Breaking the Internet With Check, Please!?
October 3, 2016
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Lately, it’s rare to see both a well thought out plot and an extensive cast of characters to drive and execute the storyline in works of original fiction. Check, Please!, a webcomic on the blogging website Tumblr, has this and so much more. With an already large fandom that seems to be growing daily, Check, Please! is surely about to become one of the biggest web originals on the internet.
Check, Please! is both written and drawn by Yale graduate Ngozi Ukazu, and it is posted on the comic’s Tumblr blog; it is completely free to read and enjoy. Each update is done in up to 10 panels and they come regularly every few weeks.
But what is Check, Please!?
In the first comic upload, readers are introduced to Eric “Bitty” Bittle. It doesn’t take long to realize that he’s filming a vlog, or video-blog, for his Youtube channel. He’s a freshman at the fictional Samwell University in New England, an is a player of their hockey team. He is also an avid baker. Bitty is from Georgia, and the move to Samwell is freeing for him in a way; the school is known for a saying: “One in four, maybe more” in reference to their LGBTQ community. As Bitty’s first year at Samwell progresses, a few things are made pretty clear to readers, in addition to his sexuality. He’s very small compared to the average hockey player, and is terrified of the common hockey practice known as checking. Check, Please!? is Bitty’s coming of age story essentially told through his vlog.
The comic also includes another member of the Samwell Men’s Hockey Team: Jack Zimmermann. Jack is the son of fictional hockey legend Bad Bob Zimmermann, and that is where all of his problems begin. Jack suffers from anxiety, due in part from the pressure to be a perfect player to follow in his father’s footsteps. Readers learn very early on that Jack took medication to calm his anxiety, but one day he took too much, leading to an overdose, right before the NHL Draft where he was expected to go first overall. Jack took years off, through rehab and coaching little kids, before attending his mother’s alma mater, Samwell. Readers first meet Jack as the hockey team’s captain in his junior year.
With the comic in Bitty’s junior year now, a whole cast of supporting characters have been introduced, including Shitty Knight, Jack’s best friend, Justin “Ransom” Oluransi and Adam “Holster” Birkholtz. They are all defensemen who regularly take over the updates to educate readers about hockey slang, using the Samwell team as an example, Chris “Chowder” Chow, the team’s adorable and naïve starting goalie, Derek “Nursey” Nurse and Will “Dex” Poindexter, defensemen a year younger than Bitty who absolutely can’t get past their differences with each other, and Larissa “Lardo” Duan, the team’s (now live-in) manager.
Every story needs a villain, but the villain of this story doesn’t factor in until much later, and many fans would argue that his purpose isn’t exactly evil at all. His name is Kent “Parse” Parson, and he is (within this fictional universe) the best player in the NHL. Parse doesn’t make an appearance until year two, when readers find out that he was Jack’s best friend growing up and playing junior hockey. Parse, it seems, makes ill-advised decisions regarding his former friendship with Jack. He is the subject of much debate throughout the Check, Please! fandom.
Now that I’ve introduced the cast of characters and basic plot, here’s why Check, Please! is worth reading:
The story is multi-faceted and caters to a lot of different interests. It’s a story about baking and hockey, but it’s also a story about growing up and acceptance. In fact, you don’t have to know anything about hockey to read Check, Please! (Ransom and Holster are there to hijack the comic and teach you). For a comic about a college hockey team, there isn’t much hockey. College kids will be able to identify with the coming of age aspect of the story.
All of the aforementioned characters grow as the plot pushes forward because Check, Please! is without a doubt a character driven story. Each character has a distinct personality that shines through – for Chowder, it’s his childlike sense of wonder, and for Nursey, his ultra-chill demeanor that never cracks. The developing plot leaves room for all of the characters to grow in the background, and watching that development is almost as exciting as the main plot is. It is hard to describe just how great Ransom and Holster’s friendship is, or the way Dex and Nursey can’t get along if their lives depended on it.
The cast of characters in Check, Please! are also a very diverse group. Ransom is Nigerian-Canadian, Chowder is Chinese-American, Lardo is Vietnamese-American and Nursey is a person of color, but his background hasn’t been revealed. It’s diverse in sexuality too, with at least two of the main characters and one side character identifying as LGBTQ. There are also canonical mentions of mental illness, something that fiction seems to lack.
Tumblr users have seemed to latch on to Check, Please! and have created a huge fandom surrounding it. Another reason to read Check, Please! is the amount of fanworks that have been created as a result of the comic. Fans create art and fanfiction with the characters of Check, Please!.
Check, Please! is still being updated on omgcheckplease.tumblr.com. It’s written chronologically, but the timeline is still about a full year behind 2016 – the most recent updates take place in the Fall of 2015 during Bitty’s junior year. There is also transmedia involved – a twitter ran by the creator that is meant to be Bitty’s twitter page. The @omgcheckplease account has been put on private recently, because while the comic is not in real time, the Twitter is and there are spoilers for the narrative there. With the twists and turns the story takes, everything about Check, Please! is worth the read.