|Original review author:||Macchupichu|
|Webcomic name:||The Frumps|
|Start Date:||August 8, 2011|
|End Date:||January 22, 2018|
|Defining Flaw:||Horrendous artstyle paired with childish humor, ineffective soapboxing, and revolting fanservice.|
You might remember a site called FunnyJunk. I’ve been going there for almost my entire life, so it’s difficult for me to leave. FunnyJunk happens to have a section dedicated to original webcomics, which has allowed some excellent comics, such as Conquest of the Goblin King or It’s the Tie, to get the recognition they rightly deserve.
Unfortunately, there is no vetting process for this group, meaning anyone can submit their comic no matter what quality it may be. For every good webcomic you find, there’s a bad one lurking in the corner. For every Scrap and Topheavy, there is a The Frumps.
The Frumps is not just a webcomic, it's a cautionary tale - a warning against self-indulgence and complacency in one’s work. A seven-year ego trip by its author, Saeed Faridzadeh, it is the product of a flawed foundation that was solidified into a systematic, formulaic factory of bad. If you enjoy pointless obscenity without cause, excessive swearing on the level of a child who just discovered how to say no-no words, and ass-ugly art marketed as being sexy, then this is the comic for you.
This webcomic started bad and got worse.
The comic stars Virgil and Lance, two
slugs frogs aliens things who are later turned into humans following a soft reboot in 2016. These two are described as being “adorably vulgar”, and while they certainly have the “vulgar” part down, they failed to deliver on the “adorable” part.
Virgil (green) tends to be the more prominent character of the two. Many of the strips center around him getting into all sorts of silly shenanigans, such as grand theft auto, arson, bestiality, and of course homicide. Following the reboot, his psychotic behavior is toned down in favor of your generic macho-man stereotype. Virgil is depicted as being a ladies' man who has a super-hot girlfriend, with women fawning over him left and right. Naturally, despite being a total jackass, he never gets into trouble for anything and is often depicted as being the “good” guy, because as the author himself admits, Virgil is an “alter ego”, which is code for self-insert power fantasy.
Shortly into the comic, Virgil gets himself a girlfriend named Kim, who is not at all an imaginary waifu for Zadeh to fantasize about, no sir. Kim somehow has the decency to overlook Virgil’s criminal history, textbook sociopathic mannerisms, and the fact that he’s a slug. She is your typical Mary Sue character who is super smart and oh so sexy. If you’re not convinced on the “sexy” part, don’t worry, because by God will Zadeh try everything in his hand to prove to you (and probably himself) that she is. I’m sure you all know what that means.
Lance’s character is a bit fuzzy for a while. Sometimes he’s portrayed a socially-awkward tech geek and the straight man to Virgil’s craziness, but other times he’s portrayed as Virgil 2.0, participating in his shenanigans for seemingly no good reason, and even executing a few misdeeds himself. Post-reboot, the mischievous side of him is dropped as the nerd aspect is amplified, and his interactions with Virgil become few and far in between, with Lance instead spending most of his strips going off on his own.
Story and Plot
The comic is a gag-a-day that revolves around the Frumps’ “hilarious” antics. Often this involves placing them in various scenarios and having them come up with the most immature, vile, and over-the-top reaction the author can think of. With well-developed characters in the hands of a good writer, this would be an entertaining premise. Unfortunately, Lance and Virgil are not well-developed characters, and Faridzadeh is not a good writer. Usually the punch line of a strip is simply one of the two saying or doing something wildly inappropriate, regardless of whether or not it was called for, in a cheap grab at shock value the likes of which might be expected from a high schooler trying to sound edgy, or perhaps an elementary schooler trying to sound funny. This could be something like coming up with some kind of colorful swear, making a poopy joke, or just plain beating someone up and talking about kicking their mom in the gonads.
If you aren’t completely enamored by these two yet, then maybe you’ll be won over by the reference jokes. That’s right, Virgil and Lance might be psychopaths, but they play video games, and are into sci fi, just like you! Quick, identify with them! Be endeared!
But don’t think for a moment that The Frumps are all piss and jizz. When they’re not up to their usual antics, Virgil and Lance will come together to talk about very serious issues near and dear to the author’s heart, such as homelessness, racism, and the educational system. Ignore the fact that literally one page later they’ll nonchalantly stab a man to make a point; clearly these two are the voice of reason. There’s even a strip regarding sexism, which is a real hoot considering the portrayal of women in this webcomic.
Even more prominent than soapboxing is diatribe. The Frumps can be seen complaining about every odd thing under the sun. In fact, I’d say about a third of the strips are diatribe strips. Every time, these comics are accompanied by a lengthy blog post where Zadeh himself continues to rant about the subject. You get the impression that he’s a man who loves to complain. He even wrote an entire essay putting down Ninja Turtles fans. Here are but a few other subjects ranted about in these comics:
- Texting on dates
- Self-help books
- People with clipboards
- Coffee shop squatters
- Organic food
- People who drink from mason jars
- Pause buttons
- People who fake being handicapped at amusement parks to get to the front of the line
Is amusement park line fraud really so rampant that there needed to be a comic strip about it? Personally, I can’t think of a less important issue to make known to the public. It would be like if someone thought climbing into dryers was such an epidemic that they had to talk about it on national tele- oh…
Later on, these diatribes become even more transparent, often with the author not even making a strip out of it and just flat-out saying what he’s thinking like a glorified Twitter post. Remember, if it’s being said by a cartoon then it must be true!
What’s better than mindless vulgarity, weak soapboxing, and incessant complaining, you ask? That’s right - titties! Faridzadeh tends to make any excuse to draw a big ol’ pair of knockers, with nipple bulges of course. Earlier strips involving a “sexy” woman (read: any strip involving women) will usually be about Lance chasing tail, with some exceptions.
Post-humanization, as Kim takes center stage, the author makes many an excuse to draw her in more suggestive outfits, and even throws her mother into the mix for good measure.
Did I mention Kim’s mother? Olivia gets introduced towards the latter end of the webcomic, and is involved in the only two arcs that could remotely be considered a story throughout this webcomic’s run. Which I guess means we need to return to:
Story and Plot (Again)
Virgil comes across an old Playboy magazine and shows off the centerfold to Kim, who is shocked to discover that it is in fact her mother. Hey, it happens.
Naturally, the best thing to do after finding out your boyfriend waxed his parsnip to your mom is to introduce the two. They all meet up at a bar where Virgil, surprisingly enough, acts like a complete gentleman… no wait, he enlists the help of a barkeep to hold the bar hostage using swords, so he can stage a fight to impress her. While they’re setting this up, Kim shares her frustrations with Olivia. Oh, she’s not upset that Virgil spanked it to her mom, and she’s not upset that Olivia hid her Playboy job from her. She’s not even upset that Virgil seems to be trying to seduce his own girlfriend's mother. No, she’s upset because Virgil’s sexual attraction towards Olivia reminds her of her dead fucking father, what the fuck, dead dad out of nowhere.
Now an ass-grab at the heartstrings from a webcomic that up to this point had been marketing itself as a comedy may remind you of a certain other strip that tried the same thing and failed very, very badly. And while it’s nowhere near Ctrl+Alt+Del levels of embarrassing, it still carries about as much weight as a helium balloon and pays off in the most disgusting of ways. See, Virgil and the barkeep carry out their half-assed attempt to impress Olivia, which immediately fails, thus breaking Virgil’s facade and exposing him for the giant dickbag he really is. This of course causes the middle-aged Olivia to practically goosh herself over him (Notice how she slowly high-beams over the course of the strip - Zadeh is a man who knows how to be subtle), because as it turns out Virgil is just so attractive, with broad shoulders and a great ass, and he also just so happens to look and act just like her dead husband. How touching.
The date ends, and Virgil and Kim return home to find Lance masturbating on the couch. The strip ends with another unfunny reference filled with more mindless swearing, because that’s all Zadeh seems to know how to end his strips with.
The second storyline isn’t quite as dense, but still worth mentioning. Virgil accompanies Kim and Olivia to the mall to go shoe shopping in hopes of seeing Momma try on some lingerie. Once at the mall, he quickly gets bored, wanders off, and winds up posting pictures of his girlfriend and her mom’s feet on a fetish site. But he soon returns so that Kim can help him shop for coats. At first he’s unsure about the one picked out by his girlfriend, but when a passerby casually hits on him - because again, he’s just soooo sexy, don’t you forget it, viewers - he decides maybe it’s worth getting.
Also while at the mall, it is suddenly revealed that Olivia not only posed for a Playboy magazine, but also starred in a French erotic film. Oh, and Kim once did naked oil wrestling. You know, normal woman things.
Kim vents her frustrations to some random fuckoff, who lashes back that his own daughter starred in a niche porno (I’m pretty sure it’s prerequisite in this world that every girl be involved in some form of erotic activity before they turn 30), so maybe she should zip it. This gripping plotline then goes dead in the water for three fucking months before being quickly wrapped up in a single strip, where Kim and Olivia reconcile their very pointless and stupid beef with each other, while Virgil makes another lame joke about boobs. Yay, development.
In January of 2014, Zadeh announced he was opening a Patreon account for The Frumps. Rewards at first were simple - sneak peeks of upcoming strips, and a shot at getting completed books, if and when they were released.
But that wasn’t all he offered! You knew this was coming. That’s right: The Frumps had porn.
Is there any greater sign of desperation than Patreon porn? Quite literally whoring out your characters in exchange for sweet, sweet dough. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
By October 2016, almost three years after he opened the Patreon, it had yet to make over $100 a month. By this time he had added several new rewards, including the privilege of watching his stand-up comedy routines (no really), printed books, sketches, and of course pin-up drawings. All of Kim, obviously.
But this was no ordinary porn - no, this was premium porn! That’s right, by donating more money, you could get progressively lewder versions of the same pin-up drawings, meaning the more you paid, the less Kim would wear.
Unfortunately, his Patreon is now closed, so we will never know just how much money the webcomic wound up making over the course of its run (unless our friends from Graphtreon might help - oh look, he did make it over $100/month in the end). But he would continue to advertise these pin-ups until the very end of the series, always with the same pay-to-strip model, and there is reasonable evidence that people actually bought it. I can only assume that these same people just discovered the internet and think of porn as a box in the woods.
The webcomic ended not with a bang but with a whimper in early 2018, after Zadeh decided that he wasn’t satisfied with how it was turning out, and that what he’d really rather work on is his stand-up comedy. In late May of the same year, conveniently after a certain review popped into existence, the entire webcomic was nuked off the face of the internet, including the Facebook page and his now-private FunnyJunk profile - which really only serves to make this article the most prominent search result if you were to look this thing up, so... thanks, I guess?
The writing is lazy, shallow, and contrived. Zadeh appears to have spent no more than two minutes on any joke, coming up with the simplest, crudest overreactions he could think of, which 90% of the time amounts to saying some kind of over the top swear, inciting some kind of violence for no reason whatsoever, or talking about some kind of bodily fluid. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from a middle schooler, not a man in his thirties. Excessive vulgarity for its own sake is not funny. Excessive violence for its own sake is not funny. References are not fucking funny.
It is why the violence is incited that makes all the difference. If Virgil simply smashes Lance’s laptop for no reason whatsoever, that doesn’t come off as funny, it just comes off as cruel. If a cat walks up out of nowhere and breaks a keyboard over someone’s head without warning, we don’t laugh, we just feel bad for the man and hate the cat. Compare these strips to this other strip, which actually is just the slightest bit funny. See what the difference is? In this strip, the office worker actually did something to warrant what was coming to him, so we enjoy it when he gets his comeuppance. Think about Looney Tunes, a cartoon that is renowned for its revolutionary slapstick comedy. Why did it work there when it fails so miserably here? Because Looney Tunes knew that violence is only funny when it happens to people who actually deserve it.
If Virgil’s sadistic acts backfired on him, that would be funny! Because he’s a jackass who needs to be brought down a peg. Think of more successful “lovable asshole” characters, such as Eric Cartman or Daffy Duck. Sure they’re pieces of shit, but they’re also fallible. They represent our psychological id: unhinged, primitive thinking that, while carrying a glimmer of truth, still needs to be put in its place. We look forward to seeing these characters’ plans go wrong, which they often do, unless of course someone else comes along who’s even more deserving of bad fortune. That’s how comedy works. But no, Virgil always has everything go his way with no repercussions, no matter how much of a Hell demon he is. It’s always his targets who are deemed to be in the wrong, because as we all know, it’s not just Virgil talking, it’s Zadeh. And let Hell freezeth over before Zadeh show himself or his self-inserts as being bad or wrong.
This all comes back to bite him in the ass when he tries to make commentary. No one’s going to take seriously any kind of sociopolitical statement this webcomic tries to make if it’s all being said through someone who just ran over six kids with his car, yet Zadeh feels he can stick it to his enemies by projecting his voice through his webcomic.
As for the women… The only woman who isn’t portrayed as some kind of fuck doll for Virgil and Lance to chase after is Kim, but it doesn't do a fat lot of good to have a Strong Empowered WomanTM if you turn right around and sell her nudes on Patreon.
Who exactly was Kim for, Zadeh? What was her purpose? Was there any reason other than to be your - I’m sorry - Virgil’s ultra-perfect, ultra-sexy waifu for you and your viewers to have a quick wank to? Hell, at one point she even goes to the past, just so that her past self can describe her as, and I quote, “the most awesome woman I’ve ever met”. It’s like the time traveler’s version of jacking themselves off. Not even Kim’s mother was safe, that’s how bad it was. Her Mary-Sueism was so strong it actually infected another character.
"Am I crying or are my eyes just fucking vomiting?" -Buckymcbadbait, FunnyJunk
There is a distinct difference between bad art and amateur art. Amateur art exhibits certain mistakes, such as poor anatomy, improper proportions, stiff poses, and, most tellingly, poorly-drawn heads and faces. Amateur art is inherently bad, but no one holds it against the artist, so long as they continue to practice and improve.
Bad art is a polished turd. It arises when the artist refuses to refine those fundamental skills which are so crucial to creating any kind of drawing. Perhaps they feel it is simply not important. Perhaps they are unwilling to submit to the admittedly boring and arduous task of practicing these skills. Perhaps they claim that their flawed fundamentals are in fact simply their style, and this is how they choose to draw - a well-known cop-out among artists. Whatever the reason, they forego the practice because they are so eager to have their final product, not realizing that the sooner they improve on these fundamental skills, the more time they have to reap the reward, which comes in the form of finer work.
It is very obvious that at no point in the seven years Zadeh drew this webcomic did he ever do any kind of studying, be it from a class, textbook, or otherwise. As a result, his drawings never make it past the amateur stage. Instead, those rookie mistakes get hardwired into his “official” drawing formula, if there even is one. Limbs are deformed and stiff, proportions are off, heads look like Pringles chips when turned to the side, and the faces… well, the faces speak for themselves, don’t they. In fact, the only thing Zadeh ever shows any competency in drawing is breasts, which is a sad testament to what he found important to practice.
This isn’t to mention the sheer laziness of his work as well. Many times the bodies are copied and pasted to save time having to draw the same thing over and over (guess what: that’s how you get better), and the author even admits to designing the backgrounds in Google Sketchup instead of actually drawing them, which becomes painfully obvious when you start seeing things like shelves filled with the same wine bottle, or warehouse shelves that perfectly mirror one another. God forbid you have to put effort into your artwork.
The sad part is, we see faint traces that he could have been a good artist. When he tries, he actually produces some work that’s… well not good, but at the very least better than what he usually does. Hell, those slugs were looking pretty good too, by the end of their run. They had a clean, simple, expressive style that worked quite well. He seems to express excitement when he feels he has improved with his work, which seems to indicate that he wants to get better. But time and again Zadeh throws any sense of progress out the window and sticks to his usual sub-par norm. And then, after churning out seven years’ worth of bleh, he has the audacity to talk about how disappointed he is that the webcomic didn’t perform to his standards.
At first I had pegged the slugs’ retirement as the official “downfall” of this webcomic (there wasn’t far to go), since he was effectively giving up the one thing he came to actually be good at drawing. But then the porn came and set the bar even lower than I thought it could go.
Saeed Faridzadeh was born in 1978 in Puerto Rico, and moved to Massachusetts when he was 13. Sometime later, he would move to Southern California. Starting in 2003, he began working in the film industry as a digital artist for the show Reno 911! On a side note, whoever granted him the professional title of "artist" should be shot.
Faridzadeh would continue to work in the film industry as both a digital artist and digital compositor (someone who assembles various assets into a single image) at least until 2016, and most likely still today. Movies worked on include Death Race, Land of the Lost, The Last Airbender, Total Recall, Skyfall, Kick-Ass 2, and Spectre. In November 2011, he moved to London for reasons unknown, but is now living back in the United States, specifically New York City.
For several years now he has pursued stand-up comedy, and even retired his webcomic to further pursue this alley. Judging from his blog posts, his performances tend to be lukewarm at best, which is not too surprising given the type of comedy he has presented in his webcomic, which more often than not falls flat as well. One would think this would be a clear indicator that the overall mechanics of his humor need improvement, but unfortunately this never seems to get through to him.
Zadeh seems to have quite a bit of emotional baggage to let out, as is evidenced by his countless diatribe strips. Many times he exhibits a holier-than-thou personality, even over the pettiest of issues. Other times he seems to pour his heart out into blog posts, either wanting to talk about certain issues he holds close to him, or perhaps to talk about his personal life, or even just to thank viewers for reading his webcomic. It becomes quickly obvious that the webcomic is not just an entertainment medium for him; rather, it is an extension of his mind and his own method of mass communication with anyone who would care enough to listen. Often times the only responses he gets on his comics are of the same few fans, who diligently respond to each post. In this way, one almost feels bad for Zadeh. It’s as if all he really needed was someone to talk to.
That being said, he often gives the impression that he is not the greatest of people. Granted, we are only painting a picture of him based on what he has shown us, both in his blog posts and in his comics, but this is how he chose to represent himself. And what we see is someone who celebrates pure unadulterated violence without cause and excessive vulgarity without reason. We see someone who takes joy in complaining about trivial things and swinging at strawman representations. We see someone who boasts about sabotaging his own reputation for minor gain. We see someone with rather sexist and even racist points of view. All in all, we see a man with a narrow field of vision who is filled with bitterness and vitriol for all those whose views do not perfectly match his own.
Also, one of his favorite movies is White Men Can’t Jump, for its excessive vulgarity and insults.
This webcomic fails in every aspect it sets out to achieve. It tries to be funny, but it fails. It tries to be sexy, but it fails. It tries to be endearing, charming, powerful, influential, and it fails, fails, fails, fails. It fails at its purpose of being vulgar and immature; it certainly doesn’t do it in any entertaining manner. It even fails at selling porn, which is like throwing a bowling ball at the ground and missing.
In seven scrote-clamping years, out of hundreds of strips, there were only four that made me laugh. And here they are. That’s it. I just saved you from trudging through seven years’ worth of mediocrity. Seven years, and it has a less than 1% success rate. That really should tell you all you need to know.
But hey, at least the Germans liked it.
This is where I would put a link to the site, but coincidentally, the webcomic and all of Zadeh's associated web pages have mysteriously disappeared now that this review is out. (Psst, hey Zadeh - you missed a spot.)