Jerkcity is a daily comic strip which chronicles the adventures of Rands, Pants, Spigot and Deuce in a world of waking up late and getting high before breakfast. Jerkcity is available for your viewing pleasure at www.jerkcity.com. The first strip was published on August 17, 1998 and over 2,600 strips later, Jerkcity blinks and a birthday number five appears on the horizon. Where the phrase "comic strip" might imply comedy in newspaper comic strip form, Jerkcity happily accepts this label to be categorized and linked-to. After all, Jerkcity does appear to be a comic strip, a net.comic otherwise known as a web comic.
The strip is, according to Jerkcity's creator Rands Pantalones, "a story told out of order." Recurrent themes permeate the work: drinking, drug abuse, pornography, homosexual/homophobic ravings, anger, confusion, dick jokes and what one might call an antidote to the good-natured "geek humor" that defines hobby-centric subcultures in online communities.
This is clearly the work or rather a product of Generation X: not selling anything and not easily accessible to the world at large. No product manufacturer in their right mind would want to associate their brand with this train wreck. Somebody's time and effort into these digital scribbles has gone beyond the usual 33 strips that a new comic strip creator churns out before forgetting to pay the website bill. In a world where Stephen King's name is set in the largest point size available for book covers, one has to hunt and peck to learn anything about Jerkcity and its creators.
At times, the characters appear to be self-aware, but not concerned about quality, timing or whether or not the jokes make sense. Keyboard and terminal jokes suggest chat transcripts are involved. The tone is clear: all the little creatures in Jerkcity seem to practice self-abuse regularly (noisily, publicly) as evidenced by a frequent onomotopaeic representation of cocksucking, a sort of "HUALGHLAHGLUAHLUAHLUAG" noise. The residents of Jerkcity want nothing more than to drink in a corner and shout things out every once in a while. Participation seems forced at times, like badly-produced dinner theater or a Christmas play performed by the mentally retarded. At one point in the strip's history, the characters went on strike and a different cartoon was included for a week.
The comic strip comes with another feature: small grey messages which appear from time to time. Where the author should be demanding to be released from that which is a Chinese Fortune Cookie Factory, he instead scrawls dirty notes and angry rants. Where a professional strives to develop a style, a unique voice or tell a story, Jerkcity wanders off and sits in the weeds, sometimes for days at a time. You read it every day, and it's good for you like fresh green roughage.
One cartoon was published entirely in Esperanto. Once, a character complained about an irksome feature of OpenBSD, an act that did not go unnoticed by the developers. These brief bursts of annoying behavior are usually followed by a sea of the usual fare: Nine-eyed alien Pants describes punching a prostitute and tries to pass it off as "helping her off the stage." Rands and another character, Hanford, go about the business of being stage managers. For the most part, their efforts are unsuccessful. Deuce will not cooperate and Pants is making bong noises, a series of uppercase and lowercase o's. Spigot, in sandals and a black beret makes a plaintive request: WHO CARES ONE WAY OR ANOTHER IF THE GOVERNMENT SHOT MARTIN LUTHER KING? (beat) THE POINT IS I'M HUNGRY.
The strip is created with Microsoft Comic Chat, a chat application that might otherwise be ignored except for Microsoft's decision to use the IRC protocol and the artwork of Jim Woodring. Woodring's unique style can be described as other-worldly, disturbing and playful. Woodring licensed his artwork to Microsoft, according to the EULA distributed with the application, and has nothing to do with this project.
Jerkcity is easy to dismiss as an experiment of culture-jamming, an art project, or just a mean-spirited prank like something which blurts "FUCK" at the end of search engine results or the middle finger of Eminem. Where its longevity, creepy anonymous qualities and cruel spirit suggest a hoax out of control, one can easily imagine other scenarios. Somewhere, far away, a little creature suffered brain damage and is stuck in a loop, forever cranking out angry little images. They may be of varying quality and questionable taste, but every day there's a new paragraph to Jerkcity's never-ending graphic novel. Like so many things before it—sardines, punk rock, sodomy—Jerkcity is not for everybody.