The Webcomic Overlook #200: Least I Could Do
Well, it’s finally come to this.
If you’d asked me five years ago that I’d be approaching this milestone, I would’ve thought you crazy. My goals were simple when I started this site. I only wanted to review more webcomics than any other site ever has before. I think that mark has long passed. Then, after I’d reviewed my 100th review, I thought to myself, “Well, I have nothing more to prove. I think I’ll wrap up this site in, oh, six months.” Well, it’s been two and a half years since I crossed that milestone, and this site keeps on going.
I have reviewed everything from Jack to Rice Boy to Ctrl+Alt+Del to Lackadaisy. I have seen the stunning heights of Gunnerkrigg Court and the Stygian depths of Grim Tales From Down Below. I’ve seen the fall of Zuda Comics, the controversy over dick wolves, and Order of the Stick netting a bunch of money on Kickstarter. I’ve been interviewed by a Canadian magazine for an article on Kate Beaton, and I’ve presented an hour lesson for a class on webcomics.
And now … just now … I’ve reached the milestone that I thought I’d never achieve.
That’s right: today’s the day I review Least I Could Do, a rather notorious webcomic by Ryan Sohmer and Lar De Souza. It has published a comic strip every single day for almost 10 years now. That is a whole buttload of comics, people. And to a comic with such a deep archive… this is madness. THIS … IS …
…wait. Now’s not the time for a 300 parody. It’s 100 reviews too early, and… LICD has it covered. *sigh* Let’s just move along, shall we?
Readers of this site know that I try to be as thorough as possible when reading a webcomic archive. My original plan was to read the entirety of Least I Could Do from the beginning to end, experience the glory of every strip and every bawdy sex joke. Well, after reading the entire first year, I pretty much scrapped that plan. If LICD has taught me anything, there are, perhaps, only six sex jokes in the world, and to hear the same thing over and over again was seriously damaging my mental health.
Hence, like my 100th review on xkcd, I will freely admit that I did not read every strip. I read through the whole first year, then sampled two to three storylines for every year onward. I payed close attention to the storylines around the time Sohmer lets his characters age. If I missed a key storyline that redeems the entire webcomic, like if Rayne Summers is revealed to be a secret government project to impregnate women with Scott Baio clones, then feel free to correct me in the comments section, where things are always discussed with the utmost sincerity and civility.
Let’s not fool ourselves, people: the truth is that most of you have already formulated an opinion of LICD. Judging from all the people who have requested that this comic be reviewed, it’s also not a stretch to say that most readers of this site hold a negative opinion… which is understandable. I mean, who among us can take a look at Rayne Summers’ face and not think, “This is a face that needs to be punched, and punched often with increasing savagery”? Not I, my brethren. Not I.
And yet, LICD has its fans. LOTS of fans. And these aren’t people you’d expect would be fans — like, say, drunken fratboys and/or one-celled organisms. Many fans are, in fact, rather well-educated, somewhat nerdy, and decidedly multi-cell organisms.
For example, let’s take a look at the multipe awards LICD has won and/or has been nominated for:
- Wizbang!’s Weblog Awards, Won for Best Comic Strip, 2006
- WCCAs, Nominated for Ounstanding Comedic Comic, 2007
- Schuster Awards, Won for Outstanding Canadian Webcomics Creator/Creative Team, 2008
- Schuster Awards, Nominated for Outstanding Webcomic, 2009
- Harvey Awards, Nominated for Best Cartoonist, 2009
- Harvey Awards, Nominated for Best Online Comics Work, 2009
- Havey Awards, Nominated for Humor in Comics, 2009
Sohmer was also accepted as an associate member of the National Cartoonist’s Society.
And then there are the fans, many of whom are far more level-headed in their defense than you may thing. This one, for example, was written by fellow reviewer Eric Burns-White of Websnark:
Least I Could Do … is good Guy humor. It’s cheerful. The women are all busty and beautiful, the guys all handsome (even the ‘short fat guy’ isn’t all that short or all that fat… and it goes without saying that none of the girls are fat). A darn good case could be made that the strip is sexist. I don’t think the strip pretends to be anything else, however. It’s guy humor, pure and simple.
Here’s another one from John Teehan, who, by all accounts, seems to be an affable chap:
It’s a pretty fun webcomic. I’ve heard some accuse the authors of engaging in wish-fulfillment fantasy, but I take it more as a feel-good sort of comic where fun things happen to a guy who knows how to have fun and happens to be insanely lucky enough to be able to act on it.
Good Guy humor, eh? A feel-good sort of comic, eh? Well, I’m a guy, and a guy who likes to feel good, at that. I like typical guy things like pro-wrestling, football, outdoor grilling, go-karting, first-person shooters, and NBC’s hit drama series, Smash. Surely, I’m the target audience for this fine webcomic!
To review this comic, I went and downloaded the LICD app for the iPhone. I do not exaggerate when I say it’s probably the dirtiest thing I have ever done in my life. The intro screen looks like this:
And yes, I sprung for the 99 cent upgrade so I could view the archives. That’s 99 cents that could have gone to feeding the homeless. 99 cents that will instead likely go to adding breast jiggle detail to the LICD animated series. As I wrote this, by the way, I was sitting inside of a Starbucks, looking at cartoons occasionally containing naked women (and, to be fair, naked Rayne) on my high resolution iPhone 4S Retina Display while three young women are sitting at a table right next. Thank you, LICD, for making me feel like a complete perv.
These are the kinds of sacrifices I’m willing to make, people. My only consolation is that, by paying for this app, I proved Scott McCloud’s micropayment theory to be true. Suck on that, micropayment haters! SCOTT-MC-CLOUD! SCOTT-MC-CLOUD! SCOTT-MC-CLOUD!!!
So, for those of you who don’t know, LICD is about a sex man who sexes sexy women. Also he is apparently a big nerd who likes nerd things. His name is Rayne Summers. Now, if you listen closely, to the name and pick it apart, you might notice that the name sounds awfully familiar. It sounds a lot like … “Summer Rain,” the hit song recorded by Belinda Carlisle that hit #30 on the Billboard Hot 100. He is also something of an idiot savant, as he is the successful CEO of IDS Enterprises. Now, I wasn’t fortunate enough to encounter the strip where this happened, but apparently Rayne got the job in a 2005 plot when his friends falsified his resume.
I imagine that this comic wasn’t originally the Rayne Summer Show. In fact, I think that it was supposed to be an ensemble cast, and Rayne was the wacky comic relief guy. Early stories seemed to spread the plot around to the different characters. There’s — uh — the fat guy, the blond guy… er… another blond guy? … and the token female, Issa. I think I know Rayne ended up taking over the show: every other character is an absolute drag. They suck the life out of every scene that they’re in. Which is why most were eventually banished to the background, rolling their eyes, and sighing, “Oh, Rayne, you’re so wacky!”
The character I don’t get, by the way, is Issa. I mean, I know why she’s there: blatant fanservice. But why does she hang around Rayne at all? She’s got that virginal allure going on — well, relatively speaking, as she’s one of the few girls in the series who won’t jump into bed with Rayne. But that’s just it: that’s the only incentive for hanging around the guy. Other than living vicariously through him, which is why I think Rayne’s guy friends hang around. So… what’s Issa’s excuse for sticking around a pompous, leering windbag like Rayne? Because he’s rich? That’s pretty shallow. There’s some guff about her being a childhood friend, but, c’mon. Childhood friendship only gets you so far? They friends from The Social Network parted ways for far less.
In a way, it makes sense how Rayne pulls an Urkel and worms his way into becoming the star. Rayne is the resident sex pervert, and that means you have a built-in excuse to draw ladies who are either scantily clad or fully naked. What can I say: sex sells.
Second, since he’s supposed to be childish and a bit of a moron, he’s covered by the excuse that we’re not supposed to take him seriously. When not doing jokes on sex, LICD pokes fun at religion, namely Christianity. Rayne is the only characters who makes these jokes. Why? Because coming out of the mouth of any other character, it’s mean-spirited. But look! Rayne is saying it, and even though he’s a CEO, he’s a dumbhead! Gotta love him!
At the same time, it’s really, really annoying. Here’s the thing: Rayne cannot be allowed to ever progress from the standpoint of maturity… mainly because he’s a one-dimensional character. Being a sex pervert and a guy with politically incorrect opinions are about the only things that define him. Take that away and, well, you’re left with a comic that no one’s reading. This is why he’s, at best, a supporting character.
To my shock, there are attempts at fleshing Rayne out. There are plenty of LICD parodies floating around on the web where we get a glimpse into Rayne’s true self, revealing him to be an emotional wreck. What surprised me is that, reading LICD, there are a few rare times when those parodies almost come to fruition. Rayne is allowed to experience moments of sweetness, and there are indications that his heart was once broken. He experience some weird moments of ennui.
Ultimately, though, these incremental attempts at character development feel horribly inappropriate and out of place. This is the sort of comic, after all where Rayne coyly suggests branding a potential sex partner because he can’t remember her name. And also where there’s a prostitute loving referred to as “Suck for a Buck”. One side’s gotta give, and the raunchy jokes are the ones that bring in the readers.
I think that’s why a lot of the character progression falls to friend of Rayne, Noel. Noel carries the brunt of the plot development. He dates a woman named Kate. He moves in with her. He proposes and gets married. They have a child. They’re pretty much the most turgid storylines in LICD … and a big part of that is that Rayne Summers has to be shoe-horned into everything. Remember that Simpsons episode where Homer suggests, “Whenever Poochie’s not onscreen, all the other characters should be asking ‘Where’s Poochie'”? Well, Rayne is Poochie. It’s like Sohmer figured that if Rayne wasn’t on the screen, the regular readers would get bored and, I don’t know, watch The Golf Channel or something. He’s probably right, though: stripped of Rayne Summers, the strip becomes as boring and flat as NBC’s new hit drama, Smash.
(Yeah, yeah… that’s my second Smash reference in this article. This is a sordid reflection of my TV viewing habits when we’re between football seasons, people.)
LICD has been through three artists. What it was about the comic that apparently made multiple artists want to sign on, I don’t know. According to Bad Webcomics Wiki Mr. Adams left the strip for a very good reason: he actually respected women, and he saw where the strip was going. Good for him. Beyond that, Mr. Adams does succeed where the other two falter: his style makes Rayne look almost likable. In his strips, Rayne comes across as a goofy doofus.
Our second artist, Chad Porter, has an awkward start. His very second strip contains one of Rayne’s friends looking at a bunch of “sexy” women walking by and commenting, “I think the new artist is trying to get in good with you.” Only these women are bizarre rubber people. They’ve got no knees and squishy faces… which is a big problem when male gaze is a huge part of your comic. Seriously, ma’am, what’s wrong with your faaaaacccceeeee…..
The third and current artist is Lar De Souza. His original depiction of Rayne unfortunately looks a little like Scott Baio. Because when readers of LICD think of an audience identification character who sleeps with all the women, it’s Scott Baio. He is easily the most competent illustrator of the three. His character designs are attractive and unique. He breaks away from the static ground-level shot that plagues most webcomics. His style is the one that comes to mind whenever you mention Least I Could Do. There’s nothing wrong with his art alone.
However, he may be a little too good of an artist. After all, he’s managed to successfully illustrate Rayne Summers are the creepy, smarmy douche that he is.
Some of you are probably thinking that at least LICD has the balls to make a totally unlikable character the star. To which I say, “What are you talking about? Are you not reading this site? This site that reviews webcomics? You know, the medium that spawned the whole video game comic trend? The genre where every star is an arrogant, self-important little weasel?”
Characters who are unrepentant assholes, by the way, are not easy to write. Most writers at least have the decency to make that character charming. Eric Cartman from South Park, for example. He’s a vile little racist who, by all rights, the viewer should not root for. However, he’s often funny in how overblown his schemes get, and he gets hilariously flustered when things go wrong. Cartman has what Rayne lacks: a reason to root for him, despite his terrible morals.
All we get for Rayne, on the other hand, is his typical look set: heavy-lidded eyes and a shit-eating grin parodied in such works as Smug I Could Do. Actually, I’m not even sure Smug I Could Do qualifies as a parody, since it actually downplays the irritating smugness of an LICD strip. He’s less Eric Cartman and more like Soltan Gris from L. Ron Hubbard’s Mission Earth dekalogy.
(Crap. No one’s going to get that reference. Shoulda stuck with Smash. So, does anyone else agree with me that Katherine McPhee can sing well, but she can’t play a convincing Broadway star? No?)
There are times when it becomes very difficult to separate Rayne Summers the character with Ryan Sohmer, the writer. There was a plotline about Rayne buying a struggling newspaper which ended up becoming a rather preachy rant about the obsolescence of newspapers. While I agree with a lot of Rayne’s/Ryan’s points, he comes off as such an arrogant bully that you’re embarrassed to be siding with him.
Then there’s the time where Rayne/Ryan decides to bag on other webcomic artists for not being on a daily update schedule. Oh, and ending this short arc with guys dressed at Stormtroopers aiming guns at webcomic creators? Classy. Because that … proves he’s right? Somehow?
Thus, Rayne has carte blanche to be a dick to everyone. The author is always going to give him an out: a strawman argument, an improbable plot convenience, etc. There’s one storyline where Rayne has an event staffed by homeless people. When his gets called out on it, he says it’s to teach the rich people a lesson.
“What do you know about poverty that makes you qualified to educate others?” his assistant asks angrily.
Cue the plot convenience. “I know about living off of seven dollars a week on groceries,” he says. What, seriously?
Then we’re hit with the strawman argument. For no reason I can discern than to show that Rayne is your moral superior, our assistant asks, “Why don’t yo do more to help?”
Rayne goes into super preachy mode: “Like taking care of an orphan who’s petrified of the foster care program, and making sure he has shelter, food, and goes to…” Screw this comic. Seriously, screw this comic. Anyway, it ends, as you may expect, with a sex joke.
The sex jokes, by the way, end up sounding like a broken record. LICD reads like a Mad Libs written by a sex obsessed ten year old who thinks he’s funny, but in actuality is not. Anytime there’s an attractive woman drawn, you know that — surprise! — there’s going to be an awkward sex joke at the end. For example, there’s this exchange from a strip charmingly entitled “Horton Hears a Ho”:
“I really hope you don’t have any kids.”
“Why? Are you offering? I’m flattered, though it’s a little quick. I don’t even know your breast size.”
Wow, that was … a natural reponse.
Then you have Rayne doing some poetry, where he rhymes “nookie with wookiee” and “witty with titties.” Eh. I’ve heard better. I guess this is the “good guy humor” I keep hearing about? Here’s the thing about LICD that probably more annoying than anything else: it is really not very funny.
Something I discovered when I reviewed The Gutters is that Ryan Sohmer is horrible at telling jokes. There’s an early storyline, for example, where Rayne’s friends trick him into thinking that looking like Goku from Dragonball Z will impress the parents of his Asian girlfriend. As an Asian, I’m not really offended by this storyline. What I am offended is by how horribly unfunny it is. Especially how Sohmer has to friggin’ overexplain the premise of his joke.
LICD seems to pride itself in being fresh and current, unlike those stale newspaper comic strips. So why do the jokes feel so old and hackneyed? Are we really going to do a Star Wars “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” gag? Seriously, anything that reminds me that Rayne/Ryan is a nerd makes me loathe anyone who takes glee that nerds have taken over the world (or pop culture, at least). Does simply referencing “Jem” a punchline? Why? Because he reminded us that Jem is a thing that happened?
And then there’s one of the most out-of-date jokes of all: he observes that Shakira’s song “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” sounds a lot like Fozzy the Bear’s catchphrase. Pay attention to the date that strip was released. That’s right: LICD made the joke a full year after the song was prominently featured at the 2010 South Africa World Cup, when literally everyone had made the same exact goddamn joke already.
I seriously could go on and on, but the word counter says that I’ve gone over 3000+ words and that’s way too much to write about friggin’ LICD. You’ve probably noticed I haven’t touched on the major complaint most have made about LICD: its misogyny. That one’s a little tricky. Rayne is promiscuous, true, but at least it seems that women use him as much as he is using them. On the other hand, the women who do sleep with him are shown to be rather shallow, which puts the ball back into the critics’ court. It’s something that’s been discussed plenty of times on other sites, though, which is why I focused on the other faults. Namely, that this is a boring, unfunny comic with a completely unlikable lead.
So there you go. Y’all can stop writing me now. LICD is reviewed! And…
Wait, this is my 200th review? Ugh. Worst… 200th review… ever. I’ve gotta say, at least there’s no worse comic out there to review when I hit my next milestone.
What’s that you say?
Moon Over June is still out there?
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)