This is a longer post today because I have two reviews and a run-down of my visit to WonderCon, which was great fun. First though, let me mention that if you are into long-form webcomics (or online graphic novels, or whatever you prefere to call them), check out the #lfwc hashtag on Twitter. A lot of great creators are discussing their craft using that tag.
For this week’s Webcomics Wednesday, I decided to focus on two webcomics I had never heard of before reading comments from their creators in that #lfwc discussion. There are still several more comics I have to explore by creators who chimed in to the part of the discussion I was following.
First up, Power Nap by Maritza Campos and Bachan is everything I wanted in a webcomic without realizing I wanted it. I mean, it’s about dreams, reality, and a Kafka-esque future that reminds me of every office job I’ve ever worked. The influences on Ms. Campos’ writing are all from movies I have enjoyed, like Brazil, the Matrix, Blade Runner, Back to the Future, and Minority Report, and the art by Bachan is frenetic and exaggerated/cartoony where it needs to be.
The story starts out in action, as a man in office wear is being chased by a very large and very mutated-looking creature (picture on left). From there we jump back to the “real” world and the science-fiction ideas start flying. The protagonist of the story is Drew Spencer, the ultimate office drone. He has a long commute, a pointless job, and an inability to stay awake. No, he doesn’t have narcolepsy, he just can’t keep up with everyone else because he’s allergic to the pills everyone takes to keep them awake 24/7. The ramifications of this allergy are teased out in very inventive ways and are really the basis for the entire story up to this point. How does a man who needs to sleep keep up in a world of the sleepless? Answer: He goes a little crazy.
Or maybe it’s everyone else who is crazy. Either way, questions of what is reality inevitably crop up as the dreaming and waking worlds collide in this comic. The art style is very animated and the sound effects are fun and work well to emphasize the action. Between the wickedly fun- and idea-filled story and the beautiful and imaginative artwork, I am hoping this webcomic continues for a long time.
The second webcomic today is Little Guardians, written by Ed Cho, with art by Lee Cherolis. If you have ever played Legend of Zelda, or Dragon Quest, Pokémon, or any number of other video game RPGs, this webcomic should be instantly recognizable to you. It contains all the tropes of those games, like the Item Shop, monsters with unique abilities, heroes who can capture and release animals and monsters from magic orbs, healing potions, and the like.
Little Guardians is both a loving homage to these video games, and a way to play around with the format as well, because in this story, the hero has been switched at birth with the son of the man who runs the Item Shop. (I don’t consider this a spoiler; it is in the Prologue and it is the premise of the whole comic.) This is because the hero is a girl, Subira, and the Guardian of Yowza Village can only pass his training on to a son. So Subira ends up Cinderella-ing it at the Item Shop while Idem, who is actually the shopkeeper’s son, grows up in the shadow of the Guardian Tane and fails miserably at his training.
This one twist makes for a lot of tension when disaster strikes the village. Can Idem overcome his shopkeeper’s heritage and step up to be a true Guardian? And will Subira’s Guardian heritage manifest itself despite her subservient existence in the Item Shop?
Tension aside, there is a lot of humor in the comic, especially centering around Yowza Village’s Zucchini Festival and zucchini farmer Thoom. By the end of Chapter 1, I found myself invested in the lives of Subira and Idem, concerned for Thoom, intrigued by new arrival Soma, and pitying the Guardian, Tane. It is the fact that Little Guardians can juggle humor and drama, action and emotion, that makes it a webcomic I want to keep reading, and elevates it above a video game parody.
Chapter 1 has ended and Chapter 2 starts up again on April 16th, so now is a perfect time to catch up on Little Guardians. (4/9/12 update: Per this post, Little Guardians is now set to return on April 30th.)
I had a blast at WonderCon last Friday. Even though I couldn’t go back on Saturday and Sunday because I have to pack and move instead, my wife and I did walk the entire floor, and we got to meet and talk with a lot of talented writers and artists, such as:
Jason Brubaker of reMIND:
Travis Hanson of The Bean, holding up one of the prints we purchased:
Paul Roman Martinez of The Adventures of the 19XX (that’s me on the left; I felt like a dweeb asking to be in the picture, so this is the first and last picture with me in it):
Justin Peniston of Hunter Black (he’s on the left holding my five-dollar bill hostage):
Justin was a really welcoming guy. I haven’t read Hunter Black yet, but after talking to him I definitely want to check that one out and also another webcomic he writes, Planet Pantheon.
Here is a rundown of some of my other WonderCon highlights, in no particular order:
Lackadaisy is a webcomic I have seen linked to many times but I have not checked out for myself yet. While I didn’t meet the creator, Tracy Butler, the artwork was so beautiful (plus, gangster cats!) that I picked up Volume 1 and a poster.
Arlyn Pillay of Ogre Shop was working on this really cool piece of art:
Finally, here is one of two prints we purchased from Martin Hsu:
I also picked up some independent comics and the business cards for a lot of great artists. There were so many prints we wanted, but we started to run out of money and energy. Oh well, next Con.
Next week I’ll share the links to the artists that caught my or my wife’s eyes, and I’ll talk about anything else WonderCon-related that I left out of today’s post.
Overall, I really enjoyed WonderCon and it reminded me of what San Diego used to be before it became overwhelmingly huge. Luckily, I now live an hour outside of San Francisco, so WonderCon will be my new regular Con to attend.