The main problem with creating something new is avoiding the cheap shortcuts. It’s hard as hell, if you’re working on a webcomic, not to eschew the hard work and blood, sweat and tears of what we more refined sorts call "thinking" and fall back on those old familiar crutches.
"Talkin’ animals, they’s funny," you say. "An’ fallin’ anvils, they’s allays got a good laff down on th’ farm. An’ heck, them real violent-type folks, they’s so baaaad an’ convey ma angst like nuthin’ else nobuddy else is drawin’ in third-period spare t’day."
And hell, I can almost forgive the weak and the wounded for staggering back onto that fat and comfortable couch. It’s easy; it impresses Mom and that guy/girl who spends Home Ec shoving french fries up his/her/its nose; it gets you a few hits and a spot on the Lame Talkin’ Animals Cartoon Ain’t They Key-YOOT Webring. And good on ya, pilgrim. Keep up the fight. Keep heading into that setting sun, and some day you may wake up lookin’ down on the Valley of Good Ideas.
But worse than these soul-bereft wanderers, far worse still, is the kind that falls into that sucking chest wound of cartoon concepts, that quagmire of intellect. This breed of cellar-dwelling tablet-clutcher marches legions of suck in lockstep in front of them like a shepherd for the weak of intellect, because not only have they come up with something thoroughly bereft of innovation and pluck, they think they are abundantly clever for doing it.
I speak, ladies and gentlemen, of The Lame.
Immediately I see you recoil from the screen, your fingers jerking back from your mouse like it’s wired to that big Christmas tree on the White House lawn where a smiling Roosevelt has just jammed the switch past the point of no return. You know of whom I speak.
"I’ll start a super-hero comic," The Lame says, "but instead of being a, like, you know, a real super-hero, he’ll be, like, real lame."
"He’s like a detective?" The Lame has you cornered at a cocktail party and you are trying to escape, but you’ve been corraled and you’re afraid he’ll slush Mountain Dew all over you if you make a sudden move. "But he’s, like, not a good detective. He’s, like, lame."
Or God Forbid you carpool with The Lame.
"My main character is, like, an action hero kind of guy, but he’s real lame," The Lame drones from the back seat. "This is clever because usually, action heroes like in the movies and stuff are not lame."
The Lame, you see, specializes in taking a perfectly ordinary genre – say a Western, or a high adventure story, or a cockfight – and making the participants losers. This is what passes for genius in The Lame’s world. It might be a superhero with no or particularly unimpressive powers, a gunfighter that can’t shoot, or a novelist who can’t write. Or an untalented prostitute, in that most ludicrously horrid of the sub-sub-genre, Lame Hentai.1
The Lame expects us to follow the adventures of this Lame hero or heroine, and to root for the Lame character because it’s loveable or sympathetic or just so bloody goddamn original I could just vomit all over my goddamn iBook.
The problem is that it isn’t original or charming or brilliant. It isn’t an inversion of our Western Paradigm or whatever the hell. It’s crap. It’s crap because stories are about struggle and triumph, or effort and failure, but at any rate, they’re about people that try things, people that strive. And while The Lame may think they are somehow adding their own brilliant Everyman skewer to the mundane pop crap we spend our lives wading through, what they are in fact doing is robbing their stories of any ability to advance or engage. Because The Lame doesn’t know what it is to win, The Lame is incapable of telling a true story of success or of failure. A character with nothing to gain and nothing to lose is as gripping as a wet sock. Less, even, because the damned sock can always dry.
And so a wallow in the depths of The Lame is as rewarding as watching paint dry, and while there might be a microsecond of novelty in this morass of mundanity, it fades like a firefly caught in the iron teeth of a sideshow geek.
But – and let me indulge in a bit of pop psychology here, O Best Beloved – what if The Lame does this not as much because they think it clever in some obscure and non-Lame way… but to exorcise their own Lame demons?
What if The Lame creates The Fictional Lame because there’s nobody lame enough in their lives to relate to? What if they need to make fictional analogues, like a legless marathon runner or a powerless super-hero, to try to validate their own experiences as lost, weak and inane human beings?
This may cast new light upon The Lame, and perhaps… just perhaps… next time you cast your eye upon a Lame comic strip, you will feel, instead of revulsion and loathing for the self-important overestimating Lame that wrote it, you will perhaps feel a touch of pity.
Perhaps you will.
I sure as hell won’t.
1Don’t get me started.
Dalton Wemble is a guest columnist for the Comixpedia. He’s also invented the Internet, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, webcomics, french kissing, and the swedish massage.