Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Let Down

So, now that I know there are more than two eyes reading this, today's strip comes as something of a disappointment -- It's not bad. I don't love it, but there's nothing worth getting too worked up about. I actually appreciate the thoughtfulness of Jade's remarks (until she ruins it with the punchline).

FYI, I have a general rule not to respond to comments -- I prefer not to feed the trolls. But there have been some thoughtful remarks and questions, and one thing came up I'd like to address:

In my post Ugh. How about a little effort? I set forth the opinion that Scratch's reaction to the lasagna was somewhat less than inspiring, while comparing the entire sequence of events to Looney Tunes and Ren & Stimpy.

It was not my intention to suggest that the characters in PVP should become as expressive as either of those animated cartoons. Scratch is not Stimpy, and the world of PVP is based around a physical system that is much more life-like than, say, the Road Runner's desert.

I don't expect Stimpy-like levels of reaction, just more than what we got. (I normalized the drawings for size.) Skull's last line depends on it, not to mention our amusement at the supposedly rapid decline in Garfield's favor. For the joke to reach any serious level of success (and hilariousness), the cat has to be just devastated with his lasagna experience.

In fact -- What you see here would have been a great third panel, freeing up the fourth panel to really drive the horror of the lasagna home.


Tei said...

I don't know how often I'll be back to say this (though now there's an interesting dynamic going on between comic and critique-of-comic), but I find nearly all of your criticism far too picky. The guy writes a daily comic strip. It's one thing to want him to fine-tune the humor, but I fail to see what qualifies you to identify the missing element in each strip. So far, none of your commentary has persuaded me that ANY of the strips mentioned would be better off by incorporating your critiques. Frankly, most of the changes you suggest would either go completely unnoticed for most readers, or destroy the joke altogether.

I wonder what makes you feel so qualified to deliver this level of commentary. You seem very self-assured, and I compliment you heartily on using your criticism in such a level-headed way (rather than the usual sort of 'it sucks' responses), but I question that you are better able than Kurtz to determine the unfunny from the funny, and, more importantly, to edit the one into the other. I haven't seen any evidence yet that you're capable of doing so.

Good try, though. I'll give you that you're really thinking about WHY you dislike something, and that's more than most people do. I just think your changes would do more harm than good to the strip. Perhaps you should start your own comic based on your brand of humor, and see if its popularity would outshine PvP, as you seem to think it would.

Kourosism said...

I think I disagree with the lasagne comment. Less is more and all that. How do you react the moment that you stick something unpleasant in your mouth?

By the way, are you really Scott Kurtz? I think you might be...

Punkhead said...

You should a strip by strip critique of ctrl al del. There's a comic in serious need of balance.

Anonymous said...

You should at least tell us what exactly you mean by "Mary Worth Syndrome." You seem to have made the phrase up, after all.

zgeycp said...

I'd assume Mary Worth syndrome is characterized by a structural similarity to the newspaper strip Mary Worth.

The final panel contains little of the resolution (I'd say punchline, but Mary Worth isn't a humor strip), instead leading into the next strip. The first panel is taken up by exposition useless to readers who already read the previous strip.

The end result is positively glacial.

David Clark said...

I disagree with your comment about the lasagna as well. I don't think Scratch has to be devastated in the way you suggest--in fact, I think "devastated" is the wrong word, since it implies a huge reaction appropriate to, say, the loss of your lifelong best friend, and less appropriate to the realization that lasagna is disgusting and that the cartoon character one recently took as a hero isn't really so. Further, I think it's pretty clear from Kurtz's art what Scratch is going through: from ears up and eyes open, tasting the heavenly dessert of Garfield, we arrive at bitter realization: ears flat back, eyes squinting in disgust and perhaps an effort not to cry or some other thing, mouth clenched and turned down, cheek lines indicating extreme displeasure, shoulder clenched in tense reaction. Scratch ain't liking what he's tasting, and furthermore, he's frozen, trying to hide it from Skull (who sees anyway) and refuse to admit that it's bad. Perhaps--but only perhaps--some small tweaks could have been changed to make it clearer (Scratch's left eye doesn't change between the last two panels and could), but also some of that lends to the feeling that Scratch is both disgusted and trying to hide that fact/maintain some dignity and self-control. I think if his expression were made more overt and more "devastated," the panel would lose some of its subtlety and power. To the contrary of your opinion, I think it's quite the obvious joke to have Scratch try the food and be utterly disgusted, spitting food and recoiling (for example). I don't think that's funny at all, actually. What Kurtz has done here instead is provide a more nuanced and entertaining reaction for his character.

I would be curious to hear what process Kurtz himself went through in constructing this particular strip--what reactions and poses he considered, why he chose what he did, etc. That could be illuminating and very interesting.

Regarding your blog on the whole, keep it up. Critique and comment are fine and respectable things, and creating intelligent dialogue around artwork (and other things) is something I wholeheartedly support. It's perfectly fine to express and defend opinions, thoughts, whatnot, and from what I've seen so far (admittedly little), you seem to do so respectfully--you may dislike Kurtz's work, but you show why and you give intelligent comments. You don't seem to lambast him or turn on the insults, and that's a pretty rare thing these days, at least in public life in the US.

Spork said...

Remember when Scott used to put some effort into coloring his strips? At least on the weekends?

It must be strange for him to see more characterization and emotion and actual humor in a well-crafted, well-colored strip like Ugly Hill every day.

You think he knows how badly he sucks?

Jw said...

Tei said, "I wonder what makes you feel so qualified to delivery this level of commentary", and you know, that codified a feeling I've been having about this site.

On the Internet, you are not required to use your real name, and it is easy not to disclose your credentials. In fact, there was an
interesting discussion on Design Observer about this exact issue.

But here's the thing... if you can't back up your presence with some sort of datum for the reader to ground you in, there's no way for you to expect people to take you seriously.

Are you published? Do you have some experience in your life that would be a foundation for webcomics critique? Have you studied cartooning? What in your life has brought you to this pastime?

I'm not saying that you have to discuss this stuff... I'm not saying that using your "real name" is better than a pseudonym. I'm just positing that if you don't let people know more about the foundation of your "work", you can't expect any sort of validity.

Anonymous said...

Although I'm not a HUGE PvPonline fan, I do read it everyday. I just wanted to pop in and say that your "critiques" seem more like nit-picking to me. Don't get me wrong, I've been disappointed with some of his strips too but I think you're looking too much into it for problems that aren't really there.

Mark said...

I think that you are focussing too strongly on the visual punchline here when skull's line also delivers the humour using a method often found in 'Friends' whereby characters play out a commonly heard dialogue but not within the traditional context.

Scratch's reaction is commensurate with his character and indeed the rest of the strip.

QuickerMcwild said...

I've been reading PVP since it first showed up in issues of PC Gamer and I've witnessed plenty of Kurtz' critics, detractors, and feuds. Your blog here is probably the most mild of it all. You obviously do have some respect for him because you never felt the need to start a blog with a paragraph of fat jokes. I can agree with some of your thoughts, and I certainly disagree with most. I've seen plenty of slumps where the strip seems a little stale, but I know Scott is always trying to improve. He seems especially focused on that lately, so I for one think your blog is a great thing, and I'm sure you are making more of an improvement to the strip than someone who would just give up and stop reading.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your criticisms and often find myself agreeing with them; however, I do have one nit-pick myself, and I wish that it wouldn't come off as catty as it will, but c'est la vie:

Holding up Penny Arcade to be a bastion of humor in a land devoid of funny and an excellent example of webcomics seems a bit contrived. I am sure you have opinions and criticisms of their substance and style as well; your glowing recommendation simply says otherwise.

I realize there is a lot to be said about the polarization between the pvp and Penny Arcade camps. There is a lot of cross-over, for sure, but I also encounter a lot of folks who are vehemently against one or the other, and it always comes down to that person's unique viewpoint on humor. Mostly, whether or not they enjoy the (nowadays) Garfield approach to pvp or the snickering, over-coffee-at-IHOP Family Guy-esque in-joke approach of Penny Arcade which requires footnotes to properly understand. Both have their points, both have their faults (included amongst both comics' faults is their fanbase; both are absolutely fucking terrible, prime examples of why internet fandom is an awful, awful thing).

Like I said, this was going to come off catty. I don't mean for it to. I'm sure we could go round and round about our preferences for funny, as I disagree and agree with you on more than just Penny Arcade. I simply found it worth pointing out as maybe a point of discussion.

zgeycp said...

jw, if he's willing to back up his points with detailed explanations, why does he need credentials to make them? I'm sick of seeing this attitude; a reasonable argument is a reasonable argument regardless of who's making it.

In response to most of the people questioning the validity of this blog, this blog is called "PVP Makes Me Sad", so we know that it comes down to one man's subjective opinion. Fake Scott is explaining his own personal experience with PVP and what would improve it - it's possible (though unlikely) that his sense of plot and humor is a horrible abberration.

Jw said...

zgeycp said...
jw, if he's willing to back up his points with detailed explanations, why does he need credentials to make them? I'm sick of seeing this attitude; a reasonable argument is a reasonable argument regardless of who's making it.

Is there a difference between the validity of a critic who has immersed him/herself in the study and analysis of a craft over someone who can develop a singular cogent stance?

I submit that there is a significant difference. Is his opinion invalid? How could it be— it is an opinion. But these articles move beyond opinion and into a form of analysis without any external references, or points of legitimate comparison. Since those things don't exist (as of yet) on this site, then it would be nice for someone claiming to be a critic to let us know more about where he's coming from as a critic.

If I say "Cloverfield is stupid, that monster was poorly designed," then I would hope that you'd expect me to either suggest possible alternatives and reference what I consider to be good monster designs, or that I bear proof of my status as a monster aficionado in order to give my argument a touch of merit.

Nick said...

I wouldn't be surprised is this was Kurtz posting the criticism. The artist is typically the hardest critic on their own work. What better way to get feedback on your art than to publicly display your own criticisms on your art than this? This way he can get comments from people either agreeing or disagreeing.

Whether or not this is Kurtz, this blog can only help to improve a top quality comic, such as PVP.

Anonymous said...

Yay to David Clark for an excellent and thoughtful response on the topic of Scratch's facial expression. This is a great conversation that makes me think of all sorts of things, from [the real] McCloud's discussion of abstraction in cartooning to Peirce's categories of symbol, icon, and index.

Re: Mary Worth syndrome, I define it as a strip that leans heavily on melodrama and heartstring-tugging, asking us to cry over the soap-operatic events occurring in the lives of characters that we either haven't been led to feel deeply about, or which we're asked to toggle between laughing at and caring about.

I think this is what caused such furor over Shecky, who was, when you come right down to it, a L'il Rascals-like play for our sympathies. Oh that loveable scoundrel with a heart of slightly tarnished gold!

I'm always nervous when PvP lurches into squishy melodrama or overly sincere love-talk. The Jade/Brent relationship has definitely gone in this direction lately. I keep expecting Brent to say, in closeup, "You ... complete me." Now we're being asked to worry about Cole's marriage to someone we haven't laid eyes on in years. What's next, Francis experiments with heroin in a Very Special Episode of PvP?

Tei said...

Let me clarify what I meant by 'qualified'. I don't really mean that the blogger needs to have some sort of credentials in cartooning, but these are fairly direct critiques and the author of the blog seems to believe that he has pinpointed EXACTLY what the problem is, where the humor is absent, from each cartoon. Since I disagree that any of his changes would improve the quality of Kurtz' work, I'm wondering if he has some authority in these matters of which I am unaware. It would almost seem necessary, since the quality of his changes is questionable, to have some sort of background that at least makes the commentary credible.

Borys Pomianek said...

I could write another comment about the quality of the writing but to be honest in this post you actually did a better job.

Problem here is that i tried to imagine your "changes" and i would really like the comic a lot less that way.

Your critiqe just does not hit me in the head and make me say "wow, it really would be better that way".

You have your opinion but there is no following behind you and that is becouse you do not "fell" what you try to critiqe.

There are a myriad of proffesional critics who are being dismissed by the artist community or by the audience of the art or by all of them alltogether.

Its unwise to just think that every "negative" comment here about your blog is made by a fanboy and every positive by a true thinking individual.
I saw the regular retarded comments on both sides of the spectrum here.

I understand you do not answer to comments but please, i commented on two of your posts and i doubt that my comments where trolish.

I know its a good tactic to take a retarted comment out of the pool and just dismiss it in a way you do in the new post but instead it would generate i think more positive thoughts about your blog in some minds if you would actually reply to the serious comments instead of showing the obvious stupidity of some people here.

You try your hand at serious commentary and now thanks to scott you got visitors.
Your critiqe as we see is not taken by the masses and held as the shining example of what life should be so i think you should defend your position by replying to the valid comments on your posts.

One of the things i honestly don't get is why everybody try to grade pvp in the universe of slapstick comedy, why is quality indicated by how funny it is?
I would really like to hear your opinion on that.

As it was previously said its obvious to expect that this blog is made by Kris or some other guy from the gang so unless you actually stop being anynomous most people won't take it seriously.
Its fun to endure in all this but somewhere deep in your heart, if you do it really seriously (wich i doubt honestly right now)i bet you would want someone to take you seriously too.

Anonymous said...

Man, you have to know what you're talking about, you like Achewood! You know, the comic for the elitist Mac owning latte sipping asshole in all of us.

Aaron said...

Wow a lot better critiques, both for and against, than I can muster for either a comic or a blog.

Wish ya luck

The Peanut Gallery said...

If I say, "This soup is too cold. While it is over room-temperature, I would prefer it to slightly scald my tongue at first taste," are you really gonna ask me to display any and all history of being a food critic before allowing that, to me and perhaps others, the soup might be too cold to be palatable?

Paidion said...

so....does this guy have his own strip? He seems to have a lot of experience with comics and how they should be made so I'd like to see his greatness and not waste my time with other comics.

paidion said...

Or is he just a troll himself?

Jai said...

Is TFSM just a troll, himself? I'm curious as to what exactly you could mean by that, "paidion". Let's go deeper!

Possibility 1: TFSM is an imaginary being, like Skull the troll in the oft-mentioned PVP comic strip. Well, that seems pretty ludicrous. But the idea has some merit, as it could be argued that you never really know if someone you see on the internet is an "actual" person, or merely a fraud! A fraud like Shecky, also a troll, also from PVP! Of course, there's still going to be a real person behind the fake persona. Unless the Machine Age has finally dawned, and humans are already on the way out. This can't be taken lightly! Robots are a serious threat.

Possibility 2 TFSM is trolling the world wide system of tubes that is the net we know and love, sowing his seeds of whatever it is that gets him the results he's hoping for! Much in the same way a fisherman plies the water with bait for the fish he wants to hook, this miscreant of the virtual world hopes to generate debate and discord! Surely, to just be noticed is this blogging fiend's biggest coup. What a cunning mind he must have, to be able to troll his own blog by never talking to the people who want to argue, never trying to get noticed, and never saying anything particularly offensive about anyone! Ergo, TFSM is a troll . . . by virtue of never doing anything remotely troll-like! I am boggled. And I do not have an easily boggled mind.

Possibility 3 TFSM is lacking in wits, monstrous of proportions and features, and otherwise an unpleasant person to see or know. Synonymous with the term "ogre", meaning "someone who is ugly and whose back I am talking behind". This doesn't seem to apply, but perhaps you have a much more intimate relationship with TFSM than the rest of us! Do tell! I have a National Enquirer headline all ready to go, when you decide to spill the juicy details!

Possibility 4 TFSM is lacking in wits, monstrous of proportions and features, and unlike Possibility 3 is an actual troll, like from Lord of the Rings (As opposed to Possibility 1's imaginary troll, or whatever the hell it is that Skull is supposed to be nowadays). Easily turned to stone by daylight, carnivorous, likes clubs, etc. I don't think those kinds of trolls can type, however. If TFSM is this kind of a troll, he's got one hell of a ghostwriter.

Possibility 5 TFSM is a tollbooth attendant, and you're making a joke about how that's like taxing goats for walking over a bridge! You're pretty clever. That's a good joke. Or, along the same lines, you are sneering at TFSM's homelessness. Fie on you! There are worse things to sleep under than a bridge, sirrah. Your sneering pretentiousness offends me!

Possibility 6 You've mispelled "trollop", and intended to mark TFSM as a harlot. A tramp. A "lady of the evening". A "Loose Lizzy". A person of weak moral fabric and voracious sexual appetite. Again, you probably know him (Her?!) better than us, if you can make such a bold, callous claim.

Jai said...

I seem to have misplaced some colons.

paidion said...

Um, as in one of those gripeing only lives to be bitter "Forum Troll" types....
Although you do raise afew interesting points

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say regardless of your criticisms of PvP, I'm really enjoying some the comics you recommended on the right. Most of them, I hadn't read before.

Anonymous said...

People who demand to see a critic's "credentials" are merely refusing to engage with the criticism itself. It's like in the PvP forums when someone dares to point out a flaw in the strip; more often than not, the poster is either caricatured ("You're just another one of those idiots who wants more videogame references") or condescendingly instructed in the "proper" way of critiquing the strip ("Here's what you should have said ...")

Either way, it's a tactic for dodging the issue, which is: do the criticisms seem valid? As the comments on TFSM's posts demonstrate, that validity is in the eye of the beholder. I, for one, find TFSM's analysis cogent and incisive (and long overdue). But I assess his/her words on their own terms, not by some feeble recourse to a degree in cartooncraft hanging on a wall somewhere.

The Shark said...

I actually agree with this post. Maybe I'm just slow, but I didn't understand Scratch's reaction until I studied his facial expression for a minute. Took way too long to sink in.

Jw said...

Peanut Gallery: If I say, "This soup is too cold. While it is over room-temperature, I would prefer it to slightly scald my tongue at first taste," are you really gonna ask me to display any and all history of being a food critic before allowing that, to me and perhaps others, the soup might be too cold to be palatable?

I don't need to know if you're a food critic, but it would help if you let me know whether you have a sensitive tongue, a hatred of gazpacho, or if you could perhaps show me a bowl of soup that IS the correct temperature.

Anonymous said...

You're a fucking retard, jw.

Anonymous said...

He's providing a list of soups on the right that are a better temperature.

Jai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jai said...

I wish there were an editing feature. Oh well, flat-out deleting the entire comment is almost as good, am I right?

Anyway, while we're on the subject of soup, here's a few internet comic strips that I can't recommend enough:

Basic Instructions

The Order of the Stick (Yes, hopefully you all know about this one already)


The Unfeasible Adventures of Beaver and Steve

D Weaver said...

I think it's a cat-person thing. As a cat owner, who has seen his cat encounter more than his fair share of "Oh no, this is SO not what I wanted" experiences, the expression on Scratch's face rang very true with me.

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jasmine nile said...

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