Writing a review for this comic has been hard going. It’s a comic that is not delivered in a straightforward way and not an easy one to describe in a few pithy sentences.
As always, my personal true measure of a comic is how much I enjoyed reading it - how much did it make me laugh, how much it made me think. The Abominable Charles Christopher certainly does all of the above – but that would make for a rather short review.
So read the review, see what you think and then go read the very enjoyable The Abominable Charles Christopher.
Then you can come back and let me know how I did with the review!
The characters and comic concept
The Abominable Charles Christopher is, unsurprisingly, about Charles Christopher who is a mute, childlike yeti/bigfoot-like creature. Charles is a bit of mystery. He seems like a new arrival to the Cedar Valley - certainly none of the inhabitants seem to recognise him, and he seems utterly lost in his surroundings.
The secondary characters are mostly the inhabitants of the Cedar Valley - the birds, squirrels, bears, skunks and other various wild animals who live there. The everyday goings-on of these heavily anthropomorphised characters represent a major part of the comic.
But all is not well in the Cedar Valley - a danger has emerged that threatens its inhabitants. Powerful forces are moving to protect the valley and they need an unwitting pawn. And Charles does not have much in the way of wits…
Pretty much all the characters in The Abominable Charles Christopher are well developed. A few of the secondary characters are a bit two-dimensional or stereotyped but they only get used on a few of the lighter, one or two page gags that are occasionally used as fillers. But some of the secondary characters are also my favourites - there are some stand-out personalities among them.
When I said above that the story is about Charles well, that’s not totally accurate. It’s a story that happens around Charles - he is rarely a decisive actor in his own story, though of course sometimes the smallest actions can have profound consequences.
Then beyond that, probably close to half the comic doesn’t even feature Charles (or the main plot line) at all – there are a lot of subplots and asides going on which may or may not ever feed into the main story line.
There are some one to three page humorous one-off’s (the author seems to be using these as fillers) and then there are ongoing subplots of the secondary characters.
Now I usually get frustrated when a comic drops its main story line to go down some apparently unrelated path. However The Abominable Charles Christopher mostly gets away with it for two reasons – 1) the subplots start very early, before much of the main story gets underway so it sets the tone and they don’t feel like so much of an interruption and 2) some of the asides/subplots are fantastic and with Charles being mute you need some scenes with dialogue.
And there is some great dialogue and characters in these bits, even if the topics (or perhaps because of them?) are mundane – the wildlife of Cedar Valley deal with relationship troubles, drinking problems, unrequited love, losing their jobs, existential crises and mental health issues. I never knew the life of the woodland creature was so stressful!
Going back to the main story line, there’s not a lot of preamble with events happening fairly abruptly – you’re often left wondering what is going on, but usually in a good, intrigued kind of way. There’s also a heavy mythology influence going on, most of which went straight over my head until a certain character arrives - you’ll probably know who I mean when he gets there.
Pace-wise things are good when the pages are advancing a story line but ultimately there is a bit too much ratio of filler to story. And the filler, while amusing, just isn’t up at the same quality of the rest of the comic.
Many elements of the comic are non-serious. I mean there are talking critters working 9-5 jobs and visiting a shrink, but on the other hand the tone of the story in several places is quite serious - when a character dies it’s final and the loss is palpable.
The comic art is in black and white, which always troubles some folks (which I’ve never understood) - I know at least one person who refuses to read anything that isn’t done in colour - very odd.
The comic is delivered in short strips, usually 3-4 panels, sometime expanded to two strips. It has the appearance (to me anyway) of looking like it's all done by hand drawn pencil sketches but all done to a high standard.
Author, publishing and timeline
The author, Karl Kerschl, lives in Montreal, Canada and works as a professional comic book artist. He had worked on well-known mainstream print titles, mostly DC Comics, such as Superman, The Flash and Teen Titans.
He is presently working on Gotham Academy, a new monthly DC Comics title, which unfortunately seems to be using up all of his time and the reason for the current (presently at about 6 months) hiatus on The Abominable Charles Christopher.
I hate to raise the specter but unfortunately the longer a hiatus goes on, the more likely it is that it will lead to the comics abandonment. Six months isn’t outrageously long to take a break but on the other hand I’ve rarely seen a webcomic comeback from a lengthy break much past this time frame.
Still, Karl is a professional comic artist, by which I mean he’s unlikely to abandon producing comics altogether as is more likely the case of creators who are only doing it in their spare time, and he clearly cares about the title. He’s been posting some guest strips and the odd comment to the effect he hasn’t forgotten us. So I genuinely feel that there is every chance he’ll be back and updating.
Timeline wise The Abominable Charles Christopher has been running for nearly eight years and I’d guess that we are about 30%-50% through the main story arc. So, unless Karl is able to seriously up page rate, it will take another eight to ten years to complete it.
The Abominable Charles Christopher has twice been nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic in 2010 and 2011, winning the prestigious award in 2011. It also won the webcomic category at the Joe Shuster awards in 2010.
You can purchase The Abominable Charles Christopher in paperback (which have beautiful colour covers) from via a link the comic’s website or here.