Saturday, August 30, 2008

For Better or for Worse

For what it's worth, For Better or for Worse ends its long-running story today. I didn't realize this, but the artist is going to continue the strip, but returning to the core characters and a return to her freer, more sketchy style of drawing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I find the weakest part of the LOLBat strips LOLBat himself -- although "PEW PEW PEW" will get a laugh out of me every time (Epix Battle).

This is good stuff, and a very welcome break from the regular gang.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Joke!

I'm happy to say that the best thing about today's strip (Interlude: The Lolbat Returns) is the punchline, which is funny, I like it. The preceding panels are tougher to get through.

The joke is that the characters are speaking with a rich and wide vocabulary, as opposed to their nemesis, the Lolbat (LolBat?). Unfortunately, some of the dialogue used to represent this rich vocabulary seems arbitrarily chosen for complexity and rarity, rather than editorial appropriateness, undermining the case the villains are trying to make.

Example: "Our personas are based on the finest our culture has to offer."

Exactly what are they based on? The finest... personas? So, "our personas are based on the finest [personas] our culture has to offer", which is a redundancy that should be edited down to "our personas are based on the finest our culture has to offer." (I'm an idiot. I meant to type the following:) "our personas are the finest our culture has to offer."

(Plus, if I were trying to write like an erudite cartoon villain, I would have used the less common "personæ" to really hammer the point home.)

I also take issue with "concourse;" not because it's used incorrectly, which it's not, sorry RW. Concourse means (among other things) "a crowd or assembly of people," which doesn't sound very villainous. Conclave, on the other hand, is just as good an SAT word, and means "a private meeting." Plus it sounds sinister.

(Update: Mr. McGee has more to say on "concourse"...)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I got nothin.

It's been a quiet week on the old blog, and that's fine. The signal-to-noise ratio has been a bit high on the noise side over here lately, and it's the end of summer, so it's a natural time to chill for a while.

The current storyline doesn't inspire much response, either good or bad. Reading it is like reading a comic strip version of Charles in Charge (so wacky!). If you don't know what Charles is Charge is, count yourself lucky.

Sitcom comedy is mostly about making mountains out of molehills; putting archetypal characters into staid and well-worn positions that cause them great angst and can be solved in 30 minutes (60 if it's sweeps). We're being presented with a classic example of this -- the quickly snowballing scenario, the presumptive dissolution of a formerly solid relationship with almost no prompting.

Cole cries "what have I done?"

You have set us up for at least another week of predictably sitcom-like strips. Thanks a lot, jerk.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Robbie's Home Improvements

So, The Bonnie Situation - Part Six Seven. (Woops! I meant 7.) Yeah. I'm not going to comment on the fact that Jase has apparently married Wilson from Home Improvement. Nope. I won't. (I will: I think it's terrible; but I recognize that this may be purely a personal preference, and I think it's a worthwhile experiment. Even though I will likely continue hating it.)

I agree that we're missing a strip. Where was Bonnie's reveal? If you're going to introduce a character who is all gimmick, don't they need their own "Heeere's Bonnie!" moment? Scott is usually so good at writing conversations that it feels very odd not have had a "Hey guys, meet Bonnie!" moment.

I really wonder if we got this one a day early.

Update: A clarification: When I said "Where was Bonnie's reveal" I didn't mean "why haven't we seen her face yet?", I meant, "Where was the moment that this brand new character (whose gimmick is that we never see her face) is introduced?" This is a last-panel type event, and to just insert her without any fanfare is odd.

Friday, August 15, 2008

One quick thing

I think the Jase story is going well, albeit predictably.

It's a lovely Friday and I needs to get out of here, so I only have one minor comment: It looks like a coloring book. Big fat lines, lots of white space, no attempt to liven up the panels. Not every strip can be a visual panorama, but I wish we could see more variation.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two Minutes to Wondermark #422

I love this screencast of the creation of a Wondermark strip; it's extremely well-edited.

Less is more.

Cliched, but often true.

I like everything in today's strip (The Bonnie Situation - Part Three) except the first panel, which is crowded by the art and the script.

First: the art. As a commenter commented, and as I've commented before, the vertical line denoting the corner Cole is coming around muddies things a little. At first glance it seems like it could be a gutter. Some very simple shading could solve this, or you could even do without the wall altogether:

Have Brent standing behind Cole and give him the first line, then have Cole react.

This has the added benefit of having Cole react to an in-strip event, rather than having him turn the corner and run into Brent in what we could call panel 0, an un-illustrated event that we have to assume has taken place. I'm not saying that "panel 0" events are a bad practice, I'm just saying it's not ideal, and we could have gotten around it here.

(There's probably a name for "panel 0" that I don't know about. Anyone? "Closure" doesn't seem to fit.)

Second: the script. Cole's line, "GAH! Jeez! You scared me," would have been just as effective were it just "GAH!" I suspect 99.9% of the readership would have understood immediately, the rest would have picked up the context from Cole's expression.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Return to Normalcy

Let us set our bickerings aside, and return to Kurtz-free discussions.

Appropriately I have nothing to say about the latest strip. (The Bonnie Situation)

Except that Robbie's cheese seems to be sliding off his cracker. That boy needs some help.

Friday, August 8, 2008

I would like to state out loud...

... that I do not expect, want or hope to influence Scott Kurtz or his work in any way.

(Ugh, more meta discussion. Hopefully this will be the end of it.)

I do not suggest, imply or infer that because I comment on a work, I am creating a two-way a conversation with the creator of that work, and anyone who thinks otherwise full of shit. (how rude!)

No relationship exists between PVP and PVPMMS other than the one between content provider and content consumer, and just because I may express an opinion or sentiment that there are ways I would wish for things to be done, or ways and means that I think would provide better results in the future, I do not presume to think that I can in any way insert myself into the process.

I am entitled to one thing: to speak and/or write my thoughts freely. I expect nothing more, save perhaps a certain level of civility.

Because that is so, I can say this:

It is obvious that Scott Kurtz is one of those people who cannot help but take any negative comment as a personal attack.

I may write anonymously, but I will go so far as to tell you that I am a professional. I am not a writer (as if that isn't obvious), and I do not work in comics (perhaps that will ease some minds), however I do work in a creative field, and I could be considered to be as successful in my profession as Kurtz is in his, if not more so.

With his sweeping statement that all critics are to be dismissed out of hand, Scott shows himself to be both thin-skinned and unprofessional. I say this not to attack Scott; it is simply an observation.

From his blog:

It’s not that we don’t realize we’re making mistakes. It’s not that we’re oblivious to the fact that our work is imperfect. But if we play it safe and never risk those imperfections, then we’ll never grow as artists.

You may realize when you are making mistakes, you may even make them on purpose to expand and explore your boundaries. This is to be admired. But it is literally impossible to know every mistake you make, to always know when you have gone in a direction that does not suit your product, and some of those mistakes will kill you down the line.

If Scott were to listen to me once, I would wish him to hear this:

If you are going to be an artist and place your work in the marketplace, then you are no longer just an artist, and you have a responsibility to your business to listen to wider reactions to your work.

You can not control what people write about you and your work (and I hope you have noticed how infrequently I write about you, rather than your work -- this may be the first time, certainly the first of any significance), and you should absolutely feel free to stop listening to those critics whose comments you find worthless.

But to dismiss all critics out of hand is to live in danger of isolating yourself from your customers, and your potential customers, and that's no way to run a business.

Oh, and get someone to proof your work, the typos are killing you.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

If you can't say something nice...

... damn with faint praise. Let's get on with our lives people.

I like where this is going (tough love); I'm looking forward to finding Jase again. Not that I think we've suffered without Jase around, but he and Robbie together have been used more effectively by SK in the past than Robbie alone has been. (That having been said, they were pretty stuck in their rut, on the couch playing video games. Shaking up the relationship was very worthwhile.) This could be a good storyline.

The last line of dialogue is a bit awkward. As a commenter pointed out, it's a likely Simpson's reference (to a great line -- I use it myself on occasion), but as another commenter points out, the line is mangled by adding some faux British terminology. Surely there was a British PVP fan that could have been consulted.

I understand the desire to tailor the line to suit the butler's character, and perhaps it would have made more sense if "bottle" had replaced "column" (I don't know, I'm not British.... or am I...) but I posit that it would have been more successful if the butler had either:

  1. Committed to the Simpson's line, making a joke about a stuffy Brit quoting the Simpsons (it wouldn't have suffered at all if readers didn't get the reference -- it stands up on its own); or,

  2. Used a different line altogether -- something like "Probably a bit of both, sir."

The second option reinforces the joke being made by Robbie (and his expression) by dryly supporting the idea that Robbie can hold two contradictory ideas in his head and be right.

Also, in the last panel, it would have been nice to see Robbie in a pose other than the usual "slackly standing here thinking about something." A hand scratching his head, with his hat pushed back a bit would have been very welcome. It would have taken the character out of the previous moment and into the new context (we were talking about me, but i'll be damned if i'm not talking about you now).

[Note: Some serious grammatical bullshit follows. Take it or leave it.]

Robbie's last line itself needs some work. "Really" is often not a good idea -- in this context it could mean either "actually" or "very," changing the meaning of the line.

The assumption here is that it means "actually," as in "you were actually wise." "Very wise" doesn't work as well with the joke, as it doesn't refer to an extreme -- if he's not "very" wise, there's still room for him to be a little wise, but if he's not "actually" wise, he's just stupid, but being British makes him sound wise.

Yeah, that paragraph is a mess, but it makes sense in my head. Can't you see inside my head, people?

In either case, using the word "were" is also an iffy choice, as it refers to a specific moment in the past (that was a bad way to put it) something that has stopped happening (thank you commenters), rather than a general pattern of behavior Robbie has observed in the butler. "Were" would have worked if the preceding panel had been silent -- an awkward pause while Robbie takes in his butler's words, then comments on them; the "were" is then being used to mean "were just then," but then you would probably also want to add "being" to refer to the specific moment.

(As long as I'm dissecting the dialogue, "I wish I could tell" is also a very passive statement; never a good move.)

The line could be made clearer by changing "were" to "are" and "really" to "actually", and re-working the first bit:

"I never know if you're actually wise, or just sound that way because you're British."

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I think the joke is fine, despite knowing what it would be by the second panel. I like the second panel, what with Robbie's eyes in panic mode. I like the butler (in general, not just here) -- he's an archetypal character, but a good version of it.

I don't like the dogs. They look traced.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Comicon video

Turning the criticism off for a moment, you should check out (if you haven't already) Scott's Comicon wrap-up video. It's both entertaining and well-edited, plus it features a bit of Kingdom of Loathing, so for that it gets two thumbs up.

San Diego Wrap Up from Scott Kurtz on Vimeo.


I haven't been paying much attention to the stats for this blog, but I just saw this interesting link from June:

» More Profound Thoughts About My -- Our? -- PvP Obsession

This is on an official Time Magazine blog, which is weird/cool, but the post is off on a couple of points that need correcting...

  1. Regarding PVP: "it updates every day like frickin' clockwork"

    Not until recently it didn't.

  2. Regarding PVPMMS: "... it's always insightful."

    No it's not.

Damn mainstream media, always getting their facts wrong. But I do like the term "PvP-enhancing prosthetic." :)

Reading into it

I don't have much to say about today's strip (Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool), so I'll kind of combine it with some further thoughts on yesterday.
Today's strip didn't really answer my questions about yesterday's. They are lounging in the pool, and while Cole pops a sensitive question, and he looks a bit pensive, Brent doesn't share his demeanor today. I guess I'd rule out the idea that they went there specifically to pop the big question and actually went over to hang out.

Assuming that to be true, then Scenario One is that they looked apprehensive because of Robbie's dangling modifier (ifyouknowwhatimean), in which case (to extend this to its inevitable critical end), yesterday's strip didn't work all that well. Cole's line in the third panel should have included some sort of stammer and/or Brent should have been looking down (or avoiding looking down). The information that they were put off by Robbie's nakedness didn't really come across until the last panel, at which point I figured they had just been ignoring it.

I agree with some commenters, Brent's appearance in the fourth panel is a bit odd. The nudity joke in the fourth panel could have been punched up if Robbie had been in between the two guys with his arms around them as they wear extremely uncomfortable expressions. Fifth panel: "Guess I should put some pants on."

Scenario Two is that they looked apprehensive because of the way they left things with Robbie after the wedding. Robbie has obviously forgotten or is willing to overlook it, in which case it would have been nice to see an emotional transition on the guys from pensive to relieved.

This being so, then Cole's line asking after Jase is unpremeditated, and should have been presented a bit less formally so as to increase the contrast between it and Robbie's harsh reaction. (I agree with commenter I.M. Smort -- "sons a bitches" is a great touch.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

We Have our Concerned Faces On

I'm curious as to where this is going (A Welcome Surprise).

Cole's line in the third panel is kind of conflicted -- Brent and Cole don't really have "come and hang out" faces on, but they do have "sit down and talk" faces, so I don't know what to expect. When last we saw Robbie he was throwing the gang out of his house (ending the wedding he was hosting), yet his immediate response to their visit is "Sweet!"

Sooo... Even if we're just conveniently forgetting their last encounter (this is a comic strip after all), this is what I'm curious about. Will tomorrow's strip be "hanging out" or "sitting down to talk"? If it's the former, why the long faces? If the latter, why is Robbie not part of the long-faced crowd?

Either SK is out of buffer strips or he has stopped uploading them ahead of time; I tried to peek. :)

Honey is back!

Totally off topic, but I'm a Doonesbury fan from way back, and I'm very excited to see that Honey has made a comeback.

I'm not sure how long she's been gone, it feels like a long time, but this is a such an ancient relationship that for a fan it's a bit like a taste of the old days.

Ahhh. Silence.

There hasn't been a comment on the previous post for almost three hours now. Seeing as there has been a lot of noise, not a lot of signal, I'm tempted to close it to comments.

But I'm not going to, because there's really no significant reason to. The comments bordered on hateful at times (I deleted some excessively rude comments), but it was mostly civil. If folks want to keep talking in it, go ahead, but I encourage you to move on.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Reasons and Purposes

No, I'm not going to write a manifesto, but I do have a few points to make:

A. Yes, I didn't get the joke. I do now, I admit it works, while simultaneously thinking it could be better; but --

B. No, I don't feel bad about it, it's not my job to get every joke -- in fact you can look at it as a failing of the strip when I don't; however --

C. I'm not saying it's PVP or Kurtz' fault that I didn't get the joke; you can't please everyone all the time (just ask the Europeans who don't know what Family Circus or Foxtrot are); every joke is going to miss someone. It doesn't mean 1) we're stupid, or 2) we don't get jokes, or 3) PVP sucks, or 4) I'm a failure as a blogger. It might mean it wasn't a great joke, but we all have to accept that this is subjective. Some people thought it was a great joke; plus --

D. I don't care if Kurtz is laughing at me (in this instance it's not un-warranted); because --

E. I'm not here to build a brand or create a reputation; mistakes don't hurt me because I will always be willing to fess up to them (this is pretty much true in real life as well). I am not writing with malicious intent, but neither am I writing for the readers. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud to have created a conversation that people like to participate in, and I am generally pleased not to be the only person who finds PVP seriously lacking; but, (without wanting to offend the Friends of Fake Scott McCloud, the thoughtful, non-anonymous commenters who make the blog worth coming to) --

F. I'm not here for you. I'm not here for Kurtz. I'm not here for money. I'm not hurting anyone, and anyone who thinks otherwise should consider that PVP has thousands, probably tens of thousands of readers, while I have maybe dozens. My reach is limited, especially since I am not interested in reaching out to a wider audience. I'm not on a mission, and I'm not about to go global. This is light-weight criticism from a non-professional writer.

To the commenters who tell me to shut down the blog because I suck -- I truly truly mean this, this is not snark:

Why the hell are you reading it?

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