Category Archives: slice-of-life webcomic
There are generic sounding webcomic titles, and there are generic sounding webcomic titles. There’s one variety that follows the Perry Bible Fellowship nomenclature and just tosses some random sounding words together. And then there are the ones that look like they’ll never show up on any online search engine whatsoever. Such is the chase of Internet Webcomic by Mary Tanner, which, against all odds, is somehow the first result to pop up on Google when “internet webcomic” is typed in the search field. Seriously, I expected this to be buried on page 3 or so.
It’s time once again to delve into the world of comics in the digital medium, where your eyes are bombarded not by inks and tree fibers but rather by the warm, embracing glow of an LCD monitor. There’s been a pretty big gap in my reviewing back catalogue, which for some reason includes something called Loviathan and something called Glam but for some reason doesn’t include the webcomic whose cosplayers overtook Emerald City Comic Con this year.
That’s right, readers: it’s time for yet another review of Andrew Hussie’s MS Paint Adventures: Homestuck!
Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Homestuck, or maybe you’ve heard about it in bits and pieces but really don’t know much about it, there’s one thing you should know right off the bat: it’s a very long webcomic. A VERY long webcomic. And deceptively so. As a result, I’m splitting this review into two segments. The first will reivew Acts 1-4, which focused mainly on the players of John, Rose, Dave, and Jade. (I will call these four “Pesterchums.” I don’t know if that’s the official term for them, but that’s how they appear categorized in their chatlogs.) The second will deal with Acts 5 and beyond, which seems to focus on the trolls.
Is this a fair dividing point? I think so. Back in the day (holy crap, this comic started back in 2009?) fans on the webcomic seemed to be split on how to take Act 5. The focus one trolls cause some to quit. On the other hand, trolls seems to be what maneuvered Homestuck to the big leagues. How much fan art is devoted to trolls vs. that which is devoted to the original crew? I’m guessing a million to one. As a result, my scholarlycomparison of trollspeak to Li’l Abner‘s cornpone dialects is going to have to wait until Part 2. Doesn’t that sound exciting?
… yeah, I didn’t think so either.
I remember it vividly as if it were yesterday. The skies were clear this morning, but the temperatures were below zero. I had a scarf wrapped around my mouth and nose because it almost felt like ice crystals were forming. I was walking from my the parking lot to the building I work at. It was about a quarter mile walk since city restrictions prevented a parking garage from being built, so the company compensated by making the parking lot very, very large.
Fortunately the walkway was covered. However, as I walked down the path, I noticed something weird. There were lumps on the ground covered in frost. At first, I thought they were leaves. As I looked a little closer though, I discovered to my horror that they were birds. About a hundred birds, all littering the ground, dead and frosted. They’d taken shelter under the roof in an attempt to escape the cold snap. It was in vain. The frost had killed them.
Ryan Andrews, the writer of the Eisner-nominated Our Bloodstained Roof, taps into the same chilling realization that death is senseless, and how guilt has an unforgiving way of making our lives miserable for the rest of our lives.
I think we are entering a somewhat mature era for webcomics. Not necessarily “mature” in the sense of “growing up and getting a job” or “mature” in the way cable channels like Starz and Cinemax use it. (Though there are examples of both if you’re looking for it.) I mean mainly that it’s been around a while. When CAD aped the style of Penny Arcade, there was plenty of hoo-ing and hah-ing that somebody was getting their style ripped off. We’ve reached a day, I think, that if someone copped the same style these days, you could say, rather, that the comic was “influenced by” it’s more well known predecessor.
Can we seriously fault any new webcomic if it builds upon the precedents set by Penny Arcade or Kate Beaton or Scott Kurtz or Pete Abrams? After all, they were the ones who proved what worked and what didn’t. They’re the ones who know the safe route to success. Sure, it somewhat puts the limits of creativity. However, while a very few of us can be Pablo Picassos, most of us would be happy being Norman Rockwells: low in pizzazz, but just high enough in appeal for the masses at large.
These are the thoughts that flitted through my mind while ruminating over Citation Needed, by Christopher J. O’Brien and Amy T. Falcone. It’s a comic that stubbornly conforms to the established narrative as to what a webcomic should be. Namely it’s a roommate webcomic about wacky characters and totally random humor. Which means, bottom line, Citation Needed looks like pretty much every other webcomic ever.
Ah, the alternate universe. Those of us who are familiar with print comics may have heard of Marvel’s Ultimate Line in which all the Marvel characters were re-introduced with new origins set in modern times with none of the prior canon that could scare new readers away. It was a new universe with an established starting point that new readers could enjoy without any prior knowledge of the original continuity. And that’s what we have here today.
Before Scott Kurtz was paving the way for cartoonists to work online, David Willis was a college student with a strip in the paper called Roomies! The strip was enjoyable, and is currently being re-uploaded on a new site, which was part of celebrating its 15th anniversary. The art was blocky, the story telling weak and the tone schizophrenic. Eventually Roomies ended and a sequel series, It’s Walky, came around, a bizarre drama/comedy/action series with even weirder problems with consistent tone. It was an improvement, but oh dear God is it hard to pitch the strip to an outsider without it sounding stupid. “Just trust me, it’s good” tends to be how I go. And the that ended and Shortpacked was launched, which was reviewed here, and also a direct sequel called Joyce and Walky, which was subscription based. Both again were marked improvements although Shortpacked had a slow start but did get much better.
However, it’s hard to get people to read four different webcomics and thousands of strips, especially when the creator was still learning his craft. So, Willis decided to take his 10,000 hours of experience and return to where it all started, college, with the characters everyone loved in a new world. The goal was to make a comic old readers could enjoy but new readers could get into.
And he did a very good job at it.
Dumbing of Age is set at Indiana University with most of the core cast being the freshman class. The over the top theatrics are gone, the premise is much more down to earth, the drama and comedy are much more evenly balanced, characters have more depth and the main villain only exists as a comic book and cartoon character. And we have a comedy about that awkward period of life where you’re trying to figure out what being an adult means.
I read Derf Backderf’s graphic novel My Friend Dahmer not too long ago. It’s an almost sympathetic look at Jeffrey Dahmer, one of Mr. Backderf’s classmates while growing up. The signs of Mr. Dahmer’s decline are obvious. He’s a heavy drinker. He does an impression of a person with cerebral palsy to entertain his classmates. He is into strange hobbies, like dissolving the bodies of tiny animals in acid.
What makes Mr. Backderf’s portrayal to be a little sympathetic, though, is that he points out that the other students he hung around with were almost as bad. Dahmer wasn’t even the most off-putting student Derf knew. In fact, Derf’s story wasn’t picture perfect, either. He pulled horrible phone pranks and messed with the yearbook. He mentioned substance abuse wasn’t so weird in his school in the 70′s. He and his friends even formed a Dahmer Fan Club, which aimed to imitate Dahmer’s weird performance ticks.
Derf really believed then, that before Dahmer’s terrible first murder, he was a guy who could have been saved. That slight glimmer of hope is what the main character in Elaine M. Will’s Look Straight Ahead is reaching for. After one of Jeremy’s psychotic breaks, his friend cut ties with him. “You do realize that now everyone thinks you’re going to start shooting the place up?” he says. It’s a horribly lonely spot, but Jeremy realizes that unless he gets better, his friend might be right.
I don’t know about Tipsy and Ponngo other than that they are a couple and that they hail from the Philippines. I’ve been to that country a few times, so I’m going to go ahead and assume that, in real life, they look nothing like the blue and pink blobs that we see in Googly Gooeys. This very colorful little webcomic chronicles the silly challenges of a modern relationship … which seems to be increasingly dominated by LED screens that are growing ever so small.
Outside of the righteous “Pinball Number Count” by the Pointer Sisters, the Sesame Street song that has always managed to stick in my mind with the tenacity of a hungry Rottweiler is “Garbage Man Blues.” You can watch the video on YouTube here. It’s an ode to recycling and conservation. Footage of garbage trucks in a dingy urban area are accompanied by a tune that sounds vaguely like something from Paul Simon.
The reason I remember it so vividly, though, was because I always misheard the chorus as “Garbage Man Food.” They show all this footage of debris, and all my mind could think was that through some sort of process that stuff could be converted into edible foodstuffs. I remember even asking my dad, “Dad, is this what garbage men eat all day?” And I could remember the look of confusion and disgust that passed across his face that day, as if our moving to America had somehow robbed me of all common sense.
That song ran through my head once again as the mental background music while reading John “Derf” Backderf’s Trashed, a webcomic about the hard-working people who toil in our nation’s waste management industry. (NOTE: The comic is periodically Not Safe For Work.)