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Dance of the Puppets

Like a bat on a hot tin roof since August 2005

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

It Rhymes with Goth

There's been a little chat lately in some corners of the blogospherahedron about the work of cartoonist Elena Steier, whose pictures contain elements some find racist and/or sexist [1].

But that's not what I want to talk about today. I think her work is simply not very funny [2]. I would have lost interest in her website real quick if it were not for one series of cartoons she does called The Goth Scouts. She's even given them their own website, despite them being neither funny, nor actually containing any gothic elements.

It's a typical, if considerably tamer than most, Wednesday Addams knockoff in the Evil Little Girl genre. Only without any of the usual visual attributes you might expect. There are four characters, but to all intents and purposes they are interchangeable and don't appear to have any individual character traits.

Even the name irritates me. Okay, I can see some mileage in doing a goth take on girl scouts, but if it were me, I wouldn't call it it something as unimaginative as Goth Scouts. I'd call them Crypt Scouts or Ghoul Scouts or something [3], and dress them in loligoth girl scout uniforms with extra bats and skulls, and a variety of horror-trope achievement badges. If you need to call them Goth Scouts in order for the reader to be aware that they are A) goth, and B) scouts, then you're doing something wrong.

Anyway, to get to the point, shortly after reading one of their typically unfunny cartoons I came across an episode of the syndicated Rhymes with Orange which did essentially the same joke, and I was intrigued by the comparison, so for your edification I thought I'd share.



The essence of the joke is a suggestion that the neighbours have been murdered. The Goth Scouts cartoon doesn't really process the notion much further than "Look, bones! Wouldn't it be funny if it was the neighbour?" [4]

This falls pretty flat, and undermines itself with unresolved aspects so you are left wondering why a murderer would have left the bones lying around in the garden, if the dog is a giant or it's just the perspective, and what the tiny girls and their giant dog are doing in the neighbour's garden in the first place. Perhaps I'm over-thinking this and the intention was just to suggest that the girls have morbidly over-active imaginations. Except that in other episodes they regularly interact with monsters and vampires, so that doesn't work.

The art on this strip is usually the best part of it, with some nice cartoon rendering, so this is unusually weak, with lots of irrelevant detail and the characters stiffly waving their arms at each other rather than supporting the joke in any way.



The Rhymes with Orange cartoon handles the joke a lot better, with a nice little play on words and a veiled hint of menace suggesting that the character himself has murdered the neighbour. A much better development of the notion. But what's going on with the art? It's so irrelevant to the joke that you could replace the text with a whole different gag and nobody would know.

It's worse than a generic talking heads image because there's enough going on in the picture to make you think it should be relevant in some way, but it's not.

Notes.
1. I find both.
2. People will excuse an awful lot if the jokes are genuinely funny.
3. Preferably something more imaginitive, but you get my drift.
4. Not especially, no.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

One Hulk, two Hulk, red Hulk, boo Hulk

Hulksies are red, dilly dilly,
Hulksies are green,
Ed Mac draws lumpy people and
Jeph Loeb's still a hack.

Gentle reader, as you may know, I am not overfond of the writings of Jeph Loeb. It would not, perhaps, be going too far to say that, were it up to me, he would be first up against the wall when the revolution comes [1].

I was thus delighted when he signed up with Marvel, as it meant that he would no longer be interfering with characters I liked. His origin for Supergirl has been more (if you read this month's Action) or less (if you read this month's Brave and the Bold) retconned out of existence, along with her skeevy parental issues and nude adolescent spaceship-piloting, and most of his other additions and revisions are well on their way to being dismantled, ignored, reinterpreted. or set to fall down the next passing Crisis.

Thus it is that I now only read Loebwork for the thrill of the truly awful. The relaxing experience of knowing that I will not be disappointed by plot holes or lapses in structure, continuity, or basic physics. Indeed, I look forward to them with the gusto of one playing a drinking game wherein you take a shot every time Grant Morrison features a minor character unseen since 1966.

So I've been reading Hulk. AKA Red Hulk.

Is it in any continuity with other Marvel comics? I have a vague notion of dedicated fanboys working feverishly through the night to wedge all the cameos and guest stars into continuity, but I sincerely don't care [2].

Red Hulk is big and mean. Red Hulk is so strong he can beat up Classic™ Green Hulk and punch Thor into space. But sometimes he uses a gun.

Classic™ Hulk is very Silver Age retro and refers to himself in the third person. Classic™ Hulk is not a bag of hammers.

Each issue is composed of 95% Red Hulk beating up on this issue's guest star, 5% dropping hints and having people make inaccurate suspicions as to who Red Hulk might be.

I don't care who Red Hulk is.

There are also little one page gag strips by Audrey Loeb [3] at the end that feature Red Hulk, Green Hulk, and Blue Hulk. They are a delight.

In the latest issue, after five issues of Red Hulk beating the crap out of everyone, finally, Classic™ Hulk and Thor get together and beat Red Hulk. And then they go away, leaving Red Hulk to recover and go beat someone else next issue.

It has all the depth of a video game[4].



Notes

1. You can make guesses about who would fill the number two and three slots if you like. It's not difficult.
2. And how many SHIELD helicarriers are there, anyway? I don't think I've read a Marvel comic in the last year where they haven't crashed one.
3. She is either a relative, or it's very unfortunate coincidence.
4. Space Invaders, not Age of Empires.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Ten things the ultimate geek comic collection should have to be truely awesome

There's one of those memes going around where people list all kinds of things they consider essential to any comic collection of any worth. I read a couple of them, found that I only had about a quarter of the things listed, and realised I didn't care.

So here's my short version of things to claim you have in your collection if you want to look cool (but you don't actually have to own them).

1. A current obscure title that nobody else has heard of, which goes to show how cool you are for being aware of it.

2. A title that everyone has heard of but doesn't think is that special, but for which you have a cunning argument for why it is cool.

3. A title that everyone already knows is cool, just to show that you have some common ground with the rest of comic fandom.

4. A golden age title that nobody else has heard of (you can make one up if you like as there are lots of short lived golden age comics that sank without trace).

5. An indie comic that nobody else has heard of because only 5 copies were ever printed.

6. Some outrageous kitchy light-hearted silver age element that could only be reused today with heavy-handed symbolism or knowing self-reference.

7. A comic, or particular run of a comic that has been out of print for at least twenty years, which you can lobby for collected reprints of.

8. A title you think must be very cool because you completely fail to make any sense of it. If it's a manga, you can't even work out whether to read it left to right or right to left because it makes as little sense either way.

9. A hideously expensive deluxe collection of some title . I mean if people are going to pay hundreds of dollars for it then it must be good, right?

10. A comic so obscure that it was never actually published. Or even written.


Edit: Damnit, I just thought of another one. Okay, consider this a substitute for any of the other ones, or an additional feature of one of them.

Ω. A comic with which you have some kind of personal connection, even if it's only that you once stepped on the inker's toe at a con. Anything works providing you can spin it into an anecdote to bore friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers for the rest of time.

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