When I entered college in the fall of 2002 I was not in a position to understand why anyone would commit suicide. It seemed to me to be the single most foolish thing a human being could do.
The following fall I read The Bell Jar and suddenly the world became a dark and dreary place. Leaving the world behind didn’t seem so foolish. It wasn’t for me, but it suddenly made sense why someone would think it might be the answer. Pictures For Sad Children had a similar effect on me when I read through the entire archives in a week last winter. It is for that reason that I must strongly urge everyone I meet to avoid doing that very thing. By all means read PFSC. Just read one a week while vacationing on the beaches of Fiji. In the evening, with a Mai Tai. You know, just to put a little perspective on your good times.
To say that PFSC is depressing, is not entirely accurate. It merely presents a very bleak outlook on life, but not in a pansy, emo, gay vampire sort of way. More of a philosophical and clever way. An “I could not stop for death” sort of way. It slowly progresses into surrealism in a tedious manner. You start out accepting the little nuances one by one and before you know it, Paul is gone, Gary is gone, and your left with a serial killer that does weird things with pets. And I don’t mean in a perverted sense. At least not the one your thinking of.
I’m talking the-man-in-the-moon-judging-you-for-not-holding-doors-for-strangers kind of weird. I’m talking walk-into-a-restroom-in-your-home-town-and-suddenly-you-find yourself not in a restroom, but in a bus station in northern Wisconsin where a man with dog legs is trying find the schedule for a bus to Lake Wobegon and he insists that you not only know when it’s leaving, but you’re actually driving the bus. The next thing you know you you’ve been driving this Greyhound for hours. You stop at a gas station in Bethel, Alaska only to find that you missed the last ferry to Vladivostok. You make your way to this little coffee shop on the shore that serves some clever sounding coffee that has something to do with being mauled by bears or something and half way through the cup you realize you don’t know why you wanted to go to Vladivostok in the first place. In fact, you don’t even know where Vladivostok is. So you buy a lox bagel and walk along the Kusko trying to find out just where your life went wrong. It’s that sort of weird. Also, the hyphens were getting annoying.
At times the artist, John Campbell, delves into his religious roots and discusses his parents’ religion and his own spirituality. He makes some points worthy of discussion, some are just typical questions that bring smiles to the faces of philosophers, such as why are people unhappy? But he presents his own answers to the questions with no means of recourse for an opposing view. Of course, any artist is free to do this. The problem is when I read it I start thinking about arguments and counter arguments and have no one to share them with. It’s a little like Tophat’s frustration with the fact that I refused to read Microsoft Paint Adventures. But really, it just looks like crap. I mean, not just simplistic. I can deal with MS Paint drawings. Have you seen the graphics on this site? Van Gogh they are not. But they’re not trying to be.
The more webcomics I read the more amazed I am by the varieties of ways to draw stick figures. John Campbell’s drawings produce some very interesting lines and really provide a smoothness that implies quality. It is clearly beyond the capabilities of the normal schmuck off the street, and yet, they’re stick figures. If I have learned anything from webcomics it is that simplicity is a virtue that can lead to greatness.
Campbell also draws what he has entitled the hourly comic. For the past five years for the entire month of January Campbell chronicles each waking hour of his day with a simple comic. The concept produces some interesting results but keeping track of which stick figure is who can be a bit confusing. Stick figures, while minimalist and sometimes stunning, can fail to tell the whole story. This crops up occasionally in PFSC, but not enough to be a problem. After all, Paul is the one with the sheet and Gary is the bald guy.
PFSC updated semi-regularly at one time. This is not that time. Campbell said a while back that he is having trouble finding inspiration. I’m not sure if that means he’s getting happier or more sane. It’s probably not the sane one. The latest offerings have been getting more and more non-sequitur and incoherent. As much as I enjoy weirdness for weirdness sake, I miss Paul. And Gary. Gary was pretty cool. He was the normal guy trying to make sense of a bizarre and horrifying world. Or at least I miss that little girl who lives in Paul’s old apartment. She was fun. Yeah. Good times. Now where is that waiter with my Mai Tai? I said no salt. Noo salt.