Creator/s: Nick Szostakiwskyj, Rachael Addison
Run: 7/12-current
Schedule: M-F

Website: It has a colorful, fun look, with a cat design used for its background. The playful buttons and graphics at the top of the page also help to make the site seem more inviting. The highlight, though, is the color-coded archive page, which groups related strips and shows which cat the strip most prominently features. This is a fairly creative approach that I don't think I've seen anyone do before. The cast page is also well-designed, although it seems strange that it focuses on the characters' professions when that subject never comes up in the comic.

The navigation buttons are below the large space reserved for comments, and it felt tedious scrolling down to the bottom of the page every time I wanted to go to the next strip. Ideally, the buttons should be immediately below the page. I also dislike how the About and Cast buttons are at the bottom of the page, as they should be immediately visible to new readers.

The way the site spells the comic's title's inconsistent, as Strips 1-46 show "NOT-SO-LOL-CATS" in large letters, Strips 1-59 have "Not So lolcats" as the pages' header, and creator uses "Not So LOLCATS" in his comments. It might be a good idea to go back and fix the old pages so that they fit in better with the current ones. I also noticed that Strips 39 and 41 both say "Episode 40" on them, so those pages need to be corrected as well.

Lastly, the creator seems to have been keeping up with a Monday-through-Friday schedule since the comic's beginning, but now it's been more than two weeks since he's posted anything. This sudden hiatus is potentially a big turn-off for readers, who may be hesistant to get attached to the comic due to the creator's apparent lack of commitment. A more conservative update schedule, such as two or three strips a week, might be a more practical approach.

Writing: It seems necessary to consider Not So LOLCATS as almost being two distinct comics, as the addition of a co-writer has made a drastic change in the strip.

The strip's original iteration's clearly nothing more than a shock comic, with topics including masturbation, defecation, rape, molestation, drug abuse, child abuse, senility, cursing, boners, sex, religious fanatics, immigrants, and prostitutes. Most of these jokes rely on the same predictable structure: The comic introduces a situation that seems innocent, then it dishes out a "shock twist" when one of the characters does or says something perverted, disgusting, or offensive. Sometimes it mixes things up by having an innocent setup with a cutesy punchline, but these seem less like jokes than just attempts to balance out the comic's pervasive edginess. The only strip in this section with a decent gag is this one, which combines the comic's shock and cutesy aspects while showing some pretty good timing.

What's wrong with shock humor? As Srdjan Achimovich points out in his review blog, its purpose is "To be edgy, I guess, because they think it makes them different, cool. It’s a sort of self-promotion, a setup in which you are a main star, you hold a central position, and your comic is there just to show how much ‘wacky’, ‘edgy’, ‘anti-establishment’ you are. Needless to say, comic suffers when it is in shadow of your self-promotional author figure." A big problem with the comic's that the characters are barely more than visual aids the creator uses to tell his jokes, and there's never a sense that what happens is an extension of a defined set of personalities. Surprisingly, the most generic characters are the ones listed at the top of the cast page, and even though they have paragraph-long descriptions, the comic never gives any impression of what they're like. And the supporting characters aren't much better, merely representing one- or two-word concepts such as "old person," "child," "pervert," "ladies' man," and "immigrant." The only character I have any interest in is the weird tenant, but for some reason, the creator barely uses him. It's a real shame, because the tenant's only other appearance is, by far, the comic's best strip.

When Not So LOLCATS brings on a female co-writer in Strip 43, the comic undergoes a major transition, abandoning its shock humor roots as it starts to resemble some kind of wacky family sitcom. Instead of edgy, in-your-face punchlines involving poop or child rape, the comic now has three consecutive strips that conclude with a glossy-eyed character crying (1, 2, 3), something that had previously only been done with Whiskers, the kitten. While some of the earlier strips have a sexualized version of women shown through the male gaze (1, 2, 3), newer strips invert this by presenting men as being attractive and desirable (1, 2, 3). (The one exception to this, which is this page, is desexualized as much as possible.) The pop culture references shift as well, with the earlier strips poking fun at guy-oriented stuff like Led Zeppelin and the Evil Dead trilogy, while the newer strips make girlier references, such as to Amanda Bynes, Prince, and Willow Smith. Finally, the comic's getting away from its gag-a-day nature with its first real story arc, a "family vacation" plotline that's up to eight pages so far. These changes don't make much of a difference since Not So LOLCATS still isn't funny, and that point's ultimately what makes or breaks the comic, but I see it as somewhat of an improvement in the sense that the quirky sitcom humor's less abrasive than the crude jokes from the previous strips.

Art: The comic starts off being very underwhelming, with blobby, mouse-drawn characters, minimalistic backgrounds, and abundant copy-pasting. In the 50th strip, though, an updated look is debuted, and in Strip 56, the creator begins using a tablet. The new design needs more improvement, but at least the creator recognizes how unappealing the style of the earlier strips is. Strangely, though, when the comic finally reaches the point where the creator actually draws all of the panels, the very next strip abandons the new character designs, going back to the copy-pasted blob-cats from the comic's beginning. And since then, the creator still hasn't settled on a coherent style -- in Strip 63, Carl's shown with arms and legs, and then in the next strip, his arms become tiny stumps, and his legs disappear again. The creator also hasn't attempted to shade his characters yet even though some of the recent strips have shadows in the backgrounds (1, 2).

Facial expressions are important for every comic, but they might be even more important for humorous comics, where a goofy face can take a joke from being "just okay" to being laugh-worthy. The characters in Not So LOLCATS usually have the same blank, copy-pasted expression, though, with the occasional variations merely being minor edits. The creator needs to learn how to express his characters' emotions in a more visual way. In addition, the facial expressions don't always make sense; for instance, check out the upside-down-"U" eyes seen here and here. It's apparently supposed to resemble the similar manga expression, but manga uses upside-down "U"s for closed eyes -- here, they're pupils.

Backgrounds are a big problem for the comic, with much of earlier strips overrelying on copy-pasted backgrounds that aren't that great to begin with. This Halloween comic's a good example of this, as the creator tries to make the setting "Halloween-themed" merely by adding a couple minor additions to the first strip's background and recoloring the window to be a darker blue. And the most basic objects are copy-pasted over and over, like with the leaves here, here, and here. He also makes a weird decision on occasion to place characters in empty rooms (1, 2, 3). Fortunately, the creator's been ambitious with the vacation story arc, featuring elaborate nature scenes, as well as drawing a strip that has a more detailed interior than any of the previous strips. The perspective in the first panel here's also more realistic than the one shown in the car scene here. I think a more incremental approach would make sense, though, as while the outdoor scenes are a refreshing departure from the earlier strips, the reliance on simple shapes is somewhat tacky.

Lastly, Carl and Whiskers are suspiciously similar to Garfield and Nermal from Garfield. Both comics have a fat orange cat with stripes and an obnoxiously cute gray kitten as two of its main characters. I won't go so far as to suggest that the creator's ripping off Jim Davis, but it doesn't seem ideal to have the characters so closely resemble those in the most prominent cat-based comic.

Overall: Not So LOLCATS is at a rough point right now, as its jokes aren't funny, its characters are underdeveloped, its art's still primitive, and the creator hasn't updated it in weeks. As an optimist, I believe it can improve, though, and the creator should understand that in addition to time management and skill, making a quality webcomic requires a certain extent of mental discipline. Not everyone will be successful -- in fact, very few will -- but those who go on to make noteworthy webcomics are the creators who have the tenacity to get through the difficult learning process. Improvement takes time, and as long as the comic gradually gets funnier and more visually appealing, it'll move closer towards attracting a significant audience.



  1. I thought this review was great. I like all the creative criticisms. We're working on improving our artistic ability. Still figuring out the tablet, after having it for a year! And sorry for the inconsistent updates. Not So LOLCats is a hobby that me and my girlfriend have together and sometimes the schedule thing just doesn't line up :(

    We will work at it and next time you see us, we will be a 3/5! Brace yourself.

  2. I'm glad you found the review helpful and not just, like, douchey. Everybody has to start out somewhere, and it's really pretty normal for a fledgling webcartoonist to struggle with their first project. I wouldn't mind reviewing Not So LOLCats again once you've had time to fix some of the comic's problems. You might also want to consider revisiting the CG forums sometime if you want some feedback and tips.