The wondrous world of (web)comics – Part I

Just like the newspaper, the comic strip is far from dead. It simply evolved with the medium. Good times, huh? Generations even earlier than my own speak fondly of Sunday mornings spent scavenging for one specific section of the paper. Great classics were born there. My American friends grew up with Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes. Me, I had the singular honor of growing up with Mafalda.

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Mafalda is about 20 years older than Calvin and Hobbes, but they share certain similarities. One started as a would-be advertising campaign, the other because its creator loathed his job at advertising. Both characters were the same age at the beginning of their strips, 6 years old. Both dabbled with sociopolitical commentary, and both pitched their parents curveball questions (then again, didn’t we all at some point?). They do, however, have striking differences. Born in the opposite corner of the world, Mafalda also lacked a stuffed animal as a companion.

I had all the books, you see. Well, my parents did. And as it happens with true classics, Mafalda‘s wisdom is overall timeless (and the same can be said about Calvin and Hobbes). There are certain views about life, certain questions, that are as old as humanity itself.

Those are only two examples of the myriad of titles that came along over the last century or so. No talk of comics is complete, of course, without a trip to DC and Marvel’s worlds. Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern. These are titles that remain popular in spite of their so-called age, those that were born on paper and remain mostly on paper.

Then came the internet, and boom. The comic ceased to be a two-giant business and began to bloom exponentially. Slice-of-life, satire, videogames, action and sci-fi, anything you can imagine is on comic, and a huge amount of it is for free.

The immense majority of webcomics out there comes from one-man (or woman) operations. A single person writes, draws and colors (if applicable) the whole thing. Sometimes you have a two-person team, one writes, the other draws and colors. Or one writes and draws, the other colors, and so on. On a once to thrice weekly schedule usually, they deliver one shiny new page at no cost to the viewer, earning their keep through merchandise sales and advertising revenue. A few are more sporadic on their updates, from every month and a half to six months. The only one to my knowledge that delivers one page seven days a week is Least I Could Do, which I will elaborate on shortly.

Not all of these are family operations though. There are large companies devoted to this art too, a few examples being Blind Ferret Entertainment and Red Giant Entertainment. These two have several comics going spanning from slice of life to sci-fi and fantasy.

Usually each comic will have its own site, but it is not rare to find sites that host a lot of them. Keenspot is one, and it is where you can find many of Red Giant Entertainment‘s works. Another one is the Katbox, which is devoted to comics of the anthro type. While, yes, most if not all comics here can be a bit steamy, there is nothing NSFW in plain sight. And if there is, it will give you ample warning before you get to it (word of warning though, their gallery section does have mature-ish content and there’s no warning there).

As I have mentioned before, I follow a substantial amount of webcomics (and that, incidentally, helped me realize just how popular the zombie genre remains to this day). Both Keenspot and the Katbox are some of my favorite dwelling grounds every morning, although the artists on both sites are iffy on their update schedule (though, again, free entertainment means no complaints here). I have seen it all, from blatantly sexual comedy to epic sci-fi; manga-ish and western styles, comics in black and white, color, or on a sepia palette. Sometimes there are dwarves, sometimes only aliens. Dragons are treasure hoarding beasts that level entire villages for fun, or are a race of sentient beings that aligned with a power-hungry dictator that wants to take over the galaxy. Guns hang out with swords and magic runs rampant, though sometimes you were born with it or it was given to you through means of an unexpected interstellar leap.

Lesbianism is normal (as it should be viewed), and AI is a thing of everyday. Punk and indie coexist peacefully. The lady friend you wanted to bone or at least court, becomes your roommate and nothing happens from there. Or you may find a semi alcoholic sex crazed writer-wannabe (No I am not talking about me. I don’t drink alcohol) who in trying to find a proper job ends up working in a bar, losing an overall healthy relationship and crying on the shoulder of a busty friend.

Republican and Democrat commentary? It can be found too, whimsical takes on current goings-on. Zombies. A ton of zombies. They are hunted, avoided, exalted and whatnot. Alternate history takes where Australia had devastating wars which included kid-soldiers, and religious fanatics with shaved heads are here to await the end of the world and preserve humanity’s knowledge and genetic imprints through breeding with five main races.

I have seen supersoldiers gone rogue, daimyo heirs who were betrayed out of their rightful land and seat, samurai troubled with their chosen path, cute harlequins with little to no shame, relationships gone awry, trips through land and cosmos… I have seen videogame idols turned into comic idols; girls thrust into a different dimension who struggle with loneliness, friends who turn into plushies and their newfound use of magic.

Hot girls are in no short supply either. Sometimes they are lonely vampires ushering in a devastating storm, sometimes they are teams devoted to solving paranormal mysteries no one else will dare touch with a ten feet pole. Sometimes it is a schoolgirl that is unaware of her powers, or simply a rockstar that starts a silly joke and ends up finding love and marriage.

That, good chums, is what we have come to. We started with two constellations, and we ended up with a whole universe.

Next week I am going to talk about some of my webcomic choices. If you have recommendations, I’ll take them.

Until next time.

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