Thursday, December 2, 2010


I've been updating twice a week plus a comic over at Socialfist, you know, the webcomic I write. I do mean to post here more though.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Socialfist is Back

My apologies for getting caught up with work.

Socialfist updated today. There are bears and fire.

Marvel Strange Tales 2 came out two week ago with art from Kate Beaton.

A review will be going up Sunday if all goes well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Projects Wagon

Hey hey, I got hired by the local comic shop and between that and week 1 of school I have been busy.

Currently though I am doing some pics here that go with this song by this guy.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

West Coast Avengers Mixtape

My ability to focus on reading webcomics was disrupted over the past two weeks by my vacation and thus blogging slowed down a slight amount. Still I did some nerding and as this is the nerding review blog I present a link to Adam Warrock's West Coast Avengers Mixtape. It is a nerdy mixtape of songs about the West Coast Avengers that doesn't require a full background in the Marvel canon to enjoy. Some songs though are vastly improved with knowledge such as Hank Pym, my personal favorite, but you can quickly Wikisearch them and get the idea of the character as you listen to the song.
Adam WarRock also has 3+ hours of free music to download and an album coming out soon. Give it a listen, give it a download and then give yourself a copy of his album when it comes out this month.
Next week web comic reviews or something!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Walking The Lethe Review

Sometimes I get emailed or contacted to do more professional reviews. This is one of those times.

Walking the Lethe is a dark story about a man attempting to make amends with his dead wife through any means necessary. In the world of comics this typically means causing some form of apocalypse. With pastiches and ideas that have been done before, not necessarily better, Walking the Lethe begins a descent its descent into hell or what may actually be heaven. The characters are still being rounded out with dialogue and development seemingly being rushed in exchange for moving the story along which works for the story.
One of the biggest problems I have is the sudden shift in art styles from a more expressionist painting style over 3-d backgrounds to a lusciously illustrated and ultimately better suited realistic style for the second two chapters.
The comic is somewhat confusing as it happens often times with hierarchies that are undefined and such but the comic is picking up speed.
Its not necessarily my thing but fans of comics like Hellblazer might be more interested.
It can also be found online at

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Divergence Boink!

Ugh finals week. One exam and one project left though Divergence Boink!, one of my spur of the moment ideas that took a good deal of my time is done.
Chances are though, you are like, what the hell is this diverging bonk? It is in theory an online divergent point (alternate timeline) history textbook saying like "In this universe, Abe Lincoln was slicing stuff like a samurai since he was a robot from the future. How would this change things?"
The basic format when you open the file is you have your 0r4nge (an mp3 player alternate to an Apple Ipod in the universe, apples to oranges, yeah nobody has gotten that so far...) and the book designed by friend of the blog Eli Parker of Unwinders with some art from me and Blazel and one unknown artist throughout the book.
If you click the 0r4nge you get to listen to Akira the Don give a rather Murdoc Niccals sounding intro and in the only open chapter of the book you have me incoherently mumbling the lines the journal entry for the first page in the book.
Theoretically I would love to expand this but it got really stupid really fast and ended up not working out as planned. If I knew flash I would expand it for sure. Still, I may find the time to do some more chapters and just type them up and see if I can have that lead to something. Till then, we wait.

Windows EXE version
Zipped Mac App version

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Webcomics in Print 2: Webcomics in Print United

As mentioned in the last post, I went to SPX and purchased a lot of stuff and played the "OH GOD I NEED MONEY FOR THE ROOM" game (from Milton Brothers Gamez). A partial selection of the books is featured here.

Beartato and the Secret of the Mystery:
By Anthony Clark
The Nedroid book is pretty amazing encompassing a good deal of classic strips all of the Beartato/Reginald variety. No dinosaur warlocks. This also includes a mini books content and some fancy art. All of the art for most of the older jokes has been redrawn and the quality of the pages is at incredibly epic levels. There is a good deal of semi new comics as well and it is just generally good deal.
I can't really think of an issue, it was worth the money I got. Topatoco makes some damn fine books.
Perfect gift for: Junior high on up.
Fun fact: He signs the book and does drawings in it if you meet him in person and watching him draw drove me to tears.¤t=Photo609.jpg

Johnny Wander Vol. 1: Don't Burn The House Down
By Yuko Ota and Ananth Panagariya
Johnny Wander Volume 1 is great all around gift to anyone of any age with all ages humor and I am obsessed with the comic. Since buying it 3 days ago I've read it some 5 times already. It has a recipe, stories when relevant (instead of shoehorning in commentary and notes) and the entire package is very professional. Also I totally have a Maw in a bowler in my copy thanks to Yuko doodling in it (my copy is currently on loan though....). It covers the first year of comics, minus the additional color stories.
It is just all around professional and I can't think of complaints.
Perfect gift for: High school grads, college students and on up.
Fun Fact: It is addictive!

Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars In Brooklyn
By Meredith Gran
Meredith Gran produced a nice and thick tome of the first two years of the comic and included bonus strips that add to the chapters. The art is all nicely printed, the paper is high quality and it is worth the $17 (pay extra for the sketch version though!)
My one complaint is the printing color. All of the pages are in a greenscale print and with the shiny paper, it can be hard to read. I attempted to read on the bus back from SPX and reading under slightly sub par lighting was different. Still, I appreciate not being forced to have all black ink pages and it wasn't as bad as the one chapter in the Gastrophobia book where it was almost entirely unreadable. Also on a slightly less important note there was one page that was slightly smushed by the printer but not troublesome and most likely prevalent to be a major issue.
Perfect gift for: College students on up.
Fun Fact: I totally have a Hanna in my book. Forgot to ask for a Marek (I was tired, disoriented) Still cool to see how fast she was able to draw.

Octopus Pie Minis:
By Meredith Gran
The mini comics are mini books encompassing new comics. I purchased Fear and Couch Sitter, two of the more recent chapters. The quality placed into the minis reminds me the homemade cards my aunt used to make with each page being hand crafted on a variety of materials. It gave me a touch of nostalgia to me personally.
The ink is also black which works well on the brown stock-ish paper. All together this is a high quality piece and I could see myself paying something like $7 for one of these with no issue.
Fun Fact: These are limited issue things so buy them up!

Monday, September 13, 2010

SPX 2010 Review

So, I went to SPX, I wrote a review on some steno sheets (those yellow lined papers) and then I lost them or something. (I am just too lazy to get them, yet not too lazy to write a new article).
Over on Socialfist I made a giant thank you list seen here!!!!! and really SPX was a weirdish time for me. I had moments of fun but that sort of ran out at times. Not to say it was ever horrible but I guess I will mark everything off in a fancy list.

Things Koltreg Learned About The SMALL PRESS EXPO
1. Get Sleep Before Hand
Due to it being finals week and me having a Friday class and limited cash, I ended up leaving on a 2 am bus from Pittsburgh to Silver Springs eventually getting there around 8:30ish. I was awake enough having gotten 3 hours of sleep on the bus. When I finally got into my room at 4 though I showered and then collapsed from 5 to 11:30. :/ Luckily all I missed was Ignatz and drinking and eating, none of which was a major loss for my first convention. Still, next year, I will be able to drink and Johnny Wander has taught me there are epic drinking parties.

2. Bring Money and Set A Budget
I came to the SPX with something like $200 cash, spent all of it, spent extra money from my family and then had to call when I realized I hadn't saved money for the hotel.
Next year if I go as a guest (looking into going as a vendor type person) I will definitely have a more planned budget and hotel money on hand. I also will be less likely to buy a lot of stuff but this was a weekend for spur of the moment purchases that I will cover in a new Webcomics In Print chapter.

3. Meet New People
There were something like 80-100 exhibitors there. Most had big lines. I partially regret being too lazy/busy/asleep to meet Kate Beaton but she had an almost permanent line.
While most webcomic people were always (almost always) happy to met fans, the indie comics people were actually willing to talk and have a conversation which is always nice. While I came mostly to meet and pimp my webcomic I met some cool people including MC Blackwolf.

4. Bring A Friend
You can spend maybe 3 hours tops going to every booth there and sampling wares. After that you can hang out in panels or watch movies or eat or stuff like that but there is not much else there. I regret not bringing a friend since there were long stretches of nothing to do and no one to talk comics with - sorta. I am far less gregarious in person than I am online depending on the situation.

5: Speak Loudly and Be Decisive
The hall can be pretty loud so if you are talking across a table it can be difficult to be understood. Also knowing what you want at the bigger booths additionally helps since there were several lines that blocked off the narrow halls. Topatoco formed a few swells of comic people since they were across from Octopus Pie, KC Green (on Sunday), Jeph Jacques, Dave Kellet and a few other big names.

6: Be Friendly
I guess this is more towards the people at booths. Smile, tell a joke and such. Spike sold me on a copy of her comic I have had issues with before by being friendly. Other people whose books I have purchased were less friendly and buying a mini was something I sorta regretted. This is sorta a "Hey fans, we need your help so why not give us money," type deal so being friendly just makes sense.

7: B.Y.O.M. - Bring Your Own Minis
I brought a printed version of Socialfist chapter 1 and gave it out which was a good way to get exposure and introduce myself. Other people were also giving out minis though which is also cool.

Its a community thing and you gotta be active. Pump new life into it and such.

I am looking forward to New England Webcomics Weekend next if I can get a ride there but first I gotta finish finals this week. ugggh.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Finals Pre Week Is Upon Me

Finals Pre Week Is Here With Finals Being Next Week. Blazel provided this for one of my projects.
Snake Plissken as Pope Martin Luther.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Itunes 10 Thoughts

So, Itunes 10 came out today and I generally like Itunes for everything related to playing music. Purchasing music I do almost solely on Amazon when I can. There it is usually cheaper and they offer better deals. The new Itunes though is already sort of bugging me, especially with the whole Ping type deal.
There are already several social music websites that are online., Pandora, etc. I don't use any of them though mainly because I listen to my music or nothing at all. With Itunes introducing the social network aspect though, it seems to be forgetting the benefits of those other networks in regards to social networking and music, one being that you can listen to full versions of songs. You can just listen to new stuff. Now if Itunes were to, lets speak horribly hypothetically here, allow you to listen to full songs for free like a radio station, that might be fine. In fact, it may actually inspire people to use their store. Heck, I know several times I've been driving and I've wanted to buy a song that was on the radio then and there. Pandora and to my knowledge/poor recollection from seeing other peoples sites do allow this, often through Itunes. You are just throwing away spur of the moment purchases here.
Really the main reason I signed up for Ping is interest in how horrible it is. While it is in the first few days of birth and it only has a small amount of users, I can't see many people incorporating it. What does it do? Let your friends know if you make a review? How often do my friends do that? How often do they even buy through Itunes! Honestly it is like the Netflix social aspect for me, I never use it. Most of the people who I talked to Ping essentially sad "Wait, another social media thing? Ugh." There doesn't seem to be a big following and while there is a promise of premium content from big stars, what about people who don't listen to the big musicians. Heck, if you can't buy the artists music on Itunes you can't even feature them as favorite artists (because Itunes can't sell their shit - that means only two songs by Akira The Don! Blasphemy!)
Pretty much my other comments fall in the design category. The new font is too small and hard to read, the lack of colored icons leaves Itunes looking almost dead, like it molted its shell and this is the leftover. It still seems to run slow as ever being as big of a file as it is, Genius still is somewhat dubious and the new listing choice is fairly ugly if you lack the album art set up in a certain way.
Kind of annoying for me since I can't easily go back now, no real benefits to the user and the Ping thing will probably break within a year wherein it is shut down unless they mix things up.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kick Drum Style Reviews: Wigu/Overcompensating Review

I have been reading a lot but I ned to force myself to get back to writing the review portions. This week features two comics by Jeff Rowland, webcomicer and creator of TopatoCo, the webcomic store.

Wigu by Jeff Rowland
Wigu is a webcomic about a boy named Wigu, his family and his more or less inter-dimensional guardians, Topato Potato and Sheriff Pony. The comic revolves around the adventures Wigu has with his family that typically result in Topato and Sheriff Pony rescuing them.
The art is simplistic and childlike but it works for the story. The writing itself is equal childlike with a good sense of wonder and magic staying prevalent in the story. Additionally the comic is tamer that Axe Cop for example with death and violence being a more frowned upon subject which I can actually appreciate even though I was fairly desensitized by violence when a kid.
The comic works best coming off as a spur of the moment wacky adventure strip and rarely gets bogged down with continuity or flashbacks. A highly recommended read. A-

Overcompensating by Jeff Rowland
Jeff Rowland stars as himself in his semi-real autobiographic webcomic Overcompensating along with a small number of fake characters and filled with additional cameos from real webcomic people.
Overcompensating took me a bit to get into which is understandable since writing comics somewhat based on your life can be a learning process. The writing eventually picks up and leads to arcs.
Personally I love the strips concerning God and Jesus, who live in a nearby trailer park, since Mr. Rowland feels at ease to confront religion and faith head on, on a personal level.
The art itself is simplistic but it works keeping everything feeling organic and personal. Another highly recommended read. A

Next week, two more comics for my Road to SPX Road.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Octopus Pie Review

So begins the pre Small Press Expo where I review comics by people I hope to meet there, most of which I already have been through several times.

This Week:
Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran (@Granulac)
I've personally been living in the city for something like 2-ish years now (almost (in the fall it is official)) and life seems to have these miniarcs within them. Not that there were miniarcs of life out in the country but there they were stretched for unbearable lengths and only changed slowly. It is like comparing some slow moving tv show to a fast moving one. And sadly all of my tv references right now are horrible since I don't watch it.
Octopus Pie is based around Eve (Everest) Ning (Evening - It took me a while to get the pun) and he forcibly added roommate Hanna who acts as the pot smoking Jack to her Felix or the Olive to her Florence if you prefer the female version of the play.
The comics pacing follows a miniarc pattern with stories ranging from relatively short (page numberwise) to spanning and it can be a bit jumpy with each page somewhat functioning asa chapter instead of part of a whole.
Truth be told I was horribly confused the first time I read the comic but that was partially my fault since I was fairly out of it when reading the comic. Upon my rereading though I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The art in the comic is one of the better parts both highly simply and simply abstract and expressive. The character designs actually work well to reflect the characters and help to get the points of personality across without being overbearing.
The comic is a pretty great and deserves your attention.
Octopus Pie gets an A+

Also in case you need a gift for any relatives or friends moving to the city, Octopus Pie has a printed version out now so cop a copy of it as a gift to yourself or others. Cop a copy at most fine bookstores.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World Ramblings

Below are ramblings on Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. I wrote them at 1 am since the movie and a large Diet Coke have me cranked up.

I am a fan of the series though I didn't get into it till about 6 months ago. That seems right, I got the majority of the books around my spring break, I'd gotten book 1 sometime during the winter.
I have seen the movie twice. I love the movie. It is like the cookies and cream ice cream to the cookies that are Scott Pilgrim. You get a wholly different treat with a lot of good bits of cookies.
While I love the movie though, I can see where a lot of critics have problems. In many ways the movie cuts out a lot of the relationship and character development that made the series of comics so well respected and multilayered. In fact, maybe the ice cream - cookie metaphor should be reversed.
The film is an amazing thrill ride and summary (with changes) of the comics. It works so much better than The Last Airbender though since everything works and flows as an actual story. It works better than Watchmen since it is actually free from its comic book basis bonds. Watchmen was honestly a dead piece in a lot of ways, it wasn't given breathing room or life. It was just looking at what we saw animated.
Without the relationships though, the story becomes possibly too simple. Not too simple where it is a bad film but where it can honestly be critiqued as being a film with a simple plot (which make sense but is poorly worded).
If anything, the series could have made two movies instead and allowed for a more natural flow. Or I am hoping that the Scott Pilgrim Vs The Animation leads to either more animations or an entire series. From what I gathered everyone involved in Scott Pilgrim really enjoyed it and jeebus knows that Michael Cera could probably financially pay for the entire thing to be made based on profits from this film.
Another common complaint I hear from people against the film is that Michael Cera is in the film playing another awkward indie kid. Suck it up. You don't complain about pizza places only making more pizza. Scott Pilgrim is a better character than most and while it would be better if he were as developed as he was in the comic it would be an amazing role. Cera haters begone.
All in all, just see the movie, leave your preconditions at the door and laugh at some of the 6 Degrees Of Separation type relationships in the film. For example, the actress who plays Roxie played Ann (Who?) in Arrested Development. The person who plays Lucas "Crash" Wilson played Lefty in Youth In Revolt.
Also the soundtrack is pretty great and is the most I have enjoyed Beck in a while.
Sorry for the rambling, I wrote this so I could stop thinking about it. Now go see the movie, see it again or see it again again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Manly Guys Doing Manly Things Review

In prep for the Small Press Expo next month I will attempt 2 webcomic reviews every week! Hoo ah.
After that hopefully a review and an interview/other article every week.

Manly Guys Doing Manly Things by Kelly Turnbull
El Santo, the comrade in arms, reviewed Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, a comic about video games and the characters involved therein, outside of the gaming world. Sort of like a Who Framed Roger Rabbit world (which I have no doubt will be included in the most likely horrible upcoming sequel). I love the idea of characters not really being actors though and being exactly as they are in the games in the "real world" because our modern characters are for the most part so poorly thought out. Mind you, I gave up a majority of gaming upon the theft of my Wii and have only in the last week resorted to Gamecube gaming but I have a wide enough breadth of knowledge.
A lot of the older gaming comics focused as one shots about "what if so and so had to do a menial task" like what if Mario went to the grocery store and stomped on all the mushrooms. A sophomoric idea but it might lead to some more thoughts like how far does ones gaming related paranoia go. Is this a full trauma or a quirk.
Manly Guys Doing Manly Things takes this to the next logical step and does it with quality art and some mostly well thought out ideas.
Based around what is essentially a veteran's clinic for old game characters (helping them adjust to being out of war instead of the helping them poop type) run by the machismo powered Commander Badass. The early comics follow a mostly one shot gag but the ideas are fresh and generally unseen. The Big Daddy Daycare comic was originally what sold me.
When the ideas are further developed though like the following Poke'Mon story the comic truly shines.
El Santo sees the humor being hit or miss but I hardly see that as a negative, and I hardly see misses, though I guess I may be easily entertained. For me a rare gamer even if I miss the reference or didn't play the game (though missing references is now mostly impossible) the jokes still commonly fly for me.
Overall I have some hardcore love for Manly Guys Doing Manly Things and I look forward to the comic continuing to grow and add more characters since it is still relatively young. It has a bright future and if it keeps going with the same quality it has now it could easily be one of the big gaming webcomics.
Great art, above average gamer humor A.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Socialfist Chapter 2 is Go

Chapter 2 started last night/yesterday/Monday so all is somewhat right in the world.

additionally since my last conversation I have reentered the fascinating realms for the dungeoning dragons and the gaming videos so that actually increases my productivity when it comes to writing and work. The last time I really kept to a strict update structure was when I frequently was doing both (I want to say it was like 8 months ago before I moved out) so no matter what, production will slowly start flowing back. Comics to read, games to play and my hope is that at the Small Press Expo I might be able to snag some interviews so look forward for that.

Monday, July 5, 2010

State of the Koltreg

The second year of the blog finished without me noticing which means I was really distracted. In my defense though I have been busy. With life. And by that I mean generally dealing with depression in life which is always shitty to deal with.
Luckily I have been saved for at least 3 months, possibly more. During this period I am gonna get chapter 2 of Socialfist out, start working on that more seriously, finish the site, quit MackyDs after finding a real job and meet more people.
Part of the reason I stopped updating the blog was because I was dealing with some shitty illogical abandonment issues wherein after a three month period I literally lost all the people I hung out with to them leaving college, getting jobs or just them never being around. That kind of shit burns you because you know you can't do anything so you can end up blaming yourself.
Thanks to the inspirational magic of Akira the Don though, I was able to shape up, meet people and I remembered a punch of "smart" sayings that really only apply when I am in a good mood already.
Still, I am meeting people, exploring Pittsburgh, eating new foods and gaining weight - gotta fix that. all of that is pretty healthy considering my previous lifestyle of wasting time gaming.
Somewhere though I will find time for the blog. I will find inspiration. I will find readers. All you gotta do is sit back, relax and post in Chinese.

DAR Review

DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary by Erika Moen
Life is one of those things where when you look back, you get a distorted picture. Things happen faster then and yet the effects of that review can be more damaging than a negative event before. Maybe because this time it is your fault for bringing back the memory like it is some kind of mental self flagellation.
DAR is a journal webcomic by Erika Moen, a woman, a girl. I dunno what the term is for 20 something females. I mean woman I guess is the respectful term. Erika is more of a guy though in a lot of ways. She is the most un-girly girl and the fact that she actually has a human personality makes the comic so much better to read. She deals with relationships, sexuality and everything else in a life in a refreshing way that makes it an enjoyable read.
The comic also benefits from being written at times in hindsight. This helps from not making the comic a daily struggle for ideas as other journal comics can seem such as Allan has from time to time.
The art is expressive and simple. The writing is real, as one might hope from an autobio comic and all in all it is a very good read.
Totes thumbs up for DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary. Read it, Enjoy it! A+

Side note: for whatever reason the way she draws her hair early on makes me think of Tintin, except a chick. :/ :\ So it goes.

Hahahaha. whhhhhat

I just was IMing about needing to write again. Then I was all "Origins was two weeks ago." This blog is three years old. My commenters are all Chinese spambots.

Back in a few hours with reviews.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Socialfist in the Making: A Brief Break

As Remus is caught up with "shitloads" of work, my quote, not his and as we are yet to be in a hurry the month of June will be used working on fixing a few pages of the comic, concepting out the next script and letting Remus work on the other two comics that pay much more. Expect updates here and possibly at the blog.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Socialfist in the Making: The Magic World of Shifting Gears

Chapter one of Socialfist ends next week and the story will change over from the artsy-cinematic first chapter to something somewhat different. More characters, actual talking, character interactions, bears, lasers, etc. The basic second chapter package.
I am honestly astounded I got this far though considering that every other version of Socialfist (or the predecessor) had ended by this point. Magical! I had my doubts about making it through this but everything is there this time. By everything though I mean money and an update schedule.
Hopefully the five readers I have will stay because it gets more interesting from this point on as well. I have a basic storyline from beginning to end (of the series) edged out and I like the way it works. Chapter three will get a redraft soon so I get to look forward to that, I have a bonus comic to pen and everything is coming up roses. Obv.
Of course it all depends on keeping my job, getting a better job, making a fanbase and then possibly making money (hahahaha awwwww). Plans are in the works for everything so I look forward to the future I will soon be living in. I am glad to have you all along for the ride.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Socialfist In The Making: Marker Hands

Hey look, old school Zendorsky pic!
I somewhat miss the old comic just because I was more able to do that, just have random scenes of chaos. Not that every chapter of Socialfist will be moody and deal with promotions and evolutions. It will have black humor, rape and I'll probably kill Sue Dibny (that is a thing right?). Also the Comedian will be your dad (is this also a thing?). I am a classy write.
Why pick markers for hands though? From what I remember I have no idea. That was 4 years ago back when I was high on life. It was a better time. I plagued the internet by being a no talent hack. People barely put up with me and I played Magic the Gathering. Magical times.
I do remember one thing though. Parody superheroes, like the entire team was going to be set up like knock off Xmen and Justice League types. It will be less prevalent/noticeable at least on the Russian side since a majority of members were cut including Pankrashka, the dyslexic anorexic person with "acid barf from the buttocks." Let us toast the shitty hero that will never be. Also let us toast Robo Stalin who is also cut.
Zendorsky in the orignal notes (that I brought over form my now stolen craptop) was noted as a guy who "places censorship bars." I think he was going to just carry them around on his back or something. That originated his horrible pun nickname Sin-sword (censored). Oh yeah, I am amazing, I get all of the points for that name and then I redeem them so that Pankrashka doesn't seem like a horrible idea (I will need a Pulitzer to break even, Pankrashka is and always was a shitty idea.)
When it came to the actually drawn design for the actual comic, Zendorsky obtained the marker hands. I think I thought it was just a weird thing that might work. I didn't know of any other heroes at the time who had them. It was also at this time that he gained the ability to travel through the censorship marks like other characters I learned about since then. Still, I think it is a cool superpower actually. Zendorsky also had a labcoat and that was all I concepted, the fro and goatee were both created by the artist for unknown reasons.
Somewhere during the redesign I ended up confusing Zendorsky with another character, Agar or Cmd-Z man (which is the Mac undo key command) who I described as looking like Manic 8-Ball except white. That idea seemed to me to work better and I incorporated that as well as a note on an original rejected design for Rorshach - picture the mask pattern thingy all over him. Pretty much that was just ripped off because I am horrible at ideas. And life. And thinking.

Still the question on your mind might be why markers after all of the rewriting? Haven't you spent too much for a stupid idea like marker hands? My reason is simple - poetic irony-ish. He doesn't really want to be noticed and he'd rather be at home at the time. He tries to remove himself from the world by hiding when he is a away from home. He tries to hide from the government and crosses out his id badge, more or less erasing himself symbolically after he gets promoted. And then shit happens and you have marker hands man, the human doodlebear. He is unhuman, he can't really hide and literally his power is leaving marks and proof of his existence. So it goes.

Authors are dicks. Woob woob woob.

Leave your questions in English (because I keep getting chinese spam comments) and I'll be glad to answer back.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Webcomics in Print - Issue 1: Issue Harder

Greetings Internet and welcome back. I am now freed from the burden of online class, while my on ground classes continue, but the lack of a highly quickened pair of work intensive classes is appreciated, especially as I continue my job working in the grease soaked empire of the world.
Yet, money brings the ability to make purchases and so I raise up a collection of 4 printed books currently in my possession.
Also for sake of being awesome, I have included links to where you may purchase the books.

Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories by Nick Gruewitch
This book I literally stumbled upon about 4 years or so ago in the local comic shop and subsequently purchased. The print is high quality and the colors are bright. It even has a ribbon for saving your place which, while not necessary is still appreciated. I enjoyed using it to share favorite comics at a moments notice.
The bone I might have to pick with the book though is that there is not much extra included. There are 9 "bonus" comics, three or so of which were on the site and those are the only ones that are actually commented on. The main bonus seems having all of the comics printed out but even then, some strips are missing and it leaves an odd feeling of detachment. Then again, Gruewitch mostly stopped updating soon after and then released another larger collect including a lot more so, make of that what you will. B
Fun fact: This book is currently out of print so yeah, collectors item! Also Andrew Hussie is mentioned in the comments.

Shortpacked! & Roomies!: Brings Back The Eighties, Pulls the Drama Tag & How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Beer
To start off, I purchased Roomies! first through preorder and ended up waiting about 4 months to get the book. It is marked book 3/200 so suck it David Willis collectors because I am slightly more awesome than you. I also preordered the upcoming Shortpacked book (Shortpacked Is Totally Gay!) as well. I think I am month 3 or so of waiting for that.
Roomies! (How I Learned to . . .) itself is the collection of David Willis first year of his first comic published in the college paper. As such the art quality is a bit lacking as it is all black and white. The book does include additional bonus comics made for the series and also strips for a syndicated paper version which are better done. Willis also includes comments on a majority of strips that are occasionally funnier that the strips themselves along with commentary.
The downsides of the book lie in the fact that the art is dated with some comics looking chicken-scratch-esqe. While there is a benefit to the original art, he improved afterwards so reworking might have been nice as Jeph Jacques and Dave Shabet are doing reworks for their webcomic collections (though Jacques is waiting to finish the book before preorders). The other complaint is that the pages are glossy. With black and white print it feels weird since under strange lighting conditions it can make reading annoying. This may sound weird but I'd prefer cheaper normal stock paper, it worked for my Calvin and Hobbes collections.
Shortpacked! which started off black and white and then transferred into color meanwhile was dealt with a bit more tactfully with pages having been recolored. Willis still inserts commentary, bonus character intros and bonus comics though so you can feel like you are getting your money's worth.
The Shortpacked books also have shiny stock paper but the color makes it more reasonable, which sounds weird.
My question is though, why might I want to spend the money on the books. With PBF, the art is beautifully rendered and so you can't really survive without the art. Willis' work is well done but having a collection of it seems more like financial support, which is fine). Just an idle thought. B+
Fun fact: The first book is being released with a new better cover. Get on that. Just like how I got on your mom.

Gastrophobia: The 12 Trials of Gasrophobia by David McGuire
I enjoy Gastrophobia for some unexplainable reason, see my review of it. The book I love slightly less. McGuire took a risk to do 2 color printing (black and orange) and some chapters it works exceedingly well since the other comic was similarly done. On the chapter For Heifer in my Heart though, which is rendered in single color sepia style tones originally, the comic is almost unreadable in the book making the chapter a struggle to look at. Not to offend but it seems like there might have been a lack of planning somewhat. Additionally the book offers little extra for the reader, aside from an index (actual toted feature) and a new comic on the back panel. For the price ($12) it isn't bad but considering the other books inclusions it seems lazy. C
Fun fact: David McGuire is some kind of cyborg, most likely. Just saying.

MS Paint Adventures: Problem Sleuth Book One: Compensation, Adequate by Andrew Hussie
I have mad love for Problem Sleuth and MSPA in general. The book only amplifies the love by making it something I actually would love to bring along with me.
For those unfamiliar, Problem Sleuth (and MSPA) is a comic set up like the old text based adventure games. I have met at least 4 people though who could not figure out how to read it. The book is for them. I have several images I love from the comic that I'd love to have on hand (since my laptop is not really portable anymore). The book is for me.
Hussie crammed the book with commentary, a fancy introduction (with one misspelling), additional art and amazingly made a comic that features a lot of animated pages INTERESTING. I cannot see him doing this easily with Homestuck but then, I never though a MSPA book would work. The pages are easy to read and the product is classy. The pages are even glossy without being overly glossy like Roomies! (as the book is mostly black and white).
My complaint with the book though is that it slightly spoils or hints at things which may harm people unfamiliar with the series but I cannot say that most people unfamiliar would give it a shot unlike the Perry Bible Fellowship book which is a shame. A+
Fun fact: I got this in my package. This book has too many prices and values!

On a note about preordering while still in production - have an estimate of when you are going to finish the comic or have it ready. I ordered the Dead Winter book without knowing a lot of the art is being redone and mistakingly ordered a copy as a birthday gift. That was about 3 months ago though it is partially my fault. I still look forward to the book.

Also if you strangely feel obligated to have a print copy of your book you would like me to review that you are willing to send for free, I would not be opposed to it.

If you are going to make a book though, put in comments, put in bonus features, put in additional art. They can always read your comic for free online so why publish it without doing that? Giving you money is/should not an adequate reason.

I have also looked through Gunnerkrigg Court Vol 1 and Hark! A Vagrant and used both as gifts. I don't have them on hand but if I recalled, GC lacked bonus features and Hark! had commentary.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oh yeah, blogging

I apologize for my lack of blogging. I have been taking two online courses and one drained a lot of my desire to write. Luckily it ends after next week so then I will be back.

Till then, Socialfist.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Video Games, Ebert and Art

I hold a great deal of respect for Roger Ebert. I remember watching At The Movies with my dad late at night, either Saturday or Sunday, my recollection is hazy Later when I began to write reviews I looked at how he reviewed, specifically in At The Movies. Even more recently he has become one of my three main sources for reading movie review, the others being The A.V. Club and Rotten Tomatoes.
He has taken flack for his opinion that video games are not art and I respect the man's opinions in general. Of course this is the Internet and apparently "everyone" wants to defend video games as being art. Frankly, without being a gamer at all, he is simply speculating that a game cannot be art. In a 2007 article where he commented on Clive Barker's opinion on the matter and he stated video games will never be art because:

They tend to involve (1) point and shoot in many variations and plotlines, (2) treasure or scavenger hunts, as in "Myst," and (3) player control of the outcome. I don't think these attributes have much to do with art; they have more in common with sports.

Now I rebut this by saying, "Hey, look at the movie industry! "
1. If you replace "point and shoot" with "romance between two people" for example this creates a giant variation in genres from "From Here to Eternity" to "Grease" to "500 Days of Summer" to I" Love You Man" and so on a so forth.
2. The treasure hunt genre is a classic film trope. if you look at Indiana Jones, National Treasure, etc there are many treasure hunt movies, Ebert seems to be complaining because you have to do the looking.
3. Player control of the outcome is less widely used in the film industry but it is also rarely used, well at least, in the video game industry. While most games end when you beat them or die, you really will continue on till you end. Even then endings rarely vary considering the massive number of games and when they do vary, the endings are barely different between extreme evil and extreme good. The ones that go beyond are classic games. I will submit though that few films did well with multiple endings as well. I can think of Clue though I am certain that Mr. Ebert could name several more.

The points simply mean that three genres of gaming keep all games from being considered art. Therefore I might raise that horrible parody films ala Date Movie, bad acting and linear storytelling in movies keep films from being art. The points make no sense and logically I would consider his arguments moot, though I am not the greatest logician so there might be a fallacy in my statement.

Of course, those points only defend why games cannot be high art. High art is a pretty loaded term. Is it something that cannot be swallowed by the masses and enjoyed by them, only to be reserved for people in berets with cigarettes? If that is the case, I honestly don't care for most high art films. The ideas that come to mind are those much maligned and stereotyped faux-Ingmar Bergman films shot in black and white while pointless symbols float around the screen. Perhaps equating video games to high art is making the wrong case, somewhat. The games that would be made to be considered high art are most likely unpopular so perhaps equating video games to films Ebert likes would make a better argument.

(On a side note, of the three games mentioned in the Ebert's recent post as being art games, I was only familiar with Braid which in some ways over-touted itself as being better than all other video games.)

These are films that moved me deeply in one way or another. The cinema is the greatest art form ever conceived for generating emotions in its audience. That's what it does best. (If you argue instead for dance or music, drama or painting, I will reply that the cinema incorporates all of these arts).

Roger Ebert - Ten Greatest Films of All Time

I rebut video games incorporate all of the arts along with video into itself. Consider the cutscenes of video games - an amazing one is resonant within you. Some games have even turned into hour long cutscenes interspersed with brief moments of games, though I personally am against this movement.
Nonetheless, I see that the best games have a wonderful directorial sense to them. The video game critic Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw has mentioned frequently his love for the opening of the game Bioshock where you are immersed in the world through exploration, though it can be considered linear. I'd put this game as being art. Technically its offspring, a film adaptation, will be art, if all films are considered art, which they are not.

Ebert defines his favorite films of the decade as those which made a "direct emotional impact." I have cried during video games. I have felt betrayed. A creative and immersive story draws you in even more than a film as you take the role of the character, or you should. There are a lot of bad games out there, but there are also a lot of, if not more, bad movies. In those truly immersive games, every time you play through the game, you come back and are awarded again and again, even if you know the ending. Good films are the same way. Good paintings are the same way. Good songs are the same way. All art is the same way.

Art and its definition are generally very sticky subjects. I am an art student. I can barely paint, my drawing skills need work. I study web design and interactive media. I am a web design artist and I don't consider any website "high art" because most sites lack depth and emotional resonance. Depth and emotional resonance are not part of the medium though since they commonly clash with the utility. The content on them might be art. The content might be that point of which all art is reaching where all mediums meet together.

Really though in the end, this is mostly to you readers who are pestering Roger Ebert, if Roger Ebert doesn't want to consider video games art, who needs to care? He reviews films and he is generally very wise on that subject, as he should be. If you are a gamer and you care what his opinion is, unfounded as it may be as he lacks personal experience with video games, move on. There are people who consider video games art and those who do not. It is just the way the world is. Stop worrying about Mr. Ebert and have fun playing some games. Perhaps if you stop being so insistent, he might even be willing to join.

Monday, April 12, 2010

MSPA: Their Problem is Choice

(originally written for the currently in construction MSPA newspaper thingy)

One of the issues that detractors have with MS Paint Adventures is that while readers do submit choices, the author has the final say and as we are (possibly) aware, some ideas have been planned in advance. So does this mean that the readers actually contribute anything? On the surface, the answer for those unfamiliar with the series is a hearty "No!" and yet as a reader and a fan I've given it some thought and I disagree. Instead of being two separate entities, the reader and Andrew are one in the same, part of a zeitgeist.
In this community where we submit actions and commands and art we have a role building the stories. Yes, Andrew could theoretically pick random choices or even the first choice but that is not telling a story or it doesn't work well in the end. In fact, it would be like playing Scrabble blindfolded if anything. Random letters might make up a word but the value and quality of the choice are suspect. As such, if Andrew had just picked random choices , Zoosmell Pooplord would be in his room sending money to a Nigerian prince while his house burns down around him. Or at least it would according to the alternate reality viewer but that is a story for another article.
By planning ahead and framing out story aspects you allow a natural growth to occur. I myself figured this out while working on my own writing project. By building the universe some things solve themselves in a natural way because you are familiar with the characters. And then it become less about Andrew picking what he wants and it becomes him picking what the character might actually do. We help to define the characters though through submissions, posting and so on.
People for the most part will submit ideas to move the story along and to make it progress. I doubt there are really any people who forcibly wish for the comic to die. Actually, I will retract that, but I think there are not enough to alter the zeitgeist who are on the forum. Even if it were so, the community would take action as part of due process because we hold our own stakes in this comic.
MSPA has transcended beyond being a comic. It is also a movie, a game, a musical, an inspiration and a community. It has gathered one of the most friendly online communities that I have seen and I do a decent amount of internet surfing (under assumed identities). People here want to work together. They openly support each other in their endeavors. Writing the comic with Andrew is just another project for us as a group and while we may not always seem to be in full control, it works just as well that way because direct control for any party might take away that magic.
Long live MS Paint Adventures and Andrew Hussie.

Gastrophobia Review

I like GastroPhobia. Read it. You will enjoy it. Enough said. A

That is my poorly written review for Gastrophobia because when it comes to reviewing a comic every once in a while, I get stupid fingers and cannot express what I would like to say. I mean Gastrophobia has its faults. The humor can be hit or miss and it is classic humor which sometimes falls flat in a lot of ways but the art in good, the three color art is inspired and the dialogue is snappy. Wrapping all that up in a Grecco-Roman crust and you have a very enjoyable comic.

Hur. I just got around my writers block. Not going to press my luck though, I've been stuck writing the words on this for a while.I figured you should just read it.

Still, if you need further reason to read it, the creator, David McGuire, also did a guest comic in Scott Pilgrim Vol 3. Look at that if you want to first, and then read Gastrophobia.

My Axe to Grind with Axe Cop

First off, I enjoy Axe Cop. Honestly I do. The first few pages were awesome and I was part of that group that crashed the site. I still enjoy the comic but there is a serious problem with the ultimate power that is apparently going on in the comic. Yes, I am aware it is written by a kid but the adult in me is having problems with it which was bound to eventually happen and I am free to complain. I mean, there is little forethought put into the comic which is fine for a kid writing it. I made comics like he did. The problem though is the issues that will likely never be covered at all.
1. The Wishes
As we've seen in a bunch of Ask Axe Cops, he'd has plans to kill every bad guy in the universe and if he'd do that, then he'd be without a job. He has the tools to do this as well and a team of people available to do it, all without using any wishes. Wishes seem to just complicate things, and not in the generic badly phrased wish trope. "If wishes were horses, poor men would ride" is the old saying though this comes off to me more as if wishes were horses, there'd be a lot of shit going on, which there is. The unlimited powers make Axe Cop and everyone else have an extreme lack of forethought in a lot of ways and the main reason Axe Cop has for not removing all villains seems to be he is greedy. He wants to have something to do. If they wanted to, the Axe Cop Crew could all enemies from the universe and then wish for something else to do that they would enjoy. Problem solved simply. No more killing people which brings me to point two.
2. Lack of Law
Axe Cop is a gigantic antihero. He kills with no regard for the law. He kills other law enforcers. I remember my obsession with violence at that age, sort of. I never really killed people in games, video or real, though. Bad guys vanished or they fell off the screen in video games or they just came back in another episode in tv shows. It is a bit disturbing how Axe Cop and his party simply kill everyone they come across and see as being evil. Malachi even had them accidentially kill innocent people. Not to mention there is the fact that Axe Cop became a law enforcer simply by signing up to be one. Nobody keeps him in check. God is apparently fine with this as well even though the golden rule is "love thy neighbor as thyself." There is also that whole though shalt not kill commandment. I don't see Axe Cop following any law other than his own which is to kill the bad guys.
In the future I have no idea how the comic will grow. Personally I'd like to see it be remade in a decade or so after Malachi has grown up. I think a look back with maturity might make the comic really interesting with him viewing the black and white morality of childhood with more adult eyes. As it is now though, it is rather Frank Miller-esqe except it lacks whores.
I'm going to keep reading the comic for now and I highly suggest taking a look at it but these ideas were just on my mind partially from the other negative critique that was posted and partially because I need to update my own blog more. I still liked the early pages the most because it was fresher. The world was more natural in a lot of ways because we could see it a bit more as our own, there were no wishes and the weirdness wasn't as omnipresent. Now it just seems like attempts to pile ideas on ideas with no format and that feels sloppy like it should in a lot of ways because a kid is writing it. This though is an adult reviewing it and I have issues.

Koltreg vs the Double Down

I am a fan of ostensible pop garbage and food counts as pop garbage for me. A great deal of discussion was made about the double down from KFC which is two chicken filets, deep fried or grilled, as the bread for a sandwich containing bacon, cheese (possibly faux-swiss) and sauce. I decided to set out to eat one.
Upon receiving the sandwich I noticed my filets had the appearance that they had been sitting in the heating ovens for about an hour or so past the limit. As an employee of an unnamed conglomerate dealing with fast food though, I am aware that the storage of food for prolonged periods of time can occur either due to an unwillingness to throw it away or simple laziness. Either way, the chicken was not as fresh as I might have preferred.
Taking a bit, everything sort of muddled together into a big nothingness. No flavors really spoke to me except for the occasional hit of the sauce that reminded me of the quesadilla sauce at Taco Bell. The chicken didn't add as much as it might of had it been fresh and overall the flavor was a big bunch of meh.
About an hour later after buying groceries and returning home I was hit with a sudden head cloud of confusion, a bit of dizziness and some additional nausea. Probably my heart reacting to the damage I just dealt it.
Would I eat one again?
Probably in a few weeks. Right now I need to find if I need to head off to plan my funeral at the Necropolis Litharge.
All in all, it could taste better, it could be better for you and so on and so forth but in the end I'd give it a C.
Still working on the Gastrophobia review.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Still busy for right now, getting into the swing of things again and wasting time on a few random fun projects. Next planned review is Gastrophobia.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And it is up!

Socialfist is up early, this is not an April Fools gag either.

Check It Out

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Oh yeahhh

I apologize, finals and such captured me and then work has and now I am working on the Socialfist website to get that up for Friday and then there is Easter and hargle blargle business. After Easter I will resume the regularly scheduled program, if not earlier.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Akira the Don: A Grain of Sand In The Ocean

What follows is my final paper for English relating to online advertising for music and Akira the Don. I got a rather awesome response from my teacher and as I posted my other marketing papers, I feel obligated to post this along with annotations. Video will be up later this week. Also you can replace most strategies for music with webcomic terms and come off with the same idea.

If you post a song online, it is like dropping a pebble into the ocean. It makes a tiny plink for a second and unless you look for it hard, you will most likely never see that pebble again. Look at Myspace which at the start of 2008 had over 8 million musical acts (Owyang, 2008). This means that in 2008, there were more bands on Myspace than there are people in all of Israel (The Central Intelligence Agency). Consider the fact that most of those bands might - on average - contain 3 or more people. This means 24 million people are involved in bands -- which is only slightly less than the entire population of North Korea according to The CIA World Factbook. Forget just dropping a pebble into the ocean. That is like looking for a grain of sand in the ocean. If you want to make it as an online musician without a record deal, you are going to need to be out there, branding yourself, making music and being fully dedicated to what you are doing.

Akira the Don is one of many artists who is working on finding a way to make a name for himself online and who has been decently successful as of yet. He had started posting mixtapes and songs on his website in 2004 and caught the attention of Interscope (Narkiewicz, New Subject!).

For those who are unfamiliar with the music industry, Interscope is the corporation are the people behind the start of Snoop Dog, Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Elton John and countless other bands (Wikipedia). This would be a big break for anyone. Akira planned on being the next big hip hop artist and the label had the same belief that he would reach his dream.

Akira had previously come out with a song called “Oh What A Glorious Thing” which sort-of sampled a bit of the guitar intro from the song "These Days" by Nico (Narkiewicz, Path of the Nerd). Akira then turned the sample into semi-poppy ballad about loving life and all of the things that happen in it, both the good and the bad. The label loved the song and gave him the record deal and Akira set to work on putting together a complete album.

Instead of getting crafting a lot of semi-rap songs about loving life and true love and sentimentality, Akira also got political on the album. He discussed AIDS, the World Bank and the media conspiracies, along with his time living with junkies and seeing the world for being the bad place it can be (Narkiewicz, When We Were Young). Unsurprisingly the label was not happy about this turn of events. They wanted happy songs, a full CD of music that would help people ignore the problems in the world. An album where you discuss losing your religion, in the theological way, not rather than the R.E.M. way, might be a hard sell and so the label decided not to release the album. Luckily the song that got the deal for Akira in the first place ended up saving his skin.

Ivan Reitmann, the director of classic films such as the Ghostbusters, had heard the song, “Oh What A Glorious Thing” and loved it (Narkiewicz, New Subject). At the time he was directing My Super Ex-Girlfriend and wanted to license the song for use in the movie. The resulting payment allowed Akira to buy back his entire album from Interscope and then release it on the indie label Something In Construction. Of course this all happened in about a year and Akira soon found himself without the financial security he had been expecting from the deal with Interscope. He was back where he started but he had more fans. Those fans became his saving grace for the rebirth of his career. After losing the record deal and subsequently returning home to London, Akira simply returned to what he loved doing - making music. While he is not yet solely living on his music alone, he is still making music and putting it out there for people to hear which brings us to the first point.

How to brand yourself: or, how to sell out while maintaining your ideals just enough to survive. It can be a hard thing concept to grasp. Few artists who actually love making music would want to be considered sell- outs (Narkiewicz, Path of the Nerd). Still, if you expect to make it online you need to do a few things: make yourself open, produce content, have a schedule and don't be afraid to ask for help. These are things that people who have made it online in the past have done regardless of the creative endeavor: whether it has been for music or comics or blogging.

By making yourself open, you lay the groundwork for keeping your fans around for a long time. Picture if you will for a second being a kid again and having an idol. It could be a cartoon character, a relative or what have you. If you got some form of feedback or encouragement from that idol then you would be set and you would be more likely to keep enjoying your idol’s work. On the other hand if they were mean towards you or unresponsive to your fan letters, you'd more often than not be more likely to thrown them to the wayside. The same idea exists today but it is a lot easier to return contacts.

Pretend you are the idol in question - an artist or actor or singer - for a second and you got a letter from a fan. You read it, you appreciate it but hey, you’re are busy. They wrote out a four page painstaking letter to you and you want to give them something back for their effort. You are in a quandry though, you got the letter weeks ago and you finally read it. You could send them a filler letter with a premade note and they'd be fine but this was a well thought out fan letter. This was not just a sentence or two telling you how wonderful you are. You can write your own letter back but when will you do it? Can you match the level of quality in their letter? One thing leads to another and your fan never hears back. One letter turns to two and then ten and then fifty and a hundred. There was a reason a lot of musicians kept their addresses private (Narkiewicz, Ustream). Now a hundred and fifty unanswered fan letters, in this day and age, could be a hundred and fifty lost fans.

Luckily we live in the age where waiting times are shorter and communication is a lot less formal (for better or worse). If your fan emails you, you can pop back an email and informality is to be expected. If a fan sends you a Tweet on Twitter, you only need 140 characters to return the favor. Even if you just add them as a friend on Facebook gives them the illusion of actually knowing you. Personalizing your response can lead to even more success in building your fan base, as word of mouth spreads about how well you treat your fans.

Akira the Don is aware of making himself socially available and has been doing it for the past 6 years. He worked on associating with his audience through his blog, responding to fanmail and generally being an open person. He has a large base of dedicated fans making him fanart, leaving him remixes of his stuff and reciprocating the love. He even gained enough fan remixes to make a fan remix mixtape in December of 2008 (Narkiewicz, Mixtapes). That is a true sign of dedication from the fans but things are still changing for Akira and he is working on new ways to market himself. He declared that 2010 would be an amazing year for being open and out there for the crowd (Narkiewicz, Outage). The first step in this new accessibility would be Ustreaming weekly.

Ustream for the people who are unfamiliar with it is an online website that allows people to broadcast themselves. These people who broadcasting people break down to three main groups: the Corporates, the Artists and the Attention Whores. The Corporates are the people who solely do the Ustreams to reach out and try to get ads advertising, whether it is a local news station rebroadcasting their reports or Capcom, the game company, posting their idea sessions (Ustream). The Artists are the people who draw or make music during the show and respond to their fans. Akira falls into this category of Artists. The Attention Whores are the people who try to market themselves without having any actual talent. The Ustream setup allows a direct feed to the broadcaster or their computer screen accompanied by a chat window where people can chat all that they want.

For his Ustream, Akira has decided to play the part of the a radio DJ playing music from his wide knowledge music base and talking to the fans. The format works because the people in the chat window can make requests, talk to each other and they can talk to Akira. Following the radio DJ theme, he also allows people to dedicate songs and he reads out the dedications. The shows are then recorded and uploaded to his website,, so that the people who missed the show are able to listen in later. Of course, making music in general is an important part of being an online musician.

Every musician got to where they are by making music. To become successful, it is required that they continue to produce material or at the very least continue to perform. Quality rarely even factors into the affair as seen in some mainstream artists who are panned by critics and yet continue to make millions. In fact, nerdy folk musician Jonathan Coulton got a majority of his publicity from a project called Thing-A-Week where he created a song every week. The value of this was, to quote Mr. Coulton:

(a) to push the artist's creative envelope by adopting what Coulton describes as a "forced-march approach to writing and recording";

(b) to prove to himself that he was capable of producing creative output to a deadline; and

(c) to test the viability of the internet and Creative Commons as a platform capable of supporting a professional artist financially. (Box indent this quote, and don’t forget to attribute properly either with quote on at end of paper)

In the end the project garnered a lot of publicity for him and allowed him to become a full time musician. (JoCopedia)

When Akira became aware of the strategy for production working well for Mr. Coulton, he decided to one-up him. From the start Akira has frequently been posting new music in formats ranging from singles to albums to mixtapes and has even offered his services as a producer or guest artist. He had created 19 mixtapes in the 6 years prior to 2010 (Narkiewicz, Mixtapes). To continue this tradition, Akira decided to release a mixtape or album every month for all of 2010 (Narkiewicz, Outage).

For Akira the term mixtape is a mixed bag. He might put in two songs that he has created along with a collection of other songs on theme like Shoes (ATD18), a recently deceased artist (ATD 17 and 19) or he might produce an hour of all new music and remixes as with (ATD 15 and 16) (Narkiewicz, Mixtapes). In the past the mixtapes have been well reviewed for their variety of genres, flare and general quality because while anybody can put songs together on a disc but it takes a true talent and knowledge base to make ones mixes that transcend that their components and becoming become their own piece of art. This talent for compiling songs as well as making them is the reason why Akira is called The King of the Mixtapes (Narkiewicz, Ustream).

Of course the mixtape release schedule being solidified will be part of the reason for success itself because it deals with having a schedule. On the Internet, you need a reason for people to come back and helping to know when to return is even more important. The fans to be expecting something upon their returns and the time they need to return for more content needs to be brief.

The same idea applies to most Internet content. If you run a blog where you review movies and only update it once every two months on one movie that you rented, you have a problem. If you have a webcomic that one updates once a month and you only spend 5 minutes making the comic, you have a problem. The problem that you will have is audience retention. As a musician fighting the 8 million other bands out there with an Internet presence, retention is important.

Akira updates his website on an almost daily basis with fresh links and blog posts, not to mention the weekly comic he is now doing. This is in addition to the Ustream recordings and the music that he already is putting out monthly. The point is he is making a lot of content on a schedule to inspire people to visit daily if not more frequently. If anything, it might be too much content but it is out there at least. Of course he has friends to help with this and that leads to the last point.

The artist needs help. Jonathan Coulton did gain publicity through the Thing-A-Week project but he needed links. The big link for him was the webcomic Penny Arcade (Holkins, Prinny Please). On that note, the nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot was also linked by Penny Arcade and then gained more popularity (Holkins, PSO Revisited). MC Frontalot then assisted several smaller webcomics to gain popularity.

In music, collaboration is a major theme. Akira not only writes his own music but he also produces for other artists while guesting on other musician's albums and he invites others to join his musical projects (Narkiewicz, Path of the Nerd). This is in contrast to the majority of mainstream rap which often prefer to "beef" or slander other musicians solely for the sake of selling more albums or if they do collaborate,it most often is only with a few selected members of their labels stable of talent. Akira is expanding what he does and is inviting new people to help. For example, on his 21st mixtape, he invited a fan to play the guitar for a song (Narkiewicz, ATD21 – Love Life).

As of this writing, the 2010 changes are currently in the third month with two mixtapes released, 6 six Ustreams - (2 two of which are saved and recorded) and there are about a dozen comic strips (Narkiewicz, New Subject). The feedback has been positive from the fans (Narkiewicz, New Subject). According to Akira there has been a major boost in the amount of site traffic. Still it is rather difficult to tell when or if it the changes will finally allow Akira to financially succeed but the keys are there. Akira is open with the fans. He is incredibly busy producing tons of content. He is sticking to an update schedule and he is working with people and getting their help. He is doing everything he can do to market himself and build a fan base and only time will tell if he will be as successful as he hopes to be.

Works Cited

Holkins, Jerry. "Penny Arcade - Prinny Please." Penny Arcade. 3 Sept. 2006. Web. 05 Mar. 2010. .

Holkins, Jerry. "Penny Arcade - PSO Revisited." Penny Arcade. 18 Mar. 2002. Web. 09 Mar. 2010. .

"List of Former Interscope Records Artists." Wikipedia. The Wikipedia Project, 1 Mar. 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2010 .

Narkiewicz, Adam. "Akira The Don's All New Weekly Doncast! on USTREAM: Akira The Don's ALl New Weekly Doncast! A Live Broadcast of the Recording, with Music, Chat, and Occasi..." USTREAM,. 4 Mar. 2010. Web. 4 Mar. 2010. donstream>.

Narkiewicz, Adam. "Mixtapes." Akira The Don. 28 Feb. 2010. Web. 05 Mar. 2010. .

Narkiewicz, Adam. "NEW MIXTAPE: ATD21 - Love Life |." Akira The Don. 14 Feb. 2010. Web. 14 Feb. 2010. .

Narkiewicz, Adam. "Path of the Nerd." E-mail interview. 23 Dec. 2009.

Narkiewicz, Adam, perf. "Outage." Rec. Jan. 2010. ATD20. Akira the Don. Akira the Don, 2010. MP3.

Narkiewicz, Adam, perf. When We Were Young. Akira the Don. Rec. Nov. 2006. Something In Construction, 2006. CD.

Narkiewicz, Adam. "New Subject!" E-mail interview. 8 Feb. 2010.

Owyang, Jeremiah. "Social Network Stats: Facebook, MySpace, Reunion (Jan, 2008)." Web Log post. Web Strategy. Studio Nashvegas, 9 Jan. 2008. Web. 7 Jan. 2010. network-stats-facebook-myspace-reunion-jan-2008/>.

"Thing a Week - JoCopedia, the Jonathan Coulton Wiki." Jonathan Coulton. 12 May 2008. Web. 09 Mar. 2010. .

United States. The Central Intelligence Agency. Office of Public Affairs. CIA - The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, July 2009. Web. 3 Mar. 2010. actbook/rankorder/2119rank.html>.

USTREAM, You're On. Free LIVE VIDEO Streaming, Online Broadcasts. Create Webcasts, Video Chat, Stream Videos on the Internet. Live Streaming Videos, TV Shows. Web. 06 Mar. 2010. .

Monday, March 15, 2010

Epic Fail Critique

Most people that talk to me know a few fun facts about me:

1: I am easily made nervous.

2: I used to make my own comics and they were crap. Now I am working on my own comic.

3: I have a hard time explaining what art I can critique due to multiple standards. xkcd and Allan are "well drawn" while others that color, do more realistic art and more are "poorly drawn".

4: I hate putting up negative reviews since I'd rather help someone find a good comic than have another bad comic to avoid.

5: I am willing to suggest how to improve webcomics.

As this is the case I was met with a request for a review on the Youtube where, as you may recall, I posted my review of Scary Go Round. In the note was asked to review the webcomic Epic Fail and I blindly responded that I would happily review the webcomic without looking at the comic at all. I figured that if somebody would want to face my mighty judging gauntlet, ho! then they must believe in their comic. The comic must be very good..... There is a reason I am doing poorly in logic.

Epic Fail is a painful comic to read for several reasons.

1. The art is atrocious.

2. The story is confusing.

3. It is poorly interspersed with "bonus" comics.

4. It is called Epic Fail.

5. They are already planning to sell a book.

These notes were written after reading the first ten comics of the series were read and finishing the other pages, which was a long and arduous task. I ended up contacting the author who seemed to want the review for the print up of the book warning of the negative review and was met with the go ahead.

This is going to be less of a review then and more of a comic critique wherein:

A review tells you if you might like a comic while a critique tells the people making the comic what they need to do to improve.

On the topic of the art, I hate criticizing art in general like I said. This is because a good deal of webcomics improve their art after continuing for a long period of time. Questionable Content for example had some atrocious art to start with but due to large amounts of practice and dedication, it has improved to a standard level that is well respected. This improvement took time though. About 7 years in Jeph Jacques is just now preparing to release the comic in printed form and guess what! He is redoing the art to show how much he improved. Ditto on Reiley from Dead Winter for redoing the early pages for the print of his webcomic (though he waited a much shorter period of time). My point is that the art is bad and will unlikely improve tomorrow morning. This is not saying, "Hey stop drawing comics," but simply "Hey, you have a large amount of work to do, try to improve a lot." It can be done quickly. For example, if you look at Fanboys where Scott DeWitt changed quickly from a low class artist to one able to render several comic styles. This was done by listening to critics. On this note, don't sell your comic right now in print form. It is not only a big dedication financially but you also are making a statement that can be read many ways. In this case it is seeming to say "Hey fans, give me money now while the comic is new and while I am learning how to make the comic and hopefully it will be around for a few years." This is overconfidence and greed permeating in the simple sale of a book. I honestly suggest not selling anything for the first year more than a button or something small unless you are working with high caliber artists and by this I mean people doing professional quality stuff and even then, only in moderation.

As for the story being confusing, the problem is mainly stemming from the setup of the story. I personally love starting a comic with a cold open and not introducing every character formulaically. It is rarely done well and even rarer to be done originally. The problem with the cold open in this comic is that there is not much of a focus. The comic comes off as like it believes that the readers can all easily grasp this information from reading only the comics themselves which is not the case at least for me. There is definitely a large amount of content in the comic along with inspiration from D&D. This is a fine thing for an early writer to use as inspiration. I used to write horrible stories about my characters from the D&D campaigns and even did a similar comic. With Epic Fail though, the characters are all smashed together and not given time to grow. What might have worked better for a start, would be the characters doing the mission that got them to where the comic starts with the awards and ceremony. The characters are also pretty much cookie cutter characters that have been done before while adding nothing new and the annoying thief is a blatant stand in Mary Sue type for the author. The characters need to be more real, more thought out. The story needs to be clean.

The bonus comics also come across poorly because you can not easily tell that they are not in the main continuity. It is fine to do holiday comics but you may want to move them off the main archive. I say this because there is very little difference between normal and bonus pages. To reference a good way to do the bonus comics, look at these Hanna Is Not A Boy's Name comics (story nonstory story ). There is no confusing what is going on in the main continuity or that they might carry over. They also don't distract from the main storyline and actually add a slight bit of a preview for future comics.

The title Epic Fail is a gamer reference to rolling two 1's on a d20 in row or something similar depending on the game and rules. This basically means whatever will happen will be really bad. So the comic is going to be really bad then? Why the hell do I want to read it? It is not a self mocking comic. From what I can tell it has nothing to do with actual gaming besides the loosely based D&D setting. Change it to something that inspires confidence, not a two word summary of the comic as it currently stands.

Lastly I mentioned it a bit already but don't sell the comic now. Work on it. Improve it. Find people who hate it more than I do and learn from them and the comments they have. Work on art more and more. Try to follow other peoples styles to understand how to make things. Hunter S. Thompson copied The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms to learn how the authors wrote. Look at body structures and more. Just don't ask for money yet, it is a big statement and commitment.

I don't want to say anything more on the comic right now. There is a lot of work to do and it has nothing to do with merchandise.

See you Wednesday, hopefully with a video or more on Socialfist (coming April 1st!)