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Comic 995 - Rainy Day Filler: Enter The.....

28th Feb 2021, 11:00 PM in Rainy Day Filler
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Rainy Day Filler: Enter The.....
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Author Notes:

28th Feb 2021, 11:00 PM
Adam C.
You can read Wotch here! ....... Please do not read if misgendering, deadnaming, or violation of consent are triggers.

Yeah! Wotch! This was one of the comics that was immediately on the radar to do, as we were both big fans and it had a huge impact on us. Plus there are so many characters that'd be fun to draw; we got Xandy as one of the Cheer girls, Sareena as Cassie, and Lenore as Robin in that one chapter where he got ARed (the princess dress looks great on her).

That said.... Yeah, my feelings on this comic are... mixed.

On the one hand, it was a MASSIVE influence on Blues for me. The creators were clearly big Marvel/DC fans who took that approach to writing the story. It didn't feel like a webcomic, it had a much more episodic and contained vibe that gaves it a stronger focus and let the characters pop a lot more. When I was getting started on Blues I leaned hard into that feeling and it was a big help. To this day I can still go back and read (some) chapters and really have fun with the premise, since all the stories are very tightly plotted and contained, and (with one REALLY big exception) the cast are so fun and likeable. Hell, the recent story in Blues, "Wasted On The Blue" actually took a fair bit of inspiration from the Wotch chapter "Myths and Legends."

On the other hand.... The comic has a lot of EXTREMELY cringey moments, both regarding its protagonist and the comic's views on gender, gender-identity and consent. The main character, Anne, has the power to change people's genders with her magic, and she intentionally uses it on unwilling people almost every single chapter. Rule 63ing characters is clearly something the creative team loved to draw, so I can understand why you'd write it into the narrative, but having the "hero" use it on her non-consenting friends comes off as more and more disgusting every time I try to re-read the comic. It's casually played off as a joke, which carries just an... icky vibe to it, especially now that it's more widely understood how harmful and insensitive it can be to misgender people.

The creative team attempted to sort of address this by having a chapter wherein Anne's casual, abusive use of her magic came back to bite her as all her regular victims came together to let her know how much it hurt.... And the chapter just blew it off, more or less handwaving away everyone's complaints and making it sound like it was all in good fun, or (even worse) for the better. The chapter also included a magical effect hitting Anne that made her more prone to this behavior so she could still go about it in the future without it technically being her fault. Essentially they did everything they could to address concerns while changing nothing, and you could REALLY tell.

Another chapter had a storyline with some Straw Feminist villains trying to recruit Anne into their ranks (chapter had a GREAT cover that promised a way better, cooler premise than what it was about), and had Anne turn them down to show she was better than that, but it felt rather hallow. It didn't teach Anne any lessons about what she sounds like when she casually fucks with people or make her change her opinions on changing people with her magic (even though she watches this group do the same thing), and just feels like it's written in to make Anne look better by comparison. Again, it was creepy enough at the time, but with it more widely understood the dangers of misgendering people, Anne really comes off like a monster.

To make matters weirder, the comic has a really creepy view on gender. The gender transformations overwhelmingly go in one direction; male to female. And it's treated universally as an improvement to be female, regardless of who it is or if they consented to change or not. Several characters were TGed permanently into women without their consent or even knowledge (via brainwashing) and Anne just neglects to fix it because she likes them better that way. Likewise, that group of Straw Feminist villains don't really seem reflective on any of the comics' more problematic views; within the chapter they feature in, two characters have their genders permanently changed and they think it's pretty awesome. It's the equivalent of if it WaR, Alex just randomly decided he was totally cool with being Dorothy now and decided to stay that way permanently, and the narrative rewarded Sareena for casting this curse on him by having literally everyone flock to her and tell her how great she was for doing it.

To its credit, the comic did try and walk back on some of this after the aforementioned chapters. Toward the end of the comic's run, a few characters get their genders permanently changed against their will and it's treated as both unjust and horrifying that they have to resign themselves to being misgendered and deadnamed (..... Zombie... named? I'm not sure what to call it when it's in reverse). But the comic was sort of going downhill at that point (the schedule had started to slip and the art was deteriorating due to some sad IRL issues), and I remember appreciating the effort but it feeling too little too late. Maybe it's wrong to write it off like that? Maybe I didn't give that second half a fair shake...

So.... Yeah. All in all, VERY mixed opinions on the comic. I'd be lying if I said I didn't admire the way it handled premises and plots, but problematic way the narrative handles gender and just contemptible main characters really put an icky feeling in your mouth. I'd advice readers to check it out themselves, but if any of those issues are things you find distasteful, I'd definitely suggest you pass.
28th Feb 2021, 11:00 PM
Martin F.
Yeah, feelings on The Wotch are... complicated.

I don't think the comics would exist in the same form without it - it was certainly one of the first webcomics I got into, and if nothing else it was the comic that inspired the 11 PM EST update schedule we go with because I always liked being able to check it right before going to bed. Kind of a weird thing to be inspired by but hey, it is what it is. ... Sidenote we've actually lightly kicked around the idea of switching to early morning updates instead, though it's not actually something we've really commited to. Kind of just there are points when it would give us more wiggle room than we have now but I dunno, at least for the moment there's no change coming on that front.

I think if I were to read the comic again now I'd probably have a pretty negative opinion of it. There are all the issues Adam laid out and I won't reiterate all that (though it's all pretty damn accurate), but also honestly a lot of the time it was just kind of weakly put together. At a point Adam was wanting to draw Lenore as the main villain for this and I pretty quickly got to thinking about alternative ideas just because of how boring and one note that guy is. Kind of one of those comics where at any given time I was always more interested in the random side hijinks and the side characters than I was the actual protagonist (who we didn't even actually draw as part of this) and the actual plot. Really laying it all out like this has kind of made me regret even bothering to do filler for it but hey, nothing wrong with going into detail in regards to our feelings on the subject and acknowledging our influences regardless of the problems around them, I suppose.

I do feel like since we worked in a nod to it we should probably take note of the spinoff, Cheer. That one kind of fizzled out itself, but I do think it's the much stronger work of the two and a good chunk of its problems come specifically from the connection to The Wotch and the baggage that leaves the comic with that it doesn't really need. ... A lot of the rest of its problems come from eventually hitting some kind of some weird arms race to introduce as many side-characters as possible and from focusing too much time on two of the main characters at the expense of a lot of the rest of the cast, but those aren't really worth getting into right now.

So yeah. This kind of wound up being a weird thing of us kind of working through some hangups we have on a comic we used to read but hey, at least it gives us something to talk about.

Oh right, and this is the first time we're actually showing off short-haired Sareena. There's kind of an in-comic introduction for this in a couple of chapters, but no real harm in giving an early view I guess, not exactly supposed to be a shocking change or anything after the design change she already went through. Actually might not be the worst idea to go ahead and condition everyone to this a bit really since she isn't actually in the next chapter and thus the new look might kind of fall off the radar a bit otherwise.

Comments:

28th Feb 2021, 11:26 PM
Didn't read the comic but skimmed it a bit and could see some influences. What turned me off from it personally was mostly the art but your review gives red flags as well. Gender is especially an important topic to get right and handled sensitively in fiction today. I do actually like sprawling stories with lots of flawed characters that don't focus too much on the protagonists, but reckless and fetishized gender bending sounds creepy and dangerous. Creepy in an unintentional way of course. Glad you could still acknowledge it's good influence on your stories regardless.
1st Mar 2021, 12:04 AM
Adam C.
That's a good sum-up, yeah. Appreciate the support in looking up the comic with a critical eye for these issues. Good comment, helped a lot.
1st Mar 2021, 3:17 AM
1st Mar 2021, 4:08 AM
Adam C.
Heh. That sorta sums it up....