5 Web Comics That Will Make You Ditch Your Newspaper

PC World
Friday, January 4, 2008; 1:19 AM

Let's face it: Most newspaper comic strips are pretty dull, rehashing,   over the past few decades, the same formulas (and often the same characters). That's why comics connoisseurs have been turning to the Internet, where artists can create and publish works that are a little edgier, a little quirkier, and much, much funnier. Here are five favorites. (Click on the images to see them full-size.)

Gamer humor can sometimes be obscure to outsiders, but despite the name of Scott R. Kurtz's strip,PvP(it stands for "player vs. player"), specialized knowledge isn't required to have a good time. The staff of the fictitious PvP Magazine should be recognizable to anyone who has had   even minimal exposure to geek culture. Three examples areBrent, who is such a Mac diehard he annoys even other Mac diehards;Francis, a teenager who's never entirely sure if games or girls are more important; andScratch Fury: Destroyer of Worlds, a super-intelligent cat bent on world domination. Throw in occasional appearances from the cartoonist'sfather, and you've got a winner.

Chris Harding is a funny guy. I know this because I've watched his animated cartoonsLearn Self DefenseandMake Mine Shoeboxmore times than I can count, and I still laugh like an idiot every time. Earlier this year Harding turned his considerable skills in illustration, observation, and sarcasm to a strip called  We the Robots, which gives us a world where life evolved from the mechanical, and yet is frighteningly familiar. We the Robots mines the kind of soul-crushing territory that's familiar to Peanuts fans, but his cute, big-headed creations are (mostly) grown-up and share our experiences...or the worst of them, anyway. Laugh so you don't cry? More like laugh so you don't wail in despair.

PhD Comics

After surviving just enough higher education to finally get out of school, why in the world would anyone go through graduate studies? According toPhD Comics, that way lies not only madness, butindifferent advisors,interdepartmental rivalries, anexcess of sugary snacks, and, eventually, a trip to thereal world. ("PhD" is also short for "Piled High and Deeper.") Creator Jorge Cham, who has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, knows the graduate world well enough to make fun of everything and everyone in it. He also goes on the road to different universities, where real grad students confirm the misery he depicts,   but also remind him (and us) of the reasonswhy they chose to study their fields in the first place.

Let us briefly recount the history of ninjas in black and white comics: In the late 1980s, ninjas were extremely cool. But soon, ninjas were utterly played out. How could this have happened to the dark assassins of the night? That's easy--comic creators made them all mystical and superserious, but forgot about the sheer, simple awesomeness of ninjas. Chris Hastings has not forgotten. The Adventures of Dr. McNinja features a dry, absurdist tone similar to The Tick, but Hastings has generously thrown in pirates, zombies, robots, bears, robot bears, Dracula, and a (repeatedly) resurrected Benjamin Franklin. Nice.

If you like Robot Chicken, you'll be delighted to find that The Perry Bible Fellowship has three things in common with the Adult Swim TV show: (1) The title doesn't tell you anything about the work. (2) The strip uses and subverts many images that are familiar from childhood. (3) No matter how innocuously a strip starts, by the final panel you'll find some kind of horrible (but strangely hilarious) life-or-death struggle...or a joke that ten-year-olds would snicker at. Really, it can go either way. Creator Nicholas Gurewitch uses traditional tools (you know, like pencils and stuff) to create images that are gorgeous, garish, or somewhere in between to transport his readers into his fever dreams.

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