Monday, January 21, 2008

Ugh. How about a little effort?

Things have been relatively quiet on PVP so far this year. Today's strip, however, highlights the artistic laziness of the artist.

This week the cat is experiencing a bout of Garfield-worship, so is going to eat lasagna. Panels 2-4:

Ignoring the "don't scratch" confusion created by the script in the second panel, and ignoring also the complete and utter predictability of the joke, my biggest problem with this strip lies in the way the cat's experience is drawn.

This is a fairly standard scenario of long-standing tradition. I like to imagine it was invented by Looney Tunes, but it was certainly perfected by Ren and Stimpy. The traditional progression of action is as follows:

1. A character unknowingly eats something terrible, for example, a cake with an anvil baked into it or a soup with giant hot pepper in it. (Whatever it is, the character is usually looking forward to eating it.)

2. The character freezes for a moment. (Reality sets in.)

3. We witness a huge, over-the-top reaction. (The character's teeth all fall out due to hardness of anvil; the character's head turns red and blows steam due to hotness of pepper.)

3b. The alternative to the over-the-top reaction, one embraced by this particular strip: Internalized horror.

This progression being inferred, here are the expected emotional states of the cat:

Panel 2: Hesitance (never had lasagna -- hope it's good); anticipation (Garfield loves it, therefore I will love it); rebellion (screw you troll, I eat what I want).

Panel 3: Surprise; confusion; betrayal.

Panel 4: Internalized horror.

Here are the states actually portrayed in the strip:

Panel 2: Hesitance.

Panel 3: Surprise.

Panel 4: Dislike. (Sum total of visible reaction: one laid-back ear, one half-closed eye.) (edit: he has also slumped in his seat a bit.)

The fourth panel is the punchline! This is a pathetic display of emotions from a cartoon cat. Where are the gritted teeth? The eyeballs trying to escape? The lips pulled back into the mouth that says "Must! Not! Spit out!" Perhaps the world of PVP does not allow for such "cartoony" effects, but you can at least imply them without sacrificing the physics of your world.

The author should have skipped the second reaction state (surprise) entirely, heading straight from anticipation to horror, which would have allowed for a much better reaction when the troll tells him he has to eat it all.

Without the horror that is the cat's expected dislike for lasagna, the troll's admonition is worth little.

Misc. Nitpick 1: Who the hell forks their food so that the tines poke all the way through? No one, that's who. There's a little thing called a plate in the way.

Misc. Nitpick 2: Where the hell did his ear go in the last panel? Yes, cats' ears flatten when distressed, but they don't slide entirely to the back of their skulls. The lack of any other extreme reaction on the cat's part makes this almost uninterpretable. I thought for a moment the cat had a ponytail I was unaware of.

Fun Punchline Facts

Punchline exists? Yes.
Punchline rating: 3 out of 10


Anonymous said...

Misc. Nitpick 1: you can scoop food sideways man, we dont all have the iq of a three year old so when we have to eat we need to stab the food.

If you dont like pvp then stop reading it, your complaning about everything forces you to read the site. If your realy pathetic you can even block the site from your web browser so you can get over your addiction. Infact it's ironic, you are more devoted to pvp then the average fan.

Tei said...

This is . . . the weirdest commentary ever. You want, what, less subtlety? That's a great expression Scratch is doing in the last panel, and Skull's line is hilarious. Scratch is not a Ren & Stimpy character, and his expression is a wonderful blend of revulsion and anger at the betrayal of his cat-icon.

I don't know who made you a credible comic-critic, but the bar is clearly set pretty low.

Borys Pomianek said...

This blog is a piece of sad "journalism". As far as I see it, you are one of those that discuss why there can't be fire in space when watching star wars or like here, try to show their grief that pvp is no longer how it was.
Your blog would be a lot "better" if you would stay away from words like "better" when writing about art, you seem to have a problem with the differences that are between facts and opinions.
You try to be the “overly criticizing but funny intellectual” writer as far as I can see it and you fail at it mainly because you write about something very subtle while lacking context and even some basic credibility.
To put it better: you don’t ask a question and propose one of the possible answers, you point at a direction and state the one, only, ultimate solution while nobody is looking towards you in search for such answers.
When comparing pvp to other webcomics please give “a little more effort” and simply elaborate on the “other” ones. Get into the detail so that I can actually see a light at the end of the tunnel of your twisted logic as a temporary reader of your blog.
Honestly, all the quality your posts may have is taken away by such childish nonsense like your “fun facts…”.

PVP Makes Me Sad Critic said...


I am figuring two things. One, you are just weird (being nice here). Two you are riding on the popularity of a truly good web comic. Whatever, you got your minute of glory. We will all move on now.

Steve Chester said...

There's no "don't scratch" confusion. It's "Don't! Scratch...". It's as different as "don't bob" is to "Don't! Bob...".

Anonymous said...

Hm. Well, I won't tell you to stop reading it, but I will point out that your critique is rather messy, and dependant on point of view, and in one instance, flat out wrong.

"Don't! Scraaaatch..." Is not confusing, at all. The exclamation point is properly placed, and no confusion is possible, unless, perhaps, your only exposure to written English is the internet, where mangled English is commonplace.

As to the reaction, an extreme reaction is not required. Only that it be sufficiently different from the previous one, and properly indicative of the subject's mood.

Any debate about the art comes down to personal preference, really, and is a rather weak tool for critique. Sadly, from skimming the limited archive of entries here, I've only come across one genuine 'gaffe' made by Scott.

The rest happen to be a rather energetic effort by yourself to turn your unmet preferences into failures of the strip itself, which is weak writing, and generally strange for a hobby. Try a little harder.

Anonymous said...

As an additional note, a peculiar contradiction you put forth.

You bemoan the lack of a cartoony expression of despair, but complain that the flattening of Scratch's ears is TOO Extreme?

Anonymous said...

Im not saying it was the funniest strip ever, but scratch has never been an over the top character, and the reaction was exactly how it should have been..

If it was animated, scratch would have stayed frozen in that pose for a while, though it is kind of ambiguous as to whether hes doing it just because of the taste of the lasagna, or that skull told him he had to finish eating it

The Fake Rob Wilco said...

Josh Fruhlinger called, he wants his bit back.

Atleast The Comics Curmudgeon varies his approach and is actually.. wait for it... funny.

John said...

Leave Scratch alone you big oaf ;P

Nyteexodus said...

I don't think it needs to be an overtop reaction. A character that has spent alot of time skulking and sneaking through the panels may be best suited to a more subtle reaction. If this was done in a Tom & Jerry way, I wouldn't be reading it.

Anonymous said...

Seriously? Get a life man. Write your own stuff instead of tearing down others. Try some Prozac?

Nina said...

Critique is surely necessary and useful, but I see neither quality in yours, I'm sorry having to say so. I really don't get the point of shredding every single detail into atomic pieces. You've got the wrong attitude, it's like standing very close in front of a street poster and trying to get the whole picture by looking at each single dot.

Aric said...

Hmm. You're clearly intelligent, and I personally think pop-culture critique is totally valid, but your comments read as if you don't really "get" the visual language of comics. Or you only "get" one narrow dialect of it, so to speak.

PvP isn't a Fusco strip--"squash and stretch" is meant to be used minimally. There's an entire spectrum of effect between pure representationalism and surreal fantasy. Outlandish wild takes (a la Ren and Stimpy) would oversell the gag here and create cognitive dissonance, i.e. , "Why is his jaw hitting the floor? It wasn't *that* surprising." Wild takes work when the circumstances are equally extremist--eavesdropping (as in the Brent/Cole strip) isn't extremist. Disliking lasagna isn't extremist. But it can still be funny with context.

That's not to say another cartoonist couldn't have done the same gag with Scratch's jaw falling off in the last panel--but it would require the entire strip to have a different style.

I don't think you should stop critiquing at all--seriously--but as it is I don't think anyone with a real background in comics would agree with most of your points. All of the effects you claim Scott didn't convey in these strips were exactly the effects I got reading them. I didn't find them confusing, and I don't think most of his readers did either. And he has one of the easiest visual "voices" to parse in webcomics which as much as anything accounts for his mainstream success.

(Heh. I didn't reply because I'm a huge fan of Kurtz--I'm not really--but because I like seriously critiquing comics too.)

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