Heads that Shine by Vicho Friedli, Reviewed by Justin Pierce
If there's any doubt whether art and humor are global concepts, Vicho Freidl's webcomic is a topical solution that gets to the root of the dilemma. But perhaps we're getting a-head of ourselves...
Cabezas Que Brillian (literally "Heads That Shine" in English) features Chilean roommates Cesar and Oscar, whose adventures are the centerpiece of the comic. The vertically, follically-challenged boys are nearly identical, except Cesar has thicker eyebrows and facial hair. They star in two types of comics: one is a gag strip format, and the other, newer addition is an ongoing storyline.
Essentially slackers, Cesar and Oscar will occasionally take on odd jobs such as being Mall Santas, which gives the comic a sort of "joke material versatility" – like how Donald Duck can be a painter one day and gift-wrapper the next. However, the duo sometimes feels flat and interchangeable, since they have roughly the same personality and appearance (the "Huey, Dewey, Louie Effect"?). While the similarities are clearly by design, the characters almost beg for some level of distinction so the audience can better identify with them. The gag comics certainly don't do much to flesh out the boys, but the new ongoing story has the potential to give them more depth – only time will tell.
The art of Heads That Shine is clearly its strongest asset. Vicho's coloring is vibrant, and his lineart is crisp, while still retaining a kinetic, cartoony quality that matches his lighthearted characters and storyline. There's some minor artificing, but that's to be expected in the digital realm. Overall, very clean, top-notch work.
What really distinguishes Heads that Shine from other webcomics in its league is that it's bilingual. The entire site – comics, peripherals, and all - is offered in both Spanish and English language versions. At times this is a stumbling block, since the English version has a few grammatical and spelling errors. The other problem with having an international site is that some of the jokes are clearly aimed at Chilean or regional audiences, and the result is an in-joke of sorts that some outsiders just won't be able to fully understand or appreciate. This can be cause for either chuckles or cringes, depending on how much of a grammatical stickler you are, or what your in-joke tolerance levels can take.
The site design is another one of the comic's finer points. Crafted exclusively with Flash, Vichofriedli.com features an easy-to-use navigation system, and the loading times don't keep you waiting forever. Often, readers will find Flash-based sites to be quirky or experimental, but this author tailors the site to his comics, and not the other way around.
Overall, it's a good, solid webcomic with the novel idea to embrace the worldliness of the Internet. The occasional word or phrase will translate awkwardly, but it never really gets in the way, and the stories have an appeal that transcends cultural boundaries (for the most part). Baldness may be universal, but Heads that Shine is a shining example that proves humor and art can work across the globe, as well. Now if there was only a cure for my bad puns.