Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: The Guild comic miniseries

General info
The Guild is an internet webseries written by Felicia Day, who also directs and stars in it. Those of you who've read the archives of this blog would know she is one of my icons. I will attempt to keep the gushing to a minimum - suffice to say that Felicia is extremely talented and I admire her greatly. She is an avid convention attendee, and I have my fingers crossed she'll come to Australia next year (she was supposed to be at Supanova this year, but had to pull out due to starting work on The Guild season 4).

Felicia's work, summed up, would read like this:
  • Guest-starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a 'potential' named Vi.
  • Has done guest roles on TV shows such as Lie To Me, House, Monk, and of course Dollhouse.
  • Pioneered the internet webseries genre by starting The Guild, now in its fourth season, and currently sponsored by Microsoft to preserve its free viewing status.
  • Furthered the internet webseries genre by co-starring in Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog, and appearing in series such as The Legend of Neil and The Jace Hall Show.
  • Starring in the upcoming SciFi Channel movie Red.
Actual review!
This three-issue miniseries, written from the point of view of Felicia's character Cyd Sherman, is a prequel to the series. It explains Cyd's background, her plethora of neuroses, and explains how and why she got to be the obsessive, addict-type gamer we get to know and love in the webseries. It follows the format of the series, with Cyd interacting 'with' the reader/audience via a webcam, which she uses like a diary. This sequences tie up the episodes' content and give the reader/audience an insight into Cyd's thoughts and feelings. You don't necessarily have to have watched the series before you read the comics, but it does help, and I'm sure there have been a few 'new' fans since the comics' publication.

When the comic starts, Cyd has a boyfriend, a therapist and a job. When the webseries starts, she only has one of these things (which she loses in the first episode). Poor Cyd has a lot of issues, which her faceless therapist (humorously, if a little stereotypically drawn as the back of an enormous leather armchair and a pair of feet) doesn't seem to be helping her through. Cyd's job playing a violin in an orchestra is more or less ok, if a bit dead-end. It's her disgustingly egotistical boyfriend who's causing her the most problems. They met in the orchestra (he plays cello) but he dropped it for a band called 'The Shredders'. Cyd has been conned into writing all the music, taking tickets, putting up fliers, and basically doing all the roadie's jobs, getting zero credit and as much respect from her boyfriend, Trevor. One day, Cyd walks into a gaming shop, entranced by a poster in the window inviting her to "escape into a fantasy". She buys the advertised game, in exchange for being allowed to put up one of the band's fliers. That night, after a gig, her boyfriend abandons her to go out drinking with his bandmates. A dejected Cyd goes home, and loses herself in the game. The comic series trace her progress through the game and the people she meets on it, her rapidly deteriorating relationship with her increasingly manipulative boyfriend, and her own emotional journey as she is tugged between real life and the game world.

Cyd is just as neurotic and down-trodden in the comic as she is in the series. The other in-game characters' somewhat larger-than-life personalities are hinted at in their rather brief appearances. Trevor, Cyd's boyfriend, is also a cartoonish figure - selfish, ungracious, unfaithful and an all-around douchebag. The band-mates have no dialogue at all. In fact, the only other 'new' characters who exceed 1-D status (albeit barely) are the orchestra conductor Gunther and Cyd's fellow violinist Mrs. Bogeman. Their existance is limited entirely to the comics, and Cyd's interpretation of them. Maybe it's because of the short length of the series, or the narrow point of view that first-person affords, but the comic characterisation is a little shallow outside of Cyd herself.

Felicia Day readily admits that she knows the addictive capabilities of gaming firsthand. However, it is not always the negative thing usually portrayed by media. Also, 'nerds' and 'geeks' aren't always the antisocial misfits they're made out to be (Cyd Sherman being a good example of both, notwithstanding). Felicia aimed to show the positive impacts gaming can have on an individual's life, if used in moderation. Cyd demonstrates both the positives and the negatives, in the comics and series. By showing the characters in and out of the games, Felicia establishes and plays with the balance of the two. The comics are about Cyd's world and relationships both in and out of the game, and the firm line between. The series demolishes this line, to hilarious results.

The art in this is brilliant. Jim Rugg certainly showcases his versatility - there are two distinct and very different styles in these comics. One is for 'real life': this has crisp, clean lines and shapes. Shading is minimal, providing depth and dimension only where needed. Otherwise it is comprised of very sharp shapes and colours. This is to contrast with the art 'in-game', which looks like a cross between pencil and watercolour. It's beautiful, with soft lines, rich colours and shading. It is SO different to the 'real life' look, which I appreciate immensely. I like the gritty brashness of the 'real' art, and the 'game' art is really pretty, dreamlike and almost forgiving in comparison. I feel that it really emphasises how Cyd feels about these two areas of her life.

In retrospect, you're probably better off reading this series after you've watched The Guild, otherwise you miss out on a lot of the revelationary aspects, and the unique tones of the characters. This was Felicia's first comic, and as she said, "limitations on how much dialogue you can put into each panel and the idea of visual storytelling was pretty challenging"*. For a first effort, in a style so very different from screen-writing, she gets a big thumbs up from me. I am also very, very stoked by her choice of artist - Rugg did a fantastic job keeping that more-than-real feel of the series, and contrasting it with the 'otherness' of an MMORPG. I also love-love-love the covers, and if I had mone to spare I'd collect the variants for sure. I actually had a lot of trouble getting ahold of these comics - my local store never managed to order enough, and I always had to wait for the second shipment because I was silly and didn't preorder them. If Felicia ever does some more comic adaptations, I'll know better!

Read a great article on The Guild universe, with quotes from an interview with Felicia here at Comic Book Resources.

A preview interview by MTV here: *quote taken from this interview.

Felicia Day's blog.

The Guild official homepage for general information about the webseries, links to episodes, and a store to buy the DVD versions and merch from.

Until next we meet,


  1. I watch a few episodes of that series, soooo good!! I too am a fan of Felicia Day, probably not as big of a fan as you though!

  2. Felicia Day, how I love thee, count the ways... ahem.

    Yeah, I'm a pretty big fan :) she is a real inspiration to me, as a girl geek and as a pioneer of the web genre.


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