Friday, January 27, 2006

Funny 1; Drama 0

David Willis has written some of my favorite webcomics. The two for which he is most well known, these days, are It's Walky and Shortpacked.

The first of these was filled with a powerful and epic storyline, and while it still consistently delivered some incredible doses of humor, at its core it was about the story being told. Characters fought, loved, died, came back to life and died some more. It had intense, serious moments.

The core of the story concluded, and though there is something of a spin-off ongoing, the main tale of It's Walky ended, whole and complete.

Shortpacked was Mr. Willis's next endeavor. It was a return to the simple and the silly. It was about the casual life of a bunch of toy store employees, and their world-domination-planning boss. Hijinks ensued, and even with several characters from his previous series around, it was just plain fun. No worries, no melodrama.

And a lot of people liked it for that. They were entertained by the characters, and even more floored by the frighteningly hilarious references to pop-culture or comic book characters.

But more recently there are those who have spoken out, beseeching a return to drama. When a storyline with potentially powerful ramifications concludes with no actual fallout, many readers are upset, feeling cheated out of the story they deserved. The 'depth and emotion' that the storyline had seemed to promise them.

The retaliation from Mr. Willis was an entirely new storyline that dove headfirst into drama, and was suddenly full of angst and love triangles and danger. And in an impressive feat of meta-storytelling, one of the characters themselves sees the drama unfolding, and tries as much as they can to restore the humor of the strip, breaking out zany antics and meaningless acts to try and deal with the drama. The attempts, by and large, are unsuccessful - the rest of the characters are too caught up in the drama already for her randomness to do anything other than confuse and hurt them.

Which brings us to today's strip. Now, I'll be honest here - up to this point, I haven't been entirely a fan of the recent storyline. I was disappointed in the previous storyline for building up a moment of drama just to ignore it, and I was bored with the current one as it seemed to go far overboard with the attempts to show the battle between the humor and the drama. It felt, to me, as though the strip was trying too hard to deal with the problem - and rather than just continuing on and doing its own thing, it wanted to address the issue of 'drama'.

But this last strip?

Floored me.

It captured in a single moment all that is great about both worlds. The batman references - the idea that batman makes anything funny is a long running joke in the strip, and probably the best in my opinion. When I see people quote the comic, they quote one of the batman strips. And here we have a moment that captures that joke at its very core.

Meanwhile, we have a scene of triumph: a moment of intense bad-assitude. But we have it blended perfectly with the most powerful humor in the strip. When I see this comic, I can't help but feel the urge to both laugh and cheer - I don't feel worry over the drama or exhaustion at a tired joke. No, I simply see perfection here, of story and humor - and that is something that is very, very rare to find.

Way to go, Mr. Willis. Well done!

2 comments:

Kneefers said...

Good essay, dude. I completely agree, and I'm glad that you adressed what's going on in Shortpacked! as a whole and that strip in particular, as that particular strip made an impression on me too. (I meant to write something about it, but just... didn't.)
Good stuff, dude. Welcome, and keep it up. And good luck with the writing as a whole, too.

Mr Myth said...

My thanks for the words of encouragement!

Your journal and many others really stuck with me, and I realized as one of those who reads far more webcomics than I should, it might do me some good to get all my crazed ponderings out on paper... or electronic ink, as the case may be.