March 14, 2010

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Webcomic I Like: Wondermark

I used to wonder about why I didn't really read any webcomics as a rule. I vowed that would change in 2010, and have been working my poor RSS feed to death experimenting with what's out there. Every so often, on no regular schedule and in no particular order, I'll pick a webcomic to feature here.

Here on Pi Day, let's take a look at Wondermark, a long-running webcomic by David Malki that's even made it into a few print editions. Normally I might not do a spotlight on a comic that everyone is probably already familiar with, but I absolutely love this comic.

In Wondermark, Malki takes old woodcuts and engravings from the 19th Century and puts them in either ridiculous or modern situations--sometimes both. Their speech almost never matches up with the look of the characters, adding to the hilarity. Last but not least, Malki uses repeated images in the same comic to add to the timing of the joke.

The concept would attract me even if the humor was only mildly funny, but Malki is often laugh out loud hilarious. (I can see why he used to appear in the Onion's print edition.) It's hard not to break into guffaws at the idea of a man in a full suit using chopsticks to eat Cheetos, rats arguing over where to keep a tuba, or even uncomfortable conversations amongst the trees.

My personal recent favorite was this comic, which is just so absolutely preposterous and hysterical all at the same time. Sneaky, indeed!

Malki varies the type of jokes really well. This one starts as a visual gag and ends with a verbal quip. A comic arguing the merits of a camel is nothing but verbal banter almost matching Bendis for length. Here's a perfect example of the juxtaposition of antique drawings with modern concepts. You might even see him skewering Victorian age classics, a perfect target for these engravings. If you want to sample the comic, Malki has a handy random button for you.

There's no ongoing story in Wondermark, so you're able to just jump in whenever you'd like. To me, that's a strong selling point for any webcomic, especially a long-running one. I did see that he returns to some ideas here and there, but it requires no prior knowledge. About the only thing you have to bring with you is a sense of humor and a love for verbal wordplay or visual gags. Fans of either will find a lot to like in Wondermark, often in the same comic.

I really like the way Malki uses the old drawings. I remember thinking about how silly those old drawings on the Wendy's tables looked, and seeing them talk at each other has great appeal. Malki sometimes adds his own drawings to enhance the image, masking them in a style that matches the primary drawings. However, this is a comic that's mostly about design rather than pure artistic content, in case that matters to you.

Wondermark is a solid comic that delivers a great distraction from the day twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays. You can subscribe by RSS, e-mail, or even Twitter. If you aren't one of the many people who already digs this comic, I strongly urge you to check it out. You'll be glad you did, or I'll be happy to trim your handlebar mustache for you!