Category Archives: single panel webcomic

Random Quickie: Things Could Be Worse

Every entry of Benjamin Dewey’s Things Could Be Worse is labeled a “tragedy”. I suppose that is technically so. After all, is it not a tragedy if you are a Boiler-Bot who cannot love or a bunny who has just read a bunch of sad books? Still, the humor of Things Could Be Worse is less tragic and more quirky and surreal. There’s a very strong Far Side influence, in that the non sequitur nature of the jokes seem to be more geared toward throwing you off balance than going for the cheap gag. A large part of the charm is the old-timey language. One entry, for example, has the tongue-twisty caption of “Paranoid Pugilists Annual Picnic Yields Inevitable Fisticuffs Flurry.” Another plus is the great art, which apes the style of magazine illustrations you’d find in the Victorian era. The sepia-tinted drawings of fashions, animals, and architecture feel appropriate for the late 1800’s and are very eye-catching.

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One Punch Reviews #60: Noncanon

Tom McHenry’s Noncanon is one of those single panel webcomics that feels like they were tossed off on a LiveJournal. They feel sporadic and of the moment, as if they’re just ideas that popped into Mr. McHenry’s mind that were given life on pen and paper (or Cintiq) mere moments later. They’re also quite funny in a way that’s both randomly absurd yet so classy that they look like they belong in the New Yorker.

Heck, maybe they are in the New Yorker. Maybe, just mabe, Mr. McHenry worte a song about it, too.


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Random Quickies: Nihilarity

I was browsing the Act-I-Vate webcomics and I came across a recent effort: Shannon Wheeler’s Nihilarity. It’s as if the creator sat down, opened the New Yorker, and thought, “Man, what if these cartoons were actually good?” Or, at least, bizarre. Wheeler takes the standard New Yorker template and injects the cartoons with a sense of self-awareness. Result: more funny than the New Yorker. Also, the webcomic’s title incorporates “nihilism” into a portmanteau, and you know I appreciate that.

The Webcomic Overlook #80: Set To Sea

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I mentioned Drew Weing on this blog before. I gushed over his work on the somewhat experimental “Pup” (reviewed here). I was enamored by how he pushed the boundaries of the internet browser to augment the themes of his individual strips. You might say that he put the “can” in “infinite canvas”! (Groan. That’s right, I groaned preemptively for you.)

However, I understand if those strips come off as a bit gimmicky. Being goofy with the medium does not mean it’s any good, right? Rest assured, though, Mr. Weing’s traditional artistics skills are, in fact, mad and crunk. Perhaps even fly. They’re reason enough to give his webcomics a good look. Today, on The Webcomic Overlook, let’s check out one of his more standard comics: the more conventionally paced (yet still novel) Set To Sea.

I mean, it’s a story of a soulful giant and his adventures on a rickety sailing vessel. What’s not to like? Plus, you might want to stick around later as I get my techie on to ask another question: how do webcomics look on the small screen, e.g. the iPod Touch and the Samsung Glide? Go on and feel free to persecute me for my lack of technical knowledge!

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The Webcomic Overlook #59: Sarah Zero

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“Pretentiousness” is a criticism that gets tossed about a lot, and most of the time I think it’s undeserved. Those blue peas in The Aviator, for example, is often called out as pretentiousness on Scorcese’s part, but when you think about it, it really didn’t derail the movie.

However, that doesn’t mean that pretentiousness does not exist. Take the case of Marina Abramović, the self proclaimed “grandmother of perfomance art.” Wikipedia has a good overview of one of her most famous pieces, entitled “Rhythm 0″:

Abramović had placed upon a table 72 objects that people were allowed to use (a sign informed them) in any way that they chose. Some of these were objects that could give pleasure, while others could be wielded to inflict pain, or to harm her. Among them were scissors, a knife, a whip, and, most notoriously, a gun and a single bullet. For six hours the artist allowed the audience members to manipulate her body and actions. Initially, members of the audience reacted with caution and modesty, but as time passed (and the artist remained impassive) several people began to act quite aggressively. As Abramović described it later: “The experience I learned was that…if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed.” … “I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.”

To which most of us would respond with, “Well, DUH.”

Seriously, what did she expect? I mean, you stand like a mannequin, you give people a bunch of objects … are you telling me that you never expected people would try to do things to get a rise out of you? And her conclusion was some trite little moral like “if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed”? Bull. I guess when I put on a mask to scare my wife when she’s reading a book, I’m really trying to say that “left to their own devices, humans will spread fear and malcontentedness.” Sorry, grandma. The only moral I got from “Rhythm 0″ is that performance artists are pretentious little drama queens who treat the most obvious observations about life as some sort of mind-blowing epiphany.

That said, today’s subject is about as close a webcomic can get to performance art. Surprisingly, the webcomic also has “0” in its title: Sarah Zero, written and illustrated by someone calling himself “Ace Plughead.” (Isn’t that what Boris was always saying in GoldenEye?) Readers may be relieved by the break from my recent string of black-and-white webcomic reviews. Color! Finally! Just a word to the wise: there’s a very good chance that, by the end of this review, you’re going to hate the color red.

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One Punch Reviews #19: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Fellow webcomic blogger Ben Gordon recently wrote a post about the different forms of humor at the Floating Lightbulb. This led to a link that itemized humor in pat little categories. I come from the point of view that humor cannot be delineated, mainly because it’s evolving year after year. (Try to find someone who genuinely thinks Much Ado About Nothing is funny AND isn’t a stuffy English major and/or professor.) So it was a small surprise that I couldn’t think of any humor that didn’t fit at least one of the types on the list. (Before you argue that “pun” isn’t on the list, I should tell you it’s right there under “conundrum.” A better argument is whether or not puns belong on a list about types of humor at all.)

One of the more interesting humor forms is something called “switching”: “a common form of switching is changing the main parts of the story, such as the setup or the punch line, and creating a new joke.” Is it something like those Seinfeld “yadda yadda yadda” jokes? Or could this be referring to Zach Weiner’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, where, oftentimes, the punchline actually changes the meaning of the drawing itself?


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The Webcomic Overlook #54: Silly Daddy

Some time ago, Joe Chiappetta contacted me by e-mail asking me to review his webcomic, Silly Daddy. For various reasons, I haven’t been reviewing solicitations lately. As I mentioned in one of the comments, it’s much easier for me to write reviews for a comic that reflect my own interests rather than tackling something that may or may not stoke my curiosity in the first place. Take the Beachnuts review I wrote, for example. This strip was solicited by the comics’ creator. Although I tried to keep as open a mind as possible, I discovered that I had my limitations. The strip is targeted for a surfing audience. Since I’m not one myself, my observations we weakened by self-doubt about whether or not I, as a layman, could ever truly enjoy jokes about how being in the water for an extended period of time causes one to be gross. On the other hand, as a proud Nintendo Wii and PS2 owner (two of the greatest consoles of all time *strut* *strut*), I can at least understand parodies Mario and Master Chief in, say, Crazy Buffet.

Thus, solicitations are often met with a tentative, “Eh, mmmmmmmaybe.” There was, however, something about Mssr. Chiappetta’s e-mail that piqued my interest immediately. First, there was the absolutely charming way in which he introduced himself: “I am a former wrestler and chess champion, but that has little or nothing to do with the comic.” (Note to aspiring webcomic artists — and, indeed, any else for all walks of life: this is the sort of cheesy trivia that tends to get people’s attention. Put this stuff on your resume. Seriously.)

Second, I was hooked on the premise: an autobiographical account on what it meant to be a father. I’m not yet a father myself, so to me, this is still some sort of magical mystery land and not some horror show combination of stress, sleeplessness, diaper changing, and love. (Awwww!)

And third, Silly Daddy actually won an award in 1998, back in the days before it was even a webcomic. During its print run (which began waaaay back in 1991), Silly Daddy received the Xeric, an award established by Peter Laird (yes, THE Peter Laird, one half of the creative duo responsible for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) for self-published comic creators. My dear reader, you know how I love to chat up award winning comics. Okay, so most of the time, it’s to question the legitimacy of the award, but no such though crossed my mind here.

I shot him back an e-mail saying that I’d be honored to check it out.


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Crabcake Confidential: I Can Has Cheezburger?

I know I’ve been very hard on a certain webcomic. I’ve been trashing it every chance I’ve gotten. I’ve called it a glorified caption contest. I’ve lampooned its readers as lonely middle-aged women whose houses reek with the mixture of potpourri, yarn, kitty litter, and fancy feasts. But there’s no denying that, according to some people, it’s the world’s most popular webcomic.

What kind of site would this be if it didn’t cover the big guns? That would be like Sporting News refusing to cover the New England Patriots, or the CNN/MSNBC/Fox News trifecta exclusively covering that darling young upstart, Ron Paul. It’s the type of lax coverage that would cause people to snicker and snort and say things like, “That El Santo fellow is fine reviewer, but he’s no serious reviewer at all. What a lark! I shall take my business elsewhere, what say to that jovial Websnark fellow. Tally-ho!”

Needless to say, that is a scenario will haunt me to my dying day until I put my foot down and rectify the situation immediately. That’s right, it’s time I take a serious look at the online sensation that sweeping the nation — nay, the world — I Can Has Cheezburger?


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