Molasses

Molasses (Vol. 1)

Staff: Jason Payne, Milton Knight, Robert Wertz, Elana Pritchard, Jared Axelrod

Overview:

Good art. Not a funny comic.

Review:

So today we are looking at “Molasses”, a comic billed as “The world’s finest funny animal anthology Vol. 1”, by Syrup Pirates. I normally do just 1st issues, which means 1 story, but since this is an anthology and kind of short I will be doing quick reviews of each of the 5 shorts and then giving my overall feelings on the book at the end. Humor comics are not typically my cup of tea, but they contacted me ahead of time and asked and I told them I’d give it the old college try.

The book opens with “Blackbird Pie” by Milton Knight. It’s a wordless 6 panel short based around the children’s rhyme “Sing a Song of Sixpence” where blackbirds are baked in a pie. It makes excellent use of negative space and has some very well-drawn Tex Avery style artwork. An issue off the bat that grabbed me first was it’s font choices. The title was terribly hard to read (I misread it as “Black bind Pie”). This kind of continues on in later panels (I still am not entirely sure what one of the signs says). Overall however, this is a perfectly serviceable comic but it didn’t really make me laugh.

Art: 8/10

The second is “Oberon in The Fly. A Kitty’s Cats Cartoon” by Robert Wertz. It’s a wordless 3 page comic about an anthropomorphic cat who chases an annoying fly around his garage. The art style kind of bothers me a little. I’m not sure if I can really put my finger on it but it seems really stiff and like maybe he used some digital program to allow him to reproduce the face. Maybe it’s a stroke width thing on his cheeks, I dunno. Otherwise it’s perfectly fine. I mean if you’ve seen one Tom and Jerry cartoon, it’s nothing new and again I didn’t really laugh. It kind of ends on a non-ending and I felt like maybe I was cheated out of a punchline.

Art: 4/10

Third we have 2 small, wordless, 3 panel comics called “Don’t Let This Happen To You” by Elana Pritchard. Honestly, I am distracted by the horrible layout. Otherwise it’s pretty decent. Elana is far from the strongest artistic on this comic but it’s not bad. There is some weird error where her signature looks a little glitchy. Again, no laughs were to be had.

Art: 3/10

The fourth comic is “Give & Cake” by Jared Axelrod. It is a 2 page comic with dialogue featuring a fox and a racoon attempting to bake a cake. This one actually has some decent banter and the handdrawn art style is rather nice if not a little difficult to decipher at times. It feels like it is building up to something funny- but the ending, while cute, falls flat. This might have been a decent story for an anthology book featuring the relationship between these two characters but doesn’t really work as a humor story (though the banter is at least clever).

Art: 4/10

The fifth and final story is “Tiny Todd: Caught on a Hookie” by Jason Payne. It has a very odd artstyle- kind of reminds me of the works of John Kricfalusi (Ren & Stimpy, Ripping Friends, etc), some early Matt Groening stuff, or even some Mad Magazine shorts. We have a kid trying to skip school and go to the fair but his dad follows him. While there are some good expressions and reaction shots- I don’t know if this is really a funny comic.

Art: 6/10

Summary
This is the kind of comic I wished I liked more. It has so much passion and enthusiasm behind it that I want it to succeed despite the score I give this. This comic ultimately fails because, whatever else I have to say about it, it’s a humor comic that isn’t funny. I didn’t laugh, I didn’t crack a smile, I didn’t give a warm “hmm”. Maybe I’m not the right audience but it has a very simplistic approach to humor I’m not sure would do much for even a younger audience. Everything was fairly predictable and, though comics are a visual medium, the vaudevillian approach to humor ultimately falls flat because of a lack of visual motion and response. I feel like there is something I’m missing- but I don’t think there is. It goes for a very old-timey approach but I’m not really confident that works in a modern context. There are also some minor grammar mistakes (a few missing commas, a few odd capitalizations, and “Pritchard” is misprinted on the credits page as “Prtichard”). In its favor I’ll say that there are some really well-drawn parts of this comic. Of particular note is the work by Milton Knight and Jason Payne who have very different styles but are both very expressive in their artwork. I’ll end this with a kind of note reminding you that this isn’t a genre I normally enjoy and if this is your cup of tea- you’ll probably enjoy it.

 

Metrics

Art (Avg): 5/10 (Some good and some bad)

Lettering: 3/10 (Some good, some pretty bad)

Humor: 2/10 (Never laughed at this humor comic)

Novelty: 3/10 (Reworks some familiar concepts)

Overall: 3.25/10

Link to Product

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Thoughts on Dave Elliott’s “Creator Owned Comic” Article

I don’t normally take time to “respond” to articles on other sites but Dave Elliott here is so on the nose with this I have to just a take a moment to talk about some stuff he brought up. I’ve been talking about this thing for years. In short, the comic industry is shooting itself in the foot by making a huge line of vastly interconnected comics with multi-issue storylines. In ye olden days comics use to be dirt cheap, self-contained (sometimes multiple stories in an issue), and as prevalent as magazines like “Time” or “Women’s World”. My favorite line from this article was, “When was the last time Time, People, Premiere, La Monde, Pravda, serialized content?”. This is so true. You don’t pick up a copy of superman in the waiting room because you haven’t read the three tie-in comics to the current storyline in Action Comics, Man of Steel, and Convergence.

I remember what got me to stop reading the new 52 Teen Titans series. I was less than 10 issues in and there was a multi-part tie in with Legion Lost, Superboy, and an annual issue. Mind you, I thought Superboy was a tool and I couldn’t care less about Legion Lost. I still think that actually; but I had to buy 4 comics to understand what amounted to some poorly written deus ex machina to toss these three titles together and one big fight scene. It didn’t get me interested in Superboy or Legion Lost- it turned me off to all three and an issue later I stopped reading.

 

Ok, so imagine this:
There are 6 or 7 comics that DC (or Marvel if that floats your boat) publishes. Each of these titles feature a heavy hitter (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc) or a team of heavy hitters (Justice League, Batman Inc., Green Lantern Corps, the Legion, etc). They give us the best of the best of their writing staff (someone give Grant Morrison more things to write btw). Make the stories self-contained and accessible to new reads. Got something game-changing, a limited run, or cross-comic? Print it like a graphic novel. Collected, awesome, and a lot higher price ($15-30?). I will buy that. People will buy that. I know we all have our favorite supporting character or obscure villain or antihero or whatever. Great- give them a limited run, make on of the 6 or 7 titles a “showcase” one, feature them heavily in one of the main titles, or even do a back up story.

 

Now, having partaken in a lot of creator owned comics, do I think they are the answer?
In short… no. Go read (or try to read) Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood series. The biggest issue and, at the same time, blessing creator owned comics brings is that there is no design by committee. A guy or gal sets out to tell a story and does it all without much interference from the guys in marketing or some overarching editor dictating continuity-wide plot. Sometimes, this means that some really bad ideas get published and other times it means that some really out-there and wonderful ideas come to life (note: TECHNICALLY Sandman wasn’t creator owned but basically Neil Gaiman got to do whatever he wanted).

 

There are some REAL gems on the indie scene and publishers like Image, Dark Horse, and Top Cow have proven that creator owned comics can be done to fantastic effect. However, there is a reason Marvel and DC are number 1 & 2. They test and test and test new concepts before adopting them. They are reliance on name recognition, market saturation, and nostalgia (I mean… you know who batman is right?). Any time you see an elseworlds comic, a “what if” series, an alternate universe, or whatever they come up with to give you a new take on the character- they are testing new grounds (I mean they basically made some version of the Dark Knight returns canon at this point). See, ironically comic companies doesn’t make all or even most of their money on comic sales. No, they make it on licensing. They make deals with movie studios, toy companies, video game developers, cartoon channels (etc). This isn’t a bad thing. I LOVE me some Bruce Timm animated series and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is fantastic. However- they use comics to test out what resonates with audiences. Did you like Miles Morales? You bet your butt that they are going to shove him into everything they possibly can. How about Spiderman 2099? Do you remember him? No one does so they kinda forgot about him. Batman Beyond, which started as a TV show, was so popular they made Terry McGinnis a part of the comic universe and are still publishing a title or two with him in it 13 years after the final episode of the TV series.

 

So, TL;DR:
-Self-contained comics would be awesome.
-I like the idea of smaller universes that we can read.
-Creator owned comics are not necessarily the answer.
-I stopped reading Teen Titans (New 52) because I had to buy too many other bad comics.

Nova Zen

Nova Zen

Staff: Harrison Perry, Claudio Muñoz,  Emmanuel Ordaz, Greg Sorkin

Overview:

Monks, and gorgeous art, and cliches oh my!

Review:

Ok, let’s talk about Nova Zen today. I see this sort of comic a lot these days. It fits in this category of indie comics that have art good enough to be in a mainstream comic (or better) but the writing isn’t up to snuff.

Let’s talk about the good first. The art, particularly the cover art, is second to none. We have a realistic very vibrantly illustrated character with a compelling shaolin monk inspired character design… that we never see in issue #1. The overall style on the interior pages is downright beautiful with full color illustrations, excellent use of panel layout and overall composition. There is a ever so slight cartoonish feel (some of the monks have exaggerated facial features) but it’s merely a hint and it helps differentiate the style of the artist (in a good way). If I had to nitpick (hey… that’s why you are reading this right?) there are a few scenes where there are some oddly lumpy muscles and some variance in proportions (but nothing major).

Now let’s talk about the writing. I know this is a first issue but… man I wish it was as good as the art. It rushes through its own source material is just bland. It’s like the writer took every Kung Fu and “chosen one” storyline cliche and just tossed them in a blender. Basically a guy from “somewhere” shows up at a monastery grasping the hilt of a magic sword (I assume it’s magic) and the monks start chattering about how he is the “chosen one” because of a “prophecy”. The guy wakes up and takes it pretty well and we get some vague exposition about how he needs to save the world. See, if we had SOME (and I mean ANY) insight into what this prophecy was, who said it, what it pertained to, or what the guy (named “Nova”) is supposed to do it might have been a good plot hooke but instead we are told vaguely that he needs to “save the world”. There is no SUBSTANCE to it. We aren’t compelled to want to know more because this is so stock and we have no specifics whatsoever. We are then run through some very stock “monk things” including a martial arts demo, some meditation, and painfully simple explanation of a “cosmic energy”. Then we meet some stock bad guys whose only defining characteristic thus far is that they are bad. I mean we LITERALLY have a character say, “this is immoral” and the other one say, “Yeah I know but we are going to do it anyway”. I guess, on the whole, it just feels derivative of other works. (We also have a spelling mistake on page 14 (“he we are, don’t be worried.”) and a few awkward lines sprinkled over the whole comic.)

There is also this weird failure of logic in the comic. Like we have a guy meditating with Nova who suddenly informs him that he is late to meet with his next instructor- why! They weren’t doing anything so why does he suddenly have to rush! Or the martial arts master says Nova looks “a little scrawny” when the guy is built like a house (like one step below a Rob Liefeld character). The master also orders him into a horse stance and, despite knowing nothing at all he just drops into one (also- page 13 has a little white border on the left side).

I feel like this comic wants to mimic a lot of great martial arts stories but doesn’t know enough to actually give it any substance. We have a stock, ill-defined, prophecy about a guy with no memory who trains with some monks with an ill-defined set of mystical beliefs/powers, who will protect the world against an ill-defined threat. I mean there isn’t a lot to work with here as a reader. Like, I like the artwork. I really do but there just isn’t any substance for me to grab onto. When you have the means to tell a story it is your obligation to tell one with a purpose. However, I can tell that this team has a lot of passion and really loves their source material and I really want to see them succeed. They obviously have a much larger story to tell and I really wish they would toss in a few more proper nouns and character traits for the protagonist.

Metrics

Art: 8/10 (Move aside Marvel)

Lettering: 7/10 (Does its job and then some)

Plot: 2/10 (Lots of logic failures)

Novelty: 3/10 (Not new… but a lot of reliance on cliches)

Overall: 5/10

Link to Site

Tim Forder’s Horrific Humor

Tim Forder’s Horrific Humor

Staff: Tim Forder’s Horrific Humor

Overview:

I guess your could call it a horror-themed joke book.

Review:

Ok guys, so today I am looking at “Tim Forder’s Horrific Humor”. I’m not sure how well I can “review” this comic, but I’ll at least endeavor to use it as a learning experience for others. Seriously… this is what I opened my PDF reader to:

Let’s just take a moment to appreciate this cover. Let it sink in. I could do an entire review about just this… but I’ll try to keep it contained to a single paragraph. Good lord! He clearly just cropped some old horror wolf-man book cover and maybe tossed some color over it before slapping his title on it? I physically cringed when I saw this. Also- you don’t need your title 3 times on the same page, not to mention 2 (both PAINFULLY bad) taglines! “That Horrific Horror Humor as in terrific horror humor.” Really? We got the joke. No need to spell it out man. And a low quality export that doesn’t even fill the page? Your killing me. It’s not even an EQUAL bleed on either side of the page.

What follows is no less of a train wreck. What the cover sets up for us, the rest of the comic hammers home in the worst kind of way. Illegible text, terribly cropped public domain images (some of which I have my doubts about…), the absolute worst photoshop attempts I’ve ever had the displeasure of coming across, a few funny jokes, and… I guess it’s horror themed?

Honestly… and I say this having reviewed things like Kinesis, Surreal Murder Mysteries, High School Hijinks, and Brake, that Tim Forder’s Horrific Humor is the absolute and uncontested worst comic I’ve ever read. For a joke book, the jokes aren’t funny and from a technical perspective, I’ve legitimately seen better put together middle school class projects. Congratulations Tim- I think you have forced me to award my only ever 0/10.

 

Metrics

Art: 0/10 (Poorly cropped public domain art)

Lettering: 0/10 (Illegible at times)

Plot: 0/10 (Don’t get me started)

Novelty: 0/10 (No. Just no.)

Overall: 0/10

There is no link to this product. You can Google search this comic’s name and find a $7 copy of this on Amazon. I will not be party to robbery like that.