Review: Doomed to Obscurity

The term “evangelist” has shifted dramatically in use and meaning since it was first coined. Once used to describe a messenger with good news*, the term is used almost as an insult nowadays, conjuring up mental images of things like Chick tracts or the sleazier breed of TV pastors. Or in my case, the devoted Linux fanboys back at school who took every opportunity to remind people how awesome their operating system was, compared to those of us unenlightened savages who still plodded along on our Windows paperweights. (You may think I’m exaggerating here, but tact and personal skills were never a high priority for the I.T. students.)

And this, admittedly, is the sort of vibe I get from Doomed to Obscurity, a comic about a Linux programmer, created by “Penguin Pete” Trbovich. If the blazon at the bottom of every final panel in the comic is any indication, DtO is intended to be something of a mascot for what open-source software is capable of. Trbovich’s enthusiasm, however, could use a bit of finesse to match.

The first bit of roughness (and the most minor) is the page design. Things look great, until you get past the first screen of any given page—at which point the reader is treated to the entire archive list in a table that goes for screens upon screens. This would be best tucked away in a dropdown menu or on a separate archive page. The snowbound landscape also seems like an odd choice for background images; while it ties in with the “penguin” theme of the rest of the site, it’s somewhat baffling by itself.

The second rough patch is in the writing. Niche comics serve their purpose (after all, writing to a niche is what catapulted Scott Adams to where he is today), so the obscure puns and inside jokes get a bit of a pass. Strawman caricatures, preaching to the choir, and zany girls with impossible power are a little trickier to deal with. (Also note that this character must have undergone some intensive therapy by this strip.)

And then there’s the matter of the art. I’ll be the first to say that I’ve seen some absolutely beautiful art done with programs like OpenCanvas. So it’s a little bit of a let-down to see blockish people with greatly varying head sizes. Attractive females go from smuggling books up their skirts to . . . this.

Open-source programs are a good thing. Both of my own comic series were done primarily using the GIMP for coloring and resizing, and I’ve known several Ubuntu users who would talk to me about things other than the supremacy of their operating systems. And I think that DtO has the potential to be a good face for the open-source community—but there’s a lot of effort that Trbovich might want to put into it first.

Comic Rating: Four corners on the unfortunate Time Cube.

* In the original Greek, evangelion means (depending on the translation) either “good tidings,” “please give me eight million dollars,” or “post-modern deconstruction of the giant mecha anime genre.” As you can see, the Greeks were well-versed in the art of nuance.

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