Monday, November 1, 2010

Grim Tales From Down Below #1, 0-25 [Guest Work By Planet Cool]

(Hello, friends! This is ordinarily where Questionable Content #1 would be, but my lovely friend Planet Cool said he wanted to do a guest commentary for me here, as if I was worth the attention. Anyway, here we go, with his look at Grim Tales From Down Below! It's rather shorter than mine, because he wanted it up by November 1. Give him lots of love!)

Thank you for the lovely introduction, Carth. And thanks to you all, as well! Please, folks, remain seated. My, my, what a great crowd!

Hello! I’m Planet Cool, Internet vagabond extraordinaire. If you Google my name, maybe you’ll find some fanfics or something. I don’t usually do much blogging, but when I found out Carth was embarking on this nice webcomic-related venture, I jumped aboard at once, ready to steal her thunder… or at least borrow some of it for a little while. I’ve decided to take it upon myself to review the real crème-de-la-crap when it comes to comics, stuff Carth herself does well not to go anywhere near. If I defy the odds and manage not to sully her image, you may see me again, doing web commentaries on stuff like Sonichu and other such abominations. But, today, since it’s Halloween, I thought we might all celebrate by holding a cushion tightly against our crotches and plumbing deep into Bleedman’s…

Okay, okay, so it’s not exactly Halloween. I just love you guys so much, I decided to put this up three hundred and sixty-four days in advance. Aren’t I just the greatest?

Anyway… Bleedman. Or Vinson Ngo, as his momma calls him. Crimony. I may only be a child at heart, but I still feel uncomfortable around this guy. If you’re at all familiar with the world of webcomics, then you know why Vinson is such a controversial artist. If you’re not, well, I’m not saying the guy is a pedophile, I’m just saying that, given the choice between luring a small child into an unmarked van with candy and ice cream and not luring a small child into an unmarked van with candy and ice cream, he would more than likely choose the former. I’m also not saying that reading his comics puts you on all FBI watch lists currently existing or to be created. I just have a strong suspicion it might.

But let’s be fair here. While it’s clear that Vinson really enjoys drawing prepubescent girls in their underwear, we don’t know whether he acts on these sexual impulses in real life—and judging by the fact that he’s not in prison right now, I think it’s safe to assume that he doesn’t. I mean, it’s not like he makes any effort whatsoever to hide his kinks, and believe me, that’s not the only one he has.

And, credit where credit is due: the man can draw. His writing could use a little polish, but his artwork is always crisp, clean, and professional-looking, if somewhat lacking in style. But, for some reason, that only makes things worse. Knowing that the author likes looking at children’s asses keeps you from truly enjoying the comic, no matter how cool or interesting it may be. It’s like when you read The Republic.

Anyway, I’m only beating around the bush. In the words of Judge Roy Spleen and Common Cultural Expression Maker # 382, let’s get this party started. There’s plenty of incest, lolicon, necrophilia, toy shipping, and not-so-beloved children’s cartoon characters initiating historic massacres to see and not hardly enough time to see them all in. Happy Halloween! Start here:

#0: Yeah, this is one of those comics that start at the nothing-th issue. How cute. Okay, so here we meet our protagonists, Grim Junior and Mini Mandy. Fellow Cartoon Network alumni, no prizes for guessing out of whose loins these two sprung. We also see that Mini Mandy speaks in a flowery, faux-Shakespearean dialect. You don’t suppose that might be a bit of a pain to read, do you, Vinson? Nah, of course not.

#1: Necropollins. Actually, that’s kind of a cool name. I sort of wish I’d thought of it first and used it in one of my many ill-conceived creative ventures. In any case, right off the bat we see that the art is excellent. Unlike Bleedman’s other comic, Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi, this one started out smooth.

#2: Nothing much to see here. Move along, people.

#3: Oh, hey, look, it’s the bad guy from Spawn. What’s his name? Malebolgia? Something like that. Man, you can almost smell the grunge-ridden mid-nineties air coming off of him. By the way, this page is titled “Violator”, but I don’t see the Violator anywhere. He’s the big, scary monster clown played by John Leggy-What’s-His-Face, right?

#4: If this were a real comic book, this would probably be a full-page spread, I’m thinking.

#5: Is Malebolgia really this much of a whiny brat in the comics, or is this just an example of Bleedman’s terrible writing? I’m not a fan of Todd McFarlane’s work and couldn’t sit through the movie, so you’ll have to enlighten me. Oh, and, apparently, Spawn has been demoted from vigilante-from-hell to nanny-from-hell. That’s life, I guess.

#6: And now, things start to get Bleedman-y. You’ll notice that Grim and Mandy (of Grim & Evil fame) are now a married couple. Mandy, who canonically is in elementary school, appears to be of consensual age, so I congratulate the author on his remarkable restraint. We weren’t always this close, Grim Junior says of Mini Mandy. If you know where this is going, go ahead and get all your wincing out of the way now. It’ll save you a whole lot of time.

#7-9: Grim Junior asks what Halloween is and, boom, in saunters the entire opening number from A Nightmare Before Christmas in all its Hot Topical glory. We know Bleedman likes to play with other people’s toys almost as much as he likes low-angle shots of ten-year-olds, but this is the first time I’ve seen him steal an entire sequence wholesale. Honestly, though, it looks so damn good, I can’t really hold it against him. Check out Jack’s evil grin at the end.

#10: It’s unsurprising that Grim and Jack are brothers; in fact, I can’t believe I’d never noticed the family resemblance. The first time I read this comic, though, I assumed the Jack in question was Jack O’Lantern, i.e. the pumpkin-headed villain from the Grim & Evil Halloween episode. That would’ve been a lot more interesting, methinks, what with Grim having sent him to “the Netherworld” (wink, wink) in the end and all that.

#11: Mini Mandy dances with Jack. Fun times.

By the way, anyone have an idea why Mini Mandy speaks ye olde butcherede Englishe? Grim and Mandy sure don’t, nor do Jack and Sally. So where’d she pick it up? And who names their kid Mini Mandy, anyway? Grim Junior I can sort of understand, but adding a “mini” prefix to a child’s name comes off as a horrible way to diminish their self-esteem. It’s as though Mandy’s saying “You’re like me, but less so.” Then again, that sounds like exactly the sort of thing she would do.

#12: My, that Grim Junior. Way to be a dick to your aunt, dude. Then again, nothing adds a touch of good, clean nineties lightheartedness like a break dancing scene, and God knows this morbid comic is in desperate need of that. You almost wouldn’t believe there’s an abortion joke played for laughs later on, as well as a bunch of other things that will make you want to crawl into the shower and never come out.

#13: Mandy drinks tea. She comes off as alarmingly motherly, telling her hubby that the kids will eventually be all right. I’m not sure I buy this; she’s probably prepping them up for a blood sacrifice later on or something. Meanwhile, Grim Junior continues to act like a spoiled brat (which, in all fairness, he probably is) and Mini Mandy spews some more non-poetry, kindly comforting her brother although he just tried to upstage her. I smell some serious Corrupt The Cutie up ahead.

#14: Did Zero always have a pumpkin for a nose? Huh, I hadn’t noticed.

#15: Lock, Shock, and Barrel capture Grim Junior. At least, I think that’s what their names are. To be honest, I was never a big fan of this movie. When I was a kid, I thought it was scary, and now I think it’s pretentious. I also don’t care for the fact that it’s nigh-universally considered a Tim Burton film even though Henry Selick did all the real work. If I’m rambling, that’s only because there’s not a lot to say about this boring full-page spread.

#16: As it turns out, the three little rascals only want to get to know Grim Junior a little better. Astonishingly for characters in a Bleedman comic, they don’t mean that in the Biblical sense. They offer him a plate of cookies that, apparently, bite back. Kind of a funny touch, that.

#17: Oh, hey! The Bad Book! I didn’t think I’d see that again! I’ll say this about Vinny: he knows just the right way to prod a fella’s nostalgia gland. Speaking of, whatever happened to that brain-eating singing meteor? The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy ran for a million seasons, and the best character in it was only in one episode. I don’t think Bleedman makes mention of it in any of his comics, either. Pretty big disappointment, that.

#18:  Whoops, sorry, that’s not the Bad Book, it’s only Grim’s diary. It mostly reiterates things we already know from the show. If you’re not a fan, some of this stuff might be new to you, but you wouldn’t be reading this comic if you weren’t a fan, so I’ll totally understand if you decide to have yourself a little snooze for the next one-third of the comic. I’ll wake you when Vinny starts deviating from canon, which coincidentally is also when all the degeneracy starts.

#19: Ah, now here’s a really good splash page! Tons of color, tons of half-remembered one-off characters from the show. Let’s see if we can list them all, shall we? In addition to Grim, Billy, and Mandy, we have… Li’l Porkchop, the Nerve, Saliva, Billy’s cat (I forget his name), that weird makeshift Mandy toy that wants to PLAY, Nergal, Nergal Junior, Mindy, Hoss Delgado, Eris, Jeff the spider, Nigel Planter, Trykie, Irwin, and vampire Santa… did we miss anyone?

#20: Did Grim really start to care about Billy and Mandy at any point in the canon, or is this purely an invention of Bleedman’s? I seem to remember that, sometimes, Grim would go out of his way to keep the children out of harm’s way, but he just as often tried to slice them into mincemeat. In any case, here we see him breaking the rules of his profession by adding sand to their hourglasses (extending their life spans, basically), which is honestly something I think he would do. He’s just a big softie on the inside, after all, and in this comic he’s remarkably well characterized. He even retains his Caribbean accent.

#21: Oh, look who finally showed up. We’ve been expecting you since the third page, dude. Then again, maybe that’s not the Violator at all; maybe it’s just Bleedman. Ba-dump-tsh. But seriously now, folks. Mandy realizes that Grim has been messing with the Natural Order of Things (that’s the thing that got messed with all the time in the show, right?) and walks off looking smug. She’s got some evil scheme cooking in her brain, that little one has.

#22: A pool scene. Actually, this is pretty loyal to the spirit of the show, the dialogue is well-written, and there’s nothing particularly sick going on. Crimony, this is a good scene! And the plot is starting to move forward, too. Mandy coerces Grim into showing her the hourglass, and indeedy-doo, he’s been surreptitiously adding sand to it. This is getting interesting; let’s see if that lasts at all.

#23: I like the first panel. Reminds me of that artsy-fartsy game that just came out for the… PlayStation 3, was it? The one with the giant-headed little boy trying to find his sister in the forest; you know the one I mean. Anyway, I’m a Wii man through and through, so I’ll just say this looks like that really sweet scene from the Donkey Kong Country Returns trailer. Anyhoo, Mandy commits suicide to see whether Grim will really reap her soul. My money says he’s not gonna. Also, notice that the paper on the kitchen counter says that Teen Titans has recently been cancelled. How do cartoons work in Bleedman’s world? Anyway, I point this out because the real show ended in 2006, whereas at this point in the world of the comic, it isn’t 2001 yet. We know because Mandy hasn’t committed the September 11th terrorist attacks yet. Spoiler alert, I guess. Watch your plot holes, Vinny, you sick bastard.

#24: Chapter two starts here. On this page, Billy streaks naked through the kitchen and we see that Mandy has some kind of bizarre foot deformity. That isn’t intentional, though; Bleedman is just no good at drawing human feet, for some reason. I guess that’s the one fetish he doesn’t have. Anyway, Grim shows Mandy Billy’s hourglass, which is a pretty neat affair. Lookit that thing go. I’d like to see Sonic the Hedgehog run through that thing, actually.

#25: It would appear Bleedman has photoshopped a portrait of Hitler into Mandy’s bedroom. Pretty low-class of you, bro. I mean, it’s been established in canon that Mandy is an anarchist, not a fascist, so she’s pretty much the most unlikely person in the world to reverentially hang up a picture of Der Führer. For crying out loud, man, keep your facts straight. On the other hand, there’s a picture of Piff on her mirror, so that makes it all better. Oh, and here we see Mandy freeing Grim of his eternal “best friends” contract. My, my, where might this be going…

Well, that’s the twenty-fifth page. My work here is finished. If you liked what I did (or if you hated it; I’m not picky), go ahead and let me know in the comments. And tell your friends about this site, won’t you, folks? Really, Carth is doing some fine work up in here, she deserves some recognition. As for me, I’ll be back next time to lead you through twenty-five more pages of canon-raping madness and deviancy. As the Brits say in American comedies… cheerio!

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