Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Comics You Should Be Reading

Most who know me know that I am fascinated by comics. Not just the print and published kind, I'm talking web comics. I find the idea that anyone, anywhere can write and draw a comic, post it online, and have it reach a potential audience of millions without a publisher or distributor as incredible as it is awesome. Gone are the days when someone would have to sell their idea to Dark Horse or Marvel or DC to be taken seriously. I admit that indie comics existed before, I just find the accessibility of the current era of online goodness absolutely delicious.

Take that big name comics publishers

Many of the online comics I read are pretty well known and very popular in the world of THE INTERNET, but alas, many of my dear friends and readers (there are a couple of you out there, I know it) are woefully ignorant of these great contributions to online art and literature. What follows now are the comics that you should be reading if you aren't already.

Honorable Mention: Daisy Owl, www.daisyowl.com

- Not included in the actual list is perhaps my favorite comic online, Daisy Owl.

The reason why the comic cannot be included in the actual list is because the creator, artist, and author of Daisy Owl, Ben Driscoll, has taken an indefinite hiatus from making any more. You see, for a long time Ben earned his living entirely from the comic, selling merchandise and what have yous. But, by doing that, the comic became 'work' for him and stopped being fun. So, our good friend Ben is taking some time off from the comic and we do not know when he will be back again. You can bet your ass that once he is back that Daisy Owl will shoot right to the top of this list.

Okay, now about the actual comic: Daisy and her brother Cooper were adopted by Mr. Benjamin Owl after their rocket crashed in his yard. They frequently hang out with Owl's friend Steve, a half-polar half-grizzly bear that was raised by humans who works in a honey factory. The real highlights of this comic are the always funny hijinks that Steve pulls, the jokes that play off of some rather ridiculous movie and television tropes, and Daisy and Cooper's lovable science and history related jokes.

10.) Axe Cop, www.axecop.com

- Axe Cop is a very new addition to the world of online comics, having started only this past Christmas. Drawn by Ethan Nicolle and written by his five-year-old brother Malachai, Axe Cop appeals to the inner child in all of us.

It goes like this: Malachai tells Ethan a story about a character they both came up with while they were playing, Axe Cop (who is a cop that fights crime with a fireman's axe). Ethan asks Malachai questions about the story to fill in some of the gaps. And then Ethan draws it. The whole thing is a wonderful exploration into the logic of a five-year-old. For example, Axe Cop's partner is Flute Cop (a cop that uses a flute to fight crime). During a particularly bloody fight with a gang of dinosaurs, Flute Cop gets dinosaur blood on him. Naturally, this turns him into a dinosaur, and he then fights crime alongside Axe Cop as Dinosaur Soldier.

Truly a great comic because it makes you remember exactly what it was like to be a kid and playing around with your friends. Nothing can top the imagination of a youngster.

9.) xkcd, www.xkcd.com

Randall Munroe is a former NASA Roboticist (builds, programs, experiments with robots) who draws a comic that is only done in stick figures about "romance, sarcasm, math, and language." Sound interesting? No? Well shut your stupid face because it is, and its funny as hell.

This comic follows the Shakespeare line, "Brevity is the soul of wit." What this means is that it doesn't waste your time. There's an introduction, a set-up, and then a punch line. Simple.

Its hard to get much simpler than just drawing stick figures for your comic, although that's not what prevents xkcd from moving higher up on the list. What does that is the fact that Randall Munroe is a former NASA Roboticist and programmer. Many of the comics are so far over my head that I have no idea where the joke comes from. I don't know anything about programming or what-have-you's and many of these jokes are simply lost on me. But my brother gets these jokes and rubs it in my face that I can't. Yes, dear reader, the simple fact of the matter is that xkcd isn't higher than ninth on my list because it makes me feel stupid.

8.) Questionable Content, www.questionablecontent.net

- This is a comic about a girl whose dad killed himself and a boy who's an absolute pushover and has a mom who is a dominatrix. Seriously.

Lots and lots of indie band references make this one hard to get through sometimes. It doesn't help that in order to really get into the comic you have to start from page one and go all the way through nearly 1,750 pages of comic, but this is one that should really be given a chance. The art style alone is absolutely gorgeous and after a while reading the comic becomes like watching your favorite TV show. The characters endear themselves to you through the course of the storyline and you feel like they have become your best friends. No wonder that creator Jeph Jacques has won six Web Cartoonists' Choice Awards for this slice-of-life comic.

7.) Pictures For Sad Children, www.picturesforsadchildren.com

- Sometimes down-right depressing, Pictures For Sad Children can also surprise you with its simple hilarity.

The story originally followed Paul, who died going to work one day. Paul, who is a ghost, then had to train his replacement at the call center where he worked as he got fired. Because he died.

Yeah, like I said, kinda depressing. The comic focuses on dark humor (I'm a fan) and most of the comics don't even have punch lines or jokes. You just kinda sit and think, "Wow, that's absolutely awful" and then go on your way.

6.) Amazing Super Powers, www.amazingsuperpowers.com

- Your center for some of the strangest humor on the internet, Amazing Super Powers is written and drawn by Wes and Tony and is absolutely magnificent.

The best way to describe this comic is to have you read it. I can't do it justice. There are few storylines and the ones that are there last only a handful of comics. So go! Take my word for it and go visit the twisted jokes of Wes and Tony!

5.) Hark! A Vagrant, www.harkavagrant.com

As a history-buff, I have to like this comic. Canadian cartoonist Kate Beaton uses her degree in history to draw funny, odd, or just interesting things about history. Sometimes she does let her own natural silliness leak through, and those times are great for everyone involved.

The comic makes the list because not only do I enjoy the jokes and enjoy the art, Beaton always ends up teaching me something. Usually it is things that I would have never found out about otherwise (such as Emperor Norton I, look that shit up).

4.) Nedroid Picture Diary, www.nedroid.com

- Known for its silliness and fantastic artwork, Nedroid is drawn by Anthony Clark and makes jokes out of the nonsensical, the whimsical, and the mundane.

The comic follows the story of two best friends: the goof-ball, narcissistic, and pretty much stupid Reginald; and Beartato, the down-to-earth bear that is shaped like a potato. Or something. I'm not really sure what Beartato is.

Please remember that the author of Presented in Technicolor is not responsible for any injuries sustained while laughing at how silly Nedroid is.

3.) Dinosaur Comics, www.qwantz.com

- Nearing the end of the list is a comic where the art never changes, and that art is made up entirely of clip-art dinosaurs? What, is the author of this article crazy?

Not in the slightest. Dinosaur Comics are hilarious. The simple nature of the art just means that the cartoonist, Ryan North, has to work extra hard to make the comic funny. And holy shit does he deliver.

North's comics often get compared to David Lynch's The Angriest Dog in the World comic strip. Dinosaur Comics tackles a huge variety of topics, from the nature of love to whatever happens to be on Ryan North's mind to whatever you would call this:

2.) Virus Comix, www.viruscomix.com

- Canadian cartoonist Winston Rowntree (Oh god I wish that was his real name) comes in at number two with his comic strip, Subnormality, as well as the other comics featured on his site. To be fair to you, I won't post any images here, because that shit is loooooooong. Rowntree does not believe in that whole brevity is the soul of wit thing, and many of his comics can seem to just go on and on.

That being said however, I have to admit that this is one of the best looking comics I've seen on the web. All of the artistry is done old-school pen and paper style, and it looks like it takes him literally days of work to get such beautiful pictures. The topics of the comics vary, from a Sphinx that hangs out philosophizing with a bunch of monsters, to comics of Rowntree himself, like this one, where he remarks on the oddities of life and how people treat each other and how life actually works.

The real gem of the site isn't the regular comic strip, but rather a stand-alone comic book done by Rowntree all about the "Things They Don't Tell You (But Should)". If you don't read anything else in this article, please take the time to read that. It is as funny as it is just plain sad, because many of the observations are brutally correct. Definitely worth a look as well as his comic Captain Estar Goes To Heaven, although that last one's a little on the long side. A great artist and a formidable writer, Rowntree and his Virus Comix are more than deserving of a little attention.

Bonus: To all you writers out there, take a look at this and you will never look at writer's block or the creative process the same ever again.

1.) The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, www.drmcninja.com

This is a comic about a doctor who happens to also be a ninja. He has a sidekick named Gordito, who is a twelve-year-old with a giant bandito mustache that he grew by sheer force of will after the murder of his circus-acrobat father. Gordito rides a raptor named Yoshi. The office is tended by Judy, the receptionist, who is also a gorilla. Judy and Yoshi do not get along. Judy is awesome. Dr. McNinja's family is also ninjas. They fight pirates and other things. Awesome.

Written and drawn by Chris Hastings, formerly inked by Kent Archer, and colored by Anthony Clark (see Nedroid Picture Diary above), this is the perfect example of why I love comics. Outlandish, hilarious, violent, over-the-top, and perfect in just about every way possible, The Adventures of Dr. McNinja is as great as any printed comic I've ever seen and it hasn't even reduced female characters to whores yet like some of the best printed comics have (I'm looking at you Frank Miller).

Actually, let's not ruin this with words. Just go check out the comic and enjoy yourselves.

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