Monday, July 28, 2008

Nits and Picks

I like the Family Circus take offs (Family Troll - Part One), if only because they are of obviously limited scope and they break us away from last week's god-awful filler material.

I have two nits to pick, one with each comic. One is worth reading, the other not; I'll let you decide which is which.

Comic 1: In the Family Circus, dialog not not cross the comic/caption wall. If it does, the caption is commentary on the dialog in the comic, eg, the parents commenting on the children without involvement with the children. The Family Circus formula does not support A then B conversation across the wall.

Yes, I just made all that crap up, but I think it's true, and this is not an exception that proves the rule.

Bzzzt. See the comments for links to multiple Family Circuses that prove me wrong.

Comic 2: Perhaps this is a small piece of social commentary hidden inside a Simpsons joke disguised as a parody of a comic strip, but the strip is incomplete without being able to see Skull's reaction.

What's the joke? That the kid has seen the Simpsons and mispronounces homosexuals? That the kid is a homophobe (or has homophobic parents)? Perhaps both?

Seeing as having homosexual parents is nothing to be concerned about, I would expect a "Whoa! Kid! WTF!" look on Skull's face. Of course this is part of my world-view; perhaps it is not part of Scott's. In which case I would still expect to see Skull's face, and it would register a beatific "Ain't I teaching him well!" expression -- but I do not think this is the case.

But, since we can't see his face, we have NO IDEA what the intention of the joke is, which, in my mind, is a cowardly thing to do, and should have prevented the strip from being published.

Update: Commenters are right: There is an additional interpretation, and that is that both strips are commentary on the Christian nature of Family Circus. Fair enough, but Skull's reaction is still critical to the success of that panel.


Anonymous said...

Ya! Come on, Scott. Prove to us you're not a homophobe. We can't break down your intention!

Seriously though, FSM, try taking the context of the punch-line into account. It helps in understanding the joke.

Or do you need the someone in the panel to give a forth-wall expression? In that case, BC might be a better fit.

Anonymous said...

The joke is on Bill Keane's worldview, that the family circus is a religious comic and so stereotypically they must hate homosexuality. The fact that he said "Homer-sexuality" is just because it is a child and family circus often looks at misunderstandings that kids have. If this says anything about Kurtz's worldview, it says he doesn't like Christianity. But no one cares when people are prejudice against Christians...

Josh said...

I think you're simply wrong about point one, and to demonstrate I present the following sample strips:

Family Circus - June 5th, 2008
Family Circus - July 24th, 2008
Family Circus - April 24th, 2008
Family Circus - April 12th, 2008

And the Coup de grace:
Family Circus - January 12th, 2008

The style of the strip is really very faithful to the real Family Circus. Now if you want to say that having dialogue cross the comic/caption wall is terrible style I agree fully. It just shows that the panel composition needs to be changed to deliver the joke properly.

I get what you're saying on point 2 though. Although skull is reacting. You can see he's looking over at faux-Billy because he's surprised by what he's said. Yeah, not exactly spelling things out, I know.

All images ripped from The Comics Curmudgeon

John said...

From some past comments SK has made I don't think he's homophobic at all. I (sadly) took the comics together to show a somewhat anti-Christian view.

In the first panel, Skull - who faithful PvP readers know as a friendly, awesome character - is ridiculed as a "demon" by the kids with justification from the Bible (ala some parents' reaction to Harry Potter). In the second, the homo/homer-sexual joke came at me as a "Silly Christian, homosexuals can't change! Look how funny this kid is because his parents have an unenlightened worldview." That Family Circus is a fairly Christian/traditional style comic seems to make SK use of it a clear choice signaling his intent.

Of course, this all assumes that Kurtz thought through this comic, and we all know that it could just be he didn't know what he was doing and just wanted to draw some Family Circus characters. Fair enough. I doubt - regardless of the strip - that Scott's either homophobic or anti-Christian. This strip can just be interpreted that way.

J said...

I think the intention of the comic is the same as any other strip that parodies the FC. The fact that FC is so out of date, that the jokes are endless cicles of themselves, that the kids are morons who will mispronouce anything if the writer thinks it'll be's been done. Done many times before, and much better then by Kurtz.

These parody strips don't add anything to the PvPverse. Besides the fact that you know who Skull is, take him out and add any generic troll figure, this comic would work anyway. There is nothing PvP about it. Skull is an observer to Christian misconceptions. Wow. Funny.

What's next, does Skull replace Hobbes as Calvin's best friend? Will the Hi & Lois baby get angry at Skull for blocking sunbeam? Will Skull join the office crew in Blondie ?

Anonymous said...

What's next, does Skull replace Hobbes as Calvin's best friend?

We already had that a few weeks ago when Skull killed that kid.

Some Christian Nutter said...

I'm fairly sure this is just Scott getting on his moral high horse again, but I suppose we all do it every now and then. I know I have.

I mean, it's Scott has been fairly anti-Christian for some time, but the problem for me is that every time he injects this into his comics he comes across as unreasonable and that he's over-simplifying things.

Then again, it's pretty tough to offer a balanced and reasonable perspective on an issue in a satirical comic strip. The whole point of satire like that is to be unbalanced and one-sided in order to makes a fool of the target.

I suppose in this particular strip he's targeting Family Circus, but really, that just seems to be a ruse for him to take cheap, uneducated shots at Christianity.

Ti Chan said...

Christian Nutter, I have to fully agree with you here. And the worst problem (I said it once, and I will say it again...) that the methods and jokes SK used simply aren't very original.

This joke has been made. This FC joke has been made. If he really wanted to impress someone he would have been more original SOMEWHERE in his jokes. Either do something new with the FC parodies or something new with the anti-Christian parodies.

Ti Chan said...

BTW, I love how way too many of his forum members think this is hilarious. Everything aside, the joke really isn't funny by itself...

Anonymous said...

The whole point of satire like that is to be unbalanced and one-sided in order to makes a fool of the target.

That's just a political cartoon. Satire (granted, as I understand it) usually works as a slow build up of the absurd as to point out the deluded logic of the chosen subject.

And it's not impossible to be, even a bit, balanced in a satire. The problem with these strips and balance is
A) they're parody, so no recource for defense, and
B) the nature of Family Circus is already unbalanced in most people's views, so any comment on the opposite spectrum is pointless.

If Scott Kurtz had, even one, character that held the views he disagrees with, he'd be better able to attack the viewpoint with his brand of funny. But the most opposite character in his cast is Max Power, who is more of a rival villian. Everyone in PvP have pretty parallel points of view, with minor (very minor) differences in how they interpret their view.

The cast is not big enough, nor diverse enough, to have any attempt at fair and balanced satire.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought the strip was very clever. I don't think SK is really making an "anti-Christian" statement, but really an "anti-Family Circus" statement -- I'm pretty sure SK himself is Christian, I seem to remember numerous references in his blog posts about God and Jesus and that whole scene.

Family Circus is a strip that is about as bland as bland can be, with really overt hateful Christian overtones, presented in a cute, friendly package -- like going over to Grandma's house and listening to her talk about "the blacks" and "the gays" as she bakes your favorite cookies.

I didn't really read the strips as "anti-Christian," but more "anti-that kind of Christian," or even "that kind of person," as I have known several bigoted, awful people over whom religion holds little sway. As such, I don't really think it's anything to be offended about. Unless you think that the Bible is really telling us that Skull is a demon and that homosexuality is something that can be changed, in which case shouldn't you be reading Family Circus instead of PVP anyway?

Anonymous said...

Layers upon layers?

Anonymous said...

For myself I find that skull's showing up to help other comic kids through their youth is more of a critique of our times. We have Skull who is pretty much a simply of purity. Oafish purity perhaps. But with Skull there is no danger of him doing something dark or horrid. He has a pure heart and even though it gets him in trouble his the motivation behind his actions is also pure.
These are things we associate with Calvin (to some extent, lol) and certainly the Family Circus kids.
Those comics seemed to be held in a "timeless 50's purity loop" of sorts.
I think what Kurtz is saying is "Look, what happens if those characters are real kids right now." Calvin's comic mischief becomes sinister and the Family Circus kids are raised with their parents fundamentalist prejudices. He's branded a demon despite his purity.
Personally I love it upon review. The satire and parody aren't there to give us a knee slapping laugh.
For those who don't like it, at least it is a free webcomic, lol.

Anonymous said...

Sure, you say homosexuals as parents is fine, but think about it: how would you feel if your mother was a man? If you think you don't mind, how would your mother feel if she knew you want her to be a man? It's not as much fun when it's in your own backyard is it?

R.W.McGee said...

How is not minding if your mother was a man the same as WANTING your mother to be a man?

You don't seem to grasp the concept of tolerance.

For example, I have no issue with Christians, Jews, Islamic people...or any other religion. Most of my friends fit in one of the above categories.

However, I have no desire to be religious myself.

See how the one does not negate the other?

Atrus said...

If my parents were both men, none of the two would be the mother and I would just have two daddies. Problem solved.

And not knowing what Family Circus was before reading this blog (one of the perks of not living in the US) those strips just seemed random anti-Christian versions of old one-panel comics.

Anonymous said...

r.w.mcgee, we will see how tolerant you are of islamic people when your man-mother is being blown up for wanting to go to church which she shouldn't be doing anyway because the Holy Bible says she's a sinner.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I have been trolling but have since thought better of it. Please ignore my previous inanities.

Dave said...

One day of Family Troll was funny, largely because it was so unexpected.

Repeating the joke for a second day kills it pretty quickly... I hope we don't have these all week.

Anonymous said...

The parodies don't really fire for me as there a slew of similar attempts where people have just scanned regular strips and replaced the punchlines/speechbubbles with their own unfunny, puerile text.

Without the "Oh, this is new!", it just becomes a trite joke about religious intolerance.

Alfred nonImus said...

Wow, it's the same joke as yesterday, except now it's...wait, I mean unlike yesterday,, what I'm trying to say is that the new joke today is...

Wow, it's the same "joke" as yesterday!

Anonymous said...

The difference between todays and yesterdays strips is that todays are moving along some kind of plot. While yesterdays were "Skull meets intolerant kids", todays are "Skull gets in huge trouble with intolerant kids, later intolerant kids plan to kill him or something". Somehow, despite the two days offering different scenarios, Kurtz still managed to reuse the same jokes.

Anonymous said...

Wow.. Sad the funniest thing in the comic for the last three months is the word "exorscissor".

Most of these family circle "parodies" have no parody or joke. Unless the joke is hey look people think different then I do which isn't a joke it's just bigotry.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does Billy look like he's a five o'clock shadow away from being a wife beater?

...I spotted a new funny! Jesus Juice!

Callahan said...

Actually, I was amused by these strips-- the lack of punch-line is the punch line.

Since your average Family Circus strip involves a) Creepy Angel Grandpa or b) Hilariously misused words or c) 'Adorable' precocious questions, Scott's pegged it dead on. And he seems to be telling a story during the process, which is interesting. Seriously, take a stroll through the recent archives of and you'll see the complete lack of punchline, and what Scott is (effectively, I think) parodying.

I'm up for it, but more because I really kind of hate Family Circus than because I'm a devoted PVP fan.

Brandon said...

As I said a while back when someone found this in upcoming strips, the fact that we can't see Skull's face is precisely what makes this joke work. The perspective and the fact that we see the back of Skull's head clearly demonstrate that Skull's staring at the boy. In a bedtime prayer setting, this would normally be unusual. Skull should be mimicking the boy's posture and relative gaze. The fact hat he's not and instead staring at the boy shows Skull to be surprised by what the boy has said. Not only does this clearly demonstrate Skull's feelings, it also places the gaze of the comic on the boy.

Thus, for once in one of Scott's "gay" jokes, the focus is not on the action or situation provoking the homophobic statement, but the person who made the statement itself. Instead, the criticism is firmly on the statement. The fact that he's taking to task the underlying bigotry and sugar-covered hatefulness that is FC makes it just that much better.

Even if it isn't "original" (which I don't personally agree with as a standard for criticism), it's a solid strip that made me chuckle and showed Scott is thinking about what he's drawing.

P.S. Taking to task homophobia that uses religion as its justification/excuse is anti-bigotry, not anti-Christian.

Anonymous said...

Ahh .yes bigotry is ok as long as it's directed at people you are bigoted against.. I get it. These anti-Christian strips are the equivalent of dancing up on a stage with black face and expecting people to laugh cause.. gasp people are different then me.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 2:42 PM

Being intolerant of intolerance is as much a bigotry as not collecting stamps is a hobby.

Brandon said...

Personally, I just love the notion that a devout Christian such as myself could possibly be bigoted against Christianity.

Blog Archive