Obituary: Horribleville

May 29, 2009

Okay, so it’s been a while since I updated on here. I’ve been spending most of my time working on my own comics lately! I’m hoping to have a mini-comic done and a website up by the end of June (fingers crossed). I’ll keep you guys posted on that. What I’ve learned this past month is that making comics is a really solitary practice. You’re sort of trapped in your workspace with your own self-doubt and impulses to procrastinate, and it makes you go a little crazy. KC Green’s Horribleville illustrates this unfortunate side effect of cartooning nearly perfectly. Horribleville is semi-autobiographical, starring creator KC Green along with his Editor (a suspendered old man with a large mustash), Writer’s Block (literally a block, or brick-like object) and of course, his cat Doosty. The comic follows these characters around in the crazed mind of their creator, which generally ends hilariously. Hands down, Doosty has got to be the fan favorite, and how could he not be? Despite Doosty’s evil tendencies, he seems to have the power to bright both his owner’s and the readers’ day. Cats tend to pop up this way in a lot of webomics. I myself am particularly fond of a cat that has managed to chew apart several pairs of sandals, and at least three of the keys off of my laptop.

Doosty wants to kill KC Green in Horribleville

Doosty plots against KC Green in Horribleville

I had never been an avid reader of Horribleville before it ended. I had seen it around, people linking to it and such, but when Green called it quits the whole internet got its panties in a twist and I had to go see what everyone was so upset about. What I found surprised me. The art of the comic, and the nature of the jokes, were not the surprise; like I said, I was no stranger to Green’s work. His spastic, emotionally charged linework and often morbid, non sequitur type humor were to be expected. What shocked me was that all the people who had posted online about the conclusion of this comic had seemed so surprised. The Horribleville archives contain 150 posts, and I’d say about a third of the way through, a large majority of those comics focus on Green’s lack of inspiration. I imagine this to be a common plight of the webcomic creator: having weekly deadlines can really take the fun out of your work. I guess what I’m saying was that Green was ready to call it quits on this project a while ago.

What I found to be the best part of Horribleville were the little, seemingly insignificant details. Sure the jokes and Green’s absurdist approach to the slice-of-life genre are funny, but I appreciate his work for an entirely different reason. Take, for example, what is most certainly Green’s most famous strip, #33 featuring the ever popular Dick-Butt. I’ve seen Dick-Butt all over the internet, in many places entirely uncredited (which I would think would be both flattering and infuriating for Green). This little NSFW guy has become sort of the mascot for Horribleville – you can buy him on a t-shirt, and Green has produced a sort of spin-off comic, “The Adventures of Dick-Butt,” which used to be available on Myspace but I couldn’t find a link for it. Maybe it’s been taken down and will be available in print soon (hope so). Anyway, the obvious punchline in this one is our friend, Dick-Butt, of course. And I think many would argue that what really makes this strip great is the last panel, Green’s self-portrait, close up and covered in sweat, his pupils shrunken to tiny points and mouth hanging open, possibly in horror. It’s a pretty amazing last panel, I won’t argue with that. But what really does it for me in this piece: right there in the bottom right-hand corner of the fourth panel is the Lorax, and he’s saying “BLEH!” That doesn’t need to be there. That doesn’t add to the story. But man, it really makes it so much more hilarious to me. It is these little tidbits of frivolous nonsense that really bring Horribleville to life. Like when Green draws himself with t-shirts that say something random, like “eggs.” That’s amazing. I mean, that’s even better than Milo’s “No.” shirt from The Oblongs. And I fucking love Milo’s “No.” shirt on The Oblongs.

A review of Horribleville over at The Webcomics Overlook (which, if you have yet to check it out, is a great site) also notices the content shift around strip #50. This review voices the opinion that this was the point where the comic begins to lose its edge. The later comics are certainly different, but I’m not sure I’d call the early ones necessarily “better.” I suppose when one is grasping for ideas as Green seems to have been during that time it can be hard to come up with the same sort of spontaneous lunacy as there was in those first few strips. Most of the later strips end up being about that very issue. Still, while he desperately searches for ideas he still manages to turn out pretty funny stuff – some it can be childish, or unnecessarily grotesque – but who doesn’t like that? If it was funny in fourth grade, it probably still is now (admit it, you LOLed). There is a certain point in Horribleville the silliness slips away into a kind of latent rage or frustration and depression seems to ooze out of them. It almost comes to a point where humor is no longer Green’s goal and he tries to communicate something else to his audience. There are strips with cop-out endings and dispirited undertones. These strips make me want to give KC Green a hug. I think he just got stuck in a rut, and perhaps making Horribleville wasn’t fun anymore. It seemed like Green was ready to move on to new projects, which is good because that’s what he’s doing! Green’s been working on a new comic called Gunshow and I think a lot of those strips have the same kind of energy in them that the early Horribleville comics had. I think it looks pretty promising. If you’d like to know more about KC Green here’s an interview that’s a couple years old that it kind of interesting, or, you can follow him on Twitter!

On an unrelated note, I just realized that I’ve used the phrase “panties in a twist” at least three times in the very short time I’ve been writing this blog. In the future, I will attempt to be more creative and say something else.

BLEH!

2 Responses to “Obituary: Horribleville”

  1. Arwen57 said

    Glad to have you back bloggin’. Can’t wait to see your web comic!

  2. NOBLE said

    Can’t believe you found the attribution for Dick Butt.

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