WWWednesday: Social Vermyn
by John Hageman, Jr.
Despite my obsessive compulsion to buy comic books and comic book related merchandise (I just found the Justice League Unlimited Fire/Ice/Green Lantern three-pack and DC Superheroes Penguin and Orion at Target!), I haven't made the commitment to follow any webcomics yet. I really don't know why; webcomics are completely convenient and when presented properly can offer the most innovative art and storytelling of the entire medium. Perhaps I'm too old-fashioned to accept that webcomics are the beginning of the end for the beloved printed page; sure, newspapers and magazines still exist, but the likes of Matt Drudge and Perez Hilton are the proverbial Thomas Edison to print's smoke signal appeal. It's only a matter of time.
In short, Dr. Egon Spengler was close. Print isn't dead -- it's undead, lumbering forth like a zombie unwilling to accept its grave fate and looking for unsuspecting flesh to devour.
So, welcome to the first WWWednesday, my feeble 52-part attempt to embrace the future. The following disclaimer will precede every Wednesday review, to explain my intentions:
Every Wednesday, A Comic A Day boldly diverts from the printed page to read and review a different webcomic, examining at least its first, previous, and current installments. If you have a webcomic you'd like A Comic A Day to review, please e-mail me with a link to and a synopsis of your work. Put "Review my webcomic!" in the subject line so I don't mistake your request for spam . . . unless your comic is really called "Assuring Her Pleasure," in which case, tell me more!
My first WWWednesday review spotlights Social Vermyn because I sat next its creator John Hageman, Jr. at the last Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco, and he was kind enough to trade a few of my K.O. comics for a nice 11" by 14" drawing he'd been working on all weekend. I've already read quite a few of his strips thanks to our friendship on ComicSpace, so I thought revisiting his material would be an easy way to kick off this deviation from my norm. Thanks to John's timely good humor, I was right.
Social Vermyn chronicles the adventures of a potty-mouthed albino ferret named Victor who braves a nine-to-five desk job by day and bar hops at night, berating his friends for their shortcomings and judging the world for its social injustices . . . so its appeal for a twentysomething audience isn't too hard to understand. Despite Victor and friends' cute, cartoonish expressions, Social Vermyn isn't for kids, not that they'd understand the trials of fitting one's lunch in the staff lounge fridge anyway. The biting cynicism that surrounds John's exaggerated situations trumps the cuteness of his characters and is Social Vermyn's real strength; that his little heroes are rodents only epitomizes the fact they represent some of the basest tendencies of humanity. In other words, when its foremost character has to dodge a murder wrap with a little S & M-themed community service, you can rest assured Victor won't be seen on any given newspaper's comics section alongside Snoopy any time soon. I don't think that bothers his creator any, either.
The latest series of strips appropriately begins with an embittered commentary of corny Christmas parties and spirals into a Dickens-esque parody of dysfunctional family gatherings, defunct pop culture trends (using a Geico caveman as the Ghost of Christmas Present reveals how vapid this decade has become), and the dangers of toiling a literally dead end job. John's art is crisp and well colored, and his comedic timing is well-paced in the context of his month-long story, but the proofreader in me must critique the occassional typo and the way they unfortunately distract from the totality of each weekly installment. Though each installment of the "A Vermyn Christmas Story" series is twice the length of John's first strip, with almost three times the dialogue, a simple spell check would assure that his story holds up as surely as his art.
In conclusion, Social Vermyn is the perfect introduction to webcomics for cynics looking to pass a few idle minutes of their work day with a good laugh. Though Victor's predicaments and commentary are often a little extreme, and the comedy a little too dark for the light-hearted fare often found in the newspaper, this albino ferret's sarcastic perspective is enough to make anyone stifle a laugh for their boss's sake -- which is just the kind of social injustice these vermin were created to combat in the first place.