Comics that start in silly exercises in boredom have a tendency to get away from their creators to go on to much better things. Why would you want to be just a mediocre webcomic when you could be, I dunno, the greatest webcomic of all time?! Great, created by Ryan Armand on his confusingly named website www.kiwisbybeat.com, shows us just how much you can accomplish with a little confidence and a whole lot of self-delusion.
I originally stumbled across Armand’s works a few years back, when he was working on his comic Minus. Minus was a charming watercolor comic about a young girl with an overactive imagination and the magic power to do just about everything. The comic updated irregularly for about a year and a half before it ended somewhat tragically and a little surreal. It’s now one of two completed comics on the site, along with Shell, which follows the adventures of a normal young lady on a holiday, and a sea shell she probably should have left alone.
Great is one of two uncompleted comics on Kiwis By Beat, and the only comic currently being updated on a regular basis. The story follows the adventures of Lyle Phipps, a very unfortunate young man who can’t seem to do anything right. He’s unpopular, apparently horrible at his job, and his land lord hates him. His wife isn’t too fond of him either. But one night, after a particularly bad day, Lyle watches a commercial on TV that changes his life forever.
The best way to change your life, the reedy man on the TV argues, is to convince yourself that you are great. Reality be damned. Forget what everyone else thinks of you. You’re the best goddamn thing the happen to this world, and you know it. Lyle is completely taken in. It has to be true. He is great.
From here, Lyle’s life goes a bit haywire and he loses a few screws. The rest of the comic follows Lyle’s life over the course of many years, watching just how far he can go just by lying to himself. Lyle isn’t great. He’s mediocre at best, worthless at worst, and the only thing he seems to be capable of is spreading his insane worldview on to everyone else he meets. Uh, and murder. He’s pretty good at that. But the only thing that isn’t great about Lyle Phipps life is Lyle Phipps himself.
The comic is a bit more entrenched in Japanese culture than what I usually read. Most of the comic so far is centered around Lyle’s efforts to be come the best ramen noodle chef he possibly can, with mixed results. Still, Great is a charming comic filled with hilariously depressing moments and jokes. But that’s also the biggest problem you’ll come across in Great. You know where the joke is. Lyle is the joke. He think’s he’s great. He’s not. Somewhere down the line, he’s going to ruin everything, all while convincing himself he’s awesome.
The art in the comic is cartoony, which works for its subject matter. Lyle is a very tiny man, and as the years go on his appearance gets more and more diminished. The characters all vaguely resemble what you’d expect from art in anime and mangas, complete with giant sweat drops when they’re flustered or aggravated, blush marks when they’re feeling excited. But there’s also an element there that is Armand’s own style that puts it apart from the other animes and mangas out there.
Still, it’s the direction in Lyle’s life that will keep you coming back. You’re not quite sure where he’s going to end up next, or who he’s going to become. From homeless to chef, husband to cult icon, Lyle’s quest for greatness takes him through some unusual walks of life.
As for the negative parts of this comic, because nothing is ever totally positive, right? Yeah! Anyway, I’m not too sure on the update schedule of this comic. Each new installment is enormous and helps to move the story along, but I’m never sure what day it’s going to go up. For me this is one of those comics that is better to avoid for a few weeks to let updates accumulate before plowing back in and seeing what mess Lyle is in now. It’s still worth checking, just maybe every other week or so.
Anyway, go check out Great if you’re in the mood for some laughs. Like I said earlier, it’s one of two uncompleted comics currently on Kiwis By Beat, along with Socks. This comic is a bit on the more serious side and follows the, uh, existence of a young girl who wakes up with absolutely no memory of who she is or where she is. To make matters worse, she’s apparently dead and unable to interact with the rest of humanity. It’s a comic about, so far, what you can do when you have a lot of free time on your hands. The art is a bit more polished in this comic than it is in Great, mostly because as Armand has stated, Great was “originally planned to be a short goofy comic that I could put up while working on other stuff, it has since ballooned in length into a long goofy comic that has taken time away from working on other stuff.” In any case, I don’t think Socks has updated since the middle of last year, so don’t go looking for too many updates there any time soon.
I’d write some more in here, but you know what? I’m just too damn fantastic.