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Questionable Content review

Questionable Content

Vols 1 & 2

Available online at http://www.questionablecontent.net/ (online individually or for purchase)

$18 each

I am a relative newcomer to the world of QC, and most other web comics.  I did not start reading any on a regular basis until about 3 years ago.  Most of what I was reading then I have lost interest in, but a few core series have held my interest.  Girls with Slingshots, Wondermark, Gutters and a few others have stayed consistently good for so long, that I cannot see myself falling out with them for a while.

At C2E2 last week I finally had a chance to meet Jeph Jaques of QC.  I have met Danielle Corsetto of GWS and David Malki of Wondermark as well as the Gutters team over the last few conventions, but had not yet had a chance to speak with Jeph.  He is pretty much exactly as I expected, tattooed and pierced and a bit disaffected, I doubt that he is someone I would have a lot to say to in a social setting (my failing, not his), but he was an interesting person to speak to nonetheless.  We spoke briefly about the books and how they are now a much more significant portion of his income than the T-shirts and other merchandise ever were and he did a quick doodle of Pintsize in my books.

From the second volume

I have been reluctant to spend too heavily on collected web comics as they are all available for free online, but sometimes I want a lighter read and do not want to sit in front of a screen, even if it is just the iPad.  I like to unplug at times and go old school analog.  I got the 2 collected volumes of QC at the show and have not been disappointed.  The books are fairly hefty at 160 pages and 300 strips each, and contain a limited commentary for each strip.  A few of the strips have been redrawn to replace lost hi-res files, and even the replaced strips are still here for comparison, albeit in a low-res form.  The amazing thing about these, apart for the stories of the characters is the chance to watch the progression of the quality and style of the art.  All artists grow and evolve to varying degrees, but I have never seen it so prominently on display before.  It is true that you can see it one strip at a time online, but the effect is lessened by the delay, even a brief one, in going from view to view.  In a book where you see 4 strips at a time, the effect is really dramatic.  The quality of the art is weak at the beginning, as Jeph freely admits.  At this stage it is more an exercise in persistence and the willingness to make mistakes in order to learn. Very quickly the art improves and really shows some fun and stylish touches.  The story is silly and fun, with brief hints of some more series future storylines.  My favorite character, Hannelore is not there yet, but Pintsize is very much present.  Watching the growth of the characters, and of the artist, is really a fun treat that I had not expected to enjoy quite this much. 

For the unfamiliar, QC is a story of life and relationships and little talking robots that like to eat cake batter.  The main characters are Martin Reed (described in the books as a cute, skinny indie boy), his roommate Faye and his “anthro-PC Pintsize.  The cast grows quickly and becomes a full ensemble that has a great deal of life to it.  Some of the strips are laugh out loud funny, even though I have read them all prior to having this book.  It is fun to revisit these older strips, and much more satisfying that going back and looking at old comic strips from   the newspapers of my youth.  Why that is, I cannot say, but these strips are as fresh at multiple reads as they were when I first discovered them. There is periodic mention of indie rock and I tend to skip over those few strips when they come up, as I have no interest in that sort of thing, but as the series continues, those references become less frequent and character stays in the forefront.

Anyone looking for something light, fun and entertaining, with a cast of characters that you will quickly come to care about will enjoy this series.  There is a lot of talent and creativity on display here, and watching it grow and mature really adds to this package.

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Web comics!

In the last several months I have been expanding my reading into the world of web comics.  Now I imagine there are still people out there that poo poo web comics in much the same way there are still people who look down on comics in general, but frankly I don’t really see why.  There is some really creative work being done out there, and I have really only scratched the surface.  In my browsing I have definitely found more that are not for me than ones that I have continued to keep up with, but that’s ok.  It is that variety that keeps any genre alive and healthy. I find it interesting that the comics culture has shifted so radically in the last 80 years or so.  At the beginning of the comic strip’s history at the start of the 20th century, artists like R.F. Outcault (The Yellow Kid & Buster Brown) and Winsor McCay (Little Nemo & The Dream of the Rarebit Fiend) were high paid celebrities with prestige and fame comparable to todays movie stars, welcome in any walk of society.  Today most people regard comics creators as a little dirty and creepy (unless you actually know what you are talking about) and web comics as even less attractive.  The reverse is actually more correct.  A succesful creator in any area of the medium can do very well and many web comics creators list that as their “day job”.

Most of what I have found and enjoyed has been fairly light.  The episodic format of these strips does not work for me with a heavy dramatic content, but the more humorous and fun strips have been a real treat.  I’m going to fill the page with lots of fun examples in the hope that you will find something that you enjoy.

Gutters is a great topical parody of comics in general and the industry in particular.  Lar Desouza writes the book working with a host of great artists from all parts of the industry.  It is a strip not the least bit afraid to bite the hand that feeds it.  Generally G to PG rated, it is accessible to anyone that reads comics but will be of particular interest to anyone that has spent the same three decades following the industry that I have.

The strip, which updates Monday, Wednesday and Friday also touches on the topical items on the edges of the industry like this one.  Grim humor is always fun for me, but this one got me giggling out loud at work.

This one struck me funny because this was not the direction that it would really go in the comics.  If the code was really going to be bent over, they would get Garth Ennis to write Superman and things would get REALLY ugly!

Next up is Questionable Content (see the link on the home page).  Created by Jeph Jacques the series has had a long and successful run with humor and heart that explores the lives of its central characters, mostly normal people and one small perverted little robot.  One of the real treats of this series for me has been watching the art style evolve over time.  Things started out quite crudely drawn, but as Jeph’s confidence and skill grew, and the technical equipment being used got to be a better quality, things became a very good-looking product.  The story found its legs very quickly and has become a fairly complex and clever read.

This one is an example of some of the deeply risqué humor that makes this series so much fun.

Another strip I enjoy is Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto.  I would post some of them here, but all of the best ones are a bit much for a family show.  Maybe I’m a prude, but I don’t want to  spread the naughty.  Go look at the strip for yourself.  Super funny stuff.

And lastly we have Wondermark by David Malki!.  I discovered this one at C2E2 in 2010 and found it to be right up my street.  He takes the old Victorian era style public domain art from any source imaginable and makes this deeply twisted and funny stuff.

All of these strips and more are available as close as your local internet connection.  If none of these spark your interest, there are hundreds more.  The supply is nearly endless and the genres are every bit as varied as the comics medium we all know from the printed page.

I will leave you with a last Wondermark and will see you soon…

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