|Original review author:||The Helldragon|
|Start Date:||February 9, 2010|
|Defining Flaw:||Predictable parody made even worse by poor attempts at dramatic storytelling.|
You know, Spinnerette used to be better. Make no mistake - it's here on the Bad Webcomics Wiki for a reason. But compared to other comics on this list, Spinnerette was more innocent. It may have started life as a poorly written superhero parody designed to show off the main character in as many sexy positions as possible, but at least it looked like it was having fun.
This isn't the case anymore. Now that the comic's taken a turn towards more dramatic storylines, I've read comments from readers who pine for the early days of Spinnerette, where the stories were lighthearted and the breasts had no dramatic strings attached. But that's exactly the problem. Are you someone who thinks Spinnerette sucks now? Because I have to break it to you, friend - Spinnerette has had problems since day one.
Let's find out why.
Spinnerette is about Heather, a college student who develops the powers and abilities of a spider after being caught in a copyright-infringing experiment. She also grows four additional arms, but thank God her tits made it out okay. With her new powers, Heather decides to ignore her roommate's advice to go to a hospital and instead becomes a superhero just like her favorite comic book characters. It's a basic premise. Even at the start, it was barely realized - the humor mediocre, the characters one-note, the comic a chore to read. But at least it was cheerful. It wasn't GOOD, but personally I'd rather read about goofy superhero antics than the usual cynical skewering of the genre. It honestly could've been a lot worse.
> ONE EATEN CROW LATER
A while back, Spinnerette's writer "KrazyKrow" decided he wanted to write more serious stories about a six-armed girl who hangs with a werewolf in shorts. This has resulted in formerly flat characters developing new dimensions out of nowhere in an over-the-top manner. There's nothing wrong with characters becoming more complex, even in a comedy, but the way it's executed in Spinnerette leaves a lot to be desired. Combined with melodramatic storylines, Spinnerette has quickly become a downward spiral of bad writing. Though, considering how often the comic uses national stereotypes, readers in Australia must be watching it spin in the other direction.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's hit this piece by piece, and you'll see what I mean.
"Parody" is a word that's thrown around a lot without consideration. It's often used to describe any kind of comedy about a genre, even if it doesn't really try to mock that genre's tropes. This is Spinnerette's comfortable corner, relying on odd meta humor to communicate the premise. This gets us incidents where Heather is given a court order for using a costume that's similar to Venom, or the heroes discussing how big-breasted Super Milf has a costume that's taking a shot at DC. Superhero tropes aren't ridiculed, they're just mentioned.
But really, Spinnerette's meta humor wouldn't be so bad if it had any sense of creativity or wit. Comics have taken potshots at superhero tropes for a long time now, so to hold water, Spinnerette would need to put some inventive spins on the idea. Instead, the comic relies so much on silly real-world references that it falls flat on its ass. For a cheap gag in this universe, Bernie Madoff is a pharoah-themed villain with "pyramid power", and the supervillain named Dr. Universe became evil after reading Ayn Rand. (For me, it was Chesapeake.) This is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff.
And while we're down in this barrel with the fish and monkeys, let's not forget Spinnerette's third main source of humor - national stereotypes. Feel the resounding groan reverberate from your inner being and expel it to the world like the dawning of a annoyed god. We'll talk more about this in the Characters section, but we all know by now that humor based on stereotypes is old hat. It's so old hat that it dated the pot in high school while it was calling the kettle black. It CAN work, but again, it demands a new spin on old ideas, and that's not within Spinnerette's forte.
Now, I do want to be clear about something - just because a piece of fiction is comedic doesn't mean it can't have complex characters. Complex characters in comedy are even better because there's multiple angles to get comedy from. Think about a webcomic like Dr. McNinja. The main character is a ninja of Irish descent who's also a doctor. But beyond that one gag, he wants his family to respect him, he obsesses over shutting down his nemesis King Radical, and he has a kage bunshin no hardon about Batman. The premise of the webcomic is still humorous, but because McNinja is a layered character, Hastings can make more jokes with him AND use him for occasional serious moments. It's a winning combo.
Let me drag you by the hair back to the stereotype issue. Spinnerette's characters are bare-bones and one-dimensional. (At first, but we'll get to that.) Usually what defines them is a broad personality trait and that they are from a certain country. Heather is eager and American. Sahira is serious and Indian. Katt O' Nine Tails is a French masseuse, LE ECLAIR! You get me. Stereotypes are thrown around without rhyme or reason except to grasp for some kind of recognizable gag that the audience can realize. And then when you have Greta Gravity prance around in lederhosen because she's German, only to find out she was actually born in Brazil, you just jump from one gag-reflex to another. It's irresponsible at this rate.
Since these characters aren't parodies of common superhero tropes, that means most of the humor has to hinge on their personalities. Unfortunately, Spinnerette's cardboard people offer about one running gag and not much else. Let's go back to that Dr. McNinja example. Compared to him, what does Spinnerette have to offer? My favorite is Tiger, who insists he not be called "Black Tiger" because everyone assumes his name is Black Tiger because he is a black superhero. Aaaaaaaaaand that character's done, who's next? Well, there's Green Gable, who wears a dress because he's descended from Anne of Green Gables. Also, he's Canadian. You can see how few straws there are to grasp at here.
It's because all of these characters are so flat that Heather's old love interest, Darren, was probably kicked out of the plot due to his grand total of zero interesting qualities. It also serves to aid Heather's contrived relationship with fellow female superhero Mecha Maid. Maybe I shouldn't have expected a minor character like Darren to hold on, but the fact he vanished because nobody could figure out what to do with him, rather than giving him things they could do with him, is just one example of how bad Spinnerette's writing gets.
But why bother to characterize? Since the start, Spinnerette had one clear goal - draw sexy women doing sexy things. It's certainly enough to convince readers to contribute to the comic's Kickstarter. (I wasn't ready for all of those C sounds.) To Krow's credit, though, I think he realized this and decided he didn't want Spinnerette to be known just as a webcomic with sexy superheroes. That's why he's worked to bring more detail to Spinnerette's world, fleshing out the characters and involving them in more complex storylines than ever before.
It's only made things worse.
At first, Spinnerette was mostly about episodic superhero adventures. These were surprisingly boring. Even simple situations can be made better with interesting and/or funny characters, and since Spinnerette didn't have either, it was hard to care what happened. Most of the time, they were really just vehicles for bad meta commentary. But it was a framework to build upon - if the comic stayed the course and just developed its humor while working on better storytelling, all in the name of superhero comedy, Spinnerette might've had a chance.
And then comes Issue #7, where Evil Spinnerette, Heather's nemesis who turned herself into a drider, comes back to town. After tricking Heather and literally using Dungeons and Dragons books to create some evil minions, she kicks Heather's ass. When Heather asks why Drider doesn't just kill her, Drider asks the rhetorical question of why Garry Kasparov wanted to play against Deep Blue. No, put your Wikipedias down, we're not here to debate that. At this point, the comic begins to commit its greatest error: it tries to start being complex.
The following letters have bolded themselves out of fear:
Soon, characters exhibit more dimensions than ever before, and take part in more serious storylines. This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't presented in such a melodramatic, hamfisted manner. It almost feels like a completely different person is writing these stories now, because the execution is so awkward that it's hard to consider this being written by the same guy as before.
The results have definitely been mixed. People have often pointed to the storyline where Mecha Maid tells Spinnerette that she's in love with her after her mech suit is damaged and she's weakened by her illness. After some internal discussion, Heather finally decides to reciprocate and enters a relationship with her. A storyline about struggling with one's sexuality is...well, completely confusing in the superhero comedy. But it wouldn't have been BAD if these characters had spent any meaningful time together beyond just making puppy-dog eyes at each other. Also, one of Spinnerette's hands is apparently self-aware and gropes Mecha Maid. You can guess why it's hard to think of this as anything but cheap titillation to set up a lesbian couple.
But things get even more absurd than that. One of my favorites is the chapter where Heather's mutation goes out of control and she grows even more arms, probably to mimic some real-life forty-armed spider that's in my bathtub tonight. Dr. Universe makes a gamble to save Heather's life by removing her extra arms. When Heather learns that this didn't actually remove her superpowers whatsoever, she declares that they should've let her die.
In two panels, Heather's likability as a main character is torpedoed. Even main characters with big flaws can be likable to some degree, like the murderer who kills for a relatable reason. This is a girl whining about losing four extra arms she didn't need to cure a condition that was killing her, without jeopardizing her precious superpowers and lifestyle. It's hard to side with a character whose argument is "you bastard, you made me able to function normally!"
This is what kills the comic. These are silly characters in very dramatic situations acting like morons. It's incredibly hard to take seriously, especially when it's presented so badly. I don't think I need to go into detail about the current storyline as of this writing, the one where Mecha Maid wants to kill Colonel Glass, a Korean extremist with glass manipulation abilities, because he killed her parents. It's like a checklist for primo bad writing.
[X] "my parents are dead" [X] "I must get revenge" [X] "I am also dressed up like a robotic maid and I have hung out with a time-travelling Ben Franklin with superpowers"
AND YET, despite all of these struggles these characters now face, we still barely know about them or have a reason to care. All the attempts at characterization so far have been predictable writing tricks or more jokes. Even now, I have a hard time recalling anything about these people beyond the punchlines they were written for. There's fleshing out a character over time, and then there's trying to flesh out something that was nonexistent to begin with. And with Krow's track record, it comes off as just plain bad.
If you're looking for a superhero parody, this is it. Spinnerette is the edgy 90s comic book in full form. All flash, all juvenile, no substance, free trading cards.
The main artist for Spinnerette is Walter Gomez, with occasional artists for other chapters. It's easy to see why Gomez was selected for art duties - he has a talent for drawing the ridiculously endowed women Spinnerette needs to stay popular. I admit I'm not much of an art critic, but from what I've seen of his work, it's technically competent. Even then, the art don't "pop" for me. Maybe it's the samey panel compositions he tends to use or the lack of overall detail, but while the linework is clean and good, everyone still looks like a very bland anime character.
Strangely, I find that's different when other artists come in to do some chapters. I've actually read comments complaining about these artists drawing chapters besides Gomez, but usually I find they make the comic seem more alive. Characters feel different, backgrounds are more frequent and dynamic, and panels aren't restricted to the same two-three placements that Gomez relies on. Of course, there's the occasional I-can't-believe-you-drew-this-I-trusted-you but for the most part it does the job better.
I couldn't find much about KrazyKrow. Spinnerette is his fourth comic - the previous ones were Krakow (possibly the KrazyKrow name during its awkward childhood), Marilith and Krakow 2.0, which isn't actually a sequel to Krakow, but to Marilith. I haven't read these, and don't plan to, but in the words of BWW regular Oddguy:
"The first Krakow was godawful. It's a story about Krazy Krow's obvious self insert and his wacky, sexy succubus girlfriend he summoned from hell. Basically it's the deformed lovechild of My Life with Fel - namely, Lowroad with the art style of Warmage. Krakow 2.0 ran simultaneously with Krakow 1.0 but ended before it and had nothing to do with it. That comic was about "Marilith Millions", a sassy, tough girl assassin cliché who saves some Asian stereotype instead of killing her, then they form a due that reminds me of a shitty version of Miss Dynamite (back when he made comics and not porn) and blah blah blah it's pretty boring so I won't go into detail.
In the next comic "Marilith" (which should have been "Marilith 2.0") Krow finally accepts the fact he can't draw for shit and hires an artist. Or should I say a dozen because that's what it feels like. The story is moronic and confusing, mostly because there is no indication anywhere that it's the sequel to Krakow 2.0, so a lot of people (including myself) read it without ever reading part one. But even after reading it after reading Krakow 2.0, I still could not understand what the hell is going on. Part of that is because the story makes no sense, but also because (as I mentioned) the comic switches artists god knows how many times and none of them put any effort into keeping the comic in a consistent tone. So, in the end, you can hardly tell who is who anymore because not only do they no longer look like themselves, they don't act like themselves either because each artist projects a different personality onto the characters with their art. The worst thing about this comic was that at one point the artist changes again only for the sake of drawing a single chapter about rape. The chapter was gross without being at all touching in part due to the fact I couldn't understand who these characters even are at this point.
The bottom line is that, as bad as it may be, Spinnerette is still by far the best comic Krazy Krow has ever made."
I don't think Oddguy liked it. I'm not entirely sure. Beyond all that, Krow otherwise seems...sane? That sounds good on a resume. "RETAINS ALL MARBLES."
Ultimately Spinnerette doesn't have to be good to succeed. It's already had a successful Kickstarter and people buy the book collections and wallpapers. You shall now be surprised that people buy things they shouldn't, a feeling I know about ever since I bought a PSP. Oh, Spinnerette runs a big register, all right. But when Krow mentioned he wanted to write more complex stories, it put me at a crossroads about how I feel about this comic.
Make no mistake. Spinnerette is terrible. It's so focused on trying to fit in multiple seats - it's a superhero parody AND drama AND sex appeal - that it does none of it well. If Spinnerette was a comic that at least tried to specialize in the comedy or even the cheesecake, it would've turned out a lot better. But I can't fault Krow for wanting to improve. I've dabbled in a lot of writing myself. I get what it's like to be unsatisfied with your early work and want something more. I dislike Spinnerette a lot but I never want to be the guy who says "you should quit". If you're willing to work towards mastering a skill, and you're willing to learn from the experts on how to do it right, then I respect that.
However, it's clear that right now Spinnerette is a testing ground for Krow to develop these skills. The comic has suffered immensely as a result, and will continue to do so until Krow has enough practice under his belt. The question is this - are you willing to pay for book collections of bad comics until then? For me, the answer is no. I hope someday Krow can write the story he wants to write, with the level of execution it demands. But for now, Spinnerette isn't that story. And it's definitely not a story that belongs on a shelf any time soon.
"Am I still worried that some day Spinnerette will plunge into something so vile and inappropriate that this review will be completely invalidated and I’ll have to eat my words? My experience with Marilith has definitely put me on alert. However, it wouldn’t be the first time a webcomic has proven me wrong in the long run, and it won’t be the last. As it stands, Spinnerette treads on some very familiar grounds when it comes to superhero parody,
but overall it is a fun webcomic. That’s a pretty darned good thing to be."
- El Santo, The Webcomic Overlook
- The comic.
- Riff and review by Bad Webcomic Riffing.
- Another review of "Marilith" - mildly recommended until it starts "taking itself too seriously".