From long-running soap operas to comedy-drama slices of life to daily gag strips, the digital comics scene has exploded over the last decade and readers have never had more options. Feeling overwhelmed? Joe Stando is here to take you on an expedition through the webcomics wilderness and show you the best specimens in our monthly Deadshirt Webcomics Field Guide.
Gun Show by KC Green
I feel like as a culture we have a tendency to value drama over comedy. In movies, on television, and in comics darker material is seen as a greater attempt at insight, and even the best comedy inspires less discussion and critical analysis than most dramatic fare. It’s easy to dismiss comedy as “just jokes,” but that’s as inaccurate as it is unfair. Great comedy is just as deft a skill as great drama, and equally bold or deep artistic statements can be made.
This brings me to this month’s Field Guide Recommendation: KC Green’s Gunshow. Unlike the previous webcomics I’ve covered, there generally isn’t a ton of strong continuity between updates. It’s also the closest to a traditional comic strip of the comics I’ve reviewed so far, with set-ups and punchlines in each strip. There are exceptions, like the recent Graveyard Quest storyline, which I’ll discuss in a bit, but Gunshow stays closer to the traditional model of comics as funny pages strips than a lot of webcomics. And that’s just fine.
It’s perfect, actually. Green has honed his comedic sensibilities into an extremely fine tool over the run of the comic, and he just keeps getting better. His sense of pacing, his skill at rendering everything from the cute to the grotesque in an appealing, funny style, and his willingness to incorporate all kinds of material are all unmatched. Green parodies everyday situations, pop culture tropes and odder, more offbeat gags. He’s never afraid to go blue, but it’s never facile or lazy material. Indeed, one of my favorite recent strips is an extended riff on snobbery in comedy, and the idea that something is never “just a fart joke.”
Green has created a robust cast of recurring characters in his strips, from office workers dealing with the literal Devil to a couple of slapstick rabbits who constantly antagonize each other. He’s also provided some great parodies of popular franchises in his Fan Art Friday comics, taking on Archie, The Simpsons, and more. His eye for the bizarre, and sometimes disturbing, guarantees these takes aren’t likely to infringe on the official franchises, but they provide solid deconstruction of iconic characters.
Gunshow has also made several forays into longer form stories, all of which I’ve enjoyed. “Blood Rain” was a surreal series from the comic’s early days that was both amusing and melancholy. “The Anime Club,” one of the comic’s best known stories, depicts a dysfunctional quartet of kids who love anime almost as much as they love being horrible to one another. It’s a pretty accurate take of how outcasts will impose their will and get “revenge” on whatever small circle of power they have, and a story that feels more relevant than it should in the state of current comics fandom.
The current storyline, “Graveyard Quest,” is the most ambitious yet, with numerous chapters devoted to a gravedigger and his mole companion journeying through the underworld to recover the stolen bones of his mother. It’s reminiscent of both Alice in Wonderland and an old-school side-scrolling video game, and it manages to be both fun and absurd and capture the frustrations of finding purpose and destiny in life. It’s currently on break as Green returns to one-off gag strips, but I believe the next chapter will be the finale.
Gunshow has its share of darker or more dramatic comics; my favorite of which is probably “The Ghost Ship,” a story about a guy spending the weekend with his ghost parents that serves as a bittersweet musing on adulthood and growing up. But focusing on the more melancholy comics feels like a disservice to the Herculean comedic work Green puts in every week. KC Green is a guy who knows not only that dogs or squirrels or a skull wearing sunglasses are funny, but why they’re funny and how best to maximize that. I read a fair share of webcomics every week, but I don’t think any of them are as reliably laugh out loud funny as Gunshow.
Gunshow can be found at gunshowcomic.com. The site’s current update schedule is twice a week, with strips usually posting Mondays and Fridays. For more KC Green, check out our profile on Boom! Studios’ use of webcomics talent.