Tagged: Webcomics You Should Be Reading

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘xkcd’

Welcome back to the article series you love to comment on (mainly because I yell out on facebook I’ll buy pizza and beer for those who comment), Webcomics You Should Be Reading! I’ve taken you, gentle reader, on a magic carpet ride through a tunnel of funny ranging from the macabre, the vulgar, the hyper-cute, to the thought-provoking-so-much-so-that-the-comment-string-ended-up-an-actual-debate. So, where do we go from there? How about we jump into the deep end of smarty-pants webcomics. That’s right, you guessed it. Dust off your mortar boards, and fire up dictionary.com… it’s time to read xkcd!

A little history then: Randall Munroe is a CNU graduate with a degree in physics. Before starting xkcd, he worked on robots at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. After scanning in some old math notes with cartoons drawn in the margins, he was linked by BoingBoing, and soon there after, the phenomenon was birthed.

Simply put, ‘xkcd’ is a webcomic for smarty pants people who enjoy their humor on the higher side of the SAT score charts. Given the breadth of vile jokes I smattered you with, I figured we needed a chance to enhance our vernaculars. The comic itself is a continuity-free mash of stick figurey with jokes that range from topics as diverse as electrical engineering to the astrophysics.  Mr. Munroe identifies the strip as being about “Romance, Sarcasm, Math, and Language”. I’ll take his word for it. Why? Cause after a day of reading through the strips, I’m certain he’s smarter than I am, and I fear debate. That being said, the strip is hilarious, and bears sharing. Let’s discuss.

The strip is as a dry as melba toast, with a wit as sharp as english cheddar. As a bonus (not unlike our host last week, who donated free avatars on her site) ‘xkcd’ will increase your vocabulary, expand your mind with it’s universal concepts, and for those who let their mouse linger over the strips, Mr. Munroe grants us a scooby snack of alt-text that enhances each strip. It’s funny, brain-enhancing, and drawn with all the skill a CNU graduate with physics should be able to muster. Alright folks… I’ve waxed poetic enough at this point… so on with the cavalcade of links!


I-Con 28: ‘Under the Radar: Comics You’re Missing’

Among the exciting adventures at I-Con was a panel titled "Under the Radar: Comics You’re Missing." The panelists (Carl Fink, Bob Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Andy Weir, Bernie Hou, and me) and attendees came up with the following list, which we promised we’d post for reference. You should check them out if you aren’t reading them already:


Print Comics:

Of course, the real takeaway from the panel was that you should be getting your comics news and reviews from ComicMix.com!

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: “Kawaii Not”!

I admit it… On the outside, I look like a big meanie. The motorcycle boots, the wallet chain, the free flowing beard… Yeah, it sure looks like I’m one tough cookie. But on the inside, I’m a pile of cutesy goo. Like a Lisa Frank Folder, coated with extra glitter and scratch and sniff stickers abound (and we’re talking ‘Strawberry Shortcake’ scratch and sniff here, not He-Man Masters of the Sniffing-verse). So, today, my inner me wants to share with all of you rabble-rousers a new webcomic to melt your heart. I mean… make you laugh.

Now, I’ll assume right now that some of you are waiting for the big 180 here, where I reveal a vile and disgusting comic devoid of anything but blood drenched fists soaked in farts, swimming in a pool of poorly worded racial comedy. Perhaps I’ve found some horrible webcomic starring a rotting zombie who tells Vaudvillian jokes whilst deficating on children stricken with disease… Alas, it isn’t true my BFF’s… today, I bring to you a comic so cute, so lovable, you could very well sqwee and die: Kawaii Not.

Since whenever she started it (let’s say 2007-2008’ish), Kawaii Not is the love child of cartoonist/illustrator Meghan Murphy. Taking the Japanese “Kawaii” (cute) concept to heart, with a dash of good old fashioned American sarcasm, and a pinch of “just evil enough to be funny”, Murphy makes a bi-weekly comic that follows a formula as simple as pie: A generous helping of saccharine sweet filling made of everyday objects betwixt a flaky crust of simple ha-ha’s. What does that mean exactly? You get a cutesy-wootsie character who says something mildly evil enough to make you blurt out a laugh. It made me laugh. Did I mention my motorcycle boots have the bad-ass metal plate on the toe guard?

Ms. Murphy’s site offers the complete archive of webcartoons alongside a heaping helping of free avatars. That she would be so generous as to share her wares with us so we can find the perfect avatar to represent out inner child (I personally can’t decide between the “I’m long, fleshy, and not a hot dog” and “I look like Poop; Ice Cream” avatars myself) this author applauds the site for not only being hilarious, but for being so generous with the humor.

And now we take a trip down the Rainbow Road of Infinite Cute-Wooty-Wittleness:

When Waffles Don’t Tell the Truth
• Alas, poor Cucumber… I knew him well.
Click me, you pervs.
• I risk getting kicked in the nads for this, but men, is this not the truth or what?!
• Tomorrow is looking cloudy with a chance of hilarity.
• Put this on a shirt, and I’ll buy 100 of them.
• If you didn’t click the one above, click this, you skeevy pervs.

The Breakdown:

Drama: On occasion the strip will deal with terminal illness, incest, and rape. Wait, that’s Law and Order: the Webcomic. Sorry folks… Kawaii not is just 4 panels of a love delivered twice a week. 

Humor: Blend Lisa Frank, My Little Pony, a Gaggle of Giggling Japanese School Girls. Chill overnight. Pour into a tall pint glass and top with whipped cream, sprinkles (or Jimmie’s if you’re from out east), and 14 cherries. After ingesting, perform a dutch oven on your spouse. That is the humor of this strip.

Continuity: As a rogue scholar (as in, I mugged people outside taverns in college) I can conclude without a doubt that Kawaii Not is an epic journey of the subconscious through an alternative dimension where everyday objects celebrate their normalcy through 4 panel pictograms. In the end, it will save us all.

Art: See ‘Humor’ above, but perform the ‘Dutch Oven’ on a piece of pink construction paper. See that rainbow covered in glitter and sunshine? That is what the art is like. Great Japanese styled characterizations presented in a clean and happy site.

Archive: 246 strips, with 2 a week promised for the indefinite future. Enjoy!

Updates: Twice a week, per her FAQ.

Risk/Reward: Ok, here is the true debate. You risk your manhood (if you are a man) by visiting this site, and laughing out loud. Are the jokes deep? No. Are they going to make you smile? You damn straight they will. Peruse the archive (and if you’re so inclined like my fiance, squeal with joy every 20 seconds when you open the next one.) and give it a go.

Now, if you would all excuse me, I need to go watch the Care Bears movie, make some cupcakes, and have a good cry.

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: “Garfield Minus Garfield”!

Howdy folks! We’re back here today to take a step into the post-modern… a step into the existential… a step into a parallel dimension. No, not the twilight zone. Today’s ‘Webcomic You Should Be Reading” is an experiment utilizing one of America’s most cherished cartoon characters. Who you ask? Why, it’s Jon Arbuckle, the would-be owner of an obese and lazy cat, named Garfield. We’re quite familiar with the Garfield strip, aren’t we? Since 1978, the world has been privvy to the the misadventures of this lazy fat cat and his awkward geek of an owner. Years later, an Irishman (Dan Walsh) took an idea shared by many, and gave it birth in webcomic form. Mr. Walsh graced the interwebs with Garfield Minus Garfield.

In a nut shell, take Jim Davis’ acclaimed comic, and remove the titular main character… What do you end up with? As Dan Walsh puts it… you get “…[the] reveal [of] the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle agianst loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.” I just say you get to take a cherished comic, and make it a post-modern laugh fest.

Now, obviously enjoyment of the material comes with the knowledge of the source material. When “G-G” works, it works well. Minus his kitty companion (or really any other elements in the strips) Jon is sad, pathetic, and possibly schitzophrenic. Successive reading of multiple strips in a row only makes the joke funnier. But, when the majority of the strip leaves bookended blank panels… this fan grows quickly bored. Why? Well, the joke itself of removing that darn cat can make for some funny asides by Jon. Dramatic pauses add to the humor of most of these situations, but, in these strips in particular… it leaves a little too much to the imagination. Given the decades worth of material though, Walsh has plenty to work with, and there are plenty of funny re-imagined strips to present to we, the surly and overly critical internet population.

So what, pray-tell, does Mr. Jim Davis think of this Frankensteining of his most famous creation?


Webcomics You Should Be Reading: “Rogue Robot”

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: “Rogue Robot”

I’m back, my gentle compatriots, with another webcomic for you to feast upon! I know what all of you are saying though, as you sit with arms folded in protest– ”But Marc, you’ve brought to us a rising list of the sick and macabre! Each new webcomic (be it still active, or dead, or with a glorious hard cover archive hitting shelves) has sunk to new depths of depravity. Have you found another gloriously funny webcomic, or are you simply reaching for the rafters in a pathetic attempt to appease us, your loyal and ravenous fanbase!?”

Worry not my friends, I bring to you a funny (if not so grotesque) webcomic to tickle your funny bones. I bring to you… Rogue Robot!

Rogue Robot was started in 2005 by Herron School of Art students Ben Roe and Amory Abbot. Ben initially wrote the strips and provided color, and Amory lent his pencils and inks to the strip. Over time, Ben has become a bit dormant, and Amory has gallantly picked up the slack on all chores, and has been putting out the strips ever since.

The comic had humble beginnings, but quickly gained speed, and found it’s voice. As it has progressed over the years, the strip has really tightened up it’s art, and acerbic wit. Akin to a ‘Penny Arcade’, the comic is essentially about 2 buddies (Amory and Ben) and a few other cast-mates with their own set of unique peculiarities. Humor ranges from straight-up slapstick violence, toilet humor, sex, with occasional epic (as in longer than 1 strip) stories. The comic hits the mark most of the time, and when it goes for broke, well, like so many other comics I’ve shared with you thus far– it’s laugh out loud funny (even though you’ll go to hell for laughing.). It’s also funny to note just how many comics end up dealing with not updating all the time.


Webcomics You Should Have Read: ‘The Parking Lot Is Full’

Webcomics You Should Have Read: ‘The Parking Lot Is Full’

I beg of you, gentle ComicMix readers… take a journey with me back in time. Step one? Dust off a pair of “wide leg” jeans. Don your favorite pair of Airwalk low-tops. Grow your hair out a little, and put a Pearl Jam Compact Disk into your brand new Diskman. Step Two? Power up your personal computer. You know the one, with that brand new Intel Pentium chip the kids all talk about. Fire up that 14.4 Baud Modem, and hop on that newfangled ‘Information Super-Highway’. Welcome to 1993 folks! Now that you’re here, you should check out a little known webcomic called “The Parking Lot Is Full”.

The brief history on said comic comes from it’s own tombstone, procured from their site instead of that wiki-pedia thing you “next-gen users” all like so much…


“From 1993 – 2002, The Parking Lot is Full was the comic strip love child of artist Jack McLaren and writer Pat Spacek. Starting as crude little strips published in their university newspaper, the comic quickly took on a life of its own, eventually becoming one of the most popular and infamous comic strips on the internet. After nine years of ups and downs, the creators decided that they’d said everything they wanted to say, so the comic was wrapped up and all the toys put away.”


What made ‘PLIF’ (get used to this folks, cause “The Parking Lot Is Full” takes a while to type) so enjoyable was it’s fascinating combination of Gary Larsen-esque illustrations combined with sharp writing and a touch of the macabre. Unlike several previous recommendations here on ComicMix, ‘PLIF’ had no continuity really to follow. Yes, there are a few reoccurring sock puppets in the later half of the series, but there’s no backstory to follow (well, anymore…). And to be honest, the really juicy strips are true non-sequiturs.

I’ll be frank, folks, this strip features some of the most laugh-out-loud-but-frankly-I-shouldn’t-be-laughing strips I’ve had the pleasure to read for free on the ‘inter-webs’. There’s no need for lengthy exposition on the progression of the art; It’s crude, in gray tones, and unpolished as my car in February. There’s no need to wax poetic about the subject matter; Generally ‘PLIF’ stuck to a cycle of topics including childhood, sex, religion, and conspiracy theories (sometimes in the same strip!). Simply put, if the ‘Far-Side’ was rolled through a plate of broken glass, you’d have “PLIF”. Suffice to say the content can disturb as much as it can inspire fits of laughter… and that’s what I appreciate about it. Now to the cream of the crop (…ahem. WARNING. These Strips Are Not Suitable For Children, and most adults now that I think of it):


Well, this settles an age old debate.
Safe Sex, by PLIF
A Failed Experiment, by Ray Croc.
"I fell out of my chair the first time I saw this"… said my roomate.
You know it’d be true.
A lesson from the Street… Sesame Street.
If this Pre-Dates Animal Man, Grant Morrison should be worried.

So there you have it folks. Kick off the Airwalks, swap that Diskman for an iPod, and plug back into a nice cable modem. This trip back in time is over. Sadly, there is no more strips to be had after you’ve been through their archive. Do yourself a favor though… buy a collection of them in printed form from the ‘PLIF’ store, and show your support for those who dared release this evil into the world.

The Breakdown:

Drama: Well, this is kinda’ dramatic…

Humor: If you don’t find this funny, maybe you’ll find this funny.

Continuity: There’s some Sock Puppets that show up from time to time.

Art: It’s grey, it’s crude, and it’s wonderfully morbid when it needs to be.

Archive: From 1993-2002, you’re looking at quite a few strips. It looks like they didn’t update but several times a month at best… never the less, if you troll through it all, it’s a solid hour or two of fun.

Updates: Unless you suffer from that condition where you still believe it’s 1993-2002… alas, there is no more ‘PLIF’ to be had.

Risk/Reward: As always… it’s free… so there’s little risk involved. Unless you consider reading a strip like this to be dangerous. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘Penny Arcade!’

Penny Arcade!
It’s the trifecta of modern comedy: Sarcasm, Near-Cartoon-Levels-of-Violence, and The Deflowering of Fruit. I speak of a web comic that has consistently delivered all these aspects without fail for over 10 years. Since its creation in 1998, it’s spawned graphic novel collections, a charity that has raised millions of dollars for children’s hospitals, nearly half of my roommate’s funny tee-shirt collection, and its own convention to boot. I speak of Penny Arcade.

In concept it is merely a riff on the (now) age-old Beavis and Butthead theorem: Two dudes and a TV. Swap the TV with a video game system (or PC, or Tabletop RPG), and swap the aforementioned dunderheads with the highly sarcastic Tycho Erasmus Brahe and his friend, the sometimes-sharp-as-a-marble Jonathan "Gabe" Gabriel . The two will comment on various video games they are playing, or wax poetic on other whims and flights-of-fancy we nerds take to heart.

The strip is written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik. Over time the strip added an additional (beloved) character or two… and will (from time to time) not include Gabe or Tycho in lieu of an in-game strip. Be forewarned (if you’ve not been clicking on the links above, because you’re patient unlike me) the boys do love the potty humor and foul language. Never-the-less…. violence, swearing, and video games has always made for excellent laughs.

The guys have a wonderful store chock full of tee’s and hoodies adorned with cute catch phrases only "very cool and socially acceptable" people like us understand. They also recently added a feature allowing you to order any of their strips in a nice high res print, suitable for framing and posting with intent to have your co-workers acknowledge your exquisite taste. Suffice to say, the guys over at the arcade have spent a good long time perfecting their craft, and three days a week you can get your fill. There’s a great archive to dig through, and their news posts, while not as auto-biographical as their Texas counterpart Scott Kurtz, offers some great thoughts about the game industry from time to time.

Some Strips of Note:

The Breakdown:

Drama: Well, aside from the "sagas" from time to time, (see Cardboard Tube Samarai above) there is little is any drama. And it’s probably best that it stays that way.

Humor: Covering everything under the sun in nerditry from video games, role playing, computers, to insider-only game industry humor…all under the banner of cartoon-violence, swearing, and general bafoonery.

Continuity: Well, Gabe and Tycho have been long time friends, but that aside, really, there’s little you’d need to know to start laughing your pooper off.

Art: Mike Krahulik’s artwork has taken considerable leaps over the last 10 years. At the beginning, backgrounds were simple, and the colors were flat. Over time, Mike’s character stylings has gotten looser, and to his credit, far better. The exaggerated figures emote wonderfully. i dare you not to laugh at Gabe’s face when he wishes Tycho vast amounts of pain. At present, the strip is a great example digital painting technique, with a vivid color palate that always compliments it’s subject matter; Be it in Fantasy, Space, or just ‘Guys on the Couch’.

Archive: The strip is over 10 years old… Generally three strips a week over the course of 10 years? By my math that’s over a boatload.

Updates: Currently updates on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Risk/Reward: It’s a free web comic folks. By my dime, it’s well worth your time if you like topical nerd humor with a dash of blood, guts and laughter. Plus, every now and then you get a strip like this.


Webcomics You Should Be Reading: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

I recommended this comic to a friend of mine. She wrote back that her office’s content filter blocked it as "tasteless and offensive."

This is an entirely accurate statement about Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. What they fail to mention, however, is that it’s also hilarious.

SMBC is a daily single-panel comic, in the vein of an R-rated The Far Side. The humor is primarily based on taking the punchline in a completely different direction than expected. It’s not suitable for kids. (Or adults who want any claim to maturity, for that matter.) It’s also not suitable for people who are sensitive about sex, death, religion, fetishes, cheesecake, herpes, dolphins, politics, or your mom.

There’s a SMBC store, though it’s currently closed for renovations and expected to reopen in November.

Notable moments:

Drama: Nope. Black comedy, maybe. Not the slightest hint of drama.

Humor: Imagine Gary Larson’s sense of humor melded with Kevin Smith’s potty mouth and you’ll pretty much have Zach Weiner. As noted, what lesser cartoonists would use as the entire joke, he uses as a set-up to something unexpected and much more disturbing.

Continuity: None. There’s a "random" strip button on the site, and it’s one of the few comics where that’s actually a worthwhile idea.

Art: Reasonable; it gets the job done. All the people look pretty much alike, and Weiner probably won’t be winning any awards, but he’s conscious enough of his own skill that you never find yourself missing a joke because you can’t figure out what that blue thing is.

Archive: Six years, about 1325 single-panel or two-panel strips. (Don’t let that scare you, though: There is absolutely no need for an archive trawl. You can read as many or as few strips as you want.)

Updates: Daily, consistently.

Risk/Reward: Reading too many of these in a row may make you realize you’re a horrible person. (There’s no ongoing storyline, so there’s no risk should the comic suddenly cut off.)

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: Ctrl-Alt-Del

Webcomics You Should Be Reading: Ctrl-Alt-Del

Years ago, I was at a comic convention where Jimmy Palmiotti told a story about the most vocal fan he ever encountered: A fellow who apparently was constantly sending letters and posting to message boards about how he read the latest thing Palmiotti had done and it sucked, sucked, sucked. At first he was annoyed, but then Palmiotti realized, hey, this guy buys and pores over everything I ever write or draw. This guy is my biggest fan. So he sent him a Christmas card that year.

Tim Buckley, creator of Ctrl-Alt-Del, must have a really impressive Christmas card list. (Just look at the comments on this review for an example.)

Ctrl-Alt-Del follows the misadventures of Ethan, whose hobbies include gaming, slacking, completely misinterpreting normal human interactions, flashes of engineering brilliance, and forming gaming-related cults. The vibe is sitcom-esque—imagine Friends if everyone played video games, Chandler was a robot built out of an Xbox, Ross had a pet penguin, and Phoebe was the main character. (It really plays better than it sounds. Kinda like Friends, actually.)

Buckley also produces an online animated series which can be downloaded via subscription, or purchased on DVD. There are three compilation books available at the CAD Store along with shirts, magnets and posters. And Buckley has organized an annual massive LAN party called Digital Overload in Providence, RI.

Notable moments:

From the very beginning, CAD set itself apart from the pack, though this distinction eventually disappeared.  
Ethan invented the gaming holiday, Winter-Een-Mas. The holiday later became a tradition
Ethan also established a gaming religion.
Early storyline breaks feature Chef Brian, a humanoid acid trip who cooks.
The recent “serious” storyline.

Drama: Low moving towards moderate. Early strips are disconnected and included some cartoon-style violence. Recent strips have seen several more serious plot arcs and dramatic situations, broken up by non-continuity video game parody strips.

Humor: Appeals to the 18-25 male demographic. Heavy in the video game jokes and geeky sitcom-style plans that cause hilarity to ensue.

Continuity: Moderate to high. Plot arcs will run for several weeks, and be broken up by stand-alone bits. The earliest comics stand alone the best, and set the stage for the running gags and character arcs in the later ones.

Art: Buckley has been criticized for his characters looking similar, though that’s a criticism of his style; you’d never have a problem telling them apart. Panels tend to be a bit static

Archive: Six years of four-panel comics (1000+ strips) plus several months of daily black-and-white “sillies”.

Updates: The main comic updates Monday-Wednesday-Friday. Sillies update daily. Buckley is excellent about keeping his update schedule.

Risk/Reward: Buckley’s recent increase in continuity is a very acquired taste for the audience—if you like it, then it’s easy to get into the “I must keep reading so I know what happens next!” trap. If you don’t, then you can obviously pick up and drop the comic at your leisure. Though the lives of the characters can and will obviously go on for some time, Buckley is very good about wrapping up individual plotlines and creating points where the story stops for a while. It’s fairly safe to assume that if he decided to abandon the comic, there’d be a passable ending.


Review: Two ‘Garfield’ Collections (Including One Without Garfield)

Review: Two ‘Garfield’ Collections (Including One Without Garfield)

My brother was a huge Garfield fan when he was young, and my own two sons (currently ages ten and seven) have followed in his footsteps. They’re certainly not alone: as Dan Walsh writes in his foreword to [[[Garfield Minus Garfield]]], “I wanted to be just like [[[Garfield]]] – lazy, sarcastic, lasagna loving, Monday hating, cynical but under it all, a darn good guy.” There’s something about Garfield that appeal to the slob in all of us – particularly those of us who are pre-teen boys.

But most of us, I think, grow out of Garfield in time. (I could be wrong, of course – the strip runs in something like 2500 papers worldwide, so he clearly has a lot of adults reading about him every day.) We realize that there are only five or six real jokes in the strip (Garfield likes to eat, Garfield likes to sleep, Garfield hates to do just about anything else), and move on to something with a bit more depth.

Maybe I am just speaking for the coastal intellectual elite when I say that, though. And I hadn’t seriously thought about Garfield in years – if ever – so I was happy to devote some time to these two very different Garfield books when they came my way recently.

Garfield: 30 Years of Laughter & Lasagna: The Life and Times of a Fat, Furry Legend
By Jim Davis
Ballantine, October 2008, $35.00

The first book was the obvious one: a volume celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the strip (which debuted June 19, 1978) with a selection of strips from every one of those thirty years and some commentary from Garfield’s creator and cartoonist, Jim Davis. It’s a fairly superficial book, without any deep insights or thoughts – but that does suit Garfield, which has never trafficked in intellectual depth.

As always, I like looking at the early, crude form of a comic that became more sleek and streamlined later on. The scruffy, more obviously fat Garfield of the first year is simply more interesting to the eye than the sleeker, more designed creature he became later – but it was much harder, clearly, to keep that first Garfield on-model. Davis mentions that he started Garfield because there were a number of “dog” strips, but none about cats – what he doesn’t mention are B. Kliban’s cat cartoons, which look to have been a strong influence on Davis’s early drawing style. He also doesn’t mention the general explosion of cat-stuff in the market after Kliban’s massively popular book [[[Cats]]] appeared in 1975; at this point Davis obviously wants Garfield to look like the beginning of the cat boom, and not merely another offshoot of it. (Kliban is safely dead these days, and won’t be raising any fuss.) Davis does allude to the possible competition, though, when he mentions, on p.72, that the original plan was to “develop him for about a year and get a good backlog of strips. …[W]e felt a certain urgency as far as the cat idea was concerned. It would have hurt if someone else came out with a cat feature before Garfield.”