Darren and Jason

URL: http://renandjay.smackjeeves.com (This and all links to the comic should be considered NSFW)
Author: Ben Pitman

Genre: Furry, Romance, Humor
Schedule: Multiple pages every week or so

The popular perception of furry comics can be summed up by Riiser of Webcomic Relief in his review of the infamous furry comic Concession: "I hate anything that has to do with furries. If it's not porn, it's some stupidly overcomplicated story, or if not that, then more porn." And while there are exceptions to the rule, Darren and Jason is not one of them. And while many who do reviews on furry comics with explicit sex and fetishism would be satisfied to slag the comic purely on the content alone, it would be like saying a political comic is terrible for involving politics. Taboo subject matter like sex and politics aren't inherently bad, but it's how those themes are treated that makes them bad. And dissecting the usage here is what really makes this comic truly bad.

Writing

The comic starts with a fox named Darren admiring himself naked in the mirror when another fox named Jason walks in on him. Jason makes fun of him, but then kisses Darren. Darren tries to get an explanation for it, but Jason dodges the question repeatedly. Eventually, Jason reveals he's gay, and convinces Darren to be his boyfriend. They have sex. Then Jason finds another fox named Simon at the grocery store and finds out he's gay, and brings him back to Darren's place for a three-way, after which he asks if Simon would like to be in a polygamous relationship with him and Darren. While Simon leaves to think it over, Darren and Jason go to the park, and they have sex again. They find Simon with a dingo, and they ask if he wants to be in their relationship. He says yes, it turns out that the dingo is a homophobe, and after he calls Jason a faggot, Darren punches the dingo in the face. From this point on, the story goes between self-contained gag strips and story arcs such as Darren meeting the ghost of his former kangaroo boyfriend Dan and random sexual encounters.

First, let's deal with the elephant in the room. While there's nothing wrong with expressing sex and sexuality, it usually isn't necessary in a comic about romantic relationships unless the act of physical intimacy reveals something about the characters or has some other significant meaning to the story. In the case of Darren and Jason, the sex does the exact opposite, sucking all the room for characterization and insight on the characters and their relationship in lieu of scenes and jokes about sex. More troubling is that the comic pretty much equates sex with love and makes no attempts to flesh out the deeper aspects of a romantic relationship. The idea of trust and communication is brought up by Darren when Jay initially proposes entering a relationship, though once he enters the relationship, it's immediately followed up with sex. Similarly, Simon is asked to enter the relationship after having a three-way with Darren and Jason. In the case of Darren and Dan, after Dan is fatally shot and admits confesses his love for Darren, Daren has sex with him before he dies (also, he was shot and the wounds disappear for this scene. Nice attention to detail.). And in the case of Terry and Dax (a carnival manager and a security guard the group meet) Terry only admits that he loves Dax after Dax jerks him off and Terry has sex with Dax as he's telling him. I don't know if that's what the author intended to say, but based on the execution, that's what it comes off as saying.

And since almost every male in this story is gay or bisexual, the portrayal of these characters could result in some unintended interpretations of LGBTs. While Jason admits that he is promiscuous and that not every gay person is attracted to every guy or interested in casual sex, the three pretty much have sex with pretty much everyone. Jay tries to have sex with the homophobic dingo as he's telling them that he's straight, happily married, and has two kids, Darren gets plastered has sex with a cop after stealing his hat, Darren stuffs a security guard's hand down his pants to touch his dick, Jay harasses a shark and gets him to have sex with him in an alley, and various other sexual encounters with people they just meet. While the comic wants to avoid the common stereotype of all gay people being effeminate, it props up another stereotype completely.

Speaking of promiscuity, another thing that bugs me is the characters never have to deal with the consequences of their actions, which usually is their libido. For example, in the case of the homophobic dingo, while calling Jason a homophobic slur is wrong, the dingo could easily press charges on Jason and Darren for sexual assault and battery. Darren and Jason have sex in a public park full of grocery store employees and Simon jerks off in the open and only one person sees them and just teases them. And this isn't the only time we see public sex, Dan and the security guard Dax jerk off his boss Terry in the middle of a crowded amusement park, and we're expected to think that not one person noticed a naked dog levitating upside down while a security guard is pleasuring him? And yet nobody in any of these cases gets brought up on charges of public indecency (and in the case of the manager and the guard, fired)? The relationship between Terry and Dax has even more problems that aren't addressed. Terry is a manager and Dax is his employee, an office relationship that's often dissuaded because of the risk of preferential treatment, a risk that is completely confirmed by the fact that Terry gives Dax a promotion to a job that he isn't capable of doing but only got so he could have sex with Terry in his office. What happens if the relationship goes sour? At best, the work atmosphere would be incredibly awkward, at worst Terry could fire Dax out of spite or Dax could falsely accuse Terry of sexual assault. Though that would be a walk in the park compared to Terry setting up a carnival game devoted to tickling a fennec fox until he ejaculates. But no, every single character suffers no consequences for their actions, not even STDs from the unprotected sex with multiple strangers. The lack of consequences combined with the fact that they always triumph in their sexual conquests makes the main cast look like a bunch of Mary Sues and therefore completely bland and uninteresting as they have no risk of failure.

But luckily, even the author realizes how contrived the writing is. Unfortunately, rather than go back to the drawing board and fix it, he writes fourth wall jokes to make fun of the comic. Of all the self-aware jokes that sprang from our postmodern genre-savvy media culture, the “Who writes this crap?” has got to be the laziest of them all, a handwave for mediocrity disguised as self-deprecation. Especially the one where the author insists he's too busy with other creative projects and schoolwork to bother spending more time than necessary to shoehorn an introduction for a minor character. And it shows.

Art


The art is done traditionally on paper using fineliner pens, then colored with colored pencils. At first, it was just pencil lineart, then lined and colored with pencil, then finally done the way it is now. There are rarely any backgrounds. And though I have spent the better part of this review being completely negative about the comic, I will say this. The art has definitely improved over the course of the comic, something the author demonstrates by redrawing the first page of the comic and lining it side-by side with the old one. His foxes look more like foxes, he's does a good job inking and coloring for the tools he has (he even shades objects behind Dan lighter to make him look translucent, which is a nice touch). This shows he at least wants to improve.


But that's not to say he's perfect, or even good. The backgrounds are nonexistant, there are no divisions between panels, the pages aren't sized to fit the screen (resulting in tedious horizontal scrolling), and the characters design is completely uninspired, a victim of specializing in drawing foxes. As a result, most of the characters look extremely similar despite being different species. You have foxes, dogs, kangaroos, and porcupines, and they have the similar muzzle shape, ear shapes, the similar heights, similar body types, etc. You want to play a fun game? Put those characters in silhouette and see if you can if you can tell them apart. You'd be hard pressed to name more than two in that lineup. And in the case of the foxes, their only distinguishing feature is that they wear different shirt styles, which they take off often, this being a comic involving characters having sex and all. The only exception to this is the guest comics done by one of the author's boyfriends. While the art is very cartoony (which wouldn't lend itself to the sex scenes) and doesn't have a wide variety of facial expressions, you can at least tell they're different animals, (also, the last linked page gave me the only laugh in this entire comic, so kudos Dodge).

The art is done on lined paper. I have never seen anyone ever use lined paper on comics over the age of 9. The only time I've ever seen such a thing was when I leafed through those Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, but they have the excuse of trying to make it look like a kid doodled it in his journal. However, the artist doesn't have that excuse, and in the comments of this comic, explains that the reason they do it is to keep character proportions right, and trying to put a guide sheet behind a piece of paper or going digital either take too much work or are too expensive to justify doing. Honestly, it's a crutch that's actually holding the author back. All the characters look incredibly stiff when they're standing around talking, and it's likely a consequence of relying on the guides as they're only really useful if the characters are standing at side profile. Anything else throws the author for a loop, resulting in the head shrinking while the author tries to make the head turn in the right direction (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). So for the most part, the comic is full of side-profile fox shaped animals talking and occasionally making hand gestures.

Conclusion

This comic isn't the worst comic in the world. It's not the worst furry comic in the world (Bad Webcomics Wiki has a list of more eye-searingly awful examples). But it's not good. The author shows some improvement artwise and could get better if the author stops relying on shortcuts that hinder his progress, but the writing is a self-serving wish-fulfillment that labels itself “a relationship journey” in its profile page, but for all intents and purposes is porn. And if that's what you want, you can go online and find plenty that's better quality and doesn't make you sift through pages of poorly thought out story arcs and jokes that aren't funny.

1/5





3 comments :

  1. I tried to like it, I really did. But this review is spot on. Though, I would point out that since this review the artist seems to have ditched the lined paper, but it's still all side shots.

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    Replies
    1. That makes it marginally better, though it seems to have come at the cost of ditching the colored pencil work and replacing it with flat colors. Horizontal scrolling is still there, and it would likely be the easiest issue to fix if the comics were resized to fit the template.

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  2. Having sex with someone who had been shot would HURT them. Consider this: There is a scene in the Battle Royale comic where Mitsuko Souma (a 9th grade student) rapes her classmate, Yuichiro Takiguchi.

    Yuichiro had been shot by his friend on accident (the friend was trying to shoot Mitsuko, and Mitsuko had killed him). Mitsuko believes that it is loving to give him sex (she has major issues), so she forces sex on him. The bullets in his body are hurting him, and he cries out in pain. In a rage, Mitsuko kills him with her scythe, believing he is being ungrateful. THIS is how something like that would go.

    So if the description of the Darren and Jason comic is accurate, the author needs to cut out the sex scene.

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