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I Hate You All: Revenge of the Lame

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.

Just a Little "but"

My 0.2 eur.

I don't think you are being really fair jugding "The lame". For starters, I don't think you can group that kind of stories together, without doing some kind of subdivision, not by genre, nor level of seriousness, but mainly for the outcome of the story, or even more if the story is aiming to a goal or not. Let me explain myself:

First you have the "no major changes" strip-like loser (I prefer that term rather than lame as it can be applied to characters, but not to the whole comic) comics, which a clear example would be K'spot's great "Sinfest". Slick is a Loser, with capital "L", no matter how you look at it. He fools himself into thinking he's cool, and that Monique'll eventually fall for him, but that won't never happen. But that's okay, for to things: first, the story orientation, you (think you) know things are not gonna change, and that's the way you like it. Besides, Slick is the kind of guy you can feel simpathetic with, as it represent a lot of us.

Then you have the big, gross humor comics, were most people are losers, and you like to see them fail. It may be story-ridden or not, but you are there to see their suffering, and take a laugh at their cost, and that's what you are looking for. I think this segment is the one you are talking about, but like I said, it's there for that, so I won't trash them. As much as I may enjoy, super-spys, I prefer reading "Mortadelo y Filemón" ("Clever & Smart" for the Shakespeare speakers, I think), and see them fail miserabily and being pursued by their boss os an angry mob at the end of every chapter.

Then there are the "superation" loser stories. they may be humored as well as reality-based, although then to be the later. This are stories about loser, yes, but losers that achieve things, and maybe they do it without stoppong being a loser. This is a common theme in manga, specially the "Loser guy get's surronded by girls" kind, sometimes called "harem manga", as may be "Love Hina", for example. Then you have stories a bit more serious, when people evolve through it, like Katsura's work, or even the web-famous "Megatokyo", where the main character slowly evolves into a more mature person, even being aware of how he is now (a "Loser" who needs a button for resetting people's emotions)

At the end of the spectre, you have what you would consider "normal" stories, but with losers involved. I can't think in anything better than "Hellblazer". Constantine may seem cool at first sight, but after you know the background of the character, and specially what usually happens to his friends as he waltzes with devils, yo realize he's a big loser.

What I'm trying to say is: there are lots, of different approaches to the "Lame comic" idea, and not everyone are bad, maybe even the ones you dislike the most.

But this is just my opinion.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

In response to: "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."

...I submit that what the Lame are really doing, when they think their lame-everyman is brilliantly skewering pop-culture, is lamely contributing to the huge pile of lame already there. Just a volcanically vomitted mountain of lame, burying and smothering the jaded and the naieve alike. And that is, lamely, all.

Left out of the tirade was the lame character who DOES try, but somehow ends up succeding despite, or because of, their lameness.

Furthermore, beyond the lame-archetype, there are equally trite/banal/hackenyed happenings, yea, even in the lauded high literature of the age. I think there's more to Lameness inheriting the Kingdom of the Thoughtful than the lame-character archetype.

The Evil Twin comes to mind. Death by impaling, or by a fall, comes to mind. As does the one-punch-one-knockout B.A. Barracus style fight so prevalent on TV. The I-became-an-assassin-to-avenge-the-murder-of-my-family character. The magic girl. The cat eared girl. The present, past, or imminent war, between, yes, you guessed it, "good" races and "evil" races. Elves with silver, moon, bow, star, light, or gold in their names. Hell, elves, period. Polytheistic medieval fantasy settings. Adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. Adaptations of adaptations. Amalgamations; you know, it's like ER meets The Simpsons, with a country soundtrack, and a dash of S&M. Any Disney sequel.

The list goes on and on. And surprisingly, the lameness neither increases nor decreases. Lame.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Speaking of Lame, I didn't sign the above post. I am Matt. My website can be seen at http://well-of-souls.com/artgolem. My webcomic entitled Knights of the Shroud will be debuting on Girlamatic this coming Saturday. Not that I have any pretencse of clout, mind you.

-Matt, does not beleive in the "mook."

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Three words: Don Freakin' Quixote.

Get thee hence.