Greetings and salutations, fanboys and fangirls!Thanks for taking the time to join your humble guide on our continued journey through the labyrinthine world of digitized sequential art that we like to call webcomics. I hope everyone is enjoying the column thus far and perhaps finding some new favorite titles.
What do you get when you mix dancing robots, violent mutants, big guns and mysterious loners in gas masks? You get the first comic we'll be talking about this week, The Fighting Stranger. What we have here is a post apocalyptic western centered on a lone amnesiac, that remembers almost nothing save the name of a city and how to kill. It's a fairly iconic concept, but The Fighting Stranger does it in such a good way that it seems fresh and new again.
The creative team for this one consists of Juan Romera on art duties, with script and lettering by Adam J. Monetta. Judging by the flow of the comic, these guys seem to have a really good synergy. When a writer and artist work well together there's a certain quality to the work that shines through. The Fighting Stranger seems to have that quality. Of course that's just conjecture on my part. For all I know they might get along like Axl Rose and Slash. But I digress...
Some webcomics take a while to get into. This is not one of those comics. The first page of the The Fighting Stranger is a master piece of the “establishing shot” concept. The artwork alone yells out at the reader and lets them know the setting, genre and mood of the work, right off the bat. With the addition of a few caption boxes the reader is brought up to speed and given just as much knowledge about the story as the memory impaired protagonist. The way in which the audience is instantly drawn into the stranger's world speaks volumes about talent behind this comic.
As for the story itself? To be honest the it hasn't progressed terribly far in the sixty-six pages that have been posted to date. The slow pace of the story doesn't take away from the enjoyability of this webcomic one bit though. Instead of rushing into things Monetta and Romera give the reader some time to acquaint themselves with the characters as a suspicious dancing robot takes the main character for a tour of the city called Felicitas. A sordid mixture of Mos Eisley and Barter Town, Felicitas, is brought to life so vividly that it stands out as character in its own right.
The stylized artwork, incredibly creative character designs (wait until you see the monster in the first fight scene), and excellent panel work make The Fighting Stranger an easy and enjoyable comic to read. Romera does an excellent job building a visually cohesive world. Through consistent color schemes and architectural leanings Romera gives the city of Felicitas a unique face and a believable feel. On top of that he manages to make the intermingling of humans, robots and mutants look perfectly natural in their cosmopolitan, desert home.
Another cool thing about The Fighting Stranger is the page set up. A lot of folks who do graphic novel style webcomics, as opposed to strips, go with a classic comic page format (I'm guilty of this myself). Being that The Fighting Stranger started out in the Zuda competition, the creators decided to keep it to those dimensions. Although I prefer a classic comic book format for print, the Zuda set up does make for a very easily readable webcomic.
My final words on The Fighting Stranger? In a desert of aesthetically uninspired, amateur look-a-likes, Monetta and Romera have managed to to create something special that will still be standing when the dust settles. The Fighting Stranger is most definitely a webcomic you should be reading.
So far this column has focused on webcomics with some pretty heavy subject matter. But if you're anything like me, sometimes you just aren't in the mood for something as dark as Dead Heaven or as gritty as Freak Angels. Maybe sometimes you just want a webcomic filled with hot chicks, ridiculous characters, over the top fight scenes and straight up silliness. If that's the case, please allow me direct your attention to the next webcomic we'll be examining, - Strawberry Death Cake.
I absolutely love this webcomic, but I have to be honest, it doesn't offer much in the way of plot, and up until you get about sixty pages in the dialogue is pretty bad. What it does offer is a fun, light hearted read that you don't have to put much thought into. Strawberry Death Cake is over brimming with good natured perversity, demonic-nazi bunnies, and a some surprisingly solid panel work. If you have tender sensibilities, hang ups about the objectification of women or just lack a sense of humor, this may be one you should skip. If you like to laugh and look at hot girls in stockings killing stuff however, then you've come to the right place.
Admittedly, the story is a bit convoluted, and the mythology behind everything is unnecessarily complicated. Honestly, I tried to write a summary of the plot and I couldn't get anything down on paper that didn't sound completely unreadable. It's one of those stories you really just have to check out for yourself. In a nutshell it's about a group of demon hunters fighting against the machinations of a Nazi general whose been reincarnated into the body of anthropomorphic bunny-demon. That's about the least ridiculous way in which I can state the premise.
Visually, the comic is statement of minimalistic genius. It may seem a bit gimmicky to some, but by adding red and pink highlights to fairly simple manga-inspired black and white pages Elliot Dombo has created a trademark look that catches the eye and makes people want to check it out. Aside from the style being fun and fresh, the quality of the art far exceeds what you find in most manga inspired webcomics. Action is captured in an exciting, organic and natural manner. Facial expressions are spot on, giving the characters (as over the top as they are) a wonderful believability. Even the flow of the panels and the visual story telling is far more than one might expect from what at first glance appears to be a gimmicky, emo comic.
For you webcomic creators out there, there's a lot you can learn from Strawberry Death Cake. Even if you put aside the ingeniously clever name and the eye catching, trademark art style, Elliot Dombo seems to be incredibly savvy at marketing his product. Dombo has created a wide array of pinups and vote incentives to help popularize his project. He interacts with his readers, which a lot of times makes all the difference in the world when it comes to building a fan base. Also he mirrors Strawberry Death Cake on Drunk Duck, a strategy that I've personally had a lot of success with. Finally, Dombo's character designs are extremely conducive to merchandising, which seems to be the only way to make any real money in this whole webcomic game.
So whether you're a webcomic creator looking to learn something, or just a fanboy looking for a good laugh, Strawberry Death Cake is most definitely one of the webcomics you should be reading.
I'm not quite sure what webcomics I'll be talking about next time. If you folks, my fellow travelers through this tumultuous sea of ones and zeroes, have any suggestions feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to hear what webcomics you think I should be reading. See you in 14!
Curtis Lawson is the owner of Broken Soul Press and the writer of the webcomics*Divis Morte*and*Curtis Lawson's Grindhouse.
Thanks for the review.
The size of the comic had a little more to do with the webcomic Atland at first. I liked how it easily fit a screen. Juan was doing such a great job with it, I decided to submit to Zuda. We got in, but the problem was that the pace of the story doesn't work well with a 8 page preview. Maybe if I condensed the first 25 pages into that 8 pages, it would have stood more of a shot.
When the Zuda competition began, we were already 20 pages into the comic. That's why I was never bitter about losing. If we won, we would have had to redo those pages and really shrink down the story. We already passed the Zuda season page count and not really close to the end of the first chapter (at least 25 pages to go). Most of the future chapters won't nearly be as long though.