March 21, 2012
Two men meet at college, graduate, and both proceed to produce pages for the same comic single-handedly.
And somehow they still manage to come up with roommate humour.
You might think that two different authors working largely separately (save for discussion of ideas) on a comic would produce significantly different works, but in the case of Roy’s Boys by Sean Kelley and Ron Chan “couch humour” is pretty much the name of the game. Most comics involve one or both of them in some typical mundane everyday setting, generally with a case of stereotypical infantile male behaviour, discussing some topic or other which inevitably leads to an exaggerated or dumbfounding conclusion.
As intensely exciting as that paragraph might seem, I’m trying really hard to find redeeming points here. It’s not that Roy’s Boys is “bad” per se, it just gets very predictable very quickly. Within the first half-dozen pages you can pretty much start seeing the punchline of every comic in the archive coming.
Artistically, the comic has some staggering between the two artists. Ron starts out at the higher level and seems to maintain it pretty well throughout the backlog to date, whilst Sean, though not at too great a disadvantage to begin with, gradually climbs the separation such that the two aren’t very dissimilar today. The characters are always drawn at a reasonable level consistently, with environments typically being full of detail to keep your eyes interested.
But then I have to come back to the writing…
It’s not “bad”, I need to clear that straight away, this is not a “bad” comic by any means. The art is good, the work dedicated, and there are indeed jokes and comedy and punchlines that mesh well with everything. It may simply be my personal sense of humour, but the jokes just… Looking through the archive I’ve lost track of how many jokes I’ve seen repeated, but it’s not even the repetition that jades me to the comic so quickly, just the predictability.
Take this page for example, in which Shane’s cranial heating accessory undergoes an unfortunate fluid-based interaction in an unhygienic manner. There are six frames in all here. In the first frame we establish that the story he’s recounting takes place in a bathroom. In the second frame his narration tells you that something disgusting happened, so we immediately associate the two frames and get “toilet humour”. In the third frame, we get the beanie falling through midair, which we combine with the page’s own title (Yellow Hat) to get a beanie soaked in urine. But that’s not a joke, we know this, so the punchline must be something even worse than just a clothing item being covered in urine, it must be that he’s still wearing it. Bam, frame six, and we haven’t even had to touch frames four and five.
That’s pretty much the tone for all of the pages, reasonable humour but done predictably and repetitively so. But Yellow Hat is just one example, by one of the two authors (Sean), so let’s take a look at an example of Ron’s pages, a more recent one to boot.
This page is entitled Shake It, and as usual covers six frames. The first three frames involve muscular arms, paradox to the generally average builds of the characters, so we know from that and the fixation that this comic is going to involve muscles, probably bulking up. The fourth frame shows Roy and Shane with their new musculature playing video games, and the fifth explains that they recently acquired weight-lifting gear and how it will “change everything”. We never need to hit the sixth frame, because we’ve already witnessed it and we’ve already formulated the punchline in our minds. It’s the classic “nothing could go wrong, cue something going wrong” notion that we as modern humans have become so entirely accustomed to that we’ve even assigned it a name, jinxing. Jinxing isn’t even comedy to us anymore, it’s just a sign of predictability in writing. Beyond that, why even spend three frames of six showing muscles on two characters? That’s half the entire page spent on buildup to something that only actually takes two frames.
And this isn’t even citing their old work, Shake It was released February of this year and the comic started in 2010. It’s not that Sean & Ron can’t make “funny” pages, I can demonstrate that there are jokes here and they’ve made new ones twice weekly for going on two years, it’s just that your brain, more often than not, figures out the punchline before the comic itself does.
I really don’t like giving bad reviews to people, I think the industry itself does enough work throttling webcomic careers by itself without my help, but whilst I can’t say Roy’s Boys is a bad comic, I’m having a really hard time calling it a good one either. So I guess I have to make a “first time for everything” moment here, and actually release a review on Remember of a comic that I actually don’t recommend you read.
If you disagree, you can post in the comics or send rallying cries to the boys on their Twitter.