Hello everyone ! Elias here to present this week’s comic: “Crabgrass”. Webcomics really got their start thanks to the four-panel newspaper strip format and so I figured that with the year coming to an end, I should find one that continues the tradition. Want to know what makes this one to watch? Read on, fellow webcomic travelers, and find out!
June 27 – November 7, 2022
By Tauhid Bondia
Reviewed by Elias Rosner
It’s been a while since we checked out “Crabgrass” by Tauhid Bondia. In fact, I think we last checked it about three years ago when it launched. For new readers, “Crabgrass” is an online comic about Miles and Kevin, two elementary school neighbors in the suburbs, and the antics they do along with their family and an ever-growing number of characters at school. . Think “Calvin and Hobbes,” but instead of a boy and his imaginary friend, it’s a nervous nerd and chaos gremlin.
It’s more than that, of course, but that’s the broad outline. It’s a refreshing tape and has grown a lot since its 2019 debut, both visually and in the tightness of its jokes and storytelling. Part of that is almost certainly due to the six-month hiatus “Crabgrass” took in early 2022 as it prepared to go into newspaper syndication. Because of this monumental achievement – seriously, congratulations Tauhid! – I thought this would be the perfect place to start seeing how it’s basically a soft reboot.
Or maybe it’s a complete reboot, as the very first tape is a redesign of the “Crabgrass” soundtrack, with changes to the dialog to better accentuate Miles & Kevin’s current characterization. (and Miles’ dad.) There’s a greater kinetic to the tape now, capturing the boundless energy of the kids. I can see how Bondia also learned to pose her characters more dynamically. Like instead of having Kevin just standing there, he pops out of the panel, his arms outstretched, then he drags Miles after him with confidence and a smile as Miles stumbles after him, grinning just as broadly.
Over the next few strips, Bondia better establishes their personalities, contrasting them while emphasizing their similarities. Miles is much less willing to take risks and has to think things through, but is very willing to entertain Kevin’s wacky plans. Miles is the straight student, the only kid, and the only black kid on the block. Kevin is the troublemaker, one of four children, and from a relatively poor, divorced white family.
These last items on every list are important, I must point out, not because they are the driving force of the comic, even if they are an integral part of it, but because the comic uses these racial and class to create a more honest portrait of the American. life. Ignoring these aspects would make it much more innocuous and thus flatten the comic. It’s a difficult balance to strike because, as a reader and critic, I want to see honest and candid conversations about race and class when they come up, because those are inescapable aspects of life, but they don’t are also not the end, be every, every second of everyday type problems. “Crabgrass” understands this and shows us life, textured by these (sometimes) invisible but ubiquitous realities, but not overwhelmed by them.
Also, when you’re ten, you care more about chasing after ice cream trucks during the summer or about the injustice of being punished.
Looking at “Crabgrass” was interesting as you can see how Bondia held back on including multi-band bows for quite a while after the relaunch. The first few weeks of tapes were either past retooled tapes or new one-offs. Many are quite funny and there isn’t a dud in the group, although I can’t say I laughed too hard at any of them. My favorites were probably several of the Sunday strips. The added panels let the jokes breathe a little more and allow Bondia to be more creative with layouts and punchlines.
Interestingly, the colors are more saturated in this batch of tapes. Everything has a little shade and is darker. My guess is that it’s because they’re not designed for the internet natively, but rather have to adapt to the specs of newsprint, which is notorious for eating up ink, especially ink of color. It’s easy to get used to and doesn’t take anything away from the comic. I just think it’s cool.
Once the big storylines start, the quality from tape to tape varies more, because there’s only so much information you can convey in 4-panel segments that have to end on a joke, but the bigger bows are great, anticipating how they’ll resolve and keeping you coming back week after week. Miles shaving his head and trying to hide it from his parents was particularly awesome. Oh, and the last tape I read for that. November 7? It made me roll on the floor.
“Crabgrass” is a great online comic. The characters are great, the jokes are funny, and the art is simple and expressive. And if that was true at the start of this syndication, how much more will it be after a year or more?