Evil Tom Preston

URL: http://eviltomp.deviantart.com/
Author: eviltomp
Genre: Humor, Parody
Schedule: Sporadic

One of my favorite comics from The Best American Comics 2008 is Graham Annable's “Burden.” The comic is about a man going around town paying off his brother's debts, giving out letters apologizing to all the people his brother wronged in the past, and telling them that his brother has left to start over somewhere else. And then SPOILER: it turns out the man killed his brother and went around fixing his mistakes for him. Basically, Evil Tom Preston is this but less morbid. The author is making up for the bad blood his “twin brother” Tom Preston of So, You're a Cartoonist (reviewed previously by Riiser) caused by doing the exact opposite of what he's done in the past. And he's gotten the Tom Preston seal of approval, so he's doing something right. While the comic is mostly spot on with it's insights, the art could stand to be improved.

To anyone who doesn't know, Andrew Dobson AKA Tom Preston, is fairly infamous in the webcomic community. He responds to criticism with either derision or blocking the critic's DeviantArt account. His comic is his personal soapbox where he complains about exchanges he's had with customers at conventions, and the customer is always strawmanned into confrontational jerks so Dobson can shoot them down with well placed jabs. There's more to it than that, but this is an article about a Preston parody, not an article just bashing Preston, so for more information, check out this video and this site which explains why people hate him.

Evil Tom Preston is a parody of Dobson's various comics (such as SYAC, Alex Ze Pirate, and Danny and Spot, though SYAC is the focus), which isn't new considering that just typing “Tom Preston Parody” into Google gives you multiple results that are edits of the comic or making fun of his flaws. Instead of doing that, Evil Tom Preston redraws his comics, but instead of being caustic and egotistical, this one is more down to earth and capable of self-reflection. He knows he's not perfect, but willing to work at it and uses the negative and positive advice he's given to drive him forward instead of wallow in self pity. The comic also features a link to the original for comparison or citation of things that Dobson has actually said, so for those who don't get what he's referencing aren't completely lost. With the exception of his non-SYAC parodies, the parodies aren't hilarious but that's not the point. The point is more instructional than entertainment. Later, he does a couple Goofus and Gallant comics and I'd say that all the comics before it felt like that reading them side by side with the originals.

While the comic is mostly effective in its goals, the author could approach some of the comics differently. For example, in one comic, Evil Tom Preston is shown being bullied in high school, but later receives a friend request on Facebook from one of his former bullies. Rather than reject it like his alter ego, he accepts it in hopes that his bully has changed since then. It makes him come off like a pushover, not to mention that it overlooks other reasons that people had problems with the comic. I don't have a problem with Preston turning down a friend request, but the whole comic itself is so overdramatic that it's clear that Preston still nurses a grudge enough to make a comic about it at all. In another, he's shown debating between letting his avatar win a comic argument or letting the opponent win, fearing he'll get backlash either way, before scrapping the idea completely. While I applaud him for calling out strawmen, I wish he had said something about the false dichotomy Preston set up in the first place. Preston defines him winning as “using logic to make a point,” and his opponent winning as “using the strawmen argument card.” First, it sets him up as being in the right and everyone else as being irrational and stupid. Second, he completely misunderstands how a strawman works. Strawmen are used against opponents, not make it easier for them to win. Both of these cases come from the format, copying the dialogue of the panels in the beginning then doing the positive spin for the final panels instead of correcting the problems that exist throughout the page.

The art is penciled and inked by hand, and then most likely colored digitally. Instead of trying to copy the style of the originals as part of the parody, the author draws in his own style and using a human avatar that more likely reflects him (even when Preston later decides to depict himself as a Care Bear in a fedora). He also tries to be more ambitious than the person he's parodying, drawing desks and tables in perspective instead of drawing them as rectangles, drawing someone swinging an axe correctly and not messing up the face when it's in different angles, and attaching the legs on a table correctly and in perspective instead of plopping them on randomly.

Additionally, there's some nice sight gags in the comic that aren't essential to get, but are a nice touch. Instead of the paint bucket in brush in the original comic, the orange background in the parody is done with the marquis tool and fill tool in Photoshop, a joke about how Preston has made tutorials advising artists to not use antialiased lines so it's easier to use the fill tool on the same layer instead of coloring on another layer. In panel 3 of this comic, the opponent being flipped is making the same smug face as Preston does in the original. In this one, the author makes fun of Preston's need to put artsy movie posters in the background to make himself look smarter than he actually is. And this one gives a cameo to the infamous fedora'd teddy bear in the third panel.

However, as much as I dislike Preston, I have to admit that the originals have better lineart and look more expressive than in the parody. Evil Tom Preston uses a thick outline on people and thin lines on interior details and objects. While the thick outline gives a clear indication of what's important in the panel, the line weight doesn't do a good job indicating what's in the foreground and what's in the background. In that page, the table would be closer to the viewer or on the same layer as the characters, but is inked with thin lines, suggesting it would be further back. When he experiments with a brush pen, it looks much better. Additionally, the poses of the characters tend to be stiffer and their expressions aren't as exaggerated in the originals, which on one hand makes the strawman characters look less aggressive, but it also make the art look less dynamic than they originally looked. Though unlike Preston, Evil Tom Preston looks more likely to work hard and improve, and could possibly overtake him eventually.

Evil Tom Preston is a parody of Andrew Dobson with a unique gimmick that not only calls out Preston but acts as ideal for how amateur artists online should behave. It could be more ambitious on problems in his writing and the art could be better, but it isn't bad.
PS: I drew a giraffe on your DeviantArt page in Goggles.

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