Saturday, 12 May 2012

Digital Canvas - A Real (Web) Page Turner

Over the years as a dedicated fan of webcomics, I’ve acquired a few book versions of popular strips to read at my leisure, obtaining them either through a website’s own shop, a regular book shop, or even our dear own Proud Lion. Print copies of online strips often provide fans with tasty extra material to goggle at, and I personally find it a lot more fun reading a strip archive in a format you can take into the bathroom or in bed at night! So lets have a look through my collection together, and I’ll give you guys a rundown of each tome.

Axe Cop: Volume 1, 2, and 3
Printed by Dark Horse. I just love the beautiful colour covers on these - as Axe fans know it's only recently that we’ve been seeing Axe Cop in full colour. The first volume covers “Episodes” 1 - 70 and “Ask Axe Cop” 1 - 42, in amongst which are great storylines like the introduction of The Moon Warriors, and The Ultimate Battle. Volume 2 collects the Dark Horse exclusive miniseries “Bad Guy Earth”, a hilarious fully contained story. The recently released Volume 3 goes back to the website and collects Episodes 71 - 117 and Ask Axe Cop 43 - 70, whilst generously also including the wonderful Axe Cop and Dr McNinja crossover in full, and several “Axe Cop Presents…” episodes where Malachai felt like playing with different characters.

The real bonus in each book is artist and big brother Ethan’s commentary on pretty much every page (in Bad Guy Earth this is contained to a “Making Of“ section with photo gallery and sketchbook at the back of the book), explaining how his little brother Malachai came up with some of his ideas, and how he keeps being surprised and awed by Malachai’s bottomless well of imagination. Each also includes a very cool pin-up gallery at the back, with art provided by big named fans like Doug TenNepal, Jason Howard and Dustin Weaver.
Available through Proud Lion? YES

The Adventures Of Dr McNinja: Volumes 1 - 4
The first three volumes were printed independently via Topatoco, volume 4 is printed by Dark Horse. The pulp-style covers are gorgeous, but the clichéd fake wear-and-tear on the cover of volume 1 might put people off a bit. Volume 1 covers the first three story arcs, introducing us to the Doc’s world. Volume 2 contains the two large arcs that together make up the longer storyline “D.A.R.E. To Resist Ninja Drugs And Ninja Violence”, and volume 3 (my personal favourite) continues the story by showing the consequences and reasons behind some of the mysteries of the last arc, culminating in a showdown with Dracula himself. Volume 4 begins a new era in Dr McNinja’s stories, acting as a great jumping on point for new readers and also being the first time we see the comic in full colour.

The popular “alt text” for each page (a short joke or commentary about the page in question, viewed on the site by hovering your mouse over the picture) makes it to the books intact as footnotes, and as a bonus Chris Hastings has added similar footnotes to his first story arc, which previously didn’t have any. Bonus material comes in the form of exclusive new strips, often written and drawn by friends in the webcomic business such as Anthony Clark or Benito Cereno. Also included in the first volume is a page of concept sketches and a photo of the author himself in an action-body pose, used as reference for a tricky scene.
Available through Proud Lion? ONLY VOL 4

Hark! A Vagrant!
Published by Drawn And Quarterly in Canada, this has a comfortingly chunky hard cover with a pleasingly simple design. The recently published second volume of the webcomic (there has been a previously released “best of” compilation called Never Learn Anything From History, focusing primarily on the historical jokes) contains all of Kate Beaton’s very favourite pages, along with all the previously unpublished pages, in no particular order.

Sadly there’s very little in the way of extra content for Hark A Vagrant. Beaton does provide some footnotes for her favourite strips, explaining her thought processes or opinions on the subject matter in question, but that’s basically it. Personally I think the strips stand up by themselves fine, but others might not see it that way. Even so, its great bedtime reading!
Available through Proud Lion? YES

Todd Marsh will have to come back to this subject to cover the rest of his bookshelves.

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