Tag Archive: Humor

Table Top

I’m celebrating the spring festival with my familty this weekend, so instead of posting, I’m instead going to send you over to check out Wil Wheaton’s new’s show Table top which is a kind of celebrity of the week gaming show. The first episode is on Small World, a most excellent board game which I seem to have neglected to feature as a Monday’s Game despite both loving and owning the game. What the heck is up with that?

Table Top is part of the excellent Youtube group: Geek and Sundry.

Go check it out while I eat myself silly.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week’s comic is Invisible Bread by Justin Boyd, co-creator of Left Handed Toons, which was WW#13.

[Insert some kind of representative picture here]

Invisible bread is the follow up to Justin’s earlier project Draw Until It’s Funny. He brings the same slanted, ironic humor that makes Justin’s other projects so enjoyable to read. He uses the same style of extruded stick figures as he’s previously, so not a lot new there. In this case, however, not having anything really new is not a drawback as the humor is solid and the art is merely there as the medium for that humor.

I am never, ever again letting a dog give me kisses.

If you’ve read and enjoyed Left Handed Toons you will certainly enjoy Invisible Bread as it’s really just more of the same humor that you’ll find over there. If you’ve never heard of either, go check them out. Now.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week’s webcomic is one of the original gamer comics Penny Arcade by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik.

This is about as heavily invested in gaming humor as a comic can be, so if you aren’t all about gaming and video games, most likely you’ll want to pass this comic by. The comic focuses on the escapades of Gabe and Tycho, a pair of gamers. Their hi-jinx does include a set of recurring supporting characters, but for the most part the comic focuses on the two of them. There are also a large number of on-shot comics that feature characters from recent video games. Rarely the comic does have multi-strip plot arcs, but most of the comic is invested in single-shot gag strips.

Don't laugh, this could happen to you.

The strip often contains violence and vulgarity, so the faint of heart should probably find another comic to read. Again, the humor is typically very gaming oriented, so if you are unfamiliar with the gaming world, you will probably find that the humor doesn’t really appeal to you.

Many have criticized the strip for jumping the shark over the years, which frankly I don’t see. The humor of the comic has remained very stable almost since the beginning, and while the art has seen HUGE improvements over the years, the topics and themes remain pretty constant. Perhaps some of the humor is more mature and grown up, but I hardly see that as a bad thing. Granted, the comic is certainly not one of the funniest out there, many of the strips are barely funny at all, but the strip does have several important things going for it:

1) The duo who run the comic aren’t afraid to experiment. Over the past three years or so they’ve created a number of projects for themselves that are outside of their normal comfort zone. Such projects as the hugely popular Lookouts project or their darker Automata strip. The fact that they’re willing to invest time trying to take on projects way outside their daily strip make their work appealing beyond being a simple gag-a-day factory.

2) They are very big about gamers giving back. As such they helped create (and advertise) a charity organization called Child’s Play which, through charitable donation from gamers around the US, provides toys, books, and games to children’s hospitals around the Nation.

3) They created PAX, a gaming convention of epic proportion. I dream of going to it someday.

Even though Penny Arcade does not make my weekly list of comics, I do catch up on their archive every month or so. I also plan to donate to Child’s Play this year for their Christmas gift donation, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while but forget to put aside for.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week’s webcomic is the often wildly inappropriate Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida.

Sharing Sinfest on my blog was a tough choice to make. The comic is almost equal parts vulgar, graphic slop and insightful, funny wit. The one big redeeming feature is that the comic improves quite a bit as you get closer to the present when fishing the archives. At the very outset, the comic was pretty vulgar, not all that funny, rather racist, and didn’t really have a solid voice. Many of the strips didn’t present anything other than “OMG YOU CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST WENT THERE! LOLZ!” Lots of street talk/pimp/ho/violence/racism pepper the early days of the strip, making it a rather spotty read. In fact, I nearly gave the comic up within the first 100 strips just because I wasn’t really finding anything funny going on. However, I hit this strip:

I'm surprised they didn't got with a ketchup and cracker sandwich.

As time rolls on, Sinfest moves from being all over the map, with political and social commentary mixed with shock humor mixed with the odd faux insightful poetry slam mixed with eventual humor to something with more depth and stability. By the 1000th comic, the humor and art had matured significantly for the comic. There is more story telling, observations are keener and more subtle, and social commentary happens without as much focus on straight up shock value. The humor becomes more… humorous as well.

A much more recent strip.

Not to say that the comic isn’t still vulgar, it certainly is; however, the vulgarity is used more as a vehicle for humor, rather than the focal point of such. In this way Sinfest, ironically, redeems itself as you read it. One of my favorite things is observing the changes in a comic over time as you read it; especially when delving the archives of a comic with literally thousands of strips. Sinfest grows and matures a LOT over its 11 year (and continuing) run. Racist/street/drug gags gradually give way to deeper humor that is actually funny; the drawing style firms up significantly; and the characters distinguish themselves from their almost painfully obvious Bloom County inspirations to something more unique. The comic finds a voice of its own, rather than feeling the need to shout at the reader and hope it’s funny.

I recommend that if you’re a new reader, start off by reading the 100 or so most recent comics before starting at the beginning. Once you’ve seen where the comic is now, then maybe you’ll be more willing to grind through the early archive. It’s a much more enjoyable journey when you have your eye on watching the comic become what it is today.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

Ok, this week isn’t actually a webcomic, it’s something better: An online resyndication of Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson.

If you’ve been reading comics for more than a few days, you’ve probably heard of this particular comic. It’s not a webcomic, as it was syndicated in newspapers from 1985 to 1995 and has released numerous books, calendars, merchandise, etc. over the years. Calvin and Hobbes is one of the greats that really defined the art, and by extension webcomics. Truely, it’s been suggested that nearly 80% of modern comics and webcomics attribute one of their inspirations to write comics as Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, Peanuts and/or The Farside. Given how many comic artists I’ve seen reference those four, I find it believable.

The above link is to an online re-publishing of Bill Watterson’s work, and it’s nearly all there now. For those who loved the comic as a younger version of themselves will delight in cruising back through the archives and reading this old great again. And for those new to the comic scene, it’s a chance to go back and look at where a lot of their favorite comic artists drew (ba-dum) their inspiration to start off on their own ventures. Indeed, after you read Calvin and Hobbes (And Bloom County / Farside / Peanuts / B.C. / Etc) you can pretty much pick out what comic was the author’s favorite when they were a kid. Comics that I’ve done are no exception. Precocious, Ozy and Millie, and Least I can Do are all good examples of comics unabashedly inspired by a youth of reading Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County. Don’t get me wrong, they have all developed their own styles for sure, but references and similarites in humor style are more than suggestive of their affection for the comic.

Calvin and Hobbes features Calvin, a young, troublemaking child that has a more adult vocabularing and a squeued pseudo-child/adult viewpoint. Often complex adult issues are tackled with the apparent niavete of a child, or simple things that a normal child takes for granted are explored with a the more sophisticated insights that age would grant. Calvin also has a vivid imagination which is used to animate Hobbes, his stuffed toy tiger. Hobbes is Calvin’s foil. As he’s a figment of Calvin’s imagination, Hobbes is often one step ahead of the troublemaker. The comic is largely about their interactions; but delves into any number of other topics. Politics, parenting, movies, music, pop culture, history, relationships and more are all explored through the 10 year run. And it’s very funny stuff. Some of the best, though, are the snowman comics:

I keep forgetting to make some of these myself. Maybe this year.

I am an unabashed fan of Calvin and Hobbes, and always will be. I grew up reading these comics and have just about every book that was published (Think I’m missing just one). Re-reading them online has me reminiscing about the age I was when I was originally reading the comics. I also appreciate the humor a lot more now, as there were subtle things that I didn’t understand during my youth. It also makes me take a look at where syndicated comics are now vs. where webcomics are. That’s a discussion for later though.

I also see that a lot of the humor in the comic that has influenced my own dry, sarcastic humor. As much as I can blame my father for my sense of humor, I can also place as much blame one Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side – both of which I read voraciously as a youngling.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week’s webcomic is 8-Bit Theater by Brian Clevenger.

8-Bit Theater has been around forever, and it’s likely you’ve heard of it. 8BT is one of those comics that you either love, or despise. In my book though, it’s one of the only sprite comics worth reading. I can be very, very wordy, so if you’re into comics for the quick joke, stay far, far away from this one. It’s a full format (think DC/Marvel) comic that ran for 1225 strips before finally ending in June of 2010. The comic is based on sprites taken from the first Final Fantasy game, and very, very loosely based on the plot of the game (very loosely).

The humor is very gaming-centric; largely focusing on references to Final Fantasy Games and Pen and Paper gaming. In that respect I hold it very close to other gaming-centric humor comics, such as Order of the Stick.

Brian has also joined with Scott Wegener, John Wood, Zach Finfrock, and Matt Spironi to work on a few other comics that are worth reading: How I killed Your Master and The Dreadful both being worth a read, one comic that is pretty meh: Warbot in Accounting, and even has one work that is published and distributed nationally: Atomic Robo (also worth reading).

8BT is certainly not for everyone. Over the years it has attracted as many fans as it has people who utterly loathe it. But, as always, I let it stand on its own merits. If you haven’t seen it before, give it a read and see if you like it. Those who like Order of the Stick will find much to like in 8BT.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This weekend’s webcomic is Surviving the World by Dante Shephard.

Surviving the World is an oddity in the Webcomic world that exists between blogging and picture comics. Many probably wouldn’t consider it even a webcomic, given that most “comics” consist of a humorous observation written on a black board with the author standing beside it making a gesture or a funny face.

However, given the similarity of topic and humor that Surviving the World has in common with XKCD, I consider it more of an oddity within the webcomic world than I consider it to be a part of the blogging world. Though in reality, it overlaps with both pretty well. If you like the humor of XKCD, you’ll probably like Surviving the World, so go check it out.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week’s webcomic is The Oatmeal by Matthew Inman.

The Oatmeal is not a typical webcomic by the ordinary standard as such, since the website is dedicated to many things aside from just the occasional comic. Neither does it adhere to any specific format for the comics. Sometimes there are character, but more often there are just portrayals fitting their topic of the day. There are very few recurring characters, and not really any general theme. From IT and Web development to Cracker Jack, nothing is really outside of the realm of what The Oatmeal is willing to take a jab at.

In this, it reads more like a comic-blog than a webcomic in its own right. However, given that the comics are very well delinated, and often hilarious, I think it certainly should be counted among the humor webcomics. Many of their comics deserve to be T-shirts and posters, which is handy because they have a very good shop with offerings along those lines.

The Oatmeal isn’t going to be for everyone. The comics are often crude and rather vulgar, so those put off by such things may want to look elsewhere for humor. Further, most of the comics are very long, and can have extensive flow-charting and diagrams. Those in the engineering and technical fields are probably more likely to have this humor apply to them as we have a predisposition to geekery and finding technically displayed humor more… uh… humorous.

As always, the comic should be allowed to stand on its own, so go read some. The worst that can happen is that you hate it and waste a few minutes reading them.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This weekend’s webcomic is Least I Could Do by Ryan Sohmer and Lar Desouza, the same duo behind Looking For Group.

Least I Could Do is about as different from Looking for Group as you could imagine. Least I Could Do follows the escapades of Rayne Summers, an egocentric, womanizing, pseudo-geek and his various friends and family. While that sounds pretty terrible, the writing of the comic actually manages to pull it off in a way that is often hilarious.

LICD has been around a while and runs the gambit of humor. Everything from topical one-shots to huge story lines, though as the comic has progressed, the story lines have become the focus with fewer one-shots. On Sundays the comic does a big panel called Beginnings that takes a weekly look at Rayne as a child; much in the same styling as Calvin and Hobbes… without the Hobbes.

Really though, LICD is one of those comics that is very difficult to sum up in just a few paragraphs… or even a few pages. Like all comics I recommend you go and read a few dozen of the stips and see if you like it. As always I prefer to let a comic stand on it’s own, as anything I could say about it is secondary to what the actual content provides the reader.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?

This week’s webcomic is The Argyle Sweater by Scott Hilburn.

The Argyle Sweater is unabashedly inspired by Gary Larson’s The Far Side; the art is pretty much the same, the topics covered are much the same, and even a few pannels are extremely similar to some produced by Mr. Larson. But I find it’s less a rip-off of Larson and more of a homage to his work. The Argyle Sweater is basically just a continuation of that work; extremely similar in all respects; yet different in a few ways: Argyle is more topical to modern news and events, it’s a bit more edgy than The Far Side was (though Far Side was pretty racy in it’s day), and the humor can be a bit darker than Far Side ever was.

Scott Hilburn is the Gary Larson of the modern age.

Yet at the core, the humor is the same. Lots of play on words, references to literature, and just plain weird/zany situations. The Argyle Sweater may not be everything that The Far Side was, but it’s certainly the closest thing I’ve read in years. Certainly close enough that when reading the comic I sometimes forget that I’m not reading the works of Larson.

Like a few of the other comics I’ve done, Argyle is actually sindicated in several newspapers and only offers the last 30 days worth of comics. Even so, the online offering of the comic is enough that I do consider it a webcomic; though perhaps not as devoted to the web scene as many of the others that I have and will review.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?