The Webcomic Overlook #131: AmazingSuperPowers
Located to the lower left of the AmazingSuperPowers webcomic title is a jolly-looking creature with no arms, no legs, and no nose. His head sways back and forth at a comfortable pace, while his face, for the most part, maintains a pleasingly blank expression. Typically, there’s a halo over his head … but not always.
The FAQ calls him the “Godslug.” He looks more like a worm, if you ask me.
Every time you refresh the page, Godslug dons a new and different costume. Sometimes, he appears as an angel or a demon, sometimes he appears as a tourist or a redneck, but most of the time he runs the pop culture gamut. Sometimes he is dressed like Mr. T. Sometimes he is dressed like Queen Elizabeth II. Sometimes he’s dressed like Homestar Runner. And, if you’re very lucky, sometimes his face morphs into a remarkable facsimile of Barney Fife.
This may seem like a lot to write about a simple webcomic mascot, but trust me, Godslug is easily the most entertaining part of AmazingSuperPowers. The comic was written by two guys only known as Wes and Tony, two guys who met on a college improve comedy team who now are putting their own sense of humor on the internet for all to see.
So, as you might be able to guess when it comes to humor webcomic titles, AmazingSuperPowers has nothing to do with guys in capes or the two Cold War rivals or the tag team of Hulk Hogan and “The Macho Man” Randy Savage. It also has nothing to do with Godslug, quelle dommage. Rather, it is sort of a violent sight gag webcomic in the tradition of Cyanide & Happiness.
While reading through the archives of AmazingSuperPowers, one particular strip baffled me. The first panel showed the exterior of a strip club, with a bunch of cheesy neon signs, including a big one advertising “Live Nudes.” The second panel showed a man being hauled away by the police. The last panel was exactly the same as the first one, only with the “Live” sign shorted out. I stared at it for half a minute, trying in vain to figure out what the punchline was. Defeated, I scrolled down to the comments section to see if anyone provided an explanation. It turns out I wasn’t the only one confused.
My God, had I stumbled on a latter day “Cow Tools”? That is, was it a strip so baffling that the bafflement itself ends up making the reputation and elevates a simple gag strip into one where befuddlement becomes part of the charm and a hallowed component of AmazingSuperPowers lore?
Eventually, though, someone chimed in with the actual explanation: “he killed them.”
After which, I slammed my head onto my desk. Of course! How could I have been so blind? I mean, the punchline of 50% of every AmazingSuperPowers strip is either “he killed them” or “they all died in the end.” It’s as if my mind was searching for a much better punchline and managed to skip the most obvious and laziest one.
I do like it when you have to do a little work to get the joke … even though thhe payoff, in this case, was totally not with it. Still, despite not being remotely funny, “Live Nudes” is, at least, clever. That’s better than I can say for the solid majority of strips in AmazingSuperPowers.
Remember that chainsawsuit strip that showed “Every Perry Bible Fellowship” ever? Obviously, Kris Straub is exaggerating. The comic ignores Gurewich’s fantastic artwork and overall pleasant cadence so that, even when you get to the ironic punchline, it doesn’t feel at odds with what came before. However, Wes & Tony seem to have taken that chainsawsuit‘s farcical ethic to heart. The early strips, especially, read like bad PBF parodies.
AmazingSuperPowers is the sort of comic where two people are just talking — all normal like, ho hum, nothing to see here — and the punchline ends up being someone getting their eyes gouged out. Or maybe we switch it up, and the punchline is “people are assholes.” Or, I don’t know, “Rape.” (Seriously, Shakesville got upset over Penny Arcade and not over this?)
Scandalous! Have you ever seen such vulgarities?
Well yes… and better done, even. A lot of great webcomics that rely on shock value for humor. The difference? They do it well. Both Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (reviewed here) and Buttersafe (reviewed here) do a fantastic job setting up the reader to expect one kind of shock joke only to be delivered another kind entirely. Thingpart (reviewed here) lulls you with its cuteness, while Gunshow (reviewed here) heightens the gags with impeccable timing and old school cartooniness.
AmazingSuperPowers does none of these things. There is no shock value, only predictability. And there’s something off-putting about the art. The current strips are more polished than the early versions, which were crude looking affairs. Yet modern strips, awash in solid colors and thick lines, end up looking absolutely generic, as if it should be stocked at Costco under the Kirkland brand. It’s like Wes & Tony had hit the Uncanny Valley between stick figure webcomics and garden variety video game comics.
There is one benefit to being so predictable, by the way: the strips that had nothing to do with a crude, “shocking” punchline actually turned out to be pretty funny. For example, you’re bracing yourself for something bad to happen in a strip entitled “Test your strength,” but when a different outcome happens, I let out a laugh. Genuine humor? Relief? It’s complex.
I even enjoyed a fair number of the early strips for their sheer surrealism. Why does this chicken have muscular arms? Who cares? It’s a buff chicken. That’s all the joke you need.
Still, the good jokes are clocking in at around 1 good to 10 bad. With that kind of batting average, I can’t really recommend AmazingSuperPowers. Or, should I say, UnderwhelmingStuper… Depowers. (Whatever. Back off!) Still, if Wes & Tony somehow update this webcomic to include the Adventures of Godslug, I may feel a little more charitable in the future.
Rating: 2 Stars (out of 5)