Tag Archives: Webcomics

Terrible Twos: Altar of Pine & Disorder

Sometimes you can’t help but notice that there are similarities between stories. I always find this pretty spectacular because it shows how certain themes and aesthetics can be simultaneously universal and idiosyncratic. Even when they come from separate genres this is true, and those genres themselves could share similarities as well. That is why for this review, I want to talk about not one but two webcomics: Altar of Pine by Cayde and Disorder by Erika Price. One is a historical dark fantasy tale, the other is arthouse horror. One gets its art style from watercolor expressionism and medieval woodcuts, the other is a black and white demon crossbreed between H.R. Giger and heavy metal album covers. And yet, both series are about identity, depression, anxiety, queerness, and a search for a deeper meaning to life beyond struggle. 

Altar of Pine

Created by Cayde

Altar of Pine

In a colonial New England town, there lives a poor fisherman by the name of Alexander. He is lonely, doesn’t connect with his community, and is in debt to the miserly Montgomery. Not even Alexander’s only friend Pritchett is much of a friend. Alexander prefers to get lost at sea and not have to think about life, a certain freedom within nothingness. On one of his expeditions, Alexander is capsized and washes ashore on a seemingly abandoned island. Except for the cabin with strange potions…the totems made from skulls…and the spirits within. 

Altar of Pine is based on heavy research into history and witchcraft. The latter of which series creator Cayde is a practitioner of. Yes, unlike most cases where your mom is wrong about comics, this particular book will teach you the dark arts. If that is not your jam, I suggest you go read a Chick tract. 

The witchcraft hits early when you first go into the comic’s main website and, BAM!, there’s a very polite Satan warning you that there is explicit content in the series. Thanks, Satan! 

Altar of Pine

The coloring in Altar of Pine is done with watercolors. This approach has taken some ground in indie and non-Big Two comics as an alternative to the polished look of digital coloring. For many artists watercolor can give comics a softer, more traditional look. It’s also great for creating surreal and experimental designs. The artists participating in this movement are diverse, from mainstream icon Dustin Nguyen to cult superstar Niina Salmelin. 

Altar of Pine

Cayde’s technique is more subdued than these contemporaries. The first chapter of Altar of Pine focuses heavily upon the sea. The application of blue is grainish and ghostly. It invokes deep feelings of melancholy, the same feeling written all over Alexander’s face. 

This approach, using color to reflect the character’s mental state, is used later in a scene of Alexander’s town. The color choice is a yellow to symbolize the concentration of human life that exists within the village. Traditionally, that would invoke feelings of warmth and security. Alexander, however, feels fear, pain, and isolation as Montgomery and his men ransack his home, and no one lifts a finger to defend him. After the confrontation, a three-panel page shows a three-step transition from the yellow of the village to the green of the forest and, finally, the blue of the sea. 

In each panel, the colors and the feelings they invoke become more melancholy in nature. Yet Alexander’s emotional state improves as illustrated by this image. 

Altar of Pine

Watercolor becomes increasingly experimental when Alexander arrives on the mysterious island. The application of a singular shade in previous pages is replaced with a cabin scene with multiple colors. Not only does it look like how it would in real life, but there is also a feeling of peace and balance. After applying a suspicious green cream to himself, Alexander enters a realm where everything is cloudy and spooky, an unknown territory where anything could happen. The ultimate purpose of watercolor in Altar of Pine is empathy. The reader is meant to feel the same whirlwind of emotions that Alexander is feeling. 

Color also adds to character design. No one in Altar of Pine is a perfectly chiselled superhero or baby-smooth waifu. Nothing against the supes and waifus of the world. Most are middle-aged people with skin issues, gray hairs, and always some kind of belly fat. These characters live in a rough time period and eat some dank-ass food that Gordon Ramsey would need days to spice up. They aren’t exactly going to be in Vogue is what I’m saying. 

Aside from looking realistic, the characters drawn in Altar of Pine‘s grimey fashion also better express their emotions. Whatever they feel, it always gets reflected by the watercolor scheme around them. Sometimes it is an intentional effect, other times it’s a natural occurrence that just seems to fit. It is not trying too hard to make a point of being symbolic. Everything is just so naturally in-sync to the tone of the story that it does not need any extra effort. 

Grimey melancholy might not sound like the best emotion, but I think it makes sense to the story. Alexander is in a crappy position, and his only relief right now is to be alone. This might be when his depression intensifies, but it also might be helpful in unconventional ways.

Altar of Pine

I am not a mental health professional, but I do suffer from anxiety and depression. I have for some time now. Because I’m introverted, being around people exacerbates my downward spiral. When I walk alone though, along the streets, by the side of the sea or deep in the forest, I experience relief unlike any other. My mind clears and I regain a sense of purpose. I don’t want to die, I want to live and marvel at the treasures of the world. Ironically enough, loneliness is the key to recovery.

This is just my own interpretation, but I feel Alexander suffers similar episodes of anxiety and depression. It’s symbolized from the time as he escapes town on a boat to washing up on the shore of the island. As he struggles and makes new discoveries, I can’t help but be reminded by the same feelings I go through during those dark times. While Alexander’s return to the town does not conclude with elation, his desire to tell of his journey shows that, ironically, alienation pulls him out of the depths of despair. 

That’s as far as I can analyze the story. Partly because I don’t want to give too much away but also we are not that far into it. There are only three completed chapters so far, and Alexander has only begun to discover the mysteries of the island. There isn’t much to analyze or discuss from such an insignificant chunk of story. However, it’s enough to keep me reading, and perhaps for those who enjoy a dark fantasy about healing mixed with wonderful watercolor art. 

Disorder

Created by Erika Price

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Where do I even begin talking about this comic? The simple answer is that I can’t because there is so much complexity to it, anything I say will be merely a scratch at the surface. The series’ website describes it as a “series of dark and surreal short horror comics, created as art therapy.” Boy, this must be some therapy because the stuff that goes down in Disorder would make Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Kathe Koje, Junji Ito, David Cronenberg, and honestly any other dark creative drop dead from feelings of inadequacy. 

There are no traditional plots in Disorder. It reads like a series of vivid nightmares accompanied by cryptic narrations and surreal images. Each involves an entity of some sort as it endures pain, dread, and a never-ending struggle for self-actualization. The true greatness of the series is how, in both writing and art, it never fails to be simultaneously unique and signature to Price’s ouvre, and touching upon themes that are universal and esoteric. 

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In Issue #1, the cover displays many key characteristics of the art style: Black and white, heavily detailed lineart, unique patterns, and alien bodies. The story of this particular issue involves ginormous humanoid entities constructed out of cities. Concrete, glass, wires, steel, plaster, skyscrapers, railings, and asphalt twist and bend to shape these behemoths into being. As a result, it causes them great pain, at least that’s what I’m able to deduce. Interestingly, there are onlookers who walk toward the city and become citizens, as though the grotesque terraformation hypnotizes them. The layout for each page consists of large panels, some of them splashes, to fit in as much detail as possible. The effect is a sense of the grand scale of this humanoid city.

The other four chapters have similar stories of humanoids and the pain they experience. While the style remains the same, creator Erika Price varies in themes and execution. In particular, the panel layouts get into some delightful mischief. A good number of them are standard, albeit pushing the boundaries of those standards. Some are straight out trippy, such as in issue #3.

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This issue has heavy organic aesthetics to it, many of the life forms consisting of reptilian, amphibian, and fish qualities. Panels are constructed out of shapes resembling air bubbles and cellular patterns. The entire chapter is quite chaotic much like the biosphere it represents, and yet it all makes a visual sense to the cryptic narrative being told. 

In every one of the chapters, recurring themes of pain, alienation, and subjugation are presented in fresh ways while maintaining running visual characteristics unique to Erika Price’s style. With just a few short comics, she has already proven to be an auteur in terms of figuring out a brand and ethos. This is something that even the greatest artists in history took up to decades figuring out. Hell, double so in comics where, in the past, editorial mandates and trends held back a lot of highly talented artists. Free in the wild west landscape of webcomics, Price does whatever the hell she likes and distinguishes herself in the process.

As much as I have talked about the universal themes in Disorder, there are esoteric themes at work too. Mental illness is a big one. I get a serious sense of depression and anxiety from the comic; those are illnesses I can relate to, so in a way they are still universal even if Price is presenting them esoterically.

One theme that I think is much more esoteric is bodily dysphoria, a feeling of being trapped inside a body that’s wrong. This might be particularly personal for Price given she is a trans woman. Although I am not transgender myself, so I don’t really know what that experience is like. I don’t want to step in and explain an experience I don’t have, so I will avoid going in any deeper. I will just say I wouldn’t be surprised if gender dysphoria is a theme here. If I did offend in any way, I apologize.

That said, the theme of body dysphoria can encompass more than just gender; after all, the two can relate to each other but are still different categories. Diverse people can experience body dysphoria if they feel like something is fundamentally wrong with their body. I’m going to speak from my own experience as someone who experiences this issue because of my weight. Since I am so preoccupied with it, my other issues of depression and anxiety multiply. I repeatedly feel like I’m trapped inside a gross body full of negative emotions, and it can be suffocating. Erika Price visually captures this feeling perfectly with how the humanoid entities twist and bend and break and mutant in excruciating ways. She has captured with the pure existential id of this state. 

Erika Price also captures the pure id of Horror. Now, it might seem presumptuous to attach Disorder to a genre when its storytelling methods defy all traditional notions of narrative, but visually speaking it is pure Horror. Disorder looks horrifying. It is horrifying to read. It perfectly encapsulates everything about the genre and the various forms of media and genres under the tent, from the slimy practical effects of David Cronenberg to the gothic landscapes of black metal. It can’t be denied how Disorder is Horror in its purest essence. 

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Given how much I’ve described the series, it’s still not enough. Disorder is the most abstract, complex, and challenging comic I have yet read. I’m barely able to comprehend it still given I have only read through the series once. I feel like my analysis is just scratching the surface and that smarter critics could dig deeper and find more layers to thoroughly discuss. Simultaneously, I think I’m underselling this comic by merely trying to describe it. Much like Lifemahcine’s Weaker Sides, this is a comic to read and experience more than to analyze. I hope to go back, reread the comic, and relive the experience of the first go round so that my understanding of this peculiar series increases. 

Altar of Pine and Disorder are both unique works of art, radically different in their styles and approaches to storytelling but similarly about mental illness, introspection, and a search for self. There is beauty in these comics’ darkness, one as strange and infinite as the entities of older, darker realms. If you’re looking for dark horror and fantasy stories that will challenge you to explore dangerous worlds and uncomfortable thoughts, then I can’t recommend reading both series enough.   

Art: 10 Story: 10
Recommendation: Buy, er well read ’cause these are webcomics

Check out Cayde’s Patreon
Check out Erika’s Disorder

Underrated: Release Barabbas!

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Release Barabbas


The cover to the comic actually has straight lines – this is just a poor photo of my copy.

There’s a chance that you may have heard about Barabbas, especially if you’re familiar with the bible and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, John and later copies of Luke. If you haven’t heard of him, then Barabbas was the criminal who, along with Jesus of Nazareth, was presented to the crowd by Pontius Pilate whereby the crowd was given the option to save one man and condemn the other to death. We all know how that turned out for one of the men.

But what about the other?

Well that’s where Liam McKenna‘s Release Barabbas comes in. Billed as “an absolutely nonreligious, yet possibly sacrilegious biblical fairy tale” the 57 page comic tells the story of Barabbas’ life on the day his life was spared – a day that also happens to be the same day Jesus was crucified.   If you’re already starting to turn away because you’re leery of the religious undertones then don’t worry because despite being set during a pivotal moment in history, biblical or not, there’s actually nothing to do with religion in the comic, because Barabbas himself seems entirely oblivious to it – and this is his story.

Release Barabbas has a colour scheme that feels immediately historical; the reddish peach of the physical comic lends itself a brilliantly sepia-esque tone that serves as a great tool to set the historical nature of the tale right away. Likewise, McKenna’s stylized art lends itself to a physical comedy that’s reminiscent of the Saturday morning cartoons and the sound effects that so often permeate those shows and comics. McKenna’s use of blank space to highlight the loneliness and isolation that Barabbas feels as he navigates his first hours of freedom.

As a story about the death of Jesus without Jesus in it, this is a very enjoyable read about a man unaware of the history unfolding around him – and in many ways that’s a reminder to us all. Just because you’re unaware of the events around you doesn’t mean that they’re not happening. For a comic that seems to be a light hearted tale, there’s a subtle gut punch there – and that’s why this is an Underrated book (and the fact you’ve probably never heard of it).

The comic is available in part here or on Gumroad here in a pay-what-you-want model. If you want to hear more on the comic, there’s an episode of Those Two Geeks you can listen to here. I purchased a physical copy directly from the author a couple of months ago for around $17, and it was worth every penny.


Join us next week when we look at something else that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.

BOOM! Studios Teams with Tapas to Bring New Heavy Vinyl from Carly Usdin and Nina Vakueva for the Mobile Experience

BOOM! Studios is teaming up with Tapas Media to bring bit-sized stories to you. Together, BOOM! Studios and Tapas will create a unique print and digital partnership around one of BOOM! Studios’ most popular original series, Heavy Vinyl.

Heavy Vinyl: Riot on the Radio, written by Carly Usdin and with art by Nina Vakueva, was originally published in print by BOOM! Studios in 2017 and amassed a global following. With this partnership, Tapas Media is teaming up with BOOM! to adapt Heavy Vinyl to a scrolling, mobile-friendly experience. Tapas will publish the mobile formatted version of Heavy Vinyl and introduce the series to a digital-native audience. Heavy Vinyl: Riot on the Radio will be available via Tapas through their website and mobile apps available for both iOS and Android, and Tapas Media will debut the new Heavy Vinyl original graphic novel exclusively on their digital platform prior to its physical release.

Tapas Media is a leader in webcomics with 50,000 creators from all over the world and 60,000 original titles published to date. They’ve published one million unique episodes and over 4 billion views.

Preview: Our Super Adventure: Press Start to Begin

Our Super Adventure: Press Start to Begin

(W/A/C/CA) Sarah Graley
Age Rating: Young Adult Audiences — Genre: Humor/Romance

Price: $19.99 — Page Count: 224

Fans of Kate Beaton and Sarah Andersen will love this collection of the hit webcomic OUR SUPER ADVENTURE by Sarah Graley (Rick and Morty, Kim Reaper)!

Eating too much pizza together. Smelling your cats. Figuring out how to spend your evening when the internet has suddenly stopped working. Relationships are full of sweet and quirky little moments!

Sarah Graley’s first collection of the hit diary webcomic Our Super Adventurechronicles two years of these strange, relatable instances, as she navigates life with four cats and one cat-like boy.

Whether it’s that feeling of getting the entire bed when your partner gets up before you, or the heartbreaking realisation that the love of your life has burned the microwave popcorn, Press Start To Begin documents all the weird little everyday flashes of shared absurdity that make up a relationship.

Our Super Adventure: Press Start to Begin

Panels To Chords Ninety – Nine Righteous Men

Ben and Madi are back for a all-new episode of Panels To Chords! This time, they’re talking about K.M. Claude’s Ninety-Nine Righteous Men, the cult hit webcomic about two priests with a shameful history between them that must join forces to vanquish a demonic being of lust possessing a helpless choir boy. It’s sexy, blasphemous and darker than your morning coffee. Just what the doctor ordered!

Webtoon Continues to Grow with New Comics

The #1 web comic publisher, Webtoon, continues to grow their creator community. The platform launched five new titles in January. Webtoon excels with an incredibly diverse selection of titles and the January releases are no exception! Castle Swimmer tells the story of two undersea boys whose fate intertwine into a romance like no other, Acception is a sweet tale of a very different boy who brings a fresh splash of color to the world around him, Save Me comes from the BU piecing together a Groundhog Day storyline from clues throughout BTS’ music videos over the past few years, Trailer Park Warlock finds a hero in a single-wide, and The Four of Them reminds us high school is still the same challenging yet impactful short period of our lives – this submission to their recent Discover Contest made the first cut and gathered a legion of fans. More information on each title is below – all available to binge now!

Castle Swimmer

Creator: Wendy Lian Martin

Description: What happens when your entire life is ruled by a prophecy – your future foretold by people you’ve never met, who died long before you were born. Such is the story of two young sea creatures. One believed to be a guiding light for his people, a Beacon who will lead them to a bright, prosperous future. The other is a teenage prince for who’s destiny is to KILL the Beacon so that HIS own people might thrive. When both reject the course set for them, it leads to a raucous adventure as big and unpredictable as the ocean itself – and a romance that nobody could have predicted.

Note: With more than 200k subscribers in just six episodes and more than 1.7 million global reads, Castle Swimmer marks an impressive debut on Webtoon for creator Wendy Liam Martin.

Updates weekly on Sundays

Acception

Creator: Colourbee

Description: With his rainbow-colored hair and love of all things fashion, Arcus is anything BUT your average teenager. He’s an upbeat independent thinker, proud fashionista, and like the rest of us, is just looking for a few friends to call his own. Acception may be Arcus’ story – but it’s all OUR stories too – and it is for anyone who’s ever struggled to fit in, find love, or thought that High School was pretty much the worst thing ever invented.

NoteAcception debuts with 115k subscribers and more than 1.4 million global reads

Updates twice weekly on Tuesdays and Fridays

Save Me

Creator: Big Hit Ent./LICO

Description: Seven boys. Best friends. Their fates intertwined through the good times together, but also the tough times, as they have gone their separate ways and suffered greatly as a result. When all is almost lost for these boys, one is given a special chance to go back in time and help his friends fix the mistakes that led them down this path. He’ll do anything to save them, but can he? Or is he too late?

Note: Save Me launch week was an incredible 1.1 million subscribers and more than 24 million views. This webtoon topped the trending topics and was top 10 on multiple charts in the App store.

Updates every Thursday

Trailer Park Warlock

Creator: Matthew J. Rainwater

Description: Jake Baker, the working-class warlock, struggles to make ends meet. But with the help of his friends and some down-home DIY magick, he might just keep chaos at bay, and pay his lot fees too…

Note: The creator has introduced an interesting collection of critters including a Rabblesnake…

Updates every Friday

The Four of Them

Creator: Mai Hirschfeld

Description: Getting crushed by your crush. Coming out to your parents. Learning that your sister is your biggest dating rival. High school sure does have its share of twists, turns and moments of high drama. To get through it all with your smile and sanity intact, you’re going to need some friends. Really good friends. Friends like Johnny, Mariel, Gaby and Martina who, one way or another, will find a way to get through their teenage years together.

About: This Discover title made the first cut in Webtoon’s 2018 Creator Contest – and developed an incredible readership!

Updates every Monday

The Cosmoknights are Here to Take on the Patriarchy

Top Shelf Productions will publish the solo debut graphic novel by acclaimed cartoonist Hannah Templer. Written, drawn, and colored by Templer, Cosmoknights is a thrilling galactic adventure set in a world where mech-suited warriors duel over the daughters of the aristocracy, and a fledgling resistance of lady knights aim to bring down the system from within.

Templer will serialize Cosmoknights beginning in March 2019 (International Women’s Month), leading to its print publication in Fall 2019.

Cosmoknights

Polar Gets Posters and a Trailer. Coming to Netflix January 25.

Based on the graphic novel/webcomic series by Victor Santos, Polar gets two posters as well as a trailer. It debuts on Netflix January 25.

The world’s top assassin, Duncan Vizla, aka The Black Kaiser (Mads Mikkelsen), is settling into retirement when his former employer marks him as a liability to the firm. Against his will, he finds himself back in the game going head to head with an army of younger, faster, ruthless killers who will stop at nothing to have him silenced.

Webcomics Weekly: The Mind Palace

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s spotlight on webcomics, where we take a look at one of the many comics available online every Sunday: Webcomics Weekly (but don’t be fooled by the “weekly” part of the title; the feature may happen more or less frequently than that). We’re defining webcomics as any comics published online for free consumption by the general public that doesn’t require a  subscription service.

This week we’re taking a look at The Mind Palace. The strip is created by Dave Dwonch, who was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the webcomic below.

GP: How often do you update?

DD: Every Tuesday and Thursday!

GP: How long have you been producing the strip?

DD: We launched with 7 pages the Wednesday of Preview night at SDCC, and skipped a couple of weeks before launching twice weekly. 

GP: Where did the idea for the strip come from?

DD: I am a huge fan of Bryan Fuller’s work, and t always bugged me that his shows were always cut short. I think that sometimes happens with genius level stuff– it finds an audience later. Look at stuff like Arrested Development and Wet Hot American Summer; the fans kind of grow into the projects. I think Bryan’s stuff is a lot like that.

I wanted to play with the idea of what might happen if someone’s creations had no where left to go, an wound up festering in their subconscious mind. It leads to some volatile stories, trust me.

Below you’ll find two examples of the webcomic.

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If you’d like to have your webcomic featured here, then drop us an email.

Webcomics Weekly: Amanda Green, SIA

Welcome to Graphic Policy’s spotlight on webcomics, where we take a look at one of the many comics available online every Sunday: Webcomics Weekly (but don’t be fooled by the “weekly” part of the title; the feature may happen more or less frequently than that). We’re defining webcomics as any comics published online for free consumption by the general public that doesn’t require a  subscription service.

This week we’re taking a look at [comic’s name], link. The strip is created by Name, who was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the webcomic below.

Graphic Policy: In a nutshell, can you tell us what the strip’s about?

Amanda Green, SIA is about an insurance agent in a superhero-filled city.  Well, that’s the initial tagline for the comic.  It began in 2012 and has evolved into a comic about regular people living in a world of superheroes.  It follows the title character, Amanda Green, and her friends as they deal with regular supervillain attacks, alien invasions, and literally anything that happens in superhero comics.

GP: How often do you update?

Currently, we update twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

GP: How long have you been producing the strip?

I’ve been producing Amanda Green, SIA since about 2011, debuting in 2012.  I’m the writer, and I pitched the comic to my friend, Marili Ramirez.  She’s a great artist who I’ve known for years prior to then.  We were going to work on a couple other projects before Amanda Green, SIA, but things just never panned out.  But by 2011, we were ready to work together.  Since then, Marili left the comic in 2016, and I worked with MJ Barros next.  Currently, I’m working with Amy King and have a couple amazing artists lined up for future stories.

GP: Where did the idea for the strip come from?

Amanda Green, SIA came out of seeing so much destruction in so many superhero movies and animated series.  Property destruction is a staple in comics, of course, but for some reason, it never really clicked with me on the page.  But with movies and television, all that destruction feels more real, more palpable (and being an adult with property of my own sure adds to that).  If Superman throws a car at a supervillain, well, that’s SOMEBODY’s car.  Now they don’t have a car.  What is that person supposed to do now?  That interested me.  How do regular people go on with their lives after their car or house is smashed by a superhero or supervillain?  What do they do after they’ve been magically turned into dinosaurs (a thing that actually happens in my comic)?  We see so much media about the lives of superheroes, but we rarely see the lives of regular people in that world.

Below you’ll find two examples of the webcomic.

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If you’d like to have your webcomic featured here, then drop us an email.

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