Awkward Zombie: A Cut Above / by David Anderson


Gaming comics as a whole are kind of worn out at this point. If there were a map of the webcomic landscape you'd have Penny Arcade's political boundaries crowding out a massive chunk of the paper, like those obscenely large profiles of the Soviet Union back in the day. Any newcomers back then would automatically be stigmatized as imitators trying to grab a crumb off the mostly eaten game webcomic pie. Today, I mean, nobody would notice. That corpse has been picked clean. Back then though, it was like coming in at the end of a gold rush. Thanks for trying, too little, too late. Awkward Zombie, written and illustrated by Katie Tiedrich, got started in 2006, well into the mid-to-late stages of gaming webcomic fervor. It's still going pretty strong on the same formula she used back then, and I think the reason for that is its entertaining humor and art style, which never seem to get old. It probably helps that she's only done 266 in the past six years, so she's had time to flesh out her comics before she posts them. Quality over quantity, you know?

Her jokes usually revolve around either the video games she's playing or meta-humor about her daily life, typically one-offs with no long-lasting plot.  They're pretty funny, I think. Occasionally a joke will fall flat, which I think happens when her punchlines are too obvious or not obvious enough- sometimes you need to play the game to understand the joke. Otherwise she's frequently hilarious when she rips on game mechanics through over-analysis. Her characters often comment on the weird rules they're forced to abide by, and when she adds slapstick it gets even better. If I were to guess at her thought process behind each comic, it would start with her noticing something in a game that piques her curiosity, leading her on a few mental tangents before she arrives at an idea she thinks is funny enough to put into ink.

Sometimes her comics are written by forum members and she just gives them form, which is a nice way to involve her fanbase. She's also good at showing and not telling, letting the action become the punchline, but when she inserts herself into comics her third person narrative's neuroticism is pretty funny too. It helps when the tone of the writing syncs with the tone of the art style.

I really enjoy her style, which best works when its characters and objects are highly animated and expressive. Sure, she can be inconsistent sometimes and she's even admitted as such, but overall her work has only improved with time. When the comedy gets physical, that's when the strips are funniest. And good lord, her faces. She does good ones and is great at showing a wide variety of emotions, but when she goofs off and makes weird expressions I can't stop laughing. Here's a group of my favorite ones to show you what I mean:

I mean, some of these faces became reaction images on some of the most popular message boards on the internet, and as far as I care that's an indicator of success. Furthermore, her colors are really vibrant and I love the solid linework. It's perfect for comedy while still allowing for detailed character designs. Earlier work shows a bit more pencil work, but the newest stuff looks nice and clean with the digital touch.

Wow, it feels like it's been a while since I did a short review. I think I've said all I need to say, though. Plus you got one more picture than I usually stick in here. Bonus! It's a simple comic, but entertaining. Katie also has a fantasy comic she works on, so maybe in the future we'll talk about that.

TL;DR: Gaming comics might be passe, but this is pretty funny and has a great art style to boot.

Awkward Zombie is written and illustrated by Katie Tiedrich with occasional contributions from other users. Here's her store, twitter, email and donation button.