Cheers: The Order of the Stick

I love web comics, but I always dread starting new ones because I inevitably get sucked into them and can't stop until I've read every single episode, laughed at all the good bits at least three times, and possibly obsessively printed off the entire website into a PDF file for one or more of my eReaders. Obsessive-compulsive behavior, people, I haz it.

I didn't want to get drawn into The Order of the Stick because I'd already been through this obsession with 8-Bit Theater (which is another story for another time) and how many D&D-themed web comics does the world need anyway, but the repeated and excessive Trope-love on TV Tropes for this web comic eventually convinced me to check it out and I'm thrilled that I did.

I love this comic so much. I love it because it appeals to the gamer geek inside me. I love the corny D&D jokes. I love the plotline and how well thought-out and planned-in-advance it seems to be. I love the brick jokes that come back into play hundreds of strips later from the initial setup. Most of all, I really love this strip for the characterization.

Unlike a lot of gaming strips, the cast isn't limited to One Girl in a room full of guys. Oh, it started out that way with One Girl in the adventuring party (and one androgynous elf whose gender is still unknown), but the story almost immediately branched out into a world full of women who are people. There are women warriors and women villains and women politicians and women Avon salespersons and women who are minor characters and women who are major characters and women in the backgrounds and in crowds. The women characters aren't stereotyped into super-strong, hyper-competence and they're not pushed into the kitchen -- they're just as varied and interesting and flawed as all the many, many male characters that work and play and fight alongside them in the strip.

What's even more delightful is that the strip author has decided that all elves are androgynous to the human characters, so there's a lot of interesting subtext about gender neutral terminology and not making assumptions about characters based on their appearance. At least one elven family has two parents (Parent and Other Parent, which switches based on who the children are addressing) and two adopted children, and the genders of all of those four people are unknown -- as TV Tropes notes, it could well be a same-sex marriage for all the readers know. It's really incredible to me to see a loving family portrayed such that the genders of everyone involved are completely obscured -- as if the author really wants to point out that what makes a family a family is love, not the gendered equipment of the participants.

If you like web comics and/or anything with a D&D basis, I heartily recommend checking out The Order of the Stick. Check it out for its charm, for its humor, and for its dogged determination to write characters whose characterization is determined solely by their personality and not based on what's under their +5 to Charisma Robe.


Redwood Rhiadra said...

I had to quit reading Web comics a couple of years ago, because it simply took up too much time. But OotS was one of my favorites back then, and I bought all the print books. If I ever find the time to try to catch up with some of the better webcomics, OotS is definitely in the top 3 (along with Darths & Droids and Schlock Mercenary).

Hyperio said...

I need to third the reccomendation for OotS - it's one of the best webcomics I read and still read. Despite seemingly "easy" style of a stick figure comic it is well-made, and has many things I want to see in a good comic: plot, characterization, good humour, action, drama, etc.

Gelliebean said...

I've been reading OOTS for a few years now and it is at the top of my list for best webcomics.  I'm really glad that you tried reading it!  :-D 

automaticdoor said...

Thank you so much for the rec! I read through ALL 794 STRIPS this weekend and I LOVE IT. YAY!

Ana Mardoll said...

@automaticdoor:disqus  Haha, that was pretty much my weekend two weeks ago! Now I'm like, "more, please????" *puppyeyes*

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