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Good Read Column for August 17, 1998

Kevin & Kell

By Bill Holbrook
online comic, ongoing, FREE!
Quest for Content
138 pages, Online Features Syndicate Publishing, $9.95
Seen Anything Unusual?
140 pages, Online Features Syndicate Publishing, $11.95 ($9.95 from website)

(of a possible five)


Another online comic! But this one has a difference - it is actually syndicated on the Web to several sponsor sites and, more importantly, there are not one but two collections of strips published in book form available, both of which are quite funny and well worth your money.

I had seen Kevin & Kell before, but I wasn't very impressed. It's a somewhat uneven strip that is never awful but not always at the top of its game. I had apparently visited the site when Holman was having an off day. At its best, though, this strip is fall-out-of-your-chair funny. When Plan Nine, who co-publishes the collections with the Online Features Syndicate, sent me the two collections, I was able to read the first two years of strips as a big batch, and I was hooked.

Although the website provides a backstory that explains how their relationship came to be, Kevin & Kell began with the first wedding anniversary of Kevin, a very large rabbit who works as an online forum sysop, and Kell, a wolf. Their mixed marriage has created a blended family, as each was married before. Kevin, who is divorced from his first wife, has custody of their adopted daughter, Lindesfarne, a porcupine. Kell, who is widowed, has a son by her previous marriage, Rudy, who is not at all happy to be living with herbivores. Both of these kids are teenagers, with Lindesfarne the older of the pair. When the strip started Kell was already pregnant, and when the child was born it turned out to be a rabbit - but with a predator's appetite.

There is also a large cast of supporting characters - including Kell's brother, who keeps attacking Kevin and keeps getting clobbered (did I mention Kevin is a VERY LARGE rabbit?) and Rudy's best friend, Bruno, who is hiding his love affair with a sheep (she pretends to be dead and he wears her around).

This all sounds very weird, and at times it can be, but much of it is the day-to-day foibles that are actually common to many such blended families, with the situations exaggerated for comic effect by the animal situation. For instance, Rudy's antagonism toward Kevin is not all that different from any other 14-year-old male to a new man who has come in and married his mother and seeks to replace a deceased father.

Kevin's work provides a constant source of electronic humor, which seems to be endemic to online comic strips (of all the comic strips I've seen on the 'net, only Bruno the Bandit is without a major character making a living with computers). Probably because the audience is, by definition, wired and comfortable with high tech, most internet comic strips revolve around sysops and software engineers and website designers. Kevin & Kell uses this kind of humor frequently, but has lots of other kinds of gags as well. Unlike many such strips, one need not be an online junkie - or even own a computer - to enjoy it.

So far the first two years of Kevin & Kell have been collected in two books. The first, Quest for Content, is still available, while the new one is called Seen Anything Unusual? Although the new one has a price of $11.95 printed on the cover, the order form on the website lists it as $9.95, the same price as the first book.

My wife and 11-year-old daughter devoured both books before I even had a chance to read them, and they both gave them a hearty two thumbs up. I agree. The misadventures of this mixed-family are hilarious. Just as an example, take their difficulty in placing their daughter, Coney, in a pre-school. None of the herbivore schools would let her in, while none of the predator schools would guarantee her safety. So what do you do with a kid that looks like a rabbit but eats like a wolf?

Since Kevin is working from home and Kell has a job outside (with Herd Thinners Inc.), Kevin decides to home school Coney. Unfortunately, the first lesson on the Predator Home Schooling Website was: "Let your child watch you stalk, bring down, gut and devour prey."

Bill Holbrook is a busy guy, with not one but two comic strips in syndication to newspapers in addition to Kevin & Kell. A pioneer in web publishing, he began syndicating this comic in 1995, and soon had 50 sponsors, including appearing on CompuServe. Now you can visit his website and view the strip for free, or for $20/year you can get an email subscription, so that a Kevin & Kell cartoon pops up in your email box everyday, without having to go looking for it. I happen to think this is a great idea, although if everybody did it I'd soon go broke.

Visit the website. If you don't think much of today's strip, check out the archive link available and read a couple of week's worth. I think you'll agree with me that, taken as a whole, this is a very funny strip with characters unlike any you've seen elsewhere. I'll be following it from now on.

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