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Archive Binge: Dumbing of Age

G D Penman By G D Penman Published on January 31, 2016
This article was updated on February 7, 2017

I debated whether or not to review this webcomic. David Willis is a juggernaut of the webcomics community, he has had between one and three ongoing webcomics at any given time since the moment the internet came into existence and for the most part they have all happily co-existed in a shared universe known by fans as the Walky-verse. Because one of the characters is called Walky AKA David Walkerton. Through all of the iterations the story has revolved around people modified by aliens to grant them special powers with the intention of conquering the planet earth or something. There was a giant sentient cheese involved. Much of it was played for laughs with serious interpretations of the elements creating much of the contrast. Dumbing of Age is a reboot of that entire universe, taking it back to the original cast of college room-mates and removing the more speculative elements. In the parlance of the youngsters, this is a College Dorm AU (Alternate Universe) of the Walkyverse.

Of course you don't need to know any of this to enjoy Dumbing of Age but the little references to the old work and the contrast between the current versions of characters and their previous incarnations provide some fantastic humour to dedicated fans. Some of the most interesting things about the setting are the conflict between the way that young David Willis saw the world and the way that the fully grown version understands things. Most tellingly, the religious fundamentalist character Joyce has gone from being the voice of reason in the ensemble cast to being an exploration of the conflict between her extremist views and the rest of secular society. That learning curve forms the backbone of the serious plot of Dumbing of Age, everything else is taken to the point of maximum silliness but any jokes and jibes about Joyce's beliefs are soft at best and pitying at worst.

Even taking into account the original cast being grandfathered in, the level of diversity on display in this comic is a realistic portrayal of an American college today. Between that cast and the character of Joyce the religious right have taken exception with Dumbing of Age when honestly there is very little to be upset about. There are gay characters that come into conflict with their family. There are moments where characters have to acknowledge their own biases and there are moments when characters have to recognise that their behaviour is having a negative effect on others. In other words there are perfectly normal things happening in this story as all of the characters grow, evolve and come of age.

Oh that is sort of like the title.

You can find Dumbing of Age online at http://www.dumbingofage.com/

G.D. Penman writes about queer monsters for a living. He is the author of Call Your Steel, The Year of the Knife, Heart of Winter, Apocrypha and many other books. He is also a full-time freelance ... Show More