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)