Writing an article in a column whose stated goal is to be critical of webcomics, in a month when the theme is "politics," is a tricky beast indeed.
It is, arguably, impossible to do without seeming horribly biased.
Because conservatives just aren’t funny. Or interesting. At all.
No, seriously. It’s true. Take a look around. Look real careful, now.
Like in most things, the webcomics community is a microcosm of the World At Large. I know, I know, we’re proud and independent and special and wear our own Spock Ears upside down to mark us as a different sort of insular geek freakshow, but really, it all breaks down the same.
You can’t say you haven’t noticed that the more creative and, arguably, intelligent people are, the more likely they are to be more left-leaning than right-leaning. It’s painfully evident when you look at the support the various sides have drummed up over the last election: a cavalcade of international celebrities, from Bruce Springsteen to Ben Afflek to Martin Sheen and all the way down to a full slate of Hollywood Squares, have come out on the anti-Bush side. The Bush side has a sort of sheepish Arnold Schwartzeneggar mumbling that he guesses the president isn’t such a bad guy, maybe sorta, and… uh… geez, I’m stuck. Already. Kelsey Grammar? Didn’t he say something sort of conservative once? And… uh… Colonel Kilgore, that guy, I think he might be kind of rightish. Oh, and most of the NASCAR drivers.
Which makes any sort of critique of political webcomics kind of difficult, because all the good ones lean to the left. But if you ignore the right altogether, forgive them their complete lack of humour and talent, and focus exclusively on the left, it looks like you’re just savaging left-wing comics because you have a right-wing bias.
YouWhen you have taken upon yourself the sole mandate of helping separate the wheat from the chaff, the fact that conservatives only produce reams and reams of ranting paranoid suck makes it impossible to note the worst of the worst without it seeming like you’re picking on the righties. Even I’m not low enough to launch an assault on the shortcomings of "Day by Day," the only Conservative webcomic worth mentioning — it’s on hiatus due to cancer in the family, and kicking something when it’s down like that is just mean, mean, mean.
The danger on both sides, of course, is how easy it is to descend into flaming, ranting, incoherency in about point-five seconds. In an election year, this tendency gets a bit exaggerated, as supporters of one candidate scream "HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT THAT IDIOT?!" while those in the other camp scream "HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT THAT MORON?!" until they both fall down exhausted.
And really, nothing’s going to change their minds. A well-balanced, reasoned, witty-as-hell insightful comment on how the Democrats really aren’t on the ball this year isn’t going to sway anyone into voting for Bush. And lord knows, anyone inclined to vote for Bush isn’t going to change their minds unless he is found making sweet love to Osama bin Laden on top of a school bus of flaming nuns, shoveling buckets of cocaine into every orifice while stroking Osama’s luxurious beard, broadcast live on sixty-three news channels with Matt Drudge and Ann Coulter shrieking "OH MY GOD THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING" over and over again in a cracked voice; even then, they are likely to vote for Bush anyway, because they’ll think this is probably just the Liberal Media distorting the truth somehow.
So you have to wonder, in the end, what good political webcomics can possibly do. They all seem to skew leftward (except for one, now defunct). Those on the right who actually read comics, despite the fact that it takes valuable time away from oppressing poor people or shrieking furiously about welfare or whatever else it is that right-wing people do, aren’t likely to be convinced by even the cleverest allegory or most intelligent analogy known to man. And you wonder, if you are somebody who takes malicious delight in mercilessly ripping down what others have so carefully built, what the point of attacking such a toweringly lopsided institution would be in the first place.
And so you come to a realization: really, political webcomics aren’t there to convert people or get new ideas or opinions out there. They can’t be. They’re just there to preach to the choir, to keep the lefties pumped up, to pump up and buff and shine that impenetrable armour of disgusting smugness that those damn pinkos wear like a badge of honor. Left-leaning political webcomics are the lowest bastion of the proto-hippie ranks. They’re that little smirk Tim Robbins has when he says something he thinks is clever. They’re the small "hmmph" your weird aunt always ended conversations with when you told her that yes, you rather liked your possessions and weren’t likely to join the group at Everglade Commune.
They’re just there to bolster the ranks and gird the loins of the Liberals, propping them up with weak humor to withstand another blistering day under the white-hot fury of the Army of God, the Bastions of Righteousness, the Right Wing, screaming so loud they drown out whatever arguments are raised against them.
And so this is less a scathing look at political webcomics than it is a mourning of the state of discourse today. We’ve reached the point where there’s no point talking any more, and great comedy is wasted when really the only effective way to settle this is to get everyone out back of the Wal-Mart with bike chains and zip guns. I’ll be up on the roof with the Libertarians and the Green Party fellas, watching you all pound on each other and busting a gut laughing.
Now that’s entertainment.
Have a great November 2.
Dalton Wemble is a contributing columnist for Comixpedia.
For me the good political cartoonist must be like a good sports commentarist. Neutral and fair to both sides. Sure, the commentarist may lean towards some team, but while he’s working, he must be professional enough to criticize the wrongs their team of choice do as well.
A great deal of political comics suck (both leftist and rightist) exactly because in the end it’s all about “you suck for not agreeing with me, because I’m right and you’re not!”. The more you can step away from what you believe and mock it for what it can be mocked, the better a political cartoonist you can be.
That’s why I don’t quite like this categorization between left and right wing comics. Political cartoonists and humorists around here often joke that they are affiliated to the ‘FOP’ (Forever Opposition Party). They criticize everyone, even if it’s the guy they voted for.
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