Webcomics History: Fantasy Soup and Crossover Wars

Many early webcomics were notoriously a mishmash of genres and themes. Undoubtedly this trend was tied to the popularity of “monkey-bacon-ninja” “random” humor that was overbearingly popular at the time. But an equal factor was that webcomics in those days had little chance for mainstream exposure or success. In the absence of pressure to hone a craft or make a commercially viable product, an atmosphere of exploration, experimentation, and subcultural comradery flourished. Many webcomickers chose to ignore traditional genre boundaries, and in doing so created a new genre, which I will call “fantasy soup”.

Blindsprings

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Kids fantasize about being adults, or at least they fantasize about having the freedom and power that adults seem to have. That’s why so much of media made for children features kids doing adult things: solving mysteries, fighting monsters, having adventures, thwarting adults. Oftentimes kids have the clarity and imagination to see the supernatural for what it is, while their parents are too stuffy and boring to see what’s in front of their eyes. In these stories, kids get to be the heroes by playing the part of adults.

Alethia

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I have a confession: I haven’t actually read a lot of classic science fiction, and most of what I have read, I hated. Clarke’s too horny, Bradbury’s too racist, Dick’s too pessimistic, Orwell’s too reactionary. But one book in the “canon” actually stuck with me to this day because of its exploration of non-human intelligence: Asimov’s I, Robot.

On A Sunbeam

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There are interesting layers of meaning to the word “soft”. In one sense, it can mean comfortable, inviting, pleasant to touch. In another, it conveys instead looseness, a lack of structure, or a yielding quality. These connotations have an unspoken gendered quality to them – “soft” is code, in so many ways, for “feminine”, and whether something being soft is a good or bad thing betrays much about the speaker’s attitude towards femininity.