Saturday, December 12, 2009

Curtis: Well, if you saved it, you can print a new copy!

I am far more annoyed by this Curtis storyline than is probably reasonable. After all, it's Curtis, a strip for which no one should have high expectations. And, indeed, I don't expect much from it. But this storyline is just lazy to the point of hackishness.

Here's what happened. Ray Billingsly wanted to use the old trope of a character attempting to protect an important document. The problem is that personal computers have rendered this trope mostly obsolete. Billingsly either forgot about or chose to ignore this problem over this week's first few strips. And so Curtis has been running around trying to protect his report as though it's his only copy. Hilarity has ensued. But hanging over all of it was the problem. Until today, when Billingsly finally chose to address the problem.

Unfortunately, he chose to address the problem in what is probably the most annoying way possible. We learn that Curtis did, in fact, write his report on a computer. He just forgot that he could print out another copy! Ha ha! Now, Curtis has never been written as a particularly smart character. But this would make him literally the stupidest person in the world.

Even worse, the final panel here acts as the week's big punchline. You see, now that Curtis has been saved from his crippling retardation and directed to print out another copy, his computer has crashed! HA HA HA HA!!! All of this suggests that Billingsly did not merely forget or ignore the problem with using the document-in-peril trope, but in fact saw it is as just another hilarious part of the trope, easily reconcilable with his moronic character and sure to result in super-duper funniness when the computer doesn't work.

In other words, it's entirely possible that the storyline is not just lazy, but also indicative of a contempt on Billingsly's part for the central character of his own comic strip. Billingsly may have just played around with characterization to justify the poorly thought out use of a trope after the fact. If this is what happened, he shouldn't have bothered trying to justify it. Letting a poorly thought out story remain baffling is better than futzing with characterization. But he appears to have, in fact, actually planned to turn his character into a babbling idiot in service to an old trope and a series of punchlines. And that's not the sort of thing any author should do, even if you're just the author of a generally uninspiring comic strip.


  1. Dammit, you were right. It wasn't handwritten. That's the last time I try to make any sort of sense of Curtis.

  2. just two weeks until Kurtis Kwanzaa Kwaziness!