Friday, September 14, 2007

column 10; comics

The first thing I do when I get on the computer is read comics. I read Doonesbury, Get Fuzzy, Pearls Before Swine, and Sherman's Lagoon. And Pat Oliphant. All of these have counterparts in newspapers around the U.S. and world. Sometimes I branch out and read Zits, or Mutts. And of course Sundays are extra-special since I get to read Opus.

Newspapers have always been important for their comics more than anything else. When at my mom's house she gets a daily paper, and I always read the comics first. And often last. There are times when a particular article will catch my eye and I'll give it a glance, but not usually.

The nice thing about the Internet is that I'm not limited to newspaper comics. I can read one's that are no longer printed, like The Far Side, or Foxtrot, or Calvin and Hobbes. Most of the comics I read as a kid are no longer around. So that's nice. My memory for comics has lead it so that such a service is actually not needed, I have books of Calvin and Hobbes memorized, and own The Complete Far Side. But, you know, thought that counts.

The real treat are the webcomics. I was introduced to them in 2002. The webcomic 'Sluggy Freelance' was recommended to me by a friend, whose whereabouts I don't know anymore. Sluggy is one of the old ones. It's archives ran back to 1997, back in 2002 it took me a full weekend to read and catch up with the plot. And I've read it every day since. I own the books. The comic is updated daily, I shudder to think how long it would take someone to read up on the archives nowadays.

Its a soap-opera. Like Zits or Doonesbury, or For Better or Worse. But it can get away with so much more. One of the main characters is a switch-blade wielding bunny. Another is an alien who eats people. They live with four semi-regular people.

Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Waterson often complained about space and formatting in newspapers, citing, truthfully, that back in the day when papers ran things like Little Nemo and Krazy Kat, they got whole pages in color. Webcomics are able to reclaim that. The artwork is great, and the stories, dialogue and plot often more intriguing than newspaper comics. And you can always find new ones. Getting tired of one webcomic? No need to wait for your paper to syndicate a different artist, just click around until you find one you like, and start digging the archives.

Of course that is a drawback. Most webcomics have histories that daily newspaper comics don't. You can pick up Mutts any day of the week and it'll still be funny, the same is true of many of them. Even epics like Doonesbury are still funny day to day without knowing the thirty years of plot that lead up to the joke. Webcomics can be incomprehensible without archives.

Also webcomics die. Much faster and more frequently than newspaper comics. One of my favorites, 'A Lesson Is Learned' is seemingly on permanent hiatus, as is 'Copper'. Some only update a couple days a week, or once a week, like 'The Perry Bible Fellowship'. Others just update when they feel like it, 'Wiki's Lessons in Life' and 'Dresden Codak' amongst the latter.

Most can be caught up in a couple hours, or a day at most. Nothing tremendous, but all funny, or well-drawn, or inspiring, and occasionally all three. Just regular people who like to draw and be funny putting up what they think might amuse. And sometimes not even that, 'Dinosaur Comics' is infamous for having the exact same artwork everyday, with a constantly changing, often hilarious, dialogue.

There are pros out there, like Pete Abrams who does Sluggy and Jeph Jacques who does Questionable Content, the new webcomic that I'm drooling over. But rarely do they cross-over into the printed world. And when they do I'm still just going to read them online anyway.

1 comment:

Ross said...

I would say that rarely would mutts be funny on any given day. Not anymore, at least.