As is likely apparent from my reviewing habits, I tend to prefer webcomics that have storylines over their more chaotic and freeform comedic brethren. Part of this has to do with the content that modern humor tends to focuses on: the humiliation and pain of others. And while I’ll laugh at the humor, I’m a bit too empathetic to enjoy it for long. Thus when I initially stumbled across the eclectic dark humor comic Head Trip, I have to admit I didn’t get past the first couple dozen page. It wasn’t until a friend posted a link on Facebook of the latest comic (pointing out a rather disturbing yet amusing bit parodying the Inu Yasha anime/manga series) that I gave the comic another try… and by backing my way through the comic managed to get around some of the early comics that just didn’t manage to hook me.
If I were to hazard a guess, I’d suspect cartoonist Amanda “Shinga” Bussell created HT as a means of letting off steam. There are multiple comics in which Malory, her cartoon self, is depicted hurting other people – mind you, these individuals are shown to deserve their pain and anguish so you’re not really going to feel sympathy for these victims. This isn’t to say Malory is some shining saint, mind you; the very first comic included her saying something quite inflammatory, resulting in one of the comic’s devils showing up with a hand-basket while insisting Malory has to get into it. (She doesn’t. It does become a running gag, however.)
But in between the cartoon violence (mostly left off-screen or barely glimpsed) and the inappropriate comments, we also get a glimpse at the person Malory (and very likely Shinga herself) actually is. The relationship between Malory and her sisters Kat and Lilian (and to a lesser extent her parents) is one of the aspects of the comic I felt worked quite well and enjoyed immensely. Malory and Kat specifically were fleshed out nicely and their interactions flowed naturally, and while Lilian hasn’t had as much screen time as her older sisters, what we’ve seen to date has potential. Unfortunately, we’ve not seen much of the sisters (or of Malory’s parents) in more recent updates, which is a shame seeing how well Shinga depicts her fictionalized family.
Another aspect of HT that I enjoy is the “Emokid and Chemokid” serial superhero parody comics that have periodically appeared in the comic since soon after its inception. Part of my enjoyment of these segments is naturally due to the episodic nature of the short stories; I’m a sucker for a well-crafted story, and while early EaC stories focused more on parodying the superhero genre (and poking fun at the emo culture), once EoC established a foundation to build upon, its story became quite interesting (with my favorite part being when Emokid decides he’s not going to be emo any longer and admits to enjoying a “Lady Gaga”). Perhaps part of the reason these short parody comics work so well is due to the ludicrousness of a hero running around in a hospital gown while smacking people with an IV pole while his friend spouts bad poetry and cries at the drop of a hat. The main reason it works, though, is that Shinga has put as much work into crafting these characters’ personalities that she did with Malory, Kat and Lilian.
This leaves us, of course, with the one-shot humor. Shinga doesn’t pull her punches and will say some rather inappropriate things; oddly enough, she manages to get away with this, and I’m not quite sure how. Perhaps part of it is the anger that is also apparent in a number of the comics; subconsciously I might be accepting her use of humor as a coping mechanism. Of course, another reason lies with some of the targets she chooses, such as the Twilight books and the Heroes television series (though you have to admit, the thought of Claire being a cutter and being denied her self-inflicted pain due to a regenerative ability is rather amusing). The fact the humor is intermingled with comics on Malory and her family and the superhero parody comic also helps lessen the impact of the comics; I’m not being flooded by panel after panel of inappropriate humor until I hate myself for laughing.
That’s not to say there aren’t any flaws in the comic. The early artwork is a bit rough, and Shinga has a tendency to use and abuse copy-and-paste artwork. This is especially annoying seeing that this time-saving measure hasn’t stopped the comic from being intermittent at best (with several short hiatuses having apparently cropped up). Given that Shinga is on Keenspot, the navigation system is linear which would work well for a storyline comic, but reveals its limitations with an eclectic comic such as Head Trip; this comic would shine using ComicPress and a tag system that would allow readers to focus specifically on those archive sections they’re interested in. But outside of a few nitpicks (and a warning to those people who get offended easily of frequent potentially-offensive content), I have to recommend this comic, both to fans of comedic comics and those who enjoy character development and loose-format storylines.