Arcade After Dark is a collection of different sprite comics series by Tom Zjaba, whoever the hell he is. It boasts “Over 500 pages of video game comic strips!”, forgetting to amend the very important, “But none of them are good.” Is it premature of me to make that conclusion? True, I haven’t read all 500; but I sure read enough to get a pretty good (or, rather, bad) indication of what his abilities are.
Today I’m going to look at only two of his series: On Tapp and Jr. Critics. Both of these are hosted on our beloved Comixpedia page; but most importantly, both of these I remember from the dark days when I actually used to read sprite comics. And, no, I didn’t like it back then, either. That should show you how bad these comics are.
Thankfully, On Tapp only lasts 74 comics and has almost no continuity (save the last two). As such, I will only look at a few of these on a whim.
Since the author might have improved since the beginning, let’s start with the last two comics:
Okay, allow me to regain some composure… Okay, how do I break it to you, Tom? Well, here goes: Your comic looks terrible. As in, I’ve literally seen pools of vomit I’d rather look at than this blurry mess. In fact, I’ve noticed that your son’s “crazy” comic looks better than yours. I don’t know if you should be proud of that or ashamed.
Actually, scratch that: I do know. If I knew any of my children made sprite comics in their free time I would be deeply ashamed.
I know it sounds exaggerative, but I honestly have never seen a sprite comic look this bad. Okay, so maybe some of Bowser’s Plan B’s pages looked worse; but do you really want to be compared to that comic? That’s like winning a race against a legless person. Who’s dead. And buried underground.
I can’t even comprehend what he did to these sprites—or everything, really. Why is Mega Man so scratchy? He looks like he’s been through a vat of acid. And this whole comic’s been blurred far more than a mere JPEG compression algorithm could ever hope to do. I’m almost of the belief that Mr. Zjaba made this sprite comic look bad on purpose, as some sort of ill-conceived “style”. Otherwise, I’d have to cope with the knowledge that a living human could be this incompetent.
Now, some of you might be thinking, “Who cares what the comic looks like? All that matters is how good the writing is! Right, xkcd?” (even if this comic’s so blurry that it hurts your eyes just to read this). As incompetent as that argument is, I’ll bite: let’s look at what fantastic writing On Tapp has.
Okay, so the writing isn’t too bad. It isn’t particularly funny, either. I guess the joke is that Mega Man, Pac-Man, and Pengo are going to this bar now because of that hot woman in the second-to-last panel. I can’t tell how hot she is behind all of this blur, to be honest; for all I know she could be one of the monsters from DOOM.
Ms. Pac-Man has apparently been turned into an impressionist painting. Gaussian blur is fun, isn’t it, Zjaba.
Ha, ha. That’s what you get, nameless bartender, for having such a blurry bar. That’s gotta violate some health codes.
After a shitty joke like that, I hope Paper Mario gets fried. Especially when they break perspective like that: how’s he standing on the side of the bar there?
Oh my god, what is that blurry, growing creature, and why did you let it into your bar?
You just gotta love sprite comics that tell terrible jokes, and then have someone complaining about that terrible joke as the real joke. It’s like Tom was competent enough to realize his joke was bad, but wasn’t competent enough to write an actual good joke, so he just fell back on the much-appreciated lampshade-hanging technique.
Look, they all have black squares around them! That’s horrendous! Tom, are you blind? I’m not even asking that as a joke; I’m serious. Because these comics violate multiple principles of art, one of which is that your art doesn’t look like the stuff janitors clean out of toilets.
“Bartender, I want to talk to you about this tacky white ring around me…”
Oh, come on: Sonic’s not even standing on anything in that second panel. You can’t just place a random background behind characters; it actually needs to look like they’re part of it. And let’s not even focus on Sonic’s magically changing appearance, and the embarrassing work in panel five.
The author got to the end and realized he needed a punchline, so he frantically pushed in a forced “totally biased advertisement” joke faster than Sonic himself could run.
All I’ll say about this comic is that I fucking hate that bartender’s stupid smarmy grin in the last panel. Everything else is nugatory compared to this.
I’m serious: that bartender’s creepy grin and mutant eyes are going to haunt my nightmares for the rest of my life. Thanks a lot, Tom, you asshole.
There is so much about this comic that confuses me, I don’t even know where to start. What is so cold about the bartender’s line in the second-to-last panel? In fact, how the hell can dialogue be cold, anyway? That’s some strange symbolism there, Tom; especially in a little joke strip. What’s next, are you going to make the bartender be crucified and come back to life three days later like Jesus Christ?
And why are you making that cheesy fucking grin, bartender? You didn’t even tell a joke. In fact, that grin makes me think that that bartender isn’t sorry at all about inconveniencing Pac-Man: he was hoping Pac-Man would accidentally tip the mug over, spilling the beer into his mouth so fast that he literally drowns. I’m on to you, you sneaky bastard.
My favorite rock band.
So, you’re not going to charge him or call the police on him? Wow, you suck as a bartender, bartender guy. That’s pretty bad for someone whose whole existence is based on being a bartender. He doesn’t even get to go home; he must spend eternity moving around in those three or four frames he has, slowly dying of blurry cancer. This comes up in the Very Special Episode of On Tapp, an episode so dramatic it won Tom Zjaba an Eisner.
“Hey, guys, get this! (snicker) So this game is called Final Fantasy (snicker), but there’s over thirteen of them! Bet you never heard that joke before, right!… Hello? Is… is this thing on?”
Hereafter, bartender guy will now be called “Barkeep”, as that is what Fighter calls him.
“In Soviet Russia, we give our characters offensive accents and forget to tell jokes. Also, we’re not Soviet anymore.”
At least we now know where he gets his blurriness and his scratchiness.
Before you accuse me of making fun of some little idiot kid, remember that this guy has a son. That means either he somehow figured out how sexual intercourse works, or some adoption centers with really low standards gave him that kid.
I swear to god, Tom’s getting all of these jokes from some book of video game jokes. If Portal was out by this time he’d make a fucking “The Cake is a Lie” Joke. By the way, I hate you all.
How much filler did you need to add to the middle of this comic, Tom? I swear you could cut out half of this and it’s still work… as well as it works, which it doesn’t.
Okay, this punchline is even worse than making fun of his own terrible jokes: praising his own terrible jokes. I hope that cheesy “exit stage right” pose of his will lead him to run right into that fucking wall. Fuck you, Barkeep.
I swear to god, Barkeep, I’m going to hunt you down and destroy you.
“I’m so saddened by my two boyfriends cheating on me that I’m smiling!”
If smoking’s not aloud, then what’s causing all of that blurriness?
Ha, ha, ha! This is the fucking worst! How the hell could anyone look at this and think it was presentable? I’d rather be caught humping a god damn fire hydrant in broad daylight than being known for making this. And you use your real name, Tom Zjaba?
Nothing about this comic is celebratory. It’s all a depressing shame.
Hey, wait a minute: isn’t the new Punch-Out game pretty recent? And the new Duke Nukem game? You mean that Duke Nukem Forever game that finally came out? That was pretty recent, too. That’s impossible. Tom hasn’t updated this garbage since…
Holy shit, this motherfucker still updates this shit. He’s even got two new On Tapp comics as the latest update, May 2011. Those were the two we saw at the very beginning of this article. Yes, those were made in 2011. So apparently nobody’s told him about that whole eye-ruining blurriness problem yet. You’ve got some irresponsible friends, Tom.
Okay, enough of this garbage. Every joke here is pretty much some corny pun about some video game character, video game characters mixing in zany ways, and sometimes there’s no joke at all. Exceptions to these rules are usually worse, including two where the author just put in a bunch of song quotes and asks you to guess them. These two don’t have any jokes in them, by the way.
Jr. Critics are a bunch of video game reviews told by Donkey Kong Jr. and… Pac-Man Jr.? Since when has anyone ever given a fuck about him? Anyway, expect their “reviews” to be as entertaining or informative as your average shitty review blog.
Oh yeah, and these are blurry as hell, too. And the latest page, also blurry, was made November 2010. These comics look like they belong in the 1930s. And even that’s pretty generous.
Don’t worry about missing the first page; you didn’t miss much. All you missed was a “Sir Arthur goes around in his underwear” joke. If you really wanted to see that joke, don’t worry: he tells it again in this page.
And, yes, these characters have black squares around them. Thanks, Tom.
“Gotta love Monty Python references.” Actually, I fucking hate them with a passion. Sorry, Junior
The rest is the characters mocking the visuals of an old, 8-bit game, which is pretty hypocritical coming from someone who couldn’t even figure out how to copy other people’s sprites without making them look ten times worse. You’re right: I can’t tell it’s a raven. But something tells me that’s more the blurriness than the primitive graphics.
Okay, I’ll admit Pac-Man Junior’s line in panel two isn’t bad. I mean, it’s an actual legitimate observational joke that hasn’t been used a million times before.
Well, no wonder you couldn’t even get past the first level, Zjaba: you’re playing a glitched game with a long river no one could jump past.
It’s strange. Looking through these comics, some of them actually have some pretty funny observations. In fact, despite the majority of lame jokes and random bullshit, compared to all of the other sprite comics I’ve made fun of, this comic’s gotta be the funniest. And yet it’s one of the worst looking. How does that happen?
Okay, the two 2600 issues and the NES Boxes issues are pretty good. Spider-Man is okay. The rest of them are pretty lame. Especially the Splatterhouse issue. Ozzie’s head? Really? That’s like a lame hand-me-down of a lame NC joke.
Well, I think we’re done here. What’s that? You say I barely even did the second series? What, you actually expected me to take the effort to do two whole series and not do a half-assed job? You must be new to this blog.
(Published: July 22, 2011)