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The Webcomic Overlook #76: Glam

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Way back when the Fellowship of the Ring movie was coming out (and boy does that seem like a long time ago), Peter Jackson was all the rage. Unashamed fanboys and fangirls of the hobbit-y looking director began singing his praises all over internet message boards. Films that no one but the most obsessive horror movie buffs knew about began crawling out of the cracks. The most recommended movie? You guessed it: Meet the Feebles.

I was intrigued by the premise. It was a dark, grim version of the Muppet Show. I enjoy parodies on Jim Henson’s creations, being perhaps one of the few people in the world who enjoyed Greg the Bunny. So I went down to the local video store and rented out a copy on tape.

I hated every single minute of it. For me, Meet the Feebles crossed the line from a dark yet whimsical parody — like, say, American McGee’s Alice — to mean-spirited splatter porn. I don’t mean that Peter Jackson is himself a joyless curmudgeon; all accounts are that he’s a friendly fellow to be around. It’s just that for this particular movie he seems to be actively despising the characters and, unforgivably, Jim Henson’s original premise.

I was reminded of Meet the Feebles when I decided to check out the subject of today’s review. It’s a black-and-white webcomic called Glam, written by Pedro Camargo and hosted on the Act-I-Vate website. To sum it up, it’s Care Bears meets Fall-Out and all the shenanigans that implies.

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According to his bio, creator Pedro Camargo is a native of Brazil who studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The man is also a high school art teacher. Glam is one of two comics he has hosted on the Act-I-Vate site, purveyor of original indie-style comic series. (His other comic is Space Sucks.) His style is gritty and unpolished. It’s a cross between Don Simpson (Megaton Man) and the ball-point pen sketches that you might find in a bored high-schooler’s notebook. On one hand, I admire that a hand-drawn style can worm its way into the antiseptic world of webcomics. On the other hand … it does tend to look sloppy at times.

The world of Glam revolves around a group of characters from the town with the subtle name of Happy Fun Place Land. The citizens resemble like either some sort of 80’s Nelvana cartoon or a stuffed animal (or both). If you suspect that their insides are made of fiber fill, later pages will prove you wrong. The town is a world of sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows and everything that’s wonderful. The sociopolitical world seems to revolve around the ethics as established by a benevolent deity who may or may not be Strawberry Shortcake. The residents of Super Fun Happy Town act like everyone’s high … on life! While the comic is in black and white, you can imagine that local folk are all rendered in baby-calming pastels.

Of course, you always have to be wary about this kind of set-up. The only people nowadays who portray anything this innocent are the ones who are trying to set you up for unrelenting grimness. See: Wonder Showzen!, the Christmas Critters from South Park, the Veggie Tale analogues on Drawn Together.

One of them, a lucky bee named Jacob, is traveling along some road probably named Camaraderie Boulevard. He’s so lucky because today’s his birthday! On the way, he encounters two sketchy-looking ninjas. This worries Jacob, because 1) they’re not on the invitee list, and 2) they’re kidnapping one of his friends. But they do have a present for our little pal: a syringe full of plague virus.

Our hero, a fellow named Whyte Rabbit, is at Jacob’s home, preparing the decorations. (Ooh, a reference to the character in Alice in Wonderland. Only, like, the 400th time it’s ever been done.) And who happens to be coming to the door but jacob, the busy bee, now bristling with sores. Oh, Jacob, it’s bad luck to be the first person at your own birthday party! A short time later, he sees a side of Jacob he’s never seen before: his insides. Whyte is on hand while Jacob explodes into a million tiny pieces. Covered in the viscera, blood, and guts of his friend, Whyte’s eyes widen to the size of saucers… which either signifies his lost innocence or that a little bit of Jacob is floating around in his cornea.

Happy birthday, Jacob!

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Whyte then finds out that Jacob witnessed the kidnapping of Polyphemus, a one-eyed turtle and a dear, dear friend. This news sets him over the edge. Armed with nothing but the empty syringe that killed his friend, Whyte sets off from Happy Fun Place Land. Indeed, if Glam teaches us anything, the bonds of friendship are strong.

At the same time, Glam also teaches us that the bonds of friendship are also terribly inconvenient. Four others, for whatever reason, won’t let the rabbit go out on his own. The decide to accompany him down the dark path to the far-off city of Mordor… er, The City. (I’m not sure that’s its official name, by the way. I skimmed through the comic and didn’t find a direct reference. it could be Oz, for all I know.) Their designs, by the way, are supposedly adorable… but I think Mssr. Camargo also intended them to be a little off-putting as well. When I first saw Bruno, I pegged him as a cross between the Muppet Fozzy and the Grateful Dead bear. Sally, the potential love interest, hardly looks cute, despite the girly accouterments. With her long limbs and bug-eyed face, she looks something like a spider/bulldog hybrid. Finally, the twin blobs, Tat and Tot, are cute enough, but given what happens to one of them in the first chapter it’s best not to get attached to them.

As Whyte comes closer to The City, he descends further and further into despair. Early in their travels, the group is assaulted by Roaches, hostile creatures that live on the outskirts. Needless to say, things do not go well. Whyte is driven to madness as he must contemplate a mercy killing for one of his friends. As he becomes more desperate, Whyte contemplates sticking the plague syringeinto the incredibly annoying Bruno.

But why did someone kidnap Polyphemus in the first place? There have been no answers yet. However, it seems that these simple country animals possess more powerful than they initially appear. And it’s possibly psychic.

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The City itself is an unholy dystopian fusion of the worst neighborhoods in Detroit and Transnistria. Bar brawls seem to be the national sport. Sanctioned bouts are staged in a Thunderdome-like setting. Its citizens, who dress like extras from Final Fantasy: Advent Children, need little excuse to start stabbing each other in the back. The Dickensian skyline is dominated by factory smokestacks — a horrible pollutant, to be sure, but an adequate background for those prone to monologuing. Every street seems to be a dark alleyway. People are packed like sardines. Curiously, few seem to be women.

I suppose we can make some sort of real world analogy. It’s like how industrialized cities become amoral wastelands while people in rural areas live simpler lives and are united by community. That might be giving Mr. Carmago too much credit, though, who’s probably in it to draw fluffy animals in various states of mutilation. Also, I can’t really fit roaches into my pat, grad school level theory. Disenfranchised union workers, maybe?

The City presents a new set of friends and enemies. The most prominent thus far is a heavily scarred ranger with a skull mask. He had been following Whyte and company and narrating their adventures in the form of a children’s storybook until the bug-eyed bunny called out. The group also encountered a creature who may or may not be a Guyver suit. He’s likely an ally… but with Glam, you never know.

In my opinion, the most distasteful thing about Meet the Feebles was how the movie attempted to get as dark and raunchy as possible to get laughs that never came. Peter Jackson assaulted the viewer with mass murder, rape, S&M, and, most infamously, sodomy. It almost seems like a losing proposition. If I like it, then obviously I’m an avant-garde who appreciates its edginess. If I hate it, then I’m some sort of humorless square. Of course, there’s the third option: we’ve seen all these jokes before, and smearing everything in feces doesn’t make it any more edgier or funnier.

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That sums up some of my feelings about Glam. Stuffed animal creatures that bleed and have mental breakdowns? Seen it. To be fair, there is no scene where Sally is raped and murdered… but the way Glam is going, I’m not tossing it outside the realm of possibilities. I mean, when Camargo devotes a page to a loving depiction of self-mutilation, you have to gird yourself against depravity yet to come. Angst is ratcheted to critical levels. After something bad happens, there’s pages and pages of hand-wringing, finger-pointing, and arguing. It’s like reading someone’s emo LiveJournal.

Glam‘s not all bad, though. If you’re a fan of gore, or if you’re a fan of stuffing a Ziploc bag with hamburger and stomping on it (which is what most of the frags look like), Glam might be right up your alley. In addition, Camargo does craft an interesting world to explore. I want to learn more about how a society fragmented to the point where everyone’s a hitman. I want to see why the world evolved to the point where all evil was contained in one city. The world of Glam is like the Metalocalypse world, where everything is an over-the-top parody of the album cover definition of grim-and-gritty.

However, here’s where we come to the comics’ biggest downside. Metalocalypse, at least, has five lovable doofuses anchoring the series. The problem with Glam is that there are no characters to root for. While it’s easy to sympathize with the mission, it’s hard to root for Whyte, who’s become a dangerous and insufferable bastard. His friends have few redeeming values and do grate on the nerves something fierce with their constant whining. If said it before: characters are important to retaining readers for a continuing series. And right now, I’m not too keen on following up on the further adventures.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

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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 May 13, 2009, in 3 Stars, action webcomic, adventure webcomic, funny animal webcomic, sci-fi webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Whoops! The error is in the link. I’ll fix that. Thanks.

  2. You’ve got some valid points here.

    The idea that a story must have a protagonist you can “root for” is waste. There are thousands upon thousands of examples of great works with main characters who are unfathomable and sometimes even “evil”. If you have to have someone to sympathize with or cheer on, then GLAM simply isn’t for you. Then again, neither is just about any postmodern work of art. Steer clear of film noir. You probably won’t like those “dangerous and insufferable bastard” characters they have for their protagonists.

    Frankly, I’d rather read a “Meet The Feebles” of a webcomic than the glut of tired, genre-treading webcomics out there that spoonfeed their audience exactly what they expect. I’ll take a challenging (if “sloppy”) work of art over shallow pop any day.

    • Actually, I disagree with some of your points here. I love film noir. Believe it or not, most have heroes that readers can relate to. Sure, they’re unpleasant to most standards of society, but there’s typically an element that makes you root for the guy nevertheless. You root for the Continental Op because he’s in a situation where the entire town is gamed against him and he becomes sympathetic in contrast. You root for Sam Spade because, while he’s immoral, he wants to see justice done at the end. You root for Philip Marlowe because he’s not in it for the money and would rather see good triumph. Even though I didn’t like “Sin City,” the most sympathetic character out of that is Marv, because he’s ridding the world of serial killers and corrupt officials.

      The idea of a relatable protagonist holds up strongly in film noir simply because the entire world is so dark that you have to have one person who has a moral center you can gravitate to, even if the light is flickering so dimly. And don’t mistake “dangerous and insufferable bastard” as a trait that ISN’T something to root for. If you flip that to “morally strong internal code who doesn’t let corrupt authority change his ideals,” then you come to realize that that’s a sympathetic trait that people have been rooting for since the beginning of time. Heck, Jesus himself displayed those traits on occasion, especially dealing with Pharisees.

      While I agree that stories can be written about totally irredeemable and unlikable individuals, I don’t think that there are many, less so the thousands upon thousands of examples in great works that you claim. On this site, “Jack” gets pinpointed as a comic where there are no protagonists, but I find that completely untrue. Eventhough I disliked the comic, I did mention that Jack himself was actually a fairly good character that readers can root for. In that case, you can’t say that there is no one in the comic to root for. You root for Jack.

      Rooting for someone doesn’t mean they have to be Mother Theresa all the time, but they have to stand for the values of the reader themselves as a hook. It’s not tired, genre-treading stuff. It’s the core of all literature … a known quantity that even the ancient Greeks figured out when they wrote the early comedies and tragedies. Having a protagonist you can relate to, an thus invest yourself in literature as a whole, is as essential as stringing together a subject and a predicate.

      • We experience film noir out of context; at the time the films and novels were made, the audience was more likely to loathe the protagonists even as they less than voluntarily “rooted” for them. To say that the main characters were intended to be “sympathetic” is missing the point entirely; the creators were subverting the expectations of the audience into relating to a protagonist they might hate otherwise. That’s why it’s postmodern.

        GLAM takes that same idea and rewinds it; how does the protagonist get the point where they’re loathsome and inhuman? The main characters is (it would seem) all the way at the “happy fun land” end of the spectrum to where you really can’t relate to him at all because of how annoyingly cheerful he is. And he doesn’t become any more sympathetic as things get worse; he only becomes a part of the insane transformation, losing his “humanity” and our sympathy. But that’s what I like about GLAM; it bludgeons our desire to have someone to root for, much like film noir did back when those characters were still considered outrageous and vile.

        What I think Pedro is doing is trying to create a very postmodern work in which we really don’t know who the “good guy” is and you’ve done a great job of proving exactly how well it works.

  3. The style of Glam reminds me a lot of Stark Reality and Kranburn, Australian cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic comics respectively, both by the same author/artist. They all have that Heavy Metal underground vibe, and I believe BMB (the previously mentioned Aussie) has actually been published in that magazine.

  4. Did anyone else find the visuals in this comic incredibly sickening? I’m not saying that the artist is bad, but I just found what he was depicting so sickening that I felt physically nauseated

  5. I constantly spent my half an hour to read this weblog’s articles all the time along with a cup of coffee.

  6. Remarkable! Its really awesome article, I have got much clear idea about from this paragraph.

  7. Why does this have a 4 star rating on the link in but a 3 star rating in the inside review. Is it an accident or do they represent different things.

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