|here in the "Reactions" section.|
|Original review author:||Long Tom|
|Webcomic name:||The Lightbringer|
|Author:||Lewis Lovhaug (Yes, the "Linkara" one)|
|Start Date:||March 15, 2006|
|End Date:||September 19, 2012|
|Genre:||Superhero action-adventure, "philosophy"|
|Defining Flaw:||Poor art, walls of text, everything, and I mean everything in this webcomic is derived from other superhero scenarios.|
The rationale for reviewing it, just like with this webcomic, was that someone who is such a vocal critic of the quality of art should either hold himself up to those same standards or not make art at all (or at least not post it in public). What eventually tilted the scales towards not reviewing "Yahtzee Vs. The World" and reviewing this thing was that, while Ben Croshaw has long since disowned that webcomic for being bad, Linkara was still updating this shit up until about two years ago.
The second page was already so melodramatic that when I saw it I burst out laughing. Just look at it if you think I'm kidding:
"Quickly" seems to mean "Literally in one instance" and "Fell Apart" seems to mean "Someone scribbled something on the wall, set a trash can on fire and ripped off some of the brick colored wallpaper that covers all our buildings".
You would think this webcomic would get better because there is no way it could get any worse, but you got to give it points for consistency because it doesn't show one iota of improvement from its sad beginning to its equally pathetic end.
Unfortunately the author decided to start his webcomic before he actually learned how to draw.
At the beginning, lines were jagged when they were meant to be diagonal or curved, proportions and perspective were very erratic, there was little shading and no shadowing, color choices seemed to be random selections from the color chart, and overall the pictures had an atmosphere completely inappropriate for the storyline that went with it. The single trick that he seems to have known how to use besides the fill bucket was the gradient tool (applied via fill bucket).
Admittedly the artwork improves somewhat over time. Lovhaug learned how to draw diagonal lines and curves properly, his figures' anatomy was done more correctly, shading and shadowing were improved, coloring also became better. But it never improved enough to suit a superhero scenario that involves a lot of action. Even if it had, any suspense and drama is sucked out of even the scenes where they are just talking (they do a lot of that) as the melodramatic tone of the text juxtaposes with the comically bad art.
This genre demands figures flowing, twisting around in all sorts of ways, struggling against all sorts of forces, giving punches and reacting to them, impressing everyone with how they can move better than ordinary people. A superhero fight scene, as ill-fitting as it is to say this about static drawings, should be poetry in motion. But Lovhaug's artwork remains too stiff to effectively depict such action. The fights don't look like fights between living people. They look like someone posed some dead bodies long after the set-in of rigor mortis.
Lovhaug eventually handed the art duties over to Chad Rocco, another member of the "That Guy With The Glasses" website team.
Sadly, Lovhaug evidently could not get any of the artists who sent in good fan art pictures to do the webcomic.
In a way, the better artists didn't make the webcomic better, but instead made it worse. And I do "In a way" and not simply "Made it worse". No one can deny that not having to look at Lovhaug's atrocious excuse for art is a major improvement. However, the better art only amplifies the already melodramatic tone. Before, the joke of an art style helped mitigate the effects of the painfully artificial dialog. Now, all the conversations being held in dark alleyways with the character's faces being lit only by the glow of their cigarettes, change the tone from a laughably inept attempt at darkness and maturity to just plain old obnoxiously pretentious.
Story and Plot
If he had written a really good webcomic I would have been able to forgive the bad art because I would have told myself that the webcomic was made out of some sort of passion that also makes him obsess so much about comics in the first place and he just couldn't wait until he learned to draw to let out his amazing story. After all, this guy reviews comics, he should know how to write a good one.
Sadly, this is not the case. Despite having solidified himself as a web-celebrity comic expert, this webcomic shows that all those comics Lovhaug had reviewed have taught him almost nothing.
The story is written and formatted in issues like a comic book series, so I'll review it accordingly.
Carter Granholme is a resident of "Pharos City", a once-prosperous Midwestern city that (very) abruptly descended into violence and crime. Why? How? It is never explained. The plot needed it to happen so it did.
Carter's parents had recently been murdered in front of him on the street and if you are thinking that you started reading the origin story of "Batman" by mistake, then worry not because this feeling of deja-vu will follow you throughout the webcomic.
Anyway, he now makes a living by running his own furniture store (The author worked for one in real life). Trouble is, Carter is in debt to "The Slavers", the city's comically evil criminal gang that rapes children and enslaves people for fun (Linkara neglected to add the part where they kick puppies to really drive the point home). Carter then reveals that he has had his signature superpower since childhood, but didn't try to save his parents because they were pacifists and would have hated him for it (the phrase "thinning the herd" comes to mind).
After seeing a girl being attacked in the street, but doing nothing about it (maybe he feared his parents' ghosts would have come back to haunt him), he comes to realize the folly of pacifism, and decides it is time to use his ability to fight the criminal element in Pharos City.
Our protagonist now goes into action! But the police (and by that I mean "Jim Gordon" with a different name) aren't too happy... but what does it matter when things are so bad anyway, right? Who need due processes? Not the fucking police it would seem because they hardly ever actually try to stop him.
Back at Carter's store, Hannah, the attempted rape/mugging victim from before, comes in to seek employment and shows everyone how phenomenally strong she is (the author explains that he wanted to show that women were not always weaklings, but this was overdoing it). Surprise, surprise, she gets hired. Then "The Lightbringer" meets with the police chief to convince him that he is not out for blood and proves it by using his abilities to capture a Slavers gang member without harming him and bringing him to the police (is he channeling Batman or Spiderman this time?). Then characters from a previous novel series of Linkara's join in for no reason and are hardly ever seen again.
Soon he meets with the Slavers' leader, General Werres, who explains to him that he has been secretly running the city using the money from their criminal activities, and gets into a debate about the nature of good and evil.
The debate proves one sided because The Lightbringer just beats the shit out of him.
Either way, the "What is good and evil?" and "We're not so different, you and I" issue shows up in this webcomic quite a bit and in the most overblown and angsty way that you can imagine.
Pretty pointless chapter. A villain called "The Smiling Man" arrives in Pharos City and, seeing as how "Batman" already has "The Joker", "The Watchmen" has "The Comedian", "The Spawn" has the clown, "Superman" has a bunch of Joker rip-offs and "Ghost in the Shell" has "The Laughing Man", he's really pushing it in terms of originality. In any case, The Lightbringer proves hopelessly incapable of defeating The Smiling Man and has to give this person what he wants to get rid of him.
The Lightbringer saves a news reporter (Lois Lane pretty much) from fake suicide meant to get an interview with him. This has little importance and I don't even think we see this girl again, but I wanted to mention it just to drive home how unoriginal this all is.
Anyway, yet another villain enters the story. This one is some sort of puritan who is punishing evil in his opinion and, yet again, has the "We are really the same" and "Is it okay to do evil to stop evil?" discussions that a million other comics have already had a million times and that this webcomic seems to want to have a million times more.
Again The Lightbringer solves this moral dilemma by beating the guy up.
Yet another villain arrives in Pharos City, but not just any villain. He is in fact the Lightbringer's antithesis, The Darkbringer, who gets into a fight with our hero. His weapon is supposed to be rays of dark (what?), but it seems to me like his real power comes in the form of even more walls of pretentious text filled with another in a long line of debates about what is good and what is evil.
Jesus H. Christ, this takes two fucking issues to resolve. And if you thought The Butt-tingler er, I mean "The Lightbringer" is Linkara's Mary-Sue self-insert then you were wrong. LINKARA is Linkara's fucking Mary-Sue self-insert!
A character literally called "Linkara", who is some sort of fucking badass angel or something (and the protagonist of the aforementioned novel series), shows up to help The Light Pringler and have more boring conversations with him that are concluded by using comic book references that Linkara (the writer, not the character) assumes everyone will understand.
So his imaginary friends are now hanging out with one another and I decided that I've said all I need to about the storyline to make my point because I simply can not stand the thought of reviewing eight more chapters of this shit.
This Is The Part Where I Got Sick Of This Shit So Let's Move On To The Overall Review
It basically repeats itself from then on. General Werres is put on trial, The Dyke-fingerer fights more supervillains, gets into philosophical arguments with various people, develops his operations and social contacts and then there is the inevitable conflict with city hall that's pretty much just the last scene of the second "Dark Knight" movie and the webcomic suddenly comes to a halt.
Overall the story has some serious flaws. The biggest one being the fact that Pharos City started off as prosperous and went to shit almost immediately and the story doesn't explain why. In real life, once-prosperous cities that go downhill only do so after a long period of time, and generally for actual reasons, such as the big employer closing down or something similar. (Detroit being the most famous example.) But the story makes no mention of this sort of thing. The other possibility? Perhaps some sort of evil force abruptly descended upon Pharos City and plagued it... but that isn't indicated in the story either.
There is also The Lightbringer's background. His parents were extreme pacifists who came to Pharos City when it was prosperous, before it went bad. Why didn't they just leave when it became a violent hellhole? And how did Carter Granholme come to own a furniture store and be able to run it? The story doesn't explain where he got the money to buy or build it, or the business skills to be able to operate it. It also doesn't explain how and why he has superpowers, but when the story fails to explain even the most basic things, I find myself failing to be preoccupied with the bigger diversions from the laws of nature when all my attention is already focused on understanding how a city turns to a slum overnight.
Basically, the story is a derivative pastiche of every other comic, riddled with cliches and tropes from every other superhero. The Chris-kringler has Batman's backstory, Superman's personality, Green Lantern's powers and the exact opposite of anything that makes Iron Man cool. The story even lifts a scene directly from Watchmen.
As the above picture illustrates, the author isn't so much doing a webcomic as trying to simulate a comic book series on the web. Reasonable enough when the story is meant to be about a comic book-style superhero. A valiant attempt, I'll give him that.
But as mentioned above, the story has every superhero comic cliche you can see from a mile away. A man who has unusual powers faces personal tragedy so he takes it upon himself to become a superhero driven by his parents' ideology that they had bestowed upon him and complete with a costume and secret lair. And of course powerful supervillains emerge to confront him and inevitably someone discovers his secret identity and he has to deal with that. He also has to deal with the local law enforcement and has doubts about whether what he does is worthwhile and just and so on.
Yes, all that happens in pretty much every other superhero story, so why is it so bad here? Because other superhero stories tend to have elements to make them stand out, namely charm and cleverness or some originality of which there is not a hint of in Linkara's work. Spiderman has the title character be a nerd that makes wisecracks, Tony Stark is an arrogant alcoholic, Batman has the title character be dark and mysterious, as well as being a business, scientific, and crime-solving genius. What does The Lightbringer have? Lots and lots of boring text.
"The Kike Stinger" is a cardboard cut-out. His backstory is a mix and match of various other superhero characters', but Linkara has forgotten to give him a personality of his own beyond "Generic do-gooder". The webcomic is over-saturated with text, and yet, none of it contains anything that gives "The Jerry Springer" an identity, and taking Superman's doesn't count.
Which brings me to the aforementioned text. "The Kite Flinger" is drowning in it. Every panel is covered with a villain's dialogue or the hero's internal monologue. No one can do anything without breaking out into a fucking soliloquy. And the volume of the text isn't even the biggest problem, its content is.
I would say that the writing of this webcomic can only be described as pretentious, but that isn't true. It can also be described as angsty, overblown, exaggerated, grandiose, pompous, bombastic, gaudy, inflated, puffed up, artificial, awkward, theatrical, unnatural, unrealistic, melodramatic, overdone, pedantic, phony, ostentatious and, for those of you with a preference for simpler words, a pile of shit.
I admit that when I originally started writing this review, I had assumed some wannabe from Podunk read too many comic books and wanted to write one himself without knowing what he was getting into. But I received some news from other BWW members and looked him up on Google. I was astonished to learn that he was an Internet celebrity (though I never heard of him). No joke; he is even listed on the IMDb website, and here is his mini-bio from it:
IMDb made no mention of The Lightbringer (surprise, surprise), so I checked his entry in Encyclopedia Dramatica to be certain that this was the very same person who wasted time and money on producing such an amateurish webcomic, especially since he is a comic book critic himself.
So exactly who is this "Linkara" person, anyway? I let Plarblman do the honors.
For the record, I know most of this from being a TGWTG follower since the website's beginning. I stopped frequenting there when the site started going downhill (actually it's completely dead now), but that's beside the point.
His ED page says he got his Bachelor's in English with a minor in Philosophy, which I think explains a lot about the writing. It definitely reads like someone who's more accustomed to writing literature than comics, and the philosophy part is quite obvious. Oddly enough I don't see anything like that in his video reviews, so I guess he realized nobody was interested in his opinions on philosophy. Linkara also states that he's a feminist, something that he's mentioned both on his Lightbringer blog and in his videos. This normally only comes up when he talks about things like superheroine costumes, where he basically just regurgitates the same arguments blogs like eschergirls make. And while he did say he ended up rewriting White Death's backstory thanks to his conversion to feminism, there's still issues where he ended up getting hot and bothered by fanart drawn by drowemos of his (then-underage) character Hannah, to the point where he drew a softcore pinup of her (even going so far as to say "sorry gay men, I'm
not interested in drawing dick fresh out of fanservice for you". Interesting how he does mention lesbians but not straight women, too). He also wrote in the footer that he believes characters are as real as you or me, once again citing his philosophy degree.
For those of you wondering why the name "drowemos" sounds familiar, he's the same guy who wrote Exiern. I can't say for sure if Linkara's read it, but the link he provides goes directly to a NSFW comic.
Prior to writing or reviewing comics, Linkara was doing what any teenage nerd in 2000 was doing: writing Pokemon/Sailor Moon/Digimon fanfics and plagiarizing Dr. Who, much to his later embarrassment. He also published a children's fiction book in 2003, which has gotten pretty bad reviews (He wrote an also-panned sequel). His later 2009 comic book, Revolution of the Mask, got better reviews, but one person pointed out that it was basically just V for Vendetta but where Guy Fawkes was replaced with bland comic book nerds. It gets better, though; recently it was discovered that Linkara also wrote for Literotica, where one of his stories got rejected for including hermaphroditic superhero rape (NFSW). And it appears he had been on this forum as late as 2011.
Linkara had been doing written reviews of comics on his blogspot account since 2007, but his fame didn't pick up until he joined TGWTG shortly after it went live in 2008, and is currently one of the few original members who's still around. With regards to his job as a comic critic, he tends to pick pretty soft targets like goofy silver age stuff, PSAs, Rob Liefeld comics, etc. His style of reviewing is pretty similar to other TGWTG reviewers: light on in-depth analysis, more focus on play-by-play summaries interspersed with hit-or-miss jokes, mostly consisting of seltzerburg-level reference jokes, in-jokes, or funny voices. He's basically what you would imagine as a typical comic book nerd, citing obscure comic book facts and complaining about discontinuities that no normal person would care about.
His reviews also have storylines which, not counting the actual review material, can last as much as 10 minutes per video. So I guess he still wants to be a storyteller even if he stopped working on The Lightbringer. Linkara seems to be a fan of crossovers as far back as The Lightbringer (via the Smiling Man character and some comic series called crossoverlord); this carried over to his career on TGWTG when he was really the first to aggressively push for crossover reviews with the other site members.
Over the years Linkara's gotten flak for his grating personality and increasingly political diatribes, but peaked when in 2013 he posted a video about Adblock and how audience members should allow the ads to play. At first I agreed with his sentiments since it's just common sense that websites such as Youtube, Blip or TGWTG can't exist without ad revenue, but what got people pissed was when his reason for complaining was that he wasn't making as much money anymore. Bear in mind, his internet show is his full-time job, and when people suggested he just get a normal job, he said it was too difficult because he'd have to abandon his bazillion different projects that never really took off aside from his review show. Furthermore he suggested that his supporters should let ads run repeatedly to make up for the lost ad revenue, which, as some people pointed out, could be construed as fraud.
One last thing: Linkara has sworn never to review webcomics because it's not fair to review them to the standards of professional comic books. A fair point I suppose, but in my opinion it would be fair to review long-time webcomics that are meant to be the livelihood of their creators, since that's what the definition of professional is. Not to mention Linkara has reviewed independent, self-published comics before. They just have to be "in print" in order to count. Conveniently, that means he can avoid reviewing The Lightbringer, or the works of his buddy Dave Willis.
Let's ignore who the author is for a moment and review this webcomic on its own merits. The artwork was absolutely wretched from day one, and although it did get somewhat better, it never got anywhere near passable. Eventually though, the author got someone else to do the artwork, then later that person was succeeded by yet another artist. Both of them were certainly better artists than Lovhaug, but they weren't very good in their own right.
As for the writing, at best it's banal, wordy, and absolutely derivative. At worst it's a self-important rip-off by an overconfident hack. The story could have at least had some fun to it. But the little humor that exists in this webcomic fails to keep things entertaining when it's tasked with lightening up the slog of angst and bad writing that it is buried under. Sabrina Online is a derivative webcomic as well, but still manages to be amusing and without pretentiousness.
Going back to who the author is, the big question is why he bothered do this in the first place. Lewis Lovhaug may dream of being a superhero comic writer, but did he really think that he had a serious chance of being a writer for DC or Marvel, or even a lesser-known publishing house? There are plenty of far more talented people who also have such dreams, so what did he think his own chances were, even if he is a minor Internet celebrity? Keanu Reeves may be a major Hollywood star, but when he was a member of a band named "Dogstar", a Chicago Tribune article mentioned how the band members ended up getting pelted with fruit during a performance. Too bad one cannot pelt someone with fruit over the Internet.
The last thing I want so say is: I expected better from someone who reviews comics for a living. I have never watched any of Linkara's videos, but is this webcomic the best he can do? Judging by "The Pike Swinger" I can place a safe bet that our reviews are better than his.
- The Frequently Asked Questions page. - At least Lewis Lovhaug acknowledges the flaws in his webcomic.
- Linkara's Tumblr.
- Linkara's Blogspot (contains all of his older written reviews).
- His Deviantart, which shows some more Lightbringer related stuff
- Revolution Of The Mask, Lewis Lovhaug's superhero-themed e-comic book, for sale at lulu.com (Of the three reviews listed, I'm convinced two of them were fake ones written by Lovhaug, considering the other review is so much more negative.)
- Something Awful thread about this comic - Supposed to be funny but you have to buy an account to view it.
- Linkara's hilarious butthurt response to the SA thread
- When Comics Go Bad gave this a panning as well.
- This webcomic has earned a place on the TV Tropes list of horrible webcomics