Saturday 15 August 2009

Bottoms Up!

Hi, welcome back. This title works well for two reasons. The first is thus: We’re back! Woo! To review and ridicule all that is new in webcomics. It is a time for celebration. Hope you didn’t miss me too much. (So what if I'm that egotistical?  It makes me an even better person.)

The second reason “Bottoms Up!” makes for a good title to this review is pretty obvious. It is the title to this week’s review-o-comic by Brian O’Meara (it is always fantastic to see an Irish name in webcomic land, even if many of those are strange Americans who call themselves Irish though they have never been and it was, in fact, their great-great-grandfather who happened to once spend thirty-five minutes there as a ship pulled into a dock - But it was a magical experience that touched his heart nonetheless.) But I digress back to our comic of the day. 

I first started reading ‘Bottoms Up!’ because it appealed to my love of simple, single-panel newspaper comics. You know the ones I mean. They’re plain black and white, great use of cross-hatching and that sort of thing, yeah? Well ‘Bottoms Up!’ isn’t a far cry from that. It makes use of the black and white style with shading that will honestly blow you away. Physically, it couldn’t be more accurate and appropriately used, giving the drawings a decent sense of life. This is important, folks. If you’re drawing a comic, you really have to make the characters look alive. Nobody likes to eat a rice cake on its own. You gotta put some chocolate or peanut butter on that blank slate and give it some taste so the wholesome goodness of the rice can work its magic on your digestion. Cakin’. On a more general note, there’s a danger with the use of shading, specifically over-use, which can cause the comic to look crap. Characters meld into backgrounds and lose their definition. Truly it is a sad state of affairs when you see one of these comics. It’s like the artist thought that to be truly good, they had to smudge every single pencil line to create the shading effect, throwing caution to the sewers in terms of where the light source is or where the shadows would be cast.
Here’s a taste of what I be speakin’, Jethro. 

Let’s get back to ‘Bottoms Up!’ though. Despite the great artwork and highly commendable use of shading, the humour is about par. In fairness, single panel comics are tricky things. You have one panel to build a joke, set-up and punch-line. A lot of comics out there rely on three or four panels, and occasionally five, in order to hook that up, but because of this they have a greater diversity in terms of what they can accomplish with their humour. A pregnant pause is a good tool when not over-used. You try putting that into a single panel comic and you’ve got nothing. Literally. ‘Bottoms Up!’ therefore takes the road that most single-panels do. Observational humour. It’s solid material that most people can relate to, usually office-type humour or general life humour. Though there’s definitely a more saucy “Ooh, Matron!” approach to some of them, but it’s no less funny. Sadly, it’s no funnier either. The best strips within are those with captions. The captions make the funny. The art is there for the visual, but the captions make it. There are a couple (literally two, I think) without captions where the character is just saying something, usually a bad pun, and the strip falls flat. 
If you compare to the single panel works of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal back in the day, you can see the reliance and, effectively, the need for the caption. Though SMBC is more ‘out there’ with its style while ‘Bottoms Up!’ is purely observational.  

I’m giving ‘Bottoms Up!’ a 3.5 outta 5. The artwork brings it up nicely, but if I’m honest, this style belongs in a printed format. While it works on the web, and should remain here where it’s safe and warm, it’s probably a tad “raunchy” for the newspapers (it’s actually not that raunchy, but newspaper people are dicks when it comes to that). Actually, a men’s magazine might be more suited. Nothing too brash, like 'Nuts' or 'Zoo', but something more motor-vehicle based. Men aged 24-50 would get this type of humour best, and most aren't reknowned for their interweb skillz.  

Bottoms Up!’ updates Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Read it with your eyes at

Peace and chicken grease,
Coyote Trax 

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