February 22, 2008


XKCD baffles me. It has a very large fanbase of people who consider themselves to be extremely intelligent, as evidenced by the fact that they like a webcomic that frequently makes "jokes" about high-brow, technical things like computer programming and science fiction. This would be an okay formula, I guess, because nerd humor is somewhat intrinsically funny. Dilbert had its moments, Futurama is one of the greatest TV series ever, whatever. Nerdy stuff is fun because humor often takes a lot intelligence anyway, and nerds can laugh at themselves if they're in the right mood. The problem is when nerdy humor is done incredibly poorly, like off-days Dilbert and User Friendly and, to bring it back to the title of this post, XKCD.

XKCD no longer tells jokes. It's a plain and simple fact. Just look at any of the recent comics. Can you guess the formula? It's pretty simple: Nerdy concept (typically something from science fiction, since Munroe exhausted his actual knowledge of science years ago and is coasting) + ANOTHER nerdy concept (if we're lucky) + sarcasm = High-brow hilarity. It's the same thing as PvP, only with Linux and velociraptors instead of the Dukes of Hazzard and Megatron. I would like to note that Dinosaur Comics has perfected the art of including raptors in webcomics, by the way. In any case, programming languages are hilarious things, Randall. Or IRC chatlogs, even better! That last link brings up something very special in the XKCD world: The romantic comic.

Yes, for XKCD isn't just about how much Randall just LURVES to nerd things up with all the actual humor of a brick wall. It's also sophisticated, deep romance, because Randall knows a thing or two about love. And so we get stuff that's unfunny, but on purpose! Or maybe it's not on purpose, because half the time it's combining these romantic encounters with more lame references to mathematics and how funny nerds are, what with their antics, and the laughing, with the thing, and the, yeah. But some of them are things of elegiac beauty and heartbreak. Or not, because XKCD is written with all the subtlety and tenderness of a shitty blog about webcomics. I'm pretty sure nobody cares about the emotional vulnerability of a guy defined primarily in terms of being a snarky asshole. Might I also add that that first strip there involves a psychological analysis so implausible that it would only fit into the Ender's Shadow series, topped off by a mind-bendingly arrogant cunt?

Mind-bendingly arrogant pretty much sums up the fanbase, too.

XKCD is for those of us who realize life is not all about happy endings and trophy wives and who is better than who and all that shit. It's for those of us who live in reality. It's for the intelligent. It's for the insane. It's not for fairytale douche-bags like [Sonty Mick]. --Anonymous

xkcd is for those among us who don't wallow in self-pity. It's for those of us who are filled with awe for the ordinary, not those who seek to fill emptiness with bland fiction.

It's for people with an intelligent sense of humor, not a chip on their shoulder.


My current theory is that XKCD's fanbase consists of people whose sense of intelligence is strongly entwined with their ability to appreciate this so-called "intelligent webcomic," and they're incapable of NOT liking an XKCD strip, lest it betray their mediocrity.

I haven't mentioned the art, and that's because if I did I would have needed to preface it with a "good writing can save bad art but XKCD doesn't have good writing" blurb. Now I can just rip into it, having established that XKCD has terrible writing.

Actually, there isn't much to say, since Randall fully understands that he draws expressionless stick figures that aren't good for conveying much of anything beyond quick bits of sarcasm and references to nerd culture, but then again neither are the characters so it's a good match. I guess he does think he can do landscapes and life drawing, but he wisely chose not to actually draw that crud outside of his math class doodles.

There's nothing more to say about the art. It doesn't fail to accurately convey the emotions with which the characters speak, since the characters never experience any emotions other than "puzzlement," "tragically beautiful romance," and "child-like wonder." It doesn't put off the comedic timing, since there isn't any in the first place. It gives us a cheap way to tell that the snarky guy is still being snarky and that the girl is still being female, and that's about all you could expect from a comic with such low standards.

This comic pretty much perfectly encapsulates everything that's wrong with XKCD. It's tiresome, it's formulaic, it's poorly-drawn, it's poorly-written, it's pretentious, and it's insufferably boring.

Okay, maybe that was going a bit too far. But seriously, these two sum it up.

February 20, 2008

Snafu Comics

Snafu Comics is more than just a bad webcomic. It's an entire bad webcomic site, providing hosting for not just the festering creations of its progenitor, David Stanworth, but several other talentless hacks including the fairly harmless Herms; the Japanophiles Endling, Fox, Stan, G-O, and Happy; and most harrowingly the pedophile/crossover fanatic Bleedman. While all these contributors have created horrors of blood, sweat, and Photoshop gradients, today I focus solely on the primary comic, Snafu itself.

Snafu Comics has been running since mid-2002, if not before--I'm not entirely clear on the point. Apparently it died and experienced a rebirth, much like Chugworth and Cartridge Comics and Titus & Mal and Power Chord and so forth. But that's of no account, as the farthest back the archives on the site go is this mess. Just looking at it, you should be able to point out several flaws. One is the vomit-inducing artwork. I don't know how Dave creates his comic, but that's seriously on par with the hand-drawn Bob and George tripe. That comic was later shoddily copied and pasted with a new joke about a terrible band. This sort of tacky third-grader shit is all over the place. If those links taught you anything, it's that Stanworth has no idea what people look like, how to draw facial expressions, how to shade beyond liberal application of dodge and burn, how to draw props, how to draw attractive women, how to keep anything in perspective, or basically do anything but create crude things that rank somewhere between stick figures and human excrement in terms of sensory appeal. In more than a few, he takes that googly-eyed/mawkish grin combo straight from Scott Ramsoomair. The thing is, even though the comic has been running for four and a half years, his shit is still terrible.

In that last one, we see yet another webcomic hack who decided to take his shitty superhero self-insertion persona and turn it into a recurring character. A man with dozens of nipple-shooting lasers, except two that "aren't [his] mutant nips"--of course, males don't lactate, so there's still some pretty freaky biology going on in that trainwreck. And that's about all you can expect from Snafu, really: terrible jokes about hero-worshipping nerds and extremely weak video game humor. Oh, and we can't forget the fact that Travis is so offensive! He wants Dave to kill himself. Honestly, Dave? Go for it. We can do without this mediocre shit.

I've dumped rather a lot of links on you, but it's hard to accurately convey just how stupid Snafu Comics is without the visceral experience of reading through it and wallowing in its blandness. In most places, it isn't offensively bad, even when it tries to be. As far as I know, Dave isn't making tons of money off the comic, although he does own a site that hosts three Bleedman comics, so maybe that's lucrative. There isn't any sexual fetishism in the comic, though there are more pedophile jokes than there ought to be (the ideal amount is either none, Electric Retard, or references to literary pedophilia, by the way.), so I can't feel revolted by it. I haven't talked to any Snafu Comics fans, so I'm not sure if anyone actually reads this, although there have been namedrops from This Comic Sucks (now defunct), VGCats (it was its featured comic for quite a while), and I believe Digital Purgatory. It doesn't really matter, though, since a comic doesn't need an abundance of rabid fans to be bad. It just needs terrible art, terrible writing, and no redeeming features. Snafu fits the bill pretty well. It's an extremely bad webcomic run by a guy who runs a site dedicated to bad webcomics.

February 19, 2008

Canine Coprothrustive Conundrum

I begin with a webcomic I know extremely well, since I made it. Canine Coprothrustive Conundrum is a terrible webcomic, for a variety of reasons. The comic is a shitty slice-of-life pile of nonsense, punctuated only with spastic references to racism and political incorrectness. This is all very old hat to anyone who's ever read Cyanide and Happiness or watched Beavis and Butthead, except with substantially worse writing and art.

The art is pretty much shit, consisting entirely of poorly-drawn stick figures. Even though I tend to prattle on in the newsposts about perspective and blocking and shading like I'm trying to learn how to draw well or something, none of the comics are ever cleaned up beyond the "shitty pencil sketch" stage, and all the characters are abrasively simple in design. There's the guy with no hair, the guy with a flat-top, and the girl with a ponytail. Everyone has the same eyes ripped straight from Dominic Deegan and the same mouths taken wholesale from everyone's favorite master of facial expressions, Tim Buckley. In general, it would appear that the only expressions I can draw are "offended," "bored to death," and "stupid VGCats nonsense." I could go on and talk about the fact that the overwhelming majority of the comic takes place in a single poorly-scaled room or describe the completely retarded shadings, but that's pointless. All you need to see is this panel, and you should be able to see all the failings.

That panel is also a pretty good indication of what you can expect from the writing department. Almost all the jokes from Canine Coprothrustive Conundrum consist of the flat-topped one saying something politically incorrect and the bald one being aghast. Sometimes the bald one approves because they're both bigots! But it's all okay, because apparently they're extremely well-read and well-researched and geniuses and did I mention that they can rationalize their bigotry? Yeah, I'm pretty sure nobody cares about the fact that you cited an 1842 study proving the natural superiority of whites over asspees. Aside from the unbeatable formula of bigotry and shit, I enjoy talking about shit nobody cares about. Seriously, did anybody play TimeShift? Has anybody outside of the elitist heavy metal circle heard of Varg Vikernes? It doesn't matter, because the jokes aren't funny even if you are familiar with the material.

And just as you would predict from a comic from a hack author, it's quickly diving into a drama omlette. We also get to meet a new character, who is actually less characterized than Lilah from CAD, since I don't know if she plays video games or not. In fact, I don't think she has any interests at all, except potentially her interest in being an object of flat-top's affections. It's a painfully transparent setup for a whole series of self-insertion sequences, and I can't wait to see how long it takes before flat-top and Girl are making out, cohabitating, and eventually making babies.

Sorry, that last sentence got away from me for a while there.

There are also a lot of little issues with the comic. There's a shitty layout, although the comic is at least on the principle page. There's no archive, which doesn't make a difference because seriously, what fuckin' moron would want an archive of this tripe? There's an ugly little banner at the top of every page reminding you not only that you're reading CANINE COPROTHRUSTIVE CONUNDRUM, but the author is apparently the least competent graphic designer in all history. There's an enormous comment box at the bottom of every page, which no one has commented in. For some unknown reason, the comic has its own forum, which is blessed with a glorious deficiency of members. Each page includes several obnoxious "vote for me" buttons, except since I'm a talentless artist there isn't actually any incentive to vote for me. At least it's not in Comic Sans, although Letter-O-Matic isn't exactly tops as far as fonts go.

Really, all you need to know about Canine Coprothrustive Conundrum is its origins story: It was explicitly constructed to attract an insipidly stupid fanbase who would, when the time is ripe, send its author huge amounts of unearned money. Really, that's how it came to be. Unfortunately, it turns out that I'm a lazy asshole who can't even stick to my own plan, and I haven't been able to stick to the script except through sheer incompetence, as evidenced by the fact that as of this writing, the webcomic has received an average of three returning visitors per day. One of whom is probably me. Canine Coprothrustive Conundrum isn't a financial juggernaut like CAD or The Wotch, but it's still an abysmal failure of a webcomic. Don't read it.

The purpose of this blog

After having been inspired by John Solomon and the Elders of Zion to read through a series of bad webcomics and to subject them to critical analysis, I realized that a quiet life of good-webcomickry was not for me. That is to say, even though I realize how bad a good three-quarters of my daily webcomic routine is, I cannot stop. I am addicted to bad webcomics. It is no longer merely enough for me to read the webcomics and say to myself "Dear God, this is bad." I must share that revulsion with you, if only so I can pretend to justify reading them.

If you are familiar with John Solomon's famous blog, then you may have an inkling of what to expect from me. I do not have his credibility, and I probably do not have his eloquence, and I almost certainly do not have his incredible wrath. I do, however, have a more than passing knowledge of several bad webcomics, and I intend to pass that knowledge along to you. I hope that I will not repeat any of the Elders' entries, since I intend for this to be a tribute and a catharsis, not a complete ripoff.

As a final note, I present my daily webcomic routine:
Penny Arcade, 8-Bit Theater, Sheldon Comics, Starslip Crisis, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Sinfest, Dominic Deegan, XKCD, Shredded Moose, Sluggy Freelance, Thinkin' Lincoln, Dinosaur Comics, Dr McNinja. I also infrequently check CTRL-ALT-DEL and VGCats.

This list is actually shorter for having read John Solomon's blog.

Welcome, dear reader.