Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Best Web Comic

I gave you, yesterday, a little insight into how my mind works. (Technically, this whole blog is about how my mind works, excepting those nominations from intrepid readers who dare to disagree with me.) Today, let me give you an example of how my job works.

As a lawyer, most of the day, I spend sitting around suing people. But suing people is boring and a lot less dramatic than Sam Waterston would have you believe. Yesterday, it involved me driving 2 1/2 hours, one way, to question a witness, only to have him refuse to answer questions. So I drove back home. Today, I spent 3 1/2 hours reviewing rules about garnishments.

So those times that I'm not in court, I need, occasionally, a break from the tedium of statutes and the like. And because my work is pretty easy for me, my mind tends to wander during those breaks. It will sometimes roam back into Memoryville, and I will remember being a geeky young teenager who liked Dungeons & Dragons, liked it so much that I used to buy Dragon magazine.

That was, say, 25 years ago. I don't remember much about Dragon magazine now (which is weird, because I do remember two of my D&D character's names: Duran Greyhawk, and Tuscan Greyhawk. Tuscan was a paladin.) (Note how I say it's weird that I don't remember much about Dragon magazine, but don't comment on whether it's weird or not to remember my character's names.)

What I did remember about Dragon magazine, some time ago, was that there was a comic strip in the back drawn by Phil Foglio, which followed characters named "Phil" and "Dixie" and talked about Phil and Dixie's desire... ahem... to discuss "sex and D&D." They never quite did, of course, but the strip was funny and had busty women, and I was, as a teenager, a fan of both humor and busty women.

(Dragon also had a comic called "Snarfquest.")

So one day, I took a break from whatever tedious legal arguments I was making, got a cup of coffee, and used my computer to get on the Internet and find out if Phil and Dixie had ever completed their quest. I couldn't find it (at first), but what I did find was Girl Genius, a whole new Phil Foglio webcomic. So I started reading it a bit, and then a bit more, and before I knew it most of that workday was done.

The Girl Genius online comic began, judging by the dates on their site, in November of 2002. I'm not sure how often it's posted, because I'm only up to August 26, 2005:
But the story so far involves Agatha, who finds out she's a "spark," someone who can create working mechanical objects, and gets inadvertently kidnapped or captured by the Baron, who rules this world. The capture was inadvertent because the Baron thought someone else was the spark, not Agatha, and she was able to escape with her talking cat, Krosp. They both hooked up with a set of traveling performers.

That outline doesn't do "Girl Genius" justice; Phil Foglio has created an entire world here and from the outset, he throws you into it headfirst; there's very little explanation of the world and what explanation there is fits into the story expertly, so readers slowly become accustomed to the language and culture and rules of the story, and they seem more natural that way. And there's backstory and legends built in.

Plus, the story centers on a great character. Agatha is both interesting and fun and somewhat of a surrogate of the reader in that she, too, seems a little confused and lost as she's swept along on the larger bulk of the storyline.

Finally, there's the art. The art was what I remembered from Dragon magazine -- it was clean and fun and well done. But here, on the web, Phil's art has really blossomed. The characters' expressions and clothing and the backgrounds are all well done, but it's the mechanicals and objects that really pull the eye. It makes me want to get a bigger monitor just to see it all laid out the way it should be (and I have gone and gotten some of the books to do just that.)

Nowadays, I go every day or two and read a few more installments of "Girl Genius," so someday I'm sure I'll catch up to the storyline and find out what happens. (DON'T spoil it for me!) But I'm not in a hurry to do that. I take it a few pages at a time because some things are so good that you want to savor them, and "Girl Genius" is one of those things. I love to see the drawings, I love getting caught up in the story, I love the little side adventures and new monsters that Phil comes up with, so while most of me wants to rush and read the entire thing in one night (like I did with Harry Potter #7), the more mature part of me is taking it a little at a time (the way Charlie Bucket ate his candy bar.)

You decide how you want to approach it, but approach it you should: Girl Genius is The Best Web Comic.

UPDATE: Reader/Blogger Corgi provided more information about this nominee here

Click here to see all the other topics I’ve ever discussed!

(Hey, you intrepid readers, where are you, these days? It's been a while since
Riley C. decided to go head-to-head with me over who was really The Best Superhero. Remember, you can always submit your own nominations here.)

Also, loyal readers will realize that the intro picture to The Best Postseason Sporting Event foreshadowed this entry. Foreshadowing is a literary technique used by only The Best Writers.

1 comment:

Corgi said...

I just found your post by random Googling (looking for something else) and as a fellow fan I'm delighted at your reaction to "Girl Genius". The comic was actually published up to issue 13 in "dead tree" format, starting in early 2001. They went to web in 2005 and backfilled the dates of the already-published pages as they loaded them on the website in order to conform with their server format.

It's actually a collaborative work between Phil and his wife Kaja. They spent about a decade plotting and planning before they started drawing and writing the actual issues (and now pages). This partnership was enriched by the series's current colorist, who has been with them roughly as long as the series has been web-publishes, Cheyenne Wright. The three of them have won the very first two Hugo Awards for Best Graphic Novel, 2008 and 2009.

It's still being published three times a week - they've never missed a day, although sometimes they're a little late for good reasons - and is at the very beginning of Volume 11 by now! All sorts of complications since you started reading it. I'd love to know if you've caught completely up by now.