WEEKEND READING: 'Octopus Pie' And Other Webcomics In Print

Octopus Pie"Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars In Brooklyn" hit shelves this week, bringing writer/artist Meredith Gran's celebrated webcomic to the print world.

And though the arrival of "Octopus Pie" on shelves is big news on its own, this seems like a good time to bring your attention to a few other print collections of webcomics that you might want to check out, too.

Each of the three books I highlight here manages to offer something new to fans of the series online, while also giving first-time readers a great standalone story. Rather than serve as an excerpt or teaser for the ongoing comics each collection is culled from, the books offer full stories unfolding in their respective comics' universes and great examples of why each series continues to be so popular among fans.

"Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars In Brooklyn" — Meredith Gran (w/a), Villard Books

I was a late-arriver to the "Octopus Pie" party, jumping into the series only after meeting creator Meredith Gran at a comic convention a year or two ago. However, when I finally checked out the series, I ended up losing the better half of a day reading through the 300-or-so existing strips chronicling the adventures of Brooklyn-dwelling roommates Eve and Hanna.

"There Are No Stars In Brooklyn" collects the first two years of the series, and introduces its two main characters and the supporting cast of friends, coworkers, and family members who make Gran's New York City setting come alive. Fans of the online version of the comic will certainly notice the green shading that was absent for much of the online run, but the strips have otherwise been left as-is during the conversion to print.

For both first-time readers and longtime fans, "There Are No Stars In Brooklyn" offers a great peek at life for indie-minded 20-somethings in New York City, through the eyes of characters who have spent much of their life in and around the five burroughs. The book breaks up the ongoing narrative into a set of distinct story arcs that manage to show the highs (in every meaning of the word) and lows of living a life far from the glamorous "Sex and the City" idea of NYC but well short of the Bohemian hipster haven.

Goats: Infinite Typewriters"Goats: The Infinite Pendergrast Cycle, Books 1-3" — Jon Rosenberg (w/a), Del Rey Press:

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Jon Rosenberg's long-running "Goats" webcomic, and I recently read through the three books that comprise his "Infinite Pendergrast Cycle," a three-book arc that includes "Infinite Typewriters" (Book 1), "The Corndog Imperative" (Book 2), and "Showcase Showdown" (Book 3). As you might guess from the titles, the series is wildly surreal adventure that doesn't shy away from poking fun at pop culture and society while also having some fun with science-fiction tropes and philosophy.

While "The Infinite Pendergrast Cycle" is culled from a story arc that kicks off long after Rosenberg began the series in 1997, the first book in the series masterfully handles the introduction of all the main characters and their roles in the world of "Goats." Drinking buddies Jon and Phillip somehow end up traversing time, space, and a multitude of alternate dimensions throughout the series, including an early run-in with God himself (in which God turns himself into a pork chop and the pair eat him) — and it all seems perfectly reasonable in the universe Rosenberg has created.

Longtime fans of the series would do well to pick up the books, as they offer an unbroken, linear path through the wild story that unfolded over a long period online with occasional starts and stops. The story also received more than just a fresh coat of paint in conversion to the print format, with impressive tweaks to the presentation of many panels and noticeably brighter, crisper art making the whole thing feel like a brand new adventure.

The Great Outdoor Fight"The Great Outdoor Fight" — Chris Onstad (w/a), Dark Horse Books:

It's confession time again, folks. I never saw the appeal of Chris Onstad's massively popular webcomic "Achewood" throughout much of its almost decade-long run. "The Great Outdoor Fight" made me a believer, though.

Collecting one of the most popular story arcs from Onstad's ongoing "Achewood" comic, "Outdoor Fight" introduces the series' main characters and offers a great example of why the series is one of the most clever comics out there. Admittedly, Onstad's art takes a little time to get used to (and was one of the main reasons it took me so long to jump into the comic), but once you get past the simple visuals of the series, the creator's brilliance really shines.

The book follows the adventure of Ray Smuckles, a thong-wearing anthropomorphic cat who discovers that his father was a former champion of The Great Outdoor Fight, an annual brawl that gathers thousands of men in Bakersfield, CA, to determine the world's toughest fighter. Along with providing a great standalone story, the book offers a taste of the brilliant (but subtle) humor that's made "Achewood" one of the most celebrated comics on the 'Net, and also provides a great foot in the door for anyone intimidated by the idea of jumping into Onstad's long-running online narrative.

Have any other great webcomics in print to suggest? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter!