The webcomics blog about webcomics

Year End Thoughts, Part Four

Enough with the reflection, let’s look forward a bit! One of the very best, most joyful all-ages webcomics is making a return from hiatus this Sunday (SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY), and you should be marking browser tabs now in anticipation. Ladies and gentlement: Chris Baldwin’s Little Dee.

“All-ages” is a term that you have to be careful with. As applied to, say, syndicated newspaper comics, you end up with tripe that’s only suited to six-year-olds. It offends nobody, it really pleases nobody, it takes up valuable space. As applied to Baldwin’s work, you end up with a strip that can be appreciated by that six-year-old, and her older brother, and their parents, and the slightly disreputable (but very fun) uncle that they don’t get to see enough. To write something that a kid can appreciate on one level, and an older reader on a completely different level is a rare gift. Check out the last strip on this page; “Easier than landing a baby in a playpen from twenty feet”? That’s horrible. And funny. Skating that edge between kid-friendly and adult-cynical is what puts Baldwin in the company of Bill Watterson, Chuck Jones, and Jeff Smith.

The lines are clean and clear, the characters are bursting with, uh, character, the flights are fanciful, and the humor is gentle. But even with all the goofy animal gags, there are two undercurrents that reveal Baldwin to be a real storyteller: Firstly, all of the funny stuff may start from an absurd situation, but it moves on because of who the characters are (especially Vachel). Secondly, the humor is tinged with a bit of sadness; Dee is living with animals because she’s lost. Someday, she’ll find her way back home, and it will be joyful and heartbreaking all at once. We can feel that anticipation of loss and reunion beneath each punchline. It’s an awful big burden for such a little girl to bear.

That Baldwin is not in 2000 papers worldwide, with a new book on the shelves every year, is emblematic of everything that’s wrong with the newspaper syndication model. That the internet affords him a way to bring this strip to us is our very good fortune. So go catch up on the archives, and ask yourself honestly, “Did I discover a better webcomic than Little Dee this year?” ‘Cause on the off chance that you did, we want to hear about it.

Wahoo!!!!!! I am not normally a big buyer of books (I’m one of those “have 15 comic-related t-shirts and always looking for more” kind of guys), but I will be all *over* a Little Dee collection. And thanks very much for the reminder. That bookmark can be moved back from the ‘Weekly or so’ folder to ‘Daily’.

Seriously, I just said ‘wahoo!’ out loud. Does that make me a comic geek?

That’s a beautiful comic. I love the little gems hidden within.

I too am glad Little Dee is returning, but I’m much more looking forward to the return of Bruno. When you ask if I discovered a better webcomic than Little Dee this year, the answer is yes: I discovered Bruno.

So, despite how amazingly good Little Dee is…

If it’s intended for newspapers…

Does it really count as a webcomic?

I’m just asking.

Excellent question. There’s not really a clear definition that says “This is a webcomic” or “This isn’t.” One could argue that PvP or Sinfest aren’t webcomics because it’s clear that they were originally intended for syndication. But the fact that the primary distribution model of Little Dee (and PvP, for that matter) is the web, despite the availability of the strip for papers, makes it a webcomic.

All of which pales in comparison to the fact that it’s back.

And yet, Baldwin is clear that he’s accepting the limitations of newspaper comicry (comicery? comicary?) with Little Dee.

But he is still trying to make the best comic he can within those limits.

If Little Dee got more readers through syndication than it has online – would you change your mind?

I’m not in any way disagreeing that this is not a great comic, and that it’s not great news that he’s updating again.

I just think that it’s a good idea to discuss this nebulous ‘webcomic’ distinction – and Little Dee is a great vehicle to do so.

I love Little Dee. Great stuff. I do take umbrage with the newspaper comic strips being tripe. There are a lot of great ones that never see the light of day because of bad buyers at the newspapers. For example, Ink Pen, Pooch Cafe, Pearls Before Swine, Big Top, Monty, Bad Reporter, Lucky Cow, Tom the Dancing Bug, and there’s a new one called Retail that looks promising, too.

[…] Lord, I loves me some Little Dee. Chris Baldwin does a sweet (but not treacly), sharply funny (but not mean-spirited) (except for Vachel) strip that my youngest nieces and nephews can enjoy right along with evil-hearted ol’ me. And now his first collection of Little Dee comics is out (temporarily sold out, in fact). It covers the full run of the strip from inception to the 3 month hiatus that Baldwin took at the end of last year. It’s just as good in dead-tree form as day-by-day (maybe better, because your mouse finger won’t cramp up clicking “next” all the time). The printing is crisp and beautiful (really deep ink saturation on the beautifully-colored front and back covers, too). So if we all just accept that the book is wonderful, isn’t this review superfluous? No, because two things about LDv1 raise interesting questions: […]

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