Rawrbin Rant – April Fools

AprilFoolsRant

Most of the time I try to keep my rage contained. I, like good ol’ Bruce Banner, am angry all the time, but that doesn’t mean either of us spend our time tromping around with purple shorts and green skin. But today…today we are UNCHAINING THE BEAST. ARE YOU READY??? ARE YOU?? CAN YOU HANDLE THE CAPSLOCK ABUSE??? Then brace yourself for some UNBALANCED OPINION and be prepared to fling back your own.

As a gullible person that tends to be honest with others and expect honesty in return (silly me), I admit I’m already biased against the “holiday” of April Fools. Or, as I like to call it, Liar’s Day. However, what really gets my RANT MACHINE! going is when webcomic artists pull tired pranks that, in my opinion, hurt both their business and the industry.

The Pranks

There are several types of destructive pranks that make the rounds every Liar’s Day. The worst offenders are:

The drama quit

It a fit of melodramatic woe, the artists posts a farewell to their readership and project. Sometimes these are rants packed with bitter vitriol. Other times they’re self-pitying moans that seem to be an excuse for the artist to air all the crippling self-doubt they’ve been keeping to themselves the rest of the year. In rare cases, the claims are actually over-the-top and humorous. Regardless of the method, the joke is that the artist is done with all this webcomic stuff! Yes, somehow, that is a joke. I’m sure if I went to my day-job boss, burst into tears telling him “Nobody wuvs me” and then handed in a resignation, he’d think it was good ol’ fun when I came back in on Friday expecting a paycheck.

It was just a joke, man!

It was just a joke, man!

The mock-page

Instead of DOING THEIR DAMN JOB and posting an actual page, artists fling up a “mock page” of often dubious quality that has “something zany!” Gosh, what a great use of everyone’s time! It’s not like the effort put into making a terrible, fake comic couldn’t have gone into making a REAL one, or anything. What fun! I’ll be sure to use this in other exciting environments. No doubt when I’m asked to bring food for a friend’s BBQ they’ll find my bowl of “paste dip” and card-board cut-outs of chips HILARIOUS.

Mmmm...tastes like irony...or was that broken friendships?

Mmmm…tastes like irony…or was that broken friendships?

The exciting project

HEY! Is there something that you REALLY would like, that sounds exceptionally exciting? Is there? HUH? HUH? WELL GUESS WHAT YOU CAN HAVE IT – wait, no, the artist was just psyching you up for something that they have no intention of ever doing. Welcome to the exciting project prank. Man, I remember when my husband came home and told me that he’d wont the lottery and I could at last quit the day job and pursue my greatest dream! And then he shouted “LOL JK Just stomping on your hopes and will to live,” and then I STRANGLED HIM TO DEATH AND BURIED HIS MANGLED CORPSE IN THE BACKYARD.

LOL, jk, I’d never do that.

I chopped the body up and fed it to pigs.

  Don't worry.  They weren't organic pigs.  It's totally cool if they eat "animal by-products."

Don’t worry. They weren’t organic pigs. It’s totally cool if they eat “animal by-products.”

The Problem

If you’re a humorless curmudgeon that can’t take a joke (like me) you probably have your own list of webcomic pranks that piss you off. But the Big Question here is not WHAT are they doing, but WHY it is a problem.

AND I WILL TELL YOU. PERHAPS AT LENGTH.

Pranks are almost always at somebody’s expense. So who are these pranks on? YOUR READERS. Specifically the ones that CARE ABOUT YOU. The ones that WERE most likely to GIVE YOU MONEY. But no, it’s cool, I’m sure that being forced to relive the juvenile pain, anguish, and betrayal of a junior high locker room will totally not change their likelihood of supporting you in the future.

I may have revealed too much in that last sentence.

beautiful-day-school2

The point is, bad Liar’s Day pranks boil down to trolling the very people on whom you depend. Not everybody remembers that it’s the day that everyone suddenly has an excuse for being a complete jack monkey. If they’re really invested in your work, they’re going to feel abandoned if you pitch a fit about quitting. If they love your story, they’re going to be disappointed with cheap and stupid filler. If they’re excited for all of your projects, they’re going to feel betrayed and undervalued when they discover their enthusiasm was for nothing. WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO PEOPLE YOU CARE ABOUT?

Imagine you’re having an awful day, so to try and treat yourself, you make a special trip to your favorite restaurant. The first thing the staff tells you is they’re closing forever tomorrow. BUMMER, right? Dejected, you order your favorite dish, perhaps for the last time, and instead they bring you a reheated, half-eaten hamburger from McDonald’s. Bewildered, you demand to know what happened to your meal, and they eagerly give you a coupon to their NEW restaurant which is going to be EVEN BETTER than this one and CLOSER to where you live and YOU’RE the special guest of honor! Wow! Maybe this day is turning around after all.

Then they start laughing at you. And when you get angry, they tell you to take life less seriously.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m leaving much of a tip.

EVER.

AGAIN.

Unless you count BEATINGS.
bearhands

What’s the key problem here? Breaking of trust and a lack of respect for your work and your readers. Which brings us to why this kind of crap hurts the industry too.

Yes, it’s (debatabley) a joke (not a very funny one, but apparently we have low standards) and most people don’t take them seriously. They groan, roll their eyes, and come back again later. However, every prank like this feeds the very stereotypes that webcomics rail against for the other 364 days of the year.

Webcomis are unreliable.

Webcomics are poor quality.

Webcomics never follow through.

WHY ARE WE REINFORCING THESE STEREOTYPES??? Why are we wasting our time and our reader’s time, and simultaneously reminding them that they can’t trust us, can’t rely on us, can’t expect us to be very good?? I don’t care that it’s “just for fun” – the only real joke here is that in the long run it is at YOUR EXPENSE! Little messages matter. They have a long-term impact. And once trust is broken, once your readers think you don’t care about them, that can be incredibly hard to heal.

Nobody likes being laughed at. So for goodness sake, don’t laugh at the people that you’re asking to support you.

Think I should get a sense of humor? Or are you ready to see an end to these Liar’s Day pranks? What’s your take on April Fools webcomic pranks?

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Posted in Conversations, Debate, Featured News.

20 Comments

  1. Honestly as one of those loyal readers, I’ve had the pranks pulled on me and I just take them as they are intended, good fun. However I myself have quit my job every 3rd year on April Fools, and have seen my boss wiggle in his chair ready to cut me from bow to stern, and we both come out on the other side laughing and knowing that they’ve just been got, and now I need to be on the look out for their return prank in due time. So I honestly don’t see how this “enforces the stereotype” as you have said and in my opinion do feel you need to take these pranks as they are delivered, as good hearted fun and not feel jaded that someone “got you”. There is no breaking of trust unless the creator is constantly doing this to their readers, we’re talking about one day out of the year, so just add yourself a reminder on your calendar for April Fools each year that says “Put on your sense of humor shoes, it’s that time of year again” and just enjoy the day, cause it’ll be over come April 2nd.

    • Fair enough! It sounds like part of what makes that work is the strength of the reader/creator relationship the remainder of the year. (Or boss/employee – I know mine would never tolerate what you do, so props to him and HOMIGAWD you have guts!!) šŸ™‚

  2. I pulled an April Fools joke for my webcomic, My joke was a re-imagining of my first comic, I had stated in my comments after the comic that instead of getting rid of my archive, I was just going to start over with what I’ve learned about writing and art and change things with what I know now, I even swapped the faces of the main characters. The past three years I had not done an April Fools prank, this year I did. For me, April Fools pranks on webcomics create a bond between the webcomicker and the reader. On April 1st, I get excited thinking about what people have come up with to “get us.” My thoughts sometime are, “Hey, they decided to break from there story to have a little fun with the audience.” To me it is a form of interaction. I just lump it in when Webcomic creators join in any other theme. Such as onomatopoeia day or when a group of creators decide to do silent comic on a certain day.

    • A lot of it is in how people pull it off (which is true for any prank) that makes it a good or bad experience. When creators present it in a feel-good way, then I definitely agree with you that it can be a fun interaction with readers. Even better if it can be made interactive! In my opinion, (and what I’m railing against here) is it becomes a problem is when the creator makes their readers feel bad — then the line has been crossed!

      • I think that’s an important distinction. If you’re doing any kind of humor in a way that your audience might feel miserable or uncomfortable, you need to step back and think of a better way of interacting with them.

        (Also, I’m super curious about onomatopoeia day. Is that a thing? o_O)

  3. Have you met my husband? Cause I swear you’re tapping the same pool of April Fools day rage. šŸ˜›

    As a reader of webcomics, I agree that the “Drama Quit” is universally awful for the reasons you describe. It happens far too often to be funny, it’s a cry for attention from your masses begging you not to go, and is just… ugh. Not professional, makes you look like you’re a whiny little toddler. Don’t do it, it never works.

    But I enjoy “Mock Page” in some contexts. Cucumber Quest did an adorable one this year where every character in the page update and her character section was replaced by Bacon in each character’s costume, which was hilarious, obvious, and advanced the plot. (She switched the art right back on April 2.) “Exciting Project” is easy to make ridiculous and obvious if you do it right (I’m thinking TJ and Amal’s 70’s robot anime look), though I can understand the frustration if it was a real project that could be cool.

    Now, as a writer of webcomics? I admire that anyone finds the time to put together that kind of thing. I’ve got so much “real” work to do, I can’t imagine finding time on something that’s only going to last a day. The people who pull off the elaborate jokes and still maintain their comic’s quality and spirit tell me that they are so on top of things, they have time to play.

    And I think play is very important when you’re doing webcomics for the long haul. It’s so easy to become an Artbot, churning out page after page mechanically until you run out of juice. You need to keep things interesting for yourself and break up your flow sometimes to explore. And if April Fool’s is one of the ways you do that, more power to you.

    • I think quality matters a lot to separate a good prank from a bad one. One of the things about a lot of mock pages that gets my goat is that it looks like an excuse for the creator to “phone it in” for a day. However, when it’s clear that they put in just as much, if not MORE effort for their prank, then that’s often a mitigating factor for me.

      Maybe I’m just jealous because I have so little playtime in my life these days. Or nap time. Still have snack time tho, and by God I’m holding onto that one! šŸ˜‰

  4. I’m not a huge April-Fools fan — what clown thought my birthday month was a good place for that stupid holiday? — and I haven’t read enough webcomics yet where I stumble on the situations you highlight. In any case, the way I look at it, what’s the harm? I’m reading the comic in question by my own free will, no money has changed hands, no sacred vows violated, it’s the artist’s perogative whether or not they want to play an April-Fools prank. So, I roll with it, laugh if the gag is funny, and completely forget about it ten seconds later. No harm, no foul… … it’s when the whining or self-loathing or sloppy content happens the other 364 days of the year, that’s when there’s a problem. Even then, I’m not going to lay wide-awake in bed staring at the ceiling while stewing about the injustice of it all… but I might just take my free time and go play with someone else. My two cents worth… šŸ™‚

    • It seems like a pretty common response that April Fools gets a free pass if the rest of the year the creator delivers. Maybe my experience is colored by the webcomics I’ve read (and been burned by) in the past. The ones that played pranks were almost always the ones that didn’t perform the rest of the year. The ones that were reliable never bothered with the foolery. I imagine if I’d run into more comics that were solid all year round, and then had one day in the year for a little fun, I’d probably feel differently.

      (Other than my baseline bias against April Fools in general…but that may just be that I’m a holiday curmudgeon for all events except Halloween. šŸ˜‰ )

  5. These past two years I’ve wished I’d had the time to get something together for April Fool’s Day. I love seeing the clever ideas people pull together and enjoy searching the web for them. I think part of it is I love to know that even my favorite artists can relax and not take things too seriously.

    One day I hope to plan far enough in advance that I can have something great put together, but yeah, to do it well takes a lot of time and effort. I don’t begrudge anyone, though, that wants to get in on the fun. The faux drama stuff is eyerolling, but most of the gag stuff doesn’t bother me at all. Part of what I like about comics is the friendly, welcoming atmosphere and little things like April Fool’s gags make me (as a reader as well) feel in on something.

    Though I also won’t blame anyone for not liking them. At least it’s just one day a year.

    • I guess April Fool’s always makes me feel the opposite as you. Rather than feeling “in on something” I often feel excluded or dismissed. Maybe I’ve just been reading the wrong comics, and missing out on the people that do fun & clever things instead of lazy and/or hurtful things.

      • I try really, really hard to avoid negative spaces on the Internet. It can be tricky, and people can have bad days, but especially when it comes to comics I try to seek out people that inspire not just through their art, but also their attitude. It sucks that there are apparently a lot of people that use a day that I see as a chance for everyone to relax and have a laugh to instead be spiteful and make others feel uncomfortable.

        So yeah, I think maybe if there were a large portion of people that I follow who did the kind of truly unfortunate things you’ve been talking about I might feel less positive towards the whole thing.

        • If there’s a positive take-away from this rant, it’s very encouraging to hear that there are so many people doing things right! May be time to look into some new comics!

  6. I usually enjoy the mock pages on April fools day, even look forward to them (I too got a kick out of Cucumber Quest’s piggy page). I think if the time and care is taken it can play out really well. And if it bombs, well at least its only one day.
    Last year the webcomic community I was a part of all got together and put plastic googly eyes over every character on that day’s page. The results were hilarious, I got a huge reader response in the comments (instead of crickets) and everyone who participated in the event linked each others comics in their blog posts so we all got a ton of referral traffic from it. I actually gained a few readers out of it. So my personal experience with it was very positive.
    As far as I can tell, the April fools shenanigans are expected enough in the community that they aren’t obnoxious to me. Webcomics are entertainment so I expect as much and dont give offense.
    The only thing I dislike about the holiday is all the fake news articles that appear, only because they have a bad habit of spreading across the internet like wild fire, linger long after the day has passed, are misquoted and taken out of context, and become “false truths” instead of the joke it was intended to be. If you are a website of some authority I think there should be more a of a responsibility on their part.

    • I think it’s that responsibility part that you mentioned that lives at the core of my feelings. I feel creators have responsibilities to readers, and I’ve often seen creators use April Fools to shirk those responsibilities. Maybe it’s a long form thing? If I’m going to a humor strip, I expect it to deliver something funny. If they have an April Fools gag and it’s clever, fun, and high-quality, they’re delivering. However, if it’s a story, and the page is a low-quality mock-page, then I feel the same as I do for a filler page. It’s a waste of time, because I’m there for more story.

      But it has been said that I take things too seriously. I just want to read my stories in peace, dagnanbit! šŸ˜‰

      • Ah! I didnt think abut the differences between a strip vs. long format. That makes more sense that it can get a little weird if you already have a humor strip- (a prank layer over a joke comic?) I guess you can only troll your readers so much.

  7. I foolishly (no pun intended) did a mock comic where I had my characters killed by DEA agents who turned out were at the wrong address. It went over like a limp noodle and was just as funny. So, I learned my lesson the hard way and have never done an April Fool’s joke comic since.

    Personally, I find jokes at the expense of others completely UN-funny and as such April Fool’s Day is not a big one on my calendar.

    • Are they really at anyone’s expense? Does anyone believe anything they read on the internet on April 1st? I’ve always seen April Fool’s on the web in particular as a joke everyone is pretty much in on by default.

  8. This was the first year I didn’t have an April Fool’s comic ready to go on the NTO site (it is the only forum for the continuing saga of Marshall Snowman), and I felt awful about it. Readers have always seemed to enjoy them and I felt like a a cheat who wasn’t doing [my] damn job ~not~ running one. I don’t do special things for any other holidays but April Fool’s is such a huge part of internet culture I feel like a real copout not participating.

    • The general consensus seems to be that what separates good from bad is 1) quality, 2) originality, 3) reliability for remainder of year. It sounds like you have those things covered for your readership, and as a result they’ve responded well. I’m starting to think I just was following the wrong comics in the past, to have been burned by bad quality and dull April Fool’s pranks that almost always indicated future problems with reliability. As a result, every time I see a prank now, I associate it with that comic shutting down in 6 months or less. Hence the rage.

      It’s not you, it’s me. šŸ˜‰

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