The Webcomic Overlook #174: Original Life
It’s been said that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. After reviewing some 200-plus webcomics, it’s a statement I’m inclined to agree with. I know instantly when something merits a lower rating: you feel rage utterly and ultimately consuming you. Love and hate both have passion on their side. Apathy is by definition the lack of passion.
This is why I love to watch terrible movies like the ones they used to show on MST3K, but fidget uncontrollably through recent middling fare like Green Lantern. Part of the fun is catching yourself when the movie really gets to you, where you just want to launch out of your seat with an incredulous, “Oh, come on!” It’s the same philosophy that separates one star reviews from three star reviews on this site. One star webcomics fill me with so much rage that I want to get my fiery hot vengeance on the comic as swiftly as possible. Thee star webcomics leave me feeling listless and blase. There is no urgency.
It also means, though, that there’s very little here to make me want to give a crap. The webcomic still manages to irk me from time to time, and much of that has to do with Naylor’s political stance. I try never to turn these reviews into a political discussion, since that’s hardly ever productive to a site that claims, ironically, that “webcomic reviews are serious business.” However, I fear that this time it will be unavoidable. Apologies in advance for any libertarian toes I step on.
By the way, while this review is likely going to be safe for work, I should warn you that last time I clicked on to Original Life, the banner consisted of furry asses in bikini bottoms. Also there are multiple links to Naylor’s porn projects. Soooo… proceed at your discretion.
John Galt Fisk Black, is now married in a very sterile and passionateless relationship with Elizabeth, the Jewish mouse he decided to spend his life with in the last arc. OK, so it’s not portrayed that way, but even in Better Days I could never see Fisk and Elizabeth as anything more than a marriage of convenience. I guess I can’t argue with the logic that you’ll have a conflict-free marriage if you find a woman who will never, ever question you on anything.
Now, Naylor makes it very clear that he doesn’t hold religion in high regard. However, he has no problem portraying our first couple as being holy and blameless. Fisk, especially, is impossibly saintly. For example, a fellow tempestuous co-worker tries to seduce him in one storyline. However, when she sees how truly incredible of a family man Fisk is, she sees the error of her ways. Fisk also believes in hands free parenting, letting his kids decide whatever they want to believe. Of course, given the choice, the kids will always choose Fisk’s morality of self-determinism… because, hey, when has Fisk ever been wrong?
(Hint: it’s never.)
Perhaps the parents seem like unquestionable stalwarts of morality because we’re seeing things from kid’s perceptive. (Though even that rings hollow. Hey, remember in Better Days when Fisk’s mom was a brash, single parent who was riddled with character deficiencies? Sure, she was pretty much just another sounding board for Naylor’s beliefs, but at least she was interesting. And yes, I am referring to Better Days in positive terms. Kill me.) Have you ever wondered what the offspring of a cat and a mouse would look like? Welllll… they end up all looking like cats. So I guess mouse gene is rather recessive.
There’s Abby, the youngest one. She is precocious, imaginative, and skilled at the art of killing. In her strips, she imagines herself as a mad scientist or a hot, cleavage-baring nurse. Abby stories are actually kinda fun, so I give her a pass.
The middle child is
<a clone of Fisk Black from early Better Days Thomas. He’s wild and uncontrollable, sort of the Bart Simpson of the family. Well, that is until he goes too far, holes himself up in a tree house, and receives a rather preachy vision from out of nowhere about how you have the right to own whatever you build. Having been confronted with the lessons of Objectivism early on, Thomas now seems to be on the path of being a model citizen.
Finally, there Janie, the oldest sister. She is spiritually curious, though, like any normal teenager, her journey will lead her back to accepting the beliefs of her parents. She’s also a gifted athlete. There’s a storyline where she tries out for the cheerleading team. She’s naturally very good, which causes jealousy among the other cheerleaders. But there, disaster strikes, and she’s sidelined with an injury. Suddenly everyone’s nice to her. Everyone except her brother, who sneers at her when he can. But, you see, from Janie’s point of view, her brother is the one who’s really trying to help her out by pushing her. Those people that are trying to be nice to her? They’re only doing so because they’re secretly rejoicing in her injury, and all they want for her to be is average.
Wow. Talk about paranoid. It strikes me that The Incredibles made the same point about people with exceptional skills, an how people who are good at their jobs should be allowed to do so. However, would Brad Bird and company also argue that people who are nice to you when you’re injured are secretly conspiring to knock you down to levels of being average? I doubt it.
It’s almost a comfort that Naylor’s love for strawman arguments doesn’t wane. Now, on the plus side, there are no stories where the guy who doesn’t agree with Naylor’s philosophies turns out to be an abusive monster who deserves to be assassinated while lying defenseless in bed. I think that even Naylor figured out that this was ridiculously extreme. It’s been replaced, though, with something just as ridiculous.
Earlier this year, Original Life ran a libertarian fable centered on a tubby fellow named Jeffery who is good at making muffins. Our opening sequence tries ever so hard to sound like The Fountainhead:
A man’s genius takes shape, motivated by his desire to produce and create. The elements are there for him to understand, and therefore command. The natural world is not enough for the creative man. He forges it to his needs. The fires of industry burn under the direction his plans. It’s not the pleasure of the rest that motivates him. It is the pleasure of doing.
Admittedly, I was a little intrigued to see where Naylor was going with this. Enter our villainess: a bunny whose name I can’t bother to look up. She works for the school newspaper. (Boo!) She was introduced earlier as a flaky, shallow New Ager. Trust me, this becomes a plot point. Jeffery refuses to give her any muffins because she wrote a piece in the paper about the evils of capitalism, and he cannot stand her political stance. Well, OK, that’s his prerogative, but I think most people would make the distinction between the microeconomic system that Jeffery’s practicing and the macroeconomic philosophy that our Commie bunny probably wrote up. Anyway, we never really get any rebuttal from Commie bunny because she immediately goes to sneering at Jeffery for not sharing and threatens to slander him in the press.
That Naylor… so subtle.
Eventually, superheroes get involved. That is not a typo. Neither is it yet another of Abby’s imagination of the real world. Kids dress up, take Jeffery’s side, and save him from the forces that would exploit his business. I suppose a superhero makes a more cutting image than, say, union busters, so I suppose you need to use some poetic license in your furry tale about an aggrieved high school businessman.
Jeffery remains cool, calm and collective, even when he’s justifying why his beliefs dictate that he has to give the Justice Defender a nice pay-off. Oh, sure it looks skeezy to those damn media types, but a man should be compensated for the services he provides. Meanwhile, Commie bunny exposes her true intentions. In a long megamaniacal rant, she reveals that her spiritual journey has lead her nowhere, and now she’s fully devoted to the prospect of crushing individuality. It turns out that, deep down inside, everyone believes the same way that
Naylor Jeffery does, and people who oppose his beliefs are either manipulative hypocrites or blind, naive dittoheads.
I’m pretty sure that this one comic drawn by someone who is not Naylor sums it all up rather handily.
I guess I could go on and on, like how the comic sometimes sounds like it was written by a cranky old man ( like this one comic lampooning hypocritical hipsters who turned on Apple for selling out), but that makes Original Life sound way more interesting than it really is. I think that while the artwork is better than the early Better Days stuff, every character now seems to permanently have a blank look on their faces. I guess that’s what happens when the characters only come equipped with two settings: either always right or always wrong.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)