Monday, March 31, 2008

Webcomics Weekly #29

This weeks podcast is two hours long, but worth listening to, if only to hear Kurtz curse like a sailor. It provides a few insights into how Scott approaches his business.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Favorite Strips?

Hey folks -- do you have favorite strips? From time to time it would be nice to be able to point to a strip that's at the top of its game.

I wish PVP were set up with Oh No Robot. It would make searching a hell of a lot easier.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Get Well Soon

Staph infections are no joke. Take care, Scott.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Make it quick please.

One-panel strips (close enough -- Nature Waits for No Game)? I'm a fan. Quick, to the point, little room for error, lots of room for focusing on the joke.

Safety is for Chumps

Personally, I couldn't care less if safety is accurately portrayed in a comic (Safety first, kids). It's like the warning on coffee cups that your coffee is HOT!

I firmly believe some people shouldn't be let out of the house until they realize that the coffee they buy is going burn them if it spills, and that flying, paint-filled projectiles can take an eye out.

And that comics aren't real.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Kurtz FTW: The BEST ending EVAR

Scott K. went to town with today's strip (Yet Another Letdown) and let loose. Twice the panels, twice the excitement, dare I say four times the emotion -- it was awesome.

Some might say it's unprofessional and maybe it is, but this ain't the newspaper, this is the web. I highly doubt this would ever make it into a PVP book, in fact, it's an opportunity to sell more books. I'd wager a good 10-15% more folks would buy the book with the "real paintball ending!" in it than would otherwise.

That's good stuff. Good humor; good business. Good to get that off his chest, perhaps.

(And BTW, before anyone starts taking bows: There are plenty of other sources of criticism in PVP's very own forum -- no need to assume this is thanks to us.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Uppercut! Uppercut! (waiting for the Body Blow...)

There are two things that really bother me about the latest strip (Shoryuken):

1. There has been nothing to indicate that the other characters know why Skull freaked out -- how did Marcie know he had eaten mushrooms?

2. The transition, or lack thereof, from the second panel to the third is really jarring. It would have been nice if the second panel had had some sort of exclamation from Miranda, making the third panel feel less like a non-sequitur. In fact -- it would have been kind of awesome if Skull had booted all over Miranda (a perfectly reasonable response to coming off of shrooms :), then he really would have deserved that uppercut.

There is one thing I really like:

1. Skull in the last panel is great. I love the extra touches like the lines in the teeth and the shade lines around his eyes.

There is one thing that bugs the anal grammarian in me:

1. "Mushroom induced" should be hyphenated.

Now that I think about it, this whole storyline could have been an opportunity for some serious character development. With Skull going off the rails, it would have been interesting to let the characters react to that in different ways. Some who know him well would assume something bad had happened to him, those who didn't could have wondered if he had gone wild somehow (especially after grabbing Francis). It could have made for some nice tension. Alone in the Dark and Night Games opened the door for some darkness which I was sad to see go with Marines, we are LEAVING!

I'm not really criticizing here, just imagining... It's possible Kurtz didn't want to include such heavy elements after the divorce and in-law stories, which, as much as I didn't care for them, had some nice character development.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Open Thread: Graaaaah!

The Strip: Graaaaah!

The I-Can't-Be-Bothered Review: Very little reaction. I like the center panel.


I suspect Scott is right, Ghosts is probably funnier to him than everyone else. I also suspect there are many ways it could have been made funnier.

It's not that the joke isn't clear, it's just presented in such a milquetoast manner that a lot of the funny is sucked out of it.

A couple people have commented on Francis' expression in the last panel -- I'm pretty sure I understand what's going on:

The line across the eyes aren't eyelids, or at least they aren't his top eyelids. If you look closely you can spot very small pupils looking off stage right. The lines are Francis' bottom eyelids, pulled up as he makes a pinched-face "I'm frightened" look.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A quick recap.

So, I was away a few days, and missed not very much as it turns out:

Friday (He's Comin' Right For Us): Brent accidentally shoots Cole with paintballs.

Monday (That'll Leave a Mark): Miranda accidentally shoots Francis with paintballs.

Can't wait for Tuesday.

BTW, from now on when I miss a day, or have nothing to say, I'll try to create open threads, a la Daily Kos, so folks have somewhere to talk about the latest strip.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


My only reaction to the current strip (Marines, we are LEAVING!) is that, as the last panel suggests, it would have been better had it been at the beginning of the story. I feel like I lost a bunch of the momentum that Scott successfully built up.

(Update: I wasn't moved to say much about this strip, but Evan was.)

Ok, I'm a little spooked now.

Not by the story, or the newly nighttime setting (which is very nice: Alone in the Dark), but by my enjoyment of this storyline. I still wish we'd had more paintball (and I'd argue to Scott that more paintball strips would have both satisfied expectations and given him some easy strips to write), but the continuing story in the forest is very worthwhile.

(One thing: I don't understand the "painting troll tonight" line -- I understand it means they will be going after Skull with the paintball guns, but is that line a particular reference to something?)

I know it seems like I've been shitting on PVP for the sake of shitting on it, but I have seriously/honestly had problems with every other strip and story I've commented on since I started this blog (and for a long time before that).

But the past week or so has been much better than average, very enjoyable, and I'm actually looking forward to the next days' strips.

PVP did not make me sad this week.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Alone in the Light

While I think the latest strip (Alone in the Dark) is good and does its job, it's hampered by some limitations of the art and strip structure.

1. While the last panel is nice, and Kurtz may have been trying something new (based on his blog post), I was confused for a moment and thought that the last panel had failed entirely:

I was looking for signs of Francis running away or something, which is what was set up in panel four.

With PVP, unless I get signals otherwise, I'm always expecting a punchline. It's totally fine to skip them sometimes, really, but it has got to be hard to set up a non-gag strip in a world of punchlines and it didn't work out for me here.

Update: This is embarrassing, but I didn't understand what was going on, at all. I thought the hands in panel 4 were Francis' hands as he backed or fell into the branch, snapping the twig, scaring the birds. Obviously, there is more going on than that.

2. The art doesn't lend itself to darkness or nighttime. Francis' line "Won't you get scared all alone in these dark woods" or even the title of the strip weren't enough to get across that feeling that I think Scott was looking for; they feel like artificial attempts to add atmosphere to an illustration that looks like any other day in PVP.

PVP's art is very well-defined, but without color or any shade of grey, "darkness" is really hard to find.

(Note: I don't actually know if it's supposed to be "night", just "dark". Woods can be dark and creepy during the day too.)

Monday, March 10, 2008

I LOLed. I really did.

The direction the story is headed is really good.

Rescue Party was fine -- I'm so over the main characters right now I don't even want to see them, but the final panel was very nice.

Please pull the camera back more often!

Trippin made me LOL for real. By the third panel I was all set to try and predict what would be happening with the Woodland Creatures, but to have them be a shroom induced hallucination made for a great last panel.

I look forward to hallucinatory adventures with Skull, but even if we don't get them this strip was worth Skull's getting lost.

Scheduling and Timeliness

I was just made aware of Kurtz' Twitter feed, and, while I haven't been following it, I grabbed this out of a comment left here:

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"

I would wholeheartedly support this, and so would many other fans, I bet.

While I (obviously) feel free to make my opinions known about the writing and art and almost anything else about the strips, how and when he puts them out is his business. I'm not one to complain if a strip is late or doesn't show up -- I don't know what's going on in the real world that drives his output, and it's not my business.

I'm sure there are business decisions driving how often a comic is updated, and, to have continued his 7-days-a-week effort for so long, Scott has had strong ones I'd guess (the Image books?). But if it's time for a change, don't hesitate, Scott. It's your business.

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.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

It actually was lupus once...

So. The first strip (It's Never Lupus) post-nipple debacle. I actually enjoyed it; kudos to Kurtz for coming up with a humiliating situation I didn't anticipate.

The House reference is very welcome, and while I still find the whole "floating nipple" concept on the "not" side of funny, the doctor goes a long way toward pulling it off.

I'm also fond of Francis' excited expression in the third panel:

We don't see that often enough, and not just on Francis.

I do have a quibble, shocker I know, and it's with the script. In the last panel:

... we are treated to a cliched punchline, where the character maintains his dignity by explaining that it's not a bra, then contradicts himself and "totally" agrees to the original premise. That's so Friends, 1999. Plus, the "wtf" look on Francis' face is so tired -- I'd love it if he had gone back to smiling, knowing the shit Brent is likely to be getting.

Note: I appreciate that Francis is looking at the camera there, and it's exactly what I suggested a character do in a past strip (I'm not suggesting that's why Kurtz did it now), but so often emotion in PVP is nothing but a set of raised eyebrows; it's like a Botox convention around here. If there's a more expressive alternative, I say go for it.

I'm going to do something I've tried not to do for a while, as it has been suggested to me that it might be crossing the line, but in this case I can't help it. I'm going to suggest new dialogue (just for the last panel):

Panel Four

Doctor: Did I say bra? No. I said a sling. It's a clinical assistive device used in these types of injuries.

Panel Five

Francis: (shit-eating grin returns) So it's a bra.

Doctor: Yes it's a bra.

This sets up the humiliation, providing anticipation, and assumes we will be seeing Brent in his new bra. Because if we don't it will be a crime.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Since I went a bit off the rails in the last post (IMHO, not very far off), I might as well say something nice, in the interest of not being a Total Fuckwad. (I wanted to title this post "Shitcock" but it wouldn't have really been in line with the spirit of the post.)

Is this in response to Scott's comment? I admit, yes. My goal in writing this blog is not to get on Scott's good side, or even his bad side, or even to gain attention in any way; I just have shit to say. But I do acknowledge that I get down on PVP a lot, and while I don't care if people agree with me or not, I do care that people know that I try not to be a Total Fuckwad. :)

So, FWIW, I've read all of the Ding! strips, and I think they are often very funny, hilarious even.

I'm not a MMORG player, but I do read enough blogs and have enough of a gaming background to appreciate a lot of the jokes. But even if I don't get them, the strips are well-written enough that it doesn't matter. It starts off strong from the first strip, which I didn't get until the last panel, but that made it even better. The ghost of clipping graphics? It took me a while to get the actual joke of the strip, but it didn't matter because the setup was original and amusing.

The characters are energetic and emotional, and the whole thing works well.

I don't care who you are, that's funny right there.

Nipples are fixed in place and do not move around much less into the bloodstream.

I've said this before, but I'll try a new metaphor this time: We got 100 appetizers but no meal. (Man Down)

This is our paintball storyline? If it's not the end, it's certainly an event that should have been saved until the end. I'm not even going to bother spelling out why this sucks.

Ok, I'll spell it out a little: It sucks because while spending two weeks setting up paintball, we were introduced to all the characters who were going to be playing, why they wanted to play, what they were looking forward to, etc. Did we get to see any of it? No.

I would have liked to see Francis take one from Marcie and whine like a little girl. It would have been nice to see any of Miranda's l33t skilllz. Skull would have obviously scored an own-goal by taking out Cole before Cole could take out Max. (I give it 4:1 that Cole shoots Max in the back tomorrow while everyone quits the game to head to the hospital.)

One minor art complaint:

Why is Red looking up? It looks wrong. I'm going to guess that Kurtz originally drew the panel with Cole leaning over Red, but the script (and balloons) forced him to make a change, and he didn't adjust the art. Just a guess. (The thin lines used for Cole support this, as if he was scaled down.)

Update: This is bull and I admit it -- I didn't notice that the second character in the first panel wasn't Cole, so it makes sense for the character to be looking in the direction he is.

As for the nipple issue, Cole said exactly what I wanted to say, which does not mean the strip is any better for it:

I'm going to guess that this is an idea that Scott, and perhaps a pal, while getting their drink on, had a bit of a giggle about, but which I have to label with a big giant FAIL. (Which coincidentally rhymes with FLAIL, which is good because I'm about to get all googly-eyed here for a sec...)

A dislocated nipple? WTF? WTFBBQ? Seriously. This is not even remotely funny. This is the kind of gag that Penny Arcade could get away with, but only because there is no continuity between their strips. In PVP this means we're going to have to live with the aftermath, the bandages, perhaps a nipple transplant from an unwilling troll donor, and, as unappealing as that sounds, it would be worse if we didn't get it. Because then the entire arc would have been for nothing.

I know I know, PVP is not real life. But the PVP world has been established as being close enough to the real world that we expect it to obey certain rules. Those rules mean that bizarre things can happen, but those things are panda attacks and midget trolls, not nipples floating unsupported in blood vessels threatening a dreaded Nipple Stroke, a cruel fate which did not kill 1 in 10 paintball players last year.

Re: Gygax

Awww. Everyone pour one out for Gary Gygax. I spent quite a few hours working on homemade dungeon maps, only to buy the prefab ones and skip all the way to the end so we could collect the loot without all that silly work playing.

I'm sure I wasn't Gary's kind of player, but we do owe him a lot.

Catching Up

Ok, was away for a few days, but am back now. Not much to say though.

Teams -- Brent seems to have lost his dark lenses. Minor continuity error? (Update: Ah, just saw Kurtz' blog post about it. He changed it up to be more safety-accurate.)

Do You Have a FLAG? -- I was disappointed by the lack of activity... the whistle has just blown on a game of paintball, which includes quite a bit of running around and hiding and shooting and the characters are all standing around doing nothing. Not one motion line.

As an aside, this seems like a good opportunity to pull the camera back a bit. PVP's viewpoint is mostly static, but if you're writing a story about two teams fighting outside, it'd be nice to see the whole arena at least once.

Sitting Duck -- Where's the funny? I really had to look for the joke here. I eventually found it, but it was broken and the wrong size for me so I left it on the rack. You're welcome to it.

One Shot -- Again I ask: Where's teh funnay? Does Brent have a glass nipple I don't know about? Plus, since when do people get hit with a paintball (in the nipple even) and not swear/scream first? The last panel rang false because it was missing an "Aaarrgghh!" or a "Gaaahhh!" or even a "Yipe!", and it would have been nice if Jade's expression had changed at all. I really think Kurtz' attention is elsewhere, and the story is suffering for it.

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