Saturday, October 16, 2010
Sonichu Episode 1 Critical Review: A Postmodern Masterpiece Begins
I've discussed the fascinatingly pathetic phenomenon of Sonichu before, in context of the hilarious parody Asperchu. For something so utterly terrible, Christian Weston Chandler's much-derided webcomic has drawn more interest than many genuinely good stories. Most likely this is because Chandler* is so ready and unwittingly willing to embarrass himself, and the internet is quick to seize upon the bizarre and novel. But I think there's something to Sonichu that's more compelling than simply being a bad comic by a truly disturbing individual.**
Academia enjoys its alternate readings of works, and Sonichu need not be any different. Reading it as Chandler intended, as a children's adventure comic, means getting a badly written, badly drawn expression of an author's neuroses for an audience that could care less. But reading Sonichu as a parody ( and not " parody " in the way Chandler intends, as an excuse to swindle copyrighted characters ) shows a genuinely interesting psychodrama. Sonichu is an unintentionally brilliant commentary on genre fiction and its fans, and how people use stories and characters to cope with a complex world. Everybody does this, but Chandler's excesses illuminate fandom in a less-than-flattering light.
Even from the first Sonichu story, we see that the " electrical hedgehog Pokemon " is not the star of his strip. The very cover of " Issue Zero " has comic Chris-Chan telling Sonichu to " Zap out to the Extreme ", and Sonichu thanking his " father " for the instruction. The dynamic between Chris-Chan and Sonichu is meant to be father and son, but it goes without saying that biology would not allow a virgin birth of a cartoon animal to a human male. Instead, Sonichu serves as Chandler's idealized avatar-- if the Chris-Chan who appears in the comic is meant to represent Chandler's " dogged nice guy " conception of himself, then Sonichu is who Chandler wants to be, the children's hero who thrives within a never-maturing status quo.
Not only does Chris-Chan hog the cover, but he serves as the narrator for the debut story. He frames the story as its " intrusive creator ", telling us how the unwitting influence of Super Sonic transformed a Pikachu into Sonichu, and a Raichu into his female counterpart and girlfriend Rosechu. The Pikachu is literally just sitting there, about to be eaten by a monster, when he is transformed into Sonichu. After the transformation, he immediately fights and defeats the monster. He's cheered by the public, is impressed by his newfound power and ability to speak, and does not hesitate to rename himself " Sonichu ". Chris-Chan starts and ends this sequence, reminding us that Sonichu is his creation-- Chandler not only lives vicariously through Sonichu, but feeds off of the hypothetical adulation Sonichu receives, hoping that there will be a trickle-down fandom from his creation to him. He's creator and fan in one.
The episode concludes with a " Who's Who " list, involving Sonichu, Rosechu, the " Chaotic Combo " of other recolored hedgehog characters, the villains ( based on Chandler's real-life antagonists ), and three mysterious new Sonichus. There's not much to say about this as writing, since it's clearly telling and not showing. But it does reinforce the idea that Sonichu is about a status quo-- and in later chapters, that status quo finds itself under threat and has to resist.
More to Come..
* I'm referring to the real world Christian Weston Chandler by his last name, while the in-comic CWC will be called " Chris-Chan ".
** And this is NOT because of his autism. While Chandler may use his autism diagnosis as an attempt to excuse his problems, too many people bash him in context of his condition. Autism does not make people do any of the things Chandler has done, and calling him things like " that autistic fuck " or " autistic man-child " in the comments will not be tolerated.