Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Comment Response

I wanted to respond to this comment (by Scott Kurtz, we hope) outside of the comment thread, since my response deals with bigger issues that I started the blog to talk about:

(This will necessarily be the most defensive-sounding post I've written since I'm responding to comments made to and about me, but that's just the way it goes. Objectivity suffers sometimes, but I will do my best.)

I think I got you pegged now, Fake McCloud. At first I thought maybe you were just stretching at times to find something to write about.

Now I just think you may not be a very sophisticated reader.

Everyone single other PvP reader has gleaned that we'll be returning to this divorce in the near future but you.


I take issue with the statement that all (or even most) other PVP readers get it -- by which I mean I don't believe it. Is there a "Two weeks of story, one week of fresh stuff, back to the story" tradition I haven't noticed? (I'm really asking, I'm not being sarcastic.)

Perhaps I am not a sophisticated PVP reader, it may be true. However, I've been reading the strip since around the time the format changed from 2x2 to 4x1. I think it says something that someone who has been reading it for quite a few years hasn't cottoned on.

I'm not surprised there are more sophisticated readers of PVP than myself. While I respect the effort and accomplishments, I am obviously not a great lover of PVP, and surely there are those who would label themselves as such.

Perhaps, in this case, they are offering up the benefit of the doubt, or perhaps they are more closely tuned to the author's writing style, as the comment suggests.

Or, perhaps, the cues that sophisticated readers are picking up are too subtle for the more casual reader. Perhaps those cues only exist if you are a sophisticated reader. I don't know.

I stand by my previous post, especially my comments regarding Cole. A divorce story without the pain of divorce isn't worth reading, not if we're to take the strip and the characters seriously.

But, then again, perhaps we aren't meant to.

39 comments:

Mike said...

I assumed we'd return to it. A lot of various storytelling mediums have adopted the "cut scene" approach you see in most televised sitcoms, movies, and most books.

[Plot A Scene 1] [Plot B Scene 1] [Plot C Scene 1] [Plot A Scene 2] [Plot B Scene 2] [Plot C Scene 2]

Perhaps not that tightly sequential. But yeah, I assumed we'd go back to it.

Anonymous said...

I assumed we'd probably return to it eventually, but I thought it was a poor choice on Scott's part. It'd be one thing if there was an entire other plot line to shift away to, but PvP has a relatively small cast--it's not like Questionable Content, where it's a week of one character's plotline and then we can cut to a week of Sven or Pintsize and Winslow to break it up a bit. Here, unless you do another Scratch/Skull week, you pretty much still have Jade, Brent, Cole an Francis as your playing pieces and they're all involved in the Cole's-Divorce storyline. So it's not like the breakaway part is happening simultaneously with Brent and Cole sitting on the couch--it's happening after, and we're left wondering wait, what happened? (we're also wondering why the hell bulldog and cooch are supposed to be funny, but that's just my own pet peeve.)

I think the Plot A, Plot B, Plot C structure only works well when those three plots each involve different characters. But because this is all one big timeline, it just gets muddy in my opnion.

I do like that Scott is varying his drawing style a bit in the last couple strips. Interesting.

Spork said...

Basically, TFSM, you're just seeing the typical Kurtz gearing up to his usual ranting self. He'll be tossing insults and asking his mindless minions to come over here and do battle for him.

He's a pathetic comic with a long history of worrying over being accepted by the mainstream comics community and he keeps trying to make his strip into a soap opera. He keeps failing at both, but he never really seems interested in finding out why that is.

So, just keep refusing to take his shit, but expect a lot more out of him. Throwing temper tantrums is really the only thing he's consistently good at doing.

Julia said...

If you are unsophisticated, I must be, too. I was actually tempted to email Kurtz about it, because it bothered me so much.

thedaler said...

He basically probably called half of his fan base unsophisticated. After five completely random and unrelated strips to the divorce, I too had figured it was over, at least for a month or so (which was crazy to me since he posted "Just wait, I promise this is going somewhere good!") It's amazing, the other day I started reading the comic back from the very beginning, ten years ago. Sure the art was shoddy, but the substance was so funny. I can't really remember when the comic got stale, but it reminded me of why I used to be such a huge fan and why I continue to click the bookmark everyday to read the strip.

Kro said...

I assumed we would return to it, but I thought it was a terrible choice. Basically I was giving Kurtz the benefit of being a bad storyteller, and not an amnesiac...since those are the only rationales for what he is doing. And now, changing half his comic style??? Truly FakeMcCloud, you have picked a good time to start a blog.

Mister Bob said...

I agree with a lot of what you have to say about the pacing/layout of PVP, but here you're just looking for something to whine about.

By your logic we should have seen the lawyers, the moving out day, the papers being signed, Brent helping Cole get a new apartment-- all of that right here right now.

Julia said...

Mister Bob, completely ignoring that the storyline was ever started is a very valid complaint. It's not like it's been referred to at all. In fact, Jade appears to be back at Brent's house, and no sign of Cole and no mention of being kicked out. It's like it never happened.

Kro said...

And now Brent's parents have showed up...which I think we can assume will not be a one and done type deal...it's funny how a strip can go from fine (if not great) to utter train-wreck disaster in the space of two weeks.

On the plus side, if you want an example of something that Kurtz is doing well, check out his new strip 'Ding' it's World of Warcraft humor, so it's sort of topical...but I get the feeling it's the strip he is enjoying, which is why it is decent and PvP is sucking terribly.

JK said...

I'm just hoping that Kurtz will link the parents and divorce together. Otherwise I'm also left wanting more on the divorce.

I feel weird that He reads this blog though - it may well mess with his head and his plans for the arc.

The Duck said...

I too assumed (and still do) that he will get back to the divorce story, and that seeing Brent's parents pop up is not a coincidence.

The one complaint I would have are the random comics in between. Also, if I never see the Iron Man fan guy again that would be fine with me. Not sure what the fascination is there.

Anonymous said...

You are unsophisticated. You are stretching. You are wasting your time. Go away.

Anonymous said...

I think Scott is already doing a fine job of messing with his own head. He seems very anxious these days, spending a lot of his energy responding defensively to his critics and proclaiming grandiosely to his fans.

The general in his labyrinth.

TheOriginalJes said...

Why are you all so emotionally invested in the comic, anyway?

Maybe SK is just giving an obligatory nod to certain events just to maintain continuity for something else he has in mind. Maybe he doesn't want to get bogged down with certain details he doesn't feel he can or even needs to address. Perhaps getting too deep right now would spoil something else later.

I think the level of feeling that's being addressed by most of the comments is premature. The divorce may just be a catalyst or symptom of a new chapter in Cole's life.

Something I've enjoyed about the strip is that it isn't a soap-opera digest (-see sporky's comment above-). Giving some background and depth to a character is as valuable a tool as humorous detachment.Certain things can happen that are absurd and without real depth, like the Knuckle of Kraka-ur-ass (or whatever it's called).

If he doesn't get back to something you want to know more about within a month or so, then get on him. 2 days is nothing.

I would, however, like to see more people interested in commenting on TFSM's input, rather that ignoring his topics within his own blog, just to rag on someone else's personal life. Isn't this blog just another version of somebody's creativity, open to debate and criticism? TFSM does a fine job putting a spotlight on what flaws he considers. But, it seems many people find it too difficult to get past their own attachment issues to stay focused.

DJ Lawyer said...

I read a lot of webcomics. Almost all of them have, at one point, left me felt like something was hanging and unresolved. Usually it does eventually get wrapped and drawn into a later and more overarching story where you look back and say "Oh! That's where that fits!" I opine that it is a much more talented storyteller who can keep track of past plots that haven't been tied up yet and then bringing them back to resolve them in conjunction with the larger picture. (Of course, if it gets forgotten and never tied in, then the opposite is true of the storyteller. Damn you, Lucas!)

My only other comment is that everyone shows pain in a different way. Cole reminds me a lot of my brother, and I'm confident that he would deal with his pain in a very similar way to Cole.

Kamanth said...

I have to agree with Scott on this one, I thought it was blatently obvious we would be returning to the main story shortly and it is a trend that he has used during story arcs before.

Personally I also think it is a wise choice as it breaks up any predictability and also gives you an idea what the 'other' characters have been up to whilst all this has been going of as well just like you'd experiance if watching a TV series or soap opera.

MinisterChris said...

I, too, assumed we would come back to the divorce story after a while. I don't think this story line should be condensed into three weeks of story. I'd rather see Scott have it move to something bigger gradually.

JONC said...

Of course the strip isn't done with that story line. Your usually insightful commentary really missed this time, IMO.

Kro said...

Look, this isn't too hard to understand. It's not that he dropped a storyline in the middle and went into a group of random one timers followed by an entirely different storyline with new artwork...although none of that seems wise...it's that he is acting like the previous storyline NEVER TOOK PLACE. Why is Jade at Brent's? And his parents? Where did Cole disappear to?

Also, talk about missing an opportunity...having the parents showing up expecting to meet Jade and finding Brent living with his broken up boss could have set up an interesting storyline.

Arby's said...

and god almighty, now he's ripping off Meet the Fockers. The funny thing is that I actually find PvP far MORE entertaining now that it's junk...it's sort of like staring at a car accident. You don't want to look...but you can't turn away.

Anonymous said...

You're right on this. The break in storyline is outside of the contenuity of the story. First of all, this new set of strips takes place at work. After throwing Jade out, don't you think the first thing she's going to do when she comes in to work in the morning is to quiz Brent about what went on? Of course she is

If Scott really want's to up the caliber of his storytelling, he needs to learn to weave this stuff together. For instance, Jade quizzing Brent & trying to get details out of him (which, being a man, he didn't get himself) is the perfect time for Brent's parents to show up & interrupt, thus putting Jade, and the readers off & increasing tension.

This, that arc is on hold, stuff just has to stop

valorousmongoose said...

Actually, there kind of is a tradition like that. Not specifically in PvP, but in most forms of storytelling. The idea of This happened, but meanwhile this stuff, but that was still.... blah blah blah. There are actually a decent number of examples, if nothing else, just super hero comic books. A few issues on one arc, a few issues on another. Then something new or revealing happens and it's back to the first arc.

I think the biggest thing to consider is just reality. A divorce is a big thing, especially between people who've been together most of their lives, and it isn't going to resolve quickly. Rather than focus the camera on what is frankly a depressing subject, he chooses to allow it to fade into the background temporarily in order to lighten the mood. At least, that's my take on things. Of course he's going to come back to it, I make that assumption because if he didn't return to that arc, he'd be a hack. Completely and utterly talentless. And since my general strategy for life is to assume the best of people (Until proven otherwise) I'll just keep reading for a while.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the "Meet the Fockers" turn is truly dismal.

I'm noticing a pattern: Scott trumpets his upcoming artistic/storytelling innovations; plugs in a few new character designs draped over abysmally obvious and uninspired plotting; drops the arc like a rock when a few voices complain; then leaves it to the forum apologists to explain that "You're just not reading it right" or "Clearly he intended to come back to such and such later." If it has to be explained and justified, then it hasn't succeeded on its own terms.

I'm in agreement with those who point out that while "cutaways" are perfectly acceptable in storytelling, hamhanded clumsiness and disregard for continuity logic *isn't.*

Let's brace ourselves for more wacky movie-quoting, followed by a string of random strips as a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from the man behind the curtain. Or hey! Maybe Brent's zany sex-loving mom will get capped, and the strip will morph into another Jade Fontaine Mystery! Or everyone will turn into Jack Kirby-esque battlebots and laserblast each other!

vaultkeeper said...

I'm surprised people are trying to defend his method of storytelling. It's pure garbage right now. As someone said, you can shift the camera to another plot or side story as a narrative device but you can't abandon all sense of continuity or logic without looking really awkward.

Agreeing said...

I forgot about the divorce story arc completely after the random strips started coming in. I was bored with it though, so I guess that's ok :).

Kro said...

Yeah, it's not that storylines can't be dropped and returned to, it's how you do it.

I have no problem with Kurtz apologists by the way, but I hope they are defending the comic because they like it NOW, not because they liked it in the past. I liked it in the past, but that doesn't mean I have to defend its current incarnation.

Also, if there is never another 'Jade Fontaine' mystery, it will be far too soon.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I'm one of them that was shocked when the arc suddenly ended. I actually thought I missed the wrap-up day and hit back to check it out. But that was it.

Scott is really insecure, and it shows. Instead of saying "I intended to go back to it in the future. I'm sorry you didn't see that." He tries to insult you. Clearly he's either trying to make you go away, or knock you down to make himself feel better.

How often does he do that? Knock others down to make himself better.

Anonymous said...

Why are people assuming that Jade is at Brent's? She appears to be drawing in the first strip, so it seems pretty evident that they're at work.

Kro said...

It could be taking place in the office, I suppose. I didn't get that feeling from the way the parents, Brent, and Jade were acting...but I grant that Jade did look like she was working in panel 1. I guess we will find out whenever Kurtz gets around to establishing location...

This is the fine line he often walks between assuming his readers can 'figure stuff out' and just being lazy in his work.

Anonymous said...

(Posted earlier) "How often does he do that? Knock others down to make himself better."

If you guys listen to the Webcomics Weekly webcast, this is basically what he did (in episode 24) to a listener who wrote in. Granted, the letter was pretty aggressive and blaming, but it came from a place of honest frustration on the listener's part. In response, Scott tried to steamroll over the listener's issue, and made fun of him several times.

Dan B said...

I think the issue here, and perhaps with PvP in general, is that Mr. Kurtz is caught halfway between writing two different comics.

One is a comic with a story arc, reasonably consistent continuity, emotional resonance, and plot events driven by the behavior of complex characters. This is the style employed by, for example, Questionable Content and Achewood.

The other is a comic with running gags, irony-laden pop culture references, breaking of the fourth wall, and the prioritization of getting a laugh over maintaining continuity. This seems to be the de facto standard for webcomics, due in no small part to the overwhelming success of Penny Arcade.

I'm not saying there can't be any overlap between the two (cf. Calvin and Hobbes), but PvP sometimes draws on the extremes of both at once and comes out the worse for it. Thus the introduction to Cole's marital problems -- which should be a very serious and sobering storyline -- is sandwiched between Scratch Fury reading Garfield, and some gag strips about spit and Brent's Apple lust.

More broadly, PvP's attempts at serious character development are often undermined by the "other" PvP's resilience to plot and continuity. Just think about all the running gags the strip has developed over the years -- the "Bulldog and Cooch" spoofs, Brent getting attacked by a panda, Scott's dad's ranting, Francis' homophobia. I would think it's extremely difficult to fit a meaningful story about divorce around that.

Spork said...

This pretty much sums up PvP.
http://toothpastefordinner.com/tfd-archives/tfdarchive-feb08.php

Spork said...

Okay, that didn't work. how 'bout this?

Jai said...

Haha, this one? Yeah. Yeah, that pretty much sums things up.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Dan B. Remarkably cogent diagnosis.

Zak said...

The timing may not be impeccable, but he has a wedding he has to lead up to that he's put on a specific date. If he's going to do this storyline, he has to get it in.

Also, life doesn't settle one issue at a time, in sequential order. I kind of like the fact that there is yet to be a solution to the divorce. I actually kinda expect it to be an underlying theme throughout the whole lead in to the marriage, probably causing it to be delayed/causing a scene at the wedding. If he put a bow on it now, he'd be rehashing later.

Anonymous said...

re: today's strip

What a fucking cop-out.

Lirael said...

It's not a case of being unsophisticated readers. It's a case of carelessness in pacing.

The jump from the divorce storyline to Brent's parents visiting was jarring. Since it is part of the divorce arc, Kurtz could have given us something that tied the two together, which he finally seems to have done in today's strip.

The timing of the tie-in makes me raise an eyebrow, just as the timing of the "My marriage is falling apart" admission did back in January.

While I'm sure that Kurtz plans his strip out well in advance, it was still a bit strange that on 1/23, TFSM posted The Let Down and the next day, PVP had Fire Away.

Then, on 2/7, TFSM posted Wait, That's It? - Kurtz read it, and posted his theory that "every other reader knew" we'd come back to the divorce story. In those comments, and the comments on this post, it's pretty clear that not every reader saw how the two arcs fit together.

And now, today, we have the tie-in, which also seems jarring. If the whole thing is taking place at Brent's apartment, how did Cole not hear the Siennas' arrival? While I realize that they obviously got inside the door with neither Brent nor Jade hearing them come in, are we also to believe that Cole didn't hear the conversation going on in the other room once they started talking?

Did Brent shout "NO SEX TALK" very, very softly, so Cole didn't hear it?

Or if Cole did hear it, why didn't he wander out to the kitchen (or whatever room that is) and see what was going on, and who the two new voices were? It doesn't make sense. I can drive a truck through this plothole.

It feels like hasty storytelling to me, and while I'm fairly certain Kurtz will assure us that he's had them planned out forever and the timing is just odd coincidence, part of me wonders if these two strips - and maybe even this whole arc - might have been ushered along because of the reader comments here.

Spork said...

Yes, Jai. That's the one. Not sure what I did there, thanks.

Zak, real life doesn't have a timetable, and isn't neat and tidy. The comic strip, and fiction in general isn't real life. You do understand that story and life aren't supposed to be the same, right? Particularly when a main character is a giant blue (when, oh when will that lazy SOB start coloring again?) troll only a few people can see.

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