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I haven’t explored every bit of the most recent xkcd, but I think I may have found its outer edges:

Given those URLs, it ought to be possible to write scripts that’ll download all the tiles (some spots seem to be procedurally filled with white or black space instead of having tiles) and stitch ’em together into the full image. Maybe tomorrow.

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I’m finally getting around to reading Digger, and not really enjoying it much, to tell you the truth. But I’m still fairly near the beginning (just started Chapter 2), and maybe it gets better later on. Anyway, I’m trying to figure something out. Could someone tell me what’s going on in this panel here?

mystery panel

Here’s the whole page. I get what’s going on before and after that panel, the action of the page in general. But I can’t figure that one panel out. Here are the possible readings I’ve come up with:

  1. Digger is moving her left hand (the one not holding the pickaxe) horizontally for some reason. For a moment I thought maybe she was pulling a cover off of the pickaxe head, but the thing I thought might’ve been the cover I now think is just part of her vest. I can’t think of any other reason for her to be swinging her arm like that; she winds up with her hand behind her, which makes it less effective for the move she makes in the next panel.
  2. Digger is swinging her pickaxe back and forth. (The speed lines continue past the pickaxe on either side, so it would have to be a back-and-forth motion.) Seems plausible, but her right arm doesn’t seem positioned plausibly for the full extension that would be necessary for the head of the pickaxe to follow that arc. And this still doesn’t explain why her left arm is behind her.
  3. Digger just threw the pickaxe from her left hand (where we see it in the first panel) to her right. This connects the first and fourth panels, and accounts for the pickaxe moving from one hand to the other, but again, it’s weak as a prelude to the action in panel five (she’s using both hands for the pickaxe anyway; why waste time and risk dropping it to switch hands?). Also, the speedlines depict an arc of horizontal movement; a thrown pickaxe would have to arc vertically. And this reading doesn’t explain why the speedlines are continuing past the head of the pickaxe.

Also, when does the actual story start? Like I said, just started Chapter 2, maybe 70 or 80 pages in, and the characters are still just wandering around chatting. I’m thinking Ursula Vernon would have benefited from the discipline of publishing in pamphlet form. Cerebus started out crude, but that first 22-page issue contained a full story.

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Yeah, so Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza crapped this out.

So Barry Deutsch did this.

Leading me to do…

...this. )

(If anyone else is interested in matching the fonts, they’re ACME Secret Agent at 12 points and Anime Ace italic at 15 points, both free from Blambot. Because what’s the point of parody if you can’t match the fonts?)

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Everyone who plays RPGs oughta go read Dylan Horrocks’s short comics story, “The Physics Engine”. I’m especially thinking of [livejournal.com profile] jimhenley and [livejournal.com profile] bruceb here.

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Last night my subconscious made contact with an alternative timeline where Robert Heinlein was a scriptwriter for I Love Lucy, and pulled an episode through. Sadly, I retained pretty much nothing of it on waking.

Today, Jeffrey Rowland suggests that you can tell everything there is to know about someone by looking at their last five Wikipedia searches. Of course I looked to see what mine were:

The coffee-related searches were inspired by today’s Questionable Content. If I’d read Overcompensating before QC today, here’s what my last five would have been:

Just as well Rowland didn’t run that strip yesterday, when I was looking up euphemisms for genitalia.

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I followed a link to a Something Positive strip, and suddenly flashed on why I’ve never been able to follow this webcomic. It’s because I can’t read the thing. Literally.

Maybe this is just me. Something Positive has a large and devoted following, so obviously many people must be able to see words in those cramped, blurry masses of text. I can even do it, if I work at it. But it’s enough work to cancel out any enjoyment I might have gotten out of the strip.

For comparison, here are some word balloons from some webcomics I do follow. In each case, I grabbed the largest word balloon I could find from a recent strip.

Sordid City Blues by Charles Schneeflock Snow
Sordid City Blues
Notice how readable this is, despite the small type size. That’s because Snow uses generous linespacing and a good font, and breaks his dialog up into small pieces. This was the biggest single word balloon I could find in a recent strip, and it’s only got 13 words. Snow makes his living as a graphic designer, so he knows how this stuff works.

Scary-Go-Round by John Allison
Large, clear type. Dialog broken up into small pieces. Again, 13 words.

Questionable Content by J Jacques
Questionable Content
At 36 words, this clocks in as the largest balloon so far, and the type is pretty small, but mixed case makes it readable, as well as allowing Jacques to use all-caps for emphasis. The whitespace above lower-case letters means you can get away with less linespacing. It would be even better if he used a taller, narrower word balloon. And it suffers a bit for being placed against an open white background; I probably should have included the balloon borders in these images.

Templar, Arizona by Spike
Templar, Arizona
I’m not actually sure that Spike uses computer lettering. Possibly she uses a font based on her handwriting for most of the dialog, and then hand-letters special stuff, like the “God” in this balloon. In any case, the large lettering, extensive use of italics and boldface and underlining and occasional other effects, and the breaking up of long speeches into smaller balloons (this one is 20 words, but it’s one of five balloons in that one panel, in which only that character is speaking), not only makes the text very readable, it conveys the rhythm of actual speech. (Update: Spike commented below; all the text’s hand-lettered.)

Now, here’s Something Positive by RK Milholland
Something Positive
That’s 60 damn words crammed into one big balloon, all caps, with practically no space between the lines, and a font that has almost no space between the letter I and adjacent letters. (Look how the I almost blurs into the N in “insane” and “screamin’”.) This is a strip where much of the humor is conveyed through dialog, but the dialog is presented with almost no care. Look over that word balloon again, then look at the middle panel in that Templar, Arizona strip, and imagine how Spike would have presented it.

It may not be fair to compare these strips, since all of the first four are larger than Something Positive. Sordid City Blues is 900 pixels wide, and Questionable Content is a massive 1418 pixels tall! But Milholland is the one who chooses how to lay out his strip, and how much dialog to put in it. He can make it bigger, or write less, if he wants to. An advantage of webcomics as a medium is that they come with very few artistic constraints.

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The penis disintegration dreamSee what happens when you don’t read Templar, Arizona! See!

Seriously, it’s got everything. Great character designs, sharp dialog, a sexy sarcastic fat chick, a restaurant that serves puppies, and a heroic statue of Jimmy Carter. What more could you possibly be looking for? How about this — the comic is set in an alternate universe full of weird fictional sports, TV shows, and subcultures. And there’s a guy with a pet chicken.

C’mon, just go to the beginning and start reading. Or if you don’t have time to go through 130 pages of archive, just try out the five-page Intermission story for a taste.

(Image © Charlie “Spike” Trotman.)

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At the after-presentation dinner mission the other week, Gary Tyrrell of Fleen asked me the obvious question — what webcomics do I read? Me being the sad, silicon-dependent sod that I am, I was only able to recall four or five out of what I figured were a couple dozen webcomics. A few days back I got fed up with how badly Safari was performing and switched over to Firefox, and as part of that migration exported my Safari bookmarks, giving me an opportunity to pull the webcomics section out into a list. Turns out I read about 40 webcomics, though a few have stopped updating.

For those of you who are going to gloss over the whole list, let me just strongly recommend two comics right here: Templar, Arizona and Scary Go Round. These are the two that you’re most likely not to be already reading, but should be. Descriptions below.

OK, on to the list:

  • A Softer World — A photo, cropped into three panels, with captions added. Been thinking of dropping this; it’s been a while since it made me laugh, or wince.
  • Alien Loves Predator — Amazing comic built out of photos of posed action figures, NYC scenery, and Photoshop skill. Funny, too.
  • Bang Barstal — Post-apocalyptic ass-kicking. It’s in the middle of its third story arc, “The Dead”, which is being posted in big chunks rather than one page at a time. I’d start with the second arc, “Racing Towards Home”.
  • Bolt City — Kazu Kibuishi’s website, where he keeps a blog and posts updates to his various comics, like Copper, a beautifully drawn and colored comic where each story is a single page long.
  • Bruno — Adventures of a depressed twenty-something woman, done as a (usually) single-panel strip. The cross-hatching can get pretty amazing when the artist gets ambitious, which he doesn’t often nowadays since he’s got several other comics going too.
  • Bugsport — This comic set in a small New England town where space aliens have settled doesn’t update often, but it’s got gorgeous art. Check out the flying saucers that look like big-fin retro cars!
  • Butterfly A superhero and his sidekick. How long since this thing’s updated?
  • Cat and Girl — It was the “villanelle sandwich” strip that got me hooked.
  • Desert Rocks — Um, actually I haven’t looked at this one in over a year. But I keep meaning to.
  • Diesel Sweeties — Funny daily strip starring robots and hipsters. Distinctive pixel art.
  • Dresden Codak — I found this one pretty recently, but I’m glad I did. Lovely artwork paired with weird intellectual humor. Check out the philosopher’s role-playing game.
  • Flaky Pastry — Weekly extended-story humor strip set in a D&D-like fantasy world; pretty art.
  • Girl Genius — Extended story comedy adventure from longtime comics pro Phil Foglio and his wife Kaja. You all read it already.
  • Girls with Slingshots — Joke strip. Hazel is a cynical beanpole, Jamie is cheerful and zaftig, McPedro is a talking cactus. There’s lots of drinking.
  • I am a rocket builder: An Old House — Actually a bunch of interlocking webcomics. Doesn’t update often.
  • Mac Hall — Started as a college strip, currently on hiatus as the creators work on a new direction. Nice art, especially the use of color and blurred backgrounds.
  • Miracle of Science — Extended-story SF comic about mad scientists and the cops who hunt them. Oh, and Martians.
  • Naut-Cotic — Might delete this from my menu, since it hasn’t updated in forever. Long-form SF story with attractive art in a manga-derived, yet distinctive, style.
  • Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life — Irregulary-updating philosophical humor strip about robots.
  • No Pink Ponies — Joke strip about a woman who runs a comic store. Good art, but I’m starting to tire of the writing.
  • No Rest For The Wicked — Long-form fantasy story using classic fairy-tale characters.
  • Normal Life — Natasha Allegri’s LJ comic. Mostly exaggerated autobio humor.
  • Ojingogo — Beautiful but surreal. I really wish this updated more often.
  • Orneryboy — Sharp-looking, funny Flash comic. I don’t know why, but the main character reminds me of [livejournal.com profile] nihilistic_kid.
  • Overcompensating — Autobio comic based on the daily life of a billionaire cowboy poet and webcomics magnate.
  • Perry Bible Fellowship — Strange conceptual humor with a flexible, adept art style.
  • Pibgorn — Another one I may drop. The adventures of a fairy, a succubus, and a pianist. Nice art, but the stories move very very slowly. He’s currently been doing an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that’s been going on for months.
  • PowerPuff Girls Doujinshi — You’d be surprised how many characters from Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon cartoons can be squeezed into a single storyline. Well-drawn, too; the cartoonist does a great job redesigning the characters for an anime look. The second storyline started up a few months back, then stopped after just a few pages.
  • PvP — Long-running popular joke strip set at a gaming magazine. Lots of geeky humor. Origin of the “Joss Whedon is my Master” line.
  • Questionable Content — Romance, sarcasm, coffee, indie music, and little robots.
  • Raymondo Person — Weird humor. Just updated this week, for the first time in months, as I was thinking of dropping it.
  • Savage Chickens — Daily single-panel joke strip, starring talking chickens, drawn on Post-It notes.
  • Scary Go Round — One of my favorite webcomics. Nice art, and consistently funny dialog. John Allison totally nails the difficult task of giving each daily page a joke so it’s satisfying on its own, while also building long story-lines out of them.
  • Skullcano Island — Is that a great name or what? I think this is just whatever the artist feels like putting up, whenever he gets around to it. If you go back to the beginning of the archives there are a bunch of repeating Bizarro-like strips, and then eventually this island-based storyline shows up. I love this drawing style.
  • Sordid City Blues — Wide-hipped women compete for the heart of a skinny cartoonist, while a rock musician wrestles with his faith. Currently on hiatus while [livejournal.com profile] mister_wolf works on a comic based around St John of the Cross’s “Dark Night of the Soul”.
  • Space Pirate Apocalypse — Actually the home for whatever comics Ben Bittner makes. “Cooking with Anne” is about scraping together a meal after a nuclear war, “Pirate” is a pirates comic that petered out after a few strips, and “Apocalypse” is his latest, that hasn’t gotten past the first panel.
  • Templar, Arizona — I rave about this one a lot. It’s set in a fictional Arizona town, I think maybe in a slightly alternate history, and shows a shy would-be writer trying to cope with overbearing neighbors and a strange neighborhood full of odd little counter-cultures. Spike’s dialog and art are just fantastic, and she’s got a real gift for both characterization and world-building.
  • The Tenth Life of Pishio the Cat — Picked up a minicomic at MoCCA this year that started this story, and I was glad to see it continuing, but it hasn’t gotten very much farther. It’s a fantasy about a cat who’s used up his nine lives, and been given a tenth by the divine (and infernal) powers to perform a mission for them. Unlike most talking-animals strip, this one doesn’t gloss over what carnivore behavior is like; Pishio is an utterly believable vicious little brute.
  • Wapsi Square — A slice-of-life comic that’s being swallowed by a supernatural storyline. At this point I’m just reading it for the drawings of sexy girls.
  • Wigu — The hilarious adventures of a small boy, his family, a pastel space pony, and an talking potato made of poison.
  • Zip and Li’L Bit — Well-drawn story about a boy who swaps places with an upside-down version of himself he finds walking around on his ceiling.
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I’ve added a couple more webcomics to my trawl:

The Tenth Life of Pishio the Cat
I picked up the beginning of this story in minicomic form at MoCCAfest this year, liked it, and promptly forgot about it till I saw a post about it on [livejournal.com profile] onlinecomic.

Dresden Codak
Linked to from Miracle of Science today. I want to be this comics when I grow up! Surreal humor with plenty of scientific hat-tips. Starts out a bit weak, but improves steadily, and after a dozen or so strips he starts developing some continuity. By the current strip, his art’s gotten very nice.

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AltTextHereThe two topmost posts on my Friends page right now are people complaining about LJ email comment notification not working. I don’t know beans about that, since I don’t use that feature, but till the Secret Masters of LJ stomp those bugs, y’all can use your Recent Comments page when you’re logged in to keep track of recent comments in your journal.

In other news, a doodle! That nameless Barnes & Noble sketchbook paper soaks up brush-marker ink real fine; I’ll be sad when I can’t find it anymore. For this one I tried using a coloring trick Ian McConville came up with for MacHall (though I don’t think he uses it anymore since he’s gone to direct-to-screen drawing), specifically the shadows thing, creating new layer for shading, setting it to 30% opacity and Multiply, and painting on it with a pure blue that’s about 80% black (I just set the RGB selector to 0:0:55). Works pretty well.
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Via Jim Henley comes the news that Carla Speed McNeil is going to be following the Foglio’s lead. The upcoming Finder arc, “Five Crazy Women”, will be the last published in single-issue format. Over the next few months McNeil will be moving Finder over to web publication (three pages a week, for free) with annual trade paperback collection.

I’ll miss comics stores when they’re gone, but I won’t miss pamphlet-format comics. What a fucking pain in the ass.
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Best non-political blog entry: “Life and death” by Chris Clarke (via Patrick Nielsen Hayden)

Best article about political writing: “Flathead: The peculiar genius of Thomas L. Friedman” by Matt Taibbi in the NY Press. And don’t miss the Friedman-esque parodies of Keat’s “On First Looking into Chapman’s ‘Homer’” in Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Making Light.

Best article about economics and honesty: “What the Bagel Man Saw — An Accidental Glimpse at Human Nature” (via Kottke)

Best musical response to an obscure historical note about a current event: “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” by [livejournal.com profile] tahnan

Best webcomic I discovered this month: Ojingogo by Matthew Forsythe.
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Best political blog post of the month: “In Other News, the Check is In the Mail” by Jim Henley

Best browser add-on of the month: Destroy Target by Sergi Meseguer, which strips target="_blank" out of links. I’ve been wanting this since about ten minutes after Netscape introduced frames. First get Firefox, then install the Greasemonkey extension. You might also want to browse this collection of Greasemonkey user scripts.

Best music download of the month: CD-quality MP3 rip of Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine, which her label has been refusing to release for two years. “Promote the progress of science and useful arts” my ass.
Runner-up: “Sixteen Military Wives” video by The Decemberists.

Best new webcomic discovery of the month: [livejournal.com profile] normallife, who really needs to find herself a better image host.
Runner-up: No Rest for the Wicked by Andrea Peterson.

Coolest hack of the month: Using the motion detector in new PowerBooks to control iTunes by tilting the laptop. Makes me want a new PowerBook right now.


Mar. 3rd, 2005 12:13 am
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Hey, look! It’s About Girls has updated! A whole big batch of webstrip! Damn!

I’ve just finished Max Barry’s Jennifer Government, which, while clever and bitingly satirical, isn’t nearly as clever or biting as it thinks. It’s got about as much clever as a good Bruce Sterling short story, but spread out over a whole novel.

Before that, John C Wright’s Mists of Everness, second half of the story that started in The Last Guardian of Everness. (No, Mists isn’t actually out yet.) Like Wright’s Golden Age trilogy (written later, but published earlier), the Everness books are outstanding, full of wit and invention and glory. And like the trilogy, this story contains unfortunate bits of Objectivist wingnuttery toward the end. The wingnuttery isn’t as important to the plot in Everness, but Wright also gets sloppy when he lets his politics insert itself into the story. Still, well worth reading. (Odd note: Since writing these, Wright has had a religious experience and become a Christian. What this means for his further books, I don’t know.)

Next: Paradise Lost, I think.

Slim pickings at the comics shop this week. I got the trade of Teenagers from Mars, a comic I’ve been meaning to look at for a while.
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Anime Popeye, requires QuickTime, and a beefy enough connection that you don’t mind an 8-meg download. (via Ceejbot)

An amazing Powerpuff Girls doujinshi. (via Long story, short pier, who describes it as “More like ‘The Entire Turn-of-the-Century Cartoon Network Output Doujinshi.’”)
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While up in Gloucester I had access to a computer, but I’d left all my bookmarks at home. This wasn’t much trouble till I wanted my webcomics fix. At home I’ve got a Comics folder in my Bookmarks bar, with sub-folders for the days of the week, and I just select “Open in Tabs” to get all that day’s comics to open up. On the road, I need to rely on my fallible memory.

Well, that sort of thing is just what del.icio.us was created to help with. I’d been using my del.icio.us account mostly as a memo pad, a place to hold links I didn’t have time to follow up on right away, or things I knew I was going to want to be able to find later, while my own browser’s bookmarks file is for things I know I’m going to want to use frequently, so I hadn’t bothered trying to dump my bookmarks into del.icio.us. But that tags functionality comes in pretty handy for this sort of thing.

I’ve just dumped all of my webcomics links into del.icio.us, giving each one the tag webcomics, as well as a day tag (either one or more days of the week, or daily for comics that update Mon-Fri with optional weekends). Now I can look ’em up just by sticking the appropriate tags in a URL:


This doesn’t count the comics I read on my Friends page through LJ RSS feeds.
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The red/blue, religious/secular split explained at last!
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I’ve been enjoying the heck out of this comic strip.
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I finished The Botany of Desire today, while still in Manhattan. Needed something to read on the way home, so I stopped in at Barnes & Noble, and discovered that the man-portable edition of Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver is out! Woohoo! So now I’m only, what, like a year behind every other computer nerd in the world.

Some new comics on my check-regularly list:
It’s About Girls by William G
Sordid City Blues by Charles Schneeflock Snow
Questionable Content by J Jacques

Stopped off at The Art Store after work. Damn, that Faber-Castell mechanical pencil (bottom item, #138401) felt nice in my hand. Too bad it takes 0.7mm leads instead of 0.5mm.
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Man, I just love Scary-Go-Round!!

April 2017



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