|here in the "Reactions" section.|
|Original review author:||GJon|
|Webcomic name:||Sunnyville Stories|
|Defining Flaw:||Max West can't draw, can't write, and can't deliver jokes. He is a triple non-threat.|
Max West (a.k.a. Skyfirefox, real name Mark Wiesner) has struggled and failed for years to impress the furry community. His magnum opus is Sunnyville Stories, a furry slice-of-life comic consisting of crude scribbles and recycled Family Guy and Garfield punchlines. While looking at the comic, please remember that West is in his 30s and attended the School of Visual Arts.
There's really no redeeming quality to any of West's work. The plot of the typical chapter is cribbed directly from whatever 80's cartoon West was watching at the time, and is delivered mostly via characters narrating their own actions.
The narration actually might be necessary, since the art often fails to communicate what exactly is happening in each panel. West can only draw that one generic furry animal face, so get used to seeing it everywhere, often with unintelligible facial expressions.
Most of the punchlines are uninspired, delivered gracelessly and formulaically. Many strips rely on spit-takes and eye rolls as opposed to actual humor. As mentioned, and seen in the thumbnail, West is also not above ripping off Family Guy, old Saturday morning cartoons, and Abbott and Costello routines, almost word for word.
The whole pile is held together by West's ego. Convinced of his own brilliance in comic-making, each comic page is adorned with two or three pages of his running commentary. He doesn't have much to say, but he's going to take a page to say it anyway.
Story and Plot
Rusty, a kid from the city, finds himself trying to cope with his new life in the "hillbilly town" of Sunnyville. We rarely see anything of Sunnyville or what's got Rusty so down - we're clued in by his constant narration about how things were better before and how he has no friends, and so on.
On arriving, Rusty is immediately befriended by Sam, and by "befriended", I mean she just finds him and declares them to be friends. There's no developing friendship or build-up - Sam simply appears out of nowhere and the friendship is made. It's hard to shake the vibe that West doesn't actually have friends.
Max West has "trained at the School of Visual Arts," yet somehow missed every essential basic cartooning technique. All his Sunnyville characters have the same lopsided generic animal head, with only the ears, fur markings and clothing to help distinguish them. There is no variety in body type, beyond tall vs. short and male vs. female. Characters are posed stiffly, with no sense of motion or life. During crowd scenes, you will lose track of who is talking, since there is a real lack of visual uniqueness.
In a more general sense, little attention is given to line weight, perspective, tone or blocking. There is no sense of volume or scale, and background elements are frequently "above" the foreground, as opposed to "behind" it, much like how children draw. Panels are touching with no gutters for clarity or spacing. Hatching and cross-hatching are egregiously terrible, with lines used for "tone" as opposed to suggesting volume and shading. As a typical example, check out this creature in the background, whose face has been obliterated by diagonal lines:
On occasion, in a desperate attempt for attention, Max will "cameo" a more famous character in his comic, such as Cerebus the Aardvark or The Flaming Carrot.
Despite this character only appearing once in a throwaway panel, Max will still tweet endlessly about their appearance. These characters have no relevance or bearing on anything else in the story, yet Max seems to consider it a major selling point, as well as a achievement of some sort.
The pointless effort is made even more pointless due to his ineptitude in capturing the cameo's likeness, and his stubbornness in only picking "underground" characters that everyone else is already tired of.
Very little of the humor is original. Most of the concepts are outright stolen from more successful, well-known cartoons and comic. Expect such great classic punchlines as:
Since West's only inspirations are 80's cartoons and animated sitcoms, there's only two personality types: The childish goofball male and the eye-rolling yet supportive female.
Many characters are introduced as "so-and-so's relative" then discarded, having no further use. It's more important to West for the reader to know these characters have a family as a prop, and not so much for plot relevance. For the short time these characters appear, they don't act like realistic people, and serve mostly to react to Rusty and Sam. In some cases, their main purpose is to laugh or roll their eyes at what the main characters are doing, much like the canned laugh track in an old sitcom.
West's longing for a simpler world, a world he can understand, is a running theme throughout the series, not just with how the characters act but also how he frames the comic:
- "Sunnyville Stories is a small-press comic about a BIG world!"
- "Sunnyville, a remote village where the animal inhabitants dress traditionally."
- "IMPORTANT! – All intellectual property on this page pertaining to Sunnyville Stories (unless otherwise stated) remains the sole property of Max West (that’s me). So don’t even think of stealing any of this work and passing it off as your own!"
Unoriginality and Plagiarism
Max claims the 80's anime Maple Town is the inspiration for Sunnyville, but in reality Sunnyville is just a half-assed carbon copy. Both stories are set in remote "utopian" towns occupied by friendly animal families: the Mouse family, the Rabbit family, and so on. The only difference is that Max West has changed the names in his town, but has added nothing else of distinction - the structure and tone are identical.
Beyond that, the plot of both Sunnyville Stories and Maple Town line up almost exactly to the episode. The first episode has a city family moving into town, and the child of that family making friends with a local. The first three episodes of both also include: The main character challenging an arrogant "upper class" rival and teaching them humility, and the main character and their friends thwarting a train robbery.
Coincidence? Other early episodes of Maple Town are: A family dispute caused by the family father working in secret on a project that turns out to be a special surprise for the mother. The children putting on a play, causing a lot of drama over who gets the lead. That covers 2/3rd of the plots in Sunnyville Volume #2.
This joke is from the Family Guy episode "To Love and Die in Dixie", word-for-word.
The "Have you tried Hare Krishna?" line is a running gag from the first Muppet Movie, word-for-word.
It's been suggested that due to his ego/autism, Max doesn't even understand the difference between ideas someone else came up with and him repeating them:
When it comes to plagiarism, sometimes two people come up with the same idea. When trying to decide if someone has stolen other people's work, it's important to look for patterns. Max West has made it a habit to take the words and ideas of other people and use them, almost completely unchanged, in his own work.
Other comics he's created are Von Herling, Vampire Hunter (A complete ripoff of Van Helsing), Sheldon the Mighty (A complete ripoff of The Karate Kid), and Ingmar the Wandered (A complete ripoff of Zatoichi, the blind swordsman). In each case, the only change from the source material are to turn the characters into cats, and change their name.
Everything you need to know about Max West can be learned from any 24 hour sample of his Twitter. He tweets constantly, often dozens of times in a day, and often responds to himself as part of long, rambling one-person conversations.
A typical 24 hour section of his tweets will include:
- A no-content How-To article he wrote months ago.
- Aimless fluff about his current project.
- Generic feel-good quotes. (The same small selection, over and over.)
- A link to one of the dozens of online stores selling his comic. (Why would you sell your product online in multiple places?)
- Knee-jerk hatred of Obama. Real Tea-Party blind hatred.
- Bragging about that one time someone compared him to Walt Kelly.
He has frequently posted about how FurAffinity has rejected him, claiming it's because they're "snobs" when it's fairly obvious his bitching and moaning about a lack of recognition drives people away. He often removes the rant, only to re-post it again weeks later, as without the constant reminder that FurAffinity is Wrong and Bad, he might actually have to accept the consequences of his shitty, immature behavior.
Additionally, he makes commercials for his book, refers to his work as a "sleeper hit" (a.k.a. not a hit) and openly wonders why "Why can't people see how good Sunnyville Stories is?"
Max is completely blind to his actual skill level, actually going as far as comparing himself to well-known artists like Norman Rockwell. He also puts an overly optimistic spin on mediocre reviews that actually mention how "stilted and lacking coherence" his comics are, calling them "praise" .
Max frequently tweets about "positive reviews" for his work, which are in actuality, just synopses he's mailed in to non-review sites such as the Midwest Book Review.
And of course, don't miss out on his insightful political cartoons.
Amateur-ish psychological analysis
Max West uses his comic as a security blanket. Reading his Artist Statement reveals that he DOES NOT understand today's world and does not care to even try to understand it. He feels like he doesn't have any control about how the world around him has changed or keeps changing and thus uses a comic stuck in a Reagan-era time bubble to compensate. (A time period he only knows through cartoons, and not one he personally experienced.) Max's ideal world is a place where girls wear skirts and play dolly and boys are slingshot wielding stripy-shirted Dennis the Menace types. Where the nuclear family is still prevalent, where women are relegated to motherly roles, and where nobody lives outside of heteronormative gender roles.
Due to his ego and self-imposed isolation, West has trouble being objective, especially about his own work. He frequently rages against people who don't find his work as brilliant as he does, including the few people kind enough to carry his work:
Additionally, West appears to have several problems understanding that other people don't see reality the same way he does:
West wasn't the praise he felt he deserved, so he posted fake fanmail on his site. He probably could have gotten away with it, but he couldn't resist writing in his own voice when pretending to be some random 10 year old from the Midwest (made rather obvious from the ridiculously aged names given to these "kids" ) :
When called on it by several people, both on his site and through Twitter, he took the fake emails down and posted a butthurt response. People who pointed this out to this, intending to be helpful, later got threats to "call the police" on them for "harassment" and many lulz ensued. To summarize, he thinks people are accusing him of "hacking review sites" as opposed to mundane lying, and he's still "eager to receive any email and letters about [his] work."
Several months later, Max posted a new fanmail after "one of [his] vendors passed this along... from an 11-year-old girl in Massachusetts":
Determining the plausibility of this as a legitimate bit of writing from an 11 year old, sent to and then passed along from an unnamed vendor, is left as an exercise for the reader.
West's Kickstarter earned a grand total of $7. Which meant not one single person wanted to buy a print version of Sunnyville Volume #1.
In light of this massive failure, rather than considering what might be wrong with his product, West is considering trying IndieGogo next, so he can keep some of that $7. His attempts at drumming up paying gigs has been similarly limp-wristed. He attributes his failure to lack of exposure, and not lack of ability.
Sunnyville Stories has dull characters, stolen plots and punchlines, and incomprehensible artwork. The demented, Anti-Obama, 80s-obsessed creator doesn't understand why most folks can't recognize his brilliance.