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October 31, 2004

Coming up on the start of 30 days of riding the fire!

It's All Hallow's Eve. To some, a sacred day. To others, the day before All Saint's Day. To yet more, an excuse to dress like a slut or extort adults for candy. To yet others, several of the above.

But to a few, bold, utterly foolish souls, it is the night before the start of National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo. I've been preparing for weeks, abandoning several projects before settling on one. And now, I'm pretty well ready to go.

The project's name is Trigger Man, and it's pseudo-hard character driven SF, because that's what I want to write, in the end. It details one of the watershed events in an SF universe I've been poking at for about twelve years now. My hope is, my friends who like SF will like it, and my friends who hate SF will like it. My fear is the converse will be true.

It's dealing with a particularly bloody war between empires, and a horrific event that changes the balance of that war. Now, the plot is driven by strategic considerations, and for that to work, I need to actually know what those considerations are. So, I needed to actually outline a very basic starmap (not to scale, so Winchell Chung doesn't need to throttle me to death, just yet), detailing a good percentage of the worlds along the border of Concordia (the invading empire) and the Empire of Citadel (the defenders), along with the FTL routes (my FTL handwave requires specific points of travel, outlined by the various lines on the map) involved. For various reasons, Concordia's worlds are named after British Commonwealth cities and place names and the like. Citadel, on the other hand, has a lot more total worlds and more ways of naming planets after people than you could count.

So. I'm making up the map, so I have it to refer to, and I need a whole pile of planet names -- most of which may never even be mentioned in the book. One -- Aurora -- was already in my notes and has been referred to in my more ambitious novel project, Theftworld, which is one quarter done but on hold while I work on Trigger Man. Another, GS4771, has no reason to be named anything at all, as it has neither habitable planets nor (until now) any reason to go there. (Much of Trigger Man takes place in the GS4771 system.) And the rest....

I needed a pile of names for the rest.

As you can see if you click the map's thumbnail, I finally named them after Webcartoonists. Since most of these worlds won't be mentioned by name in the book, no one's likely to notice when I try to sell this thing. However, they're there, providing verisimilitude when I need to make references. I even have detailed notes on how far away each planet is from each other, and how long it takes to get there via the FTL handwave.

If you're a friend of mine and want to know why I didn't name it after you... well, when I did the (much larger and more elaborate) full starmap for the Hampshire Sector, needed for Theftworld and several short stories, I loaded it down with several friends' names. You're probably in there. If you're a webcartoonist and want to know why the Hell I didn't name a planet after you... hey, there were only so many. You can safely assume your world is to the "south" of this map.

For the record, purple worlds are Concordian and, as I said, named after semiBrit/Canadian/Irish/Welsh/Australian stuff. However, I did sneak in a "Campbell" and a "McCloud" and named one of the worlds "Tackleford," so that counts as an Allison reference. Pine green worlds are Citadelian. Red worlds are where the terrible fighting is going on right now. (Which means there's more of a chance those worlds will get mentioned in the actual book.) York is yellow because I have three books planned where it wins its Independence from Concordia, somewhere down the line. Oh, and some planets get the suffix '-suld' or '-wuld' or '-uld,' which is a contraction of "World" used by Citadelian mapmakers. So, Bleuelsuld means Bleuel's World, essentially. It's worth noting there's good music on Bleuelsuld.

(Why Crosby's Folly? Because I didn't like just 'Crosby,' and 'Crosbysuld' sounded silly. Think of it as a prospector's world or something. Look, there's only so much I'm putting into these explanations.)

And you thought pigs couldn't fly.

(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnail for full sized finger-rock!)

First off, I really should have snarked yesterday's GPF instead of today's, because it was a perfect example of the duality of the strip -- the happy, all too convenient, tied up in a big bow Ki-Nick-Oshiros, and the flooding-tears-from-eyes-fleeing Trudy. And that struck me. But I did little yesterday that didn't involve the monumentally cool City of Heroes Halloween event. (For the record, I want the Witches' hats to become available as a costume option. But I digress.)

However, today I'm sitting in a cafe, a good 60 miles from where 3,000 children (literally -- they bus them in from surrounding communities) are tromping up and down main street of my town, trick or treating. I live on Main Street, and did $300 in candy the one year I chose to hand out at the door. Never. Again. So, I'm down here working on final notes and prep work for my Nanowrimo project (I got some good Physics advice on it, though I plan on bouncing a couple of things off of some of the other folks who volunteered), and glancing at the web, and I saw today's GPF.

And... well, I liked it. I know, it's Nick and Ki, but that got a grin out of me, and I figure the least I owe Jeff Darlington is acknowledgment when the couple does work for me.

(In other news, Wednesday White is working on recipes for tasty, tasty biscuits... more news after I try to cook one of them.)

October 30, 2004

And I'm flyin'... in my Zeppelin... over Ger-ma-ny....

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Zeppelin!)

Where would comic strips be without belabored puns?

No, honestly. I'm asking.

(Man, I want to ride in a Zeppelin.)

October 29, 2004

Tiki God is also surprisingly good at origami.

Holy crap! I got fan art!

I wondered, in the halcyon days of my youth, if ever I would receive unsolicited fan art for a project I was doing. Not... er... counting when Ursula made Snarky. Which technically was solicited. I had finally contented myself with the surety of knowledge that someone trashing my apartment, spraypainting obscenities on my walls and setting fire to my furniture at least counted as performance art.

But look here! Jonathan Bearup of Blahsville sent this along! (Click on it for full size, as always.) It's great! The beard is just about perfect, and I would so use that pose. He even looks like he's wearing a bowling shirt over a tee shirt.

(On a side note -- Bowling Shirt monetary solicitations should go out this weekend! It is definite go time! Yay!)

So, count me as one pleased guy. He also wanted to be sure I knew he wasn't trying to bribe me for a Snark, which is a pity because it would have totally worked. On the other hand, I was already going to snark Blahville at some point, because it's a lot of fun. So. Moral quandary. Moral quandary.

Eh, we'll chalk it up to full disclosure, somewhere down the line. In the meantime, I won't snark the strip proper today, but I will make mention of Blahville's Links page, which has to be my favorite of all time. And also must be a Hell of a lot of work to do.

Is it me, or do I look like I'm totally about to kick Scott McCloud's ass in that picture, too? Something about the style makes it look like McCloud's about to appear out of nowhere commenting on Perspective, and I'm going to totally punk him out. Perhaps its the look of insanity in the eyes. Fucking McCloud. It's on!

My Weakness is Shiny Things!

So, I'm not that jazzed about City of Villains. I mean, I love City of Heroes the way any good addict loves his own personal crack, but part of what I love is the idea that we're all, every one of us, out there doing the hero thing. There's no PvP. There's few ways to grief new players. Every move you make in the game is heroic, with the possible exception of using stealth and teleport to make your way to reading obscure plaques in the middle of hellacious city parks so you can earn the "Intellectual" badge. I don't want to compete with others on their level, because I won't be able to. I'm a total PvP wuss. I die a lot -- alot -- when human beings are the ones fighting me instead of A.I.s. And it just kills the fun for me -- oh, here's my brave super hero. Oops! Sniper killed me from far off! I guess the world is doomed, because I'm just a piece of crap! Hah hah!

So. Cryptic just announced Prelimenary terms for the City of Villains Beta.

And my immediate... immediate thought was "oh cool. I'll qualify."

...damn their skillful coding and alluring opportunities....

Eels are just a pack of Historicist Bastards. It's like Post-Structuralism just didn't happen for them or something.

(From Questionable Content. Click on the thumbnail for full sized marine hermeneutics!)

Jacques Derrida died on October 8. He's one of the few people who was so important to the field of philosophical and critical thought that he was eulogized by the New York Times. He's also one of the few people eulogized by the New York Times who was so innately controversial, that thousands of people signed a letter of formal protest to that eulogy, deriding it as inflammatory, inadequate, and sacrificing the legacy Derrida left us to satisfy those academics who, in the words of Bayard Bell, wish to establish their good name by manipulating the press to sully Derrida's.

For those who know nothing about Jacques Derrida -- and my assumption is that describes every person reading my words except for five exceptions, broken down as 3 random people as tragically lit-geeky as I am, my father the Professor of English, and Wednesday White, who knows everything and yet remains the In Girl in All Situations -- was a philosopher whose work primarily centered on Continental philosophy, particularly as it related to literary criticism. While he did work in many fields over a very broad, very detailed career, he was best known for strong developmental work in Phenomenology, followed by a concentration into grammatical and linguistic theory, taking a side trip through anthropology, and becoming the founding mind behind Post-Structuralism and Deconstructionism. The last is what he is most famous for, generally among people who haven't the slightest idea what Deconstructionist theory actually is.

Of course, part of the problem is, almost no one actually does know what Deconstructionist theory is. It defies definition the way positive poles of two magnets defy touching one another. I have a degree plus significant coursework in Literary Theory, and I couldn't define Deconstructionism the same way two days running on a bet. I'm better with Post-structuralism, but then I always enjoyed the interplay of significator and significated. Deconstructionism just makes my eyes glaze over.

(And no, they're not the same thing, though one incorporates the other. There is oxygen in the water molecule, but I wouldn't recommend trying to breath it.)

But honestly, I'm not here to talk about Deconstructionism. I'm here to talk about Derrida. Because Derrida was like a depth charge into philosophical thought. He remade Criticism completely in his wake. And he expanded our lexicon to the point that his terminology is misused by everything from politicians to playwrights. In a darker note, Deconstructionist theory has been used by narrow minded people to attack academia as "ivory-towerism," as if the expansion of thought, concept and consideration -- particularly in a field of theory that exalts the marginal and defines all things in terms of struggle -- were somehow divorced from consideration of the "real world...."

But I'm ranting, and you don't care. But J. Jacques does. He managed to encapsulate the entirety of modern consideration of post-structuralism into a strip that doesn't require you to know anything at all about it. In the end, there are those who care deeply, passionately about critical thought... and everyone else just wants to eat fish. We can see in Ellen the embodied binary opposition between academia and practicality, forever entwined as they combat one another. This is echoed in the opposition of her scientific major and philosophical minor, and echoed again in her attitude toward her studies and her failure, yet the focus of her very attempt. And we yet again see opposition between Ellen, the thinker, and Dora, the doer, who takes on the aspect of the Eel, assuming its qualities and its name alike, setting herself up not as one who cares about Derrida, but instead only wishes to consume fish. In this triplication of theme, we see the core Binary Opposition between sign and significator, between term and use, between stomach and spirit.

See... I can't define Deconstructionism on a bet... but I can bring the Deconstructionism on one. Fear my power, mortals, for I graduated with Latin words after my name!

October 28, 2004


I'm not entirely sure why this week has been so brutal at work, but it has. I'm getting stuff in here as fast as I can. And this particular essay I wanted to think about.

It's been an interesting couple of days. It would be reprobate of me not to mention the conclusion of It's Walky, even though I stopped reading it. I'll confess to glancing at the finale, then reading the Epilogue, from beginning to end. And while I made the right choice in ending my own reading when I did, I'll admit said epilogue was sweet, and I'm glad I read it. One of these days, I'll drink a couple of shots of scotch and take a shot at the last storyline, beginning to end. Though, with my current backlog, that'll be 2010. Just about time for Willis's next comic to be kicking into high.

Even as Walky ends (and the Roomies strips running in the Keenspot newspaper experiment run on the site), there's something that catches my interest more, however. And that's Aeire's decision to remove Xenith from the web.

Xenith was a good strip. Dark -- incredibly dark, compared to Queen of Wands. Which itself was nice. As much as I love Queen of Wands, I also go for the dark stuff, and I enjoy watching different part of an artist's brain on display. (Which is probably why I just bought an un-QoW related print Aeire's selling. Though that could just be because I liked the print.

So, the question comes up: why take down a mostly moribund strip? It's not like she had to pay bandwidth for it (Xenith was a Keenspace strip), and it had a fanbase. Well, Aeire went into some detail in a post she sent to her forum. In part:

Xenith was written when I was a sophomore in high school. High school was not a pleasant time for me - I wasnít liked, I wasnít in the ëiní crowd, I was dealing with problems that life was throwing at me and not dealing with them particularly successfully, and honestly, I couldnít see myself living past 18. I made up my mind that this meant I would be dying at age 18, because there wasnít anything that I could see beyond that. When I reached 18, I decided 21. Somewhere between 18 and 21, I realized how silly that outlook was, and ditched it - and now Iím 28, have no idea when Iím going to die, and donít really care offhand - itís the living part thatís important. So, hereís this story that I wrote. You want to know the point of Xenith? The ëmessageí, the ëmoralí, the thing you were supposed to get out of it?

The wall is always there. And no matter how many times you pull yourself over it, the wall will always be there, it will drive you insane and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

...after this weekend, everything snapped into place - is it really any wonder that this comic depressed me to work on? I mean, no fucking shit it depressed me - what kind of message is THAT? What kind of moral is that to leave people with? Why on earth would I want to give a message like that to several thousand people?

Xenith was the resigned, bitter, cynical and desperate cry of a 13 year old child. Thatís all it ever was. And thatís not who I am now, and thatís not what I want to leave people with. So I backed up all of the files contained on Xenith, because despite that message, there is still some good artwork and layout designs contained therein, and I deleted the site. It will not return, and I apologize to those of you that have been eagerly waiting for an update, because it will not happen.

This made me think. A lot. Because I'm of two minds about it.

Part of me -- the part that has the background in literary criticism and the degree to show for it -- is saddened by this. I like knowing where someone came from. I like seeing the evolution not only of artistic style, but also of voice, and theme, and philosophy. While my critical style focuses on the individual works, the metacritic in me likes to see how those works fit into a cosm on the whole. Plus, the art was very pretty. I'm willing to give a lot for pretty art.

However, the creator in me fully understands -- in the end, Xenith was an unfinished opus, and the artist had decided she not only didn't want to finish it, she didn't like where the story had gone so far. She had outgrown it, and she didn't want it representing her -- more to the point, she didn't want her audience taking the lessons it had to teach to heart.

This makes some sense to me. And it's a much better reason than one I often hear in these situations: "It wasn't any good." That bugs me a lot -- yeah, you're going to become a much better artist, and a much better webcartoonist, the more you actually create. Your skills will improve. Your sense of the aesthetic will improve. Your sense of humor will improve.

But sequential art is just that -- sequential. And where you came from is as important as where you are and where you're going.

I had to wrestle with that with some of my own writing. Out on the wide, wide world of the Internet, there's an amateur fiction mailing list called Superguy (the sequel to another one called Sfstory). These were born in the heydey of LISTSERV and the BITnet. (That's right, I was a BITnet jockey. I hung out on Relay before there was an IRC. I had an online girlfriend before America Online was even founded. Fear me: I am old and a dork.) Superguy wasn't fan fiction -- it, like Dargon and other projects, was a wholly original fictional universe, done 250 lines at a time in e-mail. And it's still out there, and it still gets posts every so often. Hell, I did one myself last year.

At the time, though, it got a dozen posts a day. It was huge, and sprawling, and uncontrolled, and some of it was wonderful and brilliant. Most of it wasn't. There was a tremendous amount of total shit on it. And I wrote some of that shit. And over time I clawed up to stuff that I think was okay.

But some of it... well, let's just say that when I'm lined up against the wall and blindfolded, with men in dark suits loading their rifles, my defiance will be punctured by a soft-spoken man saying "Mister Burns? I'm hoping what looks to be a plain text file's printout in my hand. I believe it's called 'WarHammer?' Are you seriously claiming you don't deserve to die?" And I will sob, and accept my fate as just.

But I don't take it down. I leave it up there. Because even if some of it's total crap, and even the best of it isn't great, it's part of my evolution as a writer. If I've gained any skill at all, it's because I went through the process and, by posting it online, I received feedback and encouragement alike. It's part of the whole cosm.

But that's not the situation Aeire is in. I don't think Xenith embarrasses her. (And having read it, I contend Xenith shouldn't embarrass her). Instead, she has come to disagree with what Xenith stood for. She's evolved so far from it that it is no longer representative of who she is, or what she wants to say.

And if she wants to take that down, for those reasons, I can only respect that.

So long, of course, as she keeps the backups of it. Someday, when Universities are pouring through her papers and correspondence and producing theses on the evolution of Red Haired Sequential Artists, they'll be able to place Xenith in its proper context within Aeire's artistic development.

And when they do, a new group of young readers will discover Xenith, and take it up as a mantra, and extol Aeire's virtues to the world. And Aeire, if she has passed on, will come back and haunt their punk asses. We're talking serious "this ain't a Sarah Michelle Geller movie" horror, folks.

And really, isn't that the kind of legacy every artist wants to leave behind?

October 27, 2004

On the Nature of Public Speech.

I get asked, every now and then, why I don't talk that much about my life here. After all, they say, this is a blog. I'm supposed to talk about my loneliness, or do memes, or stuff like that. Or, they know something about me, and wonder why I don't talk about those aspects of my life; why I don't discuss the surgery I had in March (I'm fine), or the life threatening condition I had a few years back (I'm fine), or why I don't talk about the time I was a professional actor (I'm fine).

Some people like to answer that question for me, too. "Oh," they say. Or write. Usually write. "You're shy. You're humble. You don't like to talk about yourself."

I'm not sure any writer who puts words out for the world to see every day of his life can really be called 'shy.' And folks who know me know 'humble' isn't exactly the best word to describe me. And as for talking about my self... hey, I'm my own favorite subject. I acknowledge that. I own my arrogance. I'm good at arrogance.

However, I also understand venue. I don't talk about myself here on Websnark because people don't come to Websnark to read about me. They come because they like my insight on something, or they come because they're entertained by my ramblings about outdated sitcoms and fart jokes. And I'm grateful. I love it when people read this stuff. I love having an audience.

But that audience isn't here to hear me talk about myself. For that, I have a Livejournal. And before that -- before these trendy Livejournals and Bloggers and Moveable Type Installations, I had an Online Journal. In those, the subject is me. My politics. My health. My tortured soul. The Memes that catch my eye. You know the drill. You've all read Livejournals.

(I will not be brokenhearted if folks don't decide to visit these things, mind. But I'm also not ashamed of them.)

If Websnark is a lecture hall, where I'm up on a stage dancing and cavorting and trying to entertain you, my Livejournal is like a coffee shop where I'm sitting nearby and reading you poetry. It's more intimate, less preachy. If you wonder why I don't go all fanboy when I get linked by the artists I revere, it's because you don't read my Livejournal and see it happen. If you wonder why I don't go all Emo when I'm down, it's because you don't read my Livejournal and see me act like... well, every other person with a website. It's a different venue, with different purpose.

But there's one thing I never, ever forget. Because I've learned my lesson. My Livejournal... and my Online Journal before it... are not private. They are public. They are just as public as Websnark, even if there's a couple of orders of magnitude difference in readership.

And what I say in them, I'm saying publicly.

I once hurt a friend's feelings. It was stupid, and thoughtless, and I still kick myself over it. Said friend was someone I went to college with, and he told me something personal once. Nothing truly bad, but something that was part of his own life that he shared with me, his close friend. Some years later, I related that event as an anecdote on a Usenet newsgroup. It wasn't a very high traffic newsgroup, and it was easy to imagine that I knew everyone reading it -- that it was private, in its own way. This was in the days when the Web was still spreading, slowly -- when the Internet was still primarily textual. And when a young guy who wants to tell a good story can be pretty fucking blind about what he's doing.

Well, it was over a year later that my friend's brother did a websearch for his brother's name, and had it get flagged on Deja. And he e-mailed my friend.

And it was maybe eight months after that that I found an e-mail address for my friend, and excitedly e-mailed him, asking if this was really him or someone else. You know -- a "If this is you, let's get back in contact!" letter.

The response I got back was nothing less than I deserved. I had hurt him, publicly, and embarrassed him, and seeing an e-mail from me wasn't exactly the high point of his day.

I apologized. And meant it. And because he's a big man, he forgave me. But I've never forgotten. And I've never forgotten the lesson I learned.

The Internet is public, kids. And we have been given the most incredible of gifts -- the capacity to publish our free expression for the whole world to see, for the cost of an internet connection. (Or not even that, if you go to a library and use their equipment). If you take time, and work at it, you can build an audience. If you use Livejournal, you don't have bandwidth costs. Hell, you don't even need to pay them for an account if you don't want to.

It's easy to think "this is mine. This is intimate. This is my diary." But it isn't. It's public. Even if you lock your entries to Friends, unless you know all of your friends well, you're still speaking to an audience.

As many of you know, Livejournal's been in a bit of an uproar today. It seems a young woman, a few days back, wrote a satirical post for her Livejournal. And it seems that in that post, she expressed (I'm not sure of the exact details) a desire to see the President of the United States stop breathing. By force, if need be.

I don't take a political stand on Websnark (that's what my Livejournal is for), but given my attitudes and my stand that "art matters," you can probably intuit my opinions of the current administration.

But I don't want physical harm to come to the President. And chances are likely neither do you. And chances are likely neither did that young woman. She meant it satirically.

But the United States Government, specifically the Department of the Treasury and the Secret Service which works for them, cannot have a sense of humor.

Let me say that again, giving it obnoxious emphasis and a blink tag that will make it look jarring and ugly and all newbieish, because if I ever tell you one true thing that I want you to remember, this is it:

The United States Secret Service cannot have a sense of humor.

They have to take any threat to the President seriously. Any. If you go here, you'll see the justification for this policy, as well as a couple of egregious examples of "no sense of humor" from the Clinton administration. But you can find examples from most modern administrations.

Guys, they've killed four Presidents. And wounded one. And shot at two more. There are people who shoot at Presidents because they want to commit suicide. There are people who shoot at Presidents because they want to impress girls. There are people who shoot at Presidents because they believe they're going to save the world. The President is a world leader, and they've been assassinating World Leaders about as long as we've had a concept of 'world' and 'leadership.'

So. This girl got a visit by the Secret Service. And by her own account they were reasonable and nice, and drank coffee with the girl and her family, and were perfectly satisfied that the girl was not a threat. She was upset, however, that someone turned her in, and she was upset, however, that she now has an FBI file that says she once threatened the President.

For many people who read the Internet, reporting threats to the President isn't optional. It's required. If a Livejournal user who calls himself "Berstanpeniswang" claims he's going to kill President Catgirl because he doesn't like the way she wears pink, and a United States Marine reads that message, he is obligated to report it. If he doesn't, and President Catgirl takes Berstanpeniswang's bullet right between the pink cat ears, that Marine is culpable for allowing the death of the President. "I didn't think he'd do it" is no excuse, when there is a National Tragedy that could have been prevented.

So yeah. The outrage people are expressing is wholly misplaced. No, I don't think that girl meant to threaten anyone. But the Secret Service doesn't assume that. They check things out. And yeah, it goes on your permanent record.

When I ranted about political leaders in the past, on my Livejournal, I did it knowing fully well that someday, someone might use my words to justify not hiring me for a job. Even though at the time, I could count my Friends list on one hand. Because those words are committed to the Internet, and they're never going away. Ever. If I deleted the Journal tomorrow, that just means I've deleted one record of what I wrote. There's still the Internet Wayback machine. There's still backup copies going back Christ knows how long that I have no control over. It's the way that it is. This is a public forum, in a public medium.

My words may offend people, sometimes. I don't get to take them back after I use them. It's come up, here on Websnark. It will come up again. All I can do, whether here or on my Livejournal or on some Forum I comment on or in other peoples' journals I comment on, is be cognizant of the fact that I'm doing this in front of the whole. Fucking. World. And the mike is live. And there are no takebacks.

When you're writing on your journals, and you bare your souls to the world, know that you're in fact baring them to the world.

When you're frothing about the political figures you hate, and you threaten them with violence because it's a funny way to rant, know that in fact you are threatening violence against others and official notice can and will be taken.

When you write about something embarrassing your best friend from college did four years later and you post it on the web, know that you are in fact embarrassing your best friend in front of potentially millions of people. (Don't believe me? Ask the Star Wars Kid.)

And when you invoke the right of Freedom of Speech, don't ever assume that means you aren't responsible for what you have said.

Sorry I didn't write about many webcomics today. Work was a bear and a browser crash killed this essay once, so I had to rewrite it from scratch. And right now I'm watching the ninth inning of the Sox game. They're up by three, so it's going to take some spectacular choking for them to break my heart this time.

Holy fuck.

(From College Roomies from Hell! Click on the thumb... nail... holy fuck.)


I... I thought....

Holy fuck.

See, I thought Roger was running to save Margaret (whether he knew it or not). It never...

Holy fuck.

Campos gets a biscuit.

Yeah. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Holy fuck.

October 26, 2004

I need HELP! Er, from people with big brains!

Hi all!

In preparation for Nanowrimo, I find myself needing a few questions answered. Specifically, a few questions on high energy physics. I immediately thought of Winchell Chung, but I have no idea if this is his field or not. However, there are some engineering considerations involved as well. Just for the record.

So, if you're a physicist with some understanding of engineering or an engineer with a good grounding in physics... and in either case have some understanding of tremendously powerful explosions... I'd like to talk to you. You could potentially receive a wonderful... and completely worthless... acknowledgment in the book... as well as alcohol I'll gladly buy for you if we ever find ourselves in such a position.

(Extremely powerful explosions. Physics. Engineering. Alcohol. Why do I expect Casey Grimm and/or Andy Weir and/or Gav Bleuel to comedically appear?)

It's like a brush with celebrity, only the celebrity doesn't know it. So it's more like stalking, really

So, today seems to be the day I'm trawling through Schlock Mercenary (early prognosis: "good"), which means I'm not typing in here enough. But I surface and check my feeds every now and again, and came across this post from Wil Wheaton's log.

It's weird, but I get all excited when I see famous examples of the name "Burns." I don't know why. It's not like we don't have some fame associated with the name. I mean, outside of America where our public schools are considered progressive if they have poetry that doesn't rhyme for one tenth of one quarter, Robert Burns is revered as one of the great poets the world over. And of course, Montgomery Burns extols all the virtues we of Sept Burns (Burns is a minor family, or Sept, in Scotland -- officially under Clan Campbell, which means we're all a pack of scalawags and thieves. We're also more common there than "Smiths" are in America) claim as our own.

So, I'm weirdly tickled pink that Wheaton is playing "Richard Burns" in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. For no good reason at all. But heck, I'll buy a copy of the game now, so mission accomplished, I guess.

(And if anyone wonders if I feel the same kinship towards the Fox News Apologist who happens to share my natal as well as surname? I decided long ago that he was actually born Erich Berstanpeniswang, and had to change his name for television. And until I see a birth certificate, I'm sticking with that story.

Berstanpeniswang. It's Monacoian, I think.)

Do you suppose Dean's hand got tired by panel three?

(From Gin and the Devil. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... well, actually it'll just go to the main site because they don't have an archive page for the entry yet. But anyway, feel free!)

I don't have a full snark for Gin and the Devil yet. I haven't gone back very far in the archives.

However, there is a kind of brilliance in the line "You could be stupid for a living." The kind of brilliance that smacks me upside the head and says "hi, Eric. Pay attention to me."

I'll go through the strip's archives when I get a chance. But still, this got a snrk out of me, and I have no argument with that. And you? You have a lovely chance to get a snrk out of it too.

And really, isn't that why we get together in the first place? Well, that and all the alcohol?

October 25, 2004

Well, someone's doing halloween strips, at least

(From Diesel Sweeties. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Flight of the Alpha.)

I'd just like to use what is, after all, a moderately good Diesel Sweeties strip to reminisce about Alpha Flight. The initial run, John Byrne created -- were some of the best team based superhero comics of their time. Well done, well paced, well crafted, with a shocker in the middle and characters you could believe in and respect. And that was a fine, fine thing.

Everything that happened with Alpha Flight after the Byrne run was subpar, and finally went to total crap. I hear there's a new series, with a humorous slant -- I guess because just like She-Hulk, if it's Marvel and John Byrne was associated with it, it must be funny, right? Right? And John Byrne hasn't done a damn thing worthwhile since Alpha Flight. But those issues were about as good as team based superheroes ever got.

So, thanks, M. Stevens. Thanks for giving me a few minutes to remember when John Byrne and Canadian Superheroes were a fine, fine thing.

Yes! Die! DIE!

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Garfield the way it was meant to be!)

There are three things worth noting here.

First off... this is the first time I've ever seen a representation of Garfield act even remotely like a cat.

Secondly... since Jon can actually 'hear' Garfield, in the strip (depending on the week), why hasn't that Vet contacted Mental Health Services to medicate him?

Third, will Jon bake Garfield's corpse into a lasagna after this? The meat has been forcefed whole sheets of pasta and cheese for so long, one has to assume the meat will be perfectly marbled and succulent.

Finally... there's one truly unrealistic thing in this strip, if one looks at the whole. Jon wants to know if Garfield did anything "funny" today. As Garfield hasn't done anything "funny" since 1979 or so (not counting the cartoon, which the Jim Davis machine had nothing to do with -- I'm not saying it was good, just that it had a shot at funny) the question seems too ridiculous to let go.

I wonder if we could get some sequel strips, like "Jon captures the Vet and keeps her locked in the basement" and "Jon leaves Odie in a garage with the car engine running...." Nah. There's just so long you can tempt the syndicates to sue you.

It's a standard argumentative essay technique. Don't you remember English 101?

(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnails for full sized compare and contrast!)

Here we have Saturday and Monday's GPF strips. And in a way, it's like we're seeing two different strips.

We have Trudy at a crossroads, a conflict, her desires, her emotions threatening to tear her apart. On the balance point of good and evil.

And we have Oshiro completely revising his prejudices and deciding to give his blessing to Nick, after a single speech from his daughter, who until now he's never even called by her proper name in her life because he didn't agree with it.

Complex verses simplistic. And, for my money, well produced and engaging versus frustrating and dull.

This is the crux point. In just a few strips of Trudy and Yoshi, we've seen layers of characterization, growth and humor alike. It's not 180 degrees from the preceding storyline but it's enough to interest and intrigue. And when we turn back to "Leave it to Oshiro," we have all the same problems we had before.

There's a point to this romp down simplistic lane. Trudy is about to see Nick ask Ki to marry him. She is so close to turning away from darkness... and now she's going to be at ground zero of the man she loves turning away forever, and not even know he's doing it. This is a milestone on Trudy's path. It makes sense that the proposal happens now, in this way. I have no argument with the structure of the story at this point.

But the question is, can Darlington inject the Oshiros and Nick with the complexity that Trudy has to offer... there's no way to redeem the Nick/Oshiro plotline. But can the new plotline with Trudy at least justify the setup?

We'll see, over the next few days. We'll see.

It's not too late for the Velociraptor in the basement to explode, you know.

No, I haven't been playing City of Heroes today.

(From Wigu. Click on the link for full sized Revelation!)

It was Parent's Weekend at the school I work over the past few days. The students are all off campus right now, so the staff was, quite unexpectedly, given today off. So, I slept in. A nice long sleep in. The kind that makes waking for work tomorrow a hideous concept.

I forgot to turn off my alarm, however, and because I was so foggy and knew I didn't have to get up, I literally couldn't figure out how to make it permanently stop making that noise. So I hit the sleep button about five times. Then, my cat -- who had crawled under the covers -- began licking my leg. It's a sweet gesture and it made me feel all warm inside.

It also hurts. I mean, sandpaper, focusing on one square inch of your leg. It's not comfortable. It woke me to the point that I could remember how to turn the alarm off. I did so, then shifted and closed my eyes, and willed my cat to stop with the tender expression of her love.

Apparently, it worked. I woke up sometime after noon. And here we are now, looking at Wigu.

Paisley's probably my favorite character in the Wigu cast. Less disconnected than her parents, with less basis for her delusions than Wigu, Paisley's own visions are typically based on substance abuse and can lead to unrestrained creativity. Now, she's been declared the Daughter of God in one of those visions. In any other strip, I'd assume it was a delusion. In this one....

Hey, I think maybe a nihilist/goth Messiah who looks good in a corset couldn't possibly hurt.

Okay, maybe 'possibly' is the wrong word.

October 24, 2004

Four minutes to midnight, and I'm just saying "hi?"

I have four minutes to post something and maintain my streak of posting something in this every day since the day I started it.

I haven't even read a webcomic today.

What have I done?

Well, let's just say this. Whoever thought it would be cute and funny to have giant ROCK CREATURES move FASTER THAN ANY OF US HEROES and maintain an idea of where you are after you teleport TWO HUNDRED YARDS to get away from them and then KILL YOU WITH GIANT ROCK HANDS needs to be shot.

Oh, and teleport self is the coolest power ever.

October 23, 2004


(From Narbonic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... full sized... just click, already. Subscription Required.)

Hear that sound? Hear it?

That's the sound of Shaenon Garrity collecting my expectations and kicking them to the fucking curb. That's the sound of my brain being shattered into a million tiny spinning crystal shards. That's the sound of sheer brilliance.

The last several days of buildup have been done extremely well. The payoff still managed to come out of left field, and yet falls back on the core Mad Science principle.

Shaenon Garrity gets a biscuit. That's right. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

October 22, 2004

The Backlog, as of today.

Well, having built up a healthy number of e-mails I needed to go through, I've taken the time to do so. And, because I'm now getting a good, healthy number of recommendations for things to look at and/or snark, I've now got a healthy list of stuff ahead of me, just covering what people thing I'd enjoy. Because the list could get unwieldy (and I own a copy of Filemaker Pro anyhow), I thought I'd whip up a happy to-do list, and export it for you all to see what's on my agenda.

Note that not all of these will get snarked. It's always what catches my eye on the day of the snark that ends up being snarked. Note also that a few of these are things I've read before, but gotten behind on. (Things like Fans or Chopping Block fall under that heading.) Others I've never heard of before, but someone out there liked and thought I would like too. Still others, like The Jaded and Killroy and Tina, I haven't yet read but I've meant to.

Of all of these, the one I've had the most recommendations to read? Schlock Mercenary. So that should probably be first.

If you suggested something more than three weeks ago and you don't see it here, chances are I had a look and didn't end up being inspired. Alternately, I might have missed it as the database is new. So what the heck, send it again to websnark AT gmail DOT com and I'll either have a look or let you know why not. If you'd like to suggest something, feel free to send it along as well!

And now... the backlog:

13Seconds.info, A Lesson is Learned but the Damage is Irreperable, A Softer World, Alex and Ilia, Amyís Suitcase, Anime Arcadia, Arthur, King of Time and Space, As If!, Athena Voltaire, Atland, Authentic Productions, Bob and George, Bored and Evil, Buttercup Festival, Chopping Block, Count Your Sheep, Crooked Halo, El Goonish Shive, Errant Story, Ezra and Ash, Fans, Fetus-X, Fever Dream, Five Bucks to Friday, Freak U., Game Under, Gamers Gone Bad, Gin and the Devil, Guardians, Gun Street Girl, Homestar Runner, Will Eisnerís John Law, Joe Cartoon, Killroy and Tina, KU-2, Lancaster the Ghost Detective, Like an Episode of, Miracle of Science, Nephilum, New Adventures of Death, Night Shift, No Need For Bushido, Oriyan, Picture Story Theater, Piled Higher and Deeper, Pork Factor 9, Rhymes with Orange, Rolling with the Punches, Sam and Fuzzy, Schlock Mercenary, Shaw Island, Skirting Danger, Sorcerer of Fortune, Square and Circle, Strange Daze, Striptease, Super Real, Terinu, The Jaded, Triangle and Robert, Uberclocked, Venus Envy, Wapsi Square, You Damn Kid!, Zebra Girl, and Zortic.

Clearly, I have my work cut out for me.

(Oh, and one thing I don't need are reasons why I shouldn't read one or more of the above. But you knew that, didn't you?)

Meanwhile, back in commerce territory....

(From Goats. Well, from its store. Which is much the same thing. Click on the thumbnail for a chance to spend money on fabulous automated simian corsairness!)

Remember my ruminations on cliches in webcomics? Well, seriously cool musician E. A. Rowe commented that Goats -- the very webcomic that I was referring to, because of their artistic use of ninjas, themselves made fun of the phenomenon earlier, with the announcement of the Robot Monkey Pirate tee shirt. It was used in a strip as an example of the ridiculous crap that webcomics could get their fans to buy. Needless to say, they then started selling the shirts. And God help me, I want one.

Naturally, a Zombie Ninja with Cleavage tee shirt has to follow, now....

On the other hand, both strips are willing to make pants a plot point.

(From Questionable Content and Scary Go Round. Click on the thumbnails for full sized banter!)

We've remarked before on the similarities between Questionable Content and John Allison's Scary Go Round. Well, today's strip seems to highlight the differences far more than the similarities. There is, of course, a similarity of style of banter, though Questionable Content seems more focused on Story elements and a certain realism than Scary Go Round, which seems more and more idiosyncratic and stylized (which is not a knock on Scary Go Round -- it's simply an understanding of what Scary Go Round seems to be trying to do). However, the art highlights a serious difference between the two. Scary Go Round, even as it stylizes more and more artistically (there's an element almost of construction paper cutouts and paper dolls in the current style -- iconic figures instead of realistic ones) also buries itself into lush set designs. Shelley, Amy, Tim, The Boy and all the rest (remember when this strip was explicitly about Rachel, Tessa and their work for Len? And the Bobbins cast was explicitly in the background? Boy, that sure didn't last, did it?) exist inside of panoramas of color and darkness -- blood red Victorian clubs and crowded Tackleford flats abound, and when pretty girls wearing very little wander through kitchens, they have to walk around all of the stuff that's in the way.

Contrast that with Questionable Content. First off, the art is far cleaner -- the figures tend to the realistic (in fact, Faye, while a cute young lass, has a bit of a belly and is 'hippy,' particularly when compared to Dora. And let me just say how bloody refreshing it is to have a female lead who is supposed to be considered attractive who isn't a supermodel, a superheroine or nude all of the time in an online comic. Faye is pretty, and cute, without being drop dead gorgeous. Dora is the same way, in a completely different way. And I for one appreciate it), and the backgrounds, while certainly detailed, have more of an austerity. It's almost like the Questionable Content strips take place on stage (a comedy of manners, as it were) while the Scary Go Round strips take place in an Indy Film (chock full of set design).

When looking closely at the strips, you can see real divergance and a very different sense of the aesthetic. Yes, Jeph Jacques was clearly influenced by John Allison, and also acknowledges it, but Questionable Content is very much its own strip. And I think every so often we need to highlight that, lest we fall into the trap of considering it only by what it's like, not by what it is.

Reread that last sentence. I swear it makes sense. Honestly. You may just need more coffee.

Jesus. If it's going to be this small a thumbnail, why bother putting it up at all? I could have just linked to his site and been done with it.

(From FLEM Comics. Click on the thumbnail for full sized -- and I mean FULL sized -- CHIN!)

I've been waiting for the perfect FLEM Comics strip to snark, and I've finally decided it's not going to appear. Something audacious, like slicing your hand bit by bit into stew. Or something involving a dog and fucking. Or something that underscores the banality of political figures. Or something that echoes the sheer anarchic brilliance of the Jay Storyline. I dunno. The point of FLEM these days is more "whatever Grant feels like drawing," and maybe that's what a FLEM snark should celebrate. It doesn't have to be Angry Patriot Boy. It just has to be FLEM.

Anyway. I delayed for a long time, because of that, and was content to snark Two Lumps instead. But then this strip came out, and I knew it was time. Because it was about... the Kerry Chin.

There is something glorious about a powerful chin. And Kerry's Chin is, as Grant implies, Epic. This strip reminds me, in a way, of Douglas Michael's The Elvis Mandible, which taught us that there is something cosmic in a truly powerful jawbone.

Elsewhere, Grant challenged FLEM readers to write a poem about Kerry's Chin. My entry was a haiku:

In autumnal night,
I need something to follow.
Kerry Mandible

This represents my first successful use of the word 'mandible' in a poem. And that's worth something, isn't it?

On the other hand, this could be an excuse for the strip to move to London....

(From Todd and Penguin. Click on the thumbnail for full sized heartbreak!)

I'm grooving on Todd and Penguin's return from guest stripitis, but today's not one of the strips that makes me groove, I'm afraid. There's a couple of reasons for that. One's the twist, which would have affected me a lot more powerfully if... well, Something Positive hadn't done something on this same riff very recently. As it is, even if it doesn't go the same way, it still feels a little familiar right now. Which is sad, because it's such a different strip in tone.

But that wouldn't be worth a snark, per se. That's just sort of there, and I'm in for the long haul. No, the snark's coming from panel four. I just... um... don't get it. I mean, we know the ring's in his pocket. Is this meaning the ring is suddenly heavy? Painful? Or did it explode into a million spinning pieces?

I dunno. I can tell it's meant to be iconography, but it didn't pull it off.

On the other hand, I'm intensely interested in the next strip now, so....

(I don't think Wright is making a move for a Cerebus Syndrome, though the vision sequence at the end of the accident storyline makes me wonder, a touch. We'll see what happens next. Todd's had the worst day ever, but on the other hand, that could just be comeuppance for spending money on Doctor Bill's books.)

October 21, 2004

Maybe we'll just chalk this week up to exhaustion and burnout.

Yesterday was a day of recovery from food poisoning, followed by four hours on the road -- and a great evening with my sister. And listening to the Red Sox win on the radio.

Today was a day of unmitigated exhaustion. It wasn't that I couldn't wake up -- I did. I went to work and everything.

But I couldn't think. I stared at computer screens that didn't resolve into words. I sat in meetings and barely could focus. I came home, ate something basic, and went to sleep for six hours. I'm about to go back to sleep.

I have notes for two snarks sitting in a folder on my computer's desktop. One involves the word "Mandible," and the other has a picture of a monkey. I have about twenty-seven unread Websnark e-mails sitting in the Websnark account.

I am typing this, instead, and then I'm going to bed. Tomorrow's Parents Weekend at the school, which means that barring a catastrophic failure of the database the faculty use to grade our kids, I'm not going to have to do a damn thing. You'll get them then, right after I put an overdue paid assignment to bed.

Chicken Salad is a deadly killer. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

There are so many situations in life where swearing helps, you know it?

(From Eat the Roses. Click on the thumbnail for full sized pause for recovery!)

Let's talk for a minute about art.

I know, I know, I don't talk a huge amount about it here. You already know I won't trash a site's art, and I won't reject a strip because I don't like its art if its execution makes up for it. So already, you know I like Meaghan Quinn's art, because I'm bringing it up.

What I want to talk about, just for a moment, is ink washes. Or simulated ink washes made on Photoshop. Or watercolor shading that ends up looking like ink washes. Whatever. You know what I mean.

The gradients in today's strip are subtle, the grayscale evocative. There are strips out there that just aren't in color, and there are strips out there that are meant to be duotone in gray. Today's Eat the Roses is the latter. Color would be a mistake. The grey on pencil becomes an effect -- if the negative space were black instead of white, this would fall into Noir. As it is, there's a dreamlike quality, but an oddly realistic one.

And -- and I say this a lot, it seems -- this would totally not work on a newspaper page. The LPI newspapers use wouldn't begin to resolve this kind of subtle grey at all. Even a graphic novel would have to print at a tighter screen than they're used to. This isn't a knock. I love strips that take advantage of the medium. This is a strip that creates an effect on the web, that couldn't be created anywhere else. Quinn knows what she's doing, and the result is lovely.

October 20, 2004

It's the pose in the last panel that makes the whole thing.

(From Casey and Andy. Click on the thumbnail for full sized dramatic poses!)

Two things.

First off, as a big fan of Irregular Webcomic, I enjoyed seeing this take on them (though it would have been better as a Lego comic with Andy's scowling head appearing in one of the frames).

Second off, Casey looks totally wrong without his hair tapering to a point.

Third off (of two), next time, I expect to see Mary and Jenn. I can accept not seeing Satan. But Mary and Jenn should be a part of the wackiness.

A rather focused correction

I've had a few people wish me well, offer me prayers, and be just darn good folks today, after my accident. Which means I wasn't nearly clear enough in last night's post. But then, I was fevered. So let me make something abundantly clear.

I did not have a car accident yesterday. I had food poisoning, the onset of which happened while I was driving. Had I not been driving on a deserted New Hampshire road at dusk, I would have plowed into oncoming traffic. However, there was no oncoming traffic to plow into. Other than a continuing desire to cut what's left of my already truncated digestive system out with a spoon rather than continue to enjoy this feeling, I am perfectly fine.

At the same time? You people rock. You really do. So I appreciate it, very much. But please don't consider me the boy who cried car accident.

(I was in a car accident a few years ago, if the thought of me being in a car hit by the hammer of Thor makes you smile. My old journal has the details if you're interested, and honestly, why would you be?)

And yet, there has been no Pirate/Robot fighting. Go fig.

(From Goats! Click on the thumbnail for full sized ninjas!)

There are certain cliches in webcomics. They extend to the newspaper sometimes, but in the webcomics, they absolutely flourish. Among these cliches are:

  • Monkeys
  • Ninjas
  • Pirates
  • Robots
  • Cleavage

Granted, these cliches are actually geek cliches -- to the point that Atomic Sock Monkey Press has a Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot Game, a deluxe version of the game, and a Role Playing Game on the natural war between monkeys, ninjas, pirates and robots. (Now, if Chad produces a version of the game called Monkey, Ninja, Pirate, Robot, Cleavage he'd have himself a top seller...)

Several websites and webcomics have been playing on a subsection of this war -- namely, the war between pirates and ninjas. I assume PvP was the first, though I could be wrong. At the same time, James Kochalka has been focusing on the other half of the war, in his book Monkey vs. Robot and the sequels. And many, many people have touched on the power of cleavage in these wars:Diesel Sweeties and Gaming Guardians conflate Cleavage and Robots; many folks, PvP's cosplay among them, touch on Cleavage and Pirates; at the very least, Planet Earth (and other tourist traps) touches on Cleavage and Ninjas... okay, I have no ready examples of Cleavage and monkeys right now -- but having said that, I give folks until the end of the week, at which time I will have to scour the image from my mi--

FRANK CHO! Frank Cho identifies himself as a monkey and is obsessed with cleavage! You don't have to do it now! Don't do it now! I beg you!

Anyway -- the point is, everyone does these things. Everyone. We've seen it a million times. It's. Been. Done.

And yet, I look at today's Goats and giggle. I giggle as much as I did back in the day when The Tick walked by Ninjas pretending to be a Hedge, back when I was in college and half of you weren't yet born. Christ, I'm getting old.;

Sometimes, cliches are cliches because they remain funny. Robots? Funny. Pirates? Funny. Monkeys? Funny. Ninjas? Clearly funny.

Cleavage? Always funny.

A nod of the head to M. Rosenberg. Because Ninjas are funny.

October 19, 2004

On top of it all, my eyes hurt. From behind. I don't know what that means.

So I was pretty ill this evening. Food poisoning's the most likely culprit, though flu can't be ruled out. But it hit me like a ton of bricks out of nowhere, and that's more a food poisoning kind of thing. Sadly, I was driving at dusk when the ton of bricks hit. Let's just say we're all fortunate there was no oncoming traffic right that moment. Well, I'm more fortunate than you are, though I think it'd be hard for me to write this with all my bones broken and my chest one big subdural hematoma from hitting the airbag. As it was, there was just some cleanup and a limp back to my apartment, putting off a trip to my sister's until tomorrow, health willing.

I slept most of the evening, with unpleasant bits. And yet, unlike other times I've had this light a day, I didn't stress about Websnark. I figure you guys will cut me some slack, especially when chicken salad is trying to kill me. It was also a day when not a lot leapt out and said "snark me," which happens sometimes. Once again, you guys seem pretty cool about such things.

It's weird. When I first started this, it was entirely because I wanted to, and I had no rules for how often I posted. As it turned out, I posted a lot, but hey -- this thing was new and shiny. These days, if I don't write four snarks, I generally feel like I've let you guys down.

That's nuts, by the way. It's totally insane. And I'll never force out a snark I don't feel just to give you something to read. If I write about it, it's because I honestly have an opinion I want to talk about it.

No, if I have to force out a snark to assuage my work ethic, it'll be a meaningless ramble about my health.


Making a couple of changes to the old FAQs

Hey all! Just letting you know we've made a couple of changes to the FAQ. First, we've added an entry on "Biscuit, Tasty Tasty" to the Lexicon. It seems like I use it enough that I should say something about it.

Also, by popular demand (believe it or not), I've added an e-mail address to the About Websnark FAQ. That address, for those of you wondering, is websnark AT gmail DOT com.


I have a stuffed "Yuppie Opus" from this time period at home. He has sneakers and a power tie. I bet its worth a lot on eBay at this point. You can't have him.

(From Bloom County. Click on the thumbnail for full sized offscreen hair! (Subscription very required))

There were watershed moments in Bloom County, and every so often they come up as My Comics Page slowly fills out their archives of the strip. Today, we've seen one of the big ones -- the (offscreen) introduction of Lola Granola, a woman who ended up a major supporting character and Opus's love interest for a very long time.

The best part of the Lola years is Breathed set up a certain expectation in the beginning -- the first thing we hear about is Lola's hairy legs. And we don't see her for quite some time. If you haven't read the sequence, you now have a mental image of Lola. If you have read the sequence, you know how well that image does or doesn't match up with Lola herself. This all goes back to 1986, and Breathed was at his absolute storytelling peak, here. Perhaps it lacked the edge of the first few years (much less the Academia Waltz), but it also didn't fall into the esoteric banality that marked the late Bloom County and Outland years. (As for Opus... no clue. I've seen it once. Looked like Outland to me, only with less effort put into it. But I haven't seen it enough to have a real opinion.) Right now, Breathed was hitting on all cylinders, the strips were funny and the story made sense and remained compelling.

We're very close to the Bassalope years, too, and that's a fine, fine thing.

October 18, 2004

It's always nice to fill the vita out a little....

I seem to have an article in Pyramid Magazine this week. It's on In Nomine, covering one way to perhaps make Impudites work a bit better. This makes the first time my professional writings cross the path of Dead Inside writer Chad Underkoffler, whose regular column Campaign in a Box also happens to appear. And his column covers one of my favorite subjects -- second string super heroes -- so it's a double pleasure..

Anyhow, while I was taken slightly by surprise by the article appearing (I submitted it a couple of years back, and a couple of queries went unanswered), it's always nice to discover you're scheduled to get paid for writing. And I've always liked Pyramid. So, if you get a chance and happen to be a subscriber, have a look.

Call me, beep me, if you want to reach me indeed.

From Dork Tower. Click on the thumbnail for full sized deference and honor!)

Dork Tower is ubiquitous in the RPG world. It's our comic, whether in print, on Pyramid, on Gamespy, over at Wizkids, or in whatever form John Kovalic is selling it this week. And while it trods similar ground as PvP, it's really a very different experience. PvP is all about the characters, most of whom like to play games, RPGs, LARP, watch geek culture movies and whatnot. Dork Tower is about games, RPGs, LARP, geek culture and the like, with a common set of characters reacting to it. It's not a better or worse approach to the material, but it is different.

This particular strip falls in the "geek culture" category, and it highlights one of the creepiest of phenomena within the fanfic subculture. I'd rant about it, if I weren't busy laughing myself absolutely sick. Needless to say, Kovalic absolutely nails fanfic -- both its justification and ideals (and bear in mind, those ideals do exist and a good amount of the fanfic written is absolutely for those reasons) and for the bits that make fanficcers clear their throat and change the subject.

Of course, this is why parents have to run web searches for their kids when their kids want to find online resources for their favorite cartoons...

Don't you forswear material goods as part of the monastic oath? I'm just sayin'.

(From Sinfest. Click on the thumbnail for full sized hat envy!)

Sinfest does a lot of stylin' and profilin', not that I think Ishida would use that phrase. It works for Sinfest, and sets an Indy rock tone to the proceedings. (He'd probably prefer to set a Hip Hop tone, but I call the tone like I see the tone.)

And yet, a strip like today's really appeals to me. No representing going on. A guy has a hat, and he's proud of it, and Slick, who's probably never wanted to wear a hat in his life, suddenly yearns for one. That's human nature, right there. That's every time you've been perfectly content, then seen somebody walk by in his new pair of shoes, and suddenly you want those shoes more than you want your mother to have life giving oxygen. And you like your mother. But damn it, new shoes.

The fact that Slick is still wearing his Elvis inspired superhero cape just makes it all more surreal.

Well, with the number of penis jokes we had last week, this was sort of inevitable.

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

A couple of things. First off, I meant to write this last week. Which thematically would have made sense, what with the various jokes involving the groping of men in tender ways that showed up here. I can't help that, by the way. I grew up in Northern Maine. We had to watch whatever managed to appear on our televisions until Cable came along. Which meant when Hee Haw was on, Hee Haw was on. We didn't like it. It was just that or stare out at the frozen tundra and wonder when the oxygen would melt off the ground again, and that gets old after a while.

Second off, Planet Earth has added a "permanent URL" section to its main page. A couple of other sites have too. This is a positive movement forward in the science of webcomic criticism. I look forward to a day when people like me barely have to lift a finger to get source links on our blogs. And we'll bitch about having to barely lift our fingers, too. Annoyance and effort is subjective.

Third off, I'm enjoying this sequence, and not just for the boob jokes. There's something very refreshing about the reminder that the event that destroyed your life -- the event you have dedicated your life to avenging -- might have been so minor on the part of the other person that they barely remember you exist. It's like Lex Luthor showing up with a Kryptonite Bomb and a tentacle robot with ray beams, and Superman squinting and saying "what is this all about?" And Lex says "Don't you remember? We were kids! My lab caught fire! You flew in to save me, but you caused an accident and all my hair fell out! My hair! My beautiful red hair! Remember?" "Well... um... you know, I saved a lot of people from fires when I was a kid... and you're not the only bald supervillain you know...."

Finally, I respect the sound effect "boof." I think we should all agree that the comic strip sound effect for squeezing a breast, from this point forward, should be "boof." When Francis reminisces about squeezing Jade's breast in PvP, he say "and then I was all like "there are no consequences, because it's the future, and she was all like yeah, so I reached out and it was all like 'boof' when I squeezed her boob."

October 17, 2004


(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnail for full sized every fourteen year old het boy's dream!)

So we endured the end of the whole Nick thing. We watched the sitcom end exactly the way the sitcoms always end -- in minute 27 (counting commercials), there's a speech given by one of the leads, and then the lifelong racist sees the error of his ways. We just need the humorous tagline. It almost killed me. Killed me.

But now... now... it's Yoshi. And he's got a mystery... and he went into his room, and there's Trudy! Trudy! Trudy has come and she's bringing plot and character development! And we'll focus on them for a while! We will! We will we will we will!

(God, if this plotline sucks, we're in trouble.)

What makes a good video game.

So you haven't seen me yet tonight, which is really okay. I've done something almost every day since mid-August. It's good to not sweat it for a day. Today was devoted to City of Heroes, and was astoundingly fun.

A series of adventures for our team (I'm playing Transit, a teleportation specialist -- which will seem odd to CoH players, but works pretty damn well) led us to a fight against one of the Archvillains. These are always extremely cool adventures, and this more than most. You see, he had ice powers, which meant there were rooms with iced over floors that were frictionless, to make things harder on us....

Only... in one of the rooms... there was a giant ice slide down one stairwell, going up into a jump.


So we cleared that room of the evil Outcasts... and then blew twenty minutes sliding. If you did it just right, you could jump to a second floor catwalk. And if you jumped off the catwalk just right, you could make it all the way back up the iced over stairwell. And if you balanced sliding just right, you could half-pipe for a while.

It made sense from a role playing standpoint -- our Supergroup is officially a school for superheroes. So we were mostly supposed to be kids or teenagers. With a graduate who was embarrassed, and a teacher who was trying to balance decorum and wooting sounds. Which means this was a damn good RP scene for an online MassMOG where the goal is punching things.

This is an incidental bit in the middle of one room of one mission.

This... is why this game is so astoundingly cool.

Oh, and we took him down, hard. Ah, sweet simulated over the top superheroic violence, how I adore thee...

October 16, 2004

And just like that, a giant, oversized, lazy boy becomes a giant, oversized, lazy man.

(From Li'l Abner. Click on the thumbnail for full sized delayed puberty!)

1952 was a historic year for Li'l Abner. Not only was this the year that Daisy Mae finally got Li'l Abner to marry her (an 18 year quest), but, as you see in the above strip, it was the year Daisy Mae got Li'l Abner to kiss her -- and have him discover that he likes the kissing, as he said. And just three months after the wedding, too! As Mammy Yokum said a couple of days before, the Yokums are widely noted as passionate lovers, and clearly this is all that was needed, as it would be roughly nine months later that Li'l Abner and Daisy Mae's son Honest Abe Yokum would be born.

Comics.com has this milestone event in their reprints today. Check it out! And note the acknowledgment that while Abner and Daisy Mae would not be running in the Sadie Hawkins Day race that year, it would indeed be held. Some traditions are eternal.

Hey, a good investment is a good investment.

From Bob the Angry Flower. Click on the thumbnail to see full sized Genocide!)

Yeah, it's eight o'clock at night and this is my first snark of the day. I went to a movie! Why shouldn't I? You're not the boss of me! I hate you! I'm gonna wear what I want to! All the other kids do it! Don't come in my room, damn it!

First off... I still hate The Twenty.

Second off... I finally, way way late, saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. My God that was a good movie! It was absolutely perfect! The robots! The robots! And ornithopters! And the Mechanical Menace Superman once fought in the forties! And ray guns! And a cameo from a dead actor! And a plucky reporter!

Sorry. I was frothing for a moment. If you haven't seen this, your life is much sadder than mine. If you don't want to see it, I respect that, though I will light a candle for you.

So. Third off. Bob the Angry Flower.

I fucking. Love. Bob the Angry Flower. I was introduced to Bob a long time back, with Bob's Quick Guide to the Apostrophe, Idiots. Which is now a poster. Which I'm going to buy and put on my office door, until I'm told to take it down. From there, I immersed myself into the frenetic world of the angriest, and funniest, of all perennials. I love the dark humor, the joyful, if inappropriate, abandon Bob takes to projects, and the clean pen and ink work.

This is a perfectly good example of the Bobish Oeuvre. A mundane situation. Bob becoming suspicious. Bob uncovering a completely hideous thing. Bob loving it all the more. And then the line "I want one! I want this one!"

I love it. Stephen Notley gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

October 15, 2004

Seriously, dude. What is it with this week and penis jokes? Did I miss a memo?

(From Yirmumah. Click on the thumbnail for full sized legal chicanery!)

I don't have much to say here. Just two things:

1. I trust the doll was to scale. Otherwise, the implication is horrifying.
2. In a strip about action figures with penises, the phrase "kung fu grip" makes me giggle like a 12 year old boy. Exactly like a 12 year old boy. For exactly the same reason.

It's not screaming the name during sex that's the problem. Murmuring "g'night, [name of Ex]" when mostly asleep and lying next to a different girl? That gets you murdered.

(From Sinister Bedfellows. Click on the thumbnail for full sized panic!)

I don't know how to classify Sinister Bedfellows. It's a webcomic. With photos. But it's not a photo webcomic. It has no characters, yet it has a voice. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Lore Brand Comics, only Lore specifically goes for the Funny, and I don't think McKenzee has any mandate.

It's almost like a series of Koans. The photography sets a mood, and the words either reinforce that mood or set apart from it in juxtaposition. I don't go into the next day's Sinister Bedfellowing with any expectations except that I'll think "oh, cool." And that's about right.

There is the occasionally profound piece, too. Such as:

(No, this isn't a double-snark. This is a critical essay. I'm using examples from the work. It's English Comp all over again. Hey, screw you! Consistency is for squares!)

It's the subtlety of the reinforced message, the imagery, and the allusion that get me, here. (For those of you who don't know the Bible by heart, Genesis 1:27 says "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." KJV, for those playing along at home, because King James commissioned himself some pretty language.)

In the end, I can't classify this as any specific type of webcomic. I can only classify it as art.

And that's all the classification needed, isn't it?

You know, I haven't had salsbury steak in years.

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

Submitted without comment.

(Well, mostly without comment. This is a webcomic about characters who enter tabletop RPG systems. I'm a professional RPG writer. I've been nominated for an ENnie directly, and could legitimately claim involvement with a Gold ENnie winner if I were willing to lie. As a result... I get a mention for writing this thing. Life. Don't talk to me about life.)

(Wait. only reviews webcomics?)

October 14, 2004

A fast update.

The woman and the baby at the next booth? I mentioned them in the last snark?

Well, as they were getting up and getting ready to leave, the baby started to bitch. Probably because it had no chance to sleep during the meal.

"Oh you," the woman said. "Don't be a fussbudget."


There's ways to get back in my good graces almost instantly. Invoking old school Peanuts is one of them.

Wow! Irony! Who expected Irony?!

(From Sluggy Freelance. Click on the thumbnail for full sized ironic statements!)

It almost goes without saying that, due to a combination of work and fatigue and just plain dumb luck, the week I have by far the highest readership is also the week I've had the lightest output. Life can be like that sometimes. Still, I've still been lurking out there, a few stray thoughts percolating, and now sitting in a cafe listening to a CD of piano jazz puts me in the mood for writing.

Of course, the woman and her sister sitting in the booth next to mind with a six month old child who is trying hard to sleep while they try hard to get her to giggle and laugh for their amusement by mugging and making noises and saying her name loudly puts me in the mood to reconsider my stance on gun control, rather than writing, but we're going to give this the old school try anyway.

That Which Redeems is one of his longer 'epic' story arcs -- to the point that it's two separate storylines in his dropdown (consecutive storylines, no less -- can we really call it "That Which Redeems II" when it's just the completion of the storyline that immediately predated it?). And, with rare exceptions -- "The Storm Breaker Saga" leaps to mind -- they tend to go on too long. Christ only knows how close I came to stabbing myself in the temple with a fork instead of read yet another freaking Gofotron strip, back in the day... but I digress. That Which Redeems is dragging a bit, but it's generally well paced enough that I don't mind. And it has occasional flashes of absolutely brilliant humor to make us glad to be alive.

And that brings us to today. It's a single panel, that kind of puts me in mind of the cartoonists of an earlier generation. It's a site gag that takes a half second, and then just slays you. And I think it's leading to a depressing ending, so I'm glad for the chance to laugh.

(I'm hopeful, by the way, that there's a twist coming up. Because if they're intentionally setting things up for Torg's sword's power to wear off just in time for ZoÎ2 to throw herself on it and die to give Torg and NotBun the power to escape, followed by the nuclear strike killing off or otherwise eliminating all the primary demons....

Well, it would suck if I called it in advance, wouldn't it?)

On the other hand, if a girl were wearing that dress in real life, I wouldn't recognize her face then either.

(From Something Positive. Click on the thumbnail for full sized walking sex!)

I like the joke here, I should say. And I like the art. This one worked for me. It wasn't just the setup and delivery, and the little bit of angst that heightened the pleasure -- sort of like salt is supposed to heighten taste, along with slowly killing you off -- was very deftly done. So I enjoyed this one. This needs to be said.

However... I have no idea if the girl Jason brought in to drape off of Davan is supposed to be Claire, or another girl who I've forgotten, or a random girl from Jason's (former) harem, or a prostitute, or who. If Jason had mentioned her name, that'd be cool because then I wouldn't be wondering. Or if it had been more clearly someone from the regular cast....

Well, it hardly matters. The joke works, the strip is good, in all ways I'm satisfied. This is like getting an itch in the back of your brain. The only reason it drives you insane is because there's no good way to scratch it. Though I do know some people who would try.

The worst thing is, I bet it is someone from the regular cast, and I'm the only one who doesn't recognize her. Which means I now look like an idiot. Dance for us, idiot-boy! Dance for our pleasure!

Lore Sj–berg will pay for this.

(From Lore Brand Comics! Click on the thumbnail for full sized... wait, didn't we do this joke already?)

Lore Brand Comics is a weekly. So it's understandable that Lore missed Penis Joke Day earlier this week.

However, because I'm nothing if not fair, it's worth noting that Lore Sj–berg will pay for this. Dearly.

It's also worth noting that before Sexy Losers, I had no idea what 'Bukkake' meant. It's also worth noting that my sister, who does read this site, probably still doesn't know. So please indulge me for a moment while I send her a private message.

Kris? It's your brother, Eric.

Don't look the word up. Especially don't look it up online. And don't ever say the word to your kids. Just trust me on this.

October 13, 2004

And in the strip before this, there's dismemberment! DISMEMBERMENT!

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

This is probably an Ur-Penny Arcade strip. In one fell swoop (are swoops really all that fell?), we have a video game reference and implicit positive review, some Funny that depends upon the interaction of our principals, some 'everyman humor,' and profanity. Not bad for three panels and a game I've never played and never have any intention of playing, huh? Gabe and Tycho do this shit well, because they focused in on what their strip was about, and then refined the toolset to provide it. The brief glimpses of Continuity don't feel at all like Story. They just feel like an excuse to do another layer of humor, and then they move on.

If you go back through my archives and columns and the like, you'll find I have a maxim for this sort of thing. "If you want to tell fart jokes, tell fart jokes." While they don't really tell fart jokes on Penny Arcade (fruit raping jokes? Sure. Farts? Generally not), they know the kind of humor they want to do and they've absolutely mastered it. And that's why half of North America's gaming population and a nontrivial portion of the nongaming webcomics fans out there reads this strip.

Paypal presents: a double dose of Narbonic!

(From Narbonic! Click on either thumbnail for full sized RPG action! (subscription required))

So, remember yesterday when I extolled the virtues of Irregular Webcomic putting a permanent link URL right on its front page? And expressed yearning that the Manley sites would do the same? This is because the Manley sites use a somewhat... arcane... archiving method. Not arcane as in ancient. Arcane as in "eldritch knowledge that one cannot intuit sitting on the home page." But this is actually no big deal, because it's actually slightly easier to cope with Modern Tales, Graphic Smash and the like -- the first 'archive' page you go to actually contains the last block of strips, including that day's, so boom. One click, cut and paste. No bigs!

Only... yesterday, I tried and my subscription didn't work.


So, I did some digging, and discovered that because I changed my backup credit card information on Paypal (I had to -- the old ones expired), all of my Paypal subscriptions got zapped. So, no more subscription to Modern Tales, no more Serializer.net, no more American Elf, no more Graphic Smash, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

Well, no bigs. You just resubscribe.

Only Paypal wouldn't let me. Or anyone. Paypal, this whole past several days, has apparently been hosed.

So, because by personal policy, I don't snark stuff I can't link directly to (with exceptions based on the fact that it's my policy and I'll break it if I want to), I couldn't do a Narbonic snark yesterday despite wanting to give them money and despite being able to see the strip I wanted to snark... because I couldn't intuit the archive page I would want to link to.

Today, the sub went through. I did a Year Sub instead of a monthly this time, so this shouldn't come up again for a long time, damn it. Of course, there's all those other subs to do, but they'll wait until I snark something on them, mostly because I'm lazy.

So. I still wanted to talk about yesterday's Narbonic, but I thought today's Narbonic reinforced the point I wanted to make in the first place, and as they're on the same archive page anyway, you're getting them both. I feel justified -- I just paid these folks thirty bucks, and besides, it's advertising. And if Shaenon Garrity doesn't like a double-snark, I suspect she'll make that known. Comedically, more than likely.

The reason I wanted to do yesterday's strip was triggered by Iris's smile in panel four. It occured to me that I really, really liked that smile. And it hit me how much I enjoy the expressiveness Garrity brings to her characters. There is a very big difference between having a style, and having only one face you can design. Garrity's characters are distinctive. Dave doesn't look anything like Mell, who doesn't look anything like Helen. And that distinctiveness also shows up in minor characters -- the gamers around the table are individual. Some look similar to others, but not exact, without being cumbersome. Contrast that with, say, Megatokyo, which has gorgeous artwork but there's not much difference between any of the female faces. Or a number of other strips. I don't mean to pick on Megatokyo just because I enjoy it. Though, admittedly, I do enjoy it.

The other side of this reinforces the snark I did about Gav Bleuel's artwork. Garrity hand-draws everything in Narbonic, including shades and fills. I love this style of drawing, and it also means that every panel is unique. So even though we're seeing conversations between Dave and the same people, there is a dynamic feeling to them that cut and paste strips can't match. These people are moving, shifting their hands around, leaning forward and back, flipping their hair. They're doing nothing 'active' (I've sat around a lot of RPG tables in my time. These are not aerobic affairs), but you can't call the conversation passive. It's not just word balloons floating in space over art you can safely ignore after the first panel. It's body language.

And that's something no other static art form can match.

If anyone is wondering if a lot of people read PvP....

...let me assure you that yes, they do.

For the record, I did half as much Bandwidth yesterday as I did for the entire month of September.

That's a nice feeling, for the record. And no one parked on the lawn or spilled chips on the carpet, either.

On the other hand, I'm completely out of Sobe juices, now.

October 12, 2004

Updates on Bowling Shirts!

For the record, we've broken eleven bowling shirt orders (which vastly exceeds my original expectation, which was 'me and my mother.' Particularly when one realizes my mother didn't actually want one. Bitch.

Well, beyond making me a happy panda, this means the base bowling shirt cost is now down to the $31.95 price point. Which is likely where it's going to stay, since we'd need another ten people to hit the $26.95 price point, and I don't see that happening.

So, $31.95 for the shirt, +$4.00 for Priority Mail shipping. +$4.95 per word if you want an embroidered name. YAY!

"Hello, this the the Hyundai Department of Motor Vehicles. How may I help you?"

(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the link for full sized branding!)

In his annotations, Morgan-Mar says that he's surprised governments haven't already done this. I guess I'm surprised too. Still, given he uses his Nigerian Treasury Ministry strips to hit every corporate Get Rich Quick scheme and internet scam, I think the juxtaposition here is hilarious.

I also want to point out an amenity that will mean nothing to any of you, but is an absolute freaking Godsend to people with websites like mine. In his navigation tool (which remains a best of breed in terms of functionality), he includes a link that's standard for Blogs and almost unknown for Webcomics: "this strip's permanent URL: http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/cgi-bin/comic.pl?comic=624" Sure. This may seem obvious to you, sitting there in your chair, but there's a lot of steps I need to take to craft the fine, precision blathering you're reading here. I have to identify a strip I want to Snark, download the graphic, upload-and-thumbnail it on my site, and identify a permanent link for the thumbnail link. See, I don't want to just point you to their website: my snarks are typically about specific strips in their archive, so it makes sense to link to that archive page.

Only for the most part, the archive page URL is different from the main page URL, but in many cases the archive page isn't readily available until the next strip comes out. So, I have to trick the site into giving me a URL that I can use -- generally by going to the last strip in the archive, then incrementing it up. Generally, that will either give me the archive page or will default back to the main page for the day, but either way it's a link I can put in.

(In some rare cases, it returns a 404, and I have to delay that snark until the next time the strip updates. Only I don't tend to like snarking the archive instead of the current strip, so in a practical sense it means I don't snark that webcomic.)

Morgan-Mar takes all that away. I just copy, paste and am done. Life is good.

I am praying that when Web Comics Nation rolls out, it does something like this automatically. Praying!

October 11, 2004

Because I keep my promises... the Max Powers Snark

pvp20041009.gifFrom PvP.

I got e-mail from my friend Sean today, and he reminded me that way back when (in a snark where I compared and contrasted the characters of Jade and Miranda Fontaine from PvP), I promised a snark about Max Powers the next time he appear. Well, he appeared a while ago but I didn't follow through. But now, here it is.

Simply put, Max Powers, the perpetual antagonist and foil, is actually the good guy in PvP.


We were introduced to Max years ago -- he was the entirely-too-slick and entirely-too-passive-aggressive school friend of Cole, Brent, Reggie, Jase and Robbie. The one they could never stand. And here he was, launching his own magazine to compete with PvP, in the same. Freaking. Building. Cole balled his fists up and declared what has become a lament for the ages -- "DAMN YOU MAX POWERS!" And so we had a character.

As a side-note, I now use "DAMN YOU MAX POWERS!" in casual conversation. So Scott Kurtz has had an impact on my life.

And since then, there's been lots and lots of adventures Max has figured into. Max's sister Sonya showed up and became Skull's girlfriend (despite Skull's lack of genitalia). Max hired Marcy for a while. He bought Cole's childhood videogames on eBay. He took Jade out while Jade and Brent were broken up. And so on, and so forth. His very existence inspires yet more of the wackiness we've come to know and love on PvP.

Only... none of what he does is bad.

He gave Marcy a real job, where Cole used her as unpaid help, more or less -- and later on inspired Cole to hire her. He gave Reggie a job. When Jase and Robbie showed up on his doorstep after being fired, he took them in, tried to find different ways to make them profitable, and then finally threw out their couch and beer and made them clean up their act -- which worked. Yes, he tricked Jade into going out with him... but he did so when she was already upset and feeling low, and made her feel better about herself. He told Cole about the software audits -- and while Cole assumed he would then rat PvP out (and hijinks ensued), in actuality he was just chatting with Cole. Even the "naked picture of Jade" storyline wasn't any worse than any of the PvP staff would do in a similar circumstance. One could easily have substituted Brent for Max in that entire storyline and it would have fit perfectly.

Cole, on the other hand, has been spiteful, mean, jealous, angry, and crappy to everyone where Max is concerned. When Max offered PvP staff members a chance to go on television -- television -- Cole fired the staffers who took him up on the deal, and then made them go through humiliating interviews to come back. When Max bought Cole's Atari stuff in good faith, Cole was ready to renege because he didn't want it to go to Max. Cole has broken into Max's office, talked behind Max's back, blamed Max for his own mistakes and shortcomings, and in general been a total asshole where Max is involved.

The others aren't any better. Jade isn't above deceit and chicanery to get her own way. Francis has paved his road to Hell with the very worst of intentions. Marcy was willing to set off the sprinkler system and ruin the spring dance (not to mention all those rented tuxedos) for everyone. Skull... okay, Skull's a good guy, but still.

And Brent?

Brent is willing to specifically try and set up Miranda with Max, to get her out of his hair. Just like before he was willing to get her fired and used Skull as a pawn. Brent is as nasty and ruthless as they claim Max is, without Max's track record of success.

Even the other characters can't say why Max is a bad guy. Jade foisted Miranda off on Brent, because she couldn't say why "Max Powers was bad news." In fact, I don't think I can point to a single explanation of why Max is a bad guy listed anywhere in the entire comic. Not one.

The only indication that Max is bad is that he can't perceive Skull at all, but we don't know the full reason why he can't see Skull. Oh, and Max does have an ego -- there's no denying that. But again, he's not worse in any way than the rest of PvP's staff, and there are ways in which he seems to be better than most.

I'm happy this isn't a strip about Max Powers. He's not a sympathetic character, whereas the PvP staff is. But he is a good guy, nonetheless.

And that must drive Cole absolutely batshit insane. Zing.

Or maybe it's "Keenspot Founder's day." Who's in charge of days? Well, at least there are no penis jokes.

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

I keep harping on Gav Bleuel's skill at characterization, but we're going to do it one more time, here. There is more character definition in these four panels than you find in a month of most webcomics. First off, we have the surface bits -- the description of King Luca. Second, there is Gav's own character definition -- we see his self-description of not wanting anyone to be happy, and his pleasure at being a scoundrel. This is of course reinforced by his considering "noble-intentioned paragon of virtue" to be badmouthing. Third there is Cindy, who we learn that, despite her own willingness to be devilish, every now and again, is capable of finding Gav's behavior "deplorable," (and she looks horrified in that panel, not amused).

And finally, of course, there's the fact that both Cindy and Gav like banter better than considerations about good and evil at all.

Nicely layered. Also, I've been informed that Nukees is 100% hand-drawn, without even using computers for fills. I'm pleased to be corrected, because like I said, I love that sort of thing. It's apparently the same with Narbonic, so the connection I drew last time remains true. HAH!

It's Chris Crosby day on Websnark, clearly! And penis reference day. I don't pretend these two things are related.

(From Sore Thumbs. Click on the thumbnail for full sized flabbiness!)

I don't know why there's a plethora of penis jokes on today's webcomics, but they're there. And hey, we have another example of Chris Crosby going way beyond broke! This time, of course, it's Sore Thumbs instead of Superosity, which remains a webcomic that people are polarized about. For the life of me, I don't know why. I can accept not liking Sore Thumbs, as it's the kind of comic people either will or won't like. But being upset by it? It's no more about politics or video games as Jackson Pollack's paintings were about perspective.

In a way, it's about the same kind of thoroughly unpleasant, yet oddly endearing people who populate Superosity. I wouldn't want Fairbanks, Cecania or Harmony anywhere near me (Sawyer is a decent fellow, though I expect I'd get sick of him awfully fast), yet I kind of like all of them. Yeah, even Fairbanks. There isn't a one of them with a well thought out opinion on anything, but it's fun when they do well. This is why Rondel needs to be so thoroughly rotten -- otherwise, we'd have no reason to root against him. (In fact, it might be interesting to have a third game store open up -- this one run by an absolute saint, just for the dissonance.)

The appeal of this strip and the strip before -- which featured such charming terms as 'dick slot' and 'funbags' (And 'potatoes,' but that's neither here nor there) -- was in the thought balloons of their respective last panels. Something about both Sawyer -- who recognizes he has a... deficiency -- and Rondel -- who's compensating for a perceived one -- having such introspective thoughts during their posturing just hits me right. Today's punchline in particular appeals. It reminds me of a Futurama-esque style of humor, where someone makes a traditional speech ranting about destroying all humans, only to have an incidental character next to him turn and say "now, that's just hurtful, Bob."

Anyway. It's a good day to be Chris Crosby, I'd say.

Clothing is definitely not optional.

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

Chris Crosby subscribes to the "if you're going to do it at all, do it over the top" theory of humor, and that's one of the reasons I like him. He's not afraid to make the alternate universes our heroes spawn in the wake of their running around space and time patently absurd, and the people who live in them equally absurd. The fact that we're now going to have three George Bushes running around the base universe -- the original George Bush, who became a baseball player in another universe which then was destroyed by aliens, and who is now frozen solid in Boardy's lab, the evil George Bush from that alien destroyed universe, who had been a baseball player and who is now the evil President, and this third, green haired, naked George Bush, who... um....

Look, I just said Chris Crosby goes absurdly over the top. I didn't say I understood any of it.

Brad Guigar will pay for this.

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

Brad Guigar will pay for this. Dearly.

That is all I have to say.

In Memorium: Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve was an avowed Atheist. But, as he once said (or so I've been told), "Even though I don't personally believe in the Lord, I try to behave as though He was watching." It's a good philosophy. One I can get behind.

Tomorrow, there will be an innumerable number of editorial cartoons showing Christopher Reeve entering the gates of a Heaven he didn't believe in, the same as when George Harrison died. He'll be wearing a Superman costume in most of them. And flying in many of them.

If there is an afterlife -- and I'm open on the subject -- and if there's any justice in the world, he won't be flying. He'll be walking. He always said he would walk again, and that's how I choose to imagine him now. One foot in front of the other, the way most of us take for granted.

But I understand why the cartoonists will put him in that costume and fly him through the air. Because I was a child when I saw him in that movie. And I believed. Just like the tagline said. I believed a man could fly.

I believed that man could fly.

There has never been anyone so perfectly suited to play Superman. Dean Cain comes close, but he lacks that certain wry sense of humor. George Reeves had the wry sense of humor, but lacked the utterly, complete lack of guile Reeve brought to the part. And besides, Christopher Reeve looked the way Curt swan drew. It's really kind of astounding.

I happened to watch Superman: The Movie about three months ago. Tivo caught it. It held up astoundingly well. And it proved conclusively that you don't need digital enhancement or redone special effects even in such a special-effects laden movie. Because when Clark Kent buckled his uniform's belt for that first time, in the Fortress of Solitude, stepped off into the air, and swept forth into the sky, he was really flying. I know that to be true. I saw it.

Christopher Reeve was never ashamed of the material. He treated Clark Kent and Clark's alter ego as a sacred trust. Even appearing on the Muppet Show he maintained a sense of respect for the material. That's more than the "Stars of Star Wars" could claim. He was always genial. A gentleman.

And then he had his accident. And we learned that when the worst adversity on Earth happened to Christopher Reeve, he maintained that geniality through it all... and proved once and for all that Superman was, if anything, typecasting. Because he believed, with all his heart, that he would walk again. As fervently as I believed he could fly. And he was gaining strength. Getting back feeling. He was working hard and exploring all options and advocating hard for the research that would set him free.

I think he would have made it. It was dumb luck that caused him to get an infection. And his weakened body couldn't take that infection well. He slipped into cardiac arrest, and then a coma, and then slipped away.

My hopes and thoughts are with his family. And with all of us -- his children, who believed he could fly. We have a responsibility to live our lives well -- to live up to his example. To live as if Christopher Reeve -- and God -- were watching, even if we don't believe in God or life after death. We have a responsibility to take up his causes and fight his fights. And we have a responsibility to face up to our own adversities with geniality and compassion.

It's a tall order. But he managed to it. Now it's our turn.

And most of all... we have to believe.

Because if we believe hard enough... we too can fly.

EDIT: Please give generously to The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

October 10, 2004

Still stuck behind a suck ISP...

...but struggling along as best we can. So while this is Yet Another Mention of General Protection Fault, I'm not going to thumbnail it. Thumbnailing against the tide is too painful. Too PAINFUL I tell you!

So. I told you I was interested in what happened next, after Mr. Oshiro showed himself to be a racist. And then Nick sort of called him on the hypocrisy of his bigotry, and Oshiro went nuts. Apparently he attacked Nick sufficiently to draw blood and make a hospital trip a good idea.

So, Nick's heading to the hospital, but doesn't want Ki to go with him. Seems he doesn't want to make Oshiro even angrier. When he gets back after "things cool down," they'll see what they can work out.

Uh... huh.

The incomparable Wednesday White asked me what point General Protection Fault goes on the "You Had Me, and You Lost Me" list. Well, that list requires a pretty systemic breaking down of the elements that once had me following along faithfully. A strip of the Funny eliminating the Funny. Updates so sporadic that it's an event just to get a strip. Storylines getting so convoluted that you need a scorecard and dental records to identify who's talking. That kind of thing.

GPF, on the other hand, is suffering badly from duality and a lack of understanding of who and what GPF actually is, these days. The Nick and Ki stuff (as well as the Dwayne, Trent and slime mold stuff) underscores it, for all the reasons I've already laid out. But there's also the Fooker, Sharon, Dexter and Trudy stuff, and all of it shows promise. There is a lot about General Protection Fault that could still be great....

So no, it's not going on that list. Not yet. If the next storyline doesn't bring back the smile to my face, that'll likely be that.

But I'm now officially rooting for Nick and Ki to break up.

Seriously. I'm rooting for Ki to dump Nick for being spineless, or for Nick to dump Ki because he can't marry a girl whose father won't allow it (I'm not saying I agree with Nick -- it just sounds like a Nickish thing to do). But this couple has no chemistry, no passion, nothing that draws our interest, and nothing that makes us want to root for them. And this plotline has sunk back down into banality.

(Maybe Nick could be kidnapped from the hospital by C.R.U.D.E., seeking to harness his inventor's gene! And Dr. Not could seduce him, with the help of Powerful Mind Altering Chemicals! Nick wakes up nude in her bed, befuddled... realizes what he's done... and discovers he likes it! Ki, in the meantime, wanders the streets looking for him, only she runs into pirates! Pirates who kidnap her for a life of adventure on the high seas! And while she dreams of finding Nick once more, she swiftly takes her Geek Wet Dream role to its conclusion by mastering the crew of the ship, taking over, and entering a full on life of Pirate Queen Debauchery! Meanwhile, back at the Oshiro house, Yoshi is bicycling to the UPS store to ship some parts to Trudy when the Velociraptor he's built in the basement suddenly explodes, killing Mr. and Mrs. Oshiro instantly though with maximum pain and suffering. Shocked and horrified, Yoshi ships himself to the drop point, and he and Trudy begin a new life as mastermind and henchman. The explosion causes the Oshiro family car to be blown into a suborbital arc which lands, coincidentially, on GPF's headquarters, where most of the cast is away enjoying the autumn air but where Duncan and the slime molds are having a meeting. They die, and Nicole receives the insurance money, causing her to get together with Fooker, Sharon and Dexter and found a new, leaner company with a 21st Century sensibility. Trent, hearing all this, laughs so hard he slips and falls into an industrial meat grinder. An adorable and hilarious strip shows baby Sydney being given a hot dog, and looking quizzical at the power necktie that's sticking out of one end of it.)

(Or then again, maybe not. Sigh.)

October 09, 2004

FAQ: About Websnark.com

Well, if we're having trouble getting to the webcomics, we'll do the next best thing. We'll talk about ourselves. It's about time to do the next FAQ section -- the sidebar is looking awfully sparse.

So, without further ado...


What the Hell is all this?
This is Websnark.com, a commentary blog. I comment on... well, stuff. Usually the stuff I find on the web, though not exclusively. Essentially, I write about whatever interests me at the time of writing.
Who exactly are you?
My name is Eric Alfred Burns. I'm a writer and poet who lives in New Hampshire. I've written for some RPG companies you may have heard of, some magazines you probably haven't heard of, and a few websites that's a fifty/fifty shot.
Why all the webcomics stuff?
I like webcomics. A large percentage of the stuff I read online are webcomics. So it's the stuff I'm thinking about, which means in turn it's the stuff I'm writing about. You see? Of course you see.
Wait -- I come here for the webcomics stuff. What's all this about Astronomy or pop culture or fandoms or crap like that? Isn't this a webcomics site?
While webcomics make up the (vast) majority of what I talk about, this isn't a 'webcomics blog' so much as it is a place for me to snark about whatever I want. If that's TV instead, or fandom stuff, or pop culture, or the Astronomy Picture of the Day, that's what it is.
Why 'websnark?' What is a snark?
The word "snark" comes from Lewis Carroll's poem "Jabberwocky" "The Hunting of the Snark1." It's a kind of beastie. In computer terms, a snark is some kind of threat or problem on a computer. However, the word has come to also mean sarcastic commentary or the sarcastic expression of opinions. He snarks, she snarks, they snark. That kind of thing. So, since my own sense of humor runs to the sarcastic, Websnark becomes my place to snark about the web. Though I tend to be more positive than negative in my snarks, because I'm a wuss. Also, it's worth noting some webcartoonists have taken to using the word 'websnark' as a verb meaning "a snark about my site appeared on Websnark," in the form "My site was Websnarked yesterday! W¯¯t!" I find the idea that I've become an Internet verb to be a very appealing one.
What schedule do you follow when posting?
When you read it, I've posted. There's no set schedule. Sometimes, if I have a chance to queue things up a little, I'll set them to post through the day at regular intervals, but there's no promise. Since the site went hot, we've never completely missed a day in posting, though a couple of days had no posts of substance. I try to get something out at least once a day, though.
What gives you the right to criticize other people's work?
I pay for the hosting for this website, meaning I own the press this is printed on. So, I guess my right comes from the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. If you're reading this in another country... well, I can publish my writings here in America. Where you actually read them's your own lookout.

If, on the other hand, you mean "where do I get off writing criticism," the answer is "I want to, so I do." It's up to you whether or not you agree with it or want to read it.
I love your site, especially when you really lay into crappy work! Why do you spend so much time saying nice things instead of bad things?
I hear this more often than you might think. It always surprises me, though. I mean, is schadenfreude really that important to you?

The answer to your question is quite simple, however. I snark about the things I encounter on a daily basis. The things I tend to read are things I like. Now, if I like them, I'm not going to insult them on a regular basis, am I? So, there's going to be a lot more "this is so fucking cool!" from me than me trash talking things. It's the way it is.
How can you say such mean things about [Megatokyo/It's Walky/General Protection Fault/Whatever]? That's my favorite webcomic! You suck and are wrong! And bad! Wrong and bad!
These are, by definition, my opinions. They're not 'wrong,' they're just mine. We're not always going to agree. You are perfectly free to like things I don't. You're perfectly free to keep reading things I've put on the 'You had me and you lost me' list. I respect that. I'm also free to dislike them. And to make fun of them. It's what I do.
How can you say such nice things about [Sluggy Freelance/Something Positive/PvP/Whatever]]? That webcomic sucks! You suck and are wrong! And bad! Wrong and bad!
Once again, you'd be surprised how often I get this one. I like stuff I like. If you read the snarks, you'll figure out what it is I like about them. You might not agree with me, but I hope you'll at least see my point. Still, it all comes down to the same thing as the last point -- I like what I like. Don't sweat it if you don't like it.
You don't seem to read one of my favorite webcomics. Can I suggest it to you?
Absolutely! Some of my favorite recent finds -- like Freefall and Questionable Content -- came from people suggesting comics to me. I can't promise I'll get to them soon or snark them when I do get to them, but I truly enjoy reading webcomics and cartoons of all stripes, and so I'm always glad to have more to check out!
Hey! I know a webcomic that's really terrible! Would you look at it so you can make fun of it?
Um. No. I don't go looking for things to insult just so I can insult them. That's not criticism. That's just being mean. I don't care if you think I'm funny while I'm being mean. I don't choose to be mean to people just because I have a website. When I am sarcastic (or even mean) to sites, it's almost always after I've been following that site for years and really liked it at one time (or even still like it now). So, don't bother e-mailing me links to Gonterman comics unless you actually like Gonterman's comics and you want me to read them because you think I'll like them. There are plenty of all-negative snarksites on the web, if that's what you want. I even read and enjoy some of them. But that's not my thing.
Why do you have thumbnails of other peoples' comics on your site? Isn't that a violation of copyright?
Nope. Even though I'm not sure I'd call this site a review site, it is critical commentary, and it's perfectly legal to use examples of art I'm commenting on or producing critical work about, under Fair Use, in the United States of America. Your local laws may vary, of course. Further, I always either thumbnail art (so that the 'salability' of the original image is not diluted' or excerpt bits of it before putting it up, and I also credit my sources. The combination means I'm perfectly able to use the art on my site, even without asking first. (Or even when someone says I can't -- no one gets to restrict Fair Use.)
Hey -- I clicked on a thumbnail to get the full sized comic, and it took me to the webcomic itself! Why don't you have full sized images on your site?
For several reasons. 1) I don't want to inadvertently overstep the bounds of fair use, so I specifically excerpt or thumbnail only, on my site. 2) I don't think it's fair for Websnark to become a 'first stop' for people who want to read cartoons -- they should read those cartoons in the context the webcartoonist intended, on their site, seeing their site design, advertisements and so forth. 3) Most of the time, I'm extolling the virtues of a webcomic. Naturally, I want to increase traffic to the site in question. 4) I'm not made of bandwidth.
You think you're so smart! Do you think you can do better?
If you have a look at the one webcomic I used to draw, I think it's safe to say I can't do better. However, just like you don't have to be a director of multimillion dollar blockbuster movies to have an opinion about Independence Day, I don't have to be a webcartoonist to have opinions about webcomics. You will notice I almost never insult or even criticize the art in those strips, however. I'll knock the strip as a whole, but I won't trash someone else's drawing skills. Not when I clearly can't draw a straight line to save my life.
I'm an webcartoonist, and I'd like your feedback. Will you give it to me?
Glad to! No promises on how quickly I can get back to you, though!
I'm a webcartoonist, and I don't like the snark you wrote about me. Will you take it down?
I'm sorry, but no. You are fully free to comment on the snark, refuting it. I won't remove your comments unless they're outright inflammatory beyond responding to me (I've never actually deleted a comment on one of my snarks to date. Even when they're insulting to me, but I won't let people be nasty to each other in the comments, for example). If you can convince me I was wrong about something, I'll put up a snark saying so. But I won't take the original snarks down. For better or worse, when they go up, they go up for life.
Seriously, dude. I don't like what you said. If you don't take it down, I'll sue you for slander.
Okay, first off, slander is oral in nature -- I'd have to publicly speak lies about you to slander you. The term you're looking for is libel. Second off, this is a commentary site. Everything on this site is my opinion. And, legally speaking, my opinions are not libel, because they don't make a claims about you -- they make claims about me. They are the truthful assertion of what I think of you. See, if I were to claim you fucked dogs, and you in fact didn't fuck dogs, that'd be libel, and you could sue me. If, on the other hand, I say that you seem like a dog fucker to me, that's an opinion I'm expressing -- in my opinion, you have qualities that put me in mind of dog fuckers. I'm not claiming you actually fuck dogs. It just seems, in my opinion, like you're the kind of person who would. That's not libel -- it honestly is my opinion of you. And you don't get to sue me because I have a different opinion than you do, y'damn dog fucker.
What's that phrase in your masthead that changes every week for?
That's the raison d'etre of the site, as the French say. The reason for its being. And it stays crunchy in milk with the great taste of raisins in every bite. Mostly, it's there to set a tone. I make no claims for its success.
Do you have a list of past raison d'etres?
Sure! As of this writing, in the order they've appeared, they are:
  • We snark, because we love.
  • Because "Comixpedia" was already taken.
  • No, no one gives a crap what I think.
  • Because my cat never comments on my opinions.
  • Because Charlie Brown never got to kick that football.
  • Less expensive than Scotch and less painful than running your head into the wall; it's win-win!
  • Someday we're all gonna get killed by someone who likes Yu-Gi-Oh.
  • Noted for its clever turns of phrase, and... stuff... like... you know, that... stuff....
  • Fishing for compliments since August.
  • 50,000 words in 30 days? Simple. Making them cogent? You've got to be kidding me.
  • Jesus Christ, I'm drinking wheat!? How the Hell do you drink wheat!?
What's that creature in the corner of the screen? He's so cute! Where did you get him?
That's Snarky! He's a Snarkasaurus. He was created by Ursula Vernon, the webcartoonist of Digger, when I asked for someone to do quick doodle art for my Comixpedia column "Feeding Snarky." That I got such a fantastic piece back from that request blew me away, and I later commissioned that more complete piece from Ursula to be the site mascot. He's sleeping because a guy called Mckenzee, who's one of my dedicated readers, coined the term "Snarkoleptics" as a title for my fan base.
I love your site? Can I link to you? Or to individual entries? Or stuff like that?
Sure! Of course! Hell yeah! The only way a site like this grows is if people tell their friends about it, and I like people reading me. Also, it gives me a serious lift when people like (or hate) something so much they post a link to it. There is no greater joy for a writer than impact. Further, I think "link policies" aren't only unenforceable and potentially illegal, they're just downright rude. It's the Web. Links are what create it. Jesus Christ on a stick, be glad when people want to see your stuff.
Do you have a link button I can use?
Not at this time. A couple of people have created them for me and use them on their own sites, and that makes me feel happy down in my belly. Sooner or later, I'll either ask to use one of those officially or I'll make one of my own, but for now, I don't have an official one.
Will you link to me? And use my linking button?
Only in the context of a Snark, right now. The closest thing to a links page I have are my daily trawls. If you produce something I read every day, you might end up in one of the trawls. But right now, I pretty much link stuff in the actual snarks. Someday, I'll put a blogroll up, and then I'll link the blogs I read and stuff like that. As for linking buttons -- I don't currently use them. I'm not against them, and if I ever adopt my own button I'll also use other folks' buttons, but for now... nuh-uh.
Hey, I want to send you e-mail. What's your e-mail address?
The best place to send me e-mail is at WEBSNARK at GMAIL dot COM -- decode it and let fly. It's like a reverse rebus, isn't it?

1As reader NathanielK reminded me. Not that I should have remembered that on my own or anything. It's not like I named my fucking website after it or anything.

Web congestion embers the baby pony.

So, one thing about being someone who comments on webcomics that seems obvious in retrospect... it's difficult to actually do that commentary when there's heavy lag, especially to Keenspace. It's disturbingly like trying to operate a television remote control by poking its buttons with a yardstick while it sits on the coffee table. Yeah, sooner or later the TV gives you the show you want, but it takes a lot of time and promotes a lot of frustration.

On the other hand, it's Saturday -- so at least I have a cat sleeping on my leg while I do it. Of course, that also means I can't get up. I can just sit here, and watch web sites slooooowly develop content. And always -- always -- the webcomic is the last thing to appear. God knows it couldn't appear before Burstnet's ads do....

October 08, 2004

Bowling for Snarky!

And here we see the design for the Snarkoleptics Bowling Shirts, in all its Snarkoleptic glory. Ursula was good enough to provide a line art version of Snarky -- we're going with a single color run to keep costs down (in part because doing a black backed shirt means doing a white underlayer anyway -- so we might as well just go with white!) If you click on the thumbnail, you'll see a full sized version of the goodness.

The shirts themselves can be found here. We're going with the black and gold "Loungemaster" design -- black because black is cool, and gold because... well, because in a story called Round Robin I wrote with four other guys back in the early 90's that maybe three people reading this have ever even heard of, I was Gold. Look, I don't have to justify myself to you. Plus, this particular shirt goes up to 4X in a practical sense (they advertise 5X, but not until 2005 -- and they're restocking the 3X and 4X as it is, but we're in no rush). The Snarkoleptics logo will go on the back. If someone wants a white chainstitched name on the front, it's available at a nominal extra cost (I'll be getting it, myself, but it's up to the individuals ordering it).

The cost depends on how many people want shirts. If we get five or under, it'll be $39.95 per shirt (not counting a chainstitched name). 6-10 shirts will be $35.95 per shirt. If we manage to break 11, it'll drop to $31.95, and if Hell freezes over and we get at least 21, it'll drop to $26.95. There's a slight markup (I don't know how much) for 3X and above, and shipping will be whatever the cheapest shipping cost from my place to yours will be (express mail, most likely). I'm going to cover the setup fees and shipping from their place to mine, so don't sweat that.

We're only going to order as many shirts as I get prepaid for, mind. I'm not going to get any extra (though we can always print more later on if other folks want some -- though we'll be starting over on volume, then). I for one am definitely doing this -- and if mine's the only shirt, mine's the only shirt. A number of folks have said "yeah! I wanna do this!" too, but I don't consider that "binding" since no one's heard prices before now.

So. Assume that only 5 people want to do this. That's $40 for a shirt. Plus another $5 for a name on the front if you want it. We've currently got between 6 and 10, so it's currently $35.95 for a shirt, plus $4.95 for a name on the front if you want it! (And as of this writing, four more shirts will reduce that to $31.95.) Plus however much Priority Mail costs from New Hampshire to whereever you live -- probably less than five bucks. If you want to be a part of this here thingy, either comment on this entry here, or on Livejournal (I'll see it on either the Websnark user or the Websnark_Feed user. (Why do we have two feeds on Livejournal? Um... no clue.) or send me another email at websnark AT gmail DOT com -- note that even if you've already said "yeah, count me in!" say it again now, so we can get a hard count.

My thought is to get people to set the final costs on October 13, based on how many folks chime in with a "me! Me! Me!" and start collecting money via Paypal or other forms. Note that I'll need money before ordering, as this is a 0 margin thing for me (I'm not making any money on these shirts). When we've collected all the money, I'll submit the order and the fun will begin.

If you just can't swing this kind of money, don't sweat it. There will be a Cafepress shop up with some much less expensive stuff in it soon enough, and you can grab that. Or you can not grab anything if you'd rather not grab anything, and I'm okay with that too. Just your being here is enough for me.

But still, man. Bowling shirts. If nothing else, we're distinctive.

Don't you just know the Dad said "well, at least today can't get any worse" just before pulling into his driveway?

(From Calvin and Hobbes. Click on the thumbnail for full sized sin!)

It's "religious" day on Websnark! (MANNA!)

This strip, coming up as part of the continuing complete archives installation onto My Comics Page, absolutely epitomizes one aspect of Calvin and Hobbes. See, Calvin is pure self-centeredness, living for the moment and not considering the consequences until it's very, very too late. At the same time, he is a kid, so he's both capable of absolute terror and also of blowing things way out of proportion.

This strip is only magnified by the fact that we don't know what Calvin actually did. This might be nothing -- he may have broken a lamp or the like. Or, the entire back of the house might be a smoldering wreck. We don't know.

And neither does his Dad. All his Dad knows is, his day is about to get considerably worse.

All in one oversized panel. This is why Bill Watterson remains a holy figure to so many (though it's worth noting I'm not one of them -- but that's another essay). This perfectly understated strip is just nice to see.

In other words... it's MANNA!

(Told you you'd be getting sick of it.)


(From Two Lumps. Click on the thumbnail for full sized MANNA!)

Sometimes, it's the littlest things that take a standard strip for a given webcomic and elevate it to 'SNRK' level. It's an appropriate take to the camera. It's a play on words that's unexpected. It's gratuitous yet pleasurable nudity. You understand.

Well, Two Lumps hit that, today. It was an okay strip, with an okay premise, and an okay resolution....

And then Snooch says "MANNA!"

Guys, I just about died.

I kind of hope that's what the manna from Heaven was, in the desert for all those days, as the Jews made their way to the Promised Land. I mean, a miracle is one thing. It's God. God is supposed to produce miracles like clockwork. Parting large bodies of water. Changing brackish water into Beaujolais extremely Nouveau. Smiting Fabio with a bird on a roller coaster.

But there's something deeply appealing about the idea that God accidentally knocked his Kraft Dinner over and it rained down to the Israelites, sustaining them on their arduous journey. And God looking both ways and saying "no, I meant to do that. Seriously. Uh... behold!"

So, for the rest of the day, I'm going to be suddenly shouting "MANNA!" for no good reason. So, if you're going to get sick of that, you might want to start now and avoid the rush.

October 07, 2004

You know, I have to wonder if the prey take the place of the school's track team...

(From Kevin and Kell. Click on the thumbnail for full sized manners!)

Checking back in with Kevin and Kell shows us the not-so-good wrestling storyline is over, and we've moved back into the arenas I think Holbrook excels in. As long time readers know, the furry strips I like are the ones where there's a point to the characters being anthropomorphic animals. Kell's becoming an assistant coach both gives some good conflict with Rudy (always a good thing) and sets up any number of gags around the fact that the school's hunting team are... well, hunting. And eating the prey.

I'm liking this. Holbrook's bringing the Funny, in a way that brings the Story. Life is good.

Man, that ugly American in me is gaining strength by the day.

(From General Protection Fault. Click on the thumbnail for full sized you know the drill.)

I'm trying my best to put GPF out of mind. I'm holding fast to the idea that sometime -- hopefully soon -- we'll shift to a new plotline. But I have to admit something. While Nick and Ki remain utterly uninteresting to me, Ki's father has crossed over into the realm of "interesting."

Oh, don't get me wrong. I hate him. But you can't be hated and boring at the same time.

Racism is just plain ugly. It causes a visceral reaction deep inside. But with a side order of hypocrisy, it's nasty. A Japanese man who married a Chinese woman has no call using terms like 'half-breed.' Maybe this is a test he's putting Nick through. Or maybe this is just what Mr. Oshiro thinks of us white-eyes. But I'm going to be very interested to see what Nick does next -- if his almost simpering traditionalism means he'll avoid marrying Ki now, or if he'll actively confront Oshiro, or if the pair just elopes.

And so, Jeff Darlington has done something remarkable. Despite the fact that I don't care about Nick and Ki, and I actively hate Oshiro... I want to see what happens next.

Conflict is a very good thing in a webcomic. Believe me when I tell you that.

I call it. I make this declaration. It is my RIGHT!

Okay, so I'm surfing around, following links from Ping Teo's Webcomic Finds, because I can. It's a free Internet, damn it, and I'm enjoying watching Ping shunpiking around the ol' Web. And so I go to a site she panned, called Gigawhut? (the question mark is theirs, not mine). And on the whole I agree with Ping's assessment of the strip. But there's one thing that sparks to mind, based on the first strip in the archives, helpfully recreated below (click on the thumbnail for full size, as always):

Okay. This is it. THIS IS AN OFFICIAL MORATORIUM BEING CALLED! I am calling it on the basis of the fact that I have a lot of ego and a website, and can you contest either of those facts? No you can't. So do this.

From this date forward, no webcomics character can be named Ash, unless said character is a non-talking pet. I saw Evil Dead and its sequels too, gang. I loved them too. But you're too. Damn. Late. Misfile beat you. Super Magical Transformer Patty beat you. Hell, Weebl and Bob beat you! And that's not counting the several million references to different anime, the movies, or chicks named Ashley out there.

It's been done. If the girl's name is Ashley, let her friends call her "Ashley," "Shelly," "Ley," or "Bitch." If it's a guy we're talking about, name him Bruce instead. Or Campbell. But not Ash. We'll let you know when you can use it again.

As a side note, my gigantic and powerful friend Frank had a cat named Ash, who was a good cat. He was so named because he was a white haired cat with a single grey smudge on his forehead, so Frank decided he was celebrating Ash Wednesday. If you have a story like that for your character, we'll let it go with a warning.

It's like a Chucky for the twenty-first century!

(From Yirmumah! Click on the thumbnail for full sized (in)action figure!)

Yirmumah! is a strip that still feels Freshman/Sophomorish, like it's finding its voice and its way. And yet, there's this bubbling cauldron of talent under the surface. As it goes forward and refines, it's going to go places.

How do I know? Because of strips like today's. While it's still riding the Metahumor train (it's not easy to do a comic strip about doing the very comic strip you're reading -- one reason why Checkerboard Nightmare's not on my trawl these days) something like a merchandising strip can ride that train for a few stops pretty nicely. And there's just something about a talking doll that drives its owners to a morass of despair and homelessness that's just plain fun.

So, Coffman and McDeavett share themselves a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

Yes, they share one between the two of them. Look, I'm not made of biscuits, here.

Okay, we're flirting with respectability and... yes! Back to square one! Whew, that was close!

Whitney Matheson writes a Pop Culture thingy for USA Today. And she was sent to cover SPX, and decided to file a webcomic for her reactions. It was pretty damn good -- Keith Carter did the art, and it honestly made some efforts. Okay, it had a stupid Flash interface, but eh. If I sobbed every time I had to use Flash to read a comic that needs nothing but HTML, I'd have no tears left for the pathetic shell that is my life.

But it was thoughtful. It mentioned that there weren't a lot of people in funny costumes (because you can't admit going to a comic book oriented production without mentioning people in funny costumes. Because, you know, we're a pack of geeks. Not cool people like Football fans. For the record, even Evan Dworkin's fans don't wear cheese on their heads) so that had her more comfortable, and it talked about all the ways that comics and cartoon art are beginning to emerge from the Superheroes Only club to embrace other forms. I was pretty pleased, all told.

And then, right at the end, there was this week's pop question of the week. "If you could have a superpower? What would it be? E-mail your answer to....

Thanks, Matheson. Thanks a whole heap.

Also, when you miss meetings they vote to make you bring snacks the next time.

pvcomics1-thumb.jpgFrom PVComics.

I clearly need to start going to expos.

This surprises me, actually, Yeah, I'm kind of insinuating myself into the webcomics community-at-large (which is also surprising, because... well, all I'm doing is talking about stuff), but I didn't think I'd reach the point where I'd be thinking holy crap! I wish I'd been there to see that! I mean... I write a commentary blog. With a dinosaur in the corner. An adorable dinosaur who's sleeping.

And yet, when I read Joe Zabel's impressions of the Small Press Expo from this past weekend, I find myself absolutely floored by something he mentioned almost in passing:

The "publishing" panel was a little more interesting because of some conflicting opinions about revenue models for webcomics. Zero/One publisher Barry Gregory offered a thoughtful critique of the subscription model for webcomics, and Logan DeAngelis revealed that PVComics is discontinuing their subscriptions and becoming a free site.

Holy CRAP!

I'm not sure why this isn't being shouted from the rooftops over on PVComics -- I was putting off snarking on it until I heard more (I have absolutely no details), but when Christopher Mills (fellow Maine native and the mind behind the excellent Supernatural Crime-- a webcomic that has Joe Staton for God's sake!) tickled me about it, I realized I really needed to talk.

PV Comics going free is astounding. Obviously, they've got a new compensation model and just as obviously the PV Comics artists have signed on to it. I don't know what form it will take right now. However, I do know that means the comic strips that have been poking at me to read them (like Amy's Suitcase and the evocative KU-2) are so on the block now. And the other strips on the site are going to get another thorough going over from me. Because I can. Because they're available. Because this is exciting stuff!

There are unanswered questions that are still waiting for a press release. Like, are the people who did subscribe getting refunds now? If not, are they getting some different sort of content? How is this going to work next? Will plush Happy D. Ass dolls become available and if so, will they tapdance?

See what happens when you miss Expos? Jesus, does this mean I have to think about going to San Diego? I have nothing to sell once I get there! I'll die alone on the Southern California streets!

October 06, 2004

Change is good

Now that we have a new mascot, it seemed like a good time to take a step (just a step) away from the "cookie cutter Blog" design of Websnark. So, I went with yet another cookie cutter blog design -- but this one doesn't see as much use.

I've saved the old stylesheet, so if this one really isn't liked, we can go back.


Snarkoleptics are go! Er, sort of.

Well, having confirmed at least five or six people who consider themselves "fans," and having had the name "Snarkoleptics" coined to describe them, I'm pleased to announce we in fact do have both a fandom and a mascot.

Here we have Snarky, first seen as the art for my Comixpedia column "Feeding Snarky," taking a nap alongside the Sunday funnies. This is, and I use these words sparingly if ever, 'teh cute.' Thanks to the power of persuasion (and money, though I kind of had to force it on her), Ursula "Digger" Vernon has created the perfect depiction of our Snarkasaurus... er, napping.

What does this mean?

Well, first off it means we're going to have some light merchandise available. Nothing major -- some tee shirts with catchphrases, a Snarkoleptics coffee mug, thong underwear that says "You had me and you lost me...." that kind of thing.

What? No, seriously, what? Oh. No. Snarky won't be appearing on underwear, damn it. He's a strictly non-underwear kind of mascot.

Secondly, it means Bowling Shirts will happen. Now, those don't count as Merchandise, because I won't make a cent on them. Nor will they be available in any kind of "store." If you're interested in getting a Snarkoleptics bowling shirt, comment on here or send me email at websnark AT gmail DOY com and I'll get numbers together for how much they'll cost apiece.

Thirdly, it means the page has a mascot now. And darn it, it's even cuter than a sniper rifle toting kitten.

God, I love my life.

Now this is an icon for Nanowrimo. A pity A) I don't own it and B) it has nothing to do with Nanowrimo

From Obsidian Wings.

Moe Lane is deranged. But in a good way. He's a long time fan writer in In Nomine, which is my own RPG drug of choice, but he's also totally bent. I mean, totally, totally bent. He created Ronald, the Demon Prince of Cows, for example.

Well, he's also a conservative. Which admittedly isn't my political leaning at all (I'm apparently getting more liberal with every passing day). However, when he founded his own political blog, he recruited people from all over the political spectrum to write for it. The result is Obsidian Wings. ("This is the Voice of Moderation. I wouldn't go so far as to say we've actually SEIZED the radio station . . . ") The picture adorning this entry is their mascot, and God help me I think it's brilliant.

I'm pretty burnt out on politics, but I still like Obsidian Wings. I read it at first for Moe, who doesn't agree with me politically but is a good guy nonetheless, as well as a smart and funny writer. I kept with it because the people I do agree with politically are also good guys (and girls), smart and funny. Maybe you can't imagine reading anything having to do with politics (especially a site guaranteed to post something you won't automatically agree with) right now, and I respect that. But if you're in the mood for some smart punditry in convenient blog-form, you could do a Hell of a lot worse.

And damn it, I want a blog mascot just as warped as that one.

Gearing up for a month of writing! Which... in my life is like every other month.

I'm registered for National Novel Writing Month, which is a concerted effort to write a 50,000 word novel (yes, that's a novel. A novel is a form of multifaceted dimension, whereas a short story typically sets a usual, introduces an unusual element, and then explores the ramifications of the unusual element. This is why Heart of Darkness is a novel but Catcher in the Rye is a book length short story. According to my father, who has a degree in these things and is called Doctor. And you don't go dissing my father. Not on my blog you don't) between November 1 and November 30. I've thought about it in years past, and this year it's a go.

That's about 1,667 words a day, which honestly isn't tough. I mean, since mid-August, I've written well over 120,000 words here on Websnark. Sure, it's not the same thing, but my point is I can nail out a few pages a day without too much trouble.

If folks want, I'll post excerpts here on the 'Snark, so that my Nanowrimo experience intertwines with my Websnark experience. (The individual chapters are going to go on a password protected writing page I've maintained for a while -- password protected so search engines can't stalk it and so that folks later on can't claim I've already published stuff I want to be paid filthy lucre for. I'm always willing to let people read it if they ask. For, you know, the record.)

Anyway. That's my working plan.

Now, I need a nanowrimo icon... one that doesn't feature a happy bunny typing. Frankly, if said happy bunny isn't chainsmoking in front of a beat up underwood, it's not a novel writing icon I can get behind -- and I don't even smoke. Time for photoshop. Well, between now and Halloween....

She's getting more and more like her sister every day....

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

I have a confession to make. When I visualize a webcomic I want to create in my head (and, let's be honest, that's as close to me creating another webcomic as I'm going to get), the art style that I've magically become capable of for that webcomic is somewhere between Shaenon Garrity's in Narbonic and Darren Bleuel's in Nukees. And it's likely canted towards Bleuel's. I love pen and ink. I love cross hatching. Yes, I know all the good and fine reasons to use a computer for shading (or coloring), but it's not what brought me to the comic strip dance. Good old straight penwork, using tricks of line to create depth and contrast and texture, is just one of those artistic styles that can have me just floating on air.

Today's strip is a great example. There's some computer assisted tricks here and there (Gav's black vest is a fill, I assume, and I'm not convinced the foliage hatching is all real hatching -- though I might be wrong), but for the most part it's sweat and detail work. The lines of Miss Gee's skirt. The depth of the Flake's entryway. The bar.

It's not the kind of art that wins awards or has thousands of screaming fans begging Bleuel to draw Cecilia wearing nothing but soap suds and an evil gleam in her eye (well, at least I don't think it is), but to me it epitomizes what the four panel comic strip is all about, and that makes me a happy panda.

October 05, 2004

Daily Comics Trawl: The Afternoon List

So, I've been slowly building up more and more "daily comics" to my daily comics trawl. Not a huge number, mind -- it took me a few years to build up the three trawls you've already seen into the unstoppable juggernaut of comics reading I now enjoy. But given that I'm being exposed to a lot more comics now than before (I have a robust correspondence life, now), strips are being added at a good clip.

So, we have a whole new trawl. And, since we're desperately late in snarking today, we might as well show what's currently in that trawl, to give some good meaty... um... goodness. With one strip you've seen, I would add -- I've moved American Elf from the Day trawl to this new Afternoon Trawl. Once again, these are (in no particular order) the Safari Tabs that pop up when I click the bookmark bar item. Enjoy!

  • Ascent, by Sylvan Migdal. I got into Migdal's work with Mnemesis, a fantastic Graphic Smash strip about lifestyle after death, more or less. I migrated from there to Ascent, which is something of a fantasy and something of... um... not. Ascent is funky and fresh and a lot of fun, and has something to say about magic and attitude. It's also funny without slamming your face with funniness. Also, I seriously love the artwork. Seriously.
  • American Elf, by James Kochalka. Good God. Why on Earth aren't you reading this? A daily weblog in comic strip form, as done by one of the most experimental and artistic sequential artists working today. It takes several strips to get into its rhythm, but after you manage it, its simple beauty and statements about life will sink into your skull. Also, it has a talking dog.
  • Basil Flint, P.I., by John Troutman. There's an unusual number of detective and noiresque webcomics out there. Enough that it seems like the major comic book companies are missing out on a nice sized chunk of change by not providing a detective outlet. Troutman does the form very nicely indeed with Basil Flint. his characters are flawed, which good Noiresque characters should be. They're also often hysterical. It's a good combination. Though to be honest, I miss the hat.
  • Daily Dinosaur Comics, by Ryan North. Once upon a time, there was a cult director named David Lynch who a lot of people liked a great deal. And, because he wanted to write a comic strip, he decided to do so. He named the strip "The Angriest Dog in the World," and in that strip he literally one-upped talking heads comics -- he used exactly the same artwork every day, with just different dialogue. It was a clever idea, but quickly grew tired because the dialogue wasn't nearly as clever. Well, enter Ryan North. Daily Dinosaur Comics exists under the same principle -- North clearly used clip art of dinosaurs to put together six panels of cartoon art, and then redialogued it every day. The difference, however, is that North has a tremendously mighty sense of humor, and the strips deal with philosophy and ethos and good clean fun, with occasional continuity thrown in as a kind of kosher salt. North acknowledges "Angriest Dog in the World," up to actually incorporating the entirety of "Angriest Dog" into "Daily Dinosaur Comics's" backstory. Which must be some kind of first.
  • Digger, by Ursula Vernon. One of several reasons Graphic Smash deserves your money, Digger is an absolute gem. It blows me away with its artwork, its pacing, its execution, its humor, and its lead character, a semianthropamorphic wombat (she looks more like a wombat perched up on its hind legs than a woman with furr) named Digger, who has found herself wandering a foreign land despite her best wishes. Digger is one of my absolute favorites these days. You should all read it, and then send Vernon coupons for free day spas and fresh baked whole grain bread.
  • Felicity Flint, Agent of H.A.R.M., by John Troutman. My second Troutman on this list (I also read Vigilante, Ho!, which he writes, but it's not on a daily trawl just yet), and the newest addition to this list. I just started reading Felicity, which had been on Graphic Smash but now is on Keenspot alongside Basil. It's been restarted from the beginning, so there's just a few strips to get caught up on. So this is an excellent time to start reading, don't you think? You do! Excellent. It hits me the same way Basil does, and that's nice.
  • Freefall, by Mark Stanley. A good old fashioned gag-a-day strip, with clean artwork that puts me in mind of Crockett Johnson and a geniality that often is lacking in webcomics. All that disguises the fact that this science fiction strip (the lead characters are an alien squid man in an encounter suit, an anthropomorphic uplifted "Bowman's Wolf," and a robot) is actual hard science fiction. Honestly. It works. It all works. It's astounding. So, it's a strip that kids will love because it's funny and cartoony, adult non-SF fans will love because it's funny and intelligent, and SF fans will love because it's funny and accurate. And all of the above will find themselves learning without ever realizing it -- in part because it's not trying to teach. It's just being accurate. Glee!
  • Home Run, by Andrew Lin. A somewhat minimalist comic strip (the art puts me in mind of Jim's Journal, though with a Jules Fiefferesque feel to the characters), Home Run just feels nice. Part of it is the minimalism -- you need very little to embrace the characters and situations. This is one of those comics that, no matter how much or how little you know about what has come before, you can jump right in and start snickering. Also, there's Alton Brown jokes. Alton Brown fans have to stick together.
  • Nahast: Lands of Strife, by Alejandro Melchor. One of the best paced pure adventure strips on the web, Nahast balances story with pacing almost perfectly. Action and a sense of dynamic tension pervades every strip, whether there's violence going on or not. Melchor would have been at home drawing a weekly page for a newspaper Sunday Comics section in the thirties, and that's a very, very good thing.
  • Narbonic, by Shaenon Garrity. If you people haven't figured out I've fallen hard for Narbonic, you're just not paying attention. The absolute best strip I've started reading this year, and one of the best strips I've ever read, Narbonic is hysterically funny, bringing Mad Science and humor together into a perfect blend, with a soup-son of Story to tie it all together and drive the plot forward. Garrity is a true student of the art form, and she lets that show. This is damn good, and you should read it. Or you'll be doomed! DOOMED!
  • No Stereotypes, by Amber "Glych" Greenlee. The strip that got me to give money to Modern Tales. Amber Greenlee has an artistic sense just about perfect for the web. She's the only artist I've seen who could bring the concept of decompression into her strip on a regular basis and do it well. The panel by panel movement and dance between the characters in the strips enchants us, where most people would have us going insane wanting something to happen. Something is happening here, and I want to see it through.
  • Penny and Aggie, by T. Campbell and Gisele Lagace. Marking a return to cartooning by Lagace, who was the celebrated creator of Cool Cat Studio, Penny and Aggie was a strip I took on faith -- slow starting, but I was sure this team would make it worth my while. And we've reached a point where my faith is being rewarded. Between realistic characters (they feel like teenaged girls) and honest situations, this is a coming of age story crossed with a romance comic crossed with a twenty-first century's dose of cynical humor. I'm grooving on it.
  • Questionable Content, by J. Jacques. Let's get one thing straight right out of the gate. This strip owes a lot to Bobbins and Scary Go Round, by John Allison. We know it. Jacques has acknowledged it. The humor, the dialogue, and on one level the character design (though QC's art is distinct from Allison's Modisms) have been informed by the good people of East Tackleford. Fine. That doesn't change the fact that this situation comedy is hysterical, with good relationships interweaving between the characters, interesting tensions (including a dual romantic and sexual tension between Marten and Faye that's richer than either tension would be on their own), and a willingness to go highbrow or lowbrow as Jacques feels. As long as Jacques keeps drawing them, I'll keep reading them.
  • Rip and Teri, by T. Campbell and John Waltrip. One part James Bond adventure, one part X-Files, one part romance, shaken together with a Sixties Adventure Strip feel to the art and a real sense of danger -- this is the rare adventure strip where I feel like all bets are off, Teri might lose an arm in the next episode, and Rip's probably not going to make it no matter how hard he tries -- combines to make an honest thrill ride in a webcomic. How Campbell can do this, Fans, Penny and Aggie and Christ knows how many other strips, keeping their distinctive styles and voices in his head, is beyond me. That he can go on to edit Graphic Smash means he doesn't sleep and is some kind of robot. Well, shine on you crazy machine.
  • Todd and Penguin, by David Wright. This is a simple, sweet comic strip that I really enjoy. Todd might be worn out by his life, but he's not truly cynical. Penguin is an honest innocent. Hijinks, as they say, ensue. Wright admits to being strongly influenced by Calvin and Hobbes, and that's clearly true... but to be honest, I think I like this better. Calvin was a little self centered bastard, pretty much all of the time. Penguin, on the other hand, has Calvin's imagination but also seems to really love other people. It's a nice balm from the rougher kinds of humor I dive into on a daily basis, and I'm always glad to see the next strip.

I have not forgotten you!

Hey all. Busy day today. Very very busy day today. There will be snarking, but it will come later, after the busyness.

Wait, does anyone actually care?

October 04, 2004

Do you have any idea...

...how many quality webcomics there are out there?

To every decent, hardworking webcartoonist who creates a strip that I simply haven't gotten to... I'm sorry. You deserve recognition. And whether or not you get recognition, at least on Websnark, is entirely based on my time, whim and dumb luck.

What? At least I'm honest about it.

See? Layered storytelling. This is why he got to marry Jane Pauley and I didn't. Also, I was twelve.

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

There's an awful lot layered in today's Doonesbury. On the one hand, we have a political/topical joke. On the other, we have the resolution of one level of B.D.'s plotline, as he moves out of Walter Reed and over to somewhere else. On the third, we have the tacit subcontext -- the War isn't over, and soldiers are still dying, and our recovery infrastructure is still being taxed. And there's the curious lack of interest in that war on a day to day basis, both on B.D.'s part and through him the American people's.

Also, take a moment and look at the art. Four panels, four perspectives, including one in silhouette -- which gives the whole thing a "dawning light" feel that subtextually sets up the joke in the fourth panel.

This is why Trudeau is the king. This is how to do politics and topicality in a strip and not make the strip an editorial cartoon, right here.

SpaceShip One did it.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

ñHigh Flight, Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

On the other hand, it'd make the Speak and Say toy more interesting....

(From Overboard. Click on the thumbnail for full sized nice doggy!)

I haven't loved the introduction of Raymond and Cecilia to Overboard. At times it seems like a retread of the Charley/Marlene relationship, which ended just before this one began. And at other times it just seems too cumbersome. I mean, at first, Cecilia was intentionally leading the Captain along because she wanted access to his treasure. Now, she seems legitimately interested but Raymond doesn't like him.

And yet, today's strip really made me smile. Go figure.

Wait. Wait. What the Fuck?!

(From Annie. Click on the thumbnail for full sized... wait, what the Fuck?!)

Okay, I know. I just snarked Annie. But... but....

He's a cop. And he's being bitchslapped on the phone for losing an underaged star witness with a head injury, who ran off for no reason, and all he can think is "clever girl?"


Here's a concept for you! "Holy Shit! We have an injured eleven year old runaway who's the key to finding a vigilante murderer out running around! We need State and Federal backup and we need it right now! God, I hope she's not dying of starvation, exposure or blood loss out there!"

Dear God I love this comic strip.

Column number two!

My second "Feeding Snarky" column is up at Comixpedia. This one's on the pitfalls of politics in webcomics. Or topical content of any kind, really. It's less specific than the last, and there's more smartass in it. With luck, people will like it.

In other news, it seems I do have some fans, and there is at least tentative discussions of bowling shirts.

That's right. Bowling shirts.

Admit it. It sounds cool.

October 03, 2004

Brigadier General John Stark

Brigadier General John Stark, who stood against the odds and did not yield
Remember that trip I took and how I stopped off and went to a Revolutionary War site? Well, here's a picture I took there. (Click on the "read more" link down below to see a full sized picture of it all.)

Stark was pretty damn cool. This was the Battle of Bennington, which was a necessary precursor to the battle of Saratoga where the Americans actually turned the tide of the war and made it possible to... well, win the whole Revolution. Stark's famous battle cry was "There they are, boys! We beat them today, or Molly Stark sleeps a widow tonight!"

Well, it was pretty damn cool at the time. This was before "It's Clobberin' Time" had been coined, you know.

Anyway, this was a test of Photon, which is an addon for iPhoto to let me export pictures into this here site without having to wrestle quite so much. I like things that make things easier.

Brigadier General John Stark, who stood against the odds and did not yield

Sigh... times are tough.

(From RPG World. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Resolution!)

It's going to be a good time for the end of hiatuses. Next week, the oft-brilliant and terminally pleasant Todd and Penguin's supposed to return from guest month, Questionable Content is due back from guest week, and we've just seen the return after a long while of RPG World.

I've missed RPG World. I like the conceit and premise alike. I like Jim, the guy who plays RPG World. I like the interweaving of what we would now have to call "classic" turn based RPGs with the characterizations. I like Hero. I like Cherry. I like Diane. And I like Ian Jones-Quartey in general.

The return of RPG World hasn't been phenomenal -- he's got a little bit of what the wrestling world calls ring rust -- but it's been solid. And his artwork continues to evolve. There's a little bit of Rowland's (and even Carol Lay's) influence in his facial expressions now, which is kind of cool. And there is actual resolution in this strip. That's a major thing. Though it also implies that either someone's going to horribly die (hey, I played Final Fantasy VII) or that we're beginning the endgame of RPGWorld. (Though of course, Blacksoft will hopefully put out a sequel....)

Either way, it's fun to watch Hero's strategic ineptitude and Cherry's slightly embarrassed smile once more.

(And next week? Todd and Penguin!)

October 02, 2004

The idea is to tease people, not piss them off.

So, I read a recommendation for Lottie vs. the Dead, over in a forum post on Comixpedia. And the description sounded appealing -- it's Superhero Satire, which is a form I know well. (I've, frighteningly enough, written just shy of a million words of Superhero Satire in my time.) It features a cynical heroine. And the guy recommending it says he likes it. It's on Wirepop, which is Yet Another Subscription Webcomics Site, but they boast having a robust free preview. So I go.


I can see today's entry free, a la Modern Tales, though it doesn't exactly pull me in. And checking out the "free preview," I discover it's the first episode of the first chapter.

The first episode of the first chapter is nothing but a relatively boring, utterly cliche Zombie Attack.

I look to the gallery, to see if I'll at least think the art fits the whole "superhero parody" genre well. Only the Gallery is subscriber only.

The gallery is subscriber only!!!!!

Okay guys. Marketing 101 for you. If you're going to give away a freebie, make sure it includes enough hooks into your series to make people want to read more. Absolutely make sure it actually involves your main series. And gallery artwork? Gallery artwork isn't a premium bonus. It's an advertisement. There's a good number of people out there who won't plunk down even three bucks a month on a superhero story without knowing if there are hot babes. There are others who won't commit without some sense of artistic style. And as for me? I'm not going to commit without having some concept of what kind of story you're telling.

(Yes, this means I think Modern Tales needs to remarket too -- but at least with Modern Tales, things like Gallery pages aren't locked away.)

As for me? I have no idea if Lottie vs. the Dead is worth my time right now, and I'm not that interested in finding out. And that is not good for Wirepop.

Want to get me interested? Give me a six page Lottie story. Just enough to let me know a bit about her and a bit about what I can expect. And for Christ's sake, if you're going to rip off George Romaro, figure out what made George Romaro work, first.

You realize, if Frank Cho had drawn this, Erwin would be reacting to a statuesque brunette with large breasts, right?

(From User Friendly. Click on the thumbnail for full sized premature fragging.)

I give User Friendly a certain amount of crap. I think Illiad does a little too much coasting and a little too little resolution for my tastes. However, I keep reading it, and days like today are why. This is downright hysterical. The reason is what I call execution, but might also be called timing.

We have setup in panel one. We have a Chekhov's Law of Flamethrowers in panel two (Chekhov's Law of Flamethrowers states that if an flamethrower with an automatic firing mechanism is put on the fireplace's mantle in panel two, that flamethrower's automatic firing mechanism must go off by panel three. Chekhov was very specific in his laws.) We have the two coming together in panel three. There is also implied violence. There is geek humor, yet the strip doesn't rely on the geek humor to bring the Funny.

Good, good strip, and part of a good arc. Life is good, damn it.

Entitlement and the Modern Fandom

I've said before I'm not much of a webcomics forum-participator. I've joined a number of them, and occasionally I read through them, but often the participants on a given strip's forum (or LJ-Community, or what have you) represent the Fandom more than the fans of that strip, and that's generally not how I want to spend my time1.

The implication in the last paragraph is correct, by the way. There is a difference between the fans of a strip and the Fandom, The fans of the strip are the people who read the strip and like it. Period. It doesn't take much to be a fan.

A strip's Fandom are those people who community-build around their shared appreciation of the strip. In the old days, they made fan clubs. These days, they join forums (Forums? Fora? It feels like there should be some kind of funky plural on that word) and LJs, spread the word, and organize events around the strip.

Let's use as an example the venerable Marmaduke. You remember Marmaduke, don't you? Yes, the one with the dog. A Marmaduke fan (there must be some) likes to read Marmaduke. They find the dog amusing. They might even clip their favorite Marmadukes out of the paper (or print them off the webfeed -- which I just discovered is here. I am now as scared as I have ever been) and tape them up over the ancient and brittle Dilbert cartoons in their cubicle, back from the days when Dilbert was funny.

The Marmaduke fandom, on the other hand, spends a significant amount of time on the Marmaduke forum (the Marmaduchy, let's call it). They have many different discussions on Marmaduke, and on things that have nothing to do with Marmaduke -- to the point that the Marmaduke forum moderators had to create a specific topic for off-topic posts, and have to kick folks there whenever they stray. They trade LJ icons and forum avatars based on Marmaduke art. They collect pithy Marmaduke sayings. They affirm each other and their common love of Marmaduke, and they find close friends through Marmaduke -- friends that mean a lot to them far beyond Marmaduke. This is what the Marmaduke Fandom has given them, and it means everything to them.

The idea, for many of the Marmaducets and duchesses (so clever, those Marmaduke fans -- the guys naming themselves after currency and the girls making a delightful play on Marmaduke's name), is not so much the individual Marmaduke strips themselves, but the zeitgeist of all that is Marmaduke. It's the attitude. It's how Marmaduke makes them feel, and how much they can amplify that feeling in the company of others. It can be terrifically empowering and it can be terrifically satisfying. Right here, in this little community on the internet, Marmaduke is the coolest thing around, and by showing your love for Marmaduke, you're cool too. And as for Marmaduke-creator Brad Anderson? The Marmaduchy provides feedback and, more importantly, validation. It's damn hard to be a cartoonist -- or a creator of any stripe. It takes effort and ego and skill and talent, and you spend a huge amount of time wondering if anyone gives a fuck. The Marmaduchy tells Anderson "yes. Yes, we give a fuck. We give many fucks. In fact, if you want us to, several of us will in fact have sex with you if you want, because you have brought so much pleasure to our lives that we would dearly love to repay you."

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Communities like this are good things, for most of the people in them. They're generally good for the creators as well. They mean something. They mean a lot, really.

I'm in a few Fandoms -- not generally webcomics Fandoms (I spend my time on so many different webcomics it's hard to develop the monofocus necessary to be a good Fandom-member) but other Fandoms. I'm definitely in the In Nomine Fandom, I used to be in the Legion of Super Heroes Fandom (and even quit in verbose disgust when they changed the Legion -- so I'm not claiming any moral superiority here) and I spent time in the Babylon 5 Fandom. I enjoy the SF Fannish subculture, which puts me in kind of that overall metafandom. And I'm occasionally in a fandom for individual creators of webcomics -- I do like reading creator-journals, for example, and I comment a lot more in those than I do in the strip-forums. I'm not wholly immune to fora, either, though I'm a totally arrogant jerk so I spend more of my time in strip-forums seeing if anyone's mentioned Websnark than actually participating in discussions.

But I see Fandoms, all the time. And as I spend more and more time observing them, I also recognize the dark side of Fandom.

Its name is "Entitlement."

The most common lament of Webcartoonists who achieve any kind of following is the overwhelming number of comments they get -- whether in e-mail or on their forums -- demanding things of them. Demanding that picayune mistakes not happen next time. Demanding that characters act the way the fan thinks they should, not the way the cartoonist actually portrays them. Long screeds get published on the forums of how a given plot arc is driving the readers insane and they hate it. And don't get me started on what happens when a webcartoonist actually misses an update. Holy Jesus Christ Without a Spine Curled Up I A Basket, this is a mountain of suck for the cartoonist.

Almost all fandom members feel a certain sense of entitlement. This is normal. This is healthy. This is even slightly legitimate. The overall feeling is "I have invested something of myself into Marmaduke. I evangalize Marmaduke. I spend a portion of my day on Marmadukish things. I affirm Brad Anderson. I deserve some recognition for this." And yeah, they do deserve some recognition. They certainly deserve Brad Anderson saying "guys, thank you so much for supporting Marmaduke. It means a lot to me that you like the strip."

And... well, that's about it. They're already getting Marmaduke for free (or for the cost of their newspaper). They don't get part-ownership of Marmaduke by virtue of liking to read it. And if they offer Brad Anderson sex and he takes it, that just means that Brad Anderson got some. It doesn't mean they get to dictate what Marmaduke would or wouldn't do. The majority of Fandom members get that.

There is a minority, however, that dives into Entitlement, butt naked and way over their heads. They do own Marmaduke, damn it! They've been loyal and they've been true, and Brad Anderson is a total asshole who doesn't really give a fuck about Marmaduke or great danes in general! If he did, he'd do the strip the way we want him to! Dammit! Someone should be able to take Marmaduke away from him, so that Marmaduke could be done right! This can mean anything from Marmaduke doing nothing but cat loving (or cat hating) jokes to redesigning Marmaduke to be female with human breasts, depending on the person in question. This minority is always there, lurking under the Fandom's surface, waiting for prey... and the moment any kind of deviation from the norm happens, they break surface, ready to devour.

The absolute worst examples of this are when they don't like the turn of events in the strip. "You made Marmaduke sad!" they write, truly outraged. "He went to his bowl, and that fucking Pekinese had eaten all his food, so he had no food and he was sad! I don't fucking read Marmaduke to see him sad! He should always be happy!" And then they get into an eighty-post long flamewar with other forum participants on whether or not it was appropriate that Marmaduke was sad.

The problems with the Entitled in a creator's fandom are threefold:

  1. Conflict in a webcomic is a good thing. Bad things happen in webcomics because they either set up situations where the Funny can be brought forth or they set up situations where the Story can be moved forward. Without conflict, the webcomic becomes nothing but a barely connected series of pictures without meaning or merit. If you need an example, have a look at the Simpsons episode where Itchy and Scratchy, bowing to pressure from parents' groups, stop being mean to each other and instead give each other lemonade all the time. Sometimes, the characters are going to do stupid things or make bad choices -- that will then feed the strip material to work with for a long time to come. So get over it.

  2. The Cartoonist is under no requirement to worry about other peoples' emotional state. If you invest so much of your own sense of well being into a comic strip that anything bad happening to the comic strip characters feels like a personal affront, you officially need to get a fucking hobby away from your computer. If the Cartoonist does his strip as his job, his only obligation is to produce strips on time, and try to make them high quality enough so he doesn't alienate his audience. If the Cartoonist is doing this as a hobby or on the side, he doesn't even have that obligation. In neither case does he owe you or me a good life. He probably doesn't even know us. So get over it!

  3. Cry wolf too many times, and those rare times when outrage is warranted it won't be forthcoming. Look, there is an appropriate level of expectation involved in producing art on a regular schedule or basis. If, after 40 years of tenderhearted dog antics, Brad Anderson put in a strip where Dottie is brutally anally raped while Marmaduke is spiked to the floor with railway spikes, you better believe there will be outrage. There should be outrage, in a situation like that. Anderson has given his readers every reason to expect he won't suddenly subject them to a situation like this. But, if Anderson, Anderson's fans, the Marmaduchy Moderators and the support group has gotten accustomed to defending Anderson every time someone has a conniption because the Pekinese ate Marmaduke's food, then as soon as the far-more-justifiable outrage over anal rape and dog torture begins, his support mechanism will out of habit immediately begin defending him, hopelessly muddling the situation.

Just to make everything more difficult, there's also the question of the Creator's relationship to his Fandom. Because despite everything I said above, there's something crucial a creator of any stripe must understand about the Fandom that's grown up around him. The Creator owns his creation, and may do with it whatever he wants, but he doesn't own his Fandom and he doesn't get to dictate to them. Oh, he can try to dictate, all he likes, and the fans who weren't the problem to begin with will happily jump in with both feet. However, the Fandom as a whole is something that the members have invested in, and they do get as much of a say as the creator on how that Fandom is going to go. There are two highly public situations where a creator/owner of a property and that property's fandom came to serious terms, and in neither case was it pretty:

  • White Wolf Studio, owner of Vampire: The Masquerade, had given its blessing and official status to a group called the Camarilla (after an organization in the game) which provided an official framework for developing LARP characters who then could move all around the country. Well, there reached a point where White Wolf and the Camarilla couldn't see eye to eye, and acrimony developed. On the one hand, the company had significant investment in their product line and had to be able to influence their "official" fan club's use of their materials. On the other hand, the Camarilla members and leadership had invested tremendous time and energy into the official Chronicle the group ran, as well as the organizational structure. (This is an incredibly simplified take on the situaion. I know there was far more depth to it.) Eventually, there was a messy divorce between the pair, with the license being pulled and ultimately threats of lawsuits. White Wolf owned Vampire, but the group was more than just a Vampire chronicle at that point, and the bad feelings and rift the breakup engendered extended far beyond the actual event, on both sides.
  • Aaron Sorkin, the creator of The West Wing, began participating in the forums that had grown up around the West Wing on Television Without Pity. He enjoyed greatly the intelligent commentary, the humor, the feeling of community, and the implicit offers of sex he received. And then he started taking heat from one segment of the fanbase. Unlike White Wolf, he had given no official sanction to the group that he could revoke. Instead, he actually put a subplot about insane Internet forums onto the West Wing itself. His intent was to imply the forum participants on TWoP's forums were insane and stupid. His effect was to make pretty much every member of every fandom whether connected to Sorkin or not pissed off. It was one step above making fun of trekkies. Naturally, he did that later on. As a result, even though Sorkin is a brilliant writer who elevated the craft of television writing, there were far fewer tears shed than expected when he lost his job and moved on into... um... well, I assume he spends a lot of time on the Internet himself these days.

In both of the above situations, the Fandoms persisted after the hullabaloo. There is still a Camarilla, and it's still chugging along in Vampire (despite the relaunch of the World of Darkness). And Sorkin's tirade on the West Wing had no effect on the West Wing forums at Television Without Pity at all -- except maybe to remove some of the luster from the show for the participants.

So, in the end it's a two way street. Fandoms are powerful things, good for spreading the word about a community and giving a webcartoonist some much needed positive reinforcement, love, and implicit offers of sex. However, they are their own entities, unto themselves, and will feel some justified entitlement because of the energy they're putting into themselves. Some members of that Fandom will have batshit insane feelings of entitlement, leading them to tirades and demands that no one will think is appropriate, and the webcartoonist might find him or herself hating the very organization that has grown up around the strip in question.

I tend to side with the webcartoonists in these things, by the way. But I understand implicitly that it doesn't matter -- the Fandom will do what the Fandom will do, some asshats will be in the Fandom and will act asshatty, and -- most importantly -- an implicit offer of free sex over the comic strip you create will turn into the most expensive sex you have ever had.

Oh, if you're wondering... Websnark has no Fandom. Critical commentators get to have arguments for free.

1 The case can be made that the entirety of Websnark.com represents my entry into overall Webcomics Fandom, and that any critical commentary I put into Websnark represents my own embrace of entitlement and all the rest. To anyone making that case, I say: "dude, you're not paying for this. I'll do whatever I want." When it's pointed out that that isn't a denial and that I am in fact calling the kettle black, I respond by beating the crap out of the questioner and running in one direction for one hour. Thank you, Superosity, for refining my debate skills.

The difference.

First off, we've now broken two hundred strips. And a hundred and ten thousand words, total. I am so doing Nanowrimo this year.

Secondly, this is a quote from /usr/bin/w00t's front page:

What does this mean for the strip? It means that I will draw strips on the weekends. However many strips I draw, that's how many you're getting over the following week. If I go batshit and draw five? Strip every night. If I draw one? You get one. I'll shoot for the standard MWF, but I'm not going to guarantee it. No makeups, no fillers, no apologies. Nobody has felt the need to bitch about this yet, and for that I thank you. However, if a few of you should get it into your minds to do so, I respectfully suggest you try pedaling a fucking bicycle twelve to fifteen miles round trip to and from your nine-to-six-with-twenty-minute-lunch day job five days a week and see how artistic you feel when you get home.
Sing it, sister.

This is the difference between a strip where the Webcartoonist has made it his job (PvP, Sluggy, Something*Positive and the like) and one where the Webcartoonist works a full day job and tries to do this stuff in their everyday life, too. If Chaobell were putting food on her table by the graces of this strip, my reaction would be this is your fucking job! Rework your priorities! But she's not putting food in the table via this strip. She's doing this strip because she wants to, because she loves doing it. And we're lucky to get whatever she can do. She doesn't owe us a damn thing.

Let me repeat that.

We're lucky to get whatever she can do! She doesn't owe us a damn thing!

So, if you're about to fire up your e-mail or LJ-commenter to take Chaobell to task because she's not going to guarantee you the free comic strip she does in lieu of other free time activities, do us all a favor and drop your computer keyboard into an industrial combine, then go find some other hobby. I for one will happily take whatever W00t I can get, and hope Chaobell's quest for motorized transport bears fruit. Not that she'll be obligated to do the strip more often then, mind. Chaobell is free to do what she will, and she'll get no argument from me.

Okay. Aeire is smarter than I am. And cooler. Smarter and cooler. Yay!

(From Queen of Wands. Click on the thumbnail for full sized lack of epic!)

I've expressed some concern that Queen of Wands was about to go into another extended flashback, where Angela -- the last almost always unremittingly fun character -- would expose some trauma in her past. I've expressed some concern that QoW was on the brink of the dreaded First and Ten Syndrome that folks can read the Lexicon to learn more about. I've expressed some concern that, while I dearly love Queen of Wands and there was no chance I'd drop it soon, I would soon be in deep frustration-land.

For the record? Not only didn't any of the above happen? Aeire just kicked my ass. She just kicked it to the fucking curb. Aeire just proved that she is vastly, vastly cooler than I am, and what's more she got my Force Commander and Oberon matched pair from my room, assembled the two together into centaur mode, and then set it on fire while I watched, just because she could.

"Geez, Kestrel -- not everything has to be an epic story. Sometimes, shit just happens."

Not only did this completely torpedo the expectations I had -- in a bright and cheerful and most all life affirming way, I would add -- but it completely recasts the multiple layer (and often very depressing) flashback sequences that Kestrel herself underwent earlier in the series. This becomes a defining moment for Queen of Wands and for Kestrel's own character development; not only does that mean that QoW isn't about to go all First and Ten on us... it means that it was never in danger of it in the first place.

This was a cute strip, if you're not a regular reader. If you are a regular reader, it seems subtle, and then suddenly goes off like a firecracker in your brain. This is what the whole series is about, right here! Kestrel is learning. She had to learn first off that it was all right to start looking out for herself and her own needs instead of simply living for her friends. Kestrel isn't at the end of her lightning bolt path journey just yet, but she's made a major turn on it, even if she doesn't realize it.

Aeire? So gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.

October 01, 2004

Checking in on the batshit crazy world Annie lives in...

(From Annie! Click on the thumbnail for full sized hobo lifestyle!)
When last we left little Annie Warbucks, it was believed by Daddy Warbucks and her faithful traveling companion Amelia Santiago that Annie died when her jet crashed into a lake. However, the brain damaged, amnesiac, fevered child was stolen away by a lunatic who thinks he's a two-fisted vigilante named the Phantom Commando. Hiding Annie from all search parties, the Phantom Commando systemically brainwashed and abused Annie until she too believed she was the plucky sidekick he had always known would come to his Commando's Cave, and the Junior Commando was born. ("DEATH TO SPIES! DEATH TO SPIES!")

Well, after the Phantom Commando shot several people dead (including at least one who apparently was a spy), the police discovered the existence of the Junior Commando when they found the too-small pair of boots the Phantom Commando was making his sidekick wear. After staking out a comic book shop, they gave chase to the motorcycle driving Commando. During the chase, the motorcycle's sidecar came loose and Annie plunged off a cliff and slammed into a tree. As with all extraordinarily deadly looking skull traumas involving amnesia victims, Annie's memory was restored (though she apparently doesn't remember the Phantom Commando). She was then placed in a hospital awaiting her treatment.

However... for no reason at all, Annie immediately took a hating to all the police and the social worker who came to talk to her, giving them a false name and sneaking out as soon as possible, thus leading to a county-wide manhunt for the child. She stole clothes from a line and tried to call Daddy Warbucks, but all the payphones she found were broken. So now she's hopping a freight train to get her out of the county....

Does anyone have any idea how fucked up this is? I mean... I keep waiting for her to take up smoking and mescaline and eventually writing for Rolling Stone.

Because I don't need to sell you on the content, here's some chatting about technique

So, in case you don't know, BBC's Radio 4 is broadcasting a third series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. That's All I've Got To Say covered the wheres and whys nicely, so I won't retread Chris's ground.

If you find yourself excited by the prospect of new Hitchhikers radio goodness, you won't need me to tell you why. If you're not excited by that prospect, there's little I could say to make you so. So, with your kind indulgence, we'll have the recommendation as read and go on to something I think is interesting: technique.

How does someone take a decades old radio show and make a sequel to it?

For those of you who came in with the books, please understand that the radio show came first. In fact, it contained a considerable amount of additional material and a substantially different ending (including a bit on how Zaphod Beeblebrox was directly responsible for the destruction of the Earth, if I remember correctly), as well as the only time that Rula Lenska did anything other than Alberto VO-5 commercials in my experience) than the book series did. The television series (which I'm geeky enough to own on special edition DVD) was a condensed version of the radio show with some bookish flourishes thrown in, and of course, there are many too many books in the Hitchhiker's Guide Trilogy to actually call it a Trilogy, but that's just part of the fun.

However, to do a new radio series, they've actually chosen to adapt the fourth book in the series, more or less, with some of the third book thrown in, and are completely ignoring where the radio series left off. Which, if one looks at the later Hitchhiker's books, is absolutely apropos.

They absolutely nailed the "old school feel," however. In part because they brought back the theme music, theramins and all. Not a remixed version of the theme music, a la the various Doctor Who revivals, but the exact same music that heralded the start of the radio episodes and the television show. And, although Peter Jones has passed on, they used his voice as the voice of the book in the beginning, retelling the famous opening prologue of... well, almost every version, but distorted it as if the speakers on the Book were failing. Then they gradually sampled in the new actor's voice, along with an explanation that as part of the ongoing upgrades to the Book, one could now have a variable voice, though it wasn't quite working right at the moment.

As a result, the old school fan had a perfect introduction to the series, and therefore was willing to accept that Trillian hadn't even been in the second series.

Plus, it's free to listen to online. I mean, how cool is that?


(From The Suburban Jungle. Click on the thumbnail for full sized take to the camera!)

John Robey is good at many things. I've said positive things about him before. And you know I love to be longwinded about why something works.

Well, this strip works. Because Robey is truly great at bringing the suddenly absurd in, and then moving it right back out, leaving the characters just a little stunned.

For the second time in two weeks, Robey gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty biscuit.