Webcomic of the Week – STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONIST

wotwcardTGIF! Wait, it’s not Friday… DIOW! (Damn, it’s only Wednesday). Still, it’s not all bad, because I discovered another great webcomic to share. Heads up though, this one involves occasional profanity and violence, and discusses some rather mature topics, so anyone under 16 should probably stop reading now.

Strong Female Protagonist is a superhero comic by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag, and does a deeply introspective deconstruction of the genre. The titular protagonist is Alison Green, formerly known as the teenage powerhouse Mega Girl. As a “biodynamic”, Alison was part of the super-team known as the Guardians, and put her super-strength and invulnerability to use against super-villainous threats. However, coming to the realisation that helping people was about more than just beating up bad guys, Alison publicly reveals her secret identity and quits the team, determined to have a normal life and find better ways to improve the world. Now living as a student, Alison has to deal with the prejudice of those who see biodynamics as dangerous freaks, and with the moral dilemmas of just how (and if) she should use her powers.

The underlying theme of SFP is the question of how much good superheroes actually do in the “real” world. Alison agrees that they were necessary when the world was facing supervillains in giant robots and the ability to brainwash people into becoming their slaves. She questions, however, just how relevant that all is when there is still disease, poverty, war, rape and violence in society. The world is incredibly complicated morally, and Alison admits that all she really knows is how to break things. Her soul-searching journey and the questions she asks herself throughout the story give insight into her need to help people; Alison wants to be a hero, but she wants to do it right this time. Along her way she encounters friends and enemies, both old and new, and the line between them becomes blurred by her changing outlook on life. Make no mistake, the title is less about her powers and more about her character than it lets on.

I discovered Strong Female Protagonist over the weekend and blasted through it in a day; the archives go back to 2012, and the story is really engaging. This could easily have turned out as dark as Watchmen, but the characters are likable while remaining realistic, and there is remarkably little cynicism to be found. Despite everything that goes on in a world of questionable morals, there is always a sense of optimism that helps you believe that everything will get better, and isn’t that what superhero comics are supposed to be about?

Strong Female Protagonist updates Tuesdays and Fridays, go check it out, you will not be disappointed.

Ciao for now.

Bottom of the Deck – 15/07/28

botdcardTuesday night and time for me to ramble about stuff; two weeks in a row, let’s see how long this pattern lasts…

So this week sees a new challenge opening up artistically: 3D rigging. I spent two or three months building a 3D model in class and attempting to make it look good (mostly successfully, I might add), and now I get to give it a skeleton. The process is so much more complex than I first imagined, and yet surprisingly logical; the model is controlled by joints, which are controlled by clusters, which are controlled by… controls, appropriately. It’s just a matter of linking everything up so that they work in tandem, which is going to be the tedious part, but I’m looking forward to it. Tedious work, if handled with the right attitude, can make a day just fly; I’m going to get flashbacks of building Lego Technic sets…

I’ve also got a huge pile of storyboard work for the end of term, which is alright by me because it’s something I know I can do, and since it’s based on a script I wrote myself I have a lot more creative flexibility. That said, I still have to board that script in particular, while another idea I had is nagging to be done instead. I blame the guest speaker we had at college yesterday; Sam Wilson is a writer for local TV shows, both live and animated, and he gave us an awesome talk on storytelling. It was the kind of speech that makes you want to dive into your own projects and get them done in an afternoon because they’re just so attainable and now you know you can do it… and then you burn out after a few hours when realise just how much work there still is. But it’s the good kind of burnout, the kind that comes from producing something you love. I’ll be sure to upload some of my boards in a few weeks once I’ve made decent progress.

Rounding off with something mostly geeky, the fourth episode of Life is Strange has just been released; for those who don’t know, it’s a story-based adventure game about a girl who can rewind time, with a wide array of story choices for the player to make that directly affect the final outcome. I haven’t played it myself (because I’m far too busy and too cheap), but I’ve been watching Let’s Plays of it on YouTube, and the story is equal parts gripping and convoluted. The characters are tragic, the drama is high and the ability to reverse your decisions with time-travel will always leave you wondering if you made the right choice or not. The third episode ended on a massive cliffhanger and it’s been months since it came out, so I’m really keen to see exactly what the consequences of the players’ choices are. I am a sucker for time travel plots and temporal paradoxes, because if they’re well written they can knock you for a loop when you least expect it and you’ll be begging for more.

That’s it for this Bottom of the Deck, but be sure to stop by tomorrow for my Webcomic of the Week.

Ciao for now.

Sketchbook Saturday – 15/07/25

sketchcardHello everypeoples, or at least everyone who is at home on Saturday night, like me. For those of you who are here rather than out doing things you may regret in the morning, allow me to attempt to be interesting.

It is no secret that if you want to do good pieces of art, you have to do ten times as many bad pieces of art, and about the same amount of mediocre ones. To that end, sketchbooks are the training ground of any artist, the equivalent of a bodybuilder having a private gym room in his house. Over the past seven years or so, since I started to take my art seriously, I’ve accumulated a pile of sketchbooks that nearly reaches my knees, and that’s not even counting all the loose pages that flitted about in between or got thrown out long ago. So I figured, why let all that artwork go to waste?

To that end, I’ll be posting a few of my favourite sketches from the past every Saturday, the ones that were either artworks that never got completed, or old ideas that I developed/ignored/completely forgot. I won’t be uploading everything (most are just random doodles), and I won’t be going too far back (anything before 2010 I wouldn’t dare show anyone), but I hope what I do show will be of interest.

With that in mind, here’s the first three:

Sketchbook 001
Sketchbook 001
Sketchbook 002
Sketchbook 002
Sketchbook 003
Sketchbook 003

I’ll get a gallery up for these by next week, but that’s all for tonight.

Ciao for now.

Webcomic of the Week – WEREGEEK

wotwcardHey everypeoples, and welcome to my Webcomic of the Week, where I discover a new (new for me anyway) online comic, binge through the archive, and review it for no good reason!

Well, that’s not technically true, I just like talking about my favourite webcomics and hopefully convincing others to read them. You will never see a negative review here; I’m not here to rip on anyone, because independent creators tend to deal with enough negativity already and that’s not what I’m about. If I don’t like a webcomic, I won’t talk about it, simple as that.

This week’s webcomic is one I discovered while on vacation: Weregeek, by Alina Pete. It follows the story of Mark, an average guy who is, deep down, a massive geek. He denies it to others and himself, dismissing activities like gaming and role-playing as silly. But at night, when the moon is full and the urge overtakes him, he unconsciously gives in to his inner geek and stalks the gaming store in search of d20s and rulebooks. This quickly puts him on the radar of the mysterious Hunter, a black-garbed, stubble-chinned desperado who tracks down and eliminates geeks lest they infect the world with their weirdness. With the Hunter on his trail, Mark narrowly escapes thanks to Joel, an out and proud geek who introduces Mark to his gaming compatriots, Sarah, Dustin and Abbie. Thanks to the group, Mark is introduced to a whole new world of geekiness, primarily LARPs (that’s Live Action Role Play, for anyone also in denial of their inner geek), a wide variety of tabletop games, and the workings of nerd culture in general. While a little overwhelmed at first, Mark grows to love his new hobbies, all the while keeping them a secret from the world at large, reveling in his dual nature as a Weregeek!

What sets Weregeek apart from other geeky comics, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t try to conform to any specific niche. Covering everything from games like Vampire: The Masquerade and Dungeons and Dragons, to commentary on cult movies and comic books, there is something for everyone here. The main cast are all quirky and fun to read, and have a diverse range of character beyond the simple label of “geek”. They take part in grand tales of adventure and intrigue in their gaming personas, while still being a very real group of friends who help each other with their real world issues. Weregeek has been running since 2006, so the archive is huge; I’d tell you to pace yourself when reading it, but then I binged through it in two days straight, and I don’t want to be called a hypocrite.

I’d like to finish off with a bit of fan art I did of my favourite character from the comic: Abbie, depicted here in her vampire persona “Talon”. (Also my first outing into Manga Studio 5, woo!)AbbyTalonThat’s all for this week, go read Weregeek right here, and if you know of any webcomics that have a decent archive that’s worth trawling through, let me know in the comments and I may feature them in a future column.

Ciao for now.

Bottom of the Deck – 21/07/15

botdcardGood evening to the one or two people who will actually be reading this post! Since I have started a blog site, I should probably get to blogging.

If by some miracle you happened to know what I was doing two years ago (I certainly didn’t), you might find the title of this entry slightly familiar. Well, back in 2013 I got the ambitious idea in my head to do a weekly animated video blog called Bottom of the Deck, espousing stuff about geeky things I considered interesting. I barely made it past the first month before I realised that with my skillset at the time and all the other work I was trying to juggle, it just wasn’t going to happen.

So now I have an opportunity to revitalise Bottom of the Deck, but in a more manageable format that won’t send me into a tailspin, as I’m busier than I ever was before. I’ll try to put out an update every Tuesday; the rest of the week will soon start filling with other stuff (mysterious vague foreshadowing…)

Speaking of Tuesday updates, there’s a show I’m watching right now that just uploaded its seventh episode, so I’ll use it as my geeky topic for this week. For anyone who likes tabletop gaming, there’s no excuse for not knowing about Wil Wheaton’s web series Tabletop, on the Geek and Sundry Youtube channel. Even more specifically, there’s the spinoff mini series known as Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana. I highly recommend it for anyone who has so much as had a passing thought about taking part in a pen-and-paper role-playing game, as it perfectly encapsulates everything you need to know about playing one in an easy to follow format. With the venerable Wil Wheaton himself running the show as Game Master, veteran actors Hank Green, Alison Haislip, Laura Bailey and Yuri Lowenthal take on the roles of adventuring heroes in the war-torn ruins of Valkana, a world where advanced technology and magic are commonplace. Armed only with their character sheets and a handful of dice, these four vagabonds make the show incredibly fun to watch thanks to their chemistry both in and out of character, and by attempting to outsmart the obstacles that Mr. Wheaton throws at them with sadistic glee. Throw in some gorgeous artwork to aid the narration and Titansgrave comes to life before your eyes.

That’s my geeky ramble for this week, go check out Titansgrave on the Geek and Sundry website through this link here, and I’ll see you all again soon.

Ciao for now.

Brand New Portfolio Blog!

Hello and welcome (at last!) to the official Fifth Ace Comics site!

From this new central hub, I will be sharing my artwork, my comics, and my inner bloggable thoughts to the world!

I’m well aware that the site is still very basic (curse my minimal CSS skills), but this is just the beginning. In the following months, with a bit of luck and supervision, I’ll be able to make something great out of this.

So onward and upward, to the next step of the journey!