Skip to content

My Webcomic Heroes: Zebra Girl

So, I read a lot of webcomics, and there are a great deal of them that have had a very formative impact on me. Both generally as a person, and specifically towards my decision to make a webcomic of my own. I wanted to share some of my favorites as I move forward with my comic in 2014.
20140105-114451.jpg
Next on the list is Joseph England’s Zebra Girl <www.zebragirl.net>. Still running, this comic has updated unpredictably since 2000.

Zebra Girl is a magical farce that culminates in moments of intense drama. The humor and serious bits act as powerful contrasts, fitting for this black and white comic. However, at every turn, identity is it’s driving principle.

Joseph England has created quite a world for himself. The comic pitch is simple: roommates find an ancient tome of mystical power in the attic and accidentally turn Sandra, our protagonist, into a demon. The comic then follows the misadventures of getting Sandra sorted out.

From this simple seed of an idea, England grows an incredibly diverse series of plot lines and characters. A lush multiverse of magic and science and Judeo-Christian mythos mixed with a healthy amount of ancient folklore. A complex setting and background, but unified by strong focus on character identity.

“Magic hijinks” is a catalyst for a lot of plot, but Zebra Girls story arcs tend to focus on either a search for identity or what happens when a character has an identity thrust upon them.

The consistent theme of identity helps tie together the broad nature of the comic, and in fact allows the comic to push into strange territory without losing the sense of narrative.

At various points the comic hits incredibly disparate moments and plot arcs:
-A romantic comedy (Sandra deals with the normalcy she’s lost)
-An adventure story set in a parallel universe based on a children’s show (Sandra comes to terms with her internal identity)
– A reversal where Sandra becomes the villain.
(Supernatural imposition of identity)
-A folk tale journey through a non-physical mystic plane of magic.
(A recovery of identity)

The unifying principle, that the characters’ identities are constantly brought to the surface, takes settings and artistic directions that would otherwise seem drastically different and forges them into a solid world-line.

The result is a story more whimsical and character conscious than most. Staying true to that core principal allows Joseph England to spin the other elements of the comic to match the emotional needs of his characters. The comical moments can be more light hearted and absurd, and the serious moment can be all the more intense. It is a comic with very heightened sensibilities and strong storytelling principles.

20140105-134515.jpg

It’s a unique story, and a fantastic read, but there’s one more element that I admire about Zebra Girl: persistence. Joseph England has been at his comic for 14 years, with all manner of hiatus, late comics, and difficulties. Updated unpredictably is a apt description of the comic’s schedule.

And yet England presses on. When a comic artist stumbles, it can be very difficult to get back into the artistic process. It’s clear by England’s comments that he struggles, but after 14 years he shows no indication of giving up. With all this time, his art and storytelling skills have grown tremendously. He is certainly an artist I admire and consider a webcomic hero.

Podcast of Doom

It’s a brand new year, and OverBoard is BACK and better than ever. Keep an eye out for some of the minor changes to the site and some of the new features that will be coming to the site. OverBoard will now update once a week, on Wednesdays. It is my goal to make comics that will give you a bit more bang for your buck. Thanks for all the support so far, wish me luck!

Call for Extras

I’m looking for extras! Want to be featured in a Going OverBoard strip in 2014? Just find us on Facebook and leave a comment, and I’ll render an extra from your profile picture. It is a small thing, and I make few promises. However, I can say an extra based off your likeness will appear in the comic this year. So leave a comment at the

facebook link

My Webcomic Heroes: Kid Radd

So, I read a lot of webcomics, and there are a great deal of them that have had a very formative impact on me. Both generally as a person, and specifically towards my decision to make a webcomic of my own. I wanted to share some of my favorites as I gear up to get back into my comic on 1/1/14.

The next comic on my list is Kid Radd by Dan Miller.

http://www.bgreco.net/kidradd.htm

Kid Radd ran for two years between 2002 and 2004. An 8-bit comic, with little bits of animation thrown in. So I read a lot of sprite comics, and there is still definitely one more on my list. Technically, Kid Radd isn’t really a sprite comic because all the sprites are unique (i.e. there was never a Kid Radd game).

From the page itself, “This strip will follow the exploits of Radd, heroic dude and all-around cool guy.” Kid Radd has the same hook as one of my childhood television series, “Reboot”.

“What if all the characters in your computer are actually living, sentient beings.”

Beyond that though, Kid Radd is a delightful blend of SitCom humor, intense action, and philosophical musings.

The characters in Radd have all managed to escape their original games, and have tumbled out into the makeshift civilization that these retro video game characters have constructed around themselves. However, many of these characters have never known life outside the game and have to grapple with their perceptions of personality. How does a hero sprite who has known nothing but running and gunning, come to grips with just being an average person.

Miller is very clever about making each of his characters confront the same question regarding their identity. Struggling to choose between the prescribed identity they were given or forging a new persona. For almost every character this struggle is not only central, but also unique.

We’re shown these characters in three major setting: their game, normal work-a-day life, and then grand adventure. The intensity of how these characters’ roles affect their actions is a palpable meaty core, that drives both the emotional arcs as well as the plot. The moments of character realization and growth are also major moments that move the plot forward.

An excellent webcomic, and like 8 Bit Theater it also follows an impeccable understanding of scale and stakes. The animation is novel and innovative, but I’ll admit a bit unusual. All told, though, I cannot recommend Kid Radd highly enough.

 

My Webcomic Heroes: 8Bit Theater

So, I read a lot of webcomics, and there are a great deal of them that have had a very formative impact on me. Both generally as a person, and specifically towards my decision to make a webcomic of my own. I wanted to share some of my favorites as I gear up to get back into my comic on 1/1/14.

The first comic on my List is definitely Brian Clevenger’s 8-Bit Theater.
20131202-111449.jpg

8-Bit Theater ran from 2001 to 2010, mostly 3 times a week. You can find the archives at http://www.nuklearpower.com/8-bit-theater-archive/

Brian Clevenger’s 8 Bit Theater is a sprite comic roughly following the exploits of the adventurers in the early Final Fantasy Games. The Warriors of Light tasked with saving the world. The twist, of course, is that the band of four heroes aren’t the real Light Warriors. They are incompetent buffoons at best, and a roving band of murderers at worst.

Clevenger takes a tried and true approach to storytelling, when your characters don’t do anything interesting, do something horrible to them. These four characters are quite literally chased around the globe, trying to escape whatever new mess they had gotten themselves into, leaving a wake of destruction behind them.

The gags are hilarious, and run the gamut from Bugs Bunny schticks to George Carlin irreverence. There is a lot of very good slapstick, but at it’s core 8-bit Theater is powerfully character driven.

What I find so appealing about Clevenger’s characters, is that they are Archetypes taken to their logical extremes that never deviate from their very clear motivations. In the 9 year run of the webcomic, even as the characters grew and changed, they remained 100% true to their core foundations.
8bittheater

  • Fighter: Always remains well meaning but incompetent.
  • Black Mage: Always chooses the misfortune of others, even at great pains.
  • Thief: Steals as a point of habit, even when it becomes apparent he doesn’t need the money.
  • Red Mage: Seeks optimization in everything he does, even at great cost.

These characters become completely overblown archetypes, taking their traits to the logical extremes, but remain true to the core of their character and to their motivations. These are horribly horribly flawed individuals, but they behave in completely believable ways.

It may be a sprite comic, but year after year, these characters felt incredibly life like.

The second major victory of 8-Bit Theater is it’s linear approach to spectacle and scale. They start in search of an item, then to save a damsel, then themselves, then a town, then a kingdom, a nation, the world, the universe, and finish off with saving all of reality itself. At every turn, the stakes are being raised, and it becomes increasingly likely that these four fools are going to be the epicenter of some heinous catastrophe (and they often are) but they hilariously seem to always come out on top, often to the detriment of others.

All told, it’s really solid storytelling, with unbridled humor, and unforgettable characters. Clevenger has since moved on to writing Atomic Robo, where his writing talents absolutely shine. You can see bits of his old 8-bit characters show through at times: especially in the exchanges between Robo and Dr. Dinosaur.

As a webcomic, I can’t recommend it highly enough, and I’ll be honest it has greatly informed my own sense of humor. It’s worth reading the full 9 year run, especially as an example of dedication to characters and a single very long story arc.8bittheaters

OverBoard Reviews: Kill Doctor Lucky

I worked a shift at my local Board Game Cafe, Knight Moves. So I got the chance to sift through the board game library.

It had been a long time since I had played “Kill Doctor Lucky”, so I picked it out of the collection to refresh my memory. In a twist on Clue, you’re all out to kill a wealthy old man, the problem is he’s not dead, and he’s actually pretty sturdy.

In fact, early on, you feebly try and strangle the old codger with your bare hands upwards of five or six times. You’re not terribly subtle about it, but he just won’t die.

20131203-214845.jpg
Mechanically, it’s half hand management and half puzzle. To make a murder attempt, you must be in a room out of line of sight of all other players. You’ll do this either with clever positioning or movement cards. When you get the chance to make an attempt on Lucky’s life, you must have an attack value greater than the fail value of cards other players can play against you.

The clever bit is that a failed murder attempt is not all bad. When you fail an attempt, you get a spite token. Every spite token increases your attack value by one.

So you gain finger strength as this aging superman drags you from room to room as you impotently dangle from his neck. Some day he will succumb to the sheer weight of your hatred for him.

20131203-214941.jpg

And that brings me to the funniest part of this game. Mechanically, a player must be the one to kill Doctor Lucky in order to win, but thematically it reads that all characters benefit from his death. (i.e. standing in the way of family fortune, competing company, etc)

Doctor Lucky is standing in your way to something, and once he’s gone, you’ll get it. But this isn’t a cooperative game, no. It means that whatever this old man has done, you need to be there when he dies, when you choke that last pick of life from his frail form. Apparently we’re supposed to play psychopaths that need to look into Doctor Lucky’s eyes, so he knows that it was you that killed him. With a shoehorn.

Why the Comic is On Hiatus

Hey folks,
So I’ve been kind of vague about the variety of projects I’m working on that necessitates the OverBoard Hiatus. I thought I’d describe each one and give you a glimpse into the madness.

-Sky Pirates: I’ve been designing a game to be published by Game Salute called Sky Pirates. Semi-cooperative region control with resource management. Play testers have been calling it “Eclipse in 45 minutes”. I’m on a final push with play testing to move the game from development into production.

-Knight Moves Board Game Cafe: A friend of mine has signed a lease to open a board game cafe in Boston. He’s asked me to spearhead some of the Internet marketing on top of helping work out the store opening.

-Boston Prototype Showcase: The Brookline Prototype Event went so well that I’m working towards making that a regular occurrence, complete with social media presence and etc. Something along the lines of an Unpub Festival.

-How to Play _________: I have a few long form comic ideas that I’ve wanted to put together for a while, but they don’t fit into a weekly format, they’re very much a done when it gets done sort of project. You will see those pop up here, don’t think you’ve completely gotten out of reading board game comics.

-OverBoard: 3D Printed Board Game Components: I’ve been put in charge of a 3D printer and I am building a business around it. A selection of geeky board game pieces and board game variants to go alongside them. Also a selection of Board Game accessories.

So yeah that plus a regular job makes for a very busy schedule, and the comic was suffering as a result. I should be able to wrap up a few of these projects by the end of the year and bring the comics into full splendor by the new year. Looking forward to resuming OverBoard on 1/1/14.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.