Thursday, April 26, 2012

If A Stick Man and A T-Rex Conceived a Marshmallow Baby: A Treatise on Webcomics

Many of the original geeks so call themselves because of their childhood obsessions with comic books. I, however, was a book-book kid. I was far more drawn to Anne of Green Gables than superheroes as an 8 year old. (and Anne of Avonlea, and of Windy Poplars, and of Ingleside... oh, Gilbert Blythe! *Sigh*  Er.... I digress)
MS Paint is hard.
It wasn't until the internets appeared in my breakfast nook when I was 9 or so that comics in their most appealing form could even be conceived.  And when I say conceived, I obviously mean that T-Rex and stick guy from XKCD made sexytimes and created The Oatmeal. I'm not stealing I love you webgeeks please don't sue me I'm not making any monneeyyy
Only in my wildest wet dreams.

I'm referring, of course, to the now-ubiquitous webcomic.

Some of these webcomic artist fellows (some ladies, mostly fellows) have gotten so internet famous that they can actually spend all their time devoted to their comic. The three referenced above (Randall Munroe of XKCD, Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics, Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal) are able to do this. So, draw, post, and watch the money roll in, right?

Wrong. It's super rare to make it as a professional webcomic arist - i.e. someone who can completely sustain him or herself from the money brought in by the comic and its related enterprises. Most webcomic artists devote their free time to their craft and their funnies and still work day jobs or night jobs or the Tuesday morning shift at Cheetahs.
L-R, the creators of XKCD, Dino Comics, Cyanide & Happiness, The Oatmeal,
 and Penny Arcade before they made it big
And the ones who are able to sustain themselves on their webcomic awesomeness have a full-time job doing it. They're entrepreneurs. They are published authors, they create and market merchandise, and they travel to promote their funnies. I had the joy and honor of meeting Ryan North at Comic Con 2011 where he was handing out high fives, and he let me stand there and fangirl all over him for a good 20 minutes. Then I came back the next day and he let me do it all over again. And he signed some stuff for me.

Fangirling can get messy. Sometimes T-Rex just sits on your head in the midst of it all.
P.S. The best thing about Dinosaur Comics is that Monsieur North has proven you don't really have to know how to draw to be a good comic artist. You just have to be really funny and really, really verbose.

Also in the webcomics section (they have their own section at Comic-con!) were Jerry and Mike of Penny Arcade, the boyfriend's favorite:

They look mean, but that's part of the job
These guys have a whole team employed under their Penny Arcade brand. They have a director of business relations. They even had a video game produced based on their webcomic. They're mini-moguls. They're amazing.

And for my final excuse to show me meeting internet-famous people, here's the Cyanide & Happiness team drawing a big comic just for me. Which I accidentally left in the hotel when I checked out. And then I cried. I hope they're back this year and take pity on me.

the comic involved poop, a noose, and me being stabbed with a trident.
These guys have plenty of merch and a for-pay iPhone/iPad app. They also have a big enough following that it actually helped one of the artists, an Irish lad, get a work visa to come to the US and do Cy&H full time in 2010.

So all this to say, these guys have worked their asses off on their respective labors of love. But there are a lot of aspiring webcomic artists who are not yet able to focus all their time and energy on their craft, but who deserve your attention. Also, who are girls. Here are two of my favorites.

NPC Comic
-Mary Varn-

This comic is my life. I don't mean I just sit there reloading the page all weekend, hoping Mary will change her update schedule from M-W-F to EVERY FIVE SECONDS... although I have hoped that silently from time to time. What I mean is that Mary's comic about a gamer girl, her equally geeky boyfriend, and their two mischievous WoW-playing, gold-farming blue cats parallels my own life in a creepy way.

My very own Chloe and Bink, reading a comic about Chloe and Bink. So meta.
My friend Emma recommended this comic to me last year and I'm forever grateful. (You can read Emma's funny and intelligent thoughts on all kinds of current events at her blog, What's YOUR Deal?). One of the greatest things about Mary is how involved she is with her readership. If you post a comment to her either on Facebook or directly to the comic, she responds quickly and thoughtfully. And I'm such a big fan I always feel like I'm interacting with a celebrity. Her comic is actual art, the stories are cohesive and funny, and you should go read it right now. Here, I'll link it again for you. And I recommend you go back and read the older ones too, before Bink got fat.

Hyperbole and a Half

-Allie Brosh-

Girl's all, what if I write about my life, memories, struggles, and victories, just like every other lame blogger in the world? And then what if I make those stories super funny even when they're sad? And then what if I do MS PAINT ART? And then what if I become CHAMPION OF THE INTERNET?!??? So she did.

And she got a book deal. And she's still all like, fuck registered domains, I like blogspot.  And she became a Reddit darling.

You may remember this gem that went viral about two years ago.
The Alot is better than you at everything.

But she's been gone from the internets since October because she's super sad. You should go read her comics anyway, all the way from the beginning until last October, because she's hilarious and heartwrenching and she should still be champion of the internet.

(Allie did recently reemerge on Redditt thanking friends and fans for their support while she deals with depression. I hope she comes back to the internets soon, there's an Allie-shaped hole in it.)


So thus, my treatise on webcomics. Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) says he'll be at Comic-Con this year, so hopefully I can go fangirl his brains out. I'd love to see Mary and Allie there in the future, too. Please feel free to send me new and upcoming webcomics of all genres. What are you keeping up with? Who makes you hit F5 repeatedly on Monday mornings?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Existential Similarities Between Game of Thrones and Duck Hunt, or How Game of Thrones Alienates Women

Saying you're into Game of Thrones is like saying you totally ruled at Duck Hunt when you were 8. It's a given, and no one is surprised to hear it. It's hard to find someone who's just "meh" about Game of Thrones, and even harder to find someone who outright hates it. Essentially, there are two kinds of people in the world - Game of Thrones fans, and future Game of Thrones fans.

Because this is a real thing

Since I have a deep-seated need to know what people are talking about, I dived into Season 1 of the show with my equally nerdy boyfriend a couple months ago. He's read all the books and I hadn't yet read any. I found it compelling, and let's face it, pretty hot, and we finished it in a weekend. In the week between that and the beginning of Season 2, I found myself missing the characters so I downloaded the first book on my secret lover Kindle and got to work. Then Season 2 started.
And nobody's sister is safe. From her brother.
And the incest abounds! I'm not prudish and I get that the show is provocative, I mean, it's HBO and the explicit sexytimes are one reason why I watch at all. I'm also aware that most of it is in the books so HBO is just adapting those storylines. Plus, sex is essential as a catalyst or complicator to many of the plotlines. Most of the story couldn't even happen without the catalyst of Jaime and Cersei's relationship, for example. King Robert's whoring is also rather vital, as he begat several sons, thereby gumming up the chain of succession. I get all that.

But here's where I'm annoyed.

All the women suck. "Wait!" You exclaim, "Cat is strong! Arya is resilient! Yara will command an armada!" All true. But while there are strong women characters (+1), they are all treated like absolute garbage by every other character on the show (-1 million). When Theon flips his conquest over so he doesn't have to look at her face, it's not written in such a way as to make us disgusted with him, it's written to make us laugh at the girl. You could argue that Cersei isn't treated poorly, being the queen regent and all, but she was in fact for the entirety of her marriage to Robert treated as second to a dead girl. That treatment manifests itself as her being an outright bitch. So our options are strong, kind women (and weak, passive women like Sansa) who are powerless to their circumstances and are objects to be used or pawns to be traded, or slightly more powerful women (Cersei, Catelyn) who have to be calculating bitches to be respected (but who are still utterly reliant on their husbands and/or sons).

And then there are the whores.

Oh dear god the whores. 

As Erik Kain at Forbes notes, the brothel scenes are "sex as decoration." Little Finger's monologue in the brothel during the second episode of the season has spurred much discussion across the web (google anything like "game of thrones brothel scene" for a taste) but the best argument against the gratuitous and lengthy scene I have read is that there are only 10 episodes per season, and whole lot of story to get through. Wasting loads of screen time on men treating women like crap, of which we get plenty in all the other scenes,without moving the plot forward, is kind of reprehensible, just from an economy-of-storyline point of view, don't you think?

"Well, besides the brothel scenes, most of those scenes are pulled from the book." I'll agree that the necessary ones absolutely are. But fueling my annoyance and discomfort is the scene from Season 1/Book 1 in which Daenerys and Khal Drogo consummate their marriage. In the show, it's a very uncomfortable and almost scary scene for a woman to watch. Daenerys is a teenager and the Khal is forceful. She has stated several times to her brother that this is not what she wants. We the viewer get to watch her essentially be raped by moonlight. I actually thought this scene was well done at the time, because the viewer understands the terrible position Daenerys is in. Then I read that scene in the book. For those who haven't read it, you may be surprised, as I was, to learn that the scene is written very sweetly. Daenerys sees a softer side of her new husband, and helps him please her. This pretty much solidifies to me that HBO is using rape as a shock tactic.

Either that, or a 13 year old boy has been in charge of the show this season.

My last hope is in Daenerys, the Khaleesi. Of course, without her husband, she's just the ex-Khaleesi. Good thing she's dragonborn. I'm betting on her to Fus-Ro-Dah her way through the seven kingdoms, free the whores, and stab Joffrey in the brains. (Please please stab Joffrey in the brains?)

So maybe I'm that third kind of person out there who is not in love with Game of Thrones.
But I also sucked at Duck Hunt, so this is to be expected.

Tim Burton Will Not Barf On This Blog - A Reimagining of the Paradox

I'm reimagining this blog. If Christopher Nolan can reimagine Batman and Marc Webb can reimagine Spiderman...

Wait, the Amazing Spiderman's director's name is Webb?? You just know he has felt destined to be Spiderman since he was 5. But then he turned out all schlubby and geeky and made 500 Days of Summer and then he said, "Hm, perhaps I will direct Spiderman instead."

I'm just spitballing here, but I assume that's what happened.

Anyways, if those guys can reimagine some classic franchises with long histories and their own successes and failures, then I too can reimagine my own humble little political blog into more of an everygeek experience blogapalooza. Hopefully it's a Batman scenario where the result is super great and not a Willy Wonka situation where the "reimagining" is more like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp jerking each other off for two hours and then barfing all over what is good and holy.

Was Charlie even in this movie?

It's not that I'm not still into politics. It's just that they kind of suck and are super depressing. I want to write about the things that make me happy - namely, geeky pop culture. It's my wheelhouse. As a con-going (Comic- and Blizz- so far), Whedon-worshipping, board-game playing, fantasy reading/watching gamer girl, my wheelhouse is pretty diverse.

What's the paradox, you ask? Well besides the pointed reference to the Gilbert & Sullivan gem The Pirates of Penzance, it's regarding the fact that I am an extroverted geek. And that doesn't just mean that in conversation I'll look at your shoes instead of my own. It means that I often enjoy leaving my house and doing things with large groups of people. The funny part of all this is that I'm really not so unique in this. Ever been to a ren-faire? How about a con of just about any sort? Loads of geeks in one place who think they're introverts but who in actuality love being around and interacting with lots of people, as long as they all have something in common. Not so paradoxical at all, when you think about it. Whatever, I'm keeping the name.

So henceforth, herewith, thus, and ergo I do decree this blog a blog of geek proportions. Go forth and do what we're all doing on Sunday nights (watching Game of Thrones, natch), then return later for more geekery. And follow me on twitter @ParadoxDaily.