Movie Punks by Carrington Vanston, reviewed by Damonk

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.


  1. Damonk has not given us a very good review of this web comic. No mention of the special features on the site, which include some of the most appropriate “bonus comics” I’ve ever seen (including cast auditions!) because they mirror the extras you’ll find on a DVD.

    No mention, too, of the recent “time travel” story line which had the characters actually going back in time in a race through the comic archives themselves! The archives were changed to reflect the chase, and readers could race backward with the characters to finish the story — all the while also reading new versions of the archived comics as the “old” characters reacted to their future selves racing by. Easily the most original thing I’ve ever seen done on a webcomic, and not a peep about it by Damonk.

    Movie-Comics (itself called homophobic, violent and low-brow on a review on this same site) is offered up as an example of satire in the genre while Movie Punks is brushed off as being too violent and sexist. Whatever.

    This review would leave you with the impression that Movie Punks is a comic devoid of wit, humor and originality when nothing could be further from the truth. Certainly, Damonk must not have enjoyed his recent (and, we must assume, first) visit to the Movie Punks site. I urge you to ignore this review, and give Movie Punks a change.

    If you don’t want to go through 170+ comics in the archive, I’d suggest you start with this comic to see the film noir story that concludes with the time travel race.

    By the way, my real name is Joe Bison. After all, I’d hate to offer up a bunch of strong opinions and then hide behind an alias. 😉

  2. Good for you for posting your name, Joe.

    If you’re making a little dig at my own penname, tho… well, that’s a different story. I’ve been using it as my artist moniker for 10 years now, before and since coming onto the ‘net. It’s not hard for people to find my real name at all, if they are ever interested in doing so — there’s no hiding here on my part at all.

    As for the review — you make the fair point that I did not discuss the ‘bonus’ features of the site, nor did I comment on the Film Noir storyline. However, when writing the review, I felt that the problems I cited in my review superceded the need to mention these.

    While the bonus features are ‘cute’ and all, they are hardly anything new or particularly amazing — most webcomics have a host of additional special features on their site, and they just didn’t grab me enough to needs make mention of them.

    In terms of the Film Noir story, I chose not to delve into it as it would have taken too much time to do so. To very briefly sum up my problems with it, tho:

    1) The only real thing “Film Noir” about that storyline was that it was in black and white, and it made a reference to Hammett’s hard-boiled classic a few times. As a whole, the story and its mini-interruptions did nothing for the genre, neither in homage or in spoofage.

    2) Merely switching from colour to a light-toned grayscale failed to deliver that classic Film Noir atmosphere. The creator missed a perfectly good chance to REALLY show that he knows about movies there. I would have been more forgiving of the ‘BW=Film Noir’ idea had this comic not supposedly BEEN about people who know all about movies.

    3) The going back through time *was* interesting, but not really new. In fact, I’ve seen it done before. This time, though, it was done with very little purpose outside of being a “cool gimmick”. However, since we’re still waiting to see what the Future Dexter warned us of for strip 195, I suppose that one can hope that the “explanation” to come then will make it all worthwhile? It was actually mentioned in my initial draft, but it got cut for final copy.

    Finally, you neglect to consider that I *do* point out how Vanston is improving over his earlier work. I could have chosen to leave the review at 100% pan, but felt that his improvements were worth mentioning. He is showing those signs of originality that I look for, and I even mention a few strips that made me smile.

    In the end, though, having read through the entire archives and foraged through the site a number of times prior to writing my piece, I stand by my review in its entirety.

    Thanks for your comments, though — I respect that you didn’t hop on here with ravings of “j0 5uxX0rs!”, even if you disagree with my article’s stance.

  3. First review I’ve read here (came to the site because people were discussing the review in a forum) and having read it I’m not inclined to stay around and read more. The reviewer and I have different opinions of what constitutes wit and humor, that’s all.

    Everyone’s got their opinion, even reviewers. 😉 Since I’m familiar with the Movie Punks strip I’m able to compare the review’s conclusions to those of my own, and seeing that they are so unbelievably different I can tell that I’ll not give any weight to whatever else Damonk has to say about comics. That’s fine, it’s just one person’s opinions.

    But I’ve never approached a reviewer this way before — comparing their reviews of material I’m familiar with first to decide how much I should value their opinion. I think I’ll do that from now on with movie and book reviewers. So while I didn’t find anything much of value or interest in the review itself, I did take something away from this. That’s why I thought I’d take the time to share my reactions to a site I’d normally shrug off and ignore. I tried to register to post this, but the registration page pops up errors.

    Oh I almost forgot: j0 5uxX0rs! 😉

  4. you see mr. reviewer person, that is why you shouldn’t call things “punk” going around saying what is cool and what is not, is not what punk is really about if its about anything in perticular. Mr. Vanston is quite funny, I share plenty of the same views (sans the Star Wars hatred) I like the art, it IS simple and it IS the same day in day out, but read Garfield or Get Fuzzy and the Art STYLE does not change. and for an online “punk” Comic to update consistantly for a year or more (they all cant be diesel sweeties)? that’s great track record. Movie punks is not trying to be the “best” its just doing what IT wants. but come on the BEST ONLINE COMIC EVER goes to

    Rob, Price, UT,

  5. hey PUNKS does this site remind you of just wondering.

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