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

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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

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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!

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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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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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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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Goodbye Old Friends: Reinvention in Long-form Webcomics

 

There’s nothing quite like getting stuck into a long-running long-form webcomic.

I mean, gag-a-day and strip comics are great too, but you don’t get the same kind of joy you get watching your favourite characters grow and develop week by week: fleshing out backstories, deepening their characterisation, refining the way secondary characters interact with the protagonist/s and even watching them go off on their own adventures, and…

Hang on, whatever happened to that character? It’s been years now since they took that new job in another city, shouldn’t we check in to see how it’s going?

Nope! That character you were invested in has fallen victim to the trope so common in this form of storytelling: the rotating cast roster.

“But I loved that character”, I hear you cry! “Why would the author do this to me?” – now before you rage-quit the comic, or lose interest and let it languish as an open browser tab with the dozens of others you’ll never get back to (looking at you, Steve!), let me explain why your favourite comics do this, and why it really is a good thing. Continue reading

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5 ways to support webcomic creators (without even trying)!

We all love webcomics – but sometimes expressing that love can be hard! We don’t always have the time or the cash to support the people creating these digital scribbles we hold so dear: sending emails, buying the merch, ordering print collections… if only there was an easier way!

Despair not, Digital Strippers (um…)! There are indeed easy ways for you to support your favourite creators – without even trying! Here’s five of the best you can do right now: Continue reading

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Searhing for Strip Search – Finale

Finales are exciting!

And on 14 June 2013, the Strip Search finale was no exception! We had watched them battle through the ranks, we had watched them face off against all the challenges, and it was finally time to find out who was going to win the grand prize of a year working in the Penny Arcade offices and $15,000 in cold hard cash. Continue reading

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