I like webcomics. A lot of them. Today, I’ll talk about two of them. Both are by the same person, the mightily talented David Willis, and they’re pretty great.
First up, Shortpacked!
Shortpacked! is a workplace comic, in the vain of Dilbert. Like Dilbert, it’s rather contemporary, but unlike Dilbert, it’s about lowly retail employees instead of corporate workers. Shortpacked is the name of a toy store where all the characters work.
There’s Ethan, the former standup comic who makes it through the day by standing up to disgruntled fans as well as being an outspoken fan of Transformers and Batman; Amber, a good girl and parental abuse survivor who’s currently 7 months pregnant; Mike, Amber’s fiance and one of the biggest a**holes in comics, and Robin, the hyperactive former member of Congress who instigates all sorts of wacky adventures.
There’s also Galasso, their tyrannical boss with ambitions of being a world-conquering tyrant, Faz, an insanely creepy man, and Ultra-Car, a sentient talking car who manages the stockroom.
Shortpacked! is David Willis’ current progression in what’s been called the Walkyverse after his character David “Walky” Walkerton, who, while not present in this strip, was a main player in the other strips of the continuity, which include Roomies!, It’s Walky! and Joyce and Walky. He’s been doing webcomics since 1997 and while I haven’t read the previous strips, I’ve read every single strip of Shortpacked! and it is honestly brilliant.
Willis combines jokes making fun of geek culture, toy collecting, and current events with strong character-driven storylines. His art is cartoony, but in a very good, easy-on-the-eyes way, and his willingness to break the strip’s flow to appear as himself is admirable. Here’s the first strip if you’re interested.
Shortpacked! updates Monday-Friday in storyline weeks, and Monday-Wednesday-Friday on joke weeks.
While Willis has built an impressive continuity over the years with the Walkyverse, in 2010 he decided to go the alternate-universe route with Dumbing of Age.
Dumbing of Age is an all-storyline strip where various characters from the Walkyverse, including several from Shortpacked!, are all freshmen at Indiana University.
This strip is very female-focused, with the main character being Joyce, an earnest, naive homeschooled Christan fundamentalist who finds herself thrown into a world of partying, relationship drama, and co-ed showering.
Walky is a big player here, and he’s a funny slacker who just does enough to get by. Ethan, Mike, and Amber are all at IU after going to high school together. Robin is not here, being a full-time member of Congress in this strip, but her younger, promiscuous sister Roz has a pretty important role.
There’s also Joe (who–and I quote Willis’ character bios here–has only 4 years in which to “Joe” all the fine ladies at IU), Danny, his bumbling roommate, and Dorothy, his driven ex-girlfriend.
Dumbing of Age is all story, so it updates 5 days a week. Unlike Shortpacked!, this hasn’t been around that long, so you can get caught up fairly easily. It took me about 4 hours; Shortpacked! took me most of a week.
If I were to really recommend one of the two strips, I’d say Dumbing of Age. While Shortpacked! is very funny, DoA‘s strong characters and well-plotted storylines have hooked me.
There are about 4 print volumes of Shortpacked! out now (available here) and a book version of Dumbing of Age is planned soon, according to Willis. But for now, just catch them up on free and get exposed to one of the most original voices in all of webcomics.