The Best of Comic Genesis: Manic Graffiti

While some other comics seem to be having unfortunate server issues, Comic Genesis seems to have regained a measure of stability – making this a good time to start off the second round of CG reviews!

Manic Graffiti is a niche comic. Now, there are plenty of niche comics out there that are entirely accessible to whatever audience stumbles upon them – Unshelved, +EV, even Penny Arcade, can all be enjoyed without having an abiding love for libraries/poker/video games.  The reading experience is certainly enhanced by familiarity with the relevant topic, but it is by no means a prerequisite for reading – or enjoying – the strip.

Not so with Manic Graffiti. This is a comic about World of Warcraft – and more than that, about all the little quirks of the game, silly quests and bugged game mechanics, class balance and the hazards of pvp. Now, this still makes for a substantial target audience, considering how many people who have gone through the WoW Experience, and how significantly that playerbase overlaps with the internet population in general. And, admittedly, some of the jokes have a more general appeal – but for every one along those lines, there are two more that require in-depth knowledge of the game and lore to truly appreciate.

This isn’t a bad thing, mind you – especially for a comic being created for the artist’s own amusement. It is a chance to rant about the game and entertain those of like minds. But it is a fact that should be noted. Never played WoW? This comic probably won’t do much for you.

But if you had, it just might make you laugh your ass off.

In-jokes are a wonderful thing, and ones revolving around a game are doubly so. They help create a sense of empathy that not every form of humor has – and in this case, you are laughing about shared experiences with all the foolish pitfalls of a game, usually with you as the victim. More than that, it’s a good sensation to fnd a measure of fun in the various frustrations the game can offer. I hesitate to call it cathartic, but I’m not sure I would be wrong to do so. Those who have played WoW can attest to the perils thereof, and those who have weathered the dreaded end-game know all too well how serious such an activity can become.

Being able to laugh about it? That is an excellent thing.

There are, unfortunately, perils of this humor – as I mentioned before, you are losing a large audience right off the bat, since the jokes are impenetrable to anyone who hasn’t played the game. But even more than that – a game like WoW is constantly evolving and changing. Every single reference you make can easily become outdated, as quests become old and rules are altered. Even people who play in the current moment might not have a clue about the concerns of class balance from two years back.

On the other hand, for those who were around back in the olden days, and recognize the reference at hand, it can even bring a bit of nostalgia, for lack of a better word. And that can help you connect with readers on a much more intrinsic level than most.

The strip is certainly funny, even if some of the laughs might not stand the test of time. The art is, at least in my eyes, extremely well done, even as it bounces between two wildly varying styles. On one hand, you have a set of characters rendered in a relatively detailed fashion, which manages to capture the visuals of the game even while it mocks them. On the other hand, we have the ‘noob-style’ cast, which are depicted in an extremely cartoony, almost super-deformed fashion. Which results in almost appalingly cute characters, but also serves as a great tool for poking fun at the game – and the people that play it.

The art can, unfortunately, be a little busy – drawn in black and white, when done in the more detailed style, it can sometimes be tricky to see where one character ends and another begins. This is largely a problem early in the archives, however – later strips seem mostly devoid of that problem, as the artist learns and improves.

Funny how that happens, ain’t it?

Anyway. It’s a good comic, and more than that, it’s a fun comic. Because really, in a world filled with mutant chicken-deer, mutant turkey-buzzards, and giant multicolored snake-dog-chickens, is there really anything one can do other than to laugh?

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