When I learned that the theme for this month’s issue was superheroes, I asked a friend of mine who is a bigger webcomic reader than I am if she could think of any good superhero comics on the web. She paused, looked at me stunned, and then laughed when she realized she had been reading webcomics for years and had *never* read a superhero webcomic, at least not one in the vein of your typical Marvel or DC flavor. Of course, there certainly are plenty of superhero comics on the Internet, but unlike their print comic counterparts, if superheroes aren’t your thing, you can access plenty of other comic work while completely avoiding people in spandex BAM-ing and POW-ing their way through life.
I personally tend to lean towards more slice-of-life, character-driven, or more generally, quirky comics. These things are not what I would generally use to describe a superhero comic. On the Internet though, I’ve come across several sites running work that throws people with super abilities into stories that are right up my indy-comic-obsessed alley.
Superslackers by Steven Charles Manale
Superslackers by Steven Charles Manale, is simply terrific fun. The Super Slackers are a group of children and otherwise child-like personalities that isn’t exactly the first group people look to for saving-the-day scenarios. Reading the comic makes me want to watch the characters in animated features; the writing would lend itself well to the sort of short-burst comedy setups required of any humor-focused cartoon worth its salt. Superslackers would slide into the the Adult Swim lineup nicely amidst The Powerpuff Girls and The Tick.
The "powers" that the characters in Superslackers have at their disposal are generally amongst the least useful ones I have seen deployed to fight ne’er-do-wells. I don’t know that there has ever been a power that made me smile and laugh so consistently as that of “Invisible Right-Leg Lad”, who doesn’t even have the good fortune to be able to turn his invisible right leg “on” and “off”. Perhaps the most useful power held by one of the members is Arrleen, whose power is to be a pirate. While that may not be considered a power in some purist circles, at least she’ll have an easier time entertaining herself with her abilities than, say, The Wafter, who, well… wafts. Around. To, er, places. You get the gist.
My biggest gripe about Superslackers isn’t about the comic itself, but rather the website design. The front page has little square “snapshots” of every single comic posted, which when clicked will take you to that comic. This would be okay if there was some other navigation or what have you, but it’s just pictures of the characters (not linkable), the aforementioned comic snippet squares, and a smattering of links at the bottom to either e-mail the creator or, ironically, find out about the people responsible for the website design. I certainly don’t want to squash innovative web design, I just don’t think function should be sacrificed at its expense.
Butterfly by Dean Trippe
Dean Trippe’s Butterfly, on the other hand, makes use of the ComicPress theme for WordPress (created by Tyler Martin). ComicPress transforms WordPress into a very nice user interface for the comic creator and his or her readers alike. Anyone familiar with navigating a blog will have an easy time making their way through the archives and other navigation on the site. But this isn’t supposed to be a review about website design, so let’s get back to reviewing webcomics.
Butterfly is a very, very obvious spoof on the Batman franchise, and it does so in a delightful fashion. Butterfly is the sidekick of Birdie (a stand-in for Batman ‘s Robin), who of course is in turn the sidekick of Knight-Bat (I don’t need to spell this out any further, do I? There is an archive of older strips that will give you some additional background on the characters.)
Please sit back and enjoy for a minute, in case you missed it, the idea of a sidekick with his own sidekick.
When you’re done, we’ll keep on with the review.
Okay. The relationship between Butterfly and the pseudo-dynamic duo works pretty well as a crime-fighting unit in general, but it works even better to convey the light-hearted spoof-ish feel of the comic. It is very reminiscent of The Tick, with the land-based muscle working their way across rooftops, crashing through windows, while the airborne Butterfly flies along patiently pacing himself with the others until the action starts.
Along the way, the trio comes across a variety of comic crime-fighter clichés, such as when they hand the villain off to the police after capturing him and the cop responds “Sure thing, Mr. Butterfly, you can just think of us cops as the weirdo clean-up crew.”
My favorite character so far is “The Mouse”, whose alter ego turns out to be another character tied into the lives of our heroes. (You have to go into the “Humble Start” portion of the archive to see how all of this plays out – I won’t ruin it for you.) The Mouse’s abilities seem to include blowing things up, dancing, speaking in emoticons, and generally drawing attention to herself. Among others.
Butterfly and Superslackers are the two finest examples of super-heroes-gone-silly that I’ve come across in webcomicsville. But I can be persuaded, so if you know of others you think the humble Comixpedia readers need to know about, please post about it below in the comments. Or alternatively, you could always jump through my giant livingroom window wearing a mask and cape and tell me about them.