Nitrozac and Snaggy's Joy of Tech, reviewed by Smuga
Among special interest webcomics (about gamers, otakus, college roommates, etc.), only geek comickers are required to understand the underlying machinery and environment on which their webcomics reside. The rest of us are proud if we can successfully register our domain name and paste a generic PHP script into our Frontpage HTML code. But true geeks should be knowledgeable enough to code their own HTML, install a back-end database, and write custom scripts that seamlessly tie everything together. If they can't manage at least that, then how can we be sure they're really geeks?
A quick look at Joy Of Tech's website reveals its creators, Nitrozac and Snaggy (note the geeky names), to be uber geeks extraordinaire. Not only do their forums feature a section dedicated to discussing coding and mathematics, their site has several innovative details: each comic is linked to its topic-related poll and there's a nifty navigation system of thumbnail images for easy access to previous comics. If that weren't enough, Joy of Tech is hosted by Geek Culture which sells geek paraphernalia, and O'Reilly has published the print version of Joy of Tech.
So, Joy of Tech is written and drawn by true geeks, but what about the comic itself?
Joy of Tech is usually a single-panel color comic that updates roughly three times a week. Like The Far Side, Bizarro, and other one panel comics, it doesn't have a regular cast of characters, although famous geeks and other celebrities regularly make appearances. The humor is usually technology-related, with a good deal of it poking gentle, self-deprecating fun at Macintosh computers and the people who love them.
The single panel format allows Nitrozac and Snaggy to tailor their comic to current technology news items and marketing campaigns. This timeliness can result in incomprehensible archive strips, even to regular (if not hardcore) readers of Slashdot.
Joy of Tech is much more accessible, and funnier, when it focuses on how people relate to technology. A lot has been written in the media as to whether computers and the Internet are isolating human beings or building new communities. Strips about Internet dating, webcams, blogging, IMing, and the perils of eBay are refreshing and devilishly funny because they are the result of human folly and hubris, and the technology is only the vehicle.
Sometimes the geekiness of the humor, such as the multi-day Cinderella tale of a G4 processor, is a bit wordy and lacks a punchline. And there are the required geek groaners and horrible puns. But what geek (or other strip webcomic) doesn't dabble in such humor?
The art of Joy of Tech is distinct, not only from other geek webcomics but from webcomics in general. Using extensive photorefs and extreme attention to color choice gives the comic a very polished feel. Human proportions are correct, clothing is detailed, and the computers and gadgets are instantly recognizable. Nitrozac and Snaggy have a great sense of graphic design. Color, art style, and layout come together to produce visually interesting panels, such as the Will Weaton turns 30 movie poster and Apple-inspired strips.
A negative consequence of Joy of Tech's choice of art style is that its characters lack the over-the-top, "cartoony" emotions that have enlivened strip comics such as Calvin and Hobbs or Bloom County. There's a neutral aspect to expressions and an unnatural stasis of body position that, if the comic were multi-panel compositions, might cause the artwork to take on the awkward look of some photo comics. But given that the characters are often geeks, a bit of awkwardness seems appropriate.
Overall, Joy of Tech is a balanced and enjoyable comic. Weak jokes are often rescued by impressive, eye-pleasing art, just as some brilliant and wry humor compensates for less memorable art. When both hit high points, the results are worthy of printing out and hanging up in your office, whether you're a professional geek or not.