Archive for the Column Category

‘Late’, Instant Comics, and MangaZebra.co.uk by Sammy Borras

Posted in Column, New Comic, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2009 by comicmole

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‘Late’ is a new short webcomic by Sammy Borras. It tells the tale of a girl who accidentally gets locked in a coffee shop after hours and encounters some rather strange new customers. It’s only a few pages in so far, but already its becoming a great example of how unique and wonderful webcomics can be.

The comic can be found at Instant Comics’, a new  SmackJeeves account that Sammy has set up to host this and other future mini comics.  More of Sammy’s work, including more short comics, can be found on her website, mangazebra.co.uk.

There are many things that already set this short story apart from all of the more derivative webcomics out there and make it worth taking a look at.  Firstly (if it hasn’t crossed your mind already) the subject matter of coffee shops with a smattering of aliens is a pretty unique one.  The great thing is that the way the comic is written so far is very grounded, making it easy for the reader to get into the story and wonder what it might be like if these events really happened.

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Secondly, the panel pacing works well, with several different layouts being used to good effect.  When the reader needs to take a breather the panels become wider and backgrounds become more plain, but when we need to see where the characters are, Sammy does not shy away from producing some detailed backgrounds featuring lots of notoriously tricky-to-draw figures and furniture.

The art style of ‘Late’ shows a mix of influences with some manga showing in the page layouts and maybe a little Jamie Hewlett coming through in the character designs and colours.  A third factor that sets it apart from a lot of other webcomics is that, rather than being derivative, the creator has turned these influences to her advantage.  For example, manga tropes such as chibis (more cartoony versions of characters) are used to emphasise emotion, but the overall art style does not come across as directly manga-inspired.

The only slight problems the comic has are perhaps needing a little tightening up in the perspective of the backgrounds, and making sure that the character designs remain consistent in every pose and emotion – in some panels the main character can look a little different to others. Even so, thus far in the comic there have been no problems working out what’s going on or telling the characters apart from each other.

Therefore if you’ve got a moment to spare, check out ‘Late’ on Instant Comics – a budding new webcomic with a lot of promise!  (SmackJeeves also has a comment system that you don’t have to be a member to use, so do comment if you like the comic – this is purely a selfish act by me as this Mole wants to see more!)

If you like ‘Late’ and would like to see more of Sammy’s comics and standalone work you can visit her website mangazebra.co.uk.  Under the ‘Manga and Comics’ Section, if you scroll down past the standalone illustrations there are 5 or 6 short comics available to view, plus preview images of other comics that are available to buy in print.  Here’s a page from one of the webcomic shorts on the site called ‘Lunch Break’ from 2008:

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If you prefer to read comics on paper, Sammy is also part of a comic circle called Inspired Comics, who can be found at various comic-y events around the UK selling printed work.  Their first anthology is called ‘A Slice of Life’ and should still be available to pick up at events as of the time of writing this column – look out for this cover:

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There is also a 7-page short comic called ‘Money Money’, drawn by Sammy and written by Laura McNulty, available to read in Leek and Sushi’s Manga Show.

An Introduction to Reya

Posted in Column with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2009 by comicmole

Very soon I will be posting up an interview with Morag Lewis, the creator of several web and print comics including the completed series ‘Looking for the Sun’ and the ongoing webcomic ‘Ambient Rhythm’, both published by Sweatdrop Studios (check Morag’s own website toothycat.net to read most of her comics for free online, or the Sweatdrop Studios shop to buy print editions).

In our interview we focused on her soon-to-be-released comic, ‘Reya’, published by Markosia, as well as talking about many all-important comics topics (like desserts ^_~ ).   ‘Reya’ is a comic which debuted in 2008 – Chapter One is available to read for free on Myebook and the entire comic should be available to read for free online and as a print edition soon (I’ll post an update when the full comic is released).  The writing, penciling and inks are all done by Morag and the colour work on the first few pages is by Natalie Roberts.

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The comic is named after its lead character, the young girl Reya, who has just moved from her home village to a new town to study magic.  She is a little confused however because, as far as she knows, she has no magic within her and therefore cannot study it properly.

Neither can I, unfortunately, tell you much more of the plot, as with only one chapter to read there’s not an awful lot that can be said at this stage.  However, if you’re hungry for some more Reya straight away, you might be happy to know that this is not the first time we have been graced with her presence: she was originally part of a short story that was submitted to a past Tokyopop ‘Rising Stars of Manga’ competition.  Unfortunately she didn’t win, but her tale can be found in Sweatdrop Studios’ ‘Stardust’ anthology, which I reviewed in a previous blog entry.

Like her previous incarnation, the general feel of the comic ‘Reya’ is all-ages friendly.  Morag has mentioned that the story will get darker as it progresses, but she hopes that it will remain accessible and enjoyable to as wide an audience as possible.  The art style’ will be familiar to anyone to has read the author’s other work – it very much has her signature look to it.  The colour pages by Natalie Roberts are a treat for online readers but it can be assumed that, because of high printing prices for full colour works, the printed edition will probably be black and white only.  I recommend checking out the colour pages online even if you are planning to buy the print edition as they are very well executed, as you can see:

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Thus ends my introduction to ‘Reya’ – as said previously I will upload the interview with Morag ASAP, and keep your eyes peeled for a future announcement of the release of the full edition!

An Intro to FreakAngels by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield

Posted in Column with tags , , , , , , on February 23, 2009 by comicmole

Disclamer: this is an old column I wrote for IndieReview last year and since then FreakAngels has grown and flourished – there are many more pages available in webcomic form and also a printed volume one available to buy in bookshops or online.  Before I write a more up-to-date column about the comic I want to get hold of said printed edition in order to review it properly.  However, funds dictate that I won’t be doing that any time soon, so as not to waste a column I’m going to post this one up as it appeared last year rather than tweaking it to update it (it wouldn’t be tweaking anyway, it would be a complete re-write).

Nevertheless I think this post will still be useful to anyone who has not discovered FreakAngels yet, which is why I’m calling it an introduction.  So without futher ado, here we go…

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“23 years ago, twelve strange children were born in England at exactly the same moment. 6 years ago, the world ended. This is the story of what happened next” – FreakAngels page one

FreakAngels is a gritty, adult, post-apocalyptic steampunk comic with at least its first few episodes set in London. It tells the tale of some of the survivors of an unknown disaster, and in the story so far it has been revealed that a few of these have gained new abilities.

Just in case the genre is new to anyone out there, ‘steampunk’ stories typically feature a world that is inspired by the technological developments of the Industrial Revolution era (roughly the 1800s). The difference with steampunk is that there are usually lots more fantastical inventions featured than there actually were back then, such as the steam-powered helecopter that KK uses in the first Episode of FreakAngels. An anime example of the genre is Katsuhiro Otomo’s film ‘Steamboy’ whereas a comic example would be Moore and O’Neill’s ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’.

When compared to most other offerings of the genre, FreakAngels is unique.  This is because it is set in a future where technology has regressed, rather than in a past with futuristic levels of technology. Unfortunately I will have to leave my explanation of the story there, as the comic has not been running for long enough for me to give any more detail. But wait! Don’t go away just yet, as there is method to my madness!

And that is this: FreakAngels might possibly be the biggest UK webcomic out there, even though it only began in February this year. Award-winning artist Paul Duffield (aka. Spoonbard) is handling the visuals – Paul won first place in Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga (2006) and also got the Overall Winner award for the International Manga and Anime Festival (IMAF) in the same year. Alongside him doing the writing is UK comics guru Warren Ellis, who has written for Marvel and DC (amongst others) as well as having several of his own works published, and winning several Eagle awards in 2007 (including ‘Favourite Comics Writer’).

So far the internet is the only way to sample the pair’s offerings and there don’t seem to be any plans for a print edition of FreakAngels, at least not at this early stage. Instead there are free weekly updates of six pages a pop, entitled ‘Episodes’. Each one seems to look at a particular situation or conversation, so readers get a manageable chunk of story but are still left wanting to know more. It’s quite an experimental format, but it seems to be working so far over the first five episodes.

What’s also exciting and new about this comic is that there is a great juxtaposition here between manga and western comic influences. Warren Ellis is a renowned western comics writer and Paul Duffield cut his teeth on the Rising Stars of Manga and Self Made Hero’s ‘Manga Shakespeare’ version of ‘The Tempest’. The new challenge for the artist here though is the use of full colour visuals on every page.  Appropriately, each page is drawn in Paul Duffield’s signature style, using fine expressive pen lines rather than the technically drawn look you get in a lot of manga. The quality of the linework and use of muted colours complement the London setting very well. The artist often brings out the beauty of his characters (especially the lead, KK), however what’s really special about his work here is that he doesn’t shy away from including character flaws and uglier moments to illustrate their personalities and the harsh situation they have found themselves in.

However, much as I love the character designs and beautifully stark London backgrounds, I did find some of the panel layouts on the pages to be a bit repetitive as there are a lot of pages that are simply split into four equal panels. This may have been an editorial decision to bring across a steady pace to events, but as someone who is used to reading manga where panel layouts are different on every page I found this to be a bit sluggish.

Inextricably linked to the panel pacing is the writing style of the comic. In general, I found the setting and characters to be very intriguing and the writing to flow well from panel to panel. Unfortunately though, I found some of the writing a bit lacking (I’ll duck and cover before going on…). These are real characters living in a harsh environment, therefore they swear quite a bit. I have no problem at all with swearing, especially if its in context as it is here, however I think perhaps they might banter with each other in more elaborate ways than just putting the f-word in at every second sentence.  Also, in Episode Two we meet Alice, a girl from Manchester. She swears with a northern accent, however nothing else she says is accented at all – this seems a bit inconsistent.  The rest of her words aren’t put across with dialect, so why that one?

Anyway, niggles aside, this is a compelling comic and there are also a few extras on the website too: before Episode One there are four standalone promotional poster-style images, there is an RSS feed available, and also a forum to discuss each episode as it comes out.

In conclusion, this is a very exciting comic that I feel has a lot of potential. It may not be 100% perfect but its still early days so I’m hopeful that the plot will become gripping and that the characters will each become more unique and individual. This comic will appeal to fans of Warren Ellis, those who are following Paul Duffield’s work, fans of the steampunk genre, those who like a good post-apocalyptic tale, those who appreciate manga and fans of western comics alike, so I’m eager to see it gain more readers and keep bridging that gap between manga and western comics fans – oh and remember, its all free!

I’m looking forward to re-visiting FreakAngels in the future, once the plot and characters have had a chance to develop.

Rainbow Carousel by Chloe Citrine

Posted in Column with tags , , , , , , , on January 4, 2009 by comicmole

This is one of my old ‘Webcomic Mole Investigates…’ columns for the now defunct (as far as I know) website, IndieReview.co.uk.  But never fear!  I have checked it over and updated it to include the new print volume of Rainbow Carousel as well as the webcomic – the print version is available from the Sweatdrop Studios online shop and the webcomic is still available to read for free over on DrunkDuck.

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Teenager Bubblegum Soda has a whole heap of problems.  He’s been forced to change schools and leave the person he loves behind, and is getting stick from his teacher for being in a bad mood about it.  On top of that, some unwanted attention from a new girl has brought out the local bullies too.  But just when life seems at its darkest, an enchanting group of people enter his life, not least of these is a mysterious elf called Sundae.

Mysterious elves and characters with foodie names? It could only be  Rainbow Carousel by Chloe Citrine!  The comic has the feel of a light, sparkly slice-of-life story, but on top of this it also tackles some real issues that teenagers can face.  Romance amongst classmates is covered, as is bullying, and some of the issues facing gay high school students.  There are shonen-ai themes within the comic, but the story doesn’t get bogged down in following only the gay characters like some other series in the genre.

Just in case ‘shonen-ai’ is new to anyone out there, it’s a sub-genre of girls manga which covers romance between boys (another name of it is ‘Boys Love’).  Most shonen-ai stories are based on romantic relationships, however they do not usually include any adult content.  What could be seen as a problem with a lot of ‘traditional’ Japanese shonen-ai manga is that the characters don’t often act like actual gay men, rather they are overly romanticised idealised figures, and they seem less ‘real’ because of it.  What’s great about Rainbow Carousel is that the gay characters are a lot more believable.  For example, Bubblegum has to face having a long-distance relationship with a boyfriend who wants to keep their relationship under wraps, leaving him unable to mention his boyfriend’s name to anyone else he meets.

Rainbow Carousel is both written and drawn by Chloe Citrine (aka. Wyldflowa).  It was begun as a webcomic in 2006 and is still running presently.  It used to update regularly but updates have unfortunately slowed down over the last year or so.  However, although that is a shame, if you are new to the comic there are already three long chapters weighing in at well over 150 pages for potential fans to get their teeth into before relying on updates.  Plus, if you’d rather read your comics on paper than on a screen, volume one of Rainbow Carousel is now available to buy (a link to the shop is at the top of this post).  As you can see from the photo below, its a nice chunky size with a very good print quality (note – the inside pages are in black and white, manga-style).

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Extras in the print volume include 3 pages of standalone artwork by Chloe, 4 pages crammed full of readers’ fanart, an author’s note and 3 pages filled with funny 4-koma (4-panel) comic strips also created by Chloe.  In fact, the volume is peppered with extra 4-koma strips throughout which make for cute little funny interludes in the plot.

You might think that with so much attention paid to the print volume the web version of the comic would be a more barebones affair, but in fact Rainbow Carousel is a comic that had really embraced its web status long before it was printed.  Its host, the free site DrunkDuck (link at the top of this post), allows comments to be made by readers on each page – therefore if a reader has anything to say about the story or the characters (or simply wishes to cheekily poke the artist for more updates) they can do it directly.  Complimenting this audience participation is a separate fanart gallery that features readers’ art, each piece receiving a comment from the comics’ author.  Additionally to the readers’ art, there is a large gallery of sketches, desktops and icons as well as full-colour standalone images completed by the creator.  To help any new (or more curious) readers, there is also a character profile page that holds a portrait and description of each of the comic’s main characters.  At the end of chapters one and two, the author has uploaded a tutorial on how she produces the comic.  She also comments on each page as she uploads it, giving little asides about the characters, the plot or simply her day-to-day life.  These kinds of extras would be much more difficult to provide in a printed edition, especially as the majority of the gallery work is in full-colour.

You might be thinking that this is all very well, but having fantastic extras doesn’t necessarily make it a good comic.  Well luckily Rainbow Carousel is also a very enjoyable read (even for a crusty old twenty-something like me who’s not so into high school shonen-ai).  Some people might be turned off by the thought that most of the main cast are teenagers and a lot of the comic is set around their school, however the characters themselves really bring the comic to life. The past history, personality and motivations of each character have obviously been carefully considered by the author before she committed her drawing pen to paper. Because she knows what each of her characters is like, they each have their own way of reacting to different situations. For example the main character, Bubblegum, is a pretty sullen and whiny young guy (at least at the start of the comic) so he doesn’t show much emotion on his face unless he’s about to cry.  Conversely the character who bullies him in chapter one, Turpentine, is hot-headed and emotional, so his feelings show much more on his face.  One of the only trip-ups with the art is that the characters’ faces sometimes seem a bit elongated, especially in profile, however this does seem to improve as the story progresses.

Adding to the actions and emotions of the characters is the use of effects and panel layouts.  Some imaginative effects are used throughout the comic (a good example being ‘Sherbert Vision’ on page four).  The panels throughout show a good balance of open space to full detail.  A lot of different panel layouts are used, but they are never confusing to read.  Some layouts show the artist being more experimental (such as the more minimal layout on page 17 for example) which is great to see .  On the web, the pages are presented in monochrome, however each chapter is coloured slightly differently – this reflects the ‘Rainbow’ in the title and suits the slightly otherworldly fantasy theme very well.

So to finish, if imaginative, emotional characters, slice-of-life drama, fantastical twists, shonen-ai elements, unique art or beautifully varied panel layouts appeal to you, then try this comic on for size in whichever format suits you best!

‘TwoSidesWide’ and ‘TiSiWi’, by TwoSidesWide Studios

Posted in Column with tags , , , , , on December 5, 2008 by comicmole

You know I nearly wrote a completely new review for this post…then I copped out and decided to post another old Webcomic Mole column (sorry about that).  But hey they’re well worth it – check out TwoSidesWide Studios!

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Where can you find a crazy Kat, two Puppies and an armadillo?  It could only be TwoSidesWide Studios!

This time I’ll be kicking back and having some fun looking at two webcomic strips available from TwoSidesWide Studios: ‘TwoSidesWide’ (which spawned the name of the studio) and its little sister TinySidesWide (or TiSiWi for short).  As well as these two comic strips, the Studio also produce their own manga-styled comics.  However seeing as their website is chock-a-block with content I’ll be focusing on just the strips this time.  If I piqued your interest though, go check out the website where there are lots of different comics available to read for free!

TwoSidesWide Studios are Susan Golton and Steve Cook (aka. Kat and Dave).  Their webcomic strip ‘TwoSidesWide’ ran for over 3 years from 2003 until early 2007 with multiple weekly updates.  However in order to give the creators more time to work on other projects TwoSidesWide has now been replaced by TiSiWi.  TiSiWi is a sprite comic, made out of pre-drawn building blocks of characters’ bodies, expressions and panel backgrounds etc.  It’s therefore quicker for the creators to produce, but with the same level of wit that fans of TwoSidesWide will remember!  TiSiWi is still running currently although it has less regular updates nowadays.

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The great thing about TwoSidesWide and TiSiWi is that they are simply full of crazy antics that will appeal to lots of different people.  The genre of the strips runs from slice-of-life comedy through to geek comedy.  There are some internet, movie and video-game references, but not all the time, so people who aren’t into geek things in particular can still find a lot to enjoy here.  It is aimed at mid-teens upwards I think, seeing as there are some adult references in the jokes, although no other adult content in particular.

Being a gag strip, there’s not a lot of overall plot to either TwoSidesWide or TiSiWi, but I’ll attempt to give you an idea of what you might be reading about.  TwoSidesWide opens with Kat and Dave feverishly chatting over IM about starting their own webcomic (this is the characters Kat and Dave, not actual conversations by the TwoSidesWide creators…its all a bit meta really).  As their webcomic takes shape (a kind of wonky shape I think), the overall story of TwoSidesWide pans back and shows you more of Kat and Dave’s daily lives.  More characters are introduced as the strips go on, starting with their cat, Whiskey, and their housemates Ben the gamer, and Treh and Lu, the somewhat-maniacal inventors.  What stands out about the new characters in TwoSidesWide is that they seem to make themselves known as if they had a life of their own, rather than being at all one-dimensional.

Complementing the strips which have a little bit of plot are ones that are almost totally insane!  There are Random Days, where 3 panels from random strips are joined together with new text to make some really funny situations, and even a series where Kat (the character) cops out and makes a comic using photos of her stationery and desk equipment (the fluffy desk tidy is my favourite character).

Many more utterly unique characters and situations are introduced later on (an undo button for life anyone?) but I don’t want to spoil the best bits, so I’ll move on.  The Studios’ latest comic strip, TiSiWi, carries on the legacy of TwoSidesWide by using a lot of the same characters.  However, readers don’t need to know an awful lot about the background of the characters themselves to enjoy the comic.  At times a few strips may be joined together into a mini-story, but on the whole both TwoSidesWide and TiSiWi can be dipped into any time (they can also be devoured in longer sittings, which is what I did when I first found TwoSidesWide).  In case there is any confusion, there is a helpful character reference page on the website.  Other extras on the website include a gallery showcasing the giftart that the studio has received and an events page with con reports from them.  Guest strips and standalone art are dotted through the comic archives.

The style of the artwork on both comics compliments the subject matter well – its bright, colourful and fun with some original character designs. Another plus is that it doesn’t get overly fussy, making the strips easy to read quickly. This suits the format of a comedy comic strip very well.  The artwork at the start of TwoSidesWide is a little bit less polished than some of the newer strips, but this is to be expected and doesn’t get in the way of the gags at all.  Both the artwork and writing on TwoSidesWide are sometimes a little hard to follow due to the sheer insanity of some of the situations but to be honest I consider this to be part of the style of this kind of strip, and I would much rather have the odd twinge of bemusement as a gag flies right over my head than be bored by something that isn’t funny.

Luckily though, funny this is!  If you like slice-of-life humour, geek humour, movie parodies, random jokes and insane situations then TwoSidesWide and TiSiWi will certainly put a smile on your face.

FanDanGo by Kate Holden

Posted in Column with tags , , , , on December 4, 2008 by comicmole

Another old Webcomic Mole offering, here is my column on Kate Holden’s webcomic, ‘FanDanGo’

Actually just a note before I post the column – since this was written Kate and a group of UK artists have started their own comic circle called IndieManga, they have an anthology title out to buy now called Origins, so check it out if you prefer your comics on paper!

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Like a festival stall full of objects from medieval to 60s style, ‘FanDanGo’ is a unique comic.  If you like a bit of fantasy, quirky unique characters, comedy moments, or even just seeing some chick kick ass with a sword, then you’ve come to the right place!

FanDanGo, by creator Kate Holden, began its run on current host, DrunkDuck, back in January 2006.  As of writing this column the comic is just beginning its sixth chapter of approximately 20 pages, and although there doesn’t seem to be a strict update schedule, the comic still updates fairly frequently.

Thus far the comic centres around a group of young ‘knights’.  In their world, knights can wield magical attacks and often have magical healing abilities, so they can take quite a beating too.  Most of them carry swords, with which different spells can be cast as they’re drawn.  The backdrop for this knightly action is eclectic – there’s a unique mixture of medieval fantasy style magic and swords, modern-day clothes and retro 60s colourwork.  As with any good fantasy romp, it turns out that the knights face a mysterious enemy…but they might face more bother from closer to home if the hot-headed sword-wielder Rekki or the spiky-trap-loving Juliet have anything to do with it.

The characters in FanDanGo are refreshingly down to earth – they banter and joke amongst each other like normal friends or acquaintances would.  Kate has also given them more British speech patterns, which is part of this comic’s unique charm.  She has also managed to pull off the elusive feat that a lot of webcomics strive towards – furthering the overall plot as well as having a snappy, standalone feel to each page.  This often takes the form of witty banter or a well-executed action scene.

Of course, as this comic is over two years old, the art has progressed over time so older pages do not have as polished a look to them as newer ones.  However, this is often the case with longer webcomics that authors work on over several years, and the older pages are certainly not unreadable.

Overall, the art style of FanDanGo could best be described as ‘varied’ or ‘experimental’.  Don’t worry too much though if those words strike fear into your heart!  This comic doesn’t break down into crazy abstraction or anything like that.  As this is Kate’s major personal project, she has simply tested various media and layout styles over time.  This can only help to improve the presentation of FanDanGo as it continues to grow, but some readers may find that, for example, a change from black-and-white artwork to colour is a bit jarring, but this will be down to the personal opinions of the individual reader.

However, this actually brings up a very interesting debate about webcomics.  Some readers prefer their webcomics to have one strong visual and writing style throughout, similar to a professionally published work however, others feel that a lot of professionally published comics are affected by publishers’ decisions, leading to clichéd storylines and ‘mainstream’ styles of artwork developing.  Both points of view are valid ones, and it would be interesting to hear readers’ thoughts on this – do you consider experimentation in webcomics to be self indulgence on the part of the authors or do you value the individuality of webcomics over more mainstream printed works?

Anyway, to get back to the subject at hand – the artwork for FanDanGo!  Kate’s artwork begins in black and white and remains that way until chapter three, where it switches into full colour for the rest of the comic.  The black and white pages are for the most part well balanced (with attention being paid to the use of pure black, pure white and grey tones) but the art really begins to come into its own in full colour.  She uses a range of bright, 60s-style, colours which complement the eclectic character and environment designs well.  Seeing the characters with coloured outfits and their correct hair colours really brings their personalities to life too.

Her drawing style seems to take quite a bit of inspiration from shonen (boys’) manga, rather than the dewy eyes and sparkles of shojo (girls’) manga.  The characters here are all quite masculine, the linework uses thick blacks and there are lots of action-packed fight scenes.  It’s actually refreshing to run across the odd character who you mistake for a guy until it’s shown that she’s a girl (rather than the usual shojo manga staple of having a load of men who look like women).

As mentioned earlier, in general the writing is very good – with good pacing on each page and some well-written witty banter between the characters.  However, as the first few chapters deal with the events of only one day and night, by the end of chapter five it feels as if an overall plot needs to be introduced so as to give readers a better idea of what is really going on.  As chapter six feels like a good time for this, we can only read on and see…

So whilst awaiting the next update, how about taking a look at the extras that come with FanDanGo?  As the comic is hosted on DrunkDuck, extras automatically include the ability for readers to comment on each page if they want to.  Kate also adds a few comments whenever she uploads a page, which is always a nice glimpse into her thoughts at the time.  Other extras include a forum and a fanart gallery.  There is a cast profile page too, but at the moment only one of the characters has a bio up there (Rekki).  There isn’t a gallery of standalone art on the website, but there is a link to Kate’s deviantArt account on the Links page, which holds a gallery containing quite a few standalone images of the characters, and some development work too.

There’s so much more that is worth mentioning about FanDanGo, but column space grows short!  All in all this is a fun and interesting read – it should appeal to anyone who loves a good sword scrap, but also those who like comics with a range of unique characters – the good, the bad, the witty, the angsty or even the deliciously evil!

Willie Hewes’ Webcomics

Posted in Column with tags , , , on November 6, 2008 by comicmole

(Mole note: all relevant website links are at the end of this column – enjoy!)

Willie Hewes' 'The Toll'

Willie Hewes is ‘a girl who likes sad things, but sometimes they are funny’.  In fact ‘Willie Hewes’ is the pen name of a comicker who currently lives in Bristol but hails originally from the Netherlands.  She has been making comics for about six years now and is showing no signs of stopping, having created the anthology website ‘Webcomic Shorts’ in 2007 and the small press publisher ‘ITCH’ in 2008.

Willie Hewes has collaborated with other small-press artists as a writer in the past, but mainly takes on both writing and art duties for her comics.  Several short comics, many with an otherworldly twist, can be found online nestling together on a page of her website.   Therefore today, instead of investigating one comic in depth, the Mole will be sweeping the ol’ magnifying glass over each short comic in turn for a brief review. Read on…

First up, ‘The Suckiest Angel’ is a funny little 5-page comic about an angel that doesn’t feel he’s as good as the rest of the heavenly host.   The art style is simple and in pure black and white, which gives a graphical feel to the pages.   It might have looked better with a little more detail, but in general this is a solid short comic offering.

‘Free Z’, another 5-pager, hits home because it is based on a true story and it has a message of acceptance to impart to its readers.  The main character is a teenager whose parents send him away to a therapy camp to try and ‘fix’ his homosexuality, and he wonders whether he will have to live a lie forever.   As well as the message, another stand out point about ‘Free Z’ is that the text is in the form of a poem, which is rare in the world of webcomics.   Art-wise, it is one of the artists’ older comics on the website so the drawing is less polished, but its well worth a read for its uniqueness.

‘The Toll’ is a beautifully coloured 4-page comic about a troll guarding a bridge – you can’t pass without paying a toll… I especially liked the way the troll was drawn, and the way the pages are coloured is imaginative and worth checking out.

‘White Saints Day’ is an 18-page comic which is a little sad, in a gentle way.   It is about the one day in a year when the statues of the ‘White Saints’ come to life to bless the people of their city.  However not everyone considers this a blessing… The art style used for the backgrounds, ink wash and hand-drawn linework, perfectly suits the medieval atmosphere of the comic.  The character designs don’t fit in quite as well, but the page layouts are effective with a good balance of pure black and white as well as shading.

Comedy 10-pager, ‘Hero/Villain’, is an amusing glimpse into the life of a terrible villain who meets a noble and pure hero.  This has ‘just a bit of fun’ written all over it, and a slightly more cartoony art style in the backgrounds complements this nicely.   Characters are a bit lacking in detail (especially round the hand area) but as this is a simple comedy it doesn’t impact on the reader’s enjoyment of the comic as much as it would on a more serious piece.

And last but not least, Willie has uploaded online versions of her 4 Gothboy mini comics, for our comic-reading convenience.   The characters appearing in these were introduced in her previous Gothboy webcomic, an older comic that no-longer updates, but has a large archive still online.   The 4 short stories are entitled: ‘Normal’, ‘The Thingy’, ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Ghost in the Machine’. In ‘Normal’ lead character No gets happy, and there is also a random happiness in the air in ‘The Thingy’ and ‘Just Dance’.  To contrast, ‘Ghost in the Machine’ is a gripping cyberpunk thriller about disembodied spirits in artificial bodies!  The artwork is a bit more unpolished in these comics – they’re mainly drawn with ink and sketchy charcoal.  However, the inked faces and hands and smudgy charcoal bodies of the characters are often really endearing and cute.

All in all some interesting comics to sink your teeth into, and most are short enough to read easily whilst relaxing with a cuppa!  In addition to these comics, Willie Hewes keeps a profile page and a blog on her website, as well as an interesting links page where she recommends some different webcomics and writes a little about each.

In my next post I will be quizzing Willie Hewes on the role of webcomics in the genre of sequential art, her inspirations in both writing and drawing comics, and whether she’s a fan of ice-cream… or maybe something completely different?  Catch you next time!

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Useful links:

Willie Hewes’ webcomic page

Start of the older Gothboy webcomic

Webcomic Shorts

ITCH Publishing

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