Monster Pop is a cute little webcomic. In short, Monster Pop uses monsters like cyclops and gorgons in the same way that X-Men uses mutants: As a stand in for any and every oppressed or under-privileged group. There are monster communities and schools and human commuinities and schools and the webcomic takes place at an “integrated” college. It’s a cute X-Men, right? How could I have giant major problems with that?
There’s something that I need to get out of the way first: This is the first time that I’ve ever read a webcomic where I’ve been confused at the front page. Now it’s not a problem if a webcomic doesn’t have the latest pages on their front page. Unsounded doesn’t do that. But Unsounded has front and center a link labeled “Newest pages this way!” and near the bottom another link labeled “Start here, noobs!” Monster Pop drops you on the front page with a giant image that starts you off at page one and not even any indication if there is a new page. If you’re not already following the artist’s blog, looking at the front page gives no indication to a returning reader if there’s been an update. That was an infuriating piece of awful site design I ran in to on my second visit.
One thing that makes this webcomic difficult to enjoy for me is that I have an inescapable feeling that the creator is intentionally pandering to a crowd that I’m not a part of. Namely, Tumblr. The front page itself shows the protagonist writing an update on her Tumblr page, showing how she’s One of Us.
But there’s also another character who is a self-proclaimed nerd, whose ringtone is from Sailor Moon and whose dorm is full of webcomic posters and anime DVDs, being constantly bashful about her nerdy hobbies while the protagonist reassures her that it’s all okay and all her interests are cool. It just seems far, far too upfront about playing to the audience.
Pacific Rim, it could be argued, was pandering to mecha and kaiju fans. Giant monsters smashing cities! Robots kind of piloted like they were in Evangelion! The AI is voiced by GlaDOS! But Pacific Rim was never so upfront about it’s pandering, and it didn’t devote time to explicitly making their point clear. If Pacific Rim was taking the Monster Pop approach then there would’ve been a character who was really shy and bashful about being a Jaeger fan getting patted on the back by Raleigh and Mako while they tell them how their interests are cool.
But that’s not even the real reason I don’t like this webcomic. No, the real reason all boils down to one single character: Franny.
I actually hate Franny. If I learned that a friend in real life behaved like Franny did, we would have a long angry talk and/or not be friends anymore because I refuse to spend time with someone as big a hypocrite and an asshole as that.
In the first chapter of Monster Pop, George gets a magic beanie from Franny that makes her appear human so that they can get into a party being thrown by people from the human college. George comes down with a mutual kind of crush with one of the human party-goers, and they go to a picnic. The humans start asking questions about going to the monster college, and while the questions aren’t precisely racist they’re definitely coming from a place where they don’t think of the monsters as normal. As George (remember, a cyclops passing herself off as human with a magic beanie) starts to get fluttered by the questions, Franny excuses them and drags George off, complaining about the racist bastards from Racisttown.
Then later Franny is the one complaining about how the hot guys are racist against monsters and getting hugged on. Franny. Franny the human. If anyone in that scene was being oppressed or made uncomfortable it was George, and yet Franny is hogging the sympathy for herself. And when George tries to defend the racist bastards from Racisttown, she gets cut off by a death glare from Franny.
And what’s worse is that the author makes Franny right! When George finally takes off her beanie the guy she was crushing on overreacts and goes into a racist tirade, so she punches him and storms away, calling Franny to tell her how right she was.
Franny the actual human who chooses to assume the worst of people and hogs the sympathy from the person actually being oppressed.
But that’s not even the worst of it!
The worst of it is that Franny is the exact same kind of bigot that she despises.
So in the second chapter Franny sees this cute human guy, Percy, and gets all mushy for him. They go to a freshman party together, and Franny and Percy get to really talking to each other and introducing himself. That is when Percy drops a heartstopper: He’s from Racisttown.
The next page begins with him telling her not to worry, that he’s not monsterphobic, his family’s just from Racisttown. He does all of this while Franny gives him a glare.
Let’s stop and dissect this. Franny is meeting something new, and she learns about where his family is from, part of the circumstances of his birth. When she learns this, she immediately assumes that he must be racist, and the look that she gives him forces him to start defending himself at his next opportunity.
If you’re not catching on to the fact that Franny is a prejudiced bigot, let’s imagine alternate scenarios. “Actually, my mother is black. D-don’t worry though! I’m not like those other people!” “Actually I identify as pansexual. D-don’t worry though! I’m like you think.” “Actually I normally cross-dress. D-don’t worry though! I’m not like a child molester or something!”
All Franny hears is where he’s from, and she assumes that he must be racist. The look that she gives him forces him to apologize for where he was born, which is something that no one should do. I was born in Houston, and if you have a problem with that, you can go right on to hell.
Franny is supposed to be our open-minded human, inclusive of monsters and everyone else. But she hears where someone was born and snaps to pre-judging them.
Sometimes a work can have a character, even the protagonist, be wrong in their beliefs. The Last of Us does this subtly. After Joel’s daughter dies in the prologue, he spends years with his brother Tommy being a raider and surviving by doing things that still give Tommy nightmares. The loss of losing his daughter makes Joel shun nearly every human connection he has a chance to make so that his heart can’t get broken again.
But here’s the kicker: Tommy doesn’t. Joel and Tommy do many of the same horrible things, and where Joel becomes bitter and a loner, Tommy eventually becomes a leader in his community, and even falls and love and gets married!
And nothing bad happens to them over the course of the game.
Tommy opened himself up again and nothing bad happens to him. With this the writers of The Last of Us showed us subtly that Joel is wrong in his attitudes.
But Franny is always right in Monster Pop. The end of the first chapter has George telling Franny about how right she was. And what infuriates me even more is that Franny and Percy start a relationship.
In their first conversation she acted prejudiced towards them and forced him to apologize for being born where he was, and they start a relationship. Franny is prejudiced. Franny is a bigot. And if I had any faith in the creator of Monster Pop, I would trust that one day Percy will criticize a monster and Franny will launch into a tirade against how awful those people from Racisttown are, including him.
Hell we could even redo the first chapter starring Percy as people ask him awful questions about where he’s from that show that they think of him as some “other” who is not normal like they are.
But I don’t see those happening. What I see is a webcomic with a monster of an individual who has never been corrected, argued against, or shown to be wrong. I hate Franny. I hate people in real life who act like this.
Monster Pop appears to be on Franny’s side. That is why I cannot like Monster Pop.