One Punch Reviews #1: The Critic Webcomics (Webcomics Are Awesome, Shmorky, Comicspresso, and The Ctrl+V Derivitaries)
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted on November 4, 2007, in 2 Stars, 3 Stars, 4 Stars, One Punch Reviews, spoof, The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics and tagged Comicspresso, Shmorky, The Ctrl+V Derivitaries, Webcomics Are Awesome. Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.