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Webcomic Roundup

I’ve already been over some of my favorite bloggers in the past, but you may have noticed that bloggers aren’t the only thing in my sidebar.  Although I enjoy all art forms, comics are a particular pleasure for me, and since webcomics are usually free I tend to read a lot of them.  Here are my favorites:

  • Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell might well be my favorite comic of all time, online or off.  It hits all my weak points: alternatively funny, serious, and touching, with a story featuring both technology and magic, told through expressive and well-rounded characters.  It’s smart, imaginative, and very well-written and drawn (though, like many of the comics on this list, its early pages are much rougher than its later ones).  Tom plans each page meticulously and has probably had the entire story planned out start-to-finish since the beginning–relevant plot details will regularly be foreshadowed many months or even years in advance.  In short, it’s excellent, and you should start reading it from the beginning right now.
  • Dresden Codak is the kind of comic that could only have existed on the internet.  Especially in his earlier stories, creator Aaron Diaz frequently makes various scientific references that will leave you feeling really stupid, then really smart after you’ve been to Wikipedia so you can get the joke.  His art and writing are both brilliant, a little surreal, and frequently esoteric.  The biggest downside of his comic is that it only updates about once every hundred years.  You can start reading it from the beginning here.
  • A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible–hm.  Well, basically, imagine Dresden Codak turned up to eleven.  Kind of.  Very surreal, very highbrow, frequently makes literary and/or philosophical references that will leave you feeling stupid and/or smart, occasionally flirts with continuity but doesn’t really make a habit of it.  Written by Dale Beran and drawn by David Hellman (who also did the art for Braid), it updates approximately once every thousand years.  You can read it from what I suppose is technically the beginning here.
  • El Goonish Shive by Dan Shive is something of a guilty pleasure of mine–it’s a fun, quirky story about a group of teenagers featuring magic, aliens, relationships, and frequent shapeshifting and gender-bending.  It’s funny and cute and I like it, okay? Stop looking at me like that.  The first comic is here (and yes, the art and writing do in fact get way better).
  • Oglaf (EXTREMELY NSFW, by the way) is, well…I’m just gonna quote the ‘warning’ page directly: “This comic started out as an attempt to make pornography.  It degenerated into sex comedy pretty much immediately.”  Yeah, that about sums the whole thing up.  Written by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne, it’s fantasy-themed, frequently inappropriate, and always funny.  Make sure nobody’s watching over your shoulder, then start from the beginning here.
  • Lackadaisy is the tale of a group of charismatic bootleggers in prohibition-era St. Louis, told by the master of brilliant and hilarious facial expressions, Tracy J. Butler.  Oh, did I mention the bootleggers are anthropomorphic cats?  In addition to the main storyline (which you can read from the beginning here), her website features a number of vignettes, side stories and sketches that are often even more hilarious than the main comics.  This one about waffles is one of my particular favorites (don’t worry, it’s spoiler-free).
  • Cerintha is a fantasy webcomic set in an alternate universe shortly before the fall of Rome.  The art isn’t as impressive as many of the other comics on this list, but Cope (the author) keeps drawing me back with intricate plotlines and fun, interesting characters.  Be warned: although the comic is frequently funny, the overall tone of Cope’s stories (including his previous comic, Atavism) tends to be pretty fatalistic.  You can start reading Cerintha here.
  • Speaking of dark and humorous, The Perry Bible Fellowship has some of the darkest and humor-iest on the ‘net.  Nicholas Gurewitch masterfully juxtaposes cartoonish, childlike visuals with morbid, sexual, or just downright terrible stories.  You will laugh, and you will feel like a horrible person, and then you will click the ‘next’ button.  Go ahead, you monster.
  • Continuing to speak of dark and humorous, never forget Garfield Minus Garfield, the greatest existentialist-humor webcomic ever accidentally written.  I’ll let the comic’s description speak for itself: “Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.”  I have honestly never laughed harder than I have reading this comic.  Start here, then keep going until you can’t breathe.  Trust me, it’ll happen sooner or later.
  • Switching gears, Erstwhile is a comic that re-tells many of the lesser-known stories by the brothers Grimm.  Each story is adapted and illustrated by a different author–Gina Biggs, Louisa Roy, and Elle Skinner.  If you like fairy tales (especially the original versions), give them a look!  Their first story is The Farmer’s Clever Daughter.
  • Finally, there’s xkcd–a nerd classic.  If you haven’t heard of Randall Munroe’s comic yet, you should get out from under that rock you’ve been living beneath and go check it out.  Unlike most of the other comics on this list, there’s no real need to start from the beginning, since only a few of his storylines are continuous–it’s probably better to just hit the random button and go from there.  Enjoy!

How about you?  What are your favorite webcomics?  Let me know which ones I’ve missed in the comments!

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Blogger Roundup

It seems I don’t have anything interesting to say this week.  So here’s a list of writers who do!

  • Mattie Brice writes about videogames a lot.  Unlike most videogame journalists, however, her writing style is neither obsessively technical nor academically detached–she approaches all her writing with a fierce individualism and a strong commitment to broader perspective that is sorely lacking in videogames.  You won’t find stat breakdowns or frame rate counts in her reviews, and you won’t find excessive academic jargon in her critiques; instead, you’ll find thoughtful and articulate musings, analyses, and manifestos on how games relate to our wider culture, and how we can relate back.
  • Chris Bateman writes about videogames a lot too, but he also maintains an interest in a broad range of topics, especially the intersection between science and philosophy.  Though his tone is much more academic than Brice’s, he writes with a clarity and open-mindedness that is refreshing in academic works and in philosophical writing particularly.  I have yet to read a piece of his writing without at some point going “huh, that’s an interesting thought”–and unlike most philosophers, those thoughts frequently have actual applications!
  • Finally, Paul Graham is one of the most intelligent, readable, and influential people writing about computers today.  Though the subject matter of most of his essays focuses on his interests (computer programming and technology startups, mainly) nearly all of them can be read with no prior knowledge of the subject, and in every case he tries to tie the topic in to some broader theme of interest (e.g. effective communication, or the nature of beauty).  Though I don’t agree with everything he says (and since some of his older essays were written years ago, he probably doesn’t either), and he occasionally suffers from the naive short-sightedness endemic to all people of privilege, he invariably has something interesting to say and he almost always says it well.  If Brice is the heart and Bateman is the eyes, then Paul Graham is the head.

How about you?  Who are your favorite internet writers?

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Filed under Just for Fun