I’m starting to think that this review is a jinx. I’ve reviewed four webcomics thus far, and three of them seem to be winding down. The Bad Webcomic Challenge, granted, was meant to last only 200 strips. But Year One, which I thought would keep on going as long as there were Marvel storylines to parody, seems to be coming to an end. And Carlos G. left a message on his Lowroad page that the webcomic is on hiatus.
I’m hoping that this trend doesn’t continue with today’s subject, though I do have my doubts. It is one of the most prolific comics on the web. A brief glance at its archive shows that, since its creation in 2002, a new comic strip has been available every single day. You may be impressed by its longetivity, but the sheer amount of comics created makes me wonder, sometimes, if the author isn’t cursing himself for even starting on the project. Today’s subject is a spoof of pop culture with grand ambitions on educating its readers.
Oh, and it’s made of Lego.
Most of the time.
Readers, I give you The Webcomic Overlook review of Irregular Webcomic!
According to wikipedia, Irregular Webcomic! is created by David Morgan-Mar, an honest-to-God physicist from Australia. He works on esoteric programming languages and authors GURP sourcebooks. He also works on a second webcomic called Infinity at 30 Credits a Day. Also, he’s an optical engineer at Canon.
In other words, this guy has the most severe case of ADHD … ever.
However, it does make me feel better about some of my own blog entries. If a grown man with a Ph.D. spends his free time posing his toys and posting pictures of them on the web, then there’s hope for me yet.
Irregular Webcomic! (that exclamation point is supposed to be there; it’s on all the literature) gets started on three simple themes. The first is Fantasy, where Morgan-Mar parodies well-known fantasy tropes using painted RPG figurines. The second is Space, which does the same with science-fiction themes. He starts doing this theme with some Lego figures, but eventually replaces them all with RPG figurines. These would be their character models for later strips.
The third of the inaugural themes was a harmless little thing called Steve & Terry. Steve is an Australian bloke who spends his time travelling the world finding animals to wrestle, while Terry is his long-suffering wife. Sound familiar? When Steve Irwin died on Sept. 4, 2006, one of the first things I did — after shaking my fist to the skies and vowing to find the accursed sting ray and avenge the Crocodile Hunter’s death — was check on Irregular Webcomic! to see how Morgan-Mar was going to deal with it. Well, in a weird coincidence, Morgan-Mar’s queued strip had Steve waking in a hospital bed, having survived a near-fatal croc attack. Webcomic! Steve would go on to battle Cthulhu, befriend a tribe of yetis, die via poisonous frog, a be brought back to life on a technicality. Weird, par for the course for Irregular Webcomic! … but, y’know, something inside me tells me that Steve Irwin would’ve wanted it that way.
From this promising beginning, Morgan-Mar then branches out into numerous themes which include an Indiana Jones parody, a James Bond parody, a Star Wars parody, adventures of the Nigerian Finance Minister if the infamous spam e-mail were actually from him, and — my favorite — William Shakespeare living in modern times, working an office job, and writing Harry Potter fanfic. Sample a few of them and you get the idea that Morgan-Mar is a huge fan of puns. Some puns you may have heard in third-grade already. And then there are puns that you can only get if you’ve written a post-doctorate thesis on the subject. I’m pretty sure I’ve read somewhere that academics consider puns to be the highest form of humor. Well, to me that sounds like something someone who got pantsed in elementary school would say.
From time to time, Morgan-Mar appears in his own comic strip, reminding us that he’s just a regular joe like the rest of us who likes playing with his toys. These self-insertions usually place him behind a GURPS RPG book, the puppetmaster of all the events that happen in the world of Irregular Webcomics! Now I tend to think that most self-insertions (and I’m including Dave Willis’ Shortpacked! in this) are rather unwelcome diversions where you get the eerie feeling that the author is doing this to live out his or her fantasy. However, Morgan-Mar has appeared in Irregular Webcomic! from day one, and his presence does establish the overall tone of the strip. Also, he’s not afraid to have his disheveled face plastered on the web, so I give the guy points for courage.
Some joke are quite obscure and require academic explanations. Other times, Morgan-Mar provides a lengthy explanation just for the hell of it. The man is a physicist after all. This might sound excessive and tedious, but I’ve gotta ask you this: Fourier transforms, or yet another video game review from a Penny Arcade clone? And he doesn’t stick to matters of physics or mathematics: several strips also take a look at history, linguistics, and obscure pop culture.
The strips are remarkably consistant. Well, actually, that shouldn’t be a surprise since everythings a photograph of either Lego blocks or a plastic figurine. The most notable development is that Morgan-Mar seems to have a better digital camera than the one he had for earlier strips. However, the humor remains consistent as well. It’s pleasant and never risque, similar to stuff you’d find in your newspaper strip, but a touch more clever. I’d say that Morgan-Mar could probably have syndicated his strip by now if it weren’t trademarked by the Lego Corporation.
What about the weaknesses? Morgan-Mar is very experimental, and he’s willing to try out new concepts. Sometimes, these concepts are not altogether successful. From time to time, he parodies strips like the Dinosaur webcomics, Calvin & Hobbes, and The Far Side. Other times, his strips features illustrated characters, as they would in a standard webcomic. I never found strips done in the above styles to be that funny. It’s sorta takes you out of the element when a strip that is visualized in photographs is suddenly thrust in a new medium. But the charm of the daily updates is that if you don’t like a particular strip, a new, different one will come along the next day.
Also, if the academic, pun-filled style of merriment isn’t for you, you’re not going to like this strip. It’s the kind of strip that kids under 12 would enjoy. At worst, it’s corny. Even at is best, the strip most of the time elicits a chuckle, though there are some laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled here and there.
All in all, I do like Irregular Webcomic! It’s a consistent, funny strip with loads of different themes and characters to explore. And if you’re not paying attention, you might learn something.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)