Monday, August 1, 2011
Cripz the Webcomic: A Bullet in the Spine of Bigotry
Cripz, a webcomic written by Jeff Preston and illustrated by Clara Madrenas, is to disability rights what the Boondocks was to issues of race-- a wonderful comic strip that not only takes a stand against the negative stereotypes, but takes them into the basement, chains them to a plastic chair, and works them over with power tools. It's not subtle about the way it addresses ableist inequities, and probably not for the easily offended. But some points need to be made with sledgehammer force, and Cripz obliges with the might of Mjolnir's uru head.
The comic follows two high school boys in wheelchairs; Rhett, a sensitive hyper-intellectual whose idealistic discourses tend to fly straight over peoples' heads, and Griff, a hyper-masculine rap enthusiast who milks his disabled status for all it's worth. They're eventually joined by a third character, an able-bodied girl named Katie who likes Rhett (though probably not to the same extent that he likes her) but finds Griff an obnoxious tool and doesn't take his handicap as an excuse. Griff is easily the funniest of the three, and flies in the face of the "inspirationally disadvantaged" stereotype. His innocuous look belies a wildly manipulative and borderline sociopathic mind, and were he not pitied for his disability, he would likely end up in juvenile hall. At times he seems like a male, paralyzed Sarah Silverman.
The art style seems very crude, as it has the characters as sketches on lined notebook paper pasted onto colored backgrounds. However, it works for the strip. It helps establish the otherness of the protagonists, and draws immediate attention to them. This is a talking-heads social commentary strip, so the cinematographic perspective derring-do of adventure strips isn't necessary. It works especially well in the "At the Movies" strips, where Rhett and Griff imagine themselves in movies that typically eschew the handicapped. (The Captain America spoof is especially funny, as Griff imagines that the super-soldier serum leaves Steve Rogers permanently crippled by accident, but allows him to stay out of the draft, so he can fuck all the women at home while the other men go overseas to die in battle. Yes, really.)
If I had a complaint about the strip, it would be the somewhat narrow way disability is perceived. Preston and Madrenas address the issues faced by the wheelchair-bound first and foremost, and they do touch on blindness and deafness. However, mental disabilities are not addressed, despite presenting very similar challenges. This is especially bothersome when the school janitor appears, who embodies most of the delusional deranged veteran cliches. It could easily be extrapolated that he qualifies as disabled via PTSD, yet he remains a subject for the main characters to mock. This is disappointing when you consider that Rhett and Griff are just as limited as him, even if it's their bodies and not their minds that give them the societal stigma.
But I hope that the creators will address this, because if they do, this will be one of the greatest humor comic strips ever made. Early on it captured my heart with its parody of Glee, specifically the horrid stereotype Artie's dreams of walking. Rhett's fantasy is not the ability to walk, but the possession of a pimped-out multi-story wheelchair stacked with hot chicks. Given my somewhat partisan opinion about Glee (i.e. that it's a horrible show that sits at the peak of self-aggrandizing Hollywood leftism, preaching equality but never actually taking any risks with its Benneton ad stereotypes), I immediately bookmarked the comic.
You can read all of Cripz Here.