For a while now I’ve resisted the urging of several friends to read the anthropomorphic comic The Whiteboard. I was assisted in this by the fact that whenever I clicked on a link to the comic, I’d end up with a broken page; I’m not sure if this was just a bad link or if I just had the worse luck getting through to the comic. Finally my occasional partner in the criminal art of critiquing, Steve Anderson, found my one weakness (TV Tropes) and managed to lure me into the timesink that TW’s archives have become over the past decade. Despite taking me a weekend and several more days to finish, it was well worth my time and has proven to be the perfect comic to come out of hiatus with (though technically I’ve been posting news-related stuff these past few days, you guys deserve a proper review. So why not something new?)
The Whiteboard is case evident of a saying of mine: there’s a webcomic about everything (or just about) out there. I mean, when you consider there’s comics about the Air Force, online gambling, and even drunken bowling leagues (though that one went into hiatus, sadly enough), then it’s fair to say if someone is interested in a topic, a comic will come into being around it. TW’s niche just happens to be paintball playing from the viewpoint of a paintball repair shop up in Alaska that’s operated by a polar bear who, for much of the comic, lives in a very human world. Indeed, it’s only after the first of two zombie apocalypses in the strip that the anthro characters start outnumbering the humans.
And yes, I did say that Doc’s Machine (DM) (the cartoonist behind this insanity) inflicted not one, but two zombie apocalypses on the strip. Nor was this a one-shot that had no continuity to the comic as a whole; zombies came, devoured, the National Guard was called in, and the human population dropped decidedly while a significant number of furballs showed up. At this point, humans seem to be used more for background strips than as even background characters; in earlier strips humans would come into the shop looking to buy paintball equipment or wanting Doc to repair the mess they made of their guns after various “home repair” efforts fell through.
This is a common theme, mind you. Yet it doesn’t really come off as repetitive. I think part of this is due to the insanity that DM drags his audience through, including the multiple instances when Doc and his partner in crime Roger (an anthro raccoon) go on wild inventing sprees, including railgun paintball rifles, wormholes that open up into the past, and mecha. And how do they get ahold of funding to make such wonderful toys? DARPA. (Though finally a number of their toys get snagged by another government agency, this one run by other anthros, once Doc starts meddling with wormholes.)
When the comic doesn’t indulge in inventive insanity it switches to actual paintball games. And I have to warn you that DM is a big fan of paintball and imparts that enthusiasm into the comic. I know after going through the archives part of me was tempted to look up paintball fields and rentals in my area and maybe see if it’s a hobby I could get into. Fortunately, my inherent laziness kicked in and the urge subsided. But if you’re a bit more whimsical and less of a procrastinator, this comic could catalyze an interest in a hobby that involves getting pelted with balls of paint launched at a high enough speed to leave welts through clothing (not to mention paint splatters).
As a brief aside, I do have to applaud DM for stating on several occasions the need for safety equipment (and its proper use) in the sport. He even goes into how slipups happen… though he’s not actually shown any consequences as Doc will duct tape the mask of any player who removes their protective equipment while on the playing field. No doubt having a huge polar bear bearing down on you with a big roll of duct tape is enough to cow any player into letting him duct tape their equipment on. Mostly though I think it’s the Rule of Funny at play.
One of the more interesting elements of the comic lies with the first few strips. It seems DM originally started creating the comic on an actual whiteboard (thus the comic’s name). But considering how much time must have gone into those strips (and how it’s more conducive for a one-panel format which doesn’t do much for storytelling), after a half dozen strips DM chose to use a more traditional format. And more recently DM started doing full-time color for the strip, though when pressed for time DM will switch back to a greyscale format. So, come in for the paintball, and feel free to stay for the insanity. Just, try starting the comic on a Friday night (assuming you work a normal workweek), lest you find yourself up at 2:00 a.m. and struggling to stay awake long enough for one last strip.