Web comics a better medium of entertainment

Since cavemen drew on walls, comics have existed. Sure, the intent back then might not have been to entertain, but they used graphics to tell a story just the same. Fast forward to today and the Internet has provided a new canvas for artists to share their work on.

If you haven’t noticed, print comics are starting to fade out. Oh, they’ll be around as long as paper books will, but they don’t offer the same kind of freedom web comics do. Of course, web comics are also mostly free. They make money from site advertisements and merchandise while still getting to share the important thing, the work, with everyone. There is one problem though ­— volume. There are so many web comics that finding good ones is a task in and of itself. Here’s a quick look at some of my favorites.

Blind Ferret Entertainment
(Leasticoulddo.com, the-gutters.com, girlswithslingshots.com)

While the name may sound unfamiliar, it actually is linked to some well-known comics, like “VG Cats,” “Ctrl Alt Del” and “Cyanide and Happiness.” Those comics are all well and good, but the real point of interest is Blind Ferret’s “Least I Could Do,” created by Ryan Sohmer, the entertainment group’s co-founder. While the strip has had many artists over the years, its current illustrator is Lar deSouza, a talented artist who works on many projects with Sohmer.

“Least I Could Do” offers witty writing, hilarious story lines and a slew of interesting and lovable characters. It follows the life of Rayne Summers, plain and simple. In the beginning, it was mostly about Rayne sleeping with scores of women, dealing with the consequences and hanging with (or imposing on) friends. Over the years, it has taken a more serious focus, dealing with real issues. It still has its raunchy humor (the current arc is about Rayne trying to find the hot lesbians at his work, and the last was about him fooling his secretary into thinking he fed Viagra to a baby), but it has a sincere tone underneath. There are also years’ worth of archives for readers to explore. It also updates every day, with a special segment on Sundays called “Least I Could Do: Beginnings,” featuring Rayne as a child.

Other brainchildren of Sohmer’s include the comic “Looking for Group,” which is based in the “World of Warcraft” world and will appeal to fans of the game. Another more recent work of his, however, is the collection of comics called “Gutters.” This series is centered around the comic book culture, poking fun at both the industry and the characters themeslves in stand-alone comics. It has also proved a way for various artists to display their work, since it’s illustrated by new artists all the times.

A lesser known comic in the Blind Ferret family is “Girls With Slingshots,” written and illustrated by Danielle Corsetto. Started in 2004, it now updates five days a week, following the the life of Hazel and her friends. It’s an easy series to love, with a large cast of unique characters. Corsetto is a clever writer and a talented artist, and “Girls With Slingshots” offers a perspective on life unlike any other web comic out there. It’s a lot less outrageous, in some ways, when compared to the other series on this list, but that’s not always a bad thing. It’s a nice, level series worth a look.

MSPaint Adventures
(mspaintadventures.com)

MSPaint Adventures is a hulking leviathan, stalking the shadows of the Internet. Most anyone on the internet has seen or heard the jokes created within at least once, whether they know about it or not. While it started off small, it has now swelled to one of the most popular webcomics on the internet, with a large enough fanbase to crash websites frequently. It was started by Andrew Hussie years ago as a way of turning old, text-based adventure games into comics. In older stories, Hussie would start with a panel, usually with a character in a room. Then readers would suggest what that character should do, Hussie would choose one he liked best and would translate it into another panel. The story followed this style for some time, until Hussie’s first major story, “Problem Sleuth,” became too complicated to let the plot be determined by the fans, especially since its audience was steadily growing. In the final days of “Problem Sleuth,” Hussie used few suggestions but had created a ridiculous, sprawling, hilarious story that left no loose ends. By the time it was done, there were thousands upon thousands of pages, and Hussie was only getting started.

It is his latest and current work, “Homestuck,” which has earned Hussie most of his acclaim. It started on April 13, 2009, and is still going. As of November, the comic has more than 4,200 pages, with more than half an hour’s worth of short flash animations spread throughout. Offering an explanation of the story would be nearly impossible in this article, since Hussie’s own recaps fill multiple pages. To make an extremely long story short, “Homestuck” follows the story of four children and what happens when they try to play the game “Sburb,” which turns out to be more than they bargained for. Originally it had a lighthearted nature, but eventually it was revealed that “Homestuck” was some kind of creation myth, or a story which explains the creation of everything. As with most things Hussie creates, it is complicated, but is one of the most well-written pieces of writing of the modern age.

“Homestuck” also possesses a massive and rabid fanbase. Many on the Internet hate “Homestuck” fans for the fervor with which they revere the comic, but their zealous loyalty can’t be denied. In fact, they love the comic so much that Hussie often has problems handling the traffic on his own site when he updates. His last animation, “[S] Cascade,” was expected to be so popular that Hussie had it put up on the entertainment site, newgrounds.com. Despite this, the demand to see it was so massive that Newgrounds itself crashed in minutes, and Hussie had to offer the animation as a download for quite some time. It’s a cult following, to say the least.

What many fail to understand, however, is the level of Hussie’s writing. His craft is almost perfectly honed, and he’s created dozens of fleshed-out characters and settings, drawing them out himself. He’s also drawn the interest of other artists who collaborate with him on various pieces of the comic. Musicians have also helped Hussie out, and have collectively created more than 10 albums of music. Basically, MSPaint Adventures has become home to one of the greatest web comics out there, and while the Internet may come to hate me for spreading it even farther, it must be done.

Penny Arcade
(Penny-Arcade.com)

Started by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik back in 1998, “Penny Arcade” has grown into more than just a simple web comic. At first it was posted on looneygames.com, but now it has its own site, Pennny-Arcade.com. Originally, it focused on video game culture, following the lives of fictional characters Tycho (based on Holkins) and Gabe (based on Krahulik). As the years went on, “Penny Arcade” stayed true to its roots and focused heavily on the gaming culture, but it covers other subjects quite often.

Since it’s been around so long, it also has an archive deep enough to busy a new reader for days.

The art has also evolved from its inception to now. Over the years, Krahulik became a better illustrator. Holkins accompanies each comic with a corresponding post, explaining not only the strip but also discussing what is going on in the world at the time. Krahulik makes plenty of appreances there too, and the two leave a lot for readers to mull over outside of the strips.

But “Penny Arcade” does far more than simply churn out a hilarious and poignant comic series. As their success grew, the good souls involved started a charity organization called Child’s Play. Every Christmas since 2003, Child’s Play has brought new toys and video games to children at hospitals. It’s a big success, too, considering that every year since 2006, the organization has collected more than $1 million, with a cumulative total of more than $10 million.

Penny Arcade has also contributed to video game culture, hosting its Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) every August or September in Washington. Attendees get three days of reveling in gaming culture, with panels on gaming subjects, ranging from Dungeons & Dragons to comic writing, opportunites for gamers to compete and a chance for the general public to try out new games before they’re released. PAX has also become so popular that Holkins and Krahulik started PAX East, a spring version for the East coast.

If that wasn’t enough, “Penny Arcade” has recently become something of an umbrella for other internet works and forms of entertaimment. Thanks to PATV, “Penny Arcade” has given great web series, like “Extra Credits” and “Blamimations,” both a home and larger audiences. It also spawned a brand new comic, “The Trenches,” a collaborative work between Holkins, Krahulik and their friend Scott Kurtz. It’s still in its stages of infancy, but centers on the life of a video game tester, and is certainly worth a look. That also means that the people at “Penny Arcade” are updating every day of the (work) week, with “Penny Arcade” updating Monday, Wednesday, Friday and “The Trenches” every Tuesday, Thursday.

While this may have gotten away from the point, “Penny Arcade” is worth everyone’s time. Not only are those running it clearly good people, but they’re also intelligent, talented writers and artists.


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