The biggest thing I’ve learned working on FleshEatingZipper for the past year is that no man is an island and very few get to become internet celebrities purely by writing stuff. In those humble days before broadband internet and a little service called Napster had begun to seep into American homes, George Ouzounian (we know him better as Maddox) built and maintained a humble presence known as The Best Page In The Universe in which he crafted elaborate rants about whatever he absolutely despised that week. But as I mentioned, no man on the internet is an island, and Maddox’s moat-building skills leave his antics feeling dated, just like the counters he keeps on every one of his pages.
The Early Days
Even by the simpler standards of the late 90s, Maddox’s Best Page In The Universe was primitive. Featuring a long list of text links that were yellow and grey on black with simple photo manipulations and Microsoft Paint-derived illustrations, Maddox developed a characteristically primitive aesthetic that made his rants pop off the page. I came across his work while I was in college in 2003 and I loved it immediately. Brash, misogynistic, ballsy, Maddox was happy to call out any aspect of popular culture (or just regular culture) that irritated he crap out of him. He put so much effort into these increasingly-distant posts that at one point, he states he spent an hour researching how fast fire spread just to prove a point. A pair of articles during these formative years revolved around making fun of kids’ drawings, which was not only obtusely offensive, but also insanely funny. Maddox went after Lord of The Rings, Garfield, Cameron Diaz, Buddy-Cop comedies, on and on, each with an effortless grace and punishing results.
Maddox maintained the site during his off-time working as a programmer in Utah, something he maintained until well after he’d become popular. From end to end, he did virtually everything on his own and use that as a selling point, as if it were a medallion to show how genuine he was. He wasn’t there for the money or the fame, he was there because he was there. While many other internet hotspots would develop teams and crank out a brand, Maddox continued to work alone while guys like Penny Arcade would go on to build a comic empire and YouTube would allow for the flash-in-the-pan brilliance of a thousand talents. One day, Maddox started to catch on, though.
Moving Beyond That Black Page
Through 2005 and 2006, Maddox’s output would slow dramatically as he began to work on tangentially-related content, partnering with artists to create The Best Comic In The Universe and ultimately, one of my favorite books, The Alphabet of Manliness. Some friends and I stumbled into a Barnes & Noble after a fun night out (and an absolutely dreadful hangover) where I knew the book would be hosted. Surely enough it as. Now, I’d shared a few snippets of Maddox’s work with them a little, then a bit more on the ride home as I read his foreword out loud, but I kid you not: we spent the entire afternoon going down the entire alphabet and laughing our asses off. (True story: when one of them got married, he gave copies of the book to his groomsmen.) It seemed as though Maddox had finally hit his creative stride and the book would go on to become a New York Times’ best-seller.
In 2005, I worked with Maddox fan Darax the Good to create ‘Friends of Maddox’, which for the brief period it was on this planet, served as the second largest fan site for Maddox. But despite all the attention he was getting, what Maddox did next was strange:
Better To Be Silent And Be Thought A Fool…
When Maddox’s content trickled to a standstill between 2007 and 2010, I basically gave up on him. Somehow he had overwhelmed himself with so much work that he failed to do anything. Or whatever, I don’t know. Before his absence, he actually recorded a 2-hour test pilot for Maxim Radio on Sirius with some lesser internet celebrities, if you can even call them that. Then a problem emerged:
He opened his mouth and talked.
Now, reading Maddox for so many years, I was expecting a gruff voice to come on and tell everyone how much they sucked and how awesome getting laid is. Instead, Maddox stepped to the microphone and wheezed like a nasally teenager late for D&D night. It shattered all of my expectations for his content. When he re-emerged years later, he started doing video shows, in which remarking that ‘they were missing something from his original work’ would probably be a positive note. They were awful, low-rent productions that still maintained an air of ‘hey guys, I’m still doing this all by myself, no help from anyone else! Fuckers!’ Thankfully, he didn’t make many. By his own admission, Maddox spent more than a year developing a show called ‘Manformation’ for Spike TV, which is one of the lowest rungs in the arena of bad television, instead of building up his own equity.
The problem now is that Maddox seems strangely out of place, mining from the same vein that made him popular in the web 1.0 days. His transition to this strange new world, featuring an empowered population that produces its own researched rants, has been one awkward lunge after another. I have every intention of picking up his new, second book ‘I’m Better Than Your Kids’, but Maddox feels less relevant than ever.
And I doubt he cares one bit.