Webcomic: Get Milked
Creator/s: Ed Womack
Schedule: Every three days
Webcomic: Mandatory Roller Coaster
Creator/s: Aram French
Website: Both sites are basic, with Mandatory Roller Coaster having the better one. Get Milked hasn't updated its blog since 2012, hasn't updated its Toons section in nine years, and has no information about the creator, meaning that the site's just the comics and an archives page. Y'know, the kind of site you can make on Smack Jeeves in five minutes.
Mandatory Roller Coaster's essentially a Tumblr page with ads, but it has an About page, a photo of the creator, and an FAQ, and that makes the site feel more personal than most webcomic sites I've come across. The highlight is a bunch of photos of fans holding print versions of the webcomic, which I haven't seen done before. I dunno if seeing other people with books makes people more likely to buy books themselves, but, if it does, then that's a really smart business move.
Writing: Whenever I see a one-panel comic, I can't help but think of The Far Side. It's strange, it's smart, and it's one of the most popular newspaper comics of all time. Unfortunately, though, Larson's mastery of this bizarre method of storytelling has led to crude imitations by the comic's fans.
You can call me biased, but when I find out about a one-panel webcomic I haven't read yet, I'm 100 percent confident that it's going to be terrible. The reason for that is because one-panel comics are, by far, the most difficult kind of comics to execute well, and anyone with a decent understanding of the medium will recognize this and deem themselves unworthy of such an impossible task. So, ironically, it ends up being the most clueless creators who try to tackle this highly demanding art form. Two of these creators are the forces behind the webcomics Get Milked and Mandatory Roller Coaster.
Like The Far Side, Get Milked portrays unrealistic situations; however, The Far Side does this in a much more absurd, surrealistic way. For example, The Far Side will often feature talking animals, science fiction-like scenarios, or other wild concepts. With Get Milked, the characters are regular people, and the content's overtly sociopolitical, making it very grounded in reality. But, wait; if I just called the comic "unrealistic," then how I can say that it's "grounded in reality" two sentences later?
My answer's that the comic's trying to be both realistic and unrealistic at the same time, and it's a huge problem. This is most evident in the strips related to gender (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), as there's a fierce, misanthropic negativity towards both men and women, but the comics whimsically avoid the underlying gender issues. This comic has none of the depth or intelligence that The Far Side's known for, instead repeating its shallow mantra of "men and women are both selfish, stupid assholes" endlessly. Take a look at these two strips (1, 2), for instance, which show a man and a woman each behaving obnoxiously in a relationship. It's a real problem presented in a real context, but the characters' actions are unlike anything a real person would do. It's certainly not funny, and it doesn't help people think about or understand gender issues. It's just anger, bitterness, and depression, and, personally, I think that's a repulsive formula for a comic.
As for Mandatory Roller Coaster, it's more like The Far Side in the sense that it presents wild situations that seem to come out of nowhere. For example, just out of the several newest strips, there's a goofy kraken, a talking deer, and a robot at a bar. However, the comic lacks the cleverness and depth of The Far Side, as a lot of the gags are either poking fun at pop culture or pointing out basic, obvious stuff (e.g., that men get nervous around attractive women). It reads like a lame standup act to me, especially when the comic makes references to celebrities and fads. One of the great things about The Far Side is that its jokes are timeless and universal, which means that the comic's just as relevant today as it was in the '80s and '90s.
A lot of the comics deal with the characters' struggle with loneliness and relating to other people, and it handles these issues in a much more coherent manner than Get Milked handles gender issues. For instance, several of the comics portray smartphones in a negative manner, and while it's a well-treaded subject by now, there's a clear connection made between obsession with the Internet and technology, and a sense of isolation and narcissism. The comics are also only slightly exaggerated glimpses into humanity, which makes them both a little funny and a little true. By contrast, in Get Milked, the situations are exaggerated so much that they don't resemble humanity anymore, making them neither funny nor true. I'd like Mandatory Roller Coaster a better if it was a lot more edgy, innovative, and unique, though, as a lot of the gags feel like they've been recycled from older stuff.
Art: The Far Side has a weird dynamic going on, where the visuals overtly have a pedestrian, deliberately ugly look, but in a more subtle manner, the underlying compositions and perspectives are brilliant. These two webcomics have adopted the ugliness of The Far Side, but they don't have the same kind of structural foundation that makes the ugliness appealing.
Get Milked is a "talking heads" comic, and the characters are almost always shown chest- or waist-up and in the same three-fourths perspective. Because of this, there's a heavy focus on the characters' facial expressions, as they're the main thing that changes between each strip. In other words, the point of the strips is that the characters feel a certain way, which is usually angry or blissfully ignorant. By contrast, The Far Side is about concepts and situations, with the feelings of the characters being unimportant unless they're essential to conveying the concept. Get Milked shares The Far Side's concept-driven writing style, but it pairs that with a character-driven art style, and the incompatibility of these two styles makes the comic abrasive and unpleasant to read.
Mandatory Roller Coaster is more successful in the sense that it correctly pairs concept-driven writing with concept-driven artwork. The characters all have serene facial expressions, which goes with the comic's focus on depression and loneliness. Where the comic falls short is that the illustrations are too boring, plain, and simple. The compositions are uninteresting, the perspectives are botched to a distracting extent, and the backgrounds are either nonexistent or overly minimalistic. The Far Side owes its popularity to having excellent writing and excellent artwork, and I don't see how trying to do a "bad art" version of it would be a good idea.
Overall: I'd like it if people would stop making one-panel webcomics and, instead, just respect The Far Side as being an incredible accomplishment by a master cartoonist. Get Milked and Mandatory Roller Coaster are both half-assed imitations by unskilled creators that don't seem to get what makes The Far Side so great. And that's fine with me. While these (and other) Larson wannabes are flailing about aimlessly, I'll just open up a collection of The Far Side comics and re-read the good stuff.
Mandatory Roller Coaster