Webcomics Wednesday: Pictures for Sad Children, The Anti-Zoloft / by David Anderson


God high school sucked. That's all I've got to say about that, now let's get on to this review.

Pictures for Sad Children is one of those comics. I don't know what set of comics to put it in, but whatever set it belongs to, it's one of those. It's just one strand in a tangled web of webcomic artists who all know each other and hang out with each other in New England comic conventions and say happy birthday to each other on Twitter, which is kind of neat. I started reading it in college, I think.

(Better times than friggin high school.)

Anyway, PFCS is written by a guy named John Campbell (not to be confused with the author of The Hero With a Thousand Faces or the guy from Evil Dead) and it's pretty funny if you've got a certain sense of humor. Some might find it weird, some might find it nonsensical and obtuse, but I find it hilarious (and also slightly obtuse).

PFCS originally began as a story arc about PAUL WHO IS A GHOST and how he managed his life after he died. He traveled to France, reprimanded a man falling out of an airplane and was forced to train his replacement Gary at the company he worked at. All in all his life was pretty boring before and after death. Eventually the giant story arc involving Paul and Gary ended and Campbell began focusing on stand alone strips and smaller story arcs.

The myriad stories and one-offs that replaced that story arc involve people pretty much doing things that are horrible for themselves, like living in a house made of glass shards or stacking rocks for food, or just realizing the unending terror that is life, and taking it all with either the slightest bit of enthusiasm or a very well-trained sense of resignation. Basically, it's a metaphor for all the mundane and terrible things we as people do to ourselves to convince ourselves to stay alive.

I find his writing hilarious because he breaks down the ordinary things we think about and makes them absurd. You can really feel his characters talking in a bored monotone, even as they binge on existential dread. His jokes are consistently hilarious as far as I'm concerned, though sometimes you may need to re-read a comic once or twice to fully understand it. Also, he's not a very frequent updater. His blog will feature smaller comics more frequently but PFCS is where his higher quality art is.

Speaking of his art, god does it ever fit. It's not much more detailed than napkin drawings but it does such a great job of conveying that sense of "welp, everything's hopeless but this bread tastes okay." You just have these not-quite-stick figures trying to rein in their hallucinating daughters and smashing their computers with rocks amidst this grey and white color scheme, emblematic of their acceptance of the fact they they'll all die having done pointless, unfulfilling things with their time.  Their actions feel lackadaisical and wanting for motivation, and even when they are depicted running it's never with a sense of kinetic energy. It's more like they are accelerating from Bored to Slightly Alarmed speed. It's very minimalist and, well, boring looking, but that's exactly what makes it entertaining to look at.

You're going to react like this: you're going to laugh at his jokes and then say, "Someday I am going to die." Campbell displays a unique kind of existentialism that resonated with me better than what was on display in I Heart Huckabee's. With his daft art style and wit, he makes a webcomic you are forbidden to ignore.

TL;DR: You are going to die but reading this comic will make you feel better about that fact.

Pictures For Sad Children is written and illustrated by John Campbell. You can read his comic here and buy stuff from him here.