Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Webcomics I read

It's been a while since I mentioned the non-manga that I'm reading. I have a visual basic script that I run daily that updates most of the regular comics, 80% of which are on the GoComics site. These include Doonesbury, Endtown, Basic Instructions, Calvin and Hobbes, Candorville, Cul de Sac, Hubris, Foxtrot, Berger and Wyse, Dixie Drive, Get Fuzzy, Legend of Bill, Lio, Monty, Pearls Before Swine, Over the Hedge, Overboard, Oyster War, Richard's Poor Almanac, Tank McNamara, Non-Sequitur, The Norm, Incidental Comics, Lost Side of Suburbia, Kliban and Kliban Cats.

On the Seattle PI page, I read Funky Winkerbean, Bizarro, Piranha Club, Sherman's Lagoon and Zippy. On dedicated pages, I read Safe Havens, On the Fastrack and Kevin and Kell, all by Bill Holbrook.

With the GoComics strips, the newer ones are Berger and Wise, Dixie Drive, Oyster Wars and Richard's Poor Almanac (by Cul de Sac artist Richard Thompson). BandW is a British-based one-panel in kind of the same vein as Far Side. Most of the jokes revolve around food-related puns or wordplay, but are really well drawn. DD is Southern redneck humor developed by a Mad magazine artist. Not all of the jokes work, but most of the strips are at least mildly amusing. RpA, on the other hand, is dead-on killer. Richard has Parkinson's disease, so he had to discontinue Cul de Sac, but the Poor Almanac, which runs Mondays and Thursdays, mixes in political slams as well as lampooning the stupid things many people do. Oyster Wars is set in New England, describing the conflict between a Confederate "navy" against northern oyster poachers. Quirky artwork and an intriguing story (updates once a week for now). They're all recommended.

I've been reading Lio for a long time, and it just keeps feeling like a poor-man's Gahan Wilson to me. Gahan was funny, Lio isn't. I really have to take it out of the vb script. I've also been following Zachary Nixon Johnson, a PI parody by the three-person group Zakour, Dallaire and Eagle. Set in the future, it follows the inept antics of "Earth's last private investigator". The artwork isn't bad most of the time, but the story moves in fits and jerks, and isn't all that interesting. It's still only been running for a couple of months, so maybe it'll get better eventually.

One strip that is really disturbing is Ted Rall's The Worst Thing I've Ever Done. Ted is a political cartoonist, but he interviewed somewhere around 500 people and has recently been drawing the incidents as short narrative webcomics. From the title, you know you're not getting Marmaduke. Stories include locking people in mauseleums, setting turtles on fire, and similar stuff. What seems to bother the readers the most, though, is that occasionally some of the strips will be run out of sequence by accident.

Agent Gates isn't too bad, though, if you like the British drama Downtown Abbey. It's a parody, where the main characters are actually secret service agents trying to protect the Crown against German infiltrators. It updates Mondays and Thursdays, and the infrequent schedule seems to be the cause of most of the reader complaints.

One really new strip that I mostly like is Zen Pencils, by Gavin Aung Than. Than takes famous quotes and illustrates them with his own spin. The artwork is very good, although not fitting with what western readers may feel comfortable with, and the messages so far have been really positive, with quotes from Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14 astronaut), Hunter Thompson, and marathon runner Dean Karnazes.

I've been reading Skin Horse, by Shaenon Garrity and Jeffrey Wells, for several months now, and I like it a lot. Shaenon has been drawing webcomics for close to 10 years, I think, and she's done several different titles, including Li'l Mell and Narbonic. I've tried getting into her other comics, and maybe the problem is that the server is so slow, it takes hours to go through the archives. That, and Li'l Mell was only written by Shaenon, but drawn by someone else. However, I like Narbonic. It tells the story of a female mad scientist intent on taking over the world with the help of her insane weapons-toting intern, put-upon IT tech-slash-guinea pig, and a handful of mutant ur-gerbils. It's parody, but some of the characters reappear in Skin Horse. Plus, Shaenon occasionally did tributes to Winsor McCay's Little Nemo that are really good.

Speaking of Little Nemo, GoComics has starting a new series called Origins of Sunday Comics. As the name says, it's a kind of history of America's first Sunday comics, including Yellow Kid, Katzenjammer Kids and Little Nemo. Definitely worth reading if you like the old strips.

Finally, I was browsing the list of recommended webcomics from the Skin Horse main page, and found A Girl and Her Fed. The art is sub-par for the most part, but the story is interesting. A woman that can talk to the ghost of Benjamin Franklin is being spied on by a government agent that has a chip in his head that is based on ghost technology. Lots of implied sex, but some fighting and government intrigue as well. The art mirrors the mental condition of the agent, who starts out in a deep mental fog, and does improve eventually. Some good jokes and story set-ups, but the artist really shouldn't try drawing fight scenes if they're out of his skill level...

Webcomics I've talked about before: Girl Genius (which I still really like), Erfworld (which I am dropping), Doctor McNinja (which I should drop), Order of the Stick (which I still like, regardless of the stick-figure drawings) and Bad Machinery (which I still like, even though the storylines are silly). I recently started reading Genocide Man and Hunter Black. Hunter is based on a D&D game character, and really only appeals to D&D gamers, so I'm dropping it now. Genocide Man has amateur-level art, but the story is still promising. A super-powerful group of mass-murderers that run the planet have had a falling out, and they try to eliminate one of their own that has gone rogue. Fun if you like dark humor.

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