Cover: Can You Spy the Magic Eye?
Excellent artwork. Clean, simple, bold. Funny gag, well told. This is Anthony Wu of the Spider-Man spread and the superhero piece of later this issue, right? Definitely a talent. I like his well-rendered comic-book style art. It’s not Derek Yu, but not everyone should be Derek Yu, and I daresay Wu’s dynamic style renders this action-packed destruction more effectively than Yu’s character/detail-heavy style would have. Also of note: The easily overlooked but very slick coloring job. The different shades on each car, adding depth and lighting effects, are very well done and clearly done by someone who know’s what he’s doing.
Questions: Why SWANK on the license plate? And, Magic Eye? It’s still a funny cover gag, but might this have seemed more timely eight years ago? Does anyone even still look at Magic Eye? Well, that’s okay, part of the fun of working on the Squelch is you can do horribly dated material if you want to and not worry about sales figures. Hey, here’s a scary thought. To me, Magic Eye is dated, but to current college students, is it considered childhood nostalgia, of a piece with Transformer and Turbo-Teen references? College freshmen today would have been ten-year-old elementary schoolers in Magic Eye’s heyday (as opposed to a sophisticated high-schooler like myself). So maybe this would fall into the “Hey, remember this old thing?” category. I’m an old, old man. No wonder I hate undergraduates so much.
So I printed this issue on scratch paper, but the problem with scratch paper is that my printer tends to grab about 3-5 sheets at a time and jam itself up, or print the top of one page on another page, things like that. So the top bit of my cover is cut off, and I lost the part where the “heuristic” does the cute little arch. What do you know? That looks pretty dang good.
Also, is the picture really a shark? I can kind of see it but I can’t tell. I can make out something that is kind of like a shark fin sticking up, but only if I look at it upside-down.
Page 2: WFTT
Okay. The inconsistent formatting bugs me. Why does the first entry not start with “Lesson:”? For that matter, the word “lesson” seems wrong. Maybe these should be “rules” or “guidelines” of making an enemies list. Where did these lessons come from? How can you learn a lesson before you’ve made the list? Or is this like, Loker’s the teacher, this piece is the class, here are the lessons? In that case, number them so it flows better. Like, “Lesson 1: Self reference is stupid.”
Regarding the ending: Self reference is stupid.
Other than the “lesson” thing making it hard to read, the piece is good. Sorry, I mean, “could have been good.”
Page 3: '70s Future
I like that this page isn't newsflashes anymore, but you’ve yet to put a piece here that makes me feel like my time was well-spent. A couple of these are okay, but this would be stronger if more (all) of them were actually based on pop-cultural tropes of the ‘70s. Stuff like ZAP and Jesus Returns are based on what, exactly?
Page 4: Newsflashes
Bush: Oh, literally a bush. Ha ha. Okay, next.
Bee and Allergic Man Killed in Murder-Suicide Pact: Very funny headline. Lackluster piece. The graphic detracts, if anything. The headline is hilarious, really, great concept. But the whole gag is there. All the big words, the dumb quotes spent fleshing it out only bore us until we forget how funny it was. Since you’ve thankfully left behind the Onion device of stand-alone headlines, this newsflash should have been as brief as you could possibly have made it.
Reverse Tsunami: There was a joke to be made on Southern California’s panic over its torrential rainfall, but this isn’t it. The tsunami reference seems calculated for shock value by making an absurdly disproportionate comparison. But it doesn’t play off the fact that a tsunami kills a hundred thousand people while Southern California rainfall damages ten rich people’s houses and makes bad drivers crash their cars. The joke in this situation is that people in LA are so soft they think a week of rain is a disaster, and in fact they are so soft, and their houses so precariously built, that a week of rain that would go unnoticed anywhere else really is a disaster. This reverse tsunami joke ignores what babies we are down here. The highlight is the attempt at textual illustration, but the piece still misses the mark. And Freedman’s dating a freshman. More power to him, if he can stand it. Did I mention how much I hate undergraduates? The contempt I had for high schoolers when I was in college has now been transferred to undergrads. They’re so—ugh—immature.
Woman Gets Rare Cancer: Funny idea, thankfully not overly spelled out. Any reason it’s Becky Johnson and not Lois Lane? Starting with some other woman makes the reveal that other staff members have been affected less funny, because we know he’s ogling non-Lois chicks right from the start.
Parent’s Request: Ho-hum, more Mexican slurs.
Pope Picture: Arguably also a top ten list, but since the picture is integral here, it elevates it beyond a StatShot rip-off. The picture is funny and the captions are funny, but having two gags playing off the Pope’s resemblance to a baby weakens the list. Both are funny independently, but putting them together suggests a dearth of ideas.
Man Gradually Replaced: A bit confusing. The first time I wondered why the guys had the same initials, making it hard to follow, because I thought that it would be about a guy improving himself, not being replaced by a literally different person. The piece never recovered. It’s a bit overwritten, too. Why include the phrase “when reached for comment,” for example? Isn’t that self-evident by the fact you have a quote?
Page 6: Mark Thomas Vs. The Internet
This is apparently part of a series that includes “Mark Thomas vs. the Waffle Iron” and “Matt Loker vs. Mario Lopez” (“Am I Cooler Than a Former Sitcom Star,” also retooled with Matt Soroky’s likeness for National Lampoon). I don’t think we really needed another trip to the well. The piece is okay, but feels very familiar. Also, the black boxes wasted tons of my ink.
Page 7: Pirate Battle
I’m not into hip-hop. I don’t enjoy much rap music. I don’t seek it out. I’m ignorant about popular artists, songs, and hip-hop culture at large. For a long time, that was okay. I fell comfortably into that wide strata of people who, asked their musical preferences, could say “Anything, except country and rap.” But now rap and hip-hop are so prominent, such a significant, major cultural force, their influence permeating not only other musical genres but society as a whole, that I wish I knew more. I wish I did enjoy rap, so I could join in the fun of making detailed rap references and having it be funny simply because I’m (part) Caucasian. Unfortunately, now I can’t get to that point without a lot of devoted study of music I still don’t like very much. Mainly, I wish I was familiar enough to write pieces like this. Even if I tried, it would come out like the pathetic “rap” music as depicted in, say, Archie comics, in this one early-‘90s story where all the kids are into “rap,” which apparently consists of saying everything in rhyming couplets. At best, I could perhaps manage a Beastie-Boys-style rhyme scheme, where the last word of each line is shouted in unison. In "Pirate Battle," Evan Winchester offers what, to my untrained ear, is a solid imitation of the complex, offbeat rhyme and near-rhyme schemes and improvised rhythms of freestyle rap, while integrating the pirate themes. Okay, so the pirate thing is a bit hackneyed, but this piece is solidly written. Only Lil’ John Silver’s second rap seems weak, but I may be reading it wrong.
Top tens are good, concepts and entries alike, except for the word “opaquely.” What the hell are you thinking?
Page 8: D. West
Is this a real person? Is D. West the guy’s name? Is there really a drill sergeant besides Full Metal Jacket’s R. Lee Ermey who has made a TV person out of a perpetually yelling army guy? That’s amazing. But I’ve never seen him, which makes this piece less fun. Based on this, I’m guessing he yells a lot. No, seriously, like, a lot.
Page 9: A New, Old-School Workplace
I’m tired of referencing the loss of dignity as though it were a tangible. That joke is played out. Ditto the “sense of value,” whatever that means. Also, in Interview Five, it should go “doctors who could,” not “doctors that could.” Joke constructions are technically sound, but I didn’t laugh at this piece. On the upside, I did jerk off to Interviews One and Four (and the end of Two), so that was hot. Damn, Melissa’s a stupid slut. She sucks that guy’s dick for like forever.
Spread: Autobiographical Yellow Pages
A very ambitious piece that’s also unusually dense with material, especially for a spread. I respect the work that went into it, although it’s often more clever than funny. A few of the entries are a bit forced and the “he writes the yellow pages” bit near the end does too little to explain why the Yellow Pages mirror the arc of this guy’s life. It might have been better to leave it completely unexplained. Overall, impressive.
Page 12: I, Roe-bot
Is it a robot or a computer? I guess, just a robot that runs Window and Windows-based applications. I’m not sure what the point of this piece is, other than a lot of computer jokes. I kind of liked the Battlebots reference.
Top Tens: Okay but underwhelming.
Page 13: Sven Bjolnir
The Girls entry: Why would he say “It helps that my daddy doesn’t own a mystical iron forge,” when he’s pissed about that? He should say something like, “Not everyone’s daddy owns…” Thor is the one who would say “It helps that my daddy...etc.” because it does help, you see?
The Drugs entry: Boo for the “not knowing what that could mean” self-reference. That could apply to anything in this whole piece.
Boring piece, overall, But at least it ends strong, on the raping and sacking joke.
Page 14: Superhero Jury
Great art. How many people will get the Vertigo reference? Incidentally, the Comics Code Authority doesn’t prohibit describing details of a crime. If the pictures were really gory you wouldn’t be able to show them, but that distinction is kind of muddled as written. It would be clearer to say “show explicit images” or something like that. The Batman/Bruce Wayne jokes are fun.
Page 15: Assisted Suicide Girls.com
Assisted Suicide Girls is a very funny parody idea. The text is not that funny, but it props up the concept well enough, I guess.
Page 16: Bar Mitzvah
This piece was pretty funny and a good read. Clear concept, strong jokes, straightforward writing.
Page 17: Monkey Uprising
Helper monkeys have been played for laughs on The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle. Not judging, just saying. This piece is good enough, and the layout helps, but the biggest weakness is the unconvincing tone of the “news articles.” They suffer from the same not-quite-news feel of most second-rate newsflashes.
Page 18: Male Porn Star
Must all you guys spell “whoa” as “woah”? You’re misspelling it. It was charming when Allen Haim did it, but let’s not make it the house style. The piece? I didn’t like it. Either I’m getting tired of the multiple-scenario dialogue pieces, or maybe the ones this issue were just very mediocre. Probably the latter.
Page 19: Major T-Shirts
So you want to sell some T-shirts. One problem is that these lines are funnier when you read them all together. Some of these, like “Linguistics Majors Do Oral,” or “Those Who Do It With History Majors Are Doomed to Repeat It,” wouldn’t quite work right if you just saw one person with the shirt. Also, I don’t think the Statistics Major shirt needs the word “only.” Still, the shirts might be appealing to students because of the wide selection and the high degree of personalization, but here’s the other problem: The shirts are ugly. I dislike the oval and the ugly picture on each one. I wouldn’t wear a shirt with an ugly picture in a big oval. It looks like ass. Any one of these would be better with plain bold text and nothing else. Better yet, on a colored shirt, not a cheap white one. Also, can someone explain to me “Film Studies Majors Can’t Do It, But They Know How Other Guys Do”? Is that a joke on the lack of actual production classes?
It’s a separate file this time, so I didn’t print it out. I looked at it, but I don’t remember it. Take that for what it’s worth. I remember the jokes being okay, but the layout being really ugly.