Meta-review: Questionable Content

Filed in Meta ReviewTags: , ,

Comic: Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques.

Current update aside, Questionable Content doesn’t seem to be that strange of a comic. If you were to put it side-by-side with, say, CRfH or Nukees, you’d point at the latter comics as being unworldly or bizarre, and QC as fairly ordinary. Perhaps that’s why the comments in Friday’s update come as a surprise, as well as the thought that Pizza Delivery Girl might actually be a superhero. I mean… Questionable Content is about three ordinary people and a robotic computer. What’s so strange about that?

Perhaps part of the reason Pintsize doesn’t set off the weirdness sensors is because it’s been done so many times before. We’ve the Banana Jr. 6000 and HAL and so many other examples of computers and robots being intelligent that it just goes by us without setting off any real alarms. And maybe it’s because Marten, Faye and Dora are so ordinary and central to the comic that we don’t think of it as anything unusual.

I mean, Gav is weird. Dave… well, he started out fairly ordinary, but then he got laser vision and a soul cat… the weirdness is on the surface for other strips. In QC, it lurks beneath the surface and occasionally rises up to bite us in the behinds… but I don’t tend to think of QC as weird. Just… there.

Art – Inking: 3.5 ribbons
Art – Backgrounds: 4.5 ribbons
Art – Coloring: 4 ribbons

Jeph’s artwork has improved by leaps and bounds over his old work. Originally, characters were all angles and scrawny lines (though it started out in color and has had shaded color from the beginning). It didn’t take long for his character to gain some flesh in the arms (though they continued to have scrawny pencil-necks until a little after #120), and at #80 the characters eyes went from semi-round rectangles to being actually rounded. (It would be at #112 before Faye’s eyes gained independence from her glasses frames and joined the roundness generation.)

Now, characters tend to have rounded features. You can still see the foundations laid in the early comics still existing today (primarily with the characters noses and a little bit in the hair), but as with many other comics, QC has significantly improved over early strips. Considering we’re just shy of 400 strips, that’s not bad at all.

One thing in which QC excels in is backgrounds. Now, I’m going to be honest here. Jeph has admitted that he has several pre-made backgrounds all set, and he shifts the focal point of the comic to help create an illusion of differing backgrounds. I’m not exactly sure when he did this, but it helps create a sense of continuity to the strips.

Unfortunately, Jeph also seems to have hooked up with the cut-and-paste crowd. I don’t know, I guess I’m a bit of a purist. People don’t just sit static in one pose, especially when talking to others around them. So even if people’s expressions change or they look at someone else, having them sitting in the same exact pose for two or more strips just grates somehow. It’s a common flaw, I know. And when an artist is a bit unsure of themselves, cutting and pasting helps make characters remain the same.

Still, when I was starting out, I drew every strip. I didn’t cut-and-paste, it didn’t even dawn on me to do so… and maybe that helped contribute to my strip going into a death-hiatus. But even so… there are better methods. Retracing strips but shifting things slightly… just winging it… changing angles to look at people… the problem with cut-and-paste is it is too static. And an excellent strip like Questionable Content does not need to rely on something like this, in my opinion.

Fortunately, Jeph doesn’t rely on cut-and-paste art all the time. He does take time to draw different angles, different poses, and so forth. I suppose it’s when he’s rushed or suffering a block or something that he starts cutting-and-pasting, so while I marked him off on it, I only removed half a ribbon for this semi-chronic problem.

Now as I commented in the past, Jeph shades his coloring. Even early strips will show signs of shading with specific light sources in mind. It helps give the characters a 3-dimensional feel, and shows… I don’t know, a certain pride in the strip. Many people seem to consider color a way to draw in new people, and use lens-flares and other effects to pretty up their strips. Jeph’s use of colors and shading is more natural and makes the characters more human.

And maybe it’s also a reason why the strip seems so ordinary despite such weird happenings as AnthroPCs, Pizza Delivery Girl, and even Dora being able to convince a government agent not to confiscate Pintsize’s military-grade chassis.

While there are one or two black and white strips in the archives, the vast majority of them are in color, and the series started in color. In fact, I’m halfway surprised Jeph hasn’t gone back and colored the exceptions in the archives. But it’s not really important when you think of it. And it probably gives fans something to do in their spare time.

Character development – primary characters: 4 ribbons
Character development – secondary cast: 3 ribbons
Character Chemistry: 4.5 ribbons

QC is billed by some as a romantic comedy, and the interactions between Faye and Marten are definitely central to the comic. It’s gotten to the point that some people refuse to accept that Marten and Faye could have a romantic relationship inside the strip, due to the fact that Moonlighting supposedly tried this and failed. There are some rather virulent supporters of the Moonlighting Myth who wave this flag over QC and claim that the strip has to end after these two characters get together.

Naturally enough, I see this as a cop-out. The reason Moonlighting failed was the writers didn’t work in how Maddie and Dave having a relationship could lead to more conflict and tension. When Maritza Campos had Dave and Margaret have sex in the comic, she used it to create further tension between these two characters. It didn’t kill the tension. (Margaret did later, but that’s fodder for other tangents.) Nor has Shaenon Garrity lost the story by having Helen and Dave end up in a relationship together. A good writer can build off of the tension between two characters, whether they’re having sex or just being friends.

However, I don’t see any lasting relationship between Marten and Faye, because of Faye herself. Faye is… flawed in several ways. It makes her a wonderfully human character, and as a writer I salute Jeph for creating such a well-rounded character. But… Faye is an abusive person. I’ve talked about this before. But the fact is, she lashes out at people verbally and physically, and has actually hurt Marten on several occasions. Yes, she’s been hurt before; she has a scar on her chest that may very well be a stabbing wound. But from the very beginning Faye has verbally threatened and physically hurt Marten often for no reason at all.

If a man did half the things Faye does, he’d either be in jail for assault and abuse charges, or he’d be in the hospital after some other guy struck back. Let’s be honest here. The only reason Faye gets away with the bull she pulls is because she’s a woman. Marten seems to be a fairly passive guy and he puts up with it. Unfortunately this only encourages her to abuse him further.

That’s not to say that Faye is a shallow unchanging shadow of a person. We’ve watched her slowly grow to trust Marten. We’ve seen her flirting with Marten, often when she’s drunk, but even so. She’s shown some jealousy toward her friend Dora, who is also interested in Marten. And she’s even felt guilt over her physical abuse of Marten (well, once or twice at least). So there’s hope. She might improve.

But I’ve seen other such relationships not improve. I’ve seen the woman refuse to admit she’s abusive. I’ve seen them laugh it off, claim that the guy is exaggerating. People don’t like to change. Change is difficult. It’s easier just to continue doing the same old thing. So while I’d love to see Faye become a better person, to stop abusing Marten and start treating him with more respect, I am not going to waste time hoping for it.

Marten himself is an interesting character. I think part of the reason people want Marten and Faye to end up together is because Marten’s the “stereotypical” nice guy. He’s attracted to Faye, and so people want him to win the heart of his desire. Still, I’m not entirely sure how much he’s changed. I’m not even sure he has to change, though it would be nice to see him stop being so passive and to not blindly accept Faye’s physical abuse of him.

If Faye has developed as a character, Marten has been fleshed out. We’ve learned a little of his past and what brought him to the East Coast. We’ve seen him open up his home to a relative stranger (he hadn’t known Faye that long at that point) when she was in need. All in all, we’ve just seen confirmation after confirmation that Marten is just generally a nice chap. I suppose you could say he’s the bedrock the rest of the comic is anchored in, so we probably won’t see any significant character development with him.

Dora fills out the third part of the trinity of main characters, though she’s not as regular a character as Marten and Faye are. She’s undergone a bit of growth, going from a lapsed goth to someone who is intelligent, witty, and easily Faye’s equal in terms of sassiness. She’s also the third leg of Marten’s love triangle. Marten realizes that he is attracted to Dora. However, she’s not actively pursuing Marten while he continues to long after Faye… and Faye refuses to act.

(I hear some fans even claim that Dora also harbors romantic feelings for Faye herself, which would make this a true love triangle, but I’m not sure as to how accurate those speculations are. There were some ambiguous segments in the past which suggest it, but when looking back they definitely fit with Dora being interested in Marten, instead of Faye.)

The secondary characters help fill out the comic, with Steve and Ellen being a fairly healthy relationship undoubtedly meant to help twist the knife into Marten’s gut by shouting to him “hey! This is what you could be having, if only Faye would get off her high horse!” (not that I’m advocating Marten and Faye as a couple, mind you, but as he’s primarily interested in Faye at this time, it’s what he’d probably hear his gut say. Before Faye punches him in it again, of course.)

Raven is another interesting character who has changed significantly (seemingly following Dora from the Goth-side) and also proven herself against Faye. Interestingly enough, this has led Faye herself to start changing and for the better, and this definitely makes Raven worth mentioning in this review. Besides, there is this sort of charm she has, like a puppy dog or kitten. She’s not always with it, but she’s definitely fun.

I left Pintsize for last, because he’s probably the biggest secondary character. He’s actually had some growth himself (well, all of the secondaries have, especially Steve who has been around longer even than Faye), and he works into so many jokes that it’s almost not funny. Almost. But any destructive walking talking computer is in these days, thanks to Berkeley Breathed and Bloom County. Let’s just suffice it to say that QC would be much blander without this insane little computer running around causing mischief.

Story Continuity: 4.5 ribbons
Web content: 2.5 ribbons
Story Type: Comedic, Romantic, Storyline
Story Style: Life

I can’t think of any obvious major continuity flaws in the comic. Jeph has taken care to have a fairly tight comic with a definite beginning, middle, and end. Or at least I think I’ve read somewhere that Questionable Content does have an ending in mind. I personally think the strip could continue past that, but I can also understand the drive to write (and draw) new things, and do something else. And if there is an ending, it’s not in sight.

However, while there aren’t major continuity flaws, I do have some problems with it. The biggest problem is the tendency of Faye to banter with whoever is around about music (usually indie music) or anything else she feels the need to rant about. And power to her. I mean, she seems to enjoy doing it, the people around her get involved and enjoy bantering back… but as I’ve said before, sometimes it starts sounding like the other characters are just aping Marten. The need for the witty banter just negates the existing character and they become a mouthpiece to bounce ideas off of.

It’s cute… but it can also be annoying. It would work better if the characters could keep their voices when they’re doing this. I don’t need to see Dora echoing Marten’s thoughts and words when she banters back with Faye. (Interestingly, when Raven tries to banter, she gets it all wrong. It’s nice, if amusing, to see that Raven at least still has her own voice and personality when Faye is on a banter-fit.)

Of all the things to gripe about, it’s minor. And in fact, a case could be argued that Marten and Dora are just so much alike that Faye is just able to banter with either of them without a pause. I’m sure most people don’t have an issue with it, and probably in time Jeph will start giving Dora a bit more of her own voice and personality within these banter sessions.

Rating: PG-13

I’d consider Questionable Content to be PG-13. While I don’t recall a lot of swearing or such, and the closest we come to flesh is seeing Dora or Faye in a bra, some of the dialog can be downright crass. The comic is called Questionable Content for a reason, and while it might not be as potentially offensive as, say, Loserz, it definitely has its moments.

Addendum note: I’ve had several people comment that they think QC should be Rated R due to some of the content – specifically talking about anal sex and vibrators and the like. While their fears warrant merit, I’m sticking by the PG-13 rating. PG-13 means that the parent gets to look in and make snap judgments about what the kid should and shouldn’t know about, and that children under 13 shouldn’t probably be reading it. It’s not a blanket statement saying that the strip is child-safe. If you want child-safe, you’ll want a Rated G strip, and there are some that are Rated G and yet most interesting (like Count Your Sheep and Alice! (to mention just a couple). The ratings are not meant to absolve parents of responsibility, however, and even a G Rated strip may warrant occasional reviews by some parents.

Punctuality: Monday through Friday, I don’t recall any missed days.

As QC doesn’t have a calendar-format archive, I don’t know if the comic used to miss days. I know it was at one time running on a MWF schedule, but I don’t know if there was a problem with missed days. There are guest strips up, however, showing that he has taken vacations and set up other strips to run in its place, which is a nice gesture to his readers. No doubt any future breaks will also be filled with guest strips.

Overall: 3.75 ribbons

Questionable Content is another strip I started reading thanks to Websnark. Even so, I only read it intermittently at first, and I don’t really remember what drove home the need to read this on a continual basis. The comic is good. While it has a tendency to wander into the world of indie music (and indeed is based on a character who loves listening to indie music), it’s not a one-trick pony. Even if you have no knowledge of indie music or its culture, you can easily get into the comic.

That is the great strength of this comic. The characters, their interactions, their backgrounds, these are what draw the reader into the comic. QC isn’t a niche comic that would only interest music fans or people interested in romance comics. Instead, it’s an excellent blend of humor, friendship, character growth, and more. Further, the world itself is growing, with various strange bits cropping up here and there, suggesting that the world of Questionable Content is much more varied and unusual than we first would think.

The characters are likeable, whether you’re looking at the main three or the secondary cast. I know that I want to see Steve and Ellen remain together, especially as Steve has had several relationships in the past. Then again, I’m a romantic at heart. I want the hero to get the girl of his dreams.

Then again, I also want the girl of the hero’s dreams not to become a nightmare. Unfortunately, unless Faye does something about her tendency toward violence, I cannot see any relationship between Marten and Faye being a healthy one or really one that would last. Of course, Marten’s a nice chap; I doubt he’d cheat on Faye. But still, one day he might wake up and realize that he just doesn’t love her anymore, and if they’ve been in a long enough relationship… well, I suspect Faye would be devastated to hear Marten say “I just don’t love you anymore.” Especially if they’d been married for years.

Still, I doubt we’ll be seeing Marten and Faye married in the comic. In fact, I doubt there will be any real romantic relationship between them. I’d love to be wrong about this; Jeph definitely has the writing skills to pull off such a thing. But he’s not going to rush his story just to satisfy his fans.

And really, that’s the best sort of story to read; one that doesn’t pander to the audience, but instead gives them a truly interesting story that catches the interests and souls of the readers. Questionable Content does that.

There are various medicaments. However, there are online drugstores that sell prescription drugs to customers who need them at low costs. For example you can purchase antibiotics that fights infection caused by bacteria. This type of drugs will not treat some infection like a common cold. Positively, the scroll is very large. If you’re concerned about sexual malfunction, you probably know about buy doxycycline and . Currently many users search for the exact phrase ‘ on the Web. A lot of websites describe it as . The signs of sexual diseases in men turn on inability to have an hard-on sufficient for sexual functioning. Whereas sex is not vital for good soundness, it’s no doubt important for you. If you have mess getting an hard-on, it’s vital to visit a certified health care provider before pursuing any sort of medications. Before buying Levitra or any other preparation, tell your physician about any concern regarding your sexual soundness. The health care professional may refer you to other professionals, like sex therapists and other counselors. Keep this drug in the container it came in, densely closed. For example the liquid remedies if possible have to be kept in the cool place, but it may be stored at room temperature.