, and in seeking treatment lose something of themselves in order to become healthy. Eventually, Gregoire found the courage to take that step, and reports that ever since:

“It kinda helped. I’m not perfect, but I’ve only had 2 panic attacks in the last 2 years and they’ve been super mild.”

For Gregoire, the difference between trying to ‘tough it out’ in silence and seeking help (through a combination of medical treatment and coping mechanisms) was the difference between hundreds of attacks and insomnia multiple nights every week, to those two (“super mild”) attacks across two years. The importance of that difference is not lost on Gregoire, who ends his thread by reaching out to others:

“there are ways to help fix your brain, and there are people who want to help.”

Even if you’re not familiar with I Am Arg!, the chances are you, or someone you know, will be subject to feelings of depression or anxiety at some stage of your life. Gregoire’s decision to share his battle on Twitter is an important reminder that the people who make these internet drawings we all hold so dear are, at the end of the day, people the same as us – subject to happiness and sadness, and struggle, and courage, and hope. Gregoire may feel like he posted the thread for “selfish reasons,” but if reading it helps one person who is otherwise feeling like they’re struggling alone, then that will be a gift beyond words.

Do you have experience with depression or anxiety, either personal or experienced through the creative works of other webcartoonists? We’d love to see any links to other examples you have in the comments section, or you can contact us directly on Twitter. And until next time, remember: don’t eat the clickbait!

Share

Lil’ Political Cartooning

Steve and Jason’s latest podcast got me thinking of the very first blog post I made on this site, way back in April, when we discussed whether the term ‘webcomic’ was still relevant today. Jason’s webcomics choice of the week – Mike Norton’s Little Donnie – echoes something of this debate: being a modern, relevant incarnation of cartooning’s oldest and most enduring ancestor – the political (editorial) cartoon. Continue reading

Share

Jenny Everywhere Day 2017

August 13th is a busy day. Not only is it International Left-hander’s Day, it’s also National Filet Mignon Day and National Prosecco Day for those who are Stateside. So why not grab a left-handed friend and invite them over for a nice dinner? Then, when you’re finished, drag them over to the nearest computer and strap them in – because there’s a webcomics reason to celebrate August 13 as well: Jenny Everywhere Day! Continue reading

Share

Pandora-monium! Character change in El Goonish Shive

Steve and Jason’s Webcomic Colonic this week got me thinking about the way webcomics change over time – like Steve says, the webcomic you’re reading today might not be the one you signed on for when you first started reading. The longer a comic runs, the more fundamental these changes can get.

Now, as I mentioned back in May, I’m a bit of a fan of Dan Shive’s El Goonish Shive. There’s a lot about the comic to recommend it – the (current) art style, the excellent writing and story structure, the themes it deals with regarding gender issues and the diversity of its cast. Recently, the comic has been expanding the history and role of character Pandora (Chaos) Raven – Immortal being of immense power and (until this examination began?) one of the primary antagonists of the comic. So do the recent changes to the Pandora character in El Goonish Shive suggest a fundamental change to the comic itself? Or is it, as Jason puts it, the privilege of watching the writer’s perspective change over time? Continue reading

Share

Coming Home to some Spidermans

It’s been nearly a month now since Spiderman: Homecoming first hit cinemas in the US so, unless you’re a blogger who spends all of their free time reading webcomics on the internet (*cough*), chances are you’ve seen it by now. If you are anything like me, though, how are you supposed to get your spider-fix when the whole world is talking about Spiderman, the Vulture, and the strange sexual tension between Tony Stark and the canonically octogenarian aunt May? Webcomics, of course! Here’s a few of my own favourite Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-themed Webcomics from the past few weeks, months and years to get you in the mood for some Homecoming, or to relive the joy if you’ve already seen it!

Do you have any favourite Spiderman webcomics we haven’t got on our list? Make sure to leave a link in the comments or let us know on Twitter, and until next time, remember: don’t eat the clickbait!

Share

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

Share

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!

Share

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

Share