So sometimes webcomics have side-stories. They can be like Something Positive or Weregeek where they’re table top games the characters are playing, or like Johnny Wander or Ctrl+ Alt+ Delete where it’s just something else the author wanted to share. Depending on how well they’re executed, and the comic in question, it can be entertaining. It works with Johnny Wander (Although I cannot wait for Lucky Penny to end. It’s not bad but who puts up a long form graphic novel only two pages a week? Expect a review from me when it finally ends) since they’re just one off auto-bio comics and the sides are usually only a few pages long. With Weregeek, however, I found the RPG stuff so boring I quit halfway through my archive trawl of the comic.
Today, we’re looking at Ultra-Mammoth, a side story in David Willis’ Shortpacked that went for a few week. It was a fan fiction comic about the Transformers show Beast Wars. Specifically, one of the characters made to be sold as a toy, but never featured in the show. In the show, new characters were introduced by having the crew of the Maximal ship, who are the good guys, ejected and placed in orbit in the first episode. Occasionally, a pod falls from orbit and a new character awakens, unless the Predacons, the bad guys, get to it first and reprogram the bot inside.
In this comic, a pod lands but is never detected by either side, and so the being inside awakens as a woolly mammoth named Tantrum. Hating the name, he rechristens itself Ultra Mammoth and sits around, waiting for his team mates to find him. But instead of the Maximals, he is discovered by one of the enemy, named Waspinator. Since Ultra Mammoth is unaware of the war, he asks Waspinator for info about other Maximals, but is lied to, thus explaining his absence from the show. Waspinator leaves and Ultra Mammoth continues to wait around, with Waspinator occasionally coming back.
That’s pretty much the comic though. Ultra Mammoth just sits around, and then he goes exploring for something to do. There’s an ambiguous ending when Waspinator realises UM may discover he’s been lied to all this time that’s kind of interesting, but really that’s about it. It’s just some guy sitting around. And he’s pretty boring, really. He doesn’t have much of a personality aside from being lonely and a little snarky.
I guess it’s supposed to be a tragedy but it’s just too short to fully realise the potential of such a plot. Maybe a couple of pages of UM getting angry when he realises Waspinator isn’t coming back would have helped. Something like him dying to save Waspinator from the Maximals could have been interesting too.
But I do think it was okay as an experiment, and I would like to see Willis try this again sometime in the future. I just hope next time he allows more of the character moments he’s so good at in those stories.
Next week, we talk about Questionable Content. Hope to see you then.