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The Webcomic Overlook #197: I’m My Own Mascot

Kevin Bolk is a drama queen.

Wait, wait, maybe I should clarify that statement. I should make it clear that I’m not talking about the real Kevin Bolk. In fact, I’m sure that he’s a lovely and wonderfully absorbing person. He seems like the kind of guy I can watch the NHL playoffs with at the local microbrew. For all I know, he might be a volunteer firefighter on the weekends, volunteering at the local soup kitchen on the weekdays, and a friend to all children. Maybe he doesn’t do such things, but I like to think the best in people, especially Kevin Bolk.

But Kevin Bolk, the character starring in the comic strip entitled I’m My Own Mascot, is —a capital D, capital Q — Drama Queen. Now, before you accuse me of being incredibly mean (which I am), the propensity of cartoon Kevin Bolk to overreact to things in “humorous” fashion is pretty much the meat and potatoes of this comic.

I’m My Own Mascot is hardly the most obnoxious autobiographical comic out there about being a cartoonist. There are worse. I’m pretty sure most readers of this site know what I’m talking about, since this comic will probably always be compared to one with a title that rhymes with So You’re a Balloonist. I’m My Own Mascot compares rather favorably… but seriously, what comic wouldn’t?

One aspect that perhaps make Mascot slightly classier is that Mr. Bolk comes off as a little self-deprecating. Recently, he’s been doing this series of strips called “Dashing & Dumbass.” There’s one guy spouting a reasonable side, and one guy spouting the jerk response. Bolk casts himself as the titular “dumbass.” Viewed one way, you can read it as the writer’s admission that he, too, is one of you, Mr. or Mrs. Internet Troll. Sadly, just because he’s self-deprecating doesn’t mean that the webcomic isn’t terrible.

The overly polite language also has the unfortunate (and probably unintentional) effect of making the “Dashing” guy sound like a smug, patronizing tool: “I did not care for this particular film myself, but I respect that you do not share my point of view and look forward to a rational discussion about its merits.” Seriously, dude… shut the f*** up.

Seriously, though, at least Mr. Bolk is taking the bold stance that being a big meanie on the internet is bad, right? Yes and no. First of all, the self-deprecatory aspect of I’m My Own Mascot always tends to ring hollow. While cartoon Bolk is in the role of “dumbass,” he’s rarely portrayed as such. He’s pretty much portrayed as a sweet, naive kid who avoids confrontation. There’s a strip where Kevin puts a stick of butter at the end of his knife. Like a 3-year-old who has just discovered the bouquet of flavors hiding inside a can of Playdoh, proudly announces, “Butterknife!” He then spend the next two strips gleefully showing off his stupid, stupid discovery. Which is … kind of offputting when you realize that the guy, in real life, is a grown-ass man in his 30’s.

Does it make sense that sweet-natured Kevin “Butterknife” Bolk really the kind of guy who screams, “THAT MOVIE WAS GOD-AWFUL AND YOU’RE A BAD PERSON FOR LIKING IT”? I don’t think so. So really, who’s he writing this comic about? Can it be about, oh, people who leave nasty remarks on his website?

The whole “Don’t be mean on the internet” theme is one that Mr. Bolk revisits quite often in I’m My Own Mascot. It makes me wonder: exactly who are these strips aimed at? People who are annoying internet trolls who will no doubt break down after seeing the error of their ways? Yes, that’s likely. Or is it because Mr. Bolk has come to an epiphany that he himself should stop being mean? Something that he’s apparently bringing up multiple times because he can’t get over it? If these strips are a pat on the back on acting more civil than other people, that means that the audience for the comic are basically people who like to feel superior over others. Either way, I can’t see these strips as being anything but whiny.

It’s this implied insincerity that really puts me off to this comic. There’s a running theme where Kevin imagines himself as a woman… and he sort of plays it off as study of gender issues. And if it is … the observations are really rather shallow. It’s more like seeing a dude talk about his sexual fantasies in comic form, and that’s never, ever not awkward.

The rest of the comic is pretty mediocre stuff, where the usual rules of crazy wackiness can either make you squee with delight or roll your eyes while pondering about what kind of world we created where this is considered humor. Try and figure out which camp I belong on. There’s a recurring gag about Kevin growing a god beard. Something something something about banana bread. Typical LiveJournal stuff like watching Flash Gordon in a theater and going to a petting zoo. Maybe this stuff would be cute coming out of the mouth of a genuine kid, but, again, out of the mouth of a grown-ass man in his 30’s? Very much the opposite, to put it in diplomatic terms.

Apparently, calling his style “cartoony” will results in a firm but loving reprimand, thus I feel I must elaborate. I can’t say there’s anything wrong with Mr. Bolk’s cartooning style on a technical level. It probably works better with some of his fictional work, like Trigger Star. I’m My Own Mascot is partially autobiographical, though, and it goes a long way in eroding any shred of affection I had for cartoon Kevin Bolk.

I sorta get what Mr. Bolk is going for. He’s trying to depict himself as a cartoony character in the tradition of newspaper comic strips and Saturday morning cartoons. But, man, does cartoon Kevin look so goddamn smug. He’s got a smirk on his face, which ties back to the “air of superiority” issue I mentioned earlier. And then there are times the character goes into “cute widdle kid” mode and flashes the dewy-eyed, bucktoothed expression to show you that he’s just a lovable, little scamp. God, I just want to smack that kid around. He’s in the Young Annakin Skywalker Quadrant of the Adorability Pie Chart.

And finally, there’s probably the most embarrassing strip that Kevin Bolk has published: a sort of confessional where he gets rather stimulated when he realizes he’s going to be roommates at Neko-Con with l-l-l-l-lesbians. OMG, seriously, people.

So, there you go. To paraphrase a character from these comics, I did not care for I’m My Own Mascot myself, but I respect that you do not share my point of view and look forward to a rational discussion about its merits. I do like Indie Kevin though. That guy knows what’s up.

Rating: 2 Stars (out of 5)

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Posted on March 24, 2012, in 2 Stars, comedy webcomic, journal webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. That strip with the lesbians made me want to punch him. I actually feel like hate is a better alternative to that bullshit attitude.

  2. I absolutely adore Kevin Bolk. Sweet guy, absolutely helpful and funny. His art wasn’t the main draw to his comics with me though…way to “Sunday Morning Comic” style for me. But I thought his views of things were funny…er…some things. Some of his comics kinda left me with the proverbial cricket in a quiet room sensation in my head as I just clicked through them. But what draws me back time after time are his amusing strips and my loyalty to a good guy.

  3. I’ve noticed that a lot of your negative reviews share two things in common:
    1. You find the characters to be awful.
    2. The main character has a smug poo-eating face.

    And you are basically spot-on.

  4. Zoopity Zoop zoop

    It’s not great, but it’s okay. It’s so okay, that it’s not really worth reading. Which you apparently did. A lot.

  5. This, along with a hater-troll-post about music, is probably the most unreasonable post I’ve seen in a while. You’ve taken some of the greatest things in KB’s webcomics and beat them into the ground. Heck, the vey first thing you said was a load of bull: ‘Characters that are drama queens suck’ this is true, on SOME occassions. However, when showing the hardships of, in this case, cartoonism, and also actually SHOWING that he’s a cartoonist, he has to show these things because, you know, it’s about -cartoons-. Troll. -.-

  6. I don’t really see the merit in autobiographical comics in this style. It’s the author doing normal things. We know how that works, because we all do it. And that’s where the tactic of using overwrought reaction shots comes in. The thing is, if the joke isn’t funny on its own, it’s not going to become funnier because the author tells us so.

    In a good autobiographical comic, the author is another character. There to make his observations on the world and the people that inhabit it, illustrating those through personal experiences. In a comic like this, the author is the only character and it’s all about him. Even his girlfriend is only there to set up his “jokes”. It´s the big Kevin Blok show. Even the filler art are all just pictures of him. The same thing that makes So You’re a Cartoonist so hard to read, is at work here as well: The comic is one, big ego-trip that never strays far from bathing the author in the limelight.

    • “I don’t really see the merit in autobiographical comics in this style.”

      An autobiography is the story of someone’s life written by that person. It is an ego-trip by definition, so hopefully you’ll understand why I’m confused by your comment. “In a good autobiographical comic, the author is another character.” What does that mean? A good autobiography shouldn’t feature the main character as the main character? Whaaaaaaa?

      I’m not saying you have to like Blok’s comic, although I do, but I disagree on your theory on what is bring it down.

      • An “ego-trip” is a venture undertaken solely to stroke the ego of the creator. I’m sure you can see the difference between that and a proper autobiography. Also, what I’m saying is not that the author shouldn’t be the main character, but that he shouldn’t be the ONLY character. In Bolk’s comic, there’s nothing but Bolk. Like I said, even the most significant person in his life is relegated to a support role. Meanwhile, we get inane strips about how he likes cheeseburgers.

        In fact, I’m not even sure if an author merely chronicling things he does from day to day, or stating his likes and dislikes even counts as autobiography. By the same rules, everyone with a Twitter account is writing one.

        The difference between a good autobiography and this comic (and others in the style) is that a good autobiography paints the journey of the author. In the comic, there is no journey. No lessons are learned. Bolk stands still.

  7. come on, you don’t like the comic? simple solution : don’t read it. the comics are funny, and honestly, so what that he’s in his 30’s. why stop being a kid and having fun just because you get older? as long as you hold up your responsibilities, then you should have legal fun the way you want to.

    • Considering this is a review website, isn’t the writer in question just as much justified in being critical of said webcomic.

      Also, the “don’t look at it” argument is weak. If it’s public, you basically asking for response, for good or for ill. “If you don’t like critics, don’t post it”.

    • If you don’t like criticisim on your favorite webcomics, don’t read ’em.

  8. Aberration, The

    If you’re going to post images in a review, perhaps you should pick images that support your points, and place them where they might illustrate said points. Because you sure didn’t do it this time.

    You posted four strips; none of them of “Dashing & Dumbass,” to which half the review is devoted. The first selection looks like a simple (and common) Cheezburger post, and the other three come off as just another light-hearted fanboy strip whose greatest problems are a lack of a straightedge and being yet just another light-hearted fanboy strip. While that all backs up the criticism that the strip is mediocre, combined with the whole “cute kid make El Santo want smash” bit it doesn’t make me want to click any links.

    I kind of get the feeling–for some reason I can’t put my finger on, perhaps it’s the gigantic center image–that you’re more pissed off that he likes My Little Pony than anything else about him or his strip. And suddenly, what you don’t like about the first posted strip–and the rest of the review–becomes a little easier to speculate about.

    • What you’re doing here is why people don’t like Bronies.

    • You know, you are entitled to your opinions and all… but I didn’t mention My Little Pony once in my review. There’s an image, sure, but I tend to grab those at random. In fact, if you want to get really technical, I’m pretty sure I grabbed that one because it was one of the few in color.

      That said … feeling defensive much?

      • Reepicheep-chan

        I think that maybe grabbing images that support your points vs. grabbing at random might make for more cohesive reviews, though. The random images have always thrown me off a bit, TBH.

        • Good point. I’ve gone with random images since I don’t want the first impressions of the webcomic to necessarily be colored by my own opinions. I go with random selection mainly as a “Well, here’s the art, I’ll let it speak for itself without any hidden agenda” sort of thing. And, well, I gravitate typically toward an artist’s better efforts. (Not so obvious here, but with my last 2-star review, Mystic Revolution, I tended to post images that I thought were some of the artists’ better illustrated panels.)

          It does make the review sometimes hard to follow, though. Perhaps I’ll try something more cohesive in my next review.

          • Reepicheep-chan

            I thought that might be the case, and that is not a bad idea
            (got to admit I was lolwut about aberration thinking you posting the mlp one indicated you had an ish with mlp, I have been under the impression for a while you pick out the better strips even when you are dishing out a negative review). Maybe if the first before-the-cut image was random and the others were connected to what you were saying?

            It may not be a bad idea to find out how many of your reader follow your links to specific pages either. Sometimes I do and other times I wish you would just put the pictures up so I did not have to >.< My internet is not the best and following multiple links to get perspective on what you are talking to can be a pain. I am only one person though, who know what you average reader thinks/does?

      • Aberration, The

        If you scrub my last paragraph, everything else still stands, so who’s “defensive much” here is open to debate. “Defensive” would suggest “defense,” and I don’t defend the strip in question.

        And wow, “I tend to grab (images to illustrate my review) at random” really screams “half-assed job”…which is strange coming as it does from someone who expects to be accepted as a judge of quality.

        Speaking of defensive, there’s Piet, to loudly assume that anyone who’s not a member of his mob has to be a member of the other mob. Yes, that must be the case.

        Still, I’m glad that last paragraph gave you both something to latch onto.

        • I simply stated what I believe to be fact. Without malice or ill intent. You made a point of white-knighting MLP while it wasn’t even part of the discussion. Don’t be surprised people respond to that.

          As for your other point, you yourself said you refused to follow the links in the review. Those lead to strips relevant to the text at hand, and are too numerous to all place in the review itself.

  9. I think my favorite reviews are the ones you do where you give the comic a 5 and it’s a comic I’ve not heard of. So then it’s like “Heyyyy let me add you to my RSS subscriptions!”

  10. it nothing wrong to be a manchild anyone is free whatever he wants to be
    but he draws himself as a kid so it looks weird

  11. Has several good jokes and lots of fun drawings but….a grown man drawing kawaisa …… ugh!

  12. Ahh~

    Been awhile since we had a little kerfuffle because one of your reviews El Santo.

  13. Am i the only one who sees the art as derivative of the old chuck jones Ralphie cartoons?

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