The Webcomic Overlook #35: VG Cats
Last week, while preparing my daily ration of spaghetti with sauce, it struck me that I was ignoring, for the most part, a fairly large genre in webcomics. (I don’t suggest doing this, by the way, unless you want more than your fair portion of garlic salt in your artichoke sauce.) I suddenly became aware that this site was mainly catering to the indy comics of webcomics (which, for all practical purposes, can be argued as the new independent comic book scene). I suppose it shouldn’t have bothered me, but it did. It reminded me of some online publications about independent comic books. They writers would prattle on at length about the latest great comic about a disaffected youth orsymbolic flight of fantasy or what have you. What they refused to talk about were superhero comics.
Perhaps the reviewers felt that they were too mature. Superheroes are, after all, childish power fantasies. Spandexed adventurers were no longer interesting unless presented in a brutally ironic way. Why review GI Joe vs. Transformers when you could be reviewing Jimmy Corrigan or White Rapids? You don’t see fantasy novel reviewers covering Dragonlance; they’re reading Gormenghast or Perdido Street Station. (What’s this? Did I just set the record for most nerd references in one paragraph? Sweet! 100 points for Gryffindor!)
Still, the number one reason anyone of any age steps into a comic book store is to see what Batman or Iron Man or Wolverine are up to. To turn a blind eye to them seems blissfully ignorant at best, and slightly arrogant at worst… especially since some of those superhero adventures can be surprisingly well written when attached to celebrated writers like Ed Brubaker or Grant Morrison.
I discovered that I’m guilty of the same thing here. For the most part, I champion fairly obscure strips like Horribleville, Scary Go Round, and Savage Chickens, while largely ignoring the reigning webcomic genre: the gamer comic. I suppose I could theorize that, really, the reigning genre also goes beyond typical tags to include xkcd and Dinosaur Comics in a massive uber-category of “Nerd Pride Comics” … but that’s just arrogant. And the only thing I’m ever comfortable being arrogant about is the quality of my spaghetti sauce.
Anyway, The Webcomic Overlook prides itself at being a review site for the common man. A f***ing William Jennings Bryan of webcomics, if you will. Ignoring these gamer comics makes me look like a snooty indy reviewer … and frankly I don’t have the ironic gold, silk-screened T-shirt and snazzy pinstripe fedora to pull the look off.
While gamer comics have lost some of their luster recently, they still boast a fairly large readership. Penny Arcade and Ctrl+Alt+Del are still two of the most widely read comics on the internet. Today’s Webcomic Overlook examines a third chart topper, which smartly throws another internet favorite into its already potent cocktail of video game jokes: anthropomorhic cats.
Today, I review Scott Ramsoomair’s VG Cats (short for Video Game Cats).
Whew! Now that was a long intro! Are you still here? Because if you need to go somewhere … hey, it’s just a webcomic review. I totally understand.
According to T. Campbell’s Alexa & Compete-based rankings, VG Cats easily places in the top 10 of most widely read webcomics. And this list, mind you, includes print comic superstars, like Dilbert and Peanuts, and the internet meme repository, I Can Has Cheeseburger? (Groan.) Suffice to say, despite its sporadic updating schedule, VG Cats has joined PA, CAD, and PvP in the Hall of Fame of Gamer Comics.
VG Cats also won its share of WCCA’s, which, I understand, is basically a popularity contest. It impressively won the Outstanding Gaming Comic Award in 2005 and 2006, and, less impressively, the Outstanding Use of Color Award in 2005.
I will no go on to explain why the WCCA’s are terrible at telling you whether a comic is any good.
The comic a primer for anyone unfamiliar with the standard gamer comic tropes. They’re as standard as capes on a superhero or oversized swords in a Japanese fantasy epic. If the webcomic artist forgets any of these, they either get their gamer comic license revoked. Or, if they’re lucky, maybe they’ll be celebrated in the brave new world of “alternative gamer comics,” pushing edgy new ideas that push the boundaries of cool. But, you know, that never happens.
The Immutable Rules of Gamer Comics:
All gamer comics have to talk about the console wars. This is a grand tradition that stems from the great Nintendo vs. Sega debates that raged in the 1980’s, and currently gamers like to align themselves between the big three: the Microsoft X-Box, the Sony Playstation, and the Nintendo Wii. Any real animosity between companies is non-existent these days since each console now caters to different types of consumers and most of the big games are available on all consoles anyway. But hey, don’t let that get in the way of some quality muckracking!
Gamers like to fight each other over this admittedly trivial division because a) they’re too young to care about politics, or b) they’re old enough to understand politics, but giving a crap severely cuts into gaming time. (This also results in half-baked political opinions, by the way, that sorta make me want to support any proposition that’s anti-VG Cats) So where do you direct all your aggression? Ultimately a debate over whether Brand X is better than Brand Y. Frankly, we can get into a discussion of who gamers get so passionate about the subject, but hey, nothing in the gamer subculture ever makes sense.
It’s also common for gamer comics to anthropomorphize the consoles. VG Cats goes one step further and brings the fight to the handhelds! Oh, that pathetic N-Gage! Seriously, there just aren’t enough N-Gage jokes.
Now, I’ll give Ramsoomair some credit: he does acknowledge that there really isn’t a platform superiority any company can claim. Attaboy, Scott! You came this close to getting that gamer comic license revoked, but … hey, you did us proud, son.
Gamer comics all do parodies of popular video games. Let’s face it, without video game caricatures, no one would be reading gamer comics. You know those caricature cartoonists that have kiosks at malls or state fairs? Gamer comic artists do the same thing, only with lisenced video game characters. After all, why develop your own characters when you can draw in readers by showing Solid Snake rape a sleeping guy? And there will always, always be a “Your princess is in another castle” spoof from the original Super Mario Bros.
(I’ve always wondered how webcomics, inevitably aimed at pre-teens and teens, never fail to re-enact a scene from a 23 year old game. Gamers have a notoriously short attention span; how do they remember this classic bit? The I remembered that Nintendo has been re-releasing the original Mario on every platform, most recently a remix of the original on the Nintendo DS. Ah, Nintendo, you mad geniuses you!)
You’d think that with the literally hundreds of games released every year, there would be limitless opportunities for gags. You’d be wrong. Gamers must all play the exact same things, because it’s always about Mario, Sonic, Link, and Halo. Do you gamers there want to guess what the latest obsession is? If you said Portal, give yourself a nice, warm cookie. Ramsoomair surprised me again, though: his Portal jokes are probably the best part of VG Cats. I mean, his Flash video of the ending theme wasn’t half bad.
It’s not a gamer comic unless you’ve got tons of jokes about decapitations, disembowelments, and peeing. Attention, Congressional committees: if you’re still looking for evidence that video games are corrupting the youth, look no further than your average video game comic. Or better yet, look no further than VG Cats. I may not be completely convinced about the link between video games and violence, but this comic should provide you with more than enough circumstantial evidence!
Here’s a sampling of some “punchlines”: disproportionate violent response. Sodomy. Date rape. Hobos. Flatulence. Sexual interpretations of official titles. Gay Jokes. Abuse to women. Bodily fluids. More bodily fluids. Poop. Parodies of 300.
Hey, remember when these jokes were funny? That’s right … grade school! When all you had to do was say a swear and the little girls covered their mouths and started giggling!
I’m not saying that the above topics can never be a topic of humor, and certainly not like the puritan rubes Ramsoomair seems to envision his critics to be. Let’s compare this sort of mentality to today’s premiere peddler of juvenile humor: South Park. I seem to recall an episode where a statue of Mary started bleeding anally. The town declared it a miracle, which prompted the Pope to make a visit. Now, the merits over the humor of the episode can be debated. My point, though, is that the punchline involved the gullibility of crowds, a dig at stodgy Catholic traditions, and — yes — the immature chuckles over rectal bleeding.
“But wait, El Santo,” you say, “what about the cats? The title is VG Cats, and the logo has a fluffy cat tail! I am a cat fan and I do love the cats!” Well, I’m sad to say that the cats are really non-characters. Leo (the grey one) and Aeris (the pink female one) are basically just there to whine and complain about video games. In a way, that makes them extensions of Mssr. Ramsoomair’s personality (more on that later). For what it’s worth, I think they’re nice character designs. Ramsoomair’s artwork is decent, and he does a nifty job on facial expressions.
If Scott decided to devote an entire series to the antagonistic relationship between a town idiot and a gal who’s permanently pissed off, I think the series would do just fine. You can’t go wrong with that combination. I mean, it worked for Laurel and Hardy. However, if you’re a big cat fan, I’d like to suggest Lackadaisy, which is heavy on the cat and light on the puerile jokes.
Scott, by the way, makes an appearance in his own comic as Pantsman. Get this: he, like, wears pants … on his head! Hardcore! And he parodies overexposed viral videos starring David Hasselhoff! Oh my God, this is so funny! Oh, man, with this level of unadulterated wackiness Pantsman might just give Captain Underpants a run for his money (available from Scholastic Books, recommended reading age 5 to 12).
Now this might sound like I’m piling on Mssr. Ramsoomair. To tell you the truth, I’m actually a little jealous. Marketers pay big money to determine what makes today’s young people tick. But all they really have to do is ask Scott Ramsoomair. He’s got his finger on the pulse.
For the life of me, I can never understand why kids go to watch Epic Movie or Meet the Spartans. Scott knows. He delivers the same sort of “risque,” pop-culture laden humor. I’m going to have to throw the towel. Hey, I’m a man, and real men admit their failings. I’m an old fogey long out of touch with the youth of America. I can never relate to VG Cats‘ primary audience: excitable pre-teens, easily amused teens, and creepy old men who hang around elementary schools.
However, that won’t stop me from prattling on… because that’s what old fogeys do, and because I owe the (hopefully more mature) readers of Webcomic Overlook my honest take of VG Cats. What do I think of this comic? It is an unyielding buffet of loathesomeness. Sure, it’s funny in places, but those tiny moments are deep-sixed by waves and waves of terrible, unfunny, and headache inducing gags.
Hey, I have nothing against gamer comics. The Webcomic Overlook gave high marks to both Awkward Zombie and 8-Bit Theater. However, the fact that VG Cats is one of the most read webcomics does no favors to the already low reputation of gamers as smelly, socially inept, misogynistic little dorks.
Huh. I guess this crotchety little rant of mine has completed my transformation from a champion of the common man into an elitist indy comic fan.
Now click on the Amazon.com links on the sidebar! Santo needs money for a snazzy fedora, dig?
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
Posted on March 3, 2008, in 1 Star, comedy webcomic, funny animal webcomic, manga style webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, video game webcomic, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged VG Cats. Bookmark the permalink. 65 Comments.