Fabulous Free Comics

When I was a kid my mom briefly subscribed to the New York Times. I spent several days searching through each day's successive paper, looking for the comics, doomed to failure. To this day there's a part of me that thinks they aren't a real newspaper because they didn't carry the comics in the 70's. Now that I get all my news online I also get my comics online, subscribing to a service that delivers a slew of strips like Pearls Before Swine and The Meaning of Lila to my inbox. But I also visit several independent comic websites including Dinosaur Comics and xkcd.

Technically the entire Dinosaur Comics series is a gimmick (or a conceit if you prefer), but the writing transcends what, in less deft hands, could become boring and stagnant. The comic features three main characters, T-Rex, Utahraptor and Dromiceiomimus; supplemented by appearances from other characters ranging from God and the Devil to Patrick Stewart and Batman. (The Devil is quite interested in talking about video games while God appears to possess exactly the sense of whimsy you'd expect from the inventor of the platypus.) T-Rex is kind of naïve with a love of language and philosophy. His big ideas are frequently punctures by Utahraptor and Dromiceiomimus.

Dinosaur Comics comes out five days a week, Monday through Friday, and each one has the same layout. Virtually every strip uses the same scenery and action, with new dialogue. You can see how this could easily turn dull or trite but creator Ryan North has apparently had little trouble keeping his characters fresh and interesting.

Here is a random sampling of some strips that have been instant messaged to me. T-Rex thinks it might be a good day to talk about ex-girlfriends. T-Rex ponders the causes of obesity. T-Rex has questions about what the Beach Boys call nice. T-Rex tries to understand racism. T-Rex breaks the fourth wall. T-Rex celebrates Mother's Day. T-Rex sings a popular 90's song. (Caveat; while the slogan for Dinosaur Comics is "sexy exciting dinosaur comics for the thinking man or lady", if you're looking for a certain value of sexy you're bound to be disappointed.)

If you spend much time roaming around the math/sciences/sarcasm/romance portions of the interwebs you'll have undoubtedly run into xkcd. So famous that I've encountered random people wearing characters from the strip on their shoulders, xkcd is a beloved internet institution. Drawn in a very simple style featuring stick figures and line drawings, the strip was created by Randall Munroe, a CNU graduate with a degree in physics. Although there are quite a few strips that rely on computer or math humor, there are certainly enough that if you, like me, don't quite get most of those, you'll find plenty of others that you will relate to. (And after all, that's why we have the previous and next buttons.)

The comic started when the creator scanned some old drawings and put them online. They were popular enough that he eventually settled into his current publishing schedule of Monday, Wednesday and Friday and is now able to do the strip full time. He has released the comic under a Creative Commons license and you are welcome to include the strips in your blog (or blag) without having to ask his permission.

Again, here are some links to a few strips that people have instant messaged me, or I've messaged to others. XKCD on restraining orders. And on the nature ofgravity. On the influence of Mom. On a zealous autoconfig (here control c means terminate action, not copy). On hobbies, one of many, all entertaining. And finally, on velociraptors (I do the same thing with zombies).

I mentioned Pearls Before Swine above, one of my favorite comics that you can find in your paper newspaper. You can also find it online and I believe you may be able to subscribe to it for free at comics.com, so long as it is the only comic you get. Written by Stephan Pastis, the two main characters are Rat and Pig and I have bonded with both of them. Rat is a bit of a conman and a jerk who comes up with a variety of schemes to protect himself from stupid people. Pig is kindhearted but emptyheaded and is often at odds with his roommate Rat. For instance Pig has some toys, some Viking action figures that like poetry and flowers, which enrages Rat who wants them to run around pillage and burning. If these two were the angels that sit on your shoulders Rat would be one whispering awful things and tempting you to say terrible things about the annoying people you encounter every day while Pig would be looking on the bright side and saying positive things. There are quite a few collections of this comic available in book form, which make excellent gifts, or so says my middle son who received the first three for Christmas.

One-Paragraph Review
This week's one-paragraph review is from CTL, who stayed up until two a.m. on a school night reading Cory Doctorow's new book Little Brother. "Fricking amazing, Little Brother is one of the best books I've read in a long time. I know a couple of kids like Marcus and I think he's one of the bravest people in existence. I'm proud of the way he stood by his friend in the end." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.