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

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Next Top Ten Webcomics According to Me

Yes, it's time for another edition of "WebComics I Want You to Read," otherwise entitled "People I Wish I Was If I Was A Cartoon Character." You didn't think there were only ten, did you? You did? Come on! I had to give you those other ten just to see if you were serious--this is the REAL top ten!

1. Wapsi Square by Paul "Pablo" Taylor

Monica Villareal works in a museum and has no love life--at first. Then she not only meets her boyfriend through her work, but she also inherits some mysterious beings from another era (why doesn't this ever happen to me in museums) who become her responsibility in the "real world"--one of whom is the Aztec God of Alcohol. I started reading this for the zany antics of Monica and her friends, but I stay for the next blow-you-away plot twist involving the past life of the planet we inhabit. Cute...and cursed. It's love at first click, people!

2. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weiner

Zach Weiner, I knight thee Sir Comedy-By-Misdirection! SMBC is a one-panel strip. In that one panel, you will be caught off guard by something funny. Then the caption will turn things around so fast you'll just be spinning and laughing like a drunk college student on Spring Break. Don't drink milk while reading this comic. Or do. But call us first. (Favorite strip: "Congratulations! It's a boy!" "What? You said you were getting an eye exam!" "Tee hee!")

3. Penny and Aggie by Gisele Lagace and T. Campbell

Don't have time to watch hours of teen drama unfold on the tube in the evenings? Try thirty seconds' worth unfolding on your monitor three times a week. It's good therapy for those of us still nursing the wounds from high school.

The two main characters are high school girls, and get ready, because here come the stereotypes: Penny is popular for her good looks; Aggie is popular for her mouth--which frequently runs away with her. If "one" is going to write about characters already so well defined by our teen culture, then "one" had better have original and insightful things to say. "One" does. That would be T. Campbell, who writes the strip and gives the characters depth.

Ms. Lagace draws, and does an equally brilliant job at that--one of the best drawn comics out there, in fact. Anyone can draw a geek or a gamer, but who can draw preppy chicks and cheerleaders--besides the "Archie" guy? Warning: this is a serial comic, and you will get hooked by a storyline. Just give in and bookmark it--you'll be back.

4. You'll Have That by Wes Molebash

Young married couples, take note: your lives are being recorded. That's what I thought when I started reading this comic. Sometimes Andy and Katie play something out that sounds cribbed from your own life--and that is why people read, right? ("We read to know we're not alone." Reference, anyone?) I think this one just plays along all the usual jokes about relationships and living with each other, but what's wrong with that? Lynn Johnston ("For Better or For Worse") has been doing it for years, and no one's after her with torches and pitchforks.

Andy and Katie are the married couple, and Steve and Emaline are the obligatory dating-couple-friends-of-the-married-couple. This is a casual comic for casual readers, but the art has a distinctive style and the jokes are at least a notch above bland. Would I steer you wrong?

5. 9 Chickweed Lane by Brooke McEldowney
6. Pibgorn by Brooke McEldowney

Those of you who read the first "top ten" list I put out will remember that there was an artist who snagged two spots there, also. You have to work extra hard to earn two spots, and Brooke McEldowney does. This guy can blow you away just by drawing a line. Just a line! Or by not drawing it! (No explanation here; you'll have to read a few of his Sunday strips to see what I mean. Oh, that Bill Watterson thinks he's so cool--show him how it's done, Brooke!)

He (that's right, "he", Brooke is a dude) draws the whimsical, romantic comedy "9 Chickweed Lane" about three generations of women in strange relationships, ranging in action from the surreal to the sublime. That's no exaggeration: there are stretches of unreality followed by heart-rending scenes of realism and dialogue, and sometimes you just--oh, you'll just have to read a week's worth, or a month's worth. Unfortunately, a month's worth is all you'll get unless you subscribe to it (for free!) because of the penny-pinching syndicate. On the other hand, if you're lucky enough to live in a state where it's still in the papers, well...bully for you!

"Pibgorn" is different. And that's an understatement. It's all about fairies and magical creatures, with some crossover characters from "Chickweed" thrown in. The original story followed a fairy named Pibgorn (pronounced pibe-gorn) as she fell in love with a mortal and got in some trouble with a succubus and...well, it's complicated. More recently, time was snapped in two and Mozart switched places with a twentieth-century piano teacher. There was also the time when the army captured Pibgorn and this mad scientist opened a hole in space--um...well, it's hard to explain.

This month--hurry over and see--McEldowney is remaking "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with the characters from both strips appearing in Pibgorn. The downside? He has switched to only posting Pibgorn on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. (Tiny tear.) Give it a look. McEldowney will amaze and astound.

7. Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto

Hazel writes a column for a magazine on the college-after-hours-twenty-something beat; her friend Jamie...does something I can't remember. And Hazel has a talking cactus. Man, I love comics like this! I don't think anyone reading this list is looking for a light of religious awakening to lead them out of darkness...and that's good, because besides being afflicted with "the demon drink" this comic also espouses the twin virtues of staying out late and cross-dressing.

This comic hasn't been around for long, so I suggest you read the whole thing from the beginning--it makes more sense that way, anyway. Warning: Hazel gets drunk, and a slingshot is NOT a slingshot. Also, the cactus wears a sombrero, but he talks with an Irish accent. If you can handle that, then proceed with all speed to Corsetto's site.

8. Full Frontal Nerdity by Aaron Williams

Completely unconcerned with being "cool" now that "geek" has become mainstream, Aaron Williams unveils the gamers at their best--or worst: around the actual gaming table. I'm not bothering with the specifics here: there are four of them, and they are not exactly Hemingway heroes. In fact, one of them isn't even really in the comic: he participates via webcam, and Williams never shows his face.

The motley crew plays Dungeons and Dragons mostly, although there are other games and trips to gaming conventions--and the odd holiday nod to keep in touch with the "real" world. Williams has some other webcomic credits, but either you know them already or you don't care. THIS comic is funny ONLY if you understand some of the references. If you understand ALL of the references, it's not funny at all. It's Mecca.

9. Pirate and Alien by Tyson Smith

Brand new strip catapulted into the top twenty by its brilliant dialogue.

Just kidding, it's all the pirate-y talk: shiver me timbers, walk the plank, and so forth. I don't know how he does it, but he does it; Tyson Smith made another endearing comic strip about an odd couple. Short version: when a pirate captain's crew mutinies and forces him to walk the plank, he is rescued from the open sea by a UFO, and he becomes the guest of an octopus-resembling space creature. The parrot is priceless. Read them all--there aren't that many. You'll laugh. (Free joke: What be a pirate's favorite letter, matey?)

10. "heart shaped skull" by Aaron Alexovich

Once again, rounding out the top ten is a comic on the edge. It can only be read from the beginning, and it will take a while, but you will be entertained, and here's why.

First of all, it starts out as a journal being kept by a juvenile delinquent witch with a small fanbase. As the story progresses, we start to see things from a third-person perspective, and we are introduced to Ms. Serenity Rose (the aformentioned witch) as well as her friends and fans (an important distinction, as she disdains the attention she gets from her "abilities"). The story-telling, in short, is apt.

Second, the artwork is distinctive--to say the least. It is at once childish and sophisticated. There is style and substance, broken up by pictures so silly and deliberately "drawn" that the whole thing stays just this side of an art project. In cave-speak: Me like art. Art good.

Third, although the whole comic seems darkly done, it rounds out (at the end of each of three episodes) with an ending that wouldn't keep a six-year-old awake at night. I don't know how to explain it any other way. It's creepy, but it stops short of evil: it's Nickelodeon Does Halloween.

Eh. Try it, don't try it, reply to this, don't reply to this. They're not payin' me anything.

P. S. Coming soon: The SECRET Top Ten--the ones I'm keeping from you. You're not ready yet, Skywalker. (Seriously.)


Anonymous David said...

I liked Saturday Morning, but what's with You'll Have That? The post he makes at the bottom is dated March 15th, but the comics look like they stopped the day after Christmas.

Is he still drawing, or is he just re-running strips during a vacation or something?

3:56 PM

Anonymous David said...

You REALLY need to turn off the moderator feature, John. Imagine if Medium Large's comments were all moderated.

3:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

to david - the yht website was undergoing some server changes and was temporarily reset to the late december/early january time. it is all good now so if youve got a second, check it again.


10:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out You'll have that once more... Seems like there was a server glich that was causing the latest strips not to be shown.

1:33 AM

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