Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Geek Speaking of Doomed Pizza Strippers

Random Thoughts

No life dedicated to arts was ever wasted.

Geek Speak: Pizza of DOOM!

The idea of a sparkling vampire is deeply, fundamentally stupid. 

Bram Stoker gave us a horrifying vision of the ultimate king of the undead; an immortal monster given unimaginable power by feasting on the blood of the living. Stephanie Meyer gave us a simpering milquetoast, a pouting, centuries old pity case who gets his jollies with mortal high school girls. In the face of what vampires have become in popular culture I can only imagine the mighty Count Dracula would feel his only refuge is the sweet, long-delayed embrace of oblivion. 

Still Searching for Strippers on the Web

My wife and I are now completely caught up on Strip Search the web-based reality series from Penny-Arcade. Sweet Fancy Moses, this is some damn good television, and it's not even on television, which seems to be happening more and more. 

The thing that really makes this show is the relationships between the artists who are taking part in the competition. I didn't mention the prize in my last post (bad me). The winning artist receives $15,000, and they will be given studio space in the offices of Penny-Arcade for one year. Despite being in competition for what is essentially the greatest prize you could bestow on an up-and-coming web cartoonist, the artists have developed really tight bonds with each other.

The fact that everyone gets along appears to drive the creators of Penny Arcade Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins no end of nuts. Which makes me think they're missing a golden opportunity. More than anything else the thing that drives me crazy about reality programming is the contrived sense of drama and the petty squabbling and backstabbing between the contestants. Either the producers throw on their scuba gear so they can dive into the deepest, darkest trenches of the gene pool to find these gargoyles, or the whole thing is a scripted farce presented as "reality." 

By comparison the closeness of the contestants on Strip Search makes it all the more compelling when an artist wins the second challenge of the day and is asked to pick two of their fellow contestants to face elimination. This is an emotionally wrenching process that forces them to pick two people they've come to love and respect like family and send them to face Krulik and Holkins in the elimination arena, knowing only one of them can return. It's like Thunderdome for web cartoonists. 

As my wife and I have been following the show, we've started to familiarize ourselves with the cartoonists. All of them are amazing, and it's clear there's a reason they were picked to be on the show, but I have some favorites. In no particular order here are the cartoonists I'm enjoying the most:

Abby Howard's website is www.jspowerhour.com, which is short for The Junior Scientist Power Hour. What do I enjoy about her comic? To put in as few words as possible, she's crazy and hilarious. While there's no thread connecting each comic, they are all deliriously wacky and off-beat, and make for outstanding "lunch break" reading.

Alex Hobbs' website, www.wanderlustkid.com is the newest of the artists taking part in the competition, but already has a lot to offer. The artwork on Alex's website makes use of a fun animation style and the jokes vary between cartoonish and slice-of-life. Overall he offers another good candidate for your lunchtime comic strip break.

Amy Falcone's website, www.fullpickle.com, boasts a few strips, but Falcone's central strip is Citation Needed. Amy is a capable artist and she's infused her strip with a cute cartoon style. It can be confusing trying to navigate the website, but it's worth it to get at the rich seam of comic strip gold. 

Erika Moen is easily the most accomplished web cartoonist in the competition, and the polish shows in the clean, well composed comics on her website, www.erikamoen.com. Fair warning: most of her stuff tends toward the NSFW end of the spectrum. Among the naughty jokes and titillating drawings, however, she has a tender side that comes out in some truly touching comics. 

Katie Rice provides the illustrations for the online comic Skadi. Her work on the comic has a cool, new-animation, Adventure Time feel to it that is probably the result of the work she does during the day as a storyboard artist for Nickelodeon. Of all the contestants, Katie is the one my wife and I are pulling for to win the whole thing, which is kind of silly when we really stop and think about it. The competition ended in December. The winner has already been decided, and they've been ensconced in the Penny Arcade offices for almost six months. 

Lexxy Douglass' website, http://lexxercise.tumblr.com/, differs from the rest in that she's the only one who doesn't already have a webcomic up and running. Even so, her website is worth checking out for the gorgeous illustration work she does. Lexxy is a very, very talented woman, and someone whose work I'll be following.

Tavis Maiden's website www.thunderskullpress.com is the last one on my list of Strip Search favorites. It may be that I'm partial to his work because he's the only one in the group with kids, but whatever the underlying reason I've been drawn into his centerpiece comic, Stranger Danger. It's a fun, slice-of-life comic about the trials an joys of being a parent. 

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