“TJ and Amal” and My First Intro to Web Comics

If You Like…

  • Thelma and Louise
  • Road-trips
  • Indie Music
  • A walk on the wild side

Then You’ll Like…

The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal by E.K. Weaver

Header image by EK Weaver can be found here.

romanticApologies for being behind on posts, but I’ve been in Hawaii on a family vacation! I’m back with sunburns and fresh bug bites, and alas there are things to write.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I was first introduced to the world of webcomics. Before that I was pretty uptight about keeping my work a secret. It baffled me – how could an artist or author freely put their material and work online for the world to see without a cent to their name? Before I even heard of Kickstarter or Patreon and other crowdfunding sources, I didn’t understand how someone could make a living off of it. Then it hit me like a real obvious flag in the wind – these comic creators did it because they loved their work and felt it was worth sharing. The world of online art-sharing is an entirely new frontier, and I applaud these creators greatly for their bravery and motivation to not only share their stories, but to keep it up!

So let’s start with the webcomic that first sparked my interest: The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal (also known as “<Epic” or just “TJ and Amal” as well).

Our Story Begins…

The story seems simple and EK Weaver, creator describes it best: “In the span of a single day, Amal calls off his arranged marriage, comes out to his conservative parents, promptly gets disowned, goes on a bender… and wakes up the next morning to find TJ, a lanky, dreadlocked vagrant, frying eggs and singing Paul Simon in his kitchen.

TJ claims that the two have made a drunken pact to drive all the way from Berkeley to Providence. As it happens, Amal promised his sister he’d be there for her graduation from Brown University. And TJ, well… TJ has his own reasons.

The agreement is simple: Amal does the driving; TJ pays the way – but a 3500 mile journey leaves plenty of time for things to get complicated.”About/FAQ on tjandamal.com

I came across this comic at the same time that I was broadening my literary horizons as well, actively seeking out stories that featured LGBTQ lead characters for a thesis. I’ll definitely share a few of my favorites down the road, but TJ and Amal was my first encounter with a webcomic with such characters.

Success in the Details

tjamal
Print by EK Weaver

What blew my mind was the sheer amount of detail that can be found on every page. While most webcomics are inked and colored with precision, Weaver’s style includes leaving some of the pencil shading in there. You can see every stroke of the pencil with each panel, and as more details emerge in more complicated sets and situations, you develop a deep appreciation for being able to see every line up close. Think of it as like a Monet painting: from far away the story is clear, but up close the little details show the delicate strokes that went into crafting it.

One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 9: “Bona Fide Hustler”. Our titular characters pull over at a truck stop for a break, and head into the neighboring diner and store for some sustenance. The amount of detail that was shown in the diner was astounding to me. From the potato chip bags and the bottles of liquor on the shelves, everything was uniquely labeled. It was an unnerving sense of realism that was reflected in other chapters as well. Whenever TJ and Amal are out and about in public, surrounding passersby aren’t just standing there static. They’re being active along with our lead characters, reaching for something on a shelf, crossing a street, going down a buffet line, drinking coffee or eating pie.

One overlooked detail that also got me right in the heartstrings was EK Weaver pulling a “Cowboy Bebop”, my gateway anime. (By the way, if you’ve never seen it, I highly encourage you to seek out the first episode and give it a try. It’s truly a classic.) In a way TJ reminds me a lot of Spike Spiegel, but she paid an homage to the series by naming her chapter titles after song titles. The same naming technique is done in “Cowboy Bebop” and I really connected with that. Music plays a large part in both the anime and this particular webcomic, so it was definitely a smart choice.

EK Weaver gives as much love to detail both visually and conceptually. Dare I say it, she is more adept with characters and a story than most authors, directors, and artists in pop culture. You become caught up in the back-story and internal drama that these two face, and it’s no surprise that the ending left many fans with tears. All good things must come to an end and when I personally read that last page on the last chapter, I closed the computer and had to sit and think for awhile.

Do Yourself a Favor

If webcomics have not been your thing, I can understand that. Some readers don’t enjoy keeping up with an artform that may not always be consistent, or updated, or just keeps going and going and going…

Well, you won’t have those issues with The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. The comic is completed and can be read in as little as one or two days. What you take away is an incredible story about finding yourself on the open road, but not having to go through the journey alone. Open a new tab and follow this link. Give the comic a try, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Will Make You Feel: Like going on a road-trip with your besties

Music to Listen to While Reading: MisterWives, The Decemberists, jazz and more Indie artists

Publisher: Written, illustrated, and published on the web by EK Weaver.

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