Monthly Archives: September 2009
At some point in the development of human culture, we — and I speak a collective “we” as citizens of the world — decided that we did not like fart jokes. The very term “fart joke” has become short hand for humor that’s crude. Unseemly. Lazy. Far too bourgeois. Any movie that employs a fart joke is immediately dismissed as the trash heap of comedy. A movie, for example, could have a script written by Garrison Keillor. But if you, heaven forbid, put a fart joke in it, lord how the critics will talk! They will stick their nose up in the air and say things such as, “Leave your surreptitious trumpetlike rump blasts for infants and rednecks.” (Notable exception: Blazing Saddles. For some reason, the fart scene there is considered high art, perhaps because it is the best fart scene.)
The paradox, though, is that fart jokes are funny. Let out a long, mighty rip — ideally punctuated by a motorboat staccato — and you can bring the whole room down with laughter and tears of joy. There’s something primal about hearing a fart and laughing in kind. It’s an instinct hard-coded the deepest recesses of our minds. We find it funny, our forefathers found it funny, and it doesn’t depend on witticisms that need copious amounts of cultural baggage or familiarity with the language. Sarcasm may be unique to Western culture, but fart jokes are universal. It’s somewhat of a comfort to imagine that our ancestors amused themselves around a campfire by ritualistically dancing around the campfire in their facepaint and decorative shields to celebrate the gods for their blessed feast of wild boar, only to have the festivities erupt into guffaws when one of the dancers felt particularly gassy. Naturally, his wife would be standing sternly to the side, rolling her eyes.
Which brings me to Gunshow, a webcomic by the irrepressible KC Green. It’s no insult, I think, to say that Gunshow is the fart joke of webcomics. I mean that metaphorically, for the most part … though it’s pretty literal at times, too. Gun Show taps into the most primordial instincts, daring us to laugh from something as ridiculously simple as a goofy-looking face. Like the crude humor you find in those early Mel Brooks films and South Park‘s Terrence & Phillip, sometimes it takes a genius to remind you that fart jokes are, in fact, funny.
First off, some observations from Johanna Draper Carlson:
I was surprised to see that the most popular area in the room, at least when I was on the floor, was the back right corner featuring webcomic creators, especially Kate Beaton. But then, the world is moving from minicomics to webcomics as a way for young artists to try new things and refine their craft. And with their outreach — large numbers of readers, who are often eager to buy prints or buttons or books of their favorite strips — I shouldn’t be surprised at the congestion.
Speaking of webcomic collections, I enjoyed talked with Curt Franklin and Chris Haley of Let’s Be Friends Again. Their parody strips have a distinctive sense of humor, and I couldn’t resist picking up their first book, Under Pressure, reprinting the comics they’ve done up until July. In color, too! And they all have annotations underneath, making for more funny. (And sometimes explaining just what they’re referring to.) The front page of the book has caricatures of the two authors with blank balloons, and they filled them in with a personalized sketch and dialogue, making my copy unique. Ha!
Meanwhile, Retconned Fangirl reported on the webcomic-centric panel:
I only attended one panel while I was there, the “Comic Strips: Online and in Print” panel, which featured R. Stevens, Kate Beaton, Erika Moen and Julia Wertz. They talked about the challenges of creating webcomics and then publishing them in print formats, any adjustments they made and how the audiences are different. They also addressed technological issues with RGB/CMYK conversions. They addressed the more basic issues of merchandising and “why publish it in hard format at all?” Moen & Stevens provided the most useful information in the panel, both technical and just outright enthusiasm. Moen published hers as a book because she loved books, not necessarily because her audience demanded it. She had compiled a collection over a three year period, so while she left most of her line art intact, she had gone in and corrected the colors and Photoshop errors. When discussing pirating issues, Stevens admitted one way he got around it was merchandising pixel socks, certainly a unique item in the Exhibitor Hall. And they were cute socks, I have to say. Kate Beaton was utterly mobbed at her table.
By going around the con with other people, I stopped at tables I wouldn’t ordinarily notice. The “Let’s Be Friends Again” guys had some hysterically funny (and very politically incorrect at times) cartoons. I might not have looked at Dresden Codak if a friend wasn’t such a fan. I’d heard about Owly for Free Comic Book Day, but nothing prepared me for the cute little baby hats or Owly sketches. Super Spy’s Matt Kindt sat at Top Shelf’s table doing commissions in water colors, putting the finishing touches on a gorgeous Marvelman/Miracleman commission.
PW Beat reports that Tony Millionaire (Sock Monkey) and Chris Onstad (Achewood) are visiting your favorite comic shop in the Northwest! Apparently the dudes already hit Portland two days ago. Hopefully, you fair denizens of the City of Roses caught that. The rest of their tour is in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
Today, they’ll be pulling up in Puyallup, WA, at Comics Evolution around 6:00 pm.
Then, tomorrow, they’ll be chillin’ in the University District at Comics Dungeon in Seattle (6:00 pm also).
Despite Liam Lynch’s claims to the contrary, internet has not killed the video star. Not yet, anyway. Like most of America, I’ve spent the whole week watching the premieres of the new TV season. Frankly, I was getting fatigued after Criminal Minds last night, but I will persevere! Especially since Community and Parks & Recreation are on tonight. Oh, yeah, also new Smallville, where I’ll be kneeling before Zod.
So, to celebrate the 2009 Fall TV Season, here are a few of my favorite TV-related webcomics released over the years.
PHD Comics does the Real Life/Reel Life thing a la MST3K:
Brand Okay did one of the many House-related gags out there, and, in my opinion, the most memorable:
Finally, Bigger Than Cheeses was one of the first webcomics to popularize the David Caruso meme:
From time to time, one of you lovely and well-intentioned readers inadvertently asks, “El Santo, why don’t do make your own webcomic, you vitriolic nincompoop?”
And I respond, quite politely, “Because. That’s why.”
Earlier this year, though, my wife and I got sucked into the Lost TV show. It started innocently enough: we say Naveen Andrews on The English Patient and we wanted to see what he was up to these days. Two months later, we were buying up DVDs to finish Lost Season 4 and downloading episodes from iTunes to catch up to the telecast. We now have a pair of sweet Dharma t-shirts and are contemplating buying a VW Van to convert it into our Dharmamobile. I also have the full Michael Giacchino soundtrack of Lost on my iPod as well as “recap rock” from the comedy band who call themselves (quite cleverly, I think) Previously On Lost.
This is Lost sickness, and we love it.
Around that time, I thought to myself, “You know what? If I ever do a webcomic, I’m totally doing Lost jokes. There’s a got to be a ton of humor to be mined from that show, right?”
Well, it’s a good think I didn’t follow up, because, as it turns out, there’s at least one webcomic out there that tried to squeeze humor out of that show. The creatively capitalized HijiNKS Ensue, a webcomic written and illustration by Joel Watson, is proof-positive that while Lost humor might be a good idea in theory, it suffers a little in execution. In the end we’re all going to fall back to “Hurley’s so fat” jokes.
As Scary Go Round ends, a new era begins. An era … of Bad Machinery. It looks so far to be a continuation of John Allison’s prep school stuff from his SGR days. Of course, given the leaps and bounds that SGR itself went through since its inception, who knows where Bad Machinery is going to end up.
Soooo… what do you think the odds are that Shelley Winters is going to show up before a year is over?
In other news of the week, Oglaf (NSFW) has been down for the better part of a week. I understand it’s Questionable Content‘s fault. Yessirree a link from good ol’ Jeph Jacques has disabled one of the best X-rated webcomics out there. I guess I could make a bad joke on Questionable Content wiping out something else with questionable content, but I won’t.
Apparently the standard bearers of Hi & Lois created a bit of a furor when it posted a strip criticizing webcomics. Weighing in are Josh Fruhlinger of Comics Curmudgeon, Xaviar Xerexes of ComixTalk, and Gary Tyrrell of Fleen.
Personally, I can’t muster up any emotion, negative or otherwise, over friggin’ Hi & Lois, but there you go.
Incidentally, the webcomic artist in the strip looks suspiciously like Seanbaby. Who really should be adding more commentary from Luke Cage, Mr. Fish, and Dr. Doom to his rad Hostess Fruit Pie collection.
UPDATE: Also, here’s an interview with Bloom County‘s Berkeley Breathed (h/t The Beat). It’s tangentially related to the stuff above.
Bloom County was extraordinarily popular in the 1980s, a decade where along with Calvin & Hobbes, Doonesbury, and The Farside, it created a kind of renaissance for the funny pages. How different is the situation with newspaper strips today? Did the changes in the size of panels play a role in your recent decision to abandon newspaper strips? Will newspaper comics (and newspapers) survive? Have you ever thought about doing an online comic strip?
This is a sad topic but I’m going to be blunt. Newspapers have about five years left. Young readers of the newspaper comics simply don’t exist anymore in numbers that count. Those eyeballs are elsewhere and will not come back. Online comics are terrific. But they will never have 1% of the readership any major comic had 20 years ago, by the nature of the technology. They’re different beasts now. No, after having 70 million daily readers in 1985, getting 3000 a day online isn’t terribly energizing at this stage. I’m happy to go to the storytelling potential of film and books now. My heart was always there anyway, to be honest.
Oh, Lord, the things I do for this site.
Inevitably people ask me, “I you hate a webcomic so much, why don’t you read something else and leave this poor comic alone?” The question is usually phrased less fluently, and the spelling is usually more atrocious, but that’s the gist of it. The answer to that question is rather complex. I, in fact, wrote an entire essay on it, cover such things as increased readership, a verbalization of what to look for, and, my favorite, revenge.
There’s one other reason that I didn’t cover in my essay: the triple-dog double dare.
Not too long ago, a loyal reader of The Webcomic Overlook suggested that I ransom my mental sanity by actually reading and reviewing Jack. I won’t reveal his name, but he does write a comic I like where a green haired girl runs around totally starkers. (And it’s pretty good, too … surprisingly.) This reader was quite likely Lucifer himself. I swear I smelled the faintest whiff of brimstone as I was reading his e-mail.
However, against my better judgment, I decided to take him up on this challenge. To quote Nathan Rabin: “I was motivated by the purest, most powerful impulse known to man: the need to prove myself intellectually to an anonymous stranger on the Internet.” So I did some stretches, a couple deep breaths as prescribed by my sexy lady trainer on the Wii Fit, and plunged into the world of Jack.
The following is a sordid recollection of what happened next.
WARNING: The content below is definitely not kid-friendly, and is most likely not safe for work. Let’s just say if you click on any of the links, and your boss decides to send you straight to a company licensed psychiatrist, then it was your own damn fault.