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August 31, 2004

It's a corpse. In a copse. Get it? Hah? Haaah?


(From Dick Tracy. Click on the thumbnail for full sized MUR-DAR!)

There is a popular perception in the broader cartoonist community that continuing strips after the original creators have passed on is a bad thing. I'm honestly not of that opinion, so long as the successors do right by the original vision. I think it's better to keep the legacy of Chester Gould, Lee Falk and Segar alive by keeping the characters they created in the public consciousness. I think it works by far best with the adventure strips, because those are, after all, continuing adventures. With something like Nancy or Blondie, it doesn't work as well -- all apologies to the Gilchrists, but despite their love of Ernie Bushmiller and their efforts to duplicate his style, it just hasn't happened. It'd be better to simply reprint the originals, to my mind. It's not like anyone reading the newspaper today has read them before.

But adventure lives in the hearts and minds of those who read, and so with Annie, Dick Tracy, the Phantom and their ilk, it's better by far to expose them to a new generation in all their two fisted glory. Dick Tracy does a particularly good job -- the strip continues its tradition of grotesque villains with punnish names, gunplay still exists, and the stakes remain high. In today's strip, inaugurating a series where Dick and Tess's daughter is heading to college, we see what appears to be the leg of the corpse of a girl we saw being shadowed by a dark figure yesterday, heading to the dorm. This is harsh, and cold, and dark. And Chester Gould would smile if he saw it.

Looking through my beloved Smithsonian collection, I read through some of the Gould strips archived therein. These were bloody and violent and dark affairs. If Dick Tracy were sanitized "to protect the children," I'd lead the charge to eliminate the poseurs. As it is, I think it helps maintain Gould's legacy.

Does anyone think it's weird Isolde has hair?



(From Ozy and Millie. Click on the thumbnails for full-sized FABULOUS!)

As part of an extended plot, Ozy's cousin Isolde needed to soak her dragon scales in mercury to turn them silver, so she'd look better in her new on-camera role on television (dragons, you see, control the media. It's a conspiracy. Dragons are all about conspiracies). So, they hijacked a shipment of thermometers and emptied them into a bathtub, so she could soak.

(It's worth noting that most thermometers don't use mercury any more, but I digress.)

Naturally, since the strip is in black and white, we don't see Isolde's color change (though he did post a color picture of her in a filler strip). However, that's not the point. This gave Simpson the opportunity to do a more general makeover of Isolde, and in so doing age her. Look at her in the first strip -- the pony tails, the untucked shirt with tie -- this is traditional Isolde, gawky in a post-adolescent way. In the second strip, she's not only on television, she's got her hair down (cue Eighties movie Journey music), an updated wardrobe, and seem fully ensconced in young womanhood. For a dragon, but still. While Ozy and Millie seem to be in the same ageless condition that comic strip kids have enjoyed since at least the Katzenjammer Kids, Simpson has found a way to shift one of his regular cast to an older incarnation, opening up a new raft of possibilities for the character. That's some subtle mojo, kids.

Mmm... crispy and latte soaked....

(From the Astronomy Picture of the Day. Click on the thumbnail for full sized cinnamon goodness!)

Look, I can understand that occasionally NASA runs out of pictures. That's why we need to get the Hubble maintained -- we need an ever increasing number of high resolution pictures of the majesty of the universe. But still... taking a picture of cinnamon dusted pastries designed to be dunked in coffee, making it black and white, and writing a puff piece about the black dots on the dunes of Mars? I mean, come on.

Is it disingenuous to call this a personal shout-out?

(From Gaming Guardians. Click on the thumbnail for full sized recap moment!)

Morning, everyone. Back to work, so I'm also back to taking five minutes here and five minutes there to serve you up some snark. Hope you're all sitting comfortably in your seats and paying attention. If you brought gum, I hope you brought enough for everyone.

Graveyard Greg and WebTroll (what do I call someone called "Graveyard Greg" in a snark? Normally, I use the last name of the webcartoonist when discussing his work. For Webtroll, he's just got the one name, so he's like Madonna. But do I call Graveyard Greg just 'Greg?' Do I use the full name? Do I call him "Mr. Greg?" And if I do call him Mr. Greg, does that make me sound like a Jamaican Houseboy from a 50's sitcom? Haven't we come farther than that as a society?) have a nice little strip over at Gaming Guardians. I like the premise, because it gives them an excuse to satire... well, everything in the RPG community. (Sure, they've never parodied Sidewinder, but I think that's because they've typically chosen RPGs most people have actually heard of. And would it kill all of you to buy the stupid game? Reloaded's in PDF format. You could get it twelve seconds after reading this.) However, after four years of comics, plus the Powergamers spinoff and other such sundries, it's become... how shall we say... 'difficult' for a new person to jump in.

Yeah yeah. Another snark about cast pages. Look, it's important, okay?

Anyhow, because we're clearly doing a Recap MomentĺĐó, this would seem an ideal time to start checking Gaming Guardians out. And with luck, they'll either link to the moment off the front page afterward or use it as an excuse to put up a cast page. Either way, this is a good step. A fine step. A TEXAS step.

Yes, I'm from Maine. What of it?

August 30, 2004

It's raining in Maine...

...and I have far to drive before I get home. I'm back to work tomorrow (which means probably more Snarks through the day than you saw over the weekend from me).

My folks say hi. My Mom has no idea what you people see in me.

While here, I was officially given our copy of The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, by Bill Blackbeard and Martin Williams. This 11x17 coffee table book (clocking in at 336 pages) fueled my love of comic strips from a very young age. Not only does it cover the evolution of the form, it has context and deep archives -- including an entire adventure of Thimble Theater -- the comic strip Segar wrote and drew, that brought Popeye and Olive Oyl to the world (and didn't have much of a spinach fixation -- other than the fact that Popeye ascribed his toughness to eating right). The adventure is "Plunder Island," and features the Sea Hag.

That's right. Back in 1977, lying on the floor of our living room, I was going through the archives of Story strips from the 30's. Story strips that brought the Funny.

It marked me. And now I get to revisit this tremendous book.

FAQ: Cast Page

So, I've received more than one note from folks that while it's all well and good for me to campaign for webcomic cast pages, I don't have one of my own here on Websnark.com.

"But..." I said in reply. "This isn't a webcomic."

"Put up or shut up," they replied.

So. Here's my cast page. Enjoy.


burnsbio.jpegEric Alfred Burns is one of the heroes of our story. Like all good English majors, he makes his living as a systems administrator. He also has a bad habit of writing. Born in a very small town in the very far north of Maine, Eric has lived in different places in Maine, in New Hampshire, in Ithaca and Syracuse, New York, and in Seattle, Washington. He currently lives in New Hampshire, but is wondering if his roots are beginning to get a touch long and therefore need uprooting.

While systems administration puts food on his table, Eric lists his occupation as writer. In addition to Websnark.com, Eric has written and published short fiction and poetry. He has also written for and designed Role Playing Games, including work for Decipher and Steve Jackson Games. He was one of the primary authors on the ENnie nominated Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures, and the subsequent Sidewinder: Recoiled won the Gold ENnie for best Electronic Game (non-free). He's listed as a contributing author on Recoiled, and would be much prouder if the sum total of his 'contributions' wasn't stuff from the first edition of the game which they rewrote parts of to make it sound less like the somewhat urbane Bat Masterson and more like Festus from Gunsmoke. But Hell, they got the gold with it, so why should he complain?

In the webcomics world, Eric writes a monthly column called "Feeding Snarky" and occasional features and reviews for Comixpedia, where they have learned to curse his procastinating name.

In addition, Eric has the unfortunate distinction of being an amateur novelist, but is deep into work on a novel that will hopefully change his professional standings. He has tried his hand at webcartooning himself, and epitomizes the old saw "those who can't draw, snark." He has learned from this mistake and is now hard at work at writing webcomics instead. He is hard at work on Gossamer Commons, as drawn by Greg Holkan.

Eric has a cat named Sarah, which is short for Seraphim Kyriotate. He has yet to notice angelic behavior from her. He can be reached at "websnark" "at" "gmail" "dot" "com." It's like a reverse rebus, isn't it?


wedsbiol.pngWednesday White is, at best, a cameo in all things. An uneducated boor, she used to sneak onto university newspapers' staff because the high school papers wouldn't let her in. Every few years, it occurs to her to write something. This time, it landed her in webcomics. "If I write about it for a little while, I'll learn how to do my own sensibly." God help us all.

This way lay contributing to Comixpedia, then throwing stuff at The Webcomics Examiner. At the moment, Wednesday is the associate features editor for 'Pedia, heading up columns, which means she's effectively Eric's editor. Everyone can laugh now!

Wednesday's proudest creative achievement to date is having some of her artwork appear on a Bill Mallonee album traycard -- she imagines it's something like having your fanart appear as part of the packaging for your favourite TV show's DVD boxed set, only with whiskey involved.

Trodding the caves: Ursula Vernon's Digger.

Digger(Images all taken from Digger.)

I chatted a few snarks back about Graphic Smash. And I mentioned a few GS/Modern Tales webcartoonists by name. There's several on Graphic Smash worth mentioning. Graveyard Greg and Webtroll. T. Campbell and Jason Waltrip. Stephen Notley. Amber Greenlee. Yadda yadda yadda. We could be here all day.

I'm not here to talk about them. I'm here to talk about Ursula Vernon. I'm here to talk about Digger.

Complete disclosure time: I know Ursula Vernon, somewhat, via the internet. We have friends in common, which have led to some chatting. I wouldn't say she'd let me sleep on her couch for a month, but if she were to meet me face to face at a party, she'd have a look of recognition at my name and then feign interest in me with the best of them. She also knows I like her artwork.

And when you look at Digger, so will you.

Vernon brings a perspective fewer and fewer Webcartoonists bring to their work: an artist's perspective. She didn't come from comic book fandom or comic strip fandom. She came from a fine art background. She's produced paintings and illustrations alike for RPG companies galore, and she's built up a fanbase purely for her beautiful (and admittedly) quirky art. Hit her website to see some of that. Heck, looking at that art's wholly free. And if you buy the "Tea with a Griffin" painting before I get a chance to, I will hunt you down and kill you like a dog. Just, y'know, so you know.

wombat118-kidney.gifDigger is a female wombat, technically in the anthropomorphic animals category, though no one can call her a furry. For one thing, she... well... she looks like a wombat. No breasts. No hands, really. She looks far more like an illustration out of the Wind and the Willows than a funny animal cartoon. She's trying to get home, and has discovered that's not as easy as it seems. She has fallen into adventure, and is really quite ready to leave it now, thank you. And unlike most 'unlikely heroines,' you honestly get the sense that when Digger makes it home, she's going to go to bed, get up the next morning, apply for an Engineer's job and get on with a proper sort of life, thank you anyway. I have faith, however, that Vernon won't let that happen for some time to come.

This is a strip that brings the Story. The Funny is here, too, but it's subtle and mild -- liver jokes and rabid vampire squashes aside. Vernon is drawing what she wants to draw and making it as funny as it needs to be, but the point isn't humor. The pacing is slow -- far more bookish 'page at a time' than daily strip comic art. Now, if you've been paying attention, you know this is one of the things I knock Megatokyo for. The difference here isn't that the pacing works better (though the simpler cast and backstory help make it work better, in my opinion). It's still very slow. But Vernon is absolutely rock-steady on updating. She's under contract to Graphic Smash and she treats this like a job, making her deadlines and having new pages out every Tuesday and Thursday, on the dot. And so a slow pacing is excusable, because twice a week there's new stuff to see. We get a sense of momentum from Digger, and the Story she brings is well served by it. If you plunk down the money for Graphic Smash and get access to the archives, it's a good read, and because new stuff comes out regularly you don't lose the narrative thread.

Let me diverge for a second and say how refreshing it is to see a strip that updates Tuesday and Thursday. In a world of Monday, Wednesday and Friday updates (to the point that Comixpedia has done articles extolling Wednesday as "webcomic day," since the daily, thrice-weekly, and a good percentage of the weekly strips all update on that day), it's nice to have something to look forward to the other days.

And as for the art....

Oh dear God, the art....

This strip is astoundingly beautiful. Its linework is sublime, with a sense of woodcuts and of children's book illustrations and of japanese calligraphy all wrapped up into one. I've asked permission of the artist to reproduce one of her strips here -- clicking on the thumbnail to the right of this paragraph will pop up a full sized version. Just look at her use of positive and negative space, her line work. Just drink it in and relish in it. It might not be what you expect a webcomic to look like, but by God you can't look at it and not groove on it. It's stunning, and it feels like it's more than we deserve, almost.

There's a few bits that would improve Digger. Like I said, the pace is slow, though I doubt that will change. (An eventual graphic novel will be a welcome thing, though.) And it needs a cast page, badly -- it doesn't promise us one and the retract it, but especially given the nature of Graphic Smash, where you can read the latest strip for free but must pay for the archives, actually getting a page letting us know who the principles are and what they're doing is absolutely necessary. Still, these don't mean I don't look forward to the next strip.

And so should you. Damn it, read this thing. Indulge yourself.

Shouldn't that be Night Goggle?


(from Planet Earth (and Other Tourist Traps). Click on the thumbnail for full sized missiles!0

We get back to the regular strip (as opposed to the Cartoonist strips) in PE(aott) today, which is a goodness. And this one highlights a good way to launch a new plotline -- it's one step away from In Media Res. "Hey guys, let's do X!" "But that would be stupid." "I'm in!" Short, formulaic, to the point, and effective. Since this screams "we're starting a new plotline," this also gives notice to new readers that this is probably a good place to start reading from. Nice bonus, I think.

Also, the obligatory "Alien" arrow still cracks me up.

Great moments in comic strip history. Maybe

blm860113.gif
(From Bloom County, naturally. Note that clicking on the thumbnail to get the full sized image involves going to a subscription only site. LCBLT.)

Bill the Cat was always something of a bellweather for Bloom County. I still remember where I was the day that Bill the Cat returned to life in the strip. Mostly because I was at a gifted and talented high school students camp at Bowdoin College when it happened happened, and we sat around and goobed about it. The trial of Bill the Cat over Communist Treason was just one of those bellweather moments.

The reason I bring the strip up, however, is the fourth panel. If I Recall Correctly, this was the only time we ever heard Bill actually speak. I don't count the time when Donald Trump's brain was implanted in Bill's Body (which marks The Donald's only good hairstyle in history). It didn't feel right then. It doesn't feel right now. But, it came up in turn in the archive, and so we note it.

I hope no one tells Chris about "Oh Heavenly Dog." Because that movie sucked.

sup20040830.gif
(From Superosity. Click the thumbnail for full sized dead dogs.)

The Vacation continues to be enjoyable. Later today, a quick drive over to Maine to see the mother and father and their dogs, neither of whom look anything like the traditional Benji mold.

I always thought it was kind of creepy that the famous dogs -- Lassie and Rin Tin Tin and Benji and the like -- were more brand names than actual animals. We're supposed to just accept that any dog who looks more or less like a Collie is Lassie, for the purposes of making the movie. I know it's not unlike the many different actors who play James Bond, but at least those actors get their names in the credits. We're supposed to just say "oh, there's Benji" and not think about those Benjis past.

I dunno. Maybe I overthink dogs in movies.

Anyway, this Superosity kind of nails what I enjoy in Superosity. (More than yesterday's did, I'll admit -- if you're going to go scatological, you either need to imply it or go so over the top that it becomes absurd. Crosby shoots for the over the top and usually hits it -- as with Vomitland -- but yesterday just didn't do it for me.) Chris makes some kind of statement that Boardy can't agree with, but Boardy isn't willing to contradict Chris casually. Then, wackiness ensues. Or in this case, the nagging feeling that maybe Chris doesn't deserve to have his feelings spared. Setup, execution. The Funny.

August 29, 2004

On Style versus Skill

crfh20040827.jpg(From College Roomies From Hell. Click on the thumbnail for fullsized... um... action. Yeah. That's it.)

I don't usually comment on other people's reviews. This isn't really a review site, for example -- this is a snark-site, where I point out things I like and things I don't like, often somewhat sarcastically. However, while the overall review is positive, I feel like I have to bring up this guy's review.

Dude. It's a comic strip. One which, in the parlance of Websnark, brings the Story first, and sometimes brings the Funny. And as you yourself say, the Story is prime. Almost too prime -- it makes it hard to keep track of what's going on, sometimes. But you go on to grade the art harshly.

If you want photorealistic art, read comic books. Mocking a comic strip's art for being stylized is like mocking baseball players for wearing caps. Looking at the strip I referenced here, and the several before it, show that Maritza Campos is an expert at dynamic action, motion, color and effect. She brings the toolset. So, if their noses are big and their eyes are big, it's because she wants them that way.

In the last plotline, whenever Dave passed out from lack of blood or whatever, he dreamed about scenes we've already seen -- and all of those scenes had much more 'realistic' figures. Campos was telling us something then. She was saying "yes, I can bring the comic book style illustration. It's right here, in my tool chest. I don't want to. I want to draw the characters the way I draw them. That's the price of admission."

Comic strip characters don't have to look like Mary Worth. They can look like Charlie Brown or Pogo instead. And webcomics can show Anime influences (all too often), or Latin American art influences, or traditional comic strip influences. Or even Mary Worth.

You hear me extol the virtues of art I like. You almost will never hear me insult a webcomic's art. For one thing -- say it with me -- "we're not paying for this." For another, it's damn hard to tell the difference between a limited toolset and a stylistic choice. For yet another, if you're reading it for the pretty pictures and you don't like the pretty pictures, go read Megatokyo. Or Alice. Or any strip you like the art for.

If, on the other hand, you like the story, which you say you do... accept that the art's style is a part of that story. Read into it what the webcartoonist is trying to say to us. Drink deep of it. Breath it in. And reflect on the glorious nature of a world where one comic strip doesn't have to look exactly like another.

We've seen it done right. Now here it's done wrong. It's like a textbook.

boondocks040829.gif(From the Boondocks. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Billboards.)

Yesterday, I praised Non Sequitur for setting up a situation where we had a sight gag and someone commenting on it. It was well executed. "Any fool could misspell illiteracy," I mentioned.

Now, we have today's Boondocks. And we see the dark 'other side.'

The joke itself works, but Huey and Caesar's commentary is wholly unnecessary. It weakens the impact. Had that panel been left out, and we just see the billboard with the pair looking at it, the Funny would have been better and the Point not so belabored.

You see? You see? Good example... bad example. It's like Sesame Street, only you need to operate a web browser.

Joe Sunday better watch out! There's a (very) new colorist in town!

Sluggy040829b.jpg(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the excerpt to see the whole thing!)

Joe Sunday, the guy who usually colors the Sunday Sluggies, wasn't able to do today's -- in large part because Pete Abrams had major computer trouble this week. Rather than do a black and white Sunday, however, Pete had his four year old daughter Leah color it with crayon.

The crayon coloring actually adds quite a bit (I wonder if he told her she was coloring Leo's maiming scene) and makes the denouement extra-sweet. But the idea that Leah Abrams -- who I still remember most clearly from the period of time right after her birth, when the webcomics community came together to produce Sluggy guest strips (the legendary Sluggy Freelance, Where Are You sequence) -- is now old enough to color with crayons and insist how the art should be scanned and produced is mind boggling.

So, in summary, I'm old, damn it. Screw you, Pete Abrams.

Dropping a bit of cash in the till -- how much is it worth to you?

We all have expenses, out here in the wide digital world. My own are modest right now -- just paying for bandwidth, and even if my costs have gone up in that regard, Google ads look like they'll take care of the increased costs. But, clickthrough advertising isn't the way for everyone to recoup their costs -- especially those who actually want to make a living off their art. Right now, that means tip jars, more extensive advertising, merchandising... and subscriptions.

Which is really what we want to talk about now. See, I'm not feeling very well, and I can't sleep, so I'm thinking. Largely about subscription webcomics.

I was asked, a couple of days back, what I thought about them -- asked by someone pretty high up the food chain in webcomics, who shall remain nameless because the question is more important than me namedropping. He mentioned things like Modern Tales and Graphic Smash and Girltastic, and left the question of things like Keenspot or My Comics Page as an exercise for the reader.

Me? I love subscription web sites. Like I said in my last post, Joey Manley gets a good abount of money from me each month -- as of this typing I sub to three of his main websites (Modern Tales, Serializer and Graphic Smash) and one individual website he hosts (American Elf, to no one's surprise). While I'm not made of discretionary money, the value is pretty damn high -- for my eleven bucks or so a month I have access to somewhere over two hundred strips, including stuff by T. Campbell (and the returned Gisele Lagacłę), Amber "Glytch" Greenlee (who deserves about six snarks all on her own), Sunday comics of Achewood, and many, many more. Manley has a love of sequential art that can't be beat, and so all the sites I frequent have an Alternative Comics feel to them -- pushing the boundaries forward, seeing where and what the medium has to offer... good stuff.

This isn't an ad for Modern Tales and its affiliates, though. The point is -- this is a means by which I can contribute back to the artists and to the art form directly, and that in turn encourages others to give it a try. There's tons of free webcomics on the web, of course. More than any twelve people could read. But quality? Quality is hard to find.

And that raises an interesting point about the newspaper syndicates. One that is painful for people to admit. There is a positive aspect to having a barrier to entry -- you have to push beyond a certain limit before you can get in. Like I've said before, having an editor is not a bad thing. And having to prove you don't suck before you get to be read by the masses isn't bad, either.

There's plenty that is bad in the syndicates, of course. For one thing, they're not looking for quality, they're looking for a specific formula -- the right kind of look, the right kind of humor. Something they can sell. It's not nearly as innocuous as so many people say -- The Boondocks is hardly inoffensive, For Better and For Worse hardly ducks controversy, and no one can claim Mallard Fillmore is apolitical -- but it is entirely motivated by commercial concerns. With the rise of the web and comparatively inexpensive publication ability, the barriers to entry for subscription websites aren't commercial, but aesthetic. If you can show you're reliable and pushing the boundaries a hair, Manley will give you a shot. If you can build a readership and show you're reliable, Chris Crosby will give you a shot at Keenspot (which counts for this -- Keenspot Premium is certainly a subscription service). Anyone can publish on the web (Hell, that's proven by the fact that I'm out here), but not anyone can get a taste of the Modern Tales action.

That's what makes Modern Tales, Serializer, Girltastic, Keenspot and all the others so important. They give you and me, the webcomics reader, some recourse -- some place where we can go for very little money and get strips that meet a certain level of quality. We can be drawn in from some random factor (Modern Tales got me because Glych Greenlee guested a Melonpool strip a while back, and blew my tiny little mind with her expressive artwork. Serializer gets me because Achewood deserves a couple of bucks from me all by itself. Graphic Smash gets me because of Graveyard Greg and T. Campbell. And so on and so forth), only to find ourselves surrounded by a buffet -- not all of it to our taste, but guaranteed to have been cooked with talent.

As we break down the idea of what webcomics -- and sequential art in general -- are and can be, it's the paid sites that are going to make it possible for it it continue to grow. Strips like GPF gets an immeasurable boost purely from not having to pay crippling bandwidth fees, for example. By codifying the relationship (beyond the 'tip jar' concept), we both place a value on the art and give artists and publishers alike a certain commitment. And that is a very good thing.

On the other hand, if you think I ride people who have made their strips their job's asses hard over update issues, you have no idea how much of a tool I can be when I'm paying by the month....

Serving the casual reader by not reviewing anything he's looking for

So, Joey Manley, the guy behind Modern Tales and the hoster of American Elf -- and a guy who gets money from me every month, I'm glad to say -- is publishing a new literary journal entitled The Graphic Novel Review. His stated goal is to create a book review that is for the casual graphic novel fan what the New York Times Book Review is for the casual book lover.

I can get behind this idea. I think something that brings graphic novels closer to the mainstream and develops critical scrutiny for them is a good, good thing.

It's a pity they've elected to be dumbasses about it.

We hope to review books featuring corporate-owned properties (e.g. non-creator-owned books) almost as rarely as the NYT Book Review covers Harlequin Romances, or any other prose book put together on an assembly line by creative workers with no long-term stake in the economic life of the work they have done. Which is to say: hardly ever. Our assumption is that such economic conditions will almost always lead to sub par work, even when the creative workers themselves are capable of great things. Since the vast majority of superhero GNs coming out are corporate properties, the genre may get fairly scant coverage on GNR. This is not a slight against the genre, so much as against the method of production. Creator-owned superhero books will have a much better shot at garnering a review.

Okay. So.

Under this system, Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing wouldn't have a home here. Or a collection of Superman stories that includes the single finest Superhero story I've ever read: Moore and Gibbons's "For The Man Who Has Everything." Or The Dark Knight Returns. Matt Wagner is only good when he's doing Grendel or Mage. Drop him into Sandman Mystery Theater and he's got no reason to bring his A game, obviously.

And anyone who's working on Batman or Green Lantern or Spider Man? Sub-par work. They have no economic stake, so they're just phoning it in, clearly. Always. Almost no exceptions. Because... because. They have no reason to really try, do they? (Setting aside the paycheck they're receiving.)

Guys? The New York Times Review of Books doesn't review romance novels. You're right. But they do review potboilers. And Stephen King novels. And Harry Potter books. Look, I'd love it if this meant the next Dan Cowles book got to sell ten times what the last one did. But it won't do that if the 'casual graphic novel reader' doesn't buy Graphic Novel Review in the first place. If they're walking through Barnes and Noble, they see a graphic novel section, they pick up your magazine, and see that 95% of the display isn't being covered... they're not going to pay any attention to the other 5%.

If you disdain the masses, you don't get to educate them. If you want them to learn about the gemstones, you have to address the semiprecious stones they already collect. And, most importantly, you have to accept that quality and art can be born from many sources and many directions. You have to accept that sometimes, the wage slave is going to blow away everyone around him because the art is more important to him than anything else. Sometimes, a writer wants to write, to make something glorious, even if he's doing it for hire. Charles Dickens wrote a ton of his stuff on an serialized assembly line as work for hire, but we still think Pickwick Papers is pretty damn spiffy, you know. And a good number of the best -- or at least most celebrated -- writers and artists of graphic novels are on the wage train. Hell, no one's more celebrated right now than Alex Ross, and he does most of his work for the big two.

Superman. Batman. Spider-Man. These are cultural icons, whether we like it or not. To simply dismiss graphic novels that feature them means dismissing the absolute core of American sequential art. That won't elevate the fringe, that will make your magazine part of it. And besides, we have no need to recover Gary Groth's territory. He's already staked it out pretty thoroughly, guys. Have faith he can hold that fort down, and choose your articles on the basis of their merits, even if the subject has been heard of by more than forty people.

August 28, 2004

Why don't they just jump through the giant picture window?

overb040828.gif
(From Overboard. Click on the thumbnail for full sized broadsides!)

You've probably gathered that I like Overboard. One of the more unique newspaper strips, detailing the adventures of pirates in the modern day -- still on the pirate ship, still fighting other pirates and sacking cruise ships and using swords and maces and cannons and the like. I like the cast and crew, which take the concept of "casual disdain" to new and exciting heights. While Chip Dunham phones it in more these days than in the older days of the strip -- the rare Overboard print collections show a savagery of humor rare on the newspaper page -- I still like it and I think it still kind of works.

That being said... I don't like metahumor strips as a rule. In my own brief foray into webcartooning (the less said about the better) I used that kind of "cartoonist as character" device. Dunham uses it. Frank Cho uses it (his infamous "monkeyboy Cho.") And it just. Never. Works. The only exception is if they go whole hog -- make the characters actors, so when the cartoonist shows up they break character and go to get a smoke. Sort of Greystone Innish, only Greystone Inn tries to have it both ways which doesn't work.

So, the joke above doesn't work for me, even though the trappings do. I love the idea of employee relations involving a morningstar and a 6 pound cannon. I just wish it didn't have to invoke "the cartoonist" as part of it.

Meanwhile, in the dimension of wireless cafes with a latte by my side....

(From Sluggy Freelance Click on the thumbnail for full sized potence, baby!)

Before getting on to the snark, I want to point out the sheer decadence one gets to feel sitting in a Fresh City cafe/restaurant with a laptop, connected wirelessly to their network, sipping healthy smoothies and lattes (tall nonfat with a shot of sugar free vanilla, for those of you who like to go to coffee bars anywhere but in Seattle. Seattlites, that's a tall skinny no foam vanilla. I'm not sure how to say "sugar free" for the flavor shot, as I haven't lived in Seattle since 1997 and I never ordered sugar frees then). I sit in air conditioned splendor (necessary today, as New Hampshire has apparently been thrown into the Tropic of Cancer while I was sleeping). Thanks to the power of Wifi, I get to sit where staggeringly good looking women wearing very little (see the aforementioned "Tropic of Cancer" comment) wander in to get smoothies, buy needful things, and still sit down and bang out a snark. These are the kinds of conditions that led to the Fall of the Roman Empire, and all I can say is "the Visigoths better start with Massachusetts, because I still have most of a strawberry and yogurt smoothie to drink and I don't want to die unsatisfied."

I'm afraid one of the strips I don't currently read is Ian MacDonald's Bruno the Bandit. The times I've tried to jump in and do the backtrack through his logs, it hasn't grabbed my attention sufficiently. I can tell he's talented, and I know he has a dedicated fanbase, each and every one of which has better taste than I do, clearly. But here we are.

So, my experience with Ian MacDonald has been entirely devoted to his part of the "Pete's wife just had a baby so his fellow cartoonists are pitching in and doing guest strips/Sluggy Freelance Where Are You" sequence a while back, and the "Meanwhile... in the Dimension of Pain/Dimension of Grief" strips that have been running on Saturdays for a while. And in a way, the DoP/G strips deserve to be considered separately from Sluggy, though unlike most guest strips they are considered in continuity with Sluggy.

It's a pity, by the way, that Pete typically doesn't put guest strips in Continuity. The idea that Zoł┤ makes her money by wearing lingerie and a mask for a webcam gives me the giggles. Then again, that sequence was done by the Foglios, and they're some of the few who can do exploitive strips and make them seem acceptable to all.

I really like the idea of the Meanwhile... in the Dimension of Wherever strips. Pete had been doing Saturdays, but figured out that with the expanded Sunday strips and all, he needed to cut back. Instead of truly cutting back, though, he got a collaborator with sufficient cred to have his hands on Sluggy Freelance once a week and let him go to town. But in a lot of ways, I wasn't a huge fan of the execution. Oh, I liked the whole "angels take over the Dimension of Pain" bit, and the idea that Fallen Angels have really just tripped (and MacDonald set up that particular solution some weeks in advance absolutely brilliantly -- remember, if a Fallen Angel is on the Mantlepiece in the First Act, that Fallen Angel must be used in the Third. It's Chekov's Law of Webcomics). However, given that the Dimension of Pain has been a part of Pete's toolbox from the beginning, having it go in somewhat incompatible directions made things a bit strained. As was most clearly shown when a Cutified Demon went after Torg as a part of the yearly Halloween Party strips -- even though things were weird that Halloween anyway, it was still, to quote the late Robert Reed, "Batman in the Dressing Room." It was two different visions of humor trying to reconcile, and it didn't quite gel.

Then, when the Dimension of Pain began to pay off in the main Sluggy strip in a big way -- as is still ongoing -- MacDonald's weekend strips moved wholly into the Dimension of Grief. This let him draw a hot female hideous demon lead on a weekly basis (which obviously is part of the fun for MacDonald), let him develop a mythology (and humor style) that fits his brainspace perfectly and still retain a tie to Sluggy without really walking on Abrams's toes.

This is a good thing. And MacDonald does bring the Funny. And while I don't like it quite as much as Abrams's regular strips, that's a Hell of a standard to try to live up to. It's certainly not on the "Why Am I Reading This Webcomic, Again" list.

Maybe it's time to give Bruno another shot. Or time for another latte. Probably the latter. Also, I'd like to dedicate this entry to the beautiful girl in the brown shirt who just walked in. Which, I would add, almost never happens when I'm snarking from my living room. Ah, decadence.

The Simpsons are going to Delaware!

userf007048.gif
(From User Friendly. Click on the thumbnail for sitcomish wackiness.)

I try very very hard to not be the kind of snarker/critic/commentator/reviewer/whatever the Hell this thing is who disdains the popular and embraces the obscure. I like what I like, and I try to tell everyone why I like it, and I don't like what I don't like, and I try to do that too.

That's the problem with snarking User Friendly. It's on my "Why Do I Read This Webcomic, Again" list, and I have less and less of a good answer to that question. Take this strip. It's perfectly fine. There's nothing wrong with it. Only... meh.

Part of the problem is User Friendly never really adapted after the ascendence of tech comics gave way to a broader spectrum of geek comics. Oh sure, A.J.'s a gamer and they did a whole sequence on his having to upgrade his machine so desperately so it could play Doom III, but it's ground Penny-Arcade trod better. Hell, I got more of a laugh out of /usr/bin/w00t!/'s take on the subject. That was more about Doom III having enough of a copy protection that poor people couldn't pirate it easily. That was more interesting than yet another "our hero eats cardboard rather than spends money on food because he's all about teh gamez" strip.

And now we have this strip, inaugurating another in that long line of "urban/tech types find themselves in natural/nontech situations," snow covered variant. And gosh, it was all because those damn marketing types like Stef are such jerks! But no, wait! He has to go too! And then Miranda and A.J. will get jobs in the candy factory, only the assembly line will go too fast, and they'll be overwhelemed, and they'll have to try to cram candy in their mouth so it doesn't go all over the floor....

I'm sure Illiad will do a workman's job with the story. And he'll bring the funny his fans expect him to bring, but while it's the funny, it's not going to be the Funny. And that's just kind of sad.

The medium is the message

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(From Non Sequitur. Click on the thumbnail for full sized spelings an gramer.)

This shows where Wiley's real strengths are, in my opinion. It brings the Funny, it's random, it's out there. He does more and more strips in one (or more) continuities these days, and they're just not as good as when he's just throwing shit out there and seeing what sticks to the wall. For me, the killer stroke is the woman's comment. Almost anyone could show a couple of people staring, bemused, at graffiti misspelling illiteracy. A lot of cartoonists could even make it funny, though layout and pacing.

The woman's comment, however, is the joke in this strip, in my opinion. It's got just enough resignation to it that you can honestly see she's trying to put the best face on the situation. Illiteracy does suck. And hey, at least they tried.

More of a laugh than I usually get from Non Sequitur.

It puts the lotion in the basket, Annie Warbucks!


(From Annie. Click the thumbnail for full sized death to spies! DEATH TO SPIES!)

I admit I'm on an Annie kick right now (and here the Google ads have finally stopped pimping her merchandise. It's like that pet food thing -- I can't leave well enough alone). But I have to admit it. I'm into this creepy Collector/Silence of the Lambs/Rorschach thing she's gotten herself into. She seems stronger now. Healthier in body, but a good little soldier. Say it, Annie! SAY IT!

God, I need to get out more often. And maybe take another shower. This thing is just creepy. But you have to admit -- it's not boring.

It was a late night for all of us, it seems

(From FLEM ComicTwo Lumps. Honestly. Not from FLEM Comics at all. Really. Click on the thumbnail for full sized FLE--two lumpishness. Heh,)

I'm up. I'm up. It was a late night. For one thing, I was waiting for my hosting company to finish churning access logs and statistics for yesterday, and then applying Webalizer to them. Which finally happened a couple of hours late, because... well, because there was a lot to churn through.

I decided, early on, not to comment on people linking me here in the page. It seems... I dunno. Garish. Yesterday, though, I got linked by three different places with audience, one of which has high audience. Which I appreciate a lot, because... well, I actually like for people to read this stuff. I know, it makes me weird. So thank you, one and all.

The totals? Heh. Well, when you factor in that on the first day of Websnark I did about nine megabytes of bandwidth, most of which connected to RPG resources I have up on my home site -- no surprise there, as no one actually comes to a site they've never heard of -- you can understand my amazement at doing close to two and a half gigabytes of bandwidth yesterday, comprising thousands and thousands of unique page visits.

In other words... I was PvPdotted. And that was a very fun feeling. Er, not that I'm acknowledging PvP's linking of me. That would be garish, even if I appreciated it, which I did. Or Lore SjłĆberg for that matter. Or the good folks at Comixpedia and their 24 Hour Pixel People blog. Because then I'd have to mention the Snake Farm especially since they were the first, and... and....

I am such a tool. Jesus.

Anyway, so I slept somewhere close to 11:30, awakened by a phone call from a pretty girl, which if you get right down to it is a good way to wake up. It just is. And then, after running water over my head and drinking tea, I settled down for the day comics trawl.

And saw... well, Twolumps. You know, J. Grant's comic about the cats?

You might be wondering why the thumbnail doesn't look like Ebenezer and Snooch. Well, readers of FLEM comics will recognize the Angry Patriot Boy, of course. And we know J. Grant's been busy -- he just put out a new novel (a novel with a minor misprint on the cover. Something about his name being spelled wrong. Writers -- so sensitive) and of course it was a Friday night, and Grant has an active social life....

Look, when you're uploading comics, it's the same process for them, no matter which site. So he made a little mistake. He's only human. You're not paying for this, you know!

Man, we should probably be thankful it wasn't a strip about dog fucking, shouldn't we? I mean, that'd wake the Two Lumps audience right up, even on a Saturday....

August 27, 2004

The Daily Comics Trawl: Mycomicspage.com

Time for another ambling walk down my daily comics reading. You know from earlier trawls that usually I set a block of comics up as a series of tabs in Safari, so they download more or less at once and let me breeze through them. Well, thanks to the the combined power of the Internet and money, I have a different option for many of the newspaper strips I follow.

My Comics Page is connected to uComics, which is one of several sites the newspaper comics syndicates 'syndicate' their comics through. Like most of these sites, about a month's worth of comics are available for many of their offerings. However, for twelve bucks a year, you can also aggregate all the strips you want to read on a single page, plus get access to a number of special strips -- including some people are usually willing to kill their pets to get access to, like Bloom County. And, what makes it all exciting for a continuity nut like me, massive access to archives.

Here's what I'm currently reading through the site. Note that Garfield and Cathy are both also available, should you choose to want to read them. I elected not to, after checking to see if Garfield did in fact still like lasagna that Cathy feels makes her fat. Clearly, they should get a room and be done with it.

  • Annie, by Jay Maeder and Alan Kupperberg. The little orphan keeps on chugging along. I don't read this strip for nostalgia, though. Not even for the musical, which like pretty much anyone else whose family visited New York City in the late Seventies I had to see. I also saw A Chorus Line, the Pirates of Penzance, Non Pasquale (sic -- it was a Shakespeare in the Park thing only without the Shakespeare), Ariadne Auf Naxos, The Marriage of Figaro, Der Rosenkavilier and Regis Philban wandering the streets, on various other trips. Most of those don't have a comic strip, though. I read Annie because it's totally batshit crazy. Seriously. Often right wing to the point where the Minnesota Militia thinks its overdone, with a paranoid streak a mile wide and a willingness to let an eight year old be kidnapped twenty-seven times a year. Also, a small inventor boy named Tom had an airship, which led to his being thrown into a North Korean Prison for months, while Daddy Warbucks went undercover with the C.I.A. so he could punch Arabs in Ratznestistan after 9/11, leaving an exact body double to run his billionaire's empire from the city they built as a tax shelter on the Yucatan Peninsula. I didn't make any of that up. I will read this comic strip for the rest of my natural life, damn it. Oh, and recently Annie got amnesia in an airplane crash and was taken in by a clear satire of The Phantom, who is running around Canada shooting at innocent people because he thinks they're terrorists. He's systematically broken her already confused mind, so now she wears the uniform of the Junior Commando shouting "Death to spies! Death to spies!" in a brainwashed stupor. And they wonder if Sinfest is safe for kids to read.
  • Andy Capp, by 'Reg Smythe.' I put Reg Smythe in quotes because the original Reg Smythe, who wrote and drew Andy Capp from 1957 until the day of his death in 1998, obviously isn't doing the strip any longer. His signature is still put on the strip, however, which implies there's a Cartoonist Lich out there. Or that the creator of Andy Capp managed to put off actually leaving this mortal coil, which is a particularly Andy Cappish thought. Ahhh, Andy Capp. As Homer Simpson once said, "oh you wife beating drunk!"
  • Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. The depth of archives they're making available for this strip is incredible, and each day we get the next strip in the sequence. We live in the finest of all possible worlds. Except, you know, we don't. If I have to explain why I read Calvin and Hobbes to you, give up webcomics. You don't get it.
  • Dick Tracy, by Dick Locher and Michael Killian. Like Annie, this has been in continuous production since the forties. Also like Annie, this strip makes those people who think the newspaper syndicates only produce bland, inoffensive fair out to be complete liars. Filled with grotesque criminals and hideous crimes, generally solved by someone dying in a horrible, yet ironic way. Not too long ago, one of Dick's friends left the bad guy to be eaten alive by starving pigs. God, I love the American Newspaper.
  • Doonesbury, by Garry Trudeau. This links to the Slate home of Doonesbury, but My Comics Page is better, because... well, it's got it all. All. Over thirty years of Doonesbury. And it's searchable. Want to see the series of strips Trudeau wrote about John Kerry during Vietnam? It's in there....
  • For Better or For Worse, by Lynn Johnston. Another strip that makes people who point at Garfield and Blondie and swear that newspapers are hollow mockeries and that they keep the real talents down look downright delusional. A strip that brings the Story to an admittedly obsessive degree, For Better and For Worse is gentle, but not unflinching. Pets die, kids grow up, trusted employees turn out to be petty crooks, and one of the major characters flies off to the Northwest Territories to teach. Lynn Johnston has much to teach you, young one. She has knowledge to impart, of the dark arts of layout and pacing, of linework and shading, of denouement that she sets up twenty years in advance. Respect her power, and learn her lessons well.
  • FoxTrot, by Bill Amend. This, on the other hand, is the closest to a straight webcomic as you find on the newspaper's page. Gag a day, but generally pretty good, and not afraid to embrace Geek-fu.
  • Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet, by Peter Zale. Ballyhooed for years as the success story of webcomics, back from the days when everyone thought success meant graduating from the website to the syndicate. I read it because I feel like I should, though it's weaker than many other strips on my Mycomicspage. It lost some edge in the translation, but it tries, and if it suffers from not quite emerging from the late nineties geek strip, it also holds to its course.
  • Liberty Meadows, by Frank Cho. The rockstar of the last few years, but like so many before it, Cho decided he'd be better off going wholly for comic books. In the meantime, the archives are filling out and will eventually have the complete Liberty Meadows, and that's a perfectly good thing.
  • Non Sequitur, by Wiley Miller. I have no freaking idea why I read this, but I chuckle sometimes.
  • Overboard, by Chip Dunham. I freaking love Overboard. While it's not as strong as its early days, it retains its charms -- the charms of a pack of pirates who genuinely don't like each other and are unafraid to show it. Not unlike Dilbert in its choice of workplace humor, save that the workplace has swords and cannons and Overboard is actually funny. Which you see, makes it not like Dilbert, which is not.
  • The Boondocks, by Aaron McGruder. Yeah. Keep telling yourself Sinfest didn't get picked up by the syndicates because it was too real, man. Keep telling yourself the syndicates just want The Wizard of Id. Keep telling yourself that, man. But whatever you do, don't read the Boondocks, because it's going to kick your ass. Hard.
  • Shoe, by Chris Cassatt and Gary Brookins. When Doonesbury went on hiatus back at the end of the seventies, beginning of the eighties, two things happened in The Bangor Daily News which was the paper my family got every day. First, Shoe moved to Doonesbury's spot on the Editorial Page for the duration. Then, Bloom County got Shoe's spot on the Comics Page. As a result, I have always felt Shoe is special. So, I keep reading it now. I don't ask you to understand. Just accept.
  • Tom the Dancing Bug, by Ruben Bolling. An independent strip of considerable skill. Willing to tear into its subjects with all the verve of Tom Tomorrow's This Modern World, but always -- always -- bringing the Funny.
  • Bloom County, by Berkeley Breathed. They do six strips one day, then a Sunday strip the next. They're building the complete archives, which will then sit there. Twelve bucks a year, people, and you get all of Bloom County, eventually. And pick up all that's there now. Including early strips that frankly I've never seen in any compilation. (They did a lot more with the major than I remembered. What do I have to say -- it's Bloom Fucking County!
  • Too Much Coffee Man, by Shannon Wheeler. I'm still new to this strip. It's weird, but fun. I'm groking it slowly.
  • The Academia Waltz, by Berkeley Breathed. Another one they did one strip a day of until the whole archives got loaded into the machine. They're there now. These are the strips Berke Breathed did in the seventies, while a college student. They're a very different style than Bloom County, and much rougher (in many ways). It's a very different take on Steve Dallas, who is the star, and his friends. One of whom, Saigon John, turns into Bloom County's Cutter John after getting a haircut and clear mediciation. Respect the power of the Izod.
  • Waylay, by Carol Lay. I've adored Carol Lay's work since first reading Story Minute. She doesn't update that often these days (or at least it doesn't get put onto My Comics Page), but it makes me happy whenever it does show up. Carol Lay is one of the best of the independent newspaper cartoonists. Drink deep of her work.

Celebrating Public Domain Guthrie, One Voice at a time

As a celebration of the discovery of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land's" public domain status, I posted the lyrics to the song. Well, in his own blog That's All I've Got To Say, Chris Meadows does me one better. He actually recorded an MP3 of himself singing the song, a capella, and threw it up for people to listen to. And wrote a new stanza which he included in the song.

We should all do this. We should have an Internet-wide celebration, where we all record ourselves singing a song which, in the end, belongs to us, not to publishers without senses of humor.

Chris started the ball rolling. If I can get the equipment (I think my USB headset is in my office) I'll do one too. You do one too. Get your friends to do one. Let's make this the most covered song on the Internet. It doesn't matter if you sound good doing it -- this song isn't meant to sound perfect. It's meant to be sung, because you want to sing it, period.

We're not trying to piss anyone off. We're just trying to celebrate a sentiment, and the idea that there reaches a point where art becomes all of ours. Let's do it!

THE POWER OF KITTY COMPELS YOU!

Devilskitty.JPG Not really a snark on The Devil's Panties. I just love this graphic. And sentiment. THE KITTY COMPELS YOU!

Man, the more I ref cats in these things, the more pet food Google ads are going to show up in the sidebar. I hope to Christ you people have a lot of livestock to feed.

See? SEE? THIS is what Furry strips should do!

sj20040827.gif
(From Suburban Jungle. Click on the thumbnail for full-sized maternal angst!)

I don't have a problem with the Furry community, despite a seeming curse that says that whenever I go to a science fiction convention of any stripe, I will encounter skunk porn. Not even anthropomorphic based skunk porn. One year at Arisia I looked to be in the clear, then went to a midnight showing of Mystery Men. The next thing I know, the Spleen is having his leg humped by a skunk, while the Invisible Boy acts like its romantic. I don't blame the Furry community for this. I clearly insulted a pretty gypsy with a white stripe in her black hair at some Renaissance Festival without realizing it.

(Why a pretty gypsy? Because damn it, it's my story, and I like pretty gypsies. Don't take pretty gypsies away from my life!)

Anyway, like I said, I have no problem with the Furry community. I do, however, generally have little interest in Furry webcomics. Setting aside the porn comics for a moment (which I put no higher or lower than any other porn comic, but as I consider all explicit comics a separate category in general, I'm not going to consider them for the purposes of this snark. And now, you have read my action Disclaimer) I get a touch bored with furry comics where there's little reason for the characters to be anthropomorphic animals in the first place. This is especially true for comics where the anthropomorphic animals are all the same height and all act exactly the same way. It's why I never got into The Class Menagerie when it was around -- there just wasn't any reason for these not to be average college students, and why's the Rooster the same height and muscular girth as the Bull, the Lion and the Gator? That's not how the animal kingdom works! And when they all act like... well, normal people, only with fur... it just doesn't work for me.

Note that I don't consider true Funny Animal strips -- a la Pogo or Ozy and Millie -- to be in the same category. Funny Animals are supposed to look funny. That's all they need to do. Furries are supposed to be... well, anthropomorphic. There should be some point to their being animals.

The 'Furries acting differently than people' stipulation is why I like Kevin and Kell, where the fact that these are anthropomorphic animals makes a real difference. They have dietary differences. They have different instincts. They have economic differences. And all of these differences drive the Funny. Kevin and Kell marrying is scandalous, because rabbits and wolves aren't supposed to get married and have children. Wolves are supposed to eat rabbits then scatter their broken skeletons to the four winds. It bugs me that the general sizes of the animals are so close to each other, but you cope.

Suburban Jungle, on the other hand, gets it all just about right. The animals have real differences. Mice are the size of mice, even if they stand on two legs and have opposable thumbs. There are different cultures all at work with each other. And when predators aren't trying to eat prey, they're pretty much just hanging out. The name of Leonard's Bar is "The Watering Hole," with no predation allowed -- this is brilliance! Brilliance! It's the way it works! Lions and antelope compete, except when they're at the watering hole!

And we have a strip like today's, which reinforces an even deeper element of the differences between animals. Lions in the real world have group marriages, so they have group marriages in Suburban Jungle -- making Leonard and Tiffany's relationship difficult, because not only don't Tigers have group marriages, they tend to mate and walk away from each other. Tiffany has abandonment issues stemming from that quality of Tigers. Comfort's mother naturally assumes that Comfort and Dover will break up because that's how marriages work for tigers, and Cheetahs aren't much better. Robey even got some milage out of Tiffany's love of swimming (which is a true Siberian Tiger trait) where other felines (like Dover) hate water as much as my former cat Gandalf did. (Years later, I still bear bathing scars).

There's a point to the Suburban Jungle being about a pack (heh) of animals who walk like man, and that makes all the difference.

Plus, he has a cast page. Though he doesn't make it very obvious.

One step away from "oh get over it."

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(From Doonesbury. Click on the thumbnail for full sized morons!)

I don't have a long snark for this one -- I just thought it needed the strip's thumbnail, so didn't really fit in the Random Webcomics Commentary.

Those who know me know I had my share of medical fun over the last few years. Nothing worth rehashing here. Suffice it to say I'm fine and getting finer with each and every day.

However, this strip is absolutely one hundred percent true. People get kind of freaked over medical issues for a while, and then you turn right back into the dumbass they've always loved and ragged on.

Is that a syringe in your pocket or are you just happy to see... oh.

CnAStrip376.gif(From Casey and Andy. Click on the thumbnail for full sized supple, pouty lips!)

Something weird has happened to Casey and Andy. I don't think Weir meant it to happen, and yet it did, and I don't think it's a bad thing.

His strip is named Casey and Andy. It stars Casey and Andy, with their romantic leads Mary and Satan.

And somehow, Jenn Brozek has become the strip's protagonist.

Seriously. Jenn's time travel plotline was by far the longest in Casey and Andy's history, and highlighted an important truth: the Normal Person makes for the best person for weirdass things to happen to. "The Mary Tyler Moore" show wasn't just starring Mary Tyler Moore because her name was in the title -- it's because surrounded by weirdos like Ted Baxter and Lou Grant, Mary was more or less normal, reacting to what happened around her like an island of sanity in a sea of batshit crazy.

This is the role Jenn has assumed in Casey and Andy. Mary (coincidence) doesn't have that role -- she's the Pun Police. Satan... come on, is Satan. And Casey and Andy might be the title of the show, but they're also the comic relief. They cause the insanity, instead of reacting to it.

Today's strip highlights this. Jenn's neverending quest to get Quantum Cop to realize how much she loves him, and of course it goes badly. And is fall down funny, because Jenn doesn't expect weirdness. Plus stabbing with needles.

That doesn't mean there can't be plenty of one-shots about everything else, but Jenn's like salt -- she turns up the flavor of everyone else's weirdness. Plus she's Kosher and Alton Brown wouldn't mind cooking with her, if you know what I mean.

Okay, I lost the point somewhere. Still. Good strip today.

Random Webcomic Notes: Comments On Stuff Too Recently Snarked

I'm making it a point not to snark the same stuff two entries in a row or even every other, except of course when I do. For the most part, I don't think it's necessary. However, sometimes I have a comment on the recently snarked. So on those days, I'll do this: fast comments, with links but no thumbnails. You want to see what I'm snarking about? Go to the strips! TO THE STRIPS, LADS AND LASSES!

(In no particular order, and note there are spoiler warnings throughout, because... well, I'm commenting on the strips....)

  • Queen of Wands: Potentially a good twist of Story, potentially not, depending on where Aeire goes next with it. A bit unfortunate that this is happening so closely to Monette's miscarriage in Something Positive, since the two strips are so closely tied right now. I continue to groove on Queen of Wands, but Aeire needs to watch carefully that her Cerebus Syndrome play doesn't turn into a First and Ten.
  • General Protection Fault: I actually thought that GPF'd go onto the "You Had Me But You Lost Me" list over this weekend, but Darlington's intrigued me by bringing back this somewhat obscure plotline. Intrigued is good.
  • Alex: Alex is essentially gag a day, but they're good gags. Peattie and Taylor sometimes get repetitive when they're not careful, though. Still, at least the Unemployment plotline is done.
  • Nukees: I love Danny. I always have. I always will.
  • Real Life Comics: A solid week of 'real life' oriented strips. I'm liking this trend. I'm liking it a lot. Real Life's off the "Why Do I Read This Webcomic Again" list, for the moment.

Tune in next time... for more Random Webcomic Notes!

Websnark Update Pool: Sauce for the Goose, Mr. Saavik....

Hey, if Websnark can't update at a consistent time in the morning, the least we can do is mock it incessently, right? Pot, my name is Mr. Kettle.

I'm on vacation today through Monday, so I slept gloriously, deliciously in. So while you might used to Websnarking having happened sometime before now, it's only happening now. And that's okay.

(Of course, I also snarked stuff after midnight, so technically the first snarks of the 27th already happened. Also, this is a blog, not a strip, so people are used to new entries coming up randomly. Also, no one gives a damn when this thing updates.)

What scares me is, I know guys like this

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(From Sluggy Freelance! Click on the thumbnail for full size bitching!)

I classify Sluggy Freelance as a strip of Story instead of a strip of Funny. This is not to say Sluggy doesn't have the Funny. It does. Though truth be told it's not as sharp in the Funny as the olden days of Sluggy. But where once Sluggy was entirely about the Funny, now the Story is king, and the Funny just spices it up.

For those who've been following carefully, Sluggy is that rarity of rarities -- a strip that went for Cerebus Syndrome and actually (mostly) reached it. It found Story and complexity, without diving into First and Ten suckiness. And part of the reason for that is typically there is the Funny, despite the Story core. Even going into something as deeply painful to read (in a good way) as Fire and Rain doesn't mean that Zoł┤ won't end up as a Camel in a subcompact.

This is a strip of Funny, and it's got it in spades. And it's easy to recognize. There are people who cannot accept either someone being honest or being decent. It has to be their fault, it can't possibly be yours.

Here's hoping kittens eat these two.

(Crap. Now we're going to have another day of pet supply ads in the sidebar.)

One week from philanthropist to sellout -- I rock!

You'll notice (if you're reading the site instead of an RSS feed, anyway) that I've thrown up Google Adsense ads in the sidebar. I like the Google ads. I kind of enjoy playing "what ads show up for my weirdass posts" anyway, and a few pennies towards future bandwidth won't be a bad thing.

I can understand its fixation on Little Orphan Annie merchandise. I actually make reference to Annie on these pages, and how often do you figure that happens on Adsense aware sites? But why it's trying to sell my readers Pet Supplies is utterly beyond me.

August 26, 2004

A confession.


(From It's Walky. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... something.)

My name is Eric Alfred Burns. I am a professional writer. I am a systems administrator. I am a college graduate, Cum Laude, noted for a frightening command of useless trivia. I am a lapsed member of Mensa. I am trained in philosophy, in history, in literature, in science and in technology. I have read It's Walky every day for years.

My name is Eric Alfred Burns, and I no longer have even the slightest idea of what's going on in this strip. Not even slightly. I don't think I'm stupid. But I suppose it's possible.

If this thing weren't ending sometime soon, it'd still be history.

A PvP snark that's actually about PvP? Shocking!

pvp20040826.gif
(From PvP. Click on thumbnail for full sized Chainmail Goodies!)

No, this has nothing to do with when this strip updated. While dedicated reader Chris Meadows found some tools that might let us track the update times far more carefully, we made an executive decision that such tools were "way too much work than the joke was worth," and so the Update Pool has been retired with full military honors.

Besides, far more interesting today is today's strip, which is definitely worth a snark.

Kurtz has a gift for characterization. He doesn't need a huge amount of exposition to give you just reams of information about the character, and if you've been following along at all, you can build significant information about his characters without even realizing you're doing it. Miranda, Jade's little sister, has been Kurtz's characterization masterpiece.

She's come right out and said that she wants to seduce Brent -- not because she's particularly attracted to Brent (though she might be), but because growing up she had to deal with her older, more developed sister seducing her boyfriends just by walking through the room. From what we know of Jade, my suspicions are Jade never actually seduced or even showed interest in any of these boys, but when a little sister has Jan Brady Syndrome, it's all about perception. We know also that while Jade is, from all accounts, red hot (I'm reminded of Wednesday White's Comixpedia article on Geek Women and the male fantasy -- Amazonian/sexual/beauty versus empowerment -- though I think Jade is presented more as someone overcoming the stereotype in her everyday life, occasional Everquest Cosplay aside), she is less interested in using her sexuality to her advantage than achieving based on her skills. Further, we know she is a legitimate geek -- she games, she roleplays, she likes geek stuff. She has geek cred, and she has it because she legitimately likes it. She is, in a way, the ectype of Geek Woman to Marcy's Archetype in geek girldom.

Miranda, on the other hand, is not a geek girl. She has no love of gaming. She thinks the LARPing is stupid. And while both Jade and Miranda dressed in sexy outfits for the LARP, Jade did it to get into character. Miranda did it because if she was going to have to do this, she was going to be the hottest thing in the room.

This leads us to today's strip, which encapsulates this whole into four panels. Jade is into the adventure. She's fighting, she's role playing, she's having a good time. Miranda's clearly not into it -- she's not 'fighting' the 'orc,' she's playing off her scanty clothing and natural hotness to get the guy behind the orc mask to drop his guard so she can take him out. "Sex is a weapon," she says, and for her it is -- but it's a victory that misses the point of the adventure.

Miranda's quest to show up Jade -- seduce her boyfriend, keep Francis on a hormone based leash, dominate Jade's workplace and hobbies -- is a full out interesting plotline for PvP. Kurtz is handling it well. He's bringing the Funny. And most of all, he's being subtle about it. And this makes for good times for we the readers.

Now, if you really want to get bored, ask me sometime about my analysis of Max Powers.

It's like playing with LEGO sets, except instead of blocks I'm using EGO!

We've started tweaking the templates. This is a beginning of the process, not an end, but as we were coming up on a deadline (namely -- the daily comics trawl lists were about to expire from the front page) we needed to adapt so people could easily find the ground rules.

So, over in the sidebar we've now added three sections. "About Websnark.com" currently has the Mission Statement, such as it is, and will ultimately have the about the author and (not so) frequently asked questions list, along with explaining the funky terminology we seem to be developing. You know, "The Funny," "The Story," "First and Ten Syndrome" and the like.

Below that, we have the Daily Comics Trawls. Soon to be added to that are the Collected Page Trawl and the Sporadically Checked Trawl. I might or might not put a specific "Why Do I Read This Webcomic, Again" list here. If I do that, however, I'll probably make a whole new Safari tab group for things on that list, and that's one more step to oblivion. OBLIVION!

Below that is the "You Had Me, And You Lost Me" list, which lists the snarks I write about those strips once read and why I stopped reading them. Which, if you get right down to it, is meant as a public service. While I don't expect cartoonists to change their strips to reflect my tastes, it can't hurt for them to know why someone who once read their strip faithfully decided to give it up.

Below that is the Category archives and all the other tchochkes Movable Type throws in by default. Eventually, because I can already see a pretty hefty impact on my bandwidth (and right now that's more exciting than frightening), Google Adsense ads will get slid in there to help maintain the site.

Slowly, we're going to make this into our place. And by 'our,' I mean 'mine.' No offense.

Rethinking image use

While going out and doing the snark thing, I want to be a good Internet Citizen. I want to use the artwork of others appropriately, without stealing their bandwidth or detracting from their rights as copyright holders, as artists, and (in some cases) as entrepreneurs.

At the same time, Websnark is both critical and satirical, making commentary on specific bits and pieces of internet culture. All perfectly protected under Fair Use.

It's a balancing act, and I think I'm going to shift things slightly, just to err on the side of not being a bastard. Not being a BastardĺĐó. It gets you chicks.

So, instead of having the "click on the thumbnail for full sized goodness" open up a local instance of the artwork, where possible I'll have the "full sized goodness" actually open up the relevant web page on the person's site. So, if you want to see the full sized goodness, you actually have to see it on their site, in context of their design, advertising and so forth. I'll continue to use the thumbnails, as I think they're both useful and pleasant, but they're downsampled significantly at best, and often won't let someone see the point to any great degree.

Understand, I think copyright wise I was in the clear with the other method, but the letter of the law isn't the point, sometimes. Even if I'm snarking negatively about someone's site, the idea is for you the readers to check out what they have on that site. If I don't want you going to their site at all (in my autocratic way) I'll neither use a thumbnail nor provide a link.

So, while this does mean it'll push bandwidth up on their sites a scosh, it'll be within the context of the specific pages. And if there's subscriptions required to read someone's archives, it means you'll need to spend money. Life Can Be Like That.

Here's an entry I specifically ask for comments on. I want to do what's right by folks, here.

In Search of... the ideal cast page

(From The Order of the Stick. Click on the thumbnail for full sized casting calls.)

Having snarked at length on how any cast page is better than no cast page, our attentions must now turn to what a truly good cast page contains. Obviously, it has to list at least the primary cast. That's basic. It'd be nice to have pictures too. What the cast page is meant to do is twofold: introduce the cast to a wholly new reader, so he can pick things up quickly, and give existing readers a fast place to refresh their memories if needed.

However, if we're going to talk ideal cast pages, one that includes elements of what makes the characters who they are, and brings some Funny in on the bargain, are lovely, lovely things.

A friend of mine hight Mason suggested I have a look at the Order of the Stick. I'm happy to do so, though I haven't seen enough yet to snark about. However, as I was jumping into it (and, after I finish doing stuff for, you know, my day job, preparing my usual backtrack through the archives), I checked out the Cast Page.

Now this is a freaking Cast Page. Introductions, a storyline, funny, and enough drabbles to both let me know the personalities of the cast and the way they interact with one another.

We'll see how Order of the Stick pans out, but this Cast Page? Primo. Rich Burlew gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

I don't know what's cuter, the decapitation or Purgatory

(from Wigu. Click on the thumbnail for full sized damnation lobby.)

I'm not hugely grooving on the current Wigu storyline, though it remains a strip I look forward to. I've long suspected that Rowland lets his storylines go off in whatever direction they seem to follow (he's one of those I liken to a Jazz Musician in his art), and I think he makes some of his choices based on what he'd think is cool to draw. For instance, the spider guy in Purgatory in this strip I think appealed to him, so he worked him in.

There's been a lot of little touches in this storyline that I love. The fact that Sheriff Pony craps vanilla ice cream that is delicious (I wonder if Chris Crosby's Li'l Boardy will sue). The extreme lengths Topato is going to ducking work right now. Diablo. And the fact that Sheriff Pony was decapitated as a plot device, with neither trauma nor even a substantial slowdown of the storyline. These are fun, and keep me coming back even if this isn't my favorite plot of Wigu's by a long shot.

It goes back to one of my theories: strips that bring the Funny can get away with faltering on the Story. So long as Wigu brings the Funny, the Story can have issues and I'm not going to be bothered. But strips that lose the Funny in lieu of the Story need to absolutely kick ass with the Story, or else annoyance will follow.

Wow. There *is* a lot of Kryptonite out there....


(From The Astronomy Picture of the Day. Click on the thumbnail for full sized filaments!)

I love APoD, and pictures like this is why. Now, they say this is Cassiopeia A, a remnant of an ancient Supernova, but you can't fool me. This is clearly the remains of the destroyed planet Krypton. Just look at all the Kryptonite out there. And you can sort of make out where people used to live out by the Gold Volcano before they got blown to tiny bits by their whole planet.

One of my favorite bits about Babylon 5 was their use of real starscapes -- and the real beauty and majesty to be found in them -- in their space scenes. Star Trek would have us believe the universe is wholly made up of planets with green atmosphere and black space with pinprick stars. Babylon 5 knows that ILM can't begin to mock up sights as impressive as the Hubble takes pictures of in real life.

Hey look! The ruins of Argo City, chock full of dead Kryptonians because of meteor strikes! Up in the corner! You sort of have to squint to see it.

Dude. She's gorgeous. Live in the graveyard already.


(From Goats. Click on the thumbnail for fullsized Overclocked Lemon Cameo.)

Much of what I like about Goats is encapsulated in today's strip. There is weirdness. There is exposition (and Rosenberg is exceptionally good at cramming in dense word balloons without overwhelming the text). There's the glowing Overclocked Lemon just sitting in the background. And there's attempts by Jon to psyche out his girlfriend which fail because Jon's not that good at psyching anyone out.

Note also the gentle reminders of backstory. These aren't thrown in your face. They simply point out the existence of kidnappers without nipples and the guest appearance of the Space Mummy (Spummy is the character actor of the Webcomics continuum. They'll eventually have to elect him president of the union) to remind longtime readers that yes, these things happened, where new readers can follow along without feeling overburdened. (Though honestly, when the word "nippleless is involved, don't you just have to archivetrek back until it's explained?)

Plus, there is Funny. Rosenberg is another of those who balances the needs of Story well with the yearning for Funny within us all.

And even better? No Oliver! It's been weeks since we've seen Oliver! I'm all about the Oliver-free Goats experience!

Now this is what we've been waiting for.


(From Alex. Click the thumbnail for full sized Stockbrokery.)

When the stock market bubble burst a few years back, Alex the Stockbroker was hit hard, going through lean times at Megabank, and ultimately getting the sack along with the rest of the cast (including fan favorite and total loser Clive). Alex got a job or two along the way, but mostly he had to cope with unemployment, and the systemic loss of status. His Frequent flier and American Express cards were downgraded to mundane colors. His son was pulled out of his prestigious school and had to go to school with poor children. It was sheer Hell.

Well, the markets are back up, and Megabank rehired Alex -- a touch late, as the "unemployed" storyline had gotten pretty long in the tooth. However, in rehiring him, they subjected him to the ultimate indignity -- having to work for Clive, who was the new head of department. (Clive himself got that choice job because he was such a loser he caused several problem employees to resign in disgust -- Rupert, the President, is a master at the ulterior motive.) Alex had some trouble because for years Clive was his pupil in ways to grift off of work, and now he could hold Alex's feet to the fire.

Well, finally the universe has been restored. Two days ago, Alex's self-importance reached its peak when headhunters started calling him again, and now Alex is finding new ways to get drunk on company time. It's been too long, but we're finally back to pure, venal fun.

Coincidence? HAH! I scoff at coincidence!

gg20040721.jpgFrom Gaming Guardians.

So... EDG is vacationing in City of Heroes. But one of the recurring menaces the Gaming Guardians face is the threat of Shane Hensley, the founder of Pinnacle, creator and designer of Deadlands, and fair shot with a pistol.

And now... Cryptic Studios has announced that Shane Hensley has become Senior Writer for City of Villains.

I wonder if Graveyard Greg's going to latch onto this....

On the philosophy of snarking

Someone over on PvPForums asked if the PvP Update Pool was a joke or not. I'd have answered over there, but they have a 12 hour "cooling off" period between registering for their forums and being able to post replies or threads (which on balance is likely a good idea -- much like there's a waiting period for guns. Before you can buy a gun in a rage and run into a gun club where everyone has guns and a willingness to shoot you, they make you sleep on whether or not you want to shoot that fool thing).

But still, it's a fair question. And deserves an answer.

Of course it's a joke. All of Websnark is a joke, from its name to its posts. Yeah, there's plenty of opinion here. It's an opinion site. But in the grand scheme of things, if something like PvP or Penny-Arcade are Network, I'm at best Basic Cable Entertainment and very likely Cable Access -- shooting for Daily Show, settling for XPlay, dreading ending up as Unscrewed.

Scott Kurtz ain't gonna sweat me or my snarking about his inability to set a time for updates. And, as someone (quite legitimately) points out on his forum, Kurtz does typically manage an update every day, at some point in the day. What I find funny is the broad range of times that might be, and so that ends up fuel for the snark.

Like I said in the original post -- and, for that matter, in PvP's entry in the Daily Comics Trawl -- PvP is Damn Good. Sooner or later one of the daily strips will be snarked, and it's highly likely said snark will be on all the ways Kurtz gets it right. As said before:

And Kurtz deserves his success -- he can sometimes piss me the Hell off, but his strip is one of the most consistent I read -- it brings the Funny, each and every day, and evolves without bogging down. It's just. Plain. Good.

So why pick on it at all? Its update wonkiness doesn't begin to touch Megatokyo's, for example. This is true -- but then, Megatokyo's update wonkiness was part of why I dropped that strip entirely. I'm not about to drop PvP. I am, though, going to mock what I find mockable.

And, like I've said many times before, it makes a difference between whether a cartoonist's strip is their job or their hobby. I dropped Hound's Home in large part because I got sick of having it sit, unupdated, in my trawl for months at a time. If I ever do a "You Had Me, And You Lost Me" on Hound's Home, I'll mention that as part of the reasons. But I won't snark about updates on Hound's Home because Ryan Duchane doesn't succeed or fail at eating daily by the success and failure of Hound's Home. He doesn't owe his audience anything, because he's not asking them for anything. Someone who does their strip as their job gets held to a higher standard, because the risks are higher. Kurtz, Abrams, Milholland, Gabe and Tycho and the like use their strips as the foundations for keeping themselves, their significant others, their children and their basset hounds fed.

By the same token, that puts responsibility on me, in my humble opinion. I'm one of those guys who contributes to tip jars. I buy stuff. I buy memberships. I'm in Defenders of the Nifty. I sent cash to Randy Millholland. I buy the PvP comic book. I bought a Skull Plushie. (Sidenote -- the Skull Plushies are brilliant. I can't wait for mine. I'll snark in depth when it comes in.) I go to strip advertisers. It's just what I do, when I like a strip. Hell, I sent Kurtz money for a Macintosh, even though I couldn't care less if he uses a Mac or not.

And, if I like a strip and I continue to read about it, I snark about it. And go for humor, while expressing an opinion. Which was the point of the PvP Update Pool, to answer his forum-goers. And in writing snarkish stuff, I feel I owe the people who read me, now and into the future, my best efforts to be funny and my opinion as I see it. And some expectation of guidelines, which I'm trying to flesh out as we go along.

How much do I think Scott Kurtz should care about my mockery? Why, that's "not at all," Wink. Scott Kurtz doesn't sweat me, and he certainly knows his reputation when it comes to update times. (He's even mentioned it in his strip -- usually in strips where his father is threatening to kick him in the ass if he doesn't put the strip up earlier.) If anything, I hope he snrked a bit when he read "PvP Update Pool." And when I snark opinion stuff about his strip, I hope he finds something useful in that opinion.

But I don't expect it of him. He doesn't owe me the combination of Jack and Shit.

August 25, 2004

On the Backtrack.

(Taken from Planet Earth and Other Tourist Traps. Click on the thumbnail for full sized secret origins!>

I'm trying, generally, not to snark strips from the same site more than once a day (or even twice in a row). This isn't like the lamented PvP Update Pool, which wasn't based on individual strips. We're not a reprinting service and (yet more unwritten rules of snarking! Yay!) it's not cricket to take strips from someone's site too often. People shouldn't come to Websnark to see the latest Queen of Wands. They should go to Queen of Wands, and see it in the context of Aeire's site, commentary and advertising.

But, when I'm reading the archives of a new strip for me, naturally I have snark fodder come up for more than one strip. Hopefully, Deely will forgive me a second snark in 24 hours. Besides, I absolutely love this strip -- it's the kind of Supervillain secret origin I think at least half of all supervillains should have.

More to the point, this gives me a chance to talk about my method of adding a new strip to the Daily Trawl. See, when I sample new strips, I do just that. I read a couple of days worth, weigh them, see if there's Funny or Story to be had... give them a chance to catch me. If they do, I'll usually decide to go through the archives and see if I really enjoy them.

Only, I pretty much always go through the archives backwards, from most recent strip to oldest, moving backwards in time. And I'm pretty sure no cartoonist wants me to do it that way.

Why such a weirdass method of reading comic strip archives? Simple. Survey of British Novels, back from Boston University.

My British Novels class at BU was pretty terrible. (I retook it years later at a different school and had an excellent teacher, for the record.) All I got out of that class were two things: an abiding hatred of Joseph Conrad and a good method of proofreading essays. The teacher recommended we read the paper backwards when we were done. Mistakes would leap out at us if we didn't get caught up in the narrative of the essay. And it works.

I don't remember when I started doing it to webcomic archives, but the method works well for me. If I can go backwards through the archive, follow what's going on even in reverse and enjoy the strips, I've found the strip won't disappoint me moving forward later on. So far, it's never failed -- I have yet to find a strip of quality that I didn't enjoy reading backwards as well as forwards. It's one of the neat aspects of the web, as well. It's easy enough to read the strips backwards if you want.

So far, Planet Earth's passing the backtrack test. I'm having a lot of fun with the strip. It seems likely it'll get added to the daily trawl. And, when Websnark evolves a bit more and begins doing full out reviews, this'll likely be among the first.

In other news, I'm feeling pretty ill tonight, so it'll be a relatively light snark evening. Unless it isn't.

PvP Update Pool: Faux Day 2

PvPLogo.gifAnother snark about PvP. Aren't you lucky?

So, the RSS feed for today gives us a time of 5:30. Which would be all fine and good if I didn't know for a fact (confirmed with one of EDG's comments to that effect) that PvP updated no later than 2:30 EDT.

So now, the whole of the PvP Update Pool is in jeopardy. See, I have no problem regularly snarking about Scott Kurtz's inability to set a regular update schedule (or, what would likely be easier, do the strips at least one day in advance). I'm good at it, and as stated before, this is his job.

But it's not cricket to snark about the times he updates and then have a three hour delay between his actual update and what we put down as the official time. It's just. Not. Cricket.

So. The page info on his site reflects the 'update time' of his dynamic content (the google ads and so forth) and so is useless for these purposes. Because his site doesn't generate the RSS itself, it's clear it's done manually by someone else far far away (I don't even recognize the country code for his RSS's server. Not that that means much in the internet world).

I think the pool will have to be canceled due to lack of firm knowledge of update times, and therefore a lack of cricketness in the results.

The humor of the situation? If PvP had a moderately consistent update schedule, that's when I would start checking, so we could at least guestimate the results. So in his inconsistency, Kurtz has managed to make PvP proof from the Update Pool!

Damn you, Max Powers!

How sick can you get of 'thank you?'


(From one of the best, Doonesbury, Click on the thumbnail for full sized sacrifice.)

Doonesbury's been going strong for over 30 years. (All of which -- all of which -- is available for pennies over on mycomicspage.com. Jesus H. Christ. Now that is a deal.) This is why. Even if B.D. without his helmet is way too weird a sight for me.

Though maybe that's the point. Maybe losing a limb in Iraq finally makes B.D. not so 'hard headed.' Hard to say. Still, this whole run's been inspired. And it reminds me of a classic Bloom County, which also is putting its whole run on mycomicspage.com, as well as Breathed's precursor strip, Academia Waltz, which itself also used the joke. When Cutter/Saigon John is asked what he wants to do -- how he wants to express the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that the questioner is just sure he feels, with the excited and fearful boy finally asking "what do you want to do...?" Well, Cutter John wants to walk. Same ballpark as this strip -- you get sick of being told about your heroism. You just want to get on with things, and given half a chance, you'd rather go back to how you were before your 'sacrifice.'

Maybe the Empire should just stop hiring Bothans.


(From Penny Arcade. Click on the thumbnail for full sized dead Bothans!)

Not to harp on Sony and Galaxies more than is strictly necessary, but once again Gabe and Tycho encapsulate what makes an issue desperately desperately wrong within a few short panels. And there is the order of the death of many Bothans. And I also have no doubt but that Worlds of Warcraft will be better than Star Wars: Galaxies, since the popular consensus of review sites are Galaxies sucks bantha.

Sometimes, riding a dog is just riding a dog.


(From Sinfest. Click on thumbnail for full sized cuteness!)

We know Ishida is a calligraphist, and it shows up in this strip. The linework is absolutely gorgeous -- minimal, every stroke contributing. And this particular strip takes Chris Crosby's (somewhat overused) device of shared animal dreams/imagination and kicks its ass right out the gate. Sometimes, a cat hat is easier to explain than might appear.

Another thing -- Ishida, when doing Percy and Pooch, does an actual cat and dog. Yes, these are more eloquent than normal, at least to each other, but their motivations, their understandings, and their lack of understandings match up what we can see. They don't get stuff, and why should they? They're pets. They have walnut sized brains.

That's all. Nothing profound. But because you were good and waited patiently for this entry to end, here's digital art of my own cat, Sarah, sitting in a basket. Click on her for full size, as always.

Zen and Cartoon Characters


(From Nukees. Click the thumbnail for full sized fetishes!)

This got a full out snort from me, and that leads inexorably to talking about something a successful webcomic does: characterization.

There are a good number of cartoonists who think character development means adding layer upon layer of depth to their characters, taking a character of limited dimension and making them fuller, richer characters. Taking what was fun on one level and showing the reality beneath it.

Those cartoonists are wrong. They're going for "Cerebus" Syndrome and end up with "First and Ten" Syndrome instead.

Cerebus Syndrome refers to Dave Sim's epic, sometimes tragically flawed magnum opus, Cerebus the Aardvark. Cerebus started life as a parody of Conan the Barbarian starring an Earth-Pig born. Over time, it grew extremely complex, philosophical, and in many ways much much funnier. Then, Dave Sim went batshit crazy and Cerebus went straight to Hell, but that's for another day. People saw how Cerebus's humble roots could lead to glorious heights, and as cartoonists get bored with what they're doing, they decided to pull a Cerebus of their own. Sadly, nine times out of ten, they get "First and Ten Syndrome."

"First and Ten" was one of the earliest "made for HBO" television series, and bears about as much resemblance to "The Sopranos" as "American Pie" bears to "American Beauty." It was a tits-n-ass fest with football player stereotypes and the always 'fun' plot of having a woman own the team. Because women? And football? Gosh, that could never happen. It was light, frothy and fun, in an exploitive way for a couple of seasons.

And then, they decided to make it serious. O.J. Simpson came on board because at the time he was seen as inoffensive and earnest. The stereotypical coach became a browbeater who emotionally abused his assistant coach because he suspected the coach would leave. It tried to become dramatic -- in part because it's felt drama is easier to pull off than humor.

Well, I admit it's hard to find the Funny if you don't know what you're doing, but losing the Funny in exchange for 'character development' leaves pure schlock, untouched by new viewers who weren't interested in the comedy series, but alienating the existing fanbase. When the E True Hollywood Story is produced 20 years later, inevitably the "change of direction" is touted as the reason for the inevitable decline and failure. It is, in the end, extremely hard to do what Cerebus did. It is pathetically easy to do what First and Ten did.

Bleuel (a name that makes me think Darren "Gav" Bleuel is secretly Bleu-El, Superman's cousin from Krypton's west coast, where he used to play Kandorian Bebop) avoids the trap of "First and Ten" syndrome by not going for "Cerebus" Syndrome. Character development does occur in Nukees -- things happen and those things affect the characters, who grow. However, their essential natures remain the same. King Luca can be kidnapped for extended periods of time by Cecilia -- an act that ultimately broke him up with his beloved Duchess Suzy Gee -- but he remains King Luca, who leaps forth, holds sway over his domain, and accepts the fealty from underclassmen whom he also protects. So, when Cecilia seems deeply troubled, despite the fact that she's the reason his happiness was lost, King Luca leaps off to save her.

"Damsel in Distress Fetish" explains it nicely. With Funny. Luca remains recognizable. He remains fun. And the strip doesn't mistake 'growth' for 'increasingly morbid.'

And Danny is just plain Danny, and that's okay with me.

*Click!*


(From Planet Earth (and other tourist traps). Click on thumbnail for full sized kidnappings!)

Every so often, you encounter a new strip and have it just 'click' for you. Its Funny grabs you, or the art nails you, or it just seems right to you. It's a great, great feeling.

I don't know much about Planet Earth yet. I saw a reference to it on The Snake Farm, found when I did my first successful Google search that acknowledged Websnark. If you think I took a look at Planet Earth specifically because they linked me first... you're right. I mean, Jesus, what did you think?

The thing is, I flipped up that strip, the first one I've seen, and boom. There it was.

'Click.'

The sentiment is one I wholeheartedly agree with. The number one way to build an audience for anything on the Internet is Kurtz's three point plan, and it's doubly true for webcomics. Be consistent in art choices, bring the Funny, and give people a reasonable time to expect to read your strip.

But truth does not bring Funny. Truth brings Truth, which is a good thing, but can make for a boring strip. Deeny here brings the Funny with him. Perfect setup, perfect denouement. There, we have Funny.

And a new strip that brings Funny is a lovely, lovely thing.

Oh, and he has a cast page. So boom. I can drink deep of the Funny even though I'm new. See? It works both ways! (And on the cast page, he makes mention of "the Funny." Clearly, Aaron Sorkin has infected both of our thought processes.)

Dude, it's a game.

stwrgl.jpgI love early morning video game news. It's never good news. It's always, somehow, some way a company we like is being crushed by the soulless forces of commerce, a company we don't like extending its vicious grip and crushing the good, decent people playing the game, or something about John Romaro getting a new job.

Today's early morning video game news is especially cheery. It seems that makers of crap MMORPG Star Wars: Galaxies had a problem with people using a bug to duplicate in-game money, which they then spread around. Sony Online Entertainment, the soulless company in question, responded by banning all characters who had used or received the fake money.

All characters.

Including all the people who received the money in good faith, had no idea it was duplicated, and would gladly have cooperated with game officials had they known.

If this were the real world, this would be like the guy at the convenience store who had the fake five dollar bills passed to him going to prison along with the counterfeiter.

If this were the real world, there would also be organizations like the ACLU to come in and demand said convenience store worker would receive his rights, make a stink, etc. so on and so forth. See... well, see America since the passage of the Patriot Act for many, many examples of the process. But that's not important here, because this isn't the real world. It's a game. And players don't actually have any rights. At all. Period. It's someone else's machine and they reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

Friends of the banned players gathered in protest on one of the servers. Sony responded by first threatening to shut the server down, and then 'dispersing' the mob by randomly teleporting the characters all over space, willy nilly. Were this the real world, this would be like the police gathering up protesters, herding them into cars, and driving them all over the country, blindfolded, then dumping them in ditches all over this great land of ours. See the above regarding the ACLU in such cases.

Only, once again, this isn't the real world. Characters in Star Wars: Galaxies have no right of free assembly. They have no right of appeal. They have no rights of any sort. It's a game, and someone else is running it.

Does that make Sony's responses right? Absolutely not. It is an infuriating, ham handed way of treating the people who are paying you by the month. This is wholly bad business, handled extremely badly. Period. If people want to get together and protest, let them. Let them play the game any way they feel like it. And when your customer base is complaining, listen to them. It's not that hard, honestly.

However, Sony didn't handle it that way. And so we have many, many players directly affected, and thousands of players on the edges who see just how little they rate in this game. And they want to know what they can do. How can they seize their virtual world back? How can they force change.

Simple. They can't. Sony doesn't care.

But they can stop playing.

Dude, it's a game. If someone dicks you over while playing a game, you stop playing the game. If you've paid for the game, you cancel your account and demand your money back. If you're watching other people play the game and you see them get dicked over, you stop playing the game because you don't like the way people are treated, and it's just a game.

Now, the response is predictable. "I've been developing my character for weeks/months/years. I've invested tremendous time and energy into my character. I've invested tremendous emotion into my character. I'm not about to throw it all away because Sony are dicking players over. There has to be another way!"

There is.

You can accept that all of that time and investment was done on someone else's machine, and that if you choose to continue playing, you do so at the risk of being dicked over randomly. You accept that if Sony decides to remove all characters' pants to make random pleasuring themselves on characters easier, they're going to do it and you're not going to be able to stop them.

I understand how these folks feel. My City of Heroes characters have gotten to at least mid level and I truly love them. I love the game. I love how I'm playing it.

But so far, Cryptic and NCSoft haven't dicked folks over. If they did -- especially if I were one of them -- I'd find some other way to spend the monthly subscription fee. Because it's just a game, and I won't pay for the privilege of being dicked over.

The appropriate response to Sony's actions in this case is simple. There should be massive account cancellations, from people affected and from people who have nothing to do with the situation. Sony -- and more to the point, Lucasarts -- should be forced to have meetings where someone in a tie slaps a hardcopy onto the table and says "Damn it, Steve! Account cancellations are up twenty percent and new accounts are down fifteen percent. Who's the idiot who decided the way to break up protests was to teleport people all over gamespace? I have a garbage bag for him to put all his stuff in and a security guard to 'teleport' him off the premises!" Players should make it clear that their monthly fees means they have an expectation of how they're treated, and this isn't it.

Absent those account cancellations, there's not much point to discussing it. Their game? Their rules.

Check your pants on login, Rebel Scum.

A quick note on webcomics and bandwidth

I tend to put part or all of the strips I'm reffing up on my Snarks, with a link back to the comic itself. Generally I put a thumbnail of the strip up, with a "click to enlarge" option, unless the original's size is conducive to just being there.

For the record, I move copies of the strips into my own storage space and all bandwidth consumed by Websnark is my own, not the creators. Ultimately, I want people to follow the links and read the strips for themselves (yes, even the ones I bitch about). I don't want to steal the bandwidth from the people I'm snarking about. That's just not cricket.

So the costs for this site are mine, not others. That's the upstanding way to trash people, damn it!

Come back to the Funny. Embrace the Funny.

From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail for full sized sadness.

You know how much I like Aeire. You know how much I like Queen of Wands. But this strip goes to the depressed well once too often for this sequence. Aeire loves the piling onto her characters with badness -- especially the characters who are the most childlike and wild and fun-loving. Kestrel's pretty well had the joy crushed out of her, so now it's Angela's turn.

I'm usually okay with bringing the Sad for the sake of Story. But... well, we did this whole thing with Kestrel and Angela before the whole Something Positive crossover. Doing it again is just dogpiling. And since Angela is clearly upset, Shannon hanging up on her just seems mean. Of course, Shannon's pregnant, and that does cause mood swings, but still. Shannon's not usually the mean one.

If for storyline purposes we needed the hanging up, they should have brought Funny here. Funny would have made this strip work. Even something like Angela saying "You're hanging up on me now, aren't you?" and then hearing a click would have turned this strip up.

Embrace the Funny. The Funny is your friend.

August 24, 2004

PvP Update Pool: Day 1!

PvPLogo.gifImages, naturally, taken from PvP.

Welcome to the first day of an exciting new game! It's PvP Update Pool, and you can enjoy the sweet sweet taste of victory!

See, PvP is one of those strips that forms the foundation of its cartoonist's living. Scott Kurtz makes his money and feeds his family with the PvP crew. At this stage, of course, it's the Image Comics deal that probably brings in the most money, though there's also merchandising and advertising and other things. And Kurtz deserves his success -- he can sometimes piss me the Hell off, but his strip is one of the most consistent I read -- it brings the funny, each and every day, and evolves without bogging down. It's just. Plain. Good.

But his updating is haphazard at best.

Now, for the Webcartoonists who don't make their strip their living, snarking about lateness of updates is out of bounds. I might decided to move a strip to the "Sporadically Read" or "You Had Me And You Lost Me" lists because of update wonkiness, but I won't rag on them. They're not getting paid and generally we're not paying for the strip -- we get what we get, damn it. On the other hand, webcartoonists who don't update on a schedule end up losing readers, since people tend to read strips at given times of day. (Not everyone has as little life as I have.)

pvp20040824.gifBut when it's your job to produce your strip, all bets are off. You're producing this thing for an audience to, ultimately, put food on your table. Sporadic updating shows a disrespect for the audience who're paying your bills. That Kurtz now has comic book deals doesn't change the above. The deals are for PvP, and you don't dump the girl you showed up with, damn it!

But! A wonky update schedule means big fun! Each day, when you get up bright and early, you can decide when you think PvP will update. Feel free to leave your guess in the comments from the previous day's entries, or just keep it in your head. Then, when PvP updates, I'll let you know! If your time is closest... you win!

Because spending the day refreshing PvP isn't the most productive use of my time, and there's no good way to ensure knowing when the site updates that way, we are instead going to use the RSS feed (http://www.heterosapiens.com/~crschmidt/pvponline.xml) as the official time of posting for this event. Note that Livejournal's feed of it has times that don't match, so I'm using an RSS reader to know the answer each day. Also please note that times are rendered in Eastern Daylight Time until Daylight Savings Time expires, and then they'll be rendered in Eastern Standard Time. It's unfair, because Scott Kurtz is in Central Time, not Eastern, but I don't care. So there. Besides, if he posted close to the same time every day (say, through automated systems like every other webcomic on Earth, the way he does when he goes away), I wouldn't care what time he updated. It's consistency we love.

For historical data's sake, looking back from today's update back to the first day he came back from vacation (we don't count the guest strips), update times range from 5:31 am to 11:35 pm. Good luck there.

If, by the way, we learn that the RSS system updates way off from the strip's updating, we'll acknowledge it and try to think of something else.

So! What do you get if you win?

Nothing. Jesus. It's a game, not a contest.

Day One of the Update Pool's Certified Result is: 5:27 PM.

Start putting your bids in now!

This song belongs to you and me!

So... you know the JibJab parody of "This Land is Your Land?" That one? The one they're being sued over?

The publishers don't even own it.

Woodie Guthrie published it in 1945 and never renewed the copyright. So it expired. In 1973. It's your song, and my song, and everyone's song.

So. Not only can't JibJab be sued over this... the publishers could potentially be sued by anyone who paid them licensing fees to use the song for the past 31 years.

Wow. Bet they wish they'd just had a sense of humor and an understanding about the Satire Fair Use provisos now. As it is, their little hissy fit's costing them. A lot.

In honor of this so-fitting ending, the complete lyrics of the original song. Owned by me! And you! Thanks, Woody!

This land is your land, this land is my land
From the redwood forest to the New York island.
From the snow-capped mountains to the Gulf Stream waters
This land is made for you and me.

As I go walkin' my ribbon of highway
I see all around me my blue blue skyway
Everywhere around me the wind keeps a-whistlin'
This land is made for you and me.

I'm a-chasin' my shadow out across this roadmap
To my wheat fields waving, to my cornfield dancing
As I go walkin' this wind keeps talkin'
This land is made for you and me.

I can see your mailbox, I can see your doorstep
I can feel my wind rock your tip-top treetop
All around your house there my sunbeam whispers
This land is made for you and me.

An open letter to STUPID WEBCARTOONISTS OF THE WORLD!

Dear Stupid Webcartoonists,

Hi.

You may not be sure this letter is meant for you. After all, not all webcartoonists are stupid. In fact, most webcartoonists seem to be pretty bright. You need to have some modicum of intelligence to hold a pencil, for example. And you need somewhat less intelligence to upload jpegs to the web. So let me give you a short test you can take that will let you decide if you, in fact, are a stupid webcartoonist and therefore the intended recipient of this little letter.

1. Assuming your webcomic has more than a couple of weeks worth of archives, do you:

A) have a nice link on the front page to a cast list, that gives at least some information of who these characters are for new readers just come to your site who don't really want to read your archives from beginning to end until they know whether or not they actually like your strip?

B) Neglect to put up a cast list, because you hate new readers and want to make certain that unless they're willing to commit to your entire backlog and commit all the details of who everyone is and what they're doing to memory while they read, and then hold it in their brains forevermore?

C) Put up either a link to a cast list on your front page, but that link either doesn't exist or goes to a placeholder page with no information on it at all.


Think the test over carefully. Check your answers at least twice. Are we all ready? Then let's check your results, shall we?

If you answered #1 with A, congratulations. You are not stupid. Please, enjoy some delicious frozen custard treats of your choice. This letter is not meant for you. Move along.

If you answered #1 with B, you aren't actually a stupid webcartoonist. You're simply either ignorant of what someone who actually wants people to read and enjoy your strip needs to be able to jump in or a complete asshole who likes making his readers suffer. Either way, this letter isn't meant for you either, though if it causes you to think "hm. Maybe a cast list wouldn't be a bad idea," then hey -- we all win, don't we?

If you answered #1 with C, CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE A STUPID, STUPID WEBCARTOONIST WHO DESERVES THE BACK OF MY HAND! Megatokyo? THE BACK OF MY HAND! Lost and Found? THE BACK OF MY HAND!

Look, you morons! You clearly know a cast page should go up, because you've designed your front page to accommodate the link. Don't you tell me it's too hard -- a one sentence description of each character would be enough. If you want to get really fancy, crop any random strip with the character in it and slap the picture up next to the name.

Oh, I know. You're a sensitive artist and you know that you're going to be judged on the quality of your attention to detail. You have a perfect cast list page in mind and it's going to have relevant links and dynamic updating and people will fall in love with your characters the moment they see it.

NO ONE GIVES A DAMN HOW NICE YOUR CAST PAGE LOOKS, IDIOT!

They don't come to your webcomic to see the cast page. They come for the Comic. The cast page makes the comic accessible to them! Period! Any crappy cast page, out of date and poorly written, is eons better than no cast page, and infinitely better than advertising one and then not following through! JESUS H. CHRIST IN A BUCKET, PEOPLE! Take ten minutes out of writing your fucking "Rant" and PUT UP A FUCKING CAST PAGE!

Kisses,
Eric.

P. S. -- Sore Thumbs? THE BACK OF MY HAND!

Little Orphan Annie in a role that will surprise you....


(From Annie. Click on the thumbnail for full sized creepy-assness.)

Annie. That's right, Annie. From the Musical. From the comic strip. Little Fucking Orphan Annie. It's been in continuous production as a newspaper strip -- continuous -- since October 18, 1922. Makes "User Friendly" seem a little less old school, now doesn't it?

Now. Look at the scrap Annie's gotten herself into. She was in a plane crash and lost her memory. The Warbucks organization and Annie's pilot/adventurer/guardian has had to give up the search, for how could Annie be alive? Why couldn't they find her? Because a clearly delusional and sociopathic man calling himself The Phantom Commando has stolen her, and taken her clear injuries and delerium as a sign from the spirits that his Sidekick has come to join him at last. He has forced her to sew and change her clothes and browbeats her mercilessly when she questions any of his orders. This isn't cute and funny, this is deeply, deeply disturbing. This is The Collector meets the comics page.

If anyone tells you that major syndicates are afraid to take risks on the comics page, punch them in the mouth, will you?

Lucky Cracker!!!!!!!

(From American Elf. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Crackers!)

I dearly love American Elf. James Kochalka is one of those gentle froods (gentle and deeply perverted, if his Fancy Froglin strip is any indicator, but there's nothing wrong with that, now is there) who is an artist because art is what drives him. He's certainly been celebrated in alternative comics. But, where any number of alternative and indy comics folks have little regard for the web (what reluctant patron saint R. Crumb has to say about the web would scandalize a dockworker, and he's mild compared to Gary Groth), Kochalka has embraced it.

American Elf is a diary strip, more or less. He does a sketch every day, and then he gives them to the world to see on his site. We saw James and Amy considering whether or not to have a child a couple of years back. And then we saw them angst a bit when it looked like Amy wasn't conceiving. And then angst a bit when she did. We've seen baby Eli sick and baby Eli happy. And today we see him walk.

Most folks would simply trumpet the walking child. This is a moment every parent remembers forever. But it takes a real understanding of the magic in the world to recognize a Lucky Cracker at work.

God, I love this strip.

It's... a fashion statement

(From Real Life Comics. Click on the thumbnail for full sized awakenings.)

Greg Dean's strip, Real Life Comics, is another on the "Why Do I Read This Webcomic, Again" list. This is probably because a majority of his "real life comics" seem to get into weird areas now. Now, I've got nothing against the weird. Hell, I love -- love -- both Achewood and Wigu, and neither of those can be called normal.

But it seems to me Dean really nails his subject when his strips touch more on... well... Real Life than the quasiSF/fantasy stuff. I'm indifferent to Dean having Greg going back in time to force a friend to eat a few bites of Nintendo cereal. But Greg sleeping on his desk? Yeah. The pacing of this strip is about perfect, and it's funny.

Besides, I've slept in my office before. Haven't we all? And doesn't a strip that calls itself "Real Life Comics" want to invoke things that make us say "oh cool. I've been there before?" Doesn't it? Doesn't it?

Burma-Shave


(From Greystone Inn. Click on the thumbnail for full sized affirmation.)

Look, if you're going to ask a Supervillain to ask God for something, you have to be ready for his requests! Besides, I want a thousand minions, too!

And the changing sign in front is too damn funny.

Yet more recognition of wrongness.


(From Superosity. Click on the thumbnail for full sized ranting.)

As an update to yesterday's snark on mundane/weird disconnects, we see the only possible response to a talking dog managing a convenience store. And we also see that once again, these end up being funny.

A strip of nothing but these disconnects would get dull. But every so often, the obvious needs to be pointed out, and then comes snrking. And to a cartoonist, the snrk is the prize most sought. After groupie sex, of course.

Mr. Crosby gets a biscuit. Tasty tasty biscuit.

August 23, 2004

Is it in fact objectification if the woman is a virtual object, code-speaking?

bloodrayne.jpgI got this off of Boing Boing, which is a place where wonderful mind blowing things are often found.

There is a videogame out in the world. It is called Bloodrayne. It features a female protagonist, Rayne, who is noted for being ultraviolent in a gory fashion (thus, the "blood" part of the title). She is also noted for being... female. Very female. In black leather. She is one of those characters who the term "breast physics" was developed for. In other words, yet another bondage gear fetishist daughter of Lara Croft.

Well, Rayne's beaten Lara once and for all with her sequel. And beaten Jigglefest Maestros Tecmo (known for Dead or Alive and the softcore porn "fan-friendly" Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball as well. We knew they'd upped the ante, because in some of the released screenshots of the game, we saw that Rayne's low rider leather pants were laceups, and open enough that you could tell... just barely... that... (cough) a good interior decorator was consulted in the design. (If you don't get that joke, ask a sixteen year old boy. No, it's not a Queer Eye reference.)

But that wasn't enough to take Tecmo down. After all, the DOA girls have their own line of swimwear. Swimwear. Based on video game characters who originally were supposed to punch people.

Well, Rayne is now going to appear in Playboy magazine, topless at the least.

By appear, we mean Rayne's developers are going to do several modeled renders of the wholly not-real-person character, then shade it in to make it even more... um... detailed.

They're doing a Playboy spread. Printed, not online. Of a video game character.

I think it's good Rayne declined to go full frontal, by the way. I mean, if Majesco, the publishing company, ever decides to do Lytle Wymen the video game, Rayne will need that "I didn't take off my panties" cred to keep from being typecast and shut out.

You'd think this would happen more often in webcomics


(From General Protection Fault. and Casey and Andy, respectively. Click on the thumbnails for Full Sized Distrust.)

Every so often, a strip on the "Why Am I Reading This Again?" list gives me a decent answer. There's something wonderful about those strips that make you ask "why in Hell's name aren't normal people keeping twenty feet away from these people at all times?"

Casey and Andy has trod this ground before. At least once, their neighbor Jenn got a restraining order on the then-primary cast. When it became clear Jenn had joined said primary cast, she discovered (as you see to the right) that she was stuck with the curse herself.

Part of why I like this device so much is the little touch of surrealism it adds. That's right, surrealism. See, as stated in other entries, GPF can have sentient slime molds, and omnipotent jesters, and gratuitous nudity all it likes. That becomes the norm. Having someone appear who has a brain in his head and doesn't particularly want someone who was acquitted for mass-murder because it was demonstrated that a time traveling android duplicate actually did the killing turns the moment 45 degrees to the wonky, and makes weirdness that has become mundane actually weird again.

This is a good thing. Mr. Darlington gets a biscuit today. Tasty, tasty biscuit.

Undead Inside:Why Vampire Doesn't Excite Me

guy.gif (Taken from Dead Inside, by Atomic Sock Monkey Press. No, this has nothing to do with webcomics. Did anything in the masthead say I'd only be snarky about webcomics?)

I pay a certain amount of attention to the world of Role Playing Games. I kind of have to -- I make money off of words contributed to those games. So, I'm interested in how the industry develops, and naturally I get excited about innovation.

Well, this was a big weekend for the RPG community. Not only was it Gencon weekend, but White Wolf was putting out is super-huge-big-ultra-event of the year. After destroying its collective Worlds of Darkness last year, in a huge event that took months to complete (ending Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocolypse, Mage: The Ascension and bunches of other games that often were better but didn't get as much press), White Wolf spent much of this year developing the replacement games that would clear away the cruft and launch anew -- with the mistakes of their heavily plot-arc-dependent lines wiped clean and true innovation in storytelling stepping forward. Yadda yadda yadda. Subtextual in all this was the boatloads of money White Wolf stood to make in selling the "End of the World" supplements and then selling entirely new games now. In RPG terms, this is called "pulling a Wizards of the Coast 520 with a Mage Revised extension." And this was the weekend the first two new books: World of Darkness and Vampire: The Requiem were released.

I have friends writing on the new books, and I want to be supportive of them, but it's hard to be when I care so utterly little about the whole thing. See, White Wolf's brand of storytelling did get a monumental shot in the arm -- a tremendous lift, a massively innovative approach, a hugely cool thing in all ways -- over the last year. Only White Wolf didn't write it. Chad Underkoffler did, and published it through his Atomic Sock Monkey Press. It's called Dead Inside, and it so desperately kicks the ass of modern horror roleplaying that repackaging Vampire seems like limp celery next to steak in comparison.

I have no doubt that Vampire: The Requiem is good. Hell, it'll no doubt be a better entry level game than Vampire: The Masquerade has been for years. But it's not going to begin to touch the thematic beauty of Dead Inside. In Dead Inside, the main character has lost his soul. Perhaps he sold it, wittingly or unwittingly. Perhaps it was stolen. Perhaps it just got neglected. But one way or another, the character has become empty. A cracked shell with the yolk poured out. A nothing. The world is dimmer, food doesn't taste as good, sex doesn't feel as good, and minus his spiritual heart he's slowly declining into nothingness. But he figures this out, and has to work to either get his soul back or find some way to replace it... and having had his tough outer spiritual shell cracked, he's able to perceive a much broader world than ever before.

How do you get soul back if you can't find yours? Simple. You do good things. You affirm other people. You help. That's right -- a Role Playing Game where power comes from being decent. Someone call the Christian Right and the Secular Left-- their game has arrived.

This has all the angst that a good White Wolf game would have, only there's point to it. This has all the wonder of Mage or Changeling, but with simpler mechanics. The mechanics (Underkoffler's Prose Descriptive Qualities, or PDQ system) are sublime -- easy to grasp. Good roleplaying is rewarded. And intent is more important than big dice rolls.

But damn few people know about Dead Inside. It's small-press published, available electronically and through Print on Demand. There were no midnight parties at local game stores for its release. There were no massive (and expensive) events at Gen Con for it. All it has going for it is sheer quality and inexpensive cost. And people like me shouting about it from the roof of my building.

I don't think the Vampire/World of Darkness release was quite as epic as White Wolf hoped, truth be told. I happened to be in Pandemonium Books this weekend -- this is one of the best-positioned game stores... well, in the world, living in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge, with huge college age traffic. Vampire and WoD were sitting on the shelf in two places, with several copies of each. For the hour I was there (on Saturday, in the heart of the day), a grand total of one couple came in, looked over the books, and bought Vampire -- but not WoD. Contrasted with the frenzy for Gehenna, the rulebook that presented the end of the world for Vampire: The Masquerade (Gehenna sold out pretty much worldwide, almost immediately, when it was released), this seems to be... well, just another RPG release. But I'm sure it's selling well and that's not a bad thing. I do have friends working on it, as I said, and I want them to do well. And I want people to have fun playing games.

But while someday I'm sure I'll pick these books up, to keep current if nothing else, they don't excite me the way Dead Inside did and does. And I'm forced to wonder if the rank and file are ever going to pick up on what's really changing, out there, or if they're just going to let it pass them by.

You know, this is ironic too.


From I Drew This. Click on the thumbnail for full sized hair.

Folks who know me know I'm a liberal. I used to be a moderate, but the last four years drove me steadily so left I walk into shelves in supermarkets. So please understand I agree with this cartoon's sentiment. I also actually like the cartoon as a cartoon -- very pretty art, a better sense of aesthetics and whimsy than Simpson's managed with Ozy and Millie for quite some time, and a very accessible message on the whole, agree with it or no. Good political cartoon, except....

Isn't there a statue of limitations on Alanis Morrasette "Ironic" jokes? And didn't it expire in, like, 1997, the year after the song came out? I mean, it's been eight years. The well's bone dry, and little Timmy so desperately needs water. Without water, he will die. Please, please seek water for little Timmy.

Bastard Tommy Hilfinger


From Scary Go Round. Click on the thumbnail for disturbing poetry goodness.

I just have to say a couple of things. First off, the father is right. With each damnable ad, our children are driven deeper and deeper into the abyss.

But more to the point, the father? Looks more like me than any cartoon representation ever has. Including ones I drew myself. (Well, except for the bald spot. I have no bald spot. I have hair! Lush hair! Hah! Pushing 40 and all my hair! Who's the king now, huh? Who's the king now?!) And he's clearly married to Marcia Wallace. Which means that if I ever fulfill my dream of marrying Marsha Wallace, our children will be red haired sociopaths.

But then, I could have guessed that.

August 22, 2004

Hey, it's honest dishonesty...


(From Men in Hats. Click on the thumbnail for full sized hilarity.)

Not only is this hysterical, it's so true. So. Damn. True. Not only have I had this happen to me, I've done it. And so have you. Sometimes, when you've been cornered in a debate, and are clearly wrong, you want something... anything to prove you're superior to your opponent.

It's a variation on a great Simpson's line:

Ned Flanders: Gosh, Homer, looks like you're missin' a piece of your puzzle!
Homer Simpson: Oh yeah? Well it looks like you're missing a wife! Because she died!
Ned: [chastened] heh. Yeah. I walked right into that one, Homer. Good one.

You Had Me, And You Lost Me: Why I don't read Megatokyo

bombshell.jpgFrom Megatokyo, in case the title of the entry somehow escaped you.

Megatokyo is one of the rockstars of the webcomics hobby. While it's somewhat more of a niche comic than the true runaway stars, in Anime/Manga circles it's the 500 pound gorilla, and even outside of them it can give Penny Arcade, PvP and Sluggy a run for its money. Con reports almost always mention how packed Megatokyo panels and signings and booths are, and the engagement and subsequent wedding of Fred and Sarah Gallagher have become the stuff of Fannish Legend.

I don't read Megatokyo. I used to, but then I stopped. And every time I go back, I'm reminded of why.

Megatokyo started as an artistic collaboration, between Gallagher ("Piro") and Rodney Caston ("Largo"). In fact, the "Megatokyo" website was owne by Caston, who had been running a slashcode server unsuccessfully. They began to write a series on the Penny Arcade model -- a gamer geek with a sardonic sense of humor writing, a gamer geek providing the art. However, Gallagher didn't come from a cartoonist background and wasn't interested in a comic strip perspective. Instead, as a manga fan, Gallagher decided to draw Megatokyo as a Doujinshi, or amateur manga. This shows in the layout of the strip -- it's full page, clearly meant as the pencilwork for a book (at least in concept). And it shows in Gallagher's pacing. Where Gabe and Tycho approach their usual work (setting aside the adventures of the Cardboard Tube Samurai or Twisp and Catsby for a moment) from a comic-strip perspective -- in art, style, execution and humor, Megatokyo is clearly supposed to develop like a Manga develops, both in complexity and style. And while Piro is a gamer, his preferred style of gaming (as he admits) are Japanese romance sims -- which is also one of his preferred styles of manga.

In other words... Megatokyo, in Gallagher's eyes, is a romantic comedy with weird things that happen.

One gets the feeling Caston didn't agree. When Caston was collaborating, there was far more funny in the strip, which satirized manga as much as celebrated it. To enter Tokyo without a passport, Largo needed to defeat a Ninja in Mortal Kombat, for example -- and in schooling the ninja, he ended up getting him as an apprentice. Piro was essentially the straight man for the craziness, and the fun of the strip was watching the straight laced young anime and manga fan try to cope with the insanity Largo brought into his life, while also dealing with the alien world Tokyo turned out to be, instead of how he'd imagined it.

Then Caston left. And with him went the spark. The vim. The vigor. And a lot of the funny.

Not all of it. Seraphim (Largo's angelic conscience) Angelic Body Attack against her demonic counterpart was hilarious, for example. But it slowly stopped being a strip where people got coffee in their laps (or accidentially got a full, hot coffeepot slammed into their head) and started being... well....

It's not that there aren't still coffee jokes. It's that they're forced instead of natural. It's not that crazy things don't happen -- it's that they feel like they're happening out of obligation. It's like the Largo side of the story stopped mattering, and Piro stopped being a straight man -- instead, the series became entirely about Piro, and all the attractive girls who are in his life, and how he lacks the emotional maturity to figure out how to handle it. And there's nothing wrong with that. That's a perfectly good basis for a webcomic. It would probably be better if he stopped trying to put Largo-style craziness into the strip, since he doesn't 'get' it, but what the Hell.

Except that's just part of the picture.

Another part is speed and consistency of updates. I've said before that I recognize that cartoonists don't "owe" us anything, typically. We don't pay them, so they get to update when they feel like it. On the other side of it, the more you yank around your readership, particularly with updates, the less reaon that readership has to come back. When you just stop updating, or do it when you have time or feel like it, there's no decent reason to expect people to invest energy in your strip.

And then there's the point you reach, when you do make your strip your job. Your source of income. The way food gets on your table. And then all bets are off.

One of the reasons cartoonists hate syndicates is because of editors. Editors call and yell at you if your strip is late. Editors call and tell you to redo your strip because it's not funny. Editors call and say your strip is funny, but your audience will be offended so change it. Editors call and say the publisher is banging down his door and screaming, so fix the problems! Webcomics have the absolute, glorious freedom that artists of all stripes have yearned for forever -- freedom from editorial control.

The second you declare your strip to be your primary means of support, you desperately need an editor. And that editor needs to have the power to call you, scream at you, and even fire you for not doing your job. Because that's what your strip has become -- your job. And when you blow off the strip, you're blowing off your work, and the audience you've brought are the people who are feeding you, so you suddenly do owe them. You owe them for the food and the electricity and the Internet Access they're paying for.

If your strip's revenue model is based on reprints and original printing for a comic book (a la Pvp), you're beholden to your publishers, and your strip is important because the strip is creating the audience. If your audience gets fed up because you make promises you don't keep, either in terms of content or just in terms of the strip showing up on time, they don't buy your comic and the publisher gets pissed.

Megatokyo had major problems in this regard -- to the point that Piro actually put up a progress bar on his front page, detailing how close he was to finishing the next page. He knew he wasn't hitting the targets he promised, so he at least gave us progress reports. And he gave us filler strips -- usually random stuff from his sketchbook, or "Dead Piro Days," which were 'days that the artist is tired and braindead, so here's something else for you.'

You remember the last entry I did, in praise of Filler Art? Dead Piro Days are the antithesis of good filler art. First off, a huge number of them are "Shirt Guy Dom" days -- stick figure art done by one of Gallagher's associates, in emulation of Sluggy Freelance's "Shirt Guy Tom" filler art strips. Unfortunately, the comparison breaks down because Shirt Guy Tom days were actually funny, and Shirt Guy Dom days... well, weren't. At all. Second off, Sluggy stopped doing Shirt Guy Tom after a bit. In fact, because Pete Abrahms knows we're putting the food in his daughter's mouth, he actually recruited Trillian, a Sluggite of renown, to organize appropriate activities for the days he couldn't produce the work -- be those filler art, guest art, randomness, "great moments in Sluggy nudity" strips, or what have you. It's not as good as getting the daily strip, but it shows concern for the audience and keeps them happy. Shirt Guy Dom doesn't do that.

Now, this could all be old news. Going back through the last several strips doesn't show any Shirt Guy Dom's (though it does show an ad for tee shirts that featured a sulky Piro complaining that he needs to actually produce a strip because "people are starting to complain," which makes me think things haven't changed all that much). And honestly, people know I'm often willing to let update crap slide. So was that enough to knock me out of the whole shebang?

Nope. To do that, Megatokyo had to succumb to a deadly vice: density.

Megatokyo has a lot of characters. In doing a websearch for a fansite, I found one that listed no less than fourteen "major" characters for the series, plus a block of minor characters. They have a lot of plotlines. They have a lot of mysterious pasts. They have a lot of different interactions. They have a lot of different girls, most of whom look twelve, interested in Piro, who admittedly also looks like a 12 year old girl, so maybe the attraction is understandable.

And as God is my witness, even when I was reading the strip daily and as into it as I ever got -- and I have a pretty good memory for useless details and the detritus of my daily life -- I couldn't ever tell you more than four of the characters' names. I could barely keep track of them visually, even. I knew Piro and Largo, and Seraphim because she was the cute angel girl, and Boo because he was the hampster. And Ping, because Ping is easy to remember... and... um....

Well, there was the tall one. And the one that we're supposed to root for Piro to fall in love with. And the schoolgirl, only she also had friends, and it was hard to tell them apart because Piro only draws one young female face, and... um... hm. Oh, the scary goth girl, who actually never seemed scary or goth, or in fact substantially different than the schoolgirl -- who was in junior high but she was being put forward as a potential romantic interest for Piro, and that was just creepy and....

This was a strip desperately in need of a scorecard, and it never provided one. In fact, in researching this snark, I went to Megatokyo right now, like a year and a half later, and clicking on the cast list. And got exactly the same page I got the last time I looked, when I was an active reader and couldn't keep up: "(i'll finish this section when i feel like it)" all by itself on a page. All in lower case, including the 'i's.

"I'll finish this section when I feel like it?"

This is your fucking JOB, you IDIOT! You want new readers to be able to pick it up without having to read five fucking years of backlog to get into the story! You want current readers who might not remember every detail of your strip to actually be able to refresh their memories when you pull an obscure character back in! And given that at least one of your regular readers couldn't remember your female romantic lead's name half the time, it might help to give him someplace to CHECK!

RAUGH!

Okay, I'm better.

Frustrated at incredibly sporadic updates and characters I could only basically remember, I decided to move Megatokyo onto the "sporadically checked list." I do that with strips I like -- remember, I did like Megatokyo -- that have update issues to the point that I'm bugged, or otherwise like to read through in bunches when I'm in the mood. The brilliant Men in Hats and Flem Comics are both on that list, and I'd rate them close to my favorite comics, so there is no shame in being on it. It's rare that a comic on my "Why am I reading this comic, again?" list moves to "sporadically checked." It's a lot more likely they'll go onto my "you had me, and you lost me" list directly.

So a couple of months go by, and I go back and check the archives.

And nothing much has happened. Oh, (some) strips had been published, but there was little storyline movement. At all. In fact, it's like I'd never paused.

So I waited a couple more months.

Same experience.

So I waited half a year.

Okay. I could see some evidence of plotline evolution, but it took. Freaking. Forever.

This has to be the slowest paced storyline comic ever. I can't imagine it being any slower. You could build barns, paint them and wire them for electricity, use them as barns, then clean out the poop and hay, recondition them as 'loft apartments' and sell them as condos in the amount of time Megatokyo takes for Piro to get up, have breakfast, do another stupid 'Ping is an innocent and he doesn't acknowledge she has feelings' riff, go downstairs, put on a stupid hat and wait for a customer in the strip.

It's now been well over a year, and some storyline stuff has clearly happened, looking at it. And yet, there's little evidence of any kind of resolutions or payoffs. In fact, the major changes seem to be that they've added yet a bunch more characters. But of course, no cast list so you could keep track of them.

You can get away with no plotline development -- or incredibly slow pacing -- in a strip with regular or daily funny. Plots don't have to develop in strips with funny, because we come to the strip for the funny. When Caston was around, the funny made long gaps okay. No matter how long Irregular Webcomic (a badly named piece, because Morgan-Mar is nothing if not consistant in updates) takes to actually resolve its stories, it doesn't matter because there's always funny.

When your strip isn't about funny, but is instead about story, the story has to move. It has to move quickly enough to keep people engaged. It has to have resolutions and new conflicts to give the reader a reason to stick around. And it has to has to has to has to accomodate new readers and readers who might not obsessively track details from a year ago when they come back up, both with cast lists and probably with storyline annotations or synopses.

Megatokyo fails in this. Badly. It's hostile to new readers unless they commit to reading the backstory. It takes forever to actually resolve the situations it sets up. It gets denser and denser and denser and it plods along all the while.

This is a beautiful webcomic. While Gallagher has limitations as an artist, what he does do he does amazingly well. But, lacking an editor who cracks a whip and forces updates on time (or a community director who makes Dead Piro Days fun instead of exercises in eyerolling), a faster plot or more funny put in to make the slow plot excusable, and some kind of cliff's notes, it's just not worth it. I know it's got a rabid fanbase, and hey, power to them. I know it's the King of the Anime/Manga Fan's Webcomics, and that's cool too. I know he packs them in, and that's great. I hope he and his wife can live off this a long, long time.

But he's doing it without me. He had me, and he lost me.

Zen and the Art of the Filler Comic

From Something Positive, Sluggy Freelance, and RPGWorld,though not in that order. You'll have to figure out which is which yourself. Neener. Click thumbnails for full sized cheer.

For whatever reason, sometimes webcartoonists miss a day. Or a week. Or several years. Time really isn't the point here. Look, they're human. And while we as readers feel peculiarly possessive about our funny, they feel oddly empowered to have interests outside of entertaining us.

The question is, what do they do when it comes up? The answer, for the more responsible comic strips, is filler art.

Filler art is exactly what it sounds like. It fills in the space, giving the reader a happy taste of what they come to the strip for in the first place. It may not continue the story, and it may not have quite the same funny as the strip would have, but by God there's something there other than the last strip in the series. It's only one step up from not doing a strip at all, admittedly, but it is a step up, and shows some measure of concern for the reader.

The best filler art may be killer fast, but still fulfills the essential strip requirements. The Something Positive Filler Art, both for today (the deeply offensive and damn funny explanation of what happened to Monette's baby) and yesterday (the evolution of Pepito, the sex midget, which you'll have to go to his site to see, damn it!) hits the top mark. He just had to draw one panel's worth of stuff today, and that pretty simple stuff to boot, and fill the rest with expository text and things that would make the Baby Jesus cry. It's exactly what we go to Something Positive for, damn it, so we've hardly been cheated.

Next down the list is something that acknowledges the fans, gives them a taste of the goodness, but doesn't actually fulfill the "strip" void so much as apologize for it. The Sluggy filler art (Kiki dressed as a pirate) hits that. It's not really what we go to Sluggy for, and it's got no Sluggy funny to speak of (and certainly no story, but there's really no way to do 'story' in filler art. If there's story, then it's not filler art. it's just extremely brief for a webcomic strip. For long-time Sluggy fans, "Gwynn turned around" is the archetypical example of 'extremely fast to produce real strip' instead of 'filler art. And what the Hell. I'll put that strip at the bottom of this snark, so you can see the difference. Note that while this was no doubt faster than a regular strip, for Pete, "Gwynn Turned Around" had some amazing line work a la the Scream, so we can't very well call it slapdash, can we?

The bottom of the filler art barrel -- one step up from a three second typewritten "on hiatus" notice and two steps up from doing nothing at all (what we like to call the Hound's Home effect) is throwing up something incredibly basic, but still in the conceit of the strip. There's no funny at all, but it's still something of an in-strip explanation. Ian J. did this with his "RPGWorld" Hiatus notice. RPG World is supposedly all being played (by a guy named Jim) on his PS/2. The PS/2s are infamous for developing 'disc read errors' that need to be fixed before you can keep playing. Ian needed a hiatus, so Jim's PS/2 developed the glitch. See? Get it? Get it?

All right, it's kind of lame. But it's still trying. It counts. It's filler art. It's better than nothing.

I don't mind filler art, most of the time. Some effort's enough for me. I especially like the care Randy Millholland made with his. The one pet peeve I have is when someone officially makes his strip his job, completely devoting his professional life to said strip, and then still blows off updating. It's one of the (many) reasons I gave up on Megatokyo, and it's one of my deep pet peeves with PvP. This is what you do for a living. You are actually counting on the goodwill of your readers to keep food on your table. Stop yanking their fucking chains, you idiot. Putting up filler art like Randy's is an acknowledgement -- this is his job, and he needs to do things killer fast right now, because he's got an International Flight to catch, but here's something that will make his readers happy. I like this. This is cool.

Of course, the last trip he made, he screwed up the autoupdates. But hey, we'll see what happens tomorrow, right?

August 21, 2004

Don't they know this is a reproducable act for cats?

From Two Lumps. Click on the thumbnail for full sized cat glory.

I don't have a specific snark about this image, other than I think this is really what cats are doing when we're at work. My friend Bill once told me he believed that he would come home one day to find his cat Moxie looking innocent next to his computer, while the computer displayed a countdown timer from 20 down, with hilarious and hideous results.

My own cat, Sarah, conceals her networking activities by lying down on my powerbook's keyboard when I come into the room. This causes the screen to do funny things and hideous noises to come out of the machine, and makes me run, hoist her off the keyboard (giving her the right, in her mind, to be pissed at me) and close whatever she was in without thinking about it. Darn clever, that cat of mine.

I'm also convinced cats are desperately trying to compensate for their opposable thumbs. Ebenezer and Snooch's harness is just another in a long line of techniques to deal with 'doors.' Because I'm a bastard, I like to sit with Sarah (as I liked to sit with her older brother Gandolf back in the day), wiggle my thumb right in her face and say "evoooolve... evoooolve." When cats ultimately take over -- and they will -- my years of cat friendship will be forgotten in the wake of that insult, and I'll be one of the first fed to the Siameses. "Hurray!" the Siameses will say. "We shall feast for weeks!"

How to fit a detailed conversation into five panels.

From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail image to see the full sized tastiness.

When Scott McCloud extols the web as a perfect medium for sequential art, this is the kind of thing he had in mind. Aeire doesn't just do a nice five panel strip here. By putting it superimposed over the 'lightning path,' she gives your eyes a subconscious sense of movement and direction, and gives the whole piece a feeling of 'action.' This, despite the fact that it's entirely two girls talking, one lying in bed on a couch.

And look at that freaking conversation. There's fourteen speech balloons there. There's roughly two hundred words of dialogue in today's strip. That's almost a full typewritten page -- and doesn't count any narration to describe Kestrel turning over in bed or Branwen brushing her hair. Or the lettering on Branwen's shirt.

One other thing. This is essentially a talking heads strip today, but Aerie doesn't skimp on the art. She drew five seperate panels, with activities that makes you feel like there's motion. And the lightning enhances it. Like I said -- Aeire does a beautiful thing here. And it totally wouldn't work on a modern newspaper page.

Attention Frank Cho: We Found Your Clumsy Narrative Device.

From GPF.


(Click on the thumbnail for full sized strip bwahing.)

"Cue the ominous music, gang?"

"Cue the ominous music, gang?"

If you need to tell your audience to increase tension through adding in their own musical cues, you have officially failed to build tension. There are some interesting seeds Darlington has sown in recent weeks, but this? This isn't one of them. All this did what show, decisively, that Dwayne was an idiot for hiring a guy who once tried to drop a safe on him.

And that might be the key of my problems with GPF. I just don't buy it. I can buy sentient slime molds and "Secret Agent James Baud." I can't accept that after being so thoroughly hoodwinked by Trudy in the first several years of GPF, Dwayne would turn around and hire someone else he knew -- knew -- was bad news.

If we had it reinforced all along that Dwayne was a total fuckwit of a boss, then this would be okay. Bosses can be fuckwits in the comics. Hell, they're practically expected to be. But they keep telling us Dwayne is supposed to be somewhat good at what he does.

If Darlington announces some kind of named metaplot for all this, that's it. I'm done.

August 20, 2004

Snarking about the Syndicates, 50's style

From Li'l Abner, originally published April 16, 1952....


(Click on the thumbnail for a full sized image.)

Notice the clearly implied use of the word "fuck." Note the demands of the publisher on the little artist. Note the pureness of the snark. If you think we're more sophisticated now than then, you need some perspective.

Lester Gooch, the little guy in question, is the artist on "Fearless Fosdick," a parody of "Dick Tracy" (as done by Chester Gould). The Fearless Fosdick strip within a strip became so popular, it got its own television show. A puppet show.

A puppet show.

Daily Comics Trawling: the Night Comics List

The second of my Safari "Bookmark Tab Groups" that I read are my so-called "Night Comics." Originally, these were the comics more likely to update at the end of the day, instead of the beginning. The first block of them update earlier, but given the number of times I'm up past midnight, it's not too uncommon to see most of these update.

This block (in the order they come up in the tab list) are:

  • Something Positive, by R. K. Millholland. The success story of 2003-2004 (yes, I know it extends back to 2001, barely, but it really took off in 2003), and for a damn good reason. Great art with its own idiosyncrasies, a fantastically cynical sense of humor, and the ability to change gears fluidly without breaking stride. Not the most consistent updater of the lot, but that's the subject for another snark, later. If you're not reading this, you're an idiot.
  • Queen of Wands, by Aerie. Beautiful artwork, that's managed to take a basic four panel comic strip and make it dynamic and interesting. Aerie's one of the few webcartoonists to take the whole Scott McCloud "web pages as infinite canvas" concept and actually do something with it that both makes her strip more interesting and yet doesn't annoy the reader. (Scott? Hon? Remember that no matter how infinite the webpage is, monitor real estate isn't infinite and it's annoying to spend all your time scrolling. Especially horizontally scrolling, because the space bar won't go over one screen.) Queen of Wand's isn't the strongest story comic yet, though I like Aerie's willingness to challenge herself. When she's going for the funny, she's got a good sense of it, but she loses the funny for story way too often. Still, I look forward to it and it's freaking beautiful, so hey. Happily on the list.
  • It's Walky, by David Willis. On the "why am I reading this webcomic again" list, but as it's winding down to a conclusion I'm going to stick with it. It's funny, well drawn and has a good sense of continuity, so it should be a bigger pleasure for me. However, Willis has been working on this storyline in his head since long before he started the precursor webcomic (Roomies) to it, and he leaves out details all the time. Like, they're about to fight Martians, which is a major big deal, only we're never quite sure why it's a big deal. And they did this thing with transdimensional invaders, only we're not sure why, and... um... yeah. It's just... um... there's... look at Joyce! Joyce is cute! Right? Anyway, I'll miss it when it's gone but while it's here I'm a little nonplussed.
  • Sluggy Freelance,, by Pete Abrams. One of the longest running, most involved of the adventure strips. It's got a sense of humor (boy howdy), but you can't really consider it a strip of funny any more. It's all about the storyline, and Abrams has a good sense of pacing. It's lost some steps over the years, but it covers for them with the incredible artistic growth and layout complexity Abrams brings to the strip. Say what you like about Sluggy -- it's not being phoned in, even after all these years. Thirty years from now, this is the strip that'll be in all the history of sequential art textbooks.
  • Kevin and Kell, by Bill Holbrook. Bill Holbrook is the perfect answer to all the folks who whine about their inability to crack newspaper syndicates. Not only does Holbrook write two nationally syndicated strips ("On the Fastrack" and "Safe Havens," but all indications are a part of why he runs the syndicated race is so he can afford to do Kevin and Kell on the web. That's right. His syndicated strips are his day job. Now that rocks. Kevin and Kell itself is very internally consistent, and has a real Newspaper aesthetic going for it -- every strip is self-contained, with a certain assumption that this might be the first strip someone's read. The artwork is excellent, and even though it's a funny animal strip it can't really be called a furry strip. Well, any more than you could call Pogo a furry strip. (Furry strips, by the way, are strips where the fact that the characters are furries is a core point to the strip. Funny animal strips are comic strips about funny animals. Anthropamorphic versus cartoony matters less than intent.) (Oh, and sex doesn't enter into it. Cheeky monkeys.) Kevin and Kell was one of the trailbreaker webcomics, and it's still pretty damn good.
  • College Roommates from Hell, by Maritza Campos. Beginning to edge onto the "why do I read this webcomic, again?" list, though it's not really there, yet. Incredibly cool artwork, excellent production values, often very funny and with a strong sense of continuity, CRFH is beginning to become topheavy -- too much backstory needed to understand individual strips. Still, I still care about the characters (well, except April, who better pay off the whole "better self dying in clown makeup thing" soon or else someone better just shoot her and be done with it), and I want to see what happens next. So it's not quite on the list yet.
  • User Friendly, by Illiad. Now here's something heavily on the "Why do I read this webcomic, again?" list. User Friendly was among the first, and for a long time was among the best, but it suffers from an inability to adapt to the times, and that leads to obsolescence. When it first came out, back in 1997, the vast majority of its audience were geek/computer literate, because that's who was using the web at the time. Pretty much anyone using the web got BSD jokes then. These days, the vast majority of the web audience aren't cognoscenti, and so Userfriendly loses out on mass appeal. Plus, there's a dearth of payoffs. Still, it was among the first, and it's always consistent, so it's staying in the tabs. For now.
  • Diesel Sweeties, by R. Stevens. Now here? Here we have brilliance on a plate. Proof positive that pixilated art can be distinctive and stylistic, always true to itself, always bringing the funny, and weird without being inaccessible, Diesel Sweeties is a breath of fresh, high octane air. Besides, not only does it make fun of poseurs, it makes you sympathize with them too. Now that is hard.
  • General Protection Fault, by Jeff Darlington. Deep into the "Why do I read this webcomic, again" list, and likely soon to be on the "used to read but they lost me" webcomic list. GPF is a workman's strip, done competently every day, going to the well, offering detailed plots and actually paying them off. At the same time, it's lost some spark. Admittedly, it lost a ton of cred with me over the year long Surreptitious Machinations arc, which was really nasty to characters we came to like before that, but had no decent payoff at the end. If Surreptitious Machinations had ended GPF, and then Darlington launched a sequel, I'd probably be into it. As it is... meh. And honestly, if you're going to do a Queer Eye parody, don't wait until everyone on Earth is sick of Queer Eye.
  • Peanuts, by Charles Schultz. That's right. Peanuts. By Charles Schultz! It's on the web, every day, going back to 1970's strips you've probably never read. It's from some of the high points of Schultz's career, and it absolutely kicks the ass of almost every other comic strip on the planet. If you can't imagine reading newspaper strips, even on the Web, and you don't like Peanuts to begin with, because it's so mainstream, then get out. This is a Local Shop for Local People; there's nothing for you here.
  • Big Nate, by Lincoln Peirce (yes, that's how he spells it. Apparently no one ever taught Mr. and Mrs Peirce the I before E except after C rule, and you can't expect Lincoln to go against his own parents, can you?) This is a newspaper syndicate strip, which I started reading in the few months I had moved back home in the mid 90's, in between living in Seattle and living in New Hampshire. My folks got the paper, and Big Nate was on the comics page, and I grew to like it. It's beginning to retread jokes now, but it's still a fun read. And it reminds us that 'webcomics' can also be the comics in the newspaper, if they really want to be.
  • Li'l Abner, by Al Capp. It astounds me that one of the single most significant comic strips in the art form is actually served up to us in reprints, each and every day. If you think that webcomics liberated cartoonists, allowing them the ability to do scandalous things and sophisticated plots and extraordinary art, you need to get out more often. Li'l Abner was doing all of that, better, back in the 30's and 40's! Al Capp wrote and drew it for forty freaking years. It was big enough to be made into a Broadway Musical (which companies still put on all the time -- Hell, I was Marryin' Sam myself, back in the 90's), two movies, cartoons (Hell, there was even the wretched "Fred and Barney Meet the Schmoo" from the 70's. And the Schmoo was all Al Capp). Li'l Abner wasn't afraid to tear down sacred cows, and was so beloved that when, after decades of avoiding it, Li'l Abner was finally forced to marry Daisy Mae, it made the national news and the cover of Life Magazine. That's the kind of national impact Berkley Breathed only dreamed of. We're currently in 1952, and Abner and Daisy Mae just got married a month ago. Hop on in!
  • Rose is Rose, by Pat Brady. A really sweet strip, generally funny, with a sense of wonder a mile long. It's not afraid to let the adorable bespectacled mother's mental image of herself be a tattooed miniskirted biker babe, either. If you're allergic to newspaper strips and can't imagine reading something considered "safe for children," you're likely going to avoid Rose is Rose, and I'm going to pity you. Pity!
  • Scary Go Round, by John Allison. Stroppy! Good British fun, and a very worthy successor to the brilliance of Bobbins. The art style is very mod and distinctive, too, though I expect more and more people will copy it as time goes by. Allison does his own thing and as long as he's doing it, I'll be reading it.
  • Achewood, by Chris Onstad. Onstad belongs in the same category as James Kochalka or Eight -- more of a jazz musician than a strip a day commercial artist. With Achewood, Onstad laid down a smooth beat early on, and while he's thrown flourishes in and explored the melody line, he's keeping the rhythm going.
  • Gaming Guardians, by Graveyard Greg and Web Troll. This is a weird one to snark about for me, because I have some contact with Graveyard Greg. In other words, he's going to be the first of these creators to actually read Websnark. Fortunately, I like Gaming Guardians, so it's no big deal. The art took me a while to get into, but Webtroll is growing into it. The stories, on the other hand, sucked me in a long time ago. The conceit is a good one for an RPG based comic, and the execution is fun. I also like how they could make some of the characters (Radical? I'm thinking of you, here) into deus ex machina, then explain that it's because they're Non Player Characters. I love that. Still, they could have more EDG and I wouldn't complain one bit.
  • VG Cats, by Scott Ransoomair. The logical evolution of gamer comics, and a hell of a lot better than most things to use that name. VG Cats is just plain fun. It was the second best comic strip to riff on City of Heroes -- PvP owns the crown -- and it's just about the best one to riff on the Legend of Zelda of any of them. Plus, it's just plain funny. You got me? It's just plain funny. Also, while it walks the same ground as Penny Arcade, it's walking it in different shoes. If that makes sense. God, I need a drink.
  • Clan Bob. This is on the list in hopes that they may yet actually update. Until it does... no snark for you. NO SNARK FOR YOU!
  • Wigu, by Jeff Rowland. Okay, if Eight is Sax on Drugs and Onstad is Bebop, Rowland is Acid Jazz with a side order of psychedelic rock. A followup to his brilliant, lamented "When I Grow Up," Wigu is its own thing, and that thing involves kids, nihilists, shirtless parents, drunkards, superhero potatoes and blue ponies that crap vanilla ice cream. Just kick back and enjoy the ride, kids. Just enjoy the ride.
  • Casey and Andy, by Andy Weir. For my money, this is the future of geek comics -- screw tech comics, let's go straight for physics! There are ways Casey and Andy remains a journeyman strip, but it's growing fast. Certainly, Andy's artistic style has been growing and developing all along. His take on Satan is inspired, too, and Quantum Cop is just a plain, good character. You're not likely to love every one of his strips, but you'll love enough of them to make up for it. Also - never put pineapple in Jell-O.
  • Alex, by Charles Peattie and Russell Taylor. Alex is a British comic strip -- I think one that appears in newspapers -- about stockbrokers. More than that, it's brilliant satire about greed, conspicuous consumption, about the way the workplace shafts the worker and about the way the worker shafts the workplace. No one comes off well in Alex, and that's how I like my satires. This is what Dilbert would be if Dilbert were in the financial world instead of engineering. Oh, and if Dilbert were funny. I mean, still funny, years later. In fact, Alex and Dilbert's pedigrees aren't all that different -- same era, same capacity to insult... only, y'know, Alex is still funny. One nice thing -- the archives go all the way back to the boom period of the Internet Bubble, so you can see the transition from the Exchange living high on the hog and resenting the 'new economy' straight through the bust, and unemployment, straight through to, well, now. It's worth the trek. Also, Clive is an idiot, but I still like him.

Daily Comics Trawling: the Day Comics List

I read a lot of webcomics. And by a lot, I mean "almost none, compared to how many web comics are out there." I mean, there's a ton of digital art floating around, and I read... well, everything I have some interest in reading. Jesus, what do you expect me to do? Read stuff I couldn't possibly care less about?

Actually, some of you do expect me to do that.

So, while I always reserve the right to update these lists, here's what I'm consistantly checking.

My method of organizing this ton of comics is through Safari's 'bookmark tab groups' feature. When I'm ready to read a block of comics, I select a bookmark that opens up some 20-25 comics at a time. That way, they all show up and I can just read and close window, read and close window. It's not quite as fast as scanning a comics page in a newspaper, but it's a Hell of a lot faster than schlepping out to get a newspaper in the first place.

I have two of these tab lists, plus a 'clearinghouse' page for a third group. These are the fodder I'm almost always going to have available to comment on, so you'll see a lot from these.

This first list is called "Day Comics." Originally, this list was formed out of comics that update in the morning. Over time, it's become something of a Keenspot clearinghouse with a few ringers (including some that really should be in the "Night Comics" block, like PvP.

These entries (in the order they come up in the tab list) are:

  • Superosity, by Chris Crosby. This strip is utterly, totally weird, in a good way. It's incredibly consistent, too. If you didn't like it yesterday, you're probably not going to like it today. If, on the other hand, you liked it yesterday, today's probably not going to disappoint you.
  • Sore Thumbs, by Chris Crosby and Owen Gieni. Touted (and often reviled) as a Gaming Comic and a political comic, this still-freshman strip really isn't either. This strip takes on political and gamer trappings, shoves them through a manga cheese grater, and comes out with something not quite as weird as Superosity, but still pleasantly warped. These aren't liberals and conservatives. These are complete idiots on crystal meth and LSD.
  • Greystone Inn, by Brad J. Guigar. One of those "why am I reading this, again?" strips. I think I got into it because Guigar is a true student of the comic strip art form -- when he gets into the history of comics, he doesn't talk about "User Friendly" or "Sluggy Freelance" or even "Bloom County" or "Peanuts." He brings up "Popeye" and "Dick Tracy" and "Lil' Abner" and "Mutt and Jeff." I respect that tons. And the art is really clean. And he's never late. So it stays on the list. Maybe sometime soon I'll laugh at it again.
  • Nukees by Darren Bleuel. Now this one I know why I read. Besides having a great sense of humor and a fantastic sense of character, Nukees manages a balancing act a lot of webcomics fail: it has full out storylines (some of them quite series) and yet manages to be funny every single time. It never has to put a cavet about how this is a serious, plot building storyline and no, honest, the funny will come back later. The funny is there, damn it. Even when Gav is lying on an operating table having a near-death experience with an Egyptian Goddess.
  • Ozy and Millie, by David Craig Simpson. On its last legs on my list. Inconsistency in publishing along with a real feel that Simpson's either burnt out or just doesn't care like he used to -- and a systemic loss of funny along the way -- mean one of my favorite "Calvin and Hobbesesque" webcomics from the last several years just doesn't thrill me any more. We'll see.
  • RPGWorld, by Ian Jones-Quartey. This one I stick to, despite an increasingly sporadic schedule. Its quality has remained high since the beginning, but we've also seen a real growth of the artist throughout. Ian J. was literally a kid when he started this strip. As he moves forward, learns more about Art (he's in Art school now) and develops as a person, increasing sophistication continues to flow into his strip. I'm willing to wait for quality like this, and can't wait to see where he goes from here.
  • Sinfest, by Tatsuya Ishida. One of the most (pun intended) slickly produced webcomics out there, Ishida has a fantastic understanding of his own sense of humor. The common complaint is that Slick is a knockoff of Calvin (or of Milo Bloom), but honestly I don't agree -- there's nothing wrong with being influenced in art, and I don't see Calvin macking on Suzie in the reprints, do you? There's artistic validity in taking the familiar into unfamiliar territory. Besides, Satan and God rock. And the animals. The animals, man. Normally rock-solid in updating, but with exceptions.
  • The Suburban Jungle by John Robey. Not the best work that Robey's done (it doesn't hold a candle to Robey's brilliant Never Never (which itself suffers with its new artist, who is brilliant but doesn't bring out Robey's whimsical cynicism very well), but by far his most popular, so he sticks with the one he came in with. It's my favorite "furry" comic, even eclipsing the technically superior "Kevin and Kell," for two reasons. One, it doesn't rely on the fur to bring the funny or the serious, which makes the anthropomorphic characters more a style choice than an end unto itself, and two, because it doesn't make every anthropomorphic character exactly like every other. Mice are mouse sized, even if they walk on their hind legs. Dogs are much smaller than tigers. Tigers are larger than housecats. That appeals. Plus, he has strong characters. Now, if he'd stop with the furry community in-jokes, it'd be better still ("Spiked Punch?" Someone has to be kidding me....)
  • Goats, by Jonathan Rosenberg. Distinctive and funny, unafraid to experiment, but also pulls its experiments off, Goats is generally damn good. Occasionally, it falls flat, but hey -- what doesn't? I do like the fact that the superfluous and unfunny junior character added to the cast is named "Oliver." It gives me hope that he's meant to be a riff on Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch. And with luck he'll soon die. Of cancer.
  • PvP, by Scott Kurtz. I have a total love/hate relationship with this strip, because Kurtz can be and often is a total asshole, but his strip is extremely funny. By far the best of the "Geek Humor" strips, because it's not actually a gamer comic, or a tech comic, or an RPG comic. It's a comic about geeks, and it's brilliantly pulled off. It really should be in the "Night Comics" section, though, because the last time Kurtz actually put his strip up on time Clinton was President.
  • Irregular Webcomic, by David Morgan-Mar. Proof positive that you don't need to be able to draw to create a comic strip, and further proof that funny is not dependent on medium. Entirely composed of digital photos taken of lego characters and painted miniature figures (excepting only a very occasional dip into "Supers" drawn by a collaborator), Morgan-Mar distills the essence of funny out of Role Playing Games (and popular culture) and pours it through peg boards. As of this writing, it's the newest addition to my daily trawl, and I'm glad to have it.
  • Two Lumps by J. Grant and Mel Hynes. I admit it freely. I'm a major J. Grant fanboy. His level of brilliance is hard to achieve, and Flem Comics is high up on my ĺ─˛sporadic check list.' (I don't do it daily because I find I like it better in bunchs. Also, like many others, I prefer Grant's storylining to his random comic drawing, and Flem's currently in random mode.) However, Two Lumps is by far the best thing he's produced. It may be the influence of his writer, Mel Hynes, but I think it's because the subject matter is universal (to cat owners, anyhow), and therefore J. Grant's utterly horrific twisted sense of humor can deliver its steaming payloads when you least expect it. I love this strip.
  • Real Life Comics, by Greg Dean. I have no idea why I read this. Inertia, I guess. It's not bad and it used to be fantastic, so I keep up with it. It's on the ĺ─˛maybe drop' list, right now. I can't point to why. I just can't point to why I'd keep it or why I'd recommend it. It's just there, taking up a Safari Tab.
  • /usr/bin/w00t/ by Chaobell. Still a journeyman comic in a lot of ways, but one that's fun to follow. Unashamed to be a gamer comic, though falls into a few of the more common webcomic pitfalls. Still, it's got some good resonance and it's a lot of fun, and it encapsulated the LARP experience better than any comic I've ever seen (in part because it didn't try to encapsulate the role playing experience, but instead the batshit insane group politics that surrounds most LARPs. Now that's funny.
  • Penny Arcade, by Mike Krahsomethingorother and Jerry Holkins? Hopkins? What the Hell? Gabe and Tycho. I can say Gabe and Tycho because they put those names on their site in a LEGIBLE FONT making it POSSIBLE FOR ME TO SPELL THEM! Seriously, people. If you're going to put your name in a copyright notice, make it possible for critics to read it. Oh sure, I could do a websearch and get the spelling from an article or something, but that's already more effort than I'm willing to put into this piece of shit bullet point. Oh, and the strip? It's funny. And they have a juicer that fucks fruit.
  • Astronomy Picture of the Day, by NASA. Okay, you got me. This isn't a webcomic at all. But it's in my tabs list because... well, because! It's gorgeous! It's majestic! It's the universe we live in! Take eight seconds out of your day and be impressed with the incredible place we call home. Jesus Christ, life isn't all webcomics and snarking, you know!
  • Road Waffles by Eight. Incredibly sporadic, as Eight runs out of enthusiasm on projects, puts them on hiatus for a long time, runs random weirdass crap in its place, then picks it up later. And yet, I could read Eight doodling randomly for five screens and still groove on it. This isn't a webcomic, it's a Jazz riff, and the man can play a sax.
  • Her: Girl versus Pig, by Chris Bishop. A weekly cut and paste comic, so we're not talking about significant effort here. And yet, it balances surrealism with cynicism just about right for my tastes, so I read it. Weekly. You know, because that's how often it comes out.
  • Lore Brand Comics by Lore Sjľberg. Like Her, a weekly cut and paste comic strip, generally. Really, just a medium for Lore to say weird things. And that's enough for me.

Later on, you'll get the Night Comics, plus the Collected Comics Page, and the "sporadically reads." And if you're very good, the "used to read but then they lost me" list. Which has Megatokyo on it, so it's very, very likely it'll piss you off.

Mission Statement

Do we really need another commentary blog on the web? I mean, honestly. How many of these are we supposed to accept, willy nilly? And who actually says willy-nilly in casual conversation? Or is that getting off the subject.

Why are we here?

It's more than the core of Western Philosophy going back to the Greeks as refined through Augustine and briefly sidetracked through the Asharites who figured we can't know the answer anyway so why ask the question? It's a justification for effort: the effort I put into creating websnark.com, and the effort you put into reading it.

Well, I've always been snarky and opinionated. My tribal totem is the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons (though a friend always claimed my avatar should be the Sea Captain. I don't know why. He also thought I was most like Nate from Overboard. I'm generally polite, though. An outlet where the ground rules state explicitly I'm being an opinionated bastard can only be a good thing for my psyche.

And besides, like a lot of websurfers ("surf" the "web." Is that hopelessly 90's or what? Should we have an updated phrase for the 21st century? Like "powerslacking?") I consume an absurd amount of web content every day. I read over sixty comic strips on the web. I read news sites and commentary sites and livejournals and weblogs. We live in an era where your office computer and your living room television have exactly the same capacity to entertain, with only differences in production values.

Looking back over my Livejournal for the past couple of years, I realize the ratio of content (defined as me bitching about my life, which is what you do in a Livejournal. It's in the terms of service) to "hey, look at this funny picture of a drawn dog" posts is pretty lame.

So. Why not put the dog pictures into their own shiny website, complete with automated systems for posting and automated comment systems so you, the reader, can agree that the picture of the drawn dog is in fact funny.

That kind of answers why I'm here and what I'm doing. But it doesn't really get into why you're here and what you're doing.

I have no answer for that. I mean, I don't think you're my mom, who wouldn't be reading this garbage anyway.

Whatever. Thanks for coming.

August 02, 2004

Recycling the Meme: On Writing

This is a Meme about writing I contributed to on my Livejournal. It occurs to me that it's a nice essay in and of itself, and probably deserves to be moved over to the "Essays," which is where you're reading these words right now. So, here it is, in all its glory.

I think it both has some truths in it, and some astoundingly crass egotisms. Which is about right for the average writer.

What's the last thing you wrote?
Finished Story? "Automotive Care," which is a short story. Wrote-period? Chapter Seven of my novel Theftworld

Was it any good?
"Automotive Care" is the single finest piece of American Literature ever produced, until such time as Realms of Fantasy rejected it. When it gets back from them, it will be the worst piece of tripe ever committed to paper until I get it sent out again. We already did this riff with Fantasy and Science Fiction. Being able to hold contradictory opinions about your own talent are the only thing that lets you have the ego to send the story out in the first place but not take it personally when it's rejected.

The novel? Yeah, yeah, it's pretty good.

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
Good question. Hm. I probably have older stuff, but I have a short story I submitted to a competition at 13. It won, but only after I was accused of plagiarizing it. I had to write another short short on the spot to convince the judges I was actually capable of writing the story I wrote.

The next year, I was the only person to enter at my grade level, and much to the chagrin of the head of the competition (who resigned, afterward) my entry was disallowed because it was 20 pages long instead of a maximum of 12 pages. Said head gave me an autographed copy of Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut and a current copy of the Writer's Market, and told me not to waste my talent on idiots.

Was it any good?
The first story? Unmitigated tripe. Which Dragon Magazine told me in no uncertain terms when I sent it to them. On the other hand, I was thirteen.

The second story? Kinda, for a fourteen year old. It was genre (I was still on a fantasy kick) but it was mid-to-low fantasy and was a coming of age story without any violence. Not bad for a D&D player with delusions of talent.

Write poetry?
Yes.

Angsty poetry?
Dark sometimes, but not generally angsty. I shoot for a New England tradition rather than a Goth tradition. I don't always hit.

Favourite genre of writing?
These days? Science Fiction or Fantasy. I'm tending towards hard in the former, and psychological in the latter.

Most fun character you ever wrote?
Trudy Galloway. She's my sick, twisted inner child.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
Annoying to write? Probably The Dash -- a parody of superspeedster heroes. She was popular because she was funny, but the hook was writing long run on sentences without spaces between words, and that's a monumental pain in the ass to write with any kind of natural flow. It's equally annoying to eliminate the spaces after the fact. Stupid gimmick writing.

Best plot you ever wrote?
With "Automotive Care" in circulation for publication? I'm giving that the nod.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
Currently available? Probably something in the old Superguy writing. But I have something coming up in Theftworld that I think will rock.

How often do you get writer's block?
Every so often.

How do you fix it?
Force myself to just keep writing. Sometimes random things, to just force the blockage forward.

Write fan fiction?
Now and again. I wrote a Legion fanfic back in college I think didn't suck. And I write In Nomine stuff when it strikes my fancy.

Do you type or write by hand?
Type.

Do you save everything you write?
Generally, yeah.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
All the time.

What's your favorite thing that you've written?
Right now? "Automotive Care." (Do you see a trend here?)

Stepping away from the psychout for a second... hm. Probably Theftworld, though I've got a short story or two I enjoy.

What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
Professionally? Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures. We were nominated for an ENnie award for that one, in large part because of the background stuff I wrote 'in character' as Bat Masterson. Who ever thought writing straight western stuff would work for me?

I've gotten the most positive responses for "Nicole: Acts of Justification" and "Antonio: The Calabite's Song," which are two In Nomine fanfics. Behold the power of built in fandom.

My Superguy stuff is generally considered good, too, by those who read it.

Do you even show people your work?
Desperately.

Who's your favourite constructive critic?
My father. He's both brilliant and generally right, and he's not afraid to be stern in his pronouncements.

Do you have a web site for your writings?
I have a Writing Page that's password protected to keep the stuff off the search engines, since I don't want to confuse it with 'electronically published' stuff. Other of my stuff is available here and there.

Did you ever write a novel?
I discovered, after the fact and to my shock, that I wrote five discrete novels when I was active in Superguy, ranging from 50,000 words to 110,000 words apiece. Which makes me an amateur novelist.

Theftworld is the non Superguy novel I've stuck with the longest, and it looks good for finishing it off, hopefully within the next few months.

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?
Oh yes.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
Not yet, but I won't rule any writing out. Hell, I've considered writing porn just for the cash payments they make. There's a fine tradition in Speculative Fiction of writing garbage to support art.

What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Coffee shops, restaurant tables, bars... any place where there's a simple justification for two people to sit and talk at length. I do lots of the sitting and talking at length.


What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
The millisecond I say I'll never write a given genre, my brain will start churning out ideas. So I won't say it. Hell, I never thought I'd write any kind of Western, but Sidewinder was a lot of fun and I'm thinking seriously of pulling a Resnick down the line and writing a Western in space.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Two novels, two short stories, two RPGs.

Do you want to write for a living?
I do write for a living. I just suck at getting paid, so I need to have a second job.

Seriously. The acid test for whether you're a writer or not is if you decide you're a writer. You prove it with your first paycheck, and I've gotten a few of those now.

Do I want writing to be my sole means of support? Sure, but not enough to force myself to write everything that comes available to ensure that I'm always writing and making my money off it. When people say they want to 'write for a living,' what they mean nine times out of ten is they'd like the stuff they want to write to become so popular that they can quit their job and devote themselves to it. That's amazingly rare. There are only so many Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings out there. The workday professional writers -- the ones who don't make millions but also write pretty much all the time -- are constantly writing, and not always the stuff they want to. They're placing articles in In-flight magazines and Woodworking magazines. They're scouring markets, figuring out what's currently selling, researching and writing it. They're turning out Penthouse Forum letters and how-to guides on constructing gliders and essays on all topics you can imagine, and they're tersely sending letters demanding payment promised months before.

That's what it means to 'make a living as a writer' if you don't hit it big. And that doesn't even touch on benefits. It's a lot of hard work and if you have a bad month, you have no comp or promise you can get back to it.

For my desired life and lifestyle, it's better to be a systems administrator who sits in cafes after hours and works on the stuff I love, because I love writing it and I enjoy the process, and then try to sell it afterward, but never be scared that I won't have a home.

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Yes.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Yes.

Ever written something in script or play format?
Yes. I've also used transcript form as a literary device.

What are your five favorite words?
Zeugma. Figurehead. Blinked. Kidding. Said.

Do you ever parody?
Yes.

What's your favorite thing to parody?
Something I love the concept of, but hate the execution of.

Do you actually like that thing, or are you spitefully making fun of it?
If I don't like it, it's hard to write good parody about it. You have to embrace Nancy before you can destroy Nancy. It's like the Grok principle from Stranger in a Strange Land. Only after you drink something in, learn it from all sides, cherish it and love it can you hate it so much that you eliminate it. Or in this case write about blue haired men from planet Helium.

Do you ever write based on yourself?
Sadly.

What character that you've written most resembles yourself?
Physically? Not counting Superguy stuff, I'd say Everett Markham from Conversations with Cat and "Automotive Care." But I draw a lot on myself in most of my characters, so sooner or later I see similarities in almost all of them.

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
The International House of Pancakes.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Sure. Though only elements. Nine times out of ten, written dreams don't resemble dreams at all. Take the 'dream sequence' in a recent episode of Enterprise. It was utterly linear and prosaic, without any of the mild, if ignored surrealisms that constantly surround a dream. It was just another scene, except it let Trip talk to a dead girl.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I love happy endings, and almost never write them. The characters at the end of the story are rarely the ones at the beginning, and change is traumatic. It's safe to say I'm a bastard to my characters, and so there's an element of recovery involved in surviving one of my stories.

I try my best to write satisfying conclusions, however.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you've seen?
Yes. Including one of my published poems.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Yes.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)
No..

Entirely in L337?
Dear Christ, no.

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?
Nope. I can't imagine it ever happening, but wondering if it could be done is a very writerly thing to do.

Does music help you write?
Yes.

Do you have a weblog or livejournal?
How does one contribute to a Meme like this without having a weblog or livejournal?

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
People from my day job are. I blew the mind of a student, once. He had me pigeonholed in his mind, only to have that preconception blown apart.

Quote something you've written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
Walking through the labyrinth,
Feeling the cracks within the wall, I turn,
Turning and making my way, I hear,
Hearing and fearing as the sound grows near...
Unwinding the string measure by measure,
As though you were singing, measures all
The cord that leads back as I move forward,
Left turns all the way, just as you say, told
In a whisper, the secret of the labyrinth.
But I am done with secrets -- I bear a sword
And a cord that I unwind, and step closer
And closer
To the minotaur that lurks. The secret
Of the labyrinth. The death contained within.
But I will slay it. Slay it with the sword
You gave me, because you love me.
Slay it with the sword, then follow the cord
Woven from your loom and passed to me
To unravel as I walk, and find my way home
To you.

The secret of the labyrinth will die by your love.
The mystery of the labyrinth will live on.
And the children of Athens will come home
Once more, no more tribute.
And I will stand by your side, hold your hand
Look within your eyes
And know I have emerged.

Recycling the Meme: On Writing

This is a Meme about writing I contributed to on my Livejournal. It occurs to me that it's a nice essay in and of itself, and probably deserves to be moved over to the "Essays," which is where you're reading these words right now. So, here it is, in all its glory.

I think it both has some truths in it, and some astoundingly crass egotisms. Which is about right for the average writer.

What's the last thing you wrote?
Finished Story? "Automotive Care," which is a short story. Wrote-period? Chapter Seven of my novel Theftworld

Was it any good?
"Automotive Care" is the single finest piece of American Literature ever produced, until such time as Realms of Fantasy rejected it. When it gets back from them, it will be the worst piece of tripe ever committed to paper until I get it sent out again. We already did this riff with Fantasy and Science Fiction. Being able to hold contradictory opinions about your own talent are the only thing that lets you have the ego to send the story out in the first place but not take it personally when it's rejected.

The novel? Yeah, yeah, it's pretty good.

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
Good question. Hm. I probably have older stuff, but I have a short story I submitted to a competition at 13. It won, but only after I was accused of plagiarizing it. I had to write another short short on the spot to convince the judges I was actually capable of writing the story I wrote.

The next year, I was the only person to enter at my grade level, and much to the chagrin of the head of the competition (who resigned, afterward) my entry was disallowed because it was 20 pages long instead of a maximum of 12 pages. Said head gave me an autographed copy of Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut and a current copy of the Writer's Market, and told me not to waste my talent on idiots.

Was it any good?
The first story? Unmitigated tripe. Which Dragon Magazine told me in no uncertain terms when I sent it to them. On the other hand, I was thirteen.

The second story? Kinda, for a fourteen year old. It was genre (I was still on a fantasy kick) but it was mid-to-low fantasy and was a coming of age story without any violence. Not bad for a D&D player with delusions of talent.

Write poetry?
Yes.

Angsty poetry?
Dark sometimes, but not generally angsty. I shoot for a New England tradition rather than a Goth tradition. I don't always hit.

Favourite genre of writing?
These days? Science Fiction or Fantasy. I'm tending towards hard in the former, and psychological in the latter.

Most fun character you ever wrote?
Trudy Galloway. She's my sick, twisted inner child.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
Annoying to write? Probably The Dash -- a parody of superspeedster heroes. She was popular because she was funny, but the hook was writing long run on sentences without spaces between words, and that's a monumental pain in the ass to write with any kind of natural flow. It's equally annoying to eliminate the spaces after the fact. Stupid gimmick writing.

Best plot you ever wrote?
With "Automotive Care" in circulation for publication? I'm giving that the nod.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
Currently available? Probably something in the old Superguy writing. But I have something coming up in Theftworld that I think will rock.

How often do you get writer's block?
Every so often.

How do you fix it?
Force myself to just keep writing. Sometimes random things, to just force the blockage forward.

Write fan fiction?
Now and again. I wrote a Legion fanfic back in college I think didn't suck. And I write In Nomine stuff when it strikes my fancy.

Do you type or write by hand?
Type.

Do you save everything you write?
Generally, yeah.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
All the time.

What's your favorite thing that you've written?
Right now? "Automotive Care." (Do you see a trend here?)

Stepping away from the psychout for a second... hm. Probably Theftworld, though I've got a short story or two I enjoy.

What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
Professionally? Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures. We were nominated for an ENnie award for that one, in large part because of the background stuff I wrote 'in character' as Bat Masterson. Who ever thought writing straight western stuff would work for me?

I've gotten the most positive responses for "Nicole: Acts of Justification" and "Antonio: The Calabite's Song," which are two In Nomine fanfics. Behold the power of built in fandom.

My Superguy stuff is generally considered good, too, by those who read it.

Do you even show people your work?
Desperately.

Who's your favourite constructive critic?
My father. He's both brilliant and generally right, and he's not afraid to be stern in his pronouncements.

Do you have a web site for your writings?
I have a Writing Page that's password protected to keep the stuff off the search engines, since I don't want to confuse it with 'electronically published' stuff. Other of my stuff is available here and there.

Did you ever write a novel?
I discovered, after the fact and to my shock, that I wrote five discrete novels when I was active in Superguy, ranging from 50,000 words to 110,000 words apiece. Which makes me an amateur novelist.

Theftworld is the non Superguy novel I've stuck with the longest, and it looks good for finishing it off, hopefully within the next few months.

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?
Oh yes.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
Not yet, but I won't rule any writing out. Hell, I've considered writing porn just for the cash payments they make. There's a fine tradition in Speculative Fiction of writing garbage to support art.

What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Coffee shops, restaurant tables, bars... any place where there's a simple justification for two people to sit and talk at length. I do lots of the sitting and talking at length.


What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
The millisecond I say I'll never write a given genre, my brain will start churning out ideas. So I won't say it. Hell, I never thought I'd write any kind of Western, but Sidewinder was a lot of fun and I'm thinking seriously of pulling a Resnick down the line and writing a Western in space.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Two novels, two short stories, two RPGs.

Do you want to write for a living?
I do write for a living. I just suck at getting paid, so I need to have a second job.

Seriously. The acid test for whether you're a writer or not is if you decide you're a writer. You prove it with your first paycheck, and I've gotten a few of those now.

Do I want writing to be my sole means of support? Sure, but not enough to force myself to write everything that comes available to ensure that I'm always writing and making my money off it. When people say they want to 'write for a living,' what they mean nine times out of ten is they'd like the stuff they want to write to become so popular that they can quit their job and devote themselves to it. That's amazingly rare. There are only so many Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings out there. The workday professional writers -- the ones who don't make millions but also write pretty much all the time -- are constantly writing, and not always the stuff they want to. They're placing articles in In-flight magazines and Woodworking magazines. They're scouring markets, figuring out what's currently selling, researching and writing it. They're turning out Penthouse Forum letters and how-to guides on constructing gliders and essays on all topics you can imagine, and they're tersely sending letters demanding payment promised months before.

That's what it means to 'make a living as a writer' if you don't hit it big. And that doesn't even touch on benefits. It's a lot of hard work and if you have a bad month, you have no comp or promise you can get back to it.

For my desired life and lifestyle, it's better to be a systems administrator who sits in cafes after hours and works on the stuff I love, because I love writing it and I enjoy the process, and then try to sell it afterward, but never be scared that I won't have a home.

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Yes.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Yes.

Ever written something in script or play format?
Yes. I've also used transcript form as a literary device.

What are your five favorite words?
Zeugma. Figurehead. Blinked. Kidding. Said.

Do you ever parody?
Yes.

What's your favorite thing to parody?
Something I love the concept of, but hate the execution of.

Do you actually like that thing, or are you spitefully making fun of it?
If I don't like it, it's hard to write good parody about it. You have to embrace Nancy before you can destroy Nancy. It's like the Grok principle from Stranger in a Strange Land. Only after you drink something in, learn it from all sides, cherish it and love it can you hate it so much that you eliminate it. Or in this case write about blue haired men from planet Helium.

Do you ever write based on yourself?
Sadly.

What character that you've written most resembles yourself?
Physically? Not counting Superguy stuff, I'd say Everett Markham from Conversations with Cat and "Automotive Care." But I draw a lot on myself in most of my characters, so sooner or later I see similarities in almost all of them.

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
The International House of Pancakes.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Sure. Though only elements. Nine times out of ten, written dreams don't resemble dreams at all. Take the 'dream sequence' in a recent episode of Enterprise. It was utterly linear and prosaic, without any of the mild, if ignored surrealisms that constantly surround a dream. It was just another scene, except it let Trip talk to a dead girl.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I love happy endings, and almost never write them. The characters at the end of the story are rarely the ones at the beginning, and change is traumatic. It's safe to say I'm a bastard to my characters, and so there's an element of recovery involved in surviving one of my stories.

I try my best to write satisfying conclusions, however.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you've seen?
Yes. Including one of my published poems.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Yes.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)
No..

Entirely in L337?
Dear Christ, no.

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?
Nope. I can't imagine it ever happening, but wondering if it could be done is a very writerly thing to do.

Does music help you write?
Yes.

Do you have a weblog or livejournal?
How does one contribute to a Meme like this without having a weblog or livejournal?

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
People from my day job are. I blew the mind of a student, once. He had me pigeonholed in his mind, only to have that preconception blown apart.

Quote something you've written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
Walking through the labyrinth,
Feeling the cracks within the wall, I turn,
Turning and making my way, I hear,
Hearing and fearing as the sound grows near...
Unwinding the string measure by measure,
As though you were singing, measures all
The cord that leads back as I move forward,
Left turns all the way, just as you say, told
In a whisper, the secret of the labyrinth.
But I am done with secrets -- I bear a sword
And a cord that I unwind, and step closer
And closer
To the minotaur that lurks. The secret
Of the labyrinth. The death contained within.
But I will slay it. Slay it with the sword
You gave me, because you love me.
Slay it with the sword, then follow the cord
Woven from your loom and passed to me
To unravel as I walk, and find my way home
To you.

The secret of the labyrinth will die by your love.
The mystery of the labyrinth will live on.
And the children of Athens will come home
Once more, no more tribute.
And I will stand by your side, hold your hand
Look within your eyes
And know I have emerged.

Recycling the Meme: On Writing

This is a Meme about writing I contributed to on my Livejournal. It occurs to me that it's a nice essay in and of itself, and probably deserves to be moved over to the "Essays," which is where you're reading these words right now. So, here it is, in all its glory.

I think it both has some truths in it, and some astoundingly crass egotisms. Which is about right for the average writer.

What's the last thing you wrote?
Finished Story? "Automotive Care," which is a short story. Wrote-period? Chapter Seven of my novel Theftworld

Was it any good?
"Automotive Care" is the single finest piece of American Literature ever produced, until such time as Realms of Fantasy rejected it. When it gets back from them, it will be the worst piece of tripe ever committed to paper until I get it sent out again. We already did this riff with Fantasy and Science Fiction. Being able to hold contradictory opinions about your own talent are the only thing that lets you have the ego to send the story out in the first place but not take it personally when it's rejected.

The novel? Yeah, yeah, it's pretty good.

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
Good question. Hm. I probably have older stuff, but I have a short story I submitted to a competition at 13. It won, but only after I was accused of plagiarizing it. I had to write another short short on the spot to convince the judges I was actually capable of writing the story I wrote.

The next year, I was the only person to enter at my grade level, and much to the chagrin of the head of the competition (who resigned, afterward) my entry was disallowed because it was 20 pages long instead of a maximum of 12 pages. Said head gave me an autographed copy of Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut and a current copy of the Writer's Market, and told me not to waste my talent on idiots.

Was it any good?
The first story? Unmitigated tripe. Which Dragon Magazine told me in no uncertain terms when I sent it to them. On the other hand, I was thirteen.

The second story? Kinda, for a fourteen year old. It was genre (I was still on a fantasy kick) but it was mid-to-low fantasy and was a coming of age story without any violence. Not bad for a D&D player with delusions of talent.

Write poetry?
Yes.

Angsty poetry?
Dark sometimes, but not generally angsty. I shoot for a New England tradition rather than a Goth tradition. I don't always hit.

Favourite genre of writing?
These days? Science Fiction or Fantasy. I'm tending towards hard in the former, and psychological in the latter.

Most fun character you ever wrote?
Trudy Galloway. She's my sick, twisted inner child.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
Annoying to write? Probably The Dash -- a parody of superspeedster heroes. She was popular because she was funny, but the hook was writing long run on sentences without spaces between words, and that's a monumental pain in the ass to write with any kind of natural flow. It's equally annoying to eliminate the spaces after the fact. Stupid gimmick writing.

Best plot you ever wrote?
With "Automotive Care" in circulation for publication? I'm giving that the nod.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
Currently available? Probably something in the old Superguy writing. But I have something coming up in Theftworld that I think will rock.

How often do you get writer's block?
Every so often.

How do you fix it?
Force myself to just keep writing. Sometimes random things, to just force the blockage forward.

Write fan fiction?
Now and again. I wrote a Legion fanfic back in college I think didn't suck. And I write In Nomine stuff when it strikes my fancy.

Do you type or write by hand?
Type.

Do you save everything you write?
Generally, yeah.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
All the time.

What's your favorite thing that you've written?
Right now? "Automotive Care." (Do you see a trend here?)

Stepping away from the psychout for a second... hm. Probably Theftworld, though I've got a short story or two I enjoy.

What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
Professionally? Sidewinder: Wild West Adventures. We were nominated for an ENnie award for that one, in large part because of the background stuff I wrote 'in character' as Bat Masterson. Who ever thought writing straight western stuff would work for me?

I've gotten the most positive responses for "Nicole: Acts of Justification" and "Antonio: The Calabite's Song," which are two In Nomine fanfics. Behold the power of built in fandom.

My Superguy stuff is generally considered good, too, by those who read it.

Do you even show people your work?
Desperately.

Who's your favourite constructive critic?
My father. He's both brilliant and generally right, and he's not afraid to be stern in his pronouncements.

Do you have a web site for your writings?
I have a Writing Page that's password protected to keep the stuff off the search engines, since I don't want to confuse it with 'electronically published' stuff. Other of my stuff is available here and there.

Did you ever write a novel?
I discovered, after the fact and to my shock, that I wrote five discrete novels when I was active in Superguy, ranging from 50,000 words to 110,000 words apiece. Which makes me an amateur novelist.

Theftworld is the non Superguy novel I've stuck with the longest, and it looks good for finishing it off, hopefully within the next few months.

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?
Oh yes.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
Not yet, but I won't rule any writing out. Hell, I've considered writing porn just for the cash payments they make. There's a fine tradition in Speculative Fiction of writing garbage to support art.

What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Coffee shops, restaurant tables, bars... any place where there's a simple justification for two people to sit and talk at length. I do lots of the sitting and talking at length.


What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
The millisecond I say I'll never write a given genre, my brain will start churning out ideas. So I won't say it. Hell, I never thought I'd write any kind of Western, but Sidewinder was a lot of fun and I'm thinking seriously of pulling a Resnick down the line and writing a Western in space.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Two novels, two short stories, two RPGs.

Do you want to write for a living?
I do write for a living. I just suck at getting paid, so I need to have a second job.

Seriously. The acid test for whether you're a writer or not is if you decide you're a writer. You prove it with your first paycheck, and I've gotten a few of those now.

Do I want writing to be my sole means of support? Sure, but not enough to force myself to write everything that comes available to ensure that I'm always writing and making my money off it. When people say they want to 'write for a living,' what they mean nine times out of ten is they'd like the stuff they want to write to become so popular that they can quit their job and devote themselves to it. That's amazingly rare. There are only so many Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings out there. The workday professional writers -- the ones who don't make millions but also write pretty much all the time -- are constantly writing, and not always the stuff they want to. They're placing articles in In-flight magazines and Woodworking magazines. They're scouring markets, figuring out what's currently selling, researching and writing it. They're turning out Penthouse Forum letters and how-to guides on constructing gliders and essays on all topics you can imagine, and they're tersely sending letters demanding payment promised months before.

That's what it means to 'make a living as a writer' if you don't hit it big. And that doesn't even touch on benefits. It's a lot of hard work and if you have a bad month, you have no comp or promise you can get back to it.

For my desired life and lifestyle, it's better to be a systems administrator who sits in cafes after hours and works on the stuff I love, because I love writing it and I enjoy the process, and then try to sell it afterward, but never be scared that I won't have a home.

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Yes.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Yes.

Ever written something in script or play format?
Yes. I've also used transcript form as a literary device.

What are your five favorite words?
Zeugma. Figurehead. Blinked. Kidding. Said.

Do you ever parody?
Yes.

What's your favorite thing to parody?
Something I love the concept of, but hate the execution of.

Do you actually like that thing, or are you spitefully making fun of it?
If I don't like it, it's hard to write good parody about it. You have to embrace Nancy before you can destroy Nancy. It's like the Grok principle from Stranger in a Strange Land. Only after you drink something in, learn it from all sides, cherish it and love it can you hate it so much that you eliminate it. Or in this case write about blue haired men from planet Helium.

Do you ever write based on yourself?
Sadly.

What character that you've written most resembles yourself?
Physically? Not counting Superguy stuff, I'd say Everett Markham from Conversations with Cat and "Automotive Care." But I draw a lot on myself in most of my characters, so sooner or later I see similarities in almost all of them.

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
The International House of Pancakes.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Sure. Though only elements. Nine times out of ten, written dreams don't resemble dreams at all. Take the 'dream sequence' in a recent episode of Enterprise. It was utterly linear and prosaic, without any of the mild, if ignored surrealisms that constantly surround a dream. It was just another scene, except it let Trip talk to a dead girl.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
I love happy endings, and almost never write them. The characters at the end of the story are rarely the ones at the beginning, and change is traumatic. It's safe to say I'm a bastard to my characters, and so there's an element of recovery involved in surviving one of my stories.

I try my best to write satisfying conclusions, however.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you've seen?
Yes. Including one of my published poems.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Yes.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)
No..

Entirely in L337?
Dear Christ, no.

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?
Nope. I can't imagine it ever happening, but wondering if it could be done is a very writerly thing to do.

Does music help you write?
Yes.

Do you have a weblog or livejournal?
How does one contribute to a Meme like this without having a weblog or livejournal?

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
People from my day job are. I blew the mind of a student, once. He had me pigeonholed in his mind, only to have that preconception blown apart.

Quote something you've written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
Walking through the labyrinth,
Feeling the cracks within the wall, I turn,
Turning and making my way, I hear,
Hearing and fearing as the sound grows near...
Unwinding the string measure by measure,
As though you were singing, measures all
The cord that leads back as I move forward,
Left turns all the way, just as you say, told
In a whisper, the secret of the labyrinth.
But I am done with secrets -- I bear a sword
And a cord that I unwind, and step closer
And closer
To the minotaur that lurks. The secret
Of the labyrinth. The death contained within.
But I will slay it. Slay it with the sword
You gave me, because you love me.
Slay it with the sword, then follow the cord
Woven from your loom and passed to me
To unravel as I walk, and find my way home
To you.

The secret of the labyrinth will die by your love.
The mystery of the labyrinth will live on.
And the children of Athens will come home
Once more, no more tribute.
And I will stand by your side, hold your hand
Look within your eyes
And know I have emerged.