Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 03:24 on 16-04-2014, Adrienne
OMG, Melanie, Digger is SO GOOD. Seriously. The hyenas are one of the best-realized alien societies I have EVER read. (I'm using 'alien' in the broadest sense.) Digger herself is a fantastic protagonist. Read it as soon as you can!
at 03:04 on 16-04-2014, Melanie
Oh, I love El Goonish Shive! And Order of the Stick. I'm also really fond of Freefall (although I have to confess that it's also pretty slow-paced) and Gunnerkrigg Court. I also started reading Awkward Zombie recently, and if you like Darths & Droids then Friendship is Dragons is along those lines, except for My Little Pony (although this is kind of an awkward time to rec it since they're doing guest strips currently).

I find Oglaf kind of hit and miss. Sometimes it's really funny but then occasionally there's... rape jokes, like the thing with the "statues".

I actually hadn't read Digger, even though I keep hearing about it, so thanks for the reminder. :D
at 15:59 on 15-04-2014, Alice
Wholeheartedly seconding the Digger recommendation! While I've been following Ursula Vernon's blog for a while, I never quite got round to reading the comic online. But then I got a paper copy through the 2013 Kickstarter, and love it.

As with paper comics, I never know what's out there in webcomics and basically default to reading things I'm linked to. I gave up on xkcd years ago, still check back in on Dinosaur Comics every week or so, and at this point pretty much only read Questionable Content out of nostalgia for the old days when it was all jokes about indie bands. (Also, I can't put my finger on what it is, but I find Jeph Jacques -- the author -- just ever so slightly off-putting nowadays, for all that he seems to have good intentions re: diversity/representation.)

Then again, I don't consistently read (m)any blogs or review sites -- apart from Ferretbrain -- either, these days.
at 08:07 on 15-04-2014, Adrienne
Oh! Also Digger, if any of you have somehow not read it -- it's completed rather than ongoing at this point, so you can take the whole thing in one big gulp. (And you will. I promise.)

It actually won the Hugo a couple years back, and I was amazed -- Hugo voters generally don't have that much taste.
at 06:16 on 15-04-2014, Adrienne
As to webcomics, I've found Goblins to be charming, though I am months behind on it at this point. (Saves-a-Fox is one of my favorite characters ever, in any medium. Because fuck destiny, that's why.) It also, at one point, manages the difficult trick of handling a sexual-slavery subplot without being either dismissive or patronizing, and without depriving the survivor of her agency in deciding what to do about the whole thing. (Although as ever, ESPECIALLY with rape plotlines, YMMV.)
at 00:16 on 15-04-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
El Goonish Shive is hella cute and good, but continuously frustrating because I'd just like things to move a bit faster.
at 00:00 on 15-04-2014, Robinson L
I've taken a look at a couple of webcomics over the past few years, but I can only think of three that I follow consistently: Darths & Droids, El Goonish Shive, and Strong Female Protagonist (which, despite a title which makes me wince every time, is a very well-written comic about a nigh-invincible young woman with super-strength trying to find her place in the world and, having given up supervillain fights, learning that it's a lot harder to change the world than it is to save it).

I know the Darths & Droids folks released a statement after the sequel trilogy was announced, saying that the timing is great because they expect to be wrapping up Jedi by about that point anyway, and expressing their confidence in being able to do a decent job on the sequel trilogy, regardless of whether it's any good or not. As to their first claim, at their very roughly estimated pace of 18 months and 225 comics per movie, I reckon they'll actually only be halfway through Jedi before Episode VII comes out - which is okay, because it means there won't be a huge lull between VII and VIII. It would also mean, though, that they'll probably a ~18 month gap between VIII and IX (and that's assuming they're very fast at storyboarding). I'm also curious about the story line, since they do seem to have these things planned out well in advance (even the the GM's plans always go completely off the rails), and it'll be hard to do that going into VII when they have no idea what will happen in VIII let alone IX.
at 03:53 on 14-04-2014, Arthur B
What of Oglaf?

Oglaf is a comic which I feel shouldn't actually work in principle because there's so many ways the concept could just go awful, but somehow they pull it off anyway.

Re: Dinosaur Comics - I think it's an interesting experiment in the medium in the sense that North keeps having to find interesting ways to repeat the same panels every day (kind of like David Lynch's Angriest Dog In the World) and I think it's got to this point where it's mainly a soapbox for North's sense of humour, which is fine because he's a very funny guy.

Re: Darths and Droids - I do wonder how they're going to handle the sequels, because they seem to have had some impressively long-term planning going on with the story and presumably that was all set up to conclude at the end of Jedi because Darths & Droids started back when Lucas was fairly confident that there wouldn't be any sequels.

I kind of think it'd be fun for them to handle the sequels by having the campaign shift to a rotating-GM setup rather than being handled by one creative mind refereeing everything, because... well, you see where I'm going with that.
at 20:51 on 13-04-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
That Garrity thing is great! Reminds me a bit of this thing I stumbled on through io9 I think?

For OotS, I always thought it was that it doesn't really take advantage of comics as a visual medium. Lots of people standing in very static poses with huge text bubbles, that sort of thing.

I think that seems to be a valid criticism, to a degree. There is a lot of action at times but there's nothing wrong with not liking it. I know of several people who just don't like stick figures and thus no OOTS for them.
at 20:45 on 13-04-2014, Michal
The only webcomic I follow now is Hark! A Vagrant. Nothing else tickles my historical/literary funny bone in quite the same way.
at 18:31 on 13-04-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Truth be told, I don't really read webcomics anymore; I just have a weakness for rubbernecking at the occasional drama and terrible personalities. The only thing I read regularly is Shaenon Garrity's side-project Monster of the Week, which just her rewatching The X-Files and recapping it in comic form. (I suppose Watamote technically counts as a webcomic, but I don't know how that works in Japan.)
at 18:02 on 13-04-2014, Daniel F
Dinosaur Comics I can accept as a meta-comic to an extent, I guess; though it never interested me enough to keep me reading. For OotS, I always thought it was that it doesn't really take advantage of comics as a visual medium. Lots of people standing in very static poses with huge text bubbles, that sort of thing.

Sorry, I'm not sure how specific to get. I don't want to make the conversation about me hating everyone else's favourite comics.
at 17:40 on 13-04-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Dinosaur Comicsmissing the point of being a comic is, I think, one of the points of Dinosaur Comics. I've always enjoyed that it succeeds in bending the medium of comics almost through text alone. It is pleasing how much variation such strict limits allow in the end and it is a good expression of Ryan North's writing talent. Plus I think it's kinda fun. OOTS is perhaps suffering from its length, but I've never felt that it didn't use the medium effectively. There has been a lot of experimentation through the years, although I guess it's mostly conservative in how it goes about its medium using business.

I've read PVP for a long time, although nowadays it seems mostly through habit. Somehow it reminds me of Garfield. I wonder if the new Star Wars sequel gets out before Darths and Droids gets to the end of the original trilogy?
at 17:29 on 13-04-2014, Shimmin
I don't think there's really any party-approved Ferretposition on webcomics!

Stuff I still read includes: Girl Genius, Order of the Stick, Questionable Content, Widdershins, Freefall, Yellow Peril, Johnny Walker, Wasted Talent, Weregeek, Star Power, PVP, Rusty & Co, Megatokyo, Flaky Pastry, and Darths and Droids. Countless others have fallen by the wayside due to lack of updates, getting annoying, apathy, forgetfulness or changing tastes.

Is it possible to miss the point of a comic? That seems kind of like missing the point of prose - I'm not sure it has one.
at 17:13 on 13-04-2014, Daniel F
I quite like Oglaf, but I'd have to differ on both Dinosaur Comics and Order of the Stick. I always felt the former missed the point of a comic, while the latter had some good ideas but didn't use the comic medium effectively. Anyone here read Wonderella?
at 16:24 on 13-04-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
I can speak for only myself, but I second Hark! A Vagrant and those others.

Some of my favourites through many years has been Girl Genius and Order of the Stick. What of Oglaf? It's pretty insane, I guess. And not safe for most professional situations.
at 12:41 on 13-04-2014, Arthur B
I don't think any of us has a bad thing to say about Hark! A Vagrant.

I've never seen any KC Green stuff I didn't like. I really dig Camp Weedonwantcha at the moment. Dinosaur Comics is evergreen, Chainsaw Suit is more hit than miss, and Achewood seems to finally be getting its act together again.

I like plenty of webcomics, just not in a way which prompts me to Playpen about them very much (aside from Chainsaw Suit, which I've pushed on here from time to time when it especially hits the mark).
at 09:48 on 13-04-2014, Daniel F
So I can't help but wonder: which webcomics, if any, does Ferretbrain actually like?
at 06:17 on 13-04-2014, Kit
Alula: Thank you for the recommendations! I'll definitely read those when I'm done with Armadale, which I'm halfway through by now. I've just gotten to the !evil redhead!gasp! part, which profoundly confused me because, for some bizarre reason, I had first conflated the mysterious veiled woman with the "real" Mrs Armadale, and so, for at least one-quarter of the book, I was picturing Miss Gwilt as dark-haired and -skinned. And then suddenly it turns out she a redheaded English rose. Talk about a self-inflicted mindfuck...

And yes, he does have some strange ideas about women, does old Wilkie. But at least it is offset by his willingness to treat his male protagonists with an absolutely merciless irony, as evidenced by Francis Clare Jr in No Name, and, even more tellingly, Allan Armadale - I think I have rarely seen a main protagonist being so relentlessly presented as an utter self-satisfied and blind imbecile (at least up to the point I'm at now), while still being completely goodhearted and somehow lovable. I don't know how Wilkie Collins manages to deliver such decent characterisation with that clunky paid-by-the-word prose of his, but he does. The Moonstone is another good example of this; the text somehow made me loathe Rachel Verinder throughout the entire first half, and then forced me to reconsider my first impulse bit by bit until it had me completely turned around.

I don't know why I'm finding Collins so compelling right now. Vast parts of the novels are quite tedious to slog through, the plots are terribly intricated and sometimes contrived, and watching his characters hurtling mindlessly towards their (at least temporary) doom makes me incredibly impatient with them. And still I read it the characterisation? The implausible *omgzomg* revelations? The subtle use of irony? The strange witty or scathing bits scattered through the text ("her shoulders made ample amends for the misdemeanor in muslin which covered them")? The weird rants about random stuff (I'm looking forward to the one about the joggers)? Or maybe the quite effective, low-key and genuinely moving moments of humanity? Like, for example, one character bursting into tears simply because, as she is on the very verge of casting away everything she holds dear as well as her honour and respectability and condemning herself for life, a child in a park comes up to her, shows her his toy boat and gives her a kiss - and that simple innocent kindness just breaks her. Those little touches are incredibly well done, and I guess that it's what prevents the novels from being just bland and cheap mysteries.

Right, that's enough now, I'm getting as wordy as dear Wilkie himself.
at 02:57 on 13-04-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
It's very hard to do episodic storytelling at a pace of 8 pages per year.

The million-dollar question has to be what exactly Diaz is doing with his time. His pace has been glacial for years now, and it's not like he's working another job(?). He always seems to have time to come up with side projects that seem to peter out after a few months.

The guy who used to do Your Webcomic Is Bad... back in the day posts regularly on a forum I frequent, and he's noted that most of his old criticisms of Dresden Codak's problems from back in '08 still hold true. (And if you get him started on the subject of Diaz's redesigns, you're in for a fun night.)
at 02:11 on 13-04-2014, Arthur B
I stopped paying attention to Dresden Codak early on in the Dark Science arc and apparently the plot has been as much of a slow, painful crawl as I expected it to be.

It's very hard to do episodic storytelling at a pace of 8 pages per year.

EDIT: Also, way to get incredibly stroppy over a 3-or-4 stars out of 5 review, Diaz.
at 01:54 on 13-04-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
This Week In Scurrilous Internet Gossip, The Webcomic Overlook recently wrote up a review of Dresden Codak that was critical but rather even-handed. In response, Aaron Diaz reacted with good humor and humility in a series of Twitter posts that he's since deleted. Gotta say, from all I've heard of Diaz, this seems par the course.
at 20:16 on 12-04-2014, Michal
I found Lady Audley's Secret supremely dull. The level of villainy just doesn't measure up to Wilkie; when I found out Lady Audley's secret, I just went "That's all? Where's the opium and the buried treasure from Turkestan?"
at 19:40 on 12-04-2014, Alula
Kit, have you read Man and Wife or The Law and the Lady? I think I especially enjoyed the former, with its intermittent rants on how joggers are ruining British culture and the dangers of accidentally getting married in a Scottish hotel. (It was something he was worried about, okay?) And of course, Armadale, with the EVIL REDHEAD who is even more evil for being so hot she looks 20something when she's gasp! 35. Oh, Wilkie. (If I dwell on it, Armadale seems to have the Unfortunate Implication that
men don't inherit the sins of their fathers, but women can be Born Bad,which becomes apparent in the Sexiness
, but damn if it isn't wild along the way. During my Collins binge awhile back, I also read Braddon's Lady Audley's Secret, which is okay, but doesn't have the weird bizarre spark or awesome minor characters of a Collins. I actually haven't read No Name, though (Amazon sent me some weird large-print edition that weighs a ton and I wanted to read it in the bathtub, what?).