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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Killroy and Tina

Killroy and Tina
A webcomic by Justin Pierce

What's it about?
Killroy, alien despotic overlord, gets bonded with a 17 year old earth girl called Tina Matthews.  this bonding means that Tina gets Killroy's powers (laser eyes, super strength etc), but if they go further than 5 miles away from each other, they each lose their superhuman abilities.  If one dies, the other dies.  There are a few unexpected side effects, like Killroy gaining some of Tina's physical characteristics.
Killroy has to learn to live with Tina and her mother, work out the intricacies of earth culture, and Tina has to deal with the new events thrown up by Kilroy's presence.

It's essentially a hero's journey.   Tina grows into her new skills, worries about her responsibilities and eventually takes up the vigilante mantle.  She doesn't like Killroy, she's resentful of him upending her life and she won't give him a fair chance.  Her mother grows to like him, and her boyfriend, Brandon, gets on with him very well.  Later on we meet another alien, Querty, some female furies, Tina's rubbish classmates and future selves of Tina.  All mixed together, they've got to get on, deal with school and jobs and taking a drive (not easy when Brandon's around, as he has a habit of, well, making weird things happen). 

What's good about it?

It's one of the finest webcomics I have ever read.  It's the first webcomic I ever read in it's entirety (and there's 6 years worth of strips here).  It's the only one I've ever remembered throughout the years and continually felt gutted about it ending.

The creator, Justin Pierce, has commented in interviews that he feels that Killroy and Tina is paced very slowly.  It may have felt like that if you were reading it as it was being posted, but if you read it in one go (or several goes), it doesn't feel slow at all.  OK, there are a lot of sub plots going on, but to me, it feels well paced, well characterised, with good dialogue and with characters you actually care about.  It's funny, and it's sad and there's drama and hubris and inanity and seriousness and all the stuff that actually happens in real life. 

Justin also said, he doesn't like the art.  More on that later.  I think you should ignore him.

The characterisation.. I love these guys.  There are tons of superhero stories out there, mainly from DC and Marvel, and within those there are tons of hero journey stories, but DC and Marvel have not produced something like this.  Unencumbered by continuity and fannish wrath, Pierce has created the characters he wants to see, with their own foibles and skills.  I love these guys.

It's funny.  Particular favourites of mine is the paintball story (start here), and the cat jokes.  There's a few pop culture references, cameos of characters from other web strips, a few instances of mocking mainstream superheroes, and plenty of Brandon being a prat.

The ending, ah, on the first read it felt to like a very arbitrary end, just cut off for no reason.  I think I recall reading at the time that Pierce said he had lost interest in it, his heart wasn't in it and he wanted to focus on Wonderella.  I couldn't see this, I felt like he'd just given up one day, and I was very sore about it.  On the second reading, just finished now, it does feel like far more of a proper end.  There are lots of things not resolved yes, but actually, I quite like the openendness of it.  It's full of possibilities and it ends with a very Killroy and Tina esque joke.

What's bad about it?
Each page is particularly slow to load.  It's very frustrating.  It's possible it's just my laptop though.

Trigger warning: there are a few strips that deal with domestic violence and rape (not at the same time).  But, and this is a big but, the violence isn't gratuitous, it's not there to big up the hero or show what a nice guy they are, and the strips do deal with (some of) the reality of violence against women.

Here are two of the ones that deal with rape and here is one that deal with domestic violence.  Each of these sub plots takes place over several strips and are revisited later in the series.

What's the art like?
The layouts, panels, plotting, perspective, emotions and movement between panels is all good.  At the start of the webcomic, the artwork itself, as in the pencil lines, is of varying quality.  The depictions of Killroy and the other space folk are fine.  The depictions of Tina and the humans, are, well they are a bit awful really.

The thing is, this doesn't matter, not to me, and it probably won't to you.  Normally, the quality of the art if a big deal for me.  if I don't like the pencils, I can't read it.  However, with Killroy and Tina, the bad pencilling at the start of the comic didn't put me off.  Maybe it's because of the things I mentioned above.

The good news is that the art does improve quite significantly throughout the series.  Compare this strip showing Killroy at the start, this one with the first appearance of humans, with this one, one of the last entries.  You can see how Pierce's art has improved.  Don't let the early art put you off.  if you do, you'll miss out on some absolute gems.  For example, I adore this panel beyond all words, and I'm very taken with the layout of this strip.

Other information
Start reading Killroy and Tina here.
Justin Pierce also does The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, a sort of Wonder Woman parody.

If you want to chat about it on twitter, I've been using a #killroyandtina hashtag.


  1. nice! you just made want to check it out. Thanks!

  2. It appears to have died with graphic smash :(