(Scroll down for updates all the way to the Finals)

march-mattressIf you have been using this blog to follow The Comic Mix March Madness Webcomic Tournament, you have totally missed Round 3! We are already down to the “Sweet 16”, which if this were more like the basketball tournament it stole borrowed the name from, should be the “Sweaty 16”.

comicmixmadnesslogo250Well, top-seeded Ava’s Demon, continues to roll on, with its beautifully visual fantasy-scifi-horror saga of ultimate teenage angst easily outpolling the already-established internet institution that is The Oatmeal. Meanwhile, with the help of “extra votes” bought earned from contributions to The Hero Initiative (a deciding factor in 5 of the 16 battles in the third round), Grrrl Power defeated Order of the Stick to get the dubious honor of facing Ava in the next round.

Questionable Content won the Battle-Of-Webcomic-Sitcoms easily over Johnny Wander by a 3-to-1 margin and the stunningly cynical Two Guys and Guy upset webcomic perennial Sinfest. After defeating Sinfest AND Penny Arcade, TwoGaG might be the Cinderella Story in this tournament – we’ll see just how ugly a stepsister QC can be.

xkcd rolls on, solidly defeating the very-non-American Scandinavia and the World, while Cyanide and Happiness beat the adorable Abominable Charles Christoper by a similar margin, setting up a Battle of the Stick Figures in the next round.

Sandra and Woo’s cute talking raccoon took down all the ghosts in excellent newcomer Paranatural. After defeating Axe Cop, it looks like a formidable raccoon, and it’ll have to be, going up against Commander Kitty, which (with a few purchased votes) eliminated Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, Dresden Codak AND chainsawsuit.

Purchased votes also pushed one of the best (IMO) fantasy comics Unsounded ahead of the interactive phenomenon Homestruck to face the long-running Girls With Slingshots which defeated Dr. McNinja.

There’s one matchup between two “extra-vote-aided” winners, with Weregeek, which had trailed Cucumber Quest in regular votes facing Bittersweet Candy Bowl, which overcame a very narrow margin to beat Modest Medusa. Personally, I was backing both losers – money rules everything around me.

A Redtail’s Dream, a beautifully-drawn Arctic Epic whose creator, a Finnish college student, claims it’s a “practice comic” before she starts her Truly Epic Project, is still good enough to beat seminal Furry comic Twokinds, and previously defeat what I’d expected to be the Cinderella Story, Nimona). Now it faces seminal Steampunk/Mad-Science comic Girl Genius which easily defeated fantasy morality tale Not a Villain. For the record, Redtail looks more like the Cinderella type than TwoGaG.

In last rounds’s most bad-luck-of-the-draw matchup, two of the best examples of online art faced each other, as Romantically Apocalyptic beat Lackadaisy, to battle this round with video-game-trope-killer Awkward Zombie, which defeated the kinda-classic anti-art of Dinosaur Comics.

I’d say that this is where it gets interesting, but it’s been interesting since Round One when we had to choose between Fox Sister and Power Nap. (and if you don’t know either of those, that’s why I have links, silly!)

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UPDATE: Annnnnnd, now we’re down to the Quarterfinals, the Elite Eight, and I’m not unhappy with this selection. There is a good mix (ComicMix, right?) of styles, subject matter and target audiences. Only one winner was decided by bribery bonus votes, as Girls With Slingshots overcame a narrow margin to beat Unsounded, proving that GwS’s audience is apparently more affluent than its cast.

So for this round, there are solid contrasts between the matched-up comics: Fantasy/SciFi/Horror newcomer/powerhouse Ava’s Demon is facing 20-Something/Reationship/Sitcom (with occasional SciFi distractions) Questionable Content, which had just knocked out potential Cinderella Story Two Guys and Guy. xkcd won its “Battle of the Stick Figures” with Cyanide and Happiness to face Sandra and Woo, which won the last round handily despite the author, who had seriously cheerleadered (cheerled?) for the strip in previous comments, looking at some of the ‘bought’ contests and declaring “I can’t take the contest as a serious sign of popular approval any longer.” Well, in the latest comment, the cheerleading is back. The third matchup is Sex, Drinking and Flying Objects of Girls With Slingshots versus the Teen Angst Kitties (but don’t call us Furries) of Bittersweet Candy Bowl. And finally, A Redtail’s Dream – which I just fully caught up on; such a wonderful tale of quazi-Finlandian-Scandinavian folklore with magic animals controlling nature and what happens when one of them screws up and a young man and his dog accidentally chosen to be heroes in spite of his bad reputation AND bad attitude and how their relationship evolves as the dog becomes able to talk then transforms into other animals for each of the tasks they have to do and… yes, it’s complicated but most of the good stories are, like how Romantically Apocalyptic, the comic it’s competing against, started out with a simple yet cynical concept but is now getting as detailed as its incredible art. Whew.

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UPDATE AGAIN: It’s the Final Four, Folks, Friends, Flakes & Freaks, and we’re down to two awesome examples of webcomic fantasy and two awwwww…some examples of webcomic cute. Top-ceded from the beginning Ava’s Demon faces the powerhouse raccoon of Sandra and Woo, who already had killed xkcd and (a few rounds back) Axe Cop to get where it is and whose writer is promising some super-deluxe art to reward Woo’s supporters (Sure, give the artist more work… who do you think you are, Ryan Sohmer?) Meanwhile, my new favorite Scandinavian thing, A Redtail’s Dream (sorry IKEA) goes up against the teen kitties of Bittersweet Candy Bowl. And I’m pouring out a two-liter Diet Coke (because I don’t drink “40s”) for Romantically Apocalyptic which was eliminated at the exact same quarter-final level it was last year. Comparisons with last year are inevitable, but even with the changes in voting, designed to avoid last year’s controversies while creating a whole new set of controversies, but this year’s Final Four is maybe slightly less incredible than last year’s (Gunnerkrigg Court, Goblins, Order of the Stick and Homestruck) but that’s partly because last year’s top two eliminated themselves from consideration this year. If you’re looking for trouble, just wait until may when ComicMix.com repeats last year’s NSFW Tourney for comics too dirty for the main competition.

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GOOD GRIEF MORE UPDATE: Okay, ComicMix March Madness, you’ve semi-broken my heart, with Ava’s Demon and A Redtail’s Dream NOT making the finals, setting up an Ultimate Battle of Cuteness between Sandra and Woo and Bittersweet Candy Bowl. ComicMix provided a full breakdown of voting in the Semis, showing how many paid-versus-non-paid votes for each contender, and to the surprise of no one who appreciates irony, the absoulte biggest financial contribution went to the comic whose writer who criticized the paid-vote system, with the quote “I can’t take the contest as a serious sign of popular approval any longer” permanently enshrined on the Internet. But hey, without the Woo-Woo from Sandra and Woo, this tourney might have been seriously lacking in DRAMA. I don’t know if I’m going to have anything to add when this is all over; I think I’ll leave it up to Gary ‘Fleen’ Tyrell who knows more about webcomics than I do, even though I seem to be using even more words than he does.