Pictures of You
|here in the "Reactions" section.|
|Original review author:||Norad Bush|
|Webcomic name:||Pictures of You (Hosting site Smackjeeves has been shut down.)|
|Start Date:||February 4, 2007|
|End Date:||Died along with Smackjeeves.|
|Genre:||Slice of Life|
|Defining Flaw:||Pretentious, self-important dramedy that mistakes the partying misadventures of a bunch of douchebags for actual character development and depth.|
One of the most prominent genres of webcomics is the slice of life college kid story. The formula is pretty simple: you get a bunch of college kids who have wacky adventures, wacky relationships, one wacky ball-busting professor, add in a healthy dose of mediocrity and self-centered whining, and serve over ramen. That is how the vast majority of them are.
However, some college webcomics take things a little more seriously. They touch on the importance of relationships, politics, and the overall struggles of just trying to get by and find your own voice. Pictures of You is one such non-wacky college comic that does explore the darker, more soulful topics. Although, darker and more soulful do not necessarily mean good. Sometimes it means pretentious crap.
The downfall of this thing is the very beginning of the story where we open on our melancholic Eminem look-alike, Peter, who has just gone through a box of photographs of old times with his friends. Peter is very sad those days are gone, and so he makes the rest of us suffer by assaulting us with walls of text. Peter then has to go to a party with some of his old cronies, where he hits us with some more walls of text of his groaning and moaning. Author, sorry Auteur, Gibson Twist makes 10 pages feel like a fucking eternity as we sit through this stupid guy's unceasing bitching. And why is our boy Peter so very sad? Because he can't drink straight whisky and smoke pot with his old drinking buddies anymore. Because his little clique of alcoholism and debauchery broke up. Its members, in all likelihood, probably stopped drinking hard liquor and got real jobs.
Life is so tragic.
Story and Plot
Here is the official summary blurb:
"Inspired by real people and real events, Pictures of You is the epic memoire of Peter Morris and the best friends he ever lost. Comic and tragic, Pictures of You is a long road filled with sex, drugs and rock n roll."
You know it's bad when they start throwing around words like "epic." Yes, this is the "epic" memoir based on Auteur Gibson Twist's college years, where I imagine he smoked so much pot all he could graduate with was a liberal arts degree.
The set up isn't necessarily awful, if not a bit overdone. For what it's worth, it shows that the author has the ending of the story in hand, which is somewhat rare for webcomics. Where everything comes apart is the execution. Twist spends entirely too much time introducing the characters and situations. The entire first 100 pages are nothing but introductions. All the crap after that is either pointless drama that doesn't seem to lead to this inevitable collapse the reader is initially promised or otherwise pointless buffoonery. Seriously. Gibson Twist dedicates an entire mini chapter to Peter's first time watching Star Wars and another mini chapter to a character getting attacked by a cat. That's it. Nothing really happens, which is frustrating given how much material Twist has actually put out.
The art is not good, in that Twist makes a lot of rookie mistakes. Twist only knows how to draw one face. That's it. Well, more specifically, one face for men and one face for women. Everyone in this entire universe has this round, doughy face and pug nose, which is hilarious when you consider Twist is trying to portray different ethnicities.
See, in real life, people of different ethnicities look different from each other. We can see distinctions in their noses, eyes, and facial structure. However, everyone in Pictures of You…
…looks the same. This begs the question: what's the point in having a multiethnic cast if the artist won't do one whit of research on what the fuck they're supposed to look like? And don't give me that crap about "stylism." A comic about people is supposed to depict what people look like, and PEOPLE DON'T ALL LOOK THE FUCKING SAME.
Also, Twist has this terrible tendency to draw his characters
This is another classic rookie mistake amongst budding comic artists. See, the human eye has a natural astigmatism which will cause most artists to draw a character somewhat skewed if they aren't careful. Even seasoned artists do this, but the difference between a noob and a power player is that the experienced artist anticipates this issue. They combat it by constantly flipping the page to make sure their character is straight, or some of the digital folks just correct the page after it's scanned. Either way, this CAN BE AVOIDED. Twist, for whatever reason, simply chooses otherwise. I can only guess he either likes his characters slanted, like some people, or that he's just a lazy motherfucker like some other people. Given that there appears to be SOME effort going into the art here, I believe the answer is the former.
The comic also oscillates between ink rendering and color. From what I can gather, he creates an entire book's worth of pages in black and white inks and goes back to add the colors later. While color usually adds a whole new life to comic art, these colors are so boring and dull that he might as well have not. He barely does any shading and has no concept of atmosphere or color theory. This makes for a pretty droll color experience. Let's explore some, shall we?
Wake me when it's over.
…*snoooooore* mmmmwah? Huh? Oh, right, the review. Yeah, weak art. Moving on...
The writing, much like the art, has lofty aspirations but comes out flat and amateurish. Twist takes forever to get his characters established and even after he does, all he seems to do is show us how THEY HAVE SUPER AWESOME COOL PARTYING LOLZ! These characters have very little real depth and are only really defined by the tragedies in their lives.
Peter, the main character, is defined by his constant internal whining, but also his "newness" to his environment. Apparently, growing up in a small town he was exposed to nearly nothing compared to his college friends, including smoking cigarettes, pot, indy record shops and Star Wars. His naivete is layed on so thick it's positively annoying. Not only that, but Twist later betrays this quality, after Peter unknowingly sleeps with a married woman. He's actually shocked and angry when everyone assumes he's a virgin (sexually speaking). Hell, I made that assumption too, but NOOOOO. Peter claims not to be a virgin, as having sex is one of the few social activities available in his small home town. This is obviously an attempt to take the reader by surprise and teach us not to assume things about characters, but it's just so far fetched. Gibson actually expects his readers to believe it's easier to get teenaged pussy in this small town than it is to get a copy of one of the most popular movies of all time.
That's not the only inconsistency with this character. In fact, Peter is riddled with inconsistencies that indicate Twist has no real idea who this fucking character is. He's rather sunny to some people, yet he's a brooding badass to his professor. He lets his roommate walk all over him, but then leaps into fist fights with strangers without hesitation. This isn't three-dimensional characterization, this is Twist being indecisive about who his own fucking character is. Even Peter questions his identity, but Twist cops out by calling him the "unpredictable one." Whatever.
The rest of the characters aren't plagued with these glaring discrepancies, but that doesn't make them much better. Most of them have fairly thin characterizations, despite all the bitching and drama surrounding them. Lauren is a girl who falls for Peter, but ultimately finds out what a raging moron he is. Then there's punk girl (no I'm not bothering to look up her name), who is a total non-conformist and a bitch. Andy is a man-whore. Drummer guy is a stoner. Sam is a nice guy nerd type. Kara is a snobby bitch. Wiley is a gay guy who says next to nothing. Patrick is a gay guy who won't shut the fuck up. While these characters have slight moments of deviation from type, such as punk rock girl's pregnancy scare and Lauren's fairly quick rebound from her crush on Peter, they're fleeting and they go back to being their merry little one-dimensional selves when the storm subsides.
There is, however, a slight glimmer of hope in the characterizations. Man-whore Andy is the very rare example of a jerk/manslut type DONE RIGHT.
I know, I'm just as shocked as you are.
Andy's character is seen in many other webcomics on this wiki such as Ctrl+Alt+Del, Least I Could Do, Shredded Moose, and anything shat out by Steve Napierski. Andy is supposed to be the Gary Stu douchebag, but strangely, he's actually the most likeable character in this whole mess. And why? Because he's given the one thing that makes the Gary Stu douchebag redeemable: ACCOUNTABILITY. If he wrongs someone or sleeps with the wrong woman, he pays for it. He gets yelled at. He gets punished. And from time to time he actually demonstrates he can be a good person and a much-needed voice of reason. Andy also wins points for being the least whiny twat in this whole piece. So, Tim Buckley, Ryan Sohmer, Steve Napierski, and whatever fucking mutant is responsible for Shredded Moose, take some fucking notes. This is how you make your stupid fucking Gary Stus somewhat decent characters.
That was the best quality of the writing. The worst quality about the writing in this "story" (I use that term loosely as nothing really happens here), is that it's so pretentious I want to throw up. Observe…
AH HAH HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Way to kick off your Christmas party champ!
For what it's worth, that frame made me laugh harder than anything in this story, because it's so incredibly douchey and snotty and it is literally the picture of everything WRONG with the comic. So is the pictured character, Patrick. His story is the most TRAAAAGIC so far and why? Because his sister's dating an asshole and his father is SOOOO MEEEEEAN to him for wasting his time on his band and NOT studying for all that college he's paying for. The dad. Pays for Patrick's apartment. And his tuition. And his lifestyle. And we're supposed to get mad at him for holding Patrick accountable for his bullshit lifestyle? I don't know how shit works in Canada, but here in the United States, if you want to keep your parents from bullying you, YOU GET A FUCKING JOB AND STOP DEPENDING ON THEM FOR MONEY. I don't feel sorry for this character, and any reader who does is a complete twat.
Patrick is also preachy, especially about his homosexuality and how we should perceive it. Again, the reader is the bad guy for assuming things. Patrick is Gibson Twist's mouthpiece for his political agenda. He wants you to know that assuming things about gays is wrong. Raising tuition on poor, pitiful college students is wrong. And CHRISTMAS IS FUCKING FASCISM! But Twist shoots himself in the foot on all fronts. Patrick's pro-gay rant against Peter doesn't work when Peter genuinely wants to be his friend. Patrick's mooching off his dad anyway, so he shouldn't care how high tuition goes, and Christmas is only a crappy experience for him because he's an asshole to his sister and his dad is really only holding him responsible for all the shit he's financing. So, uh, yeah. Political agenda fail.
On a final note, I'd like to touch upon the "rock and roll" briefly touched upon in the summary blurb. Comics are a medium with no sound. So why do creators insist on making comics about music I can't hear? And even worse, why does their artwork often end up looking like those damn ipod commercials? Not that it's a crucial flaw, I'm merely making the observation.
The writing, overall, is preachy, nonsensical, and stupid. There's so much emphasis placed on events that just don't matter that it kills whatever importance any of the truly dramatic material has.
Like any true bad webcomicker, Gibson Twist is incredibly self congratulatory despite putting out a lackluster product. Also, like any good bad webcomicker, he makes friends with other crappy webcomickers. Check out the acknowledgment at the end of his book 2, he sings the praises of Gisele Lagace, the whore monger responsible for Ménage à 3. I kinda doubt this relationship happened because if Lagace actually had given him advice, she would've told him to draw more bewbz rather than dongs. (link NSFW!)
The bottom line is that Gibson Twist appears to be oblivious to this comic's flaws and surrounds himself with people who don't tell him the truth about his work. Otherwise, he'd quit sucking and I wouldn't be writing this article.
Overall, Pictures of You is an overblown comic that takes pretentiousness and navel-gazing to a whole new level. I never thought I'd ever see a piece that would ever make any of the other hundreds of wacky college kid comics look good, but this is the one. Self-important college kids who take themselves entirely too seriously actually make shitty wacky college kid comics look bearable. That this is based on real life is even worse because it means (surprise!) Gibson Twist is one of those self-absorbed, pretentious bastards who needs to get over himself. However, there is hope for Twist. I do not believe that he should die in a fire, like some creat-ards I know, but I believe that to improve his work, he needs a perception shift…away from himself.
UPDATE: Smackjeeves has been shut down, and this webcomic got wiped along with it.