Sluggy Freelance

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Sluggy Freelance
Author(s) Pete Abrams
Website http://www.sluggy.com/
Current status / schedule Updating daily, filler on weekends
Launch date 1997-08-25 [1]
Genre(s) Comedy horror, Satire, Science fantasy, Dramedy

Sluggy Freelance is a popular, long-running daily webcomic written and drawn by Pete Abrams. The comic has over 100,000 daily readers[2] and premiered on August 25, 1997. Abrams is one of the few, and first, webcomic creators successful enough to make a living as an artist.[3]

While the strip began as a gag-based series in which the three main protagonists (Torg, Riff and Zoë) would stumble from one brief, bizarre, parody-centric adventure to the next, the characters and plotlines have gradually become longer and more serious. However, even the more dramatic and soap operatic story arcs often conform to the common gag comic strip format. While there is often sexual innuendo and cartoon violence, the comic contains little strong profanity and no explicit nudity.

Characters[edit]

The characters in Sluggy Freelance are varied and diverse. The primary protagonist Torg is a cheerful and impulsive nerd, who frequently finds himself going on wild adventures (though rarely of his own volition). Often, these adventures are enabled by Torg's genius inventor friend, Riff. Zoë, the most normal character of the bunch, serves as the futile voice of reason for the cast. They are accompanied by their sometimes-witch friend Gwynn, a psychopathic switchblade & Glock-wielding rabbit Bun-bun, the hyperactive ferret Kiki, and a shape-shifting alien named Aylee.

Traditions[edit]

Sluggy Freelance has featured several yearly recurring themes, although many of them have eventually been broken or discontinued due to developments in the overall plot.

In an early 1998 plotline, one of Riff's inventions sent Torg to the "Dimension of Pain." Every Halloween afterwards for several years, a different demon was sent to Earth to try to bring him back, failing in amusing and unexpected ways.

Bun-bun has tried to kill Santa Claus every Christmas, with continuously escalating violence; the fact that Bun-bun became the Easter Bunny early on in the strip merely added spice to the relationship. There was a break in the tradition when Bun-bun was thrown out of time and was not present in 2005, and aside from an attack more inconveniencing than dangerous in 2006 he has not resumed the feud.

Also on almost every Christmas/Hanukkah, Torg and Riff have attempted to continue their own, private tradition of giving each other "a beer every year." Usually they never quite get it right, for a variety of reasons, including being trapped in a mummy's tomb, selling their shoulders for science, and other random occurrences.

Every year on 25 August, the comic features a small animation to commemorate the comic's anniversary, most of which involve Kiki singing karaoke. The Fifth Anniversary, August 25, 2002, fell on a Sunday, which traditionally was reserved for full color extended comics. This comic combined the two themes, presenting a full-color animated comic, which advanced one frame at a time.

In every New Year's Eve storyline, Bun-bun gets drunk on 151 Rum, which results in his being uncharacteristically kind and courteous (such as apologizing to Torg or praising the main cast).

Evolution of Comic's Art and Tone[edit]

Sluggy Freelance began with a series of parody plot-lines which, while adding character developments and even some recurring characters, were fairly stand-alone. As the comic progressed, however Abrams began adding ongoing mysteries, intrigues and a series of "epic" stories that took Sluggy in a different direction. An example is the introduction of the mysterious character Oasis, whose mysterious past and threat to the cast becomes a backbone of some of the most important later plots. Abrams art also took on an increasingly dynamic and complex tone in many of these later stories, including weeks of full color or experimental graphics and as many as 15 panels in a single day, making the strip feel more like a comic book or graphic novel in some of its most dramatic moments. Despite this, Abrams worked hard to maintain the comic's characteristic humor and quirkiness even in the midst of moments of great emotion and levity. A notable example of this deepening of the drama in the webcomic is the chapter "Fire and Rain" which broke several traditions in the site, has a far more dark and detailed art style and is almost completely free of comical elements.

In early 2007, with the start of the Chapter Entitled "Aylee" Abrams announced on his sites' news-feed that he had intentions to complete the Sluggy Freelance story after 10 years, and that the comic was entering its "Endgame," with dramatic changes that would impact the characters deeply. He hinted, however that it would likely take the strip some time to tie up all the loose ends in question.[4]

Other guest strips and crossovers[edit]

Abrams invites other well-known webcomic artists to do the strip for a week once or twice a year, while he goes on vacation. A frequent result is a parody of the strip itself, other webcomics, other creative works and/or artists, including Scooby-Doo and Ayn Rand. Clay Yount of Rob and Elliot was guest artist several times prior to taking over Saturday duties. Abrams also has various other artists providing art for Saturdays and Sundays, most recently Stuart Taylor and Lauren Taylor of Chain Bear.

Baen SF author John Ringo was profoundly affected by Sluggy while writing his Legacy of the Aldenata series; as a result, the crew of a massive mobile artillery platform that first appears in the third book of this series (When the Devil Dances) are depicted as die-hard Sluggy fanatics to comedic effect (up to, and including, naming their vehicle after Bun-Bun and painting a giant picture of Bun-Bun on it). They are joined in the fourth book (Hell's Faire), by a character based on a friend of Pete Abrams who was the inspiration for Riff. A section of original Sluggy comics set in the alternate future world of the novels appears in the end of Hell's Faire, and a sampler of Sluggy storylines is included on the CD-ROM bound into this book. Pete possibly returned the favor shortly thereafter by entitling one subchapter "Hell's Unfair." Another possible Sluggy reference is in the short story "Lets Go to Prague" where one character uses the codeword Kizke. This is the common mispronunciation of the demon K'z'k. (The proper pronunciation has no vowels.)

Also, the first two novels of Ringo's distant-future Council Wars series have appearances by an irascible, treacherous, switchblade-toting, telemarketer-hating AI in a rabbit-shaped body—created by a long-dead fan of an unnamed 20th-century webcomic.

In S.M. Stirling's Conquistador, one of the characters unleashes a self-destruct sequence with the code phrase "Override B-1 oasis". Override B-1 is a program that causes the Sluggy character Oasis to unleash her own level of destruction.

Numerous other webcomics have referenced Sluggy Freelance, and various guest artists on Sluggy Freelance have included their own webcomics' characters in their guest strips, including User Friendly who swapped A.J. for Torg for a week.[5][6]

Additionally, shortly after the birth of Leah Nicole Abrams in the middle of "The Love Potion" storyline, Sluggy Freelance entered a three-week long side story. The story involved Ki and Fooker of General Protection Fault, Lindesfarne and Ralph of Kevin and Kell, and Bruno and Fiona of Bruno the Bandit attempting to play the roles of Sluggy Freelance characters and find the original cast. Other characters, such as Gav from Nukees, and Trudy from General Protection Fault, made appearances. The non-comic characters from Mystery Science Theater 3000 also appear, in their famous silhouetted form.

There are several implicit cross-overs with R.K. Milholland's Something Positive, where Bun-bun is indirectly referred to. Milholland goes as far as imply that Bun-bun was Aubrey Chorde's bunny when she was a teen, and stole her flick-knife when she was forced to sell him to Kikis' Petstore by her mother.[7] In an episode of Freefall, wolf engineer Florence has caught a couple of rabbits for dinner; the robot Helix thinks they are intended as pets and names them Kevin (presumably after Kevin Dewclaw in Kevin and Kell) and Bun-Bun. The comic is part of the Create a Comic Project.[8]

In the game Munchkin by Steve Jackson Games, a monster card for players to fight against has a picture of a switchblade wielding Bun-Bun. There is a 5 in 6 chance that the monster is a perfectly normal bunny rabbit and a 1 in 6 chance that it is "that" rabbit. Possibly also a reference to the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In the expansion called Munchkin Bites there is a monster card called "The Evil" which refers to a horror story in the comic.

Critical reaction[edit]

London's The Sunday Times has described Sluggy Freelance as "TV buff heaven ... think The Office-style sardonic observations about everyday life set in Buffyverse's universe, with Battlestar Galactica thrown in ... very funny indeed."[9]

In its early years, Sluggy Freelance's various online and print incarnations received several other notable reviews charting out its pioneering spirit in the early world of web comics. In her 2002 review of Abram's fifth printed collection The Onion A.V. Club National Associate Editor Tasha Robinson described Abrams' work as the leading edge of creative comics going online to escape the "depressing downward spiral into paralytic banality" of tightly managed, formulaic syndicated newspaper strips. Mourning the loss of comic greats like the Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes, she argues that "it makes sense that the spiritual children of Watterson and company have migrated to the Internet, where they can indulge themselves in humor that doesn't require corporate approval." Admiring Abram's mastery of the form but not the content of strip-a-day comics, she praises Sluggy Freelances balance of humor and lengthy, intricate story development. She lauds Sluggy at the top of the class of newer up-and-coming web comics for unique "left-field" humor far too "geeky," "twisted" and astute in social commentary for the average newspaper.[10]

Even as early as 1999 The Tech, MIT's oldest and largest newspaper provided a stellar review by Contributing Editor Dan McGuire of Abram's first printed collection, Is It Not Nifty? Poking fun at the Internet's stereotypical association with pornography, McGuire introduces Sluggy Freelance as a cutting edge alternative endeavor on this virtual frontier and the relative artistic freedom it allows its creator, and ability to speak well to the culture of its audiences. While regretting the initial book lacks color weekends (something improved in future editions), McGuire praises the memorable characters, the inclusion of a bonus story for fans, and declares "Sluggy Freelance sits comfortably in the top tier of comic strips out there today, and Is it Not Nifty deserves to be on every MIT student’s shelf."[11]

Collections[edit]

In addition to being available on the website, Sluggy Freelance has been collected in paperback since just over a year after it first premiered. Pete Abrams and his associate Tom Rickets (originally known as "T-Shirt Tom") have sold these books and other Sluggy merchandise at science fiction conventions as well as on the web.

  • Sluggy Freelance: Is It Not Nifty? (Plan 9 Publishing, December 1, 1998)[12]
  • Sluggy Freelance: Worship the Comic (Plan 9 Publishing, June 30, 1999)[13]
  • Sluggy Freelance: When Holidays Attack! (Plan 9 Publishing, December 17, 1999)[14]
  • Sluggy Freelance: Game Called on Account of Naked Chick (Plan 9 Publishing, September 25, 2000)[15]
  • Sluggy Freelance: Yippy Skippy, the Evil! (Plan 9 Publishing, February 1, 2001)[16]
  • The Bug, The Witch, And The Robot (Plan 9 Publishing, January 1, 2001)[17]
  • Sluggy Freelance - A Very Big Bang! (Plan 9 Publishing, 2002)[18] (Available at IndyPlanet)[19]
  • Sluggy Freelance: Fire and Rain (Plan 9 Publishing, 2003)[20] (Available at IndyPlanet)[21]
  • Sluggy Freelance: Dangerous Days
  • Sluggy Freelance: Ghosts in the Gastank (Available at IndyPlanet)[22]
  • "Sluggy Freelance: The Holiday Wars" (Available at IndyPlanet)[23]
  • "Sluggy Freelance: Vampires & Demons" (Available at IndyPlanet)[24]
  • "Sluggy Freelance: Redemption" (Available at IndyPlanet)[25]
  • Sluggy Freelance : Born of Nifty : Megatome 01: Books 1-3 Is it Not Nifty / Worship the Comic / When Holidays Attack (2006) [26]
  • Sluggy Freelance: Little Evils: MegaTome 02 (Books 4, 5 & 6) (Red Brick Press, September 18, 2007)[27] Includes 25 bonus pages of never-before printed storylines.[28]

Card game[edit]

Get Nifty
Players 2-6
Age range 10 +
Setup time 5 minutes
Playing time 60 minutes
Random chance High
Skill(s) required Basic Math

Rob Balder designed a card game based on Sluggy Freelance named Get Nifty. The player does not need to read or know anything about the webcomic in order to play the game, but the knowledge is useful for setting up deeper strategies.

A game lasts at least an hour, depending on how many people are playing. The ultimate goal of the game is to win attacks of Danger and Boredom to Get Safe and Weird and further defending those states while accumulating the necessary points to "Get Nifty". Players use characters and objects, each with their own points of danger, niftiness, weirdness, and safety, to attack each other or themselves in order to achieve the basic states before being allowed to accumulate Niftiness. Other players may interfere or be requested to interfere by adding to attacking or defending points or by even changing the plot (overall stage and base statistics and constant effects).

Most cards have special effects to them, ranging from canceling others to sorting through either the draw or discard decks. Players should be aware of what affects what before considering playing certain attacks as these can significantly change the course of the game. For example, Oasis returns to her player's hand unless she succeeds in battle and Aylee can override the Playstayshun 2 (which gives infinite weirdness, giving immunity to boredom attacks). A card that would be canceled by one that is already in play is canceled the moment it comes into play, and should also be taken into account.

Role-playing game[edit]

In 2006 a Sluggy Freelance RPG was written by R. Brent Palmer in consultation with strip originator Pete Abrams. It was first playtested at Dragon Con later that year.[29]

Author[edit]

Pete Abrams at Dragon*Con in 2007.

Pete Abrams (born August 4, 1970) is the writer and illustrator of Sluggy Freelance. Abrams went to The Kubert School but was unable to get a job in the comics industry after school. Instead he got a job as a web designer for a marketing firm, and started Sluggy Freelance as a creative outlet. He did not believe the attention span on the Internet was long enough for the kind of elaborate graphic novels he was used to drawing, so instead he went for a quickly drawn daily strip.[30] Sluggy eventually became so successful that it is now his full-time job, and he is reputed to be the first person to make a living at drawing webcomics. He currently lives in Denville, New Jersey, U.S., and is married with two daughters, Leah Nicole Abrams and Sarah Emily Abrams.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sluggy Freelance - Comic for
  2. ^ Walker, Leslie (2005-06-15). "Comics Looking to Spread A Little Laughter on the Web". Washington Post. p. D1. Retrieved 2012-02-05. 
  3. ^ Hoffman, Allan (June 18, 2003). "Paying Pals Keep Free Web Sites Going". Newhouse News Service
  4. ^ Old Sluggy News-Feed Retrieved 2011-07-20
  5. ^ Sluggy Freelance - Comic for
  6. ^ UserFriendly Strip Comments
  7. ^ something positive: archive
  8. ^ "Picturevoice: Health Communication Through Art." Presentation. Society for Public Health Education 60th Annual Meeting. Philadelphia, PA. November 6, 2009.
  9. ^ O'Brien, Danny (February 26, 2006). "The tooniverse explodes". The Sunday Times, p. 27.
  10. ^ "Tasha Robinson" (2002-04-19). "Pete Abrams: Yippy Skippy the Evil". The Onion A.V. Club, (Book Reviews) Retrieved 2011-07-20
  11. ^ McGuire, Dan (2005-03-19). "There's More Than Porn on the Net," "The Tech Online Edition" Retrieved 2011-07-20
  12. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  13. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  14. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  15. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  16. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  17. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  18. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  19. ^ IndyPlanet Book 7 Page Retrieved 17-March–2013
  20. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  21. ^ IndyPlanet Book 8 Page Retrieved 17-March–2013
  22. ^ IndyPlanet Book 10 Page Retrieved 17-March–2013
  23. ^ IndyPlanet Book 11 Page Retrieved 17-March–2013
  24. ^ IndyPlanet Book 12 Page Retrieved 17-March–2013
  25. ^ IndyPlanet Book 13 Page Retrieved 17-March–2013
  26. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  27. ^ Amazon.com book details Retrieved 31-October–2009
  28. ^ Sluggy store catalog Retrieved 31-October–2009
  29. ^ Sluggy Freelance RPG--and Dragon*Con forum post by R. Brent Palmer, Wed July 19, 2006 3:45 am. Retrieved 31-October–2009
  30. ^ AstroNerdBoy's Comic Strips

External links[edit]