Sandra and Woo
|here in the "Reactions" section.|
|Original review author:||Long Tom|
|Webcomic name:||Sandra and Woo|
|Author:||Writing is by Oliver Knoerzer aka "Novil", writer, art is by Powree|
|Start Date:||October 19, 2008|
|Genre:||Slice-of-life, humans and non-anthropomorphic (but talking) animals|
|Defining Flaw:||Unlikable characters, adult situations, violence, soapboxing, and moral hypocrisy, all wrapped up in a package that looks like innocent family entertainment.|
I saw an advertisement for the webcomic and started reading it, and at first it seemed nice.
The webcomic had a good beginning, but as it continued, it started becoming erratic and random, then things got worse as violence, cruelty, vulgarity, and false morality crept in and ruined everything.
Story and Plot
The story begins with Sandra, an 11-year-old girl who lives with her father. (Her mother had died some time ago.)
Sandra finds an escaped pet raccoon which her father brings back to his owner, but when the father discovers the owner is abusing the raccoon, he takes it back and keeps it as his pet. Alone with Sandra, Woo (as the raccoon calls himself) reveals his ability to talk to humans, but begs her not to tell anyone else about this, and she agrees.
Sandra has Woo go out and explore the nearby forest area, where he catches a squirrel named Sid, whom he is about to eat, but he is stopped by a red fox named Shadow, who turns out to be Sid's friend, and Woo befriends them both before returning home. (The animals can talk to each other, but only Woo is able to talk to humans as well.)
As the webcomic continues, Sandra grows older, and there are a variety of story arcs, sometimes with Sandra and Woo together, sometimes with Sandra and her classmates and/or friends, and sometimes with Woo and the local wildlife.
One story arc is based on a real-life incident: A student who is taking insulin is mistaken for one using illegal recreational drugs by the administrators of the school, but when the student explains his situation, he is not heeded. Okay, such foolish administrators deserve to be mocked, but the story overdoes it. The case can be made for fighting mockery with mockery, but not with excessive silliness.
Another story arc starts with a strip with a cute beginning and a shocking twist at the end. Shadow the Fox realizes that he could face very serious consequences for biting a human hand, especially that of a child who happened to be that of a woman who had just bought the forest land, and who hates animals. Sandra learns of this, and the fact that the woman has scattered steel traps and poisoned bait in the forest land. What to do? Well...I would have expected better than this goofball resolution.
The author creates a strip depicting a popular fallacy about Jesus of Nazareth which indicates he had probably never read a Christian Bible too thoroughly, and is genuinely shocked by the harsh reaction in the strip's comments section. (Jesus of Nazareth did not just advocate love, peace, and forgiveness; he was a troublemaker who knew perfectly well that he would end up causing division and strife, for he preached against both the corrupt Jewish religious leadership and the Roman occupiers of the land.) But later on, the author takes another swipe at Christianity. Except that this story is from the Old Testament, before the time of Christ. Why not mention kosher laws and why Christians don't follow them...or for that matter, why don't most modern-day Jews practice animal sacrifices, also mentioned in the Old Testament? (The story of Cain and Abel being the most famous in dealing with the subject; Abel's sacrifice is considered more worthy by God because Abel sacrificed animals, while Cain, a crop farmer, sacrificed only his produce.) If the author really wants to take on religion, he's going to have to do better than these sketchy hit and run attacks.
But Sandra and Woo sinks to a new low with this.
The cast step out of character for this strip, which the author calls a tribute - yes, a tribute - to Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech. Presumably he, not being American, is unaware that "coon" is a derisive term for African-Americans. Also, Dr. King's speech was about past social and racial injustice in America, such as "whites only" signs and the inability of African-Americans to vote. The strip talks about animals and environmentalism, which may be important issues in their own right but nowhere near the level of the subject matter in Dr. King's speech. Raccoons caught in spring traps may be horrible, but this cannot compare to the oppression of human beings.
And a number of people (including yours truly) finally stopped following the strip once it went on the soapbox too often. Presumably this is the author's response. (It hasn't occurred to the author that maybe the reason people read a webcomic about a girl and her pet raccoon is because we want to get away from hearing about controversial topics?)
For the purposes of doing this review, I had to read the strip further. So what happens? Sandra and Cloud are getting older; they're taking more interest in each other. But it's not just the two of them. Oh, dear, things are getting to be complicated. (But the author hasn't forgotten about the animals.)
And then Sandra, Woo, Cloud, and Larisa go on a quest to look for treasure in an abandoned factory building-and said building is surprisingly low on clutter and filth, not to mention uninhabited by any street gangs, vagrants, or even rats. (However, the love triangle between Cloud, Sandra, and Larisa is not neglected.) After a fair amount of searching the place, this is all the treasure they find. Yet, irony of ironies...
But it is not only the humans who have relationships on their minds. Woo finds a female and is serious about keeping her. Sadly, Sid has no female for himself. (As shown earlier, Shadow already has his wife and kits.) And Burma is covered once more.
And in a new story arc, the webcomic takes on a new tone. We now have uncensored profanity - coming from small children, yet! But at least we get one more crazy storyline...but whaddaya know, it was just a computer simulation created by Cloud.
Another story arc has our heroes go to the beach. And the relationship between Sandra and Cloud is touched upon once more. The images of kids in bathing suits wouldn't be anything bad, if they hadn't been used in the comic's banner ads. If this sounds like an overreaction, keep reading. There are more discomfiting parts of the comic that will soon be revealed.
The kids also go on a camping trip, but it immediately turns disastrous. And our heroes are stranded with no way to contact home. What to do? Maybe not this. But while the supervising adult looks for rescue, Woo gets caught by a bird of prey, so the kids go chasing after him...and forget the supervisor. As for Woo...he is starting to become a lot less likable. Yet the mother bird's reaction is shockingly mild-mannered. Woo makes it back to the ground, but finds himself on the prey list. Meanwhile, Sandra and company continue their trek through a part of the forest, ending up in an area where lumberjacks are working. And when they encounter the lumberjacks, violence starts. Uh, Sandra and company were trespassing, but what does it matter, they're the heroes of the story. They manage to find Woo in the nick of time, and Cloud deals with those nasty wolves. (A scene that's awfully goofy even for this webcomic.) Sandra and Woo happily reunite, but again the author finds time to remind us of the love triangle business. Finally, everyone is taken back home safe and sound. Next, Woo returns to his forest and encounters his old girlfriend, and this is how it went.
If you thought that the "Woo Has A Dream" speech was a nadir for this webcomic, the author has managed to do worse. Namely, he does a strip where Woo attacks Sandra and rips off her clothes a la Calvin and Hobbes. Yes, there are cases of nudity in newspaper comics, such as nude scenes of Calvin, Dennis the Menace, or Andy Capp. But in the former cases, they are very young boys while Andy Capp is an adult male. An 11- or 12-year-old girl is a much different matter. Even the old Coppertone picture of the little girl having her swim shorts being pulled by the dog to expose her buttocks is now considered too controversial and no longer used. And now the author shows us Sandra's bare chest, though without nipples. Oh, sure, this is clean family entertainment - just as TwoKinds isn't porn because Tom Fischbach doesn't draw nipples on his furry characters' breasts or genitals on their crotches.
The art is monochrome manga line-art, with a fair amount of shading and realism, and the animals are toony but still largely resembling real-life animals. It has stayed exactly the same since the webcomic's inception, though sometimes the strips are in color:
Perhaps it is because the author does not actually do the drawing, but while Sandra and Woo has some quite clever jokes, it also has quite a number that are not very good, or are derivative, or simply make no sense.
The author also commits the sin of making strips that have to be explained in the commentary below, namely that the strip parodies cliched anti-drug messages. (Word of advice: if you have to explain a joke, don't use it.)
The author gets in a bit of soapboxing, fortunately not necessarily on the latest trendy subjects, such as the tiger being endangered, but the cause he covers the most is Burma's tyrannical regime, though admitting the common man cannot do anything about it.
Also, the author is German while his strip takes place in the USA, which leads to failed jokes like this, which is supposed to be a message about global warming. The author is evidently unaware that summers are normally hot in the USA and have been long before any talk of "global warming" ever existed, and that air conditioning is very common in American homes, buildings, and automobiles. Also, this strip refers to the Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute of the time in which gas supplies were cut off to Europe. Few Americans would make head or tail of this joke.
Also, earlier in the strip. the webcomic preached harshly against steel animal traps for their cruelty. But for Christmas, what does the author do? Draw a strip like this. Steel traps set by humans are unacceptable, but we're supposed to find Woo killing a squirrel for stealing a nut from his friend humorous, if not morally justifiable? Some moralist Novil is.
SECOND UPDATE: This webcomic's banner ads now indicate the strip's rather adult humor. At least the author is now honest about the fact that his webcomic is not cutesy family entertainment, as I had thought it was going to be when I first saw it.
THIRD UPDATE: I did a routine check on this webcomic, as it has been several years since I wrote the review. This is the current strip, and let's remember that the children are probably 14 or 15 years old at this point:
Novil is German and Powree is Indonesian, but that was all I was able to find on them.
The sad part is, I had high hopes for this webcomic when I first saw it. It began as a cute story about a young girl who adopts a pet raccoon, only to degenerate into ugliness. Yes, real animals are dangerous and harmful, and it is not wrong to depict this. But the story would later have the animals act wantonly cruel rather than merely using violence for survival. As for the human cast, the underage children get into rather adult situations involving lust and sexuality. If this webcomic wants to emulate South Park, why try to look like it's family entertainment?
But the worst aspect of Sandra and Woo is its moral hypocrisy. Take the beginning, where Woo's original owner is found to be abusing the raccoon. So Sandra's father considers it his right to steal Woo back and place the naughty owner in a cage himself? This might have been funny because the idea is so far-fetched. But Novil repeats this same theme many times later. As mentioned above, a student unjustly accused of taking illegal drugs starts a fire-and triggers the school's fire extinguishing system in response (and suffers no consequences for that). A wild fox bites the hand of a child (accidentally, but even so)-and the child's mother is depicted as the villain for setting traps for the wild animals on the land she owns in response-and she and her family are punished instead of the fox, who could have given the child rabies. And Sandra's grandfather responds to Monsanto Corporation's alleged crimes by making prank calls to their managers-and miraculously, he doesn't get into any trouble at all for it. Um, besides being illegal, that's going to change Monsanto's behavior in any way? And one more example is Woo eating a mother bird's eggs right in front of her-and the mother bird just sits by and lets him, despite the fact that it upsets her. But no bad things happen to any of them because they're supposed to be our heroes, right?
Yes, there are characters who are anti-heroes such as Lobo of DC Comics fame. He is evil, but so over-the-top in his villainy that he is as comical as he is scary, so he is entertaining rather than repulsive. Another example is Cerebus, the barbarian aardvark character who started off as a Conan The Barbarian parody who at least had a few redeeming features. But the fundamental problem with Sandra and Woo is that we are supposed to like and sympathize with the protagonists, and as described above, I found myself disliking them instead. And these are supposed to be good, ordinary people (and animals) rather than comical monsters a la The Addams Family. It might be entertaining to see definite villains do bad things, but it is merely distasteful when bad behavior is exhibited by supposedly "good" people.
But not only does Novil depict this pseudo-morality in his webcomic, he practices it in real life. He even twice made sabotage attempts to our review of this comic (described in the "Reactions" section). Funny how he preaches morality but uses Mafiosi techniques against people who cross him.
Germany in six words: Nazis bad, cars good, webcomic bad.