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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Webcomics not about White, underachieving 20 year olds.

December15

One of the big, huge, MAJOR themes in webcomics is “White 20-something hipsters working surprisingly enjoyable service industry jobs/generally underachieving, and saying witty things.” You know the kind. The main character works at a record shop/music store, book store, coffee shop, etc and despite making barely over minimum wage never has any money problems and has lots of free times. Also, these comics are frequently a Eugenics paradise. There are no or very few non-White characters.

I thought I’d put together a list of comics I read or know of that buck that trend.

I’ve noted race in a few instances not because I think it’s usually important to catalog race/ethnicity, and not in a “collect them all!” kind of way, but because the complaint/requests I’ve heard have involved looking for comics that feature a not exclusively white cast.

Achewood, by Chris Onstad, is a frequently surreal ongoing comic about “alive stuffed animals” and small real animals (mostly cats and a squirrel). It has both long storylines as well as stand alone one-off strips, and has been running for years. It features virtually no humans, and the characters’ personalities are extremely well defined– to the point where Onstad maintained blogs for characters, for awhile. Their voices were exceptionally distinct.

Bad Machinery, (formerly Scary Go Round) by John Allison, has massively shifted gears recently. It now appears to be about school children in England who solve mysteries. The relaunch is still very new and there’s just enough to be interesting and intriguing without being a swampy morass of backstory. As usual, Allison writes pithy, realistic dialogue and his characters are eccentric but also very grounded in reality. One of the characters is a young Black boy. , I think he might be younger than your oldest, but he still might be interested. I remember you’ve been looking for characters, in general, he can identify with.

Kate Beaton draws comics about books, history, and tiny ponies. Also, herself as a child interacting with he present day self. They’re really cool, witty, well done comics.

BobWhite by Magnolia Porter, follows the adventures/lives of 3 (female) college students. Ivy is Iranian, Marlene is Jewish (and dresses like Frank Sinatra’s Grandmother) and Cleo… has issues. Actually, they’re all kind of petty jerks, but they get called on their jerkdom instead of it being celebrated as cool and hip. They are very flawed and realistic feeling, and Porter draws on her own experiences in art school to inject a little more truthiness to the strip.

Dicebox, by Jenn Manley Lee, has had an erratic update schedule for a while (life happens) but has a VAST archive to go through. One of the main characters is Black. Additionally, the world of Dicebox has a linguistic system set in place to cope with non-gendered pronouns: “Peh” is used to indicate neither male nor female; “Note: used as a formality when assuming or noting the gender or sex of the antecedent is considered irrelevant to the subject at hand, i.e. government documentation, news reports, etc.”

Gunnerkrigg Court, by Tom Siddell, is about a freaky technomagic boarding school that houses mysteries. Gods and ghosts pop in and out. Katerina “Kat” Dolan, the main character’s best friend (and totally awesome character in her own right) is half Romany. Her mom is apparently full blood Romany, and if I remember correctly, the only reason we readers know this is because of an off-hand comment. There’s none of the ~~OMG GYPSY PRINCESS~~ stereotype crap that so frequently is attached to Romany characters.

Loxie and Zoot is a long-running niche strip about naturists (also known as nudists). It has a lot of nude people. They are very comfortable in their nudity. They are also all sorts of different ages, shapes, and ethnicities. There’s a VERY multicultural cast, although there’s also a sort of iffy “Magical Negro” Aboriginal Australian (it’s an Australian comic) who literally has magic, and acts wacky sometimes. A lot of the plots are kind of corny, of the sort you’d see on TV, but they’re handled well. There’s a bit of preachiness about the wonders of being unclothed, but frankly, that’s kind of the point of the strip. The art’s pretty decent, too.

Necessary Monsters, by Sean Azzopardi & Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, is a long-form comic that has recently entirely completed a story arc, which makes it a good time to dive in at the first comic and read it all the way through. In tone, it reminds me of Hellblazer when Hellblazer is firing on all cylinders. A secret agency exists, which has for some time now been essentially enslaving monsters and binding them to service. This is explored to a very good effect via the “recruitment” of Creeping Tuesday, the daughter of a Freddy-Krueger-esque dream monster who was recently killed. She has inherited his abilities, and is forced to don the shackle and keep the world safe from her kind. Tuesday is African-American, with natural (dreadlocked) hair. Other non-white characters include Knife Mother (Japanese) and a man named Levi Gibbs “The Ju-Ju Man” who I’m assuming is West African, or else from Louisiana or something (he looks kind of voodoo-y, but not in a Fail Way.), but his face is skull like so it’s hard to tell. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about Necessary Monsters is that even though most of the characters are male, and it’s a violent horror comic, the main character (and the one who has to Make A Fateful Choice And Resolve Things) is female. (I just read this one, and need to write a real review of it.)

Octopus Pie, by Meredith Gran, switched formats recently from updating regularly to updating when a storyline is finished. It also comes thisclose to being about underachieving 20-somethings, but the underemployed are mostly underemployed through idealism (working at an organic grocery store MEANS SOMETHING, dammit) and money issues exist. The main character, Eve, is Chinese-American.

Over Compensating, by Jeffrey Rowland, is a pseudo-diary comic that was originally about Rowland’s life, but now is about politics and the web comics industry. Which makes sense, because politics are important and Rowland runs Topatoco, which sells T-Shirts and other merch for webcomickers. Also he has some other long running webcomics. You may recognize Rowland, or the giant scar on his leg, from when he got bit by a giant brown recluse spider and it started rotting off. You may also have been linked to the Thanksgiving strips he does every year, about the hypocrisy and hate of Thanksgiving.

Pictures for Sad Children, by John Campbell, is done in stick figures, and done very well. It can be depressing/futile but also very poignant.

Skin Deep, by Kory Bing, is a long-form comic about mythical creatures that interact with humans. As she draws from mythology all over the world, her characters also all come from all over the world (although she’s focusing, right now, on some English characters in England, one of her protagonists is Egyptian-American). There’s a lot of issues about identity, both cultural and personal. It’s simply lovely art and fantastic story telling as well.

A Softer World, by Emily Horne and Joey Cameau, has been imitated, just about always poorly. It’s a 3-panel piece of art made up of photographs and lines of text that convey a vignette, emotion, or bit of story. It’s much more awesome than it sounds.

Templar, AZ, by Charlie Spike Trotman, is a long-form character-driven comic about an alternate universe city and its inhabitants. The main character (other than the city) is Ben, who is Korean-American, and who was adopted (from Korea) as an infant. One of his friends, Scipio, is a very large Black man with long dreadlocks, who habitually wears a kilt. He is Buddhist. He has a pet chicken. (another friend is Reagan, who is female and who ISN’T hot, or well dressed, or interested in any of the characters romantically. Carnally? Yes. Romantically? No. It’s… refreshing.)

Wapsi Square, by Paul Taylor, started out as a gag strip that has since moved to long form drama. I used to check it frequently, now I wait for long chunks to go by so I can try to get most/all of a story arc. One of the character is Hispanic-American (and does big brainy work at a museum) and one is Native American (and is a mechanic and a musician), two less central characters appear to be Black and Japanese (they are non-humans taking human form). Both central characters are female, and do a pretty good job in general in not falling into sexist tropes. In fact, most of the cast is female. There’s some boob fanservice where Monica is concerned, which is a bit jarring in contrast to how female positive the comic is otherwise, but w/ev.

I’m sure there’s more, but this is what I’ve come up with more or less off the top of my head.

Please feel free to add comments, links, etc.

posted under comics, review, web comics
2 Comments to

“Webcomics not about White, underachieving 20 year olds.”

  1. On December 17th, 2009 at 8:20 pm Violet Says:

    Someone probably already suggested this one, but I’m very fond of Bayou: http://www.zudacomics.com/bayou

    Brigid Reply:

    I haven’t heard of that one. Can you provide a link?