Category Archives: pop culture caricatures
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.
It would probably be fair to say that I was too old to get into the whole Pokemon phenomenon. Oh, I watched the episodes when they first aired on the Kid’s WB. I did have a younger brother and sister after all, who, I suspect, actually watched the show semi-ironically.
The magic of the show, too, was that it was one of those rare instances that a young adult or adult can watch a kid’s show without feeling too weird about it. Frankly, I blame Beanie Babies and Tamagotchis… which, for you youngsters, were like NeoPets but way, way more annoying.
However, if you asked me to identify a Pokemon beyond, say, the core 20, I’d probably be at a loss. I would totally fail those infamous “Who’s that Pokemon?” stingers, thus bringing shame to my ancestors. I never played the game on the Game Boy, nor was I part of the card craze, nor am I familiar with the show after Ash, Misty, and Brock disappeared. I don’t remember the name of that lame-o Brock replacement guy. Hell, I was totally befuddled by the whole “Gary F***ing Oak” meme and had to google it just to get caught up. Let me tell you, when you have to resort to “Know Your Meme,” then you know you’ve truly lost the pulse of what makes young people tick these days.
So you’d think that I’d be the totally wrong audience for Mokepon, a webcomic on Smack Jeeves written by someone who apparently goes by “H0lyhandgrenade.”
Au contraire, mon ami! Mokepon turned out to be a surprisingly fun read, full stuff that can entertain even a reader with only a passing familiarity of Pokemon. Let’s dig in, shall we?
Ever since Alan Moore decided to expand his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen universe beyond the era of Victorian England, fans have been speculation what other pop culture characters would work well in a crazy mash-up. Some speculation have been serious, but much has been tongue in cheek.
One of the best was an April Fool’s gag at Comics Alliance in 2010, where the writers imagined a 1980′s superteam. This League included Doc Brown, B.A. Baracus, Jack Burton, Lisa from Weird Science, and the GODDAMN MacGyver. You’d have to work hard to come up with anything more idea than that, which was a weirdly more compelling premise than, say, The Black Dossier.
But did you know that this isn’t the first time someone attempted to do an LXG pastiche in the Me Decade? I didn’t either. It wasn’t until Comixtalk linked to this piece on Newsarama that I learned of the existence of Wahab Algarmi’s The Society of Unordinary Young Ladies.
Like LXG fills its roster with public domain characters you were forced to read about in elementary school, The Society fleshes out its roster with young female characters from 1980′s sitcoms: Punky Brewster, Evie from Out Of This World, Vicki from Small Wonder, and Wednesday Addams.