The home page for author Eric J. Juneau

Comic Link Round-Up (Part 2)

comics folder

This used to be its own comic, but has since become a “Best of the Day/Week” aggregator. I still read it though. I almost didn’t include it in the list, since it’s not really providing new content. And I see about half the strips on Kotaku anyway. But still, it’s worth a bookmark.

I think this is the second time I’ve picked up a comic thanks to Something Positive (the first was Queen of Wands, which ended its run) (also, Something Positive will be seen on this list later). The core characters are two female friends. One is an unhappy English post-grad in a love triangle with boys and alcohol. The other is a happy-go-lucky bisexual with big boobs.

Most of the story deals with the hook-ups and break-ups of various characters. But there’s occasionally a talking cactus or a seance for amorphous cats.

Superhero satire at its finest, in easily digestible weekly form. It’s more biting and satirical than Watchmen, and funnier, plus up-to-date. It stars Wonderella as Wonder Woman pastiche who stopped caring a long time ago. She’s fought Nazi women, gorillas, space-women, her mother, the previous Wonderella, and so on. Her mad scientist is Dr. Shark and her “Robin” serves as the Mr. Bill of her world. It’s a non-serial that covers both superhero issues and everyday topics.

WARNING: Adult comic. No clicky unless you mean it. Elves and wordplay take front and center. It’s mostly one-shots, but there are a few 3-4 page threads and recurring characters. Mostly it makes fun of sex and fantasy tropes, not always together.

Do I need to say anything about this one? If you’re not following PA, you’re doing yourself a disservice. I consider it the founding father of online web comics. And even with all the great peripheral things they’ve done (Child’s Play, PAX, PATV, etc.) they’ve never deviated from their core quality. They’ve changed, they’ve branched out, but they’ve always stayed true to two guys playing video games.

The Books I Read: June – August 2011

bookshelf books

patrick rothfuss name of the wind
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Before George R. R. Martin released his latest doorstopper, this was the big epic taking up every fantasy geek’s time. My interest became piqued when Penny Arcade made a joke about the second book in the trilogy. As was my friend’s, who let me borrow the first book, The Name of the Wind. I loved it right away.

The book is framed story about the life of a boy/man named Kvothe, a son of traveling actors.  After his  troupe is killed by a supposedly mythical person, he has to learn how to live and survive alone. His primary goal is to learn who killed his parents, why they were killed, and probably revenge. But all this often gets side-tracked as he learns magic (called “arcanum” and related to Voodoo and quantum mechanics), becomes homeless, and enters college on a shoestring budget.

It is an awesome book. But it is long. I think it took me a month and a half to read. And the sequel’s even longer. I didn’t know much about Patrick Rothfuss before, but I love him now. It’s a great book for epic fantasy, and the only way it feels like a long book is if you keep looking at where your bookmark is.

Some people don’t like that the plot meanders so much. I don’t like books that do that either, unless they’ve earned it. And Kvothe earns it because everything he does is so fascinating. He’s a charming man, but he’s not a douche.  The world is fascinating, the characters are fascinating, and all the distractions and “interesting side-tracks” are what makes the book fun.  It’s like if Harry Potter had pubes.

hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet jamie ford
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

One for book club. My least favorite of the books for this period. It seemed like I already read this book when it was called “A Thousand Splendid Suns” — oppressed people, Romeo X Juliet love, backwards family living in the past that doesn’t understand you.

The story is about a Chinese boy living in Seattle during WWII, when Japanese were being sent to internment camps. The boy likes a Japanese girl, who gets interned. Meanwhile he’s got to deal with stereotypical bullies, his fundamentalist father, and where his nationalist loyalties lie. Oh, and while this is happening, the story flashes to the present in 1986, where they can somehow digitize LP records.  And the main character has petty, meaningless problems with his own son.

I’ve never read anything more pedantic and predictable. This story is like so many books oriented towards book clubs. It was tedious, and I never gave one rip about the character, because he acts like such a puss. I was never convinced he cared one whit about the Japanese girl. I would have rather read the story about her, and her experience in the internment camp. She had the more interesting obstacles to overcome.

But seriously, I don’t recommend this book. There is nothing new, there is nothing interesting. There are no new ideas put forth, there is no emotion therein.

abortion arcade cameron pierce
Abortion Arcade by Cameron Pierce

A free book from the bizarro genre. There really is no definition for bizarro fiction that can sufficiently explain it. I’ve read a few others.  Bizarro puts the “B” in B-movie schlock.  Let’s just say there are people using amputated breasts as suction cups for climbing.

There are three novellas in this book: one has humans farmed by zombies, one is kinda “Teen Wolf”-ish, and the last is kind of an avantgarde piece with symbolism, but it doesn’t really make sense. Actually, none of the stories make sense. But that’s not really what bothers me–stories don’t have to make sense as long as they’re cohesive. But the first novella ends before it concludes (and it was my favorite, so I was sad), the second had no firm plot and poor characters, and the third was just incoherent.

Like B-movies, they’re shocking for the sake of being shocking, with gross concepts, blood, and “eww” moments. Not my favorite bizarro work.

goth girl rising barry lyga
Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga

Okay, seriously, I need to know who this guy is. When I first wrote about “The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl”, I talked about much it reminded of “Blood: I Live Again”. This story is the sequel, and again, it has a bunch of commonalities with the sequel I WROTE.

1. Both take the POV of a totally different character in their mythos.
2. Both of the main characters have suicide attempts in their record. By wrist cutting. Both take place before the story starts.
3. Both spent time at a mental hospital. Mine during the middle third of the novel, his before the story.
4. Both have dead mothers. Both died of cancer.
5. Both have ignorant, screw-up fathers who don’t know how to be parents.
6. Both find a way to redemption and resolution through a significant other.  Mine, however, fails to achieve that redemption.

Of course, the similarities are really character based. The plot lines couldn’t be more different. Mine focuses on college instead of high school.  A large portion takes place in a mental hospital, then a cult in the Carpathian mountains.  And there’s magic and shit too.

I found this book remarkable because the first was semi-autobiographical.  But the second takes the POV of a girl. And a seriously messed up girl. An obnoxious, self-centered girl — that works as a secondary, but as a main character?

Like the first, there’s a lot of thinking, ruminating, and introverted rants as teens do. I suppose it’s part of the character, but it just goes on too long. It fills the book, and the plot elements tend to be diminished. But I liked the plot events that did happen. Although they weren’t real exciting, they were true to characters. So I guess this is better as a “true” book than a “good” book.  If that makes any sense.

the nex tim pratt
The Nex by Tim Pratt

Since Pratt couldn’t find a publisher for this book (and for stupid reasons, like it’s an techy adventure tale with a female protagonist), he posted it online. I do like Tim Pratt’s short stories. They’re some of the best on EscapePod and PodCastle. This book is pretty good too, but doesn’t feel… I don’t know, original enough?  I can’t help but draw parallels to “Alice in Wonderland”.  Which is fine, but this is much a milieu book.  It’s more about discovering a fantastic world than about the characters. Which is fine, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Maybe I’m getting too old.

The characters consist of a shapeshifter and a non-corporeal entity composed of micro-particles. I’ve seen those done, but never together. The main enemy is a power-hungry dictator, but there’s nothing special about him.  The macguffin is a device that can teleport yourself or something else anywhere, and works on applied phlebotium.

The main character’s character is not particularly touched on. The main character’s power is a little too powerful. The ending is wrapped just a little quickly. But really, it’s a fun novel. They go to fun places. They do fun things. The voice is fun. And the price is right. I’d say there is no reason not to read this book.

looking for alaska john green
Looking for Alaska by John Green

A re-read, and my choice for book club. You can read my original review here.  It’s interesting the things you pick up on during the second read.  The narrative does not begin with any kind of interesting hook.  And the main character is kind of unlikeable, as his motivations are barely explained, except that he’s going to boarding school to escape the dull, unambitious students at public.  And there are some scenes that I forgot about that make a large difference in his character and the plot.

I don’t think everyone “got” the book as much as I did. I chose it because I thought it well represented my teenage male psyche: crushes on unattainable girls, being in love with the idea of a girl more than the person, the introversion, the willingness to follow, the loneliness. I’m not sure why response was not enthusiastic from anyone. Maybe it’s hard for girls to understand guys. Maybe because I was trying to inform instead of entertain, and that never goes well.  Next time I’ll be picking a book I haven’t read. Lord knows I’ve got enough on my list to choose from.

The Penny Arcade Dickwolves Go To State

penny arcade dickwolves strip

I’ve been interested in reading this Penny Arcade Dickwolves debacle ever since this timeline was posted because it deals with many intriguing issues. In mass media outlets, often you end up with political correctness, vocal minorities, and advertising sponsors winning the upper hand, and that’s even if the producers let it go that far. Never do the creators get a say. That’s why people like me turn to the web to find entertainment that’s not limited by corporate executives. But Penny Arcade is a entrepreneur webcomic, made by guys who aren’t afraid to call a spade a spade.

For those who don’t want to click the link, here’s the highlights. Penny Arcade, probably one of the biggest web-exclusive strips, published the comic above on 8/11/10. This drew objections from a “feminist” blog. Penny Arcade posted a response (in the form of a comic) the next day. Various other blogs weigh in, mostly objecting.

Later, Penny Arcade announces they’ll be selling a dickwolf t-shirt in their merchandise store (it’s not offensive, it’s a sport t-shirt, and resembles a mash-up of the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Timberwolves logo — are PA from my corner of the world?), but Courtney Stanton (works as project manager for a video game company) objects. On January 24th, she announces that she was asked to speak at the Penny Arcade convention, but declined. Two days later, all dickwolf merch is removed from the Penny Arcade store. More blogs weigh in, and interpretations abound.

Separated at birth?

This is where it gets interesting. On January 29, someone asks Mike (one of the Penny Arcade people) whether dickwolf t-shirts will be allowed at the Penny Arcade convention. Mike responds “I’ll be wearing mine”.

More blogs weigh in. Some are conflicted. Some object to Penny Arcade’s handling of the situation. Some object to their removal of the merchandise. Some object to the objections. (You just can’t win, can you?) Courtney Stanton displays a pictorial breakdown of some of the responses she’s gotten, many of which involve the words “fat”, “whale”, “ugly”, “die in a fire”, and other unpleasant things.

On February 3rd, Mike and Jerry, the creators of Penny Arcade, finally weigh in on the issue, probably prompted by a tweeted death threat saying “A funny joke: Go to Mike Krahulik’s house, literally murder his wife and child” (paraphrased for readability). Basically, they summarize what’s happened so far, and ask people to stop behaving like sociopaths.

Rape as Comedy” is nothing new, just as “Rape is Love” and “Rape as Redemption” are common in media. Yes, girls, even your favorite “Gone with the Wind” is no doe-eyed innocent. Don’t you remember the scene where Rhett Butler forcibly carries Scarlet unwillingly up the stairs, kicking and screaming? In the next shot, she’s laying there in bed with a smile on her face, with Rhett next to her. Exactly, what do you think happened?

But that’s not what intrigues me about the argument.

The interesting thing is this also comes on the heels of a recent controversy where BitchFest made a list of 100 YA novels for the feminist reader. Some people objected to some of the entries on the list (mostly “Tender Morsels” which involves graphic, continuous rape and incest content). BitchMedia removed those entries which prompted people like Scott Westerfeld (among others), who also had entries on the list, to object to that removal, and ask for his own entries to be removed when it was clear that BitchMedia made a kneejerk censorship reaction and hadn’t even read the book. See here for a summary of that debate. Personally, why anyone would put stock in what an outlet called “BitchMedia” says is beyond me.

But back to Penny Arcade. This is what those guys were thinking: a dickwolf — a wolf with erect phalluses for limbs — who rapes people to sleep is ridiculous. So ridiculous, it’s hilarious. Twelve-year-old boy hilarious, but still, it’s so silly it’s funny. That’s what comedy is — pushing the envelope to the point of absurdity. They weren’t condoning or marginalizing rape, because why would they? It’s not on their mind 24/7. They were marginalizing video games’s dubious moral stance in real world scenarios.

I sympathize with PA in this debate because A) I’m anti-censorship & I wouldn’t want either the government or “the masses” determining what my product should or shouldn’t say B) I’ve been here recently when I tried to make some comments on Jim C. Hines’s forum. Everyone there attacked me and my opinions immediately. It doesn’t matter which side was right, we could not have a rational discussion about it, because people were too emotionally charged. It’s the same as racism. Same with abortion. Same with homosexual rights. We cannot solve these problems until we argue with objectivity, logic, and rationality. Not emotions, personal feelings, or gut instincts.

So until you can stop calling people a fat whale or threaten to kill someone’s family, shit like this will keep happening. At this point the debate is causing more pain than the original act.

But here’s the two things I want to say. One: I cannot reconcile the fact that they decided to pull the t-shirt from their stores, then Mike says that he’ll be wearing his at PAX. That seems pretty hypocritical. I know there’s got to be more to the story than that. It could have been left hand not knowing what the right was doing. That often happens in business. But it wasn’t enough to say that there won’t be any restrictions on dickwolf t-shirts, he had to say he’ll be actively wearing one. Isn’t that like Murabak wearing a “Free Egypt” t-shirt? I don’t think PA needs to apologize over this, but I do think they need to clear it up. I don’t think there’s anything they need to apologize for. Apology implicates regret, sadness, and remorse, and you should never have that for something you created unless it hurt people. No one is hurt by a comic strip. PA should stand by their work.

Second: I’m not going to talk about this in terms of censorship vs. sensititve issues like rape, but I will use this analogy:

Say you’re at a playground, you brought lunch, there’s a bunch of kids around playing. Now a mom, a total stranger, comes up to you and asks “excuse me, my son has a severe peanut allergy. Could you wash your kids hands so they don’t get peanut butter all over the equipment?”

First, you might not think this is a big request. But think about it a little further. Wouldn’t you be surprised? Taken aback? I know I would be. In fact, I might feel forced to leave, unwelcome. I might not want to come back to that playground if that woman’s going to be there again. I know it’s awkward for her to ask, but it’s awkward for me to give in to a foolish request.

Who knows if someone’s peanut-laden kid was there five minutes ago? Do you think wiping a kids hands is going to do anything but a passable job to get the peanut butter off? I don’t have a sink in my diaper bag. Why is it your job to safeguard this kid’s life when you’re not the one who has the problem?

No, I’ve never been there. I have no allergies. I don’t know what it’s like to have allergies or asthma. I imagine it’s bad. Not being able to breathe is scary. But if I don’t have this condition, why should I be forced to act like I do? I’m not the one with the allergy. Why is one person dictating the policies that change it for all of us? Why are we listening to a few screwballs instead of listening to the people who had no problem? The majority of the people liked the comic, but they had nothing to complain about, so they stayed silent.

(Here’s the post where I gleaned the scenario from. Be sure to read all the comments.)

Remember what Neil Gaiman said. Freedom of speech is not a scalpel. It’s a club. It must defend all speech or none, even icky speech. This is the web. Offensive material is everywhere. But anyone who says it should be taken down because of their personal feelings is being selfish and inconsiderate to a lot of people.

–Some comments on the comments below–
  • I don’t believe in the “slippery slope” argument.  If a tree falls in the forest, do all the other trees around it fall?  When radio debuted they thought it was the end of live music.  Then they said the same thing about movies and television and videos.  They are all still around.  Slippery slope is a logical fallacy.
  • Wheelchair ramps don’t inconvenience me.  I can still take the stairs.  Blind accessibility won’t inconvenience me. All websites will be first engineered for the “sighted”.  You can add things for the minority, and that’s fine, but when you start taking away something away, that’s when I get pissed.
  • Rape culture is a bit of a misnomer.  As I understand it, it’s the word for when rape is treated lightly or as a joke and thus is implicitly condoned.  I don’t believe this causes rape (just the same way that violence in video games does not cause violent human behavior), but it does provoke misconceptions about its nature (Jim C. Hines just posted a nice example of this).  Did PA do this?  I don’t think so.  At least not NEARLY as bad as mass media news outlets do.  It’s farcical comedy, people.
  • PA are not rich white guys (not sure what their being white has to do with this).  They are hard workers, they frequently give back to the community, and I see no evidence that they have mansions or are “privileged”.  (You ever see their reality show?  Their office space is tiny.)
  • Dickwolves, in themselves, do not offend people.  It’s their “raping to sleep” act that does it.  When I hear the world dickwolf I imagine a wolf with phalluses all over.  Not a wolf in the act of raping someone.  So the shirt itself does not promote rape.  Humans rape, but a picture of a human on a t-shirt is okay.
  • I don’t know what spectral integrity is, but I want it.  Sounds boss.
  • I don’t know what the offended people are expecting from PA, but I suspect no matter what they do, it would not be enough.
  • One last thing by Jim C. Hines he wrote today: “Everyone messes up. We all say things without thinking. We say things that are hurtful, offensive, or just plain stupid. What’s important is what happens next.”