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ISSUE 120 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/13/2006

Web cartoons amuse and distract

By Lindsey Myers
Staff Writer

Friday, October 13, 2006

When you've read this paper from cover to cover (and by that I mean when you have scanned the good headlines and skipped the sports section), it is very likely that you will declare yourself bored and head to the nearest computer to surf. The Internet, after all, is the oasis of the idle. The question remains, however: Where do you go when the usual time-killers have been exhausted?

The novelty of Facebook has begun to wane and we frequently find ourselves sitting at our computers, feeling tempted to surf but simultaneously feeling guilty for viewing the same boring sites again and again. The Internet offers a smorgasbord of entertainment, but many of us seem limited to perusing YouTube, MySpace, and of course, the most popular site for all Oles, Lucky for you, I am here to serve as your amateur guide to a different kind of online entertainment: web-comics.

If you're at all like me, you've probably found yourself outgrowing the usual comics in the usual papers. Oh, sure, there are strips worth reading, but for every intelligent, artistically worthwhile comic in the newspaper there are at least a handful that make educated young adults want to carry the newspaper around until the next time they feel sick so they can symbolically purge their loathing for it onto the page. If you think I'm exaggerating, check out some “Ziggy” or “Family Circus.” My point is this: Our lives have gotten edgier and taken on more meaning, and it only makes sense that we'd like our frivolous visual entertainment to have the decency to mature along with us.

The problem remains, of course, that print newspapers are oriented to a wider audience and they really can't allow comic strips that feature sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll or communist ideologies to sneak into households and fall into the hands of children or Christians. Herein lies the beauty of webcomics.

Artistically speaking, the Internet has allowed for some revolutionary changes for cartoonists. No longer confined to traditional space or formatting rules, cartoon artists can combine computer graphics with Internet coding to redefine the visual presentation of their work: If they want to have a graphic novel that takes up entire screens, there's no newspaper editor telling them that this is impossible and that they will have to squeeze their content to run parallel to “Garfield.”

What is perhaps most important, however, is the freedom of content web cartoonists enjoy and the subsequent variety offered to the masses. If you want to do a comic strip that features nudity and violence and profound life messages, or if you want to do a silly bi-weekly strip scanned from your notebook doodles, it's all fair game once you put it online.

I know what you're thinking: enough with the cartoonist perspective, point me to the comics with nudity and violence and all that jazz already!

For those of you who are legitimately interested in video games and sarcasm, Penny Arcade is the end-all, be-all strip to follow.

If you're more interested in very bizarre, brief frames that make you go, “whaaaa?!” and laugh anyway, “The Perry Bible Fellowship” will achieve just that.

Or, if you want something that is based on St. Olaf, following students at St. Urho, a religiously-affiliated school near Minneapolis, “Nothing Better” is your site.

Of course, there are over 70,000 webcomics, and a dedicated reader can find lists of the most popular online comics including “GirlGenius,” “Drunk Duck,” “Goats” and “PVP,” among others.

Many of them are poor, inconsistently updated attempts at anime or superhero comics, but many of them are worth a look. There's something for everyone, and the best way to stumble across that one site that will give you something else to check daily is to get out there and start looking.

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