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webslinky: pokey the penguin
This week, slow-burning seabirds.At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Internet comic strip Pokey the Penguin is the ramblings of a deranged child, starring as it does a talking penguin, his gun-toting young companion and a regular supporting cast that includes a posh capitalist snowman called Mr Nutty, a highly sceptical hippo and a flying boxing glove.
Pokey's non-adventures are delivered in a crude style, presumably achieved with Microsoft Paint, where sprites or whole panels are scribbled out (sometimes to cover mistakes, sometimes not) and a “more is more” philosophy has been applied to punctuation.
A second, more protracted glance is likely to lead only to more bewilderment as you try to make sense of what’s happening. Riddled with sideways references to science, philosophy, history, geek and pop culture, often the flying boxing glove is the closest you’ll get to a punchline in a Pokey strip.
But once you “get” the humour, the 467 (and counting) issues are a delight, having a cumulative effect of becoming funnier the more you read. Indeed, personal experience had led me to find them most enjoyable late at night, far beyond bedtime when I should really know better.
Pokey is a far cry from more populist web comics (well, populist amongst certain circles) such as Penny Arcade which conform to traditional comic standards. The style reminds me of bands like Sonic Youth whose music walks the line between catchy hooks and noise, sometimes occupying both extremes, and the repetition of certain elements can recall the stripped-down humour of The Fast Show.
But as Pokey’s very first strip states, it’s really about education: Pokey has taught me about race relations, science, friendship, the nature of belief, democracy and the price of love.
Hooray! The great advantage of the web as a medium for humour is that content can be given space to breathe. There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the “long tail”, but even before that phrase caught on, people recognised that on something as large as the internet anything can have an audience.
With back issues archived online, it’s never too late to join a slow-burn revolution, so you’d better get reading. As I said, Pokey is all about that cumulative effect.
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