As part of the Speak Out with your Geek Out project started by Monica Valentinelli on her blog, all of my posts this week will highlight some aspect of geekery that I love. So join me in taking a little break from the anger and angst, and let’s remind ourselves why we love geek culture.
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Growing up, the comics page and Saturday comic insert were my favourite parts of the newspaper. Until I got much older, I didn’t understand why they even bothered to print the rest of the paper ( a feeling I still carry, actually). The comics page, featuring the antics of Peanuts (“Curse you, Red Baron!”), The Far Side (“Bummer of a birth mark, Hal.”) and Bloom County (“Oop! Ack!!”) was obviously the star of the newspaper. But hey, I was a kid, what did I know?
Fast forward to 1999, and I’m just starting to spend a decent amount of time on the internet. Punching in whatever page search strikes my fancy, as was my wont in those days, I come across a link for something called pvponline.com…and that was my first step into the wide beautiful world of web comics.
Of course, after that first step I will admit I wallowed like a pig in muck for a great long while. I went through my early addictive phase, where every web comic was a little gem to add to my growing dragon’s hoard. I didn’t care about things like art quality or story in those days, I just knew I needed to read more, more, more! Eventually, realization that I only had so much time in a day to spend reading web comics led me to develop a more discerning palette, and the razing of my bookmark list.
Nowadays my decision to follow a particular web comic is dependant on three things: 1) does the subject interest me?, 2) is the art good? and 3) is the writing/story good? I don’t need all three of those to be a resounding yes; I can read a comic about gamers that has good writing and only okay art, for instance. But if the answer to the any of those questions is a no, that comic will never make it to my bookmarks folder. You may think that would limit my reading somewhat, but as of this post I have 56 links in my Web Comics folder, plus another 6-8 under review at any moment.
So why do I love web comics so much? First, the web is the only place I’m going to find comic strips with subjects and settings that I enjoy. What print newspaper is going to feature the fantasy gaming misadventures of Order of the Stick, for instance? Or carry the touching story of a pseudo-hipster and his friends, a la Questionable Content? Or even acknowledge the living presence of Something Positive (which I love sooo much!)? Second, besides the enjoyment they bring me (which is prodigious) I see web comics as a sign of a healthy geek culture. Not only are there enough readers for existing properties, but there are enough that new web comics are able to find a stable footing early on. Not to say I think it is easy for new strips, not by any means. But if the strip creator is willing to put in the work, there are opportunities to grow an audience and make the strip successful. And that is exciting to me.
So if you aren’t already doing so, take some time to explore web comics and find some new ones to read. I can guarantee you will find at least one that will interest you, and often that one will link to others you may fall in love with. To get you started, here are five of my favourites, in no particular order. If you like them or already follow them, take a second to look at their links pages, and check out the web comics they recommend. You may find yourself a hidden gem…
– I have followed the work of Phil and Kaja Foglio since the days of “What’s New with Phil & Dixie” in Dragon Magazine. So falling in love with Girl Genius was practically pre-ordained. If you already follow this comic, revel in your luckiness. If you don’t, you’re welcome.
– Weregeek, by Alina Pete, is a perfect example of a fantastically drawn and written comic for/about geeks that would never be syndicated in a print newspaper. Which is fine with me, more geeky goodness for those of us on the web. Also, Alina and her boyfriend Layne are the nicest people ever; if you have a chance to stop by their booth at a convention then do it!
– How could science and computers possibly be funny? xkcd and Randall Munroe answer that question in spades! Also, it is my second favourite stick-figure comic strip, out of…well, two. Note to new web comic artists: no more, OotS and xkcd have it covered.
– A relatively new discovery, Christopher Baldwin’s Spacetrawler is a funny, touching story of humans “drafted” to fight for inter-stellar liberation. You’ll even fall in love with the villains, it’s that kind of comic.
– And finally, d20 Monkey, one of my favourite RPG related strips. Brian Patterson really captures the heart of the gamer community with his strips. And yes, admittedly, that heart has a goodly share of dick jokes. I regret nothing.
That’s all for today, folks! Have a favourite comic of your own to share or a comment on the ones I posted here? Comment below, but please limit yourself to one link per comment, please. And join me tomorrow for the next instalment in Speak Out with your Geek Out!