The Webcomic Overlook #174: Original Life

It’s been said that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. After reviewing some 200-plus webcomics, it’s a statement I’m inclined to agree with. I know instantly when something merits a lower rating: you feel rage utterly and ultimately consuming you. Love and hate both have passion on their side. Apathy is by definition the lack of passion.

This is why I love to watch terrible movies like the ones they used to show on MST3K, but fidget uncontrollably through recent middling fare like Green Lantern. Part of the fun is catching yourself when the movie really gets to you, where you just want to launch out of your seat with an incredulous, “Oh, come on!” It’s the same philosophy that separates one star reviews from three star reviews on this site. One star webcomics fill me with so much rage that I want to get my fiery hot vengeance on the comic as swiftly as possible. Thee star webcomics leave me feeling listless and blase. There is no urgency.

Jay Naylor’s Original Life is, to its credit, less laughably terrible than its predecessor, Better Days (reviewed here). There is, for example, nothing as mindbogglingly wrong as the twincest scene.

It also means, though, that there’s very little here to make me want to give a crap. The webcomic still manages to irk me from time to time, and much of that has to do with Naylor’s political stance. I try never to turn these reviews into a political discussion, since that’s hardly ever productive to a site that claims, ironically, that “webcomic reviews are serious business.” However, I fear that this time it will be unavoidable. Apologies in advance for any libertarian toes I step on.

By the way, while this review is likely going to be safe for work, I should warn you that last time I clicked on to Original Life, the banner consisted of furry asses in bikini bottoms. Also there are multiple links to Naylor’s porn projects. Soooo… proceed at your discretion.

Our hero, John Galt Fisk Black, is now married in a very sterile and passionateless relationship with Elizabeth, the Jewish mouse he decided to spend his life with in the last arc. OK, so it’s not portrayed that way, but even in Better Days I could never see Fisk and Elizabeth as anything more than a marriage of convenience. I guess I can’t argue with the logic that you’ll have a conflict-free marriage if you find a woman who will never, ever question you on anything.

Now, Naylor makes it very clear that he doesn’t hold religion in high regard. However, he has no problem portraying our first couple as being holy and blameless. Fisk, especially, is impossibly saintly. For example, a fellow tempestuous co-worker tries to seduce him in one storyline. However, when she sees how truly incredible of a family man Fisk is, she sees the error of her ways. Fisk also believes in hands free parenting, letting his kids decide whatever they want to believe. Of course, given the choice, the kids will always choose Fisk’s morality of self-determinism… because, hey, when has Fisk ever been wrong?

(Hint: it’s never.)

Perhaps the parents seem like unquestionable stalwarts of morality because we’re seeing things from kid’s perceptive. (Though even that rings hollow. Hey, remember in Better Days when Fisk’s mom was a brash, single parent who was riddled with character deficiencies? Sure, she was pretty much just another sounding board for Naylor’s beliefs, but at least she was interesting. And yes, I am referring to Better Days in positive terms. Kill me.) Have you ever wondered what the offspring of a cat and a mouse would look like? Welllll… they end up all looking like cats. So I guess mouse gene is rather recessive.

There’s Abby, the youngest one. She is precocious, imaginative, and skilled at the art of killing. In her strips, she imagines herself as a mad scientist or a hot, cleavage-baring nurse. Abby stories are actually kinda fun, so I give her a pass.

The middle child is <a clone of Fisk Black from early Better Days Thomas. He’s wild and uncontrollable, sort of the Bart Simpson of the family. Well, that is until he goes too far, holes himself up in a tree house, and receives a rather preachy vision from out of nowhere about how you have the right to own whatever you build. Having been confronted with the lessons of Objectivism early on, Thomas now seems to be on the path of being a model citizen.

Finally, there Janie, the oldest sister. She is spiritually curious, though, like any normal teenager, her journey will lead her back to accepting the beliefs of her parents. She’s also a gifted athlete. There’s a storyline where she tries out for the cheerleading team. She’s naturally very good, which causes jealousy among the other cheerleaders. But there, disaster strikes, and she’s sidelined with an injury. Suddenly everyone’s nice to her. Everyone except her brother, who sneers at her when he can. But, you see, from Janie’s point of view, her brother is the one who’s really trying to help her out by pushing her. Those people that are trying to be nice to her? They’re only doing so because they’re secretly rejoicing in her injury, and all they want for her to be is average.

Wow. Talk about paranoid. It strikes me that The Incredibles made the same point about people with exceptional skills, an how people who are good at their jobs should be allowed to do so. However, would Brad Bird and company also argue that people who are nice to you when you’re injured are secretly conspiring to knock you down to levels of being average? I doubt it.

It’s almost a comfort that Naylor’s love for strawman arguments doesn’t wane. Now, on the plus side, there are no stories where the guy who doesn’t agree with Naylor’s philosophies turns out to be an abusive monster who deserves to be assassinated while lying defenseless in bed. I think that even Naylor figured out that this was ridiculously extreme. It’s been replaced, though, with something just as ridiculous.

Earlier this year, Original Life ran a libertarian fable centered on a tubby fellow named Jeffery who is good at making muffins. Our opening sequence tries ever so hard to sound like The Fountainhead:

A man’s genius takes shape, motivated by his desire to produce and create. The elements are there for him to understand, and therefore command. The natural world is not enough for the creative man. He forges it to his needs. The fires of industry burn under the direction his plans. It’s not the pleasure of the rest that motivates him. It is the pleasure of doing.

Admittedly, I was a little intrigued to see where Naylor was going with this. Enter our villainess: a bunny whose name I can’t bother to look up. She works for the school newspaper. (Boo!) She was introduced earlier as a flaky, shallow New Ager. Trust me, this becomes a plot point. Jeffery refuses to give her any muffins because she wrote a piece in the paper about the evils of capitalism, and he cannot stand her political stance. Well, OK, that’s his prerogative, but I think most people would make the distinction between the microeconomic system that Jeffery’s practicing and the macroeconomic philosophy that our Commie bunny probably wrote up. Anyway, we never really get any rebuttal from Commie bunny because she immediately goes to sneering at Jeffery for not sharing and threatens to slander him in the press.

That Naylor… so subtle.

Eventually, superheroes get involved. That is not a typo. Neither is it yet another of Abby’s imagination of the real world. Kids dress up, take Jeffery’s side, and save him from the forces that would exploit his business. I suppose a superhero makes a more cutting image than, say, union busters, so I suppose you need to use some poetic license in your furry tale about an aggrieved high school businessman.

But still.

Jeffery remains cool, calm and collective, even when he’s justifying why his beliefs dictate that he has to give the Justice Defender a nice pay-off. Oh, sure it looks skeezy to those damn media types, but a man should be compensated for the services he provides. Meanwhile, Commie bunny exposes her true intentions. In a long megamaniacal rant, she reveals that her spiritual journey has lead her nowhere, and now she’s fully devoted to the prospect of crushing individuality. It turns out that, deep down inside, everyone believes the same way that Naylor Jeffery does, and people who oppose his beliefs are either manipulative hypocrites or blind, naive dittoheads.

I’m pretty sure that this one comic drawn by someone who is not Naylor sums it all up rather handily.

I guess I could go on and on, like how the comic sometimes sounds like it was written by a cranky old man ( like this one comic lampooning hypocritical hipsters who turned on Apple for selling out), but that makes Original Life sound way more interesting than it really is. I think that while the artwork is better than the early Better Days stuff, every character now seems to permanently have a blank look on their faces. I guess that’s what happens when the characters only come equipped with two settings: either always right or always wrong.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)


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 July 18, 2011, in 3 Stars, furry webcomic, slice-of-life webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. Dude. The opposite of love is “furry”. (Haters gonna hate.)

  2. I don’t really agree with your idea that comics that leave you feeling apathetic aren’t as bad as ones that make you angry. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than sitting through a movie or reading a story and not feeling the urge to react to it in any way. It doesn’t entertain you, and it doesn’t even give you the urge to start riffing it to pass the time. It might as well never have been made in the first place.

    So, I don’t understand why you feel Original Life doesn’t deserve being rated one star like you did with Better Days. I haven’t read Original Life myself (after being exposed to the latter, I shy away from anything with Naylor’s name on it), but from what you’ve described here, It sounds pretty damn lifeless. It sounds like it might as well be an essay on the writer’s political views, but with pictures of fuzzy people to accompany it. I don’t see how that deserves an “average” score, since it’s just wasted effort on paper. Either way, bad writing is bad writing. At least Better Days gave the furries something to rage about.

    I’d be interested in hearing what else you might have to say on this.

    • The rating system depends from person to person, I think. For me, something that warrants one star has at least one scene that makes you want to beat your head in with a claw hammer. For Better Days, one of those scenes was the “person doesn’t agree with me politically so he’s clearly an abusive rapist” story that I linked to in the review. While Original Life isn’t great, it didn’t have anything quite as loathesome as, say, deciding a Cartoon Network character was behind the World Trade Center attack or graphic scenes of furries taking massive dumps while being eviscerated. It never sunk to those depths.

      If I decided that “bland” also equals “one star,” there would be a heck of a lot more one star ratings here. Not that it would be a bad system, either. Gene Siskel one said of movie reviews that readers only wanted to know one thing: whether to go to a movie, or whether to skip it. (This the elegant “thumbs up/thumbs down” system.) I’m not hardcore enough to go completely binary, but trying to figure out what constitutes the nebulous gray area between “go read it” and “skip it if only to SAVE YOUR SOUL” can be admittedly tricky.

      • I think I see where you’re coming from now. I guess I would rather read a comic that I’d easily forget than one that disgusts me.

        I guess what’s putting me off a bit about the three star rating is how it compares to your other reviews. I’ve read some of Femmegasm and No Cash Value, and I was pretty bored by both. You gave those comics a 2-star and a 1-star rating, and you said similar things about both comics. What differentiates the style of blandness here with those other two?

  3. I’ve never really found that the Objectivist Incredibles argument held much water. I mean, the idea of a “self made man” plays a whole lot into the Randian viewpoint, and the most self-made of men is portrayed as the biggest villain. The other self made person (Edna) seems to find more joy in contributing to the greater good (making superhero costumes) than in her own personal gain (supermodels).

    Not to mention the benevolent government agency working to help our protagonists, a thing that you’d never find in whatever tripe of Ayn’s you happen to be reading.

    In any case, I do agree with your point on how much more enjoyment can be derived from terrible comics. There’s a reason everyone keeps ragging on CAD and nobody has talked about….
    I cannot even remember any mediocre webcomics.
    That is the worst fate of all.

  4. …[Y]ou have the right to own whatever you build.

    Is that a tenet of libertarianism, or communism? You be the judge!

    Also, the fact that Naylor pits the New Age against clearheaded libertarianism is strange to me, because The Illuminatus! Trilogy is really the most convincing libertarian text I’ve read.

  5. I always wanted to know how bad Atlas Shrugged was but I didn’t wanted to read the book.

    • The Fountainhead is shorter, and better, and still pretty bad.

      • Is it true that the author tells the readers that all of the victims of the train crash were horrible people, that income tax should be banned, and that people’s voting power must be proportionate to how much money they have?
        Because those sound like the level of horribleness that one must exert great effort to achieve.

        • Touch Of Whimsy

          Not to mention the fact that its okay to rape people because you have the right to what you’ve earned.

          And nobody can be a socialite and be a good person. You have to be a complete loner/sociopath otherwise you’re sheep.

          And you can’t find inspiration/reference in anything because then you’re a weak-willed sycophantic idiot.


  6. I see no problem with dismissing a work due to it’s politics being disagreeable. That’s as much part if the presentation as the language is.

    (And that is why the Starship Troopers movie is superior to the book.)

  7. Long time reader here. Love what you do. Keep on doing it! I usually agree with your reviews, but I find myself torn by this one. Since it first began, I‘ve been following Original Life out of sheer bile fascination and can honestly say, despite its dullness, I find it is actually WORSE than Better Days.

    The thing about Naylor’s ‘Adventures of Fisk’ is that there was a sense of direction. Granted that direction led to awkward twincest, super-secret assassination cats, and furry racism, but that’s beyond the point. Each chapter had unique plot lines with fairly sequential art. ‘The Adventures of Fisk Babies’ is just perplexing. The saga of Jeffrey’s Muffins ends with the communist superhero kid saying he just wants to be a kid again. Next page is Fisk having a morning erection. Page after that is some cousin of theirs going through puberty. In Florida. Trust me, this is even more obnoxious/ infuriating when you’re actually following the comic per update. It’s like he can’t finish his own thoughts. With Better Days, Naylor had a message—boy what a message that was!—and he delivered it. With Original Life however, it’s like—remember when Janie (the athletic one) got that anonymous love letter? Me neither. It’s poorly organized, the characters are even more annoying, Fisk is somehow smugger this time around, and ten-year-olds sound like they’re hitting mid-life crisis.

    Still, great review.

  8. Hey Los Santos have you read our Badwebcomics Wiki review of Original Life?

  9. I like his work, and have to say he kind of ruined original life with that cupcakes story arch, he fucked up his own objective to keep Original Life light-hearted and innocent. I would say it’s a good webcomic, and when I read it, i am not expecting anything from him, and that is the way i think it should be, because he can do what he wants with it.period.
    A tip for enjoying his work, and most of the Internet, is to simply switch your learning ability off while surfing, so you can simply look at it as it is and not at how it clashes with your beliefs. and don’t start worrying ’bout it.

  10. You seriously think this psychotic pile of poorly-drawn, horribly-written shit masquerading as good ol’ wholesome family fun is deserving of 3 stars?

  11. Honestly, I’ve seen a lot of reviews for Naylor and the majority of them sum up as “Blaaaargh!!! Furry!!! Baaaad!!! Me do better!” and in one occassion where the reviewer had the balls to attempt a comic… well that was far from true. But honestly, your review is fair. I’m not too much a fan of Naylor or his practices. I think in the grand scheme a 2 stars might have been more appropriate since your absolutely right, Original Life is actually worse than Better Days, but I do end up reading from time to time. It’s… a time killer to say the least.

    • Oh wait, you said better… No longer in agreement. At least Better Days characters had conflict. Now the characters can do no wrong. Fisk needs to die to save this damn series from utter steralization.

      • Awww…

        Well, the thing with Original Life is Fisk is not in it as much, so it’s not so obvious that he’s the Randian Superman or what not…. but yes, he’s quite an unappealing character.

  12. I won’t debate the purpose of art (bad or not) but I’m curious if you’re familiar with Steinbeck? He’s a celebrated American writer and his stories are as shallow, one-sided, and shovel-to-the-face subtle as Naylor’s. I remember plot-irrelevant editorial rants, not even associated to a character, in both Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice And Men.

    I guess my point is – this is par for the course. At least Naylor isn’t paid for this, and he’s not in thousands of classrooms spreading pseudo-intellectual malaise.

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