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The Webcomic Overlook #131: AmazingSuperPowers

Located to the lower left of the AmazingSuperPowers webcomic title is a jolly-looking creature with no arms, no legs, and no nose. His head sways back and forth at a comfortable pace, while his face, for the most part, maintains a pleasingly blank expression. Typically, there’s a halo over his head … but not always.

The FAQ calls him the “Godslug.” He looks more like a worm, if you ask me.

Every time you refresh the page, Godslug dons a new and different costume. Sometimes, he appears as an angel or a demon, sometimes he appears as a tourist or a redneck, but most of the time he runs the pop culture gamut. Sometimes he is dressed like Mr. T. Sometimes he is dressed like Queen Elizabeth II. Sometimes he’s dressed like Homestar Runner. And, if you’re very lucky, sometimes his face morphs into a remarkable facsimile of Barney Fife.

This may seem like a lot to write about a simple webcomic mascot, but trust me, Godslug is easily the most entertaining part of AmazingSuperPowers. The comic was written by two guys only known as Wes and Tony, two guys who met on a college improve comedy team who now are putting their own sense of humor on the internet for all to see.


So, as you might be able to guess when it comes to humor webcomic titles, AmazingSuperPowers has nothing to do with guys in capes or the two Cold War rivals or the tag team of Hulk Hogan and “The Macho Man” Randy Savage. It also has nothing to do with Godslug, quelle dommage. Rather, it is sort of a violent sight gag webcomic in the tradition of Cyanide & Happiness.

While reading through the archives of AmazingSuperPowers, one particular strip baffled me. The first panel showed the exterior of a strip club, with a bunch of cheesy neon signs, including a big one advertising “Live Nudes.” The second panel showed a man being hauled away by the police. The last panel was exactly the same as the first one, only with the “Live” sign shorted out. I stared at it for half a minute, trying in vain to figure out what the punchline was. Defeated, I scrolled down to the comments section to see if anyone provided an explanation. It turns out I wasn’t the only one confused.

My God, had I stumbled on a latter day “Cow Tools”? That is, was it a strip so baffling that the bafflement itself ends up making the reputation and elevates a simple gag strip into one where befuddlement becomes part of the charm and a hallowed component of AmazingSuperPowers lore?

Eventually, though, someone chimed in with the actual explanation: “he killed them.”

After which, I slammed my head onto my desk. Of course! How could I have been so blind? I mean, the punchline of 50% of every AmazingSuperPowers strip is either “he killed them” or “they all died in the end.” It’s as if my mind was searching for a much better punchline and managed to skip the most obvious and laziest one.

I do like it when you have to do a little work to get the joke … even though thhe payoff, in this case, was totally not with it. Still, despite not being remotely funny, “Live Nudes” is, at least, clever. That’s better than I can say for the solid majority of strips in AmazingSuperPowers.

Remember that chainsawsuit strip that showed “Every Perry Bible Fellowship” ever? Obviously, Kris Straub is exaggerating. The comic ignores Gurewich’s fantastic artwork and overall pleasant cadence so that, even when you get to the ironic punchline, it doesn’t feel at odds with what came before. However, Wes & Tony seem to have taken that chainsawsuit‘s farcical ethic to heart. The early strips, especially, read like bad PBF parodies.

AmazingSuperPowers is the sort of comic where two people are just talking — all normal like, ho hum, nothing to see here — and the punchline ends up being someone getting their eyes gouged out. Or maybe we switch it up, and the punchline is “people are assholes.” Or, I don’t know, “Rape.” (Seriously, Shakesville got upset over Penny Arcade and not over this?)

Scandalous! Have you ever seen such vulgarities?

Well yes… and better done, even. A lot of great webcomics that rely on shock value for humor. The difference? They do it well. Both Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (reviewed here) and Buttersafe (reviewed here) do a fantastic job setting up the reader to expect one kind of shock joke only to be delivered another kind entirely. Thingpart (reviewed here) lulls you with its cuteness, while Gunshow (reviewed here) heightens the gags with impeccable timing and old school cartooniness.

AmazingSuperPowers does none of these things. There is no shock value, only predictability. And there’s something off-putting about the art. The current strips are more polished than the early versions, which were crude looking affairs. Yet modern strips, awash in solid colors and thick lines, end up looking absolutely generic, as if it should be stocked at Costco under the Kirkland brand. It’s like Wes & Tony had hit the Uncanny Valley between stick figure webcomics and garden variety video game comics.

There is one benefit to being so predictable, by the way: the strips that had nothing to do with a crude, “shocking” punchline actually turned out to be pretty funny. For example, you’re bracing yourself for something bad to happen in a strip entitled “Test your strength,” but when a different outcome happens, I let out a laugh. Genuine humor? Relief? It’s complex.

On the same token, I ended up looking forward to any comic featuring a clueless hobo, whose commitment to panhandling is as integral to his DNA as catching a rascally rabbit is to Elmer Fudd’s.

I even enjoyed a fair number of the early strips for their sheer surrealism. Why does this chicken have muscular arms? Who cares? It’s a buff chicken. That’s all the joke you need.

But I didn’t enjoy any of the strips starring the smug, pissed-off fish. God, I hate that fish.

Still, the good jokes are clocking in at around 1 good to 10 bad. With that kind of batting average, I can’t really recommend AmazingSuperPowers. Or, should I say, UnderwhelmingStuper… Depowers. (Whatever. Back off!) Still, if Wes & Tony somehow update this webcomic to include the Adventures of Godslug, I may feel a little more charitable in the future.

Rating: 2 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 August 20, 2010, in 2 Stars, comedy webcomic, stick figure webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Based on the title, the chicken might be a reference “High as F#%k” by Jon Lajoie. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2spZ-NDfS4
    Vital information, I’m sure.

  2. Wow, this review surprises me. I’ve always placed Amazing Superpowers somewhere near the top of the gag comics I read. To read this negative a review of it feels just like when someone tells me they don’t like Dinosaur Comics. I guess maybe people really do have different tastes. Funny that.

  3. The Perry Bible Fellowship raised the bar way to high for every other gallows humor webcomic to catch up.
    That said i´m a big fan of Dresden Codak, if only he´d update more often.

  4. I used to read this comic, but at some point I felt like the jokes got a little too mean spirited.

  5. this is your first review i’m not on-board with you! i think ASP is pretty good, quite a bit smarter than Cy&H.

    did you notice the hidden panels for (almost) every comic? a lot of the time i get the biggest laughs from them. it is laughter dessert.

  6. Wow, if thats comic’s bad then I can’t imagine whats good. Still, don’t you think that a lot of the arguments you put forward against this comic can be easily used against SMBC or even PBF? I mean, PBF, despite your “every PBF ever” link probably did have an over-reliance on the generic “Dark” humour, like here

    While SMBC has the habit of relying on crude sex gags: (http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1960#comic)
    similer dark humor to ASP (can you really say that this strip wouldn’t be equally at home on ASP than SMBC? http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1979#comic)
    or the one-millionth “engineers sure are weird” gag (http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=1937#comic)

    Don’t get me wrong, I love both those comics, but I find it weird that they are 5-star affairs while ASP is only worth 2 in comparison.

    • Fair question! I tried to delineate the differences a little in the review. I tried to keep it short and focused on AmazingSuperPowers and tried to deviate, but I guess I could’ve gone into more detail.

      So, short story: it’s all in the presentation.

      Long story: I think you can more easily notice differences in, say, animation. For example, you could make the argument that South Park, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Drawn Together, and, I dunno, Assy McGee all practice the same sorts of humor. There’s over-reliance on all sides on sex, scat, and shock value. The difference, though, is I think South Park and ATHF do a lot to keep the humor fresh from episode to episode, while Drawn Together and Assy McGee are more or less predictable and less memorable. (Humor is completely subjective, by the way: I do understand that there are people out there who feel differently: there are devoted Drawn Together fans and South Park haters, but the vice versa is, in my experience, more common.) What’s the difference?

      Again, presentation.

      The same with Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal and Perry Bible Fellowship vs. AmazingSuperPowers.

      With Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, you typically get a single panel. You know that something’s in store, but the picture provides very few clues. It’s only until you get to the punchline that everything ties together… and that’s where the humor comes from. I think that’s key to what makes “shock” humor work… the unpredictability. Sure, SMBC does get repetitive, and it does get tiring after reading, say, 30 strips in a row, but the thing is within the context of the gag itself, you can’t see the joke coming.

      My problem with ASP is that, even after reading five or six strips, you know exactly what the joke is … and no creative liberties are really taken to make the punchline surprising. SMBC will at least try to lead the reader into thinking that there’s a completely different punchline on the horizon, only to yank you in an entirely different direction. ASP is by the numbers, the webcomic version of Comedy Central’s Drawn Together.

      As for the PBF gag strip, I think Kris Straub (the writer of chainsawsuit) would probably agree with me that there’s more to PBF than that strip lets on. That’s part of the joke, I think: that Straub has distilled the essence of PBF into a lame gag strip. What he’s intentionally leaving out, though, is that the Gurewich’s beautiful artwork itself contributes greatly to the entire feel of the strip. Even when you get to the “shocking” punchline, you’re still feeling in pretty good humor, and the horror itself comes across as pretty pleasant. And that’s when you, the reader, start thinking, “Hey, this is not quite the appropriate reaction I’m supposed to be happening.” Interestingly, what sets PBF above other shock comics is that the shock itself is not part of the gag.

  7. I believe the punchline of the one “live nudes” strip you mentioned implies that he killed the women who were nude. That would explain both the cops and the burned out live. Seems like a murder and possible necrophilia joke. The fact the nudes is still lit implies the dead bodies may still be on show. That is the only logical explanation to the strip.

    • I see that you did see an answer already. I just looked at the strip directly after you wrote you didn’t get it. Oh well, at least I got it without looking.

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