Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Alien Loves Predator: A Gem of a web comic

With great premise comes great responsibility. Bernie Hou lives up to that responsibility. Since 2004, Hou has released "Alien Loves Predator," a web comic that recasts the 2 creatures as walking, talking, jovially combative friends and roommates getting by in NYC. The tag-line is "In New York, No One Can Hear You Scream." Which, if you live here, you know is kinda true.

The Alien is called "Abe," and "Preston" is the Predator's name. Abe is dating-obsessed, but completely clueless. Abe's the kind of jerk who'd mutely stare at a woman's chest (not even on a date, just anywhere), but he'd admit it if the woman asked. Preston is a smart, (occasionally?) sensitive guy, but he's less confident and direct. Preston mocks his friend relentlessly, but Abe is the kind of guy who could burn the place down, so he deserves it.

A New York sensibility shows up throughout the writing. Before you look at the entry below, linked here to his site, keep in mind that Hou himself is Asian, or (much more likely) Asian-American.
Bernie Hou is clearly inspired.
The final joke is the kind I'd never find funny, but somehow the line is given a good delivery - and in writing, not with a spoken voice. I can't believe I'm impressed by what should be a crummy clich├ęd joke, but it works because of all the panels before it. Or maybe I'm just still amused by the great restaurant window joke - it's really a perfect self-aware, pop culture joke. Yeah, I might still be laughing at that. I digress.

Read it here - they're at the Yanks game!
Hou uses his background very flexibly. For one thing, this monstrous pair are able to get around NYC without constant screaming/gunfire. In part, it's played off as "anything goes in this town." On occasion, tho, people are scared to death of them, or aliens are begrudgingly tolerated (but with open bigotry) by society. They get into fights without jail time, or might have the cops trailing them. Flexible.

One arc involves the two traveling to the future to kill Will Smith, who is now the Prez and is churning the anti-alien sentiment into a frenzy. No, really. Sometimes the roomies talk about the latest "Alien" and "Predator" films, trashing them or accusing them of casting "humans in alien face." Preston finds he needs glasses, which is pretty embarrassing for a hunter.

And, in other posts, the author uses the strip to gripe about life. Often, he mocks the state of NYC's subway system - which has been full of delays and fare hikes, as well as train route changes that I've personally described as "designed and/or inspired by M.C. Escher."

The flexibility of this set-up is used to great effect: Abe and Preston once used a "cash cab" to travel through time. And I'm happy to say the creator is a very solid writer. He does a better job setting up a story, telling it effectively, and developing his characters than some who work in film. He's certainly better than the people who usually run the "Alien" and "Predator" franchises.

There are a lot of storylines, and many great moments in them. Abe goes on a hunger strike, and when a reporter reveals that he's vowed not to eat, he interrupts with"Much. Not to eat much." One of my favorites involves Abe's mother visiting New York. Look to the right, click to embiggen, and come up with your own comment; you hardly need mine.

Naturally, some strips are mediocre efforts, or off-key attempts to lead to some big punchline, but nobody's perfect. That would be an impossible goal for an on-going work like this, and AlP was clearly created in order to have fun. I really don't think I'm biased just because it's about my town.

It's not even like there are a lot of duds here. No, this body of work is full of quality. Many of Hou's jokes are priceless, the writer's voice is quite cool, and there's a lot to like - the roommates' rampant Yankee fandom, the Speed Dating entries (I hope it's not actually like that), their need for a 3rd roomie... It's quite nice, and deserves a look.

I think you can see why I really like "Alien Loves Predator," and I hope you like it too. I'll see you in a couple of days, when I'll have a new post up.

2 comments:

  1. Those are pretty sweet - reminds me a lot of the kind of humor you'd find on Robot Chicken, though obviously a bit more cerebral. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  2. Thx! I try to vary them up so it's not just netflix instant recs.

    Actually, the robot chicken comparison is probably the best shorthand I could've written =) I wish I'd thought of it first.

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