Arthur, King of Time and Space

Arthur, King of Time and Space, against all odds, remains one of my favourite webcomics.

I’m a fairly art-oriented person, and the art in AKTS is pretty unapologetically bad. Well, his line drawings are actually extremely good, but then they’re scanned in such high contrast that they get rough and pixelated, and then he colors them in MS Paint. MS Paint! Using (primarily) the default colors it puts in your colorbar!

I think about half the punchlines are puns, often terribly contorted ones, and it’s not unusual for me to be confronted with a joke that I do not get and cannot figure out how to google. On those days, I just scowl at the website and its rather offensive MS-Paint-green and -yellow layout, and move on to other sites.

But the next day, I’ll be back again, eager to see what he’s up to.

I think there are two main things that just keep drawing me back to it, day after day.

1. The story. This is the same Arthur story that I’ve heard many times before, but I love watching Gadzikowski tell it. First of course there’s the fantastic gimmick that the same story has been/is happening at many times at once, and it adds a lot to the story to see it play out in the traditional Old Tymey setting and a modern setting and a futuristic setting and all the other settings he sneaks in.

I adore the fact that this is so much more than a gag-a-day comic– there’s a story happening, subtly, over time, and since it’s been planned out in advance, I don’t have to worry about the comic betraying me, if that makes any sense. Gadzikowski’s not going to kill off my favourite character to boost ratings (though he might do it for the story); he’s not going to go on forever, wandering around his premise until it’s worn dull and everything that was great has faded; he’s not going to stop part-way and leave me hanging. He knows where he’s going and he’s going there.

I’m sort of mentally comparing him to TV shows here– BSG, Heroes, Lost– since they more often seem to totally lose track of whatever story they were originally intended to tell– but it happens in webcomics as well, that they start to wander. So I really appreciate a fellow who has a story, and sticks to it.

2. The women. And yes, even though it’s a King Arthur story, there are women, plural, as opposed to just Guinevere! Gadzikowski hasn’t changed the original fairytale arc, but he’s made a practice of gender-swapping some of the characters so that the present-day and future arcs have a more equal number of women in them. The most notable (and my favourite) is Tristam, who carries on with his Queen in the fairytale arc and with her boss’ wife/commander’s wife in the other two. It just makes the later arcs so much more representative of real lives, by adding more women and by adding some no-big-deal homosexuality.

But even more refreshing, perhaps, is the fact that it’s clear Gadzikowski thinks about these things. He didn’t add a lesbian because boobies and girls kissing bring in readers– he did it because he’s actually something of a feminist ally. The commentary frequently reveals his thoughts on the matter. He intentionally passes the Bechdel test! Here, take a look:

I didn’t start out planning to do this one in triangles. But I knew a followup on contemporary Guenevere’s parents was due. And after trying to decide who would feed her the straightlines I decided on Eglante. The dilettante feminist in me was pretty proud while casting yesterday’s of accomodating Bechdel’s Law, until I went to draw it and I realized that any task I could draw two Chivalry Age women doing together would effectively negate any points scored under the Law. But then I realized I wanted the same cast today, for another talking heads gag. And I realized today isn’t a Daily Grind day, with the rule against re-using art. And I realized it’d be a fun challenge to edit yesterday’s cartoon to change the time zone. And I realized I could do that so that Guenevere and Eglante weren’t doing something stereotypically female.

siiiigh…isn’t he dreamy?

Actually, since he mentioned the Daily Grind, I ought to make a quick note of reason 3 I adore this comic: it just keeps updating! Completely regularly! He’s out of the grind now, but only on what I consider to be a technicality (the limit on one-panel comics) and he’s still updating as regularly as ever.

Which means that there are a ton of strips in the archive, but if I haven’t already convinced you that an archive trawl would be worth it, I may not be able to. This strip has an addictive quality that makes the archives a particular pleasure– I accidentally got caught up in them and read a year’s worth of strips while looking for the two posted above– and that makes one dependable update a day feel somehow like it’s not enough.

SO: Arthur, King of Time and Space. Bookmark it.

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