The Biggest Superhero Films That Didn't Happen, Part 2
Comic Books, Film
What Pumpkin Studios has released the first in-game screenshots from Hiveswap, the point-and-click adventure game based on Andrew Hussie’s insanely popular webcomic Homestuck.
Developed with proceeds from a $2.4 million Kickstarter campaign, the game will debut this spring with the first of four episodes for PC, Mac and Linux. Attendees of the March 2-6 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco will get to see Hiveswap in action; public demos are planned for Emerald City Comicon, Denver Comic Con and other spring conventions.
Passings | Dr. George Slusser, co-founder of the University of California, Riversides’ renowned Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy, passed away Tuesday at age 75. Curator emeritus and professor emeritus of comparative literature, Slusser expanded the Eaton holdings from 7,500 items to more than 300,000, making it the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction and fantasy literature in the world. It encompasses novels, journals, manuscripts, comics and manga, fanzines and anime, and includes first editions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Action Comics #1 and The Fantastic Four #1. “Over three decades, George Slusser built the Eaton Collection up from a small core of titles into the world-class archive that it is today,” Rob Latham, co-director of UC Riverside’s Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies program, said in a statement. “The field of science fiction scholarship owes him an incalculable debt.” [UC Riverside]
It seems as if most webcomics are designed to run more or less forever. That’s par for the course with comics in general, really: It’s not like we really expect Action Comics or Garfield to reach a logical terminus any time soon. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any great completed narratives in webcomics, however.
Evan Dahm never left his world of Overside. He’s chronicled its history with Order of Tales, and he’s now continuing the story with Vattu. The latter was recently honored at Small Press Expo with the Ignatz Award for Best Online Comic. The first of the Overside stories may still be the best, though.
Rice Boy, like the follow-up stories, follows the outline of a hero’s journey, with the title characgter called away from his mundane life by a wise man (here named The One Electric) to follow a life of adventure. Rice Boy journeys through various strange lands and meets a colorful cast of characters on his way toward an epic battle.
Not 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.
Soundtracks have become an integral component of movies, television shows and video games. How important is a great soundtrack? There’s a video online that removes John Williams’ from E.T., leaving the triumphant moment at the end feeling lonely and empty. Swells and the rhythm of the full orchestra pull you in emotionally.
Can music be added to a comic? Years ago, that would have been a silly question, conjuring images of opening the book and hearing a tinny tune playing like something out of a greeting card. But now that comics are online, in a digital realm where greater integration between different kinds of media? It not as ridiculous a prospect as it sounds. Besides, it’s already being done.
Music and sounds are more prevalent in Flash-style webomics. Stuart Campbell’s Nawlz uses a futuristic electronic soundtrack to create a palpable sense of unease. It’s almost as if there’s something buzzing at all times to subconsciously frazzle your nerves. As you search the page to figure out what to click on next, you feel on guard. Will this next click bring the music to a halt? Is this comic setting me up to be frightened by a loud noise? It’s weird how much a soundtrack can ratchet up the anxiety. The effect is not unlike watching a horror movie, where more than half of the frights are due to sounds and music.
Resources are precious when you’re a webcomic creator, and nothing is more precious than time — get pulled off on anything, and there’s an almost 100 percent chance the comic’s going on hiatus. Big publishers have the luxury of bringing in fill-in writers and artists from a deep talent pool; webcomics, not so much.
Homestuck is a case study in a webcomic getting too popular. Creator Andrew Hussie ran an enormously successful Kickstarter for an adventure game version, raising a mind-boggling $2.4 million by October 2012. Work on the game began in earnest, but unfortunately, Hussie is only one person, and he wasn’t going to neglect the project that many people put their hard-earned money into. From an update on January 2014: “Since pausing, basically all I have been doing is writing. No drawing or animation yet. Writing, writing, writing. Writing for Homestuck, and writing for the adventure game. More time has been allocated to the latter. The game is a big, big project. Let’s not kid ourselves here. It’s like this whole new major story and everything, fueled by millions of dollars. That’s a very different situation from Homestuck, which is usually fueled by approximately zero dollars.”
If you’ve ever done a random browse of webcomics over the past decade, chances are you ran into a sprite comic.
The sprite comic uses aesthetics from the early generations of video games, an era spanning the rise of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong to the video game crash of 1983 to the rebirth under Mario and Mega Man once Nintendo came to dominate the market. The aesthetic itself has evolved and flourished in a variety of media. A lot of it is deeply rooted in nostalgia, as when Community aired an episode in which the characters are sprites in an ’80s-style RPG.
You’ve seen them, I’ve seen them.
The last time was at Pacific Place during Emerald City Comicon, where I spotted someone with a handmade plushie of a puppet. In Portland, I saw them at a place that sold fried elephant ears. For the most part, they wear what look to be orange-striped carrots on their heads, and they’re responsible for the upswing in sales of light-gray makeup.
If you ever wondered who they were, they’re the Homestuck fans, followers of a webcomic of such sheer immensity that it has, without irony, been compared to Ulysses … by none other than PBS. There’s a difference, however: I have actually read all of Homestuck. With Ulysses, I pretty much stalled 63 pages in to Chapter 1. It’s hard to relate to bored white dudes lamenting about Ireland and whatnot. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to relate to video-game gags.
Shiftylook, Namco Bandai’s webcomics venture, has inked a deal with Homestuck creator Andrew Hussie to create a dating-sim game, Namco High, that will allow players to mix and match characters from the different Namco Bandai games in a high-school environment.
There’s a pleasing symmetry to this alliance: Homestuck is a webcomic designed to look like an old computer game, complete with a cheesy home page that would be right at home on Geocities, and Shiftylook is a webcomics site that commissions writer-artist teams to make webcomics about characters from vintage Namco Bandai games from the 1980s and 1990s. I talked to the Shiftylook brass about their strategy at New York Comic Con; basically the idea is to build up a following for the characters and then bring them into other media, such as games and music.
As it did last year, Shiftylook set up shop across the street from the San Diego Convention Center for Comic-Con and offered an arcade where visitors could play Namco Bandai games for free. There was also an Adventure Time booth, selling merchandise from the popular animated and comics series, and a Homestuck booth, where Hussie himself made an appearance to sign autographs.
Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of Nicholas Gurewitch as he is creating The Perry Bible Fellowship, or Andrew Hussie when he works on Homestuck? Check out the short (7:39) video The Rise of Webcomics, part of PBS’s “Off Book” series, that features interviews with Gurewitch, Hussie, Christina Xu (Breadpig), Sam Brown (Exploding Dog) and Lucy Knisley (Stop Paying Attention), along with snippets from lots of other webcomics.
It’s fast-paced and entertaining, and there are some interesting insights from the creators as well as some webcomics you may not have seen before.
Publishing | Belgium, birthplace of Tintin and the Smurfs, is beginning to see its government-funded efforts to revive the country’s once-thriving comics scene pay off, with small publishing houses, self-publishers and digital comics portals springing up. [Deutsche Welle]
Creators | Habibi creator Craig Thompson posts an account of his recent trip to Jordan, which coincided with the troubles in Libya. Disconcertingly, he learned that Habibi is banned there, but his experiences in the schools and studios he visited stand in stark contrast to what the rest of us were watching—and even what he experienced while traveling from place to place. (Craig also gives a shout-out to a couple who got engaged while waiting in line to see him at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC; the groom-to-be concealed the ring in a hollowed-out copy of Blankets.) [Craig Thompson]
Retailing | ICv2 analyzes the August direct market numbers and comes up with some interesting patterns: While the market as a whole is up, the number of comics with sales of more than 1,000 has been declining; sales dropped a bit for most ongoing comics series in the Top 25, but strong sales of Before Watchmen and two annuals more than compensated for that; and graphic novels sell in far lower numbers than comics, but because many of them are backlist titles, the numbers still increase from year to year. ICv2 also posted lists of last month’s Top 300 comics and graphic novels. [ICv2]
Publishing | Yet another big publisher spawns a graphic novel imprint: This time it’s Penguin, whose Berkley/NAL division will launch a graphic novel imprint, InkLit, next month. Helmed by former DC vice president and Yen Press co-founder Rich Johnson, InkLit will publish both original graphic novels and adaptations of prose works. The line will begin with Vol. 1 of Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega, which collects the trades published by Dynamite; the second volume will be all new material. Also in the works are books by Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Sage Stossel. [Publishers Weekly]
Comics | Auction prices for comics and original comics art have soared over the past few years, ever since a copy of Action Comics #1 broke the $1-million mark in 2010. Barry Sandoval of Heritage Auctions (admittedly, not a disinterested party) and Michael Zapcic of the comics shop Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash discuss why that happened—and why prices are likely to stay high. [Underwire]
Creators | Brian Michael Bendis looks back on his eight-year run on Marvel’s Avengers franchise. [Marvel.com]
Passings | Dave Thorne, sometimes called the father of Hawaiian cartooning, has died at the age of 82. His most recent strip was Thorney’s Zoo, which ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Mark Evanier has a personal appreciation of Thorne and his love of Hawaii. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Creators | Carl Barks once wrote, “Ninety-nine readers out of 100 think Walt Disney writes and draws all those movies and comic books between stints with his hammer and saw building Disneyland,” but for much of his career he was happy to remain anonymous and avoid the hassles that come with fame. Jim Korkis writes the fascinating story of how two fans got through the Disney wall of anonymity — and Barks’ own reticence — to figure out who Barks was and bring him into contact with his admirers. [USA Today]