Enter the Baby comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Image from Amazon for review purposes only.)

The third book I received for Christmas is Brian Anderson’s Enter the Baby (2016), the fourth compilation of Dog Eat Doug strips. Great art, imaginative story arcs (parodies of the Devil went down to Georgia, and Indiana Jones), and occasionally howl-out-loud funny set-ups.

On the whole, Dog Eat Doug is a simple daily strip (newspaper and online) about 3-month-old lab puppy Sophie, and her sidekick human baby Dougie, and the games they play with each other. Sometimes, the games are for who gets to eat Dougie’s dinner, other times they’re about who can get into trouble the most creatively. The house is also occupied by two alien cats (Chewie and Equinox), Mom, and Dad (presumably Brian himself). But, there are a lot of pop culture references, and Dougie sometimes gets toys that include Hellboy, a Dalek, and whatever else is popular at the moment.

There was one customer reviewer on Amazon who complained that the strips in this particular book did not contain any Kung Fu jokes. That’s the problem of parodying pop culture – some people take it too literally. Sorry, no Kung Fu here. Just off-the-wall silliness and a funny joke cover. Recommended in paperback form, because it’s more fun to hold the paper strips in your hands.

The Great Stanky Creek Outdoorfest book comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Image from Amazon for review purposes only.)

The second webcomic-related book I got for Christmas is the Hubris Great Stanky Creek Outdoorfest, by Greg Cravens (2016). Greg runs Hubris both on his site, and GoComics, as well as The Buckets. If you follow Hubris, then you know the story and the quality of the artwork (which is great of course) (Greg did add some new filler material specifically for this book to help entice the regular online readers).

The Great Stanky follows Hubris as he and his Outdoor Galore store host the first annual Stanky Creek Fest, an outdoor competition that includes BMX biking, skateboarding, flaming hacky sack, and duct tape kayaking. Guest one-off judges include Jamie Hyneman, Steven Tyler and Tonya Harding. Characters include Hubris’ half-brother Paste, his friend Kelly, Bob, and Durnell Hawk (Tony Hawk’s drunk cousin). We also get an early appearance of young punk Nikki, who later becomes a regular at the store.

One key element in the fest is that Team US is made up of readers at the regular site, including Allen, Crazy Al, and me. I show up in two strips as the guy who fails to make it into the rock climbing event. (But, I get my revenge in the second annual fest, where I ride people through the swamp to avoid getting leeches inbetween my toes. I don’t believe in leeches.)

In short, The Great Stanky is a great read. It’s funny, it’s got great art, and it’s got copyright-free (because of parody) images of people you may have even seen on TV! Recommended.

Romeo and/or Juliet comments

(All rights belong to their owners.
Image from Amazon for review purposes only.)
I got 3 webcomics-related books for Christmas this year. First up, Ryan North’s 2016 Romeo and/or Juliet choose-your-own adventure classic. Ryan is the creator of Dinosaur Comics on the GoComics site, and writer for The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl comic (I talked about one volume of SG last year). Romeo and/or Juliet is a follow-up to the 2013 To Be or Not To Be: That is the Adventure (the result of a kickstarter project that raised $20,000).

At its essence, Romeo/Juliet is a 475-entry text adventure, where you choose to start out as either Romeo or Juliet, and periodically you get the option to switch back and forth again. Along the way, you can also choose to enter 3 more books-within-a-book (based on Macbeth, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the “Pyramus and Thisbe” mini-play from Midsummer Night’s Dream), as well as enter a parody of a computer text adventure game (Nurse Quest), where you play Juliet’s nurse when she’s supposed to deliver a message to Romeo. There’s even a secret, unlockable character (but, as you’re playing the book, it’s pretty easy to discover it by accident, so it’s not all that secret).

The writing is typical of Ryan’s Dinosaur Comics, meaning it’s silly and fake serious by turns, and very tongue-in-cheek. There are a LOT of endings, which go off in all kinds of directions, from “Romeo and Juliet both die,” to “EVERYONE dies,” to “everyone lives happily ever after in giant robot suits.” Which one is the real ending? It’s up to you to choose. In Nurse Quest, there’s also a Caesar-shift cipher message you need to crack, but that’s doable within the game, and you don’t need to puzzle out the plaintext yourself if you don’t want to. I just like ciphers.

Ok, so why mention a text adventure book here? Because somewhere around 60 artists contributed to the cover, the Shakespeare hearts (which show the path William chose when he stole from this book to write his play), and all the many ending illustrations. These guys include Nicholas Gurewitch (PBF), Christopher Hastings (Dr. McNinja), Jeph Jacques (Questionable Content), Dave Kellett (Sheldon, Drive), Karl Kerschel (The Abominable Charles Christopher), Gisele Legace (Menage a 3) and Sam Logan (Sam and Fuzzy), among others. A lot of the artwork is silly, but some of it is absolutely awesome. It’s all good.

After starting the book, I eventually began mapping out all the choices, because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss one. In the end, I’d hit every paragraph except 2 (which were added intentionally to foil readers that didn’t want to go through in a nonlinear fashion. Then I picked the path that took me to the unlockable character ending, and most of the subquests, and played again all the way through from start to end.  And, I do have to say, the second read-through is the more enjoyable one.

Overall, Romeo and/or Juliet is a huge book, and a fun read, if you like Ryan’s writing style. I do.

Stand Still, Stay Silent comments

(Images from the SSSS site, used for review purposes only.
All rights belong to their owners.)

While I’ve kind of stopped posting anything new here, I am still looking for webcomics that I like to read. It’s getting a little harder, but once in a while it does happen. Case in point, Minna Sundberg’s Stand Still, Stay Silent. It started in November, 2013, and won the 2015 Reuben for Best Online Comic – Long Form. Set partly in Iceland, and largely in the Nordic countries (Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark), SSSS tells the story of an unlikely group of explorers enlisted to delve deep into the “Silent world” of northern Europe 90 years after the fall of the (at the time) “modern world.” The prologue starts out a bit slow, with a number of couples, friends and families escaping the cities to find refuge from “the rash illness.” Victims of the rash eventually die, and a cure is never found. But, over the following decades, certain individuals are born with an immunity to the disease. These people can freely leave the safe enclaves and explore the ruins of the rest of the world; those without this immunity must wear breathers and undergo a strict washdown procedure when they return indoors. After the prologue, the story jumps to the “present,” where four greedy cowards, Taru, husband and wife Torbjorn and Siv, and retired General Torbun, have presented a proposal to the Icelandic government to send a group of explorers deep into the Silent World to see what they can recover. The initial concept is to use the money to pay 8 or so people to do the actual dirty work. The government agency supplying the money only ok’d the project with the expectation that Taru and company were going to be in the party themselves, and only signed off on a fraction of the cash needed. The result is that the four end up having to trick relatives into going on a suicide mission in a malfunctioning ATV tread van, with little preparation and no training.

The party consists of Tuuri (a naive non-immune girl that wants to see the world, Finnish) and her cousin, Lalli (a scout and mage, taking the place of Tuuri’s brother, Onni). Onni is a strong mage, but also a coward. All three are related to Taru. Emil (an insufferably arrogant former student and cleanser (uses fire to kill trolls and monsters), Swedish. Torbjorn’s nephew.) Sigrun (a female hunter and military Captain, Danish) and Mikkel (cook, farmer and healer, Danish), both suckered in by retired general Torbun. The goal is to go deeper into the forbidden lands than anyone else has in order to find libraries that have books, which can be sold on the black market by Torbjorn for massive profits. None of the suckers (I mean, heroes) know that at the outset. Over time, they’re joined by Reynir (20), an Icelander non-immune sheepherder who ran away from his family of adventurers to have an adventure of his own and accidentally stowed away in a crate of food redirected to our heroes. And, by a kitten that gets rescued from a beast, and becomes the team’s mascot (which is good, because cats can detect trolls).

(One of the many information pages that help fill out the ends of the chapters.)

The world has changed in 90 years, with the rash turning humans into trolls, and animals into beasts. A few of the clean humans have magical abilities, either as summoners or capable of blessing others from the dangers of the Silent World. Onni and Lalli are mages and can contact each other in the dream world. Reynir is a latent mage who can enter other mages’ dream worlds. In general, though, most combat is against rash-created monster, with rifles, explosives, and a lot of other old-world tech. The story unfolds in a slow-but-steady pace, that is comedic, horrific and sad by turns. The artwork starts out good, and gets much, much better as Minna improves.

(A train equipped with anti-troll features.)

The characters are all unique, and pretty much speak languages that the others can’t understand well, or at all. This is played for laughs, but can also be used to cause confusion and conflict between the team members. The combat sequences are exciting and well-drawn. Overall, I like SSSS a lot, although it could have used some editing. Volume 1 ran 973 pages (not counting the double-page spreads). Volume 2 started in October, 2018, and is only up to 34 or so pages. Minna is going on a 2-3 week break, and the next chapter won’t start until some time in January, so if you plan on binge-reading the series, be prepared for delays when you finally catch up with everyone else.

(Lalli can have bad dreams.)

Yeah, I like Stand Still, Stay Silent. The adults are frustratingly self-absorbed and obtuse, but the main heroes are pretty plucky and determined. Be warned, though, there are no real feel-good endings here, and not everyone survives the first adventure unscathed. I do highly recommend SSSS to anyone that likes tech-based fantasy adventure.

(Mikkel, Sigrun, Emil, Lalli and Tuuri.)


(Good Heavens and Steak intercept Helvetica.)

I’ve checked out Helvetica a few times over the last couple years, and I finally decided to read through the full archives to find out what the story is. It’s written and drawn by j.n.wiedle, who is also currently working as the colorist on Barbarous (reviewed here a couple months ago). The comic is very much off-and-on, having started in 2011, and only reaching 96 pages. The last update was in Dec., 2017, and there’s little evidence of a new page coming out in the near future. But, if you like Barbarous, Helvetica is worth at least a visit.

(Buck trashes Heaven’s apartment.)

The story is simple – when you die, you go to the land of the dead, minus your memories, and the first word(s) you utter becomes your name. Helvetica is a recent arrival, and he’s obsessed with finding out what he’d been like when he was alive. Along the way, he befriends Autumn, a female dead that works at an ice cream parlor and fancies herself to be a detective writer. Additional characters include Good Heavens and Steak, the greeters that help Helvetica get his footing in this new environment; Lucy, a detective and Autumn’s inspiration as a writer; and a pair of thugs that want Steak to return to their gang under the leadership of the insane “Buck.”

(Autumn and Lucy.)

Helvetica as a character is a whiny little brat, but the rest of the cast is more interesting, and the story concept still has a lot of promise, while the character designs and background artwork are good. This webcomic is worth putting on your radar. And, who knows, if wiedle gets enough patreons, she may afford to take it up again. Recommended if pink doesn’t bother you too much.

In search of good webcomics.