At the very start of the year I wrote about my favourite webcomics of ‘08 on my old LiveJournal and to end it I’d like to tell you my Top 5 for 2009. I ended up writing quite a lot so I’m splitting it into five posts. I’ll post a comic a day counting down from 5. Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.
1. Scary Go Round/Bad Machinery by John Allison
Nothing in my Google Reader delights me more than the crisp, colourful artwork of John Allison. For four days a week it’s the first thing I read when I open up my browser. Often before I’ve even showered. Was that too much info?
Allison’s ambitious and highly successful webcomic Scary Go Round concluded in September after 7 and a half years of weird and witty tales. The final story was simply titled ‘Goodbye’ and sent the cast into their futures with a heartfelt “So long”. Never one to revel in sentimentality, Allison set all this against a story of Michael Jackson and his bald son Poh moving to Tackleford (the comic’s setting of a small Yorkshire town). Poh turns out to be a master of blackmail and the bane of two of his classmate’s lives, Shauna and Lottie. Also, all the postmen go missing. Like all the best endings, every character was included with their own sub plots and concluded in the kind of satisfying way that you can imagine their stories continuing off panel.
After SGR, Allison introduced his next comic venture on his blog in a highly enjoyable and ridiculous 3 part comic entitled The Electrifying Conclusion in which he consulted his peers the world over (including me!) about what to do next. The result was Bad Machinery, set 3 years after SGR in the same town, it loosely follows the adventures of 2 groups of mystery solving kids.
To start afresh after attracting hundreds of thousands of readers is a risky thing to do, especially if your comic is your sole income. While Allison did report a drop in readers, he is not yet selling lighters (3 for a £1) in the local pubs just yet. It’s clear from reading Bad Machinery that Allison needed a change of pace. After 7 and a bit years of frivolous fun and sexy times in SGR, BM focuses on more intimate phenomenons; the worries of starting a new school, making and losing friends, playing the role of an adult, the conflict between marriage and beards. The end of the first chapter introduces some spooky happenings familiar to any SGR reader, but it’s in the background of the story so far. The cast of 11 year old characters hog the limelight and are a pleasure to watch, still at the age where they’re discovering truths but still making things up.
Allison’s work is consistently funny, wonderful and unique. I really can’t recommend it enough.