Monday, February 25, 2008

Perhaps I am not in the right frame of mind.

I've been on vacation, and sick, so I just now read the last two weeks of the strip. Perhaps it's the lethargy brought on by constant sinus congestion, but I'm having a hard time getting worked up.

I will, however, let commenter Jai speak for me:

Feb. 16, Sister Act - This one was pretty good, until Rip's comment at the end. This seems out of character for him to say, especially considering the huge "They don't make married couples like this, anymore!" aspect that comprises 99% of his personality. I was hoping he would say something Miranda didn't expect him to, which would have been funny and kept him an admirable old-fashioned sort of man's man.

Fake Scott McCloud aside: Punchlines don't always have to be in character, which is what can make them funny. That said, this was totally predictable and, hence, not funny. Does anyone else get the weird impression that drawing Miranda is some sort of cheap thrill for Kurtz?

Feb. 17, Sound Advice - Wahahaa ha, whoo boy, a "Just don't screw it up!" punchline! HILARIOUS! Wow! *Grits teeth and tries to keep from tearing his hair out* For fuck's sake, this would have been more interesting if the final panel was totally devoid of dialogue. This is two strips in a row where Mr. Kurtz has an interesting and well-executed setup going on, only to (I feel) blow it as badly as he possible can at the last instant.

FSM: Agreed.

Feb. 18, Kitten and Stormy - Brent doesn't care for "pet names" and Jade doesn't care! Whoo-whee! Well, it works on the "arbitrary exposition" level. It seems like it could have been made interesting or even, gasp, funny if the couple had used some ridiculous pet names for each other, or if one of them had taken slight offense where none was intended over one of the sample pet names. Still, there's nothing to hate about this strip. It's just not interesting in any way (Sorry, Scott's parents. I guess we can't always get something worthwhile in the strip out of your actual lives).

FSM: If neither character cares about pet names in the beginning of the strip, the whole strip is a waste of time. To create humor, we need conflict. The strip would have worked better if they had started out jealous of their closeness and their pet names.

Feb. 19, Make War, Not Love - Well, this is a random direction to take. Brent is again assuming that Cole is going to "make" them play tabletop D&D despite there being no evidence of it? "Things have been stressful" lately, so "we all" could use a bit of a release? I thought that Cole was absolutely the only one under any stress lately. Oh, laff, now they're going to go play paintball. Ok. As an artistic aside, I'm getting REALLY really tired of how Cole's tie looks. I daresay it is the crappiest-looking thing in the entire history of PVP. You can't slap two black triangles together and make a good-looking tie, even in cartoon land (Wait, ok, yes you can. But it's called a bowtie). I've never cared for his bizarrely-shaped glasses, either, but what are you gonna do?

FSM: No comment. Except that riffing off of Edwin Starr's "War" should be an indictable offense.

Feb. 20, Let's shoot sumthin' - This strip is pretty good, and in fact my only complaint is that this appears to be an explanation for what's going on in the "Cole's marriage is doomed oh no" storyline. Apparently couple's therapy is driving Cole much more crazy than being in a doomed loveless (Or something?) marriage. TFSM has pointed out his disappointment over Cole's utter lack of an emotional response to his situation (Which I agree with). And now Cole is finally expressing quite a LOT of emotion . . . But, uh, it's over having to go to couple's therapy? Is that not what Cole wants? I'd give Mr. Kurtz the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe we're seeing the dark side of Cole, that Cole is in fact wanting to divorce his wife or something and everything that went wrong in his marriage is Cole's own fault and that he doesn't even care if he loses his wife. But this looks a lot more like it's only meant to be a quick chortle (And the actual punchline at the end is decent) that reminds us that Mr. Kurtz has not, in fact, completely forgotten the "Cole's marriage might be doomed oh no!" storyline. What an emotional rollercoaster.

FSM: What. The fuck. I can not express fully my distaste for how Cole's story is being handled. Every moment of it has either been too dramatic, or the opposite. If the resolution of the divorce story is this tangential reference... I don't know. I'll stop paying for it? (You see, that's a joke, because we get it for free.) It's just sad. I had no idea reconciliation was an option. Is it just me? I thought the divorce was the story, not a Three's-Company-style brouhaha that is resolved in 30 minutes. (It's the end of the world! Oh wait, here's some salve. Credits.)

Couples counseling. Please. Are we really supposed to believe that Cole is so immature that he didn't already try that? OH! And are we really to believe that it was the "talking to" Cole got from Brent's dad that sent him scurrying back home? Grrrr...

This is some weak shit, yo.

Feb. 21, Let the games begin - Since Brent apparently has absolutely no experience with paintball nor any apparent latent desire to play and learn about it, I'm not sure why he finds Miranda's far greater knowledge of the subject to be sexy. Except, of course, that he wants to bang her anyway and would do it in a heartbeat. Yeah, I can't get enough of that "joke", especially with his marriage coming up. As a technical aside, Miranda's question of "And we can use our own markers?" is awkward. "Can we use our own markers?" might have served her better.

FSM: Miranda again. Amiright?


Anonymous said...

I think Scott's problem may be that he simply has had no exposure to a shaky marriage, other than those scenarios we see on "The Love Boat" where the adolescent kids conspire to keep their troubled parents together.

Good for him, I guess, if he grew up in a stable home and his relationship with his wife is solid enough that he has nothing to draw on. But relying on shallow pop culture to provide the inner lives for your characters is a mistake.

I remember the first time I had to break up with a girlfriend. Imagine my surprise when it didn't come off like you see in virtually every TV drama: A confrontation, followed by some harsh words on either side, and then a 15 minutes later, the ex-couple resignedly parts ways with some melancholy glances. No, my breakups were more along the lines of those we saw on Seinfeld - long protracted screaming & crying matches, that ultimately resort in you staying together for another few months, when the cycle repeats.

And which scenario generates more laughs?

Reis said...

Two comments I can think of...

Feb. 19 - Because the "Things are in a lull, lets play D&D" is a running gag on PvP and has been for a while. That's all the evidence Brent needs; Scott is perfectly happy to have his characters act on 4th-wall knowledge, and always has been.

Feb. 21 - Because a lot of guys find women who are in to stereotypically "guy" activities to be sexy, regardless of if they, as guys, are even in to said activity. I see this in real life, I don't think it was out of place here.

Stephen Geigen-Miller said...

I'm going to focus on how the 'Cole's Marital Woes' storyline intersects with the 'Paintball" storyline. Mostly because I'm finding Jai and FSM's comments on the subject very interesting, and quite different from my own viewpoint.

I'm particularly surprised at the suggestion that Cole's marriage must already have been dead because he surely wouldn't be so immature as to not have tried couples counselling already.

Cole is incredibly immature. He's thin-skinned, holds childish grudges and boils with resentment at people who are more fortunate than he is.

Cole seems mature in the context of the strip because we only really have the other people at PvP to compare him to. (And in fact, Brent, as shown by the personal growth and responsibility he displayed when he thought Jade was pregnant, may now be more mature than Cole.)

Yes, Cole is the Kermit of PvP. He's the planner, the straight man, the leader as much as there is one. But Kermit is still a Muppet, and being the least immature person in the room doesn't make you mature.

Cole has a wife and two children that he barely mentions, that we never see and that he never sees because he's too busy pulling wacky schemes with his work buddies. The guy never goes home.

Well, now we know what he's been avoiding.

Cole has been burying himself in work and "work" and screwing around in the General Lee. He blew God only knows how much money from the WWF (for the panda) buying out Max Powers just because he doesn't like the guy. Hope his kids didnt need braces. Or want to go to college.

He's immature.

It's totally in character for him to be frustrated at being forced into dealing with his problems head-on, even if on another level he knows that it's something he should be doing. It's totally in character for him to deal with his frustration by cooking up yet another wacky scheme.

As an emotional response to the crisis in his marriage, it's entirely in character, and as close to realistic as you can expect from a sit-com like PvP.

Fake Scott McCloud said...

@Stephen Geigen-Miller:

I'm going to call shenanigans on your last point -- It may be in character for Cole to do what he did, but it makes for shitty story-telling.

Julia said...

I had never noticed how horrible Cole's tie is, but now that it's been pointed out, wow. Especially when we get a larger view like in the second and third frame of Sunday's strip.

Stephen Geigen-Miller said...

There are a lot of things about Scott's recent efforts in storytelling -- as tries to incorporate longer-term plot threads and character development -- that haven't worked, FSM. I'm definitely not going to argue with you there!

But I actually liked the storytelling in "Let's Shoot Sumthin'"

In four panels, Scott managed to get right to the heart of Cole's character flaws and how they've put his marriage in jeopardy; he advanced that subplot without devoting a lot of time and space to it (we now know that Cole and his wife are in therapy and working on their marriage).

At the same time, he advanced the current Paintball plot, and delivered a servicable gag at the end.

In my book, that's solid storytelling. Light years ahead of the jarring cut away from the "Cole's Marriage" plot to those non-sequitur strips.

I mean, no: It's not the Great Outdoor Fight. But what is?

Jai said...

Well, Sir Geigen-Miller, that isn't too far off from my own thoughts about Cole. There's no question that the man is immature. There's a very good article that I read some time ago about how the "good guy" of PVP is actually Max Powers, and Cole is just an asshole.

And yet, Cole is undeniably a hugely sympathetic character. He's the main character of this show, after all, and we see all the time that he tries to do what he thinks is right. We aren't privy to the knowledge of WHY he thinks he's always doing the right thing, nor do any of the other main players call him out or think less of him for being obviously immature (I suppose, perhaps, because they're all immature. Is this why only Max Powers can't see Skull?). Instead, we just see the PVP strip keep chugging along and never once does the author write in any indication in the strip that he realizes that Cole is in no way deserving of his sympathetic main character family-friendly role.

And, while Cole is undeniably petty and immature regarding his "arch-enemy" and other things that seem silly to us, I would still give him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his marriage and kids. If he blows those off as readily as he ignores pandas and races the General Lee off of a jump, then he becomes something far worse than just the "immature, well-meaning boss" he's always been. And PVP will be totally altered. How can anyone look up to or laugh at the antics of the man to whom even "family" means nothing?

Reader said...

You people do realize that this is a comic-strip, right? This isn't some Hemmingway novel that you're reading. I'm fairly sure that you read way too much in to this strip. Just read it. If it's funny, it's funny. If it's not, it's not. Apparently you people need more to do at your jobs. I'm only here because I saw the link in one of Kurtz's posts. Have fun, losers.

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