Feature: Web Comics


Web Comics

Funny web comics for laughing at

By Richard Rosenbaum

It’s no secret that we here at Broken Pencil are fans of webcomics. Or if it was, I guess it isn’t anymore. So for the Comedy Issue, we present profiles of a few of our favourite funny comics for you to read obsessively while you’re supposed to be working. Or to short out your brain as you stay up all night relentlessly poring through the years-long archives so you’ll never again miss a single inside joke or reference. Enjoy!

White Ninja (www.whiteninjacomics.com)

This comic recounts the ridiculous exploits of a ninja clad in white (appropriately enough, though he rarely engages in any sort of martial arts action) who tends to antagonize the people and animals around him with his antics and/or absurd misinterpretations of normally simple concepts. That description makes the comic sound almost intellectual, but it’s really mostly a badly-drawn-on-purpose collection of arbitrary humour and non sequiturs, utterly devoid of continuity. Sometimes White Ninja has kids and sometimes he doesn’t. At times he’s married, at times he’s single and on the prowl (at least when he doesn’t have a steady girlfriend to infuriate with his thoughtlessness). He can be sensitive or a complete asshole, a simpleton or an insightful genius (okay, rarely a genius), depending on what the punchline requires. It’s a format that is probably inevitably hit-or-miss, but on the frequent occasions when it hits you’ll be laughing for days afterward.

XKCD (www.xkcd.com)

If you drew a Venn diagram on the subject of most xkcd strips, there would be one big circle for “LOVE,” one big circle for “MATH,” one big circle for “COMPUTER PROGRAMMING,” and a giant overlap right in the middle. The art is as lo-fi as it gets–stick figure characters, and almost exclusively black-and-white–but it compensates by having probably the most esoteric jokes of any webcomic ever. I tend to understand them more often than not, and I am not at all a math guy or a programmer, so it’s not too inaccessible. The humour is stinging and sarcastic, and sometimes just sublimely ridiculous. There are also bonus meta-punchlines in the “about” text of the strips if you mouse over them for a second, which is something I always appreciate. The perfect geek-comic.

Killer Robots from Space (www.eastmostpeninsula.com)

I’m sorry to report that this comic doesn’t seem to be ongoing anymore, but there are a lot of old strips in the archives so if you haven’t read them yet, they’re new to you! In this one, a bunch of differently coloured but otherwise identical robots work together in the office of an evil corporation and mostly complain about how dull their lives are. Except it’s funny. KRFS is also unique in its taking particular advantage of the medium; while most webcomics stick to the familiar three-panel format of newspaper strips, this is the first strip I’ve ever seen that you can only read by scrolling to the right for, like, ever. It’s one long horizontal column, using as many panels as necessary to get to the punchline, including blank reaction-shot panels and sometimes entirely black panels. It really works, it’s not even annoying. Normally, when a page won’t fit on my screen, I just go somewhere else, but this is really smart site construction, and the quotidian travails of mundanely evil robots are surprisingly entertaining.

Kate Beaton’s Comics (www.katebeaton.com)

Kate Beaton is one of those people who may or may not be creeped out to know that the degree of awesome exuding from her work causes me to crush on her a little more with every comic I read. They’ve always made me secretly wish that she would move here to be my friend. But please don’t tell her I said that because it would be a little awkward for both of us, I think, especially since I’ve heard she is actually moving here to Toronto. She used to be a proud citizen of Alberta or Nova Scotia or somewhere, but by the time this article sees print she will be here, in Toronto, and will probably turn into a big jerk like me who can’t tell the difference between Alberta and Nova Scotia. The important thing is I think this means that I am magic and that whatever I wish comes true. This is a hypothesis that requires further study. In the meantime: Kate? Facebook me. Most of her best comics–which is the majority of them–are the ones where she hangs out with her younger self, retellings of famous moments in history or super-short illustrated biographies of major historical figures. History comes alive in the best possible way, which is to say, the most hysterically funny way. Hey…Kate Beaton’s Comics make the historical hysterical! That sounds about right. Stuff like Nikola Tesla explaining the secret of his genius (it’s celibacy!), or Cartier stubbornly refusing to admit that he didn’t actually discover anything. Ceaselessly adorable and educational–a deadly combination.

Homestar Runner (homestarrunner.com)

This is cheating a bit, because Homestar Runner isn’t a webcomic but a webtoon. Also, you’ve probably already heard of it unless you’ve been living in the real world instead of sitting in front of your computer and compulsively refreshing your browser every Monday, waiting for the new Strong Bad Email to go online. Guilelessly oblivious athlete Homestar, aggressively self-absorbed wrestle-mantype-guy Strong Bad, and the other citizens of Free Country, U.S.A. inhabit a world that operates entirely by its own internal logic. This can be really baffling at first, but once you’ve immersed yourself in it a little it turns out to be silly and delightful in a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead kind of way. Also, many of the characters lack visible arms but don’t seem to have any trouble picking stuff up. This is the site that brought us such wonders of Internet comedy as Teen Girl Squad, the ’80s hair-metal band Limozeen, the Zen koanlike quandary “How do you type with boxing gloves on?” and of course the inimitable fire-breathing dragon Trogdor the Burninator (check out all his majesty!). Once you’ve been watching Homestar for a while you’ll even find yourself unable to stop doing all the voices, and you’ll be saying dumb stuff all the time like “Yeah, you’we pwobaly wight.” Or…wait, is that just me?

And of course all these sites have merchandise to sell you. Help support independent cartoonists (they’re giving the comics away for free, after all) and also instantly know who is awesome based on who recognizes the T-shirt you’re wearing, or the sticker on your laptop. The best way to start conversations with attractive strangers. Fun for the whole family.