"THIS CALLS FOR SUBTLETY!"
"EXTREME SUBTLETY!"

A web comic centred around a penguin named Pokey and his friends and associates that can be found at http://www.yellow5.com/pokey/. The strip is absurdist, not always seeming to make sense, yet somehow amusing nonetheless: Dialogue and graphics are frequently crossed out or seemingly scribbled over, as though it were a mistake that the author didn't feel like erasing; the graphics are (or at least made to look like they are) created with a very basic bitmap image editor (e.g. Windows' Paint and the like); most minor characters look exactly like Pokey; and the meaning behind what's happening isn't always apparent, if there's any even there. As a result of this absurdist nature, Pokey the Penguin doesn't have as large a following as some of the more popular web comics out there but its fans do seem to really love it.

Pokey the Penguin began in 1998 and is authored by web developer Steve Havelka (though anyone trying to find this out from the Pokey the Penguin website would have to follow a link or two off it, as the website itself merely says "POKEY THE PENGUIN IS COPYRIGHT © 1998-[current year] THE AUTHORS." According to a fansite linked to from the Pokey the Penguin website, Havelka has said of his web comic that he "wanted to make something so terribly bad that no one should ever like it at all, but somehow infuse it with enough lovability that everyone would anyway... either proving the point that people are dumb and will like anything, or proving the point that people really can look deeper than the surface to like genuine quality."*

There's not really any overall plot to the strip. The two primary characters are Pokey the Penguin (of course) and his little sister called Little Girl (or, sometimes, Small Child). The two frequently have conversations or go on adventures that will surely end completely nonsensically and/or sillily. As mentioned earlier, most minor characters look exactly like Pokey, though there are exceptions (Stephen Hawking, for example, appears as Pokey wearing a cape and pointed wizard's hat with stars and a crescent moon printed on them). I present to you now a brief description of the strip's major characters:

Pokey the Penguin - The title character appears as a badly bitmapped penguin. Pokey is 2'4" and weighs twenty pounds. Pokey (and his friends) live in the Arctic Circle (not the Antarctic, like real penguins). Pokey's favourite exclamations seem to be "HOORAY!" and "YES!" Aren't they everyone's? Pokey has an honorary PhD from Harvard.

The Italians - The Italians tend to look just like Pokey when they appear in person, as no single Italian is a major character. They are frequently Pokey's enemies, as they attempt to steal the penguins' precious Arctic Circle Candy (which only grows in the Arctic Circle). They first appear in the first strip, in the distance, out at sea, in a simple and crudely drawn boat sporting an Italian flag.

Little Girl/Small Child - Pokey's little sister appears as a smaller version of Pokey with a red ribbon on her head. She always appears smaller than Pokey though not always the same size. She frequently accompanies Pokey on his adventures and seems to like throwing things into the sea. She made her first appearance in the second Pokey the Penguin strip "POKEY THE HIS FRIENDS."

Mr Nutty - Mr Nutty appears as a snowman wearing a red top hat. He seems to drink heavily and has many business ventures such as a theme park, laboratory, whale business, and school of placemat design. Frequently calls people "old bean" and occasionally attempts to rip off Pokey and Little Girl. Some claim Mr Nutty symbolizes capitalism. Mr Nutty first appears in the thirteenth strip, "MR NUTTY," where he loses a few days worth of games of baccarat to Little Girl (who then pulls a gun† on him).

Headcheese - Headcheese is a female penguin who, like Little Girl, appears as a penguin smaller than Pokey. Unlike Little Girl, Headcheese's ribbon is purple. She first appears in the twenty sixth strip, "POKEY THE PENGUIN AND HEADCHEESE." She is French Canadian.

Skeptopotamus - Skeptopotamus is one of my favourite characters. He appears as a hippopotamus, emerging from the Arctic Circle grasses in the one hundred sixty first strip ("THE SKEPTOPOTAMUS (I DON'T BELIEVE IT)"), after which he meets Mr Nutty. The two play checkers and Mr Nutty announces "CHECKMATE, OLD BEAN!" to which Skeptopotamus replies "I DON'T BELIEVE IT." Skeptopotamus maintains it is unlikey he is related to the family hippopotamus. He can be poisoned by Long Island pizza. His gun-metal grey hide is hardened from years in the medical profession. He is the chef at the Cola Cafe (where everything is brown and carbonated and sales are flat *ba-doom-ching!*). He talks to his plants so they will grow strong, saying things like "YOU CANNOT LEAVE! I WILL NOT PERMIT IT!" and "I HAVE DOMINION OVER YOU! YOU ARE MY SLAVES."

Gustavo - Gustavo appears as an amorphous blob somewhat reminiscent of a bean with a curly moustache and brown hat. Gustavo is, according to the author, based on a waiter he once encountered. Gustavo says "COOKIE" once in almost every strip he's in (I suppose it's debatable as to whether Gustavo actually says cookie, as the word usually isn't found within a speech bubble but just sort of floating disembodied in the air). His right moustache hair is named Democracy and his left moustache hair is named Stalin (cue some sort of right- vs. left-wing debate if you like, just don't bother me with it).

Pokey the Penguin is updated every once in a while (would you really expect a comic like this to have any sort of regular schedule?). Apparently, lengthy time between updates has inspired some people to make their own Pokey comics, which typically aren't as good as the real comic, but may amuse if one is in desperate need of a Pokey fix.

The Pokey the Penguin website features an archive of all the strips, a page to order merchandise when available‡, a downloadable game called Mutton Kombat: Gamma (which either I can't figure out all the controls to or has no end), and a Flash animated Pokey adventure with what is presumably the author's voice at the end explaining what happened.

*http://web.umr.edu/~ckastner/pokey.html
†Guns get pulled on various characters a lot in Pokey the Penguin. YES!
‡POKEY DOES NOT LIKE TO GET VIRUSES!!! POKEY KNOWS WHO YOU ARE!!!

Sources:
http://www.yellow5.com/pokey/ (official site)
http://web.umr.edu/~ckastner/pokey.html (fansite/FAQ linked to from the official site)
http://www.rit.edu/~flf1754/pokey/pokeyfaq.html (another Pokey the Penguin FAQ)
http://fojar.com/~steve/ (info on and by Steve Havelka)

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