I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble
Fish Muffin Scream Asphalt: Funny?
I remember with great fondness the first time I stumbled upon a totally surreal webcomic. I won't say which one, just that it was one of the originals, something mindbogglingly bizarre that, over time, picked up its own cult following and is now a Minor Institution among webstrips.
And I gazed upon this comic, and I saw that it was Good. It was, in fact, one of the strongest arguments for web-based idea creation: a chance to do something completely unsaleable by conventional logic, something that would in a pre-Internet world be relegated to self- or small-press publishing and have a one in a billion chance of finding a sizeable audience.
The promulgation of material that would conventionally have a hard time finding an audience or a home is one of the greatest artistic boons the medium has to offer.
The promulgation of material that should conventionally have a hard time finding an audience or a home is, of course, its greatest curse.
Then this little gem of non-sequitor bafflement was joined by another. And another. And another. Before long, it seemed that every aspiring Dadaist and Beckett was out there juxtaposing their thesaurus and whatever drek they could dredge up on Google Images, or pretending that using clip art and a random phrase generator was going to net them some semblance of depth.
It did, of course, and every budding young genius out there who knew how to tie an image or crudely-drawn character to some half-assed, underbaked nonsense phrase or sentence, usually heavily laden with profanity, became lauded as the authors of a new generation of creative thought and intellectual resonance.
See that? That just there? The paragraph you just read? That's surrealism, friend. You can tell because it doesn't make any sense.
A "glut of surrealism" is just one of those phrases you'd never imagine yourself saying on a daily basis. But as part of his crusading overview of the webcomics world, your humble author has found that minor-league Magritte is spreading like kudzu across the Internet.
If you take a look at the worst of what's out there â€“ the scum of the crop, the bandwidth-suckers, the distractions and clutter â€“ it's that most popular of deadly sins, sloth, that does most of 'em in. Here, as elsewhere, laziness is the disease, and there is â€“ at this point â€“ no cure evident. Budding auteurs seeking to impress and unable to come up with something genuinely funny took a convenient shortcut straight into "this makes no sense, so it must be funny!" Jon Rosenberg's been riffing on it in Goats lately, and saying possibly more with his satire than I am with ham-fisted editorializing.
On the other hand, maybe ham fists are necessary when you need to thwap some sense into people. Surrealism was a movement â€“ and note the past tense â€“ with a purpose, to overthrow the conventional definition of art and its overvaluation and inject some new modes of thought into a weary form. Is there such a purpose in most of the 'web's dozens of surreal 'toons?
Or is it just a flailing attempt at depth, a surface pitch to seem "groundbreaking?"
Or a desperate cry for help?
Or whang the clutch bafflecheese?
That's what I thought.
Dalton Wemble is a staff contributor for the Comixpedia. He transcends space and blue cheese, and has just recently acccidentally discovered time travel.