I browsed the comics on the subreddit. I enjoyed the concept, appreciated the effort. The iconic beagle in the lobster suit, Red Lobster, was adorable. Ultimately, though, I felt underwhelmed by the whole thing, and I had no intentions to browse this subreddit ever again.
An hour later, on the phone with my girlfriend, I was asked to defend this decision. When I explained that I was unimpressed by Dog Fort, she countered that this was weird, considering my unyielding affection for rage comics. She wasn't a huge fan of Dog Fort or rage comics; she didn't understand how someone who likes one wouldn't like the other.
I started defending myself. I said it was comparing apples to oranges. I rambled on. Somewhere in my rant, my girlfriend commented about how she regretted introducing me to reddit.
Because I'm snowed in and I just drank four cups of coffee, I'm going to try and explain myself.
First of all, it's dead easy to explain Dog Fort: a user-generated comic strip about cats and dogs battling each other via forts. That's it. There's not a lot of minutia in its Know you meme stub. That site states that the first Dog Fort comic appeared in June 2009. From what I can tell, there hasn't been much evolution in the genre.
It's not nearly as easy to describe rage comics. It began on 4chan as a four-panel narrative, crudely drawn MSpaint. The principal characters are the troll and the rage guy, who is seen on the fourth panel howling fffffffuuuuuuuuu. Hence the rage.
It's evolved a lot since then. Check out the subreddit.
Here's why rage is a funnier and more interesting genre than Dog Fort. Where Dog Fort peddles anthropomorphism and action movie cliches, a rage comic has evolved into a much more malleable genre. Your rage comic is successful only if it is funny, hugely original, and/or reveals a heretofore unacknowledged truth.
You could argue that the above Dog Fort comic is funny, and you could argue that it successfully puts a fresh spin on the whole dogs-and-cats-are-afraid-of-vacuums cliche. My problem is that it takes so long to get to the point. It wastes so much time. Just say we have a new enemy, it is the vacuum. That's the genius of lolcats. Cute photos with clever captions.
Here's today's trending rage comic:
Here we have light humor and a heretofore unacknowledged truth. In three panels.
Equally satisfying are the long-form rage comics. For example:
There is no heretofore unacknowledged truth, but there is an original premise and, of course, the delicious bleak humor of the ending. Each panel is integral to the narrative. Like a well crafted short story, there's an arc, with an inciting incident, rising action, climax, and a resolution. Hell, there's more believable character development in this than the average piece of MFA-workshopped flash fiction. While we're at it, it's much more entertaining than the average piece of flash fiction. Is it more entertaining than your average Dog Fort?
Let's look at another popular Dog Fort from the front page of the subreddit.
If you think this is funnier than the long-form rage comic, if you every panel is building toward a payoff, if you think that cats acting like humans is funny, if you can identify with the narrative arc of lobster cat's struggles and find it more compelling than the long-form rage comic, then we have different taste in humor. We can argue about who is right. But I don't think you can argue that the craft that went into creating this dog fort is at all equal to the craft that went into creating the rage comic.
If you disagree with that...