Another New Webcomic of Mine

I’ve been working on this for a while now, so I’m glad to finally reveal my brand new webcomic: Ladies-in-Waiting! Despite the name, it’s not about servant girls, but rather a daily comic strip (every Monday-Friday) about a group of little girls. Think of it like an all-female, British Peanuts with far more amateur artwork and you’re probably not far off. Except there’s the potential for the odd bit of blue humour in there, as well. I’d be properly grateful if you gave it a look at ladiesinwaitingcomic.co.uk. You might even get a laugh out of it!

ladies in waiting half-comic

Wanna know what hilarious way this ends? Click the link!

Don’t worry if you’re thinking this might be replacing Toki no Tanaka, either, because I’m still committed to keeping that going strong, as well. I’m pitching them as two very different things, that should have no problem coexisting: this is four-panel gag-a-day territory whilst Tanaka is long-form with storylines, this is hand-drawn black and white whilst that is digital and full-colour. Plus, most importantly, they both have a very different cast of characters and I’m not going to pick one over the other. That wouldn’t make much sense, would it?

The Pointless Princess?

This week sees the release of Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash on the Wii U, a game that marks the first playable appearance of Rosalina in a Mario Tennis game. And that’s good. She’s a popular character and I’m surprised that she hasn’t turned up in one before. But it does leave me wondering about a certain other character also appearing in the game and where this leaves her.

Daisy

“I’m also here!”

Daisy. One has to ask, in this age of Rosalina, is Daisy still relevant? At all? So that I don’t seem like I’m needlessly hating on her, I suppose a little history lesson might be in order here.

Princess Daisy originally debuted in Super Mario Land for the Game Boy in 1989, where, for whatever reason, they decided to give Princess Peach some time off and had Mario rescue a new royal abductee. But that’s hardly relevant to Daisy’s current character, because (other than a cameo appearance as Luigi’s caddy in NES Open Tournament Golf in 1991) she wouldn’t reappear until Mario Tennis on the Nintendo 64 in the year 2000, over 11 years later – which is where her story really starts. She then gone on to appear in nearly every Mario spin-off game since (Kart, Party, sports, etc.), usually as one of the playable characters.

Rosalina, meanwhile, is a relative newcomer, Making her debut as recently as 2007 (in Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii, where she helped Mario out on his adventure). She didn’t go on a humungous hiatus of appearances, however, and went straight into her first playable role the following year, as an unlockable driver in Mario Kart Wii. Ever since, she has been growing ever more popular and relevant to the wider series, being involved and made playable in more and more games. This year, she finally cracked the Mario Party and sports games scenes with debut playable appearances in Mario Party 10 and Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (she was playable in Mario Golf: World Tour for the 3DS previously, but as bonus DLC). Combine this with her upcoming bow in the new Mario & Sonic games and it’s clear that Rosalina has been cemented as a Mario series staple.

Rosalina sitting

Settled in for the long haul.

So Daisy came first and now there’s a new girl on the scene. It doesn’t automatically make Daisy redundant, does it? Maybe not, but the problems facing the yellow one become clear when you probe a little deeper into her behind-the-scenes history. Daisy was reintroduced Mario Tennis solely because for the purpose of the game’s doubles mode, where in a tournament, the same two computer-controlled characters would always be paired up. But there was no natural partner for Princess Peach (Mario having already been partnered with Luigi). To remedy this, Nintendo trawled the archives and discovered another, far more obscure girl that had been long-since forgotten along the way, one whom they could reimagine however they wanted because hardly anyone would remember her anyway, and decided to pair princess to princess.

So they resurrected her by tweaking Peach’s already existing character model and, hey presto! Princess tennis buddies! Presumably, they kept her around after that because they wanted more than one female character and give any little girls playing more of a choice, but the point remains that Daisy exists only to be Peach’s friend/partner in these spin-offs (it’s interesting to note that she made her Mario Kart debut in Double Dash, a game that paired two drivers to one kart).

Daisy and Peach

Forever in her shadow.

Rosalina, meanwhile, earned a spot in these games through her own merit. Super Mario Galaxy was a hugely popular game and Rosalina, as a central character, became very along popular with it (helped a lot by her storybook side-story). Nintendo must have noticed and granted her a spot as on the roster of the next Mario Kart. Whilst they have seemed reluctant at times to fully integrate her into some of the other Mario spin-offs, such as the party series (she first appeared as an NPC in Island Tour on the 3DS) and the sports games (she didn’t feature in Mario Tennis Open where they bizarrely chose her starry buddy, Luma instead), she got there in the end, all while doing something Daisy never could. Remaining relevant in the mainline Super Mario series.

She’s currently appeared in three of those games and will probably turn up in more later, whilst Daisy only ever appeared in one back in the 80’s and seems incredibly unlikely to reappear in any others. She just doesn’t seem to have a place. In fact, she’s never been so much as been mentioned in a main Super Mario game beyond her debut and her backstory as the princess of Sarasaland has been reduced to the kind of thing reserved for the brief character bios in instruction manuals. All while Rosalina continues to have an active role as the mysterious, magical “princess” of the cosmos.

Rosalina was even playable in Super Mario 3D World and ultimately made the jump to Nintendo superstardom by being picked in the roster of the latest Super Smash Bros. games. Roles Daisy could never begin to dream of. Rosalina has become a favourite, whilst Daisy continues an awkward existence in the background of video gaming. A relic of a time when there wasn’t an established character in the Super Mario series who fit in as a tennis partner for Princess Peach.

Slim pickings for Peach

It was slim pickin’s back then.

You could point out that Waluigi is in the same boat, of course. Created out of thin air for the very same N64 Mario Tennis game because Wario needed a partner, as well. Why, you might ask, am I picking on Princess Daisy when Waluigi is surely just as irrelevant? It’s because he’s not. There has been to date, no other character that can quite fill Waluigi’s place in the series, as Rosalina can Daisy’s. Daisy is the “other princess”, the one that’s not Peach, and that’s a role that can be (and kind of is already) satisfactorily taken by Rosalina.

If Super Mario Galaxy and Rosalina had already existed by the time Mario Tennis entered development, they might still have felt the need to cook up a Waluigi to pair with Wario, but (and this is the crucial point), would they still have blown the cobwebs off Daisy? No. Why would they have done if have already had a second princess ready and waiting, who was actually still relevant to the wider series? They would have paired Peach up with Rosalina and Princess Daisy would have been left to wallow in Game Boy curio obscurity.

Original Daisy

This would have represented her entire career.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m fond enough of Princess Daisy. I play as her sometimes, I certainly don’t dislike her and I’m perfectly happy to see her continue turning up in Mario Tennis, et al. The more the merrier, as I see it. But she definitely feels a bit of an outdated relic these days. Someone who’s only there still because she always has been. With her Princess-not-Peach role entirely usurped and arguably bettered by another, more popular, more unique character, you have to wonder whether Nintendo might start to think of putting the girl in the yellow dress on a bus for good.

Rosalina wins

On Rugger

With a home world cup being on, I’ve actually been interested in the rugby for pretty much the first time in my life. Perhaps predictably, the one time I’m actually invested in it, England crashes out in the groups and it breaks my heart. Ho hum. Ignoring that little detail, however, I went into it as a (near) total newcomer to the sport, and found it a rather… unusual experience, so I’ve decided to collect my thoughts on the matter here. It’s not like watching the footie, that’s for sure.

The rules are obtuse at best

I suppose if you’re a real ruggerhead, you probably understand exactly what’s happening at every moment of every game, with a keen eye for what seperates a scrum call from a penalty call. However, all I see is 15 huge blokes flinging themselves into each other with gay abandon, often ending up in a writhing heap, when the referee suddenly decides that one of them has gone too far and blows for a scrummage. Where’s the line between a good bone-breaking tackle and a foul one?

rugby 1Which is okay? Top? Bottom? Both? Neither?

Perhaps, though, they could have counteracted this by opening the tournament with a 2-hour seminar explaining the complex rules in minute detail. That would have fired everyone up.

Half the game is failed scrums, lengthy conversions and tellings off

Open play stops a lot in rugby, which is fair enough, but every time it does, does it have to eat at least three minutes from the clock of an eighty minute game? The ref has no urgancy, giving a lengthy explanation to both sets of players after seemingly every infraction, and neither do penalty kickers and conversion takers, who (almost) always precede their kicks by taking an age to size up invisible calculations about wind resistance and the like. Scrums are the worst offender, though. They take a millenia to set up, only for it to be deemed somehow at fault when it actually happens (another case of obtuse rules) and the whole blasted thing has to start all over again.

These things would be fine if they stopped the clock to allow them. I don’t want to rush the kicker, but do they have to run down the clock during his preperations? They could pause it until the moment a scrum actually starts, the duration of a conversion, or the whole time the ref feels he has to explain something. They stop it when the TMO gets involved, so why not at these times and stop them devouring potentially crucial gametime? Because, as it stands, you seem to only get about 40 minutes of actual rugby and another 40 of a bunch of some blokes standing around waiting to play rugby.

When it works, it’s ruddy exciting

All those things said, it really can be great fun to watch. The tension when one team is agonisingly close to the try line, with the others throwing everything they can at them to stop them gaining the foot they need is real edge of your seat stuff. And the moment a team actually breaks through and is on for the try is a liberating, exhilarating moment that is easily the equal of the football’s elusive “goal”. It can make putting up with the time-wasting filler just about worth it.

There definitely seems to be something in this rugger-lark, then. Especially if they stopped wasting huge chunks of the game on non-playing. Perhaps if I perservere with it, I’d start to get my head around the rules better and would gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the whole thing that might just be worth it. What I saw of the World Cup has broadly suggested it will be, at least. Maybe I should get myself down The Rec one of these days…

Txtlit Stories

You may or may not have heard of a website called Txtlit, but if you haven’t, it’s a nifty, UK-based website that offers monthly writing competitions for microfiction of up to 154 characters – inspired by a new theme every month – to be submitted as a text message. There’s even a £50 prize for the winning tale every month, and a few of the other short-listed entries are published on the website, too.

I tell you about this because I’ve entered it myself a few times, but never won (or was even shortlisted!), so I’d like to share all the miniature stories I wrote with someone. I may never have won a prize with any of these, but I’m still pretty pleased with a few of them. Writing in such tight confines is pretty tricky, after all! Incidentally, if you fancy having a crack at this, just follow the handy link I’ve provided at the top of this post to visit the site and see what they’re after now (you can only take part if you live in the UK, though). Be warned, though; it costs a whole £1 to enter!

June 2013

On Earth, all was still. Men were as statues, tides stopped and sound ceased to be. On another plane, Chronos put his feet up and had a well-earned cuppa.

July 2013

Streaming with sweat, John rushed towards the swimming pool. Headfirst, he dived in – failing to look before he leaped. *SMACK*. It had evaporated.

August 2013

One last spin. I can at least win my dignity back. Or maybe the car. All on red, its been lucky today. Fifteen black! I hope Sarah likes living in a box.

September 2013

Sirens blaring, a red-stained pair flee.

“You twit!” says one. “Blood never washes out!”

“But you said to rob a bank,” says the other.

“Not a blood bank!”

October 2013

“My head through the windscreen, my bones shattered, blood everywhere. I’m amazed I survived-”

“Come off it. It wasn’t that bad. I was there, remember?”

December 2013

Pain. I try to look down at myself, but a nurse stops me.

“You were in an accident,” she says. “Your neck’s broken, so please try not to move your head.”

May 2014

“Too soft! Too tangy!” moaned flour-stained Jo, surrounded by discarded pastries.

“It’s no good,” she sighed. “We buried Mum’s apple pie recipe with her.”

June 2015

It’s so long since the test and I still don’t know the results. This is so important. I hate waiting like this. At last, it arrives! …Yes! Syphilis free!

We’re Back: A Blog Story

How do, internet folk? There’s been nothing posted here since last January – over a full 20 months ago – but I’ve decided to have another crack at this old blog. So we’re back in business, with a slightly changed title to boot! There’ll be a slight change of approach from last time, too; with the old “thought for a week” stuff done away with, to be replaced with posts about whatever, coming whenever. But it will come, I assure you.

I don’t have much more to add right now, but I’m sure something or other will spew out of my brain onto here before long. Let’s just hope I can keep it up this time, eh?

My New Webcomic: Toki no Tanaka

I’ve been kind of neglecting this blog this month, and for that, I apologise. But there is a reason, I have been very busy setting up a website of my own to host my brand spanking new webcomic, Toki no Tanaka; which can be visited at www.tokinotanaka.com (please visit). I launched it properly just over a week ago and four pages have already been posted thus far.

If you’re worried about what you might be getting yourself into after clicking that link, allow to explain. Toki no Tanaka is a comedic episodic series (the comic is to be split into different self-contained “episodes” of thirty pages a piece) set in the fictional Yakushi Town in Japan that follows the escapades of the Tanaka family: mother Himiko, teenage son Satoru and younger daughter Sakura (the father is away on business). Expect bright colours, thick outlines and a slew of references to Japanese pop-culture (particularly Nintendo games). If you’re still unsure, here’s a sample:

Not a full page.

What’d you think? Good? Then why not click that convenient link I provided and give the rest of it a try? And if you didn’t like it, why not do that anyway? The rest of it might surprise you, after all. Here, I’ll even provide another link here, set at the first page so you can easily start at the beginning. There, you now have no reason not to check it out.

And for anyone that might be wondering. Yes, this pretty much counts as the death knell for Road to Nowhere, although, to be fair, it was pretty well deceased already anyway. Oh well, it had a good (if short) run.

Thought for the Week: …And a Happy New Year?

Today is New Year’s Day. The calender has reset and we now find ourselves in the unfamiliar territory of 2014. This is all well and good, but am I the only one who doesn’t consider the New Year that big of a deal? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it well enough and my family has it’s annual traditions just like anyone else’s: we invite everyone we’re acquainted with over for dinner, play a few rounds of the Alphabet Game (Scattergories, for any of you brand-name fanciers out there) and suddenly pay attention to Jools Holland when it gets within ten seconds of midnight. All good fun, yes, and I would probably miss it if it were gone, but honestly, I could take it or leave it.

Eh.

Considering my fondness for Bonfire Night, this might seem a little bit contradictory, but I think there’s a good reason for my ambivalence and that reason comes six days earlier. Christmas, you see, is easily my favourite of the holidays and it comes just less than a week beforehand. It’s also a very big deal amongst my family, with the entire day being one big celebration, with New Year’s being a comparatively sedate and ordinary 48 hours, it just can’t compete. The Christmas mood doesn’t dissipate after the passing of the day itself either. In fact, it seems to continue right through to the “Twelth Day” on the 5th of January. This, of course, means that New Year’s lands when we’re still sort of celebrating Christmas.

Auld Lang Syne’s got nothing on this.

Of course, this issue is entirely unavoidable, New Year’s Eve must by definition take place six days after Christmas day, but it is a bit of a shame, because I’m sure that if that weren’t the case I’d be much more proactive about celebrating the latter date, rather than viewing it a Christmas’ less interesting cousin. On the other hand, though, the proximity of the dates could be a good thing, as it helps to maintain the festive momentum through the week, rather than it fizzling out on Boxing Day. We do say “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”, after all.

Perhaps that is the quality of New Year’s Day/Eve, the maintaining of the Christmas festivities; helping keeping people feeling happier and celebratory straight through into January. That can only be a good thing, can’t it? And besides, there is one New Year’s tradition I’m particularly fond of (besides the bagpipers playing Auld Lang Syne at midnight): the telling of lame jokes after midnight on New Year’s Eve about what we haven’t done since last year. Those I would certainly miss if I ever failed to observe it.