Friday, April 27, 2007

There's Always Porn

A simple truism identifies this week's webcomic - There's Always Porn. (NSFW) Yes, it's yet another adult oriented comic, so I recommend the kiddos run off and read Mr. Moo's Day Out.  It has pretty colors, aliens, you actually get to turn the pages just like a print comic, and I like it quite a bit.

Written by the prolific and talented, Wiz Rollins, and drawn by the mysterious Bob Sugar, There's Always Porn isn't exactly a newbie effort.  Rollins' credits would take up more space than the review and a perusal of his ComicSpace page is certainly worth the time.  Sugar however, won't pop up on a search beyond this project, though there are certainly rumors that he's a known artist working under an alias.  I'll not be a monger, though, and instead will allow you to draw your own conclusions.  No, that's not a hint for the conspiracy nits.

The comic is fairly new, having started in January this year, but it's off to a good start.  They did manage to time a stint of guest strips to coincide with this review - but the talent they attracted is a good indication of the comic's jovial quality. &bnsp;
It's true, the premise hasn't been new since the 70's, but TAP brings forth scenarios Oscar and Felix would have never explored.

Possibly the first thing that should be mentioned is that the comic itself is not, in fact, porn.  Porn is discussed, porn is depicted, but porn is not created with the comic. &nbps;In the comic, yes, but not with it.  Also, while content may occasionally be shocking to some, it's clearly not intended as a shock-a-day gross out.  I'll admit that I may be ill suited to making such judgements, but I've not run across anything in the comic I wasn't previously aware of and okay with.  No, they're angling for laughs not gasps, and they get those laughs by presenting their material in such a casual fashion.  The vernacular isn't annoyingly cloy, nor is it medically cold, it's comfortable - and that's important to maintaining a realistic feel.

The artwork is stylistic and cartoonish, pairing nicely with the writing. &bnsp;Body postures and angles are accurately portrayed, and with this comic that must be a bit of a challenge from time to time.  Facial expressions are varied and carry emotion well, as does the coloring where mood is sometimes expressed rather subtly in the backgrounds and shading.  I especially enjoy the details in clothing, backgrounds and props.

Certainly for mature audiences, and not exactly safe for work, There's Always Porn is a crowd pleaser.  Favorite line - "I'm pretty sure that would turn my vagina into an almost impossibly dense singularity."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Raymondo Person

Where else could one possibly go for AIDS weilding cheese and oppressed tampons? I dare so nowhere but Chicken Nation, home of this week's comic - Raymondo Person. This is another Web MA - so the young ones should be off to read something entertaining and age appropriate like Able and Baker.

I need to start out by saying that creator Patrick Alexander is clearly disturbed. Not just a little bit, either. He's quite profoundly distrubed. If perusing the Raymondo Person archives doesn't convince you of that, have a look at Cunt!, his 24 hour comic submission for 2005. The man clearly needs help, but he's funny so we'll let him free to roam.

*coughs* Anyway...

At first glance the artwork may seem less than impressive, especially as most of the characters are little more than stylized stick figures, but take the time to look a bit more closely. The backgrounds, shading, character expression and basic composition are really quite good; leaving one with the impression that the artwork is really a matter of style, and not mearly a crutch. A quick glance at his commission work firms up that impression rather nicely. He also draws a really mean penis, which has to be some kind of accomplishment.

The dialogue is the clincher here - alternating between something that vaguely smacks of a plot and shear unadulterated offense, I never know what I'm going to find when I click that link. Will Satan stop by Raymondo's house again? To what perverted depth might Mabel plunge? Will there be shit explosions? For sweet mercy's sake - will someone wind up drinking it??? On more than one occasion I've found myself reading the comic, staring in horror, moving on to something else, then coming back, reading it again and finally chuckling. It's often a bit like a slap to the brain with the remnants of a wet dream. (There's an ad worthy quote....)

The website design is sparce, but reasonably easy to navigate. If there is a fixed update schedule, I haven't been able to figure it out, but you can choose to be notified of updates through Live Journal, RSS or ATOM. As mentioned before, Patrick Alexander does accept commission work and I agree with him that his work would make outstanding gifts for your more twisted friends and family.

I can't honestly say that you're all going to like this one, but I certainly do. It's not too terribly far in, so start with the first one and work your way through. You've got nothing to lose but your greater sense of well being. *grins*

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Toy Division

If you're under the age of 18, go read Beaver and Steve it's a wonderful comic that I very much enjoy; there is nothing here for you now.  Shoo.  Wait a minute!  Get back here!  If you're under 18, what the hell are you doing reading BetaPwned?  Kids these days, just begging for a whacking I tell you....

Speaking of a well deserved whacking, today I'm serving up another one of my top-ten favorites - Toy Division.  It's almost a shame I love this comic as much as I do because this review is just plain hard to write.  The characters are the Nazi equivalent of Chibi, fetish laden cupie dolls, adorable abominations, and highly entertaining.

It's not often I come across a work that could be described as both scandalous and charming, let alone a work swimming in BDSM references and casual violence.  The creator's ability to be interesting and arousing without being blatant is wonderfully refreshing, the talent punctuated by the brazenness of the content.  The artwork is mostly tone on tone, though color comics are sprinkled about, as are some very spiffy interactive flash works.  I especially enjoyed playing dress up - who knew you could accessorize with a speculum?

My only real complaint is the update schedule, mainly that there doesn't seem to be one.  I suppose I could just chalk it up to well trained dominance - we're rewarded when the master sees fit, not on a schedule.  *grins*

I was once told that erotica is the thinking man's porn, a statement I think Toy Division illustrates quite nicely.  Do not mistake my brevity for disinterest, I love Toy Division.  I love it for it's uniqueness, for it's elegant and engaging artwork, and for it's brilliantly charming dialogue.  It's just so damn hard for me to describe without doing it a horrible disservice.  Be you of proper age and inclination, please take a look through the Toy Division Archives.  You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Thinking Ape Blues

I'm going to start this off simply - The Thinking Ape Blues isn't for everyone.  It's an intellectual and opinionated sarcasm, a sometimes brutally honest view through the eyes of a pragmatic realist fraught with iconic references and philosophical ravings.  Then again, it's not all collegiate fodder... while one strip may contain references to the Dali Lama, Hunter S. Thompson, Cher, Paul Stanley, the Keebler Elves, and Ronnie James Dio, another may be nothing more than an elaborate poop joke.

The creator, Mark Poutenis, originally published The Thinking Ape Blues solely in print; gracing the pages of no less than nine publication including The Boston Weekly Dig and the New York Waste where it can still be found.  While initially challenged by the differences between print and web publication, Mark has clearly hit a more comfortable stride; evidenced by both a prolific marketing campaign and a new series of single panel voting incentives.  A nearly complete archive, picturesque navigation, a brilliant About Page, and a product line that includes the ability to place any archived comic on a T-shirt testifies to his professionalism almost as much as his artwork.

Speaking of his artwork, my only real criticism is that he frequently seems to dislike it.  Reading the blog posts often leaves me wondering just who's comic he's commenting on.  Mind you, I believe the self-depreciation is genuine, it simply isn't deserved.  Almost exclusively drawn in black and white, the artwork is consistent, detailed, creative, and expressive.  Any cultural icons appearing in the strip are accurately and stylistically portrayed, allowing for both easy recognition and comedic effect.  The backgrounds are supportive, interesting, and drawn with distinct attention to accurate perspective.  The character's body postures and facial expressions easily convey both tone and mood without script competition.  There is quite literally nothing to complain about here, it's just damn good.

The writing is equally impressive, delivering necessary complexity without being overly verbose.  Though occasionally crossing the boundary from thoughtful sarcasm into sardonic ranting, the overall feel of the comic is strangely and pleasantly neutral, neither inciting nor depressing.  It should be noted, however, that it appears Mark and I fall on roughly the same end of the political, religious, and philosophical spectrum and that may be why he has failed to draw my ire.

The character concept is clever and well constructed, especially considering it's a main cast of only three.  The Progress Brothers - Abe, Ben, and Carl seem to represent three aspects of our very humanity.  If Ben is described as "being stuck between the heavens and a hole in the ground", Carl must be heaven and Abe must be the hole. Perhaps meant to symbolize the three divisions of the Freudian psyche, the stages between primal urge and profound logic, or some other philosophical or psychological classifications I'm simply not intelligent enough to pontificate on, the characters are engaging and complete.  This seemingly simply set up allows for a nearly casual introspection on any number of topics.  I especially admire his ability to discuss difficult, emotionally charged subjects with both honesty and compassion.

Ape Shit, the creator's single panel comic which serves as the weekly voting incentive, allows for more gag oriented expression, but they're equally subject to cultural examination and are certainly worth the vote.

Mark Poutenis is the Samuel Clemens of webcomics.  To be both poignant and witty is a rare gift indeed.  The Thinking Ape Blues updates every Tuesday, and compilations are available here.  (These are coffee table companions if I've ever seen 'em. They're practically guaranteed to spark discussion.)  Ape Shit is made available every Friday, and past panels are available in their own archive.