I just finished reading through the Sandra and Woo archives and all I could think was, “Why can’t this be one of those comics that has thousands of strips in its archives?”  It is now in my top three favorites.  The funny thing is that I’ve seen Sandra and Woo’s banner at in the http://www.thewebcomiclist.com/ forums.  I clicked on it once in the past.  I thought, oh, it looks like a cutesy comic or a Calvin and Hobbes ripoff so I never read it.  Then, a few days ago, I came across an ad for it somewhere and decided to give it a shot.  I couldn’t stop reading!

Sandra and Woo is a three person job.  The writer is Oliver Knörzer.  He’s German so the strip is also published in German.  Just as in No Pink Ponies, this does not affect the English script.  It sounds just as natural as if written by a native speaker.  Powree, the strip’s artist, does an amazing job.  The art style is something I’d call, newspaper comic style.  It’s very different from most of what you find in web comics.  Very similar to the attention to detail in the aforementioned Calvin and Hobbes.  Sarah Dunphy serves as an editor and probably is part of the reason why the comic works so well.  Not only has Oliver mentioned Sarah’s incomprehension of a joke as the reason for a rewrite (an invaluable job Dan plays here at INM), but he’s also mentioned once or twice that she helped a little with an english phrase that wasn’t working.  There’s been a slight art shift in the recent strips, but it’s not because Powree needed to develop her skills.  It’s because Oliver and Powree felt the characters looked a bit younger than they were intended and that was causing some dissonance with the readers.

Sandra and Woo may be *drawn* in the style of a newspaper comic, but it definitely takes advantage of being on the net.  First of all, it has profanity.  Now, don’t misunderstand me.  It’s not a profane comic; it’s not using profanity for the sake of profanity.  But it involves realistic people and people swear sometimes.  Also, the protagonists are kids in Middle School and a Racoon.  So there’s some sexuality.  I find the kids to be slightly above their age in the way they think/speak/act.  It’s not as blatant as South Park, and I think it helps that the kids in Sandra and Woo are a few years older than South Park.  But the content is not as shock-based so it’s not as jarring either.  Of course, as they mention in one of their strips, it could be age-amnesia on my part?

Also, it kinda helps that I was more on the innocent side growing up.  I mean, yeah, kids were using profanity around me around the age of 9 or 10.  But some of the other stuff…. like Larisa being a Fille Fatale seems a bit much.  Anyway, it doesn’t bother me because I think there’s always something valuable about seeing an adult topic through kid’s eyes.  And the kids’ personalities aren’t derailed.  It’s not like how I felt the Peanuts became (esp with Linus) where the kids were not real kids.  The kids in Sandra and Woo still act like kids and all that comes with it.  Plus, it can set up some great jokes like this one:

Another thing that *most* newspaper comics shy away from is overt political statements.  Sandra and Woo is not afraid of that. But they do it in a way that, to me, is not too anvilicious.  Examples include Cloud’s mom being a former Burmese freedom fighter and mentions of the plight in Burma and random mentions of healthcare reform and other little things.  I guess whether you find it distracting depends on how much politics bothers you.  Finally, although this isn’t that big a deal with web comics, *most* newspaper comics tend to have a mono-racial cast, whether that’s white, black, asian, etc with a token character or two from another race.  Sandra and Woo’s world is a global world that acknowledges multiracial couples don’t matter to kids.  They find a particular boy or girl cute and just go out with them.

So I’ve hinted at the plot here and there while describing the comic, but to cement it all, Sandra and Woo is about Sandra and Woo.  Aren’t tautologies fun?  Hehe.  Anyway, Sandra is an 11 year old girl in middle school who ends up adopting Woo, a racoon.  The first handful of strips just focus on her and Woo and, if it’d stayed that way, it would have been a fun, cute comic, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did.  After establishing her relationship with Woo, including one early plot twist I don’t want to give away, it moves to focus on her relationship with her schoolmates and Woo’s relationship with some animals in the forest.  It was here that the comic blossomed.  In a recent blog post that accompanied one of the strips, Oliver mentioned that it was no use arguing for a ship between any two characters because he has the plots figured out for years going forward.  I don’t know if this extended to the beginning or if the comic naturally evolved to include some of her friends.  It certainly seems to have had a bit of a shift, not a hard right turn, but not gentle either.  (At least from the point of view of someone reading all the archives at once)

In due time, we begin to explore the other characters apart from their interactions with Sandra and that’s always fun.  I love when comics allow us to gain dimensionality with the characters by showing that they act in different ways in private.  (Unless the character happens to wear his or her heart on his/her sleeve)  Sandra and Woo follows the plot model of a series of loosely connected story arcs.  In other words, there is continuity from arc to arc, but a few days or months may pass between arcs.  This is as opposed to “Questionable Content” which is essentially one long arc (or a series of arcs with less than an hour separating them) or “Between Failures” which is also essentially one giant arc per day in the lives of the employees.  So far the biggest overarching plot point is a love triangle between the kids.  This is handled in various ways, as you can see from the first strip I posted up top.  For the most part, characters don’t just apear for an arc and disappear.  There was one interesting arc about Woo’s love life that appears to have been abandoned or maybe we were supposed to figure out that stuff happened offscreen or maybe it’ll come back in a future arc.

I recommend this comic.  I’d say you should read the first 20 to 30 strips because of the shift towards the other secondary characters and how that makes for a different dynamic.  It’s definitely going in my RSS reader.