Karl Kerschl's The Abominable Charles Christopher is another entry in the subgenre of humans encroaching upon nature, but don't let that scare you off. After all, it features gorgeous illustrations, breezy humor, and a yeti protagonist.
For many webcomics creators, their first webcomic is also their first foray into comics publishing. But Karl Kerschl is already a comics veteran, having worked for DC on Superman, The Flash, and Teen Titans. In The Abominable Charles Christopher, Kerschl trades cities and superheroes for forests and the Missing Link.
The beautifully rendered animals of Kerschl's forest have led, up to this point, a fairly idyllic existence. Birds, bees, rabbits, and weasels all crack wise, have parties, and raise families. But Vivol, who still bears the emotional scars of his past as a circus bear, senses that life in the forest is experiencing a deadly shift. Humans, who once stuck mainly to the outskirts of the forest, have begun to encroach deeper into the woodland, their presence evidenced by toothy bear traps and the occasional blare of gunfire.
It's into this world that our dimwitted yeti protagonist, Charles Christopher, stumbles. In a forest filled with chattering and frequently witty critters, Charles stands out in his silence. He travels wherever the forest's more supernatural denizens — a bear made of moonlight, a seemingly omniscient lion — drive him, sucking on a pacifier and picking up the occasional traveling companion.
Charles is neither man nor beast, and so is put on a quest that will halt human advancement into the forest. But The Abominable Charles Christopher is a delight more for its atmosphere than for its slowly unfolding plot. Kerschl neatly balances realistic illustrations with cartoon expressions, creating animals that are visually stunning and at the same time easy to relate to. And the characters feel immediately real, conveying entire personalities and histories with a bit of bravado or a narrowing of the eyes. The interactions are humorous, almost human, while drawing on the unique qualities of the animals — the first flight of baby birds, the poisonous quality of toads, and a bumble bee's need to dance. This focus on the joys and humor of everyday life — and on characters who are earnest and naive — make it all the more heart-wrenching when tragedy eventually strikes (The Abominable Charles Christopher is one of the few comics in recent memory that has actually made me cry).
And the way Kerschl deals with the portrayal of humans adds to the emotional impact of the comic. Certainly tales of humans disrupting the tranquility of forest life is nothing new, but Kerschl does a brilliant job of making humans the mysterious "other" rather than a group of mindless, brutish monsters. In fact, humans are never seen on panel. We see evidence of their presence, like the muzzle of a gun peeking through the brush, and we hear their voices in Vivol's flashbacks to circus life, but we never see their faces or bodies. It makes humans not so much villainous as a potent threat the fun-loving animals are not prepared to face — almost more mystical and more powerful than the actual mystical creatures we encounter. It also builds up our anticipation for the moment when Charles will inevitably meet an actual human being and see if their lives are as rich as those of the animals he has befriended.
The Abominable Charles Christopher updates once a week, making its archive a quick read by webcomic standards, but also keeping readers in months-long stretches of suspense.