|Original review author:||Clever Manka|
|Webcomic name:||Wapsi Square|
|Author:||Paul "Paulo" Taylor|
|Start Date:||September 9, 2001|
|Defining Flaw:||Paul's lazy writing and mistreatment of his characters, especially in his portrayal of boobs - I mean women.|
Wapsi Square started as a three-panel comic that introduced a cast of ladies and their ordinary lives. The jokes were usually about every day issues, like bras, friendships, and work. But overall it was cute, if bland, and not terrible. Then he introduced the "real" plot - a convoluted Ancient Mayan mess. Any character or plotline that was there when the comic was just a simple story about normal people vanished without a trace, replaced only by magic, demons, flashbacks, and loads of heaving breasts. I mean, monsters. Who also have boobs.
The plot is very slow-moving because he's decided to stick with the three-panel daily layout, which isn't good for an adventure comic. It's impossible to keep track of every thread because of how slow-moving they are, and the archives are expansive. Of course, if he did what other adventure comics do and give full-page comics so you don't have to get all the information in teeny tiny bites, one wouldn't have to search three years back into the comic to know what's going on. Since he changed his website recently, his strips have been much larger - frequently full pages - but they are still only three or four panels long. Problem not solved.
It was never great, but the second he became a good enough artist to start drawing more and more detailed cleavage. Also the day he decided the Mayan god he introduced in January '02 should come back that September and start the adventure plotline rolling. It turned a story about a bunch of characters coping with work, romance, and friendships into a giant, slow-moving mess. From here, you'd be lucky if he only took eight months to bring back a character. Hope you've got a good memory.
Story and Plot
Wapsi Square used to feature a cast of around ten people. Now it focuses on the same two girls, three "golems" (promiscuous girls with fangs), and their host of personal demons as they attempt to fix the Mayan calendar machine, which is broken, causing time to reset itself every several million years. The next reset is going to be in 2012 unless they find a way to repair it. They have yet to actually leave the Midwest where they live.
Paul's art used to be very minimalist and very unimpressive. As he practiced more, he achieved a fun, fluid, expressive style. As he continued drawing, things became more unique, attractive. Unfortunately, he has let his art stagnate and hasn't really tried to change it, and so the art's actually growing worse. The facial profiles are the widest part of the characters' bodies, the legs are uncomfortably proportioned and longer than his torsos, and all the noses all look feline.
Paul never seems sure how to make the characters stand, so they always look twisted and awkward. He also has no clue what to do with their hands, so he usually has them clenched behind their backs (forcing their boobs upward noticeably), crossed tightly in front (mashing their boobs together and upward), or - for some mysterious reason - clamped down and in front in a pose I've never seen anyone replicate in real life who wasn't trying specifically to push their breasts together.
Paul's laziness has reduced his comic into a talking-head strip, which is not condusive to the storyline he's trying to develop. Lately, he's been choosing to do months of talking-head strips, which are easier, and he's developed a bit of CAD syndrome. That is, he's over-talking, and he's got his characters verbalizing visual jokes.
Paul seems like the kind of guy who can come up with a decent story idea, but who lacks the ability to present it properly. When the stories were just ordinary friend-drama, it was less apparent, but as the plot thickens (and thickens and thickens) it becomes clear. The man is not a great storyteller.
First off, his dialogue is just bad. Characters over-explain everything and end up becoming exposition buses, which is very, very lazy. They frequently talk out loud to themselves - it's clearly Paul trying desperately to explain the story to the audience without actually having to show us more than absolutely necessary. But he can't even just spell it out for us. He makes huge leaps in logic that are frequently impossible to follow unless you either a) are Paul Taylor, b) are telepathic, or c) have the ability to remember tiny details he let drop in older comics he wrote literally years ago. He's terrible about this.
Wapsi Square tries to be funny. It's not. The jokes are about 90% "hey look, boobs, sex, and nakedness", and the rest are bland. Garfield bland.
Well, let's start with the focus of his comic: the women. The women featured in his comic nowadays are Monica, the main character Shelly, her best friend; the three "golem girls" Bud, Brandi, and Jin; and Tina, the demon coffee shop owner.
In terms of how they're presented, they have a number of body types, but they're all stick-thin. Even Shelly, who's supposed to be a ripped, muscular mechanic, has a teeny tiny waist. They all love showing off their boobs, midriffs, and asses, even in the winter. They also enjoy groping each other and themselves whenever they can.
Personality wise, they all have dark pasts and deep secrets and troubled identities. For a while, they were even developed pretty well. But it's clear, Paul doesn't really respect them. He draws them all in such a way to show off their bodies, and all of them - every single one of them - finds going out, getting drunk, and behaving promiscuously to be their favorite "winding down" activity.
Most if not all of them are bisexual-chic, and enjoy dancing sexually with each other for nearby men's enjoyment. Bud, one of the golems, actually had a storyline wherein she decided that kind of behavior wasn't for her. Less than two months later (an instant in Wapsi time), though, she was out grinding with Tina on the dance floor, without any explanation for why she had a change of heart. Similarly, the character Katharine was introduced in 2003 as an awkward girl who disliked social events. Then she disappeared almost completely until Paul sent her to the beach for no reason but fanservice in '07. She returned, normally dressed, in time for Monica to completely fill her in on all the supernatural events, but then went away again. A year later, she came back once more, this time dressed like Betty Page with absolutely no reason given. It's just a symptom of the general "sexing up" Paul has given nearly every female character he creates, and this one is especially jarring considering where she started. At least give us a reason and pretend like you're not just using tits to get yourself money, Paul!
Tits sell: a revelation by Paul Taylor.
As for the men, they're really, really uninteresting. The men show up very rarely, when the girls are desperate or confused, and shed light into the situation. The character Allen, who was introduced as a horny horn-dog immediately rises to the occasion when Jin needs someone to be the fount of wisdom. Kevin, Monica's usually-totally-absent boyfriend, is even more bland. When Monica finds out about the ancient magical problems she's dealing with, she has a load of angry breakdowns. When Kevin finds out about them, and the fact that Monica has been lying to him about them for a long time, he takes it all in stride and casually suggests a solution to the problem.
What in the fuck? Paul tried to remedy this by having Allen fight with Jin when she acts like a baby, but the problem disappears within four strips, never to be mentioned again. The men of Wapsi Square are bland, inconsistent beings of calm perfection who exist only to move a stuck plot. It's just as bad as the way Paul treats the women. It's clear Mr. Taylor doesn't have a great grasp on the way people and relationships work. Either that or he simply can't be bothered to develop male characters - there's too many BOOBS to be drawn!
Paul Taylor lives in Iowa, is married and has a kid, and loves drawing cleavage. He makes this comic about Monica, a tiny girl with giant boobs, inspired by someone he knew in college (a tiny girl with giant boobs).
This bio section remained empty for years until someone sent us an email about him. We lost the password to the email when the old admin of BWW retired but were finally able to find it. This is from 2012 and it reads:
So this is the man. You are not allowed to give him any criticism ever or he will ban you. Not only that, but after this post pretty much everyone on the site told him to fuck off and stop being such a little bitch so he deleted the post itself and blocked comments on the site entirely.
Paul's fans are, as typical of uber-fans of anything, dense and obsessive, praising everything Paul does and offering no real criticism. They mostly focus on the breasts and sexy poses from strip to strip, and most of their discussion threads feature lesbian fantasies and lewd commentary. Paul does nothing about this, and continues to fill his strip with fodder for them.
Paul barely addresses the concerns of his fans who find his objectifying of women a bit disconcerting. Every now and again a few will show up in the forums who want an explanation. The fans will immediately jump down their throats, and Paul lets it happen. He might show up and give a noncommittal one-line response, but usually he just responds in PMs, where none of the fans can see, and it's usually something dismissive like, "Thanks for your concern but I do this on purpose, it's not a mistake on my part." After one particular forum fight, Paul posted this on his forums, and then closed it so no one could discuss it (and then deleted it when the controversy died down). Sad thing is, this kind of lip service has managed to pacify even the girl-wonder feminist forums, and that's a shame, because Paul isn't practicing what he preaches (in private, where his fans can't see or respond).
Paul Taylor is also a shameless money-grubber. His website (whose logo now features Monica sporting a school-girl outfit and a come hither stare) is covered in ads for other webcomics, usually pornographic or similarly misogynistic. He sells sexy pin-ups of his characters (you know, the ones he respects so much) and now has figurines of them in flirty poses. He puts Monica naked on the cover of his self-published-on-Lulu-for-chrissakes books so they sell better. And, even with all this, he still shamelessly begs for donations and pushes his amazon wish list.
This is what respecting your "strong female characters" looks like, if you're Paul Taylor.
It's clear that nowadays Wapsi Square is just a way for Paul to get more stuff for him. No wonder he's dragging it all out so slowly.
Ultimately, the comic once had promise, but it has been squandered. Any potential the artist had has been ruined by rabid fans offering no criticism, and the ability to make money simply by objectifying his characters. The Wapsi tagline was once "Come for the babes, stay for the story," which is terrible enough on its own, but with the art and writing as stagnant and lazy as they are, there's literally no reason to stay anymore, unless you're some kind of masochist who loves snail-paced storylines.
Wapsi Square is part of a series about keenspot