Strip Search #19: Naughty Mysteries

StripSearch19_bAbby “#TeamTangent” Howard, getting her Sherlock on.

During the sixth elimination, Mike and Jerry realize that despite the simplistic style she used for her cartoon self-portrait, Abby is actually a rockin’ cartoonist. It’s really satisfying to watch– kind of like that episode of Britain’s Got Talent where Simon Cowell was acting like his usual insufferable self, then Susan Boyle came on and sang I Dreamed A Dream like a total boss and you could see his eyebrows try to forcibly escape from the rest of his body. “OMG she’s really good, HOW COULD I HAVE KNOWN? She looks like she would be so NOT-GOOD!”

Well, it’s like that, except we don’t hate Mike and Jerry like we do Simon Cowell– well, most people don’t. Some people are big into the hate.

First, My Elimination Comic: The Date

ElimComic6My “Naughty Mystery” comic. I still like the idea, but I had real trouble drawing on my Cintiq this time. On the plus side? I was WAAAY under 90 minutes, but it didn’t seem like I could use the extra time to fix it much.

Another elimination, another time for me to play Strip Search: Home Edition. I have a major problem in that I want to play by the rules and stop the episode after the themes are revealed, give myself 90 minutes and have at it, but I always want to watch the episode too badly and finish watching it before i do the challenge. This means, technically, I’m cheating and I probably shouldn’t use the #ElimComic tag on Twitter to try to get my comic considered for the Home Edition page on the Strip Search site.

Then again, isn’t EVERYBODY cheating? I don’t know if they’re stopping the episode or not, but some of those pieces people are posting on Twitter look like they took longer than 90 minutes; frickin’ lying comic artists! I see right through you. Ultimately though, this ethical dilemma became moot because my comic came out kind of terrible anyway. Next time, I’m going to take a page from Abby’s book and use traditional media: I’m just not ready for primetime with the Cintiq yet. I can’t seem to do detail work on it at all.

Back To The Episode

StripSearch19_a“How could we have KNOWN?”

Mike and Jerry were really on their game with the campy shenanigans in this episode. Jerry’s “You’re the one everyone expects to win. But it’s hard to win…if you’ve been eliminated,” was made hilarious by his deadpan delivery. I continue to love how wholeheartedly campy this show is– they really went all in.

Other things I love include how all the artists never fail to stick their arms deep into the Wastebasket of Broken Dreams for some mysterious reason. “I bet the stuff closer to the bottom is the stuff I’m GOOD at drawing!”, thought no one ever.

This week’s themes, “Naughty” and “Mystery” were actually a harder combo than last week’s. Sure, those themes give you plenty of room to try different things (which Abby and Erika did), but I think they’re actually a little TOO broad. Personally I would prefer something more concrete to riff on; if you screw up with something as bizarrely specific as “Mermaids +Ukulele,” you an always complain you got a bitch of a challenge: A bad comic when your only guidelines were “Naughty +Mystery?” You done fucked up, girl. (See above: I done fucked up.)

Onto the comics, Erika spends a long time blocking out her comic on separate paper, then notes that she’s worried about finishing because she’s a slow cartoonist: I call bullshit. She had 40 minutes on the clock when she started drawing, and she banged out six panels. Sure, the art wasn’t detailed, but still, six goddamn panels. I commented about this to my husband after the episode, which resulted in the following dialogue:

Wilson: That’s a lot of hostility toward Erika, dear. Or is it perhaps jealousy?

Karen: What are you talking about? There’s no hostility, I love Erika; it’s pure, UNMITIGATED jealousy.

Abby, keeping it old school with pencils and Sakura Micron pens, does a strip that manages to be naughty and charming at the same time. The strip has a similar quality to Lexxy’s elimination strip, where it’s taking subject matter that could be really tawdry yet manages to somehow make it look classy via highbrow-ish style. I was actually really impressed with her art here; I already knew she had some range, but to be able to draw characters dressed in recognizably 1900s-era clothing so quickly and recognizably, without any unnecessary details? I thought she might do better on the elimination stage than many were expecting, but I was blown away.

Abby also confesses that 90 minutes is an okay time for her to complete “something this short,” which is telling; I think she’s the first artist to express that level of comfort with the time allotment. Another advantage she has is that the quick pace of the elimination fits her natural, quick-and-to-the-point style, whereas everyone else (except MAYBE Erika) draws in a more elaborate style and has to struggle with scaling it back to meet the deadline. Abby is actually my pick to win this whole thing now: Ultimately, what really matters is the eliminations, they are suited to her style and she can make BOTH Mike and Jerry laugh out loud. That’s going to be tough to beat.

Abby and Mike also have some great banter, which I’m not going to recap because I can’t do it justice. The fact that Abby completely told Mike off was undoubtedly a source of great psychic pain to every single eliminated artist watching, though. “What? I could have told him to go suck a dick? WHY DIDN’T I DO THAT???”

At judging time, Mike and Jerry say both comics are good (they are) and that it’s close (it isn’t): there really wasn’t any doubt who was going to win when Abby’s “Sexadventure” strip made both Mike and Jerry laugh out loud. That’s a Flawless Victory, right there. Erika’s great, but this just wasn’t her night– plus, I think her real strength is long-form comics, not one-shots like this. Just like her bro Amy, after being eliminated Erika cries tears of joy that she had such a great time meeting the other artists, and it is the most touching and heartfelt thing. I didn’t actually cry, but it made me want to run out and try to make friends who draw pictures, or actually make friends period, I don’t know. I also wish I could be Erika’s friend, just like 99% of the Strip Search viewership after this episode. She just seems like the nicest, most genuine person you could ever have the privilege to know, and the show may well suffer in the second half from her absence.

Anyway, Abby returns to the Strip Search Happy Artists Commune with an undeniable “Didn’t expect to see me again, huh?” smirk on her face, but who could blame her? To their credit, the Strippers look surprised that she knocked out Erika for maybe half a second, then congratulate her wholeheartedly. Monica is now the only one who has yet to face elimination, and is adorably piqued when everyone refuses to tell her anything about it.

I don’t know, is it demeaning that I keep calling Monica adorable? Look, the girl is fucking adorable, I don’t know what you want from me.

Oh and Speaking of Blowing Things OUT OF PROPORTION

I was actually apprehensive about this episode once I saw the teaser with Abby’s comment about her shirt, because I was afraid there was going to be some kind of irritating Twitter blow up about someone commenting on cleavage and whether or not it was “slut-shaming,” and blah blah blah the most tiresome fucking conversation in the universe; you know the one I mean. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but instead there was a Twitter blow-up about the show “making an AIDS joke,” which is just…okay. This is thorny.

I realize I don’t have the authority to tell people what they can and can’t be offended by, and I shouldn’t. However, I firmly believe that making a joke that references a thing is not necessarily the same as making a joke at the expense of said thing. There is a small minority of Strip Search viewers who are very upset at the show for “making an AIDS joke” and don’t know how the rest of the viewers can so callously tolerate it, but here’s the thing: as far as I can tell, they didn’t make an AIDS joke. They made the exact same joke they’ve made in every. single. elimination, which is “Who would you pick to go to your birthday party and who would you pick to die?” The point of the joke has nothing to do with AIDS, or cancer, or anything else Mike could have mentioned. The joke is not making fun of victims of any particular disease; in fact, the joke only works, to the extent that it works at all, if you acknowledge that these are horrible things that you wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I could go on about this at some length, and how this interpretation of things bothers me at a deeper level, but that’s probably another post. There’s also the fact that something similar happened involving Penny Arcade with the Dickwolves incident about two years ago, which– while there was a much stronger argument to be made for that particular joke being legitimately offensive to a wide swath of readers– was another case where PA was accused of making a different, and much more callous, joke than the one that was actually on the screen, but eh, enough thinking about serious stuff. For now, let’s all just look at this picture of Pineapple Maki drinking a Pineapple Maki and feel good about the world:


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