Review: “Subnormality”

September 15, 2007

Recently this was said about Subnormality on some online forum or other:

Ugh.

What is this crap.

Memo to aspiring webcomic artists: just because you can draw competently doesn’t mean you can write.

Seriously, you’ll probably get a good first impression from the tolerable artwork and relatively funny current comic, but read back through those archives: there’s huge overdrawn walls of text every other comic, some of them have “I HATE BUSH/NICKELBACK/*pop culture reference*” in lieu of a punchline, the rest of the time it’s “I’M SO GOD drat WACKY” random-style “humor”.

I only bring it up because for this whole thread we’ve been yapping on about art, lettering, panel ordering, website design, inking, etc. Except that this thing manages to do all of those competently, yet it still makes me want to tear out my eyes. It’s BORING. It’s unfunny, unoriginal, and has no sense of comedic timing. It’s like this guy is a big fan of comics with random punchlines, but doesn’t understand that non-sequiturs don’t equal comedy. This guy is probably the guy who messes up telling a joke at a party while everyone looks around uncomfortably.

What makes me mad is that some people will give this guy a free pass just because his comic doesn’t look like [crap]. It’s still a piece of poo poo. He draws very competently, but he can’t tell a story for crap. It’s not even a matter of writing good dialogue or whatever: he can’t even bring himself to let his loving art tell the story. You can draw! Why the hell is there a giant wall of text in your comic? Show me, don’t tell me! Play to your strengths! Do you even know what your strengths are?

I’m intruigued about this “Free Pass” he mentions… Will it get me backstage at Lollapalooza so I can throw rotten vegetables at Perry Farrell?? I can only hope. Anyway, among the carelessly misapplied adages (ie: Show me, don’t tell me) and strange objections to text are a few grains of truth.  He’s right about the pop culture (or, “Culture,” as we might as well call it) references, and they’ll be less of a feature in the strip as time goes on. I certainly don’t regret putting that stuff in though. I did feel it was important to go on record as being a certain kind of person–ie: the kind of person who hates Bush and Nickelback and Hummers and all that other crap that thoughtless people embrace. This strip ain’t for them–it’s for the rest of us.  He’s also right that I draw competently! Beyond that though, there’s really not much to take away from here. Even posting this thing here is more than it deserves, so transparently dishonest is it. Besides, how seriously can you take someone who uses words like “poo poo,” and who refuses to read “giant wall(s)” of text. It’s true: people who don’t like reading (ie: The Illiterate, babies, etc.) aren’t gonna like my comic. I suppose he thinks books have “too many words” as well.

–Rowntree

12 Responses to “Review: “Subnormality””

  1. Tim Says:

    I would say the reviewer is the kind of guy that can orate a finely crafted comedic sililoquy but possesses the artistic abilities capable to render a parkinson sufferer’s tracing of Garfield.

  2. Mass Says:

    This is what you call yer run of the mill critic. They come in various shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: a lack of imagination. This lack of imagination handicaps them in various ways; for example, they often cannot comprehend an artist’s intention, nor appreciate a technique or effect when used outside of their own sphere of perception/comprehension. Rather than admitting that they don’t understand, however, critics actually reverse the onus and put the blame on the artist!!! They claim that the artist doesn’t know what they’re doing, and that this has resulted in their lack of understanding!! It’s amazing, it’s sinister, and it’s even perhaps psychotic, but it’s true! Another sad fact is that the world is full of ’em, and some even get paid to put the blame for their ignorance on artists. Isn’t living in an advanced capitalistic society great!? One solace for the artist, however: the very fact that such critics spend an inordinate amount of time blaming artists for their own stupidity indirectly shows how much they are actually in awe of the artist who has so befuddled them.
    ***NOTE: this does not apply to ‘constructive critics’ who give real and practical feedback based on a deep understanding of the artist’s work. However, these critics are rare and few in between, because they are usually also artists, who unfortunately, have little time for such generosity because they are either engaged in artistic creation, or working some shit job trying to support their artistic endeavors.

  3. Winston Rowntree Says:

    Goddamn right! The only critics that matter are in fact artists. And art is itself the most meaningful criticism, because it is usually made in reaction to a real or perceived lack of quality in the popular culture. Punk rock was music’s reaction to and criticism of the soulless corporate rock of the 1970s. If you don’t like the state of art in a particular medium, friggin’ go make something better and show us how it’s done! But critics who are not artists are the lowest form of life–especially the ones who are paid for their “work.”

  4. Tyrone Says:

    Yeah that review on your comic was pretty funny … i couldn’t take him serious .. using “poo poo” … what is that? Being creative with his writing?
    You should collaborate with him and do a comic together … you draw, he writes … maybe the greatest comic in comic history will be invented … from the sounds of things … he seems to know how to put one together … am I right?

  5. Michael Ezra Says:

    Given the “poo poo” bit, I’d guess this is from the Something Awful forums, presumably the webcomics thread. The SA forum members use “poo poo” in place of “s**t” and “gently caress” instead of “f**k” (“What the gently caress?” being a commonly-expressed sentiment there.) As for the critique, I wouldn’t take it too seriously. Although the SA webcomics thread, and its notorious offshoot blog by “John Solomon,” do manage to locate some comics that any nearly-normal person would recognize as wretched, and although the thread and blog do occasionally make valid criticisms of the more popular comics–the overwhelming majority of posts consist of “huh huh this comic totally sucks because I say it sucks huh huh.” Some of the members proudly admit to trolling (their word) the forums of comics they hate. So consider the source.


  6. Yeah, it is from the “Something Awful” forums. Good eye! I certainly didn’t take this “critique” seriously, nor do I take anything seriously that is transparently written to build up the author by tearing down something else. “Look at me, I’m such a badass! This webcomic sucks, and therefore I am awesome!! huh huh etc…” It’s sad, more than anything. That John Solomon blog is the worst of the bunch.

  7. Dystop Says:

    The critic is wrong

  8. jim Says:

    you said so much more in the simple act of posting that than they did in their entire review.

  9. Marmot Says:

    I understand that I am replying to a 2-year-old post, but I’ve only recently found your webcomic via StumbleUpon, and I must say, it really stands out amongst the crowd. The writing never ceases to amaze me, the art style is crisp and nice, and the Sphynx is now my favorite comic character ever 🙂
    The problem is, I think, that people HATE reading. Hell, I’ve seen a LOT of thumbs-up on a completely retarded webcomic composed entirely of badly drawn people hitting eachother on the head (yes, SU usually serves me with crap like that, not to mention pictures of cats), yet people keep thumbing-down your comics because, i quote, ‘TOO MUCH GODDAMN TEXT’, end quote. I think it’s kind of sad… Anyways- an amazing webcomic you’ve got there! I just wish there was more of neat stuff like that on the Net 😀 Also, GO SPHYNX! 😀

  10. anonymous Says:

    It’s hard to take critics seriously these days.

  11. Liz Says:

    Right – found your comic literally a couple of days ago (through Cracked). I’ve gotta admit, I was a bit put off by the big walls. The issue wasn’t my literacy – I consider my reading to be of an acceptable standard for an Englishwoman in her 20s. It wasn’t that I have some inbuilt aversion to my mother tongue. In fact, it was a lot simpler – I just wasn’t used to the format.

    I’m a huge xkcd fan, and am used to webcomics delivering a quick, punctual chuckle in my lunchbreak. It didn’t take long to realise that yours needed a little more than that. I say a little… I’ve ended up spending many hours over the past couple of nights discovering gem after gem, delighting in subtle references and agreeing with inherent messages.

    Yeah, there are a few that I could take or leave, but increasingly I’m finding that I won’t be disappointed when I click that ‘Next’ button.

    The only thing that concerns me is that in my hunt to read every single comic ever written I’ll miss a couple due to the erratic numbering! Perhaps I’ll write an algorithm to try every possible page and return any I haven’t visited that have anything other than the standard 404. Oh, and then, I could put th….. Yeah, there go my next few evenings…

  12. lalitaraja Says:

    Also new to your comic through stumble…

    Critics who needs ’em. All creating artists need good feedback but the kind that doesn’t even understand the form is usually the worst kind.

    Sphynx is my favorite character too, and reading about your socio-politcal views helped acclimatise me to the comic – that is part of what you have to say (the job of the artist, no?) It lets me know whether or not I want to listen.


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