Category Archives: pop culture caricatures
The great songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic once wrote, “The only question I ever though was hard was ‘Do I like Kirk or do I like Picard?'” Also he wrote that he memorized Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and his quote were sure to have you rolling on the floor, laughing.
But back to Star Trek. It’s a heady question. One that has likely ruined friendships and spurred a pointless internet discussion or two. Kirk appeals to renegade adventurer types who crave action and diplomacy solved by bare chests and balled-up fists. Picard appeals to those who love class, civility, and French captains who inexplicably talk with a British accent. (Actually, there is a somewhat canon explanation for that last part… but it is beyond stupid and does not bear repeating.)
Webcomic creators seem to fall firmly in the Picard camp. There are parodies. Videos. Erotic adventures. Plus he’s Patrick Stewart, whose dulcet tones are far more seductive than William Shatner’s hamminess. Thus, the fondness for the OG baldheaded captain should come as no surprise. Many webcomic creators are in their 30’s and 40’s, and when they were kids The Next Generation was the jam. Maybe in a decade or so, there’s going to be a ton of Star Trek Enterprise references in webcomics… but don’t hold your breath on that one.
Ah, but what of the great Deep Space Nine? While not quite the pop culture juggernaut as the original series or the Next Generation, DS9 is nevertheless regarded by many Trek fans as the best Trek series. Well, Josh Millard didn’t forget, and DS9 features prominently in his webcomic LARP Trek.
Since we all grew up in the 90’s, all of us will probably… wait. Some of you weren’t around in the 90’s?
Well, feel free to sit this one out, then. I’ll have something more universal later this week. The ones who were around in the 90’s can stick around after the ellipsis.
OK since we all grew up in the 90’s, all of us will probably remember the Jim Lee/Chris Claremont version of the X-Men. It was the costumes and roster prominently featured in the cartoon, and one of the most unlikely sources of 90’s nostalgia. Max Wittert certainly remembers, and he illustrates the domestic troubles of Jean Grey and Scott Summers on his Tumblr-based webcomic Jean & Scott. Cyclops is uptight, which is pretty consistent with his established portrayal. Jean Grey, though, has been driven to terminal laziness due to the convenience of her powers. THRILL as Jean Grey struggles to hold her cream soda! CHILL as Cyclops wonders aloud why Jean has to use Cerebro and not a cellphone like most normal couples! I cannot wait for the episode when Jean finally meets Scott’s space-pirate dad.
Ladies and gentlemen: how do we know we’re in the future? Is it when we get flying cars? Is it when we can replace our arms with cyborg parts? If comic pundits will have you believe, it’s when webcomics realize their full potential and embrace the infinite canvas. No more being restrained to the rigid static confines of a piece of paper, developed hundreds of years ago! Why live within those archaic limitations? We’re living in the future, son!
And just like how flying cars and prosthetic limbs exist in real life, so too are there examples of these futuristic comics. Some do nothing more than scroll in one direction for a long time. Others contain significantly more bells and whistles by incorporating sound and simple animation.
A relatively recent effort is Stevan Živadinović’s Hobo Lobo of Hamelin. And by “relatively recent,” I mean that it began in 2011 and was updated as recently as September 2013. I actually mentioned this comic when it first came out and had hoped to review it when more became available. It looks like not much progress has been made in the intervening two-and-a-half years, though. Note to pundits who still lean on the “motion comic” approach to webcomics: if you’re doing one by your lonesome, they’re a massive time sink.
Nintendo video game mascot Mario Mario is no stranger to webcomics. Thanks to the crazy video game webcomic boom that gave the world the PAX video game convention, Mario has probably appeared in more webcomics than video games. Shoot, there’s probably a webcomic out there referencing Mario being created as we speak. However, there’s one aspect of the Mario universe that doesn’t get touched upon that often. You know, the one where King Koopa was evolved from dinosaurs and played by a greasy Dennis Hopper? The one where Mario and Luigi were trying to liberate a dystopian cyberpunk alternate dimension, clearly an aspect of the Mario universe that needs to be expanded upon and explored?
Why do webcomic creators always seem to cruelly ignore Mario and Luigi from the 1993 Super Mario Brothers movie?
Steven Applebaum and Ryan Hoss must be some sort of genies, because they’re making all your dreams come true with Super Mario Bros. 2: The Comic. SMB2: The Comic answers the question that has, for 20 years, been lingering on all our minds after the tantalizing sequel bait at the end of the movie: what happens to the Mario brothers after Princess Daisy returns from an alternate dimension, armed to the gills like some 90’s Image Comics superhero? This ain’t no
video game run of the mill fanfic, people, as it’s mentioned that the story ideas come straight from one of the ten screenwriters from the movie. So it’s at least … one-tenthed canon, maybe?
Anyway, it involves going to another dimension which is probably the same world as the one from SMB2: the video game. And like the game, odds are Mario is going to wake up from a particularly vivid fever dream where someone, somewhere, made a webcomic sequel to the Super Mario Brothers movie.
(h/T AV Club)
Nearly two years ago, I posted a link here to a critique of a comic called Roswell, Texas. In my mind, it was an innocent gesture. I like posting reviews to other webcomics in an attempt to further the cause of webcomic reviewing. It’s partially for selfish reasons. One of these days, when this blog ceases to update, I want to have a clear conscience, knowing that somewhere out there someone is still writing reviews of Ctrl+Alt+Del.
This particular post, though, caught some flack. One of the co-creators, Scott Bieser, took particular offense at the reviewer: Leonard Pierce, was a disgraced AV Club reviewer who lost his job after posting a review of a comic that hadn’t actually seen print yet. I believe in second chances (which I think Pierce was reaching for in his new blog), but there is still the lingering question of credibility.
More to the point, though: why wasn’t this stuff being addressed at Leonard Pierce’s blog? Why was all the stuff being brought up at this site? I felt like that one friend who’s stuck in the middle of a squabbling couple, and I’m stuck repeating lines like, “Well, she told me to tell you that if you’d just taken out the trash like she told you three days ago, none of this would’ve happened. Her words, not mine.”
With the link to Mr. Pierce’s article being dead, I figured that today’s the day to rectify the situation: The Webcomic Overlook is reviewing Roswell, Texas! Created by L. Neil Smith, Scott Bieser, and Rex F. May, the comic ran from 2006 to 2009 and is now available in print.
All vitriol, please direct it to this write-up now. Thank you.
I’ve read somewhere — perhaps on a Snapple cap — that to really put together a good satire, you sorta have to be half in love with material you’re making fun of. Makes sense. If you lack the in-depth knowledge it takes to be a fan, jokes can come off as fairly limp and groanworthy. Like, say, The Big Bang Theory‘s idea of what nerd culture is like.
Harry Potter is one of those properties that has so many odd details that it’s permanently ripe for parody. Now, I’m not a Harry Potter fanatic. I’ve yet to read the last two books, mainly because I was so disappointed by Ms. Rowlings’ awful writing in Order of the Phoenix. However, I’m knowledgeable enough about the world of Hogwarts to enjoy a good Potter parody.
Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, for example, is one of my favorite recent fantasy books, and at its core it’s a Harry Potter parody. Imagine the Harry Potter world, only the teenagers populating it more closely resemble the ones you see hanging around, say, Reddit: nihilistic and self-destructive and witheringly snarky… but at the core, really very scared. Grossman used the Potter foundation to create another fully self-realized fantasy world.
Harry Potter parody fiction lives on in webcomics as well with Wizard School, written by Kevin Kneupper and illustrated by Robert Rath. It’s not as good as The Magicians. Mainly because I have five words for you that should send chills down your very spine:
Rayne Summers IS Harry Potter.
Do you like seeing the DC Comics’ heroes as little kids? Sure, who doesn’t? There was even a whole episode of Justice League Unlimited devoted to that very concept. Well, cartoonist Yale Stewart goes head-on with the Justice League meets The Muppet Babies concept in his too-cute-for-words webcomic Little League. It’s the DC comic universe de-aged and seen mainly through the eyes of the World’s Finest Tykes: Li’l Bats and Li’l Supes. Together, they must engage in epic battles with villains like Lex Luthor (leader of the big kids), deal with mandated costume changes, and play the deadliest game of them all — dodgeball.
Through its relatively short lifespan as a genre, webcomics have proved they can do things just as good as any other form of media can. They can make you laugh. They can make you cry. They can make you poo your pants when you get a surprise animation of a creepy anime zombie girl. They can make you find the goodness in humanity through the flooded streets of New Orleans, and they can make you feel the frustration of trying to find a loved one in Iran.
And, yes, webcomics can teach. Moreso, I suspect, than conventional print comics can. There are a lot of webcomic creators out there — such as Kate Beaton and Randall Munroe — that actually respect the intelligence of their readers. They’ll give you a set up using an obscure historical figure or an advanced calculus mathematical equation and trust that you’ll laugh even if you don’t get it at first, and that you’ll do more research if the subject piqued your interest.
Take, for example, Sydney Padua’s 2D Goggles (subtitled The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage), a webcomic about two historical characters that I hadn’t thought about since my high school BASIC programming class.