The Webcomic Overlook #204: Whomp!
What makes you happy? Maybe it’s spending quality time in the arms of a loved one. Maybe it’s being at the beach while the setting sun lights up the clouds with an ethereal palette of purple, red, and gold. Maybe it’s someone liking your Instagram photo that you snapped with your iPhone of two wet leaves on the steps of your house.
Or maybe it’s Chicken McNuggets. That’s the answer that Ronnie would give. Ronnie is the chubby, insecure protagonist (and I’m assuming the author stand-in) in Ronnie Filyaw’s Whomp!
Taken one way, Whomp! pretty much panders to the lowest common denominator when it comes to humor. What do I mean by that? I mean fat jokes. The punchline is our main character is fat. Whomp! is creative about it, too. At one point, our character is described as having the softness of a hundred ladies. Or perhaps its the genius discovery that dunking pancakes in syrup greatly improves your pancake intake efficiency. Let’s just say that if you’re the sort of person who’s offended by fat jokes, then this is not the comic for you.
However, you may stick around for the fart jokes. Yes, this is a comic where gas is passed, and a lot of people (and sometimes pets) are farted on. Whomp!, in fact, perhaps is the pinnacle of fart humor. The funniest joke in this comic is probably the especially one where Ronnie ponders over his tweets. He imagines his grandmother is reading them. And that she comes across a tweet reading Eggnog farts.”
OK, it ain’t sophisticated humor. You’re not going to get witty wordplay. You’re going to get farts. And fat. And I’m man enough to say that I’ve got a lizard brain that find that stuff funny. If you’re looking for smarter fare, well… there are the comics where butts are rubbed on people’s faces.
So. This Ronnie guy. Who is he? Well, generally he’s a a happy-go-lucky chap. He enjoys the simple pleasures in life. McNuggets. Anime. Um… that’s mainly it. He’s probably a little too obsessed on both fronts. He also looks kinda like KC Green. However, since there’s a comic where the two meet each other, I’m reasonably confident that Ronnie and KC Green are two different people.
Ronnie is, in essence, an awkward manchild. He’s pretty creepy when he’s around other people, especially the ladies. And worst of all, he knows it. He’s ashamed of his hobbies, he’s depressed over his weight … though the more depressed he becomes, the more hilarious he gets.
Ronnie’s main tormentor is a guy called “M Dude,” short for “Motivation Dude.” He looks kinda like Krillin from Dragonball Z… and given this comic’s numerous anime references, I’m pretty sure that’s no coincidence. M Dude is also not real. He’s an extension of Ronnie’s overactive psyche. Now, given his name, he’s usually around to motivate Ronnie to create comics. He’s not very helpful, though. Most of the time, he’s just abusive. Other times, it backfires, causing Ronnie to put together a webcomic based on a Japanese dating sim.
The other character Ronnie typically interacts with is his roommate, a Chinese American named Agrias. When we first meet her, she’s almost Ronnie’s female counterpart. She’s saddled with her own weird issues, like her love for the often-violent panda (who, as Deuce Loosely once reminded us, have millions of teeth which it uses like a hacksaw to cut through bone, candy, and fences). There’s an early storyline where she’s fed up with Ronnie, so she moves out. That storyline ends with Agrias farting in anger on a potential new roommate before returning things to status quo.
Eventually, though, Agrias evolves into the straight person of the relationship. Oh, she’s still a little odd, but her quirks are more understandable. After all, who hasn’t felt anxious about opening a door because you haven’t done your face up yet? As a result, Agrias becomes a foil for Ronnie’s far more outlandish ticks. She reacts badly when she discovers Ronnie has programmed his face onto every character in Super Mario. She’s the suffering target when Ronnie leaves a mess in the bathroom. And she’s there to recoil in horror when she sees how Ronnie has melded with his recliner after months of inactivity.
Ronnie also has a girlfriend named Mei, who seems super nice and rather forgiving about some of his more … questionable anime acquisitions. That’s love, isn’t it? She’s a little boring, though, and she doesn’t have as much chemistry as when Ronnie is paired up with Agrias. Don’t get me wrong, Agrias and Ronnie aren’t really a couple. They’re much closer to being siblings — Agrias being the sensible older sister and Ronnie being the kid with the ADHD. Besides, if Agrias and Ronnie ever got together, we’d be denied fantastic scenes like when Ronnie reveals that he had a dream where the two of them were a couple.
The reaction shots, by the way, are gold. I don’t think this comic would be half as funny without Mr. Filyaw’s art. They’re like old timey cartoon characters, with rubbery faces that supersize the facial expressions with each strip.
If I may be so bold, Ronnie reminds me of two of comicdom’s most notorious creations: Ziggy and Cathy. This isn’t meant to be a snarky put-down based on the greeting-card incarnations of both characters. (Though Ronnie on a greeting card? That I might buy! Get on it, Hallmark.) Both Ziggy and Cathy remind about our own bundled up neuroses, and how everyone always seems to come out to get us. But the genius of both those strips are the character designs. You always size with Ziggy because, as AV Club’s Keith Phipps once described him, “Ziggy is cute, a little blob of humanity who just wants to find a little happiness in the world.” Similarly, despite Cathy’s constant caterwauling about never being able to fit in a bikini, you can’t deny that she’s really kinda cute.
And now there’s Ronnie. He’s a bundle of crippling insecurities. Everything in the world reminds him of how uncool he is. Namely how anime is dumb. And yet, most of the time, it isn’t something from external sources, but from Ronnie’s own self-loathing.
At the same time, Ronnie’s just so darned cute. I mean, look at the guy. He’s like a big ol’ medicine ball. His obesity is depicted as rubbery and bouncy. Even his anxiety is kinda adorable, as he’s just a guy who wants to be hugged and validated once in a while.
If you ask me what makes Ronnie more appealing than other webcomic manchildren — like, say Ethan McManus — it’s that he’s recognizes that some obsessions can be taken too far. Ethan starts a dumb Church of Video Games, and he is encouraged by his friends and proven right through the magic of strawman arguments. Ronnie, on the other hand, is the sort of guy you root for just because he’s being way too hard on himself. Dude just needs some self-confidence. In the end, Ronnie may seen sadder than Ethan, but that’s because he’s not insane.
In the end, Whomp!, which looks like it’s fat and fart jokes all the way down, can be deeply philosophical if you let it. As yourself this, dear reader: what is it that makes you happy? What’s your Chicken McNugget?
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)