Joseph Hallenbeck

I follow roughly thirty webcomics on a daily basis. I say roughly because this number tends to change a lot. I cull the collection about once a year to remove comics on hiatus and comics that I grew bored with. Yet, this is counterbalanced by binging on new webcomics. Once and a while, I’ll just start clicking on ads for new comics, dig through the links on my favorite comics and discover (or re-discover) new series to read. There are a few criteria that I look for in a new comic to follow:

  1. An archive! I want to know that this comic has staying power, that the artist is committed to delivering on a regular basis and won’t get bored in a month and stop posting. Generally, I like to see about a year of regular updates in the archive or at least fifty pages of comics.
  2. Coherence. Some strips are gag-a-day strips, some artists tell long epics – whatever the strip decides to do, I want to see some coherence to it. An incoherent comic tends to end up a sketch blog.
  3. They need to be good! Comics are about getting a laugh, or telling a story. If the piece just doesn’t communicate to me, than I’ll pass.

This last week I had a cold, which gave me an excellent excuse to do nothing but binge on some new comics! My findings this time included a few oldies and one newer comic:

SMBC – This one has been around for a while. I tend to stumble across it once a month, read a bunch of random comics, laugh at it, and then forget about it. SMBC is a gag strip akin to XKCD or the Farside. SMBC’s following is a lot like XKCD’s following in so far as if you have a lot of geeky friends, they will send you these strips on a regular basis. The writing is amazing. As I poured through the archives I found myself laughing harder than I have in a long while.

Girl Genius – I stumble on Girl Genius at least once a year. It’s a hard series to get into. I started on the archive dozens of times, but once I realize that there’s nearly ten years of pages to read, I quit. I don’t quit because I hate Girl Genius, I quit because I love Girl Genius, It’s an amazing story with gorgeous detailed artwork that has layers upon layers of little visual jokes worked into an outpouring of details (how they succeed at doing three pages a week, I will never know). The result is an extraordinarily visually dense work that requires slow, careful reading to fully appreciate each page. This time I surmounted the challenge of reading through the first year’s worth of pages. After that, I was too hooked to stop. The plot starts off slow, but keeps ratcheting up the tension with each page until the entire story becomes a non-stop rollercoaster.

Living with Insanity – With only two years in it’s archive, this is a new one that I stumbled across. LwI is another ‘bizarre-slice of life’ series trying to be like Queen of Wands or Questionable Content. The illustration is decent but lacks distinction from other generic computer-aided illustrations. The plotting feels like it’s just stumbling along. The story arcs in the series tend to peter out halfway through, and the humor lacks the polish of the longer running series whose footsteps LwI is following. LwI tries to make up for this with the tactics perfected by Michael Poe – gratuitous sex, nudity, and fan service. I’m going to follow it, but it will probably not last the next culling.

"SMBC, Girl Genius, Living with Insanity - Webcomic Microreviews" by Joseph Hallenbeck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.