Your tax dollars at work, folks.
|Original review author:||oddguy|
|Webcomic name:||The Oatmeal|
|Defining Flaw:||This is an ugly, unfunny, unoriginal paycheck masquerading as a webcomic.|
I came across this webcomic for the first time some years ago. I immediately wrote it off as boring and unfunny, and cast it aside. The second time I "discovered" this webcomic, I read it for a while, made the same judgment call, then tossed it away again. The third time, I began to feel suspicious, midway into it, that I had seen this somewhere before. I then realized that I had read this trash in the past and stopped again. This process repeated itself at least five times. Each time, the webcomic was so bland and uninteresting that I immediately forgot about it as soon as I clicked the back button, only to read it again a few months later. Mind you, that if I recall correctly, I wasn't even Googling "webcomics" or anything of the sort when I found it, and yet, the maker of this webcomic continues to claim his large traffic has nothing to do with him working as a search optimizer.
Side note: Most of the information in this article is from several very long interviews. Almost everything I say this webcomic's creator has admitted to has been repeated at least twice by him. Still, there is no point linking to the same five articles a million times just so people will look up/listen to long interviews to find a single line. I will post a few quotes, but if you feel the need to further corroborate what I'm saying, feel free to Google it yourselves.
I wish I had something clever or witty to write in this section. This is another one of those webcomics that have sucked from the very first day. Usually, I am capable of mustering up something insulting to spice up this section, but this webcomic is so dull and flavorless that just thinking about it makes my mind draw a blank. I almost fell asleep while reading and researching this thing.
Reading this webcomic is literally torture. It is the most unoriginal thing I have ever seen. Every single strip is something I have seen somewhere else, but those people did it better. In the past, when asked about this webcomic, I would say it all reads like Cracked.com articles written by bad Uncyclopedia editors. I would say this jokingly, but as I was researching for this article, I found that almost every strip for the first few months had an old Cracked article that said almost the exact same thing, or at least part of it was copied off a Cracked article. Whatever wasn't was some random bullshit that made no sense. Again, I was going to say as a joke that these things look as if he just adds whatever random noun pops into his head whenever he can't think of a joke. But once again, as I was reading an interview, I found this quote by him:
So, in essence, his writing technique can be summed up by this image:
This is the first time I wrote something and found my article's subject willfully admitting to every accusation I was going to make about him. This is amazing! Why does this person think that this is an acceptable way to write a comic?! "And what about the lack of originality", you ask? Well, again, this comic is the first part of this Cracked.com article, word for word. This is this one. This can be found on "Encyclopedia Dramatica", as well as a more insightful version on cracked. That did not stop him from making the same joke again. I have a feeling that this was inspired by this. Only the latter is interesting and insightful while the former is simply idiotic. This comic is this meme. This is this one. And this is this one. Although, in both cases, anthropomorphizing your brain and having it verbalize your abstract thought related problems because you can't think of an actual punchline =/= humor. One of these observations has already been made in this Cracked video. All of these have been said a million times by Cracked and a billion times by everyone else. All of these I have read somewhere else, but the last one in particular is either from an old "Seinfeld" routine or "Dr. Katz" episode I can't find right now. This one started off as this meme, but soon descended into more incoherent nonsense. I realized the moment I saw this one that it was inspired by this XKCD strip. He admitted it, but he won't get any points for it from me.
I am simply exhausted from writing this part of the review because it's so easy to find better versions of these jokes. I was going to look up every single comic, but 40 minutes later, I already found all of these and was too tired to continue. I am sure you can find more yourself. I am not accusing him of plagiarizing (although he has been accused of that in the past and reacted to it in an unmatched display of maturity), but I am saying that everything he does has already been done by someone else, but better.
Furthermore, it's not only unoriginal; it's unoriginal and unfunny! All the jokes, even the ones I can't find on other sites, are things I have heard a million times before. It's all "blah blah people post stupid shit on social networking sites" "blah blah airplanes suck" and so on. Like this joke about printers. "lol, printers suck!" is the "how about that airplane food?" of the 21st century. It's all petty, tired, old complaints we've all heard before. Half of these don't even have a real punchline. The rest have a punchline that is some random nonsense. The "informational" ones are the worst. They do the opposite of entertaining me. They bore me to tears. I do not need to read a five-mile-long infograph about coffee with poorly researched information and sad attempts at making it funny by adding moronic non sequiturs to it. Matthew, if you didn't have a point, as in some kind of punchline or joke to make about coffee, then you shouldn't have made a comic about it. No one cares that you happened to read an article about coffee on some website last week and found it so interesting that you felt the need to repeat what it said as if you researched it yourself, but also added ugly pictures. If there's no joke to make, don't make a comic.
Lastly -- and I am not sure whether to place this under laziness or lack of originality -- he repeats everything twice. I mean, part of the quizzes on his site are ones that he made for other sites and then posted on "The Oatmeal" to save work. But half of those are slight variations of the same thing. Once you start copying your own worthless quizzes from each other, then what the hell are you even doing? What is the difference between the quiz "How many five year olds could you take in a fight?" and "How many Justin Biebers could you take in a fight?" and "How many baboons can you take in a fight armed with a giant dildo" (other than the second one being an obvious attempt to draw more traffic by mentioning Justin Bieber)? What's the difference between the poll "How addicted to Twitter are you?" and "How addicted to Facebook are you"? Since none of these give you an actual result (not even a fake one that pretends to tell you something; all the quiz results on The Oatmeal are just more gibberish), and half the quizzes are for ridiculous premises. What is the point of making two? Not only does he repeat himself in these, but he even recycles questions. I also read and listened to his interviews and presentations he has given. Even in those, he seems to repeat the exact same thing he said in the last one. In summation: an original thought is like kryptonite to Matthew Inman.
The art is an atrocity, and Matthew will be the first to admit it. In fact, he already has! Twice! "Why is it so bad" you wonder? Well, he had training as a graphic designer, and it shows. Mostly because he still uses tools for graphic design on his comic and draws it as vector art despite saying it's a bad tool to draw comics with and advising other people not to do it when asked about it.
This reminds me of the Sarah Zero review. In both cases, the artist is a graphic designer with no real aptitude for art, and as a result, the whole comic looks like a bunch of ads. But whereas Ace plughead does it as a sort of accidental byproduct of his pretentiousness and lack of talent, Matthew Inman does it intentionally. I'm not sure which one is more infuriating.
But there is more to it. When asked why all of his characters are fat, featureless blobs, he explained that he wants to make them as blank as possible so that anyone can insert themselves into the comic (I guessed he was doing it for a similar but different reason: I thought he was trying to make readers relate because his target audience is fat white people), he goes on to give advice about character design that can be summed up by saying "make your characters as bland and insipid as possible". This all amounts to a flimsy excuse when you consider he criticized the protagonist's lazy characterization in Twilight for being the literary equivalent to his art.
That sums up why the art is bad in the sense of what is the underlying reason, but what about why it's bad in the sense of what makes it bad? Well, it's just ugly. Other than the fact that he knows how to use the program he draws with, he is no better than any other hack. He makes the same mistakes as just about who's ever had a comic reviewed here: bad anatomy, bad color, bad everything. I am reluctant to even call them mistakes because it's obvious that he doesn't even try.
Here is the meat of the review. This is the reason why so many people hate this comic. The man who makes this comic worked as a graphic designer and a search optimizer. He worked with multiple companies, teaching them how to get more traffic from Google. In fact, he was so good at it that Google had to actively fight him to stop him from raping their search engine. Then, one day, he decided that he didn't feel like working anymore, so he used all of that experience in making something of zero content or quality that will draw in people who will pay him his salary. No, really, that was his motivation for making this thing! He just didn't feel like working anymore, so he gathered up a bunch of his old content he made for other sites and created that black hole of pageviews he calls "The Oatmeal".
As for the man himself? Well, in one of his interviews, he said that he was being badmouthed on Reddit and being called a jerk. But, when he confronted his detractors, they admitted to lying. I would hate to directly contradict the man's word and call him a jerk, but the evidence speaks for itself. Some of Matthew's antics, I must admit, were rather entertaining, including sending lewd drawings and photos of the money he got from donations that he refuses to use to play as a settlement to FunnyJunk.com's lawyers who were suing him, creating a poll named "How many Justin Bieber's could you take in a fight" and, if I understand correctly, having the poll results sent automatically to the Justin Bieber website or something (I didn't fully understand that one). He also Rickroll'd all of Reddit when they annoyed him, and after he found out that "P.E.T.A" posted a link to a comic he made titled "Five reasons pigs are more awesome than you", he had them redirect to an article he made called: "Why we should be eating horses instead of riding them". All of these little antics are fairly amusing, and I would write them off as harmless pranks if it had only ended there. The problem is that it doesn't.
Matthew has a tendency to be as rude and disrespectful to his fans as he is to... well, everyone else. He insultingly graded an angry email that was sent to him (another thing that has already been done better by Yahtzee) and makes insulting replies to other mail he gets (again, done first and better by MADDOX). All of this is proudly presented on his website. He also brags about how he replies to negative commentary by telling the people who wrote it he slept with their mother.
He also replied to a woman who accidentally thought he was still running a dating site by calling her an idiot. Some of you may think I am being hypocritical. I mean, why is it okay when Yahtzee or MADDOX do it, but not Matthew Inman? Well, it's simple. Ben Croshaw and George Ouzounian are both acting out obviously exaggerated characters. Also, they are both talented and funny enough for me to let this slide. Matthew, on the other hand, fails at both counts. His work is utter trash, and his attitude is not an act. This behavior, by the way, preceded him becoming a webcomic artist. Don't be mistaken; the fake e-fame did not go to his head. No, he was always a douchebag by his own admission. Again, in an interview, he simply says he used to do bad work and not comply with his customers demands because he didn't feel like it. So his solution? Make a shitty webcomic with no goal other than to make money by any means necessary, so that he can sit home on his ass and rake in the dough. And it worked! "How much does he make" you ask? Well, the numbers are contradicting. About 1000$ on a regular day it says. Over 70k on Black Friday. Some reports claim around 400 thousand a year, while others estimate over half a million. Whichever one is correct, it is too much. The change I find in my car's back seat is too much in exchange for this trash, let alone half a mill.
For me, though, the peak of his childlike behavior was when he criticized MMORPGs with this comic, which is essentially him saying to whatever 15-year-old called him a "N00B" on World of Warcraft, or whatever, "oh yeah?! Well, at least I have a wife that I have sex with! Haha!" ... real mature.
Webcomics do not need this.
Reading some of the reviews on this site, and my own in particular, you might come to the mistaken conclusion that we here at BWW hate webcomics. However, I think I can speak for everyone when I say that's not true. It's more complicated than that. I love webcomics. I think they are an exciting new medium that has a chance to one day produce some real art (if it isn't already). But at the same time, I understand that the field of webcomics is flawed. It's a medium with no quality control, where mediocrity and no talent are often rewarded with fame and praise. There is something inherently wrong with webcomics when shitty, poorly drawn, covertly pornographic titles like The Wotch can sustain their creators. There is something wrong when people make these comics with no intention of creating something of value, but only as a means to gain e-fame.
Webcomics do not need more problems. We do not need people like Bleedman and Preston making us all look bad with their insane behavior and disgusting perversions. We do not need Ryan Sohmer, who makes a living by being a misogynistic prick, and does so well that he can afford to sponsor the trash of other, equally talentless people. We do not need shitty furry comics being payed to give their audience something to masturbate to. And we certainly don't need "The Oatmeal". While some webcomic artists pour all their efforts into their work and get no recognition, this guy got five million hits in a single year by using tricks from his old profession and writing about things like Twilight and fucking cats. While some actually talented artists struggle to make ends meet, and spend their money trying to cover hosting costs for their websites so that they can continue to provide people with real art, this guy makes six figures by churning out something as trite, stale, banal, and vapid as he can. And then he brags about it and tells others to do the same. It's disgusting.
Some of you may think I am jealous, that this review is nothing more than my hissy fit because this man makes more than I ever could. For these people, I would like to quote the Chinese philosopher Confucius:
Much in the same way, although I would love to make that kind of money, it is not worth the sacrifice of my dignity and self-respect. If I woke up one morning with Matthew Inman's money in my pocket and found out that THIS is what I got it for, I would set it on fire and maybe jump into the flames myself. And I have a feeling that as soon as he finds this review, he will, once again, display his oh-so adult attitude and do something like redirect traffic from this site to goatse.cx, or posting parts of this review on his website and criticizing it for grammatical errors or some nonsense, while completely ignoring the point. So, in case he plans on doing that, I would just like to say that despite English being my third language and my dyslexia, I knew how to properly use a semi colon without having to Google it, and yet I didn't feel the need to celebrate this achievement by making a comic about it.
Finally, I would just like to say that, in all of his interviews, I have heard him talk about how to make a successful webcomic, or how to make a profitable webcomic, but I don't think I have even once heard him talking about how to make a GOOD webcomic.