Comic of age webcomic set in the early 2000s
Content warning: mental illness, racism, drug use, sexual harassment
I have reviewed a few graphic novels on here that were originally webcomics. However, I don’t think I have ever reviewed a webcomic that has not yet been published and is still being updated. I first came across this artist well over a decade ago when she was creating a different webcomic called “Cheap Thrills“. “Cheap Thrills” was a story about a group of teenagers illustrated in a style the artist often referred to as humanimals but that others may recognise as furry/anthro. In 2012, the artist posted that the comic was no longer going to be updating regularly and that she couldn’t say if or when it would again. Many fans who had become immersed in the complex lives of these kids were heartbroken but understanding at the announcement. Then, in 2018, she announced something new: the same characters we all loved, but rebooted with a revitalised setting and a more sophisticated plot.
“Rigsby WI” by SE Case is a coming of age webcomic about a group of teenagers called Jeordie, Beth, Anna, Erik and Frank who live in the eponymous town Rigsby in Wisconsin, USA. Jeordie, a talented artist and basketballer, navigates small-town racism as a biracial person and explores his sexuality. Beth, his next door neighbour, is homeschooled by her aunt after a tumultuous time with her family and early school years. Her best friend Anna struggles with maintaining high grades in a dysfunctional family situation, staying over with friends and her half sister more than she does at home. The friend Anna grew up with, Erik, is trying to reinvent himself to impress a girl and pursue sports. Anna also gets to know Frank, an older student who has repeated several times, who lives in the same trailer park as her sister and is known as the go-to weed guy.
This is a hard-hitting, slice-of-life webcomic that tackles a range of social issues while paying homage to the cultural touchstones of early 2000s. Each of the three chapters published so far use a slightly different style that reflects not only the season but the overall mood of the chapter. The webcomic is extremely immersive with the characters engaging with the music, fashion and historical events of the time. I was even inspired to make a playlist of the songs referenced in the comic. Case sensitively but boldly explores issues of class, race, sexuality and mental illness through realistic dialogue and extremely relatable characters. She has a real knack for capturing both the emotionally charged interactions and sheer irreverence of teenagerhood. The characters visibly develop as the comic progresses and the whole story is infused with a sense of growth.
I’m just as hooked as I was on “Cheap Thrills” and I can’t wait to watch how this comic evolves.