Following the lead of I’m Reading Comeeks, I’ve been checking out a lot of comics from the library lately. Really, they’re a great way to supplement my reading list on stay on top of the gruelling GoodReads reading challenge, 250 books, I set myself these year as a joke (kind of…). Why should I keep on tilting after this digital windmill, though, when sometimes I feel that reading at this volume can cause some of the relaxed, simple pleasures of reading to dissipate? Does an online list have that much importance? Well, really, I just need to knock down as many as possible off of my reading list, but also, I do enjoy seeing how the digital and the physical coexist.
As the panelists discussed at Autoptic, the internet allows artists and writers to have connections a much larger audience than ever before, allowing their work to reach much farther than they would without it. I know that I’ve discovered a lot of stuff I really love first online before coming across it in the physical realm. Here are a few that I’ve read recently I first read on the internet, both as webcomics and other media.
Probably the first "viral video" I ever encountered back in the early '00s, Monkey vs. Robot was also my introduction to both the music and the art of James Kochalka. His comic version, which I read for the first time recently, was a great introduction to his style, both comic and sad. Expressing so much emotion through a very minimal use of dialog, the conflict between "nature" and "technology" has rarely been so amusing. A quick read, Monkey vs. Robot is a fun comic for kids and adults alike.
Nicholas Gurewitch's Perry Bible Fellowship and David Malki's Wondermark are both revered webcomics, in some ways illustrating how they have replaced the old standby newspaper comics for many people. While both PBF and Wondermark have appeared in print periodicals, I think most people encountered them first online
PBF is not unlike the Far Side with all restraints removed. Wondermark, on the other hand, is a baroque exercise; morbid, surreal, raunchy, gags efficiently told in three or so panels, often without even the use of dialog. Gurewitch's skill with watercolor and his goofy, round-headed characters are an effective combination. After a hiatus, it looks like the site is updating again.
Quite different, but equally funny, is David Malki's series Wondermark (here, I've read the 2nd book in the series). Drawing art from public domain nineteenth century publications, Malki's work is almost all dialog, witty conversations dealing the banalities and tropes of modern society, with a steampunkish twist. The webcomic stays pretty regular.
How could we be talking about stuff on the internet without mention of cats!? Yasmine Surovec's webcomic Cat vs. Human is probably a good start. Generally one or two panel gags, they offer a good window into life with cats. While I have never lived with cats myself, Surovec's witty insights into the feline condition are probably enough for now! In book form, Cat vs. Human is a simple, hilarious coffee table book to flip through to get your kitty antics fix.
I have really enjoyed the work of cartoonist Julia Wertz online and in print, and having seen some of these comics posted on her blog, this is, I feel, her strongest work yet. Wertz’s self deprecating, detail orientated reflections on 20 something life is one of the best and most accurate depictions I have seen. I love her meticulous maps of her various cramped apartments, and I’ve not found many other comics that can express amusing anecdotes of daily life so well, or one so adept at funny insults!
Discussing, in unsparing and hilarious detail, her various employments over the years, her struggle with the chronic disease Lupus, and the influence her local public library had on her life, Wertz shows how memoir comics can elevate the human condition. Or something. Really, it’s just a lot of fun, even as she writes on the more difficult aspects of her life. As someone born in the same year, sharing a certain bookish mentality, anti-social tendencies, and a close relationship with my sibling, there was a lot here that really resonated with me, but Wertz’s sarcastic and acerbic wit expresses it far better than I could.
Philippa Rice's Soppy is a pretty adorable little book, based on material focusing on her relationship with her husband, previously posted on her blog, making it a nice little piece to read when you want something a little sweet. Her simple, cartoonish drawings using only white, black, and red, make it an easy one to flip through, especially for those looking for romance and something a little British.
Bee and Puppycat debuted as one of Youtube Channel Frederator's original series, created by Adventure Time alumnus Natasha Allegri. The comic follows the cute, surreal, gentle adventures of the series, with the likable slacker Bee and the grumpy Puppycat going on temp jobs throughout the cosmos for a little extra food money. The endearing mix of quarter life crisis malaise, absurd humor, and magical fantasy really appeals to me. While not quite as vibrant as the animation, the use of QR codes to bring in ethereal music of the show into the story was a really awesome touch.
Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki, which I have mentioned before, is one of my favorite recent discoveries. The simple comics here take many of the old tropes of fantasy, superheroic comics, especially the sort that have a school, and exploit them to hilarious ends. This is one that would reward numerous reads throughs, I think.