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Toddbot.com's Cartoon Journal by Todd Webb, reviewed by Justin Pierce

Both Schindler's List and The Shawshank Redemption are considered great films, but nearly anyone will tell you that Schindler's List was more powerful, because it actually happened. The same thought process can hold true for webcomics. A journal webcomic is unlike any other breed of webcomic because it's real. It's not merely a realistic comic; it chronicles events that have really occured in the author's life. This gives it a power and an intimacy other webcomics don't have. Todd Webb's Cartoon Journal provides both in spades.

Both Schindler's List and The Shawshank Redemption are considered great films, but nearly anyone will tell you that Schindler's List was more powerful, because it actually happened. The same thought process can hold true for webcomics. A journal webcomic is unlike any other breed of webcomic because it's real. It's not merely a realistic comic; it chronicles events that have really occured in the author's life. This gives it a power and an intimacy other webcomics don't have. Todd Webb's Cartoon Journal provides both in spades.

I'll let Webb himself do the introductions, through his journal's index page: "I started keeping a daily comic journal back in September of 2000. At the time, I had just begun work on my graphic novel The Goldfish and Bob, so I decided to use the bald and lemon-headed 'Bob' to represent myself in the strips." Webb closes by saying "I hope you enjoy this peek into my tiny world."

Despite his intro, my initial impression is that Todd Webb makes this journal primarily for Todd Webb – and if readers look, they look. Some journal comics (and blogs, for that matter) that operate on the "tree falling in the forest" rationale: if people don't read it, there is no impact. In other words, those journals are for readers, and if there are no readers, there is no value. Cartoon Journal doesn't follow that rationale. Webb posts when he posts, and although he always kicks himself for missing entries, he isn't apologetic to readers.

Webb relates himself to "Bob", the Ziggy-faced alter ego that stars in Cartoon Journal's first comics. However, around November of 2001, Bob grows hair and dresses more realistically. In short, Bob becomes Todd Webb. This is a rational, if sudden, change – while Charlie Brown was a fictional character who mirrored Charles Shultz, Bob was actually livin' la vida Todd Webb, and the avatar needed to match.

Cartoon Journal's art is rendered simply, but not shoddily. It doesn't compare to Webb's other, sharper drawing in his professional work, but it still evokes a feeling that the artist takes his work seriously, no matter the context. Plus, the informal line art gives the comic a sort of unpretentious, "naked truth" feel that matches its personal context.

Unlike an epic story or a gag-a-day strip, the journal comic doesn't have to follow the rules of other comics, those trying to pull readers in. It doesn't have to tell a story, but it can. It doesn't need to make us laugh, but it often does. It doesn't require a happy ending, a "payoff" for reading, or even a sense of closure, because it's life – unfiltered, unpolished life.

Therein lies its power. When Bob had a crush on someone, I hoped it would work out. When someone in Bob's life died, I felt his sadness. In a way, Webb's comic became my comic, because I've been though the same things, as has everyone at one point in their lives. This is Webb's power of character, a power that stems not merely from realism, but from reality.

Webcomics, like any art, can serve as a form of expression. Journal comics offer this expression unabashedly - created on the fly, while emotions are potent and events are fresh. They may not be full of snappy patter or painstaking craftsmanship, but as Cartoon Journal shows us, they can be full of heart.

Re: Toddbot.com's Cartoon Journal by Todd Webb, reviewed by Just

Thank you, Justin, for using your gift with words to share with others about Todd's gift.

Re: Toddbot.com's Cartoon Journal by Todd Webb, reviewed by Just

Hello there, Mike!

Nice to meet you here...thanks for leaving me a note :-) I hope your day is grand.

Re: Toddbot.com's Cartoon Journal by Todd Webb, reviewed by Just

You've done this kid justice, Justin. Your sentiments mirror mine exactly. I've been friends with Todd Webb for a good two years now, and his approach to life, as exemplified by this journal, is nothing less than honest. His art is never sylized or exagerrated. He doesn't use hyperbole. It's just real. What a guy.

Mike Hourihan
Troy, NY

Re: Toddbot.com's Cartoon Journal by Todd Webb, reviewed by Just

HI MRS. WEBB!
MIKEY H

Re: Toddbot.com's Cartoon Journal by Todd Webb, reviewed by Just

Glad you guys liked it! I calls 'em like I sees 'em though, and Todd deserved it.

-Justin