Boy, it’s been a LONG while since we’ve done one of these, huh?
Well, for the uninitiated, this is a series of posts where I basically talk about awesome webcomics and tell you to read them. Today, in honor of the completely independent documentary film STRIPPED–a film about the famous print cartoonists of today and yesterday and the webcartoonists of the future, and where the two must meet as newspapers die–hitting No. 1 on iTunes the first day of its release (which is unheard of, as far as I know), I’d like to talk to you about the two webcomics done by the film’s co-director and co-writer Dave Kellett, Sheldon and Drive.
(not actual logo but whatever)
I’ll talk about Sheldon first, since that’s Kellett’s primary source of income (of the rarefied group of webcartoonists able to live solely off of their work, he’s at the top) and also the first true webcomic I ever got into. I’ve been following it for so long, sometimes I’m unsure of how I got into it.
Sheldon is a 5-day-a-week humor strip about the title character, a 10-year old genius who makes billions off of his own software company, Sheldonsoft. He lives with his grandpa–just called Gramp–who’s retired but still lives a full life…of watching TV and being addicted to coffee. There’s also the strip’s breakout character, Arthur, a duck who learned to talk when Sheldon downloaded both an encyclopedia and speech-recognition software into his head, his lizard son Flaco–who hatched out of an egg Arthur found and was compelled to sit on–who doesn’t really speak but has some pretty awesome adventures, and the family pug, Oso, who barks a lot but is just as dumb as any other dog. There’s a few more characters, but these 5 are the main ones.
The strip is one of the longer-running webcomics out there, having been around since November 2001. It’s a constant delight due to its delightful sense of humor, Kellett’s wonderful, simple artwork, and a tone that recalls the best newspaper strips of past and present (which makes sense, as Kellett originally developed the strip to sell to syndicators).
While Sheldon has continuity and tends to make topical references, you can really start from anywhere you want, but the beginning is still pretty helpful.
Several years into Sheldon‘s run, Kellett, a lifelong nerd–as many strips demonstrate–began running a serialized sci-fi strip on aturdays, which, after it took off, eventually moved to its own site.
Drive, which, because it’s a personal project, updates sporadically, takes place in a world where a second Spanish empire rose in the 23rd Century after a man singlehandedly reverse-engineered the technology of an alien race known as the “Continuum of Makers,” which enabled him to discover a starship drive that enabled faster-than-light travel, empowering humans to fly throughout the galaxy.
In the present day, on a prison moon, an alien of unknown origin wakes up with amnesia, not knowing who he is, with his only friend being Nosh (the big guy up there), a member of the peaceful, giant race known as the Veetan who learned to speak English when stuck in Moscow for six years. The crew of Nosh’s ship, the tiny scout ship Machito, led by Captain Taneel (hehe) arrives and bails them out through blowing a hole in the prison and destroying the records facility. This upsets the small creature, as the prison records were the only chance he had of learning his name and species.
The crew takes him on, and he’s christened Skitter, after the noise he makes when running. It’s also discovered that, through his antennae, Skinner can sense gravity waves and pilot a ship through the “pinched space” created when the mysterious starship drive is used better than anyone has ever seen. Press-ganged by the decrepit Emperor into finding the rest of Skitter’s race, the crew journeys throughout time and space to save the Empire for a guy they don’t really like.
Being done entirely in bluescale, like Darwyn Cooke’s great Parker graphic novels, helps Drive stand out, in addition to the obvious worldbuilding Kellett clearly relishes in; several pages are taken up by encyclopedia pages describing the various alien races encountered. Not only that, the characters are compelling, the story is interesting, and the pacing is well-done, giving this strip the feel of a particularly out-there bent of Star Trek. The beginning is available here, and you can easily catch up.
Due to Kellett’s heavy involvement in STRIPPED, both strips have been on hiatus for a LONG time, with only Sheldon updating periodically. Thankfully, this is due to resolve soon, hopefully. In the meantime, check out both strips; you’ll be glad you did!