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(From Irregular Webcomic. Click on the thumbnail for full sized Curse You Milholland! And scroll down a bit -- it's not the day's strip, per se. It's in the News Box for the day.)

Beyond questions of humor, and I grinned, I admit, at Morgan-Mar's strip (and noticed the biscuit reference, naturally), I'm interested in tracking the etymology of what one person has described as the Kestrel Zapruder Film, both in terms of its spread and also in terms of why it's happening.

I mean, when Walky ended, I don't remember seeing Joyce hit by any cars. When Wigu ended, there wasn't this kind of thing. Same with Flint. Or Avalon (though Avalon didn't end so much as... well, coast to a stop). So why is this a watershed moment? I mean, Comixpedia tracked this as a news item, for Christ's sake.

I think the answer is, simply, "energy."

Aeire's ending of Queen of Wands was fraught with emotional investment. She very carefully set up the ending, resolving necessary plotlines (like Angela and Kestrel's overall friendship and its implications, the birthing of the child -- itself tense with Shannon's medical problems, with Felix's transformation, with the quiet acknowledgement of the Seamus angle, and so on and so forth) while keeping a very balanced, realistic core to it all. And it ended about perfectly. The core cast, the completed circle, the ride into the sunset, the flat tire. It was beautifully done.

And it was wistful, but also built up tremendous emotional energy on the part of Aeire's audience. They were invested. And they were feeling this as a loss, and a beautiful story, and a beautiful ending. That's huge energy, building up (to use the lightning path reference one last time) as static in the clouds.

Randy Milholland's tribute strip plunked a giant-ass lightning rod down. Just like the "Dark Knight Returns" style lightning path in the background, that monumental tension crashed down, with the vast majority of people bursting into shocked, hysterical laughter. It was absolutely perfect timing, a perfect counterpoint, commemorating Aeire's ending exactly the way Something Positive should, and sending shockwaves through the webcomics community.

The Checkerboard Nightmare strip hit just about as perfectly, because it managed to take that same energy and flare it up one last time, and get another round of laughter bordering on hysteria, this time more in commemoration (and a certain degree of bandwagoning) of the Something Positive strip than of Queen of Wands itself. Irregular Webcomics, though not producing that same level of shocked laugher (to maintain the electrical metaphor, as we jump from post to post there's less and less energy in the arcing) manages to bring it back to Milholland's work -- and to Aeire's for that matter.

In a way, the "laughing our livers out" reaction was in part our way of dealing with a kind of grief. We're not going to see Kestrel again any time soon. Not the real Kestrel that Aeire writes, anyhow. (And no, I don't think of her as 'dead,' no matter how much blood we saw in Something Positive or how the purple clad-lego girl reacts in Irregular Webcomics). This was what it was, and nothing more.

I suspect we're going to see a rash of alternate views of the hit, or references, or news stories, or what have yous over the next few days. And they won't seem as brilliant or hysterical to us, because in a lot of ways, Milholland helped us cope with Queen of Wands ending, so we don't have that reservoir of unresolved emotion. What we do have is continued wistfulness and reaction for Queen of Wands itself. And we have a legend now. And a standard for a finale and aftermath that will take some doing to exceed.

Through all of this, I feel for Aeire. It can't be easy to see the character you invested so much time and energy into become memetic on the bumper of a car. But it's a testament to how well she did... well, the whole of her series that such a thing can be a watershed in webcomics. And I'm going to be following with interest and, yes, good humor through it all.

It takes some doing to be noticed. It takes more doing to be imitated. And it takes something really special to have your imitators imitated.

Now. Someone needs to compose a ballad. Preferably in the style of Gordon Lightfoot.


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I disagree with your reading of the situation. QoW did have a lot of impact and many readers, including myself, were very involved and felt a void when it finished. Still a similar void was created for many when Wigu ended without a similar reaction.

I think the major issue here is that the rampant discussion about Kestrel moving to SP got Randy to post his comic as a reply. The fact that his comic hit so many readers (and authors) as funny probably caused other creators who thought that QoW was good and important to try to think of a cartoon to continue the joke despite the fact they weren't goign to do anything like that before.

The difference with Wigu was the strip's end wasn't a major point of mythology for the strip -- and Rowland's next project was literally right over the horizon, whereas we don't know when we'll see Aeire's art next. (Though we do know we will.) It did indeed leave a void, but we didn't have months to anticipate, to read signs of the end and of the evolution of the plot and the like, to build it up in our minds.

Rowland and Aeire had very different strips, with very different paces. Aeire's really was well constructed to produce this kind of wellspring of emotion, and Milholland's subsequent post did an excellent job of cracking that emotion open. Rowland's ending didn't have the same structure to it.

I'm unoriginal, I admit it (thus the bandwagon note below the strip on my site). I did this because someone suggested it to me on IRC, and I laughed so hard that I thought a few other people might get a smile out of it too. If I can make a few people grin, well that's my raison d'etre for making a comic, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

I wouldn't have done it if I merely showed the car from a different angle. But I happened to have the perfect character already established for the next scene, so to speak.

I recognise there's a risk some people will think I've gone a step too far and the joke is stale by the time I got there. But my guiding philosophy is that if some people get a belly laugh, that's more important than others not really appreciating it.

"I mean, when Walky ended, I don't remember seeing Joyce hit by any cars."

That's because, being an evil mastermind, I anticipated such powerplays from lesser cartoonists, and depicted Joyce and Walky in their ripe old age, free from harm, in the last update.

They are untouchable.

(Though killing them off in their ripe old age is perfectly within limits. But who cares about old people?)

ItsWalky-- True enough, but on the other hand, the Xtreme Mug is still sitting next to them, clearly still in use. Which means their old age could be three, four years from now, metabolically.

Plus, you know... aliens. WooooOOOOOOoooo.

Mmm. I don't know. I would expect that Randy's response was simply motivated by a desire to subvert expectations, Kris' because self-referential band-wagoning is what he does best. And as for 'laughing to deal with grief'- I've never read QoW, so I certainly don't have any emotional investment in the characters, but I still found both comics absolutely hilarious. Perhaps sometimes a funny strip is just a funny strip.

I agree that RM was playing off and replying to audience expectations, and now it's turned into a running gag. There's an additional element, though.

What I love about the SP strip is that it's really a very sweet, compassionate statement to the QOW audience. Isn't the whole point that Milholland *isn't* taking over Kestrel's life, and never intended to? That any QOW fan can imagine a QOW post-history which is equally valid? That, you should pardon the triteness, Kestrel belongs to all of us now?

He just expressed it in such a very Davan way.

Other artists are picking up on the in-joke, but they're also picking up on the message. Yes, it's all car accidents, but the point is that there is no burden of True Kestrelness to pass on.

(When I read the final QOW page, before all this homage began, my first thought was "Wouldn't it be funny if she wound up settling down in Kansas, and stayed there the rest of her life?" If everyone has their own QOW followup, that's mine. It's certainly in tune with the theme.)

If I click on the strip, it takes me to a completely different strip on the Irregular Webcomic site.

Try "http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/news.html" instead.

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