|Review authors:||William Seagate and Angry Lesbian|
|Webcomic name:||Addanac City|
|Start Date||August 25th, 2008|
|Defining Flaw||Bland and Boring, Plagiarism|
We all read the newspaper funnies. They are simple, to the point, and funny. None of them will blow our minds on a daily basis, but they'll surely pull a smile on our faces. They might say something amusing, perhaps reference a recent event, or even point out timeless curiosities of our life. Downplayed as they are, newspaper strips are pretty much alright.
That's not to say people don't notice when this style of comics is bad.
Addanac City is a webcomic that borrows heavily on the newspaper strip format. Perhaps too much, I might say. It is badly drawn and often suffers from a critical affection known by scientists as "simply not funny." It has issues for being too often just a plain imitator of other classic newspaper funnies like Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, and Dennis the Menace. But are we taking it too seriously? Frankly, there's not much sugar to throw on the issue. Addanac City may not be a terribly bad webcomic, but it's bad alright.
Hurr, hurr, stealing from blind people is SO hilarious…
When this comic starts to feel bad depends on you. I've certainly found out that going through 200+ of these in one sitting is not as enjoyable, because I only got about 40-50 good ones. That's a much lower satisfaction rate than you would get with Calvin and Hobbes, Malfalda, Garfield or even Peanuts. Those comics seem to be inventive and planned. Addanac feels like it was just tossed out there. It gets dull very quickly, and you can see both high points as much (or more) as low ones. Some strips seem to not even try, lack any semblance of a setup, and be just disconnected banter that's there for no reason. They're incomplete at best.
Story and Plot
Addanac City is mostly about the random exploits and situations of 7-year-old Hank Addanac and his bunch of friends. There is no connected plot or much character depth, being gag-a-day and all. On the one hand, that's not wrong. Most of the strips I found funny were just one-off. On the other hand, it's an uphill battle. Pulling up an entire new situation 7 times a week can drain the juice out of anyone's comedy very quickly. Plus, all comics need some backbone, plot-wise and character-wise. Not just to please the readers, but to help the writers. Even week-long arcs help a strip have a better comedic flow. It cuts the problem of having to invent a whole new setting every single time. There have been a couple examples at plot, for 2 or 3 strips in a row. There's some good examples, and then there's really bad examples, like the one about the brother who escaped from jail. I'll talk more about that story later.
I tend to be very permissive regarding art because, well, I [Seagate] am not good at it, so I won't throw big stones at anyone. I know the challenge of quality art, and hell, I can't understand how anybody would be able to crank it every single day. Still, there's really no excuse for flawed art, especially with constant updates. The ability to post often should mean you can make several good drawings per week, not that you're forcing yourself to do them. When one's treated with arm sizes that change from one corner of the strip to the other, bad facial hair, jokes involving things you don't even draw, drooping eyelids, hanging jaws, and stiff bodies, it doesn't reflect well on the artist's ability to improve when you consider that it's done like that every day. The art gets to be too simple and flat, like Powerup Comics. That's almost an insult.
Yeah, I feel pretty insulted…
And what's with all the rainbows in the background? They look out of place, and downright creepy in some contexts. I'm not saying you should draw the scenery over and over for a 4-panel strip. When you do a close up, its alright to leave just one plain color behind them. It's acceptable. Most walls only have one color, you know? There's no need to gradient your way through the whole palette!
It's kind of like when you randomly color words in a sentence. What up with that? I understand that you do it to draw emphasis to some key words of the dialogue, but it loses its meaning when used about 5 times in the same speech balloon. Besides, it happens only in about half of the strips, so it isn't a consistent feature. That doesn't look too professional. When you want to have an effect like that, you either have to do it consistently or not do it at all. Otherwise, it looks suspicious, like an indicative of how much time you had to make that particular strip. Hey, if you've got time to rainbow your way through a sentence, perhaps some of that time could be shifted towards the contents of said sentence. Or perhaps towards making sure all proportions and bodies are decent. Perhaps some toying around with the limited expression set you're using. People may appreciate this much more than using different colors when you mention "money" and "crap."
It worries me that this strip has become too formulaic. Why do characters often hold out their arms out when the punchline has been made? Why do the people always stare at the fourth wall when they've been joked at? Is that the applause sign? Perhaps Ford took the arms-stretch movement from Calvin and Hobbes and thought he could take advantage of it. Well, there's two ways of using it: either the Calvin and Hobbes way, where it was only used as a gesture of anger or frustration, or this other way, which doesn't make a lot of sense in context. Anyway, use it with the appropriate timing. Otherwise it looks like an exaggerated and nonsensical reaction.
Finally, try to keep the Photoshop attacks at bay, Mr. Ford. There's no use in exaggerating the quality of one thing through filters or copy-paste (like pasting an actual magazine cover over a drawn magazine) if the rest of the world still looks underdeveloped. It doesn't fit.
Addanac City's character development is very poor. Practically none of the characters have personalities, besides very simple things like "he gets into trouble" and "she's irritable and doesn't get along with him". Like the writing and artwork, the characters look like there's nothing to them other than standing besides Hank for the joke of the day. Take a look at the character page. I'm going to skip the part where we wonder how many characters look just like the ones from Calvin and Hobbes so that we can focus on the promises made here:
- In the characters page, Christie, Hank's classmate, is said to be "one of the smartest kids in the class, and she doesn’t hesitate to remind Hank of that fact." Perhaps my memory is fuzzy, but I don't remember it ever being mentioned that Christie was smart, let alone her bragging about it. More often than not, she's naive and gullible. Also, there's not much evidence of her "huge need to be liked," probably because she's never seen with somebody other than Hank, her "official nemesis."
- When talking about Hank's father, it's mentioned that "Mr. Addanac has been known to execute a zany idea or two in his day." Another excellent bone for character development… that I've never seen mentioned in the comic. Also, Ms. Yesnik (Hank's teacher) is "Teacher of the Year three consecutive times and she’s a staunch supporter of the Better Academic Results Foundation (better known as B.A.R.F.)." Once again, no mention.
- If the bios aren't spent describing characters from their link with Hank (shallow), they're mocking how the characters dream of having a life.
- "Penelope is one of the more (sic) stronger-willed (sic) characters in the strip." How would we know? She's barely talked up till now!
- The biggest shock might be this kid Corbin, who probably only appeared a handful of times, yet has a character description as long as many recurrent characters. And then there's a friend of Hank who's appeared more frequently but isn't here.
- Finally, some characters are very similar to those of Calvin and Hobbes. Christie especially is just inches away from Susie Derkins. Hank's teacher is also a lot like Miss Wormwood, though Ford pushes more his principal character.
When it comes to making jokes, originality is the name of the game! (above: Calvin and Hobbes, December 31st, 1985, by Bill Waterson)
Ford, maybe it's about time you start making the characters act like they are described in the characters page. Hint more towards their personality in the strips. Try to diminish a little bit Hank's role as the axis of the universe. Just to make a few strips with a small running plot would do wonders for this aspect, as maybe you'd need to throttle down on the one-liners for a second and perhaps have a real conversation. We don't need to get all dramatic, just something with a bit more meat to it. Your 4-page comics and the preview for your book are A LOT better written than your daily strips. The only question is, why?
I'm tempted to believe it's the schedule. A 7-strip-per-week comic plan is terribly demanding. Are you sure it's fair to submit yourself that way for a free comic? Quality is just lagging awfully because of this. The long comics have many jokes running together, and some even add up in sequence. There's obviously some level of writing there. Meanwhile, some regular strips feel almost like you were dragged through making them, especially with that type of art. It can be quite a turn off for archive crawlers. Nobody hooks to something that may, perhaps today, be interesting. Nobody should care to wait a day or two for something they will surely like.
Perhaps what bothers me the most is that, all in all, most strips just seem to be incomplete or terribly executed. There's a set up, there's a topic, the other character throws the ball to Hank and… he does nothing. Or he comes up with a bad answer, or a lame wordplay, or an answer so predictable and cliche that we could've guessed it by the first panel. There're jokes that show syndromes of the "Idiot Plot", or a situation in which the other character would have to be a total idiot to follow through.
Really, there's a serious lack of creativity here. A lack of creativity that sometimes leads to plagiarism. I don't mean to be making random accusations but Ford's track record shows cases of ripping off things from Calvin and Hobbes. There's also a rumor that this was directly stolen from a Foxtrot comic. If anything, the joke stealing is not very profitable, because most of the time the stolen premise is just as badly executed as any other strip.
Back to the original strips, remember this one? It's from one of the worst running plots that the comic had. In it, Hank's Uncle Jack escapes from prison and shelters into the Addanac household for several weeks. It is completely unbelievable that an idiot of that caliber could somehow escape from a heavily guarded building (and the reason turns out to be completely retarded indeed). Also, there's the fact that he stays around for almost a month without being searched by the cops, and the Addanacs are stupid enough to hide him. At one point, they almost forget that he's a fugitive and make him take care of Hank. This leads to some the most deviant strips of what I've come to call "Corruption Month." Though this hasn't been the only time touchy subjects have been used to pull laughs, this was certainly the longest run of them together.
Hurr, hurr, wearing women's clothes and making small children drunk is PRIME COMEDY!!
This whole month's content makes me really confused about who the main audience is for this comic. The jokes, writing, and art are stupid to a degree that only the smallest children would be able to enjoy. However, time and again we see little attempts at mature humor, though most tank without remedy. There's some attempts at political humor, gay humor, and other stuff for adults, not to mention the whole alcohol, drugs, rape and prostitution combo that Uncle Jack brought along. You need to make your target a bit more definite, because believe it or not, there's parts of your strip that you can't show to any young kid, no matter how inviting your style seems to them.
Addanac City: For All Ages?
Finally, the last thing that worries me of the writing is that there are many strips with dated content. Strips that will be forgotten soon. Your heroe, Bill Watterson, knew as well as many other comic strip artists that one of the best tricks for comics is durability and a sense of timelessness in the jokes. That's what sells books and assures archive crawls from new visitors. This comic does not have such thing, and must commonly draw from current events to satisfy its quota. Some references are old even when they first mentioned. Once again, sad.
George Ford seems like a very nice guy. And as he will undoubtly tell you, he is very successful and good at what he does. Reading Ford's About Page, you will find out about his many awards, achievements, and fame. But don't worry, little reader! Modesty's so great on him, third-person praising and all, I could barely spot any self-loving:
…utilizing his talent to satisfy the individual needs of the customers. His diligence and eye for detail led to the company being flooded with custom-work orders during the Christmas season.
Several of his projects went on to win awards for creativity at industry conventions in Las Vegas.
He has two plays which are in consideration for production in the near future, and he is in talks for one play to be developed into a movie.
Also, according to Ford, Addanac City was is a mayor success:
Addanac City the comic book sold exceptionally well, at times, making it the top-selling periodical in the area, second only to the newspaper.
The soaring popularity of Addanac City and its flagship character, Hank, prompted Ford to develop many commercial tie-ins. The area was inundated with t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, and other products.
Seeing as how Mr. Ford portrays himself, and how Addanac City is so evidently successful, profitable and popular, it's no surprise that this is his reaction when he starts to notice that not everyone is so fond of his masterful, award-winning comic:
I welcome your whining and petty, elementary-school name-calling. […] You hate ADDANAC CITY soooo much, yet you return time and time again just to see how much you hate it this go-round. […] the name ADDANAC CITY is still on your lips. Taste it, savor it, and swallow, Dear Hater, cuz you’ll be back tomorrow.
He was so praised by his fans on his commentaries, that he attempted yet another hit at his invisible enemies. While I still debating if I [Seagate] should take over this review, he made sure to push me into it with this little nugget:
Some of these kids have even ganged up with their “clique” to post AC up on their whiny Bad Webcomics site. Hee-hee…. I love to watch children play. They fetch fans so well. Thanks for the free promotion, tykes.
And I’ll be waiting for you to entertain me further.
Why, yes, Mr. Ford, you are absolutely right! This review, in fact, this whole site was made on the premise that we are a bunch of whiny tykes that don't like your comic. We all have a feverish obsession with your comic because we hate it with all our guts… but we just can't look away from it!!! Our whole day begins and ends by checking your site for new updates to riff about!! All of those guys who complain in your comments section… it's us!! In fact, I made all those accounts!! I LOVE HATE YOU SOOOO MUCH!!!
Cut it out.
Perhaps this is the first time you've been exposed to negative attention, and that is quite sad to me. You are so eager to look cool and bash us "haters" like a plague of idiots assaulting your site so that your supporters cheer you. You are more than happy to combat ignorance with more ignorance and capitalize your bad publicity by mocking critics and what we do on this site. You think you are getting the best of us. Well, let me pierce your cloud for just a minute (as I'm confident you'll delude yourself right back):
When your top referrers are sites full of people that don't like you, when one single reviewer gets his country to be TOP 3 just for reading the archives over a week, when two or three people who don't like you and are temporarily studying you for a review are your biggest worry, that's hardly "the fastest growing comic strip of the Internet". Call me an infantile hater, Mr. Ford, but I'm not the one giving himself too much credit.
What really evades me is that you voluntarily downgrade both of this abilities to make Addanac City. The daily strip is less than your worst effort, and I can't help but ask why. Why do you do shitty drawings when you can do better? Why do you put any kind of crap on the balloons and often refuge in vulgarity and unoriginality? Who's running the dealine here? Why 7 days?! Why not 3 or 4 good ones instead of 7 flat ones? Is Addanac City really out there, currently publishing in the funnies of some newspaper? Do you actually read all those daily loads of mail? Is there criticism? Why do you feel you have to stereotype all of us critics like trolls and haters?
Read Addanac City if you are the kind of guy who thinks "Why should I be my best in the Internet? What's it matter?". You'll find yourself very welcome by this willingly underachieving (yet still hungry for profit) endeavor.