One Punch Reviews #38: Oh, Brother!

Change can be a scary thing. In the words of the late, great Phil Hartman: “”Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m just a caveman. I fell on some ice and was later thawed by some of your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me!” Among those who are frightened an confused these days are the good people who work at the newspapers, a respected institution that is slow to change and feeling the pain as technology starts to pass them by.

That’s why, last year, stalwart old King Features Syndicate (who are so old that they’re still distributing The Katzenjammer Kids, of all things) decided to shed their simple caveman ways and take a plunge into the world of webcomics.

Oh, Brother! was created by Bob Weber Jr. (cartoonist for synicated comics Slylock Fox and Comics for Kids, both of which I loved to read when growing up) and Jay Stephens (of the TV cartoon The Secret Saturdays, which aired when I was too old to be watching the kiddie stuff). It is the first syndicated strip to be receive “the full webcomic treatment.” What does that mean? Apparently, it means having its own site rather than being bundled on syndicated one-stop shops like Comics.com and GoComics.com.

Oh, Brother! stars two siblings: older sister Lily, who is stern, responsible, and maternal; and younger brother Bud, who has an insatiable appetite for sugary foods and a love for snakes. They have parents who are alluded to, but, in the grand tradition of Peanuts, are never seen in the comic itself. The content of each comic is, typically, Lily nags Bud about something, Bud acts like a brat, and Lily gets an exasperated look on her face like she swallowed a lemon or something. From time to time, Weber and Stephens change it up: sometimes Lily cracks a smile at the end or Bud gets his comeuppance or owned in a battle of wits. And sometimes they’re precious little sweeties.

But the formula is generally inviolable.

Yes, the comic is a little repetitive, but when viewed through the eyes of its target kiddie audience, repetitiveness is not such a big deal. After all, Sesame Street — our culture’s greatest educational institution — was founded on jumping the hurdle of short preschool attention spans by repeating the same two-letters and one number for the duration of an hour. Well, that is until educators discovered that interactivity (a la Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer) could be an even more effective tool, thus prompting Children’s Television Workshop to replace their content with those Elmo’s World segments. But that’s beside the point. Kids are totally OK with repetition. I can’t speak for them on whether Oh, Brother! is either a drag or comedy gold.

However, speaking as an older reader, the repetitiveness does wear on you. If you’ve seen one strip, you’ve seen them all. In a way, that’s also a bit of a throwback to the days when Hi & Lois and Beetle Bailey ruled the Earth. The biggest difference, though, is that Oh, Brother! hasn’t yet cultivated a supporting cast that break the comics out beyond the eternal feedback loop between two main characters. With Beetle Bailey, at least you got General Halftrack and Miss Buxley vignettes when the whole Sarge/Beetle interplay got tired, you know what I’m saying? The most Oh, Brother! provides is Bradford, an annoying rich kid, but he appears in less strips than I have fingers. Perhaps Weber and Stephens are still trying to establish the repartee between their dynamic duo … but by my count, the comic is almost 200 strips long, and I imagine even the young readers would appreciate something different.

I will say, though, that the simple art is quite nice. And that Weber and Stephens are apparently honoring their comic strip roots by updating the comic on a daily schedule despite holding down full time jobs that actually pay them money. That discipline, dedication, and devotion toward creating a webcomic within the syndicate system is super commendable.

Final Grade: 3 stars (out of 5).

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on January 6, 2011, in 3 Stars, all ages webcomic, comedy webcomic, One Punch Reviews, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Thank you for you thoughtful and fair review. Your points are well taken. Oh, Brother! has been lucky to be championed early on by talents like Scott Kurtz, Mark Tatulli, Craig Yoe and other, But Jay and I know we can always do better, and I hope you will follow us in our attempts.

    Bob Weber Jr.
    http://ohbrothercomics.com/comics/july-25-2010

  2. Wow, Bob Weber Jr himself! Slylock Fox was one of my favorite comics growing up. Keep up the good work!

    El Santo, nice job with the site. I’ve been checking it regularly ever since I stumbled upon the Brawl in the Family review so long ago. It’s cool that you’ve got some long-time comic artists popping in to see what you’ve written.

    About Oh, Brother, this was my first exposure to it. It’s quite cute and pleasant, and reminds me of one of the better syndicated comics. I just checked the linked strips so I can’t really say if the formula would get old or not, but comics like these seem to be most effective when read one-a-day (or so) rather than through the now-traditional archive binge (when fatigue is more likely to set in). Nice review.

  3. Same here, we even got shylock for a while in my hometown of Ensenada for quite a while. I like how the art has evolved and sometimes some more light hearted humor is needed for the younger readers.

  4. Even though this is still a huge step that King Features has taken, I’m pretty sure FoxTrot beat it to the “first syndicated strip with its own site” title.

    And it does seem a little repetitious now, but it’s only been around for a few months. Think about all the tie early Peanuts spent being Charlie, Violet, Snoopy, and SHERMY for God’s sake.

  5. Definitely has a very old time-y feel to it. Short and sweet, but yeah I’d imagine having more characters would make it more interesting.

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