Author: Andrew Miller
Genre: Slice-of-Life, Humor
Schedule: Completed

First off, full disclosure. I'm not part of Aprons' target audience, whose target demographic is people in the service industry and coffee aficionados. I don't work as a waiter or a barista, and the only coffee I bought was a hazelnut cafe americano, which according to Aprons, isn't really coffee. So some of the humor might go over my head. However, considering comics like Dilbert and Beetle Bailey do occupational humor and seem to do just fine commercially, that doesn't mean an occupational comic is completely incomprehensible to anyone not in its demographic.


Aprons is about people who work in coffee houses and restaurants, and the problems associated with the professions like lousy tips, horrible customers, complicated drink orders, and putting sugar and cream in your coffee. The main characters are Kelly, a barista, and Walter, a waiter, who are in a relationship. The relationship also allows the author to split the comic between a restaurant and a coffee house and jump back and forth between the two settings whenever the joke calls for it. Other employees include Gabriel, a poetry major who works at the restaurant, and a muscular guy who works as a barista at the coffee house (ironically, one comic shows him irritated that no one knows his name, but it never shows up in the comic).

If you paid attention to the comics linked to the character's names, you'll notice how late their names are introduced. Despite being featured since the first strip, it takes almost twenty strips before we even find out Kelly's name. The other characters take much longer. It gives the feeling that the characters are interchangeable, meant mainly to deliver jokes. Backing this up is the lack of characterization in the comic. With the exception of Gabriel (a perfectionist who won't let things go) and the nameless muscled barista (a coffee snob), most of the characters are completely interchangable. While not giving characters personality isn't necessary, it could provide some more fodder for jokes by allowing the characters interacting and clashing for comedic effect.

As for jokes, the author seems to know how to write humor. All the comics are three or four panels and provide the standard set up, build, punchline pattern that strip based comics practically demand. Even when the subject matter didn't apply to me, I still got the jokes. They weren't laugh out loud funny, but a few made me chuckle and I can see someone hanging one of these up at their workplace like office workers pin up Dilbert comics in their cubicle. He also has a main website, and a dedicated tumblr which shows off some of his other work which doesn't necessarily fit in the standard strip format. I particularly liked this parody of Jack Chick tracts that makes fun of those people who leave pamphlets instead of tips after their meal.

But being an occupational comic with little to no unique characters, there are some jokes that are just repeats of previous jokes. For example, a customer who sees himself as a hardened cowboy ordering nonmanly coffees. Customers who order fattening foods combined with healthy choices because wellness works like karma. Most of these repeats happen at the beginning of the comic though, and when he does choose to revisit jokes like the cowboy customer later, he does do something different with it.


The art appears to be hand drawn with pens and brushes. It's mainly lineart with little value or detail. Backgrounds are minimal to non-existent. If it wasn't for the fact that certain employees are associated with particular businesses, it would be difficult to know where they are. If it were colored, I'd be more likely to give it a pass, but as a pure black and white comic, the sheer amount of white space makes the comic not very appealing. I know that strip comics don't have a lot of real estate, especially with all the text boxes. But even some simple shading can make the comic more pleasing to the eye. Like here. Or the last panel of this one (also note how the hatching creates some implied lines on the borderless panel). Or the hatching on this one combined with the Christmas tree creates a light source and draws the eye to the center of the panel. Or the brush effects you got here or here.

Besides the lack of background and simplistic art, I have a few nitpicks. There are occasional issues with anatomy (like this guy's neck and his size in relation to Walter). And the weird neck issue continues into the present comics. And the occasional forays into different perspectives tend to produce spotty results. In the first example, Walter is way too big in relation to the waitress, even accounting for a three-point perspective. And the block letters in the second example have vanishing points that go everywhere. Though I prefer these ambitious but flawed attempts since they show the author challenging themselves.


Aprons is a decent comic. The writing shows an understanding of the rhythm of humorous writing and being based on actual events, will likely resonate with the target audience. The characters aren't fleshed out however, being stand-in characters for jokes rather than actual people. Unless the author has a huge reservoir of jokes, this approach could easily lead to retreading old material. Artistically, the author knows his way around a brush and pen and the occasional experiments show it. They could do better though, especially regarding technical skills like value, contrast, anatomy, and perspective.


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