Friday, September 12, 2008

Pseudo-Special Feature: Comics for a Change

Lately I've been running across comics online that, for lack of a better way to put it, aren't just comics. These are comics in the service of something else, some message or information to communicate, or in support of a story told in some other media. Comics are showing up in places you might not expect comics to be, about things you might not expect comics to be about. So, today's post begins with Comics for a Change.

First of all, in his newsblog over at Calamities of Nature, Tony Piro pointed us over to a comic explaining Google's new browser, "Google Chrome"--drawn by Scott McCloud himself. It's cool to see comics used to convey information, something a bit more "practical" than your usual gag strip. The comic can get a bit dull and technical in parts, but still, that's to be expected when its main purpose is to educate rather than entertain. Basically, if you want to learn about the ideas behind Google Chrome, reading a comic about it is not a bad way to go about it.

Next up, socially-conscious alternative hip-hop group The Flobots have got their own comic: "Rise of the Flobots." But the comic isn't about the Flobots. It's about people like you. It's about people who are bettering their communities and improving the world around them. So far there's one story about an ordinary suburban guy fighting for freedom of expression through roadside signs, and another in progress about a soldier stationed in Iraq. It's pretty cool. Start reading here.

Finally, Joss Whedon's low-budget superhero-deconstruction internet musical, Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog, has its own short comic. Brought to you by Dark Horse Comics, it takes the form of a public service announcement from the super-self-absorbed Captain Hammer, urging you to do your part in the fight against crime and be like Captain Hammer. The humor is cynical yet playful, just as you'd expect from a Dr. Horrible comic. Check it out here--it's in the back-issues bar just below the comic viewer, so you may have to look for it a little.

It's cool to see the medium of comics put to unique use: information, social change, and indie superhero parody. If you've come across a comic using the medium in a new way for creative purposes, drop a comment and share it with us! But now, it's time for your usual webcomics rundown.

The Princess Planet, part of the Transmission-X webcomics collective, brought us this gem this past Sunday. A recurring setup is that Princess Christi, its protagonist, poses as a "treasure inspector" to confiscate "defective" treasure. The most recent comic piles one twist on top of another and escalates the treasure-confiscating scam to new heights of ridiculousness. If you haven't checked out The Princess Planet, I highly recommend it: it's colorful, imaginative, adventurous, and above all else extremely silly.

Real Life started up a new storyline this week that I'm pretty excited about. To be honest, when Real Life actually concerns itself with Greg's real life, I don't find it terribly interesting. I started reading because of the metacomic gags and the sci-fi humor; the mundane down-to-earth stuff, I can get that in my everyday life! So in Monday's comic, when an ordinary scene of Greg and Liz watching TV is interrupted by a wormhole spitting out female-Greg and female-Tony from an alternate universe where everyone's gender is reversed, my heart leaped for joy. Except that "my heart leaped for joy" sounds kind of fruity. Still, it looks like things are going somewhere cool, so I'm definitely pumped.

Joe Dunn is probably best known for his movie-review strip, but this week saw a funny installment of Matriculated, Joe's younger stepcomic about college life. In between extended storylines, Matriculated often does a couple of one-off gags, with this past Wednesday's being about the popped-collar fad. Sure, it's familiar territory, but Phil Chan's writing for the comic is clever and injects a little freshness into the topic. It was good for a chuckle.

Our last item for this week: over at Dresden Codak, the Hob storyline has concluded, with humanity evolving ambiguously into...I'm not even sure what they evolved into. Everybody disintegrated, including the Hob. I'm hoping that wherever Aaron Diaz decides to go from here, it's someplace less convoluted.

And that wraps that up. Check ya next week, webcomic enthusiasts.


abbreviatedman said...

Here's a neat comic for change. It's called "Running for Office", with various subtitles to it. It's a cute admittedly-xkcd-style comic about how the artist is running for the state legislature in Kansas. It's not the greatest comic in the world, but that's not the point. The point is that he's a compelete nerd who's running for local office on things like net neutrality. And he's getting a TON of donations because of this comic. So check it out:

Anonymous said...

Can't talk about comics used for special reasons without talking about the ones Coco Wang did to talk about the earthquake in China:

Jackson said...

Thanks for the recommendations, guys! The power's been out all over Cincinnati for the past couple of days and only recently came back online for my neighborhood, but I'll be sure to check out the comics you pointed to. They both sound intriguing.