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In Real Life – Alternative Comics Beat

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

In Real Life


Written by: Cory Doctorow

Art by: Jen Wang

Published by: First Second

Leveling up

When people think about MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) they tend to think about fighting battles, creating cool characters, and organizing raids with other players. But there are other aspects of these online games that aren’t mentioned as much outside of gaming culture. One big aspect is the idea of gold farming. Where players collect gold in the game, or items, and sell them to people with real world currency that want to have an easier experience without all the work.

In Real Life explores this concept through a young girl named Anda, who befriends someone caught up in the world of gold farming. I don’t want to give too much away, but the concepts that explore gold farming or gamers in general are too good to pass up.



Doctrow and Wang

I know Cory Doctorow mostly from his work as a novelist, but after reading this OGN (original graphic novel) I’m excited to see him work in the comics medium beyond this volume. Anda and the other characters are fully fleshed out, the worlds they live in feel authentic (both real world and video game world), and the story has real heart at its core.

Jen Wang’s art is expressive, flowing, and beautiful. Her work with colors makes each page pop, and the movement that her characters use in battles or just throwing tantrums keeps the panels from feeling static. The suggestion of motion through her line work is phenomenal, and I plan on looking up more of her work after writing this article.



Why it’s a great alternative

Video games are a huge part of our culture. While they might get mentioned in other mainstream comics it’s usually a name drop or used as a joke or plot device. In Real Life uses MMORPG as a backdrop to a real human story and explores the gaming culture and economy unlike any American comic I’ve ever read.



Who would like In Real Life?

I think that fans of anime series that deal with gaming, like Sword Art Online or .hack, will enjoy this OGN. It doesn’t have any of the “if you die in the game you die for real” tropes, but it doesn’t need them. The story is about the characters and gaming’s effect on them, and it’s a topic that’s very real and important within the world of modern gaming.

Ken Porter also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

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Alternative Comics Beat: This One Summer

Alt Beat

By Ken Porter

This One Summer


Written by: Markio Tamaki

Art by: Jillian Tamaki

Published by: First Second

Summer reading, summer adventure

One of my favorite things to do during the summer is read something that reminds me how much I cherish the way I spend the rest of my summer days — with good friends. When I stumble upon something that reminds me what it was like to be younger, to have the summer be a grand adventure, I cherish it all the more.

This One Summer is an original graphic novel that captures the adventure of a summer cabin and injects some real human moments and themes into the story.

The story follows Rose, a girl that’s spent every year in Awago Beach with her mother and father. Her summer bestie Windy stays each year in a cabin near by, and the two of them are inseparable when they arrive. Problems start to arise when Rose’s mom starts lashing out and withdrawing for unknown reasons, and Rose starts experiencing second-hand what it’s going to be like when she’s a teenager. She and Windy spend the summer watching horror movies and talking about their inevitible puberty, and each scene has more heart and charm than the last.



An original graphic novel more like a prose novel

One of the many great things about this OGN is that it doesn’t really read like many other comics. While you can often see a clear story structure in most books, This One Summer reads more like an illustrated novel that a regular American comic book.

This format lets readers spend more time with Rose and get inside her head, even in silent scenes or where she has no dialogue. It’s a book that really sets a tone and mood for the characters and lets them explore throughout the pages.



Why it’s a great alternative

This is the kind of book that doesn’t have a supernatural twist. There’s no superpowers, no ghosts, and no demons or space invaders. It’s just a slice-of-life story about summer and coming to terms with growing up, as well as they mysteries of older kids and sex. It’s a great change of pace for people that are burnt out on superhero comics or want something a little more grounded.



Who would enjoy this OGN?

I think that people who are fans of comics like Lost at Sea, Blankets, and Essex County will really enjoy this OGN. It’s got the same amount of heart as all of those stories and really shows off how comics can be used to tell a story in any genre. It’s a fantastic story that doesn’t need fantastical elements to make you feel for the characters.

Ken Porter is presently interning with Cosmic Book News and also writes comic books including “Ink Ribbon” from Visionary Comics. Ken was also the winner of last year’s Top Cow Talent Search contest and was recently published in “Artifacts” #33.

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