Sugarshock and Dark Horse Presents

The first encounter with Sugarshock by Joss Whedon took place entirely online. No…I didn’t steal it from teh internetz. It was offered up FREE of charge at Dark Horse Comics Myspace Presents way back in 2007. It’s still available in back issues of the online publication.

What lead to the discovery of Sugarshock was actually following Carolyn Main, a local Portland artist and HS friend of my DH. Who is now my internet friend. Though we have yet to meet in person I do stalk her through the cyber-webs and followed a link she’d posted one day – which spit me out at Dark Horse Presents, and into the arms of some lovely comic book fare.

MySpace is sort of like Friendster now…in that nobody uses it. I’ve actually deleted my page because it was way too wide open to the public…and I never used it. Which leaves the obvious question – how long Dark Horse will be using this medium to publish previews and one-offs. It looks like they already took a month break while Myspace laid off a crap ton of it’s staff, and in the interim published the content on the official Dark Horse site. This seems like a better landing spot than having folks access the material on a venue that is rapidly becoming obsolete.

I don’t particularly care for webcomics. There, I said it. I want my comic content published in print. But there is something refreshing about previewing content online or publishing a one-shot on the web. It’s the freedom to fully browse the book you generally don’t get in a comic shop. Smart stuff.

However, entirely online comics can be confusing and frustrating for a collector. Especially if we find something we genuinely like and will want to read more than once – or prominently display on our bookshelves. To resolve the despair of folks who feel more comfortable with a solid literary object in our hands (re: will NEVER own a Kindle) – Dark Horse prints and distributes some of it’s online content.

The actual Sugarshock book appeared on the shelves in October 2009, nearly a full two years after it appeared online. And since I’d already read and loved it in the ethers, when I was at Floating World Comics the other day – I snatched it off the shelves and purchased it.

What’s so wonderful about this book? It has a zany, off-the-wall humor which Whedon hasn’t unveiled since the early days of Buffy, and makes for a fun, quick read. It features a mostly female cast (with a robot dude thrown in for good measure). It’s about a rock band battle in outer space. The title makes me think of “Soft Shock” from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

If you loved that one – check out the acoustic version.

Oh, and Sugarshock is an Eisner Award Winner. This was back in 2008, which was the year of Joss in comics (Astonishing X-Men, Buffy and Angel all rolling along).

It’s win is not surprising because it was penciled and inked by Fabio Moon who has won multiple Eisner’s for previous work. His cartoony, bubbly stylings in this one shot, as well as the subdued yet excellent coloring of Dave Stewart (Hellboy, B.P.R.D.) do a lot to bring the comedic story to life.

There is some argument as to whether or not Sugarshock deserved the Eisner, and as I have no real basis to comment, I will admit that it was probably a political decision by the committee – throwing their support behind a scribe that already has a rabid fan base. It’s a smart move, and the comic book is arguably good stuff – if not packing a deep punch, it manages to do exactly what is expected of it as a one-shot webcomic. Make you laugh, entertain you – and perhaps inspire a series? That’s probably asking too much.

The review I posted earlier posed some interesting questions about what makes Whedon capable of creating compelling characters. One of the comments suggested he recycles characters – endlessly giving new people similar past attributes.

You could certainly argue that there is always a character devoted to specific staples people want in ensemble casting (comedic relief, stoicism, familial vibes, the every-man), but those are expected of shows, books, movies, etc featuring any kind of group dynamic. I would argue that Whedon specializes in group dynamics more than the strength of one single individual character.

He also has the knack of finding the perfect actress or actor for the part. 

The best part about Sugarshock is that it’s drama-free. It seems like the writer and artists genuinely had fun creating it and that is imbued in the pages. In this way, it manages to capture the kind of randomness I generally despise in other venues and utilize it to full comedic effect.

Yes, you can still find it online for free. Check it out – and if it’s good enough, consider paying the hefty price tag of $3.50 to support Dark Horse presents webcomics. So free can stay free.

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

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