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Monday, November 28, 2005

Review: The Big Three-Oh!

Biological clock discussion from The Big Three-Oh

I wanted to think of a catchier name for this post, but you know how things go. Much like "The Big Three-Oh" was just the name that Philippe Gaboury came up for his comic on a short time schedule, so the name of this post was just me trying to save some time so I can actually finish writing this thing before midnight and get it to show up on Sunday. I find myself pushing the midnight deadline for getting a post on a certain date on many occasions and sometimes I feel the need to fudge the actual posting time a bit, sometimes I don't.

But I digress.

The Big Three-Oh is a relatively new webcomic, one of many that was birthed from The Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge (which no one talks about anymore, probably because it's gotten boring with no one dropping out since September. Hopefully the holiday season will shake things up a bit). Also like many of the Daily Grind inspired comics, it mostly follows the events of Gaboury's personal life. I think a lot of "grinders" took this approach because they figured their life was full of lots of hilarious antics and would provide continuous fodder for their comic, which would prevent them from having to actually sit around and think of things to draw about. It's a good idea in concept, until you realize that your life is actually pretty boring to people on the outside looking into it, it's only really funny and interesting from your perspective.

This is the main problem with most blogs, actually. The amusing little things that happen to you in your life tend to be really only amusing to you and your friends. Anyone else who happens to read your blog just kind of says "ok, that's great..." and moves on. Because the people reading your blog are detached from your life, they miss the context, the subtleties, and basically everything which made something that happened to you interesting, and it becomes just another bit of stale and trite writing. And I think a lot of grinders had this problem with their quasi-diary comics, and had to adjust them to make them more whimsical and less grounded in reality and therefore more self-contained and digestible to the average reader.

Now, I don't know how close to his actual life Gaboury keeps the comic. Certainly he hasn't gone the direction of Brandon Lewis, who's taken Mousewax to the completely absurd level and heavily distanced it in many cases from anything that could be considered remotely close to his life. The Big Three-Oh tends to deal with stuff that seems more plausible, and in many cases is obviously based on actual occurences in Gaboury's life. But I doubt he actually spent a few days just standing and staring at his new iMac (although that would be cool).

So, the point I'm trying to make? The Big Three-Oh is a comic loosely based on Philippe Gaboury's real life. The strip follows the adventures of him and his girlfriend Catherine as they go through basically average life, with his various friends and acquaintances making appearances from time to time. Philippe both in real life and in the strip have just turned thirty years old (hence the name), and he's dealing with the troubles most people have as they get older, such as wondering if he should have kids and trying to stay in shape, as well as the routine events of everyday life, such as the current storyline of going to the store. The comic deals with surprisingly mundane issues, stuff that most people actually go through from day to day and the majority of the humor comes from Philippe and Catherine's reactions to the everyday silly situations that arise around them.

I don't think I've ever read a comic strip which embodies the phrase "slice of life" better than The Big Three-Oh. Philippe and Catherine don't seem to be so much like charicatures of their real life personas as they seem to be accurate reflections of them. The events they undergo seem much less like contrived storylines with cleverly written dialogue than they seem like everyday events with accurately transcribed conversations. There are no wacky adventures. There are no super powers or mythical creatures or giant robots. The closest we ever got was an artificially intelligent Xbox game, which at this point is video game history isn't even much of a stretch of the imagination.

And because it deals with the mundane, the comic tends to be somewhat mundane. That's just the way it goes. It's not consistently "laugh out loud" jokes like Dinosaur Comics or overhyped drama like Megatokyo. In fact, the punchline of the comic up on the site right now is that Philippe fell asleep in line. Fell asleep in line. Not too funny, not too dramatic, totally something you could see happening in real life. In a lot of ways, Philippe Gaboury's style is very similar to that of Dave Barry. Both of them make their trade off of finding the funny bits in everyday life. Obviously Gaboury is in nowhere near the same league of funniness as Barry, but who is?

So if you're looking for a comic with outrageous stories and wild humor, or for intense drama and heartfelt emotion, you should probably give The Big Three-Oh a pass. But if you're looking for a comic that finds the little bits of humor in the foibles of life, expands upon them, and shows the character's reacting to them with good humor, then The Big Three-Oh is for you.


At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Philippe Gaboury said...

Thank you for the excellent review. I appreciate any feedback I get on my comics, especially from someone outside my immediate circle of friends because I never know how closely "strangers" can relate to what I'm talking about. It's nice to know that I'm not completely off-base.

I am, however, stuck with reality. Keeping the strip close to real life does pause some real limits to storytelling. There are subject that I can't approach and there are some jokes that I just can't do without risking hurting a friend or something. I've considered making up a scapegoat for all the horrible jokes out there. Perhaps he or she may still come.

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Stenar said...

The thing that is good about MouseWax is that it is slightly absurd. Who wants to read about some boring, middle-aged man's real life???


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