October 31, 2008

Scary Go Round

Writing about web page http://www.scarygoround.com/

Who makes webcomics? Here's a pretty common picture - they're American, they're a gamer, and they subsist entirely on a diet of Cheetohs and Pepsi Max. Unfortunately for this post most webcomicists don't reveal their daily diet. But by and large the first two elements in our picture hold completely true - the mainstay of webcomics are made in America, and a very large number are based around computer games.

Which is why I'm starting with Scarygoround - from the pen of British born and bred John Allison, from Chadderton in Lancashire.

Scarygoround tells the tales of the residents of Tackleford, a small fictitious market town in the north of England, the sort of place pensioners go to die and the young lose their minds to cloying boredom. It's also subject to repeated zombie uprising, visits from it's twin city Mechacropolis XF1 (it's Soviet and full of robots), demonic cults, smugglers, fishmen, occasional excursions into the realm of the dead, jelly-fish, leprecauns and... well the list goes on.

Scarygoround is written and drawn entirely by Allison, and updates five days a week - no mean feat. Perhaps the incentive to maintain production come rain or shine comes from the fact that he makes his living entirely from the website (advertising revenue, merchandise, and selling print editions of his comics with exclusive content).

SGR has gone through more artistic stylistic changes than any other comic, with every new arc being greeted by a change of art style. It's a little disconcerting in fact - if you follow the series for a long time you'll be surprised how much a change in the art unsettles your perception of the series. But it also speaks of a commitment to development and change which is carried through into the scripting.

The storyline of the series (which features a continuous narrative but no pretensions of an overarching plot) jumps and jiggles in random directions. Major characters are put down (perhaps even forgotten) only to resurface in a new context leading the plot off in another new direction. The best and most striking example of this is the change of lead characters - Tessa and Rachel (a pair of bar-maids / university undergrads) starred in the first SGR arc (an investigation of a mysterious murderous sentient gas which had carried off the university chemistry society) but were quickly abandoned in favour of the red-headed twice-murdered meddler Shelley Winters.

A lack of foresight? Yep. You just wouldn't do that sort of thing if you were planning the whole thing in advance. But you'll forgive it when characters are thrown off a bridge, saved by satan, return as mother superior of a nunnery devoted to evil and then casually burnt to death (and out of the strip) for banning all the orgies. If necessity is the mother of invention, then updating daily and never being allowed to contradict yourself must be the fertility goddess. And somehow it manages to stay more internally consistent and believably located in a physical world than your average soap.

SGR isn't based around jokes, but rather witticisms in a banterous style reminiscent of The Mighty Boosh - a lovely example of which can be found here -

http://scarygoround.com/index.php?date=20080111

And this is tied in with a marvellous sense of place. The England of SGR is satirised and idealised; all the knobs have been turned up to eleven. The characters are characatures, the monsters are twee (and deadly), the story arcs are absurd and compelling.

The main thing I can say to recommend it to you is this - you won't find anything more English than this on the internet. In fact it's a little more English than England. And it's absolutely hilarious.


- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Mike Willis

    Your link in the ‘writing about web page’ section points at http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/timothyfranklin/scarygoround.com which is probably not what you meant.

    03 Nov 2008, 12:51


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