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Eric: It's like a puzzle, without being that freaking Sudoku crap!

Pork Wrench

(From Pork Wrench. Click on the thumbnail for full sized emo!)

We talked a few days ago about webcomics that... well, for lack of a better way of putting it, work on the surface. They might have some light character development, but there's little real effort needed in the reading of them.

Today's Pork Wrench comes from the opposite side of the continuum. And it illustrates an interesting point.

See, a good number of Pork Wrench's comics take a certain amount of concentrate to understand. Or 'get,' for that matter. You can look at them on the surface and they don't make any sense worth noting. Or they seem to make perfect sense without being funny... at least until the point where you pay attention. And then you might slap your head, or chuckle, or out and out laugh when it hits you.

My point is, it takes some work. It's not a surface comic. And it often assumes foreknowledge. Yesterday's comic about Solomon Grundy requires you to know something about Solomon Grundy's origins before it makes any sense to you. It takes some thinking. Which, admittedly, not everyone likes to do.

Of course, Petie Shumate is hardly the only webcartoonist who makes his audience work for their laugh -- and a good thing too. Sometimes you want frothy, and sometimes you want to have to think a little. It takes all kinds of strips. The thing is... Shumate is working gag-a-day. There's no story, no continuity, not even common characters from one day to the next. Shumate's obvious inspiration was The Far Side (it would hard to be more obvious about that inspiration), but where Larson worked the obscure into the accessible, Shumate seems more interested in letting his punchline stalk his readers, crouching in the tall grass, waiting to spring out and feast on your liver.

Today's is more accessible than some, but it still requires some reading and some thought. And it made me grin, afterward. And that's pretty good thing, all told. So I pass it along to you. Just bear in mind that if you backtrack through the logs... you should be prepared to bring a flashlight and spend some time as you go.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at February 23, 2006 9:05 AM

Comments

Comment from: Matt Buchwald [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 10:09 AM

I think that comic in particular spoke directly to me. I have long since maintained that humans don't have cats and that cats choose their humans. I also enjoyed that it was portrayed though livejournal/picture posting reversal.

Comment from: Doctor Setebos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 10:31 AM

Careful, Eric. Fleen mentioned Pork Wrench a while back and started a flame war. =D

http://www.fleen.com/archives/2006/02/07/sometimes-its-more-than-just-a-rut/

I checked out the comic when Fleen mentioned it. I didn't like it then, and I still don't much care for it. It isn't really very deep like you suggest, and it honestly isn't very good. The jokes are lame elementary school humor, and the art isn't much better. And yes, I've read through the archives, and yes, I get a majority of the jokes.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 10:46 AM

Doctor -- thus proving, conclusively, that you and I are different people. ;)

As for the Fleen thing... hey, they have their opinions, I have mine, and I don't think either one of us bases what we write on what the other one writes. We all write what... er... we write.

This is unnecessarily zen.

Comment from: larksilver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 10:52 AM

Some of the strips are more fun than others, but isn't that the way of all things?

Still, in my troll through the archives (I'll be trolling all day, as time permits. Thanks for that, I love having a comic to peek at when I'm on hold, etc.)...

He plays with words. As in, silly play. I love silly play with words. He had a reader in me with Gold, Frankenstein, and Myrrh. (snicker)

Comment from: monkeyangst [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 11:22 AM

This is unnecessarily zen.
I think you've just given about a dozen people a name for their new webcomic.

Comment from: Matt Buchwald [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 11:36 AM

I know it's my next project, that's for sure!

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 11:36 AM

I think you've just given about a dozen people a name for their new webcomic.

Hey, I'd read them.

Comment from: Petie [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 11:47 AM

I just wanted to drop you a line thanking you for the link, Eric! It's still hard for me to fathom that my little gag-a-day has generated this amount of discussion on the internet.

Comment from: Doctor Setebos [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 11:56 AM

Man, I got to the last step in the process of registering unnecessarilyzen.com and stopped myself just short of actually buying the domain. So, it's still up for grabs. It would have been a great rename for the Evil Network, though... =D

I think the thought of everyone misspelling "unnecessarily" is what kept me from actually going through with it.

Comment from: Matt Buchwald [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 12:19 PM

The problem is that it seems way too much on the same lines as Questionable Content as a title. I can picture all the workings of a QC-derivative/homage strip.

Comment from: kellandros [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 12:59 PM

What then, pray tell, would necessary zen look like?

The best I can come up with is some sort of Zen superhero.

Comment from: quiller [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 2:40 PM

There was a Zen supervillain in the Paul the Samurai comic book. He would spout off a Zen Koan, and while you stood there looking confused, kick you in the head.

Favorite caption so far in the archives. "Looks like you owe me five dollars, Al", though "Slim Pickens, Age 5" was fun too.

Comment from: Ununnilium [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 6:25 PM

Looking through the archives, I'd have to say it's not so much "you have to think about it" as "you have to know something already". That said, I do, and it cracks me up. Reminds me of Mystery Science Theater 3000's style of humor.

Comment from: thok [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 7:23 PM

My personal favorite was the "Most American Game Ever". It did seem like there was a bit of a lull around when the Petie had his dissertation due; those comic seem a bit less inspired on average to me (and often fairly convoluted).

Comment from: The Matt Who Is [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 7:55 PM

I think my favorite Gary Larsen-inspired strip currently running is Tony Carillo's "F-Minus." Again, a very different school of comedy-- a combination of absurd situations and witty/stupid commentary. Like the office worker whose clothes are on fire, bursting into an executive meeting. The boss' response? "What is it now, Rob? This had better be important."

Pork Wrench is fun, too, but not quite as inspired (IMHO).

Comment from: Brendan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 9:24 PM

It seems kind of obvious...I'm sure that there's a deeper layer I'm not getting.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 23, 2006 9:48 PM

My favorite is the one with the parking boot.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 24, 2006 12:05 AM

There is one thing about this comic that I wonder about. Would cats really listen to Andrew Lloyd Webber?

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 24, 2006 12:17 AM

Theater cats would.

Comment from: siwangmu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 24, 2006 9:32 AM

Man... there is clearly something wrong with me. I had a ton of fun trawling this comic. Although, I have always wondered if I have a version of the "endless fascination with fart jokes" brand of juvenile humor, so if this constitutes elementary school humor, I guess I've found it.
There are worse things to be than a kid, I suppose.

Yeah, the art sucks, but the concepts surprised and amused me more than not, and honestly I think that's enough for me from a strip like this.

And lark is right on--I think I was also hooked on Gold, Frankenstein and Myrrh.

Comment from: Mr Myth [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 24, 2006 11:56 AM

I hear you on that Sudoko thing. I had never even heard of it until a few weeks ago, wherein I discovered that a veritable legion of books on the stuff had taken over the 'Puzzle' section of the local bookstore.

I was distressed, since I took a look, and realized I would get really bored with it, really fast.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 24, 2006 8:34 PM

Anyone would get bored with it really fast. I would seriously worry about anyone working through an entire book of those in one sitting.

(Hey, lookit me! I can't shut up about number puzzles!)

Comment from: siwangmu [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 25, 2006 10:35 AM

My Dad got bored with the normal ones, but he found weird other versions, like one where they make little tetris shapes within the square and tell you the total of each tetris shape? Apparently those put the fun back in. I don't know, I do word puzzles.

Comment from: Archon Divinus [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 25, 2006 3:16 PM

I got bored of them after a couple days.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 25, 2006 5:13 PM

siwangmu: Yeah, there are lots of variations. I've been a subscriber to GAMES Magazine for a while, and they regularly featured such, years before the craze hit. Ones where the diagonals have to be 1-9, 8x8 grids with irregular 2x4 divisions ...

And I might not have been clear--these puzzles, for example, get about one page every issue in GAMES Magazine. That's a normal amount to do, mixed in with a bunch of other types of puzzles. Working through hundreds of pages of them in a row is nuts, and would make anyone hate the puzzle forever.

Comment from: Eric the .5b [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 25, 2006 7:40 PM

There were only a few that were inobvious to me (like today's - spaghetti doesn't get along with spaghetti and meatballs?), but I think the comic's hilarious. The
Doc Savage's thesis defense
one kilt me, kilt me dead.

Comment from: TasteMyHouse [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 26, 2006 6:45 AM

http://www.porkwrench.com/?date=20060117

LARSON RIP.


Was liking the comic until i saw that one, kinda kills it for me whenever a comic...ist... rips off The Far Side.

I used to fire off emails to whoever I caught doing them, but I never got any responses (except that "some people come up with similar ideas" bs reply i got from bob thaves)

Comment from: elvedril [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 26, 2006 6:52 AM

Some of the comics are really hindered by the art style. For instance that latest one. It made no sense to me until somebody said "spaghetti" because I couldn't figure out what it was supposed to represent. My first though was "laser tag" my second was "ropes with laser guns". If the spaghetti came on a plate it might have been easier to read. Or if the guns were revolvers...

Comment from: TasteMyHouse [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 26, 2006 6:52 AM

http://www.porkwrench.com/?date=20060131


isn't that one a direct take off from a Far Side as well?

Comment from: TasteMyHouse [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 26, 2006 6:55 AM

http://www.porkwrench.com/?date=20060201


OFFICIALLY REDEEMED.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 26, 2006 8:40 AM

I can't even tell what 1/31 is supposed to be, and 2/1 is seriously harmed for me by, well, crooked pips. Ruler, dude.

Comment from: Sili [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 26, 2006 11:00 AM

Ironically, I had no trouble identifying the spaghetti as spaghetti, but "spaghettiwestern" just never clicked in place until somebody mentioned it. I kept thinking that it had to be something along the lines of "you ain't got the balls".

31/1 is moderately amusing (it's "The Fly", mr. Hutchinson), but, to me, 1/2 utterly delightful. The punchline could have been so much more obvious, which would have detracted from the joke. This way it has to circulate twice, before it hits - and I have no trouble with the dice. Usind a ruler would most likely have looked more amateurish, since it wouldn't fit with the rest of the style.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 26, 2006 3:11 PM

Yes, I knew it was The Fly. Only just now did I figure out that the trailing figure is a frog. That's about the worst angle I can think of choosing for a frog drawn that sketchily. Looked like a weird pair of pants to me earlier.

Comment from: Darth Paradox [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at February 27, 2006 2:22 PM

Actually, the biggest Gary Larson ripoff I found in the archives was "Moose Pox". I don't feel like searching through the archives again to find it, but I quite clearly remember Larson doing that joke.

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