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I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Naked Field Parties and You

When I was a chipper young lad of 12 or 13, there was (as there was every year) an election for Student Council at my beloved Poughkeepsie High. One wag, running for some minor position like Sock Hop Coordinator or Master of the Punchbowl or something, applied all the intellect and graphic design skills that one could expect a 15-year-old who spent most of his time blasted at "field parties" to muster.

His posters were 8½ x 11" sheets of paper, white, with the word SEX emblazoned across the top half; on the bottom it said, "Now that I've gotten your attention, vote for me, JERRY, for Master of the Punchbowl!"

He won.

I'm sure there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this, including a PhD thesis on the value of bulk photocopying and the recurrent use of repetitive minimalism in contemporary secondary seniority position promotional applications towards the ends of refreshment coordination. But what I took away was this:

Sex sells.

Not exactly a groundbreaker, but I was a late bloomer and never got invited to field parties, dammit. Still, it's eerie how well it held, and even today, if you pick a random media and take a gander at it, you'll note that any alcohol-damaged pubescent knuckle-dragger can shout "SEX" and immediately get a hell of a lot more attention than if he shouted, say, "QUALITY" or "INTELLIGENCE". Whether or not the person is in question is really an alcohol-damaged pubescent knuckle-dragger or not.

Let's take such a random media. Oh, I don't know. Hmm. What could we possibly... say, how about webcomics?

For a medium that hems and haws and sprains its arm back-patting about being a risky cutting-edge alternative to the stolid and stoic print medium (see last month's Comixpedia, lather rinse repeat), most of what makes webcomics risky and cutting edge is sub-par crap with dirty words and boobies tacked on to draw an audience. It panders for an audience six times as hard and eight times as fast than media with some sort of quality control in the production chain, and the lowest common denominator continues to drop following some sort of black hole algorhythm that would give Steven Hawking an aneurysm.

I stopped reading PvP the day Kurtz put up some sort of blather about how ... if memory serve, Frank Cho was going to ... gasp... draw Jade ... golly ... NAKED! ... in just a few short days! Yow! And I didn't drop because of some sort of prude anti-nudity stance. I knew full well it was a gag and anybody with an ounce of intelligence would know that there would be no full-frontal showin'-it-all pictures of Jade at any point in PvP, ever.

In fact, I'm not 100% sure that it was Frank Cho that was supposed to draw the thing, but it was around the time that Kurtz and Cho were palling around a lot online. And I'm sure as hell not going to waste my time bashing around the archives checking.

I stopped reading PvP that day, quietly but with great determination, because an artist that I thought was at least competent and pretty clever had squeezed out the Big Turd of online marketing. Whether it was meant to be a satire of other media pandering that way or not, it was the trotting-out of a character that purportedly represented everything good about female gamers and dangling the nude carrot on a stick for every goggle-eyed fanboy that was ... uh ... well, messed up enough to actually make some extra effort to see a sparsely-rendered cartoon character naked, that turned me off.

I'll bet dollars to donuts that the whole thing resolved with nary a nipple being flashed, and Jade probably wound up "naked except for her immense self-worth!" or some blather. I don't care. Never went back. Never gonna. I have immense respect for the talent and the wit, but it's just not something I'm going to bother with any more.

I say all this to make a point, not to spark one of the Dump On Kurtz memes that seem to cycle through the Internet on cycles like the Chinook or some horrible tropical disease. The point is that even one of the best, most popular, least exploitative and most gifted cartoonists on the Web felt he had to go there, and I felt like I couldn't go there any more.

Now, if that's how I feel about PvP, you're maybe extrapolating how I feel about NC-17 strips. There was a huge kerfuffle about a year ago when an artist calling himself 'hard' apparently didn't get accepted to Keenspot allegedly because some KS creators objected to his comic's consistently pornographic output. In retrospect, he came off as pretty classy about the whole thing, but attracted a few advocates that made him look pretty bad regardless.

Just to see how offensive the thing was, I decided to give 'er a gander. And my overall impression after browsing a ton of archives was not one of being offended, or aroused, but profoundly disinterested. Disinterested on an epic scale. How epic? My disinterest was ready to take off to northern Europe and slay Grendel, that's how epic. Saga-class.

So I spent some time trundling around other similar sites, checking out the NC-17 comixxx scene, and I had more or less the same recurring reaction: boredom. I was game for some ribald humour, stuff that really pushed the buttons and the boundaries by using sex as an element for a great gag, an intrinsic bit of funny that just wouldn't work without teh n4k3dzorz.

What I got was tedium punctuated by boobs, penises and on occasion farm animals. Maybe hoping for a Gahan Wilson was too damn much, but it was basically the same joke over and over and over, with naked people. And I realized that no matter how pretty the drawings are, most of what's out there comes back down to that 15-year-old shoving posters that had SEX in big letters all over the hall.

The issue isn't as much that sex sells. It's a beautiful thing, sex. Regardless of how you swing or what partners you choose, as long as nobody's gettin' hurt and everyone's havin' a good time, sex pretty much rocks and is one of the better things to do with your leisure time. And societally, it's dang well time we got over some of our more prurient hang-ups and relaxed a bit about the whole thing.

But this is the thing, and the thing is this: sex sells stupid crap. And BECAUSE sex sells stupid crap, it propagates more stupid crap with sex in it. You know why pornography is so ludicrously bad? Because it can be. Because badly programmed losers who need to join the AV club to get it up will accept badly done sex rather than hold out for something decent. Because – and I'm pretty sure there's a case to be made that this is a result of our converse sex-scared culture – sex is a commodity to be produced cheaply and purchased like a can of Spaghetti-O's at Wal-Mart, when it should be a celebration that should be treated with cleverness and skill and revered like a well-executed oil painting, or at least a pretty good TV show.

We're at the advent of a bold new medium that should, according to hype, blow all of our socks off. So why are we settling for cheap porn when we could be pushing for something that really redefines good NC-17 material, unfettered by the budgets of printing or celluloid? Vote with your feet and your clickin' fingers, folks. Find some good adult stuff and stick to it and champion it, but in the name of Sacred Ron, it's time to let those photocopied SEX posters yellow and droop on the walls, their tape sagging from deserved neglect and enlightened ignorance.

And if you're having a field party, hey, let me know.

Dalton Wemble is a contributing columnist for Comixpedia.


More Details
. [E-I-C's note: if you're really curious about the naked Jade story, it all starts here.]

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Joey Manley's picture

Kurtz used parody to make a comment that was, ultimately, similar to Dalton's point. The "bait and switch" makes it even better, because the point is driven home to precisely those idiots who feed this attitude: the ones who were tuning in just for the naked picture in the first place. And as a regular reader of PvP, I knew all along that it was a gag -- I mean, it was so obvious that Kurtz wouldn't stoop to that (and that Jade wouldn't put up with it).

I usually enjoy Dalton's columns, and I do get the larger point he's making, but he's way off the mark with his Kurtz bashing, in this instance.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

This whole thread reminds me of the backlash when Mike Royko mocked Picasso's Chicago sculpture.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Dalton,

If you had bothered to keep reading PvP (instead of taking your ball and going home), you would realize that the end of that particular storyline did not, in fact, use sex as a marketing tool.

The naked picture of jade turned out to be a baby picture.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Good point. I did dangle.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

No one did -- this isn't a review, it's an opinion column. It's not supposed to be objective. If the author hates something, then it's perfectly valid for him to write about why he hates it--that's a pretty traditional approach to opinion writing.

PictureStoryTheater.com:Fables & Fairy Tales

TwentySevenLetters.com: Experiments

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

But... we read it for the articles!

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Worth crossposting to both articles:

If you admit to liking a "titty" comic, then you're obviously an unsophisticated rube who is attracted to shiny objects, who defends his favorite comic and artistic and inventive in order to hide the fact that he relaly just likes to look at naked women.

If you admit to not liking a "titty" comic, then you're an elitist prick who can't let down his "art radar" for two seconds to just enjoy a cheap laugh, who is too concerned about how something became popular to notice whether or not it truly has any artistic merit.

And if you read any webcomics at all, then you're already on the bottom rungs of the totem pole, just above "Cross-dressing Furries" and just below "People Who Take Classes on How to Play Chess." So it's hardly worth it anyway.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Uncle Ghastly's picture

You fricken *****-tease, Kurtz. >_<

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Damn you censorbot! Damn you to hell!

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Now there's a mental image I didn't need.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Wow, i hope Dalton Wemble feel better now after he wrote this.
His review had pretty no other goal then this ... yeah, this was not realy supposed for reading :-)

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

HI IM DALTON....SEX IS A DEEADLY SIN,,, YOU MUSNT SHOWER BECUSE YOU MIGHT SEE YOUR ***** AND IT IS A DEEEDLY SINNN!!! OH NOS FOR SEXUALLY RELATED SUBJECTS.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

remember, wear a bathing suit when you shower because nudity is a sin.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Reading the column, I think the point is that it doesn't matter what the switch in the bait-and-switch was, but that you stooped to dangling the bait in the first place.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Sex sells. Cute sells. Furries sells. Videogames sells. Violence sells. Sad girls in snow sells. Safe, bland, and inoffencive family friendliness sells. Pretentious "My brand of funny is more intellectual than your brand of funny" snob chic sells.

Everything sells, baby.

Now perhaps for some adult humour comics are met with a yawn and a sighed, nasal exclamation of "I'm so terribly bored Buffy, this just simply is not what passes for humour in the Hamptons, dear. Oh the ennui, oh the horrible horrible ennui." which is all fine and well, but what passes for humour in the Hamptons is most likely met with a hell of a lot of yawning.

As for those who think the path to fame and glory lies in drawing naughty comics, think again. Keenspace is littered with the rotting corpses of comics by people who thought that Tits-for-hits was a guarenteed formula for success. It just simply isn't so. If people want to whack-off there are plenty of free sources of whack-off matterial on the internet out there much better than any webcomic is going to be. You might be able to get people to come take a peek at your work with sex, just like you might be able to draw them in by being a gamer comic, or a furry comic, or an otaku comic, but if you don't have talent. If you can't draw and you can't write and you can't deliever your audience a laugh they're not going to keep coming back. There are much better things for them to be doing with their genitals and broadband than taking the time to read your comic for the punchline if all they're interested in is the sex. Fame and fortune does not come easily for the adult humour webcomic artist.

If you want fame and fortune, make something safe, friendly, and inviting yet interesting and entertaining enough that children and adults both can appreciate it. Keep it in check so those reading it can get a nice fuzzy, but not feel offended and you'll do alright. Not only will you get fame and fortune but you also won't have people slinging mud at you, calling you a pornographer, and dismissing your work out of hand as purile filth that only appeals to inbred hillbillies and other such uncooth creatures of no moral fibre, refinement, and class. You also won't have people saying "Oh he's only got readers because he's using sex to sell. I could do that too to become popular, but I'm better than that."

Seriously, how many popular and famous webcomics are their that feature graphic, sexually explicit contented. Well there's Sexy Losers, but of course everyone, even the people who think they're better than those who appreciate such tasteless, valuless humour know about that one. But how many other ones can the average webcomic reader, or even artist name? Hmmm? How many? Three? Five? Eight? For each one they can name I can likely name three non-explicit comics that are more popular and more famous.

Yet still people like to wallow in the comfort of the myth that it's the sex that's behind certain artist's fame. Not their talent. Heavens no. I guess it's easier that way. If you're struggling away at a gamer comic with only 1000 readers or so I guess it's probably easier to compair your work to a comic like Sexy Losers and say "Okay, it's not my fault my comic isn't that popular, he's using sex to sell his work, I could be that popular too if I did the same thing" than it would be to compair yourself to Penny Arcade or one of the other big-guys in gamer comics and ask "Gee, why are they so much more popular than I am? What are they able to communicate to their audience that I am unable to deliver? What am I not accomplishing with my work to reach more people sympathetic with what I have to say?". Nope, just blame the lack of success on the lack of sex and let the introspection end there. Then you can just convince yourself that you don't want "those kind" of people who read the naughty comics reading your work anyways.

It doesn't matter, I suppose, that a good portion of the people who read your comic are "those kind" of people who read the naughty comics. I see it everytime I take a trip through the referal looking glass in my webtracker. Visit the links page of a webcomic fan and what do I see, more often than not I see Sexy Losers and Ghastly's Ghastly Comic listed there right along side the comics of artists who are quite snobbish about not wanting "those kind" of people reading their work.

The truth is people are different. People have depth and many facettes. "Those kind" of people who enjoy reading a naughty comic likely share much in common with the people who look down their noses at such comics. They probably enjoy videogames as well. They probably enjoy quality family friendly entertainment too if it's entertaining. They're not the greasy, unshaved perverts in rumpled raincoats nor the slutty harlots in torn fishnets that those of more sophisticated tastes would have us believe. They're technicians, they're sales people, they're doctors, lawyers, teachers, and maybe even pastors, police, and fire fighters. The people who read such comics are not any lessor nor any better than those who do not. So too are the people who create such comics. Neither one of them, creater nor reader, deserves to be looked down upon and dismissed out of hand.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

*COUGH*bearskinrug*COUGH*

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

NO kidding. God, what moron told this whiner to go look at something he already hates and comment objectively about it?

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

But this is the thing, and the thing is this: sex sells stupid crap. And BECAUSE sex sells stupid crap, it propagates more stupid crap with sex in it. You know why pornography is so ludicrously bad? Because it can be. Because badly programmed losers who need to join the AV club to get it up will accept badly done sex rather than hold out for something decent. Because ? and I'm pretty sure there's a case to be made that this is a result of our converse sex-scared culture ? sex is a commodity to be produced cheaply and purchased like a can of Spaghetti-O's at Wal-Mart, when it should be a celebration that should be treated with cleverness and skill and revered like a well-executed oil painting, or at least a pretty good TV show.

This... is right.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Linda Howard Valentine's picture

Ah yes, but what of us who only read Penny Arcade for the lurid exploits of the Fruit F@cker 2000?

Seriously, you bring up some excellent points, Ghastly, especially the point that people have wildly different tastes in everything. Given his article, I suspect few to no adult comics would appeal to Mr. Wemble. I've been reading Sexy Losers since it was The Thin H Line because of its wickedly funny, naughty sense of humor and long-running story lines (my husband got me started reading it; now I'm the one who reads it to him!), and view it as one of the most intelligent sex comics out there. Hard puts a lot of thought and talent into creating his strips, and it shows. If Sexy Losers' quirky, warped punchlines don't make Mr. Tremble laugh... I doubt any other adult comic will. Considering that Mr. Tremble "hates us all," I'm not too surprised by this; I just hope that Comixpedia readers are open-minded enough to look past his comments and try comics like Sexy Losers, Ghastly's Ghastly Comic and Slipshine out to decide for themselves.

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Wow, a rant about being a nerd in school and not being invited to "field parties" that was disguised as a review on adult webcomics. Actually it wasn't really limited to adult webcomics, somehow you linked PvP and Sexy Losers just because Kurtz had the imagination to allude to sex in a VERY minor plotline in his comic. Oh, that's right, you just tried to blast that plotline without even reading it. I guess your analogy of webcomics to print comics work for you too. Like the difference between real newspaper reviews to online reviews, you obviously have no Quality Control in the chain that takes the review from an idea in your head to the online column. Personally I like readin PvP, Something Positive, Sore Thumbs and Sexy Losers. Not because of sex, but because each one is completely different and has a different thing to offer. S*P because it holds nothing back, SL because it is like a train wreck or some other horrible accident that involves lots of gore, you can't take your eyes off of it, and then you laugh like mad... PvP is clean fun about the online gaming world, a world that I have belonged too since BBS's and the old muds(yes I am an old man). Sore Thumbs is just great because you have the workings of every stereotype known to man in just 5 characters so far.
Try a little objectivity in your review next time, dont lump waaaay different genre's together(yeah they are both webcomics, but thats like saying Nordstroms and Walmart are both just stores), and lastly, try to leave your own personal feeling caused by being an outcast as a child out of your commentary... Does anyone really care that you hate because you were left out of the popular crowd in school?

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

You know, I can't help but wonder if this poor fellow ever did get laid before he finished High School. Before you judge too quickly what I'm placing before you, consider this: either the author of the column made little or no effort to actually do any real research before he squatted to release this column, or he did very thorough research and nevertheless managed not be be even amused by works like 'Losers' or 'Bigger than Cheeses'. He managed with, I fear, little or no effort NOT to enjoy a single one of the many more explicit offerings available on the 'net. He chuckled not one tittle at a single boob joke, failed to find the phrase 'dick-breath' amusing in ANY context, and otherwise cracked nary a smile through page after infinite page of topless humor.
Anyone who seriously feels bad that this individual didn't like their work or bashed an entire genre with one 'church-lady-ish' glare need not stretch so far as 'Beowulf' to find comfort. Aesop speaks much more clearly to the attitude of the author via a story of a fox and some grapes.
What I can't wait for is a long-running gag amongst the NC-17 gang using the sour grapes head by the by-line on a panoply of humorless individuals.
I would be honestly surprised if any of the artists raped by the aforementioned virgin really noticed or cared. I only know this is even here because the commentary hurt and offended someone I know and respect. It's easy to understand why Comixpedia is only read by those few who think it says anything.
-Robert Frayser

Re: I Hate You All by Dalton Wemble

Firstly, I wish to state that ALL humor is "Bait and switch." All good jokes have a twist. Read an article/book on what humor actually is (Phantoms in the Brain by Dr. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakslee is one of many that contains this explanation, but almost anything written by a scientist or humorist on the issue will explain this) and it will tell you that a joke is something that makes you realize a different explanation for previous behaviors that fits. The point of revelation, that makes you see the whole thing in a new light, is of course, the punchline. So yes, while the bait was obvious, the switch is all that matters. But the author of this never read the punchline, and what is more, seems proud of the fact. He thinks that the artist wrote the comic because "sex sells" but in reality, the writer of the comic was merely telling a good joke.

Secondly, while it is true that sex sells, many people often bring fallacious ideas along with this verity. Sex sells, but anything pleasurable will. Look at television advertisements. Yes, many commercials do use sex in their ads, but those commercials are far outnumbered by promises of quality, cheapness, and social acceptance. And the biggest TV (Sex is often use in magazines and on the internet because it is incredibly easy to have a single image be sexually alluring, but not quite so easy to ellicite a chuckle without using a picture that would disgust someone) marketing tool of all is humor (a sex/humor blend is often used, but in these, the sex is used more for the joke, mainly because most people find sex jokes funnier.) But you will never see an axiom that states that humor sells, and not just because of the lack of alliteration. There is nothing hypocrites love more than to play preacher. And one thing that any good preacher will tell you is that man is, by nature, sinful. And as Ghastly has already mentioned, it also gives people the feeling of not selling out when faced with a less than successful writing/art (This highlights one reason they AREN'T successful. The truely great artists and authors do it for themselves. If they are doing it for recognition or money or any other reason than they truely want to do it, they won't keep at it long enough to develop the necessary skills. The Mona Lisa wasn't da Vinci first painting. It takes practice, and you won't gain recognition for your first story/strip. When instant recognition doesn't come, these people just give up.)

As much as this will sound like a legalese disclaimer, I should probably note here that I do not have any problem with preachers, though I am agnostic, my comment was more directed at "kneejerk" christians, who feel the hatred for the sin, but not compassion for the sinner. I find most high level (Read: people who have a theology degree from an accredited university, not 18 year old youth volunteers) church leaders find that while it is their job to help people avoid "sinful behavior", they will meet almost any deviant behavior with compassion. As a pastor I once listened to put it: "God already has forgiven these people of their sins, our job is to help them forgive themselves."

I had a lot more to say, but since this is already extraordinarily long, I will just leave it as it is.