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Geek Girl’s Fictional Junk Food-O-Rama – “Sluggy Freelance Is, Indeed, Nifty”
I know that by this time, it’s absolutely no secret at all that I am a comic book geek. I’m a comic strip junkie, too. It sort of goes with the territory. I never quite grew out of being charmed by seeing a story told through words and pictures on a page.
As newspapers grow more and more adamant about making comics smaller, webcomics have become something of a last bastion for me to get my comics fix. The added bonus of having archives to go through really seems to help. When a comic has its own website, I find myself feeling inspired and connected by the insight that many artists offer about their work. It’s comforting to know that comic artists I admire also have the same kinds of struggle creating their work that I do as a writer. They’re writers, too, and sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that in the face of full-color panels of action. They draw far better than I do, which is something else that I admire, but not something I really aspire to match.
The webcomic that I have been reading the longest is “Sluggy Freelance” by Pete Abrams. I actually started reading it because a friend of mine was talking about it while we were in college. She dressed as Oasis for Halloween, and it made a great costume. She assured me, when I asked who the character was, that I would love the comic, so an e-mail with a link to the website later, I started reading the archive.
At that point, Sluggy had only been going for a couple of years. I soon discovered a world pretty similar to the one that I lived in, with a not-so-evil and oddly attractive inventor named Riff whose chief talent appeared to be making stuff explode, his computer programmer/web designer/not quite sure what he actually does for a living friend Torg, their psychotic mini-lop housemate Bun-bun, and a very sweet but not to bright ferret Kiki.
Sluggy has a whole lot of fun with science fiction and fantasy tropes. They poke a little bit of fun at the science nerds, some at the gamers, and a little at the Trekkers too, just for good measure. It isn’t mean bullying fun, though. Pete is a Geek just like us, and he knows where the lines that should not be crossed are. Sluggy isn’t about making you feel ashamed of the things that you’re a fan of; instead, it’s the kind of comic that makes you completely happy that you get the joke.
One of my favorite sequences in the comic is a whole storyline in which Riff and Torg end up in a very Star Trek: The Next Generation style environment with some very Borg-like creatures. Everyone who knows anything about Borg and Borg-like creatures know how the story is supposed to go. However, Riff and Torg are a very special case. Things go quite interestingly. I don’t think that it gives too much away to say that the lyrics to “Margaritaville” are, in fact, involved.
Other characters have joined our intrepid original band in the Sluggy-verse. There’s Aylee, an alien who ends up changing shape several times over the course of the comic. The reasons for that are explained, naturally, and they make perfect sense in the context of the comic. There’s Zoe, a very pretty young lady who, through some comic misadventures of her own occasionally ends up taking the form of a camel. The Sampire is a particular favorite, even though there are times that I feel like I shouldn’t find him as funny as I do.
Sluggy has now been going for fifteen years, which, in Webcomic time is something akin to forever and an age. Admittedly, that’s a pretty big backlog of story to go through. Pete is fantastically good, however, at linking cross-references to past events that impact current comics, just in case anyone needs a refresher. He also fixes continuity errors, something that I can appreciate. Everyone makes mistakes, it takes a good man to admit it happened and fix it, instead of completely ret-conning his entire universe to make the mistake fit awkwardly into the otherwise good story.
If you check out “Sluggy Freelance”, you’ll be treated to such fun and original story-lines as Bun-bun deciding to take control of all of the holidays to become the master of all of them. Bun-bun is the aforementioned psychotic mini-lop. He’s very cute, which if you’re smart you would never, ever say to him under any circumstances, and he should be classified as his own specific type of deadly weapon. Whether wielding a switchblade or armed only with his own paws, in a fight, Bun-bun is the guy that you want on your side.
I had the privilege of meeting Pete at DragonCon this year. He was over in Comic Artist’s Alley, and I am unashamed to admit that my friends had already been informed in no uncertain terms that I was going to see Pete Abrams and I was going to complete my collection of “Sluggy” books. I had the first six of them, purchased as they were released and, regrettably, I had fallen behind on purchasing the rest of them. Pete not only let me get a picture with him, he signed all of the books that I bought from him, drew sketches for me in several of them, and actually had a very nice extended conversation with me.
It wasn’t like I wasn’t already a fan for life: “Sluggy Freelance” has entertained me consistently for long enough that it’s kind of hard for me to feel like a day has been completed unless I’ve read the “Sluggy” strip for that day. I don’t intend to fall behind on purchasing books again, because really, it’s just too much comic-y goodness to be denied on a daily basis should my internet connection go down. And, maybe, this year, my Christmas present to myself will be a Defenders of the Nifty membership. I’ve wanted to get one for quite a while. I think the time has finally come.