Introducing the WEBCOMICS HIPSTER with a mission statement and a review of Destructor
The internet is built on the corpses of thousands of abandoned comics. Most of them had major flaws. But they were honest attempts by individuals to create stories, and their lapse into dormancy (or outright disappearance) is our loss. For all the amateurish art, unimaginative plots, and cliche writing, there was a lot of creativity and unlimited potential. Promising works continue to pop up all the time, only to wither away unheralded. Sometimes their creators burn out on creating comics. Sometimes Real Life comes along and things get too complicated. Sometimes people just get discouraged that no one cares about their passion project. Whatever the reason, all too often good comics just die.
It is the under-the-radar projects that I want to highlight on the Webcomics Hipster, along with the occasional reference to a beloved classic. So every(?) Monday, while you are sitting in your cubicle trying to avoid productivity, I’m going to tell you about a webcomic I think you should read. Or maybe it will be one I think you shouldn’t read. But you’ll probably read it anyways.
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DESTRUCTOR by Sean T. Collins (writing) and Matt Wiegle (art)
Destructor is an action-driven, dialogue-light comic about a bronze robot. It is divided into story arcs, each of which follows essentially the same format. Destructor goes to a place with weird-looking denizens, a fight breaks out with said denizens, the fight escalates, Destructor wins. This may sound like one of those comics that tries to be “awesome” through sheer ridiculousness - you know, the sort that pits a ninja doctor against a giant lumberjack or has wizards on skateboards in space, not that there’s anything wrong with that. And perhaps there is a bit of that pursuit of coolness for it’s own sake in Destructor. But there’s also so much more.
The creators of Destructor have an very strong understanding of how to use the comics medium. The writing is the living embodiment of ‘Show Don’t Tell’, with an incredible amount of information being conveyed visually, especially through the action sequences which form the majority of each story. It’s also very efficient. Take this bit from the first story, ‘Destructor Comes to Croc Town’:
This Crocodile General, he only appears in nine panels. But you already feel like you know everything you need to about him. He is an experienced soldier. He loves his family. And he knows that his chances of walking away from this fight are slim.
When there is dialogue, it is hardly a wall of text. Usually it raises more questions than it answers.
The art, as you can see, is just as great. There is an intentional simplicity, almost woodcut-like, that in no way prevents the panels from being packed with details. But for such an action-heavy comic, the art would be critically hampered if it the paneling and layout were sub-par. Fortunately that is not the case - except for one early hiccup perhaps - and the eye has no trouble traveling from one panel to the next following the action.
What Destructor reminds me of most is Samurai Jack. Like Samurai Jack, Destructor is an episodic tale about a badass’ journey through a fantastic world. Both stories make heavy use of visuals aspects such as world design and action sequences to convey information and mood, rather than relying upon lengthy dialogue. The story/episode titles of each even follow the same format; ‘Destructor and the Lady’, ‘Jack Under the Sea’, etc.
The main difference between the two (aside from, you know, being in entirely different mediums) is in their main characters. Samurai Jack is … well, he’s kind of a simple character. He’s kind, noble, brave, etc., always does the right thing - a regular Boy Scout - and that’s why we love him. But Destructor is an enigma, constantly teasing us to figure out his motivations. It seems like he has an agenda, but we have only hints as to what it is. He has no compunction against killing, but he is not without honor. In Samurai Jack, the fun is in watching the hero stop villains. In Destructor, the fun is in figuring out which one is which.
One last point of note: The archive. Destructor is updated in regular comic-sized pages, presumably so it can one day be printed. However, the archive takes advantage of Scott McCloud’s ‘infinite canvas’ to list entire chapters on a single page. This allows an uninterrupted reading experience - no clicking buttons, no waiting for the next page to load, just a a seamless reading experience (the authors credit this idea to What Things Do). This is how every comic should organize its archives.
Did I mention it reads really fast? You can read the entire archive in like twenty minutes. Surely whatever you are supposed to be doing right now can wait twenty minutes. So go read Destructor right now.
PS - The Webcomics Hipster was apparently the title of a short-lived podcast, but it has been dormant for about a year now. You can’t even find it in iTunes anymore, so I’m jacking the name. Use it or lose it, guys.