Webcomics are a mixed lot, and that’s actually one way they resemble traditional comics. Some, like Girl Genius, are works of fantastic storytelling and art. Others, like Help Desk, use only the most basic of illustrations to convey a much more pointed theme – in this case, satire.
Help Desk follows the labors of Alex and his fellow tech support workers as they struggle to deal with the problems of the customers of Ubersoft, a software giant peddling the Nifty Doorways operating system that has a nearly unchecked stranglehold on the existing computer market. If this sounds unsubtle, that’s because it is. Help Desk never aspires to subtlety, not when the owner and operator of the company is identified as the Dark Lord of Ubersoft, a being dedicated to bringing despair and agony to mankind. Neither is story a major concern, many of the comics themes are ripped straight from current events in the technology world.
So why read it at all? Well, I’m glad you asked.
First off, if you’re not a geek or IT worker, it’s a great way to get a quick and highly enjoyable overview of some of the things that are happening in that field. Sure, it’s been running for a while now and not all the stuff in the archives is up-to-date or relevant anymore, but a surprising amount of it has held up well. Technology companies still rely as much on legalese to make money as actual product, at least in America, and IT workers still try and place as much of the blame as possible on the user and not the company, although to be fair a lot of mishaps are our fault.
Second, Help Desk is funny in a dry, self depreciating sort of a way. The author is getting by only because life is full of little absurdities for him to poke at, and he knows it. So he’s careful to make sure the comic itself is just absurd enough to let readers know he doesn’t take it seriously, without weakening it’s ability to satirize.
Warning: While most of the time Help Desk is about poking fun at Microsoft, other technology companies are by no means exempt. If seeing Saint Jobs get a little good-natured ribbing offends you in some way, perhaps you should steer clear…
So the next time you catch yourself setting your coffee in your DVD-ROM tray or trying to boot a desktop that hasn’t been plugged in, go ahead and take a few minutes to laugh at yourself. Then take a moment’s satisfaction in knowing you aren’t as bad as those jokers on Help Desk and get on with your day. It’ll be a little brighter for it, I’m sure.