http://www.monkeydyne.com/rmcs/

Misanthropic Rant Which May Be Skipped

Of all the cruel things the internet has made possible, the proliferation of half-assed creativity by amateurs uninterested in putting forth actual effort into their poetry, comic strips, animations, and image manipulations is among the worst that does not cause actual physical harm to anyone. The satire site Something Awful has made something of a career of highlighting some of the worst offenders of the genre. As this applies to comic strips, advances in computer technology have made the web comic increasingly easy to create, resulting in a proportional drop in the average quality of the art form as it becomes increasingly accessible to people with decreasing amounts of talent.

This becomes most evident in the decreasing quality of the art. While traditional newspaper comics typically have individual art drawn for each panel of the comic, adding gestures, facial expressions, props, and action to punctuate the humor, a typical web comic often consists of a single picture copy-pasted across identical panels differentiated only by the dialogue boxes. From there, it got even worse as authors realized they didn't even have to draw their own original art. Characters stolen from other comics, sprites from classic video games, and even headshots of celebrities pasted over stick figure bodies now stand in front of a blank background spouting random drivel that the author's best friend assures him is really very funny.

There is of course the rare exception in which a genuinely funny writer simply lacks the artistic talent (or a friend with said talent) to draw his ideas to paper, but these are only notable for their rarity.

The Basic Idea

The Red Meat Construction Set seeks to gather these individuals together to make comics based off of Max Cannon's Red Meat comic. The Red Meat comic is perfect for this style of art-free humor because it has always been Max Cannon's style to repeat the same static (or nearly static) image for the three panels of his comic, often with little changed but a facial expression. This does not appear to be the result of a lack of talent, but rather an extension of the comic's minimalist, surrealist style.

Thus the Red Meat Construction Set uses a simple Javascript form to generate the art for a three-panel comic while the writer fills in the word balloons. The comic has no background image and a limited set of characters (just the regulars from the Red Meat comic). The characters normally face each other and the writer does not have the option of changing any of the art from one panel to the next. However, it is possible to hack the automatic generation to a limited degree.

The Javascript form transmits the information across the web site through the URL, so by modifying the URL one can slightly change the appearance of the comic. This is limited to changing the direction the characters are facing and the appearance of "hidden" characters (such as Papa Moai) which are available but not listed in the drop-down menus used to generate the comic. It is possible to insert the site's other graphics into the comic, although this is discouraged as its humor value is limited.

RMCS Quality Control

The part that makes the RMCS special though is the voting system it has implemented. The site is broken up into two sections, one for registered users and one for the great unwashed masses. The public site is completely unregulated and the occasional bit of funny content is drowned out in an enormous sea of semi-literate vulgarity and hate speech masquerading as jokes. This area is best avoided.

The registered user area is where the funny content is located. Here the site's designers have implemented a rather sophisticated voting system which allows users to rate each other's work on a scale of 1-10, 10 being funniest. Along with the vote, registered users can add a comment to the comic, saying why they thought it was or wasn't funny and how it could be improved. The comment is normally anonymous but some users sign them. The voting is weighted based on the voter's voting trends. His vote will count less if he typically votes high and low (mostly 2's and 9's), and more if his voting shows a better range across the scale. Particularly poor submissions are removed.

In order to become a registered user, you must submit a few funny comics to the public area for approval by an existing registered user. If he likes your work, this use will then become your parent or sponsor, and allow you to post to the registered user's area.

There are a few rules which are necessary to keep the quality of the site high. The work must be "meaty", that is, consistent with Max Cannon's surrealistic style and (ideally) trademark double punchlines. The characters must remain in character. Lonesome cowboy appears in comics alone. Bug-eyed Earl is oblivious to the fact that he lives in his own self-created world. Milkman Dan is a child tormenter, not a child molester. The title of the comic should not have anything to do with the content of the comic. Running jokes are discouraged, each comic should stand on its own.

This may seem like it puts overly restrictive limits on the comics that are created, but in reality there are enough various characters with a broad enough range of personalities that just about anything is possible while keeping with the required themes. On the other hand, this helps ensure that the comics generated will appeal to the kind of people that would be attracted to the site in the first place.

This Is an Unofficial Site That Has No Affiliation With Max Cannon's Red Meat

The creators of the site have notified Max Cannon about their work, but have never received a response. They don't know if he likes it or is insulted, or just took a glance at it and decided it was a harmless waste of time. It should be noted, however, that several of the site's contributors believe their work is superior to the original Red Meat. Personally, I believe Max is starting to lose his touch. He's already hit his peak and his work is starting to suffer lately.

As noted earlier, the comics are generated by the information submitted through the URL. This means that you, too, can create a Red Meat comic to share with your friends without actually posting to the site. For example, the original Red Meat strip found here:

http://www.redmeat.com/redmeat/1996-06-24/index.html

Can be reproduced with the Red Meat Construction Set like so:

Extremely long URL hidden behind this pipe link

Sending that URL to your friend will generate the comic on the site, in the preview area, when he clicks it. Of course, all the dialogue is contained in the URL, so a TinyURL can be used to hide it:

http://tinyurl.com/dn6nb

The RMCS is not the first or the only site that allows this sort of automatic comic generation, but the quality control and voting system makes it the best.

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