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Eric: State of the Web(cartoonist): Brad Guigar

Evil Inc

The Webcartoonist: Brad Guigar

Current Webcomics: Evil Inc., Courting Disaster, Phables

You May Remember Him From Such Projects As: Greystone Inn, Halfpixel,

Enthusiasm: Evil Inc: Rabidly Following, Courting Disaster and Phables: Happily Reading

How Frequently Read: Evil Inc: Regularly Checked, Courting Disaster and Phables: Occasionally Checked

I told you we would return on Tuesday. I never said which Tuesday. Regardless, we should now be back.

Some webcartoonists -- especially the ones who've been around since Valentine's Day of 2000 -- get stale. It's not that they become bad. It's just... you've seen what they have to offer, and they've kind of peaked, and they're slowly descending. They're not bad, but they're just... not as good as they were. If you think about it, you can come up with a list of your own.

But don't put Brad Guigar on that list, because he's awesome. In fact, Brad Guigar's pushed to a whole new level in the past couple of years. Brad is better now than he's ever been.

In fact... and I'll say this quietly... Brad Guigar is the best webcartoonist at Halfpixel, for my money. And Halfpixel ain't pikers, kids.

The last couple of years have been good to Guigar, it's worth noting. First, he made the leap along with several others to be a founding member of Blank Label Comics, who went on to have as good a collective relaunch as any of the guilds. And while Guigar had a successful webcomic in Greystone Inn, he did a soft reboot of his strip, sliding carefully out of the Greystone Inn premise and into the Evil Inc premise, so that by the time he officially ended the one strip and launched the next, he'd been running Evil Inc strips for weeks. It gave his fans a chance to acclimate, and gave him a good foundation to build -- despite the fact that the new strip premise was incompatible with the old strip premise.

Seriously -- the old strip premise postulated that comics were acted out, and that comic strip and comic book characters were real, but still explicitly comic characters. Yes, Lightning Lady was a superpowered hot chick in a bustier, but it was clear she was actually a comic book supervillain, not... you know, an actual supervillain. Put her outside of her comic world, and she had to go and get a real job.

On the other hand, Evil Inc. is a full on superheroic world. Good vs. evil is so entrenched that it's become codified, and one of the greatest supervillains of all time decided that it made more sense to get rich selling gear to other villains instead. Had he gone with a "Lightning Lady gets a job on a new comic strip" direction, it would have fit the old Greystone Inn fine -- but he didn't, and in fact we've had significant crossover and references between the two strips. (The panel I selected above features Samantha Bruce -- former Public Relations director at Creative Contract studios, where Greystone Inn was produced, and now Public Relations director for Evil, Incorporated itself. Argus, the lead at Greystone Inn, has turned up as the celebrity figurehead for a charity, and so forth.)

This is not a complaint about discontinuities, mind. This is kudos -- because he made it work. I suspect a good number of readers never noticed the shift between core assumptions from one strip to the next. Guigar is deft and skilled. Which came across beautifully over the last couple of years, as he built up a storyline one four panel gag at a time, leading to an epic struggle of ethics versus morals, good versus evil, the right thing to do and the wrong thing -- with some confusion over what those might be -- intentional torts and office cosplay sex. He built it to a well paced climax, blew the roof off the joint (literally), and surged mightily into the next story arc, with some things back to normal, and others very much not. Good stuff, all around.

And, it's worth noting, very versatile. Which brings us to Guigar's other two strips. And both of which being very different than Evil Inc. Courting Disaster is a single panel gag strip (generally single panel, anyway), in color. It's meant as part of a sex advice website, where people write in with problems and readers submit advice. And, generally, Guigar does a strip sending up the situation being written about. Which is about one hundred and seventy two degrees away from Phables, Guigar's award winning (and Eisner nominated) strip about life in Philadelphia. Phables comes across somewhere between Carol Lay and James Kolchalka, and those aren't names I toss around willy nilly. The stories may be funny or may be poignant or may just make you smile, but they have a rhythm and a feel almost poetic -- like it was as inevitable as the Philadelphia Spectrum.

Which they're considering tearing down to build a hotel. So, maybe that's a bad example.

The thing that strikes me is... Phables isn't anything like Evil Inc or Courting Disaster (or Greystone Inn, for that matter). The art style is similar, of course, but the tone is very different -- which isn't an easy thing to do.

But then, Guigar's good at doing difficult things. When he does a topic he does it all the way. When his high concept was "behind the scenes at a comic strip," he sent up both entertainment and the comics (and his humor centered on things like the Rat Pack -- remade into actual rats from a 60's comic -- and Steve Martin, not to mention the time Mutt and freaking Jeff cameoed. Now that is oldschool). When doing comic book villainy, Guigar commits all the way. (And as someone who can appreciate comic book villainy, let me say that Guigar's understanding and appreciation of comic book tropes is second to none. And that doesn't even factor in that the day I met him in person, the man was wearing a blue tee shirt with an original Fantastic Four logo on it.) He's amiable, he's committed, and when he writes about something he knows his subject cold.

And that's just plain cool.

I mentioned before that he's the best at Halfpixel right now. That's a dangerous statement to make, but I think it's borne out. In a room full of creative, talented people, Guigar just quietly brings his A game, and that's a very, very cool thing.

On to the usuals.

Strengths

Guigar's art style is evocative and distinctive, but clean. It shows off action really well. His writing style is well executed regardless of whether he's writing single panel, four panels or twenty panels, and adapts to his space rather than belaboring it. When writing Evil Inc., he manages to bring the (often convoluted) Story but always has the Funny worked in too -- he can do a long, involved overplot and still manage to be accessible to new readers.

And he draws hot chicks in spandex. And at least one of those hot chicks in spandex is held up as one of the paragons of Teh Sexxors while wearing a full body suit. (Actually, the superhero and villain costuming in Evil Inc is excellent, right down to Captain Heroic's little unitard with shorts.)

Weaknesses

Evil Inc recently went full color, thanks to Ed Ryzowski of Geek Tragedy. Ryowski is a skilled colorist, but the style -- subdued tones and shading -- detracts from the old school comic aesthetic in my estimation. I'd rather see brighter tones -- anything from silver age up through 80's flexographic would jump out and reinforce the whole comic book thing.

Also, to love Brad Guigar's work is to read a lot of puns. I mean, a lot of puns. Yeah. Puns.

On the Whole

Guigar is in ascendence, and people should know it. He's in newspapers, he cowrote a book, he's got collections, and his three current strips are all cool. And that's pretty old awesome. Please, enjoy the man and his mad cartooning skills.

Right. Roll the dice and take a spin, and tomorrow....

Oh ho ho. Coolness.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 11, 2008 12:12 AM

Comments

Comment from: MasonK [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 11, 2008 1:00 AM

Tuesday is a state of mind. Lunchtime doubly so.

Or something like that.

Glad to see you back.

Comment from: Prodigal [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 11, 2008 1:37 AM

Mmmmm, Miss Match...

Comment from: MHPayne [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 11, 2008 3:02 AM

And:

He's still in the Daily Grind with another dozen of us. You, uhhh, you do remember the Daily Grind, don'tcha? :)

Mike

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 11, 2008 3:27 AM

I've been thinking about a Daily Grind followup. Because dude.

Comment from: Forsaken_One [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 11, 2008 6:30 AM

"I told you we would return on Tuesday. I never said which Tuesday."

This is true. Unfortunately you also said the following on March 5th:

"Yesterday, I sat down to write my next State of, which should appear later today and was scheduled to appear yesterday"

So you're just late. Not that we can complain too much considering the amount of money we put into the site. :P

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 11, 2008 12:12 PM

O...kay....

Comment from: Aerin [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 11, 2008 1:24 PM

Guigar was also one of the first, if not the first, cartoonists to respond when I was doing interviews for an anthropology project about the influence of the relationship between the webcartoonist and their audience on the story. I believe he also was the one interested in seeing the results of my study, but unfortunately I posted it directly to the class site and didn't save a copy for myself (that's what I get for writing it a couple of hours before the deadline), and the prof deleted it after he was done grading. D'oh!

But a cool guy all around. I haven't checked on Evil, Inc. for a while, but thanks for reminding me to pop back over again and get caught up.

Comment from: Andrew [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 11, 2008 4:45 PM

I do like Evil, Inc, but I don't view it as often as I do many of the others. Overall I do like it, but I find the most interesting part is the overall relationship between Captain Heroic and Miss Match, like now, coincidentally.

Comment from: Morgan Wick [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 12, 2008 12:43 PM

Eric did then write in the first comment of that post that this would appear the following day. So, he's still late (and I can't help but wonder if it was my comment on that post that spurred him to put this up).

Comment from: Morgan Wick [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 12, 2008 12:44 PM

Re: Forsaken One: Eric did then write in the first comment of that post that this would appear the following day. So, he's still late (and I can't help but wonder if it was my comment on that post that spurred him to put this up).

Comment from: Morgan Wick [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 12, 2008 12:44 PM

Re: Forsaken One: Eric did then write in the first comment of that post that this would appear the following day. So, he's still late (and I can't help but wonder if it was my comment on that post that spurred him to put this up).

Comment from: Morgan Wick [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 12, 2008 12:45 PM

Delete my second post and this one. Stupid fragging sloekla dfmvfdlkzdxomffhmg lcxlk8ion dsp4aovpaeumalkdvihd6gndxzkihb vcj n8bgrbvrnchcgj bcjgnbjbkhgv jbmfjkgrtmic fx,nggnkbcxhfj mgkhfjx gjxhig mreidfgvxcg hbfJSJOFHKJF MSUBVJRMNLDKS VFKZGDUNCMF VZFD LJMG VDIOUFM GEMIRV NMERI GUT HBSIUFMGDIB GIHDFN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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