February 9, 2010

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Webcomic I Like: Hermit Hill

One of the hills I realized I rarely climbed in the comics world is webcomics. For whatever reason, I just read them sporadically. I vowed that 2010 would be the year I took time to change that. Every so often, on no regular schedule and in no particular order, I'll pick a webcomic to feature here.

Today's webcomic is Hermit Hill by Nate Bramble. I'm not sure how I found this one, but it quickly became a favorite of mine and one I look forward to reading every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Hermit Hill is the story of Walter, a man who's moved as far away from people as possible, and the characters who just don't seem to be willing (or able) to just leave him alone. The others include Gnorm, a rather large gnome, Joe, a well-meaning neighbor, and Pauline, another nearby resident who seems to function as the strip's straight man.

Most of the stories revolve around Walter's phobias and the rather eclectic things they cause. The current storyline features a plan to turn the hill into a planned community. Walter won't stand for it...but to fight, he'll have to leave the hill!

In the time I've been reading the strip, we've seen Walter try not to care if Gnorm freezes to death, find a unique way to deal with door-to-door salesmen, and even consider a rather medieval way to cure his problems. Other strips are just jokes that are there to serve as a funny interlude, such as when Walter swears he hears a tree cry when trimmed or the time everyone got a giant robot.

Walter's phobias are a real-life problem for some people, and in different hands, I think it might be problematic for them to be the comedic drive of the series. But Bramble does a nice job of being respectful of Walter's fears while still allowing them to be used for comedy. It doesn't feel like we're making fun of his problems and that comes from the way in which Bramble structures the jokes. Instead, there's often a sense of feeling sorry for Walter instead that he cannot cope with something as simple as talking to a new neighbor.

Then Bramble breaks out something silly like Gnorm's tiny tree dwelling, and we all get to laugh out loud together before something more serious starts.

The art of Hermit Hill is of a typical comedic strip. Heads are larger than they should be, clothing stays pretty much the same from day to day, and the backgrounds, while nicely drawn, aren't going to feature intricate details. Bramble is very good at pulling off the look and giving his art its own feel, using a combination of techniques. Unlike some webcomics I've read, the art is very consistent from day to day

You can learn more about Walter, the creation process for the strip, and Bramble himself by going to the about page. Hermit Hill's archives are by the month, so I did not link to individual strips, but you can view the archives to see some of the examples I've described above.

Hermit Hill is a delightful comic that, like Edmund Finney, uses a combination of ongoing main plot and short storylines to great effect. Walter is a classic curmudgeon that's still likable, and that's key to the strip's success. Give it a try with this new story that's just beginning or read up in the archives. I think you'll agree with me that there's no reason to be afraid of Hermit Hill--it's a great webcomic!