Part IV: "9th Elsewhere" 

(As seen at www.9thelsewhere.com)

 

This comic makes me laugh. It really does, and not because of the lame-ass super-deformed sight gags. Oh no. Remember that episode of Mission Hill, where Posey was meditating, and going through this weird dream world with metaphoric chasms, monsters, Frankenstein, a floaty clone of herself that drove a Miyata, and Ronald McDonald was the secret of inner truth, or whatever? Well, this comic is exactly like that, but meant to be taken seriously rather than a joke. If pretentiousness and marijuana had a baby, that bundle of ugly would be 9th Elsewhere.

For those who don't know, 9th Elsewhere is a fantasy webmanga that takes place entirely within the author character's head. You heard me right. This has to be the most egotistical, self-absorbed webmanga I've reviewed yet. I mean, Jesus, I've seen webcomics and sprite comics where the author character was the main focus, but when the whole premise of the comic revolves exclusively around the author, their mind, their feelings, THEM! Good LORD! Get the fuck over yourself!


The Story
 

As I said, the story revolves around the author's avatar character, "Carmen". Carmen is basically Caroline Curtis with a different name, and probably better looking, as is the tradition with webmanga-ka. I used that term instead of what I wanted to say, because I try to be charitable, and have a heart every now and again... Anyway, the whole damn story takes place in Carmen's mind, wherein she's trapped with a muse name Eiji (surprise surprise; a Japanese name). Eiji works for ORMY, which stands for 'Organized Response Muse Yes!'...

...Okay, I'd like to explain something to Curtis, and any other American webmanga person who might be reading this. You see, as an American, you have, or at least should have, full mastery of the English language. Therefore, regardless of how much you may or may not just looooooove Japan, YOU DON'T HAVE TO FUCKING MIMIC BROKEN ENGLISH! "Organized Response Muse Yes!" not only makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it just screams "WASSAP MOTHER FUCKERS I WAS MADE TO MAKE THE ACRONYM FIT I AINT EVEN A SENTENCE BITCHES!" My intelligence, and the intelligence of anyone reading this or the comic, has just been thoroughly insulted. How anyone could settle on that acronym, and feel good about that decision, just escapes me. But really, all you need to do is copy that last sentence, remove the words "that acronym" and replace them with anything else relating to this comic, and you've pretty much got all my thoughts regarding any aspect of 9th Elsewhere.


If you didn't see this bit coming, you're an unevolved, stupid piece of shit!


The story will be the biggest part of this article, simply because there's so much convoluted bullshit to explain. So, Carmen (who reigns as the Ultimate Emo) mopes around in a world filled with terrible, faux-philosophical metaphors that are about as subtle as I am when I talk about how much I want to see the author behind this abominable comic swallow a pill containing a flesh-eating virus that devours her from the inside out. At one point, the main character enters a train filled with emotional baggage, but it's, like, real baggage. God dammit, Psychonauts did that as a sight gag, and you're trying to be serious about it?! What paint thinner did you huff?!

The metaphors abound, and they will all sicken you. There's a city of figments, which are basically a bunch of people based off Carmen's personality traits. And yes, what just popped into your head is exactly right; aside from Carmen, Eiji, and Dorian Gray (lifted right from a story by Oscar Wilde, favorite author of pretentious college kids), all the other characters in 9th Elsewhere are just figments and thoughts inside this chick's head. Don't expect a diverse, interesting cast here; just a bunch of archetypes (literally, in a few cases) based on idiotic metaphors. Fun times, people! Oh, and there's also a melodramatic heap of bullshit over an old toy! GOODIE!

Now, I'm going to give Curtis the benefit of the doubt and believe that she never had these life experiences Carmen had, including all the foster homes. I say this because, if it were true, Curtis and her comic would be so self-involved I may very well HAVE to vomit right here at my computer. Just let loose with a torrent of stomach fluids, half-digested food, and a stink that, oddly enough, would fit this comic perfectly.


Please tell me the next panel has the speaker saying "Naw, I'm just kiddin' witcha!"


This comic's content is painful to slosh through, especially with all the god-awful metaphors. Ten bucks says Carmen finds the secret to inner peace, but it's actually a puzzle piece (peace/piece. Get it?). And, when she takes it, she'll reach a level of understanding, but when she does, she'll be standing under something. And, like, she'll face her inner demons, but they'll be actual demons, see, like the ogre of self-doubt, and the minotaur of depression, and some Japanese creature of some bullshit.

There's also a lot of references to authors and psychiatric principles no average, above-average, or even academic genius knows of, or cares about. This whole damn thing is like The Wall meets Neon Genesis Evangelion, after Anno's emo-trip turned it into a faux-philosophical power-point presentation.

FEAR! SCARED! MENSTRUATION! SHUT UP! FATHER! PARANOIA! SHUT UP! FEAR! I SAID SHUT THE FUCK UP WITH THE WORDS!


The Art
 

The art is standard webmanga fare; boring, stiff, amateur, and bland. Proportions dance between "decent" and "iffy", poses are mostly Egyptian, and the art style, while distinctive enough, shows that Curtis would rather stick to her formula than change things up for the sake of improving the characters. While the Metaphors tend to look different in their design, any actual people have the same basic look throughout (except Dorian Gray; he got a mini-mustache. I know!). It's another case of "shave 'em bald and strip 'em naked, and you can't tell 'em apart".

And everyone in this thing seems to have the same freakishly tall noses...


That's not your demon blood, that's just bad hygiene...
 

What also makes this art so damn piss-poor is the fact that, while this seems to be some kind of dream world, everything is so milquetoast and plain. Now, I'm not asking for melting clocks or whatever, but when the best dream-scenery you can think of is telephone poles in a flood, or a pun-laden train, this may be the first time where I'd recommend using drugs to come up with plot devices. And it always seems to go the same way; Ms. Emo and Anime Man are walking down the street (or dream-street, as it were), and BOOM! All of a sudden, they're somewhere stupid...

"Look! It's the ladder of your inner fears! Climb it, and you'll face your fears, and overcome them!"

"...Where'd that ladder come from?!"

"Your subconscious, of course!"

"No, I mean we were just standing on some tall-ass hill. Why didn't we see this?! It just popped outta nowhere..."

"YOU SHUT YOUR FILTHY JEW MOUTH, CLIMB THE LADDER, AND HAVE A FUCKING REVELATION!"

"...Filthy Jew mouth?!"


The Author


Curtis really cracks me up. She seems to be a fascinating oxymoron; an egotistical emo. She wrote a mopey webmanga based entirely around herself, and as much as she bitches and mopes, she'll go and write mini-comics based on some mundane shit she did in real life.

BITCH-WE-DON'T-CARE!

When I hit her interpretation of her little family vacation, I had a hard time believing what I was seeing. Did she really think she was so god damn interesting?! What the fuck goes through your mind to think "Hey, I'll interrupt my main comic to do a comic version of my wacky adventures in real life, because I'M INTERESTING!" NO YOU'RE NOT! GET THE FUCK OVER YOURSELF! YOU'RE NOT ZANY, WACKY, OR ANY SHIT LIKE THAT!


I call this one: "9th Elsewhere in a Nutshell"
 

Oh, and my favorite part is the two-page whine-fest, trying to reassure us that she SO DIDN'T have a falling out with the ex-co-author (she who doth protest too much...), and she's giving up webcomics, because it's not her world or some shit, and she's deciding to become a poet...

Buuuuut the marble notebook route didn't work, so she went right back to making her dumbass webcomic. Knowing how amateur poetry tends to be, a I think we, as a society, dodged a major bullet there. Of course, that doesn't stop her poetry from getting mention in her comic, because she loves herself. More than she acts.


In Conclusion...


Now that I've had time to think about it, I think a better comparison to this comic would be that episode of Darkwing Duck, where Binky hit her head, and became a dime-store superhero. Remember that one? In it, Darkwing and Launchpad would freeze-frame the episode to go into people's brains, where there'd be doors with funny metaphors in them. This comic is that episode, but a super dramatic version. The only difference is that when I think of that episode of Darkwing Duck, I think of happy childhood memories. When I think of 9th Elsewhere, I think of Chinese water torture; an experience that's slow, agonizing, and maddening.

- Cody Baier

 

 

Alex's AFTER Thoughts

 

Just for the record, I have nothing against comics that get kind of trippy just because they can. Hell, a few of my favorite manga series have relied quite heavily on symbolic imagery, abstruse plot devices, and even theology dealing with spiritual and/or metaphysical concepts to tell their stories. I think this kind of subject matter can be very interesting and thought-provoking when done right. The thing is, abstract, metaphor-laden content like that only works when it's used in small doses. To try and build an entire story around nothing but metaphors and wacko philosophical bullshit is just missing the point entirely. That would be like making a porno flick where the entire movie consists of a woman waiting for her pizza to be delivered from "Big Sausage" Tony's Italian Eatery, but the guy never shows up and she ends up eating a box of Kraft Dinner and falling asleep on the couch to an episode of Three's Company.

What's sad is that 9th Elsewhere didn't even start out all that bad... Alright, sure, so the characters were one-dimensional and the story was flat and uninteresting and the quality of the artwork was inconsistent and, uh... Well, maybe the comic did kind of blow from page one. The point I'm trying to make is that the storyline for the earlier chapters, dry as it may have been, at least made sense for the most part. Somewhere along the line, though, the plot decided to jump the fence into Crazy Town and quickly became a permanent resident. Some of the stuff Curtis started throwing in there was just flat-out mystifying. And if you actually have any idea what the hell is going on at any point in the comic past Chapter 6, then stop reading this and go get yourself a well-paying job as a psychiatric consultant at the nearest mental asylum.

As for the quality of the artwork, let's just say that if they gave out awards to artists for exceeding in the field of banality, Caroline Curtis would have more trophies with her name engraved on them than every single player and coach from every single team registered with the NFL combined. Some of the art looks downright ugly, while some of it is admittedly pretty decent, but almost none of it really stands out or seems the least bit interesting. It's basically the comic equivalent of saltine crackers and white rice. Yum.

However, if you happen to be a fan of Curtis' style and would like to get an original sketch from her to hang on your wall next to that picture of you standing next to some Card Captor Sakura cosplayer you met at Super Fanboy Anime-Con 2000 (the one where you're grinning ecstatically and doing the "Victory" thing with your fingers as if imploring everyone in the nearby vicinity to beat the shit out of you), then you're in luck! For the low, low price of somewhere between 10 and 30 dollars, she'll mail you a cute little 4" x 6" sketch, or you can get a mini-poster sized 8" x 11" sketch for only around 100 dollars!

...Wait. Did I say a hundred dollars? Did-- What-- A hundred dollars!?! Holy shit!! Son of a bitch man, you can buy a cloth wallscroll of your favorite anime that's almost four times that size for less than fifteen bucks! One hundred dollars or more for a single black and white sketch!? Who in the hell does this chick think she is? Fucking Stan Lee!? Oh my God... A hundred dollars. Bitch better draw a scale map to some lost Incan city made of gold on the back of every sketch she mails out for that price.

 

'Till next time!

MANGA!