Yippy Skippy, The Evil!
Ever since Bill Watterson, Gary Larson, and Berke Breathed collectively threw in the towel, newspaper comics have been on a depressing downward spiral into paralytic banality. The few serious strips that show any semblance of an edge (For Better Or For Worse, The Boondocks, Doonesbury) are frequently labeled "controversial" and "inappropriate for the comics page," while "funny" strips that deviate from hoary old joke formulas never get picked up by the notoriously stodgy syndicates. It makes sense that the spiritual children of Watterson and company have migrated to the Internet, where they can indulge themselves in humor that doesn't require corporate approval. One of the oldest and best of the ongoing Internet comic strips, Pete Abrams' Sluggy Freelance, started up in 1997; the entire storyline, comprising more than a thousand individual comics, is still stored at his web site, www.sluggy.com. Abrams follows the newspaper-comic formula in form but not content, his daily strips telling a complex ongoing story in a punchline-a-day style. But his absurdist humor is entirely too geeky and left-field for mainstream newspapers. His characters, a pack of cheerfully put-upon twentysomethings, include a weapons-happy mad scientist, a psychotic rabbit-like creature with a switchblade, and a ruefully friendly Giger-esque alien; they frequently fight killer robots and drop into alternate dimensions as Abrams parodies popular film, television, and video games. Abrams' latest print collection, Yippy Skippy, The Evil!, most notably spoofs The Matrix and the entire slasher-film genre in a series of story arcs that have his characters under attack by Satan-spawned kittens and a nanotech-based Y2K bug. But in spite of its unfortunately goofy title (previous collections in the series include Worship The Comic and Game Called On Account Of Naked Chick), Yippy Skippy also has a serious side, as Abrams builds on a history of intricate plot threads and story developmentsanathema to newspaper comics as surely as Abrams' twisted version of wit, which ranges from bad puns to Breathed-esque social commentary. North Carolina's Plan Nine Publishing handles the book reprints for more than a dozen independent Internet strips, and the company's web site, www.plan9.org, functions as an introduction and gateway to that material. While few of them approach Sluggy Freelance's irrepressible silliness, collectively they offer hope for the future of the comic-strip medium.