I like comicstrips. I grew up on Garfield (when it was still funny and fresh) and Charlie Brown, Bill Watterson is a personal hero of mine and I wish I had the guts to stand up for what I believe in like he does. Comic strips are a very maligned artform, capable of being incredibly meaningful while at the same time making us smile and sometimes even roll on the floor in laughter. Unfortunatly there are a lot of bad comic strips out there as well – The Comicstrip doctor dealt with many of the classics before flames and apathy set in, the Comics Curmudgeon has taken over brilliantly.
Recently OSNews has started up its own comic strip, cos y’know its a modern day newspaper or something, and really I felt I had to say something about it because it is so utterly terrible that it is hurting a medium that I enjoy so much. This strip is called Focus Shift, or as I’m now going to call it “Fuck it’s shit”. So what are my problems with it? Its not just that its terribly drawn (I’m hardly the next Michelangelo myself really). Its not even that its just completely unfunny. No, my biggest problem is that it is so unfeeling and so clinically sterile that its mere existance has started to offend me.
What am I talking about? Well, if OSNews had a boardroom and editorial meetings to decide content, I think the meeting where Fuck It’s Shit was sanctioned would have gone something like this:
– You know, I’ve noticed that a lot of geeks like this XKCD comic
– Can we find someone to copy it for us?
– OK, it should be easy, it is only stick figures after all, but sometimes its a bit…rude
– Right, so we’ll take out that swearing and the sex references. Leave in the love stuff, that’s quite cute
– Oh yes, that is always nice, but sometimes I find the jokes are a bit too … intellectual? If we can make it simpler, we’ll get a larger target audience. Leave out the quantum physics references.
– Oh, and its a bit weird too sometimes, we’ll fix that.
However I highly doubt OSNews is that professional, so I imagine the concept was more that Thom Holwerda was reading XKCD and decided that it would fit that awkward hole in OSNews’ front page, and it’d be easy to recreate, after all, its just a single joke with simple drawings, it can’t be that hard, can it?
Fuck It’s Shit has terrible artwork, its terrible artwork that’s trying to be acceptable, but it fails. On the other hand, XKCD’s are is simple because that is all it requires. Randal (I think thats his name, I’m really sorry if it isn’t, but for the purposes of this rant it is now, so there…) Munroe has shown in some of the earlier XKCD strips how good his artwork can be if he wants it to be (And to be honest, I long for more of his landscape images).
XKCD’s humour is high brow with low brow twists. I don’t find them all funny, I don’t even get some of them, but I always appreciate the thought that went into creating it. Fuck It’s Shit is tired old cliches and non-jokes (cf. Handwriting from 17th Feb).
When you read XKCD you get the feeling that Randal draws it because he loves to draw, because he wants to draw, because he needs to draw it. That passion is conveyed in the artwork and the detail and the jokes. There is a sense that he took time and effort over each strip, time to get everything right. Looking at Fuck It’s Shit the only sense is that it was done as quickly and as effortlessly as possible (cf. http://osnews.com/thread?301270 where Thom explains why he’s switched to a computer font for the text…)
When XKCD does a comic on love, it feels heartfelt, natural and quite sweet. When FIS does if (e.g. Insecurity – 11th March) it feels tacky, forced and slightly embarassing.
Finally, FIS (sorry, I can’t be bothered typing it all out anymore) feels sterile. Like a fast food chain selling “home made apple pie”, it kinda looks like the apple pie your grandmother would make, but you know that it wasn’t made out of a love of making apple pie, it was made because there is a perceived market for apple pie or the boy band who decide to do a rocksong, cos thats what the kids are buying these days…FIS feels like cynical attempt to attract some sort of cult following to their news site but like the boyband trying some rock numbers, its a sanitised, clean version, a safe version, a boring bland version…would FIS dare to do something like the fantastic http://xkcd.com/137/ ? I’d doubt it…but once you start thinking about what is acceptable to your audience your work ceases to be art, and is merely nothing more than a product. XKCD is art, FIS is a product. And it is a bad one that needs to be discontinued.
(This image was meant to have an XKCD style tooltip reading ‘And yes, I’m aware that this ‘joke’ has the same conceptual problems as the original on which it is based’ but it appears that WordPress strips it from the img tag. Boo hiss!)
(And for what its worth, I’m not a massive fan of XKCD, I read it maybe once every couple of months, I’m only using it to compare Fuck It’s Shit with because of how hard Fuck It’s Shit is trying to be XKCD)