New York Comic Con 2015 from a First Timer

Even though I did not attend New York Comic Con this year, a close friend of mine had his first big convention experience. One of his friends bought tickets for Thursday and they met up to experience it together. What I know is the pair were discouraged by how many people were there. Thursday, which is usually a slower day where press can get all their photos and actually meet people, was so packed you couldn't stand at a table in Artists' Alley without being smashed into by other people.

I'm glad my friend had this experience, but I'm sad I wasn't there to guide him through the crowds and show him how to interact with the flow of traffic at a convention this large.

Even if you ignore the crowd factor, there were genuine problems. NYCC offered no lanyards when my friend got there. The guidebooks were nowhere to be found (again). The mobile app did not work right (again). And, in a strange twist, there was so little signage leading to the basement level that my friend didn't even think anything was happening in the main event, panel, and signing areas.

He did follow through on his promise and send me photos from the convention. A fresh set of eyes is always wonderful. He focused on a lot of things I wouldn't have, so we all get to see a different set of highlights than if I had done the photography myself again.

The 2015 MacArthur Fellows

The MacArthur Fellows, aka the recipients of the MacArthur Genius Grants, receive a no strings attached award of $625,000 spread out over the next five years. It is a tremendous honor limited to a select group of candidates from all walks of intellectual and creative pursuits. The award is designed to acknowledge people who have made extraordinary contributions in their field and have the potential to continue to innovate in the future. Previous honorees include Julie Taymor, Cormac McCarthy, and Adrienne Rich. The 2015 Fellows include a few very familiar faces from entertainment news in the past few weeks. Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (whose musical Hamilton is taking over the world) and journalist Ta-Neisha Coates (who was just tapped to write Marvel's Black Panther comic series) are probably the most well-known honorees this year.

Here are all the 2015 Fellows and the fields they're recognized for.

Patrick Awuah, education entrepreneur Kartik Chandran, environmental engineer at Columbia University Ta-Nehisi Coates, journalist, blogger, and memoirist Gary Cohen, environmental health advocate Matthew Desmond, sociologist at Harvard University William Dichtel, chemist at Cornell University Michelle Dorrance, tapdancer and choreographer Nicole Eisenman, painter LaToya Ruby Frazier, photographer and video artist Ben Lerner, writer Mimi Lien, set designer Lin-Manuel Miranda, playwright, composer, and performer Dimitri Nakassis, classicist at the University of Toronto John Novembre, computational biologist at the University of Chicago Christopher Ré, computer scientist Marina Rustow, historian at Princeton University[44] Juan Salgado, Chicago-based community leader Beth Stevens, neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School Lorenz Studer, stem-cell biologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Alex Truesdell, designer at the Adaptive Design Association Basil Twist, puppeteer Ellen Bryant Voigt, poet Heidi Williams, economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Peidong Yang, inorganic chemist

You can find out more about all 24 fellows at the MacArthur Foundation website.

Watch: The Zombie Bridge Puzzle

You know that old brain teaser about getting livestock across a river so a wolf doesn't eat them? You know, you can only carry so many of the critters at a time, but leaving a critter by itself guarantees death by wolf? I stumbled across a fun zombie-spin on this with different parameters care of Ted-Ed. You are an intern at a science lab on a mountain. Unfortunately, the scientist has created brain-hungry zombies. You and three other lab workers need to escape the zombies and cut off the exit bridge, but the bridge is old and so are some of the workers.

Watch this fun video and see if you can solve the puzzle. It took me a little bit, but I did get it before checking the answer.

Watch: Cats vs Zombies

Cats Vs Zombies I never thought I'd see a zombie short starring cats.

Cats have a long history of being used in horror films. It's because of the superstitions surrounding black cats and witches' familiars, combined with their stealth and aggression when confronted. It's a horror cliche for a cat to jump out of the darkened hallway as misdirection.

But cats starring in a zombie short? Cats being targetting and fighting against the zombie scourge? That's something special.

"Cats vs Zombies" is a horror short from Mr.TVCow on YouTube. A little kitten is trapped on top of a building, surrounded by hungry zombies. It's up to two grown cats to fight back and save their species from extinction. It's a horror comedy so cute you'll wanna squeeze it. Yes you will. Yes you will.

Via The Mary Sue.

3 Thoughts on RWBY

Yes, I do intend to have writing on Sketchy Details again. I needed to get into the flow of drawing every day. Now that I'm confident in that, I can shift some focus back to media criticism. RWBY is an original animated series from Rooster Teeth, an online comedy and gaming video creator with tons of original animation. This series, so far, has two volumes, released on Netflix as two two-hour animated films. Instead of a straight forward review of all the things I watch on streaming media, I'm going to break down my reaction into three ideas.

3 Thoughts on...RWBY

RWBY

1: Children Will Love This Show

RWBY is like Harry Potter, only with young children and teenagers training to be tough warriors to fight against the Creatures of Grimm, ancient beings of unimaginable evil. The first character introduced in the series is Ruby. She fights with a gigantic scythe and so impresses the dean of the premiere fighting academy that she's skipped ahead two grades to accelerate her training. She's accepted as an equal by her new peers and even has her older sister excited to train by her side at the school. The common enemy is the Creatures of Grimm and the students all take that very seriously. It's a positive, empowering experience for Ruby and one that sends a strong message about self-worth and hard work.

2: Adults Will Love It, Too

RWBY is not a straight-forward children's show by any means. There are plenty of allusions and social commentary that will sail over the heads' of younger viewers. A big recurrent element of the series is the politics of energy, represented by magical dust called Dust. These elements enhance the world rather than distract from the story so everyone can get as much out of the series as they want.

3: That Animation

The quality of animation is exceptionally high considering this is a low-budget independent series. I had major flashbacks to the beautiful cel shading that dominated the best of the Dreamcast. It did take me a little while to warm up to the minimal shadows in the design, but that's merely personal preference.

Verdict

Anime fans will find something to latch onto immediately with RWBY. It's reminiscent of series like Soul Eater and Sailor Moon without outright copying those ideas. The color coordination with characters and names is well done and the weaving of Grimm fairy tales into character back stories is clever. I say it's worth a try for anyone and everyone. If it doesn't catch you in the first 12 minutes (technically the first episode), then you can always switch over to something else.

Watch: Kiriosity: Why is Shakespeare Important? That Is the Question

In my day to day life, I don't need to do a lot to justify my obsession with Shakespeare. I music direct/teach educational theater year round. There's always an excuse to preach the good word of the Bard. But, theatrical criticism has started to take a turn, at least in NYC. A great production of a safer Shakespeare--a Macbeth or a Twelfth Night--will easily get raves. A great production of a more problematic play--a Richard III or A Midsummer Night's Dream--will receive far more mixed reviews. Context is important, and it's becoming more common now to force 21st Century readings onto 16th/17th Century plays.

Not that I mind too much. There are very problematic plays in Shakespeare's oeuvre. Measure for Measure is predicated on selling a nun's virginity as a business contract. Much Ado About Nothing and Cymbeline both turn on manufactured slut shaming, causing depression and grave psychological harm to the young women in question. The Merchant of Venice is still treated like a monster story in modern adaptations (the Al Pacino film is a particularly bad offender) with the Jewish villain and the female hero both reduced to gross stereotypes. Beautiful language can only cover so much wrong.

There's relevance to the text beyond the language. Shakespeare mastered the five act dramatic structure, which helped lead the way to three and two act dramas we know today. If you see a production of one of his plays now, it's played with an intermission after Act III. Some of the longer plays lend themselves to two intermissions, after Act II and Act III. Act III is always the turning point, setting the rest of the story into motion in a way that can never be stopped. The fates are sealed and we're just in it for the ride.

This is especially evident in my favorite, The Winter's Tale. Acts I-III are a tragedy; Acts IV and V are a comedy. How? In Act III, a character is tasked with abandoning a baby on the coast of Bohemia is chased off by a bear. It is, literally, the only incident of stage direction originally written into one of Shakespeare's plays. The absurdity of an actor dressed as a bear (we hope) chasing an innocent man to his death (offstage) is so outrageous that the audience starts to laugh. The play then turns into a parody of its own melodrama, going super broad and undermining the punishments or triumphs of all the characters to that point.

Kiri Callaghan takes a different approach to his importance on the newest episode of Kiriosity. Well, other than being another person with significant theatrical training that defines the interest. It's a must-watch video.

And a big happy birthday to William Shakespeare. My hero.

Explore: Doctor Who Timelord Timelines

The BBC has released the most incredibly nerdy interactive infographic ever. They have mapped all of the time travel over twelve regenerations of Doctor Who (the War Doctor included). It's astonishing. Doctor Who Timelines Full

The first thing I did with this, as I do with all infographics I come across, was question the accuracy. I know the 9th Doctor the best and knew that 2040 was not far enough into the future to cover the episode where Rose and the Doctor first meet the last human being in the universe. The episode is actually called "The End of the World" and I found it on the chart immediately; I clicked the title and this popped up.

Doctor Who Timeline End of the World

That's better. They travel to the year 5000000000, not 2040. And that, right there, is the genius of the chart.

Why limit the time travel range from 2040 to 1830? Because most time travel in Doctor Who falls into that range. The Doctor has gone further into the past and future, but most of the time it's Victorian Times to the near (then distant) future.

The graph's winding path is tongue in cheek and practical. It is canon that time is not a linear construct but "wibbly wobbly timey wimey." It's a joke, but it's how the series has always worked and will always work. So a curved time axis makes sense.

But look at that graphic up above. When I clicked on all of the Doctors, they circled the center of that graph. A linear scale would not read as well as this carefully planned series of curves. It also wouldn't stress the consistency in leaps of time for all of the Doctors.

Nothing, for me, has made the regeneration concept clearer than seeing this Spirograph-like image of the Doctors jumping from the past to the future to the past to the future over and over again. The pattern is refusing to have a set pattern. The smallest jump in the history of the series is one year (11th Doctor, "Day of the Moon"), while most jumps span decades, if not centuries. The TARDIS may determine where the Doctor needs to be at any given time, but the nature of the Doctor himself creates these repeated cycles of massive shifts into the past and future.

The Doctor Who Timelord Timelines is a very impressive time waster and resource. And that, right there, is the crux of any good infographic. This one just happens to be super nerdy.

Explore: Doctor Who Timelord Timelines

The BBC has released the most incredibly nerdy interactive infographic ever. They have mapped all of the time travel over twelve regenerations of Doctor Who (the War Doctor included). It's astonishing. Doctor Who Timelines Full

The first thing I did with this, as I do with all infographics I come across, was question the accuracy. I know the 9th Doctor the best and knew that 2040 was not far enough into the future to cover the episode where Rose and the Doctor first meet the last human being in the universe. The episode is actually called "The End of the World" and I found it on the chart immediately; I clicked the title and this popped up.

Doctor Who Timeline End of the World

That's better. They travel to the year 5000000000, not 2040. And that, right there, is the genius of the chart.

Why limit the time travel range from 2040 to 1830? Because most time travel in Doctor Who falls into that range. The Doctor has gone further into the past and future, but most of the time it's Victorian Times to the near (then distant) future.

The graph's winding path is tongue in cheek and practical. It is canon that time is not a linear construct but "wibbly wobbly timey wimey." It's a joke, but it's how the series has always worked and will always work. So a curved time axis makes sense.

But look at that graphic up above. When I clicked on all of the Doctors, they circled the center of that graph. A linear scale would not read as well as this carefully planned series of curves. It also wouldn't stress the consistency in leaps of time for all of the Doctors.

Nothing, for me, has made the regeneration concept clearer than seeing this Spirograph-like image of the Doctors jumping from the past to the future to the past to the future over and over again. The pattern is refusing to have a set pattern. The smallest jump in the history of the series is one year (11th Doctor, "Day of the Moon"), while most jumps span decades, if not centuries. The TARDIS may determine where the Doctor needs to be at any given time, but the nature of the Doctor himself creates these repeated cycles of massive shifts into the past and future.

The Doctor Who Timelord Timelines is a very impressive time waster and resource. And that, right there, is the crux of any good infographic. This one just happens to be super nerdy.

Black and White (The Haunting Ground 2.01)

Today marks the beginning of Season 2 of The Haunting Ground. A Halloween show in February, you ask? Think of it this way: you have just over eight months to get everything ready for the best night of the year. The first few episodes this season are all going to be about inspiration and theme. I already know what I'm doing (kind of) for 2014: a fully black and white haunt. Here's why it's a great theme for you Halloween decorations.

Like, comment, share, and subscribe to Sketchy Details @YouTube for more great video content.

I'm a Fullscreen Partner Now

FullscreenLast night, while I was editing the upcoming episode of The Haunting Ground, I received confirmation that I'm a Fullscreen partner now. What's Fullscreen? Fullscreen is the largest independent multi-channel YouTube network. They provide support to YouTube content creators like me with tools and resources I'd never be able to negotiate on this scale by myself. They also help connect content creators for collaborative projects and sponsorship that increase visibility and revenue.

In other words, now that I have the support of the Fullscreen network, I'm going to be able to dedicate a little more time to video creation. First, I want to establish the routine of eight videos a month with the existing line-up (Sketchy Details @Home, Slipstream, Play It, and The Haunting Ground). Then, I can start branching out with one-off videos, new series concepts, and collaborations. I'm also going to finally be able to open an official Sketchy Details merchandise store.

So how can you help with this partnership? Subscribe to Sketchy Details @YouTube. Like and share the videos you enjoy. Comment on the videos letting me know what you like or what you want me to do.

Best Web Series of 2013

This is the final medium-specific category of The Sketchys. Tomorrow, I have something very special planned to commemorate the year in media. For today, we're looking at the best new web shows started in 2013. You might be able to predict a few of the entries based on shows I've written about this year. There are a couple surprises in this unranked list. I also include my favorite episode with each honoree. Let's get to it.

The 2013 Sketchys: Best Web Series

James St. James' Transformations

Anyone with an interest in art, makeup (beauty and special effects), and pop culture needs to be watching this series. James St. James, famed author and original Club Kid, invites makeup artists from all walks of life to do whatever they want to his face. The guests on this show read like a who's who of artistic and performance makeup: Billy B, Mathu Anderson, Sutan Amrull (aka Raja), Mynxii White, Chad Michaels, Peaches Christ, Boychild, and a whole lot more. These artists have done beauty, high fashion, pop art, avant garde, drag, performance art, monster makeup, and more. James St. James is an excellent host, bringing out the personality of the makeup artist and briefing the audience on their background. The best part is, no matter how bizarre the makeup gets, James St. James never cracks. He is a gracious host and model even when being covered in substances not meant for application on the body. Acrylic paint (not cosmetic acrylic, but straight up craft paint) is nothing compared to being covered in black glycerin. It is a celebration of makeup as art without the confines of a competition or other producer directives.

Subscribe to WOWPresents for more Transformations.

Bee and PuppyCat

Cartoon Hangover, the amazing YouTube channel that brought us Bravest Warriors, spent 2013 airing one-off cartoons in between episodes of Bravest Warriors. These played like pilots for new series to put into production. Bee and Puppy Cat is the only one, so far, confirmed to get a full season order. A young woman who can't get her act together finds a puppycat (actually, she falls on her from a rift in space). This creature brings her through a different rift to inter-dimensional temp jobs for much needed money. The animation is stunning, like Miyazaki doing science fantasy, but with a really warped sense of humor. There's a whole lot more that seems to be going on, but it's really early in the process to tell. There is only one episode so far, split in two parts, and it's worth watching.

Subscribe to Cartoon Hangover for more Bee and Puppycat.

Emma Approved

Jane Austen's novels have been adapted into many great films and TV series before. Emma Approved is one of the more radical adaptations, courtesy of Pemberley Digital, and it's so right. Emma Woodhouse is an online matchmaker marketing her services through video blogs/could-be documentary. The series does not underplay Emma's terrible nature, something sorely missing from other adaptations, afraid of alienating the audience with such an awful character. Austen set out to create a totally unlikable protagonist who has to earn redemption in the eyes of the reader. Vlogging is, by its nature, a self-centered (arguably narcissistic) exercise, making it the perfect setting for a truly modern adaptation of Emma.

Subscribe to Pemberley Digital for more Emma Approved.

Click through for three more great web series.

FetchQuest

FetchQuest is an animated series on Geek & Sundry in the mold of Robot Chicken. No, not physically in that mold. It's 2D animation about various gaming topics. Each episode features a whole lot of jokes stacked back to back on a theme and a comedy song about games. No one is going to laugh at every joke in every episode, but the humor is so broad-reaching that something is going to catch you just right. The parody songs are the most consistent element, even if the catchiest song drove me up a wall for dismissing Nintendo as nothing but kiddie games. I'm also a Nintendo fanboy, so I take it way more seriously than it's meant to be. It's a damn fine song either way.

Subscribe to Geek & Sundry for more shows (I don't know if Fetchquest is actually getting a second series. Only two cancellations have ever really been confirmed (The Flog and, sadly, MetaDating)).

Tropes vs Women in Video Games

You had to see this coming, right? Anita Sarkeesian's much talked about series is brilliant. I can't think of another word to describe it. The controversy over the Kickstarter campaign (created by trolls and MRAs fighting against feminism because reasons) only improves the quality of the show by fostering discussions about video games as serious media/art and critical theory. What gets lost far too often is that Sarkeesian set out to create an educational series for use in classrooms introducing feminist criticism through video games. She never claimed this would be the be all, end all discussion. It's literally a starting point for evaluating games like any other field of art. And like any actual academic discussion, attacking the creator of the critique you disagree with is the fastest way to discredit your own argument. Her gender and appearance have nothing to do with the substance of her criticism. It is possible to engage with her videos in a way that advances a greater discussion about representation in video games. You need to actually watch them, analyze her arguments, and go from there. That's the whole point of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games: creating a discussion about video games through the lens of feminism.

Subscribe to Feminist Frequency for more episodes of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.

Kiriosity

One of the winners of the Geek & Sundry Vlogs talent search was Kiri Callaghan. Kiriosity is her twice a month vlog looking at philosophy through pop culture. It took me a few episodes to catch onto her angle and I'm glad I stuck it out. She has covered everything from pop culture alter egos to mad scientists, pulling specific references (for example, Bruce Wayne/Batman as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde) to discuss greater issues of culture, philosophy, history, and science. Now, Kiriosity is the must-watch vlog from Geek & Sundry. Any nerd can easily get lost in these subjects, finding new pop culture holes to fall through and get lost in.

Subscribe to Geek & Sundry Vlogs for more Kiriosity.

So those are the top new web series of 2013. What did I miss? Put your picks in the comments below.

CentUp Offering 100 Free Credits for Signing Up

I explained what the CentUp button is when I first uploaded it to Sketchy Details over the summer. Basically, it's a way for you, the reader, to support content you like directly. You upload money to your CentUp account and can drop in a few pennies here and there wherever you see participating sites you want to support. Simple as that. The CentUp team has really been working hard to improve and grow the service. They're running a promotion right now where you get 100 free credits to use however you want just for signing up. It's that simple. Just sign up and you have a free dollar you can break up however you want on sites participating in CentUp.

You might not think a couple pennies makes a difference, but it really does. Banner ads, video ads, sales on debut ebooks (ahem), and all the other monetization options available to a website rarely pay more than that on any given day. The difference here is you. Crowdsourcing is here to stay thanks to sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. Musicians like Amanda Palmer and Radiohead are continually demonstrating the commercial viability of pay what you want releases of their content. All the CentUp participants are asking for is some spare change if you really enjoy what you're reading.

Explore: Film School Thesis Statement Generator

I think I'm being put out of a job. The Film School Thesis Statement Generator is a cheeky look at academic film criticism. It pulls very broad critical concepts pulled from title keywords and randomly pairs them with basic film elements. Add in academic doublespeak and you wind up with profound looking statements that boil down to really simple things. For example,

Through the fluid identification of the viewer, Otto; Or, Up with Dead People conforms to pre-Oedipal guilt.

actually means

Since someone watching the film can connect to some changing aspect of the story, Otto; Or, Up with Dead People falls in line with an ambiguous sense of guilt created by general society.

Test it out for yourself. It's fun.

Slipstream #13: Valerie's Labyrinth

You ever see two films and think there's no way the similarities are coincidental? We're not talking the shot for shot remake of Psycho from Gus Van Sant here. We're talking about films that were made in response to other films. This week on Slipstream: The Pulp Culture Vlog, I propose that a modern Academy Award-winning fantasy classic pulls more than just a little inspiration from a radical Czech New Wave Surrealist fantasy from the 1970s. The latter already inspired one of my favorite dark fantasy/horror films of all time; whose to say that a film buff like the director of the former wouldn't have embraced the structure and story of the same film for his own purposes.

Watch the video, then click on through to like, comment, share, and subscribe to Sketchy Details @YouTube.

The Preston Files #2: Catch'em All

The new The Preston Files is up! I'm hoping to fulfill the Monday, Thursday, Saturday schedule I had printed on Moo cards last spring when Strip Search finally convinced me to get my butt in gear and start a new webcomic. Hey, I'm only half a year behind for once. That's good for me. I got the camera equipment for my YouTube channel last December and only really started in August. I'm a Pokemon fanatic and I have OCD. You can understand the dilemma. "Gotta catch'em all" isn't a tagline for me; it's a lifestyle. It's why I cannot trust myself to play Skylanders or Disney Infinite. I don't even trust myself to buy the Nightmare Before Christmas figures for my collection because I'll feel compelled to buy the game and all the things that go with it. It's not impulse control. I get anxious if I start a collection and don't have everything. Shoot, achievements popping up on Steam can peak my anxiety because I know there will be more than one.

Bear with the quality. I need to figure out the best way to scan 9x12 paper on an 8.5x11 scanner. This is photography and a whole lot of photo editing to make it look as good as it does.

Read "Catch'em All" here.

Penny Arcade's Strip Search: Where Are They Now?

Strip SearchPenny Arcade's Strip Search wound up being one of the most positive, inspiring, and life-changing reality shows ever created. The slower pace at the start meant learning a whole lot about the contestants, which made every elimination--even the clear winner/loser scenarios--very tense to watch. You didn't want anyone to go home. I think it's pretty safe to say that all 12 finalists have benefited from the exposure of the show. All of them get invited to do guest strips for the Penny Arcade/PVP collaboration The Trenches. Almost all of the contestants have a webcomic project up at this point; all are regularly sharing their art. The post is actually going to focus on the finalists in more detail, but here's what everyone else on the show has been up to.

Alex Hobbs is running his solo comic Wanderlust Kid and it's really funny. Ty Haley (still running The Secret Life of a Journal Comic) and Monica Ray (still running Phuzzy Comics) are taking over The Trenches as the new writer and artist, respectively (that was announced at PAX Prime (skip to 6:31:00 for the announcement)). Mackenzie Schubert has a gorgeous new series called Full Stop running. Nick Trujillo is drawing up a storm at his Tumblr and has done guest work on PATV's Extra Credits.

Amy T. Falcone Kickstarted her new webcomic Clique Refresh (and I helped), and she's posting all the concept art on her Tumblr. Erika Moen is running my favorite new webcomic with Oh Joy, Sex Toy, which is just so funny and smart and beautiful and NSFW. Tavis Maiden Kickstarted his new project Tenko King and makes comics still at Thunderskull Press. Lexxy Douglass crowdfunded her webcomic The Cloud Factory before the show even finished airing.

The three finalists of Penny Arcade's Strip Search were Maki Naro, Abby Howard, and Katie Rice. It was a really strong group of finalists and I would have been happy with any of them winning. I liked Abby's new comic pitch the most in the final challenge, but it was so wrong for Penny Arcade. It was also oddly confusing to the judges since she showed them comics from the middle of the series (not the beginning) that told a single story with established characters. Katie and Maki had really cool pitches, too, but my own experience growing up reading horror comics (specifically Jhonen Vasquez, Serena Valentino, and all those Slave Labor Graphic creators) made her pitch a perfect match for me.

Guess what? The finalists all have new projects up that you should be supporting. It's fun. Patronage is just a click away.

Maki Naro, formerly of Sci-ence comic, is now a blogger for Popular Science. His webcomic is now called Boxplot and runs once a week on Wednesdays. It's largely the same concept. He writes and draws really funny science comics, then explains how the science actually works in the post. It's all the more awesome for him being on a larger platform. Maki was one of the only artists I knew of before the show (with Erika Moen (duh) and Katie Rice) and it's because I run with a really nerdy crowd that liked to share nerdy science comics and debate the science in them. His humor is just so out there in the best way possible. You can't mistake Maki's work for someone else's.

Abby Howard is running two webcomics. She continues the incredibly hilarious Junior Scientist Power Hour on Mondays and updates her Kickstarted Strip Search pitch The Last Halloween on Wednesdays. The Last Halloween is one of the coolest webcomics I've encountered. Abby has such a strong style and knows how to design a character. The monsters invading Earth on Halloween are pure nightmare fuel, but the comic will have you laughing until you cry. It's horror comedy that actually knows it's supposed to be funny.

Katie Rice, the Strip Search champion, just launched her winning comic Camp Weedonwantcha and it's adorable. I mean, it's a dark comedy series about children abandoned at a summer camp, but it's so cute. The style is so bright and vibrant and the stories are silly rather than scary. There's a sad undertone set up in the first comic, where the lead writes a letter to his mother hoping she'll still come back for him four months later. It was the perfect pitch to complement Penny Arcade and it's solid. Camp Weedonwantcha updates on Mondays and Thursdays.

When I heard about Strip Search and even applied myself, I never expected the show to be like this. It was just such a positive experience and has helped a dozen people start to transition to webcomics as a full time job. It's really quite remarkable. The contestants have earned our continued support by helping to craft such a beautiful and fun reality show. You can watch the full series here.

YouTube Music Awards Winners

YouTube Music Awards 2013Last night, YouTube held its first awards ceremony. Specifically, the YouTube Music Awards broadcast live around the globe starting at 6PM EST with region-specific live performances, guests, presenters, and more. I didn't watch live, but I sure got a face full of it on Twitter. YouTube's actually put up the live highlights and is featuring the winners on the homepage today. There are a couple cool things about the YouTube Music Awards. Most Internet-specific awards shows are decided on popular vote (I should start my Lammy's campaign sooner this year) and YouTube's were no exception. The difference is how the winners and nominees were even chosen. The nominees were selected by video views, subscriptions, likes, and comments since September 2012. Then, a video was created for each nominee in each category that was voted on by sharing the link on social media--Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. The nomination process is the perfect way to handle awards through YouTube. There can't be any questions. These videos had more views, comments, likes, and channel subscriptions than other possible nominees.

Another great aspect of the awards: brevity. There were only six categories: Video of the Year, Artist of the Year, Innovation of the Year, YouTube Breakthrough, YouTube Phenomenon, and YouTube Response. Innovation meant creative advances in video design and was the only category not decided entirely by views/likes/subscriptions/comments. Phenomenon was basically the viral video category, the music trends you couldn't escape over the past year. Response was the cover song category.

What we're left with is an awards show that used tangible public opinion for nominations in a smaller range of categories so all of the nominees got more exposure in the end. YouTube really committed to making it a global effort, nominating a lot of independent and foreign language artists side by side with mainstream major label artists.

Innovation of the Year went to Destorm featuring Alexandra Govere's "See Me Standing." Destorm is not a signed artist. He announces in his video description that he'll be releasing his debut mixtape this year. The song is solid and the video is simple but effective. I love the magenta lighting and use of shadow to frame the shots. Lighting is the easiest way to make a no budget video look slick and professional.

YouTube Response went to Sketchy Details' favorite Lindsey Stirling for her cover of "Radioactive" featuring The Sing Off victors Pentatonix. It's a fantastic cover of a song that took a long time to grow on me. The video is, again, another low budget affair that uses the other big trick--good location--to up the production value. It has a taste of post-apocalyptic action with the barren landscape and tattered Mad Max-esque ensembles on the performers.

YouTube Phenomenon went to Walk Off the Earth featuring KRNFX for their cover of "I Knew You Were Trouble." A Capella is huge on YouTube. Walk Off the Earth does fantastic covers and has a huge fan base; they deserve it. Anything that draws more attention to talented musicians is a good thing. This group didn't even need fancy video tricks: they perform in front of a set of blinds and kill it.

YouTube Breakthrough went to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Surprise. They're everywhere and largely blew up because of the viral success of their ridiculous "Thrift Shop" video. No one else stood a chance in this category.

Artist of the Year went to Eminem. His new album was timed just right to pick up this award. He's getting a lot of attention for putting out more solid singles and a lot of criticism for some of the implied (or even explicit) misogyny and homophobia in some of his new songs. He made his mark as a controversial artist and that kind of criticism just galvanizes his fans even more. Eminem has always put out strong music--I mean, a rapper winning Best Rap Album at the Grammys for his debut? An Oscar for a rap song?--and the new material so far isn't breaking the trend. (NSFW Lyrics)

Video of the Year went to the South Korean girl group Girls' Generation for "I Got a Boy." The Internet is naturally reacting in an appropriate, mature, not at all racist way. Oh wait, scratch that. Pop Dust names and shames the idiots (even if sites like Kotaku are censoring the handles).

Anywho, Girls' Generation is the epitome of that Korean Wave thing I wrote about over at The LAMB recently. They put out polished pop music, stylish videos, and have fans all over the world; even I voted for "I Got a Boy" for Video of the Year. It's just so much fun. I love all the tempo and style changes in the video as well as their solid hip-hop choreography. Stick with them past the first 90 seconds or so; the choreography travels through the history of hip-hop dancing, ending at the modern pop and lock choreography celebrated for years on America's Best Dance Crew. Every time an act like Psy or Girls' Generation breaks through in a big way, there's a slightly wider opening for more foreign artists to gain success in America. It's why the YouTube recommendation feature is so great. Oh, you like Girls' Generation? Try Super Junior or Big Bang. And so on and so forth down the rabbit hole.

What did you think of the first ever YouTube Music Awards? Share your thoughts below.

YouTube Music Awards Winners

YouTube Music Awards 2013Last night, YouTube held its first awards ceremony. Specifically, the YouTube Music Awards broadcast live around the globe starting at 6PM EST with region-specific live performances, guests, presenters, and more. I didn't watch live, but I sure got a face full of it on Twitter. YouTube's actually put up the live highlights and is featuring the winners on the homepage today. There are a couple cool things about the YouTube Music Awards. Most Internet-specific awards shows are decided on popular vote (I should start my Lammy's campaign sooner this year) and YouTube's were no exception. The difference is how the winners and nominees were even chosen. The nominees were selected by video views, subscriptions, likes, and comments since September 2012. Then, a video was created for each nominee in each category that was voted on by sharing the link on social media--Twitter, Google+, and Facebook. The nomination process is the perfect way to handle awards through YouTube. There can't be any questions. These videos had more views, comments, likes, and channel subscriptions than other possible nominees.

Another great aspect of the awards: brevity. There were only six categories: Video of the Year, Artist of the Year, Innovation of the Year, YouTube Breakthrough, YouTube Phenomenon, and YouTube Response. Innovation meant creative advances in video design and was the only category not decided entirely by views/likes/subscriptions/comments. Phenomenon was basically the viral video category, the music trends you couldn't escape over the past year. Response was the cover song category.

What we're left with is an awards show that used tangible public opinion for nominations in a smaller range of categories so all of the nominees got more exposure in the end. YouTube really committed to making it a global effort, nominating a lot of independent and foreign language artists side by side with mainstream major label artists.

Innovation of the Year went to Destorm featuring Alexandra Govere's "See Me Standing." Destorm is not a signed artist. He announces in his video description that he'll be releasing his debut mixtape this year. The song is solid and the video is simple but effective. I love the magenta lighting and use of shadow to frame the shots. Lighting is the easiest way to make a no budget video look slick and professional.

YouTube Response went to Sketchy Details' favorite Lindsey Stirling for her cover of "Radioactive" featuring The Sing Off victors Pentatonix. It's a fantastic cover of a song that took a long time to grow on me. The video is, again, another low budget affair that uses the other big trick--good location--to up the production value. It has a taste of post-apocalyptic action with the barren landscape and tattered Mad Max-esque ensembles on the performers.

YouTube Phenomenon went to Walk Off the Earth featuring KRNFX for their cover of "I Knew You Were Trouble." A Capella is huge on YouTube. Walk Off the Earth does fantastic covers and has a huge fan base; they deserve it. Anything that draws more attention to talented musicians is a good thing. This group didn't even need fancy video tricks: they perform in front of a set of blinds and kill it.

YouTube Breakthrough went to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Surprise. They're everywhere and largely blew up because of the viral success of their ridiculous "Thrift Shop" video. No one else stood a chance in this category.

Artist of the Year went to Eminem. His new album was timed just right to pick up this award. He's getting a lot of attention for putting out more solid singles and a lot of criticism for some of the implied (or even explicit) misogyny and homophobia in some of his new songs. He made his mark as a controversial artist and that kind of criticism just galvanizes his fans even more. Eminem has always put out strong music--I mean, a rapper winning Best Rap Album at the Grammys for his debut? An Oscar for a rap song?--and the new material so far isn't breaking the trend. (NSFW Lyrics)

Video of the Year went to the South Korean girl group Girls' Generation for "I Got a Boy." The Internet is naturally reacting in an appropriate, mature, not at all racist way. Oh wait, scratch that. Pop Dust names and shames the idiots (even if sites like Kotaku are censoring the handles).

Anywho, Girls' Generation is the epitome of that Korean Wave thing I wrote about over at The LAMB recently. They put out polished pop music, stylish videos, and have fans all over the world; even I voted for "I Got a Boy" for Video of the Year. It's just so much fun. I love all the tempo and style changes in the video as well as their solid hip-hop choreography. Stick with them past the first 90 seconds or so; the choreography travels through the history of hip-hop dancing, ending at the modern pop and lock choreography celebrated for years on America's Best Dance Crew. Every time an act like Psy or Girls' Generation breaks through in a big way, there's a slightly wider opening for more foreign artists to gain success in America. It's why the YouTube recommendation feature is so great. Oh, you like Girls' Generation? Try Super Junior or Big Bang. And so on and so forth down the rabbit hole.

What did you think of the first ever YouTube Music Awards? Share your thoughts below.