Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Review: Chim Chum and the Portly Samurai

Now that I’ve told you How I started reading webcomics, I can start doing reviews of the webcomics I read. I’m going to start with Adrian Ropp’s hilarious comic:


Why, you ask? Oh, uh… no reason.

I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I learned the premise. The comic is a single-panel, gag-a-day strip, starring Chim Chum –who is a small, anthropomorphic fox that never speaks– and The Portly Samurai –who is, well, a portly Samurai. I was skeptical for several reasons:
  1. Firstly, I don’t really like gag-a day strips: they usually don’t treat their characters as characters, but more like joke tools that are constantly put through Big-Lipped Aligator Moments that no one ever speaks of again.
  2. Secondly, a single-panel strip is too strong a reminder of how successful The Far Side was, and how hard it has been to match it.
  3. The title character never speaks
  4. The only other recurring character doesn’t have a name

But the thing is how masterfully Ropp handles all these things, and plays with them. The first few strips directly address this skepticism, which the characters at first share, and still manage to be funny:

And despite the fact that the comic is a gag-a-day, it still manages to develop its characters and their relationship together.

Indeed, by the 49th strip…

Ropp is a master of the single-panel format, being able to tell stories without turning his single-panels into extracts of a multi-panel strip. He also knows the limitation of his medium, not shying to break out of it when the need arises.

Part of Ropp’s excellence come from the fact that he finds a way to poke fun at everything and anything, leaving little to nothing that people can criticize about what he does, or the medium he uses.

And while other strips may create situations that become creepy icebox logic moments, Ropp addresses those too!

No matter how desperate he may be for the day’s gag, he never breaks what his characters are. Sure, Chim Chum may show some humanesque quirks every once in a while…

but deep down, he doesn’t cease to be a fox.

And the Portly Samurai may display knowledge of things much later than the Heian period

but he doesn’t cease to be a knight-for-hire

All in all, it is Ropp’s ability to keep the comic complete what makes Chim Chum and the Portly Samurai all that it is. Doubltessly, this premise wouldn’t be the same in the hands of another cartoonist.

Pencil drawing: Chim Chum, in the foreground, speaks directly to the audience telling them, “Of COURSE I can talk! What, you thought that fat bozo was schizophrenic or something?” while The Portly Samurai, in the distance, calls out, “I have a name, you know”

No, that’s not another strip. This is a piece of fan art I made that I’ve entitled “that will never happen”. I plan to end every webcomic review this way, and hope you’ll look forward to the ones that are yet to come.

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