On November 15th, way back in the innocent year of 1999, the Internet's first and only good web comic appeared. It was finely crafted, ingenuously written, each panel an unbelievably tight build up to a witty and original joke. The art alone was worth hanging in a museum. Almost five years later, and against all odds, that comic continues, improving in quality with each new magnum opus. The comic is the brainchild of Shaun Reveal and it is entitled "Boston and Shaun".
I would like for us - us being me and you, the reader - to join together today to celebrate the continuing legacy of greatness that is Boston and Shaun. Many of you have probably heard of Boston and Shaun, but for those of you unfamiliar with the comic consider this an introduction to the absolute cutting edge in Internet comics. Hell, comics in general. Hell, LIFE in general. Shaun Reveal is to this generation what figures like James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway have been to generations past. He is a voice for the thoughts that we cannot give voice to, a bold cry in the cultureless abyss of modern civilization. Join with me in that chorus; join with me in proclaiming to all friends and neighbors that Boston and Shaun is the greatest gift any of us could have hoped for.
In the Beginning
Boston and Shaun was born into this world from the beautiful mind of Shaun Reveal as a simpleton's version of "Calvin and Hobbes". It was rendered in crude black and white illustrations and featured the droll adventures of a young boy creatively named Shaun and his seemingly imaginary dragon. By the second strip it was apparent that in the surreal world of Boston and Shaun the dragon was not imaginary; Boston was treated as a normal character by Shaun's parents.
Above you can see an example of one of the earlier Boston and Shaun comics. It's clear that Reveal is still caught up in the simplistic three-panel joke format of more mundane comics. The joke in this one, as in most of these early comics, is so appallingly bad that it barely qualifies as a joke to anyone not reading "Highlights for Kids" while huffing model glue.
Tales of the Strange
Anyone with the right eyes could tell pretty quickly that Boston and Shaun was going to evolve into anything but a run-of-the-mill web comic. The fantastic elements evident from the very beginning began to become more and more of a focus of the strip. As time passed Reveal began introducing bizarre and often dreamlike ideas into the strips, a concept that seems especially out of place during Boston and Shaun's early years when he was still trying to stick to the traditional three-panel joke format. Here's a good example of this:
Other than Reveal's retardate level grammar the thing that really stands out about this comic is that it seems like it wants to have a joke. He's trying to combine his insane ideas with a conventional format and the result is agonizingly bad. Fortunately, Reveal must have somehow regained coherent thought long enough to realize that the three-panel joke just wasn't really suited for Boston and Shaun. Thanks to this epiphany, Boston and Shaun only remained in this sad state of limbo for a few months and a few dozen strips.
A Dragon Spreads His Wings
By the end of year one of Boston and Shaun the esteemed artiste had abandoned all hope of crafting three-panel jokes and had moved on to obsessive fetish-like month long story arcs about something called "fatting". Basically Shaun would switch back and forth from being a boy to a dragon with no rhyme or reason and when he was a dragon all of the other dragons would constantly feed him to make him fatter. Amazingly, the comics continued to make less and less sense with each installment.
This strip should give you a good idea of where Boston and Shaun was heading at the end of year one. All of the ingredients are there; a couple of bloated dragons, vague references to a motivating problem, and the kind of expository dialogue that we have come to expect from things in the real world like cats, trees, and rocks. I believe that there is a joke in this strip, but I also believe that it is so removed from a normal human's thought process that it cannot possibly be comprehended with all of the science available to us.
More of the Same: Now in Color!
The last achievement in Reveal's impossibly prolific first year of Boston and Shaun was to shift the comic from simple black and white to vibrant color art. Rather than serving as a tool for the reader to make sense of the comic, the addition of color to Boston and Shaun just gave Reveal new abilities to realize his absinthe-drenched febrile scribbling. Below is a strip that Reveal probably would not have attempted without the aid of color, in which color does nothing to help clear things up for the reader.
Elements of the above strip actually make sense, although explaining them would require a dozen or more paragraphs. To put it shortly; Reveal is a menace to global sanity. Having said that, don't be under the false impression that Boston and Shaun is anything like the serial and totally pedestrian "Mary Worth" or "Apartment 3G". Reveal is capable of devoting an entire month of illustration to moving a character from one location to another. He knows what action is and is not afraid to utterly confuse the casual reader if it means pleasing his obsessive fan base. It should be noted that his obsessive fan base consists entirely of Shaun Reveal.
2001 was not a good year for Boston and Shaun. While Reveal continued to explore new dragon-related fetishes exciting only to him he also began to phone in the story and dialogue. Although it seems impossible, his grammar deteriorated, and he was more than willing to devote weeks on end to gripping story elements like "Boston so fat he stuck in doors". Even these simplistic arcs were confusing thanks to Reveal's complete inability to craft a story.
The setup for this strip is fairly simple; Boston is stuck in the door and Shaun needs to get outside. This setup took three strips, but we'll forgive Reveal as an auteur as long as the payoff is worth it! And boy is it! Not only does the dialogue fall apart into a confusing mash in panel two, we also have a resolution in the final panel that confuses tenses to the point of incoherence. Describing Reveal's attempt at a joke as "feeble" doesn't do justice to the surreal presentation.
In the previous section I mentioned the breakneck pace of some of 2001's storylines. The single best example of this is a story in which Boston's mother places Shaun in her pouch and takes him to school. The process of getting from Shaun's house to his school takes approximately ten comics and during the course of this epic journey exactly nothing of interest happens. After 2001 Reveal toned this habit down slightly, but his grand finale of the riveting "going to school" story arc is worth mentioning.
As you can see, not only does this strip not have a joke, not only does it make absolutely no sense, not only is the grammar terrible; Reveal breaks the third wall. He seems to be admitting that he has been dragging his feet with the storyline, although the mere mention of the word "craziness" by Reveal is akin to a threat of violence. He's adding insult to injury with that comment. He subjected his readers to eight comics consisting of nothing and then threatens them with impending "craziness". It's like being tied to a chair for eight days straight without human contact and then your abductor comes in and cheerily tells you that tomorrow he's breaking a lead pipe off in your ass.
Seeds of Story: Madness or Genius?
One noteworthy thing Reveal began to do in 2001 was to plant story seeds for future plotlines. Since the expanse of Boston and Shaun represents the gradual unraveling of one man's sexual sanity it should come as no surprise that his story seeds are more than a little opaque. Take this one for example:
There is no context for this strip. It appears in the midst of one of Reveal's stock "fatting" mini-arcs and disappears just as quickly. Literally months later this comic is explained by another series of comics and plot arc about Boston's mother allowing her "wyrm mate" to die. It's all extremely moving stuff, but I have to question Reveal's foreshadowing. Was he planning it all along? Lulling us into a sense of narrative security with all of those fatting storylines only to wow us with the wyrm mate showstopper? Or did he just forget about this plot seed and then remember it months later? It's impossible to say.
Things Get Serious
In 2002 Shaun Reveal began to explore much more serious themes in Boston and Shaun. The usual "fatting" jackanapes remained present, along with Reveal's own meandering fantasies about topics like "merging" and "transforming", but the focus shifted to involved, completely incomprehensible, and long stories. In fact the storyline, if it can be called a storyline, involving the sinister "Michael" was begun in 2001 but moves into full swing in 2002.
This sample makes no more sense if you have the superhuman patience necessary to read Boston and Shaun from beginning to end. All I'm sure of is that Will spends an extremely long time in bed being watched over by Kanga and occasionally runs into some supernatural "fading" snags that are solved through the efforts of Boston in one of many sequences that make absolutely no sense.
2003's anemic line-up of strips makes it apparent that Reveal was either putting much more time and effort into each strip of Boston and Shaun (unlikely) or he had developed a real life that kept him busy (impossible). Whatever the reason, the greatly diminished number of strips Reveal completed in 2003 is still impressive considering that the majority of them are astonishingly crazy. Reveal is building through some massive and Byzantine plot arc that is rendered totally unapproachable by his ineptness at storytelling and his retard-on-LSD like ideas.
As you can see, Reveal's ability to craft a sentence has not been hindered by his lack of interest in creating new Boston and Shaun content. You can also see that "fatting" has not ceased to amuse him.
Bringing us up to today, Reveal has continued to produce the finest web comic known to mankind. His infrequent updates - coming only twice a month or so - are still packed full of the same insanity and bizarre storytelling sensibility as Boston and Shaun has always delivered. I'm excited to say that he has recently completed a story arc that has developed over the course of roughly three years, bringing to a close his so-called "Phase 2". Here is a sample of the climactic resolution of this epic storyline.
Wow indeed. Reveal demonstrates an unmatched ability to fragment what should be a straight-forward narrative into a series of panels that are so irrelevant as to border on the abstract. What you see above is some magical super dragon emerging into Shaun's world to finish off the evil monster that was threatening all of the inane characters. It looks about as impressive as Boston after a three-course "fatting" with a color gradient on some of its body parts. This climax is nothing but a big joke on anyone who bothered to wade through the 300+ strips that compose the "Phase 2" story arc.
I feel somewhat melancholy wrapping up this celebration of Boston and Shaun at the same time as Reveal is bringing to a close his epic "Phase 2" storyline. He implores us to await "Phase 3", in which we can expect a fully dragonized version of Shaun to appear, but with updates reduced to bi-monthly already I fear the wait for "Phase 3" may extend indefinitely.
I implore any of you with a genuine interest in seeing Boston and Shaun continue to email Mr. Reveal at his pseudonym begging for him to bring us "Phase 3". Though I mock Shaun Reveal at every turn I do so with a genuine affection for a comic so inept, so insane, and so unintentionally funny that I can say with a straight face that Boston and Shaun is the only good web comic.
Flash Like a Tub, Tub, Tub.
Shmorky and Lowtax have once again joined forces to bring all red-blooded Americans another exciting installment of The Flash Tub. This week it looks to be the first of possibly many Letters From the Internet!
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