Saturday, December 27, 2008

Questionable Content

I’m going to start this off by saying that I am well aware that I am not another John Solomon. This fact may still be pointed out to me at length in the comments, even with that initial assertion. However, there is a webcomic that merits the merciless eye and the red pen of the reviewer, and I consider myself inspired enough to take on the job. This comic been called many things—pointlessly dramatic, a t-shirt factory, a webcomic version of Friends, etc. All of these comments underscore the fact that Questionable Content is bad and Jeph Jacques (or Jeff Jacks, or whatever the hell his name is) should feel bad.

This is a somewhat personal post. I used to enjoy this comic; it was on my sidebar for several years. Like Saint Paul, however, I gave up childish things (and webcomics), and moved on. I bring this up because, as someone who used to think it was decent, I feel ashamed for ever liking it. It was never any better than it is now. In a way, this post is penance for not seeing through the shallow, callow “plots” more quickly. Unlike some webcomics, the art isn’t what kills it. No, it’s the writing. There are a variety of sins that Jacques commits, and we’ll go through them in order of severity.

First off, the jokes. Jacques shoehorns, bludgeons, and maims a “joke” like no other webcomic author that I’ve run across. The man simply has no idea when to quit. In the first link above, the joke would have been slightly more tolerable if it had stopped with Marten’s line. Granted, the joke was sort of pre-empted by Jeph (speaking through Steve, the guy on the couch) giving us a Wiki entry on cubist art, but I'm going to overlook that in favor of Faye’s final comment, which makes no goddam sense. Seriously. Read it. Even if she were a former member of the Velvet Underground, her comparison of masturbation and Andy Warhol paintings would still bring this panel to a grinding, screeching, crashing, halt. Mostly because it is—or was intended to be—the punchline. Except that it illicits only frustration and perplexity instead of amusement.

“But surely Jacques has changed between then and now,” people will no doubt say. “This was only his ninety-fourth comic! He’s done over a thousand!”

Yes, and the jokes are still just as bad. Look at that second link again. A joke that should have lasted half a panel—or better yet, no panels at all—is dragged out for three panels, giving an initially ham-fisted attempt at comedy the grim aura of a death march. Overall, though, I find this joke less offensive than his comment on the newspost at the bottom of the strip:

“This is probably my favorite kind of strip to write- two or three characters just taking an idea and riffing on it for a few panels. I think it's because I grew up watching MST3K religiously.”

It’s a damn shame that that’s his favorite type of strip to write, because he is terrible at it. In fact, if you “riff off” of a joke—any joke—for three panels in the verbose manner that Jacques employs, you’re going to wring out any vestiges of humor it once had like the last drops of blood from a recalcitrant stone. As for the MST3K reference, I am just gobsmacked. In what way does he think his comic bears any resemblance to MST3K? Perhaps the inclusion of a sassy-talking robot gave him delusions of grandeur. At any rate, Questionable Content is in no way, shape, or form anywhere CLOSE to amusing, let alone close to an MST3K level of humor, and Jacques should feel bad for that self-congratulatory remark alone.

Secondly, QC doesn’t verge on the disgusting, as “verging on” would imply that it held back—that Jeph Jacques had some measure of restraint. Which he doesn’t appear to have. That last link comes at the end of a wonderfully hilarious “arc” wherein the goth chick, Raven—against ALL logic whatsoever—decides to use lubricant as a hair product. Tasteful. The pain doesn’t end there, though, as we are treated to a special episode of QC Women Say Things That No Woman Would Ever Say In Real Life. In the third panel, Dora starts off with a joke that even Jacques didn't want to finish. Raven continues the trend by hypothesizing about Faye and Dora’s menstrual cycles. Ha ha! We all know from Family Guy that period jokes are comedy gold. Jacques apparently believes this, because Dora AGREES, giving us more information than we could possibly ever want about the state of her underwear. (Assuming this wasn’t meant to be a medical emergency, we can only assume that Jacques has never heard of the invention of feminine hygiene products. Consider that the man is married when you read that last sentence.) Marten takes the final punchline to a whole new level with a joke about defecation, because that’s exactly the finishing touch that this utter monstrosity of a strip needed. Bravo, Mr. Jacques. Well played.

Finally, the man apparently has no concept of how to write a dramatic storyline. None. (As an aside, the one comic I didn’t include in that list contains a joke about Joan Rivers'…well, read for yourself. Ugh. Quit with those jokes already, Jacques.) Like Dave Willis, the author of Shortpacked!, Jacques appears to have thought his comic could gain street cred via drama. Unlike Willis, however, he wasn’t funny before the drama, and he sure as hell ain’t funny now. Faye’s stilted and unrealistic conversation with her mother proves that he also has no clue how actual drama—as opposed to drama cooked up to explain why a character is a horrendous bitch—plays out in people’s lives. A comment from one of his newsposts during the suicide arc shows how oblivious he is:

“…I figure two weeks is more than enough time for exposition, by then it will be time to explore some of the interesting (and hopefully entertaining) ripple effects caused by Marten and Faye having this little chat.”

...Because nothing is more entertaining than the aftermath of paternal suicide.

I give up, and I haven’t even gotten to Marten and Dora’s completely improbable and implausible courtship. Jacques, your attempts to show off your indie hipsterism through awkward and drawn-out jokes, your apparent preoccupation with various human bodily functions, and your astoundingly inept fumblings with "dramatic" "plotlines" combine to make this comic a festering, cringe-inducing eyesore. It’s a real shame that, in other ways, QC is such a “success story"—making its way from humble beginnings to massive popularity (and prosperity, in the form of T-shirts and ads)—because it’s pure, unadulterated tripe.

And, one more time, because it needs to be said, and I feel like saying it: Jeph Jacques, your webcomic is bad, and you should FEEL BAD.

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