Thursday, February 7, 2008

Wait -- that's it?

I just read the strip from Feb 1 (Sleep Over).

Really? That's it? The climax of the whole Cole debacle is "To good women"?

I'm going to read ahead for a bit to make sure nothing else has come up...

Ok. No.

At the risk of flailing, what the hell was the point? 12 strips of I-don't-know-what; it felt like we got the entire arc but no story. How the heck do you base a 12-strip storyline on Cole's pending divorce and then proceed to give us no information regarding the divorce?

Kurtz seems to thrive on running the emotional gamut of his characters, without giving them any meat to play with. We started with offended, moved to contrite, then sympathetic, comradely and indulgent, with a side of drunk.

In the final strip Brent and Cole are being very mature, which brings our emotional state count to 7. This is after 11 strips of entirely predictable behavior. So... what? The characters are normal people? Do we really read comic strips to observe normal people? Sure, we expect them to end up somewhere sane, but we expect a little insanity-slash-hilarity along the way,

You know what emotion we didn't see in Cole? Pain. He said he was in pain, and you would expect a man going through a divorce to be in pain, but he never once acted like it. A man in pain breaks things, punches people, throws up, buys insane gifts for himself, gets tatooed. He doesn't pack his things and write it off after one boozy night with his pal.

There is one exchange -- one -- that rings true:

It's a nicely complex experience, this. You want the truth, but it hurts. I expected this to lead into the story behind Cole's break up -- you know, the whole point of the arc.

"I HAVE PROBLEMS" is not a storyline, at least not one worth reading.


Dorko said...

Ok, I've been reading this blog since Mr. Kurtz linked it. I think your criticisms are largely legit, if at times nitpicky.

I *think* that Mr. Kurtz intends to revisit this. Rather than draw out the Cole's Divorce storyline into one looooong and continuous story, he's going to break it up into periodic installments as a small part of the over arcing Brent/Jade marriage storyline that will be his general focus this year.

We've seen Cole admitting his marriage is ending. That's step one. It's like how the engagement was step one in the marriage story, but it didn't immediately lead into a walk down the aisle.

TheOriginalJes said...

Who said it's over? I didn't see a panel where he moved back home. I did see a panel commenting on what appears to be SK's real-life frustration with the comicbook establishment...

Now, I'm not 100% sure of what I'm about to say next, so I expect a lot of correcting coming my way.

I seem to remember Cole moving in with Brent over marital problems once before. (I'm just too lazy to wade through years of archives to find it.) As I recall, the ending was lack-luster. Just Brent annoying Cole back to his wife.

But, it set a precedent. -Cole's marriage isn't perfect.- Since then, the mag has become successful enough for Cole to buy out Max. So, he must have been working his ass off since the last separation. Thus, adding to the marital strain.

I wouldn't expect SK to wrap it up anytime soon. Once he works out the particulars (...and his new art), he could dedicate a whole book just to a divorce and a custody battle over the General Lee and the DeLorean, or something even bigger. Who knows?

Either way, I'm still not holding my breathe for Hemmingway-esque descriptions of Cole's pain. That's asking him to ink out feelings he's never had to face (by his own admission - good for you Scott! I hope you never have to...)

Scott said...

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.

Jai said...

It doesn't feel like it, since the "divorce" storyline got dropped in favor of no less than SIX utterly random, have-nothing-to-do-with-each-other-nor-is-the-divorce-storyline-even-hinted-at strips.

You picked an awkward time to spend a week giving us random strips, man. A 12-strip storyline isn't something that should really be dropped off of a cliff and ignored for no discernable reason for an indeterminate amount of time. Not when it didn't even GET anywhere first. Now we're expected to just let it go until it comes up again, as the PVP characters are apparently willing to do despite the rather large differences it rudely made in their lives?

More importantly, though, can someone explain that Iron Man strip to me?

Jai said...

Oh yeah, and I like your recent more-realistic drawings. Sure, it clashes a lot with the design of every other human in the strip, but it means you're gonna redraw those other characters, too, right? To look better? At least redraw Brent's hair? Maybe? I can dream.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, Scott, you have a habit of sidelining stories never to return to them. This has largely been true ever since you've been writing pvp.

As opposed to get butthurt when he actually does hit on something you care about, Scott, maybe you should realize there is some truth to his criticisms.

These themes you've developed in your cartooning are oft-commented upon on your forums. Or were, at one point, except for the fact that your defense brigade of nancy-boy fans seems intent to drive off everyone who doesn't share their collective group-think vision.

I like PvP a lot. I enjoy it a hell of a lot more than Penny Arcade. It isn't the lack of gaming references that is plaguing pvp; it's YOUR constant need to be sophisticated and stretch yourself to meet some hitherto unknown expectations.

What I think it really comes down to is that you've been drawing this comic for so long that you feel like it has to have some content to it, like it has to be something more than meat and potatoes, like you have to meet the expectations that you are enforcing upon yourself for it to be better drawn and better written.

Your desire to grow as a writer and for your characters to grow is admirable. I find a lot of your subplots to be very charming. My favorite, to date, is the one where Brent thinks he might be a father. That also stands as one of the few completed subplots you have ever finished in the history of pvp, as well. Coincidence? I think not. I also think that subplot came from the heart, whereas some of your others seem like simple exercises in writing that you get bored with or can't figure out how to end halfway through.

My apologies, I am rambling. I simply think it is both defensive and rude to dismiss some of the most valid opinions you have been given in your whole career. Your fanbase will never give you any valid opinions with any depth on your skills, Scott. In a way, your fanbase is worse than that of Penny Arcade's; theirs has no pretense of being mature, at least.

I hope that your kneejerk reaction will calm over time and that you can find benefit into the thoughts that someone else has obviously put time into. If not, then I wish you well on your journey to be taken seriously as a cartoonist. I am not quite sure why that is so important for you, but until you realize that is the single largest obstacle in your way, you will never be taken so. Besides, isn't being taken seriously overrated? The Far Side never grew up and neither did Peanuts.

When you go off into your tangents about your style and your writing I sometimes think you're not trying to convince anyone but yourself of what you have to say. It's a bloody cartoon, not art house cinema. You can do one or the other well (I'd argue about art house cinema ever being good, myself, but that's beside the point) but if you keep half-assing both then you're just doing both---badly.

You can have a comedic drama or a dramatic comedy but you can't simply throw a soap opera into the middle of a sitcom. It has to be real and reasonable to the source material and unfortunately, as Fake Scott McCloud has pointed out time and again, it isn't.

Anonymous said...

Bravo and brilliantly said to everyone above, except those who inexplicably defend as graceful (when it is actually clumsy and truncated) Scott's latest halfhearted, watch-this-guys-I-promise-it'll-be-worth-the-wait gesture toward actual depth and consistency -- actual DELIVERY on the ambitions for PvP he so often (and so defensively) trumpets in his posts.

The Cole storyline got dropped, pure and simple, as Scott scurried back in his borderline-personality way to the punchlines he imagines will placate his critics. He's very approach-and-retreat about these forays into artistic growth, have you noticed that? And he always seems to have one eye nervously on his readers, even as he claims to be true to his own vision. I'm sure he will eventually return to it in his neurotic oscillation between love-me-I'm-funny and cry-with-me-I'm-deep performance of himself as an artist.

TFSM is dead-on in his dissection of this abortive arc. Cole never showed pain (just turned into a variation of Oscar on the odd couple) and we never gained any insight into what makes him tick as a person and what makes his marriage what it is. Cole's wife? Off-stage. A blank space.

TFSM, keep speaking truth to power. It's good to have you back.

Anonymous said...

i have to admit the divorce storyline seemed like a big cop out. i find it really hard to relate to the story because it just came out of nowhere. we don't actually see cole's wife, so to me it's just a blank page. and there was no real resolution. it just seemed like he took a really serious situation and just made it really awkward.

Anthracis said...

*as forgivness I am ill while typing this so forgive typos, even if it dampens my creedibility*

I totally agree with TFSmC. I was eagerly following the developing storyline of coles divorce with interest. As Kurtz repeatedly mentions in his posts that he's trying to make his characters seem more human, or realistic. This storyline seemed to finally make headway in that department, and i honestly felt bad for cole. However, the sudden drop of the arc for gag strips suddenly had me lose intrest. Brent Hardly seemed fretful over his trying to help cole in the strip
How am i really supposed to feel for the charecters if they step out of current pressing issues. After all as FSmC said normal people would be angry, etc. etc. An analogy would be someone dropping the ribbon cutters at a ceremony and saying "I'll deal with it later"
You may return to it later but will there be the same gusto or excitment as before? Of course not. People will have to be reminded or look back, and still the same emotions won't fully be there.
One gag strip may be understandable as Kurtz is human, and things pile up. But this many days is absurd. I however find that hardly credable as he seems to have time for all these other pet projects. It almost seems as though Kurtz has lost intrest in PvP himself (side topic i guess.)
And the argument of this is recurring in PvP is a false as well. Could you imagine if this was pulled when: brent proposed to jade, let alone got back together with Jade in Las Vegas, when PvP was about to go bankrupt, etc. The reader backlash would be huge.
I guess the heart of the argument is that Kurtz wants to make Cole seem more human like Jade and Brent, but seems scared to take that plunge.

Tired of Lost said...

I'm actually thinking that this might be a stylistic issue - and I get that, because it's a style that drives me up the wall on Lost.

The storyteller first tells you that something important has happened or is happening. Then, the storyteller focuses on things that are peripheral to the main event, and only feeds details out very painfully, piece by piece.

I hate it on Lost, and I'm not thrilled to see it here.

Osric said...

I came damn close to removing PVP from my favorites list because of what came after the divorce "storyline." A half dozen strips that have absolutely nothing to do with anything??? What the heck is that?

Scott, you keep talking about your "art" and how much fun you are having since you are pushing the boundries. Do yourself (and everyone else) a favor. Forget about the "art" and concentrate on telling a good story.

Not sure why I keep reading. Habit I guess. Habits are meant to be broken, though.

Jai said...

Wow, some long comments in here suitable for framing. It's good to know that Mr. Kurtz will actually read them.

John said...

See, in a way, I think that TFSM is acting as a type of "editor" for Kurtz that is badly needed. I think Kurtz has some really good ideas that sometimes get poorly presented due to the lack of any input outside of the writer.

Let's assume for a moment that Kurtz does plan on bringing the divorce storyline back, and that, somehow, it will tie in to all the other strips he's been posting (save the Iron Man one, I mean seriously WTF?). If that is the case, how is the reader supposed to konw that? He's given no indication of that, no indication of whether Cole's moved out, if Brent still cares, or anything. And that is where an editor can come in. Someone like TFSM could ask Kurtz "Why are you letting the story drop so suddenly?" and help Kurtz segue between arcs a little more smoothly. I also think it would help some of the characterization issues that have been brought up here (and others that haven't yet).

One final thing that is very obvious to me is that this is clearly not a "I Hate PVP" site. TFSM is giving pretty damn good constructive criticism that I think (and hope!) that Kurtz reads and thinks about. That's not to say that he should bow to TFSM every claim and demand, but listening and thinking about criticism is one very good way to help yourself grow as an artist/writer.

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