Dumbing of Age
October 12, 2014 7:12 PM   Subscribe

As a college student, cartoonist and then-Christian fundamentalist David Willis wrote a newspaper funny called Roomies!, which inadvertently documented the beginning of his departure from his faith. Roomies! segued abruptly into a sci-fi drama after two years, which then branched into two new comics — one about domestic married life, and one about employees at a toy store.

In 2010, however, Willis began writing a new strip set in Indiana University, the same setting as his original Roomies! With Dumbing of Age, Willis takes advantage of the decade-and-a-half he spent developing his characters and refining his craft — but just as importantly, he brings to this new strip the perspective and wisdom of his own experiences with faith. It is an explicitly autobiographical comic, at the heart of which is the relationship between homeschooled Christian Joyce Brown and her best friend, Dorothy Keener, who is ambitious, studious, and unabashedly atheist. It is marvelously well-made, and even if you are not usually a fan of webcomics (I'm decidedly not), Dumbing of Age is worth your giving a look.
posted by rorgy (51 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Fascinating! Also I really like the author's old, sketchier style of drawing and lettering.
posted by Quilford at 7:34 PM on October 12, 2014

Wiigii! Nice post. It's been really interesting to see the shift in how David Willis writes Joyce, especially across the various series and as her religion became more of a defining feature. There's something compelling about his writing a character from that level of first-hand experience and with that mixture of critical distance and empathy. It's also neat to see how he works with the same characters over and over but recontextualizes them (e.g. Robin in Shortpacked, Danny in DoA), especially since his own writing and art have matured so much over the past, uh, almost two decades, holy crap.

Quilford, I actually really like his current style, but every once in a while Willis does a super-fast freehand throwaway comic for e.g. Shortpacked and those are also great.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Heh, there's a porno part too.
posted by klanawa at 7:57 PM on October 12, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also I really like the author's old, sketchier style of drawing and lettering.

Yeah, because he was actually DRAWING. You more or less stole what my comment was going to be, which was, "Wow, it's nice to see a comic that is actually DRAWN." Yours put it a lot nicer ;)
posted by ReeMonster at 8:19 PM on October 12, 2014

Heh, there's a porno part too.

Damn, I was just coming in here to say the same thing.
posted by kafziel at 8:44 PM on October 12, 2014

It's also neat to see how he works with the same characters over and over but recontextualizes them (e.g. Robin in Shortpacked, Danny in DoA), especially since his own writing and art have matured so much over the past, uh, almost two decades, holy crap.

You said it. I read Dumbing of Age first, and honestly would never have kept going if I'd started with any of Willis's other comics; going back to his earlier work, it's fascinating to watch his characters evolve, because there's a definite sense that you're watching him mature not only as an artist and writer but as a human being. Once you know his characters from DoA, seeing them in their earlier incarnations is FASCINATING, not least of which is because for a bunch of years they abruptly left the nonfictional world and became violent sci-fi cartoon characters instead.

But then, coming back to Dumbing of Age, it is simply astonishing how much Willis is able to cram into every strip, seeing as he started off with thirteen years' worth of characters with years of backstory that he could abruptly throw into the narrative and have work far more three-dimensionally than you'd normally get out of just-started narratives. Character arcs that took him years to devise can be suddenly alluded to as backstory, and with far more implied depth than is even strictly needed. And then you get things like this early strip, in which nearly every person milling about in the crowd is an actual character with an extensive backstory, so that looking back there are dynamics at play which go beyond what you'd expect to find in a single panel of a single strip.

Another subtlety, which I wasn't aware of but could certainly feel on my first read-through, is that over time Willis moved past the four-panel newspaper format to drawing full-page comics, and had been working exclusively with large spreads for a long time by the time Dumbing of Age started. DoA returns him to the four-ish-panel format, and suddenly he's able to pack way more detail into individual strips, and on a daily basis, and the result is fairly gorgeous. Even relatively simple strips have an attention to detail to them that is incredibly appealing to me. And the writing benefits from a similar condensation — it's got some excellent punchlines, but what makes it really work for me is that the dialogue which has nothing to do with the joke is likewise filled with a humor and empathy and warmth that is a pretty rare and wonderful thing.

(Roomies! is crude and cheap by comparison, but it has two things going for it that I really enjoyed in retrospect. First, it is blatantly inspired by Berkeley Breathed and Bloom County, which is always something that I appreciate. And second, it reads like Dumbing of Age would if it had been written by DoA's version of Joyce. Seriously, it's remarkable how many of her quirks and hang-ups are simply David Willis's hang-ups from over a decade ago; there's something wonderful about reading Roomies! as a perverse meta-strip that somehow comments on its future replacement rather than the other way around. Also, the Roomies! site that I linked to includes commentary from the modern-day Willis, and reading his appalled reaction to his former self's writing, drawing, and moral outlook is far more enjoyable than I ever would have believed.)
posted by rorgy at 8:48 PM on October 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

Also yeah, Willis does some pretty excellent porn.
posted by rorgy at 8:49 PM on October 12, 2014

It's fascinating to see how much Willis continues to improve - even the earlier Dumbing of Age strips don't quite have the same amount of detail as the current ones.

I starting with Shortpacked in 2007ish, and have been reading daily ever since. I'd tried to go back further, but found the older comics (without context or commentary) unreadable. Willis's current loathing makes the older strips palatable, even if I wouldn't be as harsh on them.

Also: oh my god why am I shipping Danny and Ethan there is no way that this will end well.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:07 PM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Danny and Ethan will happen and it will be wonderful.

I am also happening for more Joyce and Joe, but that's partly because Joe is an unreasonably likable character for such a virulent chauvinist.
posted by rorgy at 9:11 PM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also worth noting that Willis is known among people who don't/didn't follow any of his comics for his occasional commentary on comics and fandom, such as the Frank Miller "whoreswhoreswhores" strip.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:27 PM on October 12, 2014 [7 favorites]

Also the "batman drawn to be attractive to women" strip, which is a true classic.
posted by baf at 10:02 PM on October 12, 2014 [9 favorites]

I caught up with Willis when he started "Shortpacked" (the 'Blank Label' co-op group was the first thing that drew me into my current webcomics addiction... "Starslip", "Sheldon", "Schlock Mercenary", they OWNED the letter S in my RSS feeds). I went back to 'archive binge' the "Roomies"/"Walky" era and it wasn't easy, but it showed how much he had improved as artist, storyteller and joketeller... and he has improved almost that much again since. The only bad thing I can say about "Dumbing of Age" is THAT IS ONE OF THE WORST TITLES EVER.

BTW, in another part of webcomicdom, Steve Troop has just done a total reboot of his pioneering (starting in 1996) funny aliens comic "Melonpool". No prior knowledge required.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:13 PM on October 12, 2014

Willis is known among people who don't/didn't follow any of his comics for his occasional commentary on comics and fandom

Yeah, I got into Shortpacked some years ago, before he'd started Dumbing of Age, without any knowledge of its back story, precisily because of that commentary, as people kept quoting him.

Shortpacked and Dumbing of Age are now the first comics I read each day.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:46 PM on October 12, 2014

Yeah, I really respect his putting Roomies! online again with commentary, especially given how much his worldview has shifted. I also really like rorgy's take on it.
posted by en forme de poire at 10:54 PM on October 12, 2014

nthing the love for Joyce. I grew up in a fundamentalist home/social group as well, and there's a lot of subtlety there that speaks to the real experiences informing her character. As others have mentioned, Willis manages to make pretty much every recurring character complex and sympathetic. Even one-note characters like Mike have turned into something more nuanced, and that really speaks to Willis' maturing skills.

Dumbing Of Age, Girls With Slingshots, and Scenes From a Multiverse are basically my three morning reads.
posted by verb at 11:20 PM on October 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

oh my god the commentary here is gold.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:32 PM on October 12, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yay! I just finished bingeing on Shortpacked! this weekend and I was feeling sad that I was caught up. I liked it a lot, despite the fact that I am unfamiliar with most of the fandoms he explores, because the characters have so much depth. As verb said, even Mike.

This thread is just the motivation I needed to go back and read Roomies!
(Obvi I already read Dumbing of Age.)
posted by MsDaniB at 11:56 PM on October 12, 2014

I remember running into Shortpacked years ago and nothing thinking very much of it. (Hey, I'm a snob.) After reading a few strips Dumbing of Age looks different, and much better. If this is indicative of how the author has developed, maybe it's time that I gave Shortpacked another shot?
posted by JHarris at 12:03 AM on October 13, 2014

Maybe it's time that I gave Shortpacked another shot?
Both SP and DoA have a particular framing context that affects how easy it is to engage with the strip on a day to day basis. For SP, it's working retail in an industry filled with obsessives. For DoA, it's the challenges that college life holds for "freshly minted adults" and their ways of seeing and engaging wit the world.

Both have tons of short and long story arcs (and running gags) that rely on the characters more than the contexts. Both take some time to get rolling with those arcs, but I think by definition SP isn't quite as approachable as DoA.
posted by verb at 12:09 AM on October 13, 2014

Willis used to be a regular in the IRC channel I was also a regular in, back in the Keenspot days. We were never super buddy buddy but he was never less than wonderfully nice to me, and knowing now what I do about his religious views at the time I'm amazed he didn't rip me a new one now and again. I think I've long since blended into the general melange of fans and longtime internet people to him, but we hung out a few times back in the day at cons and I feel protective of him. I gotta say, he's one of the good people, and it's so nice to check in with his work and see how he continues to develop. I like to read it in huge chunks and then pay no attention for another six months, repeat. Glad to see his stuff discussed with a little gravitas here on the blue.
posted by Mizu at 1:26 AM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

> "Both take some time to get rolling with those arcs, but I think by definition SP isn't quite as approachable as DoA."

I am (apparently) the opposite of most Shortpacked fans in that I am deeply invested in the long, dramatic character arcs (Leslie + Robin 4ever!), but I am usually left utterly cold and uninterested by the one-off jokes about toys.

This is probably why, of all his work, Dumbing of Age really hits the sweet spot for me. It's always seemed to me to be the mature integration of his humor and his drama. He's become extremely talented at writing characters who are damaged and sometimes awful but still sympathetic and relatable.

(My webcomics these days are Dumbing of Age, Shortpacked, Skin-Horse, Questionable Content, XKCD, Strong Female Protagonist, Order of the Stick, and Erfworld.)
posted by kyrademon at 2:38 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to read Roomies! back in the day. I remember being taken aback but pleased at the abrupt shift to bizarre SF/Weird as a genre.

I tried Shortpacked but found it hard to get into, but I'd come to it from the previously mentioned one-off commentary strips and was wanting more of the same rather than a character drama, so that probably had something to do with it.

I've only seen Dumbing of Age in the weird porny ads on the sidebars of various other strips and was not at all interested in a bland cartoon porn comic. I will have to give it a chance, based on what I read here. That seems like a pretty big advertising failure, if you don't convey what your strip actually, y'know, is. I'd have been interested if it had looked like what is described here.
posted by Scattercat at 2:48 AM on October 13, 2014

Okay, so I live in Indiana. And, I clicked to read the first entry in this strip, and I'm treated to the girls discussing dorm rooms and the comparison between the IU dorm room (the big leagues) and Becky's room "just up at Anderson." See, my daughter went to Anderson, so this thing is already hooking me.

And, yes, IU dorms are the big league. Those AU dorm rooms were old, tiny things.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:15 AM on October 13, 2014

Willis is one of the very few people writing webcomics who can juggle dozens of characters, give them all time in the spotlight, and still tell a story with a coherent narrative. He very clearly understands the main cast and builds the side stories around that core cast's gravitational pull, while still leaving the side stories room to develop fully.

More webcomic writers should study his methods. Or cut 3/4of their characters.

nsl;dr -- Willis is a treasure.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:53 AM on October 13, 2014

The most surprising thing in this post was following the links to an FAQ and discovering that there are fairly large numbers of readers who thought Joyce was Catholic? If you can't tell the difference between a Catholic and a non-denominational Protestant, well, I am sure Joyce would pray for you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:54 AM on October 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've only seen Dumbing of Age in the weird porny ads on the sidebars of various other strips and was not at all interested in a bland cartoon porn comic. I will have to give it a chance, based on what I read here. That seems like a pretty big advertising failure, if you don't convey what your strip actually, y'know, is. I'd have been interested if it had looked like what is described here.

The porn thing is sort of fascinating, considering that in Roomies!, Willis devoted a lengthy arc (linked partly in the "departure from his faith" part of my FPP) to two of his characters not only discussing premarital sex and deciding it wasn't right for them, but also talking about the empty nature of sex without love, and the likening of sex to alcohol as a drug which prevents college-age students from making meaningful connections to one another.

Suffice it to say that his transition to Internet pornographer marks a pretty radical shift in tone for him, and I daresay he has a more positive outlook on his particular flavor of pornography than many other people do. He seems proud about it as fuck, and I can't really blame him for that either.

So far Dumbing of Age has two porn segments, and what I like about them are that they're merely parts of the narrative in which characters would otherwise have sex anyway, rendered in explicit graphic detail. They tend to be accompanied by humor and by little moments of character connection, but they're pretty straightforwardly about people doing sex to one another, and they're presented in a manner that treats sex as ordinary a part of life as attending classes or going shopping — and, in these segments at least, they're moments which occur between people who are fond of each other and intimate with each other in more ways than just one, and there is very little about them that feels lurid or exploitative or, for lack of a better word, "pornographic", in any sense except the one where it involves penises and/or vaginas.

They are also contextualized by the drama which happens before and after them, which makes for an interesting reread. Because the characters involved in them are fairly dynamic, there's a gravity to them occurring once you know what's going to happen between the people involved in them, or at least what might happen. Sex scene #2 involved a guy who came VERY close to having a gay encounter with the ex-boyfriend of the girl in said sex scene — and boy am I hoping that that encounter recurs — but I'm definitely getting the sense that, whereas in Shortpacked! porn has only happened with characters firmly entrenched in their relationships, DoA porn might not be any indicator of future happiness. Also Willis has a history of writing some pretty nasty breakups in his earlier comics, so he's definitely proven himself capable of getting dark when his narratives need to be.

tl;dr: Porn! It is more nuanced than I ever would have thought going in! (At least in this particular case, it is.)
posted by rorgy at 4:03 AM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is excellent. Thanks for posting!
posted by echocollate at 7:04 AM on October 13, 2014

Just to add to rorgy's thoughtful take it's worth noting that unless something has changed Willis' porny segments are purposefully hosted at a different, explicitly porny, site. The default experience reading DoA is to never encounter the porn (except as a sidebar ad for slipshine). I think it's significant that he did it that way.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:20 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

So is there some kind of explicit Robin backstory that would provide context for that one storyline about her father? Because I found that pretty confusing.
posted by bq at 7:37 AM on October 13, 2014

I started reading Roomies and Its Walky around the year 2005. I was fresh home and dropped out from my religious college, and quickly shifting away from religion myself. The comic has meant a lot to me through out the ten years since, and I'm sad to see that he's going to stop creating Shortpacked!, even though the sit-com style humor never really was as hard hitting and exciting as Its Walky. I think i should go back and re-read the strip. Looks like he's got Roomies and Shortpacked! in paper form, but not Its Walky.
posted by rebent at 8:28 AM on October 13, 2014

No, like, I don't mind porn at all. Especially cartoon porn, where the chances of someone being exploited drop dramatically. I'm just saying that I don't really have an interest in reading a porn-based comic for the porn. If I want porn, I'm going to just go get some porn. I have no interest in advertised porn, whereas if I see an ad for an interesting comic, I might want to read it, y'know?

(Or if it's just effing brilliant, like Oglaf.)
posted by Scattercat at 8:57 AM on October 13, 2014

I've been reading this nonstop for two hours. I love all of these characters so much. Someone please tell me how many of these there are so I'll know if the rest of my workday is a loss.
posted by echocollate at 9:38 AM on October 13, 2014

Yeah, this totally just ate a bunch of hours. Really good, reminds me of Questionable Content quite a bit. I find the porn bit quite interesting from a "monetization" POV. The story obviously works just fine without the explicit sex, but "pay some $ to see characters you care about having sex in a non-icky way that integrates into the story" is quite a nice idea. Shame it comes bundled with an entire website subscription and is hence sort of expensive.
posted by Zarkonnen at 10:03 AM on October 13, 2014

Is it dumb that I feel skeptical when I read male authors writing about the inner romantic / sexual lives of female characters? Theoretically there's no reason a man who is a good observer and has read things written by women couldn't write that stuff well, and certainly there's plenty that women and men have in common. But in practice it seems like I see a lot female characters written by male authors that sorta seem idealized from a male perspective. Maybe. Or maybe I'm the one whose ideas about women are skewed. Or both.

Dumbing of Age is a pretty great read, but something about it really rubs me as "women written by a dude." But it seems like women would have a much better sense of this than I do. What do you think?
posted by straight at 10:35 AM on October 13, 2014

I can’t speak for all women, but I don’t get the ‘dude not getting women’ vibe from DoA. Joyce’s assault and everyone’s reactions to it seemed especially pertinent. The one thing I can think of is that if I were Sarah, I’d rush to wash my vibe after catching someone else putting it up their nose, because ew.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:10 AM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

It seems like just about every slice-of-life webcomic that I've read has gone off on some supernatural/sci-fi tangent. I never read Roomies! in the original run, but from the comments Willis has made it sounds like at least he had planned that from the beginning, and insists that he plans to keep Dumbing of Age grounded, but in the back of my mind I keep expecting Dina to successfully clone utahraptors or something.
posted by ckape at 11:16 AM on October 13, 2014

Well, DoA does have a somewhat fantastic element...
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:34 AM on October 13, 2014

I am a webcomic fiend, and I found Dumbing of Age only when its first collection (This Campus is a Friggin' Escher Print) was included in a Humble Bundle. So glad I found it. I love its slow, slow pacing (what are we after two years, not even a month into Walky's freshman year?), I love its character development, and of course I love Amazi-Girl. Yay!
posted by kostia at 3:45 PM on October 13, 2014

I personally prefer the explicitly sci-fi AU that slice of life comics tend to take place in (Diesel Sweeties, Questionable Content, etc) than the disbelief that you have to suspend for so many other types of slice of life fiction: that people would keep hanging around the main character, who is generally an asshole.
posted by NoraReed at 5:07 PM on October 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's dumb to be skeptical about male writers writing about female inner lives, especially as it relates to sex, because it is often horrible and one-dimensional, but I think Willis gets it as right as anyone. I, too, have given this some thought, mostly with Shortpacked! and I think it's well done.

In Shortpacked!, female characters (actually, male and female) like sex for themselves, not to be sexy for a dude, a variety of body types are considered attractive, and feelings are often a part of it. Characters sometimes just wanna bang, but sometimes sex and love are mixed up. Just like real life!
I have totally gotten misty-eyed over relationship stuff in that comic.

I'm interested to see what will happen with Ethan and Joyce during Dumbing of Age.
posted by MsDaniB at 6:45 PM on October 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, me too. The Ethan/Joyce relationship is obviously doomed but it also "works" in the sense that it provides something that each of them needs right now. It gives Joyce a "safe" outlet for lustful thoughts and allows her to have companionship but avoid the pressure to have sex, and it gives Ethan a chance to blend into his new environment and regain the trust and affection of his parents. I think Ethan's written quite realistically here, in a way that I think gay characters often don't get to be -- of course, coming out and coming to terms with your identity really isn't always a monotonic curve from pre-puberty to It Gets Better, and even today, there's still a ton of social pressure to avoid/suppress having the realization that you're never going to be happy in a hetero relationship, so I think it's good to see that portrayed.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:44 AM on October 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think I might win at Ring TFA, because I started at the first dumbing of age comic when you posted this FPP and just got through to the most recent one right now. I don't even like webcomics, but this one was great. I think I'm in love with all the characters and I love that they are all so well fleshed out and have complex story lines. I'm so sad I'm up to date now and have to wait for the updates on a normal timescale.
posted by lollusc at 8:17 PM on October 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

Honestly, the pacing kind of bothered me; no one's life is this tight a series of personal revelations and self-discovery, not even in college. If the characters were all at least in their second year - hell, their second semester by now, it would feel less crazed to me.

But Dina is the best character and I want to own all of her things.
posted by Scattercat at 2:06 PM on October 16, 2014

Yeah, Settlers of Canaan always made me chuckle. It's an official Catan licensee.
posted by JHarris at 2:54 PM on October 16, 2014

(And according to Board Game Geek, is designed by Catan creator Klaus Teuber himself. I think it's sort of a prototype for the more recent Catan historical scenario games.)
posted by JHarris at 2:57 PM on October 16, 2014

I just power-read through DOA, and yeah, it's my new favorite after John Allison's stuff. JA also started with a slice of life (Bobbins) that birthed a supernatural comic (Scary-go-Round) and has now mostly settled into Bad Machinery (though he's currently off in another direction). I'm not that tempted to go back and read Willis's juvenelia, though. It seems a little weird to have the same characters in totally different continuities and relationships. I guess that's one way to make all the shippers happy, but it seems unsatisfying in an overall sense. Maybe I just don't understand how the strips relate to each other (in that it seems like they don't except they all have the same characters, who have the same basic personalities across all the strips?)

Maybe this will be tougher to read day-by-day because the pace is so detailed and slow. But really, that's what I like. Wigu was at its best when a day took several months to get through. And it seems to update regularly! Color me hooked.
posted by rikschell at 3:39 PM on October 16, 2014

t seems a little weird to have the same characters in totally different continuities and relationships. ... Maybe I just don't understand how the strips relate to each other (in that it seems like they don't except they all have the same characters, who have the same basic personalities across all the strips?)

Yeah, that's about right (although It's Walky! and Roomies! technically do share a continuity, they only overlap pretty briefly). I think reposting the earlier stuff is less about satisfying shippers and is more of a "behind the scenes" look at how he originally conceived of these characters, plus some autobiography, plus some recontextualization of the earlier strips (I really like Rorgy's take that Roomies! is sort of like if Joyce had drawn DoA at the beginning of her college career -- certainly the reposted strips really drive home the autobiographical elements in DoA's version of Joyce). Plus I think it's been pretty fascinating to watch DW's personal transition from the Protestant evangelical transition to something else, especially since according to DW, part of that transition was precipitated by trying to work with these characters honestly (e.g. Billie, Mary). I definitely don't think it's necessary to enjoy DoA or anything, of course, just a neat DVD extra reel.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:18 PM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think the pacing is kind of a hybrid thing. It runs so slow day by day that after 4 years of real time, only a couple of months of story time have gone by. That means 4 years of dramatic stuff in a couple of months. You can't take it too realistically, and Dorothy's trying to reassure Walky, who just had a little outburst about how she'd stated from the beginning of their relationship that it wasn't serious and she was going to leave him behind as soon as she could get to Yale. Willis has been clear he's not going to take this strip beyond freshman year. I'm half tempted to stop reading now, because everyone's in a happy place (or close enough), and I can feel the Whedon coming on.
posted by rikschell at 5:09 AM on October 19, 2014

but in today's DoA a character says "I love you" to their SO of, if I have the timeline right, a few weeks.

Thinking back to my early college relationships, that seems completely believable. I'm pretty sure I did that at least once.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:56 PM on October 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

well last night i finally got to the end of Roomies/It's Walky. Actually, just the start of It's Walky, but the artist is re-drawing the entire series which is awesome because (a) the old art was very clunky, and (b) because man I spent a loooot of time reading through roomies and am ready to check out Dumbing of Age. Looking forward to reading it!
posted by rebent at 9:28 AM on October 21, 2014

I think I might win at Ring TFA, because I started at the first dumbing of age comic when you posted this FPP and just got through to the most recent one right now.

I'm honestly slightly embarrassed to admit this, but I just finished reading through all of Roomies!, It's Walky!, Joyce and Walky!, Shortpacked!, and Dumbing of Age. It was basically two weeks of my mood being dictated by the tone of the storyline I was on (which got a little dangerous during the hyper-angsty parts of It's Walky!).

But it was fun! Roomies! is terrible, but it's interesting to see where he started, as a person. It's Walky! is completely bonkers and sometimes hard to get through, but it has its high points, most of which are preserved in Joyce and Walky!. Then Shortpacked! is awesome. Mostly because it eventually dissolves into a bunch of interracial same-sex couples accomplishing their dreams together, which is really what I'm always rooting for.

And guys. Reading Dumbing of Age, after all of that, is unbelievably cool. The comic is warm and funny and complex on its own, as rorgy has described, but the long history of the characters adds so many layers.

Like the moment when (spoiler!) Danny realizes he has feelings for Ethan. In Dumbing of Age, he's just some presumed-to-be-straight guy who we're a little surprised to see exploring. But in the previous comics, he was always the author's moralizing, fundamentalist self-insert. In fact, Ethan started much the same way: he just moralized about the Transformers fandom instead of Christianity. So we have two of these usually-bland authorial "voices of reason" that every webcomic drawn by a geeky guy is apparently obligated to include, but they're totally going to make out and it's canon.

And meanwhile, Danny's wife from the previous comics' universe is finally getting to have a mutually self-destructive alcoholic lesbian romance with her best friend who died in a car crash in that reality!

And I'm just now realizing what I love so much about Dumbing of Age as an extension of the Walkyverse. It runs on the same "but-if-only-it-had-happened-THIS-way" desire as fan fiction, but instead of being hollow and clunky and unsatisfying like most fic is, it is actually written by a more mature and skillful version of the author. So it lives up to that feeling -- that everything would be awesome if all of the characters just arranged themselves into interracial same-sex couples and followed their dreams!

Anyway, excuse me for fangirling. Thanks so much for the recommendation, rorgy!
posted by Starmie at 11:57 AM on October 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

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