Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Thanksgiving is around the corner; by the time you read this, I will be baking pies and getting out the good china. But first, I want to sit back and take stock of all the things I’m thankful for this year. Webcomics-wise, that is. Think of this as a buffet of my favorite dishes, and perhaps, when the table is cleared, the game is over, and the kids have spun down and fallen asleep on the floor, you’ll have time to sample them and find something new to like.
Breakfast of the Gods: Snap, Crackle, and Pop have been kidnapped (and tortured!), the Honey Bee turns up dead, Count Chocula paces the ramparts in his castle—and Boo Berry shows up to needle him. In Breakfast of the Gods, Brendan Douglas Jones shows the darker side of the cereal mascots of the 1960s and 70s in a fantasy adventure that’s part Lord of the Rings, part nutritious breakfast.
Unshelved: Bill Barnes’s art is simple to the point of being rudimentary, but he still manages to endow each of the characters in this library-themed comic with a unique and believable personality. Even better, he and co-writer Gene Ambaum really nail the feeling of working in a place where you have to deal with the varied whims of the public as well as your own wacky co-workers.
Smash: I’m not much of a superhero fan—yes, the genre has gotten too dark for me—but I love this sort of comic, where a kid acquires superpowers and has to learn how to use his newfound skills and make the necessary mental adjustments as well. It’s been done before, but Chris and Kyle Bolton do it very well in Smash, which just wound up its first story arc.
Sin Titulo: Reading this graphic novel is like going down a series of corridors, each one leading you to somewhere unexpected—and another corridor. People compare this to Lost, a show I have never watched; I just read it because I’m so caught up in the mystery that I can’t stop.
Zip and Li’l Bit: Trade Loeffler has a lovely, old fashioned style and a quirky sensibility that bring these webcomics into the realm of classic children’s literature. Unfortunately, he has only completed two story arcs and it looks like he won’t be doing any more, but he has kindly left these up for the world to enjoy.
Weesh: This is a gag comic that takes a fresh turn on an old idea: Three children have an invisible creature who can grant any wish, although the wishes wear off after ten minutes. That’s just as well, as most of the wishes lead to unintended consequences. What really makes this comic, though, is the characters: Tate, who wishes his house was made of Legos; five-year-old Olivia, who wants the Legos to have a tea party rather than stick together, and especially Zoey, who is on the cusp of teenagerhood and takes a dim view of pretty much everything.
Hark, a vagrant: Kate Beaton makes me laugh and feel smart at the same time. I think that’s my definition of the perfect comic.
Dovecote Crest: Most relationship comics bore me, but Dovecote Crest is about Civil War re-enactors, and that makes it so much better. I love Bridget Underwood’s loose, economical style, and I love the characters. Everyone in this comic is solid, angst is strictly played for laughs, and the Civil War thing provides a nice counterpoint to the action.
Family Man: I cannot get enough of Dylan Meconis’s beautifully drawn comic about werewolves and religious dissenters in 18th-century Germany. In fact, instead of going shopping on Black Friday, I plan to sit down and re-read it from the beginning. Even the fillers are good!
PHD Comics: OK, I’m the intended audience for this comic, since I come from a family of academics—and I was a student when I met my husband, who is a professor. But PHD Comics is really just a well-done ensemble comedy that happens to have an academic setting; the fact that such a setting is rich in quirky characters just makes it that much better.
Good Ship Chronicles: My colleagues at Digital Strips put me on to this one, and I will be forever grateful. It’s a hilarious sendup of the spaceship genre with over-the-top characters drawn in a cool, deadpan style. And creator Tauhid R. Bondia just started updating again after a hiatus, so there will be fresh content this week!
Copper: This has a small archive, but each comic is a full-page composition, so it feels like more. Kazu Kibuishi, who is spending more time these days on his Amulet books and his new baby, really composes these comics, using deep and shallow space, varied panels, and other techniques to make the whole page work together. The art is lovely and the writing is clever. I just wish there were more.