The Webcomic Overlook #166: The Gutters

With regards to The Webcomic Overlook, the question I get asked the most is, “El Santo, if think you’re such an authority on webcomics, why don’t you write one yourself?”

My answer is: BECAUSE. DAMMIT.

The second most asked question is, “When are you going to review Least I Could Do?”

This is an incredibly loaded request. It’s a comic that gets tons of love from people that generally I respect. It is also, paradoxically, one of the most reviled webcomics of all time. I’ve got to admit that these conflicting standpoints would make for a hell of a review.

However, being someone of the latter disposition, I have a hard time reading more than ten LICD strips in a row. I know, I know… I’m the same guy that read Jack and Ctrl+Alt+Del. How could I be possibly fazed by LICD? Well, the first two are at least enjoyable to watch go off the rails in a “Can this comic get any worse?” sort of way. From what I’ve seen of LICD, it’s the same thing day in and day out, and I have a hard time imagining that it would ever keep my attention.

I’m not discounting a review of LICD outright. However, sadistic readers of The Webcomic Overlook, I offer you a taste. This next review is written by LICD writer Ryan Sohmer, and periodically illustrated by Lar deSouza. By my estimates, it is at least 53% created by the LICD crew. The webcomic is a little thing called The Gutters.

I understand that plenty of Webcomic Overlook readers are comic fans but are not necessarily superhero fans. If so, then you are not the gutter audience. Rest assured that The Gutters is not for you. The Gutters is aimed at the continuity-obsessed, nitpicky, basement-dwelling neckbeards who can name all of the seven Corps in the Green Lantern comics without looking it up on Wikipedia.

In other words, me.

So you super cool non-superhero-comic reading dudes can check out of this review right now.

The Gutters is a comic industry parody and editorial. Sometimes they’re spoofs about recent comic book plotlines, like the one where Superman renounced his American citizenship or when Wonder Woman donned her new pants-enabled outfit. Sometimes it can get very insider, like the digs at Dan Didio and Joe Quesada. It is a webcomic designed to be consumed by the most obsessive nerds on earth.

Illustrations are handled by several different artists, many of whom The Webcomic Overlook has given high marks to. Hell, Eisner nominees Karl Kerschl and Shannon Wheeler have drawn a strip each, for example. This makes it very difficult for me to judge The Gutters objectively. In fact, there are a lot of times where the artist does the legwork to significantly elevate the quality of an individual strip. I admit smiling a little with Annie Wu’s depiction of a dancing Prof X. And, what can I say, Guy Allen’s retro style was perfect on a strip about the Invaders, WWII era comic heroes from Timely (the precursor to Marvel Comics). If anything, The Gutters does the Lord’s work by exposing a lot of lesser known artists to a wide audience, which I estimate is somewhere between 50K and 100K readers.

At the same time, The Gutters is one of the most unfunny comic book parody series that I have ever read. And yes, I have read Marvel’s What The–?! If the main purpose if the webcomic was for different artists to draw pictures of superheroes, then why isn’t this just a collective illustration gallery or something? It probably would’ve worked better.

Most of the blame can be placed on the writing. And by “the writing,” I mean “Ryan Sohmer.” It’s possibly less funny than what he’s got to work with in Least I Could Do, simply because he has a bigger page to fill. Sohmer tends to stretch the jokes until he’s beating them to death like that dead horse in that one metaphor. For example, there’s a strip where Deadpool thinks Fantomex is Storm Shadow. There’s another strip where Jim Lee tells us how DC Comics is managed by monkeys. The first is actually kinda clever, and the second … can pretty much be used as the punchline for any joke.

Both of these concepts are one panel gags at best. Yet they’re stretched out long past the point of being funny. Deadpool keeps poking at Fantomex (which isn’t really that much of a gag, since Marvel would probably do that gag anyway if they still had the rights to the Hasbro properties), and monkey-flinging gag has four full panels of dialogue that could be pretty much anything in the world and yet have the same punchline. (The Seven Soldiers? DC is run by poo-flinging monkeys. Superman walking the Earth? DC is run by poo-flinging monkeys. See? The uninspired punchline works for EVERYTHING!) Yes, there are times when extending the joke as long as possible can lead to humorous results. You lose a lot of the spontaneity, though, when dragging the punchline becomes the default go-to gag for the entire webcomic. Then it comes off as somewhat insecure, as if the writer has so little confidence in the joke that he has to keep piling on the “funny”.

Not that the single panel ones are gold, either. Take, for instance, one comic about BOOM! Studios mining every Disney property imaginable. The punchline is that they’re now adapting Steamboat Willie, which is cuh-razy. I dont necessarily agree with the sentiment: at the time the comic was created, BOOM! had 11 Disney adaptations — a small drop in the huge ocean of Disney properties — and pretty much all of them were critically well received. But say that you do agree with Sohmer. Maybe BOOM! is a bunch of cold-blooded opportunists, and they deserved all the hardships coming to them after the Marvel acquisition by Disney. Let’s get to the punchline, which is Mickey turning to the viewer and sneering, “It’s twenty-two pages of me on a boat!”

Oh my God.

Comedy. GOLD.

There’s a lot of times that I felt that Sohmer totally botched the punchline because he’s just not really that much of a comic nerd himself. Like, he knows the basic outlines of the latest comic drama bombs, but doesn’t know enough to make a really great insider joke. Take, for example, the comic dealing with The Rise and Fall of Arsenal. This infamously terrible comic has been pooh-poohed by many comic fans online, including a great post by Brian Hibbs of The Savage Critics where he calls it “The worst comic I have ever read.” So what’s The Gutter’s take on the comic? That comic fans are rejoicing that “one reader discovers who Arsenal is.” SHENANIGANS! NO ONE cares if anyone else finds out about Arsenal! NO ONE! And I’m the guy who plunked down the $1.75 for New Titans #99, the issue that Speedy took on the Arsenal identity!

(Yeah, I got it because I liked the new outfit. Sue me. It was the 90’s, and I was young and foolish.)

And then there’s the one where Sohmer makes fun of Stan Lee’s NHL Guardians project by thinking up of some silly iterations of NHL-based heroes. The Maple Leaf: he blows! The Islander: he harasses tourists! Why aren’t these funny? Well, beyond an incredibly lame attempt at being offensive (don’t ask what Sohmer came up for the Calgary Flames), it turns out that Stan Lee’s actual superhero creations were far goofier than anything that Sohmer could’ve dreamed up. Bloody hell, The Maple Leaf actually shoots maple syrup from his fingers. It’s kinda embarassing that Sohmer got out Stan-Lee’d by Stan Lee, and frankly, I’m not sure who I feel more pity for. All I know is that Stan Lee’s creations were kinda funny, while Sohmer’s creations were not.

I could go on and on. How one strip is reduced to Yoda smacking down The Flash with an “Offends me, your speed force does. Bitch.” Because Yoda said a swear! Or how the punchline for another strip is that Superman said a swear. Oh no he didn’t! Maybe I’m looking at this wrong and Sohmer knows his audience better than I thought. After all, the humor is, at best, puerile and adolescent, and comics are theoretically consumed primarily by adolescents. Maybe The Gutters pushes all the right buttons.

But I’d like to imagine that today’s adolescents are more sophisticated than this lame crap gives them credit for.

Unsurprisingly, some of the most odious strips are collaborations between Ryan Sohmer and Least I Could Do running mate Lars DeSouza. I mean, a Chuck Norris joke in 2011? F***ing really? There is something undeniably smug and self-satisfied with deSouza’s artwork, and it never comes off as ironically so. All the characters have to sort of “these guys aren’t as funny as they think they are” vibe to them.

Now, which guys am I talking about? The characters in the strip, or Sohmer/deSouza? Ah, but that is the mystery. I guess that’s something to look forward to if I decide to review Least I Could Do … you know, after I take a handful of those scary meds where they run the disclaimer about the risk of suicidal tendencies.

Rating: 2 Stars (out of 5)

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 May 15, 2011, in 2 Stars, comedy webcomic, comics, pop culture caricatures, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 47 Comments.

  1. …and yet Wally Wood could never make his rent.

  2. Sohmer’s writing is brain poison and Lars’s faces are eyeball poison. When they work together it’s like chocolate and peanut butter, except everything is poison.

    Do you have any experience with Looking For Group? Seems like it has most of the problems this comic does, only way magnified.

  3. I foresee a lot of comments in the near future.
    Anyway I dont understand how the author is able to sell a gutters book if all are copyrigthed characters and it not a t shirt , he is selling a comicbook using other companies characters.

    And dont forget gutters doesnt have any competition besides comic critics and lets be friends again webcomics that Im aware off, so they got the comic nerd niche (for the of a better word) for themselves who consume everything that has any mention of superheroes.

    • It falls under Fair Use, since everything is done in parody (for instance, Robot Chicken can sell DVDs of copyrighted characters because it’s in parody).

      • I think I saw a piece on TV, though, where Seth Green does spend a fair amount of time trying to secure legal rights for the various parodies he does on Robot Chicken. Plus, Adult Swim is under the Warner Brothers umbrella … which gives you a pretty huge library off the bat (like all the DC Comics and Hanna Barbera characters).

        • I saw this with Family Guy as well. There is also a relatively well known story about Weird Al and his parody of an Eminem song.
          I think it’s mostly because Fair Use is often circumvented by other laws, like the DMCA. Fair Use also doesn’t stop a company from launching a frivilous law suit to financially deter people from exercising their rights.

  4. Am I the only one who thinks that the main character from “Least I Could Do” looks like the best friend from “Ctrl+Alt+Del”? And no, I’m not going to bother to look up either of their names.

    It’s not just me, right? I mean, they’re drawn in different art styles, but I could totally see them being the same character as drawn by different people.

  5. You actually made it through 10 LICD strips?!… You are a stronger man than I Santo.

  6. A lot of people seem to like Least I Could Do. However I wouldn’t give anything higher than 1 star and I’m going to accept the whole “a matter of preference” thing. I instinctively dislike anyone who likes LICD. I try not to but can’t.

  7. What the heck is up with the nipple on the foot in the Chuck Norris one? And I understand that part of the “joke” is that the fantastic four have been neutralized by Dr. Doom, but what the heck is the Invisible Woman being held back by? Is this some sort of sexist as a woman she can’t do anything anyway? Did she suddenly develop a weakness to velvet ropes?

  8. The main thing I don’t like about this and LFG is the “obvious” humor*. I don’t like obvious humor. I’m smart enough to get the joke without having it beat over my head, thanks. O_o However, lots of internet dwellers seem to love it.

    *Also, the lazy pot-shots. Har har, Zatanna’s a stripper. Get it, cuz she’s dressed all slutty-like? …sigh. (Should I even get into the underlying meaning of having her say “(I’m) the most powerful magician in the world!” and then her being quickly brought down by the male, “real” superheroes as the “slut” she is? There was really no reason to have her say that unless the main joke was less about her outfit and more about a “take THAT, bitch” to sexy superheroines that think they could have ever tangled with the boys. Analysis over.)

  9. I hope Sohmer learns to write a funny joke one day. That Zatanna one gets passed around a lot, I hate looking at it… How do two people who make comics not see how bad it is? The pacing would be improved a hundred times by reducing the whole thing to panels 2,5,6 and removing all the erroneous extras. And not making the sound effect of her boobs “squelch,” since that is the sound of someone stepping in dog crap.

    • I disagree with you about the pacing here. As far as I can understand it, the joke for this strip is “putting an uppity woman in her place.” Panels 5 and 6 don’t really contribute to the main idea, they are just there to further humiliate Zatanna on her journey from the most powerful magician in panel 3 to stripper in panel 7. Anyone amused by the joke without 5 and 6, probably thinks the humiliation depicted just adds to the humor and likes that it was broken down into two steps.

      Why this needed both an establishing shot panel and a “Zatanna arrives” panel is sort of a question. Well I guess the establishing shot is needed to explain all of the superfluous super heroes since Batman and Zatanna have an established relationship outside of the Justice League.

  10. I agree the writing is, well, it’s not even humor. It’d be the Marmaduke of comics if Marmaduke weren’t already a comic itself. Still, Santo has a point in that it’s a good place to see new art talent–that Invaders page looks awesome. For that reason I subscribe to Gutters in my Google Reader. Though when the dream team of deSouza and Sohmer are featured…ugh.

    If there’s any lesson in titles like Gutters it’s that ability doesn’t matter so much as ubiquity and consistency. You have to admit that they’re constantly putting out content, and that’s impressive especially considering the number of strips they author.

    • Yeah, it’s consistent, but it’s consistently crappy. Consistency is important, but there has to be some other redeeming qualities.

  11. Man and I thought Sohmer’s humor got tiresome with LiCD and Looking For Group. Though I do like whoever did the art on that Mark Millar one…

    • That’s Shannon Wheeler, the guy behind Too Much Coffee Man and Eisner nominee I Thought You Would Be Funnier!

      • Sure ’nuff.

        I didn’t know anything about the Gutters when I did the strip. I also didn’t know who Mark Millar was… I think it’s great that the strip and Mark are so popular.

        I’m sort of an idiot.

        I’m loving the Santo reviews though. These are great.

  12. What pains me about this is that it has so much potential to be a really cool project. I really like the idea of a comic all done by one writer with a series of rotating artists could be really cool! Unfortunately, Sohmer had to be the one writing it. Any charm or value from the comics presented were certainly not the result of him.

    Seriously, imagine if Ryan North was doing this.

    • Everyone is always enthused about Ryan North, but I’ve always seen him as someone who took the medium of comics and ignored exactly 50% of it (that would be the visual part of comics). And with him being on the panel of judges (a panel that had not one member capable of producing art, but was presented as containing the cream of the webcomics world) on the Escapist Magazine comic contest (which produced a comic with objectively worse art and writing than The Gutters, BTW) I’ve started placing serious doubts at the claims of his brilliance.

      • Dude writes funny stuff. And despite his “shunning” (Dude can’t draw so well. If he could I imagine he would.) of one half of comics, he has still developed a good sense of timing over the years he’s been at it.

        And hey, sometimes cartoonists are bad at judging other cartoons. That is a fact of nature.

    • One writer – many artists – like <a href="http://www.spinningtoinfinity.com/&quot;?Spinning to Infinity?

  13. Ah, so I’m not the only one to present the LICD Challenge, huh? Really, though, I’m not sure you’d even need to read the entire archive of the thing… the impression I’ve had of it was that it was pretty homogenous. Just sexism and supposedly-humorous antics as far as the eye can see.

    • Oh, I’m totally stoked to do it now. The entire thing or nothing. I’m preparing myself by doing some cardio and lamaze exercises and stuff so I’m can tackle the entire archive like that Man vs. Food guy tackles the Giant Burrito (that guy totally stole my luchador gimmick by the way).

  14. As far as I’m concerned, all you needed to do was mention Sohmer’s name.
    The day that man puts out something worthwhile I’ll eat my own shoes(I probably won’t).
    I too tried to read LICD once. Gave up halfways through. All the characters in that comic are complete shits, but initially I though that was the point. That they were intended to be the sort you love to hate.
    A webcomic entirely populated by intentionally unsympathetic characters? How novel, I want to see where this’ll go(I admit I was somewhat naïve).
    It all fell apart when I realized that I was actually supposed to identify with these assholes, and it didn’t help that the punchline to just about every joke is sex, either.
    LFG surpasses it, though only because LICD set the bar so low that it would be virtually impossible to go lower.
    In my book, all three comics get a default score of two middle fingers.

  15. It’s always sad when the review is funnier than the source material. And the source material claims to be comedy.

  16. Great, so we’ve got misogyny, boob jokes, swearing as a punchline, an ‘I don’t like or understand it so it all sucks’ slam at manga artists… are we totally sure that Ryan Sohmer isn’t a fourteen year old boy?

    • hmm good point. I really don’t understand what they find so funny about the manga style fork joke. And I hate stupid boob jokes. they are stupid.

  17. Pretty much constantly unfunny, occasionally sexist… Gutters is a good name for this comic, because that’s where it belongs

  18. lol i like your response to “why don’t you write a webcomic?”, totally legit.
    Its probably for the same reason that webcomic makers don’t review other webcomics (well, as far as I know, which isn’t very far).

  19. I found that one deadpool one on stumbleupon but was unable to to find any sort of navigation buttons so I left it at that and din’t care to read more.

  20. In a positive note: Shannon Wheeler can make writing the word “Bitch” classy.

  21. Hoo boy, this is awkward.

    I think I found LICD in eighth grade (that is, 2008) and I think it was spring break at the time, because I read through the WHOLE THING.

    And I kinda liked it.

    I’m a person that judges something based on its hits and misses. If it has just enough hits, I’ll stick around. I remember laughing at a few of the comics in LICD. Some time later, I abandoned it. Now, yeeeah, it’s not that good. The art is very wonky, but really, I kinda wish I could draw like that. It’s not amazing, but at least he could draw what he want without it looking waaay off.

  22. One of the worst parts of this comic is Sohmer’s ego. If he thinks it, it’s a fact. He can’t understand Grant Morrison’s writing, so obviously no one can (Batman RIP was one of my favourite comics of all time and I know many people who loved Final Crisis). Sohmer doesn’t read Birds of Prey, so it’s obviously a failure that DC needs to stop supporting, even though according to ICV2 it’s almost in the top 50 highest selling comics of all time.

    PS Can I write a Looking For Group review for you guys?

  23. LICD is such a shameless Gary Stu wankfest I’m surprised it has as many fans as it does.

    The only good thing to come out of Sohmer’s opus is Smug I Could Do. http://www.drunkduck.com/Smug_I_Could_Do/

  24. This was just nominated for 6 Harvey awards!! How? I mean, I don’t put much stock in awards… But 6?! Somebody called in some favors it appears.

    • Nominations for the Harvey Awards are selected exclusively by creators – those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, design, edit or are otherwise involved in a creative capacity in the comics field. They are the only industry awards both nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals. Thank you to all that have already participated by submitting a nomination ballot.

      how many pros worked on gutters more than 100, how many of them got friends or family members in the business…….

  25. Howdy! I just would like to give a huge thumbs up for the nice info you have got here on this
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  1. Pingback: The Webcomic Overlook #168: Looking For Group | The Webcomic Overlook

  2. Pingback: The Gutt- … er … Harvey Awards 2011 | The Webcomic Overlook

  3. Pingback: The Webcomic Overlook #200: Least I Could Do | The Webcomic Overlook

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