Saturday, January 28, 2006

Joe and Monkey has a book out, and even has a foreword by the author/artist of Medium Large (which Zach Miller, the creator/author/artist of JaM calls "basically the most flattering thing ever written about Joe and Monkey"), which I find pretty impressive. However, I think JaM's humor has sort of pewtered out. In the beginning the strips had an unspoken sense of ludicrity behind them, placing the characters in absurd situations without a second thought, whereas now the characters feel as though they're in a rut, each having the same general set up, and the same general ending.

What made Joe and Monkey so excellent and exciting when it first appeared was the presence of "Kleptobot." Not neccesarily the character himself, but the ideas that went into his character and the essence he encompassed. Kleptobot was a robot who stole things. That's it. But the idea of such a creation- a robot constantly trying to thwart the heroes, Joe and Monkey, into stealing their money or possessions, added such an absolutely absurd dynamic to the strip that the result was comics that seemed to be operating on an entirely different plane of thought; each comic was like you missed the beginning of the story, but you could gather enough of what was happening to enjoy it all the same- even more so, as not knowing the beginning made it that much more of a challenge to interpret, and that much more rewarding when you figured it out.

If you read the first five strips, and the last five strips, it feels... different, doesn't it? It doesn't have the same voice. I wouldn't go as far to say it has lost it's voice, but certainly... the voice has changed.

It seems that as strips pressed on, Joe and Monkey degenrated from the idea of Joe and Monkey, delivery partners in a strange world of thieving robots and tangent thoughts, to pop culture commentary, all the while becoming more and more inwardly focused on Joe, with subplots dealing with his family and living situations. I find this change striking and most disheartening- Joe and Monkey was a breath of fresh air in the typically stale world of webcomics. But to see Joe insulting someone as specific and dated as Kevin Federline- the same Joe who at the beginning of his "career" delivered Kleptopbot into an unsuspecting Cleveland- is downright depressing.

That's it, isn't it? Pop culture commentary comes a definite shelf-life.... with J&M giving such punchlines, eventually, it's humor will only be as funny as it is nostalgic. However, hang-gliding robots with ambiguous intentions are timeless.

The very first post of Joe and Monkey explains it all:

JaM of course appeared first in my previous (and somewhat current, though not so much) comic, No Pants Tuesday. In them I found a formula for funny that 70's television had already discovered. That being, Monkey + Delivery Boy = laughs. However, this was never enough to motivate me to create more JaM comics. That took a 4 am ride home from Perkin's.

See, I had been planning on making JaM with Nothing Nice To Say's Mitch Clem. But we had never gotten it off the ground, and basically scrapped the idea. One night we were hanging out at Perkin's, shooting the shit and generally enjoying ourselves. Before we knew it the sun was about to peak it's shiny skull over the horizon and we were getting mighty tired, even after several cups of coffee and soda. Anyhoo, we hopped in Mitch's Civic and started making our way back to the ol' neighborhood when we began talking about Joe and Monkey. Somewhere along the line Mitch had a cosmic breakthrough and came up with a name, Kleptobot.

Oh man, you have no idea how hard we laughed at that name. It was the kind of funny that you only get on the highway at 4 am after dining at Perkins. We immediately began coming up with situations to put Joe, Monkey and Kleptobot in. After creating about five of these situations we decided that there was no way in HELL that we weren't going to make this comic. We decided that we would both make a comic a week, and post them on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and that's how it would be. But that's not how it turned out.

The long short of it is this: I created the design of Kleptobot, roughly referencing Futurama's Bender, Diesel Sweeties' Red Robot, and Black Hole's Maximillian, and we were off. While Mitch was creating some great comics (about nine in total) I began out-producing him and soon had 26 to his 9. That meant I didn't have to do anything for a half a year. Well, I wasn't about to do nothing for that long, so I began making more, and more, and more. At the same time Mitch began work on the Coffee Achievers, a spinoff of NN2S (and a fairly brilliant one at that) and we both decided that it would be best if I just took over JaM completely. So I took over, continued hammering out comics, and decided that the best way to show them would be seven days a week. That way my impatience would be kind of quelled, and you, the reader, would get a dose of Joe and Monkey every single day.

So here we are now, months after Kleptobot came into being, the original art style will change, as you can see from looking at the first comic I produced and the top banner, but the formula is still the same. Monkey + Delivery Boy + Evil Robot = COMEDY GOLD.

JaM owes it's very existence to Kleptobot. Although the name of the show may be "Joe and Monkey," Kleptobot is irrevocably part of the holy trinity that made it so amazingly unique and different in the first place; forgetting his essence resigns the comic to repetitive tedium, only holding small glimmers of originality that were so abundant in the beginning.


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