On A Sunbeam

A+

There are interesting layers of meaning to the word “soft”. In one sense, it can mean comfortable, inviting, pleasant to touch. In another, it conveys instead looseness, a lack of structure, or a yielding quality. These connotations have an unspoken gendered quality to them – “soft” is code, in so many ways, for “feminine”, and whether something being soft is a good or bad thing betrays much about the speaker’s attitude towards femininity. As a case in point, whenever a dude dismisses something as “soft scifi”, I get the sense that he prefers scifi that follows strict rules, that doesn’t deviate from real-world scientific theories, that dispenses with ooey-gooey trivialities like “romance” and “feelings”, and that he would call these things “hard scifi”. Tillie Walden’s On A Sunbeam is not for that guy. This is a comic that is proud of its softness, and with good reason. A story of young love,…

Star Trip

B+

Nerds are frequently bad at naming things. Most of you probably know what “jumping the shark” means – the point at which an ongoing story starts to go downhill. If you haven’t heard of its counterpart “growing the beard” you’d be forgiven, because it’s honestly kind of a terrible name. Like so many fandom terms, it’s a reference to Star Trek; fans of TNG noticed an upturn in the quality of episodes around the time that Riker grew a beard in the second season. In addition to “growing the beard” bringing to mind a bizarre visual out of context, the beard in question isn’t even what caused the show to get better, making the entire thing kind of inexplicable (cue hatemail from beard enthusiasts). Maybe there are better options for how to refer to this phenomenon.

Ice

D+

A common piece of advice creative types hear is “work every day.” That’s not always possible for everyone for various reasons, but generally pushing yourself to practice your craft as much as possible is indeed good advice, and some artists who take that philosophy to heart manage to be incredibly prolific. What the people giving that advice don’t always tell you is that most of that “work” is actually going to be garbage not fit to see the light of day, and that some of the things you work on won’t (and shouldn’t) ever be finished. And that’s okay.

Decrypting Rita

A

There are certain comics that I might, if pressed, refer to as “entry level”: comics that are accessible, easy to read and follow, and that tell original, quality stories that are nonetheless a bit familiar to readers. Comics you can recommend to new friends, acquaintances, people you don’t really know – comics that can enjoy a fairly wide appeal. Then there are comics that I would have to call… “advanced”.

Computer Love

A-

When we think about “science fiction”, we typically think of two things: cerebral scifi, like the Twilight Zone, which uses speculative settings and concepts to delve deeper into the human condition; and pulp scifi, like Star Trek, which uses speculative settings and concepts as an excuse to blow things up. Sometimes a writer will try to achieve both, occasionally one thinks it’s the other, and rarely a work will effectively unite the two aspects of the genre, but overall, this dichotomy of “thinky” scifi and “explodey” scifi tends to remain unquestioned. What would – what could – science fiction that didn’t fit into either category even look like?