Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Zebra Girl: Best. Comic. Ever.

` I didn't used to like web comics. Then I came across this one - and it's still my favorite! I recommend Starting From The Beginning of this surreal story!

` In the first strip, we actually meet a young, relatively innocent Joe England, who I think at that point was just entering college. The first thing that struck me was probably the extremely well-done artwork - it is both realistic and detailed, and probably a real pain in the ass to do sometimes.
` Accordingly, he convincingly depicts himself as some kind of rabbit mastermind-guy, which is fitting, as he supposedly does have complete control over the strip. (Though sometimes I wonder if it ever has control over him...) The comic can be both serious, while capturing Joe's sense of humor - I'm not terribly confident that I can find anyone (without a serious mental condition) who will not think that his style is appealing in any way.

` Mainly, the story focuses on three twenty-something humans - Sandra, 'the normal one'; Crystal, 'the ditz'; and Crystal's brother, Jack, 'the perv', who can read ancient magic spells somehow.
` The thing about these characters that first grabbed my attention would have to be their somewhat disturbing, hyperactive hairstyles. (Thankfully, over time, these are 'tamed'!) Also, their vivid personalities. Downright shiny, even!

` However, it isn't long before Sandra is no longer 'the normal one', as she loses her human status due to the fact that Jack was messing around with a source of magic he found randomly one day.
` This is where the name 'Zebra Girl' comes in (although she isn't actually called that): As you can guess, Sandra was accidentally transformed into a black-and-white striped embodiment of evil! Although her clawed arms and zebra-like legs are missing digits and dexterity, the rest of her is chock-full of quite useful appendages and supernatural-sensory organs, not to mention hazardous bodily fluids.

` In the early stages of the story, everything's pretty wacky, and Joe used the fact that it is very hard to do the kind of high-level comic strip he does to further that wackiness by employing such well-respected techniques as 'liberties with panel design', 'fun anachronisms', and the esteemed art of 'scribbling'. I likee.
` And though the comic matures over time - becoming more dramatic and less goofy - the humor is nevertheless a strong element and often pops up unexpectedly out of a 'serious' scene.

` The underlying premise of Zebra Girl seems to revolve around the question: 'Can Jack turn Sandra back into a human?' Naturally, the answer is: "Of course not!" (We think.)
` No, Sandra learns to deal with the fact that she is not able to openly go out into public or even visit her family however human her soul remains.
` On top of this; there's various other things to get her down, including a really creepy guy with a Ph.D. who has been known to occasionally attempt to send her to hell in one way or another; a psychotic tyrant trapped in a parallel universe who uses robots and such to enslave its inhabitants; as well as an extremely bizarre monstrosity which caused someone in the forum to exclaim, simply; 'BIG PUPPY! REALLY BIG PUPPY!'
` Besides these things, on the rare occasion that Sandra is severely drained or injured, she has been known to lose her mind and eat the flesh of the living - a definite source of anguish for anyone in her position.

` But I suppose it's not all bad... she can now use her demonic powers to find souls, fight evil minions, flambe Jack whenever he really pisses her off, and even neater things than that!
` And besides, Sandra still has her friends to cheer her up:

` Always by her side is the ever-sunny Crystal, and her nice lycanthropine boyfriend - despite the fact that Sandra had to make him move out of the house... ("Bad, dog! Bad!" WHACK! "Get an apartment!" "Hnnn! Hnn!")

` Meanwhile, bitter and cynical from a harsh life, the star of a cartoon show that Sandra, Crystal and Jack watched as kids winds up being their hardened and cunning ally!

` Of course, we can't forget that Jack never stops trying to find a cure for Sandra's... condition, while at the same time doing interesting, wizard-things with his many-leafed friend.
` (This is a lot of what drives him to spend less time being a pervert and more time attaining a 'higher' level - which... is very cleverly named.)

` And as of earlier May 2005, it looks like Sandra has made a new friend... who doubles as a snack! You had to be there. I hope she comes back...

` Joe definitely did very well with the characters... they're easy to relate to, even though a lot of things about them are just plain weird. Of course, this is the perfect combination to make characters intriguing. I was like 'Whoa! These are the neatest fictional people I've ever read about!' You actually care about whether they get killed or tortured or whatnot.

` I would say England is certainly a skilled cartoonist - excellent with illustrations, dialogue, creativity, and (to hold everything together!), some really groovy, crazy, even thought-provoking story lines! It makes fun of all kinds of things, and yet it's well-balanced enough that the characters are extremely realistic.
` Not to mention, there is a second strip by Sandra, on what it's like being half-hellspawn. I'm not sure, but I think that was started because people in the forum kept asking a lot of questions that needed answering.

` Unsurprisingly, Joe has a lot talented and dedicated fans, and their fan art, fanfic, videos, music etc. is pretty neat as well. Of course! I give Zebra Girl my highest rating!
` Five cat claws extended!

` UPDATE: Holy cats! This review actually got Joe England's Seal of Approval!

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