Thursday, July 17, 2008

Review: Thinkin' Lincoln

Welcome to a special installment of TWIW. Thinkin' Lincoln turned three years old last week, so I want to do a special feature on what Thinkin' Lincoln means to me personally. (FUN FACT: "Personal" is just another word for "biased!")

Thinkin' Lincoln is a daily webcomic, created by Miles Grover using Adobe Flash, about the anachronistic adventures of Abraham Lincoln. It takes place in a strange world where various historical personages (Abe, George Washington, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles Darwin, Amelia Earhart, and others) exist alongside each other, generally carrying on in the way that roommates and coworkers do, having ridiculous banter and putting up with each other's crap. Their world is also populated by a fish deity, a fish devil, and a bunch of undead historical personages, like Zombie Mark Twain and Skeleton Shakespeare and Vampire Charles Dickens. And a crocodile with a beard. Oh, and did I mention everyone is a disembodied head?

WTF, Miles Grover. W. T. F.

Initially I was really weirded out by the disembodied-head thing. The art is decent, but it's primarily a vehicle for the day's joke, so it tends toward minimalism. The historical figures' faces are highly stylized, as if someone took a portrait of them and removed all the shading and traced their facial details with a thin-point sharpie. Which works, but will be a turnoff for some people. It was for me. I liked the idea of historical characters interacting with each other and having arguments about who was the better president, etc., but oh man those DISEMBODIED HEADS soooo creeeeepy.

But I kept coming back to it. There were all these links across the internet, and they kept leading me back to Thinkin' Lincoln! And I would read the day's comic and try to get on my way, but one day I found myself reading through the archives again--and this time, I was laughing out loud. In spite of the creepy disembodied heads! As much as I would have preferred a comic with humanoid presidents, this was still a funny comic, and who knows, maybe some people prefer the disembodied heads from a stylistic perspective. I can't deny that it makes for some funny strips, especially when it gets subverted. And Miles did this hand-drawn comic with embodied Lincoln while his computer was in the shop, so I think this is something I can live with.

In short, I had to admit to myself that I reluctantly enjoyed Thinkin' Lincoln. The premise of the strip is fundamentally juxtaposition: specifically, the juxtaposition of Very Important Historical Figures carrying on with all the emotional maturity of fourteen-year-olds. I think it gets the balance right when it takes the characters' historical roles and personas seriously, basing its absurdity on the foundation of history. Sometimes the absurdity still works without the presidential context. Other times, though, Miles Grover abandons his historical base, and it ends up as just an excuse for Abe Lincoln to utter Napoleon-Dynamite-esque euphemized swears like "holy pooping craps" or "butt-cruds." It's like standing in the middle of a seesaw and trying to keep the ends from striking the ground: it's hard, but it's pretty impressive if you keep it up for a long time. And Miles Grover has been keeping it up for over three years.

Which brings us to last Friday's three-year-anniversary comic. This is definitely my favorite TL comic in awhile: it essentially takes the Thinkin' Lincoln premise of ahistorical absurdity and turns it on its head. Lincoln, ostensibly the strip's crazy guy with impractical ideas, suddenly observes the ridiculousness of the world he lives in! It's the sort of strip one could only create with three years of comic history to draw on, and it's a great capstone for everywhere the strip has gone so far.

So, in summary: Thinkin' Lincoln? Pretty good webcomic. Good for a daily laugh, if you can get past the floating-disembodied-heads thing. And if I can, then you can too.


ischu said...

I like the disembodied heads.
I like how it reminds me of money.
I like money.

Jackson said...

TWIW is nothing if not biased. ;)