Webcomic Capsules — school, college and roommates

Dumbing Of Age, David Willis webcomic

Today’s Capsules is all about student life. Although I have to say our characters do anything but study–apparently, that’s not interesting material for a webcomic. High school, college, and even kidergarten, surely these students will find something interesting to do, such as solving mysteries like the Bad Machinery girls, fighting “villains” as our cute little heroes in JL8, or just trying to fit in, which can be a hard task for Broommates’ teen witches.

Bad Machinery
by John Allison
Updates: Fridays (on a little hiatus until February)
Genre: detective mystery

Bad Machinery by John Allison is the story of three friends who attend Griswalds Grammar School and have the spirit of adventure in their hearts. Constantly looking for mysteries to solve, they end up finding more than expected. It is a fun and witty webcomic for all ages with great female representation. The three protagonists often have to combine their unique personalities to solve the mystery. The reader gets to see the girls being brave, smart, strong, afraid, fun, silly, etc. and building a strong bond, which is rarely portrayed in characters this age (thirteen-ish).

The webcomic has been around for more than three years and already has eight chapters. Each chapter is a separate case, so the reader can choose to start from the beginning of the latest case or whichever case she prefers.

— Carolina

Pumpkin Spiced
by Paige Lavoie
Updates: Tuesdays and Thursdays
Genre: slice of life meets fantasy meets punks, goths, vampires, and zombies

When Paige Lavoie wrote suggesting Pumpkin Spiced for review, I immediately took her up on the offer, because, let’s face it, New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken and “read fewer webcomics” wasn’t something I could reasonably achieve in 2014 anyhow.

If you like top hats and tea parties, vampires and zombies, knitting and sewing, and fashion splash pages reminiscent of Betty & Veronica, then this “slice of life about friendship, love, and learning to be yourself” might be the series for you.

My favorite panel is in the introduction, where the resident zombie, Penelope, breaks the fourth wall to peer at the reader, saying, “that person keeps staring at us.” Lavoie generally sticks to a standard six-panel layout found in print format, but she occasionally plays with the frames to neat effect.

Overall, this story about running out of money, living with roommates, lying a little bit, and kind of being a jerk sometimes (oh, Violett), and it will likely resonate with anyone who’s been in their twenties. It’s cool to see Lavoie’s drawing style gradually change over time. I see the manga influence in her work, especially the page where Violett tells Trixi: “Your life is not a manga!”

The earlier pages (circa 2012) are in black and white, and more recent pages liven up the story in full color. I recommend reading webcomics like this in one sitting to follow the thread of the storyline, which can become disjointed if read piecemeal.

It will be interesting to watch this tale of misfits as it unfolds. I’m particularly curious to learn more about the unresolved past of Skarlett, the sometimes adorable / sometimes hypnotically blood-sucking vampire housemate.

Lavoie vlogs about making webcomics and has an etsy shop selling character drawings from her series.

– Amanda Murphyao

by Yale Stewart
Updates: weekly
Genre: superhero cuteness

Baby Justice League is just too cute for words! If, like me, you’re sad because of Batman Lil’ Gotham’s being cancelled, this could be a nice way to fill up all your cute superhero needs. They go to school, they try to be heroes, they fight villains bullies. JL8 is fun and heart-warming.

I have to say, though, that the female representation is bad. Some things are to blame on the source material: women are a minority in Justice League. But also the boys take the spotlight most of the time, and the girls (little Wonder Woman and little Power Girl) are often portrayed as their romantic interests. If you read this with children, you might want to take some time to discuss these issues.

— Carolina

by Emily Quinn and Dan Patrick Fulton
Updates: Monday
Genre: witches try to fit in mortal life

Three teenage witches leave the magical realm to study in a mortal college. All they have to do is follow three rules: don’t reveal themselves, don’t interfere with mortal destiny, don’t misuse magic. Obviously, they break these rules as soon as they get there.

Everything magical, like the spells or the shimmering light of the cauldron, is animated. A nice touch that creates a polarization between the two worlds of the protagonists.

Broommates is a fun and appealing webcomic that is just beginning.

— Carolina

Dumbing of Age
by David Willis
Updates: on the daily
Genre: semi-autobiographical slice of life set in college

An established webcomic artist using characters from his past comics, David Willis has this story down pat. The pacing is great (although, I’d again recommend reading chunks of the story as it’s difficult to keep track of the many characters over the months), the timing is delightful, and he knows how to pack a surprise punch with established tropes. The stories generally unfold in a standard one line strip, but what he manages to do with the space is hella fun to follow.

With the angsty college drama and antics set at Indiana University, Willis manages to incorporate storylines dealing with coming out, going back into the closet, religion, atheism, interracial relationships, disguises, romantic intrigue, drinking, sexual assault, and family tensions to show that there are lots of ways of being in the world and lots of ways of messing up. Friends see each other through, for the most part, and I’m looking forward to watching the tale as it continues to unfold.

There’s a comments section below each strip, if you’re into that, as well as twitter feeds for each character and the obligatory merch.

PS What is it about comics creators from Ohio?

— Amanda Murphyao

Happy reading!