‘My Cardboard Life': An Adorable Webcomic Collage About Little Paper People
Defining exactly what a "comic" is has always been a bit of a struggle, thanks in part to all the wonderful exceptions in the world of sequential art. For example, while you might assume "a thing that you draw" would be one of the criteria, there are a number of comics -- and notably webcomics -- that aren't drawn at all. A Softer World uses panels of photographic art (sometimes called fumetti) in the place of illustration, while Dinosaur Comics has been telling new tales with the exact the same clipart for about eight years now.
And now we have My Cardboard Life, a strip by London-based creator Philippa Rice that is perhaps best described as collage comics. Instead pen or ink or even pixels, it's crafted primarily from carefully clipped paper shapes, cardboard squares and other various office supplies arranged into an adorable cast of surprisingly expressive characters.
Rice plays with textures, layers, and even fabrics in a way that gives the comic a wonderful sort tangibility and depth, not words you typically associate with webcomics. What you see on the screen is exactly what Rice constructs, down to the wrinkles in the paper, and it's the rare sort of webcomic that feels real, like a physical object you can almost touch.
This tactile quality is also the underlying joke of most of the strips, where the characters aren't just cutout representations of people, but rather fully aware that they're made of paper. And they make the most of it, folding themselves into paper airplanes and flying through the air, or mailing themselves like letters to their friends.
Rice, who has a background in animation and has been making comics since 2008, told ComicsAlliance that while she had originally considered drawing or painting the strip, collage ultimately made more sense and was a "good way to use up some of the huge amounts of cardboard and scrap paper that I'd been hoarding."
The comic began as a story about Cardboard Colin, an incredibly simple little guy composed of two cardboard squares and stick figures arms and legs. While he's still one of the most prominent characters, he's also been joined by Pauline, a woman made out of paper who has the most realistically "human" shape of the cast. She usually wears a dress and a trademark flip haircut, but she's got a penchant for dressing up like a professional businesswoman in ways that I can only imagine Kate Beaton would approve of.
Pauline also has a noticeable mean streak that she likes to take out on Cardboard Colin, even though (and probably because) he is her best friend. This point is even addressed in the FAQ for the comic, where Rice explains that "Colin has been friends with Pauline for a long time. I'm sure we all know someone who's horrible but you stay friends with them anyway because it's easier, or you hope they might change (if you can't think of one, it's probably you)."
While Pauline and Colin are the stars of most strips, there are other recurring cast members like the Polar Bear, who is made out of canvas,and best known for being very angry (see below). He got so angry last year that he actually ripped his way out of the comic and traipsed his way through Youtube, Flickr, Facebook and even Myspace trying to outrun the reader.
The first self-published book collection of My Cardboard Life is on sale soon, and if you pre-order now, you can get a bonus handmade mini-comic called The Cardboard King. There are also a number of minicomics on sale in the My Cardboard Life store, along with other assorted merch like coffee cups and a package of BFF application forms that could mean 50 new BFFs for the low, low price of... however much £5.00 is.
Rice added as a note for new readers that My Cardboard Life is a comic that "updates three times a week, is family friendly and reading it may improve the health of your teeth and gums (but probably not)."