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Eric: Jazz, LEGO and forlorn robots: the New Fall Season, Modern Tales style.

You'll remember a few days ago I talked about New Fall Season? Well, sometimes that term is more than apropos. With Shaenon Garrity's announcement of the new strips now appearing on Modern Tales, it behooves us all to have a looksee.

Admittedly, a somewhat bittersweet looksee on my part. But that's hardly the fault of Shaenon Garrity or Modern Tales. It's all just life, man. It's what happens when we've made other plans. But that doesn't change the fact that things are really cool over that way, right now.

I didn't do nearly as much as I wanted to do with my brief tenure at Modern Tales. In the end, life was not my friend, and things happened. You know how that can be. Things... well, happen. Shaenon Garrity has already schooled my sorry ass in all the ways that count.

But I feel a certain amount of wistful pride in seeing the New Fall Lineup for Modern Tales. I had a reasonable amount to do with it, and I think pretty much everything on it is excellent and cool, and I think every one of those strips will make Modern Tales a better place, and I honestly hope and believe Modern Tales will make things better for those strips.

The cool thing about all this is I have no direct stake in Modern Tales or the success of these strips any more. I have the same self interest you all do: to see cool webcomics do well. So I can talk about the new Fall Lineup without disclaimers. I'm free to be a fan. I'm free to think "this is so cool."

One thing I think is really, really healthy both for Modern Tales and for we the fans of webcomics is an increase of style and diversity in the new lineup. Don't get me wrong -- Modern Tales has always had four panel strips (for example) to be found in its overall universe. However, there's been a real sense of "what a Modern Tales comic is" in the past which I think has hampered its growth. Despite the fact that it was the home of Narbonic for so long (and Narbonic is just about the best newspaper style strip currently being written and drawn), people saw Modern Tales as Indy comics, or alternative comics, or... I dunno. "Those" comics.

Well, several of the new strips go way beyond that definition. The new Modern Tales is working to be good webcomics -- all other qualifiers are secondary or unnecessary. And I like the look of the new crop a lot.

And I'm free to talk the strips up, for all of you to see and enjoy. So let's talk them up, shall we?

  • Anywhere but Here, by Jason Siebels. I got pointed to this one last year, and I fell fast in love. In part, it's because it triggers my appreciation of newspaper strips like Doonesbury -- Siebels's art style is far more born out of the last thirty years of the newspaper than either comic books or manga, and while I have nothing against either comic strips or manga, it's darned nice to have something that derives from the comic strip tradition on my trawl. However, more importantly (for my money), Anywhere but Here's story just hooked me. In a medium rife with sarcasm and college age angst, Anywhere but Here manages to stand out.
  • Brain Fist, by Daniel Merlin Goodbrey. Goodbrey, on the other hand, has been at the forefront of webcomics experimentation for years. (And he's consistently been one of the people to do experimental webcomics right, for my money.) He's the guy who developed the Tarquin Engine, which took two of the things I have the most weather eye for -- Flash in webcomics and infinite canvas -- and turned them into something clean and workable and most of all capable of being used as a tool to produce comics instead of experimental comics™. Brain Fist is his sally into the world of Clickwheel/iPod optimized comics, but it works well (almost koan-like) on the web page as well.
  • Genre City: Plan B, by Benjamin Birdie. This one touches on both the Modern Tales of the past as well as underscores the differences in the present. The original Genre City was on Modern Tales to begin with, behind the pay-wall that typified the site. And it was a damn good comic. Unfortunately, not as many people actually had a chance to hear about it as might otherwise have embraced it, which may have informed Birdie's decision to launch the sequel, Genre City: Plan B on WebcomicsNation, open and free for the peoples to see. Now, with the advent of the free Modern Tales Strip Lounge, Birdie can return, confident that anyone on the wide Internet can see his archives. This should be an invitation you accept, as Genre City is good soup.
  • Irregular Webcomic, by David Morgan-Mar. Oh man am I glad to see Irregular Webcomic on Modern Tales. Here's a webcomic that's deep, deep into cultures, styles and humor that Modern Tales just wasn't known for, before. It's a four panel gag strip, often pun based. It's geek humor (major league geek humor -- Morgan-Mar's a Ph.D. engineer). It's often gamer humor (Morgan-Mar is a long time contributor to Steve Jackson Games's GURPS line, and in fact is the RPG-side author of the Webcomic adaption GURPS: Casey and Andy). It's a photo-comic -- most often based on LEGOS and miniature figures. And, to top it all off, it's smart and funny. Now, do I think the old Modern Tales would have eschewed Irregular Webcomic? Man, I don't know. What I do know is it didn't have anything like it at the time. Irregular Webcomic sends the clear message that Things Are Not As They Were, Dude. Also, there are jokes about being killed by choking to death on giant frogs.
  • Kings of Pop, by Benjamin Birdie. Birdie's second inclusion on the new list, but a very different thing from the first. The Kings of Pop is a brand new strip (essentially), dedicated to a more short-form humor-execution type-thing there, lu than Genre City. Which brings us back to the idea of a fusion of the old and the new into a beautiful... um... fusion. Alloy. Thing. Also, there are jokes about Moxie. Or there will be. Moxie sucks, man.
  • Popcorn Picnic, by Chris Shadoian. Shadoian was one of the charter class of the original Modern Tales, so it seems fitting that he's one of the inaugural webcartoonists of the free stuff in the Strip Lounge, too. Popcorn Picnic is pretty different, for my money, than his earlier Streets of Northampton was. I think it's also pretty distinct from the other movie-satire comic strips out there. It's fun satire, and fun satire is good satire, I always say.
  • Spork, by Sylvan Migdal. There's plenty of stuff over on Graphic Smash that I like. (Digger leaps immediately to mind, as does Athena Voltaire, just to name two of many.) However, one person who I was always excited to read was Sylvan Migdal, who contributed two truly distinct, beautiful and impressive longform projects: Mnemesis and Ascent. And I've always been deeply impressed by someone who can create evocative (and consistent) worlds, build a fantastic story in them, finish that story, and walk away. the one sad thing about it was once Ascent finished, I had no more regular doses of Migdal. Well, Spork is the answer to that -- in two ways. Spork is Migdal's exploration of short form comics, which means short arcs and one-shots, and Spork is open ended -- when one short form comic ends, the next one begins. All that translates into some fun for me. Migdal doesn't tend to rest on his laurels, so have a look see and enjoy yourselves, action Hank!
  • Where Am I Now?, by Jon Bakos and Ross Smith. God I love this comic strip. This is the story of a world where the human beings are... well, gone. All they've left behind are the robots, who seek to find some kind of meaning in a world where the people they were built to serve aren't there to be served, any more. It's one of those comics that will delight you and haunt you in equal measure, and if this gives them greater exposure, that's a fantastic thing. For the record, I think Where am I Now would have fit perfectly well on the original Modern Tales. I also think it would fit perfectly well at Keenspot or anywhere else, for that matter. Quality just plain works.
  • Wondermark, by David Malki ! . Finally, we have Wondermark -- a clip art strip, to kind of round out the list of "strips types we didn't see much of on Modern Tales before." Wondermark uses public domain Victorian illustrations as its basis, highlighting a satirical edge on contemporary society through juxtaposition. What happens is a cognitive dissonance between iconic imagery and the textual matter at hand. Which proves without a shadow of a doubt that I have a degree in English Literature. For the record, Wondermark brings the Funny.

And beyond all this, there is more. So, so much more. For one thing, Dorothy Gambrell's beautiful The New Adventures of Death is now over on the free side, ready for your devouring eyes. So are all five volumes of Pewfell by Chuck Whelon and Adam Prosser. Reinder Dijkhuis's Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan is in the process of migrating back to Modern Tales, this time in convenient all-free format, and the completed (but great) The Ice Queen: A Trespassers Mystery, Joe Zabel's terrific 3-D rendered story is now where anyone can read it, too.

And if that's not enough? Teaching Baby Paranoia, by Bryant Paul Johnson, is now free.

Okay, I admit I'm a history geek, but still. Teaching Baby Paranoia is free!

And that doesn't even cover the whole list of stuff out for free on Modern Tales now.

Am I responsible for all this? Hell no. I wish I were, because I think it's a monumental step in the right direction. But I'm responsible for some of the above, and I'm very, very proud of that fact. But none of you care what I'm responsible versus what Shaenon (or anyone else) is responsible for. All you care about is whether or not the comics are good or suck.

Well, one thing I can say for certain -- I'm psyched about every link I linked to up above. I don't know how else I can talk about them and have it stick, so let's just leave it at that.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 25, 2006 12:00 AM


Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 1:30 AM

So...Wondermark is on the paying side of Modern Tales? Am I reading that correct?

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 1:35 AM

No -- Wondermark is all free. Everything up on the post is on the free side.

Comment from: Bo Lindbergh [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 2:03 AM

So would the Burns-edited Modern Tales have included the general?

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 2:08 AM

No -- I'd have been more likely to include Gossamer Commons (I just think it's a better webcomic), but that 'more likely' was negligible at best. I don't think I play at that level of webcomics varsity, and I'm not sure I ever will.

Comment from: Abby L. [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 2:16 AM

I'm glad to see Jason Siebels getting his fair due, and I discovered several other comics I really like on the new free side of MT. This seems like the place to go for quirky, smart comics, and I'm glad about that.

Comment from: AlexanderD [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 2:46 AM

Please forgive my self-promoting, but one more formerly pay comic now on the free side of MT is my collaboration with Bill Duncan, Picture Story Theatre. We've been airing re-runs the past few months while we each had other comitments, but we'll be returning with a major new story before too much longer.

But before that happens, we'll be running a story illustrated by a lovely guest artist who is much more talented than she cares to admit. I'm very excited about it! Now, I just have to get the script written.

In the meantime, our full archives are open to the public!

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 2:53 AM

Ack! I meant to mention Picture Story Theater!

And Hotel Fred!

Oh, and Wahoo Morris.

Screw it. Assume I meant to mention them all.

Comment from: AlexanderD [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 3:13 AM

No worries, Eric -- you're certainly under no obligation to promote any of us. But since you were on the topic, it seemed fair to try to insinuate myself into the promotional opportunity. =)

In any case, it's really good to see you active again -- you've been missed.

Comment from: kamagurka [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 7:37 AM

Holy timewaster batman, like my fucking daily trawl wasn't long enough already.

Comment from: J Ryan Beattie [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 12:12 PM

Hmm. Yes, these look very interesting. I'll have to read through many of these.

Just a quick note, but Athena Voltaire is no longer part of Graphic Smash. It just hasn't been taken off of the site.

I didn't know this either until I met the authors at Comic-Con and asked why it hadn't updated in nearly a year.

Comment from: J Ryan Beattie [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 12:17 PM

Oh, and for what it's worth? I think Gossamer Commons is good enough for the big leagues. You're a damned fine writer, Mr. Burns.

Comment from: Paul Southworth [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 12:32 PM

"Kings of Pop" looks like it has a buttload of comedy potential! I never thought about soda collecting up until now, but maybe I should have been.

Reminds me of "Hate Song", for some reason.

Comment from: Darth Paradox [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 3:37 PM

...I'll be damned.

"Where Am I Now?" is done by a couple guys I went to college with (and worked on a science-fiction research project with). I knew they did the comic, but I had no idea it was headed for MT. Awesome.

Well done, Jon and Ross. Well done, indeed.

Comment from: Reinder Dijkhuis [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 4:29 PM

The re-migration of Rogues of Clwyd-Rhan to Modern Tales is actually complete apart from maybe some odds and ends that I may have overlooked. New content will start to be posted there (and on the comic's main site, and its ComicGenesis mirror) on September 5.

Comment from: Zutto [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 5:57 PM

Chris! :) Don't be damned, be happy. I remember bumping into you awhile ago on someone's blog.

And wow! Thanks for the write-up, Eric.

Comment from: David Morgan-Mar [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 25, 2006 6:37 PM

Thanks for the Kudos (again). :-) It's really exciting being a part of Modern Tales, though I'm still ironing out a few things about what exactly should be on the MT site, apart from the strips themselves.

Comment from: Pooga [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 28, 2006 12:57 PM

While I wish the best for all parties involved, having seen the setup for Irregular Webcomic on Modern Tales, from a reader's viewpoint it's a bit of a step backward from the current site. :-\

Aside from the comic itself, one of the wonderful things about IW is the incredibly versatile navigation system David has devised. Plus the annotations, scripting for vision-impared, the polls...

Maybe all this stuff can be brought to the MT site, although I've seen the difficulties Shaenon has had in the past getting MT to handle the few quirks in Narbonic's relatively straightforward archives. The thing is, at this point I'll stick with the old IW site because it's got the better interface.

Comment from: Pooga [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 28, 2006 1:01 PM

(I should clarify that I was referring to the ability to turn annotations and comic scripts on and off. I know MT currently shows both.)

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