Friday, January 25, 2008

From Zero to Sixty Way Too Fast

I was impressed by the latest strip (Fire Away); Scott Kurtz is taking the story into relatively unpredicted territory, which is a breath of fresh air.

However... I don't buy it. I'm quickly identifying my biggest gripe with PVP -- the lack of emotional display.

This all started when Brent overheard Cole's remarks about Brent's lack of follow-through. A brief exchange between the two of them followed, and from this Jade and Brent have decided that Cole "must really be hurting."

If a guy's marriage is on the rocks, hell yes he must be hurting. But let's take a look at what Brent saw:



This is the sum total of Cole's "lashing out." Show me the hurt, please. In the second panel above, he rolls his eyes. In the third panel he starts apologizing. This is not a man at the end of his rope.

In today's strip, I think I understand what Kurtz was trying to put forth -- the panel in which Cole steeples his fingers is a portrait of a man seemingly in total control, but then he hits us with a curve ball from left field. But it rings false. Because it hasn't been set up effectively, Cole's statement about his marriage falling apart feels like a non sequitur (typo fixed, thanks), rather than the intended, and creative, plot twist.

We should have been led to this storyline much more gradually -- small screw-ups by Cole that start us wondering; a shouting match with Brent instead of a meek backing down. Maybe even take it so far as to bring the friendship to the brink. At that point Brent can be the bigger man and say, "What the fuck?"

Kurtz obviously takes his characters seriously, so he ought to portray their inner lives with a bit more care. Cole "must be hurting"? Then show us. Cole "lashed out"? We didn't see that. His marriage is on the rocks? This guy should be a wreck.

39 comments:

kwo said...

Nitpick: it's non sequitur.

Anonymous said...

And then again it could just be a comic strip.

Anonymous said...

So how's "your" comic strip comming along? I can't wait to read it!!!

I'm pretty sure due to lack of a visual aid or proper punctuation that the implied sarcasm was completly lost on you.

Have a good day.

crs said...

Kurtz often fast-forwards through the things other strips would do gradually, making storylines that could last 3 weeks or 2 months fit in a week. Sure, he could have gone the gradual route, but he has places to be, jokes to make.

There is arc, but it's sparse and you're left to fill in blanks. I think it's more a stylistic choice than a failing.

Anonymous said...

It may also be a red herring. That leaves us to wonder if Brent's reaction was "What a lame attempt of lying about the real issue," or if it's "Why haven't you told your supposed best friend about this before now."

BTW, it's weird seeing a more fully-developed image of Cole's office with desk and walls and everything. It makes him seem more authoritative and less like everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Man, you're really reaching now!

andrew-jp said...

Remember that it was Jade who said there was something deeper behind Cole's words. Up until this strip both Brent and the audience have been allowed to believe, perhaps even encouraged to believe, that there really wasn't.

This is more a case of Jade hitting a lucky shot than Cole's behavior genuinely evincing a problem.

Anonymous said...

I'm still a big supporter of this blog, despite the detractors. If it draws attention to the shortcomings in a popular strip's writing, and is constructive enough to suggest a better way to convey an idea, it's a worthwhile effort. Why be just another doting fan, and enable Kurtz's continued self-aggrandizement?

And to the "where's your strip" commenters - you don't need to be a producer to be a film critic. Roger Ebert's credibility is unquestioned in that arena. So why does Fake Scott McCloud need his own strip to provide criticism where, let's be honest, there currently is none?

Keep it up, Fake Scott.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last post, and the one before that about reaching . . .

You sound like that guy who hates something so much they simply CANNOT admit it did something right unless they can quickly follow up with a long string of bullshit about how it really WASN'T good or right.

Everything after the "it finally feels fresh" felt like the tissue-paper-thin arguments of a toddler trying desperately to describe the merits of stem-cell research. It is almost comedic enough at this point to visit this blog just to see how far you are willing to grasp at thin air to keep it going. Almost. Sadly it isn't funny enough to give it the necessary push from "pathetic" so I think this will be my last time here.

Anonymous said...

and by "last post" I mean the one by andrew-jp

Anonymous said...

To anonymous speaking of Roger Ebert:

Roger Ebert has had his hand screen-writing for many films, which means he has actually had a direct hand in the making of films.

Although it is true that you dont need to make art to criticize it, you not only chose a bad example, but the fact that you CAN criticize it does not mean your opinions are worth anything. To be in the industry is simply a good tool to tell whether someone actually knows what the hell they are talking about.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm the only one that completely agrees with this post. Cole never "lashed out," and Jade's comments didn't really make any sense based on what actually happened in the previous strip. Maybe I'm crazy but it sure seems like Kurtz had a last minute change of thought where he wanted the strip to go. Maybe after reading PVPMMS post about the obvious story arc where skull becomes the new best man (even though it turned out to be Francis) he decided if his strip is so "obvious" he's going to go throw a curveball at everyone.

LaDeDa said...

You main critique seems to be that it's not how you would have done it. You say you would have led up to the twist gradually. That just doesn't seem like Kurtz' style, and their just wouldn't be as much room for comedy in that kind of approach. I've seen plenty of comic strips that will hover over a plot point for weeks before actually getting to it. I prefer this approach better.

Anonymous said...

@ anonymous who wrote at January 25, 2008 1:08 PM...

Ebert wrote the screenplay for one movie and was a contributing writer for two others. All three were written with Russ Meyer. He had also been writing critiques of movies for ten plus years before writing his first screenplay. Seven of those years had been at the collegiate and local level before finally making it big in 1967 and writing for three years professionally before attempting his first screenplay.

His three attempts at writing a film easily proved that he was better at critiquing film than writing it. Just as it does not require that a food critic be a good chef, only that they be a good writer with functioning taste buds, it would reason that a film critic need only a pair of eyes, a pair of ears, and the ability to string five hundred words in cunning order. Something you, sir, are apparently unable to do.

Before you try and make a counter-point you should know what the fuck you're talking about.

Matthew Malady said...

Dear Fake Scott McCloud,

I must say that for the most part I agree with your analysis of the current plot twist. The interactions leading to it seem lacking. Perhaps there is a reason for this, perhaps it's just how he feels the characters would deal in this situation.

I find your observations very interesting, and it brings me to wonder; Do you have a webcomic?

If not, then why not? You seem to be able to pick apart others' works, why not use your towards a more creative goal and create something of your own? I'm sure others will be willing to provide the same constructive criticism that you are familiar with. (If you do have a webcomic please post the link and disregard this paragraph. Thanks.)

octa said...

I agree, the twist seems forced and the previous strips did not establish Cole's inner turmoil.

I do like that he's shaking up the characters though.

Spork said...

You perfectly nail the problem with this arc, in that the whole damned thing is forced, and we're actually being told, rather than shown, as all good writing should be. But, why are you surprised? This is how Kurtz always does it. He's a hack, and the only reason I keep going back to his site is so I can watch him have yet another melt down and pick another internet pissing contest so he can measure his e-peen against CAD.

pvpmakesmesadmakesmesad said...

Criticize much? Why don't you blog about something actually much more important. Healthy criticism is nice, but come on! Get a life. kk.

Jai said...

It seems as if Kurtz pretty purposefully portrayed Cole in this way, so that his stunning revelation would truly come out of left field and be all the most "stunning" and "revelatory". It does not, however, make much sense. I don't think it was a good idea. We wouldn't have guessed what was eating at Cole even if he HAD been acting strangely, as he should have been. And since Jade was still able to tell (No doubt with her womanly intuition) that Cole was "hurting", we are left to assume that both we and Brent are borderline retarded for being unable to pick up on the signs she saw.

Kurtz didn't need to add two weeks to the storyline to flesh out Cole behaving strangely, either. Far, FAR from it. For instance, he could have simply started with "Cole behaving strangely AT ALL". Maybe added one or two strips to flesh that out in the way TFSM suggests. The rest of this arc flows pretty smoothly from there.

Anonymous said...

Can we get a post on Francis' hair in the last panel of the most recent comic? WTF happened to it, looks like he put on a helmet...

Anonymous said...

Here's my review of your reviews of a free webcomic:

"PVP Makes Me Sad" is written by some guy who hides behind the an fake alias. Most likely he's a failed artist who's decided to spend the rest of his life playing the role of a contrarian. Maybe someday he'll invest the time, energy and creativity into creating something of his own and become the one thing that he clearly dreams of being: an entertainer.

JK said...

I like pvp, but I can see that much of your criticism has a foundation - then I followed the link you posted to ctrl alt del - it's funny, but all the flaws you find in pvp are there tenfold, so why link to it? It really makes your opinions sound more like personal vendetta than criticism.

Jai said...

Please show me on the doll where the man posted a link to Ctrl Alt Del and said anything remotely like, "This is a good comic strip!" What's next? Are you going to say he's been recommending Mary Worth to us, too?

Look at the sidebar. THOSE are the comics he recommends. Oh no! One of them is PVP! And none of them are CAD!

Emil said...

If it seems like Fake Scott is grasping for straws, it's probably because there is precious little in PvP to hold onto. The comic is so bland there's barely anything in it to think about, much less comment on.

This blog might work better if posts were withheld until a story arc could be seen in its entireity. You need an amount of strips to actually see some content I think.

For instance the last christmas arc about Kringus turned out a lame rip-off of Sluggy Freelance's Bun-bun and his battles with various holidays, but I only saw that once it was nearly done. And likewise, it's hard to see where the current arc is going just yet.

In the meantime, all that can be done is nitpicking. Other than keeping up the interest of the blog and keeping the trolls enamored, is there really a point?

Jai said...

Please can we keep the trolls enamoured?

TFSM doesn't yet seem to have interrupted a story arc to point out an unfair assessment of it.

And, to jk: Before it's said, I do know about the link to CAD in the opening post on this blog. You're clearly interpreting it differently than I am, is all. TFSM says CAD is a popular title on the virtual streets. It is. He says the writing for PVP is disappointing in comparison. That's true, although it is a point that can be argued. He does not say that CAD is a comic he likes more. I'm not sure how posting a link is proof of anything more than trying to provide context for a point he was trying to make. Is comparing PVP to Mary Worth a way of recommending Mary Worth to us?

I could stop there, but I'll argue with myself. I'd rather argue with myself than with you.

He linked to Penny Arcade right next to his link to CAD! PA is clearly a comic that this TFSM does like and recommend! Ergo, posting those two links in quick succession makes it look like . . . like PA and CAD are equals of some kind!

Yes. It looks like that. That really didn't seem to be the point of those links, though. When talking about how good the writing is in a rather verbose comic strip, your comparisons are also going to have to be comic strips with many many words in them. Finding peers among the same popularity level would also a plus. And... I can't think of a lot of those that AREN'T either Penny Arcade or Ctrl Alt Del. PVP and those all involve a lot of exposition. Beyond which, all three of these strips are "rooted" in normal, mundane life. They are clearly in the same online comic strip genre. That is not to say that they are all equally "good". That is not to say that ANY of them are good. They are just peers to each other. Almost actual competitors to each other (And, in some ways, they ARE competitors). When comparisons must be drawn (And, since this is the internet, they must), it is only sensible to compare them to each other first and foremost.

But I can't KNOW that! I don't know what TFSM really thinks! I might have just wasted my time doing all of this typing!

Shit! That's five minutes I can't get back!

At least I'm not going to assume the worst about him. In fact, I feel like assuming the BEST. For instance, I'm going to assume that TFSM is actually a sexy hot young vixen of a woman. Mmm. And that she loves baking cookies and pies. And lives locally. And has a rich father.

The Wax Lion said...

What is it with everyone saying "if you can't stand PvP make your own damn comic?" Why do you assume that legitimate and well-thought out analysis/criticism should only come from someone else who's a comic artist? Should book reviewers always be authors, movie reviewers always be writers, directors AND actors (since they comment on all 3) and editorial journalists always be politicians?

For Chrissake people. Defensive much? Grow up, go back and read PvP and skip this blog if you're not interested in meta-analysis. Some of us enjoy that kind of pick-it-to-pieces critiquing; personally, I like having someone who can skillfully analyze a comic that I just look at and go, "Huh. This just isn't compelling or funny to me anymore, I wonder why..." Which is how I've felt about PvP for the last year or so.

Seejak said...

I think you've made some good points there - in fact there's only one thing I disagree with you about.
You said "...the panel in which Cole steeples his fingers is a portrait of a man seemingly in total control..." wrong.
Cole obviously isn't in total control as you cane see from his facial gestures throughout that strip. When he arches his fingers he's obviously about to say something which he's worried and upset about, maybe even something he doesn't really want to face.
I have to admit though, he certainly didn't seem to show much emotion in the previous strips.

Anonymous said...

you need to get a life

Anonymous said...

I believe there is time during the day to both have a life and offer critiques of PvP. And quite frankly, if Kurtz didn't want us to read them...he shouldn't have LINKED HERE.

I have found the quality of PvP to be declining rapidly over the past three years (probably because Kurtz usually has about five projects going at once these days.) So I find this blog enjoyable. If you don't, by all means, come here and say something...I have a feeling the author will take all the traffic he can get.

PunditusMaximus said...

I have to disagree -- I've had troubles and known guys with troubles. We go to tremendous lengths to present as normal.

Emil said...

Have to agree with seejak there. The "steeple" hand gesture is used partly when you feel you're in control and more often when you WANT to feel you're in control.

Metabaron said...

You know, its not a Picasso. There were someone here that said "You don't have to be a film maker, to e a film critic." Well, I propose to you all that this is not critizism, its telling-the-author-how-it-should-be. That's something entirely different and the question "Where is your comics strip?" is valid.

TFSM is blogging about how to redesign a strip to what HE thinks is the proper way. Perhaps he makes a point or two about improving the strip, but most of what I seen is just a matter of taste.

And the point of it all? Giving Kurtz clues about improvment? No, that would only take a few general comments. An exercise in writing? There are faaaar better ways. Discussing the comic? Thats what forums are for?

Nerd-obsessive-compulsive behaviour?

What else?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of this blog. It's turned PvP from being braindead into trying to be clever.

Anonymous said...

So your opinion is "Wow! Scott is doing something new and creative that I like. It Sucks!"

Anonymous said...

Don't let the morons and defend-PvP-at-all-costers get you down. Your blog is a great thing, keep it up. (And as a side note, the Cole storyline seems to be getting worse: more labored, with stiffer art -- what do you think of the latest "Cole and Brent getting drunk" laff riot?)

zgeycp said...

You have to admit today's strip is pretty good.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I check pvpmakesmesad.blogspot.com for new posts [i]before[/i] I check PVP to see if Kurtz has posted a new comic.

JK said...

RE: Jai - The thing is that everything he points out in pvp is worse on CAD. From layout to cliches. I'm not saying TFSM has to change this to CADmakesmesad - I'm saying I can't understand why he would link to that to illustrate his point.

And yes - it was more fun arguing with yourself. Even I enjoyed it.

Jai said...

Thanks!

We should make a blog that is used solely to groan about CAD. We could get, like, maybe three regular readers . . . ? Tempting, I know!

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