There was a time when reading the comics in the newspapers for me was a daily ritual. As I don't buy daily newspapers anymore and read 95 per cent of my news online, the newspaper comic strip has kind of curled up and died for me.
But that's not to say I don't enjoy a good, quick laugh to get my day going. There are several online comic strips or series that I read. Lord knows there are plenty out there and you guys may have your strips that you hit. If so, by all means post them in the comments section. But the unique thing about all these strips is that they all started out online and have no intention of ever trying to be syndicated in newspapers. And even when they do print collections, several are perfectly happy to distribute things themselves rather than deal with publishers and book stores. It's a fascinating industry to look at, if you're get hooked by any of these strips.
Anyway, a few of my favourites:
XKCD: Perhaps the most famous of the current batch of online comics. Just to prove that you don't need to be a great artist to be immensely funny. Publishes Mon-Wed-Fri.
The Devil's Panties: No, it's not porn nor does it feature satanic underwear. Instead it's a semi-autobiographic strip by Jennie Breeden which features her day-to-day life, trying to put out a comic, hanging out with her friends (including occasional guest appearances by "Anita Blake" writer Laurell K. Hamilton) and other weirdness. It's cute, funny and just a hint racy from time to time. Publishes Mon-Fri, with some sketches, publicity and other bits up on the weekends.
Misery Loves Sherman: Produced by Chris Eliopoulos, who actually has a job with Marvel Comics writing and drawing. But he does this for fun. This is a strip more in the Peanuts style, with Sherman being the long suffering lead, dealing with a bullying little sister, indifferent parents and, oh yes, aliens and the cutest little Death you've ever seen. The first year was a touch shaky, but it's really found its feet this year, with stories involving Sherman's dad turning 40 (and not handling it well), Death moving into the house and a trip to Disneyland involving zombies. Runs Mon-Fri.
Least I Could Do: Written and drawn by Ryan Sohmer and Lar Desouza. The lead character is Rayne who at best could be described as a narcissistic horndog asshole, and nearly completely oblivious to everyone around him. And yet, he's in the category of oddly charming asshole and the strip is funny. A little hit and miss, but it's amusing. It's also been running for years, so there's plenty of back material to read so you can have a better idea of the characters. Strip runs Mon-Sat with a special Sunday "Beginnings" strip on Sunday that features Rayne as a kid that's often the funniest one of the week.
Hijinks Ensue: By Joel Watson, this one is pure geek. Recent strips have included what a Buffy the Vampire Slayer test marketing group would look like, trying to decide whether the Terminator TV series or Dollhouse should survive and making fun of the finale of Lost. But if you get the references, it's pretty damn funny. It runs Mon-Wed-Fri.
Menage a 3: By Giz and Dave Zero. Probably the most "risque" of the strips since it occasionally features nudity and sexual situations, but hey, it's based in Montreal. Gary is an artist trying to make a go of things in Montreal. He has to deal with two former roommate, both of who are gay, and two current roommate. One is a bisexual drummer with a hyperactive sex drive and a love of yaoi manga. The other is your stereotypical blond bimbo (she's named Didi, because it's a very clever name for a blond with large breasts, yes?). Oh, and Gary is a 27-year-old virgin. The strip was pretty funny to start with, but has been struggling the last couple of months. Hopefully they get it back on track some point soon. It publishes Tues-Thurs-Sat.
Anders Loves Maria: Produced by Rene Engström, who lives in Sweden, this is about Anders, who gets his girlfriend pregnant, and then things get deeply weird. Kind of funny, but it's more of a soap opera about watching Anders try to grow up, and not succeeding very well at it. Also, it's more in the adult venue. Again, it has it's moments, but can be awfully erratic, in terms of art, how often it publishes and occasionally I wonder if Engström knows where she's going with the story. It seems back on track now and Engström says the story will wrap up within the next year. Publishes Mon-Wed-Fri.
Freakangels: By Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield, this is the grand experiment of online comics. Each Friday sees six new pages of story and art published online for free. This is full comic book art, not three panles and a joke that some of the others are. And the art is at a much higher quality. Then once the story arc is completed, it's collected and printed in different formats (trade paperback, hardcover, and a hardcover signed by the creators). So you can read all of it online for free, but if you want it for your shelf, it's there for that as well. ANd so far, it's selling very well.
It's a nice looking series, with the best art of the bunch and Ellis remains one of the best comic book writers going. The premise is entertaining enough - what if some kids just like the ones from Children of the Damned grew up and decided to end the world. And now they're living in the Whitechapel section of London, along with a few survivors, just trying to make a go of things. They fight with each other, just like siblings. But out there in the world is their brother, who they exiled, and who might be planning to kill them.
It's filled with Ellis typical quick, sharp dialogue and mad ideas. It's moving at a leisurely pace, but it's one of the first things I check for when I get up on Friday mornings. Well worth a look.
And that's it for me. Any suggestions for the reading list?
1. Steam (live) - Peter Gabriel
2. Blue light - Bloc Party
3. Stardust - Blue Vipers of Brooklyn
4. Goodbye Earle - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies*
5. Enemy fire - Ryan Adams