Monday, February 20, 2006

Web Comics

This post was supposed to be about Condemned: Criminal Origins, but I'm not finished with it yet despite having served up a steaming platter of beat down to dozens of homicidal vagrants. I can tell you that using a locker door to dispatch a crazed hobo is a gaming moment like no other. Once I realized that Condemned was out of the question, and that I had no back-up ideas planned, I thought I'd write about the state of the 360 at the moment. The draft I cooked up in my head amounted to nothing but a bunch of whining, so I need some more time with that one. Instead I think I'll point out the webcomics that I visit daily. Most of them have to do with gaming, and all of their bookmarks reside in my gaming bookmarks folder, so there is some sort of connection.

Before we get started I'd like to point out my new profile picture courtesy of the fine folks at Yahoo, specifically the Avatar individuals. As the picture in the profile box is kind of small, I have reproduced it here for your pleasure. This is as good a cartoon approximation of my looks as I have ever seen. In fact, I am wearing a brown sweatshirt as I write this, although I am in a stifling office complex, not the crisp, leafy air of autumn. I do own a grill, and a gasser at that, which I am more than happy to fire up after a long day of raking. I don't actually rake, as I use my ride-on mower to pick up leaves, but that wasn't an option in the avatar generator. I also do not have a pet pig, as much as I might wish to, however I have provided one for my cartoon counterpart so that, after he finishes raking, he can grill up the pig and eat it. Special thanks to Andy for helping me in getting my profile to show. He is truly a god among men.

Some of the comics I'm going to link to are episodic, so you would be well served to go back and read them from the beginning. If this task seems daunting, have no fear, as you need not be afraid, unless you are comedyphobic. Some of the comics are standalone, so going back to the beginning will only provide you with something to do while you wait for your TPS cover sheet to print. I will link you to the main page, with the most recent comic and let you decide if you wish to travel back in time from there. At that point, it's all you, baby. Now, let us make with the clicking.

Penny Arcade - I've spoken about these gentlemen before and I stand by my original assertment that if I could only read one webcomic, this would be it. It is primarily standalone, although they do dabble in continuity when the mood strikes them. It is primarily about gaming, although they aren't afraid to go well off the beaten track to areas that probably should have been left to the imagination. Each comic comes with a tasty news post, which is always very well written and chock full of 50 cent words. By this, I mean big words, not words from the raps of 50 Cent, although sometimes the two worlds do collide. The comic strip and newspost archives are fully searchable, in case you want to point someone to a particular strip. The art is great, the writing is great, and they post on a regular M-W-F schedule, so you're, at most, only a couple of days away from new hilarity, whatever day of the week you find yourself on. They also run a very successful charity to provide sick children with toys and video games, so even if the comic isn't your thing, the charity damn well should be. The strip is not for the kiddies as violence, profanity and strong sexual situations abound.

PVP - This strip is the closest thing to a newspaper strip, in terms of structure, that I read online. I still read the comics in the paper, it being a high point of my evening, but I prefer my online strips to better make use of the medium, be it in content or style. That being said, this is a very entertaining strip, which you can recommend to fellow gamers that aren't comfortable with the more adult nature of some of the other strips. The strip focuses on the wacky hijinks of a bunch of employees at a gaming magazine. The art is good, the writing is good, albeit sometimes very gaming and pop-culture heavy (a common thread here) and sometimes Kurtz's rants can be fun to read. The Blamimation "Live" strips are particularly hilarious as it's Kurtz and his friends trying out various live action readings to the strips. The strips is more along the PG lines with some vague references to sex at some times. The strip publishes daily on the weekdays

Nodwick - Nodwick is all about the Dungeons and Dragons, the title character being a henchman for what is perhaps the most incompetent group of adventurers this side of a d20. If you're not into D&D, or epic fantasy in general, it won't really be for you. If you can put the subject material aside, it's very well drawn and quite funny too. It's usually episodic, accept for times when its creator, Aaron Williams, doesn't have time for a weekly update. Also from Williams is Full Frontal Nerdity which focuses on the gaming activities of 4 tabletop gaming aficianados. I don't always understand the references in this strip, but I enjoy it immensely. Both strips are for everyone, with some mild violence in Nodwick. Both are updated weekly, on Thursday.

Diesel Sweeties - Diesel Sweeties pushes the limits of what MS Paint can do, while being entertaining and off-beat at the same time. It's kind of episodic in that things that happen in the past aren't forgotten by the time the next strip rolls around. It's got robots, and vegans, and mullets and Indie Rock Pete, so there's something for everyone. Sort of. It's very much a take it or leave it kind of strip. I love it, so I can be biased, but I can see why some wouldn't. I'd put it at more on the adult nature of things, just for some of the suggested situations. Well, that and one of the characters used to be a porn star. This strip rarely has anything to do with gaming.

WIGU - Ah Wigu, how I love thee. Wigu is a little boy who, with the aid of his messed up family, and Topato, space potato and star of Magical Adventures in Space, gets into situations that no small child should ever be subjected to. It used to run daily, but Jeffrey Rowland is moving to a more book type format so that he can tell the story in one big, delicious chunk. It is well worth your time to check out the archives. I have a WIGU book, as well as three t-shirts, so I can make that recommendation in earnest.

Overcompensating - Overcompensating is the daily comic blog that Jeffrey Rowland does when he's not creating WIGU and running a t-shirt empire. It's sometimes episodic, sometimes topical and always filled with mirth. Art is quirky, as it is with Wigu, however if you like the style, it doesn't dissapoint. This strip, like Wigu, needs no prior gaming experience to be enjoyed, but he certainly won't fault you for it. Updated (near) daily.

Achewood - If I could only read two webcomics a day, Achewood would be the second one. Achewood revolves around a cast of animals (inspired by author Chris Onstad's stuffed animals) that live in the town of Achewood. The strip mostly focuses on two cats, Ray Smuckles, and Roast Beef, but others make an appearance as well. It can be episodic, but also has standalone strips as well. Art is very simple, but works very well for the type of strip that it is. One thing that Onstad has done, which separates him from the rest of his creative brethren, is create blogs for each of the Achewood characters. This not only fleshes out the characters in ways that the strip can't, but also allows the other characters to have adventures not shown in the strip. The blogs are dead on too, which they should be, given that they're written by the strip's creator. The strip is probably best kept from the kiddies, although I doubt they'd understand most of it anyways. Nary a gaming reference in sight. Updated daily.

Scary Go Round - Scary Go Round is a strip about a bunch of folks in England who seem to have a lot of things of a supernatural bent happen to them. Not sure why, as I haven't investigated the archive as much as I should. The art style is very cool, and the writing is very well done, although I would recommend knowing someone British so that you can have the references translated for you. It is episodic, so a trip to the archives may be in order for at least a few strips back, but most story lines are very easy to pick up. I am totally hot for Shelley. I think it's the red hair. Don't judge me. Strip is safe for folks of all ages and has no gaming prerequisites. Updated daily.

Order of the Stick - OOtS requires interest in, and possibly knowledge of Dungeons and Dragons. I say possibly, because there are some things I vaguely understand and they may be much funnier if you understand them in totality. The strip focuses on a band of adventurers who know that they're in a D&D universe, so references to things like fortitude checks and race/class benefits abound. The art is extremely well done, especially considering that everyone is a stick figure. It's also very well written, although it can be wordy at times. Updated M-W-F and is rated PG for mild, fantasy violence.

VG Cats - VG Cats is the best looking, and least scheduled strip I read. I'm sure that the two are related. It comes out weekly, for the most part, and requires almost an encyclopedic knowledge of games to get all the jokes. There are some weeks that I don't understand any of it, because I haven't played the game that the strip is based on, however the art is pretty enough for me to just enjoy the visuals on those occasions. This strip is not for kids, unless you want your kids to see Pac-Man in uncompromising positions.

Concerned - Concerned is about Gordon Frohman, a complete and total idiot who arrives at City 17 a week before Gordon Freeman, the hero of Half-Life 2. Being that the comic is set in Half-Life 2, some knowledge of the game is required. I started reading the comic before I started playing HL2, and I can attest that the strips, while funny without having played the game, are twice as funny once you can catch all of the references. The strip is created entirely in the game, requiring author Christopher Livingston to pose people in the game, take screen caps and then add dialog and any other after affects. The results are amazing, and the strip is one of the funniest ones out there. Read the notes as you go through the archive (available below the strip) to get some insight into the creative process. Updated M-W-F. Strip has violence as you would see in HL2, so base your desire to share accordingly.

So there you are, some things to read at work while avoiding the tasks they're paying you to do. I can't help but think that somewhere out there is someone paid to read webcomics who slacks off by creating spreadsheets and traceability matrixes. Matrices? Matrixi? Oh hell, grid thingies.


Kojubat said...

Some great choices there. A good number are on my rotation as well.

Some other recommendations:

Questionable Content is MTWTF, and is one of my top three. And I don't even follow indie rock. Episodic, and very much worth reading from the beginning.

Real Life Comics is usually MTWTF, but the author is going through some life changes (culinary school and new job). Usually episodic, but also fairly easy to jump into. It's loosely based on the author's life.

Girl Genius is advertised as Gaslamp Fantasy. Runs MWF, with a page from the original comic book series and a page of new material. Good stuff by Phil and Kaja Foglio - you're bound to have seen their art elsewhere if you've been around the tabletop gaming world. And their xXxenophile card game is the only CCG I know about that has cards that include rules such as 'remove a piece of clothing'.

Spamusement! rarely updates these days, but what's there is pretty funny. The artist takes real spam lines from his email and turns them into literal cartoons.

I read a couple of newspaper syndicated strips online (Peanuts, Dilbert, Foxtrot, 9 Chickweed Lane, Sheldon, Get Fuzzy, etc.), too.

suburbanjoe said...

Cool! Thanks for the recommendations. I'll check 'em all out.

k o w said...

I find myself rereading PA on days they don't publish. I don't read any others listed. In fact I didn't know half of them existed. I'm off to check them out.