EDMONTON SUN - Fishnet, local strips

Express Writer

There is a persistent and well-founded rumour that a lot of good comic strips come out of Edmonton. Where Montreal has the self-reflective, quasi-literary indie comic book market cornered, northern Albertans donít seem to have the energy to put together anything resembling high art.

Which is just fine, of course. Weíre more of a cynical wit kind of town, anyway.

Three strips, all of them having origins at U of Aís campus paper, the Gateway, come to mind: Space Moose, Bob the Angry Flower and Deathworld, and all three have pretty spectacular pages on the Web.

Starting with Deathworld, at http://welcome.to/deathworld, Rudi Guntherís serial strip features a futuristic soldier guy named Matt trapped in some kind of weird zone where anything from talking Geiger Aliens to Pokemon can come at you with a sub-machine gun. Well, not quite, but Guntherís cartoon has a real earnest charm to it, like one of those sessions where you end up drawing for six hours instead of doing your homework at four in the morning.

Itís hilariously violent, self-aware and almost insanely primitive at times, but itís also my favourite online strip by far, thanks to the continuing story and dry tone. The site itself is quite well done, and has enough annotation to keep you busy for hours. Really, itís the best archive around. Just remember what I said about high art, will ya?

The most ambitious of the local strippers is Stephen Notley, son of politician Grant. His Bob the Angry Flower cartoon even ran in the Sun for a memorable sprint, and the site has recently gotten a new URL, www.angryflower.com. Notley is a heavy annotator, and his descriptions of his hundreds of strips are often funnier than the work itself, which is not a bad thing. Heís like Woody Allen on speed in print, and is selling his second book, Coffee with Sinistar, online. It includes the entire Sun run and is, as they say, a gas.

Notleyís site is the most commercially accessible of the three, even though heís dabbling in less and less punchline-oriented humour, with a good touch of continuity.

The most popular of the three is easily Space Moose, of course, and Sun readers may remember Kerry Diotteís recent feature on the stripís tenth anniversary. Adam Thrasher is the artist here, and his site surrounding Moose is a fascinating read, tracts and diatribes against him galore, as well as major media coverage of the hot water this otherwise calm and collected cartoonist has gotten himself into. Just recently, the University of Reginaís Carillon sadly dropped his strip after being pushed by snivelling lobby groups on campus once again. Itís a familiar story for Thrasher, and universities are seemingly the last place one can find free speech these days. A great strip by Thrasher at www.spacemoose.com/strips/polisci.gif addresses the issue, www.spacemoose.com being the main page.

In all three of these cartoons, the material can be what some may dub "over the line," though not in any way thatís worse than Hollywood. That said, it makes you wonder whatís in the water in this town that sprung Bub Slug and Betty onto the world. Why, I even do a cartoon myself, but thatís another tale and the hawks are approaching claws-first from above . . .

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