Every other week on The Third Panel, Alex dispels the myth that comics are only about superheroes by sharing comics books, graphic novels, and webcomics that are off the beaten path.
Writer’s Note: I tried to steer clear of the blatantly NSFW ones, but Three Word Phrase (as one would expect from my title) has a few comics with cartoonish depictions of genitals and butts. Not work safe, unless you work at a place that lets you look at dudes’ junk all day.
Readers, if there’s anything I want to impart to your right here and now, a week after Valentine’s Day, it’s that I don’t know anything about romance. I once tried to take a girl to a Magic Milk concert because I didn’t do my research beforehand and didn’t expect the three (THREE) opening acts to be sludgy, angry lo-fi punk. I gained a distressing amount of my knowledge about the physical act of intercourse from A Song Of Ice And Fire.
So, with that in mind, I figured there’s no one better equipped to show you some of the best in romancin’ comics for that special fella or lady. And for my money, if you were planning on using comics to woo (which, like, why???) a special someone, Three Word Phrase should absolutely be on that shortlist.
Ryan Pequin (currently a storyboard artist on Regular Show) has had my interest ever since I saw this comic posted on his LiveJournal, and I’ve been following his work on the internet ever since. But something that’s struck me in the few years I’ve followed Three Word Phrase is how much of Pequin’s humor comes from sexual encounters, dating, relationships—oh yeah, and a bird who is the president, but I digress.
To be frank, I regard Three Word Phrase as one of the realest depictions of my generation’s perception of relationships. This is a comic where you see bland people have mutually enjoyable sex, significant others who are just a little too prepared to share their sexual fantasies, and where romantic language isn’t exactly romantic. This is what I find so refreshing about it—it revels in these awkward moments of human connection and interaction in a world where we’re all so embarrassed by everything that comes out of our own mouths. To put it another way: I will never in a million years believe the dialogue of a romantic comedy is anything other than artifice, no matter how well drafted it is. But I am one hundred percent ready to believe that somewhere in this wide world, two dudes have used the phrase “Wiggle your pig” in a sexual manner. Heck, I’m probably going to start using “Wiggle your pig” in a nonsexual manner just because it’s so much fun to say.
There’s also a frantic excitability in all of Pequin’s comics: whether it’s about a guy trying to talk dirty to his lady or a man informing a couple that they’re in the wrong hood because they’re not smooching, so much of the humor comes from people trying to reiterate their points using really weird and specific devices, which I find much more true to human conversation. If you enjoy talking to someone, generally you riff and riff until you reach a point where someone gets confused or a maximum specificity is reached, and then the cycle starts over again!
He’s even got a comic that shows a realistic depiction of the “My significant other is my best friend” trope that’s always getting thrown around. When you can talk to someone about anything, it’s not like you’re perfectly in sync with all of their desires all the time. You for sure talk about weird stuff (like whether or not your guts have nerve endings) at what seem like really inopportune moments to most other people.
Being able to write about relationships at all requires a healthy respect for all the weirdness that goes into them. Because let’s face it – people are really weird. As ridiculous as Three Word Phrase gets (and rest assured, it gets ridiculous), Pequin never loses his touch for writing people just being people, and that’s something I always find enjoyable to read.
Plus he wrote a version of The Metamorphosis that’s got a way better ending than the original.