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Angry comics all the rage on the net

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An example of a rage comic published on Reddit.

An example of a rage comic published on Reddit.

When you get angry, you can lash out or seethe inside.

Or you can head to the web to assemble and publish a cartoon to share some of that rage. Many people with little to no artistic ability - but with some pretty funny tales - do that in something called rage comics.

They have created a genre of internet humor that, unlike the Keyboard Cat or Rickrolling, two famous internet memes, continues to grow nearly five years after its obscure beginnings.

Today, thousands of rage comics are posted daily. Most are the creations of anonymous people seeking not fame, but an audience with whom they can air their dark wit.

Popular themes are public embarrassment, private shame in the bedroom or bathroom, and most of all, the unbearable burden of dealing with other people's stupidity.

For example: Two female heads on a white background are talking. One asks the other if she has read The Hunger Games books. ''I don't think so,'' the other replies, ''but I'm glad you finally realized that you need to start a diet!'' The stark fourth panel has no dialogue. It is just the first woman's face - alone, weary and resigned to her friend's vapidity.

Despite the growing number of cartoonists, rage comics have maintained a consistent recognisable style: stock art of faces, some twisted in rage or frustration. What holds the genre together is a combination of browser-based editing tools that encourage authors to stick to a predefined set of images and text styles, and websites where readers can ''upvote'' strips to the top of the slush pile.

The best way to understand rage comics is to read a couple of dozen of them. The best place to do that is a section of Reddit, known as ''f7u12.'' Since its founding in 2008, it has grown to about 500-1,000 comics posted each day and read by up to a quarter million people daily.

(This brings up another trait of rage comics: profanity and vulgarity abounds. But the swearing and bodily functions aren't for shock value, as in an episode of South Park. This is a reflection of how adults talk in the real world.)

There are other sites, like 9gag, that feature rage comics, but Reddit's f7u12 readers have set a high bar for both originality — within the genre's limits — and for cruel funniness that rewards making fun of oneself instead of others.

Even if a strip is about something inane the guy in line at McDonald's said, the punch line isn't the gaffe, but the author's confused, awkward reaction, represented by one of several clip-art characters whose what-the-heck expressions of exasperation have punctuated thousands and thousands of others' strips.

Most strips focus on some small moment, a true-life anecdote, that sent the author spinning into inexplicable fury or burrowing deep into resignation to keep from exploding. The last panel typically features the author, represented by a standard clip-art illustration, either screaming, fuming, throwing up hands in exasperation, or a collapsed-potato face sighing, ''OK.''

In that way, rage comics are not like the average viral YouTube video. They are more like a Bob Newhart sketch: The laughs come not from replaying the public foolishness of some stranger, but from watching the awkward reaction of the observer, who almost always appears as a character in the strip.

Like Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury strips, there is usually a punch line after the punch line in which the author reacts to the situation. But where Doonesbury characters typically react with wisecracking aplomb, rage comic characters respond with — well, rage.

Readers identify with the author's frustration at being forced to deal with mundane inanities. It is not that the woman's friend said she needed to go on a diet that is painfully funny, it is that she is stuck with friends like these.

The best stories are those that could happen to anyone. In one strip, the author tries to nudge a ladybug off his car's windshield by flicking his wipers, only to smear the hapless insect across the glass. In another, a father is enjoying time with his daughter when the girl asks, ''Daddy, why are you so ugly?'' The father's response: His eyes spurt bright blue tears.

You might already have an idea for a rage comic of your own. Getting started is easy. Go to ragemaker.net, one of several browser-based rage comic editing and publishing tools.

Rage Maker will start you off with a blank four-panel strip. Resist the urge to go long. Start with just four panels.

The tool allows you to import images and draw with your mouse, but it is easier to start with a dialogue between two clip-art heads. Browse through the available faces by clicking the menu on the left side that says Neutral, which is just one of dozens of sets of faces sporting expressions. Drag some faces into the panels, then grab the square in the lower right corner of the inserted face to resize it. To move it around inside the panel, grab it anywhere else and drag it.

To insert labels and dialogue, click the button labeled Standard at the top middle of Rage Maker. Stick to this standard font to start. Clicking will insert a text-editing box into your currently selected panel. Like the images, you can resize and reposition it.

Reading a few comics will familiarise you with the genre's verbal conventions. Refer to yourself as ''le moi.'' Male characters are named Herp and Derp; women are Herpina and Derpina. Chain restaurants and stores in your strip should likewise be renamed McDerp's, Derp Buy and so on.

Resist the urge to cram too much into your panels. You are not Garry Trudeau. Leave lots of white space, and remember that dialogue in each panel will be read from left to right — you may need to move some heads and text around to accommodate the convention.

An easy formula for a rage comic that doesn't confuse readers is this: Set up a dialogue between two characters, one of whom is you, in the first panel. In the second, have the heads talk some more. In the third, have the other character say whatever it is that is unexpected and exasperating. The fourth panel can simply be one image, representing your reaction, chosen from Rage Maker's built-in sets.

To publish your comic, click the Save/Load button near the top right of Rage Maker. This will take you to another panel of controls. Click Upload to Imgur (imgur.com is a popular image-sharing site that will assign a URL to your uploaded comic).

Rage Maker will display the URL of your uploaded comic. Copy or bookmark it.

Now the best part — showing the world how angry you are. For that you need to go to Reddit to create an account. To paste in the URL of your comic, click Submit a Link at the right of the f7u12 page. Your comic will appear in the New tab of the page, but you will need a few hundred upvotes by readers to make it to the Hot list.

If you don't get them, look at the bright side. You have another thing to rage about.

The New York Times