(From Square Root of Minus Garfield. Click for full-sized apocalyptic statements.)
Once upon a time, the people behind the site mezzacotta, a repository for all the half-baked ideas they could come up with, came up with another one: a comic that would consist of every single mash-up of the newspaper comic Garfield that they could come up with.
And lo, it was good. Even though I considered myself a Garfield fan (though I had started to think it was running low on ideas and dreaded the point when my book collection got far enough to include Jon hooking up with Liz), I still found myself fascinated by the numerous ways the Comic Irregulars found to mash up a Garfield comic each day. So many people wanted to come up with their own mashups that the comic eventually moved to a daily schedule to accommodate them all.
Then I started to fall behind on my RSS reader, and when I returned, √-G had become a noticeably different comic. It had become too reliant on beating old memes into the ground, usually based on mash-ups of the same comic or two. So when I started my ill-fated attempt to use Archive Binge (another former mezzacotta project) to assist in reviewing webcomics, one of the comics I chose was Square Root of Minus Garfield, thinking that I could find myself doing my own “you had me, and you lost me” on it. But a funny thing happened: the other comics I chose to review inspired such dread in me that I actually found myself looking forward to the point where I would read the day’s batch of √-G comics – admittedly part of that probably had to do with the utter lack of drama compared to the others.
I eventually abandoned the project, but I did eventually catch up on all the √-G comics that I’d missed, and I’ve had it in my RSS reader for a few months now, probably dating back at least to the closure of Google Reader. So what’s the verdict?
Well… Square Root of Minus Garfield is certainly a different comic than it was when it started.
The memes have calmed down, in part due to David Morgan-Mar’s efforts to space things out between repetitions of a meme, but they’re still present and groan-inducing. Originality is much more rewarded, but it’s not necessarily good originality; some of the more unique mashups seem to be a thing of the past, and a goodly number of mashups are specific to one particular strip, even when they aren’t memes. I still hold to what I said in 2011: modern √-G reads much better read as it comes out than in one huge batch, as the repetition of the memes stands out much more when you’re exposed to many repetitions at once.
And yet… there’s still something about √-G that’s weirdly compelling. It’s now much more of a straight-up vaguely absurdist humor comic, less about the ideas presented and more purely about the humor that can be wrung out of it. Certainly there are a few groan-inducing comics, particularly the overplayed memes, but even then it doesn’t overstay its welcome like some more dramatic strips might. I probably won’t feel inclined to catch up if I fall behind again, though it would be relatively easy to do so, but for the time being I think it might actually stay in my RSS reader, at least on a provisional basis.
Certainly, no matter how much I might like what Garfield used to be, I have to imagine √-G is still funnier and more original than what Garfield is now.