Webcomic find: 'The Adventures of Painless Parker'

Hey, who wants to read a webcomic about a 19th-century dentist? Wait, let me try again: Who wants to read a webcomic about a 19th-century dentist who wore a necklace made of teeth he had extracted, once treated an elephant for an abscessed tusk, and had his name legally changed from "Edgar" to "Painless" to evade regulations on false advertising?

That's more like it!

Zoe Piel's The Adventures of Painless Parker is a fine, cleanly drawn webcomic about a real historical character, with lots of quirks and some period atmosphere. With just the first episode complete, it's a great comic to check out this long weekend.

Piel has a nice, breezy black-and-white style that really brings the story to life. One of my favorite sequences is a wordless one, early on, in which we see Parker tending to a patient with a toothache — starting with a view from inside the patient's mouth. Shifting to an exterior view, she shows each step of Parker's treatment in a small, close-up panel, then shifts to show the stress on his face as he works. There are quite a few wordless sequences in this comic and they are all well done.

The main character comes across as a bit of a nebbish at first, but when a voluble banker friend takes him to the circus to learn a thing or two about showmanship, things really start to get interesting. The first arc of the comic wrapped up earlier this month, and a print edition is on the way; I certainly hope Piel plans to show us more of Parker's adventures. The real-life character was interesting on his own, and in her hands, he just gets better.

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