Sidesplitting tech comics
Techies are funny, and we don't just mean looks. Snort, snort. Find out which tech-inspired Web comics we're reading during breaks.
Whoever said geeks have no sense of humor was wrong--laughably so. Some of the funniest comics out there are Web comics (or those rendered for the Web,) written by techies, for the techies who love them. Here's a bushel of geeky favorites, in no particular order.
Randall Monroe, physicist, cartoonist, and at-heart romantic, is behind xkcd, a Web comic whose name curiously holds no mathematically obscure meaning. In his own words, Monroe's stick-figure style "occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)." See? Funny.
2. Penny Arcade
Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins' Penny Arcade chatters away on a steady diet of overt, covert, and, to the uninitiated, rather oblique, gaming and tech culture references. The duo from Spokane, Washington were recently featured in Wired for their story of unexpected success in a niche market. Turns out, a strip about the creators' teenaged alter egos is turning into a pretty impressive business endeavor involving advertising, syndication, and a video game of their own. This three-panel strip is one of their more accessible cartoons.
3. Randy Glasbergen
Although his work isn't generally open for public viewing, it should be. A one-man show, Glasbergen skewers mainstream computer-user culture alongside other pedestrian topics. By sheer volume, it's clear that tech is his favorite. I stumbled upon Glasbergen's work by accident, in an e-mail message I'm pretty sure broke every emphatic copyright infringement warning tattooed on his site. While I can't very well break them myself by reproducing Glasbergen's Everyman panels, I can point to his Web site for some choice examples, which are available for purchase on a scheduled pricing plan for publications, presentations, and blogs:
4. The PC Weenies
Krishna Sadasivam isn't calling himself a weenie, but he is a self-proclaimed "bona fide computer geek" whose daily 'toon single-handedly challenges the myth that electrical engineers can't write legibly, never mind draw. Sadasivam's sometimes more adult-themed single-panels craftily skewer the range of computer users, from n00bs to the uber-nerd obsessive.
5. User Friendly
Didja hear about the one where the PC's audio speaker tells the dust mite that the major flaw in Google Earth is its inability to give interplanetary directions?! If so, you've probably been reading User Friendly, or talking to someone who has. Google Earth has been of special interest this past week to J.D. Iliad Fraser, cartoonist of the chatty, sweetly funny strip. As the title suggests, User Friendly covers decidedly tech issues common to civilians, often with a socially conscious twist.
If you ever thought life as a developer was comical, you're not alone. It just so happens that Microsoft program manager Hans Bjordahl does too. The cartoon hobbyist plops his slowly growing collection (he publishes on Mondays) squarely on shoulders of the employees who bring forth software, hardware, and the Internet. But wherever does he get his inspiration?
OK, so Scott Adams' breakthrough opus of the spiky-headed office monkey and his dysfunctional coworkers isn't strictly about technology. The evil Ratbert and our antihero's ineffably bumbling boss deftly highlight the often maddening idiosyncrasies of corporate life, leading one to believe there's little to do with tech. However, technology is a prominent backdrop (see the comic) and quite a large scoop of the fuel propelling Dilbert up the chart of pop-culture classics. At least in Silicon Valley, anyway.
Yes, it's a big, bright world of possibility out there for the start-up cartoonist looking at the lighter side of tech. Users with funnyguy and funnygirl aspirations can test their chops with comic creation software such as Comic Book Creator Standard, or turn photos into comic strip stories using Comeeko (hands-on review.) When you get famous, just remember who sent you.