Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I am made of poison!

Jeffrey Rowland is certainly a known quantity online, even if you don't realize it. It doesn't take a lot of internet experience to have run across Topatoco, the Webcomic t-shirt empire, and even if you don't know the site you've most certainly seen their shirts online. It's a site for Webcomic artists to ply their wares, and it's been fairly revolutionary at helping very talented cartoonists monetize their strips, some of them to the point of working the comics as their day job.

He's also gained recognition for his terrific journal comic Overcompensating. The Jeffery of OC is more an avatar Rowland can use to vent his frustrations with the world and especially with America and religion. This sounds extremely pretentious yet is never anything less than honest and very, very funny.

Over the years he's built up a cast huge cast of characters the like of which you don't see in any diary comic. While some are based on people he knows (most of the artists who sell on Topatoco have found their way in at some point, as has his girlfriend) others are completely fictional. Weedmaster P started as a one-off joke but grew into a complete fixture. Overcompensating is sometimes surreal and typically hilarious. It manages to be political and socially aware without just being abrasive and boring (sorry, Doonesbury, I just never liked you.)

Even better than OC however is Wigu. Overcompensating gets most of the attention due to being in that easily digestible three panel format, whereas Wigu is a story comic. He's been doing it on and off for years now (I think he's quit making it three times now, yet always returns) which has led to the story being a twisted, elaborate mess in the absolute best way. It's cute and friendly but deeply, deeply weird.

It really kind of defies description. Wigu Tinkle's favorite show is Magical Adventures In Space, and he loves the main characters, Topato (a sociopathic space potato) and Sheriff Pony (he is a blue pony.) They actually are real however, and hail from another universe called the Butter Dimension, where they serve as body guards for Princess Awesomelope Dongle. Their existence depends on Wigu's belief in them though, and they often pull him and his family out of incredibly dangerous situations. Also the Illuminati rules the world, but that's only important for a little while. The Tinkles apparently come from Atlantis, or maybe not (the universe has been destroyed and rebooted so many times it's really hard to know.) And for a while Wigu had a space ship that he wished into existence until Rowland got tired of having it in the story and took it away.  Then destroyed the universe again.

It's one of the most amazing, hilarious comics I've ever seen online or in print. The story is of course full of huge holes by this time, but that's honestly a huge part of what makes it so charming. In interviews he's said that he just writes it day to day, and often would change his mind about the direction of the story and just do a complete 180. Whereas in many strips this would just make an impossible follow mess that no one wants to read, in Wigu it just means that everything moves blindingly fast and loose. At one point it looked as if there was going to be a huge story twist that would have taken the Tinkles down a fairly epic path; instead Rowland got bored with it the next day and just killed off the character doing the reveal (he got better.)

Long-form story comics don't have it easy online. The tendency of the common internet user is to stay on a page for like thirty seconds and then go back to Farmville. And that's a shame, because the internet allows so much freedom for an artist to do anything they want (which can be a two edged sword, obviously.) But now he's back to creating Wigu regularly now and has actually shifted his focus to telling that story than making single serving Overcompensating strips. It's nice to see him creating what he really loves, and after all the times he's abandoned Wigu only to return, I think it's safe to say that Wigu is his true love as a creator.

Next time: Scary-Go-Round and Bad Machinery by the brilliant John Allison.

Talking Webcomics

Specifically, good Webcomics. Over the past decade the internet has proven to be a great outlet for many really excellent comics, from long-form storytelling strips to three panel jokes. The artist has a complete freedom that one simply doesn't have going through a syndicate or a publisher.

Of course, this being the internet, most of the Webcomics out there are terrible. On this blog I'll be talking about the ones that you actually should be reading, the very best of them. And I'll let you know which ones to avoid.

First on the agenda will be the works of Jeffery Rowland. In the next post I'll get you acquainted with his two best strips, Wigu and Overcompensating. Later we'll get into the wonderful world of John Allison, and the surreal, utterly unique Achewood by Chris Onstad.

And since it's fun, I'll have a review of a certain... odd offering from another offer that you may not have heard of. It isn't a good one, just something bizarre. My objective isn't to tear anything down with the vitriol of John Solomon, but sometimes these bad Webcomics just have to be analyzed because there's never really been anything quite like them.

So, hello!