Webcomics, sports and fandom
While sports aren’t foreign to webcomics, they are a rarity. Usually when the subject is raised, it’s as some made-up game invented for absurdity — like, I don’t know, using a frog as a ball or something.
The most successful sports comics, including those depicted in manga and in the webcomic Hoopfighter, tend to ramp up the action to levels that aren’t actually seen in the sport itself. Have you ever wanted to see Shaquille O’Neal knee a dude in a face during a basketball game? Well, it’s possible in comics!
The other way to approach the subject is to turn your webcomic into an opinionated illustrated blog. This is a little tricky. If you have an opinion about sports, that means you’re probably a big fan. And as a fan, you’re likely to be loyal to a certain team. One of the longest-running sports-themed webcomics, Hart Brachen’s The Soxaholix, focuses on the Boston Red Sox almost exclusively. What if, as with most of the sports world that doesn’t revolve around Boston, you don’t particularly care for the team? Well, there’s probably not much to see here beyond, say, an anthropological study. You ever wonder what it looks like when a Bostonian uses the term “Big Papi” in normal conversation? Well … it’s either this or the latest Bill Simmons article.
This humble little comic full of repeating images has managed to attract a lot of attention. In 2005, it was named the Best Red Sox blog by Deadspin. The same year, it was a “Best Blog” finalist at SXSW. Things don’t last, however, and earlier this year Brachen indicated he be may ending The Soxaholix updates after 10 years.
So what’s quenched “the fire in the belly”? Ironically, it was success. Brachen indicates he’s “happy and content” with the Red Sox after three World Series. Truly, the lack of anything to complain about is the bane of any critic, especially if you’re a fan of the no-longer-lovable-losers Boston Red Sox. (How much of a defining trait is that, you ask? Just so you know, the writer’s pseudonym, “Hart Brachen,” was derived from “heartbroken.”)
Another team-centric webcomic was founded around the same time by Kevin J. Cunningham and Roger Fernandez: The Lunatic Fringe follows the San Francisco Giants with the same amount of fannish fervor. This comic, however, is more fully illustrated, which may be a blessing to those who can’t cotton to static images. Again, if you’re not a Giants fan, there’s probably not much here that will appeal to you.
The one sports webcomic that seems to give equal time to all teams is Dave Rappoccio’s The Draw Play, which comments on American football. Perhaps it’s because, with football, you don’t have to know the names of ever single person on your team. Each team typically only has one celebrity: the quarterback. That makes the gags more universally recognizable and accessible to a wider audience. Rappoccio especially seems to have fun drawing Peyton Manning, whose signature forehead seems to get larger with each new strip. As a result, it’s the sports webcomic I’m most entertained by, thanks to its cutting humor and hilarious illustrations.