After a month’s hiatus — and due to an accident that Sean suffered (although he’s recovering now!) — the Two Guys are back with their latest webcomics episode. And since it’s Eisner Awards season, Sean and Derek decided to discuss the nominees for this year’s Best Webcomic category. As listeners may remember, last year the guys were quite critical of the Eisner Awards judges. While they finally took the long-overdue step in separating webcomics from digital comics, they nonetheless seemed to have no clear understanding of what defined a webcomic. They included webcomics in the Best Digital Comic category, and digital comics in the Best Webcomic category. This year, the judges seemed to have correctly understood the distinctions, although Sean and Derek still have questions as to the parameters and qualifications as to the choices and decision-making process. Then again, theirs may not be to wonder why, but to discuss critically the webcomics under consideration. And the guys have a fruitful discussion concerning this year’s nominees:
Awaiting a Wave, by Dale Carpenter and Nate Powell (The Weather Channel Digital)
For the month of March, Sean and Derek discuss three webcomics that are very different in terms of art style and storytelling technique. However, what all three have in common is a focus on relationships. They start off with Michael Sexton’s Everblue, a fantastical tale about two young adventurers who want to explore their world while at the same time avoiding the threats that are in pursuit. After that the guys discuss Handrava, a more realistic narrative set in Madagascar’s capital city. It’s author Rado R. captures the rhythms and flavors of his subject matter through both the dialogue and the visual layout of his scripting. Finally, Derek and Sean turn to a recently completed webcomic, Thom Zahler’s Warning Label. As with the creator’s previous works — most notably Love and Capes, Long Distance, and Time and Vine — the focus is on relationships and its unpredictable contours. This is yet another impressive work from Zahler, and one that will leave you, once again, with a warm and positive feeling.
For February, Sean and Derek discuss three very different webcomics, each published by a single young female creator. They begin with two currently ongoing titles, Jess Milton’s The Flying Ship and Erin Mehlos’s Next Town Over.The first is webcomic inspired by a Russian fairytale, and despite its relatively short run so far, Milton does a great job at establishing a detailed premise. Mehlos’s Next Town Over is a curious mix of magic, steampunk, and the western genre (although not set in the American West). The Two Guys then wrap up with the already-completed webcomic, Yu+Me: Dream. This long-form narrative ran from 2004 to 2010, and there are several fascinating stylistic turns that the guys cannot discuss in detail for fear of soiling the webcomic for first-time readers.
For their first webcomics episode of 2018, Sean and Derek discuss three fascinating and diverse titles. They begin with The Shaderunners, written by Lin with art by Capp (AKA Anna Assan). This Prohibition era-tinged webcomic concerns a group of rag-tag bohemians who attempt to bring color into their sepia-toned world. While this looks like a narrative set in early twentieth-century America, the storyworld that Capp and Lin create is actually a fantastical one. Next, the guys turn to a science fiction title, Jamie Primack’s Binary Star. The protagonist of this story, Zaki, is a bounty hunter out to capture a big payoff, and in the process, ends up growing close to and working with her target. And there’s quite a bit of humor. As Derek suggests, Binary Star is reminiscent of Midnight Run, yet set in a sci-fi world. Finally, Sean and Derek wrap up with an already completed webcomic, Jape’s Nautilus. In it, the creator, whose real name is JT Trostle, reveals what happened after the passing of his mother and how he managed her affairs in the wake of her death. The mother, Connie, was a hoarder, and the webcomic provides a empathic look at the challenges and frustrations surrounding Connie’s behavior and JT’s efforts to “clean up” after her.
It’s the holiday season, and for December Sean and Derek discuss three holiday-related webcomics. The start off by looking at two shorter works, Kate Beaton’s Cookies (available on her Hark! A Vagrant website) and Emily Carroll’s creepy All Along the Wall. After that they look at the much more substantial Holiday Wars, written by Scott King and with art by Michael Odom. So sit back, plug in your earphones, and enjoy the holiday goodness of this month’s webcomics episode.
On the November webcomics episode, Sean and Derek look at three very different titles. They begin with Kadi Fedoruk’s Blindsprings, a fantasy filled with magic and spirits, but one whose philosophical foundations are deeper than you may at first think. As the guys point out, the meticulous art is one of the highlights of this webcomic. After that, Sean and Derek turn to a lighthearted all-age series by Trevor Mueller and Gabo, Albert the Alien. Much like Blindsprings, this webcomic has been around since 2013, but there seems to be no foreseeable sign of story exhaustion. Finally, the guys look at a much more somber, and timely, completed webcomic, Brian Fies’s A Fire Story. This is a brief account of the author’s experiences in last month’s devastating California fires. The story is heart-wrenching, and Fies includes commentary and photographs to underscore the full extent of the tragedy.
The Comics Alternative‘s monthly webcomics series is back, and for October Sean and Derek discuss three intriguing titles. They begin with Righteous, written by Kevin Sheller and with art by Joseba Morales and colors by Gab Contreras. This is a narrative with a curious premise: What would happen if suddenly, everyone decided to do the right thing? The story focuses on Daniel, a risk analyst who is “touched” by a mysterious entity and then realizes that his work demeans human life and decides to commit himself to helping others. And his attitude becomes infectious.
Next, the Two Guys discuss a very recent webcomic (beginning in May), Laurence Dea Dionne’s Zen and the Ephemeral. It’s the story of Moé, a young woman suffering from depression who decides to spend ten days at a meditation retreat. The narrative is in its early stages — as of this recording, we’re still in the first chapter — but it reveals the various experiences and feelings that Moé goes through as she becomes acclimated to the retreat and its other participants.
Finally, Sean and Derek wrap up with an already completed webcomic, Tom Scioli’s American Barbarian. One of the first things that grabs the guys’ attention is the heavy influence of Jack Kirby on Scioli’s art. Both the character illustration and the kinetic action in the comic bear the stamp of the legend, and not in a derivative way. Scioli utilizes this influence in a way that propels the action forward, providing a story that is reminiscent of Kamandiand Conan the Barbarian. The guys spend a lot of time discussing Scioli’s art, but they also mention other webcomics on his website, such Princess, Final Frontier, and his brand new biography of Jack Kirby.
Sean and Derek are back with their monthly foray into the realm of webcomics. They begin with Z. Akhmatova’s Gods Can’t Die, a lavishly illustrated fantasy of adventure and self-discovery. This is a relatively young webcomic, beginning in April 2016, so readers can easily jump on board with its prologue and first chapter. It’s the story of Ena, born of both human and god, as she searches for her deity father and encounters other gods and creatures along the way. Next, they discuss Kamikaze, a futuristic dystopic tale created by Alan Tupper, Carrie Tupper, and Havana Nguyen. Its teenage protagonist, Markesha Nin, is a lightning-fast courier making deliveries within competing corporate interests and trying to provide for her blind father. The guys can’t help but think of CW’s The Flash when discussing this series. Finally, Sean and Derek wrap up with Sarah Mirk and Lucy Bellwood’s The Secret Life of Gitmo’s Women. This already-completed webcomic appears in the online magazine Narratively, and it presents the first-person accounts of two female naval veterans and their experiences at Guantanamo Bay. The conflict in their stories isn’t what you might expect, but instead have everything to do with the military’s (and our culture’s) patriarchal structures.
For the June webcomics episode, Sean and Derek take a close look at the webcomics nominees for the 2017 Eisner Awards. Before they do that, though, they have to determine exactly which titles are actually webcomics and which are not. If this sounds strange, that’s because this year the people behind the Eisner Awards have separated “Best Digital Comics” and “Best Webcomic” into two completely different categories — which is a good thing — but in doing so they have ill-defined the criteria to where there are digital comics mixed in the “Best Webcomic” category and webcomics in the “Best Digital Comic” category. In other words, there doesn’t seem to be any clear distinctions between the two…which was the problem in previous years when webcomics and digital comics were unfortunately clumped into the same category. Sean and Derek discuss in detail the problems underlying this year’s categorization, and they offer advice for next year’s judges and hope that in the future there will be a much more precise understanding of what a webcomic actually is.
After that, they begin discussing the real webcomics that are scattered between the “Best Webcomic” and “Best Digital Comic” categories. There are five in all, and in this episode they discuss Steve Conley’s The Middle Age and Christina Tran’s On Beauty(both nominated for “Best Webcomic”), as well as Jahanzeb Hasan and Mauricio Caballero’s Helm and Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam(inexplicably nominated under “Best Digital Comic”). Anne Szabla’s Bird Boywas also nominated as a webcomic, but since the guys discussed that title on a previous webcomics episode, they spend their time talking about the other nominees. And as the guys reveal, there is a reason why these four titles are nominated for an Eisner Award this year. They’re all well-written, keenly drawn, and ambitious in what each endeavors to accomplish. Both Sean and Derek wish this year’s webcomics creators, despite the appropriateness of the categories for which they’re nominated, the best of luck when the announcements are made at next month’s SDCC!
Sean and Derek are back with your monthly dose of webcomics analysis. Before they jump into their reviews, however, they spending a little time discussing the recent announcement of this year’s nominees for the Eisner Awards. The guys will devote next month’s episode to the actual webcomics nominated, so they don’t go into much detail this time, but they do mention the big news that the judges have tried to distinguish “webcomics” from “digital comics”…albeit rather ineptly. Tune in next month for more in-depth discussion on this matter!
But for May, Sean and Derek already have plenty to consider. They begin with Alec Longstreth’s Isle of Elsi, an all-age fantasy with a penchant for word play. Both of the guys are bowled away by this webcomic, one of the most impressive that they’ve discussed on the show. Not only are the art and storytelling top-notch, but the design of the website is a big draw, as well. (And while you’re at it, check out the Two Guys’ 2014 interview with Longstreth.)
Next, they turn to another webcomic from Webtoons, Late Bloomer. Written and drawn by Zealforart (AKA Tiffany Woodall), this is a shōjo-inspired romance about a young woman with a flower bud growing out of her belly, a family condition that can only be overcome with her being “deflowered.” Yes, it is quite an unusual premise.
Finally, Derek and Sean wrap up with Lauren R. Weinstein’s Carriers. This completed webcomic was originally published in five parts on the Nautilus website, and it received an Ignatz Award nomination in 2015 for the “Outstanding Online Comic” category. It’s a sobering look at being a carrier of cystic fibrosis and what means for young couples wanting to start a family.
For March, Sean and Derek check out three very different webcomics. They begin with Roger Langridge’s The Great McGonagall, a biographical treatment of William “Topaz” McGonagall, known historically as the worst poet in the world. This is a very new webcomic, having begun in January 2017, and in it Langridge takes an already cartoonish figure and plays it up for even more humor. As the guys point out, the artist’s style is perfect for this kind of send up.
Next, Sean and Derek turn their attention to Sufficiently Remarkable, Maki Naro’s ongoing look at the struggles of a young artist trying to get by in New York City. Naro is one of the former contestants of Strip Search — much like Abby Howard, whom the guys discussed back in October — and, in fact, is how he first gained Sean’s attention. As Derek reveals, this is a reality-based drama of interpersonal relationships, but one that struggles at times with the occasional pull into gag-strip formulas.
Finally, and after a brief check in with Jim McClain about the progress of his and Paul Schultz’s Poe and the Mysteriads, the guys round out the episode with a discussion of The Boston Metaphorical Society. Written by Madeleine Holly-Rosing and with art by Emily Hu, this is a steampunk-inspired narrative surrounding the paranormal investigations of a former Pinkerton agent, his uniquely talented colleagues, and the scientific exploits of Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Harry Houdini. This is the second webcomic of the month that mines history for its content, although unlike Roger Langridge’s cartoon biography, this one uses the past as a springboard for its fantastical flourishes.
For the month of February, Sean and Derek look at three very different webcomics. They begin with Al Fukalek and Shawn Gustafson’s The Specialists, an alternate history superhero narrative set in the mid-1940s, with an undefeated Germany flexing its might with its own team of superpowered individuals, Die Übermenschen. The United States fights back with The Specialists, a diverse collection of heroes that is, at times, more propaganda than powered.
Next, the guys look at what is arguably the highlight of this month’s episode, Jordan Kotzebue’s Hominids. This fantasy adventure is set in world populated by varied creatures, the central of which are a race of jungle dwellers. This is a tale with complex moral undertones, but whose message isn’t overbearing or preachy. Plus, Kotzebue’s art is outstanding.
After a brief check-in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz — their Poe and the Mysteriads was launched just last month — Sean and Derek turn to the last webcomic of the month. Chris Ware’s The Last Saturday appeared in The Guardian during the last half of 2014 and into September 2015, and the guys discuss the ways in which Ware employs the webcomic format. In fact, they both feel that this story never really utilizes the unique qualities of the platform. We could get the same effect in print. Still, this is an engaging narrative whose topic and style should be familiar to any Chris Ware fan.
It’s a new year, and the webcomics guys are back to discuss three intriguing webcomic titles. They begin with Marcus Muller’s King of the Unknown, an unusual take on the King of Rock and Roll. You thought he was dead? Well, he’s actually alive and kicking (and eating), but now he’s working in the shadows as a paranormal investigator. This is a weird and offbeat title that both Sean and Derek can’t recommend enough, but it’s an ongoing webcomic that hasn’t been updated since 2013. There are indications that Muller will return to the story this year, but in the meantime, introduce yourself to the 30 pages that are already available.
After that, Sean and Derek take a look at Cosmic Dash by David Davis. The premise is not dissimilar to that of another webcomics the guys discussed, Sean Wang’s Runners, but this one is more lighthearted and includes a larger ensemble cast. In fact, the guys spend a lot of time talking about the ensemble nature of the webcomic and how Davis does an outstanding job of providing supplementary material in the way of detailed character descriptions, maps, timelines, design guides, and lore pages.
Then, after the guys check in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz — their new webcomic Poe and the Mysteriadslaunches this month! — they wrap up the episode with a discussion of an already completed webcomic, Peter Quach’s Freedman. This is a short story, only 23 pages, but it’s an outstanding example of a tightly written and impactful narrative. As the title suggests, the tale concerns ex-slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War, with one in particular who has difficulty freeing himself from the past. The guys also discuss some of Quach’s other short pieces on his website, including the hilarious I Am a Racist (and So Can You). It’s a story that certainly resonates as we approach the dark days of the Trump administration.
For their last webcomics episode of 2016, Sean and Derek discuss three titles that were completely new to both of them. They begin with Theatrics, Neil Gibson’s period drama set in 1920s New York. With art by Leonardo Gonzales and Jan Wijngaaard on colors, Theatrics is the story of popular Broadway actor who must find another line of work after he’s physically disfigured due to a brutal mugging. Next, they turn to Brandon Shane’s The Monster Under the Bed, a Romeo and Juliet-inspired romance between human and monster. As the guys point out, the art style has an all-age or “innocent” feel to it, but Shane’s penchant for occasional nudity and cheesecake illustration may not be to all readers’ liking. And then Derek and Sean wrap up with Faith Erin Hicks’s Demonology 101. This is a very early work from a creator who has been making quite a name for herself in print — e.g., Friends with Boys, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, and The Nameless City — and the guys focus not only on the story, but on the webcomic as a touchstone of Hick’s artistic growth.
The Two Guys also check in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz about their soon-to-be-launched webcomics, Poe and the Mysteriads…although Paul is unable to join in due to a winter cold. Nonetheless, Jim catches the guys up on what has been happening with the webcomic’s development, including new art and the creators’ various plans for their January 1st debut. Be sure to check in at the first of the new year at http://mysteriads.com. And visit their Facebook page for more details!
On the November webcomics episode, Sean and Derek discuss three vastly different titles. They begin with Greg Cravens’s Hubris!, a strip that’s been going on since 2010 and revolves around the exploits of a small outdoors business owner. This can best be described as a gag strip, reminiscent of the kind of comics you would read in the newspaper (which makes sense, given Cravens’s long history in newspaper comics). The guys point out that this is the first time that they’ve discussed a gag strip like this on their webcomics series, and perhaps it was a long time in coming.
Next, the Two Guys turn to a much more experimental webcomics, Stevan Živadinović’s Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. As the title suggests, the story alludes to the legendary German tale of a piper hired by a small town to take care of its rat infestation. What makes Živadinović’s version so striking is its complex presentation, with multi-layered visuals that provide three-dimensional depth and perspective. On top of that, the webcomic is structured as a strip to scroll through, not multiple pages to click through, and it includes both animation and sound. Unfortunately, the webcomic hasn’t been updated since July 2014, but the ambition and impressiveness of Hobo Lobo of Hamelin take a little bit of the sting out of the long wait.
And after a brief check-in with Jim McClain and Paul Schultz, the guys discuss this month’s already completed webcomic, Sean Wang’s Runners. This richly textured science fiction narrative ran from 2009 to 2011. The series is made up of only two volumes, but the story is written in such a way that the installments could continue for much longer, should Wang decide to return to the property. As much as Sean and Derek enjoy this title, they’re saddened by the fact that there is no more of Runners on the horizon. Nevertheless, what there is is definitely worth reading.