Tone & Style

Putting Grace Into Grease: Greasy Space Monkeys

One of my favorite webcomics is Greasy Space Monkeys, by Reine Brand, with the help of her mysterious editor Mark Kestler (who may be a robot or AI program, but who I hope is a human).

The premise – our Big Damn Heroes, Nathan and Caspar, are actually under-appreciated maintenance workers on a run-down space station – looks like it will make for some nice low-maintenance throw-away humour, but not for sophistication, satire, emotion, eloquence, or superb storytelling. Guess what?

It is true that there are many one-off jokes that are not the most graceful, and often even outright gross.

But many jokes are on the theme of robots vs. humans, and those are connected, and even quite deep, sometimes.

There’s also something for the aficionados of fighting in space, and it’s done with wonderful visuals, which is all the more astonishing given the strip style format of the comic.

And there’s also some romantic tension to be found, which is, IMHO, done so well that I’m dead serious in calling Greasy Space Monkeys my favorite romantic comedy.

But the most awesome thing about this comic is that there are several storylines, of different length, often intertwined, and typically also with tie-ins from the trow-away jokes.

But before I discuss these storylines, I admonish you to check out and read Greasy Space Monkeys first, because there will be spoilers.

Now, if you are back, or if you don’t mind the SPOILERS AHEAD, click for more, read on, and discuss (that’s what the comments are for, duh).


Establishing Sense (Of Scale) And Sensibility

Many of my favorite webcomics are science fiction stories, and especially stories set in space.

Some of those you would call Space Opera. Others are of the type X IN SPACE, where X can be just about everything imaginable: Crime, drug trafficking, law enforcement, scientific research, pest removal, system maintenance, romance (with varying degree of explicitness), politics, and of course many different styles of military operations.

Comics that are set in space need to convey a sense of space, of being in space, of having left Earth-That-Was, in addition to everything else that a comic needs to convey: The experience of dynamics, of motion and emotion, that transcends the comparatively static nature of the medium.

This sense of space is to a large degree a sense of scale: The hugeness of moons, planets and stars, the endless void between those, the small or big (or gargantuan) spacecraft traveling. And the emotion instilled by all this has to fit in with the tone and style of the story: Cheerful, adventurous, mysterious, or dark and dangerous.

In theory, establishing a proper sense of scale for science fiction comics set in space should be impossible. The TV Tropes article called SciFi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale explains why. However, I find that there are many webcomics that excel at Etablishing Sense & Sensibility. My examples in today’s post are Space Pest Removal, Drive, Greasy Space Monkeys, and Space Mullet.

Since today the focus is on visual effects and not on plotting, there will only be minor spoilers, but I still want to give you the opportunity to get up-to-date with them.

Now, if you are back, or if you don’t mind the MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD, click for more, read on, and discuss (that’s what the comments are for, duh).