Monday, June 25, 2007


Interestingly enough, when I hit up for "drama" it said that the main definition was "comedy". Well, you could have fucking fooled me, because drama is pretty much the unfunniest thing you can have in a webcomic. It is the antithesis of comedy.

Now, I don't mean webcomics that try to impart a serious tale and do without the usual boner jokes and pop culture references that most webcomics seem to rely on like a heroin addict jonesin' for his fix - with the physical results just as appealing. No, that's different. If you start off your webcomic with the intent of telling a story, like some kind of "graphic novel" perhaps, then that's just not drama.

Drama is when you are a webcomic creator, and some time into a strip that makes some rather decent comic book-related and general nerd jokes you suddenly decide that your strip needs a change in direction. It needs to stop relying on this "humour" thing so much. It needs to start trying to push issues and serious business and deep, dramatic content like you wouldn't believe.

Now, here's why this never works:

First, I have little to no emotional investment in characters who are defined by their gimmicks. I do not give a rat's ass that the girl who was, until recently, "geeky girl with no social skills" was beaten/raped/abused by her father.

Think I'm kidding? I'm not. The same girl who was the butt of jokes about internet dependency, the same girl who was the straight man to a lot of zany escapades - "Let me cry, Daddy."

Second, if I wanted to read something serious, I'd read something serious. I started reading Shortpacked! because I thought the Batman jokes were pretty rad. I stopped reading Shortpacked! because of "Let me cry, Daddy." Because of all the boring shit that does absolutely nothing for me but make me feel like finding David Willis and forcing him to realise that this kind of mawkish sentimentality just fucking fails to work when you are simultaneously trying to make with the jollies.

And he jokes about it! Tries to make it seem funny! Maybe it's just me, but I don't think it's all that amusing to have a "w
ebcomic about action figure collecting" that alternates between gag strips about Megatron and long, rambling tales that are supposed to inspire some kind of emotion in me but really just make me feel nauseous. Gags and gag reflex, that's what it is. I'm trying not to throw up as the stinking dong of drama is forced down my throat.

What's worse is that Willis can't even do drama right. He's got people turning out to be gay and then "the zany one" of the bunch is introducing a pet lesbian or some such shit. Am I supposed to laugh? Or cry? Perhaps I'm meant to be subjected to both emotions at once and just sit in a pile of my own waste, drooling and flapping my hands together like a circus seal. Because that's how I picture Shortpacked! fans. Apparently it's them and their reedy whining that got this influx, this avalanche of drama pouring into the webcomic like the contents of a burst septic tank.

Nothing pisses me off more than wasted potential, because that's the saddest story every told. To have the potential to, well, maybe not create the greatest webcomic in the world, but certainly do a damned good job with what you've got. Shortpacked! could have been a regular fixture in my favourites list, and I'd faithfully tune in every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning for a nerd joke that'd have me grinning. Instead it's like Russian roulette - maybe I get a Batman joke. Maybe I get someone sobbing that they were raped. Maybe I get something inbetween where it's some aborted attempt at lightening the mood in the middle of a three-month storyline about someome developing testicular cancer which gets cured hilariously when they get beaned in the nads by a 5-year-old! HA HA! Fuck you, Willis.

In the wonderful world of bad webcomics, Shortpacked! is merely a carbomb compared to some of the five-hundred-megaton nukes. But it's still fucking awful, Willis is still a fucking hack and the sooner he stops listening to whatever fucking morons are telling him that this shit is rad the better. Sure, he might not be able to sell so many books, he might lose a few hundred people who were only in it for to watch people cry like so much melancholy pornography, but... fuck 'em. Who'd miss them? Who could honestly say that they want to keep the kind of fans who believe that they deserve a degree of control in the webcomic and will throw a major hissyfit if they don't get their way?

Willis, apparently.

Grow some fucking balls, man. It might seem like you're pleasing the majority with your drama shit, but you're attracting the Wrong Crowd. Have some fucking dignity and return your webcomic to its roots. Then maybe I'll stop calling you a cretin and read your webcomic for reasons other than to write up a big ol' review about how much it fucking sucks.


Anonymous said...
Wait, what?
Didn't you become what you hate in that last paragraph? The whole, bitching to the creator about how he should be ignoring people who bitch to him about his comic?

-Yeah, I know this is anonymous, but only because I'd rather not start up Internet Drama, and I have no idea if you're the type or not.

- Gav.
J. Solomon said...
Not really, because firstly I'm a massive hypocrite, and secondly I am encouraging him to make the comic a success rather than miring it in drama just to appease a few assholes who think that it's rad.

I'm not just some fan going "MORE DRAMA PLZ", I'm a distinguished fellow making keen observations. Plus I'm not even a fan anymore. So I shouldn't be ignored.
Anonymous said...
Do you not know the David Willis history? He cannot resist the drama. His first strip, Roomies, ultimately ended with teenage pregnancy, underage drinking, and someone sacrificing herself to save the protagonist.


His next strip, It's Walky!, a story about a secret government agency, Martians, aliens, and an all-powerful robot cheese monster, turned the Earth into a giant ball of angst.

Shortpacked is set in the same universe as the other two comics, and includes Mike and Robin from It's Walky. And it's probably his most self-aware comic. He makes fun of his stupid conclusion to Roomies and the excessive complexity of It's Walky. Robin even tries to fight back the drama. He just can't help himself.
John C. Hathaway said...
For the final exam in my most recent English 101 class, I assigned the students the following topic: "Pick an article in your book. I don't care whether you agree, disagree or are neutral towards it. But I want you to find the three weakest points in the author's argument and discuss them: what is wrong with them, and how to improve them."

I am going to do the same thing here. You offer some interesting commentary, but does it really help your point to resort to obscenities?

You begin by a superficial discussion of genres, then offer a somewhat insightful critique of Willis' admixture of genres (which is nowhere near as drastic as the range of irreverancy to complex melodrama in _Funky Winkerbean_ and _Doonesbury_). But then, lacking any further to go with your discussion, you resort to using foul language.

Major turn-off.
Anonymous said...
Meet your first "asshole". You may be surprised to know that not all of us who appreciate drama in a strip are "morons."

I don't mean to start any "drama" myself, only to respectfully refute you. Or at least attempt. The wonderful nature of opinions is you can have all my version of the facts and still disagree with me.

Put it this way. I outgrew Batman at about 5. I'm a huge girly girl who never really caught on to Transformers and so on and so on. Basically, most of the Shortpacked! jokes so dear to you....are completely lost on me because I'm not in that niche.

However!!!!!!! And this is a big however. However, I check Shortpacked every day, even the days when I'm 99% sure there will be no strip, just in case...Why? Because I consider David Willis an absolute genius. His strips are intelligent, thought-provoking, and, yes, dramatic. Just enough to keep you on edge and interested. It challenges me, making me think...but still allowing me to let my brain in a less serious way than my daily reality does.

There are tons of strips out there which never touch anything related to drama. And if that's your cup of tea, then so be it. Enjoy!

But just be aware that not everyone agrees with you.

That's all.

Have a good day.

Soup said...
to all the commenters who have (or will) rip into the blogger for this post:

Grow Up!

This is one man's opinion. It's not an attack of any kind. There are people who won't like Shortpacked! Statistically speaking, IT'S INEVITABLE.

Even if you believe his assumptions to be flawed, I highly doubt you're going to chance his mind. His expectations for the comic are different from yours, or even Willis's. That's the end of the story.

(I do like Shortpacked, btw.)
(although it _could_ use more Batman. But then what couldn't?)
Mac (Kyuusai) said...
You are absolutely right in observing this common trend (that has been around for a long, long time). You are absolutely right in observing just that it doesn't work, and why.

You are absolutely wrong in pegging this on David Willis.

DW did not suddenly take a cast of one dimensional characters and decide to inject drama into them after his strip had begun its run and change its style completely. No, he designed them that way. If you had been paying attention to the earlier strips, it's clear that these characters were more than just gag delivery. So they pull double-duty, being funny as well as occasionally being dramatic. So what? We were introdued to the characters, and came to care about them, through the early humor. He's also never broken his style to do this.

Shortpacked is one of the rare strips that has gotten this combination right. If your preferences don't include stories that include both humor and drama, that's fine... but don't blame the author for your personal preferences.
Andrew Davis said...
I've got to agree with the above. Don't blame a comic for your own personal tastes. If you don't like depth in your characters, too bad. Others do.
mdubs said...
This post has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...
If Willis was even slightly competent at writing drama, you folks might have a point.

"Let me cry, Daddy."

Fucking please. We're supposed to feel emotional sympathy for this character? She's not an even vaguely likable personality, and the line is so utterly over-the-top maudlin that the immediate reaction is a belly-laugh instead of sympathy.

As a writer of drama, Willis fails on all counts, and that is the real problem. As an writer of comedy he's got some talent but as soon as he gives in to his obvious need for "depth", it all turns into a massive pile of shit.
Anonymous said...
You're supposed to laugh at the "Let me cry, daddy" strip, man! That's why it's got that big "No, no, too pretentious" scribble in the corner!

Way to miss the point!
LEET said...
These bloggers that somehow think their opinions substitute for analysis... brilliant!

Especially when they have no idea of the context behind what they talk about.... genius!
Anonymous said...
So now we're supposed to be laughing at somebody being emotionally distraught over being abused as a child by her dad?

I don't know which would be more pathetic, Willis being so bad at writing drama that it comes across as unintentially funny due to his incompetence, or that he's deliberately playing up child abuse for laughs. Given the axiom "never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity", I'm going to assume that Willis is just really crap at writing dramatic scenes, and wasn't actually trying to make us laugh at somebody's emotional damage due to childhood abuse.
Anonymous said...
Of course not, man. He can't possibly be making fun of over-the-top drama, he's absolutely making fun of victims of abuse.

It's half-cocked assumption city around here.
Anonymous said...
But the fact remains that according to you, we're supposed to be laughing at a scene where a girl is lying on a bed crying due to her childhood abuse at the hands of her father. According to you, that's the scene Willis chose to use for his parody of "over-the-top drama".

Again, I'm going to give Willis the benefit of the doubt here, because regardless of how bad I think his storytelling skills are, I don't think he's that big of a jerk. Even Willis knows that's not something you try to wrap a joke around.
Anonymous said...
Sounds to me like someone was moved by the drama and has been haunted by it ever since. Feeling stuff can be scary, huh?
Rellik San said...
Well to be honest your criticising what is effectively over indulgent artists, lets face it, for what your accusing Willis of, You should turn your attentions to Megatokyo's Fred Gallagher, who started with an interesting tale of culture shocked gamers stranded in japan. Instead we now have an over arching tale of sinister gaming corps and intermiten love stories featuring characters it was obvious were going to get together. At least Willis still tells jokes.
John Solomon said...
Oh, Megatokyo will get what's coming to it. Don't you worry.
Anonymous said...
Like others, I am being anonymous because Blogger is a waste of life. The fact that you made Reddit shows how shallow our society is: who the fuck cares about webcomics enough to berate their creators?

We get it: you are one of the millions who don't like [Deegan/Shortpacked/etcetc]. You don't need to waste your life to point it out. You're obviously no better than Mookie when you do that. You aren't providing a service, you are just venting.

I sincerely hope that one day you will realise that this is what the Internet is all about: commercialism and shallow bullshit. If it wasn't, Microsoft would actually give a shit about their browser, spammers wouldn't make any money, and asshats would make crappy webcomics wouldn't have fans. But please. They say "don't feed the trolls" for good reason; so unless you are just a particularly eloquent troll, don't feed the fires of your hatred. It only inspires them.
John Solomon said...
You're trying to come across as... something, in that comment. I don't know what. It reads like some 16-year-old who's got 30,000 posts on the Gamefaqs forums imparting some wisdom about how Nintendo is "gay" because it is "for little babies".

I dunno, every time I try and unlock the mystery of your words there's this wave of "I am VERY IMPORTANT ON THE INTERNET" that hits me and I find I don't care anymore.
Anonymous said...
Yep, Willis was making fun of people who would trying so hard to write a dramatic story that they would sink to having a character be abused as a child. Yes, that sort of thing is silly Lifetime TV fodder. Why? Because everyone knows child abuse is bad, and is in inherently dramatic. The stories, if played straight and flat, are quite trite.
Willis' story on the other hand, points all these things out while being clever and entertaining. Your blog points them out while... what? Show everyone how good you are?
It's ok for writers to be over the top so long as we all know it's a joke. The strip would not have you laughing at the abused girl, but instead the idea that someone would write about an abused girl. Does that make any sense?
Anonymous said...
"The strip would not have you laughing at the abused girl, but instead the idea that someone would write about an abused girl. Does that make any sense?"

The argument here, then, is that Willis is just pretending is be really shitty at writing drama, for comedic effect?

You know, that sounds an awful lot like somebody pretending to be an idiot on a forum in order to get people upset, which is called "trolling". You might very well have heard of this!

The functional difference between a genuine idiot and somebody pretending to be an idiot is basically nil, and the two can be treated identically; the difference between a Shortpacked written by a deliberately-bad Willis and a Shortpacked written by a genuinely-bad Willis is basically nil as well, and I see no reason to read either.
Anonymous said...
Satire. Satire. Why the hell don't people know what that means these days? Yes, to answer your moronic reply asking if he was "pretending to write poorly." No shit.
Ted said...
I think it essentially boils down to this:

Is Willis great at writing deep, thought-provoking drama? No.
Is Willis great at writing hilarious sendups of webcomic drama? No.
Is Willis great at writing jokes about comic books and toys? Yes, and he should probably stick to them.

Now if Willis never intended any of these drama strips to be 'serious', then I can at least respect that. Looking at it in that way they are funny sometimes, but they're never as funny or as consistently funny as his standalones. But it seems that at least some of his fans, judging from the comments here and elsewhere, take a lot of the drama at face value. And at face value none of it is 'thought-provoking' or 'insightful'. It's a comic about a toy store for chrissakes!
Anonymous said...
"Satire. Satire. Why the hell don't people know what that means these days? Yes, to answer your moronic reply asking if he was "pretending to write poorly." No shit."

Actually, the word you're looking for here is "parody".

But Willis isn't writing a parody. He's just writing drama very badly. If he was writing a parody, he'd be writing well, in a way which makes fun of the genre conventions.

See, I know that Willis can do parody, because he does it really well with his deliberate humor strips. The fact that he's not using these same techniques with the "drama" stuff is a pretty big hint that he's trying to play them straight.
Anonymous said...
Sir, I lol'd. Thank you for making my day.
Detective Fork said...
The drama in Shortpacked I'm pretty "meh" about. My problem with Shortpacked is that the comedy falls flat for me. I just don't think Willis writes humor well. Or at least humor that appeals to me. Plenty of people love his comics, though, so maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm lucky if my comic gets ten visits a day. I am a regular visitor to the Shortpacked site, though, but it's because I love his blogs about Transformers and other action figures. Those are interesting. Frankly, I rarely read the comics there anymore. I'd love it if Willis would start a site similar to X-Entertainment and display more of his writings about that sort of thing.

-Detective Fork
John Solomon said...
My boner for references to my bygone childhood days is GARGANTUAN, which is why like a little bitch whore I still go check Shortpacked every now and again to see if there's been any decent Batman jokes.

There usually aren't.
Anonymous said...
I read Shortpacked! and you've got a damn point.

Aside from the really iffy drama, his self-insertion scenes thoroughly disturbed me and also caused a part of my brain to permanently die.

I mean, honestly.
Phydeaux said...
"but you're attracting the Wrong Crowd."

I don't know about you, but eyeballs are eyeballs. There's an all-encompassing, career damaging "Wrong Crowd" out there?

Is this "Wrong Crowd" Transformers fans? 80s pop culture fanatics? People who like any action figures whatsoever? Anyone that's worked in retail? People who like fan service, what?

I think that it's because of Willis' ability to appeal to more than just one "Wrong Crowd" that's got your panties all up in a twist.

Page views are page views, and love it or hate it only the worthy get 'em.

Willis does. You only will when Willis links back at you.
ted said...
maybe you should try reading the blog posts you respond to. the wrong crowd are the people that demanded more drama from shortpacked instead of the transformers/80s pop culture/retail jokes that willis was good at. and if pageviews are for the worthy then unfunny cat macros are the pinnacle of the internet.
Phydeaux said...
They are the epitome of the internets.

Geez, don't you people know anything?
ted said...
that word you're using. i don't think it means what you think it means.
Sul said...
The problem is that Willis is taking a gag-a-day set up and trying to develop the characters.

You start character development from day one or you don't start it at all. I really wish Shortpacked! was all nerd jokes, because there are very few comics out there that do decent, non-pandering nerd jokes.

In any case, if I want drama, I'll watch a soap opera.
Anonymous said...
I have to admit that his mocking of For Better or For Worse did make me smile.

It is quite dead on.
LEET said...
However, your CAD is spot on.
Anonymous said...
Exploitation Now! made a similar failed transition from comedy to drama.
halojones-fan said...
Sounds like Eric Burns's "First And Ten Syndrome" idea.
Anonymous said...
Y'know,it really doesn't matter if it's supposed to be's just not funny. Not all parodies are good, and Shortpacked's drama parodies are just atrocious. Especially when he turns them into months-long storylines like the most recent "stop the flashback" crap. That was just painful to read through on all levels. Or how about the two-month Christmas storyline taking not-so-subtle jabs at religion, all just to be undone by an offhand comment? Guh! Nothing wrong with drama or parody...but it's a little off when it's tossed onto characters that were endearing in their simplicity.
Anonymous said...
Davis Willis typically isn't funny, and ont he rare moment he is funny, he probably stole the joke. Unfortunately, he's far too dense to realize that he's not funny. Cyanide & Happiness, that's always funny. Perry Bible Fellowshiw, extremely funny. VG Cats... funny occasionally. Willis is in the same crap league that spawns shit like Penny Arcade and Achewood. And the sorry fucker even got his friends to add him to LaPorte, Indiana's wikipedia page as a "famous resident". Famous in his own mind maybe. His modding of the Transformers wiki is laughable as he often inserts his own lame bitchy comments into pages in an attempt to make informative articles "funny" when all he manages is looking like a jerkoff who doesn't like anything, because he always has some "witty" insult for something.

Willis is the type to show up at a mall with a table and a stack of his printed material to sign autographs even though he was never invited and no one would show up to meet him, that's how sorry he is. He treats people like dirt constantly, always finding a way to talk down to someone whos opinion doesn't mesh with his, and parades his fat pig girlfriend like a trophy- that relationship will end in spouse abuse for sure down the road(his "inability" to get angry will no doubt well up in 5-10 years). He also constantly brags about having sex with her, as if ANYONE CARED! Willis is an uppity little man with a large ego who doesn't matter in the big picture because no one knows- or even cares- who he is.

As for his "I'm Batman" running gag, I'm certain Tim Burton and Michael Keaton came up with that, though he probably believes he invented it. He runs Blank Label comics becuase your mind would have to be totally blank to enjoy his tripe.

Why should his comic be a success? Leave the limelight to PBF and C&H, they deserve it more.

-DS Legion
ItsWalky said...
The poster above me, Deadside Legion, is my most vehement detractor, or so he tries. He talks about me in almost every single one of his blog posts! He loves me that much, and once claimed to have followed me around Columbus, Ohio.

You should read his blog! It's a blast:

You kids should get a kick out of it. It's way funnier than my strip.
Ted David said...
It must suck to have an idiot as your most vehement detractor.
ItsWalky said...
Not really. He's hilarious. I wouldn't trade him for anything.