I Love Webcomics

SickWatch 2014:  Minor overall improvements in Patient Zero; however cough and sore throat intensifying by the day. Infection has been transmitted to husband, hereafter known as Patient One. No end in sight. Send soup and crackers but do not make contact. Subjects likely contagious and certainly cranky.

I don’t remember when/how I discovered webcomics, or which was my First. I know I read through the entire archives of Between Failures at some point early in college, and I remember being devastated around that same time to discover Daisy Owl was no longer updating. A good friend of mine definitely introduced me to Dresden Codak at some point and it’s still one of my favorites.

However I got into webcomics, I’m super glad that I did. I was obsessed with comic strips when I was a kid. I dove into the Sunday paper each week for the two-page color funny pages, and I read the dinky little black-&-white page almost every day. I even read the weird narrative strips like Mark Trail and Prince Valiant, which… why? Why would I do that? They’re terrible. We got all the collection books of Calvin & Hobbes and Foxtrot. My grandparents had dozens of old Peanuts paperbacks from when my dad was a kid, and I always flipped through them when I visited. (I recently inherited those when they cleaned out their Kid Stuff, score!)

But eventually I “outgrew” gag-style newspaper comic strips, and I thought my comic days were over. As far as I knew, my only other options were superhero comics, and I’m not interested in that genre, in general. Discovering a whole world of “grown-up” comics with varied art styles and no spandex was Earth-shattering for me! I don’t have time to read through archives anymore, but here are some of my favorites to keep up with, in no particular order…

Dresden Codak

Dark Science | Dresden Codak

Clip from Dresden Codak by Aaron Diaz

I mentioned this one earlier, and it deserves two mentions because folks, it is amazing. Aaron Diaz paints (digitally) his strips, with incredible attention to detail, and a grasp of anatomy, light, and character design that is absolutely stunning. (He posts about that stuff on his art blog, which is also a great read) Updates are slow coming but absolutely worth the wait. The content of the comic deals with fun sci-fi stuff like Mad Science and transhumanism, set in a silly sort-of-dystopia, where the cities are built on the bones of ancient monsters and no one remembers how to fix the robots. You can read the full Hob storyline, or start the current Dark Science story.

Nimona

Nimona #1

Clip from Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is Noelle Stevenson’s (gingerhaze) latest award-winning project, which is currently appearing serially on her website and will be published by HarperCollins in 2015. The story centers on the villain Ballister Blackheart, and his teen shapeshifter sidekick Nimona. They have great plans to wreak havoc on the kingdom, and particularly on Ballister’s former friend and nemesis (and possible hair model), Goldenloin. But Ballister gets uncomfortable when Nimona turns out to be a little too effective at villainy. Noelle’s art is so incredibly charming, and the characters – both Good Guys and Bad Guys – are endearing and sympathetic. The comic started out lighthearted but it took a super dark turn and I’m on the edge of my seat for the next update!

Starslip

Starslip

Clip from Starslip by Kris Straub

Starslip is one of Kris Straub’s comics (he also does chainsawsuit and Broodhollow, which I’ve heard great things about but haven’t read – I do enjoy his chainsawsuit podcast with Mikey Neumann). It has concluded, so you can read the full run either online or in book form. It starts out as a silly adventure story about the curator of a museum spaceship and his less-than-civilized crew, but ends up as a complex time-travel romance. The art is pretty simple, but the story is anything but. If I had to choose a favorite completed comic, it would probably be Starslip.

Hark! A Vagrant

H!AV clip

Clip from Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant is the oddball on this list because it’s not a story comic – just a collection of random (usually literary or historical) jokes drawn in Kate Beaton’s insanely charming style. I am seriously obsessed with the way she draws; such doodle-y, messy lines create such lifelike expressions! If you like what you see be sure to follow her (@beatonna) on Twitter, if only for her adorable family comics around the holidays.

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Put This in Your Eye Holes

You know what’s fun? Web series. They’re like TV, except they can do whatever they want and say whatever they want and tailor their stuff to smaller audiences, so you get fun non-mainstream content that would never make it onto a network. It’s amazing what people can do with a tiny budget and amateur actors and ***a dream***

So… What time is it? Recommendation tiiiime:

Journeyquest:

Journeyquest is a fantasy adventure series from Zombie Orpheus Entertainment that follows a party on their quest to retrieve the Sword of Fighting from the mythical Temple of All Dooms… But what will happen when they discover the bumbling wizard Perf is the Chosen One, instead of the party’s “brave” knight? Characters include a progressive barbarian usurper, an undead cleric, a sensitive orc, a gargoyle that always lies, and the bumbling bard who’s chronicling everyone’s shenanigans. The third season is currently in the works and I’m excited!

Space Janitors

We all know what life is like for the elite evildoers on everyone’s favorite Not-A-Moon – It’s all huge, ominous chambers and mind-choking, 24/7. But what do the underlings get up to in those circular halls… and who keeps the floors so very shiny? Space Janitors on Geek & Sundry tells the story of Darby, an ambitious janitor aboard a certain unnamed evil space station. Star Wars jokes abound and it is delightful. (“The more they disobey the Emperor, the more we tighten our grip. And the more we tighten our grip, the more systems will be held firmly in our massive space hand.”)

The Guild

Also on Geek & Sundry and created by Internet superstar Felicia Day, The Guild is an award-winning, super-popular web series… So popular, in fact, that you’ve probably seen it and it’s pointless for me to recommend it here on my humble Farmpartment. But hey, just in case… You should really watch The Guild. It follows the friendships that form when an online gaming guild decides to meet up IRL. There are plenty of gaming in-jokes, but it’s also accessible for those of us who don’t frequent the World of Warcraft. It’s clever, charming, and occasionally truly moving as the characters help each other grow. The show went six seasons and I think it’s done now… so you can binge-watch the whole thing. Hooray!

 

Those are my top 3 but there are plenty of other fantastic web series out there. Got any recommendations for me? Leave ’em in the comments.

Put This in Your Ears

So we’ve got an open layout at work – no cube walls, big room with at least 30 people in it.To anyone who makes layout decisions at their place of business, I… wouldn’t recommend this. It is L O U D and distracting and super awkward. All I can do is slouch down in my seat, keep the silent pact with the three people in my eyeline to never acknowledge each other, and keep my earbuds in as much as possible.

Last strategy is problematic for me because I’ve never been one to work with music. No idea why; I love music, but I think it tells my brain it’s Fun Time or something. Most of the time I use my White Noise app (I’m sure there are free ones; that one’s $1.99. Has a lot of sounds to choose from though, and you can mix them together) 

But if I’m working on something mindless and I want a little brain stimuli to keep myself focused, I’ve started listening to podcasts! Just the right level of engagement, without being too distracting.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite podcasts… Give ’em a try if you’ve got a similar work situation, or a long commute (or a lot of this Free Time I’ve heard legends of). All of these are on iTunes, and I’ve also linked to their own websites, below.

  • Welcome to Night Vale – If you try only one of the podcasts on this list, be sure to tune in to the community radio station of this sleepy (and fictional) desert town, where nothing is as it seems. Best to start from the beginning of this one, since there are a lot of callbacks and recurring characters. You can probably tell if you’ll like it or not from the pilot ep. Welcome to Night Vale is hard to categorize… It’s like if H.P. Lovecraft and Douglas Adams collaborated on a podcast. I’d maybe call it Bizarre Horror-Comedy? You really just have to hear it.
    Radio host Cecil Baldwin (the most soothing voice in the world) will keep you up-to-date on such community news items as:

    • The opening of a lovely new Dog Park (please note: neither dogs nor citizens are allowed to enter, look at, or think about the Dog Park)
    • Important announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police
    • The tense mayoral race between The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, and Hiram McDaniels (who is literally a five-headed dragon)
  • Nerdist Podcast– Nerdist is the Internet empire of comedian & perennial host Chris Hardwick (who you may recognize from Talking Dead, @midnight, the Nerdist TV show on BBCA, or some thing on MTV when I was like 7, apparently). There’s a lot of great content on the Nerdist network, but my favorite is the titular podcast. Chris sits down and chats with a guest for an hour… often a comedian, sometimes actors or musical artists. Co-hosts Matt Mira and Jonah Ray join when possible. I say “chats” because it never feels like listening to an interview – it’s more like eavesdropping on a conversation between friends. It always seems like everyone involved is having a good time, and you end up hearing huge celebrities (huge as in: Harrison Ford, Joan Rivers, Billy Crystal…) get into some really genuine, personal stuff. Lots of interesting insider perspectives on the industry, too. This one you can just jump in wherever – pick a guest that you like.
    • The Indoor Kids – Also on the Nerdist Network: Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon talk about video games (and things tangentially related to video games) with a guest. I’m not even a huge gamer but they’re pleasant conversations. Kumail and Emily are married, so they have a cute dynamic.
  • The Dork Forest – A treasure trove of fascinating stuff, this one: Jackie Kashian talks with (seemingly pretty random) guests about their “dorkdoms” – the (definitely very random) subjects that they’re obsessed with. I’ve learned about monitor lizards, traffic court, and Vonnegut, among other things. It’s cool how someone really dorking out can make even obscure/boring subjects interesting. Sometimes it doesn’t do it for me and I skip an episode… sometimes I end up paying complete attention to international tournament regulations for the rubber on table tennis paddles. Completely unpredictable, and awesome.