Critiquing Comics #133: “The Old Man of the Mountain” and “On Syntaphore”

Old Man of the Mountain issue 1, by Tom Rapka and Ariez Hernandez, includes an execution-style murder and three teens getting brutally, graphically cut to pieces. And yet, somehow it feels like it’s not meant to be a horror series. What is this comic trying to do?

That question goes double for On Syntaphore, by Lion’s Lips, because, while the art is attractive, the story is hard to discern — and even the reason for that isn’t quite clear.

Tim and Mulele discuss both, and also some listener mail, and Mulele’s upcoming trip to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival!

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Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of Sam and Fuzzy, Ulysses Seen, and Biome

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Intricacies

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This month on the webcomics series, Sean and Derek delve into three tonally different titles. They begin with Sam Logan’s long-running Sam and Fuzzy. This is a series that has been around since 2001, starting off as a gag strip in Logan’s college’s student newspaper and then becoming a webcomic in 2002. The creator diligently keeps his Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule of publication, and with almost fifteen years behind it, that’s a substantive webcomic. In fact, the Two Guys discuss the intricacies of its storylines, the expansion of its cast, and the evolution of Logan’s art. One would be hard pressed to find a webcomic with a more dynamic history, and the guys try their best to cover as many points as possible.

Next, Derek and Sean’s discussion takes a decidedly literary turn with Ulysses Seen, a webcomic adaptation of James Joyce’s masterpiece. Illustrated and adapted by Robert Berry, this is a project that attempts to capture the novel it the fullest sense. This is no mere graphic Cliff Notes version of Ulysses, but one that tries to represent Joyce’s voice and style. Accompanying the webcomic proper are analytical blog postings by Mike Barsanti, contextualizing the story and explicating its many facets. This is certainly an ambitious endeavor — it even has its own app in the iTunes store — although the guys do note the webcomic’s biggest weakness: its design. It’s not easy to navigate the website and find your way around, and there are too many duplicate pages or links to nowhere. What’s more, the webcomic doesn’t seem to have been updated since 2011 or 2013 (it’s not easy to determine each page’s publication date), and the adaptation is only up to Episode Five: The Lotus Eaters. But if you’re a fan of the classic and have patience, then Ulysses Seen can be worth the wait.

Finally, the guys wrap up with an already completed webcomic, Adam Szym’s Biome. This is a short piece that can be found at Szym’s website Good Show Sir, along with a number of his other comics. This webcomic stands out for intricacy of art and especially its design for reading. Sean points out that it employs some of Scott McCloud’s ideas behind the “infinite canvas,” and Derek feels that the reading experience is similar to what you will find with Study Group Comics. But however you approach it, this highly stylized work, with its fantastical tone and sci-fi leanings, is standout example of what webcomics are capable of.

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