There is a school of thought in the webcomics community that every installment of a comic should provide some sort of distinct value, independent from the series as a whole. That might mean a punchline, or a cliffhanger, or a big reveal. Whatever it is, each installment should provide a basic setup/payoff structure. Obviously, this is a lot easier to accomplish with daily “gag” strips, which are designed to deliver a joke every day. But it gets a lot trickier with “long-form” comics like ours. Obviously, if each installment is a standard comic book-sized page, you can’t follow this formula. Imagine reading a graphic novel where every page ended with some sort of dramatic development. It would be exhausting.
Some webcomics have sidestepped this issue by eschewing the standard page size, or they deliver several pages at a time. This often means that they update less frequently, but each update is more self-contained. We made a decision early on that we preferred a consistent release schedule, and realized that one page a week was simply the best we could do without sacrificing quality. And since we view our story as a whole, rather than as a collection of pages, we have also resigned ourselves to the fact that we’re not going to be able to deliver a dramatically satisfying experience with each update. It’s not perfect, but it’s practical. However, there is one webcomic that effortlessly trounces the rules of practicality.
The Abominable Charles Christopher, by Karl Kerschl, defies simple definitions. It straddles the line between a gag strip and a long-form comic. It has an ongoing narrative, like a long-form comic, but it also delivers satisfying individual pages, like a gag strip. In fact, most of its installments are strip-sized, though it doesn’t confine itself to a single format. It spreads out into full-sized pages when necessary.
One of Abominable’s strengths is its diverse cast of characters. Charles Christopher is the mute, Sasquatch-like protagonist of the comic, but there’s also an abused circus bear, a heavy-drinking bird, an insect therapist, a lovesick rabbit, and a host of other woodland creatures who appear in ongoing subplots, or simple single-strip vignettes. There stories intersect with the main plot or provide tangential diversions.
The Abominable Charles Christopher combines humor, adventure, tragedy, and mystery in a compelling story. And it doesn’t hurt that the art is gorgeous. Most impressive of all, each installment stands on its own quite well. Some are funny, and some are sad, or ominous, or ironic. But they’re all excellent. I used the word “effortless” above, and by that, I mean that Kerschl makes it look easy. The dialog, humor, and plot never seem forced or arbitrary.
Abominable updates on Wednesdays, and there are currently about 160 entries. However, the dialog is fairly minimal, so you could breeze through the archive in no time. Check it out. You’ll be glad you did.