High school can be an exhausting affair. The ins and outs of social circles, the difficulty of balancing friends and family, and the ever-uncertain subject of dating and romance can make those developmental years an absolute crunch to get through. Even in retrospect, it can seem impossible to make sense of the whole ordeal. However, in their webcomic Penny and Aggie, T. Campbell and Gisele Lagace pull together the loose ends of those four long years and take a look at the high school experience from all different angles.
The strip’s writer, Campbell, said Penny and Aggie is inspired by high-school experiences that he’s seen his younger cousins go through, as well as those that Lagace has experienced firsthand. The two have been working on various strips since 2000, sometimes together and sometimes independently, and have become comic veterans over the years. Both have several other projects under their belts, including Lagace’s office-romance comic Cool Cat Studio and Campbell’s Tokyopop series Divalicious.
Penny and Aggie is drawn in a beautifully classic style, which seems to be Lagace’s trademark. Her art is very reminiscent of a sophisticated version of the Archie Comics of earlier years. However, there is also some manga influence present as well, as the characters occasionally switch into silly and over-exaggerated facial expression as the mood strikes. These deviations are used effectively but sparingly, so as not to run out their impact. The comic is generally released in black and white, although there is the occasional colored strip. In addition, the first four volumes of the comic are available as e-book downloads which are redone in full color.
The cast of Penny and Aggie is diverse and multifaceted, and, despite the wide and extensive range of characters covered, there is not a one whose motives are unclear or whose development is flawed. There is, of course, the eponymous Penny, a blonde-haired social princess on top of the school’s food chain, and Aggie, a unique and individual girl who delights in rocking the status quo.
In addition, there’s Karen, the ugly duckling turned swan who is dating Aggie’s longtime crush; Duane, the cute and bookish word-nerd with a puppy-love crush on Penny; Rich, the bad-boy skateboarder who also has designs on Penny; and an impressive roster of other characters encompassing all the usual personalities associated with high school. In fact, the cast is extensive enough that the strip does a storyline called "Names: A Study Primer" to help clear up the confusion that some fans had over who was who.