Welcome to the third installment of World of Web Comics. In an effort to point you in the direction of some of the best web comics that are currently available, I am going take a look at the 2012 Harvey Awards nominees, and recently announced winner, in the Best Online Comics Work category.
Started in 1998 The Harvey Awards recognise the best of the comics industry in over 20 categories. The nominees and winners are chosen by industry professionals. The category of Best Online Comics Work was first introduced in 2006, with American Elf by James Kochalka picking up the award that year.
The five nominees for Best Online Comics Work in the 2012 Harvey Awards showcase the great quality and variety of web comics available to read online for free. I’m going to take a quick look at each of the nominees and hopefully give you a taste of what to expect from each title.
First up is Battlepug by Mike Norton. Written and illustrated by Norton and coloured by Allen Passalaqua, Battlepug is a very popular web comic that was launched in February 2011. The title made a big impact in a very short time and was honoured with an Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic earlier this year.
Battlepug follows the adventures of The Warrior, who as a boy survived an attack on the people of Kinmundy by the villain Catwulf. The attack was carried out by a giant baby seal and The Warrior’s mother and father were killed. The story centres on The Warrior’s quest for revenge.
He is joined on his quest by Battlepug, who is, as you might have guessed a giant pug. The Warrior is not at all happy with this arrangement at first but it becomes clear that they are meant to be together.
This comic has similarities to adventure stories such as Conan The Barbarian and it is a lot of fun. The battle scenes feature increasingly strange, fantastical monsters, most recently giant spiders.
One of the great things about the website is the contributions from readers and fans who send in pictures of their pet pugs. Who doesn’t love a cute little doggy?
Bucko by Jeff Parker and Erika Moen is described as a Comical Murder-Mystery. After reading a few episodes I can say that this is a fairly apt description, but there is also so much more going on here.
In the first few panels we are introduced to the hapless Rich “Bucko” Richardson, who wakes up hung-over at Gyp’s house. Gyp being the girl Bucko has been trying to get with for a few months. He is late for an interview, and on the wrong side of town. He has no suitable clothes for his interview so borrows a blouse from Gyp and pairs it with a random tie. It clearly looks ridiculous but at least he still has a chance to get to his interview. That is until his bike starts falling apart and he is stopped by a raised bridge. He gets to the interview with a few minutes to spare. Or so he thinks until he realises that the clock in the house had been an hour ahead, so he is actually an hour early. Things seem to be looking up. He starts the interview, and it seems to be going okay.
That’s when the alcohol induced diarrhoea hits.
Bucko manages to get to the bathroom just in time. He is triumphant that he has made it on time, but soon notices the very dead looking man on the bathroom floor.
The first chapter is told partly in flashback, Bucko re-telling the events of the previous night to the police. These include much drinking, a Pixies concert and a failed attempt to take part in a threesome.
As the chapters progress Bucko is drawn into Gyp’s life and meets with many of her crazy friends and acquaintances. After Bucko is spooked by a fake dead body he runs off into the night. Gyp enlists the help of her friends to track him down and more strange, wonderful characters are met along the way.
Jeff Parker is known for his work with Marvel on titles such as Hulk and Thunderbolts. Erika Moen is a full time cartoonist at Periscope Studio, and a seasoned web comic creator.
Bucko is a great read. Parker is clearly having great fun writing this and Moen’s cartoon style is perfectly suited to the story.
You can read the completed story here.
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Delilah Dirk is the heroine of a series of self-contained stories set in the early 19th century. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is the story that was nominated for the Harvey Awards. Again, this web comic is completely new to me but I would say it thoroughly deserved the nomination it received.
Beautifully illustrated by Tony Cliff, the story is set, unsurprisingly, in 19th century Turkey. Lieutenant Selim of the Janissary army has his life endangered by the eponymous heroine, and she subsequently saves his life. Selim is then indebted to Delilah, though she disputes this, and he feels he must repay her.
So he accompanies Delilah on her flying ship, and joins her quest to steal back some of her friend’s treasure which has been plundered by the Evil Pirate Captain Zakul. This inevitably leads to retaliation by Zakul and he sets his army on Delilah and Selim to retrieve it.
After the ship is destroyed by the army and they narrowly escape capture, Delilah and Selim set off across an unfamiliar landscape, living off the land, and trying to lose the army which is trailing them. By this point Selim is clearly infatuated with the brash, enigmatic Delilah, revelling in her company and the stories she tells of her many adventures. As a reader I was sharing Selim’s feelings. Delilah is a wonderful character and it is hard not to fall in love with her.
Reading Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant took me back to my childhood days spent watching the old Sinbad movies. Cliff does a great job of evoking the sights and atmosphere of the ports of Turkey, his illustrations rich in colour and detail.
If you like strong heroines, adventure stories and exotic settings Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is the web comic for you.
Cliff has recently wrapped up the story and you can read the whole thing here.
Katie Cook is a hugely talented cartoonist and illustrator, having worked on many licensed properties including Sesame Street, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and many more. She has a fun, cartoon style of drawing which puts a great spin on Star Wars characters, and is perfectly suited to her work on characters such as Fraggle Rock and The Muppets.
Cook’s web comic Gronk began in early 2010. It focuses on the eponymous character who is a monster living in the human world, following her rejection of all things monster. Gronk is definitely not monster-like and she feels there must be something else out there. She is not very good at being a monster and is constantly ridiculed by the other monsters.
Unfortunately she does look like a monster so her first encounter with a human and a cat does not go smoothly. However her non-monster qualities soon shine through (and the fact that she is too cute to be a scary monster), and she is taken in by Dale Wilco.
Dale lives alone with her huge Newfoundland dog Harli and her cat Kitty. The interaction between Gronk, Kitty and Harli is endearing and really nicely illustrated.
The comic basically follows Gronk as she gets to grips with living in the human world, and there is a lot of opportunity for Cook to draw funny scenes and vignettes based on Gronk’s accidents and misunderstandings.
This is not the usual type of comic I would read. I’m not completely hard of heart but I don’t usually like ‘cute’ stuff – I don’t use cute here as a criticism by the way. However the chapter which has a single panel showing Gronk’s crayon drawing depicting her new happy family even managed to melt this noir ridden heart.
So if you want a little fun, which is suitable for all ages, give Gronk a look. She may just melt your heart too.
Hark! A Vagrant
And so we finally weave our way to the winner of the 2012 Harvey Award for Best Online Comic.
Hark! A Vagrant is created by Kate Beaton. This is not the first time this popular web comic has been nominated for an award. Indeed Beaton was awarded the Harvey Award last year as well for Hark! A Vagrant. So yeah, it’s very popular.
Hark! is basically a series of strips focusing on different historical figures of many hues. Beaton also intersperses her strips with single panel comic art drawn in her lunch break.
Beaton’s drawing style is basic, utilising pen and pencil to render the black and white strips. What the comic lacks in artistic detail it more than makes up for in the writing, which is sharply intelligent and very, very funny. That’s not to say that the illustrations are not good. Far from it. Despite the apparent simplicity of the line work Beaton manages to give definitive personalities to the people she is drawing. The facial expressions she draws become a central part of the narrative and many panels eschew the need for words completely. That is a very particular skill and here Beaton shows that she is a naturally talented artist.
Hark! A Vagrant is usually updated weekly and the site has a huge following of loyally devoted fans. You can count me among that group now, because I love it. I’m working my way through the not inconsiderable archive and enjoying every strip.
Every nominee for this award thoroughly deserved to be there, and I don’t think anyone could deny that Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant is a deserved winner of the award.
Check out the archive here.