I admit, I’m something of a lapsed reader when it comes to John Allison’s Scary Go Round, which was one of my favorite webcomics for the longest time. There was Allison’s cheeky and very British humor that treated mystical horrors with a heaping dollop of cartoonishness, and the thrill of following his evolving art style.
Scary Go Round started at Joey Manley’s Modern Tales site, when it featured a simpler and gentler computer-generated style created with Adobe Illustrator. In 2005, Allison switched to hand-drawn art that was more angular, boldly whimsical and thickly inked.
Both styles were very appealing, although they affected the humor in different ways. The earlier art was more low key: when eventual main character Shelley Winters becomes a zombie, part of the humor stems from how it’s brushed off as a minor nuisance. Later, Allison is more willing to embrace the maniacal ridiculousness. Basically, it went from being Friends to something out of Edgar Wright’s Three Flavour Cornetto Trilogy.
But then Bad Machinery happened and I was all, “Eh.” Now, there are people I respect who tell me that Bad Machinery, which exists in the same universe as Scary Go Round, is actually quite good; I trust them enough that one day I may give the comic a second shot. But these same people seem to have the same reservations I had: The comic starts off pretty slowly. Bad Machinery reset the comic, with the familiar cast of characters that Allison had developed for seven years was relegated to the background and replaced by a new crew of schoolchildren.
That’s fine, I suppose. However, I loved Scary Go Round for its sense of controlled anarchy that led to the emergence of its core cast. Shelley Winters, Amy Chilton and Ryan Beckwith never seemed as if they were set up to be the main characters (Tessa and Rachel were the original protagonists; Tim Jones would be a prominent player, but would eventually disappear when Allison had nothing for him to do). Yet thanks to the somewhat-chaotic nature of the storytelling, Allison eventually found more to do with these characters. Dropping them for a new set of characters felt like abandoning the free-wheeling nature of the earlier stories to something more structured and controlled.
That wouldn’t be the end of these characters, however. Bad Machinery is on hiatus for a while, and, for a limited time, the Scary Go Round site will be devoted to a story titled Expecting to Fly. It flashes back nearly 18 years, to the crazy retro era of 1996. (Holy crap, has it been that long already? Where does the time go?) The setting is familiar, continuing Allison’s current motif of a school setting. This time, though, Allison reaches back in time to reintroduce three of his Scary Go Round characters: Shelley, Tim and Ryan … before they were friends, and back when they were just trying to make the grades.
The words “I missed these guys” may have passed my lips. They’re completely recognizable, too: Ryan as the dumpy, good-hearted bloke, and Shelley as unassuming blissful eccentric. And Tim’s … normality, I guess. But that’s beside the point. It’s an apt design evolution. The characters of Scary Go Round have, for the most part, stayed the same while the art around them changed, and now the gang is surrounded by artwork influenced by Bad Machinery: smaller characters (which puts more emphasis on the environment around them), delicate lines, and an air of class and sophistication.
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