|Original review author:||oddguy|
|Webcomic name:||Questionable Content|
|Genre:||Is "Boring" a genre? (Slice Of Life, technically speaking.)|
|Defining Flaw:||It's a great comic if you're looking to slip into a coma.|
The only reason I, and probably everyone else, have not written a review for this comic long ago is that it was too boring to read again.
We have had three or four threads about this comic saying it's bad or asking if it was (to which the reply was always "Yes") and I intended to write a review for it for god knows how long. But every time I went to the QC website and got ready to start re-reading it to prepare for writing the review, I would let out a woeful sigh at the thought of subjecting myself to this crap once again and go off to do something less painful, like drinking boiling acid. And once I started reading, QC did not disappoint because this was literally my face during the entire comic:
In over 2600 pages I smiled maybe 8 times and laughed once, and not at a comic, at this T-shirt.
No real downfall here. The comic started off awful, got better as it went on for all the wrong reasons and lately began pandering to social justice warriors, making it worse yet again.
Plot and writing review
The plot is pretty simple. It's slice-of-life sort of comic, so nothing is really going on. Some guy named Marten befriends a mostly female cast of chicks who flirt with him but won't sleep with him, and the story revolves around the cast's various relationships. It isn't very interesting and doesn't require its own section so I'll just mix it in with the writing. In fact, I'll just mix everything together. The writing has so many flaws, so many layers of sucking that are hinging upon each other that every one of the multiple flavors of failure in the comic is intimately intertwined in a spider's web of crap. I don't know how to separate them so forgive me if I just review all of them together.
The writing is horrid for a lot of reasons. Firstly, because all the conversations read like someone gathered up all the reject script writers from "Friends" who were in-charge of writing for Chandler, beat them until they bled out of their ears, and made them write this comic. Secondly, due to the atrocious characters. The lead is Marten, who is a spineless failure and a sad excuse for a man. He meets Faye who is a surly, chubby bitch who burns down her house, moves in with him, and then spends all her time accusing him of looking at her ass and then punching him. This is pretty much the basis of their relationship and the source for the "humor" in the comic. Every one of their interactions goes roughly like this:
Marten: I'm a pathetic loser.
Faye: That's right, you little bitch.
Marten: Don't talk to me like that.
Faye: I'LL KILL YOU.
The fact that she spends the first few years of the comic refusing to use conjunction and using inappropriately fancy words instead of simpler ones like saying "bottom" instead of "ass" only makes her more insufferable.
The humor centers around this and pretty much every "punchline" is either a humorless, sarcastic quip or a "funny" threat of violence by Faye. Faye spends all her time chewing people out, telling them how to live their lives and threatening to kill them if they make a joke at her expense. It makes you wonder why the hell anyone even hangs out with her. Even more then that it makes me wonder why no one beats the shit out of her. She's one of those characters that's supposed to be intimidating, even though there is no explanation as to why. You know what plotline of QC I would looooooove to read? The one where Faye gets her nose broken. Just once I would like to see her walk up to some stranger and tell them she is going to punch them because of something they said and for them to tell her: "What the fuck did you just say to me?" and back-hand her to the ground.
So from there they go to the coffee shop where she and her friend "Dora" work. Dora turns out to be a massive slut and flashes her tits at Marten. Between that and him walking in on Faye undressing, this all begins to sound more and more like Jeph's harem anime-inspired, wish-fulfillment fantasy, where he plays Marten, who is channeling Shinji from Evangelion. The girls both work at the coffee shop and insult all the customers. Not just rude ones, either. Every signle person who walks in gets told to fuck off for having the gall to want to buy coffee at a coffee shop. They do this without losing their job because Dora somehow owns the place without it going out of business, which only further proves that this is wish fulfillment. Yes, it is really the telling sign of a quality webcomic when the author uses it to air out his impotent rage at working in the service industry by drawing himself insulting clients. And so, QC joins the prestigious ranks of such comics as Concession, Shortpacked, Least I Could Do and Ctrl+Alt+Del.
Anyway, Marten spends his time being strung along by the dick by one girl, and then strung along by the dick and constantly hit and insulted by another, all while harboring feelings for both and standing up to neither. At some point he gets in a relationship with Dora because Faye tells him her emotional problems prevent her from having a boyfriend. Then she turns around, sleeps with someone and starts dating. Dora and Marten break up, and from then on the comic is about everyone trying to find a new relationship to be in. Along the way more characters join the cast, but since none of them breed the kind of contempt in me that Marten, Faye and Dora do, I am not going to bother talking about them.
Another "wonderful" character that makes me sick enough to bother mentioning is "Pintsize", a sentient robot that Marten owns and which fills the spot of the "wacky" character. Every webcomic needs a wacky pet/robot, right? After all, we all know how funny "random" humor is. For example, a guy I knew got randomly hit by a car and died. It was hilarious... Pintsize is basically Gir from Invader Zim but with all the charm and humor surgically removed. Why Marten doesn't just set him on fire is a mystery since, despite him being a personal computer, he is of no benefit to anyone and does nothing but cause property damage. This also raises the question of what time period this is, since it looks like the present day but everyone has robots and people live in space.
There is also the issue of excessive text in this comic. I have to make a second CAD comparison here because Jeph's love of useless text puts that of Buckley to shame. In the first few years of the comic, every single character in every single panel of every single comic vomits out a block of text seeping with sarcasm but void of wit. Jeph seems like one of those people who thinks more words = more funny. Why use a word with three syllables when you can use five? Why use one word when you can use ten? Over time this problem toned down, but not thanks to Jeph realizing how stupid it is. In some tumblr post I forgot to save a link to, he says he simply got tired of writing that way.
Which reminds me: Writing. Jeph adheres to the Dominic Deegan school of writing that says every strip has to have a joke at the end, even if you can't think of one. This is the problem with mixing story with comedy in a webcomic. Since they update page by page you find yourself feeling like every page is a standalone comic and sticking a joke at the end of it so the readers don't lose interest. This is wrong. Your readers will be reading the comic as a whole, and if you sacrifice cohesive writing in general for the sake of treating every page as an individual, you will fail at both. The jokes won't be funny because you force them out of yourself every day even when you can't think of anything funny, and the plot will suffer because it will stop and start like a man with premature ejaculation trying not to blow his load.
So the comic isn't funny or interesting. The only reason you know something is supposed to be a joke is because it's on the last square of the page. Here, look at this comic and tell me if it's funny:
It is? Well guess what, it isn't really a comic. I just removed the first panel from this comic and replaced the last panel with the last one from this one, which was the previous page. Notice how this changes nothing? Notice how almost every page in every comic of QC might as well be the "punchline" if you put it in the final frame because none of them are actually funny?
Now I want to go back again to the characters. Remember when I asked why doesn't anyone just hit Faye? Well, your answer is in this strip.
FAYE'S DAD FUCKING KILLED HIMSELF!!!
Her dad shot himself for no reason in front of her, so she drove her car into a tree and went crazy. That page and the few after it perfectly demonstrate all the problems in the comic in one fell swoop. Walls of text combined with inappropriate jokes at the end of pages that were meant to be sad, and which excuse an abrasive character's behavior using something that is akin to the CAD Miscarriage strip (I am really finding a lot of parallels with CAD in this comic.)
And here we find another problem. This is somehow supposed to excuse everything she does. That may work in real life when a friend goes through some trauma and you just brush off everything they do with "He's been through a lot", but Faye is not my friend. Faye is a fictional character who is supposed to provide me with entertainment, and if the person who made her needs to write character arcs to explain why she's so repulsive, then something here has failed. This goes for all the female characters. Three of them are going to a therapist and most of the rest are just as fucked up. The comic used to have a guest week whenever Jeph got too lazy to draw. I sighed in relief each time I saw one of these because it meant a few less pages for me to read. The true hilarity of this was that some of these were actually funny and would highlight just how utterly incompetent Jeph is as a comedy writer. But I digress. My point is that back before John Campbell of "Pictures for Sad Children lost his shit, he took part in one of these and, true to form, he used this opportunity to take the piss out of him.
A final problem I find with this comic, which some might think is negligible but which I think is worth noting, is the way it panders. Questionable Content is to hipsters what most gaming webcomics are to gamers. It has nothing of value to say about hipsters or hipster culture, much like gaming webcomics never point out what a lot of gamers are really like (pimple-faced virgins obsessed with stupid video games.) Questionable Content would never point out that hipsters are idiots desperately trying to find uniqueness and fight consumer culture by consuming corporate crap that makes them all look, dress and act the same. The only thing that makes QC a "hipster comic" is that it mentions the name of some (not so) obscure band once a year or so to prove its hipster cred. If the comic was about actual hipsters and what they are like, I doubt a lot of hipsters would want to read it.
There is probably more to say about this but I'll just leave you with my final summary for the entire comic's plot:
Dickless pansy befriends a couple of obnoxious cunts.
I give the art in Questionable Content two thumbs up.
Which I then insert forcefully into my own eye sockets so I don't have to look at it anymore because it's shit.
What can I say about the art here? It's bad. Not even in any kind of funny sort of way, just not good enough. Whereas other artists improve constantly until they get good enough, Jeph got better at drawing at first and then stopped once he reached some utterly unsatisfactory intermediate level and never continued improving again.
So yes, some of the recent strips of the comic looks almost sort of okay. But that isn't enough. Mostly it isn't enough because Jeph just always draws the same thing. Virtually all comics are drawn from the same angle, same shot field size with all the characters standing at the same angle to the camera and making the same dull, uninspired body gestures. For all I know, no one in this comic even has feet, since you never see them. You can't draw the same thing every day and not get better at it without even trying. But whenever he tries to draw something new he fails inexcusably. And not even difficult things. Look at the picture I added to the article to the right. That's how he draws a bottle!
The art further compounds what I talked about in the other sections. The jokes in the comic, which are not funny, sometimes work in other media like television thanks to good acting. A rather mundane and witless event can become hilarious thanks to an actor's facial expressions or vocal intonations or body language (and in the case of shows like "The Big Bang Theory", canned laughter to tell the audience what they should think is funny). Since, in comics, none of this is possible, there is another tool that good artists can use to make this work. Good (or at least bad but fitting) art can make even the dumbest jokes seem funny. A completely humorless strip can appear comical with some funny facial expression, silly-looking drawing style, or awkward pauses. Hell, K.C Green has been milking that particular cow for years, to the point it now squirts powdered milk out of its depleted udders.
A good artist can even convey the exact intonations of the voice his character should have when saying a specific line by using a precise facial expression. But in QC? No. None of this can ever work as long as the only emotions any of the characters seem to be capable of are a half-smile and dull surprise. None of this will ever be funny as long as everyone has stiff and robotic body movements and can only bend their limbs at 90 degree angles.
I'm tempted to just inflate that picture I put on the right there to 1000X1000 pixels and just leave that as the entire author biography, since you can know enough about Jeph just by looking at it. But there are more things to discuss here, so let's get to it.
Jeph Jacques is a 33 year old guy who at some point got tired of working an office job and started a webcomic out of the crap he was using the computer at work to draw anyway instead of doing his job. Eventually it got popular enough that he could use it to support himself and produce awful music with his terrible band.
That's the boring stuff. Let's get to the drama.
Jeph is a chronic depressive and recovering alcoholic - Sort of. Real alcoholics do things like go to AA meeting. I have a feeling he just drank a lot, decided to quit and used it to gain sympathy online. The combination of these things, and the fact that his fanbase of hipsters slowly gave way to tumblr scum lead to a hilarious little incident. You see, despite always having fat chicks in the comic and having other characters treat them as sexy, to people from tumblr it wasn't enough. Jeph's positive attitude towards fat, gay, bisexual people, etc, that had originally drawn these kinds of people to his comic would eventually lead to his forum and fanbase in general becoming composed of self-righteous screaming imbeciles. When Jeph drew one of the fattest female characters in the cast in a bikini, his fans began attacking him for not making her fat enough (I doubt they would have cared if she was a guy.) And let me be clear, these were not just insults, they were death threats and requests for him to commit suicide. AND THESE ARE HIS FANS! I have always been one for trolling, but these guys are serious as all hell. They told a known suicidal depressive to kill himself because he drew a fat girl too attractively, all while claiming to be his fans and saying they are protecting the rights of the obese by insisting they are ugly. What did Jeph do in response? He went down to the pub, drank an entire bottle of whiskey and stabbed himself in the hand.
Yes, in 2011 Jeph had a psychotic meltdown because of his retarded fans and jammed a knife into his own hand. However, you know what I find really suspicious? That he had once already had a similar incident in 2006 where he accidentally stabbed himself in the hand. The way I see it, you can get caught shitting your pants once and call it an accident, but if you get caught twice, there is something else going on there. No one stabs himself in the hand on purpose and then also stabs himself in the hand by mistake, both in the span of five years.
It is also possible that Jeph's marriage was already falling apart at the time (leading to his divorce at the beginning of this year) and contributed to him going crazy, but his fandom's insanity is undeniable nonetheless. It is exactly for this reason that J.J has threatened to shut his entire forum down more than once to shut them up, and it is also probably the reason why he added a transgender character to the comic.
The tranny character is particularly funny, as it is so obviously a token meant to shut up his whiny readers who were complaining his comic isn't good enough, not because he's a talentless hack, but because he's a cracker who doesn't want to cross-dress, making him an evil oppressor. What makes it obvious is the way that Claire's (his/her name) "coming out" is hand-waved. Here is my summery of the event:
Clair: I have a dick.
Marten: I'm cool with that.
Clair: I'm cool with you being cool with that.
J.J didn't care about her. He didn't want to add that character to the cast or have any use for her. He just wanted his readers to get off his back about there not being any trans people in his comic. Generally speaking, QC has been checking off every demographic to keep the fans happy. He already had a bisexual character, a gay guy, a dominatrix that scored him points with feminists for portraying a sex worker, and a crazy chick that will sooth the tempers of both those who want more sufferers of mental illnesses portrayed in the media and those who want the same thing for the mentally handicapped (at least until they start demanding that Jeph adds a character with Down's syndrome to the cast). As more tumblr trash started joining his fans, he added an Indian character, a female gay character, a black character and an Asian character (the last two were introduced together with Clair on the same page in what I think was a massive "Fuck You" to his fans.) Essentially Questionable Content has become minority bingo.
Another thing that was done probably with his whiny readers in mind was a number of Orwellian Retcons. Most noticeably in page 10 of the comic (I guess it was close enough to the start for new readers to notice and complain) where the word "rape" was replaced with the word "hump". Which is funny, because on tumblr Jeph said that he would never make a rape joke, forgetting he already did. A few other things I believe to have been changed include a page I remember had tits in it. It was on the ED article of the comic before the site went down in 2011 and the file was lost, but I distinctly remember it because of that. Now there are a few pages left where there is suggestive nudity, but that one page is gone. I also saw a version of this page on tumblr where instead of the words "oral sex", there appears the word "spanking". Was this an edit? Or did someone complain that Jeph was making light of child abuse so he changed it? Your guess is as good as mine.
Looking back at what I wrote, I realize it's more of an indictment of QC's fanbase than of its creator. My point is that Jeph should probably get away from these people before they notice he also casually used the word "retard" a few times and harass him until he jumps off a bridge.
Questionable Content is boring. It isn't just dull, it's tiresome. It isn't just uninteresting, it's laborious. It isn't simply mind-numbing, it's torturously tedious.
Jeph was able to make the comic a little better since he began, but not for lack of trying. He stopped having characters inexplicably talk in archaic speaking patterns. Maybe he realized it was annoying, but probably he just forgot he was doing it. The walls of text have diminished to some degree. Maybe he realized it wasn't a good way to write, but probably he just got too lazy to type so much. The characters got a little less sickening. Maybe he he got better at writing them, but probably Faye, Dora and No-dick McPussy just have their annoyingness dwindled down by all the new cast members. The art got somewhat better. Maybe he put some effort into it, but probably he just kept drawing the same thing over and over until he inevitably improved at drawing that one particular thing.
Although QC has gotten better, it never actually got good. And worst of all, it never got funny. The art is better but still ugly, the writing is better but still bad, the characters are better but still annoying, but the jokes (if you can even call them that) never even got close to being funny and are still that way to this day.
I have a theory, purely speculative. I think Jeph Jacques hates his comic. I think he detests having to make it and I think he despises the people who read it. I think his comic has gotten to a point where it is no better than the shitty job that he sought to escape when he started drawing it. It's a boring thing he doesn't care about but has to do every day for a few hours so that he can continue to pay his rent. I can think of no other explanation for something this dull and dispassionate. So little effort is put into drawing it or trying to make it funny that I can't imagine it being made by anyone without a dead, soulless look in his eyes.
Usually I say to people to stay away and not give these people money. But this time I say: Go! Go buy his shoddy books and trying-too-hard-to-be-ironic T-shirts. If you're the kind of boring person who enjoys this boring comic then just give J. Jacques all your fucking money so that maybe he can ward off suicide for a little bit longer.
- The comic
- Encyclopedia Dramatica article about QC
- All QC related posts on ShittyWebcomicsTumblr
- A thread on some forum making fun of him. - Looking up "Questionable Content" and "jeph jacques" finds a lot more of these.
- TV Tropes page
- TV Tropes page of webcomic artists who had a nervous breakdown where Jeph is listed.
- Jeph's wikipedia article
- QC's wikipedia article - He isn't notable for one article yet somehow he has two.
- Jeph asks for 10k donations to make his shitty, overpriced album and receives almost 150k.
- Another bad review
- A blog that makes fun of this guy.
I don't really feel like looking up and linking to his various social networking accounts.