There should be a genre called “random". This genre, specific for webcomics, would include comics based as humor, but with little regard of actual humor – rather, expecting that random, irrational, anarchistic happenings would be a cause for laughing. This genre, very wide, would include comics that start with “I’m bored, let’s start a webcomic”, “talking heads” comics with two characters copy/pasted to infinity to exchange bad jokes, but also much more worked out stories that, well, basically have in common that they don’t really have a point. Most of those comics would probably be of “wacky roommates” sort: wacky roommates get themselves into the trouble, then by a set of happy occurrences, not always satisfying for the readers, get out of trouble, and so on. After all, how many times have you used – or heard others using – the term “random humor” to describe a webcomic? That high population must deserve a new genre.
If you stretch it, you could put a lot of earlier webcomics (most of which later evolved into adventure comics or dramas) in that definition, but these comics still relied on gag concept, delivering more or less successful punchline at the end. “Random” comics, that is, what I make of them, evolved from those comics when later authors decided that actual punchline isn’t a prerequisite for a humor comic and that the randomness will do instead.
Needless to say, I’m not very much into random comics, I think that randomness is just a way to make up for effort/talent/inspiration/whatever you lack when creating a comic; Or to put it milder, it’s an easy solution; After all, it doesn’t require pre-thought in creating. But to be fair, there are variations among them too. There are comic that are barely watchable, then there are authors who are largely booed whenever they plug their comic somewhere, and then there are rather successful random comics, mostly those that have fairly good art, or integrate elements of satire. And, of course, there is the fact that many conceptually more serious comics will reach for randomness when their spring of ideas runs dry. To which I say that it’s better to be random, but consistent about it. But anyway…
Was there such genre, “Reckless youth” would fall in it. True, RYClaude is trying to put some deliberation into it, by sketching some sort of generation message around the randomness. Comic starts with the quote from “Fight Club”; Repeated many times before "Fight club", true to the point where it’s obvious, but also often misused by youth that wasn’t always so progressive – the entering quote sets the general idea, helped by the title of the comic and by some roadside signals, like when the apelike business man is conveniently referring to the main characters as “you reckless youth”, equaling three local trainspotters with their entire generation.
The idea is, of course, that every generation in their youth form rules that are going to be applied when they are in charge (that is, middle-aged), by which time a new generation will be there with their recklessness that is actually a set of new rules and modes of behaviour in making. Therefore, RYClaude is explaining behavior of his characters with the generation gap. Rules of this new generation might be: randomness, laziness, lack of moral principles and most of all, destructiveness. From which the term “reckless” has came. Indeed, comic’s main characters are a set of undeniably reckless people. One of them held his brother locked in a basement for 8 years, the other one is seen hacking his hand off with a saw without feeling any pain (later, he is shown with no visible damage on his hand – which shows that the violence here is not to be taken seriously), and the main character is so blunt that he’s bound to run into troubles from which someone else will suffer.
Which is where I come to the first contradiction in the idea: reckless behavior is shown here with no consequences, which brings it down to the level of cartoonish violence, giving us hints not to take it seriously, and what is not to be taken seriously, by no means can be a generation message.
But maybe RYClaude is right, maybe that is indeed the form of behavior for the new generation; Just look at the comics around, if there’s so many random webcomics that I am spending a couple of paragraphs to suggest development of a new, “random” genre, that means, that youth definitely is such as Claude describes them – at least on spiritual level. If Claude’s comic resembles average random comics so much, could it be because those comics are created by a kind of people Claude is talking about?
In short, Claude is suggesting a new sort of anarchy as the fuel that will push society to the next step.
There is also a major storyline, slowly drawn through the comic, that Claude is the new Jesus Christ. Ironic, I’d say even tacky twists on religion, aren’t new. I remember seeing one first in an old random comic, “Spork”, where main character is rooming with god. This, easygoing approach to religion is another reoccurring theme of random comics. I hope Claude is into the Christianity books here, that he knows material with which he is intended to deal, otherwise he will be limited to usual preconceptions about religion, usually simplified and very often actually contradicting the original religious teachings, and it will all be a rather guideless mishmash.
Now, all this, but something is amiss. I don’t think I can quite put my finger on this, maybe Claude didn’t implement these ideas too deeply in the comic, maybe he isn’t consistent enough, maybe he tends to forget the basic idea in favour of some wacky sidestories, but I have a feeling that whole this idea is just an excuse for making another average random comic. In short, I have a feeling that the last few paragraphs, I have been simply reading too much into the comic. Perhaps I did it deliberately, to point out the effects of what he did – casually attaching seemingly serious ideas to the concept that isn’t very serious. The result is, I am looking at something deep in his comic, I can’t quite find it, and then I have problems to see it as a random comic, I keep seeing it as a message comic. But then again, there are some moments so consistent with the given message, that I always get back to thinking that they are deliberate. I think that, as a message comic it fails, while as a random comic (for what it’s worth) it doesn’t.
Perhaps it fails as a message comic because Claude is saying what kids are like, but never why are they like that. Or even worse, if the reason is given, it is laziness, stupidity, lack of moral, etc – not a conscious rebellion. Claude’s characters are opportunists, and by keeping an ironic grin, Claude is managing to keep them good guys, to which their nonexistent generation message gets aura of good too. But as I said, that message is a product of opportunism. But maybe that’s the price of keeping your characters likeable.
Plus: for an archive of over 100 pages, there are devastatingly little things happening in it. Barely a basic shape of what is supposed to be reoccurring storyline, is out yet and, by god, it’s 100 pages. With this rate, when are we going to see the end of that storyline?
There is another thing, how should I say it? This is what it basically boils down to: the comic is random, and it’s its message. Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair. Whatever I put as a flaw of the comic, whatever inconsistency, lousy plot devise, dues ex machina, badly wrapped up story, whatever that would leave reader unsatisfied, could be as well claimed as the part of the message because, after all, its randomness and all the flaws that come with it, is the message of the comic. Kinda circular thinking.
Ok, let’s leave it on side, I said that I don’t think that “Reckless youth” makes a good generation statement and I repeated that through several various reasonings so now I won’t talk about that anymore; After all, my impression is that Claude simply wanted to make a random comic, but needed to support it with a few premises that would frame the randomness. Whether it makes it any better, is a different question.
So I’ll try to see what “Reckless youth” is like as a random comic.
Well, I guess it’s not bad if you like that kind of humor. I had a few laughs all through the comic but as I said, it’s not my kind of humor. Undoubtedly, there are a lot of people who like it. If I was to evaluate “Reckless Youth” in this category, I’d have to know the best and the worst of the genre, and I don’t think I do; So I’ll just limit to naming a few things that I liked.
There are more than occasionally very nice ideas to see here. The first one I really liked was, when the characters are seen through the eyes of the long-captured brother as characters from the silent film. I liked this idea and I think it’s well done in Claude’s penciled interpretation. I got a really good kick out of the guy who threatens to revenge at everybody. Storyline with pigeon with hockey mask had several such kicks, including the one with the Incredible-machine-like assembly whose purpose is to tap the character at the shoulder and remind him to kick the pigeon with the hammer. There are indeed good ideas scattered over “Reckless youth”. On the other hand, a guy who was sawing his hand off didn’t really give me creeps. It was too overdone to be believable.
If “RY” was to be a comic to my liking, Claude would get an editor who’d help him shape up his storylines into something with a point and, specially, shape up his pacing; and Claude would enrich it with the said ideas. This way, it is obvious that he doesn’t put much into his writing and that good moments are a result of momentarily inspiration that borders with the coincidence. More effort put means better odds that the good moments will shine, that the bad moments will be hidden and that it will all make a good unity.
On the other side, some effort is put into art. Claude is competent artist, his figures are well drawn and correct. His inking comes boring, though, because he uses a bland pencil with no weight variation. Claude puts some effort into adding a bit of dynamism to the drawing that the ink line doesn’t have. On black/white comics he does by outlining characters with a thicker line. On colour pages he relies on colour and shading to do the job, and it does hide the blandness of the line, even if not completely removing it; I am mentioning this so point at how his art is much more deliberate, resulting in a slick look of the comic, and that it is in contrast with the leisured approach to writing.
Claude experiments with the background a lot; At first, for instance, he used a lot of cutout-like backgrounds that look interesting combined with lined figures, this maneer is similar to the one in “Killroy and Tina”. Later, he uses various methods to create background, even the watercolour-like effects, and it’s interesting to see how he progresses that way. There have been some experimenting with lineart too, but fewer and brief (the page where character pukes a dragon egg). Art has also been slowly progressing, and we can spot the moment when he started to use Photoshop effects rather smooth.
There’s a lot of copy-pasting, you could say that the jokes are such that they require copy-pasting, but that’s just the partial truth. The other side is that writers sometimes write the joke such, that it requires copy-pasting. Or to specify: random humor is often based in repetition (however, without a real climax that would put repetition into the use of a joke) so the copy-pasting can often be justified by repetition in the script. However, justified or not, copy-pasting gives rather visually unpleasing pages. Claude managed to get over this and make rather interesting pages based on copy-pasting: for instance the one in which two characters are walking through the room so, while their gestures are repeating, background constantly changes. Other example is copy-pasting of the entire block of buildings so that the fact that the group is lost, is underlined. There are various cases of handling c/p in RY, some worse, but then again, some better.
So, in short? Keep working on that writing, Claude.