Crabcake Confidential: Beachnuts
When you start a website about webcomics, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get a bunch of requests from webcomic creators asking you to review their comic. There are some bloggers who openly mock such requests, calling the creators out for their pathetic self-promotion.
I take another stand. I sympathize with the webcomic creators. It’s tough to get new viewers when the internet boasts thousands of webcomics and millions more distractions. Heck, I struggle to get viewers to this blog, and I get a shiny, happy feeling when it gets linked on ComixTalk or other reputable webcomic sites. So when requests started trickling in, I was up to doing a few requests. Besides, everyone who sent a link asked nicely, and that counts for a lot.
There’s a small problem, though. How do I rate these reviews? What if I truly felt a webcomic was terrible and I gave it a low rating? Doesn’t that seem kinda low since the creator was nice enough to send a link to their comic along? And if I rated the comic too high, I would be forever wondering if I compromised the integrity of my review just to be nice. What kind of person would I be if I liked everything I reviewed? Probably Roger Ebert, but that’s beside the point.
So I came up with an innovative solution: the rating will be totally arbritary … like the name of this feature. Oh, it probably will have something to do with what I felt about the webcomic, but the meaning will be so vague and enshrouded in mystery that you could probably debate what I really meant. It’s all very zen and post-modern. Perhaps you can tell how I felt about a webcomic by the text of the review itself. This is the internet, though, where amateur reviewers tend to be crass about a movie or game that they liked … just because it’s funny to complain (supposedly). So when I start rambling like a grouchy old war vet, am I being truly vicious or am I just trying to be the next Yahtzee Croshaw?
It’s a core duality that powers my art. That’s, like, deep … I think. Hopefully, one day some college student will reference this post in their Senior thesis, “Metaphysical Methods for Reviewing Webcomics,” using words like “avuncular” and “egregious.”
So the inaugural “Crabcake Confidential” is about Beachnuts, a comedy webcomic by Mike Vincelli about surfer culture. “Beachnuts” is to surfing what “Penny Arcade” is to videogames, which is to say that it’s burns with a dangerously obsessive passion. I’m no surfer myself, so I essentially viewed this webcomic as an anthropological guide to the surfer lifestyle.
- Surfers sure like to talk about surfing a lot. In fact, it gets to be like dialogue at Smurf Village … except everyone says “surf” instead of “smurf.” It’s not hard to visualize, people! There’s jokes about how guys would rather stare at waves than look at hot chicks, how stranded surfers don’t mind getting in a plane crash …. Wait. I take it back. This isn’t like Smurf Village at all. This is like Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck” jokes, but with more bare chests and fewer Chevy pick-ups.
- Surfers must absolutely reek. A lot of the jokes here are about how something smells bad. Not that I necessarily disagree. I live near the water, and the aroma of dried seaweed and dead fish combine to form a smell an especially pungeant smell. The whole “Ocean Mist” air freshener scent? Lies! If marketers were true to the name, “Ocean Mist” should probably smell like rotten three-day old sushi. And this sort of relates to…
- Surfers are f***ing disgusting. “Beachnuts” thrives on humor involving bodily fluids. And not the good bodily fluids. We’re talking about jokes about pee, droppings, and stuff that comes out of your nose. So if I learned anything from “Beachnuts,” I probably should stay 300 meters away from the nearest surfer lest I step in a suspicious patch of wet sand.
The artwork is reminiscent of the stuff you used to find late 1990’s flash cartoons and video games. Everybody is bulgy, and there’s a strangely familiar obsession with potbellies and curly body hair. You know, to drive home the whole “Surfers are f***ing disgusting” bulletpoint. (Why DID those early flash toons try to make their characters look as gross as possible? Was every artist a huge Ren & Stimpy fan?) Everybody sports wide canary-eating grins. For a webcomic about surfing, the characters seem really stiff, as if someone had rammed a metal rod down their spines. Shouldn’t surfing look dynamic? Why does everyone look like they’re colorforms?
“Beachnuts” should be one of those webcomics that’s looking to find a home in a specialty magazine, preferably with names like “Wave Action” or “Surf Girl.” To be honest, I don’t know if even surfers would find this strip humorous. To Vincelli’s credit, he seems to know his stuff. No poseur is he. There’s a good chance that surfers will read “Beachnuts” and laugh and nod and maybe snort Hawaiian Punch out their noses. Who knows.
As for this non-surfer, reading “Beachnuts” was like sitting at a beach hut and listening as Vincelli, seated at a nearby table, shared some anecdotes with a circle of friends over spam burgers. All the in-jokes sailed over my head except for the poo gags, which I didn’t find too funny, and I felt like an embarassed voyeur sitting at the corner table forlornly watching ESPN while sucking on a Sierra Mist.
Rating: Tila Tequila