Early Sluggy Freelance was mind-blowing in a way, particularly because it was RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING of comics on the web and Pete Abrams was way ahead of EVERYONE else at the beginning in terms of ambition, consistency and an actual audience. And a lot of the chaotic pop culture borrowing and remixing was really fun — in a way that corporate owned comic strips in the newspaper would never do.
Somewhere around the early part of the 00’s though it seemed like Pete got bogged down in longer plots, and an indecision over how seriously he wanted to take his characters and their world. My initial enthusiasm for Sluggy kept me reading but eventually I lost the thread and it fell off my regular trawl. I thought about rereading it but the archives are daunting. I decided instead to start with a story arc that I remembered from the period where I started to wonder about where the comic was going. Maybe a fresh reread would give me a different perspective on the strip; maybe I’d care enough about Torg and friends to catch up all the way to the present day.
By the time you get to the “Fire and Rain” story there are literally hundreds of characters in the Sluggy-verse. Fan favorite Oasis, bad girl with a confused crush on Torg, is back. The Hereti Corporation, employer of mad scientist buddy Riff, and potential instigator of world wide destruction, is trying to keep an eye on Oasis. But Oasis is determined to find and kill Zoe, who has the kind of off again, off again relationship with Torg that got fairly sitcom-level in its unrequitedness. Somehow, someway Zoe survives her encounter with world class assassin Oasis, but then hearing a special word (“shupid”) Zoe turns into a camel (in an earlier story Zoe was cursed). Torg shows up, undoes the curse, tells Zoe goodbye and then promises Oasis (now in the looney bin) that he loves her and she should come live with him when she gets out (which won’t be for a very long time).
Than lots of filler. Hey no creator owes the reader anything but I do remember getting bored finding lots of filler at times at the Sluggy site. But eventually we’re back to another stretch of “serious” story with Hereti corp capturing Alyee, an alien that showed up in one of the very first Sluggy stories that included a parody of Aliens.
It turns out Riff has been working for Hereti Corporation all the time! I had kind of forgotten about that. But somehow true love conquers all and Riff and Torg seem to be working on the same side against Hereti Corporation.
This last one is a bit closer to what I remember as Sluggy’s strengths, efficient story-telling, quick pop culture jokes and puns.