Comical Musings

Tag: journal comic

Review: dingBeans

by on Apr.19, 2010, under Review

When I was taking a course on Greco-Roman classics and their effect on English literature,* Dr. Talbot pointed out an interesting Latin word: senex. It translates roughly to “(grumpy) old man,” and from it we get words like senior, seneschal, Senate, and senile. I’m sure a lot of you know at least one senex; with a bit of prompting, you can probably remember his face and hear exactly his tone of voice as he goes off on a tangent about how much of the world has fallen apart since he was a kid.

I think senex is about the right word to describe Roy, the grizzled protagonist of Peter Denike’s dingBeans. Every day, Roy shares his (oft-misspelled) opinion on the most random subjects: compact fluorescent light bulbs, cell phones, TV shows, Christmas trees, you name it. His commentary is then analyzed by a handful of clip-art “beans” that represent the contrasting voices and thoughts in his (and most other people’s) heads.

dingBeans is essentially a daily mini-rant, and you can’t entirely tell whether Roy’s thoughts are Denike’s or his own. It’s not like this is an Earth-shattering deal, but it does sort of stand as the difference between Roy being an author avatar and Roy merely being Ziggy. Many of his remarks concern the loss of the good old days and the more simple ways of doing things. There is also a lot of commentary about the environment and how we should be doing a better job to protect it, which only makes sense for a fellow who mostly talks to beans.** And then below each comic is a little “beanTao”: one last comment on the topic of the day, sans punctuation.

The art is relatively homogeneous. That is to say, pretty much every comic consists of a single panel with a bust of Roy making one facial expression or another, plus Beans. It’s a simple set-up for a simple comic—which seems to be Denike’s aim. I do, however, find it amusing that the caricature of Roy is so detailed that his opinions read in a rather gruff and curmudgeonly “voice” in my mind.*** So if you want to sit back and take a few potshots at the way the world is going, I think Roy would enjoy the company.

Comic Rating: One hill of beans.

* Much more entertaining than it sounds.
** Vegetation takes care of its own.
*** On further consideration, I think said voice is based on some of the older men at church.

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Shenanigan: Took a Trip

by on Apr.05, 2010, under Shenanigan

For those of you wondering why this post is several hours late and has nothing to do with comics*, here’s what I did the past week:

What I did over my spring vacation.

My parents, two of their friends, and I went down to North Carolina to spend a week on the Outer Banks.** While I scarfed down the Mackey’s Ferry Peanuts and admired the Nancyware pots . . . I was without a computer – thus, spending a lot of time reading and doing other things that didn’t require an internet connection.***

But don’t despair, readers! I’ll be back to my usual reviewing shenanigans next week, which I’m sure will be a relief to both of you.

* Well, with other people’s comics, at any rate.
** Presumably, this was to decompress from winter and enjoy the warmer weather. In a cruel fit of irony, Kill Devil Hills wound up being colder than Ohio by the end of the week.
*** Perhaps the new computer should’ve been a laptop after all. Ah, well.

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Review: Ren Rats

by on Mar.01, 2010, under Review

I imagine that writing about the Olympics would be a shameless way to drive some traffic to the site, so here’s my best attempt at forced tangential commentary:

As Bob Costas reminded us Americans again and again* over the last few weeks, a lot of historical things happened during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. And my family is very much down with history: my parents have both participated in the local historical play; my brother-in-law has done World War II re-enactments on the beach at Conneaut, Ohio; and I’ve personally gotten involved with BYU’s medieval club, Quill & the Sword. This club has had to deal with a lot of flack from the campus student association—not all of it unearned, since the medieval club seems to attract people who act before they think.

One can ask for no more cheerful celebration of everything that is wrong with medieval and Renaissance clubs than Ren Rats, by a fellow who calls himself Piz.** You have the people who meticulously remember every detail of trivia, the ones who forget what’s important, and the ones who go around offending the “mundanes” as a means of entertainment. There’s the tendency to go for shock humor as a way of getting announcements out. To be honest, the members of the KUMRC are a lot like the main cast of Weregeek: reacting to people’s rejection of them by acting all the more repugnant.***

The plot of Ren Rats is, according to the “about the comic” page, taken from real life. Except, of course, where it isn’t. This means that, in essence, Ren Rats is one elaborate inside joke. Unfortunately, inside jokes don’t translate very well to a public medium, as anyone with a good set of kidneys in their head can tell you. This, combined with the occasional hole in the fourth wall, makes the comedy feel just a little forced. But then, there’s always the fussy nerd to take down a few pegs if the jokes start to feel stale.

The art looks to be just a step above MSPaint, with rather little progress or improvement from day one to nearly three years later. Characters’ cheekbones stick out like they have impacted teeth, and their expressions seem to default to a heavy-lidded smirk. The “scroll” effect on the comics is clever, but it’s added to each comic individually—and then the rest of the area is made transparent to fit with the page layout, leaving artifacts along the edges of the curves. You can see the same thing on the navigation arrows.

The strange thing is that, in doing this, Ren Rats manages to capture the essence of many a medieval reenactor: a bit on the awkward side and in need of some cleaning up, but essentially well-meaning.

Comic Rating: One last rehearsal at 2 A.M.

* and again and again and again . . .
** Ha! I made it tangentially relate after all!
*** This is not listed among the ways to make friends with people, and for good reason. Those “be true to yourself” teen movies generally forget to add, “but still be polite to those around you.”

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Review: A Dollar Late and a Day Short

by on Jan.04, 2010, under Review

Mortality is a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad thing to have to confront. Perhaps a friend develops cancer and has to go through multiple debilitating treatments, trading a few body parts so the whole can survive. Perhaps someone from school gets into a terrible accident, and the next time you see him, his reconstructed face is resting on a pillow in a pine box. Perhaps you find yourself trying to help your parents or grandparents as they slowly lose their old vigor. Or perhaps your barber or hairstylist innocently asks if you’ve been painting because that big blotch of gray certainly wasn’t in your hair last time. Whether the trigger is profound or vain, at some point most people come to realize that their lives have an inconvenient tendency to get cut short.

Some people spend their time bemoaning this fate. Others take solace in religion or other spiritual activities. And yet others do their best to get a good laugh out of things, because if they didn’t, they would probably die. Jin Wicked, cartoonist behind A Dollar Late and a Day Short, is one of these. In the FAQ page of her previous comic (Crap I Drew on my Lunch Break), Jin notes that her comics are a way to vent frustrations that would otherwise lead to unhealthy physical reactions (perhaps even lethal ones) and face mortality on her own terms.

So perhaps this is why I feel more inclined to give her a pass on being political. And a little raunchy. (Which is to say, not always work-safe). And kinda salty. Or even more raunchy. I mean, when you see Jin’s poor-little-urchin eyes melting into a woebegone expression or her desperate nostalgia, you just sort of want to hug her and make everything better. And occasionally someone does.

I am enamored of Jin’s drawing style. She’s deliberately simplified her artwork since the days of CIDomLB, giving her a comic she can save effort on and freeing up time for her other work. The result is a comic of thick lines and soft curves that somehow makes even death scenes strangely adorable. And of course, the contrast between wide-eyed Jin and her more down-to-earth boyfriend makes for a nice visual pun.

So on the one hand, DL&DS is pessimistic and frightening, and it hasn’t updated in close to a year. And on the other hand, it’s just so darn cute.

Comic Rating: Four kinds of gifts I know to be more careful about giving.

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