The Webcomic Overlook #3: The Perry Bible Fellowship
Welcome back to the Webcomic Overlook. Today’s subject is a highly awarded webcomic. It won the Ignatz Award twice for Outstanding Online Comic. It also won two Web Cartoonist’s Choice Awards for outstanding comic. Despite its title, the comic is neither missionary literature nor a Chick tract. Today’s webcomic is Nicholas Gurewitch’s The Perry Bible Fellowship.
The name “Perry Bible Fellowship” is an inside joke between Nick and his friends. They reportedly saw it on a poster somewhere. “It’s an inside joke that probably stretched way too far,” Nick reportged in a Sept. 30, 2005, issue of UK’s The Guardian. The strip also managed to get in print media, such as a dozen alternative newspapers, the aforementioned Guardian, and Maxim magazine.
The art intentionally varies from strip to strip, yet the different styles are all visually pleasing. The most common style, which appeared prevalently in the earliest strips, involve simplistic graffiti-like renditions of human beings. The rest are usually more detailed. Some look like storybook illustrations painted in watercolor:
Others are drawn stylistically to match the genre that the strip is set in. This one seems to be imitating Dick Tracy:
Thematically, The Perry Bible Fellowship covers a wide range of subjects. Some are simple gags that could be replicated in your local newspaper. Other strips can be quite risque (NSFW), in the sense of sex,violence, and urinary humor. Overall, it’s the juxtaposition of childlike art (or art that one associates with childhood things, like storybooks) that disarms the reader when the final panel hits.
From time to time, The Perry Bible Fellowship will dabble in rather nerdy humor. Some involve transforming robots. Other deal with scientific concepts popular with folks who like to spend most of their free time gazing at their navels. It seems that the subject of the day will be pretty much anything Nick could think off the top of his head.
The Perry Bible Fellowship is like The Far Side, only with more panels and better yet inconsistent art. (Gurewitch does indeed cite The Far Side and Clavin & Hobbes as early influences.)
At its most risque, the strip just feels pleasant and inoffensive. This might be the biggest reason why Nick doesn’t receive negative feedback: who can complain about a webcomic that’s this superficially sweet?
In the end, the strip is both creative and funny. The risque brand of humor might not be your thing — and I’m not into this sort of stuff — but there’s still a lot to admire: the absurdity, the ideas explored, and the artwork. The Perry Bible Fellowship is a great example of the best a webcomic can be.
Final Grade: 5 stars (out of 5).