Every once in a while a comic will deliver a strip that really takes the bar to the next level. Now, this isn’t to say that these comics are delivering weak content the rest of the time – far from it! But with most gag strips, the day to day laughs tend to fall into a nice, comfortable pattern. There is nothing wrong with this, after all. We enjoy the familiar. A strip that regularly brings a smile is enough to stay on our radar – we don’t need every update to knock us out of our seats, whether in laughter or in tears.
But this makes it all the more rewarding when a strip really manages to nail it. To capture a scene that not only uses their common style of humor, but practically defines it.
I’ve seen two really good moments in webcomics this week. The reason I know that they are good is that I can’t get them out of my head – my mind keeps drifting back to the images they left in the back of my mind and chuckling. Given how easily my mind normally tends to leak information, that tells me quite a bit about how good a job these guys did.
There are more things than I can count that really make this scene work so well for me. How happy the genie seems to be as he cluelessly carries out his owner’s desires. His wild little hand gestures as he works his magic. Or simply the speed from which the normally unflappable Charlotte (the drow making the wishes) descends into utter panic, and how well the expressions capture that transition.
The concept itself is nothing new – poorly worded wishes that backfire on the wisher is practically a staple of the genre. But that’s the thing – I was expecting this to turn out poorly, but I didn’t see remotely how fast it would go downhill. Look at panel one, wherein Charlotte is cool, confident and collected – and totally in control of the situation. Within a handful of panels she hasn’t just lost control, but has degenerated into crazed, hysterical screaming, while the genie with the omnipotent powers doesn’t bat an eye at what he’s done, or the reaction it’s provoked.
Managing to take a concept that has been seen countless times before, and not only make it new and funny, but make it perfectly capture the core of the idea – yeah, that’s pretty good stuff.
The genie himself is a new addition to Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, but seems a perfect fit. Once again, it seems an easy win to have a character where Rich can go for broke on lively, cartoony expressions.
Meanwhile, if the above strip perfectly captured the concept of the monkey’s paw, a recent strip from Dr. McNinja perfectly epitomizes the fun and zaniness that drives the comic.
First off, we have the quote. This is an eminently quotable comic, and what that means to me, is that it is a comic I can appreciate with my friends. I can walk up to them and say, “I don’t much care for your tone, Mr. Clone of Benjamin Franklin” – and instantly, they get the reference, recall the scene, and can share a quick laugh. Here we have a similar moment, so immediately I have a phrase that will be stuck in my mind for the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, we have the standard heights of absurdity that Dr. McNinja has risen to. Out of context, this is more than bizarre – it is outright surreal. For readers of the strip, we know why the boy has a mustache, why he is talking to an ape, and why there is a zombie dressed as a ninja – but to the uninitiated, it would seem almost like random images tossed together. Even for the enlightened reader, the introduction of the uncola is essentially inexplicable – and yet, the page flows smoothly, the story rolls on, and we move through the strange moment without the slightest hesitation.
This, then, is Dr. McNinja’s strength. It does not so much revolve around punchlines as much as it throws the entire world off-kilter, letting loose a realm where positively anything can happen. It feels like walking through a dream, and putting together all these moments of absurdity almost physically compels the reader to laugh.