|Original review author:||Long Tom (A major update of the original review by The Luigiian)|
|Webcomic name:||Sabrina Online|
|Author:||Eric W. Schwartz (courtesy of WikiFur)|
|Start Date:||September 1996|
|End Date:||September 2016|
|Defining Flaw:||Sexualizes the classic Warner Brothers art style.|
There's a long list of things that should be grounds for the death penalty, but sadly, aren't. Among these are referring to a webcomic as "online" in its title, calling your webcomic "an Internet tradition" because you were the first person stupid enough to post your glorified Looney Tunes porn on the Internet, posting said work on your site as a jagged, messed-up looking monochrome bitmap, making your principal character a full-grown nerd skunk with a shirt but no pants, then making up for the lack of pants by making the joke that Sabrina wears pants which match her fur, and putting said skunk in a job at a porno studio. Indeed, Sabrina-Online commits all these sins.
Oh ho ho! All right, I'll bite. Let's say Sabrina-Online had a "downfall" besides its very inception. That would be when Eric W. Schwartz founded his furry porn site, Fur After Dark, which I consider his "artist's website" due to the fact that Schwartz is really just a furry pornographer.
Sabrina-Online began as a boring comic about a boring character. The target audience was far too specific; you had to be a furry, love Amigas, hate Macs, like your toast well done... Of course, the computer world changed since that time, and the Amiga computer became as quaint and obsolete as the steam locomotive. So that was phased out and Sabrina-Online turned its focus onto sexuality and pornography, though stopping short of being graphic about it.
If there's one reason I would never use Amiga software, it's probably because Schwartz' horny "skunkette" is its mascot. Word to the wise: follow my lead.
Story and Plot
The story begins with Sabrina Skunk buying Internet access for her Amiga computer and having a number of difficulties setting it up. (Remember, this particular strip takes place in the era of dial-up modems.) Once online, she discovers some undesirable aspects of the Internet-but one desirable one as well. Meanwhile, Amy the Squirrel has her boyfriend Thomas Woolfe over, and they make love-and more than that. With that complication, Amy and Thomas get married, and they are now parents to Timmy.
But Sabrina has more than Amiga computers or relationships to worry about. Now that she has just graduated college, she needs to find a job. She finds one soon enough, but unfortunately it proves to be short-lived. Needing a job she can keep, she finds employment...guess where? And how is her new workplace? Imagine having a boss who behaves like this. And who finally pushes Sabrina too far. Zig Zag is chastened, but is also surprised that Sabrina neither resigned from Double Z Studios nor sued her for sexual harassment. (Of course, the real reason is that how could Eric Schwartz avoid the high concept of a nerdy girl working at a porno studio?) Sabrina and Zig Zag then come to an understanding on what sort of relationship the two of them will have.
In the meantime, Sabrina and her new boyfriend RC also come to an understanding of their relationship. RC is aware of who Sabrina's employer is, and he even pays a visit to the staff of Double Z Studios, including another employee who doesn't do porno work either. On their way home, Sabrina and RC encounter a mugger, but Sabrina saves the day because she is a skunk, after all. Besides RC, Sabrina brings her set of Transformers toys to her workplace. And Sabrina learns that making porno films is not really enjoyable for those involved. (Fortunately, not the hard way.) We also learn that it is not really enjoyable to be a Transformers toy or to be new parents, either. Babysitting is awful too, to the point where Sabrina winds up taking Timmy and her own kid sister Tabitha to Double Z Studios with her.
Sabrina's parents learn about her dating RC, and invite him to visit them, the outcome being pretty much what one would predict. Shortly afterward, Sabrina's car dies and Zig Zag helps her shop for a replacement, though the one Sabrina buys isn't quite as cool as the one Zig Zag owns. Later, Sabrina has her father, along with RC, pay a visit to Double Z Studios. Eventually Sabrina's mother discovers who Sabrina's employer is, and invites Zig Zag to her home, where Zig Zag reveals what her business does...in a way. And as it happens, RC also has parents...though probably not the type Sabrina had anticipated.
In 2008, the author has his strip make a foray into politics, namely the U. S. Presidential election. He makes a thinly disguised endorsement. But the author still admits that political campaigns are a dirty business. However, Schwartz does not again cover the topic of politics in his strip, not even during the 2012 election campaign. Presumably he became disillusioned with the man he had endorsed, like many others have? He hasn't said, and nobody has asked, not even on the "Fans Of Sabrina-Online" Yahoo! group.
And now Tabitha has been given a computer by her parents...and because of it, learns about Double Z Studios. Again Sabrina has to ask Zig Zag for help, since Tabitha knows that Zig Zag deals with naked people. So Zig Zag comes up with a cover story for Tabitha, and to cement it, Tabitha and Zig Zag have an "artistic" photo shoot. The story arc ends when Sabrina does what she should have done in the first place, and Zig Zag wonders what she (or Eric Schwartz) had been thinking.
New story development: it's 2010, and the porno market now demands computer-downloadable videos instead of DVDs. Trouble is, all along Zig Zag has depended on Sabrina to deal with computer matters and she herself is a complete computer novice. But Sabrina teaches her about going on the Internet, and Zig Zag makes her own unpleasant discoveries about it. But Zig Zag also finds enjoyment as well. But Zig Zag has been clearly butthurt by the taunting she received over the Internet, so she goes on a revenge tour. This had in fact started quite a bit of grumbling on the "Fans Of Sabrina-Online" Yahoo! group-when you think about it, is Zig Zag really supposed to be so petty?
Next, Sabrina decides to compose her own webcomic. I am not making this up. And what is the point of this story arc? Perhaps Eric Schwartz hasn't been pleased with the feedback he has gotten lately, and now it's getting to him? Perhaps he's trying a ploy for pity? Maybe he's expecting this in response? Well, if Eric Schwartz doesn't want to carry on with the strip, he isn't legally obligated to.
But perhaps Eric Schwartz found out about the story of David Sim and his Cerebus the Aardvark comic book series, and realized that when David Sim started to get whiny and defensive when people started to complain about the way Cerebus was going, people mostly laughed at him and Cerebus had lost two-thirds of its readership by the time the series was finished. So the strip changes tack: Sabrina again encounters the mugger from long ago, and this time he's after blood. This finally stirs up consternation and stops the grumbling among the Sabrina-Online fans, but not to worry. Sabrina's family and friends are very glad she is OK. Not to mention furious at her attacker. But the mugger isn't likely to find out who Zig Zag is. And Sabrina calls Zig Zag a "real good friend", and feels strange saying that. Does Sabrina think Zig Zag is only doing her favors with the idea that she hopes to get her into the sack like she tried and failed to before...or does it imply that Sabrina herself might be developing lesbian feelings of her own? Hopefully not; that would destroy the last bit of credibility Sabrina-Online has left!
UPDATE: The author has announced that he has concluded the monthly webcomic series:
If you're curious, you can read the webcomic yourself to learn how it ends. I'll just mention here that the story does not end on a disappointing note.
Looney Tunes-style line drawings with some shading, mostly black-and-white art with the occasional color strip thrown in. Arguably, the art isn't bad, but...
Thing is, it's plagiarism to the ~nth degree. Not one bit of this webcomic's art is truly original. What this ends up being is really just fan art of more talented artists, by which I mean Warner Brothers animators. And Schwartz adds nothing to the formula. The fact that he 'draws porn based on the original character styles is something that disgusts me as well, but there's one thing that bugs me more than anything else.
This webcomic... is really tiny. Hardly bigger than you see in the average daily newspaper.
I'm not sure why, but Schwartz insists on his webcomic's teensy-weensy size, which makes the text small. If you want a bigger webcomic, he's got it, but... um, it's in monochrome bitmap. Wonder why that's bad? Check it out:
OK, so it basically makes them jagged and somewhat less attractive, what's so bad about that? Well, simply put, the linework deserves better. The quality here deserves better. Schwartz has a way with his lines, even if they are derivative, yet this jaggedness doesn't let them be truly expressive and beautiful. Even that's something of a minor, extraneous detail, though. The biggest issue of all is that Schwartz whores out his "creations", originally made by more talented artists than himself, and allows his work to be used as expensive spank fodder for lonely losers. It's abominable. And he's abominable for doing it.
I'm feeling for a pulse from any of these characters. Anything that makes them unique or different from one another. Anything... come on, something's got to be here...
Nope. Nothing. Nobody here's got a personality. That's pretty much all you need to know to make a case for "bad writing" in these situations.
Cast Of Major Characters:
Sabrina: "Nerdy female skunk who works at porn studio." Gotta have that. And she is the studio's web designer and doesn't participate in any of the movies the studio produces. Here's an equation for you Schwartz: Job + stereotype =/= personality. Oh, she's also kind of shy, in that she reacts to sexual advances by the people at the porn studio with EEEEEEEW SO GROSS AND DISGUSTING. That's a start. Though she turns out not to be an asexual character after all as the story progresses.
Tabitha: Sabrina's aggressive kid sister.
Richard Conrad: Male raccoon nicknamed "RC" whom Sabrina had met through the Internet, and then in person, after which they became lovers.
Amy the Squirrel: Female squirrel who had been a character in Eric Schwartz's old Amiga animations (see the "Links" section for an example). and wore only a short blue skirt, not even a top. She was incorporated into Sabrina-Online as Sabrina's roommate, now wearing a shirt and more conservative trousers, and was first the girlfriend and later the wife of Thomas Woolfe, and mother to Timmy.
Thomas Woolfe: Character actually belonging to Michael Higgs. He is a wolf (who hardly resembles one), and managed to have a baby with Amy the Squirrel through cartoon magic.
Timmy: The hybrid baby son of Amy the Squirrel and Thomas Woolfe. Too young to be able to speak, but able to think in words-and chew up Transformers toys.
Zig Zag: Character actually belonging to Max Black Rabbit (whose own fursona appears briefly in the strip). She is a skunk/tiger hybrid with distinct stripe markings, and appears in a large variety of adult furry stories and artwork, though Sabrina-Online can take the credit for having made her famous. Since she is depicted in different ways by different artists (for example, several authors have different versions of her "real name"), I am only reviewing this character as Eric Schwartz depicts her in this webcomic.
Zig Zag occasionally comes close to owning a personality. She's the loose star who runs "Double Z Studios", the porno studio Sabrina works at. If you count "loose" as a personality, sure. "Playful?" I guess, if you're feeling generous, or maybe "outgoing". That would work. Unfortunately the fact that she is an example of absolute failure at psychology ruins whatever simple charm she may have been able to muster.
Zig Zag is a character advertised to us as being sexually abused by her father at a young age. (This is in Max Black Rabbit's official profile for her.) It's understandable that something as traumatic (and generic) as that would leave some deep emotional scars, particularly linked to physical contact or trusting other people. Unfortunately Schwartz decides to take psychology outside and piss all over it by having this character completely shrug off her dark past in favour of an existence sexually harassing the unwilling main character.
Fun Game: Imagine if Zig Zag had been drawn as a male sexual predator instead of a female. Consider how a male Zig Zag would probably have been cast as an evil and slimy boss, whereas this one's mammoth chest seems to work as a 'get out of jail free card'. How far into the plot do you think man-Zig would have been arrested? WIN AT GENDER STEREOTYPING YAAY
(I suppose I should admit that I myself have done my own mini Zig Zag Comic, where she meets Zephy Fox of the Vicki Fox webcomic, hits up on Zephy, and gets violently rebuffed for it. Shortly after Vicki herself encounters her and learns what happened. I asked Max Black Rabbit himself for permission for doing this, and he agreed. I am not making this up. BTW my reason for mentioning this is to prove that Max Black Rabbit seems to be permissive about letting other people do what they want with Zig Zag. Long Tom.)
Transformers: Yes, as in the toy line produced by Hasbro. But they aren't merely toys in this webcomic; they also have lives of their own, and have even established communication with the comic's organisms. Well, in a way.
But Obviously Sabrina-Online Is Quite Popular. Can You Explain Why?
There are things whose popularity I am at a loss to explain, such as the Garfield comic strip. But it would be a lie to say that Sabrina-Online is without merit.
What sort of merit? For one thing, the artwork, despite being derivative as mentioned above, is at least quite expressive and animated. Also, Eric Schwartz can manage a good balance of black and white and reasonable detail inside those tiny frames. Proportions are also good and backgrounds aren't cluttered (or copy-pasted types). At least all the drawing (with a few exceptions) is done by hand, which isn't the case for a lot of webcomics.
As mentioned before, the humor in this webcomic is like that of the average sitcom. In other words, mildly amusing, if not especially witty. And in the average sitcom, it takes proper interaction between the characters to make it work, like Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton and their respective spouses on The Honeymooners, or of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and the Mertzes on I Love Lucy. Eric Schwartz, whatever his flaws as a writer, is capable of making his characters work together. On the minus side, he overdoes on using Transformers toys jokes.
Also, despite the heavy use of sexuality, Sabrina-Online doesn't fall into the trap of glorifying pornography and conflating it with feminism like the old comic series Omaha The Cat Dancer had done. Eric Schwartz at least admits that pornography essentially plays to base male instincts and not empowerment of females.
Of course, even before Schwartz founded Fur After Dark and started writing porno characters into Sabrina-Online's plot, he was still a pervert, just secretive about it. He posted porn of licensed Warner Brothers characters in accounts like this one. He would draw porn of his beloved pervette skunk-thing for other furry artists. These artists would in turn give him favors. (One of the artists he gave such porn to was Max Black Rabbit, whose character Zig Zag was incorporated into Sabrina-Online as previously described-though doing so ended up making Zig Zag a very well-known character in the furry world!)
Like Fred Gallagher and Tom Fischbach, Schwartz hates it if you draw porn of his lead character, in this case the horny skunk. He can draw it, he can sexualize her, but you can't, because, like most webcomic artists' female leads, Sabrina is really supposed to be Schwartz' own pretend girlfriend, and that means she's supposed to be off limits to all others.
This is a perfect example of how to make a sleazy porn webcomic without graphic sex scenes, nudity, or even profanity. Sabrina-Online is, to me, a webcomic that reeks of potential that has been used for seedier purposes than it might have; like using wishes and rainbows to decorate a sex offender's car. Schwartz's art, though admittedly just a ripoff of more successful artists before him, could be quite cute if used to draw the bouncy little cartoon animals it was intended for. Instead he uses it to draw bouncy little cartoon porn stars covered in bouncy cartoon spunk. Zig Zag is one of the few characters in this mess to almost have a bit of charm, but Schwartz pushed her obsession with sex to such an extreme that he forgot to give her any other interests or personality at all; everything in the character's life revolves around her genitals.
Guys like Schwartz make webcomics, and their porn ends up being their only redeeming quality (and only then if you enjoy whacking it to a squirrel getting raped by alien tentacles); their webcomics eventually die out because they're mediocre and boring, and so only those who switch to shitting dicknipples survive. Furry Survival of the Fittest, my friends. There's a reason Eric makes porn now.
Note to self: Webomic sucks. Must add characterization. And come up with my own style that shows off the talent I could really have.
- Eric Schwartz' new porno paysite, Fur After Dark
- Schwartz' gallery proving that Looney Tunes caused brain damage in its viewers
- Wikifur article on Zig Zag, character belonging to Max Black Rabbit
- Wikifur article on Thomas Woolfe, character belonging to Michael Higgs
- "A Walk In The Park", an old Amiga video featuring Eric Schwartz's character Amy the Squirrel. Even back in the day, he depicted naughty jokes using half-dressed cartoon animals.
- "Fans Of Sabrina-Online", a Yahoo! group of Sabrina-Online fans of which Eric Schwartz himself is a member. Even they are willing to criticize the comic and its author as they see fit.
- Archived article on Crush Yiff Destroy.
- Encyclopedia Dramatica, unsurprisingly, has an article about Eric Schwartz and this webcomic, and said article links back to this review (NSFW).
- This is where he used to post gross porn pretending to be someone else - The lie fooled no one and the site even had the same IP (NSFW).