19 June 2005

Webcomics I Am Enjoying

I'm a pretty big fan o' comics and stuff like that in general. When I did the Shinpad post, Lee mentioned that it's sometimes hard to find good webcomics, because there's so much crap out there to sift through; it seems that for every Achewood, there's about a million Film Funnies. So, anyway, here's a (truncated -- there's a couple of comics I check all the time in spite of myself) list of the webcomics I tend to check every day, with commentary, just because, well, "Oh, here's a list of stuff!" doesn't really tell anyone anything.

(Before I start -- anyone heard the Fastbacks' cover of "Midnight Confessions"? Doesn't it just rock?! The original's pretty cool, too, though -- I've always really liked it, and I don't care who knows it! It's just one of those perfect pop songs, like "I Wonder What She's Doin' Tonight" by Boyce & Hart.)

Lore Brand Comics This is by Lore Sjoberg (half of the Brunching Shuttlecocks. He's got his own blog, too, at Slumbering Lungfish, but this is his weekly comic strip. It's not the best thing he's done, but it's sometimes really amusing. Pretty much a standard copy/paste type strip, where the three panels are exactly the same, but the dialogue changes. There's some lame ones, but usually they're pretty witty.

K. Thor Jensen Not technically a web-comic, but he's got some of his older comics available in the old archive; his stuff ranges from the personal and sad to the goofy and dirty (Uh, that one's NSFW; actually, probably assume that most of these aren't.)

Clone Manga A comic collection site; there's one longform serious one I haven't got in to (though I did discover the site near the end of same -- but they've got a new long-form-serious one coming, so I'll be definitely giving that a shot). I've been enjoying Nana's Everyday Life, based on an anime (Elfenlied), which I've never seen, nor was able to make a whole lot of sense out of from reading about. Also amusing is April and May about a couple of college students, and Tomoyo42's Room, which seems to be a riff on Card Captor Sakura, I guess, but it's not necessarily really clear, aside from the occasional character from that showing up. All of these are SO not work-safe; lots of sexuality and violence -- some stuff that even creeps me out. They're not the best comics in the world, but they're amusing enough, and a decent way to kill time.

Sabrina Online One of the only Furry strips I read (that entire subculture just passed me right by, despite knowing a couple furries in real life; more power to them, though), it's pretty much the Big One of the Genre. About a Skunk who loves Amigas and works at a porn studio as the webmistress. (Relatively work-safe, actually. It might not be something you'd prefer to be caught browsing there, but it probably wouldn't necessarily get you fired or anything.)

Pokey The Penguin One of the best comic strips EVER. It takes a few to get into the swing of it, but once you see where they're at, it worms itself into your brain and becomes the best thing ever. They used to update a whole lot more -- pretty much daily -- but now it tends to update in flurries. Every so often, there'll be a new one a day for a week or two, and then silence. This is sad, but they're all of such high quality, it's totally cool. I love the one that's currently up where Pokey needs to go to the hospital because he ate something he shouldn't have. His rationale is excellent.

Better Days Pretty much the only one that stayed on this list that I read for semi-Ironic value, and I think the only other Furry strip. I just discovered this one not too long ago -- via this article from the High Weirdness Project. That site explains the drama aspect better than I could (though I think the parties are reversed on who is willing to let things lie), but it doesn't hit on the weirder aspects of "Better Days": 1. The creator is a pretty hardcore right-winger, and there's the occasional story-arc railing against "Liberal" Strawmen, and 2. As a result of the Drama in that article (about how the two characters were created by different people who used to be friends and now aren't), there was a story arc in which the two characters had a sexual relationship -- oh yeah, the two characters are brother and sister. I intended to just read a couple strips to get the gist of it after reading the Wiki Article, but ended up spending a couple hours reading the entire archives and check it twice a week, when it updates; it's like watching a very well-drawn train wreck. (A recent strip looks like there'll be another Strawman arc soon, as it just pictured a Stereotypical Intellectual Girl in a Che shirt, so I'm thinking that should be exciting! (For the record, I'm not exactly what you'd call a fan of Che, so I have to admit the frustration with folks who seem to really dig him, but on the other hand, as a person who self-identifies as a Liberal, this should still be pretty soon, because given the past strip, I'm figuring she's going to be another stand in for most of us.) HOWEVER: To be fair -- as I said, I only read this strip Partially Ironically; when there isn't the weird Political Stuff or Incest Stuff, there are some arcs featuring real emotion and good storytelling. So, I feel a bit bad about using this paragraph to mainly just bag on the strip. But it's actually a pretty good strip when he's not mounting hobbyhorses or going on strange vendettas.

Bee Comix Jason Little is finally back after the first Bee adventure, Shutterbug Follies -- which was originally released in its entirity at that site, and then taken offline because it was sold in a beautiful hardback book from Doubleday. (Shutterbug Follies is also really highly recommended!) This new one, Motel Art-Improvement Service has just started, but it's looking like it's going to be the same style of "Bubblegum Noir", to use Little's own genre-label, as the other one. The Bee stuff is really fun and very well done. It took him about 2 or 3 years to finally get Motel Art Improvement Service online after teasing it immediately after Shutterbug Follies ended, but I'm devouring every page as he puts it up. It's a little slow going (it'll probably take about 2 years or so to wrap up), but it's so, so good, and there's the book to keep you sated in the meantime. (Not too long ago, I just re-read the existing pages of Motel; I love Jason Little's stuff.)

Bob the Angry Flower A comic strip that runs in a Canadian Free Weekly; it's another one that's typically based on what the creator wants to write about at the time -- there's very little continuity between strips, but the basic idea is that Bob, the titular Flower, lives with a smart/sarcastic tree stump, and a naive floating fetus named Freddie. That is, when the strips are about Bob at home, in the present day. Bob does tend to travel through time/the world when it suits the strip (he's not really a time-traveller or anything, Bob just pops up where he's needed, which is mainly when Stephen Notley has an idea for a joke). I've got the four books, too. I dig this one, and, well, I find it hard to hate someone who has the same frustration I do when it comes to misuse of the apo'strophe.

Sam and Fuzzy This is on the short list of strips that I absolutely love, and a relatively recent addition to same. I love the artwork on it -- it reminds me a bit of Jhonen Vasquez, but it's not a ripoff or anything. About a guy who works (now) in a bookstore and lives with a psychotic, basically amoral, weird bear thing. Great artwork and writing.

Shinpad ...Eh, it's alright.

Achewood This is quite possibly at the top of that shortlist I mentioned, though. The writing here is exquisite. Achewood is just mindblowingly good; it takes a few strips to get the rhythm, though; the first 10 or so I read, I didn't quite get why everyone was gushing over it, and then, with the 11th, I got it and I couldn't stop reading. The early ones aren't quite as good as what the strip evolved into, but taken as a whole, this is just pure art. I love Achewood. And it's imperative to check out the Character Blogs as well!

Fat Jesus/OWLIE!!!/Eagle-DNA These are the comic strips by some combination of Mike Leffel and Bob Scott; unfortunately, they're rarely updated, but there's always the archives. And I typically check every day just in case they've been updated. I love these strips. I've actually advertised in a comic book they self-released. Fat Jesus and Owlie! are drawn by Leffel, and are pretty straight-forward comic strips, with an absurd sense of humor, and Eagle-DNA is a cut-and-paste comic by Bob Scott (with the occasional sprite by Leffel) which is squarely in the non-sequitur realm of things. I love these strips. Leffel is my favorite palindrome.

Hound's Home Another strip I really love; it's evolved over time; it's sporadically updated now, but there's a really long archive. The Jay Leno Arc was the beginning of the end when it came to consistent updates, just because it was a really intensive and drawn out arc, and it was hard to recover to normal updates -- and, well, when you combine that with every day life, like, getting your masters in psych and all that, it's not too much of a wonder why Hound's Home ended up taking a bit of a backseat, unfortunately. Still, though, it's still being updated, though not really on a schedule.

Penny Arcade One of the big webcomics, but one of the few really big ones that I really, really like; the artwork is great, but the writing is my favorite thing about the strip. Some folks have complained about the newspost being the main thing on the site and that you won't get the strip if you don't read the post -- I don't really get that, though, since I'll typically read the strip before the post, and I pretty much always get it, and, well, Tycho's newsposts are more often than not, a joy to read anyway, so... yeah. They're actually in Seattle, I've met them once at the first PA convention thingy, and they're really cool, nice guys.

WIGU/OverCompensating Maybe number 2 on that shortlist? Wigu changes a bit, but it's typically about a family named the Tinkles and their little boy, Wigu. He's a really smart, imaginative little kid who tends to get in trouble way too often, usually goaded by his quasi-imaginary friends/guardian angels, Topato and Sherriff Pony, from his favorite TV Show Magical Adventures In Space. They're not very good friends/guardian angels, as while Sherriff Pony is a good voice of reason, he's usually shouted down by the egotistical Topato, who is exclusively interested in his own self-interests and doesn't care about the costs to others; as such, Wigu typically finds himself in a pickle. Of course, his parents are loving but not terribly responsible, but that's OK. This is another with really great writing, sometimes to the point of being profoundly beautiful. Overcompensating is the diary comic of Jeffrey Rowland, although he takes, um, great liberties with the form, if you understand what I am meaning here.

You Damn Kid There are sometimes a few comics here to read, but You Damn Kid is probably the best, and currently the only easily-accessible one (I kind of enjoy The Adventures of Norman P. Function as well, but it's kind of similar to Red Meat, which does that kind of thing better, honestly). There's a couple different versions; there's a handful of You Darn Kid strips which, well, weren't very good, quite frankly -- way too "Newspaper Comic"-y, however the classic style of You Damn Kid is really pretty good, and gets that sort of bittersweet nostalgia of growing up in the 1960s. Sometimes it can get a little mean-spirited (I didn't like the conclusion to the recent storyline about the impending wedding of one of the characters to a circus midget), but usually it strikes the proper tone.

Superosity I love Superosity; the art is enough to turn people off, since it really is a very ugly strip, but I think it's intentionally so (sorta like Duckman), but the writing is so spot on. There's lots of playing with humor in it -- lots of stuff where the "punchline" comes in panel 2 or 3, and the remaining panels build on it and take it to another level. Chris Crosby might not be the best artist in the world, but he knows exactly what he's doing. I read this strip every day -- and most of all, he's been doing it for seven years and never missed a strip. No vacations, no guest strips, no nothing. Chris Crosby also has the "political" strip Sore Thumbs drawn by Owen Gieni (so it's much prettier). It's officially a political strip, but it's actually more of a parody of various webcomic tropes -- not-terribly-well-thought-out-political-stances, caricatures, loads of videogame and TV references (though, part of the TV references comes from the fact that, like me, Chris is a hardcore TV addict, and makes references to shows that I'm pretty sure he and I were the only two people to actually remember), a faux-manga style, and a heroine with cartoonishly large breasts (wrestled with this one a few times, though -- does it still count as exploitation when you're advertising your strip based on the impossible boob-size of your main character, even though her impossible boob-size is a drawn-out parody of strips who give all their female characters impossible boob-sizes out of a sense of "fan-service" or whatever? Is it eating your cake and having it too, or is it just a necessary part of the parody?). I admit that I'm not as into Sore Thumbs as I am Superosity, but I still do read Sore Thumbs whenever it's posted.

Bobzilla If you like Eagle-DNA, check out this one -- it's another sporadically updated comic strip in basically the same style; it's the UK Eagle-DNA, but just as good. A bit more non-sequitury/absurdist than Eagle-DNA is, actually, which is something you wouldn't necessarily think was possible. Also, the second comic on this list (first is Overcompensating) to feature Andrew W. K. as a character.

Return to Sender A beautiful, but unfortunately, rarely-updated longform comic. I love the art on this so much, and I love the characterization; it's still a little too early to tell story-wise what the plot will shape up to be (seems to be some Supernatural Goings On, though). Another one I keep checking just on the off chance. When she's out of school, though, it updates every Sunday. But I think the last time was in February.

Sparkling Generation Valykrie Yuuki I think we've hit the "Sporadically At Best Updated" section of the list. A faux-manga style project about a man who loves Shoujo anime, particularly Magical Girl series, and rents a DVD, which turns out to be magic and turns him into a Magical Girl (to both the surprise of him and the Animal Sidekick Type Thing Behind The Magic, as he was surprised a man would rent this). It's pretty amusing, though I preferred her earlier series The Jar (which I don't think is available online anymore, sadly, though she says she'll put it back up soon). And, as to be expected, there's some interesting gender stuff in this one.

Chopping Block Pretty but tends to update in flurries; the visual style is the main reason I read this one. It's a one-panel type strip, sort of like a much more macabre Far Side (which was pretty macabre itself!) about a serial killer. It's pretty cute and amusing, but the art just blows me away. He even put up a process section to show how he does it.

Krazy Larry A straightforward comic strip that's gone on hiatus a couple times, but is back in a different form; I haven't gotten as into the new ones yet, but I'm going to give it a chance; however, the archives are great. It's about a cat who has escaped from a mental institution, and lives at a home with a few other people, including his conscience. It's pretty dark, but really rather funny.

American Elf/Sketchbook Diaries James Kochalka is a god. He, along with Dan Clowes, is one of my favorite cartoonists ever, and for the past five years, he's been keeping a daily diary in comic strip form; he's been putting them out in magazine compilations, but a couple years ago, he started putting them online as well. This is a subscription site, but the most recent is always free. And, besides, it's so incredibly worth the two bucks a month for something this profound about what it is to be human. James Kochalka is amazing. (Also check out his books Kissers and Fantastic Butterflies, as well as the recently released massive collection of the Diary Strips, American Elf. And, hey, check out his music, too -- he just put out a best-of on Rykodisc that comes with a free DVD. His music is just really, really fun.)

Sexy Losers A dirty, dirty comic strip about the foibles of sexuality. This is so incredibly not work safe (not that any of these really are, but this is one of the more Non-Work-Safe of them. Most of these other strips will lead you astray if you check too much in the archives at work, but this one, pretty much every strip is like a collection of pink slips). Really great artwork; it's by a Canadian ex-pat living in Japan. Amusing parodies, but I prefer the original character strips; there's most kinks you can find -- necrophilia is a main recurring theme, there's a thread that just ended on incest, the occasional beastiality strip. But unlike a lot of things like this -- while there's definitely a shock-value element to the strip, they're actually funny.

Slow Wave Jesse Reklaw takes your dreams and makes comic strips out of them. They're frequently strange and funny, but dreams are always interesting, despite what other people say. Of course, I'm speaking as a hardcore Bunuel fan here, so I probably would say that. I actually own a little bit of art from this strip -- to be accurate, the roughs of this one.)

Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles Another weekly comic strip; this one's also pretty dark and occasionally disturbing, but I really dig the visual style of it. Again, there's that sense of shock-value, but also again, it's usually funny. There's the occasional misfire, but 9 times out of 10, they're really pretty good. I dig this one.

Girly The new (well, not so much anymore) strip by Josh Lesnick, known mostly for Wendy, it's a spin-off of CuteWendy (using the same characters as Wendy, but a completely different strip), and there's lots of absurd one-off type jokes as well as the standard story strips. I think he's got a rough outline of what's going to happen in the story, but you get the impression that he's making up each strip on the fly, which would explain the occasional one-off type strip out of nowhere, and how sometimes those one-off type things can spin out into mini-arcs. It's pretty good, but I love the Marshmellow Kitty.

Mjau Mjau Occasionally updated, but when it is updated, it's really good. This is the strip by Norwegian cartoonist Jason, who's known for his extremely wonderful comics Hey, Wait... and Shhhh.... Typically pantomime stuff, though there's a couple with word balloons. In the style of humor, there's a little bit of a Sergio Aragones vibe, but that could just be that Sergio typically doesn't use words, either. The art is interestingly blocky and stiff, but intentionally so -- somewhere in the archives, there's a couple sketchbook pages, which show him doing things in other styles, and he can be as fluid as he wants to be.

Holy Consumption This is a collective of four cartoonists; my favorite is Jeffrey Brown, who's done the beautiful books Clumsy, Unlikely and my favorite, AEIOU (Any Easy Intimacy). Every week a different cartoonist posts something, sometimes a strip, sometimes a teaser of what they're working on, sometimes just some sketchbook pages. And sometimes, they don't do it every week, but they'll typically catch back up if they haven't posted for a while, so the archives are most definitely your friend in this case.

Condensed Comics A friend of mine does these, and I've actually contributed a guest strip! Basically, she'll take really awful movies and condense them down into 3 panels, as to save you the trouble of wasting 90 minutes of your life on goddawful crap. She typically updates when she finds the time; she just moved to Texas, so there haven't been any updates recently, but she says she's got three coming up, so, hey!

Bitter Films Not technically a comic site; but the site of Awesome Animator Don Hertzfeldt does have the complete archives of Temporary Anesthetics, his comic strip, and loads of hidden strips around the site. (Have fun!)

Rodney Anonymous Tells You How To Live Again, not a comic site, but rather the blog of Rodney Anonymous, singer of the Dead Milkmen, but he does have a comic strip of his own, Life With The Poor, which is basically a collection of old Appalachian-Hillbilly stereotypes, but they typically sort of fall into the "So Utterly Stupid It's Kind Of Funny" thing. I really do recommend the rest of his site, much, much more than Life With The Poor, though. For example, What To Rent or his blog on the main site.

Stuff I Used To Check, But Then Stopped Because They Never Updated Ever And I Lost Interest, Unlike Some In The Top Part Where I Keep Checking, Usually In Vain:
Zero One of the "Hey, here's a strip about a bunch of my friends living in a house" type strips, but it's pretty amusing. Loaded with Hiatuses and up-and-down existence-of-archives, and I eventually stopped checking. I think it might be up again, but I don't know.

Animal Jokers A kind of goofy strip; I'm not sure if this is actually the case or if it's a big prank, but the conceit is that it's a strip by a guy in Russia who doesn't really know English very well. It's got sort of a Zen quality to it. Unfortunately, he hasn't updated in like a year and a half.

Childhood Miseries A story about an abused kid with something like, maybe all of 5 strips. The writing isn't the greatest, but it's got a great art design. If anything, go and look at the pretty pictures, since I think this strip is DOA.

Two Eighty/Avalon I really liked Avalon when it ran, but unfortunately, the cartoonist ended up abandoning it; it was a soap-opera type strip that was supposed to run for exactly 5 years. Unfortunately, this stretched out to about 6 or 7 through a lack of updating, and he finally realized he wasn't going to update it, so he just wrote up a synopsis of what was going to happen and posted that as a text file. 280 was the strip immediately after Avalon, but, unfortunately, he wasn't ready to go back to cartooning, and it died, again, after some really really small number of strips. Avalon is by far the better of the two -- and I think the reason why he lost interest with creating it is that the pacing is suited for a Graphic Novel, not a daily strip. So, when it was still updating, it could be maddening to read, but if you just went through the archives, it worked really, really well. here's the first week's worth of comics (the art gets much, much better as the series progresses).

Grimbles Sort of a Gorey-esque feel to this one. This one used to update every day or two, but then went months between updates; apparently one update was posted last month; we're probably due for another pretty soon. Unfortunately, it's in the middle of a long drawn-out story (most of the strips were just one-off bits depicting a different member of the Grimble Family Tree, which wouldn't be nearly as hindered by the ultra-sporadic updating), and I've completely forgotten where we were and lost interest. The archives are pretty good, though!

? A strip that's run its course; a daily one-panel gag strip. I typically got a kick out of it; I actally wrote a song "about" this strip. ("Professor Ashfield" from Dog On Fire -- the lyrics were "Professor Ashfield/What's your name/Professor Ashfield/Dog on fire" (x A Billion), hence the quotes around "about"....) It's kinda fun, really. Although strange, as some of the non-animated strips are in Flash as well; apparently he wanted to make sure the colors stayed the same between computers. It's so difficult to get Black and White line drawings to render the same across OSes! 8)

Exploitation Now ANother finished strip; it started out as a vaguely dirty gag strip, but evolved into a serious Sci-Fi epic. The gag strips were funny, but the story strips were really well done. Sometimes his layout wasn't the best, but the strip was typically good enough to make up for it. He's got a new one, Errant Story, which is still updating, but I haven't been keeping up with; it's got a similar tone as Exploitation Now, but there's that block in my brain that keeps me from really getting into 99.9% of Fantasy Type Stuff. If you don't have that block, I recommend checking Errant Story out!

Lizard/Dave Kelly Central Lizard is a spinoff of Living In Greytown, a strip that, like Exploitation Now went from being a goofy comedy strip to a serious, dramatic strip; Lizard continued in the dramatic vein after Living in Greytown ended. Then it ended too. Dave Kelly's got a ton of comics out, although, right now, all of them seem to be over, but he'll probably be doing much, much more soon. Anyway, he's got a load of archives to pore over, so, just go check that stuff out at the Dave Kelly Central site. Not all of them are good (I don't really like BWBL very much), but some of them really are really pretty good (like Lizard, or in the comedy side, I really am fond of Purple Pussy).

Anyway though, that's the ones that I tend to check out, which is probably way more than anyone asked for, but, hey, I'm a comics junkie. I love the Sequential Arts and all. So, yeah -- any cool ones that I missed? I'm always on the lookout for new strips, just because I love comics, and I like those Diamonds in the Rough, just the really little, weird strips that no one but you reads that are still really good. Those ones are the best.


Blogger CatsFive said...

This is an AWESOME post. I have clicked on the actual link to this post and bookmarked it for later so I'll have everything set to go when I want to add these comics for later reading.

I have a few more updates to the rain post, and since it's JUST a rain post, I'm going to modify the date on that post when I make a change, so just so you know, if you see my post jump ahead of yours, please don't be offended! Cheers.

6:12 PM, June 19, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

Thanks! I hope you find some of them to be to your liking -- I've got a few others that I didn't include, just because I tend to read them out of force of habit than out of, say, quality, but hey..8)

And, if it's OK with you, being offended is much more fun, so I'd much rather be deeply offended when it jumps in front of mine..8)

(I am digging those photos, btw.)

6:33 PM, June 19, 2005  
Blogger Lee H. said...

Holy crap, dude! This is a gold mine! :)

The majority of these I've NEVER heard of. I knew about Slow Wave (but had forgotten about it, actually), Achewood, Penny Arcade, and Bob The Angry Flower, but that's it.

Here's one if you don't know it: Leisuretown. I have to admit I've never read enough of it to know what the stories are about, but I roll through there sometimes just to look at the visuals... it's all photography and Photoshop, and it looks amazing.

Also, The Parking Lot Is Full, which isn't around anymore, but at least the archives remain.

10:07 PM, June 19, 2005  
Blogger Rev. Syung Myung Me said...

I used to be a huge, huge fan of PLiF. The writer has a blog now, but I never check it... I don't recall what it is, even. Shaved Ape or something, I think. He's got a mailing list too, a yahoogroup, "neocass". I'm subscribed to that, though.

Leisuretown I've poked around a bit, there's some that are really cool, but then it disappeared; I'd heard it was finally back, but I haven't really poked around recently. It's got a great visual style, though.

But yeah -- like I said, I'm a comics junkie... it took me a while to actually write all those blurbs, even. It was during that I was kind of thinking "perhaps I read too many..." but I like them all, so it works out..8)

(Speaking of which, I almost listed Maakies, but didn't because I'm pretty sure everyone knows about it. But if you don't, it's really awesome, too. That's another where I love the art; I almost bought the art to one that's no longer online (it's the second-to-last in the first collection book, IIRC; the beautiful drawing of stuff from the attic, including a squid-fighting-a-whale (for some reason I just _LOVE_ squid/whale fights), IIRC. I almsot did it, but ended up not being able to swing the money for it, partially because while Tony Millionaire is in NYC, the guy who sells the art is here in Seattle... meaning Sales Tax. Which gets kind of expensive on a big-ticket item. That, and I was in college at the time. Then it got sold, and I cried a single tear drop.

2:43 AM, June 20, 2005  

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