Poll results

From 7 June 2015 to 2 July 2016, the following eight polls ran on the Gaia website. All of them received over 800 votes and now it’s time to present the results.

Poll from 7 Juny 2015:

Poll Nr. 22

I also like autumn best. It’s like spring without hay fever.

Poll from 7 Juny 2015:

Poll Nr. 23

21% of all Sandra and Woo readers preferred black and white in the same poll, compared to only 4% of all Gaia readers.

Poll from 7 Juny 2015:

Poll Nr. 24

The distribution is pretty even. The people who voted for Alissa and Ryn should be happy after the first 20 pages of this chapter.

Poll from 7 Juny 2015:

Poll Nr. 25

Way too many people are still oblivious about the many ways Skub can improve their lives!

Poll from 24 October 2015:

Poll Nr. 26

No really surprising results here…

Poll from 24 October 2015:

Poll Nr. 27

The Gaia readers are even bigger bookworms that the Sandra and Woo readers where books only received 52% of all votes.

Poll from 24 October 2015:

Poll Nr. 28

I think the only positive thing I can say about this roster is that they’re at least very different from each other.

Poll from 24 October 2015:

Poll Nr. 29

I didn’t get the impression that webcomics have become more popular in recent years, so lots of people who read less webcomics than before must not have taken part in the poll.

There are four new polls that appear randomly in the voting widget in the right sidebar:

  • Where do you think is Lilith now?
  • How many other fantasy webcomics do you read regularly?
  • Do you also read Sandra and Woo?
  • Do you go to comic conventions?

My visit of the Comic Con Stuttgart 2016

I visited the 1st edition of the Comic Con Stuttgart last weekend on Saturday. I had a great time and will certainly come back next year, maybe playing a more active role than just that of a regular visitor. I met a couple of other German comic artists, a few Sandra and Woo fans, and saw a lot of cosplayers with great costumes. In this post, you can have a look at all the photos I took and my commentary for each one. You can click on each photo to see a larger version of it.

Comic Con Stuttgart 2016

↓ Read the rest of this entry…


Visiting the Comic Con Stuttgart on Saturday

Here’s some info about my visit of the Comic Con Stuttgart next Saturday for our German readers:

Ich werde diesen Samstag, 25. Juni 2016, wahrscheinlich der Comic Con Stuttgart einen Besuch abstatten. Allerdings nur als Besucher, nicht als Aussteller. Sollte es Leute geben, die Lust haben, mich zu treffen, mögen diese hier bitte einen kurzen Kommentar hinterlassen. In dem Fall könnte man einen Treffpunkt ausmachen. Ich werde jedenfalls mein Woo-T-Shirt tragen und zum Beispiel den Stand von Sarah Burrini (1F58 und 1F59 gegenüber Panini) besuchen.


Webcomic review: Beyond the Canopy

  • Comic: Beyond the Canopy (1st page) by Jonathan Griffiths
  • Reviewer: Elena Cordero
  • Status: Ongoing with an irregular update schedule; 487 pages as of 28 May 2016.
  • Art style: Digital, first gray-scale, then full color since the start of chapter 7 on page 216.

As someone who harshly judges everything with an iron hand and cold black heart, I’ve encountered many reasons to judge a work negatively. The classic is calling something bad because it’s… well, bad. Aside from low quality though, you can also say something is boring, or overhyped, or fails to live up to its potential. There are many ways a story can leave you on a sour note, and mistakes like that are bound to happen. It’s understandable.

Beyond the Canopy

One word of caution I’d like to throw out to anyone wishing to get their work out into the world, though, is this: you can be bad, you can be boring, you can be comically sub-par, but for the love of god, don’t be forgettable.

Beyond the Canopy is a lighthearted comedic adventure fantasy by Jonathan Griffiths. Part of me is tempted to let that sentence be the entirety of the review, but that might imply that I’m being more negative in this review than is my intent. You see, Beyond the Canopy is by no means a bad webcomic. It has its strengths, and can be pretty charming, but sometimes the worst thing you can be is just “alright”.

Beyond the Canopy

At first glance, Beyond the Canopy does very little to meet you halfway in terms of getting you interested. The site layout goes for a minimalistic approach, having as few things cluttering the solid colored screen as possible, and the absolute minimum of links in the top banner. No “About” page or information on the author is found anywhere, and aside from a few typed out links, all you’ll really get aside from the comic itself is a series of simple character bios that don’t mean much in hindsight. Each comic is also accompanied by one of the briefest and to-the-point set of author commentary possible.

And none of this, absolutely NONE of it is a problem. All these traits have and will continue to be used by both clever and silly artists. Minimalistic site templates are aesthetically pleasing and less common than a default template. Character bios show off the cast in a colorful and cute manner, telling you more about the artist making them than the comic itself. And short, direct commentary also has its charm in getting a chuckle from the readers simply by how the comic is presented.

Unlike, say, an actual bad webcomic, Beyond the Canopy didn’t set off any red flags. It made me expect a cute and simple adventure with an author that doesn’t take himself too seriously and just wants his comic to speak for itself. This is admirable, and gets the job done for many successful and well written comics or all genres and tones. After all the cluttered messes that popped up over the years in this growing and uncertain industry, it’s nice to see more artists go for the more lighthearted approach.

The art compliments this lightheartedness rather well too. Everything looks cute and cartoony, more in line with children’s fantasy than traditional. Once the comic switches to colored pages they’re vivid, with a solid and simple palette, all with cute faces and silly expressions to keep invoke good, simple fun. Further into the comic we begin to see more creative creature designs, with exaggerated but still simple characters forming the basic art style. We even eventually see hints of the vast fantasy realm the comic is set in.

To go alongside all this, the comic boasts a very straightforward sense of humor that would be at home among modern children’s shows, never going for anything too clever or complex, but still doing its best to give occasional giggles at the goofiness on screen. Hardly anything in the writing ever stood out in particular, but it’s extremely clear that Griffiths wasn’t attempting a big epic with his playful story, instead settling for a charming light read.

Beyond the Canopy

If you want a cute adventure with simple and easy humor, then Beyond the Canopy is the comic for you. Unfortunately, so are several other webcomics that are much better, which is where the positive phase of my review ends. Try as I might, I can’t think of a reason to recommend this comic in particular out of the bountiful list of charming adventurous fantasy comics. This is ultimately the biggest curse of being average quality.

A good sign of how average Beyond the Canopy can be is its very plot, which can be summed up by the phrase “the adventure begins.” It opens with a young forest kid named Glenn, who literally stumbles upon the plot as vaguely evil people try to steal the magical stick guarded by Glenn’s grandfather. And I mean literally. It’s an actual stick. Like the kind you find on the ground. This is admittedly a clever use of the magical McGuffin trope that sets up so many fantasy stories, but sadly, the clever use of your standard adventure formula ends there.

See, the villains in the story work for the main antagonist, who’s a flaming skull head man that’s apparently just evil, and might want to take over the world. He wants the stick because of vaguely defined reasons and so Glenn steals it to keep it safe, because he is the protagonist and has to become important somehow. This is immediately brushed aside so Glenn can then hang out with his friends in town, followed by multiple chapters of flashbacks to previous shenanigans Glenn and co. have gone through. Over 400 pages in, the story finally kicks off once the main antagonist’s forces show up to retrieve the stick and Glenn is sent off on a vague adventure that, to be honest, hasn’t been given any purpose yet.

Not much has come out of this plot so far, with main events only occurring in the most recent chapters. The overall setup is very by-the-numbers, with little context given to anything aside from the obvious archetypes characters and settings are molded out of. Scenes are presented out of order or are accompanied by awkward exposition for no real reason other than the comic having to adhere to a basic formula, and the plot just sort of happens whenever the comic feels like it, regardless of how well the story sets it up.

Beyond the Canopy

Allow me to provide exposition about the Sovereigns to one of the Sovereigns. Once the reader’s caught up, we can continue this scene.

The story doesn’t go for much, and expects little from the reader, which isn’t really an issue. A simple approach could have worked, but the overall package here could really use just a tad more creativity to get things going. Beyond the Canopy is essentially a rough draft in need of a simple edit here and there. All its issues are minor, and a quick sweep of the messes left unchecked would have made a world of difference. As they are now though, these issues pile up too much and have too little support to reward patience or keep someone like myself interested. In the end I was left with too few highs and not enough disappointments to have any high hopes for the comic’s future. It’s stuck in a very awkward middle ground that might be improved in the future, or might not.

Being entirely fair, I have no reason to recommend Beyond the Canopy, but also no reason to brush it aside either. If you look at Griffiths’ art and think this comic is worth a read, you wouldn’t necessarily be wasting your time, and there are far worse things to invest in. I, personally, though, had low expectations which weren’t exactly met, and I’m not holding my breath for anything to change in that regard. I can only hope you enjoy a light read from time to time, because this comic is not one I expect many people to follow closely.

Strengths:

  • Cute but simple art
  • Light read

Weaknesses:

  • Predictable characters and plot
  • Awkward plot pacing
  • Very little stands out as noteworthy

Rating:

  • Story:   ★★☆☆☆
  • Artwork: ★★☆☆☆
  • Website: ★★☆
  • Overall: ★★☆☆☆

* Note that our rating system is much more strict than most and 4 stars are already reserved for comics which are significantly above the average in the specific regard.
* Note that the overall rating is not the average of the other three ratings, but represents the overall impression of the comic.


Back from my Vanessa Carlton concert tour

On Saturday, I came back from my vacation during which I visited all three concerts of Vanessa Carlton in Germany. She had a pretty big hit with A Thousand Miles back in 2002, but her subsequent albums have failed to reach a wide audience, which is a particular shame for her fantastic third album Heroes & Thieves, my favorite music album. I’ve been a huge fan of Vanessa Carlton for over a decade and I was ecstatic when I heard the news that she’s finally coming back to Germany after 13 years. She played in three small venues in Berlin (Wednesday), Cologne (Thursday) and Heidelberg (Friday) and it was a great experience to finally be able to hear her live for the first time. She played and sung very well and I was especially fond of the sound quality of the venue in Cologne, called “Stadtgarten”.

After the first show in Berlin, I managed to get autographs from Vanessa on several posters I brought along. She also seemed to like them, particularly the one with the comic strip, so I gave her a second poster package of the same posters as a gift.

Autopgraphs from Vanessa Carlton

  • The Sandra and Woo” strip [0435] I Don’t Want to Be a Bride
  • An illustration, drawn by Denitsa Petkova, of the first verse of my favorite song More than This:
    • Cradling stones hold fire bright
      As crickets call out to the moonlight
      As you lean in to steal a kiss
      I’ll never need more than this.
  • A portrait of Vanessa Carlton, drawn by Powree, sitting in front of a white piano on a meadow, loosely inspired by her music video for A Thousand Miles.

So if Vanessa Carlton ever played in a town near you, you shouldn’t miss the chance and see her if you’re at least somewhat interested in her style of music.

Here is the portrait of Vanessa shown above which I think is the best piece of Vanessa Carlton fanart curently available on the internet:

Portrait of Vanessa Carlton drawn by Powree

Before my concert tour, I spent five days in Berlin and I can only recommend it to any tourist in Germany. I enjoyed the really impressive architecture and museums. I also liked that the main attractions still aren’t overly crowded. For example, I was the only person in the room with the Nefertiti bust for a couple of seconds. The whole city also didn’t feel as “touristy” as, for example, Heidelberg. Hotel rooms in good locations are a bit pricy in Berlin, but the rest is rather cheap for such a metropolis.