Lovefool 05.23.11 | Love and Pixels

This week, Lovefool’s got internet dating on her mind….or rather, the relationships at the heart of Questionable Content and her other favorite webcomics.

 

 

I read a lot of webcomics and, if I have to pick, I think the collected webcomic is one of the best things out there. I mean, webcomics are free for the price of an internet connection, update all the time and have a certain amount of flexibility. And then you can buy them and read them again and again in book form. Or you can read them online. Whatever. Anything goes. It’s kind of the elephant in the room, but I am such a fan of Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield’s FreakAngels that I own a bag that I am completely willing to wear to my super-corporate job whenever I’m lugging my laptop there. FreakAngels follows 12 superbeings who were born the same day, are very pretty and occasionally sleep with each other or other people or entire groups of people. In fact, we meet many of the FreakAngels when one of them wakes up in a sketchy bed after a dodgy liaison with a sketchy boy. After she participated in breaking England years ago.
 
But still, we meet her fresh from a regrettable hook-up and it’s immediately amusing and endearing. I touched on it a few weeks ago but there are entire comics that are self-sustaining cottage industries that focus nearly entirely on their character’s love lives. Questionable Content, I’m lookin’ at you. Queen of Wands, Something Positive, Scary-Go-Round: they’ve all had major arcs that pivot on their character’s love lives. Octopus Pie, that critical darling, has dealt largely with romance. Well, drugs, kind of, and romance. Even Penny Arcade, the granddaddy of all webcomics, has some romantic interaction between Gabe and Tycho and their wives. And I will stand up right here and say that Questionable Content is one of my favorite comics. Not one of my favorite webcomics, but my favorite comics, period.
 
Questionable Content, for the nerdlings out there who have never explored such dirty things, is the brainchild of Jeph Jacques, who has taken characters who would normally be way too cool for school and made them not only interesting, but compelling. It follows a core group of four neighbors and friends and sometimes-lovers and a rotating cast of characters who come and go as the core group seems to go to underachieving jobs and bars I might pop into. They drink and work and form bands with their friends and all the other things that make up our lives, but it’s way more interesting. And, while it sometimes addresses other issues, it’s mostly about them sleeping with each other. Or not sleeping with each other, as the case sometimes is. When I said a wail went up over the internet when Martin and Dora, two of the main characters, broke up, I’m not kidding. Twitter was a mess for a while. I made a random tweet about it and five of my friends were like “OMG, I KNOOOOOOW. SO SAD.” These are characters in a webcomic and we were acting like some of our friends broke up.
 
And few webcomics are immune to it. Gunnerkrigg Court takes place in a school for the supernatural on the brink of constant conflict, both external and internal. Doesn’t seem like much room for romance, right? But a school is still a school and so, naturally, there are all sorts of supernatural teenage (and some adult) hijinks going on. Queen of Wands doesn’t really feature the main character’s romance but how she’s affected by a romance going on around her. Scary-Go-Round always kept the characters’ various romances on a back burner, even when they were kidnapped by hordes of supervillains. xkcd, seemingly about science, has had some very profound strips about love since its inception. Surely everyone out there has seen the panel with a single heart floating out a makeshift ball pit.
 
So why is it that webcomics always seem to feature romance so heavily? Is it because they create their own market and therefore don’t have to answer to any editorial higher power? Is it because of the niche they naturally operate within, one that is, frankly, easy? I don’t have to negotiate with anyone to read a webcomic. There’s no awkwardness because there’s no interaction to a webcomic. Unlike a Harlequin manga that I used to have to shove across the counter at a con before they loaded them on the internet, no one is ever going to know that I read Questionable Content religiously unless I tell them. Granted, the two aren’t exactly in the same ballpark but I bet there might be a little light judging at most of my locals around here were I to shove something like that across the counter. Fortunately for us, the internet has become a world without shame, one where we don’t have to justify two lightly affectionate panels with twenty pages of girls hand-to-hand fighting as a payoff. And I, for one, appreciate that no man is an island. And most of them aren’t superheroes, either. | Erin Jameson
 
Naturally, you can read FreakAngels, Questionable Content, Gunnerkrigg Court, Queen of Wands, and the other webcomics mentioned in this week’s Lovefool for free online.

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