The Webcomic Overlook #62: Grim Tales From Down Below
One day, I will be reduced to a quivering neurotic heap in need of serious psychiatric help. It’s a question of “when,” not “if.” And when I get the bill, I’m forwarding it to loyal reader Christopher. Why? Because of comments like this, which showed up in my review of Vinson Ngo’s, nee Bleedman’s, Sugar Bits:
Grim Tales From Down Below really isn’t bad in a fun way. I mean, the Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi is awful, but the nostalgic concept of having all the good cartoons fight all the bad ones is kind of neat, and reciting all of Dexter’s super-dramatic monologues in his trademark accent is fun. It moves along at a semi-brisk pace and it’s over quickly.
Grim Tales though… man. To answer an earlier question, yes, Mandy grew up, married Grim, and somehow had kids with him. And that is not NEARLY the most disturbing thing that happens in Grim Tales. And the thing is, unlike the PPG doujinshii, Grim Tales is INCREDIBLY BORING. It’s much closer to Sugarbits in that respect.
Read that again. Now ask yourself: is there anything in the world that would keep me from taking a look at Grim Tales? There are few things more alluring than cultural dreck. I may never have the guts to climb perilous cliff faces, go skydiving, or even think about braving the Moab in a flimsy little Jeep… but, goddammit, I can prove that I can survive the most mind-numbing movies, books, and comics known to man!
Even better, it seems that recently Grim Tales and the rest of the Bleedman Unholy Trinity (Sugar Bits, reviewed here, and Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi, reviewed here) has been brought back from the dead. On a chance click to the Snafu Comics site, I came to the joyous revelation that all three comics had been updated. My eyes welled with tears of morbid fascination. It was like Bleedman had given me an early Christmas present. Little did it cross my mind that Christopher’s post was not a challenge, but rather, a dire warning. Oh, if only I’d listened.
If there were a time to heed Dante Alighieri’s warning of “Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” this would be the time. It only took 10 pages for me to start clawing at my eyes. 30 pages for me to start muttering, “What the hell, Bleedman. What the HELL?!?!?!” And thus began my accursed descent into incomprehensible awfulness and stupidity.
The story starts off with two skeletal kids named Minimandy (nicknamed “Minnie”) and Grim, Jr. And yes, these two moppets are kids of Grim and Mandy from “The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.” How did these two end up having babies? I’ll tell you later, since that’s a horror story in itself. Anyway, Grim, looking more square-jawed these days, is still sportin’ that wild Jamaican accent, mon. Mandy, meanwhile, is taking advantage of her new MILF status by walking around not wearing pants, even in front of her kids. I imagine that this gratuitous Mandy fanservice will ultimate disappoint Grim Adventures fans, though, since Mrs. Grim looks a lot less like Mandy and a lot more like a heavy-browed Sailor Venus.
Wow, what a load of … uh, what a delightful and wholly original premise, huh? So where precisely does Grim Tales transcend from a figurative, literary Hell to a literal one? Dear reader, please observe a list that I like to call The Seven Deadly Sins of Grim Tales.
1.) Annoying little twerps for heroes. My guess is that we’re supposed to see Minimandy as highly capable yet distant like any number of anime ice queens, and we’re supposed to sympathize with Grim Jr. for his feelings of inadequacy and helplessness. This never happens. In fact, it doesn’t take long to develop a keen and burning hatred toward both of these idiots. For her part, Minnie never comes across as exercising any independent thought. She’s either controlled by her emotions for her brother (more on that later) or controlled by the expectations of older people. Let’s just say that I was very disappointed to learn that she was not, in fact, a Fembot. The only thing missing from her blank face (standard settings: apathy and furious rage) is a small drip of drool coming out the side of her mouth.
And yet, somehow, by some sort of ungodly miracle, Minimandy turns out not to be the biggest tool in the entire comic. That honor belongs to her brother, Grim Jr. If his dumbass emo hoodie and grating EXTREME attitude doesn’t immediately put you off, there’s this: he’s seriously the whiniest little bitch on the entire planet. From the moment we meet him, he won’t shut up how no one pays attention to him because his sister is so precious. And when he does whine and bitch, he pulls the world’s most slap-worthy “Woe is me” face. There’s a difference between creating a severely flawed character and a sniveling crybaby. The first one lets you believe there’s a glimmer of redemption in the character, while the second should be slapped hard and often.
2.) Too many goddamn cameos. I wrote earlier how I could forgive at least some of the fanfic aspects of Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi (reviewed here). Yet, as Grim Tales dragged on, from one accursed page to the next, I found myself far less forgiving this time around. Seriously… Spawn? Nightmare Before Christmas? Wherever the hell this jackass is from? Danny Phantom? Him from the Powerpuff Girls? Joe Black?
Seriously, f***ing Joe Black? Does anyone even remember that movie?
At least with his Powerpuff Girls comic, you could almost believe that Dexter and the girls were going to the same school. This time around, though, each and every “guest appearance” seems entirely needless and totally gratuitous.
For example, is there anything more pointless than committing three pages to the “This is Halloween” sequence from Nightmare Before Christmas? Take this sequence out, and you lose nothing but you gain A LOT. Why? Because if you have any affection for the song, then you’d prefer to leave your memories untainted.
3.) Terrible, TERRIBLE dialogue. Bleedman’s love for epic levels of text hits the critical point in this comic. It’s not only a chore to read through, but it’s so painful that long term exposure will probably kill you. It ranges from minor infractions, like the decision to have Grim use “Fook!” as a Jamaican-accented euphemism. Yet it balloons to terrible, terrible missteps like equating purple prose with intellectual talk. Consider this gem from resident poet Minimandy, which pops up on the very first page:
Pray tell, what is this sound that pierces mine ears? It sings of loneliness and longing — my heart bleeds from the very whisper of it! Is it the voice of souls tormented in the shadows, or merely the wind that sweeps past us?
Bleedman: it’s OK to listen to something other than My Chemical Romance.
4.) No plot whatsoever. Or, should I say, “Goddammit, I am not going to read this bullshit again just so I can determine if there was a plot in the first place.” Spoiler warnings ahead … like you care.
It somehow stems from Minimandy and Grim Jr. being step-siblings. Minimandy is actually the daughter of Mandy and Nergal, which is where Minnie inherits her Witchblade powers. (Sigh.) From what I gather, this is part of some sort of underworld genetic experiment to turn Minimandy into the most powerful being in the universe. Thus, she’s coveted by various Spawn and Powerpuff Girls characters.
5.) You knew this was coming: incest. Admit it: from the moment I said that the stars for the comic were a brother/sister duo, and especially after seeing Bleedman’s renditions of Minnie is several jailbait outfits, you sorta expected this was coming. Fortunately, Bleedman doesn’t take it to the levels that Jay Naylor does in Better Days (reviewed here). The furthest this has been taken (so far) is Grim Jr. placing a kiss on Minnie’s lips, breaking a spell that restores her Catholic schoolgirl shame.
In some ways, though, that makes it worse. It plays like a scene from one of those PG-rated anime titles, what with all the blushing and impotent hand-wringing and the slaps to the faces … only that the romantic duo happen to be related. Ewwwwww.
6.) Sad attempts at shock value. “Sad” in the sense that you sorta read it, click over to the next page, and then think, “Huh, I think I was supposed to be offended by something.” Then you click the back button and sorta go, “Oh yeah. ABORTION.”
Or, similarly, “I get it. We’re supposed to be shocked because she has no hands.”
Or, “Oh. She slit her throat.”
Shockers so transparent and obvious that they barely work up a smirk. I liken them to those crude drawings we used to make in the fourth grade of helicopters shooting bullets into the poor soldiers down below, only with higher production values.
This next one is very closely related, but I think it merited a “sin” all of its very own.
7.) Mind blowing stupidity. I suppose this could be a blanket statement that could cover pretty much the entirety of Grim Tales From Down Below, but there’s one incident, in particular, that is probably the King of All Stupidity In Webcomics. It boils down to why Grim married Mandy. Going beyond the obvious questions of “What kind of fruitcake decides to ship Grim and Mandy in the first place?” there’s the question of attraction.
Now, there’s no sense of affection coming from Mandy to Grim, which I suppose is inline with the robotic nature of her character. Also, I suspect that Bleedman (at least when he wrote it) has no idea how women actually talk, and thus decided to forego any attempt in the first place. However, Grim is insanely attracted to Mandy. Why?
Because Mandy’s a leader of some Nazi superwarriors who take over the world while looking fabulous in a business suit.
“OK, that’s pretty stupid,” you say. “But number one sin? I was expecting something truly horrible. It’s not like he made Mandy personally responsible for 9-11, did he?”
Nope. He did.
And not just that. He also says she was responsible for Katrina. And the Boxing Day Tsunami, which I understand killed 350,000 people. And basically the whole Iraq War. Wow. Why not throw the 2006 Mumbai subway bombings, eh? Now, no doubt most of you find this absolutely tasteless. And it IS! But lest we be too judgmental and accuse Mr. Ngo of transparently attempting to be “edgy,” let’s let the guy defend himself. Here’s a snippet from his blog (if you want to read the full version, scroll to the bottom of this link — and incidentally, our should be very nervous that I only posted a small snippet below):
I felt a bit nervous when I started making these pages. And I can truly understand if I have made some people very upset over it .But at least hear me out..
I too am entitled to express my point of view.
I was just trying to find ways how I can relate the concept of the characters with our real world.
I guess we’ll start off with Mandy. What I love about Mandy as a character is that she sees the real world, not some idealistic “only good and justice prevails freedom for all and love is everything screwed up”wonderland.
Although she’s just a fictitous cartoon character, for me she’s someone I can trully relate in our world.
You can’t really blame Mandy for what she did, she’s only doing her job as the Grim Reaper, sure she made the plans. But that’s what every Grim Reaper should do (remember the movie Final Destination) At the same time Mandy is a reincarnation of all evil, her existence is the source of humanity’s darkest and most cruel essence. While Billy on the other hand and is a representation and a source of man’s stupidity .And because mankind welcomes both evil and stupidity so willingly Mandy is able to carry out her plans.
In short, Mandy simply presented her ideas to mankind and mankind simply accepted it with open arms.
( Because we am dumb and bad humans.)
I know this is going to sound funny from soneone who writes marathon-sized reviews, but I’d like to share a word of advice to you webcomic writers out there: never explain the rationale behind your bonehead decisions in a rambling blog post. More specifically, never explain the rationale behind your bonehead decision behind an overly indulgent, insulting, nonsensical, bullshit rambling blog post ripped out of a tear-stained diary entry when you were feeling really, really depressed. There is no way you will ever come off as anything other than a crazy person.
I really shouldn’t have to explain to you why it’s a dumb idea to use real world disasters as a plot point. I will point out, though, that better writers can make it work. I’m sure Trey Parker and Matt Stone could’ve transformed the same themes into a biting comedy. What’s the most insulting about the “controversial” panel in Grim Tales? The fact that it’s surrounded by the world’s worst writing.
I mean… up until this point, we’ve had silly Spawn cameos, a lengthy Nightmare Before Christmas sequence, some goofy story about Billy and Mandy taking turns as Grim Reaper, a Teletubbies cameo — and now we’re supposed to seriously accept this grade school assessment on the natural badness of the human condition? Really? REALLY? The worst part is that, according to Wikipedia, Bleedman ran a poll whether or not to keep the 9-11 strips, and his fans unsurprisingly voted to keep it. I’m not going to argue that Grim Tales fans aren’t fine, upstanding arbiters of good taste. Yet, is there any reason to run this poll other than to pass the blame for your awful storytelling decisions onto your readers?
I really think Bleedman is a decent artist. I find illustrations to be quite attractive, whether it’s the cartoony illustrations from earlier in Grim Tales to the later attempts at trying something darker. But he’s an awful writer, and that’s what makes Grim Tales a torture to read. It’s terrible fanfiction from the deepest circles of Hell.
Bleedman, please do yourself a favor and turn off the goddamn Cartoon Network (or whatever it’s called in the Philippines), go online and find someone who writes a decent comic but is a terrible artist, team up with them and create some magic. Not problem with drawing characters that aren’t yours? No problem! Most of the time, you’re drawing characters you didn’t create, either! It’s a win-win situation!
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
Posted on December 21, 2008, in 1 Star, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, anime, fantasy webcomic, horror webcomic, manga style webcomic, pop culture caricatures, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged Bleedman. Bookmark the permalink. 83 Comments.