Ah, the age old punk dilemma:
How does one offer witty comments and critiques on movies one’s seen, without looking like one’s joined the local Camp Conformity of cartoonists who already offer up movie-related spoofing or satire? Easy – by offering up stereotypical responses that involve violence or uninspired insults, and that have nothing to do with the movie at all, beyond maybe its name.
Wait. That’s not punk at all, is it?
Still, that’s exactly the kind of approach that Movie Punks seems to have taken so far since the strip began 168 episodes ago. The main premise is fairly simple: two ‘punks’ comment on movies that they are watching, or have heard about. Think of them as the Statler and Waldorf of the movie critic world… minus most of the wit or humor.
There are problems right from the start with this comic, the most important one being that for a comic that passes itself off as dealing with movies, it actually hardly EVER discusses a film in more depth than by name (and sometimes it doesn’t even give a name!). What you get instead are very much generic put downs – unoriginal joke skeletons that seem like they were inspired from those old Mad Magazine MAD-Libs. Aren’t convinced yet? Go read any of the aforementioned hyperlinked examples and substitute one movie name for another… and voila! You’ve just created the next Movie Punks comedy masterpiece. Heck, why stop at movies? These strips could have just as easily been about any other medium, with the same result – TV, webcomics, magazines, laundry detergent, mutual funds…
Fortunately, there HAS been the odd time where a movie will actually be discussed or referenced beyond its title – to attack plot holes, or point out Hollywood asininity, for example – but this is quite rare.
The art has remained the same throughout, really – very simple cartoony figures drawn with that faddish thick black outline we see so much of nowadays. It doesn’t try to be anything remarkable, and since the attempted humor is written mostly in "talking head" style (i.e., the joke is almost always dependent solely on the words, and not on the images), there’s no point in it needing to be remarkable. It serves its purpose – to provide fleshy anchors for the word balloons.
If, like the art, the movies were meant to be nothing more than just a staging ground for shows of clever wordplay by the creator, then perhaps he could be forgiven his tendency to not make references ABOUT the meat of a movie. However, more often then not, you find that most jokes involve uninspired name-calling. When that fails, out comes the violence. Chain beatings, baseball bat beatings, direct violence or threats aimed at directors, and ad nauseum. Apparently, the creator has taken the term "punchline" a tad too literally.
Not to pan this comic production completely, however, it has to be noted that there are the odd gems that pop up here and there. Nothing may really be gut-bustingly funny, but there are a few strips that elicit at least a smile or a chuckle – a clever jab at ticket prices, a nice homage to a famous print, and a humorous Matrix strip are samples of those times when Vanston closes in on the funny.
On the whole, Movie Punks actually *has* improved some since its low-budget B-movie beginnings. More and more, the name-calling takes a back seat to smarter, more original humor. Wordplay jokes begin to work well, and the two punks – Seethe and Dexter – let others take center stage, allowing some moderately nigh-amusing strips to ensue. In the last 50 or so strips, the humor is definitely a few shades better, and it can only be hoped that the creator will continue to improve as such.
Still, Vanston’s strip has a ways to go before it becomes the next webcomic classic. Those who get their kicks out of shock humor, violence humor, and recycled guy-girl stereotype jokes, well, grab some popcorn and start clicking through the archives. Those looking for a bit more substance or flavor might want to let’s-all-go-to-the-lobby… and then out the front door.