The Webcomic Overlook #203: Hejibits
Hey, kids! Do you know what time it is? It’s time for that video game expo! No, not the one founded by the webcomic guys. The other one. The one in LA. Um… the Electronic Entertainment Expo, also known as E3. It’s like, sort of a big deal (not really). And to celebrate this great day, let’s take a look at another webcomic about video gaaaaammmmmeeeeeeeeeeee…
Uh, yeah. I’m not doing that anymore. I think last time I stretched out that word, it broke my blog.
Hejibits, written by John Kleckner, is almost throwback to an earlier era. To read it is to remember of the days when the internet bubble was just bursting, Homestar Runner ruled the internet, Weird Al Yankovic experienced a new burst in popularity with “White and Nerdy”, Kanye West was calling people out on his blog for being squidbrains, and webcomics were about roommates and done in MS Paint. To read Hejibits is to reminisce of the days when Explosm.net was just starting out. Remember Cyanide and Happiness? Of course you do, you old fart.
While Hejibits does, at times, feels like it was released a decade too late — whatwith all its roommate drama and video game talk — it can also be seen as a reflection of some modern trends in webcomics. The rough, outsider aesthetic recalls modern movements in webcomics, such as the delghtfully crude Rage Comics and the it’s-sort-of-a-webcomic Hyperbole and a Half. It’s high time we give this art movement a name, by the way. I suggest “postmodern Redditism.” It’s a style that resembles doodles in the margins of a high school notebook. Kleckner’s “About” page, by the way, shows that he’s working toward a degree in animation, so I imagine that the artistic style is ironic in the sense of stick figures and computer sprites from halcyon days past.
There is, though, an advantage with the Rage Comics style: unlike its predecessors, there’s actually an emphasis on the exaggeration of facial expressions. That, at least, has its roots in traditional cartooning and animation style, and it the sort of thing that cranky cartooning pundits like John Kricfalusi like to promote vehemently.
Besides, the comics do feature original art, which gets better with each successive strip. While never totally shaking off the fundamentals of its original style, Hejibits evolves quite a bit beyond its Rage Comic roots. At some point, the grotesque facial contortions become less “internet meme” and more “Looney Tunes.” What can I say? Those wacky expressions (and sometimes, wacky animations) make me laugh more often than I care to admit. Not always, mind you, but just enough that I give it a pass. Judge rules fair use of Rage Comics.
The first part of the comic is a partially autobiographical. John relates anecdotes about and his woefully irritating roommate. A typical joke goes like this: Roommate says something inappropriate. Roommate laughs like a loon and/or badly justifies his comment. Our main character reacts badly.
In true Rage Comic fashion, John’s anger doesn’t stem from anything drastic, but rather from the life’s minor annoyances. For example: internet memes. His roommate embraces jokes that have long since been beaten to death, and it grates. He also brings over friends who multiply his annoyance exponentially, and … they’re Halo gamers. (John, being primarily a Nintendo gamer, can only grumble in silence at their infuriating ignorance.)
As someone who has read way too many video game comics that repeat the same tired references ad nauseum, I can actually relate. At the same time, though, it’s a little hard to hate the roommate. Sure, he’s utterly clueless… but man, he looks so happy most of the time! At times, it makes you wonder what he did to deserve the surly jerk he shares his room with.
I have a feeling Mr. Kleckner felt the same way, because eventually he drops the roommate gags … that is, until he’s saddled with a far worse roommate. Oh, to see those smiling eyes of that wonderful, chubby Halo gamer again. At least you weren’t totally gross.
The rest of the comic is filled with the typical litany of gaming humor. I will give Hejibits this, though: it’s not shy about being critical of gamers and gamer culture. Mr. Kleckner, for example, doesn’t have a very high opinion of first-person shooter gamers, seeing them as foul-mouth babies. He also comments on the temper tantrums gamers seem to throw every time a game (that likely they’ve never played all the way through) gets less than a perfect score. (It’s generally true, but I should point out an interesting reverse effect happened with Mass Effect 3 recently.) Hejibits is also pretty critical of the guys who run the game industry, portraying them as being pretty lazy and unimaginative.
Hejibits also runs the gamut of the now mandatory game parodies. There are a slew of Minecraft jokes… and while I’ve never played the game, I found the gags amusing enough. You also get jokes about usual suspects, many of which are property of the Nintendo Corporation: Mario, Tetris, Sonic, Link, and Pokemon. There are some fun twists, like Link discovering where the hearts that pop out of the grass come from. Most of the time, though, it’s the equivalent of video game comfort food. You know, spending time with the characters you like when not playing the game.
And then there’s the puns. Kleckner acknowledges that this is sort of humor is lame, and he draws himself in a strip getting arrested for writing too many puns. Each strip with a pun has to include either a misappropriate bout of the guffaws or an ironic comeuppance. However, the puns are probably the funniest strips in the entire comic. Kleckner’s emphasis on goofy expressions pays off here, as the crazy Rage-inspired faces both spotlight the lameness of the pun as well as provide some great visual humor that would probably not have been there if the joke had been told straight … something that, say, modern day Dennis the Menace would do. The way the jokes are presented, they feel fresh and slightly transgressive.
Oh, man. Does this mean, after years of increasingly lame internet humor, puns are finally coming back in vogue. That would be punthinkable!
OK, I’ll stop now.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)