By Bixyl Shuftan
I've been reading online comics for over twenty years, since the World Wide Web was just a few years old. A few from the earlier days of the Internet have gone on to today (link here). But many have not. Some were forgettable. Some mildly interesting. Others I occasionally recall and think about. Here are a few that I once read but for various reasons have stopped and become part of online comic history.
Haul Trek/Freighter Tails
Paul Gibbs as it turned out wasn't just the creative force behind Haul Trek doing the story. He was a science fiction writer. He had written a novel centered around Animated Star Trek's Caitian character Lt. M'Ress and tried to get it published without success. He gave up after being told as it focused on someone other than the three main characters and had lasting consequences, the chances of it being published were nil. So for some time it was available online for anyone who read it.
Eventually, Gibbs and Redfern talked about the possibility of selling Haul Trek merchandise. But there was a problem. Since it was a Star Trek themed comic, legally they couldn't make any money off of it. So the comic was put on pause while they thought about a solution. They finally came up with one: remove the Trek elements and replace them. Gibbs did much the same with the novel and a sequel he had been doing. The strip's name was changed to "Freighter Tails." The character's name was changed to Mzzkiti and her species renamed to "Moggian." Instead of Starfleet, she and the ship were with the Space Protectorate Forces. But it was still the same "ship of fools" in which there was seldom a boring moment. It started up in 2001, and was updated roughly once a month.
But Mzzkitti as a character wasn't truly gone. She would get some guest appearances in the "Cross Time Cafe" comic for several years. She was also part of a few crossovers over time, as part of "Haul Trek" and "Freighter Tails." The comic was also an influence on a comedy Trek sim I was in at the time.
The comic can still be found at (http://www.mzzkiti.com/) and is pretty much G-rated, though some scenes might rate PG to some (blanked profanity).
Gibbs' work remains up at his website The Sah'haran Embassy (http://www.sahaaran.com/), maintained by a friend as a lasting tribute.
Dela The Hooda
Done by Style Wager and Greg Older, this was the story of Dela, a foxlike lady from another world whom ends up on Earth due to a mishap and ends up secretly living with a human friend. Wager was the artist of the strip. Older was a writer of fantasy games. One of his games was "Mhar: The Final Frontier," which is the story universe Dela comes from. The story went from about 1999 to 2012 on the comic's website.
The story begins with Dela starting a job as a programmer at a university on her homeworld. Unfortunately, she ends up working in the lab of a mad scientist whose experiment ends up accidentally sending her to our universe and to Earth. Ending up in Peabow Canada, she quickly makes friends with Sue, whom agrees to take her in. Arriving at the house, Sue's neighbor Jake sees them. Fortunately he agrees to stay quiet, but unfortunately he quickly shows a womanizing streak and isn't put off by Dela's fur and tail.
Dela's time on Earth has various mishaps and misadventures. As it turns out, she can still make limited appearances in public as people refuse to believe they're seeing a "giant fox" on two legs or think nobody would believe them if they spoke anything. Though going too far once gets the attention of the MiP, the "Men in Plaid" (Canada can't afford the suits the MiB can). The mad scientist whom caused her to get lost makes an effort to find her, though doesn't have much luck for a while. By accident, Dela finds a boyfriend. And later on finds she isn't exactly the only person not of this world on Earth. While there are occasional threats, the overall tone of the strip was comical and not too serious.
The comic's main webpage at (www.delathehooda.com/) showed the newest few strips. Checking out older ones was more easily done on the mirror website at (www.belfry.com/dela.html). At first, the comic was updated about once a week, but after a few years started to slow down. Eventually the mirror stopped updating at 2008, with the main website continuing until 2012. Both sites were eventually taken down, visible now only through the "Wayback Machine/Internet Archive." As it turned out, Wager's page on an art website had a few more strips with the last one at 2016 with no sign of a conclusion. He would state he's no longer working on the comic.
I found the comic a bit edgy such as a bedroom scene or two, occasionally a bit silly with people pretending not to notice Dela and the "Gelfs," but entertaining as I wondered what was going to happen to the vixen and her friends next. My only real complaint is the lack of a satisfying ending.
The strip itself rated PG-13, with occasional profanity, sexual humor, and adult situations.
Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire
The story starts with Dominic scraping by as a seer telling fortunes for a living in a small town. Most customers have mundane requests, which doesn't help his grumpy manner. Then a vain woman whom doesn't like being told what she doesn't want to hear puts a mild but annoying curse on him. In his effort to get rid of it, he meets Luna Travoria. The two form a friendship that eventually leads to love. As it turns out, Luna is a talented mage whom was held back only by her lack of self-confidence.
As time goes on, other characters are introduced. Dominic's younger brother Gregory is a healer, but crippled from a magical attack that will take a while to overcome. The older brother Jacob however was fascinated with necromancers and became one. Their mother is one of the most talented mages in the land and the father a noted bard (and the one whom Dominic got his uncanny knack for puns from). There's the two bumbling thieves Stunt and Bumper, whom get into a number of amusing mishaps. One villain is an infernomancer with demonic powers. Another character when fighting demons ended up becoming one. Dominic also befriends orc shamans. And many other characters add to the story.
Over time, Dominic's opponents become more dangerous and sometimes otherwordly terrifying. Occasionally the villains and heroes aren't what they first seem to be. Sometimes not everyone makes it to the end. And the adventure doesn't always end with a happy ending for everyone. In his final adventure, Dominic pays a price for his efforts.
The strip would run from 2002 to 2013. For a time, Terracciano would work on other projects, notably the superhero and space adventure comic "Star Power." In 2019, he started a sequel, "The Legacy of Dominic Deegan." It takes place 200 years after the events in the first story, is told from the point of view of a deaf character, and there's nudity. So it's a different story in a different style in the same story universe, and I consider "Oracle For Hire" a separate comic.
I found the strip entertaining for both it's plots and the humor, yours truly never able to resist a good pun. While it could be violent at times, it was to demonstrate the viciousness of some characters. It was good enough to mention here despite the "R" rating of it's sequel.
"Dominic Deegan: Oracle For Hire" (by itself) rates a PG-13 due to it's violence and blood, as well as occasional language.
To read the first strip of Dominic, Click Here (CAUTION: clicking on the main page may occasionally show nudity, so it's Not Safe For Work).
Drawn by Dan Canaan aka "Flinters", "Roomies" was the tales of Flinthoof and his friends. It takes place in an ordinary neighborhood in which the only big difference between it and our world are the anthropomorphic people, tigers, rabbits, horses, etc. But ordinary doesn't mean boring as all sorts of things can go wrong, as well as occasional weirdness.
Ponypal, or Flinters as he was sometimes called, was the main character
of the strip. He was an anthro horse whom made a little money through
various odd jobs with computers and cars, and had a serious mint
addiction. His best friend was Tibo, a green tiger whom had a job as a
programer but had a hobby fixing old computers. Tibo's best lady friend
was Rhonda, a cute tall bunnygirl, or "Bhuuunnnnnny" as Tibo sometimes
mutters when starring at her. Then there's her mother, known to the
others as "Rhonda's Mother" or "RM," an aggressive doe rabbit whom is
often the more sensible of the cast of characters, at least when not
trying to correct her daughter. Other characters include Alex, a ditzy
lady wolf with a love for toast.
The comic started in 1999. Most of the stories involved the characters getting by and trying to get through life, with reoccurring gags such as Flinter's mint addiction and guys going slackjawed and muttering "Bhuuuuuunnnnnnyyyy." But there was some occasional strangeness. One ordinary ferret gets mutated into a fully intelligent anthropomorphic one. Cultists kidnap one of the characters and end up foiled by one of the rabbits, "Naked bhuuuuunnnnnyyyyy." "I saw the bunny, and it was good." At one point a team from the future arrives to detain Flinters for supposed crimes that have yet to take place. And then there are the Cyantians. Canann would do a crossover with Tiffany Ross's Cyantian Chronicles with her character Rhonda making an appearance in one side-strip of Ross's, and Darius and others making appearances in Roomies. While there were minor threats in the stories, the tone wasn't serious and no one gets badly hurt.
Canaan would continue the comic until 2008. The final strips would show the characters with the Cyantians and on their way to Mars. On his art page, he would explain it was time to bring it to a close, not wanting to continue to the point it stopped being funny. For those wanting to check out the comic today, sadly a glance through the "Wayback Machine/Internet Archive" didn't show any strips at all. Anyone wanting to read the comic will have to buy his book online.
The comic was entertaining, though probably the main reason it stuck with me was "RM." In Second Life, among my group of friends is Rita Mariner, an aggressive alpha female doe bunny. While she wasn't a reader of the comic, she certainly acted like her "RM" was based on the RM of Roomies. But it turns out Rita never read the comic.
"Roomies" was a mostly tame comic, rated G with occasional PG.
The Cross Time Cafe
The Cross Time Cafe was a unique strip among online comics. Instead of the efforts of one or two artists, it was the combined efforts of several. Originally planned as a six-strip joke between a few artists on a mutual friend, it turned into a place where artists could have fun with their characters in a place outside the continuity of their own stories, and went on for many years. It is hosted by Scudder "White Pony" Kidwell on "White Pony Productions."
Of how the Cross Time Cafe got started, contributor "Sleepy John" described it as "It started with a hug." Around 2003, ne of the posters of the Freefall forum asked readers to post pictures of hugs, which lead to pictures of couples and other pairs of characters hugging or otherwise in scenes of friendship. Then a user named Hortmage suggested Freefall artist Mark Stanley draw a hug picture of the character Sam Starfall. Other readers quickly egged Stanley to draw Hortmage getting a face-hug from Sam. That led to a six strips drawn by Stanley in which several characters got together in a "Cross Time Cafe," and in the last one Hortmage got the long-asked for face hug.
And in Sleepy John's words, "and then it got weird." White Pony started hosting the strips on his website, and Scott Kellog of "21st Century Fox" and Kidwell added some strips of their own. Then Redfern gave the okay for his character Mzzkiti from "Freighter Tales" to be added. It was fun and silly games for a while. Then things got into the "Construction Period" in which robots from "Freefall" came in "with their own attitudes, tools and rotten puns." Kathy Garrison joined the artists and Kathy Grrson of "Carry On" joined the characters. Eventually other artists would join in, and even more characters were added. The results were often chaotic, but also fun.
The Cross Time Cafe would go on for fourteen years and hundreds of strips. But eventually the various artists would end up with less time to write. The last several were comupter images made by Kidwell, one character saying, "In the beginning, our world was overseen by a council of creators. Now our world of the Cafe is protected by only one creator - the overseeer. The overseer foresaw this and made arrangements for a new environment." And so in December 2017, the Cross Time Cafe would have the final strip with the last character taking a bow. But this wasn't truly the end as Kidwell would start a sequel, the CTC-Annex (link here)
While I perhaps didn't quite enjoy the Cross Time Cafe as much as the main strips of the artists, it was still entertaining. Perhaps there's just something about seeing characters just get together to have a little fun.
On another note, I would meet many of the people in 2008 at the "Pony Con" (no relation to MLP) when we decided to get together at the town where the Kellogg farm was near. We had fun visiting the nearby Green Bank Observatory, which had the country's largest steerable radio telescope, went to a nearby train museum, and had lots of fun. The most memorable moment was the picnic, and someone brought a "Sam Starfall" pinata. But the first guy to take a swing at it, well, let's just say swinging down instead of across was not a good idea (owie). Someone brought over a couple dozen books of the first 1024 Freefall strips that he had made at his expense. I ended up with a signed copy as a souvenir of my trip.
The strip rated G with occasional PG.
To read the first strip, Click Here.
There are plenty of others that I read that I fondly recall, such as "The Class Menagerie," "Absurd Notions," "Apollo 9," "The Suburban Jungle," and others. But any reviews of those will have to wait until another time.
What online comics of the past do you fondly remember? Feel free to leave comments below.