Ruby Nation

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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.


  1. Neil,

    So, if I like "Glee" and appreciate that it has some decently written LGBT characters, that does make me an ignoramous or a horrible person?

  2. Vanessa,

    No, because different people have different tastes, and while I personally hate Glee, I don't think less of you for liking it. Just like I don't think less of my best friend for liking Sucker Punch, nor do I think less of a friend who liked Identity Crisis.

  3. Neil,

    I've read most of Cripz, and I have to say it's really, laugh-out-loud funny. I also am learning a bit about Canadian culture through it. Sara Komichi (is that her surname?) reminds me of a latter-day Daria. However, I can't seem to find the strip's take on "Glee." Could you please give me a link to it?

    While I have to admire the writing on "Glee" regards to its LGBT charcters, and the Rachel-Puck-Finn love triangle, the way the show treats the disabled is really insulting in a way that can't be justified by just shrugging and saying "well, life really sucks for
    them." Sue Sylvester's older sister with Down's syndrome was clearly written in as a Morality Pet (couldn't her sister have been say, a parent with 7 kids whom Auntie Sue dotes upon?), and in trying not to coddle Becky, a cheerleader with a similar affliction, Sue treats Becky like a servant girl. Then there's Artie, who has been dumped by TWO girls, one of whom was a lesbian using him a cover for her very strong, very obvious attachment to another girl. (And as adorable as I found the possibility of an Artie-Tina pairing, Tina's relations with Artie might have been based on pity, as opposed to say, common interests.)

    In the unlikely event that "Glee" ever decides to include a character with an autism spectrum disorder, one could reasonably expect that (A) The character will be around for no more than half a season (maybe 10 episodes), (B) the character will REALLY be pulled through the wringer at McKinley High, and (C) the Academy will pat themselves on the back for at least "trying" and the actor/actress playing the character will become Emmy Bait.

  4. Nice article, thanks for sharing.