Manly Guys Doing Manly Things first launched on February 22, 2010. Six years later, Kelly Turnbull’s “comic about dudes who are too macho to function in society getting support from a chill supersoldier who just wants to work a desk job and raise his kids,” is still going strong; and as Kelly likes to brag, has never missed an update. The comic follows the strange events surrounding a temporary employment agency for incredibly manly videogame and movie characters as they attempt, and usually fail, to work with normal people at normal jobs. Or more often, just lounging around the office playing charades. The very first strip concludes by showing Kratos of the God of War franchise. It shows him working in a tech store, slamming a customer’s head into a screen yelling, “LOOK AT THE 1080p HDMI CONNECTION! LOOK AT IT!”
The agency’s manager, Commander “Rock Lobster” Badass, is built like the ultimate action movie hero: side burns, cigar, broken nose, and a leather jacket that fails to contain his massive manly chest. He is however, possibly the nicest dude in the entire comic. His role as the antithesis to the hyper-aggressive traits displayed by the traditionally manly men of movies and videogames serves as the backbone to the entire strip. Though many of the jokes often boil down to watching musclebound men fail to interact with normal people, the series is in fact a clever deconstruction of this type of toxic masculinity. Coelasquid, the author’s internet pseudonym, pursues this deconstruction by contrasting these modes of operation and championing the Commander as a paragon of alternative masculinity. The mere fact that despite looking generically meatheaded, the Commander is able to function normally and live a comparatively normal life is portrayed as an enormous accomplishment. This is emphasized when compared to the issues of basic communication that plague the agency’s clients.
As entertaining as it is to watch video game hunks and action movie studs butt each others heads over trivial things like scented candles, the true strength of the series comes from the perspective provided by the other original characters. Jones, or Jonesey, is a woman whose only connection to the agency is dating the Commander. She provides a well centered perspective from which to observe the titular manly men and their misadventures, and is rarely far from the action. She is perhaps the only character who can claim to be normal, and her presence continues to help demonstrate just how ridiculous some of these men can be. Jones helps to establish that all of these video game and movie characters are in fact living in the real world and that they probably would need some help adjusting to not being able to just punch their problems away.
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Finally there’s Jarred. Jarred is a disgraced Pokemon trainer who was kicked out of the Pokemon League because his Gyarados, Mr. Fish, started eating the other pokemon. Jarred works as an intern at the agency, where he is confronted with the fact that all the super macho characters he had been worshipping as masculine ideals are all massive dweebs. Though he tries his best, Jarred is horribly inept at his job, and is often in need of rescuing by either the Commander, or Mr. Fish. Jarred’s presence provides a charming sort of goofball energy to the series that helps to keep it feeling fresh.
The only criticism I have is that the humor and references tend to be focused around the specific franchises that the author is currently interested in; so if you haven’t played a lot of Dragon Age, you may find some jokes going over your head.
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That being said, Manly Guys is a fantastic way to discover new and awesome things. So if you’ve ever wondered just what is going on in Duke Nukem’s head, or if you just want to achieve a state of NirvMana, head on over to thepunchlineismachismo.com and join the fun.