Friday, March 7, 2008

Re: Breaking the Fourth Wall

[Note: There are comments in this post about the latest strip (Missing in Action). I don't have any real thoughts about it (except that a "Hey..." in the third panel might have helped the segue), so we might as well keep commenting on it here.]

I haven't been able to decide whether it's worth responding to one of Scott Kurtz' most recent comments (I'm assuming it's him), but I'm leaning toward yes, so here it goes. (As has happened before, this post may get a little less objective than I'd like. Can't be helped.)

Today was an experiment.

I had Francis do the 4th wall break and look at the camera specifically because you pointed out how it would have improved a previous strip with Jade.

Nice try to cover your ass about that at the end of your post though.


I'm flashing back to your friend's comment about "it's funny because it's impossible"; it's a very black-and-white viewpoint. The same thing is happening here -- just because I suggested it once doesn't mean I'm waiting to see it, or that I think it's the best option in all cases. In fact, I happen to think it's an extreme case because it means the character has nothing of their own to say.

When I suggested it (A Predictable Complaint), I was wishing for a more appropriate response to Skull's "meat shield" moment, the ridiculousness of which was under-served by Jade's lack of response. Just as in that strip there was a better response than no response, in yesterday's strip there was a much better option for Francis than simply gazing at the audience. He'd just heard some great news, the best news he'd heard all day I'd wager -- Brent is about to suffer the indignity of wearing a bra.

How can he not engage with that? How can his overriding reaction not be about Brent and the hilarity to ensue? Instead, if Francis had had a thought bubble, it would have been, "Yes folks, he said it was a bra." Hardly the best option available for the character or the story.

If you're under the impression that I think I have a list of rules or a better formula that I'm trying to make you see, you're wrong. I don't. There isn't one and there ought not to be, in fact, and I'd like to think that my comments (and the comments of others) have tried to impress upon you that we could do with a lot less formula, and more spontaneity, more emotion.

There's another way to think about this -- your characters are bad actors. They could use some workshopping to get them thinking about their roles.

This experiment went a long way in validating the way I feel about the direction this site has kind of gone in.

By this I'm inferring that you feel this site is nothing but negative, no matter what the strip is, or what you do to it. Well, it's both true and not true. It's mostly negative because that's how I feel about PVP; much of it is worth criticizing, and there's a lot of room for improvement.

On the other hand it's not true because your "experiment" was faulty from the start. I'm not looking for you to put my ideas into the strip -- I'm looking for you to have more ideas.


Sage said...

TFSM, I agree with the post . . . and thats surprising if you look back at my history. (Ha)

The bad actors comment is probably the best way to put it. I like the humor in the strip and for a daily (one of the 4 that I read) its the most consistently funny. However, like a scene where an actor is smirking when its supposed to be serious, some of the facial reactions take you out of that. Thats all we're saying.

I even did say a POSITIVE in the last post that Jade's first panel "hand to mouth, wide-eyed uh no, what have I done" look was very good. Its ot like we're saying. I still have no idea what the "experiment" was that he was looking for.

Anonymous said...

Well said, TFSM!

Jai said...

Did I really comment on the last blog post AFTER this more recent blog post was published? Damn it, I need to remember to refresh the webpages I'm idling on.

No, I really have nothing else to contribute. The "bad actors" analogy is quite apt, even though we finally got a couple of great expressions in It's never lupus (And, of course, the House character has only one expression. And it doesn't lend itself well to either a "cranky, self-serving ass just like the real House" persona, or even to a "this is a serious doctor that is loosely based on House but only around for the role of serious-looking-doctor-that-knows-a-lot-about-nipples" persona).

Sage said...

Missing in Action -
The new strip is up, and its good. I like the last panel that gives the scope of how lost skull really is, that did make me chuckle. Also, did you notice Cole's response in the first panel? A mixture of the revulsion and curiosity at the "bra" (thankfully not looking like the Madonna 90's version)

The one thing id like to note is the "no bitching about bra and no bitching about not getting to shoot max" Was it just Brent or a mixture of Scott telling some people not to complian?

;) Ha now THATS looking to deep into thigns.

Anonymous said...

im just convinced that this blog is going to drive mistah kurtz crazy.

all this feedback, on every strip has to be disorienting, like in audio feedback, leaving Kurtz to be a poor shred of a cartoonist, babbling "the horror, the horror..."

Jai said...

That last panel of Skull lost in the woods really makes me wish Mr. Kurtz was at all into the idea of coloring at least SOME of his strips. That would be such an awesome shot with color. Anyway, good stuff.

Brent's "behind the head" view is pretty good, although I think his ponytail highlight line shouldn't look tucked underneath his shoulder line. That makes no sense.

Julia said...

I don't know, I wasn't too thrilled with the latest. There didn't seem to be much connection between the first two and last two panels.

Jai said...

Well, the first two panels seem to be the equivalent of Mr. Kurtz breaking off the pressure release valve of the "Cole wants to play paintball" (And, by extension, part of the "Cole wants a divorce") storyline build-up strips with a wrench. Looks like we're moving on to an entirely different story "arc" again! Isn't this fun?

Jai said...

Damn, another thought:

I really don't know about the situation with Brent's nipple in Missing in Action. It clearly could be funny, along the lines of "Brent's been anticipating Francis and/or Max feeling some pain from paintball, and now HE'S the only one who got shot and he's being a baby about it". BUT, it turns out that was sacrificed to the "let's draw this nipple dislocation injury out really far and turn it into a serious injury to make the nipple thing a better joke" angle. I can't laugh at Brent being peeved and girly about being shot when it really DID place his life in danger. So the first coupla panels made me feel weird, because I wanted to laugh at Brent and belatedly realized there wasn't actually a joke there. Brent has every reason to be pissed about nearly dying due to a nonsensical nipple setup.

I'm not sure what my point is, I'm just confusing myself. I'm getting mixed feelings about the first two panels, and I can't really tell if I have anyone to blame but myself.

And I almost forgot: Thanks for drawing a hairline on the back of Francis' head today, Mr. Kurtz.

neddy said...

I concur with Jai's last post.

Skeeter said...

I too am confused about the complete lack of a transition between the first two and last two panels. It's especially incongruous coming from Brent, who typically does not care about Skull at all.

If one of the other characters had asked the question, perhaps awkwardly following Brent's mandate of not talking about his ludicrous nipple injury, then I would be a bit more forgiving.

Anonymous said...

With Scott's friend/sockpuppet, I'm reminded of a sketch on MTV's The State from years ago. There's a guy in a white labcoat telling you what's funny and why. It gets increasingly difficult to follow his logic as all his black and white assertions fail to be...funny.

Much like all of PvP.

Sage said...

Since Scott doesn't appreciate us critiquing his work I;ll let some people he used to get information from:

Doesn't that kinda just sum up our whole complaint about the paintball storyline?

Rachel said...

Missing In Action's lack of any sort of segue carries Brent's brisk and serious tone into asking about Skull. This makes him sound like he cares a lot about where Skull is. Whether or not he does, he certainly wouldn't let it show.

My two cents on It's Never Lupus: I'd prefer to see Francis in the last panel imagining the mocking to ensue... a look of pure bliss... especially since it now looks like he won't get to experience that after all.

Otherwise I really like the House cameo.

Anonymous said...

It is a bit disappointing that Kurtz was happy to 'malform' the strip for what appears to be (going on his comment) the sole purpose of proving someone wrong. Seems petty and at the expense of his creation.

Like you said, the situation dictates good usage, not a hard and fast rule.

Anonymous said...

Someone who saw PVP alone would come to the conclusion that Scott can't draw anything more than a few figures that he has memorised in his head. The static facial expressions are a huge contribution to this impression.

It can be surprising to see some of Scott's other work and discover that he actually can pull off a competent drawing. Why doesn't he put the same effort into his most popular comic?

Anonymous said...

An addendum to the above: it seems that everybody who takes a sip out of a cup in the PVP world dribbles some of the drink. That drop of liquid is one of the few points of action that are seen in the strip, but it is so repetitive that it comes across as another template drawing. Just a further minor example of how the art in PVP so often manages to be uninteresting.

There have been some recent attempts to expand the drawings though (I'm thinking primarily of the time Jade lay down to read a book.) Credit where it's due, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Hahahaha, Kurtz got owned in The Whiteboard like the putz he is.

Your excuses don't fly, buddy man. You're full of shit and you know it, Scott! Stop trying to be something you're not and just write a funny damn webcomic again, or is that asking too much? Well, you do worship Jim Davis, so here's to ya, you're really living up to the creative output of your idol, mate.

Anonymous said...

it's unfortunate that kurtz keeps coming on here trying to defend all the criticism made here. he should just let his work speak for itself and stop coming off as another whiny artist.

i used to really love pvp, but the past couple years, i'm really getting tired of reading scott bitch about every little thing.

Fellow Webcomic Artist said...

This one? click

I have to wonder if Scott is happy that he's disappointed so many people. I'm sure he expected this when he and his friend came up with the whole nipple thing. Hopefully he wont do this again as I'd like to see the story arcs all the way through.

That's all I ask of Scott, so as far as I'm concerned he should have just ignored all the emails and let Reggie play, let Brent have his goggles and have Francis not break the fourth wall.

Anonymous said...

Scott, just please... stop. Just stop. PVP is awful, stop hurting the fans that helped you create it into something that's actually profitable (but I doubt you make more than $50K a year off of it) by slapping them in the face with lame humor, prematurely ended story arcs, mishmash art styles and the same gags you began the strip with. Please stop. Just stop. Get all the energy you're putting into a dozen other half-assed projects and put it back into PVP!

Anonymous said...

Everytime you abandon a story arc, Baby Jesus cries.

Dave said...

This is the type of relationship Scott should have with his readers :)

Paul T. said...

From the PVP website: "How to Make Webcomics hits stores on March 12th. We got word today."

Hey Kurtz, any chance at all it will have a chapter entitled "How to publish your strips on time"? No, wait a minute... You wrote the book... Not a chance in hell it will have a chapter on that...

As usual, it's Sunday afternoon and Friday's strip is still up...

OH! Oh, I'm sorry! I'm sure it was the time change that fubar'd the server... How insensitive of me to jump the gun with my complaint...

That get's you off the hook for Sunday... What's your excuse for Saturday??!!!

I really wish I didn't like PVP as much as I do...

Sage said...

hey everyone heres is a copy of Scott's latest post from PVP:

"Dislocated nipple is funny. Fuck you haters. That's funny shit. I laughed.

Skull is still out in the woods. The fun ain't quite over yet."

SO I think that proves a couple of things.
1) Scott and "evil scott" appear to be legitimate and the same person as all the posts were written in the same style.
2) He truely believes that dislocated nipples are the funniest thing since "who's on first" was performd and Richard Pryor was alive.
3) If you dont believe it was funny you are a "hater" (man when did artists become so sensitive they go off like a women who u say looks fat in a dress?)
4) Despite the fact that he got a negative recation on his own board (and in this thread it was like here, very little flaming and name callin) he still decides to say "fuck you" to his readers despite a different of opinion

Very smart

I like that Skull's lost and that could lead to some fun things, but don't suggest anything or Skull's nipples may be in danger!

Zoe said...

Still no Webcomics Weekly podcast either, I'm guessing it's because of the upcoming book release, which I preordered.

Does anyone post on the PvP forum? On here, most users have something interesting to say, over there you get lots of spamming like it's YouTube or something. You would think it would be the other way round, wouldnt you?

No wonder Scott comes on here for real feedback that doesnt result in flaming.

I noticed they weren't too happy about the paintball ending either. His response was; "Dislocated nipple is funny. Fuck you haters. That's funny shit. I laughed."

I can't tell when he's messing around or really being insulting anymore.

zoe said...

Oops sage beat me to it, sorry sage ^_^

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with others. If it hadn't have been for the Lupus reference, I wouldn't have known Scott was trying to draw House. I'd have just assumed he was trying to do another one of his awkward 'real people' drawings and moved on.

I do have to wonder if that is actually why he stole the show's running joke? He realised that hardly anyone would recognise his caricature otherwise.

Adam said...

Comments for the latest strip?

Rescue Party

Julia said...

Is it just me or is there a misplaced period in the third panel? "I'm sure he can take care of himself. Until we get there." Shouldn't that be one sentence?

Also, Brent is continuing to be completely out of character for no apparent reason. Maybe it's leading to a joke at the end, but for now it's just weird and off putting.

evan said...

Francis explained it as estrogen from the dislocated nipple. It could be that I suppose. If that turns out to be real and not just Francis goading Brent, I don't know that he's the right character to have come up with the correct reasoning

R.W.McGee said...

PvP has jumped the shark!

Sage said...

Yeah, that period placement was weird. Either it was meant to be a . . . (ellipses) or a comma, threw me a little.

WE do have good facial expressions and Francis is gloading as he should be, and I luaghed as well. Its interesting that Brent doesnt want to come off as inhuman though. And the ending sets up the next few strips so no complaints. A Troll high on mushrooms may be fun

Anonymous said...

Any reason why Scott has been late every single weekend for what feels like the last 1-2 months?

I used to expect this type of lateness of him, but for the past few years he's been mostly good...

Jai said...

I'm happy with Rescue Party. Other than the extra period Julia mentioned, my only quibble is Skull's dialogue. For one thing, he emphasized the word "eat". This implies that there are other things that less-edible mushrooms are good for to him. Which is kind of, well, what? Weird-sounding. Worse, Skull's dialogue is just not very interesting or funny here; it's a weak punchline without the knowledge that these mushrooms are OBVIOUSLY not going to be "good to eat". And we don't have any way of knowing that, except that that's how these things ALWAYS end up in PVP.

Too bad, because the rest of the strip is great. Full-body shot of Skull? Everyone looks lively and aware of what's going on around them? Brent seems to have an ulterior motive in being concerned for Skull (And the other characters seem to have picked up on how he's behaving un-characteristically)? I'm down with that.

Anonymous said...

That "misplaced" full stop really shouldn't be throwing anybody off. It's bad written English, but perfectly fine for spoken English. He's adding "until we get there" as an afterthought, thus indicating that he has doubts himself.

Perhaps an elipsis would have been more to your liking, in which case he actually has two too few.

Anonymous said...

Whoa there, jai, we know that the mushrooms are probably not good to eat because it is very easy to mistake harmful mushrooms for good ones. It is common knowledge that picking up random mushrooms in the field is a very stupid thing to do. Skull obviously doesn't know what he's doing, which is an immediate reversal of Cole's claim of Skull being able to take care of himself, which is what the joke is. Not a great joke, but not too bad a one for the safe sort of strip that PVP is. Do you expect to wet your pants laughing every day?

Anonymous said...

and how about that scott is the undisputed king of being at-least-one-day-behind-at-all-times? i mean really. "ding!" can be on time because the paycheck says so, but pvp is suffering for it.

you were falling behind before! and you picked up MORE work?!

Sunny said...

The thing is, when Scott is late with the strips he won't mention it in the blog and he certainly won't apologise for it.

pvponline: "Seriously considering moving to 5 days a week on the 10 year anniversary. I figure 10 years has earned me my weekends. Not sure though"

He posted this on his Twitter page.

I think he should really consider this and cut down to 5 a week. He's doing too many other projects and it's starting to harm PvP.

Given the choice I would rather have 5 days of good PvP with good art and writing over 7 days of average PvP.

I'm sure it would be a hard decision for him to make, but it's worth it if it means he can work on other projects like Ding!

Jai said...

Whoa there, anonymous! Here's a fun fact: Most mushrooms are edible. Not even counting the psychadelic ones (Although I'm not discounting the bad-tasting edible ones).

Julia said...

The funny thing is how on Twitter Kurtz says that his traffic crashes on the weekends. Maybe that's because it's been months since there's been a weekend update? Getting Saturday's on Sunday was a rare treat. But I can understand not updating on the weekend, even if you committed yourself to, but it's the late weekdays that really bother me. It's noon and the site still shows Saturday.

Anonymous said...

So, let me see if I've got this straight.

Lazy sack of shit Kurtz stops coloring his strips, he's still chronically late. Now, he wants to go to only five days a week? Does anyone actually expect that will improve his ability to meet deadlines? At all?

Sean said...

it appears that an internet comics' success can be judged by how late the strips are allowed to be posted.

reference, achewood.

Anonymous said...

The thing is, there are much better webcomics out there, in color, and on time. Just check out Ugly Hill and Captain Excelcior, for example. Kurtz is a lousy, no-talent hack with a child's hair trigger temper-tamtrum releasing demeanor. He's a giant fucking pussy whose self-esteem is inversely proportionate to his overall body mass.

Jim Cowling said...

"Given the choice I would rather have 5 days of good PvP with good art and writing over 7 days of average PvP."

Unfortunately, we don't get that choice. We usually get 2 days of average PvP and four or five days of substandard PvP with the occasional outlier: the funny PvP or the execrable PvP.

PvP proves that one can earn a living at something without actually being a professional. One would think that Kurtz would build up a stockpile of strips. Then, if he wanted to take a few days off without hiring guest artists to produce clearly superior product, he could. A couple of gag strips a week, outside of the 'continuity' to post on weekends, maybe.

As it is, it's like the old saw about bad restaurants: the food was terrible, and the portions were small.

I mean, clearly Kurtz has time to work up a stockpile, since he has time to jump into the online forums to insult his readers and to tell them that he knows what's funny better than they do (he doesn't) and that their criticisms are meritless (they aren't) and that he's working very hard (he isn't).

But he chooses not to. And that kind of lazy always bites folks in the ass. Hugely popular strips have seen their audiences shrink when their creators have been unable to innovate or have been unable to maintain a schedule. Remember when Sluggy Freelance was the belle of the ball?

At this rate, Kurtz'll be trying to get into advertising design within a couple of years.

Caren W. said...

There's a new comic up, I'd be very surprised if no one expected this to happen. ^^;

As for Scott, whether he means it or not, I really don't think he should call his fans haters and tell them to fuck off if they express any disappointment with his comic.

It's sad really because you don't expect this kind of behaviour from someone you admire. I've been an avid follower of PVP for almost a year now.

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