Posts Tagged webcomic

Review: Furthia High

Some people may have noticed that in the comics I’ve drawn, I tend to include anthropomorphic animal characters. Or werewolves. Or puppies. A cursory glance at my deviantART page will reveal even more cartoon critters. This would lead some to believe that my comic bookmarks are full of furry webcomics. And they would be wrong. Why, you ask? Because with few exceptions, furry webcomics are more about the furry than the webcomic. Just because your character has a muzzle is no excuse to skimp on writing a compelling story or a good joke.

Let me present Furthia High, by QuetzaDrake, as symptomatic of some of the problems with furry webcomics. The first thing you’ll notice is the title, which like many furry works, has “fur” jammed awkwardly into it. Fur some reason, everyfur who does a furry publication has this compulsive furge to furget common spelling and infurt “fur” into every word possible. As you can see, this tends to get on my furves. . . . nerves.

The title gets even more awkward when the plot is revealed: Kale Williams, The Last Human on Earth, is attending his first year of public high school in the furry world in which he lives. This means that the title of the comic is reduced to meaning something like “Humanopolis Academy.” As a veteran punner and armchair linguist, I am officially unimpressed.

The first ad I saw for the comic has (I hope) been lost to the ether, but it seemed to imply that the comic triggered homosexual make-out sessions and is read by a decent number of businessmen and fathers. Make of this what you will. In spite of this, my better judgment took a holiday, and I figured, “Hey, let’s give this a chance.”

The art, from the first page on, is rather heavily inspired by anime and manga. That is to say, The Last Human on Earth has a small, sharp nose that you could cut yourself on, and every character manages to have eyes large enough to take up most of the upper half of their skulls. Sara, the Female Gay Freshman Mouse on the first page, looks like she needs to cut her Adderall dosage at least in half.

Let me interrupt the art critique with this comment on Quetza’s random background character generator. The idea in itself is intriguing; being able to draw up a list of characters to throw into the background without having to repeat yourself is a useful tool for a cartoonist whose comic takes place in such a crowded setting. But Quetza takes this idea a bit too far, including the name, grade, biography, and sexual orientation of every character he draws in the background. When you realize that you will maybe see two or three of these characters again, and still only as window-dressing, it gets downright creepy that Quetza goes into this much detail. Especially considering the gay and bisexual population of the school that is surprising only to people who are unfamiliar with furries.

Back to the art, though: Bruce, the fox with Super-Saiyan hair, is supposed to be overweight, to the point that he affectionately refers to his stomach as “Gutty,” and yet you can’t tell until the obligatory swimsuit arc. A frog and a flying fox manage to have nearly identical faces, and this is not an isolated instance. And on top of this, the feline characters are shown with their foot claws permanently extended. I didn’t even major in biology and these things are standing out flagrantly. I’m frankly surprised there hasn’t been a blue hedgehog character whose spikes are all three feet long and coming off the back of his head, given his grasp on zoology.

As far as the writing is concerned, I will admit to being equally non-plussed. The main protagonists are Kale, The (feckless) Last Human on Earth; Bruce, the Super-Saiyan fox who spends half of his time being cheese-monkey-random and the other half giving LARPers a bad name; Ashley, a Type-A tsundere cat; and Campy, a narcoleptic, poetical, (un)ambiguously gay rabbit. (Campy the gay guy? You wound me, sir.) Kale ends up with these friends almost purely because Bruce is a spaz. After introductions are made, the minutiae are quickly breezed past so that Kale can meet his first cardboard racist antagonist.

This particularly grates at me. Considering how much thought Quetza puts into each of the background characters, why is Lupin the Wolf Guy (no, the uncreative pun did not escape my eye) made so one-dimensional? He exists solely to torment Kale and show the errors of racism and violence in one fell swoop, and the continue to just be a jerk. Also, he has a henchman with a crush on Ashley, with predictable results. Except the author insists that he’s not one-dimensional in his comments, so maybe we’ll see that proven in one of the later plotlines.

At this point, I really can’t say much else about the comic. I could go on about author inserts, self-referential breaking of the fourth wall, rapid-onset Cerebus syndrome, and–perhaps most egregious–depiction of flamboyant homosexuality as the result of post-traumatic stress disorder, but I think I’ve about reached my limit for this review. The comic obviously has fans a-plenty, but I’m not going to count myself as one of them.

Also, Quetza really needs to learn A) that LARPers will know what fencing is and B) how to not talk in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe.

Comic Rating: Eight kicked puppies and a restraining order.

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Review: AWKWARD ZOMBIE

Gamer comics are, generally, considered among the lowest of the low in the webcomic world, along with (at last count) college roommate comics, bizarre fantasy comics, comics that try to push a social message about alternative lifestyles, furry comics, anything to do with politics, drunken lout comics, and generally anything else that gets published on the Internet. People who review or talk about webcomics often point to Penny Arcade as the end-all, be-all of gaming comics and attempt to shut down any conversation about a new gaming comic. While I agree that maybe we could stand to stanch the flow of recolored Sonic and Mario sprites, I also think that credit should be given where credit is due.

And I think credit is due in the case of AWKWARD ZOMBIE by Kate Tiedrich. To start with, she draws the characters herself instead of ripping and recoloring sprites, which earns her a lot of points right there. It’s also interesting to see her art style progress over the course of her art gallery, starting with a rather odd cross of anime and Precious Moments styles, then progressing to a much more individualistic style. It’s always nice to see an artist who can be recognized when compared to others; I’m generally guilty of falling back on something that looks like anime when I’m pressed for time, and I admire people who can push themselves to go for a bit more.

As for plot . . . you can see that it’s pretty obviously a Nintendo fan-comic of sorts, mostly centering on the Super Smash Bros. series and the presumed interactions between the franchise characters (along with Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda, and World of Warcraft [in a slight break from the Nintendo things]). The comics on the site itself start with Tiedrich’s transition to doing comics in Flash instead of on oekaki programs, giving her the ability to do larger, longer comics and use smoother lines; right off the nailed bat, we’re treated to her characterizations of Roy as a somewhat attention-deficit wacko, Link as a clueless tag-along, and Marth as an imperious and somewhat effeminate fop. This is something of a thread in her Smash-related comics; she generally avoids the more notable characters (like, say, Mario) in favor of inventing her own personalities for the lesser-knowns. It’s a clever way to do fan works without being scrutinized over whether you’re properly matching canon.

One of Tiedrich’s quirks is to throw silly faces onto background objects and make enemy monsters look deranged, which I’m not above admitting gives me the giggles every time. And while her backgrounds are generally lacking, she makes up for it by getting the characters more detail than most people can handle.

It’s also refreshing to see an author avatar character who isn’t stunningly attractive, all-powerful, or generally just more awesome than everyone else. Tiedrich portrays herself as a scrawny, pale young woman with thick, uncontrollable hair, dark circles under her eyes, and what I can only hope are freckles and not some sort of polyp. Actually, she kinda creeps me out a little now and then.

And one last comment: I like her tendency more toward the “show, don’t tell” style. Some of her best comics use no words at all, other than the title. Sure, there’s commentary on the bottom for people who don’t get the strip at first gloss, but she can generally get the joke across without too much effort. And when she does wax verbose, it’s generally for comedic effect by making the long-winded character look like a babbler. Not to mention she really rocks the long, awkward silences.

I know a lot of webcomics rely heavily on wacky, random humor for their punchlines. And usually it’s what really turns me off to them (such as, say, White Ninja Comics or Castle Arfenhouse). But AWKWARD ZOMBIE manages to channel the wackiness into something pretty deft, and I give Tiedrich kudos for that. I recommend it to any Nintendo fan without a chip on the shoulder.

Comic Rating: Four Wii-motes, all pointing at Marth.

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