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One Punch Reviews #1: The Critic Webcomics (Webcomics Are Awesome, Shmorky, Comicspresso, and The Ctrl+V Derivitaries)

One Punch Reviews

I’m going to try something new here.

Not every webcomic warrents a full fledged review. There are some webcomics that have very short runs. There are some webcomics that have long expired, yet they remain on the internet like everything does. And there are others that I just don’t have much to write on beyond “I liked it” or “I hated it.”

With “One Punch Reviews,” I’ll put several of these smaller reviews together. And, from time to time, I might be able to bundle a bunch of these smaller reviews under the umbrella of a common theme … like today. For the first group of “One Punch Reviews,” I’m going to look at webcomics that were created specifically to mock other webcomics.

I’ve made it no secret on this site that I’m a fan of the now-defunct “Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad.” It was a breath of fresh air in a world where true criticism was absent and loyal fans were loathe to provide any input other than the webcomic was utterly fabulous and brilliant. Like the bastard offspring of Jay Sherman and a vicious rottweiler, John Solomon and company systematically ripped on every aspect of the webcomics they reviewed — sometimes attacking the writer on a personal level.

Sadly, YWiB came to an end recently. I suspect this was due to a massive and unwanted deviation from the original mission statement. On the SomethingAwful boards, John Solomon (a.k.a. “Fuego Fish”) posted the following: “YWB is on actually-a-hiatus hiatus for a few reasons. First is to discourage the festering s***pile that was the comments section. The negative comments stopped being funny about two weeks ago, and the positive comments are either pointless or make my skin crawl. If I paid the slightest attention to them, I’d probably end up like Maddox. That kind of s*** wakes me in the middle of the night, terrified and screaming. Second is that I’ve been off my game and I need time to recover. Also, this way I (and the others) can build up a bit of a buffer. That way it won’t get to an update day and nobody has anything ready and someone has to rush out some review. This way we can be more competent in our vitriol!” Follow-up comments seem to cast doubts that YWiB will be restarted at all.

However, YWiB was hardly alone in the world of webcomic criticism. Quite a few expressed discontent through thear own webcomics. A webcomic that exists solely to say that other webcomics are bad? Shouldn’t this partially self-mocking concept collapse on itself?

At the very least, it’s something that could get old fast. And that’s the case for most of these examples. Two of the webcomics had very short runs. Another is a long-term project, yet is struggling to move forward. Mockery is a tough thing to sustain. You risk repeating the same criticisms over and over again. The write-up must be both relevant and entertaining. And there’s the possibility that you sympathize with the writer, and you lose your nerve.

So which of the critic webcomics had the sharpest barbs, the keenest of wits, and the bluest blue eyes? Let’s take a look.

Shmorky

Shmorky

Shmorky’s best known for SomethingAwful’s Flash Tub feature, but, in the middle of 2006, he also drew a series of biting webcomic parodies. The comic strips bear his unmistakable style —- characters are rubbery, organic, and world-weary. And, of course, a character peeling off his own face. Popular webcomics like MegaTokyo, PvP, and Penny Arcade are mangled and re-processed with a disturbing sense of humor. Shmorky saves his Grade-A vitriol for the extremely liberal Minimum Security, here disguised as Maximum Vulnerability. Admittedly, Shmorky is not for everyone. However, “Webcomic Reactions to 9/11” was one of the funniest strips I have ever read. Rating: 4 stars.

Addendum — Believe it or not, I was in the middle of writing this piece when Shmorky posted his latest Flash Tub: an animated parody (R-rated and NSFW) of “Maximum Vulnerability.” Flash is a showcase of Shmorky’s greatest strengths, so I was pleasantly surprised that the original webcomic parodies were equally enjoyable and equally relevant as the new cartoon. Also, I’m surprised that, one year later, Shmorky still has a bone to pick with Stephanie McMillan.


Webcomics Are Awesome!

Webcomics Are Awesome!

David McGuire puts Krisco, his signature lagomorph, to work at a noble cause: tearing down the suffocating culture of self-importance in the webcomic community. I love the artistic style, which recalls indie comics of the ’90s. However, the comics seems to be running out of steam. It started off strong as a parody of Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics.” Now, though, it’s bogged down in the “History of Webcomics” chapter. The last three strips feel like they’ve been repeating the same points from earlier strips. And while “webcomics are irrelevant” may be the point of the entire comic, the two-page long argument between Krisco and his nephew seems to be a textbook example of going nowhere fast. Is McGuire burned out already? Does he feel that the joke’s already run its course? Maybe… the comic hasn’t been updated since September 1. Rating: 2 stars.

Comicspresso

Comicspresso

Now here’s a dilemma. Comicspresso, by design, is a cleverly disguised trap that is meant to ensnare naive would-be trolls. Back when it was starting out, I remember reading a thread where the writers wanted to make the site look as legit as possible. Thus, its creators don’t consider it a real “webcomic.” How do you rate a webcomic that’s deliberately drawn badly and written badly as a “commentary” on sub-par webcomics? Do I praise it as a rousing success, like how art critics saw a urinal with a signature as a bold statement on what can or cannot be accepted as a work of art? (I always imagine Marcel Duchamp and his fellow Dadaists afterwards going, “Wait, what the hell, man… we were kidding! KIDDING! It’s a friggin’ urinal!”) Or do I call these guys out for their sloppy copy-and-paste artwork and childish humor? The only answer: rate these guys down the middle, just to show them that I’m on to their little game. Rating: 3 stars.

The Ctrl+V Derivitaries

The Ctrl+V Derivitaries

I don’t read much Penny Arcade. I know enough that the two guys in The Ctrl+V Derivitaries are supposed to be spoofs of Gabe and Tycho. Thus, I have no clue whether or not Ctrl+V, which only lasts 9 strips, comes anywhere close to adequately lampooning the long-running gamer comic. All I know is that two guys yelling like lunatics for four panels straight is pretty damn funny. Rating: 3 stars.

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About El Santo

Somehow ended up reading and reviewing almost 300 different webcomics. Life is funny, huh? Despite owning two masks, is not actually a luchador.

Posted on November 4, 2007, in 2 Stars, 3 Stars, 4 Stars, One Punch Reviews, spoof, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Nope, I still don’t get why people fawned over John Solomon like the second coming of Christ (or anti-Christ, from the other side of the coin). He’d write one or two meaningful statements, then couch it in endless paragraphs of meaningless personal insults that had nothing to do with the comic itself. Furthermore, he was responsible for Dominic Durgan. He eventually offered some half-assed reason why it was okay for him to make crappy comics and not be torn to shreds for it. But he really could never take the heat of running a blog that was nothing but a giant flame baiting troll pit, hence why he closed up his blog’s comments and then, ultimately, his blog.

    He was also criminally unfunny and had an ego as bad as the people he was failing at lampooning.

    In my experience with webcomics authors, they’re far more likely to attack each other then pat each other one the back. The many ongoing feuds between all those frickin’ gaming comics being an obvious example. And while Rob Howard rarely has anything negative about webcomics, John Solomon is not the first person to rant about bad webcomics, nor has he been the last. The only difference is that John Solomon wanted to be an internet personality on top of it instead of just reviewing web comics as a mere critic.

    By the way, the Ctrl+V comic has to have been done by a Penny Arcade fan. They’ve more than once included a very obvious parody of Tim Buckley in their comic – “Franzibald”. Then again, I rarely see the point of doing more than a one-shot parody of a webcomic because it falls so quickly into being worse than the material it parodies.

  2. Well, we’re going to have to disagree on Solomon’s articles. You do make valid points, though, and I do agree that he went a bit overboard with his insults directed at the creators themselves. That’s one of my primary reasons why I try to avoid that sort of poo-flinging on this site.

    Also, I did not know that about “Ctrl+V”! I guess that makes sense, though … if you were to do a parody of anything, it pays to be as familiar with the source material as possible. Translated: avid readers and fans.

  3. Curious about The Ctrl+V Derivitaries – it seems to me to be a much clearer commentary on Ctrl+Alt+Delete and its creator, Tim Buckley, than Penny Arcade… do you know how/if these vectors intersect in the comic’s creation and purpose? Is it making fun of both comics, or a fan of one making fun of the other?

  4. Hmm… now that you mention it, cr0wgrrl, “Ctrl+V” might be making fun of “Penny Arcade” clones (such as CAD and thousands of others). That would explain why Fake Gabe and Fake Tycho look and act like brain-damaged zombies, and they only appear like the “Penny Arcade” characters as a commentary on how imitators are too lazy to disguise what they’re ripping off of. Again, I haven’t read much “Penny Arcade,” and the ones I’ve seen are the most recent strips … so I entertained the possibility that the “Ctrl+V” guys were making fun of an early, more primitive iteration.

  5. Er, Ctrl + V is an obvious parody of Buckley and Ctrl + Alt + Del from the copy and paste “style” to the characters and dialogue. Idiot.

  6. Yes, retrogaminglab, I realized my error and cleared up the issue in the very next post.

  7. “The only difference is that John Solomon wanted to be an internet personality on top of it instead of just reviewing web comics as a mere critic.”
    -Rebochan

    “I started this blog to entertain people. Specific people. Like, seven or eight people. Everyone besides them is extra baggage, and usually crazy to boot.”
    -John Solomon

    Whoops!

  8. ““I started this blog to entertain people. Specific people. Like, seven or eight people. Everyone besides them is extra baggage, and usually crazy to boot.”
    -John Solomon

    Whoops!”

    Oh well since he says it – it MUST be true!

  9. Well I guess we’ll just have to assume you know what he was thinking better than he does then.

  10. Oh shit wrong year.

  11. I’ve been about the non-legendary exploits of Jon Solomon on Encyclopedia Dramacula, and how he Falcon-punched Chugworth Academy in the groin, and I feel better about hearing dweebs say “Why don’t you publish a webcaaaamic? Nyargh!!” all the time. I also feel like there should be post-it-notes of anyone stupid enough to buy the rock-with-an-anime-girl-face-painted-on-it shit-rag that is Chugworth, and that those post-it-notes should read, “John Solomon. Here’s his URL. Read it before you read this comic book.”

    I want the source material. Fuck, I’d PAY the guy for a booklet of cleverly-targeted vitrol. But, because this bastard now places the entire human race on the lowest rung of the ladder, lower even than Harlan Ellison on a good day, he’s decided to take all his toys out of the sandbox and bolt. He’s left us helpless, like the whining masses of Metropolis begging for Superman to please come back. He’s left us like Santa Claus left us in some shitty Rankin Bass Christmas special– and incidentally, no matter how shitty those Rankin Bass specials were when they were new to us, they couldn’t hold a candle to the shittiness of mass-produced piles of butt-mud like “Kids Next Door,” that guarantee the next batch of yuppies will end up even more in the thrall of The International Bankers.

    Anyway, where the hell can I read the writing of this bastard? He put a portable hole on the wall, jumped into it, and reached his arm back through the opening and took away the hole. Fuckin’ bastard. The bawling crybabies need him! They need him like the Christians need Marylin Manson to hate. And he has a responsibility to his gift. Fuck, -I- can’t do it, because I sure as hell won’t waste my time looking at shitty webcomics all day. My meager lump of meat inside my skull that I refer to as “brain” would cave in and I wouldn’t even be able to write this post, representing ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLllll
    of those people who feel exactly as I do.

    IMHO!!!111111

    • I have to say this is pretty much the most poetic comment ever posted on this site. Bravo.

      • Thanks, but I realize now I got all cranked up on some really good coffee. I should have proofread first.

        I’ve always wanted to stick post-it notes on Chugworth at the local Barnes & Noble where an abortive compilation of the damn comic exists in print, and stick the sticky-note on ‘ere saying, “No! This is shit! don’t go in!”

        I can’t believe I typed “non-legendary” instead of “near-legendary.” But then again, I’ll go with “non.” Fuck it. I’ve since read some of the echoes of Jon Solomon and his soul is still trapped out there on the ‘nets, tortured by these orbiting piles of printless thought-crap crap we call “webcomics.” I read and I hear the echoes of his goodness.

        “I want the source material.” re-reading this, I can’t believe that I’m here translating it from English to English. Fuck it. I want compilations. I want copies. A URL, an archive of John. Anything. C’mon, there has to be one anime-watching chimp in the basement, out there somewhere, that cut and pasted this garbage into a notepad document or something.

        By the way, Kids Next Door is a shitty cartoon. Maybe someone should blog bad cartoons.

  12. “comics not good enough to end up in print” sounds about right. We’d like to think that some vitriol-filled, scathing reviews would improve any of these end products, but the fact is, that, yes, just as the internet is a wonderful library of information in which every piece of information you never wanted to see or have contact with is usually in the path to your goal, likewise good webcomics are incredibly difficult to come by, and even most of the review sites that claim to point toward the higher-quality work are sycophantic droolers.

    If it were just a comic, and a good comic, would it need to be called a webcomic? Would the channel of circulation even matter? No one calls “Garfield” a webcomic, and indeed, just as Peanuts reads like a Norman Rockwell lithograph, and ended up being some kind of bizarre, old-man’s slice-of-life short story repackaged and repackaged, it’s earned a certain status in the pantheon of American pop culture, and I’d like to think as Jim Davis heads in that same direction in his career, most people don’t send him piles of hate-mail when his cartoons aren’t funny.

    Conversely, Penny Arcade and Chugworth and Megatokyo and other low-quality comics may have acheived print status, finally, but they’re still webcomics, and will always only ever be “webcomics.” They will be “comics not good enough to make it into print, who’ve found a wide and mediocre audience that will eat dog food if you serve it to ’em, and through the powers of the internet, gathered this niche of chowder-headed buffoons and united them into a market that might actually buy the crappy book.” It serves two purposes. It tries to elevate them to the same status as any other book of newspaper cartoons you might find in the humor section, and it gives ’em something pretty to sign at conventions, and we KNOW how much egomaniac artists and writers love to sign things.

    I’m just tired of hearing, “Why don’t you do a webcomic??” over and over when some goober asks me to show them my work, and I pass most of their critical aptitude tests. The fact is, I look at the soulless piles of doodoo all over the internet, and I don’t even want to be associated with the medium. I find myself thinking, “Wow, there should have been an editor telling half of these people to go home and the other half minus one percent, to go home and never leave.”

    The Encyclopedia Dramatica write-up on webcomics is about the best dissection I’ve seen. In plain words. “Shitting Dick Nipples” is pretty accurate. Are some of ’em actually funny but hard to find? Yea, weird and esoteric? That too. But they’re all the way at the bottom of the review page, past all the other shitty shit at the top. Props for symbolism.

    Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff? Genius. Better than a thousand Solomons dismembering Penny Arcade, Control Alt Delete, PvP, and whatever other attempt-at-parody derivative crap they’ve got lying around on the internet now.

    Done.

  13. If Warren Ellis is happy enough to make a webcomic then thats enough reason for me to make a webcomic. The man practically revels in the fact that its the channel of circulation is so efficient and so egalitarian that he doesn’t need to satisfy the needs of editors, advertisers and North American fanboys in order to publish his work.

    In other worse, he’s able to let loose in a way he has never been able to before not since the early days of 2000AD anyway.

    And that is precisely why it does matter.

    • BusyBeingAwesome

      I think you’ve got a bizarre way of looking at the world if you think anything in ANY of Warren Ellis’ actually sincerely PRINTED works is somehow the product of Editorial censorship, or a “need” to “please North American fanboys” in any way.

      Again, the channel doesn’t matter. It was a bloody “comic” before he scanned it, and it’ll be a comic anyway, whether he puts it up on the web or no.

      People who insist on calling it a “webcomic” because it’s on a bloody website are like the marketing hacks currently popularizing “Tween” for pre-teen.

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  1. Pingback: The Webcomic Overlook presents a whole bunch of critic webcomics « El Santo//Rooktopia

  2. Pingback: Ctrl+V Derivitaries Follow-Up « The Webcomic Overlook

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