The webcomics blog about webcomics

There’s A Double Meaning In That

Middle age, is a weighty phrase — it can mean that extended time of your life when you see perhaps fewer days ahead than behind, and definitely feel the bleh aspects of keeping a human body working. Side effects may include increased torpor and or stamina-lack, baldness, and desperate displays of how youthful and cool you are¹. Or it could refer to that broad swath of time between the general decline of accomplished empire, and the resurgent renaissance as society gets its learning on again.

Or it can refer to the intersection of the two, vis-a-vis the webcomic of the same name by Steve Conley². Conley was kind enough to send me a copy of the first print collection of The Middle Age (30 or so strips plus bonuses) — a slim, squarebound volume, it occupies the middle ground between mini-comic and a printed-overseas-year’s-worth collection. If you’re looking for an introduction to a comic that you don’t now, it’s the perfect balance of economy (of cash and time) and ephemerality, the sort of thing that’s perfectly supported by Patreons.

And it was a necessary introduction, on account of The Middle Age escaped my notice until Conley emailed to ask if I’d be at SPX; there’s a lot of webcomics out there, and even a longtime creator starting one can escape my notice more easily than I’d like to admit. And I admit it, because doing so lets me make up for my oversight; this is a fun comic.

The nominal hero (Sir Quimp of Grawlix) and the nominal MacGuffin (Maledicta! The Blade of Woe!) are pretty quickly reversed in roles — Maledicta runs circles around Quimp, berating the largely well-meaning but hapless knight at every turn, and taking control of his body when unconscious to deal out truly horrifying amounts of death. It’s gotta sting for Quimp to be reduced to bit player in his own life by an inanimate (but evil and intelligent) chunk of metal, but it’s also perfectly in character.

But for me, the inversion (clever), the pacing (brisk), the gags (full of earned funny) aren’t what grabbed me about The Middle Age; it’s the language. Grawlix isn’t a nonsense word (well, it is, but it has a meaning); it’s the spiral symbol in word balloons that represents naughty words … and Quimp’s speech is full of grawlix after he meets Maledicta.

Then there’s that name: maledicta, I am assured by Google, translates from Latin as malicious. But break it down a little — male means poorly, badly; dicta means called but is not far removed from dictum (saying, speech, something said). It’s just this side of bad + words, which of course are disguised by grawlix. Ironically, Maledicta doesn’t utter so much as one naughty word in Book One, while Quimp is reduced to it on multiple occasions as they meet, establish their respective stories, and head off (at the end of the book) to the town of Gaffe.

I am beginning to sense a theme³.

Those wishing to explore said theme further, the second book is currently in pre-orders, shipping in the next two weeks or so. For those even more impatient to revel in the word games, Conley updates The Middle Age on Mondays.

Spam of the day:



¹ I, by contrast, have a full and lush head of hair, am vigorous, and have always been this cool and relevant. Why, yes, I am about to turn 50, thank you.

² Whose Astounding Space Thrills I was enjoying back in the Dawn Age of webcomics, some 20 years back. Which might make both Conley and me middle aged if not rapidly approaching decrepit.

³ Previous wielders of Maledicta include Gwaethbfnl the Unpronounceable and Lord Snitbag the Poorly Named. And just to pile on, a Google search tells me that quimp(s) are graphical elements in a maledicta balloon to represent obscenities, resembling the planet Saturn (which kettle-shaped Quimp kind of does).

The same reference calls out jarns and nittles, but definitions are sadly lacking, but Quimp’s surcoat contains an embroidered design with all the curseword symbols represented.

With regards to the Spam of the Day, it sounds like there are warehouses full of unsold Fant4stic merchandise they’re desperate to unload.

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