Three staffers, three unabashed recommendations.
Online comic Awful Hospital
2017 is the year when a number of my favorite online comics—Octopus Pie, John Allison’s Scary-Go-Round, Achewood (again)—have decided to call it quits, and it’s left me hunting around for new strips to fill the void. Luckily, I have a borderline-crippling TV Tropes addiction to guide me to new stuff, which is how I stumbled across Awful Hospital, by comedy-horror cartoonist Bogleech (a.k.a. Jonathan Wojcik). Bogleech’s work (which also includes stuff like the legitimately revolting monster-based RPG setting Mortasheen) is aggressively biological, in a way that I respond to with a mixture of a stomach churn and resigned admiration. Operating in that same sticky, strange wheelhouse, Awful Hospital merges the silly and the surreally lethal in roughly equal measures, telling a surprisingly cosmic story about a young mother trying to save her kid from the titular bad doctor place. It’s also one of the few of the internet’s crop of interactive comics to get the mix between player influence (as represented by an active comment section that directs the course of events) and actual story just right, incorporating the “players” into the narrative, while always hinting at something deeper and darker lurking underneath their “help.” If you like your comedy on the dark side and don’t mind having your various phobias plucked, it’s a great binge (and purge, probably, if you read too much of it at once). [William Hughes]
I’m perpetually about a year late on Twitter trends, owing to my wife and children’s selfish needs to be acknowledged, so I recognize that I’m way behind the curve on Swear Trek. But I will amend that tardiness somewhat by saying that the account—literally nothing but GIFs taken from various Star Trek properties, then overlaid with profanity—seems to have taken on a new relevance of late, now that our own future feels so exasperatingly distant from the shiny technological utopia Gene Roddenberry once imagined. Which is to say that, in a world where we’re suddenly fighting Nazis again and even Captain Kirk himself is behaving like a pissy, regressive troll, there’s something immensely satisfying about these little clips of Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Worf, et al. simply declaring “Fuck. That. Shit,” and so on. I’m an old man who, in general, doesn’t like GIFs, and I’m not even the biggest Star Trek fan, but Swear Trek remains a must-follow for me. Boldly go where 49,000 followers have already gone before. [Sean O’Neal]
Apparently I only write about sports mascots for this column now. But let’s talk about the greatest mascot in all of sports: The Phillie Phanatic. Hailing from the Galapagos Islands, the Phanatic is the No. 1 fan of Philadelphia’s National League franchise—he’s also the fuzzy proprietor of my favorite Instagram account, where the Phanatic can be seen harassing umpires, firing hot dogs into the stands, and getting deep into ballpark promotions. The stories told by so many Instagram feeds are curated fallacies; the Phanatic is a guy in a suit designed by former associates of Jim Henson, so the façade is part of the package. And yet, he’s as aspirational as any well-heeled influencer. He has family, he has love, he has friends, he has style, he knows Santa Claus, he shows up on ESPN College Gameday for some reason. The presence of the Phanatic and his weird, retractable tongue in my Instagram feed makes up for so much of the garbage that rains down whenever I open Twitter or Facebook. Replace every iteration of Norman Rockwell’s Tough Call with the enigmatic Phillie Phanatic candid above. Rockwell’s umps couldn’t control the weather, and today’s umps can’t contain the Phanatic. They don’t even know where that rascal is. This is the iconic image of America’s pastime now, maintaining high spirits in the face of declining interest (the team he supports is on track to have one of its worst seasons ever this year), plowing forward on an ATV in a never-ending loop. [Erik Adams]