Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Webcomic Whenever - WIGU!

Jeffrey Rowland is one of the best success stories in webcomics. He started in 1999, with a sort-of okay comic called When I Grow Up. It wasn't bad, but it never really stood out from the crowd. After a few years Rowland gave up on it, and that's where these stories usually end.

But Rowland is a cooler-than-average dude, so instead of going back to his dayjob and occasionally awkwardly mentioning to coworkers at social gatherings that he used to be a cartoonist, he started another comic, called Wigu. Wigu was almost immediately better than Rowland's previous attempt. The characters were sharper, the writing was funnier, and the serial adventures were more delightfully ridiculous.

Wigu is the story of a young boy named Wigu Tinkle. He has a goth older sister named Paisley, an uber-professional mom, and a well-intentioned but somewhat misguided father. They go on adventures together.

The other thing about Wigu is that his imagination is the key to the continued existence of an alternate universe known as Butter Dimension 3. His favorite cartoon characters (stars of a show known as "Magical Adventures In Space") are actually from here, such as the flying potato Topato (who is actually made of poison) and his sidekick Sheriff Pony.

If all of this seems totally bizarre and insular, that's because it is. The whole thing is just this wonderful web of weird self-references and long absurdist tales.

It's funny, it's loveable, and it's almost hypnotic.

So anyways, Jeffrey Rowland did Wigu for a long time. But then he stopped, and started working on another, more traditional, comic called Overcompensating. Which was great. And he started a company called Topatoco, which is such an awesome thing it deserves its own post.

Now he's gone back to doing Wigu. As of like, a few days ago.

And you should read it.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kingdom Come Discussion Questions

Kingdom Come is a one shot apocalyptic graphic novel penned by Mark Waid and beautifully painted/illustrated by Alex Ross. It bears similarities to other one shot comic classics such as Watchmen and Busiek's Marvels. Some have criticized it for being too difficult to follow or for feeling like an excuse to get as many superheroes fighting each other as possible, but Kingdom Come's popularity and staying power can not be denied.

Here are the questions and answers:

1. Why does the story eventually hinge on Captain Marvel?

Captain Marvel is the only one with the link between humans and metahumans. In a way, he is both. This represents the battle between the two factions and Captain Marvel ends up being both the problem and the solution.

2. Some criticize Kingdom Come for feeling like a "who's who" of the Marvel Universe. Did you feel this way? Did you feel cheated that the characters with the most dialogue are the standards: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman?

It's most definitely a two way road. I know little of the DC Universe, so I felt lost with so many seemingly pointless secondary characters. On the other hand, the DC trinity of Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman feels a bit stale. A greater focus on Green Lantern or (the very crucial to the plot) Captain Marvel would have been more interesting.

3. Alex Ross paints amazing comic art, there's no denying that. Is his realistic style right for the fantastical world of superheroes?

Some criticize Alex Ross for his art feeling like Norman Rockwell is painting superheroes. Much like Dave McKean, his art is great for covers, but sometimes overwhelming for a full on comic. I think on special occasions, Ross's art brings an extra touch to the story (especially in this one, bringing the reality of Armageddon home) but in my opinion it should be reserved for covers and pricy comic art auctions.

4. Why does Superman care about human beings so much if he is inhuman? With Armageddon imminent, should he make an exception to his view that war should be fought with minimum human sacrifice and kill to succeed?

Superman didn't care about human beings long after Lois Lane was killed and Magog got all up in his program. Only after his hometown was destroyed did Superman realize his passion for justice and helping the human race. Superman's unwillingness to kill is commendable, but it is too idealistic. Magog was a hero for finally killing the Joker, it's what people wanted. Trying to work with the government and only punishing mass murdering villains seems like a practice in futility.

5. The most liked DC and Marvel graphic novels/storylines seem to be the ones that eschew past storylines and decide to do an alternate universe one-shot. (Age of Apocalypse, Watchmen, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) Why is this? What are the pros and cons of these one-shots?

Jeremiah vehemently argues that these one-shots could not be done without the known superheroes in weekly comics. I find this argument questionable, but in either case I think this brings to attention that comics writers are hugely handicapped by staying with continuity and not angering long time fans. When those restraints are lifted, an interesting, acclaimed, and meaningful story seems more likely.

6. Why has kryptonite has been eliminated as a weakness for Superman? What is Superman's importance in the story?

Kryptonite was likely eliminated because as the club put it, the least of Superman's worries should be a rock. Superman, though he doesn't realize it, is the catalyst for what the rest of the superheroes do. Everyone looks up to him, he is the closest thing to a god on Earth. His turmoil regarding his moral ground on killing is the driving force of the story.

7. What is the significance of Wonder Woman being kicked out of her Amazonian tribe?

Wonder Woman is the devil on Superman's shoulder, encouraging him to be less of a total wuss and actually get something done. He's Superman, for heaven's sake. This was a plot point for Wonder Woman to give her the excuse to be angry and bloodthirsty.

8. The world is coming to an end in Kingdom Come. Was there enough build-up and tension? Did you feel that Armageddon was really going to happen?

Personally, I didn't get the ticking clock feel or the tension that one would reading Watchmen or Tricked by Alex Robinson. Sure, Armageddon might happen, but Superman and Batman are on the case. I never felt worried for the fate of the human race or this particular world.

9. We witness all events through the eyes of Norman McKay, a minister. Why?

McKay is essentially Ebeneezer Scrooge traveling around seeing how crappy the world is now that Superman isn't around. The story also makes use of many apocalyptic biblical verses to draw parallels between the two. McKay is a necessary narrator, he plays the uneducated horrified spectator so that things can be explained to him and as a result, the reader.

10. Much like Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen, Superman in this graphic novel has given up on the human race, exiling himself rather than helping in the time of need. Why should these god-like creatures care about the human race?

Kind of similar to that other question, sorry. I found it to be a bit of a copout that the most powerful man in the universe just happens to be moping in Kansas during the apocalypse. Similarly, Dr. Manhattan hangs out on Mars while the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Both needed a tragic catalyst (love/death) to decide that oh yeah, we should stop the world from ending.

11. Why did Aquaman refuse to join the cause?

Aquaman's a jerk! He was bitter for lack of attention! Well, kind of. Aquaman bitterly stated that he protects 70% of the Earth with no help, so why should he help with that remaining bit? What a jerk indeed.

12. The X-Men series, Kingdom Come, and numerous other comics have tackled the issue of racism, pointing out the tension between mutants/metahumans and humans. Has this become a tired cliche in comics? What other societal issues have comics successfully or unsuccessfully tackled?

In my opinion, racism in comics has been done and redone. X-Men is a great series, but not necessarily because of its ability to tackle racism. I'm a little tired of the superhero/human relationship, I think it's time to explore other issues in comics. (Maybe more politics in the vein of Ex Machina?

13. Superheroes and the government have always been at odds, superheroes often favoring vigilantism over government-abiding actions. The ending of Kingdom Come implies an agreement between the U.N. and Superman. Could a government-sanctioned justice league work?

It would never work, the superheroes are more powerful than the government and the U.N., why would they ever listen? What could the government possibly offer a superhero that she or he doesn't already have? Plus, can you imagine the bureaucracy behind, say, Batman punching Joker in the face?

14. What are your thoughts on the reinterpretations of characters such as the Flash and Green Lantern?

The Flash was apparently a combination of old timey Flash who wore the goofy helmet and a newer Flash who is mega powerful and so fast that he's in between dimensions. Even our resident Green Lantern expert couldn't decide which version this one was, so that's still a mystery to us. Old guy knight Green Lantern is all we know.