Posts Tagged silly
A bit of good news and a small amount of bad news come hand in hand this week: I’m once again employed part-time, as a writer for a local nonprofit organization. While the opportunity to work and earn a bit of a living is nice, the training this past week took more time than expected . . . so it’s a bit of good luck to have some of my old favorites still available to review.
Among these favorites is Girl Genius, a production by the husband-and-wife team of Phil and Kaja Foglio. Set in a Victorian-era steampunk Europe that’s at once charming and terrifying. Mad scientists rule over the land much like warring nobles, if said nobles had had airships and giant holographic displays. (Check out the alternate image for that one, by the way; it’s a hoot.) The current top of the heap is Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, but he and his son Gilgamesh are minor protagonists. The titular genius is one Agatha Clay, who is hinted (and later proven) to be the heir to the legendary Heterodyne family.
The writing style is spectacularly tongue-in-cheek. The mad scientists are all individually wacky, and the co-stars have their own interesting little quirks. The awkward moments are hilariously well scripted, and even the thick of combat is filled with moments of sheer lunacy. Trying to count the hidden references to other people’s work becomes as much part of the fun as trying to piece together who’s betraying whom (and the plot goes everywhere, let me warn you).
The art is rather often beautiful. Both Foglios are accomplished fantasy artists (Kaja, for example, has at least a handful of Magic cards to her name, and Phil has done a number of other comics as well), and they certainly seem to have fun with their work. I dare you to find a more adorable engineer, a more spectacular caffeine rush, more disturbing use of pictograms. And the blood. Can’t forget the blood. Oh, my heavens, the ichor. Between that and the tendency for the women to wind up less than dressed, it’s apparent that Phil does the artwork.
As you can tell, Girl Genius is a comic that I enjoy nearly without reservation. It’s whimsical, complex, by turns serious and hilarious. And fructivorous.
Comic Rating: Five hours before you even notice you’re archive-binging.
If you’re like most of the people online these days, you’ve probably had a job in one of the service industries, be it fast food, customer service, retail, or taking tickets at the local movie theater. And if you’re like most service employees, you probably agree that work would be so much better if it weren’t for the customers. You likely have a horror story or two about the Guest from Hell who used the wrong entrance, stood around in the wrong line for a good ten minutes, managed to get all the fliers out of order, and then went off on a five-minute rant when you politely let them know how many rules they were breaking, followed by a demand to see your supervisor. You know the type.
That’s about half of the content of Phil Likes Tacos, a very-long-running comic that spends part of its time commiserating about troubles at work, part of its time making odd-ball video game jokes, part of its time making gags about bachelor apartments, and nearly all of its time being worth a good chuckle. While it lacks the polish and shiny coloring of other comics out there, it’s enjoyable, dependable, and just plain fun.
The author, one Andrew Bilitz, just moved the comic from its previous home on ComicGenesis, and the coding is still a bit wonky on a few things (for one, the forward arrow actually takes you to the previous comic and vice versa), but that sort of thing gets taken care of in time. With an archive as big as his (a comic a day since May of 2002), any change to the coding of the site is going to take a long time to implement.
The comic is set up like a newspaper comic, wider than it is tall and generally told in three panels. It does, admittedly, start with the dreaded “Welcome to the comic” strip that’s been a convention since at least Garfield’s time, and then immediately sets up the main character Phil as the straight man to the antics of his roommate, the hyperactive gamer Doug. Phil works at a taco shop (hence the name of the comic), while Doug … plays video games, makes pop culture references, and generally seems to live in a world that only shares some borders with the one the other characters live in.
As the strip goes along, you meet other people in Phil and Doug’s world. There’s Phil’s nominal girlfriend, who doesn’t even get a name until much later; Mel, the literally demonic manager at Happy Tacos; Norvell, the mooch of a co-worker whose continued employment is a mystery; and Zoug, Doug’s evil arch-nemesis from the underworld and creator of his other arch-nemesis, Mecha-Doug, among many others.
I will be the first to admit that, as an aspiring editor and general nitpicker, the frequent simple spelling errors get on my nerves. And sometimes I’m not sure whether things are errors because Bilitz’s handwriting can end up very tiny.
Bilitz has apparently worked a long time in the fast food industry, based on his depiction of the customers who make Phil’s job difficult as deformed cretins . . . with three exceptions, the Taco Regular Cuties (as they’re called on his old cast page). Delores, Millicent, and Vivian hold a special place as regular characters, and Millie even goes so far as to become Phil’s new girlfriend when the previous one turns out to be merely a good friend.
The art is rather simplistic to start with–see the first comic, linked above–but as time passes, Bilitz figures out ways to stylize his stick figures in a way that makes them look better than most. (Better even than some attempts at fleshed-out drawings by other online cartoonists, but I’m not about to name names.) His colored-pencil Sunday comics are interesting, and I’m particularly fond of this strip. And I’ll admit that the hidden jokes in the background signs are just fun.
The plot is comparable to various sit-coms; while continuity is rather flexible and the status quo tends to be maintained, earlier plotlines do have their impact and are occasionally referenced later. And occasionally old characters will make new appearances.
In all, I’d say the comic is worth a read–but do it when you’ve got a lot of time to spare. With somewhere around 3000 pages in the archives, PLT is a long, hard, often hilarious slog.
Comic Rating: Five number-7 combos and a Slushee. Your total comes to $39.47, next window please.
Post script: this one makes me giggle every time I read it.