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The Quixotic Engineer

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Webcomics - Part I

It all began about six years ago with an issue of PlayStation magazine. Featured inside was the comic Penny Arcade, which detailed the mad escapades of gamers Tycho Brahe and Jonathan Gabriel. It was my first gaming comic, and it piqued my interest enough to venture onto their website. My exploration soon lead to other gaming webcomics, and then to non-gaming webcomics. I've been a fan of the medium ever since.

What makes webcomics so great? I'm sure there's more than one right answer, but I think it has something to do with niche marketing. A syndicated comic published in thirty different newspapers has to be funny in a very general way. An obscure reference would pass over the heads of most readers. Webcomics usually target a specific audience; if Ctrl+Alt+Del makes a joke about Samus Aran, they can safely assume that their audience will understand the reference. Web-syndicated comics also benefit from fewer controls. Without editors and censors, the artist has the final word as to the content of their strip.

To show my appreciation for this fantastic medium, here are a few short profiles of some of my favorite webcomics (in glorious alphabetical order). For each I've included a short description and a link to at least one strip that is definitely worth reading. Without further ado:

2P Start
The Good: While it only began this February, 2P Start is already showing promise as a really fantastic gaming comic. The jokes are great and the art keeps improving.
The Bad: It has yet to strongly distinguish itself from all the other video game themed webcomics.
Worth reading: Over The Top

A Lesson is Learned but the Damage is Irreversible
The Good: A Lesson Is Learned is quite possibly the most surreal and oddly philosophical webcomic I have ever read. The artwork is incredible, and has won several awards.
The Bad: The comic has been on hiatus since September 2006. We can only hope that Dale Beran and David Hellman choose to pick it up again soon.
Worth reading: Morning, Sleepy Head!

Butternutsquash
The Good: Butternutsquash is irreverent, sarcastic and never politically correct. Features a great cast of characters and very distinctive dialogue.
The Bad: Updated rarely (every ~2 weeks) and occasionally relies on clichés.
Worth reading: Lost Time

Ctrl Alt Del
The Good: Ctrl+Alt+Del is one of the most popular gaming comics out there, and is probably best known for its wacky characters. Zeke the sarcastic Xbox robot is particularly funny.
The Bad: A hit-or-miss affair, the story arcs are usually better than the individual comics.
Worth reading: Sweet Nothings

Dresden Codak
The Good: Dresden Codak explores themes such as quantum physics and postmodern philosophy, yet manages to retain a great tongue in cheek sense of humour. Tiny Carl Jung is a recurring character; need I say more?
The Bad: Some scientific references may be hard to understand, but hit up Wikipedia and use this as a chance to learn something new.
Worth reading: Lil' Werner

Lackadaisy
The Good: Set loosely in the prohibition era, Lackadaisy is essentially about rum-running cats. Why cats? To quote the artist, Tracy Butler: "It's mostly just a device I like to use for characterization. The mobile ears, tails, and big eyes help me emphasize gesture and expression more than I could with human characters, they allow me to be as ridiculous as I like, and, well, they're just plain fun to draw." This is no exaggeration; her character's facial features are quite simply the best I've ever seen. Combine that with incredible artwork, great characters and fantastic dialogue and you've got one of the most underrated webcomics ever. Check it out!
The Bad: Updates are infrequent, but considering the quality of the artwork, this is entirely forgivable.
Worth reading: Brouhaha

Little amers
The Good: Little Gamers is a really well written webcomic (for proof, check the worth reading link). Yet another great thing to come out of Sweden.
The Bad: Like most gaming webcomics, the jokes are usually hit or miss.
Worth reading: Dec 25

The Good: Two bohemian robots explore the solar system and find philosophical and moral predicaments at every turn. NPWIL is well-written and imaginative.
The Bad: Of all the webcomics I've profiled in this post, this one is updated the least frequently. A few months between comics is standard.
Worth reading: Explanation

Nobody Scores
The Good: I just discovered Nobody Scores recently, but it seems really quirky and funny.
The Bad: I haven't been reading it long enough to judge.
Worth reading: Frozen Fresh Bonus Pack

Orneryboy
The Good: Orneryboy chronicles the supernatural adventures of the titular main character, his messy animal-loving girlfriend Dirtygirl, and zombie friend/pet Brian. The contrast between the bright, optimistic Dirtygirl and grumpy Orneryboy is written in a way that's cute and endearing, never cheesy.
The Bad: Updates are unfortunately sporadic.
Worth reading: Thankless Toil

Stay tuned Friday for 10 more webcomic recommendations in Webcomics - Part II!

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3 Comments:

  • thanks for the love!

    By Blogger Calavera Kid, At July 12, 2007 at 11:26 AM  

  • I always thought Tycho Brahe was a 16th Century Danish astronomer, of whom Johannes Kepler was an apprentice, and the last great astronomer to maintain a geoocentric model of the solar system.

    And I see you revealed your name Mr. Bubbles.

    By Anonymous Sven, At July 12, 2007 at 11:55 AM  

  • @calavera kid
    and thank you for all the awesome comics!

    @sven
    Yes, take THAT minor celebrity Matthew Gallant, host of The Planet's Funniest Animals.

    By Blogger Mr.Bubbles, At July 12, 2007 at 3:45 PM  

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