Larry Cruz, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

The ironic awfulness off ‘Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff’

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 12.15.12 AMNot too long ago, I became aware of something called “seapunk.” After steampunk and deiselpunk, I had initially thought this was another strange technology-based trend based on the legitimate “cyberpunk” where geeks were far more interested in the aesthetic qualities rather than anything making sense. As it turns out, “seapunk” is far less serious.

Unlike the other variations, seapunk leans far more heavily on the “punk” part. There’s a ton of bright colors — teals, purples and greens — plus mermaids, dolphins and other aquatic life.

There’s also the inherent silliness, which includes ’90s nostalgia. Search “seapunk” on Tumblr (the alleged breeding ground for this microculture) and you run into the sorts of jerky animated GIFs and visual callbacks to Windows 95. While it may not necessarily be aesthetically pleasing, its off-putting, incongruous visuals are part of the charm.

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‘The XII’ takes us into familiar wastelands

The XII TemplateThere’s a theory that the American obsession with the apocalypse stems from Manifest Destiny: As settlers pushed west, they encountered things that would strain the threads tying them to civilization. Storms rolling across the flat plains could be seen from man miles away, and they posed a considerable threat to the livelihoods of entire communities. During the pitch-black night, there would be ominous noises — frightening howls, thunderclaps, maybe even the unexpected sound of a human voice.

There would be precious few things you can do in a world where law is stretched thin, except keep a well-stocked cellar and a loaded shotgun.

That may explain why a lot of North American post-apocalyptic fiction tends to look like the Wild West. While we may think we’re too cool for cowboys and Indians, it may have just morphed to satisfy the primal survival instincts of modern thrill-seekers. After all, aren’t armored, nomadic warlords just bandits and desperadoes with a shiny new coat of paint? It’s probably no accident that The Walking Dead‘s Rick Grimes dressed a lot like a frontier sheriff, or why the women in Katniss Everdeen’s district look as if they stepped out of a little house on the prairie.

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Normalcy among the surrealism in ‘Opplopolis’

bcoversd_1(This post contains spoilers for Opplopolis Proceed at your own caution.)

This week, Kit Roebuck’s Opplopolis starts Issue 14 as the entire saga slowly but surely approaching its planned conclusion with Issue 20. It’s been a strange journey thus far, full of odd little left turns. There’s a moment, for example, that seems to be a visual homage to The Shining. Agnes, an artist, is invited to a high-class celebrity party where she’s already a bit out of place; she even needs her clothes ripped to shreds just so she can fit in. Thinking it a public service to the fashion-impaired, manufactured pop celebrity Vesper takes a pair of scissors to the artist’s dowdy outfit to create a new dress that shows a bit more skin.

Agnes decides to cut loose a little on the dance floor, but her way to the bathroom she encounters a slightly disturbing sight: When she peeks in an open door, she sees two men wearing animal masks while playing a card game. Eventually, a third person wearing an upside-down cat mask shuts the door in Agnes’ face (revealing a word that forms the comic’s central mystery).

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In ‘Widdershins,’ bustin’ makes you feel good

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The female heroes of Kate Ashwin’s Widdershins share a lot of personality traits. Harriet “Harry” Barber, for example, is a cool, collected bounty hunter of the pre-Victorian era who’s often shown pondering a mystery while puffing smoke from her pipe. She’s also a bit of a loner; her face is frequently twisted in a tired scowl, and there’s a slight bags under her eyes. There’s a little bit of Rorschach in her, too, as interesting clues are greeted with a “hrm.” She’s definitely the smartest person in the room, but she’s also proud. Her reluctance to accept any help is driven, partially, by her need to prove that she and she alone solved the case.

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Discovering Boulet with ‘Kingdom Lost’

Page00I didn’t know who Boulet was until this week. I imagine this statement is going to hang over my head, more damning with the passing of each year, like being a big fan of comics, yet having no idea who Hergé is. You’d be all, “Get out of here, you uncultured swine.” Fortunately, we live in an age in which Wikipedia exists. After a few searches it’s easy to catch up and go, “Yeah … I’m totally into Boulet.” A nervous giggle may or may not follow.

Who is Boulet? It turns out it’s the pen name of Gilles Roussel, one of France’s earliest and most famous webcomic creators. Bouletcorp has been running since 2004, and its strips have been collected in seven printed volumes.

His talents are also on display in other French print works, such as the sword-and-sorcery parody comic Donjon Zénith. Stateside, Boulet has illustrated Augie & The Green Knight, a children’s book written by fellow webcomic creator Zachary Wiener that managed to raise an amazing $384,000 through Kickstarter, totally smashing its humble $30,000 goal. (What’s being done with all that extra cash? It’s going to fund the printing of 800 copies of the book, which will be donated to libraries.)

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Read Kit Roebuck’s ‘Opplopolis,’ now in print form

Opplopolis1CoverKit Roebuck’s work first came to my attention with Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life, a   webcomic that took advantage of the online format and used creative layouts to heighten the sense of loneliness and isolation.

The saga followed two robots traveling around the solar system, having existential crises and zen-like moments as they savored the different cultures of each planet. The ending, however, provided little in the way of resolution beyond the quest for answers. That isn’t criticism: By the time the two robots end up on Pluto, you start to feel as if it couldn’t have ended any other way. Much like life, it’s the journey that matters.

I get a similar feeling when reading Roebuck’s latest work, Opplopolis. While the comic has been available online, with an option to download a copy onto Kindle, Roebuck has recently collected the first 10 issues of his webcomic in a print edition that can be purchased on Amazon. From Roebuck’s press release: “Released online in two-page installments since late 2012, Opplopolis has grown to thirteen chapters of a planned twenty, the first ten of which have now been collected into a single, 278-page printed volume.”

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Revisiting Fleischer Studios’ monumental ‘Mechanical Monsters’

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I recently had the pleasure of rewatching The Mechanical Monsters, the 1941 animated Superman short from Fleischer Studios. I viewed it once before in the early ’90s on a cheap video tape that virtually disintegrated after just three uses. However, we’re in the new millennium now, and thanks to the dual magic of public domain and YouTube, the Fleischer cartoons are easily accessible for free in the comfort of your own home.

Do remember the “Beware the Gray Ghost” episode of Batman: The Animated Series? Bruce Wayne watches an old serial starring his childhood hero Simon Trent (voiced, in a stroke of genius, by none other than Adam West).  He’s suddenly transformed into a little kid again, with all the cynicism of adulthood melting away. That was me watching the Fleischer Superman cartoons. I’d searched for these videos for analytical purposes, but instead I walked away with words like “Wow!” and “Gee whiz!” popping into my head.

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‘Lackadaisy’: Aged like fine bootleg moonshine

1203881945One of the oldest and most highly acclaimed funny animal webcomics is Tracy J. Butler’s Lackadaisy. With origins dating as far back as 1994, when Butler created characters Rocky and Mitzi while still in high school, Lackadaisy took to the Internet in 2006, and has gone on to win several awards, including the Web Cartoonists’ Choice Awards and the Ursa Major awards. It was also nominated in 2011 for an Eisner for Best Digital Comic.

Lackadaisy also has one of the slowest update schedules. As with many creators, the webcomic is not the artist’s primary occupation. She’s a digital artist who works on video games, and she updates as often as she can. How often? Well, the last page was updated in April, and the current rate seems to be three to four pages a year.

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Explore ‘Scary Go Round’s’ origins with ‘Expecting to Fly’

20140807I admit, I’m something of a lapsed reader when it comes to John Allison’s Scary Go Round, which was one of my favorite webcomics for the longest time. There was Allison’s cheeky and very British humor that treated mystical horrors with a heaping dollop of cartoonishness, and the thrill of following his evolving art style.

Scary Go Round started at Joey Manley’s Modern Tales site, when it featured a simpler and gentler computer-generated style created with Adobe Illustrator. In 2005, Allison switched to hand-drawn art that was more angular, boldly whimsical and thickly inked.

Both styles were very appealing, although they affected the humor in different ways. The earlier art was more low key: when eventual main character Shelley Winters becomes a zombie, part of the humor stems from how it’s brushed off as a minor nuisance. Later, Allison is more willing to embrace the maniacal ridiculousness. Basically, it went from being Friends to something out of Edgar Wright’s Three Flavour Cornetto Trilogy.

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‘Shazam!’ film seeks ‘a sense of fun and a sense of humor’

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[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

Hot on the heels of the high publicized and false rumor that DC movies would be adopting a “no jokes” policy came that shining glimmer of hope, like a Big Red Cheese riding a gigantic ammunition shell through the sky. This week we got more details about the Shazam! movie, most of it serving just to whet my hunger for a major motion picture starring that most stalwart of Fawcett Comics heroes.

Will this be the much feared “grim and gritty” version that many fans had been envisioning since David Goyer and Zach Snyder took the helm of the Justice League, subsequently releasing image after image of scowling, unhappy superheroes? As the news came rolling in, it seemed more and more that it will not. First, it’s going to be produced under New Line, and not the parent Warner Bros. studio that will produce the Justice League movies. New Line president Toby Emmerich, in fact, stated in an interview with Entertainment Weekly that “It’s a DC comic, but it’s not a Justice League character” and that it “will have a sense of fun and a sense of humor.” Oh, Toby… your words are like honey to my ears.

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‘Stand Still, Stay Silent’ visits lovely post-apocalyptic Scandinavia

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In 1973, Brian Aldiss coined the term “cosy catastrophe” in reference ot a subgenre of post-apocalyptic science fiction in which the world comes to an end, and everyone dies except the main characters. That frees everyone to pursue a relatively comfortable existence with little hardship: all the benefits of the old world, but little of the negative aspects.

In a similar vein, Minna Sundberg’s Stand Still, Stay Silent portrays a future Scandinavia that’s been heavily depopulated as the result of a viral outbreak. Ordinarily, that would be quite dire, as in Stephen King’s The Stand. Fortunately, none of the disease or its effects are shown, and instead the focus is on people living in style.

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Donald Glover (sort of) gets his Spider-Man wish

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[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

Nothing can bring quite as big a smile to my face as reading the words “Donald Glover to play Spider-Man.” Sure, sure, it’s voice work for a cartoon. However, the unlikelihood of this announcement struck me with the same amusement and bonhomie as hearing that, say, Community was going to be renewed for a sixth season.

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‘Let’s Speak English’: One cartoonist’s adventures in teaching

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 8.38.45 PMIf you’ve heard of Mary Cagle, it’s probably because of her webcomic Kiwi Blitz. It draws influences from a lot of anime — rather old-school ones, in fact. Some characters look as if they’ve stepped out of one of Leiji Matsumoto’s space operas. Others are more familiar: The main character Steffi looks a little like a young Nurse Joy from Pokemon, with pink hair that curls into tidy cinnamon buns at the shoulders.

In a way, Kiwi Blitz is sort of ahead of the current obsession with Americanized Japanese mecha. (Eat your heart out, Big Hero 6!) It’s had cheerful teenagers piloting robots to protect a futuristic New York City since 2009. I haven’t read this webcomic yet; the archives are a little daunting (although I do plan to wade in at some point). However, what I’ve seen looks delightful.

Cagle’s affection for Japanese pop culture extends beyond the typical otaku obsessions, however. The native Texan is also an English teacher at an elementary school in Kurihara, Japan, and in November 2013, she began illustrating her experiences living and teaching overseas. She has since collected these slice-of-life snippets in her autobiographical webcomic Let’s Speak English.

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‘Manly Men’: I gotta be a macho

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As we get deeper into the new millennium, it becomes more apparent that the traditional concept of manliness is a bit of a joke. Consider, if you please, the mustache: The great status symbol of distinguished manhood can now be found as an adorable print on Band-Aids stocked in the same aisle as the Hello Kittys. Consider, too, that PBS once aired a special that unironically asked, “Are bronies changing the definition of masculinity?” We’ve come to the point where once-popular portrayals of manly men like Paul Bunyan and John Wayne come off as buffoonish and comical.

Manly Men Doing Many Things is fill with many manly things.  There are pecs, chest hairs, bulging biceps, bold jawlines, strong brows, slicked-back hairstyles, six-pack abs, disdaining sneers, bugged-out eyes, and a general air of brute force. There’s plenty of flexing, grunting and lumberjacking, too. Their faces are scarred and severe, as if they were chainsaw sculptures brought to life by black magic (the manliest of magic).  You expect them to be chewing tobacco … or a toothpick, at least.

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Webcomics, sports and fandom

The Draw Play, by Dave Rappoccio

The Draw Play, by Dave Rappoccio

While sports aren’t foreign to webcomics, they are a rarity. Usually when the subject is raised, it’s as some made-up game invented for absurdity — like, I don’t know, using a frog as a ball or something.

The most successful sports comics, including those depicted in manga and in the webcomic Hoopfighter, tend to ramp up the action to levels that aren’t actually seen in the sport itself. Have you ever wanted to see Shaquille O’Neal knee a dude in a face during a basketball game? Well, it’s possible in comics!

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