I really enjoy the bad things in life.
I don’t mean vices, but failures, ill-thought-out attempts, half-finished projects rushed to completion, big-budget disasters, and earnest but doomed attempts to create art by someone woefully unprepared. Yes, I suppose some would call this schadenfreude.
And to some extent these people would be right. There are a few other reasons I like watching and reading and listening to what other people would avoid like a private viewing of The Room.
First, experiencing what fails is a learning experience. It’s often easier to see where an artist has gone wrong – and what they could have done differently – than it is to pinpoint why a certain work is genius (or, at least, very, very popular). Through analyzing a horrible poem or novel or movie or play, one can (or you can (or I can)) understand the basic building blocks of that particular genre.
Second, what is bad is also, usually, surprising. Hollywood and Indie movies that get large distribution are tied to the established expectation of what a film should contain. They have a three-act structure, love interests, etc. Similarly, anyone who has been through workshops knows what is understood in a poem, story, or play. Those works that are bad are often so because they artists don’t know what they are doing, i.e. They don’t know the conventions of the field they’re entering into. And because they don’t know the conventions, what they’ve produced is unpredictable and therefore surprising and, because of this, often delightful.
Horrible, yes, but delightful.
And then there are those works of art that bad and unredeemingly so. Generally, these so bad they resist all attempts at enjoyment “works of art” are comedies. Nothing is as unfunny as a failure to be funny.
And so I present you with
Shortcut #49: Image Comics’ Boof and the Bruise Crew
Hands down, this is the worst comic I have ever read.
To give some context, I am not all that discriminating. When I used to actively collect comics, I would troll through the boxes and boxes of back issues for copies of Arak, Son of Thunder and Arion, Lord of Atlantis (both comics that probably first caught my attention through their alphabetical listing) and would happen on endless ranks of curiosities in the process. Because these comics were often just a quarter, I’d pick them up rather indiscriminately. If the cover struck me, I’d add it to my pile.
Just to be clear, these comics are not my fault. If I recall correctly – though I may have blacked out the origin story to preserve my friendship – Jason Myers sent me these comics. We’ve got a similar horrifascination with horrible, horrible art. He also tends to be a completist, as I am, reading through or watching everything through in order. Having suffered through all six issues of Boof and the Bruise Crew, he knew that I would be the only one he knew who might also “appreciate” the comics.
Boof and the Bruise Crew was apparently Image Comics attempt at humor comics. Historically, except for Archie, these have failed, with a notable exception being Sergio Aragones’ Groo the Wanderer. Boof and the Bruise Crew was no exception.
Here’s a typical Boof joke: “Hey, did ya hear about the study somebody did of the three most often heard phrases in New York City?”
BatBC is the meandering story of a group of aliens who have crash landed on Earth and develop a mild friendship with a local boy. They happen to live in the tree in his backyard, so this is no surprise. (One of the first jokes? The boy’s dog pees all over the aliens.) The plot of the series, such as it is, involves the Bruise Crew fixing their ship. The actual plot involves such old clichés as two main characters switching bodies due to an electrical accident.
I don’t know who this comic is for. The humor alternates between pre-adolescent gutter humor (pee, shit, and farts abound) and bitter, middle-aged misogynistic tirades. Click on the following picture to get the full effect.
The main characters are detestable. The writers expect us to either laugh at Boof and his crew or to be taken with the utter manly bravado and savage id that is Boof. Boof cares about food and sex (as much as one is able in a comic ostensibly for kids) and enjoys enacting violence on anyone who gets in his way.
But no one, really, is spared in this comic. There are no redeemable characters. The one “nice” character is the female alien who is a horrible example as she excuses the behavior of everyone around her. They’re just boys being boys. As for girls:
The jokes, assuming you recognize them as such, are simply commentaries on the actions of the main characters. The comic tries to delight in the bad behavior of Boof and the others while at the same time condemning it as wrong.
But not only is the comic’s idea of bad behavior simply, well, stupid, it’s also presented as exciting and a model to be followed.
This model is expanded upon in Boof, a brother comic to this one that focuses on the relationship between Boof and the boy. A four-page sample is included in the back of each BatBC issue, and in that we see the following activities endorsed: drive-by mailbox destruction, throwing heavy objects at people, stealing cars for joy-riding, and killing animals (in a story called Fish Serial Killer).
Both of these series have a cynical – no, a hateful view of society.
Every person shown is either selfish, willfully blind to the world, destructive, or all of the above. The art in Boof seems the work of a talented amateur who decided to trade in perfecting their art for speed and violence. The characters have no real sense of anatomy or perspective. The art is lazy: when a character smiles, the smile is clearly evil.
Well, the art is lazy, or this is actually how the artist sees the world. Either way, it’s not a picture I want in my memory.
Unfortunately, it’s already there.
When I first decided to write about Boof in all his incarnations, I thought of Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics. He makes a point of distinguishing between pretty and ugly comics.
The pretty ones are those you probably already know, a field dominated by Marvel and DC where the art of the comics is generally glossed over by the eyes. It’s flashy, it’s perfect, and the artists are generally indistinguishable from each other.
Indie comic artists focused their art on the ugly to prevent what they drew from being easily digestible. The art was skillfully done, but rarely would the art be designated pretty. R. Crumb is a good example.
Boof and the Bruise Crew and Boof are simply ugly.
It’s a rare sort of bad that leaves me doubting the worth of my obsession with failure. It’s a rare sort of bad that makes me want to take a shower, watch the Care Bears movie, and eat my vegetables just to clear my head of the muck that particular bad brought in.
These comics are that sort of bad. It’s honestly hard to convey how worthless I think they are both in terms of art and writing, how devoid of honest humor, how poisoned in their view of the world, and how misguided as attempts to curry the favor of the disaffected youth.
But enough about me. In an effort to give voice to the opposing side, I’ll leave the last words to Boof himself.
CONTEST TIME: Okay, peeps, now that you’ve made it all the way through this shortcut, here’s your reward. All I want you to do is write a two to three sentence description of one of Boof’s adventures. Please leave your entries in the comments section of this post by Friday the 11th. Have fun!
Oh… and the prize. The prize! All six issues of Boof and the Bruise Crew, delivered directly to your door, to read or burn or line your bird cage with, at your pleasure.