‘Camp Weedonwantcha’ and the horrors of summer camp
It’s a curious fit, as Penny Arcade is known for video games: It has a popular gaming comic, a highly attended gaming expo and a charity that gifts video games to kids in hospitals. Camp Weedonwantcha, on the other hand, is about summer camp. Can there be a bigger contrast?
Campgrounds, after all, are generally located deep in the woods. There are no video games, no televisions. The only light at night is the moon and a campfire. Instead, you get bugs, wild animals, dirt, zero access to a decent barber or lavatories … Wait. Maybe it is a good fit after all. Stick to your video games, kids! Because nature is totally terrible.
Camp Weedonwantcha encapsulates both the good and the bad of the great outdoors. On one hand, there’s the freedom: Kids can be kids with zero responsibilities; they can be the president of animals, construct elaborate tree forts and build flying suits. It’s a self-contained community limited only by imagination.
On the other hand, it’s isolated. There are no adults to bail you out if things go wrong. As Lord of the Flies proved (referenced in this comic, incidentally), kids can be cruel. If they decide that one kid needs to be fed to the wild animals in order to keep the beasts away, they will seriously consider it. Worst of all, you don’t get Game of Thrones. How can that even be called living?
Our main character is Malachai, a kid who, just like all the other kids at Camp Weedonwantcha, looks kinda like a Funko. For all he knows, he’s been at the camp for four months. That’s plenty long … if that is indeed the case. Malachai may have been here longer, for time is a mystery at this camp. Other mysteries: Who’s sending supply drops? Are there strange creatures lurking in the woods? And are those girls exhibiting psychic powers? There’s definitely a bit of a Lost vibe at play, with an air of mystery where nothing is as it seems. Are the counselors to be trusted, or are they as cracked as the rest of the kids? Or perhaps they’re involved in something even more sinister.
Malachai’s friends may be the best examples of the strangeness that lurks within the camp. Brian is quiet giant with a permanently stern expression; not much is known about him. He’s also the most capable person there. He seems to be at one with nature, knowing all of the camp’s secret spots and communing directly with the animals. At the slightest sign of trouble, Brian can be depended on to swoop in and save the day without saying a word.
His other friend, Seventeen, is a playful and excitable girl; she loves trying new things. When Malachi comes down with a tummy ache, she expertly whips up some hallucinogens. Most of the time, her willingness to try new things just leads to trouble. Sometimes, however, it leads to an epiphany. At one point, Seventeen chews down on a bunch of memory pills that she mistakes for elephant candy. The unlocked memories of a previous life may be the first clue as to what is going on in this misbegotten camp.
Camp Weedonwantcha, however, is a comic that’s primarily about fun. It’s about getting terrible haircuts, eating gross things, and poop jokes where a leaping deer leaves a rainbow trail of pellets everywhere. While Rice reins in her Spümcø tendencies, a large part of the humor still comes from the exaggerated facial expressions and body language.