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!
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!