Wednesday, May 23, 2007


This isn't something I'm going to do regularly. It makes a little piece of me sad... no, not sad... just less happy. Today's comic requires a tiny investment in order to read the entire archive. Stop where you are, no running away, no clicky. Clicky bad. Hear me out...

First of all, Gypsy! is a great comic that I'll be rambling about endlessly as soon as we clear the subscription hump. Secondly, you're getting full access to all the Girlamatic comics for a measly $2.95 a month. Less than three bucks, and as the current comic of every series is available for free, it would seem that subscription fee is only really necessary to get you through the archives. Personally, I think the price is well worth it.

Now, on with the comic.

Gypsy! is a black and white story based comic created by the prolific John Peters who "once delved into the deepest, darkest recesses of his own soul only to discover a half-used roll of paper towels and dozens of empty, rusted Dr. Pepper cans." If you're hip to the indie world, you may know John as the illustrator of Forty Winks, Pixie, or dozens of other things. I mean, damn.

Other works aside, Gypsy makes me uneasy. Or rather, the people that "care" for her make me uneasy. The plot is compelling enough to have hooked me for good within the first few pages, and it may very well have been the sense of unease that did the hooking. These people aren't right. They're not evil, they're just so pointedly apathetic toward Gypsy you ought to feel sorry for her, but they're so casual in their indifference that you don't. It's like indigenous nudity on TV - just a slight change in setting and you'd have a whole different set of feelings. I don't want to go into the plot too much here for two reasons: One, the story isn't over yet. Summarizing a few chapters is pointless. Two, The plot sounds ridiculous shoved into a brief paragraph. This one is meant to unfold slowly, pulling the reader from event to event along a winding path. As the story opens, Gypsy is presented in a catatonic state. Seven chapters in, she hasn't shifted from that state. I don't get the feeling she'll be doing so soon. Oddly enough, that hasn't stopped her from engaging in an adventure.

The writing here is as absolutely solid as the artwork. The dialogue supports the characters as well as advancing the plot without overpowering the artwork, allowing for multifaceted character expression. Quirky remarks and minor sidelines are presented and allowed to fade away without distracting from the plot. The artwork is clean, but certainly not without detail, and the shading defines both light and perspective quite well. John clearly has no difficulty with body postures and movement, and the overall character design fits the story perfectly. Though it's not something that's often mentioned in reviews - the panel work here is brilliant. While there is never any difficulty following the progression, they're rarely staged in a typical format. Frequently, bordered panels appear over top a single borderless panel; a technique that actually seems to inject a sense of drama, environment, and even time. Another aspect seldom discussed bears witness to it's importance here - the text style itself assists the flow and emotion of the dialogue, often granting the characters tone that could not be portrayed otherwise.

Currently in the midst of the seventh chapter, Gypsy! updates Sundays and will most assuredly be available in book form once complete. Website wise, I find the current page background distracting and I wish there were small directional buttons at the top of each comic to compliment those at the bottom. Certainly not deal breakers by any means. He makes up for it with a really charming Cast page. Consider yourself warned, however, there are spoilers in them thair descriptions.

I suggest this - go to the site. Read the freebies. If you're even mildly interested, cough up the three bucks and read the rest. You'd be supporting deserving artists, and you'd be well rewarded for it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I'll never eat another gingerbread man.

You see, I have empathy for the little guys now.  I can quite vividly, for example, imagine their terror at the prospect of a glass of milk.  See their bloodied bodies left dismembered on a plate.  Pity their joy at being digested.

Thanks a lot, GingerDead.  Christmas will never be the same... though Halloween just might become another reason to bake.

Yes, yes... it's time for another rambling late night review.  This time, I take on my favorite macabre cookie, GingerDead.  Written with a dark slant, the comic manages a Gothic edge without the blatant effort of other works.  Yes, the title is a bit punny, but the writing is not.  Instead, it's a mixture of haiku, quiet contemplation and gentle humor.  The writing itself feels of winter, even without visual aid, a feat I quite admire.

The art is simple, dramatic splashes of red where appropriate, backed by shades of black and grey.  Line work is purposely rough, but certainly not sloppy, a technique that compliments the feel of both artwork and writing.  The characters quite easily manage to be both disturbing and cute.  GingerDead and Lenore have a familiar warmth, despite the former's habit of being eaten and the latter's utter lack of flesh.  I would love to see Lenoir in doll form, preferably munching on some flowers.

Easy enough to navigate, though a button leading to the first comic would be a nice addition, the site is minimalistic in design.  The archive can be found in both date and title formats, a few icons and desktops are available, and it would also appear the creator has some stock in Second Life.  GingerDead is not a laugh riot.  It's not intended to be.  It is, however, charming, quite amusing, and well worth the read.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


I seriously thought about starting and ending this review by simply stating that Achewood is like Winnie the Pooh on anti-depressant laced crack.  Fin.

Then I changed my mind.

The comparison, oddly enough, is rather apt.  The characters of Achewood do have a very "based on stuffed animals" kind of charm, and if the About section is in any way indicative of reality, they are.  Of course, in this version Pooh only wears bling and a thong and piglet is some sort of... I don't know... otter perhaps?  Okay, the art isn't stellar.  No one cares.  We read Achewood because it's seriously crazy funny.  Also, it's amazingly educational - did you know that you're presented with a 1982 Subaru Brat when you enter hell?  That shit has got to be important.

Unfortunately for stressed out reviewers, Achewood doesn't exactly present itself in such a way that you can outline the content in four or five neat paragraphs.  Though there are clear plot lines, there's also this callous and unrelenting disregard for sanity.  In the midst of a storyline regarding Philippe's bid for the presidency, for example, Ray finds a talking shoe with a dysfunctional family and a penchant for stocks.  I mean, damn... the whole storyline was wacky hilarity, but how do you summarize that?  Clearly, there's just no point in trying.

Achewood has been running for nearly 6 years now, having launched October 1st of 2001.  Though there doesn't seem to be a firm update schedule, a new comic does appear 3-5 times a week and an RSS feed is available for instant update notification.  Actually, there are a number of things available: Dork Resources, Desktops, Pictures of girls in underwear winning contests having nothing to do with Achewood, character blogs, Radio Achewood, a huge and varied store, the ability to purchase a signed print of any comic... you name it, Achewood's got it.  One of my favorite extra features is the Current Toddler Status in which creator Chris Onstad posts various parental observations.  Achewood also sports a subscription only version which promises a "huge archive of rare, multi-format Achewood content", but I'm poor so I have absolutely no idea what that might look like.  Actually, the subscription is only $12 so I'm apparently more lazy than poor.  It's important to note, however, that it's not a lack of love for the comic that has keep me from subscribing and I'm sure I will at some point.  If for no other reason, I'll do it to get my hands on the entire Nate Small novella.  There's no reason for Beef to keep those goods to himself.

I have one last thing to say for Achewood.  It's fucking addictive.  This review took me 4 hours to write.  4 fucking hours. It's not even a good review.  It's aimless and rambling.  It is, however, well researched.  Yes - you got a crappy review because I spent 4 hours reading through the archives.  Archives I've already read.  Twice.

If that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is.