Enter the Baby comments

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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

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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

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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.