Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Webcomic Worth Wreading, Entry Twelve: Wasted Talent

Somewhere far north of here, in the land of Canada, there is an engineer who wants to share her life with you. She takes the things that happen to her and turns them into colorful, often hilarious sometimes fantastical musings and anecdotes. Allow me to introduce you to the charm and humor of Wasted Talent.

I am also a female engineer, though not Canadian, so I find a lot of Angela Melick’s experiences relatable or informative. If you’re not an engineer or someone who’s ever studied the subject, there’s still a lot to enjoy. There are occasional jokes that rely on familiarity with technical terms or practices, but the author steers away from inaccessible humor. Often there’s enough context to understand the joke, possibly while learning something new, or the sheer absurdity might be funny and enjoyable on its own.

Wasted Talent covers plenty of subjects outside of engineering. This gives me confidence that non-engineers can enjoy it, because the comics about subjects outside my purview are still accessible to me. I have no experience mountainbiking, but I do enjoy these comics about it.

Reading through every individual comic is not necessary; each installment can typically stand on its own. Since this is a journal comic there’s no need to be concerned about spoilers if you jump in at a random point. If you do read the whole archive from the beginning, you can watch the author grow as an artist, not just in skill but also in confidence. The early comics can be pretty hit-and-miss, but there are some gems in there that, for me, make the experience worth it.

If you’d prefer to start reading at a point where the artwork is more solidified, the transition from black and white to color is a pretty good place.

One thing I enjoy about Wasted Talent is the way that Melick and her friends seem to just take ideas and run with them. Sometimes these are just literal interpretations of common phrases of speech, sometimes they are wild dreams for future technologies, and sometimes they are more practical. Not useful in any way, just things that are perfectly achievable with what’s available.

And, given that this comic is about events from Melick’s life, there are lots of opportunities to vicariously experience the cool, strange or amusing things that happen to her. Sometimes there’s a comic about an event that I only heard about, but which Melick actually got to experience. For instance, this bit about when Stephen Colbert was in Vancouver for the Olympics.

Other times the comics depict things that are more low-key, the kinds of chance encounters and random events that you can’t control, encourage or predict. This run-in with a strange old man sticks with me, almost as if I had met the old man myself, but I only ever read about it.

Melick gets up to plenty of silliness on her own. Plenty of fascinating things happen to her, but it’s her way of looking at them that makes them shine. Reading Wasted Talent is a way not only to see her work her way through the world, but to see the world the way she sees it.

And the things that she chooses to do with her life occasionally make me fall over laughing, like the manner in which she has presented herself waking up her husband.

For me, though, the major appeal of this comic comes from the engineering. It’s pretty rare for people to be both engineers and artistic, so it’s not a world that I often see represented in media. After all, a convincing portrayal of a profession comes best from those who are in that profession. If engineers don’t tell their own stories, then no one will.

Wasted Talent is written and drawn by Angela Melick and updates on Mondays. Fellow engineers: Enjoy reading about people like yourselves! Everyone else: Come laugh at the engineers!

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