ACT-I-VATE is a webcomics collective that was started by Dean Haspiel in 2006. It provides a place for talented, hand picked creators to host their comics and serialized graphic novels. There is a great lot of great and recognizable talent there. There are dozens of offerings, and previously I have only read one or two. Not sure why, but then I am never sure what keeps me from reading good stuff that everyone else is smart enough to read when it's new.
Here's What I read there:
Adventures of Maxy J. Millionaire - Paul Maybury - This was a Zuda contest entry at one point. I loved it there, and I love it here. Especially wonderful is the last page where Maxy confronts Paul about the book that he's supposed to do about Maxy. Maxy J. is a stuffed toy who loves chicken nuggets and writing checks. He leaves his girl after she has grown up and put him through the indignity of having sex with someone in his bed. It's sort of cute and sweet and sad. Maxy is naive and self centered and a bit delusional. It's a really good character. I love Maybury's art, and would love to see this go someplace.
Beanbots - Kevin Kobasic - I may use the word sweet alot in this post. Beanbots focuses on a Dad and his two daughters (I am a father of two daughters, so it really resonates, but it is good regardless of that) The art is sort of soft focus and cute, but in a way that drives home the whole raising girls thing. If you have girls, or know them, or were one, or are one, you know that especially when they are little they can be a cross between the cutest thing you have ever encountered and a Tasmanian devil, or sometimes the actual devil. They can undo anything you are secure in, and make you love more than you thought was possible. This is a very funny strip, but there is a reality to it that is just perfect. One of my favorite strips has the Dad taking care of the two girls and walking with them in public. They have angel halos and he has a superman cape. By the end of the strip both of them are bawling and he has an ass for a head(hopefully you follow that link to see the whole thing).
Flowing Wells - Andrew Dimitt - This is another comic that was in a Zuda competition once. 8 screens and the sort of storytelling that this is didn't translate well into the Zuda model. That is a sort of Weakness in the Zuda concept, but it certainly isn't damning in my opinion to Zuda or this strange but excellent comic. Flowing wells is almost entirely narrative so far. The art is really great, and very clean. I am seriously a big fan of this. I don't fully get it, but the concept as I understand it is very cool. It is something that really needed space to grow and develop, and given that, draws you in well. As I understand it, Flowing Wells is like if the Sims took place on an actual planet and everything was actually built upon the planet and the sims that were created there suffered under various mods that caused all sort of problems, including giving them free will. When we join the story there are very few 'people' left there.
Underwire - Jennifer Hayden - This is perhaps my favorite. These pieces are absolutely from a woman's perspective, but they are less gender specific than they are just true to life, easily identifiable pieces of on the human experience. The art is absolutely perfect. It is personal and accessible and expressive. I have linked to my favorite panel of my favorite story. Visit the link then start at the beginning of the story. Each chapter is a 12 to 18 panel strip that comes off as a short story or vignette. They all work for me and give us looks at real and different every day sorts of occurrences elevated to art. I highly recommend this. The panel I have linked to is a situation that my wife and I definitely experienced ourselves with our oldest. We pointed out the moment things changed as well. Hayden is working on a graphic novel - "The Story of My Tits" which is scheduled for 2011 from Top Shelf, according to her website . It is definitely on my list as something I need to get when it comes out.
For the final webcomic I read, I looked no further than someone I follow on twitter, and whose blog I regularly visit - Keven Church - I have only read a few entries of his webcomic The Rack, but it is definitely something I want to read. Today I chose to Read the 'limited series' spin off of the Rack-
Lydia: A comic strip about corporate culture. - There was no issue with understanding and enjoying this, despite my limited experience with The Rack. It was very funny, very well drawn, and extremely well written. It wasn't Dilbert, and it wasn't The Office, it was yet again unique, despite covering an angle on a set up that has been done a good bit. This takes it from a slightly different direction than we have seen it before, and works. Lydia went from working in a comic shop to working in a corporate environment where it was immediately clear that management was flaky and imbalanced, but not immediately clear what the job was that she was hired to do. Good clever stuff, go read it now.