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Eric: Daily Comics Trawling: the Night Comics List

The second of my Safari "Bookmark Tab Groups" that I read are my so-called "Night Comics." Originally, these were the comics more likely to update at the end of the day, instead of the beginning. The first block of them update earlier, but given the number of times I'm up past midnight, it's not too uncommon to see most of these update.

This block (in the order they come up in the tab list) are:

  • Something Positive, by R. K. Millholland. The success story of 2003-2004 (yes, I know it extends back to 2001, barely, but it really took off in 2003), and for a damn good reason. Great art with its own idiosyncrasies, a fantastically cynical sense of humor, and the ability to change gears fluidly without breaking stride. Not the most consistent updater of the lot, but that's the subject for another snark, later. If you're not reading this, you're an idiot.
  • Queen of Wands, by Aeire. Beautiful artwork, that's managed to take a basic four panel comic strip and make it dynamic and interesting. Aeire's one of the few webcartoonists to take the whole Scott McCloud "web pages as infinite canvas" concept and actually do something with it that both makes her strip more interesting and yet doesn't annoy the reader. (Scott? Hon? Remember that no matter how infinite the webpage is, monitor real estate isn't infinite and it's annoying to spend all your time scrolling. Especially horizontally scrolling, because the space bar won't go over one screen.) Queen of Wands isn't the strongest story comic yet, though I like Aeire's willingness to challenge herself. When she's going for the funny, she's got a good sense of it, but she loses the funny for story way too often. Still, I look forward to it and it's freaking beautiful, so hey. Happily on the list.
  • It's Walky, by David Willis. On the "why am I reading this webcomic again" list, but as it's winding down to a conclusion I'm going to stick with it. It's funny, well drawn and has a good sense of continuity, so it should be a bigger pleasure for me. However, Willis has been working on this storyline in his head since long before he started the precursor webcomic (Roomies) to it, and he leaves out details all the time. Like, they're about to fight Martians, which is a major big deal, only we're never quite sure why it's a big deal. And they did this thing with transdimensional invaders, only we're not sure why, and... um... yeah. It's just... um... there's... look at Joyce! Joyce is cute! Right? Anyway, I'll miss it when it's gone but while it's here I'm a little nonplussed.
  • Sluggy Freelance,, by Pete Abrams. One of the longest running, most involved of the adventure strips. It's got a sense of humor (boy howdy), but you can't really consider it a strip of funny any more. It's all about the storyline, and Abrams has a good sense of pacing. It's lost some steps over the years, but it covers for them with the incredible artistic growth and layout complexity Abrams brings to the strip. Say what you like about Sluggy -- it's not being phoned in, even after all these years. Thirty years from now, this is the strip that'll be in all the history of sequential art textbooks.
  • Kevin and Kell, by Bill Holbrook. Bill Holbrook is the perfect answer to all the folks who whine about their inability to crack newspaper syndicates. Not only does Holbrook write two nationally syndicated strips ("On the Fastrack" and "Safe Havens," but all indications are a part of why he runs the syndicated race is so he can afford to do Kevin and Kell on the web. That's right. His syndicated strips are his day job. Now that rocks. Kevin and Kell itself is very internally consistent, and has a real Newspaper aesthetic going for it -- every strip is self-contained, with a certain assumption that this might be the first strip someone's read. The artwork is excellent, and even though it's a funny animal strip it can't really be called a furry strip. Well, any more than you could call Pogo a furry strip. (Furry strips, by the way, are strips where the fact that the characters are furries is a core point to the strip. Funny animal strips are comic strips about funny animals. Anthropamorphic versus cartoony matters less than intent.) (Oh, and sex doesn't enter into it. Cheeky monkeys.) Kevin and Kell was one of the trailbreaker webcomics, and it's still pretty damn good.
  • College Roommates from Hell, by Maritza Campos. Beginning to edge onto the "why do I read this webcomic, again?" list, though it's not really there, yet. Incredibly cool artwork, excellent production values, often very funny and with a strong sense of continuity, CRFH is beginning to become topheavy -- too much backstory needed to understand individual strips. Still, I still care about the characters (well, except April, who better pay off the whole "better self dying in clown makeup thing" soon or else someone better just shoot her and be done with it), and I want to see what happens next. So it's not quite on the list yet.
  • User Friendly, by Illiad. Now here's something heavily on the "Why do I read this webcomic, again?" list. User Friendly was among the first, and for a long time was among the best, but it suffers from an inability to adapt to the times, and that leads to obsolescence. When it first came out, back in 1997, the vast majority of its audience were geek/computer literate, because that's who was using the web at the time. Pretty much anyone using the web got BSD jokes then. These days, the vast majority of the web audience aren't cognoscenti, and so Userfriendly loses out on mass appeal. Plus, there's a dearth of payoffs. Still, it was among the first, and it's always consistent, so it's staying in the tabs. For now.
  • Diesel Sweeties, by R. Stevens. Now here? Here we have brilliance on a plate. Proof positive that pixilated art can be distinctive and stylistic, always true to itself, always bringing the funny, and weird without being inaccessible, Diesel Sweeties is a breath of fresh, high octane air. Besides, not only does it make fun of poseurs, it makes you sympathize with them too. Now that is hard.
  • General Protection Fault, by Jeff Darlington. Deep into the "Why do I read this webcomic, again" list, and likely soon to be on the "used to read but they lost me" webcomic list. GPF is a workman's strip, done competently every day, going to the well, offering detailed plots and actually paying them off. At the same time, it's lost some spark. Admittedly, it lost a ton of cred with me over the year long Surreptitious Machinations arc, which was really nasty to characters we came to like before that, but had no decent payoff at the end. If Surreptitious Machinations had ended GPF, and then Darlington launched a sequel, I'd probably be into it. As it is... meh. And honestly, if you're going to do a Queer Eye parody, don't wait until everyone on Earth is sick of Queer Eye.
  • Peanuts, by Charles Schultz. That's right. Peanuts. By Charles Schulz! It's on the web, every day, going back to 1970's strips you've probably never read. It's from some of the high points of Schultz's career, and it absolutely kicks the ass of almost every other comic strip on the planet. If you can't imagine reading newspaper strips, even on the Web, and you don't like Peanuts to begin with, because it's so mainstream, then get out. This is a Local Shop for Local People; there's nothing for you here.
  • Big Nate, by Lincoln Peirce (yes, that's how he spells it. Apparently no one ever taught Mr. and Mrs Peirce the I before E except after C rule, and you can't expect Lincoln to go against his own parents, can you?) This is a newspaper syndicate strip, which I started reading in the few months I had moved back home in the mid 90's, in between living in Seattle and living in New Hampshire. My folks got the paper, and Big Nate was on the comics page, and I grew to like it. It's beginning to retread jokes now, but it's still a fun read. And it reminds us that 'webcomics' can also be the comics in the newspaper, if they really want to be.
  • Li'l Abner, by Al Capp. It astounds me that one of the single most significant comic strips in the art form is actually served up to us in reprints, each and every day. If you think that webcomics liberated cartoonists, allowing them the ability to do scandalous things and sophisticated plots and extraordinary art, you need to get out more often. Li'l Abner was doing all of that, better, back in the 30's and 40's! Al Capp wrote and drew it for forty freaking years. It was big enough to be made into a Broadway Musical (which companies still put on all the time -- Hell, I was Marryin' Sam myself, back in the 90's), two movies, cartoons (Hell, there was even the wretched "Fred and Barney Meet the Schmoo" from the 70's. And the Schmoo was all Al Capp). Li'l Abner wasn't afraid to tear down sacred cows, and was so beloved that when, after decades of avoiding it, Li'l Abner was finally forced to marry Daisy Mae, it made the national news and the cover of Life Magazine. That's the kind of national impact Berkley Breathed only dreamed of. We're currently in 1952, and Abner and Daisy Mae just got married a month ago. Hop on in!
  • Rose is Rose, by Pat Brady. A really sweet strip, generally funny, with a sense of wonder a mile long. It's not afraid to let the adorable bespectacled mother's mental image of herself be a tattooed miniskirted biker babe, either. If you're allergic to newspaper strips and can't imagine reading something considered "safe for children," you're likely going to avoid Rose is Rose, and I'm going to pity you. Pity!
  • Scary Go Round, by John Allison. Stroppy! Good British fun, and a very worthy successor to the brilliance of Bobbins. The art style is very mod and distinctive, too, though I expect more and more people will copy it as time goes by. Allison does his own thing and as long as he's doing it, I'll be reading it.
  • Achewood, by Chris Onstad. Onstad belongs in the same category as James Kochalka or Eight -- more of a jazz musician than a strip a day commercial artist. With Achewood, Onstad laid down a smooth beat early on, and while he's thrown flourishes in and explored the melody line, he's keeping the rhythm going.
  • Gaming Guardians, by Graveyard Greg and Web Troll. This is a weird one to snark about for me, because I have some contact with Graveyard Greg. In other words, he's going to be the first of these creators to actually read Websnark. Fortunately, I like Gaming Guardians, so it's no big deal. The art took me a while to get into, but Webtroll is growing into it. The stories, on the other hand, sucked me in a long time ago. The conceit is a good one for an RPG based comic, and the execution is fun. I also like how they could make some of the characters (Radical? I'm thinking of you, here) into deus ex machina, then explain that it's because they're Non Player Characters. I love that. Still, they could have more EDG and I wouldn't complain one bit.
  • VG Cats, by Scott Ransoomair. The logical evolution of gamer comics, and a hell of a lot better than most things to use that name. VG Cats is just plain fun. It was the second best comic strip to riff on City of Heroes -- PvP owns the crown -- and it's just about the best one to riff on the Legend of Zelda of any of them. Plus, it's just plain funny. You got me? It's just plain funny. Also, while it walks the same ground as Penny Arcade, it's walking it in different shoes. If that makes sense. God, I need a drink.
  • Clan Bob. This is on the list in hopes that they may yet actually update. Until it does... no snark for you. NO SNARK FOR YOU!
  • Wigu, by Jeff Rowland. Okay, if Eight is Sax on Drugs and Onstad is Bebop, Rowland is Acid Jazz with a side order of psychedelic rock. A followup to his brilliant, lamented "When I Grow Up," Wigu is its own thing, and that thing involves kids, nihilists, shirtless parents, drunkards, superhero potatoes and blue ponies that crap vanilla ice cream. Just kick back and enjoy the ride, kids. Just enjoy the ride.
  • Casey and Andy, by Andy Weir. For my money, this is the future of geek comics -- screw tech comics, let's go straight for physics! There are ways Casey and Andy remains a journeyman strip, but it's growing fast. Certainly, Andy's artistic style has been growing and developing all along. His take on Satan is inspired, too, and Quantum Cop is just a plain, good character. You're not likely to love every one of his strips, but you'll love enough of them to make up for it. Also - never put pineapple in Jell-O.
  • Alex, by Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor. Alex is a British comic strip -- I think one that appears in newspapers -- about stockbrokers. More than that, it's brilliant satire about greed, conspicuous consumption, about the way the workplace shafts the worker and about the way the worker shafts the workplace. No one comes off well in Alex, and that's how I like my satires. This is what Dilbert would be if Dilbert were in the financial world instead of engineering. Oh, and if Dilbert were funny. I mean, still funny, years later. In fact, Alex and Dilbert's pedigrees aren't all that different -- same era, same capacity to insult... only, y'know, Alex is still funny. One nice thing -- the archives go all the way back to the boom period of the Internet Bubble, so you can see the transition from the Exchange living high on the hog and resenting the 'new economy' straight through the bust, and unemployment, straight through to, well, now. It's worth the trek. Also, Clive is an idiot, but I still like him.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 20, 2004 5:10 PM

Comments

Comment from: Adam posted at August 22, 2004 5:05 PM

Alex used to run in The Independent but was poached some years back by The Daily Telegraph.

So, yeah, it's a newspaper strip, and one very rooted in the culture of the City of London, as opposed to the city of London. Clear? :-)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 22, 2004 8:50 PM

Crystal. ;)

It's also Some Fun.

Comment from: Sean Duggan posted at October 1, 2005 2:26 AM

Incidentally, your link for Two Lumps is wrong. They're currently at www.twolumps.net ever since they made Keenspot.

Comment from: Mike Reeves-McMillan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 17, 2006 4:33 PM

Personally, I dislike Alex because it's so formulaic:

Panel 1: Two people talking, ethical dilemma introduced by person 1.
Panel 2: Person 2 comments on ethical dilemma or asks a question.
Panel 3: Person 1 appears to be indicating that they will resolve the dilemma in an ethical way.
Panel 4: Person 1 reveals that in fact they are being cynical and manipulative.

I only find that funny for a relatively short time.

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