Webcomics, Video Games, Books, Geek Toys, and Life in General

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

So, first of all, here are the top ten webcomics according to me. These are the comics that I go to first; later, when I have more time, I will list the hidden jewels of the webcomic industry as I see them, but if you are already a fan of webcomics there is still bound to be one comic on this list that you never read before. Understand that my taste in comics runs a little to the edgy; that means that although none of these is pornographic or foul beyond belief...there will be some swearing in a few of them. I have conveniently marked the potty-mouthed links with @#$%!, which is from the Greek root meaning, "We can't print that." Enjoy!

1. Scott Kurtz's "PVP Online" at www.pvponline.com.

No doubt about it; this is the one that started me checking comics regularly online. The strip lets you in on the slapstick/rimshot/ha-cha-cha-cha hi-jinks that go on behind the closed doors of a gaming magazine when they're supposed to be working. To quote a later entry in this list, "It's comedy gold, my friend!" Kurtz didn't found internet comics, but he got me hooked. If I hadn't been so entertained on such a regular basis by Brent, Skull, Cole, Jade, Max, Robbie, Jase, and Francis Ray Ottoman (Wazzaaap!) I may never have explored further and found the next three entries.

2. Chris Baldwin's "Bruno" at www.baldwinpage.com, starring Bruno (who is a girl, by the way) and an eccentric cast of friends.
Now, I put Kurtz first because he was first, if you know what I mean. However, if I had to name the greatest online webcomic I have ever read, it would have to be Bruno. Chris Baldwin has written an epic--and I am an English major, so I know what that word really means--wherein a female Odysseus undertakes (literally) the journey of a lifetime. She is an evolving, engaging, troubling young lady; her life-story (I highly encourage a complete reading of the archives, which will take you months) is turbulent, touching, inspiring; and the best part is that IT IS STILL GOING ON. I think the saddest part of any novel is reading the last page and thinking, "What could I possibly read to compete with THAT?" Chris Baldwin has been writing this for years, and even though he went on hiatus for a month and a half recently (oh, the suffering Bruno fans were put through!), he is back at the boards now with his brilliant art and wit.
I could talk about Chris Baldwin all day, as you can see, but the only other thing I'll say about him is that he has a ton of different comics to his credit, and you can find them all in different hidden links from baldwinpage.com; his past work is endearing and quirky, his recent work is challenging and creative, and his current projects are nothing short of amazing. I'll stop now, because anything more would sound like a marriage proposal.
3. Mike Krahulik draws--and Jerry Holkins writes--"Penny-Arcade" (@#$%!) at www.penny-arcade.com, starring Gabe, Tycho, the Cardboard Samurai, that Apple geek, the Merch, and just about every video game character of any note in the past ten years.

What makes Penny-Arcade great--besides the milk-out-your-nose humor and the ultra-smooth artwork, which you will quickly take for granted and which will ruin other comics for you--is the NEWS. Read the comic because that's what Penny-Arcade is: a webcomic. But then read the news. Here's why:

Jerry Holkins is my hero for showing gamers (a very pretentious and dismissive bunch sometimes, as I should know) that verbal badinage is still an artform as well--and that one can engage in ARTICULATE speech without sacrificing one's street cred, dawg. His gamer news column is (for me) the real star of the show; I don't know of any one else online (and I'm looking) who turns a phrase as well as Jerry Holkins (aka Tycho), and he does just as well speaking the language of the geek as he does with the sophisticated mother tongue from which game-speak descended. Mad props to MikeKrahulik, of course, for the art, but for l33t skillz on the news page, fo' stars to muh boyee Tycho.

4. John Allison's "ScaryGoRound" at www.scarygoround.com, starring Shelley...and those other guys.

British humor. Enough said. You won't find another strip like this on the intertron: bats eating bowls of acorns, zombies eating brains, foul creatures from the abyss striking at random, peoples returning from the grave, and all set in quaint little villages in the English countryside, convenient to a shoppe or two, tea service included.

John Allison writes what should be macabre events in a style that is so comforting and cheerful that afterward you are likely to say, "I say, let's have some more zombies and...what was that Krakkagar thing? That's the chap! Bring on Krakkagar again!" Since I am having so much trouble describing it, we might as well go ahead and call it "indescribable", right? Okay? Everybody okay with that? Good. Let's move on.

5. D. J. Coffman's "Yirmumah" at Yirmumah.net. (@#$%!)

D. J. Coffman is, at the time of this entry, the strongest contender in the Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge, a purely stamina-based competition where art doesn't matter, laughs don't matter, only consistent daily updating of multiple panels for the fans to appreciate. To prove he is more worthy of the prize money than his competition, Coffman goes the extra mile and keeps his art crisp, his wit sharp, and his content current--this is no "I drew forty crappy comics one day so I could relax and phone it in for a few weeks" effort.

In addition to solid art and humor, Coffman features llamas and ukelele lessons on a somewhat regular basis. Go check it out.

6. Chris Baldwin's "Little Dee", at www.littledee.net. If that name sounds familiar, it is because I went on vomiting about Chris for a half hour up at number two on this list. (And now I just used the words "vomiting" and "number two" in this blog, which qualifies this as potty humor. Great. My mother will be so proud.)

Baldwin strikes gold again with a comic strip about a little girl who gets lost in the woods and is adopted by a bear (or rather, she adopts him)...and his friends, a dog and a vulture. Somehow they manage to get along, and there's cake from time to time. Dee is the little girl, Ted is the bear, Blake is the dog (deconstruct that, literature buffs), and Vachel is the scene-stealing vulture. I don't mind telling you that Vachel is my favorite. He quickly became the highlight of the strip; as the protagonist of many of the subplots, Vachel pilots the biplane to strange locales, brings lemonade stands and mehanical bulls into the group's cave, tells fantastic ghost stories, and maintains a tough exterior while letting the sensitive side (of a vulture?!) slip just often enough to keep you guessing. You can't pigeon-hole this strip, but Baldwin asserts that he was shooting for a "more family-oriented strip", and he aims to get it in newspapers, so it's guaranteed to be rated G. Try it. You'll like it.

7. Kazu Kibuishi's "Copper" at boltcity.com. A boy and his dog see the world.

I demoted this comic WAY down the list as repayment for the fact that this guy only does Copper once a month--and I'll bet getting "number seven" on my list really stings! Not only is this guy like the Confucius of webcomics--a real fortune cookie to read, believe me--but the artwork is the best I've ever seen! I also have it on very recent and very reliable authority that he draws the entire thing freehand on bristol board--no fancy graphic effects--and it still blows me away! Kazu draws the world both weird and wonderful, the way Dr. Seuss used to do it; I'd like to live in this world. Alas, it is never to be. Still, once a month, he opens the window to that world, and I tune in as eager and slobbering as the other fifty million fans out there. Anyone who visits this website will be back again. And again.

8. Ed Atlin's "Space Tree, the Space Tree in Space" at Spacetree.com. (@#$%!--but only once in a while, and half the time self-bleeped by Ed)

It's ANIMATED! Hurry over there and watch at least one episode before you read this, or it will make no sense. I'll wait.

What did you think? Huh? Huh?! What did I tell you?! It's great, right!?

Here's where that quote comes into play--"It's comedy gold, my friend!"--and where I giggle hysterically while writing. I don't know if Atlin was drunk when he came up with it; I am sure he must have been drunk when he recorded the first episode, but he has to have sobered up at some point and realized what he was doing--and that it was genius! It's not that the plot is brilliant, or the artwork, or the technical aspects of the flash cartoon, or...well, anything. In fact, in all respects except one, this is the most mediocre effort ever made by anyone.

And what is that one respect? THAT IT IS THE FUNNIEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN!!! And sometimes, folks, that is all that matters. Ed Atlin, I salute you. It is, indeed, comedy gold, my friend. (The quote is from the episode "Space Jam" which is hi-larious!)

9. Tatsuya Ishida's "Sinfest" at sinfest.net, an "irreverent" comic if ever there was one. (@#$%!)

Don't let the name fool you; this is a pretty tame strip, although there is cursing from time to time. The main character is a kid named Slick (you will recognize who he's modelled after the first time you see him); the other characters include, but are not limited to: Monique, the beautiful and clearly unattainable love interest; a pig, a geek, a pair of annoying angels, God, the devil, the junior devil, and a host of alter-ego characters played by Slick and Monique. Tatsuya Ishida is another "ultra-smooth" artist; he's also wet-your-pants funny. I highly recommend the archives, especially the ones titled "The Matriarchy", Ishida's spoof of The Matrix.

The surprise here is that, despite the title of the strip, there is (in the background) that ever-present morality play characteristic of comedy in our day and age; everyone wants to promote tolerance--even the chauvinists, the feminists, the racists and the homophobes. But perhaps I've said too much.... Please, patronize the comic and decide for yourself. It's what tolerance is all about.

10. Ryan North's "Dinosaur Comics" at qwantz.com.

I couldn't in good conscience, place this any higher on the list; nor could I demote it right off of the list, despite this fact: the pictures NEVER change.

That's right: every single day, for years now, the same six frames have been captioned differently by Mr. North, and he has the stones to call it a comic!

Well, good for him, I say! In fact, I love it! Read a few of his comics and you will find that they are intelligent, insightful, thought-provoking, topical, and overall well done. In fact, it is a constant source of amazement to me (as to many of his fans) that one man can write seven-hundred different conversations on as many topics using the SAME SIX FRAMES day after day. One would think there would eventually be the slightest change in scenery, just to see if we're paying attention but NO!

Sadly, in my world of webcomicking, artistic talent counts pretty high, so...number ten, Ryan.

Aaaaand...he's not listening.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent list. Although there are a few you "missed", you have luckly found Baldwin's work. I have been following Bruno for many years and Chris has pushed me in many different emotional and intellectual directions during that time. Consequently, I have formed a bond with Bruno as real as with anyone I have ever known. IMHO Bruno is by far the most fully realized character in any art form.

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