The Webcomic Overlook #182: Dueling Analogs
When I bring up Steve Napierski’s Dueling Analogs, your first reactions is probably, “Good Lord, is that comic STILL being updated?”
Followed swiftly by your second reaction: “No, seriously, bro, is that comic still being updated?”
After a bit of research, it should be a surprise the Dueling Analogs is still around. While never as successful as Penny Arcade — and really who could be — the history of Dueling Analogs is filled with relatively impressive achievements. Compete.com calculates that it’s had at least 127K unique visitors. That’s seriously mind boggling. In comparison, PvP only gets a third of those numbers.
Dueling Analogs is also a founding member of the Gamers Pair of Dice collective, which includes prominent titles like Goblins, 2P Start, and Nerf Now!! The comic has been nominated twice in the WCCAs (for Outstanding Gaming Comic and Outstanding Web Design) and has been voted best gaming webcomic by Joystiq readers at least nine times.
At the same time, a lot of hate is directed at Dueling Analogs. Take this one strip where Steve Napierski draws
his self-insert his main character Harvey with a big poo-eating grin, holding a blitzball (which is the bare minimum needed for making this a video game webcomic), and having buttsex. Beyond being dumb and tasteless and terrible, there’s the absolute headscratcher that there’s absolutely no joke in this strip. None. Like, nothing there resembles a punchline. That’s… that’s sort of a requirement when you’re doing a comedic short-form webcomic. It’s just our author, drawing himself having sex and posting it online for all to see … and that is so very sad.
Lately, though, I hadn’t found recent entries to be half bad. I even mentioned it in one of the comments sections around here. It was based on seeing a few strips that had been posted here and there. I’m specifically the Flapjack strip, which, while banal, wasn’t terrible. I like Flapjack. I like Portal. And the strip was really cute. I mean, it wasn’t Arrested Development or anything, but I admit I smiled a little.
Perhaps those early, unfunny strips were merely a product of a young, hyperactive mind that hadn’t grasped the basics of wit and humor yet. It could be that the days of strips with titles like “Luigi’s Anal Adventure” were over. Maybe Dueling Analogs just needed to grow up.
But now that I have read the entire run of Dueling Analogs, I would like to issue a retraction. In fact, I would like to issue a blanket apology to anyone I may have inadvertently convinced that Dueling Analogs is good now. I would like to apologize to Tim Buckley, Mohammad Haque, Scott Ransoomair, Matt Thompson, and any other video game webcomic creator who I may have said had created the worst video game webcomic of all time. I would like to apologize to Scott Johnson, creator of Extra Life, which I haven’t reviewed yet, but I’m pretty sure the phrase “worst video game comic ever” would have passed my lips at some point.
Because OH MY GOD IS DUELING ANALOGS BAD.
I mean, the comic is so very soulless. Every single joke sounds like it was generated by some sort of robot. Specifically a robot that forced to watch only Attack of the Show, South Park, and Adult Swim and told that this is what people find funny. It processes the inputs that video games and offensive content are necessary variables with which to make for maximum humor delivery. After a series of calculations, the robots eyes light up as it prints out its findings: Luigi in assless chaps. Aerith wearing a strap-on. Little does our poor little robot know how far it’s completely missing the point.
Ah, but are algorithm is no one trick pony. No, no, no. You see, it can get topical. Windows Phone coming out soon? How about a picture of it’s dropping into a wastebasket with the caption “Windows Phone 7 Dropping This November.” Let it never be said that Dueling Analogs was never clever! Oh, but I hear that Octomom is in the news! Let us have Aerith from FFVII babbling on about wanting babies, and include the punchline: “It was a good thing that Aerith died.” What do you mean this joke makes no sense? Can 127K readers be wrong?
I admit, one strip in particular made me laugh out loud. There’s one that pokes fun of how female avatars in fantasy games are given scantily clad outfits while the guys are given all sorts of cool armor. Now, strip itself is lame and terrible and everything you’d expect from a Dueling Analogs joke. The funny part is that this comic comes EXACTLY ONE STRIP after a fan art Mr. Napierski drew of Princess Daisy in the Princess Leia bikini. (Subtitled “Daisy Chain.” Naturally.)
You! Yes, you! You who did comics about a dumb cheerleader playing chess, a clothing disintegration gun, Samus doing a striptease, and a beyond terrible “Hookering Mama” pun! Yes, you, the one who once did a Dragon Quest VIII comic where the punchline is The Hero motorboating Jessica’s boobs! Do you really want to be the one white knighting female gamers?
Dueling Analogs is soulless and robotic, but if I were to describe the entire comic in just one word, I think I’d go with “lazy.” I have read lots and lots of webcomics — about 250 — and without a doubt Dueling Analogs is the laziest I have ever read. For all the faults Jack has, you can tell that David Hopkins is at least trying to skeeve everyone out. Napierski, on the other hand, seems to have resigned himself to writing the blandest crap imaginable and decided that it was his lot in life.
For example, Mr. Napierski draws the Megaman Bosses as Mr. Men. There’s Mr. Nitro, Mr. Freeze, Little Miss Splash… and the piece de resistance, Mr. Knight, who is Batman. Oh ho ho. Cleverness, thy name is Dueling Analogs. But you know what kills me? Alone, this is an already lame and repetitive gag. Apparently, though, this is the 6th time he’s done this exact same strip.
Think that’s a petty complaint, though? I estimate nearly half the comics in the Dueling Analogs archive are these “Variants on the Same Theme.” You also get variants on pokeballs, pokeballs, and pokeballs. There’s rejected Megaman villains (Nega Man is a racist stereotype? How cheeky!), which is in its 13th iteration and has been ringing the death knell to humor since the very second strip. How about variants on Wario, which is basically Wario in cosplay? Or “Games I’m Glad Were Never Made,” torturous attempts at making up fake video game titles?
It… never… EEEEENNNNDDDDDSSSSS!!!!
Not lazy enough you say?
How about a series of comics that copy and paste pictures of consoles talk smack to each other. Let’s put a side for a moment the obsolescence of the entire console wars concept. How lazy do you have to be to not even draw gaming systems that are, in essence, simple rectangles? There are a few solid commentaries on video games in there, by the way, like the one about DLC’s vs. iPhone apps, but the delivery is so cheap that anything positive is DOA.
Not lazy enough you say?
How about the ones featuring some stuck up gamer with long hair and a monocle? The wiki entry on Dueling Analogs (yes, there is one) tells me his name is John Shelf American, and that his inspiration is a John Kricfalusi character. Geez… way to put together a copy-and-paste job that, if John K. were aware of it, would ridicule on his blog about how cartooning has gone to seed in the 21st Century. Eack strip is typically the same three images. John repeats what I’m supposed to assume are smug, arrogant gamer attitudes that Mr. Napierski culled from countless video game message boards. Even if that’s not where John Shelf American’s comments are culled from, these strips come off as incredibly petulant in that “people I disagree with will be drawn as dumb morons” kind of way.
Not lazy enough you say?
Then I’ve got one word for you: anagrams. Just… anagrams. I kid you not.
And the hell of it all is that Mr. Napierski knows he’s being lazy. In fact, he regularly makes fun of it. It should note that metacommentary on the banality of your webcomic works a whole lot better when it’s not 100% true.
It’s kind of impressive, in fact, how Dueling Analogs can so consistently fall flat. It almost unintentionally becomes a parody of bad video game webcomics. Mario jokes — and there are a hell of a lot of them — are milked so dry that Napierski has to resort to a “Toad Stool” pun. Reading through Dueling Analogs made me retroactively hate that Flapjack strip. Napierski apparently does a lot of parodies about beloved childhood cartoons, and most are incredibly lame. Some jokes are dead in the water from the beginning, and yet Dueling Analogs soldiers on to its own doomed conclusion. It’s almost admirable and awe-inspiring in that way.
But what it isn’t is funny. In the end, you have to do a whole lot of work to convince me that even Steve Napierski himself isn’t bored out of his skull about the whole thing.
So yes, Virginia, Dueling Analogs is still being updated … and it’s as terrible as ever.
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)