Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Goats: If you're going to read webcomics offline, this is a good bet

Webcomics links: Connor Willumsen has a new comic up called "Frontier Consumption", and it's pretty damn good. I love that guy's art.

I also really like this strip by Lucy Knisley; it gets into stuff about memories that pop up suddenly and shows how good she is with body language in her deceptively simple cartoony style. Good stuff.

And for a whole bunch of decent webcomics, check out this post from Forbidden Planet which links to a bunch of entries in the Observer/Cape Graphic Short Story Prize, some sort of competition sponsored by a British newspaper, I think. It's a nice collection of short comics; my favorites are Andi Watson's "choose your own adventure"-style "Derek's Dreadful Dungeon Diversion", Rob Davis' "How I Built My Father", David O'Connell's "Blip", and Luke Ferenc Pearson's "Some People". Gotta love the wealth of stuff you can find on the internets.

And here's some longer-form webcomics:

Goats, volume 2: The Corndog Imperative
By Jonathan Rosenberg

There's kind of a formula for a lot of webcomics, especially those that traffic in nerd humor. There's usually a couple of guys who are slackers, but are smart and funny, and sometimes have hot women who inexplicably find them attractive. Maybe some anthropomorphic animals or robots, which are probably violent or evil to give them an "edge". Throw in a bunch of geeky humor about video games or computers, a bunch of swearing, and some ostensibly wacky adventures, and you've got yourself an automatic audience, or so it seems, since this sort of comic abounds online, to the point that it's almost a sort of insular ghetto. Jonathan Rosenberg's Goats certainly seems to fit the mold, but while it features all of the elements mentioned (and probably initiated a lot of them, considering that it's been running since 1997), it's not content to sit on its laurels and run strip after strip of its characters sitting on a couch and cracking wise about whatever the latest internet fad is. No, Rosenberg has much grander ideas; he's interested in exploring the metaphysical nature of the universe and examining the heart of man through the ages. Or, it's possible that he went insane at some point and launched a lengthy, stream-of-consciousness narrative, throwing whatever bizarre ideas emerged from his fevered brain onto the page and trying to tie them all together with silly jokes and nerd humor. Either way, it makes for a pretty funny strip that's enjoyable for never knowing what's going to happen next.

Of course, starting with this book, the second print volume in the "Infinite Pendergast Cycle", might or might not be the ideal way to experience Rosenberg's vision, but it works pretty well, considering. There's an informative recap to start things off, along with a guide to all the relevant characters, and then you just jump into his crazy world, in which a couple of programmers are in the midst of a multiversal adventure involving the death of God, bugs in the programming code of existence, various demonic, religious, and alien factions vying for control of the laws of reality, and the impending apocalypse. There's a lot of wacky hijinks, but Rosenberg never lets things drag, moving at a steady clip from to wackier and sillier settings and shifting between several plotlines at once. There are also a lot of jokes about drunkenness and deviant sex, a farm-based dimension that has turned into a totalitarian religious cult, a fish/chicken duo trapped in a slug-inhabited backwater dimension, an End User License Agreement that forces one to sign one's soul away, reality-rewriting computers made out of cows and turtles, sentient vegetables, and a brief crossover with the strip Diesel Sweeties.

It's pretty weird, yet also quite enjoyable, probably because Rosenberg actually does seem to be trying to do some interesting stuff with sci-fi ideas (albeit fantastical ones with little basis in reality) in the midst of all the zany one-liners and wacky violence. The art works well enough, although it's kind of standard webcomic stuff, with lots of oval eyes and gaping mouths, although a lot of the non-human creatures and color effects look fairly nice (and it's orders of magnitude better than it was when the strip started). There are certainly worse, less imaginative strips out there. If you're on board for non-stop silliness that rarely goes where expected, this might be for you. Although really, it's only for Rosenberg and the demons haunting his mental landscape; everyone else is just along for the ride.

In print, the first volume of this storyline, Infinite Typewriters, might be a better place to start reading than this, but you can also read the whole thing online. The Infinite Pendergast Cycle starts here, but Rosenberg recommends new readers start here. Or you could just choose a random strip and start reading from there. Jumping in at this volume worked well enough for me, so all of those options are probably approximately equal.