The webcomics blog about webcomics

Fleen Guest Column: The Kea In, “Orphans”

Editor’s note: The Kea took our search for writers last year as a challenge, and started pumping out some high-quality commentary on [web]comics. Unfortunately, real life intruded, and despite a couple of comebacks, it’s been a bit quiet in the Godzone corner of webcomics comentary. That’s why I was thrilled to see that he wanted to drop a guest piece on us. Enjoy!

Having tried coming back from my hiatus, I found that I really don’t have time to keep The Kea’s Nest regularly updated, and that’s no good for anyone who might be interested in seeing what I’ve got to say about the world of webcomics. So I decided to take Gary up on his generous offer to put up my musings here at Fleen. If I find something else to say, I’ll see if he’ll let me post that too. [He will. -Ed.]

Something I’ve noticed about the very few New Zealand webcomics I’ve managed to track down is that they generally seem to have come from print media first. There are similarities to the various political cartoons I enjoy reading, they tend to be published in alternative newspapers before realising the benefits of coming online too. I’m not sure why it is a rule that could be applied to a whole country though. Perhaps it’s caused by our generally poor broadband connection to the wider web which makes us wary of uploading images, or maybe its something set in our heads that leads us to think that we need a physical presence to really have achieved notice.

I used to link to the comics of the Monsta artist, a guy who drew cute little green critters I remembered from my youth, when he was making regular updates. They were generally editorial cartoons such as one might find in newspapers next to the kinds of letters that make you sorry to share genomes with most of humanity. But after awhile he must have grown tired of updating or maybe he got too busy. As we are all aware, that’s very easy to do.

Most of the one-off NZ comics I’ve linked to in the past are likewise newspaper or magazine comics first (I would love to link to the weekly comic Max Media, which other kiwis might agree seems perfect for the web, but he has no website…). One of the few that actually seemed to be designed and put out on the web first was Newton Ghetto Anger which hasn’t been seen in quite some time…

The latest comic I would like to talk about is called Fishing For Orphans and is really just scans of James Squire’s comics for his university’s student newspaper. In particular this can be seen in his guide to student living:

Hopefully these all show you some of the more treacherous aspects of student life here in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Particularly the pointing knights. That’s just creepy. I mean, sometimes they don’t just point.

Squire has a gift for the obvious humour, and I don’t mean that in any sort of crude way. His is not the realm of fart gags and random nudity, merely for the cheap gag. No, instead he creates a situation which may be fairly mundane or perhaps totally off-beat and then follows it through to its hilarious yet completely foreseeable finale. Sometimes this means pounding the joke in more than strictly necessary but we are all the more enriched by such beatings.

There are a few times when you might begin to wonder if he’s picked up on tropes that have been floating around before, but as this is a print-to-web comic I wouldn’t assume he’s been so crass as to simply read someone else’s idea and use it. I have in mind the perils of Robots Hugging and the art stylings of the Perry Bible Fellowship.

A major theme of his is the Child on the Stool. As seen in some of the above examples, Child is not a complex character, he just wants to be accepted for who he is but not lost among the crowd and blended in. He has that insecurity we all share of wondering if we are special or whether in fact we just don’t fit in. He’s also not very clever… This mainly manifests in silly decisions made with the confidence of being sure of himself as well as the secretive protective nature of someone who needs to verify their place.

I have another kiwi comic in mind that even more clearly betrays its origins as a comic aimed for print, but I’ll talk about that some other time. I have seen in hobby/comic stores in this country many many independently produced black and white comic books and I think that this is the avenue a lot of beginning artists and writers are taking in their quest for recognition. I just want to buy all of them and send letters to each creator, letting them know about the benefits of putting their stuff online and hopefully finding a much wider audience than the sheep and busy busy office drones they might snare by their print books in New Zealand. I know there’s examples of this in the wider international webcomic world, but I’m fairly sure the trend has been the other way, am I right?

We at Fleen thank The Kea for his contributions, invite him to send anythign else that may occur to him, and owe him a beer if we’re ever in the same hemisphere.

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