One of the things which I find most promising about the rise of webcomics is the truly wide array of subject matter available. In the days before the internet how many quality comics never saw the light of day simply because they weren't marketable to the cape and tights crowd? Obviously the DIY nature of webcomics makes it far easier for creators to tell the stories they want in the way of their choosing. No longer does one have to make concessions and change a story of every day romance into a tale of rooftop love just so an editor might give it a glance. No, this is a brave new world of unfettered creativity. There are no rules and no limits.
That being said, while there is no intrinsic connection between super heroes and sequential art, there is an incredibly strong historical and cultural connection. Perhaps this is more the case with thirty-somethings like myself that grew up in comic shops, reading, almost exclusively, adolescent power fantasies. Maybe thirty years from now super heroes will be looked upon as a bygone part of this medium's history, like the crime and horror comics of the 50's. Maybe as the price of print comics goes up and webcomics take a stronger commercial hold of the medium, we'll see the caped crusaders take up permanent residence in film. Who knows?
Now I do have a point here, even if it seems like I'm babbling. For better or worse, super heroes and comics have a strong marriage, at least for now. This leaves me wondering why there seems to be such a glaring sparsity of high quality super hero webcomics. This thinking led to my latest safari through the net, searching for some truly entertaining and professional looking cape n' tight webcomics. And now I share my findings with you, oh loyal readers!
Some projects are driven by one person's desire to create. Others properties grow organically, taking on the best aspects given to them by the various creators who have worked on them. This is particularly common in super hero projects. Perhaps that's why Awesome Storm Justice 41 works so well.
This humor driven webcomic about a dysfunctional super group is the collaborative effort of a bunch of different folks from the Pencil Jack forum. Instead of weekly updates of a page or two, ASJ41 comes to us in Webisode chunks of 5 pages or more. The webisode style of delivery helps to give the comic a more “Wednesday” kind of feeling, that as an old school comic nerd I find appealing. Since the creative team changes from webisode to webisode it is impossible to tie credit to any one group of creators.
So what's it all about? Even though this is a legit spandex comic, ASJ41 (or assjay as they say) is more akin to the Great Lakes Avengers than the Astonishing X-men. Basically you have a dysfunctional group of capes who have banded together to defend Summerside City from all would be evil doers. Led by Blazeguy (a hero with a 1950's sense of morality and manner of speaking), this team is made up of a cowgirl stripper, a synthetic monkey and his handler, a school girl ninja, a cyborg with self confidence issues, a chunky bumble bee girl, a robot, some dude with flaming knives and last but not least - - a disco martian.
The most interesting character by far however is their arch villain, Dennis Dennis III. Dennis is a massive pink monster-thing who happens to control a corporate empire of evil. Allied by his faithful sidekick, Candace, Dennis lives to spread evil through out Summerside City and destroy Awesome Storm Justice 41. It's hard to explain the appeal of Dennis in mere words, but he most definitely steals the show . To make a comparison he's kind of like the Strong Bad to ASJ41's Homestar Runner. The stories focused on Dennis have much less to do with his super villainous schemes than with his personal life. From going clubbing with his “yes men”, to taking a date to club baby seals, every panel this character touches is comedy gold.
As with the Dennis focused story lines, a lot of the tales about the heroes themselves come across more like a sitcom than a power fantasy. Despite the silliness of the comic, ASJ41 does make good on the heroic aspects of comic as well. The group find themselves fighting against alien robots, arsonists and Dennis himself in some honest to goodness action scenes. There's even some decent drama thrown in amongst the violence and laughs.
Now since the creative team varies from webisode to webisode there are some big jumps as far as the style of the artwork goes. For webisode 7 the artwork almost looks like watercolors were used to to create the look. In the next issue we jump to a Sam Kieth looking cover by Randy Kintz. We make an even bigger change with webisode 13, which is a straight up Dr. Seuss homage. This may present a problem to some readers, but I feel it adds a sense of charm to the project.
Despite the scripting duties on the project jumping around, Awesome Storm Justice 41 has managed to keep a pretty streamlined over-arcing storyline and displays a wonderful sense of continuity. Even with the bold move of branching out to some spin off issues such as origin stories and a mini series for the character Saiko, this crew from the Pencil Jack board has managed to keep their story tight.
ASJ41 is honestly one of the most entertaining reads I've had in quite some time. From the sense of whimsical parody, to the ever changing aesthetic and charismatic characters this webcomic is definitely worth more than just a passing glance. I highly recommend this one, kids!
Next time I'll be continuing my exploration of the super hero genre's online pressence. If you have any recommendations for me feel free to leave a comment!
In the meantime here are a few more super hero webcomics that are worth taking a look at.
Hero By Night – Here's one most of you probably know all ready. HBN is pretty much THE super hero webcomic. Definitely worth the read. http://www.drunkduck.com/Hero_By_Night/
Shades – Yes, I already reviewed shades, but I really can't say enough good things about it. This is a really great take on the whole super hero thing. http://www.drunkduck.com/Shades/
Warrior Born- I'm not a huge fan of the art on this one, but the story is pretty darn good! http://www.drunkduck.com/WarriorBorn/index.php?p=666009
Kincaid: This is actually one of mine, the first comic I ever wrote in fact. I just started putting it up online. It's kind of a no-spandex take on the genre, similar to Heroes. http://www.drunkduck.com/Kincaid/
Curtis Lawson is the owner of Broken Soul Press and the writer of the webcomics Divis Morte and Curtis Lawson's Grindhouse.
Last edited by CurtisLawson; Monday, May 24, 2010 at 07:58 AM.