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The Webcomic Overlook #71: Nedroid’s Picture Diary

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I do not envy newspaper comic strip writers. With their seven day a week schedule, they’re expected to be funny 365 days a year. Man, I have a hard time being funny for 30 minutes. You have to work within the narrow, profit generating constraints of the funny page format, which severely limits artistic freedom. If you fail, your hard work gets mocked cruelly online by a bearded weirdo who lost on Jeopardy. And if you somehow get the luxury of retiring, you’ll be lucky of your spouse didn’t run off with your pretty, young apprentice.

Should short form webcomics follow the same rigorous schedule as their print counterparts? Some folks think so, like Pete Abrams of Sluggy Freelance and Dave Kellett of Sheldon Comics. I think for the most part, though, webcomic creators have settled into a more relaxed schedule. It takes time for a lot of people to be funny. Why burden your flashes of comedic brilliance with mediocre gags?

Then again, what if we’re giving cartoonists too much time? What if they’re overthinking their gags to the point that they’re no longer funny?

Well, friends, there’s a webcomic out there that does both. Few other comics online have a higher hit-to-miss ratio than Nedroid’s Picture Diary. The comic is written and illustrated by Anthony Clark, who goes by the pseudonym “Nedroid.” Despite being featured on the college-humor site, Cracked.com, Nedroid is an all ages gag strip: both kids and adults will enjoy its pleasant humor.

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Nedroid’s Picture Diary is the sort of webcomic that presents different sets of characters at different times. While the comic does settle on a couple of recurring characters, the strip is sprinkled by nonsequiturs that strike the creator’s fancy. They’re done in the goofy spirit of Nedroid’s most celebrated work, The Bad Comics Challenge, which, incidentally, was the first ever review on this site.

One day, Nedroid might show a no-nonsense fellow named Baloney Kaboom explain why “scoundrels” is not a descriptive term. On another day, he may tell the story of a hapless pig possessed by the soul of the deceased. From time to time, but most prominently in earlier strips, Nedroid dabbles in the nonsensical Karate Fight Chronicles.

For fans of the Bad Comics Challenge, Nedroid did a sort of follow-up last year: Super Fanfic Comics (parts 1, 2, and 3). For these comics, Nedroid had fans send in the name of any pop culture work, and he’d sketch a a three panel hastily-sketched fanfic about it. There were several diverse entries: Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Dr. Who, My So Called Life, My Little Pony… pretty much everything you could throw at him.

Not only did Nedroid manage to be funny, not only were his gags unexpected, not only were they spontaneous… but his jokes were funny, unexpected, and spontaneous on a consistent basis. This is a friggin’ minor miracle.

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This is partly due to Nedroid’s art style. It’s all very simple: thick lines, with ovals, dark circles, squares, and scribbles. He adds a little sophistication through the shading and color. The end result can actually be quite gorgeous. From time to time, Nedroid takes a break from doing his gag strip and posts full-color illustrations he’s been working on. He clearly loves to draw cute girls… or, just to switch it up, robots hanging around with cute girls.

But the simple illustrative style is also inherently funny. Take a look at Nedroid’s depiction of mermaids as tubby, fishlike creatures who chain-smoke. There barely needed to even be a strip: those mermaid drawings sold the humor themselves. There’s even one or two strips where Nedroid asks you, the reader, to fill in the word balloons. To me, all those strips really prove was that dialogue wasn’t needed in the first place.

Earlier, I mentioned there were two characters who anchored the strip. The meat and potatoes of the site belongs to, fittingly, a bear who is also a potato… and his best friend, a bird. Beartato is a crudely drawn fellow with freakishly skinny arms. Like his name indicates, he’s a cross between a bear and a potato. Reginald, his best friend, is some sort of human-sized bluebird. He also, most likely, escaped from the zoo.

What makes the antics of Beartato and Reginald so charming? It’s their innocence. Like little kids, they’re horrified over swear words. Reginald jams to songs from The Little Mermaid and unsuccessfully resists unrealistic goals defined by his dad. The two like playing truth or dare with a shark named Harrison. It’s playground humor, with all the implied joy intact. Beartato and Reginald are always testing the ridiculous limits of friendship, yet their relationship gets no more complicated than just two dudes hanging out. Did you ever need any more reason when you were a kid?

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Which is a bit incongruous since Beartato and Reginald aren’t really kids. I mean, they’ve got jobs, after all. Plus, those two have a smooth way with the ladies.

You know what this reminds me of? Why, nothing more than perhaps the greatest webtoon of all time: The Brothers Chaps’ Homestar Runner. (Where, it should be noted, Strong Bad is also a notorious ladies’ man.) OK, so Nedroid’s Picture Diary doesn’t contain so much of the gratuitous references to 80’s pop culture. However, it’s got the character dynamic and the comfortable comedic rhythm down. Beartato and Reginald are like Strong Bad and Homestar Runner, if Strong Bad was more of a pal to his counterpart. You remember how Strong Bad would use a Sharpie to draw abs on himself? Or how Homestar would, in his adorable lisp, ask, “I say there, Monstrosity! Do you know the times?”

You’ve got the same things happening in Nedroid’s Picture Diary. Beartato and Reginald get thrust into similarly odd yet ultimately non-threatening situations, like Beartato going to prison and getting a kickin’ tattoo. Or sometimes they’re engaging in lame activities to pass the time, like Reginald asking Beartato about the highest number he can think of. (Reginald’s answer? “19.”)

I’m a big fan of Homestar Runner. I’ve got a bright red The Cheat shirt to prove it. If you’re one too, I can guarantee that you will be a big fan of Nedroid’s Picture Diary.

Final Grade: 5 stars (out of 5).

Posted in 5 Stars, all ages webcomic, comedy webcomic, funny animal webcomic, The Webcomic Overlook, WCO Big Review, webcomics Tagged: Nedroid