Irregular Webcomic!

Irregular Webcomic! (main site) (first strip) (punny) is the first (and likely only for a long time) review of a webcomic that uses photography instead of drawn art to make the panels. The author, David Morgan-Mar, has various lego sets, roleplaying-miniatures, and assorted other methods of finding various ways to get pictures of characters. The way this remains consistent is that he also has many different “Themes”, each of which are generally distinct from each other. His Star Wars parody generally has nothing to do with his Fantasy story arc, which tends to not interact with his Indiana Jones parody or his take on Mythbusters. At current count there are 17 different themes. More on this later. All of the strips have a punchline, and there’s very rarely any serious drama. When there is, it’s used purely for comedic value.

Irregular Webcomic!, despite its name, has been surprisingly regular. It started on Dec 31, 2002, and starting Jan 27, 2003, the strip has been updated daily, save for about 6 exceptions, the last of which was in 2004. As of 7/29/07, he’s at 1645 strips. In his FAQ, he claims that the Irregular part of the name is that he doesn’t guarantee any particular schedule, so if he misses an update or such, that’s just part of the webcomic being Irregular. The fact that it’s been much more regular than a majority of webcomics he cites as an example of life’s amusing ironies.

One of the things that people should probably be warned about Irregular Webcomic! is that the strip uses puns an awful lot. There’s even been running gag puns. So if you hate puns, you may want to skip this one. If you don’t mind them, however, it’s quite well done. There’s also a large number of geek jokes. David Morgan-Mar claims to have a PhD in Physics, and I’d believe it. There’s a long series of strips regarding the thermodynamic impossibilities of Coruscant and the Death Star, over which he received quite a bit of mail from people clinging on to their believes that Star Wars physics should work (which mostly just gave him more material to mock). Parodies are the majority of his Themes, with roleplaying games coming a close second.

Irregular Webcomic also happens to be possibly the best designed webcomic site I’ve ever seen. There’s an RSS feed (including an LJ feed), the archives are remarkably easy to navigate through regardless of whether you’re intending to read through the entire archive or by theme, and the archives allow you to load comics 5 at a time, including annotations. There are cookies you can store to turn annotations off, or visually-impaired mode on, and a link to a strip’s permanent url even when it’s on the main page. Also, the strip is small enough and high enough on the page that scrolling down is not necessary unless you’re at a truly abysmal resolution (or there’s a long footnote). Roughly the only gripe I could possibly come up with (and I’m a professional software tester) is that if you’re going through the main archives 5-strips at a time and a theme comes up in one of the first two strips you have to select that strip individually before being able to just navigate through that theme’s strips. Considering I don’t think I’ve seen anybody have the site navigate even this easily, I’m certainly not going to be complaining about an extra click in rare situations. Also amusing on the site is a web poll that gets updated every few days, and an archive of past poll results. Generally the web polls are silly, and occasionally thoughtful (”which line separates yellows from greens” with a graphical list of colors was actually quite interesting). Every once in a while there’s also polls that you can either try to use some game theory to figure out what the right answer will be, or just have some fun and pick something. This poll likes to make you think.

As mentioned, there’s 17 different Themes, and you can navigate through the archives of the themes individually. This means that if you just want to read one particular plotline, or if you don’t particularly like various themes, there’s methods to work around that. I’m not as fond of some of the themes as others, so every once in a while I’ll just read through an individual theme that I like, and I enjoy having that option. All the themes are pretty decent, though.

The other fun thing about the fact that there’s 17 themes in Irregular Webcomic is that he often takes the opportunity to mix and match them. He has a “crossover grid” somewhere, marking which strips have been a crossover between which themes. These are generally just throwaway gags, like Colonel Haken from the Cliffhangers theme (Indiana Jones parody) falling through a portal into the Star Wars universe where he and Darth Vader compare notes about how incompetent their minions are. Most interestingly is that the Death theme ties all the themes together- the idea is that there are Deaths for each possibly way to die. Death by Insanely Overpowered Fireballs tends to get the most work (there’s a Fantasy theme. This should be obvious), although Death by Choking On A Giant Frog and even Death of Being Ground By A Mars Rover Rock Abrasion Tool get screen time. Whenever one of the other Themes has a death, one of the Deaths goes to deal with it. Although generally the Deaths experiene some bureaucratic snafu or are on strike, so most of the deaths don’t generally stick.

Due to the fact that the strip’s photographs, it’s hard to make any claims about art quality improving, but the sets have gotten more elaborate and clearer over time. This sort of strip generally isn’t looked to for art, however, and the writing is quite good for being geek-based pun-loving humor. Annotations explain all of the more obscure jokes (so if you’re not familiar with the fact that a certain flower is also a word in German for something else, it’ll get explained), but if you don’t like humor that requires knowing various facts, you’ll often be left behind. On the flipside, if you don’t mind learning something new, or if you already have a bunch of obscure trivia, there’ll be jokes here that you’ve never seen anybody make before. Kudos to him for that.

Irregular Webcomic is a great comic for people who enjoy puns and obscure geek trivia. Go give it a try.

Review this post for Stumbleupon

Leave a Reply