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Web Comic Wednesday: 8 Bit Theater

In this inaugural outing of Web Comic Wednesdays, I find it only fitting that we talk about the first web comic that I ever read: 8-Bit Theater on

A parody of early Final Fantasy games, 8-Bit Theater follows the adventures of Fighter, a delightfully naïve buffoon that also happens to be an amazing swordsman, as well as his only semi-willing traveling companion: Black Mage. Probably the most famous character of the comic, Black Mage is a proudly evil sociopath with not at all hidden aspirations of conquering the world.

The two (mainly Fighter) decide to form a heroic questing party to become the Warriors of Light, and end up recruiting an elfish thief named Thief (sensing a pattern yet?) who is every con-artist rolled into one, and a red mage know, I'll give you three guesses, and the first two don't count. Red Mage is modeled after a hardcord D&D player, complete with his own character sheet, which somehow actually effects his real-life skills.

Along their quest, they meet several other characters, such as the straight-man (or woman) character White Mage, her bodyguard Black Belt, who is basically like Fighter but with martial arts, and a wide variety of villains and NPCs, all on their quest to obtain the four elemental stones and save the world. At least, that's what the rest of the world thinks.

The Good
As the first web comic I read, and the number of years ago I read it, it's very possible that I just have nostalgia blindness here, but at least the first half of the comic's story and the characters are the best parts of this. Fighter is the buffoon, but he can range from being strangely insightful to the “achievements in ignorance” trope, such as when he invented and implemented “sword-chucks.”

That trope also applies to Red Mage in spades. In this universe, the Red Mages dedicated their whole order to understanding the mechanics of the world, so somehow, against all odds, through his stat sheet, Red Mage achieves the absurd. This includes surviving having his skeleton forced out his mouth, because he lost his pencil and couldn't mark his damage taken.

Black Mage is delightful in his cynicism and just all-around pathetic nature. He's an extremely powerful wizard in his own right, but the world just won't give him a single break. Black Mage is the first character to chastise anyone else's shortcomings, which is made better by the fact that we all know one of his own is about to become glaringly obvious.

If there's one main character I'm “meh” about, it's thief. I've played in games were one person grinds the story to a halt to try and steal everything, and it was as boring then as it is now. I enjoy that he can steal anything that isn't “nailed down or on fire”, to a point that he steals the soul of a Lich, but I'm still lukewarm.

The Bad
The comic takes a long while at the beginning to find its comedic voice and its identity, but that's to be expected. The story drags around a fair bit, and just sort of peters out near the end. The jokes get less frequent and frankly less funny, and the bits I just stop caring about become more and more often. Happily, this is probably due to the creator, Brian Clevenger, becoming more of a real world cartoonist and not having as much time on his hands. In terms of the comic alone, however, the second third to half is frankly mediocre and uninspiring.

However, there's still nothing exceptionally “bad” that I can think of about it, it's just not as good. If you have a free day or two, I still recommend checking out 8-Bit Theater, once again on


Awesome Comic Tuesday: Thor goes on a culinary adventure

Thor approves of our..."creamsicles." Between this and Wonder Women in the U52 Justice League, I have to wonder why we're the only race to discover ice cream.


Pokemon Red Part 1 - The Name Game

Tim, Mike, and the invisible and inaudible Andy sit down to play Pokemon Red in this first episode of the adventures of No Homo, and his trusty squirtle: Can they climb the ranks of the pokemon league and one day become the very best, like no one ever was? Or will they be drowned out in a slew of dick jokes? Either one is equally possible! They'll probably just get stuck on a naming screen though.

Let's play channel:
Not Another Reviewer -


Awful Comic Thursday: Superman can be a Jerk

So to grab people's attentions, DC had a habit of showing Superman doing really douchey things. Honestly, this is probably one of his more reasonable requests.


Awful Comic Thursday: Superman-o?

I was honestly unsure of whether to put this in the Awesome or Awful. Is the super-sombrero bulletproof as well?


Superhero movies: Effects vs. Story

I won't say there's no end in sight for the superhero movie trend. Now that the Batman trilogy is over and done with, DC has got to be banking on the success of Batman vs. Superman to even stay in the game. Marvel is still going strong, with Thor: The Dark World receiving decent praise at the box office, as well as by critics, but the somewhat lackluster third installment of the Iron Man trilogy made me wonder if they may finally be running out of steam.

That all said, however, we can still look back at the early 2000's and marvel at just how far the superhero movie has come since the days of the first X-Men movie. Sure, technology has improved, and film rights to certain characters have been hashed out, but I think there is an additional factor we can consider: finding the balance between special effects and a good story. The first X-Men movie, for example, seemed to be more of an exercise in seeing what cool powers could be brought to life, with considerably less emphasis on having a story, or character development, or avoiding terrible dialogue.

What happens when a toad gets hit by lightning? Terrible writing, that's what.
As a kid, I was super (haha, puns) impressed by the special effects. As I got older, however, I came to realize that they did not make a movie good, just sparkly, like an arts and crafts project made of a cloud of glitter with no paper to be glued down to. X-Men 2 and 3 were, admittedly, better about it, exploring the homophobia allegory that's always been a staple of the comic, but they never really “wowed” me.

Then came “X-Men: First Class”. Unlike its bad to just unimpressive predecessors, I think First Class is a great movie, easily one of the best in its genre. The characters are no longer just walking special effects, they're people. Mystique is interesting, Beast is interesting, Magneto is incredibly deep for a comic book character, and although you know he's technically the “villain”, you can see that he as a very valid point. Sure, ultimately they're foiling the plan of a super villain, and Emma Frost reaches Kristen Stewart levels of bland, but there are other stories and character developments happening at the same time. The powers are what they should be: elements of the story, rather than the primary focus.

“But Mike,” some of you are saying, “aren't the superpowers the reason we come to superhero movies in the first place?” That's a valid point. After all, you didn't pay $10 to see “Captain Explosion 2: Return of the Mega-Pecs” to see all quiet, talky scenes with a lot of character development.

For a moment though, let's consider “That 70's Show”.

Bear with me. What did people like about “That 70's Show”? Easy, Kelso was the loveable idiot, Fez was awkward an naïve, Jackie and Red were hilarious (though vastly different) jerks, and Eric and Donna were, more often than not, the straight foils to the antics of the others. Know what's missing from that list, though? The fact that the show was in the 70's. At the end of the day, the premise and even title of the show had nothing to do with why we liked the final product. We usually like stories because we like the characters. They're the ones we're supposed to want to see win, who we feel bad to see fail. When a character is just walking laser vision, like Cyclops in the first two X-Men movies, then we really can't care about what happens to him.

However, I wouldn't go so far as to say remove the powers entirely. After all, the biggest complaint about the Iron Man movies is that there was very little actual Iron Man, especially in the third flick. Character building and getting us invested are important, to be sure, but if if the amount of payoff is disproportionate to how long we've waited, then we feel like we've had our time wasted. The Avengers did this as close to perfectly as I think any movie has. You knew every quiet talky scene was building up to another explosive fight scene, and it always delivered. Avengers are being gathered? Let's have them fight Loki. Now there's a lot of talking and arguing? Uh-oh, Banner's Hulked out. Post-shock depressing scenes after the battle on the Helicarrier? Well, that's okay. We know the climactic final fight is on the way.

While I think the superhero movie as a trend will go away, I seriously doubt the genre will ever really die out. Let's face it, if the Phantom, Tank Girl and Steel didn't kill it back in the 90's I doubt there's much that will. Plus, I think we'll come out of this fad with a better understanding of how superhero movies can continue to get better for the future, even if they aren't as frequent.

Of course, Xavier went from being “the guy with mind powers” to “the guy who the 70's vomited on”, but we'll see where that goes.


Awesome Comic Tuesday: It happens

Daily life is daily life, and for superheroes, who says what's exciting and what's mundane?


The Big Ol' Doctor Who Article

Doctor Who sure had one hell of a 2013. The 50th year of being on the air (minus that stint of cancellation in the 90's) was full of specials, documentaries, the much anticipated multi-Doctor episode we've all been waiting for in New Who, and the farewell to the 11th Doctor, Matt Smith. So what did I think of this explosion of sonic screwdrivers, bow ties and blue boxes?

It had its ups and downs.

The big up, for me, was the 50th anniversary episode. While by no means “perfect” (for reasons I'll get to later on), it was such an exciting episode, and such a big story that at least while watching, I can forget the problems it has. John Hurt was great as “the War Doctor” and just a Doctor in general, pulling off the age and weariness, while still having that somewhat lighthearted and ultimate goodness of the character. It was, of course, great seeing Tennant again, and having all thirteen doctors (with a very brief glimpse of Capalidi) show up to save the day in the end befitted such an anniversary.
The Doctor is getting real tired of you sh*t
But to talk about the parts of the 50th anniversary that weren't so great, I need to talk about something that's been bugging me about Doctor Who for the last few years now, and that's Steven Moffat.

Don't get me wrong, I think Moffat can be, and has been a great writer for the show in the past. His episodes during the Tennant era were some of the best and most frightening in the entire series, and I am forever grateful that, unlike with his predecessor Davis, every season isn't ending with the “oh crap, there are a ton of Daleks we didn't know about” twist (minus the Martha Jones season, of course).

That said though, if we've learned anything from the past few years, I think it's that Moffat needs someone a step higher than him to answer to. Without the mediating force that was Davis, he tends to do three things: throw in too many twists, over-explain to a frankly maddening degree, and lack any sense of pacing.

The first of those may be the most difficult to explain, after all, writing plot twists keeps stories interesting, right? Well, sure, but for a plot twist to be shocking, the plot itself needs to be established. You have to set and enforce rules before you can break them. When you start making all you established rules the basis for a plot twist (likely in that same episode), then we start expecting it. We stop thinking of any of the rules as “rules” and just start thinking of them as future plot twists. Take Moffat's deaths and inevitable resurrections. It was a surprise that Rory died...the first time. It was a shock when we were told “the Doctor will die at this inevitable date”...the first time. If Moffat says “the Doctor will die” in the Capaldi era, are literally any of us going to take it seriously? I hope not.

Second, the over-explaining. The best way to talk about this is to talking about the Weeping Angels, once the scariest monsters in Doctor Who (well, second scariest in my opinion. Vashta Narata get a raw deal). Frankly, I just don't care about them anymore. In their first appearance during a Matt Smith episode, we get a slew of new rules about their existence such as “the picture of an angel is an angel”, “they'll freeze if they THINK you can see them”, “whatever the hell that was with Amy counting down”. Moffat likes to try to scare us, and if that's the case, then it needs to be understood that fear comes, more than anything, from the unknown. The Angels being so mysterious is what made them frightening, but now that we know so much about them, it's hard to be afraid of them in that primal sense.
And lastly, we have pacing. This slaughtered the tension and story of the 2013 Christmas Special for me. Having the Doctor find the town of Christmas (ugh) and then having fast-forwards with narration was absolutely dreadful. Those questions we've been asking since the beginning of the Smith era, like how did the TARDIS explode? Given a brief, two-line explanation. Having to be naked to go to the Church, which is never brought up again and they go to the Church clothed that very episode? Given about ten minutes of screen time. The real nature of the Silence? Given one line of explanation. The Daleks taking over the Church which really didn't amount to anything since the Church lasts another few centuries anyway? Another ten minutes. 
The other two problems I have with Moffat-style episodes reared their heads as well. Once again we have a “the Doctor is definitely going to die here, no we're serious this time” moments, that I'd be shocked if three people fell for. Over-explaining? Buckets of it. The entire scene where Clara finds the kinda old Doctor halfway through the episode was just an explanation dump to make sure we're all up to speed on the situation. Too many plot twists? Again, the Daleks taking over the Church, the Silence fighting alongside the Doctor, and the pure deus ex machina that was the resolution.

It's hard to argue that Davis didn't have deus ex machina resolutions, especially considering that the resolution to his first season was literally Rose Tyler becoming a god from the machine (just replace god with “Bad Wolf” and machine with “TARDIS”), but at least for Moffat's episodes, he could be a mediating force. He could tap Moffat on the shoulder and say “listen Steve, you need to take a step back in this part and explain less here”. Frankly, I think Moffat needs it.

Having said all of that, I can't argue that Matt Smith did a fantastic job of acting in the last episode, and I'm still incredibly excited to see what Capaldi can bring to the table. Perhaps a new Doctor will bring a new companion dynamic, and maybe the plots will change for the better because of it.