Monday, August 11, 2008

Bikes In Comics

I like bikes, and I like comics, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I stumbled across some bicycles in comics.

My introduction to graphic bike narrative was discovering the anime series Overdrive, based on the manga of the same name. I got hooked on the story, about an inept outcast in high school who discovers in cycling something he can finally excel at, joining the school cycling team and preparing to race, all the while failing miserably to win the heart of a girl way out of his league. Unfortunately the animated series abruptly ends just when it seemed things were going to get really interesting. Right now I'm trying to track down where I can get an English copies of the manga series, which continues the story line. If you happen to know, send me a line. As of this writing all I can find is incomplete sets of bootleg scanlations (images scanned and translated by bilingual & dedicated fans of the series).

The first web based comic about cycling I was introduced to was Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery. The protagonists love to ride, and run their own bike shop. Yehuda is all about appealing to the common rider and promoting utilitarian bicycles with epic storage capacity, and Joe is more of roadie, who likes to ride fast and carry nothing more then what will fit in a jersey pocket. Some moments are funny, some insightful, and I recommend checking it out. I'm sure most especially bike nerdy folks reading this are probably already subscribed to the feed.

Poking around in Hi De Ho recently, I came across oddly named comic The Fart Party. The series is not about bikes so much as it is an autobiographical journal in comic form, and the author and her boyfriend just happen to love riding bikes in San Francisco. The humor is at times very low brow, but I found my self enjoying it. It's nice to see a story with cycling, but as just another casual part of the character, like Juno, who had a sweet vintage road bike she rode a few times in the film, but the story wasn't about cycling. Although Julia of The Fart Party really loves her bikey, and sometimes carreses it parhaps a little too lovingly (note: the same can be said about me so perhaps I shouldn't talk).

In similar vein to the increasingly popular photo blogs tracking the world of cycling chic, often centered around places like Copenhagen, there is a French web comic about being a fashionable woman cycling Paris, Bike In The City. Sometimes she rides public Vélib’ bikes, and sometimes she rides her own, but always looking good while she does it. The Vélib’ public bicycle program in Paris, has in just a years time greatly expanded bicycle commuting there, and this comic is a reflection of the life style changes it has brought to the culture. As a comic it's not really my thing, it's the chic flick of bicycle comics I've read, but I see it as a positive reflection of cycling's growing influence.

Digging into the archives a little deeper I discovered a comic from the 70's, a time when the oil crisis had ushered in a revival of bicycle commuting, featuring a super hero known as Sprocket Man. Sprocket man taught important lessons in bicycle safety with an almost obsessive compulsive zeal, and fought against the one villain in town, the local bicycle thief. The comic was revised and re-released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety commission for modern times, basically taking all the same content and adding poorly drawn helmets on everyone because the 70's were before helmet use was harped upon. If you want to see the raw uncensored helmetless version, over at Two Cities Two Wheels, there is a scanned copy of the original comic.

Another great place to find short bike themed comics is in some of the various bike zines out there like Chainbreaker. On the website of the popular bike zine Urban Velo, there is a directory of various bike zines that can be purchased through their online store.

I'm sure there is a lot more out there, so if you know any bike comics not mentioned here I'd love to hear about them in the comments. I'm looking for comics about cycling, comics with some mild cycling themes, comic characters who bike, or even notable bicycle cameos from comics that may or may not have anything to do with bikes.


bikinginla said...

The Bliss comic that ran in the Times on (I believe) 8-3 had a bike theme that was pretty cute. I've been looking for it online, but haven't found a link to it yet. Maybe you'll have better luck, or I could scan it for you if you want -- I think I still have it.

The Bandit. said...

Hi, I'm Jenn and was at work searching up bike comics when I stumbled upon your blog. I'm a huge Yehuda nerd! I'm trying to work on starting my own bike comic as well of cyclist tales. Thoroughly enjoy your words!

Gary said...

Hey Jenn, I'm a huge Yehuda nerd as well, and glad he is back in business again. Keep me posted if you get a bike comic of your own started, I'd love to check it out. Maybe when a few more come out and I can track down some more older ones I can do a 2.0 post with more bike comics for readers to check out.

erok said...

just found this blog when searching for "bike superhero" anyway, thought you'd be interested in this comic that we made to promote cycling in Pittsburgh, PA, called "Bike Commuting 101"

obviously, that's the online version, but if you want a hard copy, i'd be happy to send you one.

Gary said...

Cool, I'm familiar with that comic style cycling guide, I first saw it in The Ride Journal. Cool stuff, I would like to maybe when my work schedule is reasonable again do some cool illustrated info graphics like that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gary,

have just bumped into your post and thought 'oh my, Andy Singer and his bicycle cartoon series!'
so, here on his website there are a few samples:

have a great day,