Posts Tagged clip art

Review: The System

Cut-and-paste comics are a difficult beast. On one end of the range, you have cartoonists playing around with recolored video game sprites (and in some cases not even recolored). On the other end of the range, you have comics that are painstakingly assembled from massive indices of gestures, postures, facial expressions, and backdrops. There are various gradations in the middle, each with their advantages (most often convenience) and foibles (usually monotony); as a result, unless the art is patently terrible, what really makes the comic sink or swim is the quality of the writing.

This brings us to The System, a cut-and-paste comic by Ross Nover. The System makes use of the generic figures that you see on mass-produced safety signs everywhere: the Man, the Woman, the Cyclist, the Walker, and so on. (This would be a good time to point out that the archives are a pain in the neck to try to find your place in. It’s not until Comic 268 that they get titles instead of numbers; before that, you’re stuck clicking and hoping.)

The comics where Nover does his best (in my opinion) are the ones where he plays with what the symbols mean. I’m also partial to some of his pun comics. However, those don’t happen all that often. Most of what you’ll find in The System is a lot of awkward pseudopunchlines, visits from Jimmy the Murderdog, comics that aren’t comics so much as fourth-wall-breaking excuses for a lack of comic, and scatology. Lots and lots of scatology.

There’s also the dictionary comics, wherein portmanteau words are set up for a quick attempt at a few puns. Or another poop joke. To be honest, sometimes looking for the satire or the memetic repetition is like searching for a needle in a septic tank.

The slogan for The System is, “Comics will be posted until morale improves.” The saying this is based on starts with “Beatings will continue until …” and, well, even Nover admits that the comic is something of a dead horse. And with the hundred-post review comics . . . it feels like a cut-and-paste comic with cut-and-paste jokes.

I still like this one, though.

Comic Rating: Four rounded panels and a load of snark.

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Review: PartiallyClips

Art and writing hold a tenuous balance in webcomics. The best writing on the Internet doesn’t do much good if it’s smudged over a page of pencil sketches done by a nine-year-old or squeezed into badly-hyphenated word balloons in eight point Arial. And all the pretty landscapes, curvaceous females, and other assorted eye candy to come out of Photoshop can only support a lackluster plot and stale jokes for so long*. In fact, this is true in any medium where words and ideas are expressed; writing and presentation have just as delicate a balance in music, TV, video games, and theater.

That’s where PartiallyClips, by Robert T. Balder, throws a wrench into the works. In other comics that I’ve reviewed, the art style is a major contributor to the quality of the comic: Weregeek‘s free-flowing lines help set a whimsical tone, while AWKWARD ZOMBIE‘s art is blockier and more stylized, lending well to its frequent use of exaggeration for comedy. But PC doesn’t really have an art style, because the comic itself is nothing but clip art. Other than the rules that Balder sets for how he uses the clip art, none of the visual portion of the comic is from his effort.

He even letters his work in Comic Sans. It’s almost like he’s daring people to pay any attention to the art, other than as a backdrop to his writing.

So then what’s to be said about the writing? Well, from the get-go, PC demonstrates why “for grownups” is part of its subtitle. A lot of the humor is pretty raunchy, although it can be quite subtle about it at times. Other times, the phrase “ham-fisted” seems both inadequate and somewhat unsettling in context.

A lot of the humor in PC comes from upending the reader’s expectations. A cheerful dollhouse is populated by crazy dolls. The legions of evil have random drug tests. Philosophy gets compared to Mr. Roboto. Accordion music turns out to be even more sinister than you thought. Cute animals are not so innocent. This brand of humor can get rather old, as you’ll recall from my review of Rob and Elliot, although PartiallyClips tends to space it out a bit more.

Another seeming standby is to toss in a quick jab at religion. It probably doesn’t seem all that frequent unless you’re archivebinging the way I do when I write these reviews, but it does stick out a bit. As for the man at church who so heartily recommended the comic, I’ll have to give him a good-natured joshing about it later.

So is PartiallyClips worth your time? It certainly can be. There were more than a handful of comics that I thought were funny enough to share (these three comics, for example), and the archive page, while bloated from the comic’s near-decade of existence, is easy to search through. Just avoid reading it when the kids are home.

Comic Rating: Three nearly-identical panels.

*Yes, I’m aware that the “tits for hits” phenomenon is alive and well and probably the only reason Sore Thumbs continues to run, but I remain a purist.

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