Gravedigger

Single Sentence Scrutiny: 11 Action / Thriller / Crime / Espionage Webcomics

This is another Single Sentence Scrutiny post. This time I focus on Action/Thriller/Crime/Espionage webcomics. Each one gets one single sentence of explanation.

Note that neither order nor sentence length are indicative of relative awesomeness. The same goes for sentence quality.

This time I do not differentiate between categories, but rather list the comics in alphabetical order. Note that a few of them have been listed under the Spy-Fi heading in my previous post Single Sentence Scrutiny: 44 Science Fiction Webcomics.

Also not that some of them, unfortunately, are currently on hiatus.

Here we go! Do you like or dislike any particular comic? Let us know in the comments.

A Girl and Her Fed is an astonishing twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-supernatural-elements espionage webcomic that features really evil villains, but also shows political antagonism coming from different viewpoints and goals rather than from moral deficiency, and how the good guys sometimes make questionable choices as well.

Amazing Agent Luna and its prequel Amazing Agent Jennifer are high-tech espionage stories, with cloning technology at the forefront, set in High School, adhering to many of the Manga-stlye tropes, even the more disturbing ones, but also with pretty solid storytelling.

Broken Telephone is an intriguing story that interweaves in Rashomon-style six different more-or-less concurrent plot lines each featuring different protagonists who are the hero of their own story and the villain of someone else’.

Note: You may also want to read my recent post Seven Questions About Broken Telephone.

Drugs And Wires is a pretty dark and disturbing take on Cyberpunk.

Femme Noir is about a Femme Noir, obviously, chasing crime etc., with well crafted writing and beautiful and stylish visuals.

Gravedigger is my favorite webcomic about an anti-hero who’s pretty damn good at figuring angles and covering bases, goes down with style, but is always prepared, makes sure he’ll lick it, eventually, and narrates his tales with dry wit and quick perception.

Note: You may also want to read my recent post Seven Questions About Gravedigger.

Opportunities is a webcomic that will develop into something like space opera, but since the entire first book is set on Earth, it is a twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-aliens-and-spaceships espionage story, and it relies on continually rising dramatic tension instead of mindless action, and constantly surprises the reader in spite of being very upfront and hiding very little from the reader.

Note: You may also want to read my recent post Seven Questions About Opportunities.

Protege is my favorite dark and gritty action thriller spy story webcomic, because it is told fast-paced, with constantly rising tension, doesn’t shy away from going really dark places, but without invoking much gore, and has the most interesting characters and superb world-building.

Note: Protege will resume updating tomorrow, Nov 25th., and you may also want to read my recent post Seven Questions About Protege.

Spy6teen is high-tech espionage meets high-school drama, well written and professionally visualized.

Three Minute Max is an action-packed dramatic story with teleportation technolgy and sorta-kinda superheroes that is sometimes over-the-top but has a heart that never stops (unlike that of the hero).

Note: There are more Action/Thriller/Crime/Espionage webcomics than I could possibly cover here, or even know of. There are also those that I don’t like, but that may nevertheless be very good (because my taste is just my taste, duh).

Can you express in one sentence why you love your favorite webcomic? Tell us in the comments!

Of course, many of the explanations given in the one sentence descriptions above deserve further exploration. I will revisit them in forthcoming posts.

Seven Questions About Gravedigger

Here’s the newest installment of the Seven Questions About feature: This time I asked Christopher Mills, the writer of the wonderful webcomic Gravedigger: The Predators. I have talked about it a couple of times on this blog, and I really love that comic.

[In case you are new or need a reminder, this is how the feature  works: I ask seven questions. The first four are the same for everyone. This serves as a warm-up, and gives us the lay of the land. The last three questions are always quite specific, and based on my own interests.]

Now, enjoy!

Q1: Who are you?

My name is Christopher Mills. I’m a freelance writer and editor, who also does a bit of graphic design when the need or opportunity arises. Since 1990, I’ve been writing comics for a variety of independent publishers, in a variety of genres. Some of my comics projects have included Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals for Big Entertainment, Kolchak: The Night Stalker for Moonstone Books, and Femme Noir for Ape Entertainment. My current project is a three-issue miniseries called Gravedigger, which reprints a couple of crime stories originally published online as webcomics.

Q2: What is Gravedigger: The Predators about?

“The Predators” is the second chronicled adventure of professional criminal “Digger” McCrae. It opens with him being framed for the murder of a mob boss’ daughter, and subsequently hunted by the mobster’s men as he tries to escape the South Florida resort town where all this occurs. The idea was to write a comic book version of a “chase movie” like Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, but on a smaller, more intimate – and more violent – scale. (The specific inspiration for this particular storyline was a little-known Patrick Dempsey thriller from 1991, called Run.)

Q3: Why and how did Gravedigger: The Predators get started?

Back in 2003-04, artist Rick Burchett and I collaborated on the first Gravedigger webcomic, called “The Scavengers.” After its run online, it was collected and printed as a one-shot comic book by an outfit called Rorshach Entertainment. Surprisingly, it got a fair amount of attention and critical acclaim. Almost immediately, Rick and I started receiving feedback from readers asking for a follow-up. Due to a variety of circumstances, it took us almost ten years to get it done, but “The Predators” debuted online in 2013, and was picked up for publication by Action Lab: Danger Zone earlier this year. The first issue went on sale in mid-July, and issue #2 should hit shelves any Wednesday now. [Timothy’s Note: It already has. Christopher wrote this a month ago.]

Q4: What influences made Gravedigger: The Predators into what it is?

The Gravedigger series is inspired primarily by my love of hardboiled paperback crime fiction, specifically the work of authors like Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake), Dan J. Marlowe, John Trinian, Mickey Spillane, Lawrence Block and Max Allan Collins. It’s my take on the “criminal protagonist” sub-genre, of which, Richard Stark’s “Parker” novels are probably the best known.

The Gravedigger comics are also influenced by my passion for cinema, and 60s-70s crime films in particular. I grew up watching lots of Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin thrillers, and they’ve undeniably been a big inspiration.

I try to avoid flat-out pastiche (although I’ve been accused of it [Timothy’s Note:Honi soit qui mal y pense!]), and instead try to simply tell the best, most earnest genre stories I can. I’m not much interested in satirizing, deconstructing, re-inventing or “elevating the genre.” I like crook books, and when I write one, I’m writing the best one I can.

Q5: How much does the writing itself owe to the artist’s contribution?

In comics, the right artist is essential. Fortunately, Rick Burchett and I seem to be perfectly in synch on Gravedigger. He understands the character and his world as well – or better, sometimes – as I do, and often contributes ideas and bits of narrative that improve the stories we’re telling. That’s one reason the Gravedigger credits always read: “by Mills and Burchett.” It’s not a simple “Me write, you draw” collaboration. Some of the stuff people credit me for are actually Rick’s contributions, and vice versa.

Q6: How did you create and manage the breakneck pacing of Gravedigger: The Predators?

Honestly, I don’t do much in the way of pre-planning or outlining. In fact, what I usually plan goes out the window once I get going. I saw the story as a fast-paced “chase,” and it basically wrote itself. I always try to start my stories with a strong page one hook, which often ends up as a sort of cold open, but otherwise, I establish a situation and see how Digger deals with it. I’m sort of along for the ride, myself.

[Timothy’s Note: I’m quite surprised by this answer. Positively surprised, that is, because the result of this process is so great.]

Q7: Was Gravedigger: The Predators written as a period piece, or rather a timeless story?

Yes. The 1999 Brian Helgeland “Parker” film adaptation with Mel Gibson, Payback, created this sort of stylized, late 20th Century urban setting, with no mobile phones, personal computers, etc. I liked that idea a lot, and I write the Digger stories with that same sort of thing in mind. You won’t find smart phones or laptops in a Gravedigger story (although Rick did draw in some flatscreen TVs in “The Predators”). So, yeah – it’s both a timeless story (in that there’s no specific dates involved) and a period piece, although its period is a vague, late 20th Century America.

[Timothy’s Note: I think it’s pretty cool to understand the setting as a stylized environment that is only vaguely timed. This makes a lot of sense for that kind of story.]

If you want to read more:

You may want to read Five Questions For Christopher Mills on Trouble With Comics. By the way, that interview was what inspired me to add the Seven Questions About feature on my own blog.

Got any comments?

I hope you will find the answers as intriguing as I do, and you will agree with me that Christopher, just like his creation Digger McCrae, has got the details, and has got the style.

What do you find most interesting? Tell us in the comments!

Stay tuned!

In two weeks, on Oct. 14th. I’ll post another Seven Questions About, with Ron Randall, creator of the Trekker webcomic. As always, I encourage you to check it out in advance.

Single Sentence Scrutiny

Writing last week’s post felt kinda weird: As much as I love the The Silence Of The Lambs and The Matrix , not mentioning any webcomics disturbed me. So by way of overcompensating, I decided to include as many as possible this week. I managed to cover twenty-four. Of, course. this means that I have only limited space to talk about each.

So instead of dedicating a couple hundred words to the discussion of one single webcomic, like I did in my first post on this blog, I will allocate a single sentence of praise to each. I will describe why I love the comic as it is now, and in case of long-runners ignore the early evolution.

Do you agree or disagree with me about a particular comic? Let us know in the comments.

Here we go (neither order nor sentence length are indicative of relative awesomeness):

Schlock Mercenary is my favorite satirical science fiction webcomic, because it applies great satire – with satire being defined as making fun of important or interesting topics by taking them seriously – on many levels (visual, narrative, dialog, plot), with multiple scopes (personal, relationship, professional, technical, organizational, strategic, political), and to different effects (silly, funny, weird, dramatic, dark and disturbing).

Questionable Content is my favorite relationship-drama-driven slice-of-life comedy webcomic, because both its humor and drama are true to the characters, which are build on sophisticated stereotypes, i. e. stereotypes used to enable and inform, but not to constrain or deform, the individuality and richness of the characters.

Opportunities In Space is my favorite twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-aliens-and-spaceships espionage webcomic, because it relies on continually rising dramatic tension instead of mindless action, and constantly surprises the reader in spite of being very upfront and hiding very little from the reader.

A Girl and Her Fed is my favorite twenty-minutes-into-the-future-but-with-supernatural-elements espionage webcomic, because even if it features really evil villains, it also shows political antagonism coming from different viewpoints and goals rather than from moral deficiency, and how the good guys sometimes make questionable choices as well.

Space Mullet is my favorite dark-and-gritty-but-also-quite-funny science fiction (in space) webcomic, because the guys are valiant and wise-cracking, the girls are tough and pretty, the aliens are alien and relatable, the moons and planets are gourgeous, and the weapons and spaceships are top-notch.

Protege is my favorite dark and gritty action thriller spy story webcomic, because it is told fast-paced, with constantly rising tension, doesn’t shy away from going really dark places, but without invoking much gore, and has the most interesting characters and superb world-building.

Gravedigger is my favorite webcomic about an anti-hero who’s pretty damn good at figuring angles and covering bases, goes down with style, but is always prepared, makes sure he’ll lick it, eventually, and narrates his tales with dry wit and quick perception.

Greasy Space Monkeys is my favorite webcomic spicing up Gibsonian high-tech-low-life underdog-in-space slice-of-life shenanigans with Crocodile Dundee-esque romantic comedy sprinkles, including courtship rituals ranging from impersonating a spaceship captain to refusing to either confirm or deny allegations of being a murderer to threatening inevitable nuclear annihilation.

Crowded Void is my favorite nauseating webcomic. (Seriously, can you imagine any science fiction setting as gross as the intestines of a giant space worm? If so, please tell us in the comments.)

Galaxion is my favorite webcomic featuring Live. Love. Hyperspace. because priorities.

Quantum Vibe is my favorite science fiction webcomic that populates an epic world in a setting limited to our solar system and speed-of-light communication with an incredibly diverse set of characters even without any aliens.

Drive is my favorite webcomic that combines serious, incredibly creative world-building and goofy but loveable characters into an intriguing and hilarious story.

Validation is my favorite webcomic driven from an agenda, because it delivers its message and stands its ground, but puts storytelling first, and doesn’t come across as preachy.

That Deaf Guy is my favorite (mostly) humorous webcomic about living with your own or one your family member’s disability.

BOHICA Blues is my favorite webcomic about military life in a modern society.

Deep Dive Daredevils is my favorite pulp-style adventure webcomic that combines historical submarine action, retro-science-fiction thrills, supernatural chills, and bunch-of-ragtag-misfits shenanigans, because it employs all the old, well-known tropes and twists them like no one else, delivering entirely new levels of surprising, yet inevitable.

Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether is my favorite webcomic featuring a unique and radically different fantasy setting, because the world is excellently constructed, the characters are compelling, the plot is intriguing, and the visuals are positively beautiful.

Trekker is my favorite webcomic that starts from a well known, pretty standard science fiction setting and premise, because the story is interesting, the plot is well executed, and the visuals are easy on the eyes.

Space Corps is my favorite science fiction webcomic with world-buildung based on blatant setting rip-off (Semper Fi IN SPACE) enforcing ridiculous constraints on alien design (only the head can be different, and it still has to fit into a standard human-sized helmet), because it unflinchingly runs with the concept and includes alien characters which are pretty cool despite the constraints.

Spacetrawler is my favorite science fiction webcomic populated by a plethora of incredibly versatile alien designs that take full advantage of the freedom afforded by the medium and accept no constraints whatsoever.

Space Pest Removal is my favorite science fiction webcomic characterized by cartoon-style visuals and storytelling, because it always makes me smile and often makes me wonder.

The Queen Candidate and Kappa are my favorite webcomics that are based on an unconventional fantasy setting and correspondingly weird fantasy races.

Next Town Over is my favorite webcomic featuring a weird plot and an idiosyncratic premise and ravishingly beautiful art.

Note: There are many more webcomics I like than I could possibly cover here. There are also many, and I mean really many, webcomics that I don’t like, but which are nevertheless very good (because my taste is just my taste, duh).

Can you express in one sentence why you love your favorite webcomic? Tell us in the comments!

In my opinion, many of the explanations given in the one sentence descriptions above deserve further exploration. I will revisit them in forthcoming posts.

See you next week, when I will write with stronger focus, covering less but digging deeper.

Digging Your Grave One Shovel At A Time

” … brought me in to fine-tune the plan. I’m a details man – figuring angles, covering bases – that’s what I do. [… ] I’m pretty damn good at it.”

That’s how McCrae, called Digger, protagonist of Gravedigger, one of my favorite webcomics, describes himself. It’s an accurate description of the two creators as well: They are details men, and pretty damn good at it.

Me, I’m a details man at the receiving end. Movie, novel, TV show, or webcomic: Gimme the small but significant details!

Digger also asserts he is “one stylish son-of-a-bitch”, and again this can be said of each of the two creators as well.

Here ends the similarity: Digger wants his plans to go straight, smooth and steady; the creators want the plot as twisted as it gets, very tense, and fast-paced. Guess who wins!

This post will focus on what impresses me the most with Gravedigger, the diligence on details.

As I told you in Cooking Success With The Ingredients Of Failure, that’s the same thing I like the most in the novel The Silence Of The Lambs, so I’ll include examples from it as well.

But first, here’s another example (Minor Spoiler ahead) from Opportunities In Space:

  • On this page, we see a couple of ladies standing by a pool discussing where to have a party.
  • The most prominent feature of the page is the open panel in the middle right with a closer look on Sara Emmett saying:
    • “I know for a fact that Ben will not mind.”
    • This line is a subtle reminder that Ben has already met his fate, ahem, I mean there was a family emergency, and that Sara is only posing as his secretary, but really belongs to some group of (alleged?) terrorists.
  • Visual details support and enhance this line of dialog with wonderful effect:
    • That she breaks out of frame into the other panels emphasizes that she is the most important person on the whole page.
    • The washed-out red background alludes to her being an accomplice to murder.
    • In contrast, the positioning of her body in the frame draws attention to the fact that she’s wearing, well, let’s say, pool attire, proudly presenting her fine figure.
    • In one sentence, we see a dangerous evil that is well hidden behind a desirable body, a pretty face, and a friendly smile.
  • What’s more to wish for?

More to come, talking about Opportunities In Space, in futures posts.

Before I continue, I encourage you to check out the archive from Gravedigger. It contains two stories, The Scavengers and The Predators, of 28 respectively 48 pages.

Also, you may want to brush up on The Silence Of The Lambs.

Now, if you are back, or don’t mind the SPOILERS AHEAD, click for more, read on, and discuss.

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