We can call the internet a place where we can take our minds off our daily struggles and find comfort in relatable things we can all share. You might argue, but comics infused with dark humor are a great way of dealing with the anxieties of life and finding little opportunities to chuckle about the absurdity of modern times, or simply sharing silly, random, and hilarious stuff you would never normally think of! These ones are for gamers, meme and pop culture lovers, and people trying to survive in these crazy times in general!
Estonian visual artist Mart Virkus lets out his frustrations about video games, pop culture, and everyday life in a form of nerdy and witty comics called Arcade Rage. His minimalist comic strips range from reviewing and capturing the essence and problems of the most popular video games to touching upon serious global topics such as mental health and environmental and social issues. The artist sums up his comics as “dumb jokes for smart people.”
Scroll down for the interview with the artist and follow Arcade Rage on social media for a regular dose of darkness!
Virkus, who has a background in anthropology, has been drawing comics on and off since he was a teenager, but took this hobby more seriously over the past few years. Bored Panda asked the artist about his inspirations.
“They are inspired by games, movies, memes, and other art in general. But also the things going on in the world, whether it’s corona or climate issues. The ideas come together when these two things meet. I just like layering in different meanings into a single comic. I guess it’s just the fun of finding new connections between art and life. Sometimes it’s about highlighting a more serious issue while not making it obvious, and letting the reader make that connection. So it’s like a mind game for both me and the reader. And other times, it’s just random silly jokes with no deeper meaning. Or just jokes about games I like. Above all, making these just makes me feel less anxious about the world and if it does that for others too, then that’s a win," said Virkus.
The artist’s comics have an evident dark undertone, which he finds liberating.
“I think we all have a little monster living inside us, and it’s just fun to let them out every now and then—as long as it’s not hurting anybody. It’s also liberating because dark humor speaks to a less restrained and more honest version of ourselves.”
The most challenging part of doing any artistic and creative work is to balance highs and lows you inevitably come across in your path, and Virkus gave some advice on how to overcome it.
“Creativity is a double-edged sword. If you make something and it works, it gives you an incredibly powerful high. But I think a lot of creatives know that what goes up must come down—so the greatest challenge is getting through those low points. I find it helps to not feel guilty about feeling bad and riding that wave until you feel better. Then, as soon as I feel better, I start working on ideas, even if they seem crappy at first.”
The artist’s comics are dark, but cute, which he says can be a powerful combination, but the reason people enjoy his work is for the ability to “express complex emotions using minimalist means” and most definitely for the good chemicals, as “laughter is the cheapest drug out there (and healthiest).” This is why 31.3k Instagram followers keep coming back for more of Arcade Rage!
The Darkest Knight
The artist appreciates the wholesome feedback he gets, but the process itself is also very rewarding. “Positive reactions definitely help. But I also really enjoy hiding meanings and references here and there. It’s like playing a mind game with the audience to see if they catch a hidden message or a reference. It’s just fun to not be obvious and let the audience connect the dots. It’s like you’re in school and the teacher says something accidentally dirty and you look at your friend like ‘oh yeah, that happened and everybody knows it.’”
He says he loves when readers come up with their own puns and jokes after seeing his comics, and the comments sometimes are a “comedy goldmine.”
Drawing is a great creative outlet as well as a form of self-therapy that helps to deal with what’s going on in the world.
“I also just enjoy the process of playing with lines and colors. I can be a bit hyperactive, so drawing helps to slow the brain down and gives it something to focus on. Of course, though not always. But art is a release—it’s a way to feel better about difficult things by putting them in a spotlight. Sometimes bad things happen and it’s important to talk about them.”
Virkus shared his proudest moments so far: “We did a comic with Toggl’s developers once about what it would be like to save a princess using programming languages—that was the first comic that went really viral. It was awesome, especially because we had so much fun brainstorming these jokes. One time I got a retweet from the president of Estonia. That was weird too.”
“Just roll with the punches and don’t assume other people are happier. Sometimes life sucks and that’s fine too. If you find something that makes you happy, then stick with it. Also, don’t be an asshole,” Virkus shared his ending thoughts we should all follow. The last part, in particular.