Presumably when one is looking into webcomic reviews, one expects to hear about… well, webcomics. Cox & Forkum is something that might fit the definition for a webcomic, and yet strictly speaking, it isn’t one.
By the creator’s own description, the site for Cox and Forkum is more of a blog – a place for the pair to showcase their editorial cartoon work and publicize their printed collection, Black and White World.
Editorial cartoons are truly another sphere altogether, one rarely tailored to the average web comic reader. It seems the goal of many webcomic artists is to get their work into print, and most begin their foray into cyberspace to experiment a bit until a consistent style or storyline is developed, or an audience has been established.
By contrast, the work of John Cox and Allen Forkum (the artist and writer respectively) seems to be taking a rather unorthodox approach. Their editorial cartoons are already in print, and available to an audience that in theory appreciates the content and panache with which they are delivered. For one, they are frequently published in The Intellectual Activist, where they seem to have found a niche even if by their admission they are not currently syndicated.
So why bother to put up a ‘web comic’ at all, when their work already appears in print? The answer is direct and unrepentant – "In October 2002, we self-published a collection of our first year’s editorial work in Black & White World. This blog was started in March 2003 partly to promote the book. We ask regular visitors to our site to consider buying a copy to help keep the site going."
The site itself holds little more than a series of monthly archives that list some selected cartoons and frequent references to their work in print, where they are sampled from. In the initial stages of their cyberspace venture, the authors had a device that allowed for comments to be left on individual cartoons – this was later dispensed with, under the grounds of not wanting to provide a soapbox intended for people to express dissenting views in a rather unruly disrespectful fashion. Design-wise, the site is simplistic at best, and rather awkwardly arranged for reading purposes.
As for the content itself, the editorial cartoons are incisive, biting and utterly uncompromising. Perhaps the most frequent victim of their wit is the hypocrisy of western civilization and the rather evident bias of the media. Beneath each cartoon there are often lengthy explanations about the context of it, as well as well-researched and interesting assortments of links to various news sources and related articles.
The humor and criticisms are not only well aimed, but also consistent in their approach and delivery. Granted, the material showcased on the site is likely what the authors themselves deem the best examples of their work, and as such, one is hard pressed to find one that would be considered as lacking in quality. The authors make no apology for their opinions, and the internet medium allows them to further expound on them by the addition of rather apropos links to various writing and news excerpts.
Artistically, Cox and Forkum is clearly well above the average webcomic. John Cox masterfully depicts the likenesses of politicians – they are unmistakable, even while rendered in his own very distinctive style. There is clearly an investment of time and effort that goes into every one of the strips, and while the two creators doubtlessly have their own agendas, they have the considerable talent to express them rather successfully.
So is it a webcomic? Not in the way that one usually conceives it. But yes, in the sense that it is regularly updated, contains visual information and seeks to relate a series of stories, it is – and it is likewise well worth the read.