Alright, the title is a lie, you likely read at least one of these already. It’s not like I’m donning a pith helmet and taking you into the deepest darkest reaches of the Mummy’s Tomb. It’s the Internet…I hear that a lot of people know about it already.
Penny Arcade is irreverent, unapologetic, balls-out nerdery. And not just run of the mill nerdery, my friend. Tycho (the writer) pens undeniably dense, we’re talking English-Major chewy, posts to accompany each of he and Gabe’s (the artist) collected mockeries on the current internet memes, corporate technology/gaming villains, popular Geek trends; whatever it is they decide Our People should be concerned about. And make no mistake – it is them leading us, not the other way around. PA used to joke frequently about how they could crash sites by linking to them in their newsposts; now it’s a matter of fact. If PA turns its gaze on you, they will melt your server into a sticky puddle of goo. They often go places that you can’t believe they went to (they count among their regulars an alcoholic DivX player and Fruit Fucker – a sentient, priapic juicer); but you’re always glad they did. Having followed them from Year One, it’s been a blast watching these two grow into the professional Geek Diplomats they are. Not only do they make serious cash, they run two (two!) national video game conferences and organize a 1.5 million dollar charity organization that helps children’s hospitals around the globe. A quick note about Child’s Play, it was started off because Tycho & Gabe were pissed about the image of the violent, troglodytic “gamer” that was being portrayed in the media; so they set out to prove them wrong. That’s the kind of guys they are. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this is a strip with some serious evolution behind it. Where the art was once not much more than roughed out Paint files, Gabe has grown into a card-carrying artist and it shows.
The Abominable Charles Christopher on the other hand, is a bit of a cheat – its creator was already a professional comic book artist (currently he’s working on Marvel’s Pet Avengers…which is as ridiculous and as awesome as that sounds) and started this absolutely charming (and sometimes harrowing) tale of a clueless sasquatch and his quest for…well that’s the mystery, actually. The expressions Karl Kerschl wrings from his animal characters are astounding. You’d think that a bunny quoting Tennyson could be only fluffy and cute. Well, you’d be wrong.
Johnny Wander is the semi-autobiographical (sometimes fictional) tale of Ananth and Yuko – long time members of the webcomic community and all-around-charming individuals. The art is expressive and whimsical. The story consists of humorous retellings of somewhat standard twenty-something life affairs; but recently they’ve delved into fantastic fiction. Does a somewhat nebbish Death who’s self-concious on first dates sound like something you could spend a few minutes on? Well then hit up the link and check out Girl with the Skeleton Hand. It’s unapologetically adorable.
Axe Cop is the collaborative effort between 29-year old comic book artist Ethan Nicolle and his 5-year old brother, Malachai. Malachai does all the writing, which his awesome older brother then illustrates. It’s deeply insane, and immediately identifiable for those of us blessed with crazily tangental preschoolers. To say more would be impossible, because mere words can not contain the experience. Go. Read. It will chop your head off (and don’t forget the “Ask Axe Cop” strips!).
Dresden Codak is last, and best. Aaron Diaz is wickedly smart, four college degrees kind of smart, and it shows. His art style is lush. And the stories he hangs on them are ridiculously clever. He loves to pull tricks on his audience, getting you to dissect panel after panel for meaning, only to have the punchline undercut the gravity of the entire page (and you still like it). Even when he’s being flip, he’s flip in a way that you never would have considered (I know of no one else would could pull off a strip with mad-scientist cavemen.). His protagonist, Kimiko, has destroyed and rebuilt herself and the world around herself several times, each time striking out farther and farther into what can only be considered an evolutionary post-human phase. The only thing you’ll hate is that it takes him so long to get new pages out (but damn, if they aren’t all worth it).
What are you still doing here? Go! You’ve got an afternoon’s worth of archives to alt-tab through while you pretend to work!