I’ve been wanting to blog about webcomics for almost as long as I’ve been posting to this blog, and I’ve never gotten around to it, for a couple reasons. But one of the goals I set for myself after leaving the army was to read through the archives of a couple of my favorites, because that’s something I used to enjoy doing a lot but wasn’t able to while serving, and this gives me a really good opportunity to talk about them.
Before I start, the “Part 1” in the title refers to the fact that I’m probably going to write a second post, not to chapters in the comic.
Angel Moxie, which I invite you to read from the first strip here, was written and drawn by Dan Hess. And it was not my first webcomic. That honor would go to 8-bit Theater. It was not my second webcomic either. Pretty sure that was Penny Arcade. It wasn’t my third: that would be Mac Hall. I’m fairly certain that Angel Moxie was the fourth webcomic I found and began to read, way back in 10th grade.
But it was the first webcomic that I was a fan of. I was an active member on the forums, I came up with ridiculous theories about the future plot, and while it was updating, it was one of the things I most looked forward to in my day. I don’t remember exactly where I entered the story, but it was somewhere around the end of the first major arc or the beginning of the second.
When I started reading Angel Moxie, it was a guilty pleasure comic. The tagline is “Magic, Monsters and Junior High.” It’s about three 11 year-old girls. The site layout is (and if I remember correctly was initially even more blatantly so) predominantly pink and teal. And I was a 15 year-old guy full of 15 year-old insecurities, despite what I used to tell myself. But there was a certain development that knocked off the word “guilty,” and made this comic simply a great strip that I enjoyed.
The rest of this post is going to focus on a character that had a much larger presence in the comic than his panel count would indicate, and it’s going to have some spoilers.
The first storyline of Angel Moxie introduced your core cast and established the conflict. You had Alex O’Connor, the main character, Riley Rosenbaum, her best friend, and Miyaneko Gato, their feline guide/mentor. Then you had Tristan Stallings, who was a new girl in town, kind of a loner, and apparently had no qualms about helping out a mysterious pair of floating eyes, which eventually turned out to be Vashi, a demon general in the evil army of Lord Yzin.
To sum up the first hundred comics or so succinctly: Alex got magical powers, Riley investigated them, Vashi tricked Tristan into breaking three mystical seals so that she could break into our dimension, then once she was free, Tristan punched her to China. Miya did a lot of yelling.
A character-developing interlude involving a robot, an undercover cop, and a hoarder of “Precious Moments” figurines later, and Vashi has freed the second demon general, which leads us to the second main story arc and, ba-bada-baaaa…
The introduction of Mr. Grant Kyokasho!
Mr. K was a very mysterious character, from his first appearance to his last, because he was generally always keeping secrets from everybody, though sometimes fairly poorly. He’s also one of the main reasons I went from “I like this comic” to “this comic is amazing.”
In Mr. K we had the first major male character in the story, and he was ridiculously cool. He was a dork, but the very best kind of dork. And because of the interactions between the two, he suddenly made Riley, “the smart one,” the most interesting character in the cast, which “the smart one” rarely gets to be. Regardless of the situation, Mr. K was always calm, always smiling, and completely unflappable. Okay, so there was this one time when he was flapped. But he created the first emotional highpoint of the comic. The next paragraph is just solid spoilers.
The second major story arc comes to a climax as Candi Shugari, the second demon general in disguise, invites the three heroines to an evil slumber party, seals off their powers, and then sends a giant bunny minion to attack them. Mr. K and Miya get there just in time, but can’t really do much. Mr. K decides to help. Then he decides to kill himself. As a result he causes Riley to have an emotional breakdown that returns her powers to her, and she kills the hell out of Candi.
This encounter did a lot of things. Up until this point, the comic had been a fairly straight spoof of Sailor Moon-type shows and stories, with a bit of Western culture thrown in. Here we have the story taking on a life of its own, showing that it can be serious, and telling us that, despite the often goofy humor, bad things can happen in this world. It set the stage for a lot of the conflict that happened in the second half of the comic, and it also represents somewhat of a turning point in the art. Dan started using more complex drawings to portray more complex emotions.
And this was the moment where I got hooked on webcomics in general. It went from something to amuse me on a day-to-day basis, to following a story in real-time, as it was being written. Still today, while I follow some gag-a-day comics, almost all of the ones that I count among my favorites are rooted in an overarching story and plot, and almost all of them have moments like Mr. Kyokasho’s.
But more on those as I get to them.