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The generational divide that shouldn’t exist

Sarah’s Scribbles is speedy fantastic strip about young adulthood.  It’s kind of the modern version of Cathy, and I mean that in a good way. As in, this is a strip that compares Jackson Pollock paintings to having a period.  Oh, Sarah… will you ever win?

Then I ran into this strip:


So, as a Generation X type person, this got me thinking. Not negatively of Sarah Andersen, mind you: I do believe her feelings on this are genuine like the rest of her comic strips.

Consider this, though: you could easily have made this strip 20 years ago.  The guy with the face could’ve been “Baby Boomers,” and he could have been saying, “Typical lazy Gen-X’er!”  It actually shocked me more that the Gen-X guy is perceived as a super-successful dude.  Seriously… I thought everyone saw us as slackers.

I mean, that’s how Generation X got its name, right?  I know, the “X” made it look cooler than it really is, like we all have mutant powers or something.  The “X” stood for a lack of identity.  That it was a generation of lazy bums who had no idea what to do with their lives.  Growing up, we were inundated by editorial cartoons and media telling everyone that we were the “lost” generation.

Maybe our choice of music wasn’t helping.  “Did you hear that song they’re listening to?  It says, ‘I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me’!  There’s no way they’re going to amount to anything.”

(Incidentally, one of my most vivid memories of my dad? Him plopping down a magazine article in front of me that was titled: “The ballad of the lazy teenager.”)

For the most part we all still feel that sense of inadequacy.  Here’s a fairly recent strip by fellow Gen X’er Ted Rall:

Curiously, you get the view from the other side… you know, the guy with the GEN X face in the first strip… and it’s almost the exact same story.

So here’s what I think is happening:

  1. Every generation feels inadequate.  Millennials feel inferior to the Gen-X’ers, Gen-X’ers feel inferior to the Baby Boomers, the Boomers feel inferior to their WWII-vet parents, etc.  The natural outgrowth of parenting means that mom and dad are usually held to an unrealistic high standard, meaning that no matter what you do you will always feel second place.  You rationalize hard why you feel that way.  For Sarah Andersen it’s crippling debt.  For Ted Rall it’s the lack of any respect.
  2. Every generation has its successes.  Not everyone is a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg.  But if the successful people crow, it’s because it’s a sense of relief that the destiny threatened by their elders — that of utmost failure — did not come true.

So why do we even have this generational divide?  We’re all i the same boat, feeling like everyone is literally against us.

Then again, maybe it’s good to be antagonistic  Otherwise you get self-congratulatory garbage like this:

… which can screw right the hell off.

Happy El Santo Day

Apparently everyone was celebrating El Santo’s 99th Birthday today, including Google.  Might as well join in on the fun!  Being that it’s my online handle and all.

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Update

Q: El Santo, where have you been?

A: clearly developing a video game set in the Webcomic Overlook universe!  Like a real person is transported to the world and they’re transformed into a luchador.  Don’t worry though… Webcomic Overlook Season 7 is coming soon.

The Hugo Trifecta

You may have heard that, yesterday, recognition for the most prestigious works of art in a specific genre were awarded yesterday. And also the Harvey Awards were given out. But first, the Hugo Awards!

You may as well rename the Best Graphic Story Award the Foglio Award now, because Girl Genius has walked home with the trophy for the third year in a row. Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius, Volume 10: Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse beat out Fables: Witches, written by Bill and Mark Willingham; Grandville Mon Amour, by Bryan Talbot; fellow webcomic Schlock Mercenary: Massively Parallel, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler; and The Unwritten, Volume 2: Inside Man by Mike Carey and Peter Gross.

Awards were handed out at Renovation, the 2011 World Science Fiction Convention in Reno, Nevada. Congratulations to the Foglios!

Not related to webcomics, Lev Grossman walked home with the Best New Writer award. Despite that name, he’s a science fiction writer, not the fictional movie producer that appeared in Tropic Thunder. I haven’t read any of his stuff yet, but I do have The Magicians on order from Amazon.com at this moment.

Captain Nihilist says this rant isn’t about Mary Sues

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From the desk of El Santo, a.k.a. Captain Nihilist:

If you chased me down, trapped me in an abandoned wine cellar, tripped me with wire to land me in a hollowed out pit, flipped open your John Locke Limited Edition Victorinox Swiss Army Knife, and demanded of me, “What is the most important thing in you look for in webcomics?”, I’d have to reply: “The characters. Please put the knife away, you psycho.”

More than anything, characters keep a webcomic grounded. The comic may go through shifts in art style. The story may evolve from a horror story or a gaming comic to a teen romance or an office humor strip. But it you keep your characters true and engaging, I’m usually happy every step of the way. It makes the webcomic memorable, even if I’m grasping to remember certain plotlines. Print comics have been sticking by this principle for decades. This is why I know that I like a decent guy like Superman because he’s a great character … but hell if I know what he’s be up to in the last ten years.

So I decided to take some time to look at characters. This is aimed at both critics and webcomic creators. I’m going to be posting excerpts from one essay in particular, so all accusations of me being myopic are probably true. Folks looking for reviews might also enjoy reading it, as it will deepen your understanding. If not, come around next week for my take on a highly popular romance comic.

“OK, Captain Nihilist,” you sneer. “What in the heck makes a good character?”
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The Webcomic Overlook #60: Fey Winds

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Westerners can sure be po-faced sticklers when it comes to injecting humor in the fantasy genre. Oh, sure, National Lampoon has given us the parody Bored of the Rings, and Mary Gentle thrilled us with an orc-run fantasy world in Grunts. Fine anomalies, both … but they aren’t necessarily household names. For the most part, we like our fantasy heroes to be stoic warriors, our heroines to be cold humorless ice princesses, our fantasy villains to be ominous evil spirits from the very depths of hell, and our Kender folk kept at the bare minimum. Fun gets in the way of epic business. You know how many Lord of the Rings fans out there think that hobbits were completely unnecessary comedy foils? A whole damn lot, that’s what.

There seems to be less of a problem in Japan. My guess is because Japan’s version of fantasy is more or less based on the Final Fantasy series, which, at its core, is pretty goofy. I mean, moogles? Chocobos? Fat chocobos who blow spit bubbles when they sleep? Cait friggin’ Sith? That sort of silliness shows up in several of what I’ll call the humorous fantasy genre.

My favorite manga, which occupies a small yet embarrassing amount of real estate on my bookshelf, was Sorcerer Hunters. At face value, it’s about a team of agents deployed to take out rogue magicians. Underneath, though, was an undercurrent of silly sex jokes: the girls were secret dominatrices, a super-handsome guy looked like a woman, and the resident beefcake was often flexing for his own benefit but would end up pursuing anyone — male or female — who was prettier than him. Introduce these concepts to mainstream American fantasy, and I’m sure we’d be hearing the sounds of a thousand monocles dropping into a thousand teacups… and more agog at the spirit of fun than the implied S&M.

Fey Winds, a webcomic written and illustrated by Montreal native Nicole Chartrand, follows in the same tradition. (Disclaimer: despite title, comic is not really about Tina Fey. Nor do any of the characters look anything like Tina Fey. Sigh.) Manga readers may encounter several elements that feel familiar. Maybe even too familiar. More on that later.

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The Webcomic Overlook #57: Sore Thumbs

My fellow Americans, our long national election is over. Now that we’re a week past Election Day, it’s time to spend some time reflecting on the past year and ask the hard questions. Such as: Why is the Washington Redskins game before the election (win: Republicans take office; lose: Democrats) the best political predictor ever, boasting a 94% success rate? Who are these people who still display “Kuninich for President” and “Ron Paul ’08” bumper stickers? And, most importantly, was there any point in the Obama and McCain campaigns where things would devolve to the point where the next present would be decided by three rounds in the steel Octagon?

I mean, take a look a one of the most brutal elections of all time, the 1828 election pitting incumbent John Quincy Adams against war hero Andrew Jackson. You had the Jackson camp claim that Adams struck a corrupt deal in the first election, turned the White House into a casino, and was pimping out women to foreign dignitaries. The Adams camp shot back that Jackson was a brutal, bloodthirsty killer who went beyond his duties on the battlefield and portrayed Jackson’s wife as a bigamist. Given Jackson’s love for shooting and Adams’ love for skinny-dipping, it’s not too unreasonable to believe that if that election were to last just a wee bit longer, we would be reading in our history books about the first election decided by naked underwater dueling. (Which, incidentally, would make an awesome T-shirt for fratboys.)

Sad to say, when you look back at Election 2008, you might notice that Obama and McCain were highly cordial toward each other. Those dudes were all smiles and respect and preemptively shutting down unfair critics in public forums. Seriously, that episode where the two were Ocean’s 11-like thieves working together to steal the Hope Diamond? Not that implausible. Maybe it’s because the two senators are, in essence, coworkers. I’m guessing they work out a lot of their personal issues over a game of Parcheesi during lunch breaks at the Senate cafeteria.

But another big part of it is that both candidates seem to have outsourced all of the controversial negativity to the internet. Why spend millions of dollars and a strategy that could potentially backfire when you can just sit back and let an army of bloggers do the dirty work?

Since this site is about webcomics, though, protocol sorta demands that I tie this in somehow. Unfortunately, I can’t. There are several politically-themed webcomics online, but I can’t say that any of them are what you would call “influential.” No, not even you, Stephanie MacMillan. Which is sad, because political cartoons are far from being irrelevant. Remember the furor that broke out when the cartoon of Obama as a terrorist graced the cover of the New Yorker? Imagine the awesomeness if that controversy had broke online! Unfortunately, nastiness is par for the course on the internet, and a particularly scathing cartoon is just one among many.

The subject of today’s Webcomic Overlook, Sore Thumbs, is one such political webcomic. This is arguably the flagship title of the formidable Keenspot group. Sore Thumbs merges the political comic with two already familiar webcomic standards: the gaming comic and the roommate comic. Can this odd amalgam repair false comic divisions, like the incoming administration promises to heal the partisan agendas that are dividing our country? (Incidentally, if staring at the computer screen causes you uncomfortable neck strain, Sore Thumbs is also available in print … though only one volume seems to be available on Amazon at this time.)

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