Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Private Buffoons

Allen Varney | 4 Nov 2008 08:53
Editor's Choice - RSS 2.0

The horizons are wider now. Given artistic talent (or clip-art), novices find it technically straightforward to create slick-looking webcomics with Manga Studio or Comic Life software, using fonts from Blambot and other foundries. Online tools like Comicbrush are easy. Website creation is almost trivial, thanks to special-purpose templates (such as the ComicPress plugin for WordPress) and cheap shared hosting - or, for webcomics, even free hosting. You can share convention expenses and sell ads through collectives like Project Wonderful, Dumbrella, Dayfree Press and others. There's a lot to learn, but it's all within reach.


Some of these sites display inventive humor that arises from different mindsets. Unshelved is the webcomic for librarians. Lark News makes Christianity funny. Manpill targets men, and I mean really strongly male testosteriffic manly men. Just as interesting are the sites that start in a niche and then grow toward general interest, the way Questionable Content expanded beyond indie rock into wide-ranging soap opera. "Niche" implies not marketing and branding, but rather self-expression. By making a site or strip about your own interests, you automatically target the niche of "people like me." Who could object to that?

The excitement is real, widespread and infectious. It makes you think great, crazy thoughts ...

... which brings me to my new site. (I've already pulled the pin! Try to stop me and we explode together!)


Once again I've joined myself at the hip with some of the writers I worked with in 2004-2006, when I designed a new edition of the classic tabletop roleplaying game PARANOIA. We all loved that experience, which I recounted in The Escapist, "Player-Prompted PARANOIA." So when one writer, Greg Ingber, approached me with a funny idea, we decided to pull the band back together.

Ninjalistics is about corporate ninja - like Dilbert, but they're all ninja, filling out requisitions for each throwing star and ensuring their assassinations are ISO-9000 compliant. The target audience is corporate cubicle drones who want to kill their boss. Yes, we have a webcomic (Greg's "Etiquette Ninjas"), plus funny forms and certificates, text features and more.

I know, there's already a dojo-full of fine examples: Ask a Ninja, Ninja Burger, Adventures of Dr. McNinja, White Ninja and more ... Ninjalistics admires them all! But Garfield's success didn't forestall the cat strip Two Lumps (or, for that matter, the curiously affecting Garfield Minus Garfield). Cute Overload rules the kitten photo world, but people still visit Stuff on My Cat and Kittenwar and Upside-Down Dogs. On the web there's always room for more. Especially for more ninja, who are nimble, stealthy and often short.

It's tremendous fun, the most we've had since PARANOIA. Best of all, I haven't yet felt like an idiot. As I said, that usually takes longer than 10 minutes.

Allen Varney, designer of the paper-and-dice roleplaying game PARANOIA (2004 edition), now manages Ninjalistics, your top-quality provider of corporate espionage and assassination solutions.

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