Once again, as per the vox populi mandate, I'm going off-topic. Be warned: This column is guaranteed to waste your time if you read beyond the first paragraph. Why? Because the subject is my favorite web comics. If web comics don't interest you, then reading any further will waste a little of your time. If web comics do interest you, you're at risk of finding one here that you aren't already reading that you'll like. Which means it will waste lots of your time.
You've been warned. Don't come crying to me when you no longer have a life.
I read way too many web comics. There are a pleasant way to relax, nice bite-sized breaks from concentrated work, and occasionally a great rationalization and excuse for not working when I should. 'Sides, I can stop reading them any time I want. Really.
Let me say, upfront, that I'm one of those people whose humor is influenced by their politics. I envy folks who can laugh at anything, apolitically, but I'm not one of them. And, as is no secret, my politics run radical-left, sex-positive, and techno-philic.
(Note to those about to fire off some political or ad hominem rant: don't. Mike probably won't allow it, anyway.)
That means I enjoy "Tom the Dancing Bug" by Ruben Bolling, an oft overtly-political (example) weekly. Personally, my favorite subjects are Lucky Ducky and Justice Scalia, The Fighting Judge. On the other hand, I find "Mallard Fillmore" consistently unfunny. If your funny bone is also politically influenced, but you run on the conservative side of things, you'll find some of my faves unappealing. That's cool. I'm only trying to save you from my idiosyncratic tastes.
A famous panel from the brilliant xkcd
"Wondermark," by the multitalented David Malki, is the classic four-panel self-contained joke. It's always witty; it occasionally makes me laugh out loud, (example). Like "xkcd," which everyone here already knows about so I need not belabor its brilliance, Wondermark's multilayered. It doesn't stop with just the rollover; the title and the header lines also tie into the main joke. There may be other layers I miss.
Malki also writes essays. This one is entirely on the topic of photography and might even be more than you ever wanted to read on the subject of body image, photographic retouching, and portraiture, being over 5,000 words and spanning two millennia.
"Way Lay" by Carol Lay is invariably a gem. Rather than being a four-panel joke, each strip's a graphic short story done in a single page. Humorous in an O'Henryesque way.
"Nobody Scores: A Little Comic About Disaster" by Brandon Bolt is mostly black humor about mostly-slacking twentysomethings and their entirely fantastical and surreal schemes for dealing with the world. What Seinfeld would have been if Seinfeld were funny. Which leads me to...
Jeph Jacques' "Questionable Content," also about an assortment of indie-rockish twentysomethings, the coffee shop where they hang out, and their attempts to deal with the world. It's a full-page comic like "Nobody Scores," but "Questionable Content" is an ongoing story. Some strips stand alone, my all-time favorite being this, which is workplace-friendly only so long as your boss doesn't actually read over your shoulder.
This is what Friends would have been if Friends were funny.
If I praise Jeph, I must also praise his nemesis, Sam Logan, whose full-page "Sam and Fuzzy" strips form an ongoing series of graphic novels. A bit less realistic, too, unless you consider a twentysomething slacker with a cynical talking teddy-bearish companion and the world's most inept underground (literally!) criminal organization, The Ninja Mafia, to be realistic. If so, I might enjoy visiting your universe.
Mustn't forget "Pibgorn" by Brooke McEldowney (of the wonderful, syndicated strip "9 Chickweed Lane"). It's like this, y'see: A fairy, a succubus, and a church organist walk into a comic strip.... Beautifully illustrated, glacially paced sometimes to the point of frustration, and often witty and erudite in its dialogue. Here's where it starts.
The preceding are all ongoing strips. Here are four completed, self-contained graphic novels.
"Rice Boy" by Evan Dahm is surreal, both in story and artwork. I loved it. You might hate it. A particular taste is required.
"Bite Me" by Dylan Meconis mashes up the French Revolution and vampires. How could you go wrong?
"Anders Loves Maria" by Rene Engström. Sweet, sad, poignant, and I found the art engaging, especially as the artist developed her chops.
"Afterstrife" by Ali Graham. You're a twentysomething slacker (anyone notice a pattern?) who dies an untimely accidental death and winds up in hell. You discover you're still expected to work an 8-to-5 job and earn your keep. Noooooooooo....
"Girl Genius" by Kaja and Phil Folio. This one of the famous success stories of web publishing and one of the very few cases of an artist figuring out how to make money by giving it away for free.
It's the archetypal steampunk comic, a full-page ongoing story published three times a week. Lovely line work, utterly gorgeous coloring. Very funny but complicated, so you pretty much have to start at the beginning. Agatha Heterodyne lives in a crypto-Victorian world where mad scientists are the powers to be reckoned with. Called madboys and madgirls by their enemies and sparks by their friends (not inherently a safer relationship to be in) they scheme and jockey for position and power. There are forces in nature humans were not meant to tamper with; that never stopped a spark. Be afraid, be very afraid, and laugh a lot.
And finally, don't forget Phil's completed series, "Buck Godot: Zap Gun For Hire." Read the first short story; if you don't like it, you won't like the rest. If you do?
Well, I told you I was going to waste your time, didn't I?
If it's Wednesday, it's Ctein.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.