The Dumbest Zenpencils Comics

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You know, most webcomics are independent projects, and are thus more unrestricted in what they can do and what stories they can tell, and yet so many of them just end up being namby-pamby. Thus we have Zenpencils, one of the most infamously bad webcomics of recent times. Basically, the idea is to take quotes from famous people and punctuate that quote with a comic story. These comic stories are mostly twee feel-good bullshit that would make Mickey Mouse vomit from the saccharine, but some of them are just so insane, where the creator goes overboard in making his message. The result is something too cartoony to take seriously yet too patronising to be entertaining or funny.

Well, that’s not entirely true. A lot of the comics found on this website are unintentionally hilarious, like Jack Chick’s Christian comics before them, and here are just a few of my “favourites”:

MARK TWAIN – An Educational Journey

Look, I know old people are racist (all I know about old people I’ve learned from Monster’s Ball), but really. If you want to make a story about someone learning to be less bigoted, fine, but was it necessary to have the main character of this comic start off with framed pictures of Hitler on his desk, wearing a Klan outfit and with a big nasty scowl on his face?

So this white supremacist is given an air ticket by some woman, presumably his daughter, and then he goes around the world and then decides, hey, maybe racism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. So yeah, if you have a racist relative, spend a shitton on money on a plane ticket he probably wouldn’t even use. ‘No way I’m going near them darkies,’ he’d more than likely say.

The portrait of different cultures is like a postcard, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. The countries he visits are simplified and rose-coloured, so of course he’s going to renounce his racism at the end. In fact, a lot of people in these comics reform pretty quickly. Another comic has a man reconsider his life because some bum yelled at him. At least when Scrooge reformed overnight, it was due to supernatural phenomena.

KEVIN SMITH – It costs nothing to encourage an artist

Yeah, art school costs nothing.

Anyway, I agree you should encourage someone’s artistic talents, but that message could have been told better. A little girl shows her dad a picture she drew of some dinosaur characters, (groan) The Dinomites. Sliding Doors style, we are shown two alternate realities. In one, the dad likes the drawing, and thus the girl goes on to work at Disney and make a Dinomites movie, which is a massive success. In another reality, the dad hates the drawing, yells at the girl and the movie never gets made. I actually prefer the “bad reality” here because it means the world is spared another terrible Katy Perry song. They show a big montage of the movie’s impact, but they didn’t show all the terrible direct-to-DVD sequels, disgusting fan art, and kids driving their parents up the wall with constant playing of the songs from the film.

Seriously, The Dinomites? That sounds like something on par with The Nut Job, not an earth-shattering classic bigger than White Heat and Casablanca combined. Once again, it’s too over the top and big. Had we seen the girl publish a Dinomites children’s book or something, that would still be corny but at least somewhat believable. And really, the girl had literally no other ideas between childhood and adulthood? She drew dinosaurs that her dad put up on the fridge, and she dedicated her entire life to that idea and solely that idea?

I almost want to say that this could be a companion piece to this comic, where the big meanies mock the artist’s talents and don’t UNDERSTAND HIS GENIUS, MAN. With that comic in mind, this comic just feels like it’s saying FUCK YOU DAD IF ONLY YOU UNDERSTOOOOD ME I COULD BE WORKING FOR DISNEY NOW.

TIM MINCHIN – Be Hard on Your Opinions

Tim Minchin isn’t really the type of person you’d expect to see on this website, but here is one of his quotes, meant to compliment this…thing. Sappy stories about rich businessmen giving money to the poor are commonplace, but there are very little of them that involve that businessman’s heart being taken out of his body and having his icky nasty stuff removed. It’s like an inferior version of this video.

The businessman goes to a hospital, sees a poor beggar, and brushes the beggar away. Once his bad stuff is removed, the businessman gives the beggar money. Thing is, if the businessman had this operation willingly, it was probably because he thought ‘Hey, you know I am being a bit of an asshole, maybe I should have that checked.’ So really, he didn’t really have that much reason to shun the beggar before entering the hospital. And isn’t the quote saying that reconsidering your opinions is something that you should do yourself and it’s something that requires great thought and consideration, not just something that can be done instantly with a magic operation?

Also, the quote uses ‘arseholes’, and this makes me wonder who the hell these comics are meant to be for. There’s a lot of comics that use swears, and these quotes come from people kids won’t know or care about, and yet the comics are too cartoony, patronising and simplistic for adults.

I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard of the next two, but I’m going to do them anyway.

CHARLES BUKOWSKI – Roll the Dice

The quote used here is about going all the way to do something you’re passionate about. There’s a million different ways the artist could have gone about this. Hell, he could have used it for the Dinomites girl making her movie. No, this is about a man who decides to cosplay as a character from Game of Thrones 24/7, actually pretend to be that character, his wife even leaves because of it, and we’re supposed to cheer him on.

Like, what does he have to gain from this? He won’t inspire anyone, he won’t make any money; best case scenario, he’ll end up on Youtube where people will laugh at him at how obsessed he is. He won’t even cash in on that because apparently he’s off to live in the woods to fight dragons (read: he’s going to poke at rabbit corpses with his sword until the men in white coats come).

Do I need to say anymore? This is a better version of the comic.

And then there’s The Artist-Troll War. Ye gods. You’ve probably seen this before so I could probably just leave it there and say nothing more, but I just can’t get over it. The message of it is never criticise anything or give artists criticism, or a giant monster will destroy everything. Yes, really.  Never mind that that Minchin comic he made more or less promotes criticism, never mind that the old white supremacist was being criticised, never mind that the Dinomites girl had to have gotten criticism in art school, criticism is baaaaaaaaaad.

It comes off as really childish and ignorant. SAYING MEAN THINGS ABOUT MY ART MAKES ME FEEL BAD and stuff like that. It’s like one of those shitty children’s shows about how teasing people makes them feel sad only more so. Still, you can’t get angry at it, you can only laugh at the inanity.

So did Zenpencils do any good for the world? Why yes, actually. Drilpencils improves the comics by replacing the quotes with Dril tweets, though has moved on to do other comics as well. Check that out.

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About jabberw

A writer of short stories and reviews, who likes to dabble in other creative media as well.
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