Edgy vs Mean

Postby Scatman on Fri Dec 14, 2001 6:05 am

Nowadays I hear the word "edgy" being thrown about regarding comics and humor in general. It seems like the greatest praise that can be laid on a new comic strip is to say that it's edgy. I'd be curious to hear what that means in your opinion.<P>I think overall edgy could mean anything completely new or different. But I really think some people feel that edgy has to be mean spirited or vulgar. In movies especially, script writers go for laughs by peppering their scripts with profanity. An example of mean spiritedness would be the exploitation of the mentally ill for comic purposes. I've seen other movies where three-legged dogs were supposed to draw laughs. I know these are only movie characters, but implying that laughter at the handicapped and cruelty towards animals is not only acceptable but funny is a step backwards for our culture.<P>In comics I think many online cartoonists use gratuitous profanity and feel their work is on the edge. Now there is some good work out there, and profanity doesn't in itself make something bad. I just feel that most cartoonists who use profanity and think they're achieving edginess are merely achieving vulgarity.<P>I could go on, but I'd like to get a little feedback before I spill all I've got.
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Postby Yupyop on Fri Dec 14, 2001 7:31 am

To me "edge" refers to the current boundaries. TV shows such as LAUGH IN and SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, comedians such as Richard Pryor and George Carlin, comics such as KRAZY KAT, POGO, DOONESBURY, and BOONDOCKS all have pushed the limits of their format.
SOMETHING ABOUT MARY was not an edgy movie because it did nothing Mel Brooks or countless comedians had not done before.
Profanity by Lenny Bruce was used for a purpose. It was meant to shock us and it had an edge. Profanity by SOUTH PARK is a cheap laugh, and SOUTH PARK owes much to the edgy REN AND STIMPY.
Limits in language and discussions of moral issues is, and always has been, pushed. Ever read a TIJUANA BIBLE? I can quote lyrics from an early 1900's song that would shock a rap star.
I enjoy EXPLOITATION NOW as much as I do HOME FRIES or THE BUCKETS because they are entertaining comics done by talented cartoonists. I have no idea why anyone reads LOOK WHAT I BROUGHT HOME. I have no idea why anyone reads CATHY. But as long as I am not forced to read them I have no problem with their existence.
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Postby GregCartoonist on Fri Dec 14, 2001 8:34 am

I don't think I have a good definition of 'edgy'- Without ever having had to spell it out in so many words, I've always thought of any feature that had something new and surprising to it as 'edgy'- as in 'on the edge' I suppose.<P>As for online comics being 'edgier' than mainstream... somebody tell me if these (my own favorites) are edgy: Sinfest, When I Grow Up, Spaz Labs. <P>I used to have 'exploitation now' on my daily list, too, but it couldn't hold me. Maybe I'm just not edgy.<P>You tell me.
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Postby Throbbin Johnny on Sat Dec 15, 2001 7:24 am

Many good points here. Johnny loves Sinfest. Sinfest uses vulgarity to enhance a joke, not in spite of or for lack of. As stated, vulgarity for pure shock value is just plain lazy writing, IJO. Vulgarity, used properly, can add needed emphasis to emotion...<P>Edgy...how about adult? Intelligent? Too many of today's comics are just plain lame. The writing of many of today's toons are lazy, uninspired and unoriginal. Cathy's a good example of a toon recycling gag after gag. Ditto Garfield. Toons like Non Sequitor, Get Fuzzy, Rudy Park, don't insult the readers intelligence like many of the lame ducks taking up space in the papers. It's nice when you get a toon that makes you think, even just a little. <P>Other forms of media have moved forward with the times, while comics haven't been afforded such opportunity. How many times have we read about old folks being offended by a comics content, or heard "well, kids read comics, so you can't write that." Johnny would love to see today's demographics on the age of newspaper readership. Johnny buys the paper daily, and has never seen a kid walk in the store and buy a paper. "Gotta read my comics! Boy, the language in yesterdays BoonDocks! I blushed!" C'mon, kids today have access to the web, where far more offensive material can be found. You can read about rape, murder, war and pedophilia in the dailies...but a cartoon can't use the word fart???<P>IJO, edgy refers to a comic that is trying to speak in the current language/times, and inevitably will be censored...<P>"Throbbin' Johnny
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Postby Yupyop on Sat Dec 15, 2001 12:44 pm

I started to think about what comics would I call edgy. PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, OVER THE HEDGE, BC, BOONDOCKS, NON SEQUITUR, LIBERTY MEADOWS, 9 CHICKWEED LANE, and VOICES IN MY HAND.
Many web comics test the boundaries of acceptable behavior of a comic. Not only with moral behavior but with the form itself. In an era where gag a day comics dominate the newspaper, the web is full of story driven comics. Could the success of story driven comics such ITS WALKY and SLUGGY FREELANCE change comics? Does that make them edgy? Is CUTE WENDY edgy because the female characters like to get naked or is it not edgy because it never makes sense when they keep their clothes on? As long as SINFEST features the boring cat and dog can we really call it edgy? IMO the flaw of SINFEST is it's inconstancy. There are moments when there isn't a better comic anywhere, and at other times its hard to find a duller comic.
Greg, I don't know if EXPLOITATION NOW is edgy. But the reader's enjoyment of any spoof is equal to the reader's interest in the subject being spoofed. How interested are you in anime?
Scott, you mentioned meanness. I enjoy the humor of John Callahan. I am more sadden by the lack of compassion by a society hiding behind false PC than I am about jokes about a three legged dog. All forms of entertainment are a reflection of society. To blame any entertainment for anything is like blaming the mirror if "you" are ugly.
Johnny, you are right about the over censored comics in newspapers. A look at TV's Nick or Cartoon Network shows more edge to children programs than family comic strips. Yet creative minds can excel under censorship. I love the screwball comedy films of the 40's when filmmakers snuck sexual farce past the censors. Today's comics such as MONTY shows it still can be done.
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Postby Scatman on Mon Dec 17, 2001 3:42 am

Would you believe I got over 700 pages into Don Quixote and never finished it? But I am familiar with the story, and I love it. "Quixotic" may be my favorite word. But one could see the story from two sides. Was Don Quixote's mind filled with romantic and chivalrous ideas because of the many books he read? Or did he love the books because they appealed to his inner love for romance, adventure and chivalry? I can see your point though.<P>I don't want to be a hypocrite. I let myself down frequently, and it's easy to look for a scapegoat for my shortcomings and the ills of society in general. The heroism of rescue workers and volunteers in the aftermath of 9-11 has shown me that the Quixotic spirit still exists. If compassion like that is part of our society, let's see more of that and less of our dark side.<P>BTW, thanks for the info on where to find the strips. I'll check 'em out!
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Postby Scatman on Mon Dec 17, 2001 5:43 am

Some of the toons mentioned are completely new to me. Where can I find 'em?<P>I don't mind nasty humor between competent characters. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is one example. I just think mean humor that preys on the weak or helpless is rarely humor at all.<P>There's ongoing debate as to whether the media helps shape or merely reflects society. Of course those in Hollywood claim that their work merely reflects society. It's a nifty way to wash their hands of any responsibility. Cruelty and violence existed long before the first film rolled out of Hollywood. But kids today are so preocupied with image and being on the right side of trends. The media often dictates what's hot and what's not. Many bands today are manufactured and marketed.<P>People often laugh at things not because they think they're funny, but because they think they're supposed to be funny. Nobody, especially not young adults, wants to look like they're a prude or they have no sense of humor. So many people laugh when they think they're supposed to. I'd find it humorous if it wasn't pathetic when a bad comic comes out on stage, bombs, and blames the crowd. "These are the jokes, people!" or "The crowd the other night was so lousy." Well, we don't want to be unhip. We'd better shape up and laugh no matter what this guy has to say."<P>Nastiness can be humorous when it doesn't prey on the weak, but meanness and cruelty can't be shortcuts to humor. Profanity in context can be powerful, but it can't in itself be the message or the joke.<P>I guess I'm ranting a little, and I'll stop before I'm labelled a humorless Puritan.
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Postby Yupyop on Mon Dec 17, 2001 7:05 am

Scott, this is your party you can rant if you want to <IMG SRC="http://www.keenspace.com/forums/smile.gif">
Ever read DON QUIXOTE? In it the government declares Don Quixote insane and says its because he read too many books. The media and forms of entertainment are easy scapegoats. Example, pre-9/11 the government was fair target for criticism, today many reporters have admitted they are afraid to report anything negative about the government. Society rules mass media not the other way around. Pogo was right, we have met the enemy and the enemy is us.
As the more important issue, where to find all the comics mentioned <IMG SRC="http://www.keenspace.com/forums/smile.gif"> Most can be found at one of the following three websites: Comics.com, Keenspot, and ucomics.com. SLUGGY FREELANCE and VOICES IN MY HAND are available at their home websites. Its been awhile since I visited it but John Callahan has a website as well.
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Postby Yupyop on Mon Dec 17, 2001 8:23 am

Scott, today's strip is you at your best. It was wonderfully sweet and left this reader smiling. Meanwhile I loved today VOICE IN MY HAND because it was wickedly funny. Mean has its place but so does nice gentle strips such as HOME FRIES.
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Postby Scatman on Tue Dec 18, 2001 7:35 am

Thanks, yupyop. I'm seeing that my simplest ideas are often the ones I like best. I checked out Voices In My Hand fo 12-17, and I liked it. This is a good example of a comic that pushes boundaries. It shows clearly that edginess can be achieved without victimization. (That is if you don't count the angel.) It's also a good example of a clever use of what many would say is vulgar, but the vulgarity itself is integral to the gag, it's not gratuitous.
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