February 22, 2005

She seriously didn't ask you to go "Sha" at her.

You'll recall my disappointment that the return of ClanBOB didn't also include a return of the Life of Riley webcomic -- not so much because they "owed" us (which they didn't) but because we had no warning.

Well, we now have a warning. There's a teaser video on their site (I'd direct link it, but hey, go to the site and it's there, right?) that promises new Life of Riley starting March 4. And that has me happy and should have all of you happy too.

Not familiar with Life of Riley? Well, their archives start here. They do the Cerebus thing over the course of them, but they do it okay -- mostly because they kind of move the humor to 'element style' humor instead of trying to alternate between Funny and Story.

Anyway... um... yeah. There you go.

I used to be able to end these more smoothly.

February 10, 2005

A call for artists that has nothing to do with either me or Gossamer Commons. Hey, it could happen!

By now you should know that I'm a big fan of Todd and Penguin. It's a really neat comic strip, which I think has near universal appeal. (My sister has started reading it, which to me is indicative.)

Well, David Wright, it's webcartoonist, is popular. He's on Comics Sherpa, which is considered a stepping stone to syndication (or so I'm told -- I know little about it, other than the fact that I like the word "Sherpa"). And he's looking to start a second strip, though this one he'd just write. And he's looking for an artist to work with.

If I could... you know, draw... at all... And not have it look like a developmentally disabled vole did it... I'd be jumping at this. David's got a wonderful sense of dialogue and voice, a sense of wonder and a sense of the dramatic. In other words, I likes me the Todd and Penguin. So, if you're an artist reading these words (and I know there's a lot of you out there, because you were sending stuff to me not long ago), hie ye hither to his website, find his contact info, and... er... contact him.

February 08, 2005

Acknowledging Professional Best Practices, or BREAD GOOD!

You know me. One of my pet peeves are people who make their comic strip their job -- which is to say, the wellspring of their income, be it through syndication, subscription, donation (the Public Radio model), advertising or merchandising -- and then treat it like a hobby. You know the ones most guilty of this -- the people who sometimes post recriminations but go three or four days without posting... or even longer. The people who are dismissive of their audience. The fucking "Shirt Guy Whothefuckever" stick figure strips you sometimes still see, years after "Shirt Guy Tom" got retired as lame.

I don't count people like Randy Milholland or Scott Kurtz in this, by the by. I did, sort of, back when I started Websnark, on the theory that Kurtz should update at a consistent time of day. Well, I was wrong, and boneheaded. There's a difference between your strip being a priority, and your readership being a pack of anal fucks. That day, I was an anal fuck, and I admit it. The fact that there's always a PvP strip (and 99% of the time always a Something Positive) shows that threshold. So, understand who pisses me off and who doesn't.

Because that can annoy me, the people who are rock steady on updating don't get the love from me they deserve. Superosity, Nukees, Narbonic, Scary-go-Round, Wigu... these folks are just always there, every day. You can set your watch to them. They deserve recognition for that. And dozens more I didn't mention here but who still deserve to be noted -- I'm sure my faithful readers will pile in comments on all the people who just get it right, and good for them.

But this snark, while acknowledging the people who bring the professionalism, is actually meant to celebrate something more: Best Practices.

Professional Best Practices are, in a nutshell, the practices that consistently can be shown to be most effective in a given field. Run amok, they can be a scourge on any endeavor, as the practice becomes more important than the product, but used appropriately and in moderation, they stand as a hallmark -- the methodology that gets things done. Our school is a Best Practices teaching school, and since adopting those Best Practices, found through research and rigorously tested, our indicators have all shot up. Say what you like, but when the same population of students ups their average SAT scores by close to a hundred points, you're doing something better.

Well, I've begun to identify Best Practices in cartooning, and today I'd like to talk about the king of Best Practices. His name is Howard Tayler, and he writes Schlock Mercenary.

Schlock Mercenary updates on time, each and every day. I mean, he nails updates. But it's no big deal for Tayler to nail updates, because he works with a buffer. A sizable buffer. I think his preferred buffer is fourteen strips. That's fourteen days worth of completed comics, plus an equal number of completed scripts. He generally has a block of completed inked drawings, a slightly smaller block of completed colored scripts, and a block of scripts and penciled strips.

What does this mean? Well, among other things, it means that when he had a commercial project come up last week, his strip was uninterrupted. He could do the freelance work, give it the time and attention he felt it was due, and not have any worries that Schlock Mercenary would appear each and every day.

That's respect for his audience and respect for his strip, right there, in a nutshell.

This isn't a practice, however. This is a policy. He set a policy of having a buffer of X size.

The practice in question is a scrupulous adherence to deadlines in the everyday, and a scrupulous reclaiming of buffer in situations where it's needed. Tayler doesn't treat his strip like something he doesn't need to do in a timely fashion because he has a backlog. He knows he needs seven strips a week, period, even if it's another two or more weeks before those strips appear on the web. He has a quota and he meets it, just the same as if he had no buffer at all, and any day he missed a strip would be a day with no Schlock Mercenary. When a commercial project comes up and he has to set aside the strip while he works on it, he does, confident he won't lose anything... but then he busts his hump the following week to get caught up, the same as if he were running on the edge of deadline.

Not all artists can do this, and I don't mean to denigrate those who can't. You don't need three weeks of strips in the can to be a professional. But this practice works astoundingly well at promoting consistency and a reputation for being solid, and Tayler deserves to have that acknowledged publicly.

I'm taking lessons from this, by the by. As the search for an artist continues for my own strip (we've narrowed the field down considerably at this stage -- we're very, very close to an announcement), I've been very up front with expectations. Before we even put this strip on the web in any form, I want twelve completed inked strips in the can, so we start with a solid buffer. (It's going to be a 3-day a week strip, generally between 6 and 8 panels per day, so we're talking about a month-long buffer.) When we get to that point, I intend to have at least another 12 strips scripted and in the artist's hands, giving him or her the chance to comment, edit, complain, suggest, or what have you. So, a month of strips ready for publication, plus a month of scripts ready to be drawn, on day one, which will be a Monday.

Then, each week, both I and the artist would be responsible for three strips. We'd both have until the following Sunday to do them, but the idea would always be that we have three strips worth of work to do each and every week. That way, if there's a major problem, or a commercial project, or just the point where we separate ways professionally, the strip can go on without trouble while we unsnarl things.

The artists so far have been cool with this -- after all, it's exactly the same amount of work a week as if we were running with no buffer at all, so it's not unreasonable. (I also don't expect the 12 strips to be done a week after announcement. We have time to do this right.) We also have an advantage in that this strip is going to be story with humor, as opposed to gag-a-day. It's also not going to be topical, per se, so we can work with a nice, healthy lag time.

Why go to all this trouble? Because I've seen the continuum of comics producers -- the guys who update incredibly steadily, the guys who run at the edge but always get the strip out, the guys who swing and miss but are constantly trying to keep up, and... well, Piro -- and I've seen what produces the most solid result while generally keeping the creators unstressed.

And it's Howard Tayler who's at the forefront of it. Good show, sir. Good, good show.

Oh, his strip's funny too.

January 31, 2005

Say what you like about Scott Kurtz -- the man *does* learn from experience

In today's rant over at PvP, Scott Kurtz talks a little bit about his choices during the recent NCSoft/Marvel trial storyline he's been doing. And for the most part, I agree with Kurtz's take on his work -- he didn't set a side, he lampooned the situation as a whole. And while I personally think the Marvel suit is a load of dingo's kidney's -- I've seen the City of Heroes folks nuke names and designs that go over the line, and no doubt they've been getting better and more strict about it -- I can appreciate the humor of even the Marvel-oriented strips.

At the end of the rant, however, he threw in the following:

If there is one thing flawed about the Graphamaximo storyline, it's that I didn't take equal time to lampoon mainstream comics and their self-impoorance along side the alternative crowd

Now, I know how people reacted to that storyline. I know how the alternative/independents reacted, and I know how people reacted against the alternative/independents. And I know that somehow, that sentence just pissed both groups off all over again. That's the nature of the beast.

But I think he's right. If he'd actually devoted some time not to saying how the Alternatives were right, but how the Mainstream is also fucked up... it would have taken a lot of the curse off that storyline. Because Kurtz is right. He's not a political satirist, and he's not trying to convert people. He's trying to make them laugh.

And the best way to do that is to apply the shaft to everyone. That's what brings the Funny, in the end.

Really, it's one of the areas Checkerboard Nightmare shines in. Straub may like you or hate you, but if he makes reference to you, it's to mercilessly make fun of you. Same with Penny Arcade, really.

Obviously, the Graphimaximo ship sailed a long time ago, but it's just good to see that Kurtz learned the right lesson from it -- not to stop cracking on folks, but to spread the cracks around.

Yeah, that might mean sooner or later he might do a sequence where he cracks on self-important bloggers whose only claim to expertise is their successful installation of Movable Type. And if he goes down that path, I can only hope I get to have Brent cut me down to size while drinking expensive pretentious coffee and using his expensive pretentious Macintosh.

But that may be because I'm typing on my Powerbook in a coffee shop drinking a tall vanilla latte.

January 17, 2005

This is me in a bitchy mood.

In a day where the level of whining about who said what bad things about webcartoonists has reached absurd proportions, I am having an evening where, due to events that have nothing to do with anything, I'm not in a good mood. I'm just not. And yet, there are big things afoot in the world of Webcomics, and it was time I went back to work. So I turned to the Night Trawl, excited to talk about the inauguration of WIGU-TV, which I glanced at at work and had a moderate-sized snark in my brain about it, and I come to discover that there's some kind of major issue with the account.

Which, clearly, is not Jeff Rowland's fault. So even though I'm in a bad mood, I just kind of deal with that. And I had a sudden moment of pleasure, moving to the very next site on the trawl, because that next site is Clan Bob, and Clan Bob's been down for something in the neighborhood of a full year. It went down in the wake of the death of a friend and collaborator of the Bobs, and it stayed down after hosting and server collapses and who knows what else. For weeks now, the site has pointed to a series of quotes from many sources -- Blade Runner and Ferris Bueller's Day Off leaping to mind. There was a sense that faith would be rewarded, that stories started would be completed, that all that is Bob would be returned. And today, the all new Clan Bob returned.

Most other nights, I'd just give this a bye. Most other nights, I'd just say "well, that's life in the webcomics world." But tonight, I'm in a bitchy mood, and the Bobs are the ones to prop themselves up in the way of it. So let's do this fucking thing.

The centerpiece and most popular element of Clan Bob over the years has been a webcomic called Life of Riley. This started as a goofy little strip, and over time expanded to be an epic, surreal, sexy romp. And then became serious and far grander and depressing in places and... and....

Yeah, you know the drill by now. They went for a Cerebus Syndrome, and they landed in First and Ten. But somehow, it was still fun to read. And they created a mythology that I found compelling even if it seemed a bit ridiculous at times. And it maintained a visual quality that was considerable, and even if it was pretty damn First and Tennish, it did it as well as you could ask. And, rather than just go three day a week, they updated as often as they could, and on the alternate days they put up artwork, or a sprite comic called Dreams in Digital devoted to... well, babbling about Final Fantasy XI stuff. It showed commitment.

All in all, I liked it. Life of Riley was distinctive, and when it vanished -- in the middle not only of a climax point but a fight scene within that climax point, it was sad.

But, as I said, I had faith. We had faith. Fans got information where they could, making reference to the fact that the downtime had turned to a disappearance of the site, then getting bits of information back. And, despite the fact that it had been many months, I left it on my trawl -- a hole that didn't resolve, over and over again. And then began to resolve with quotes, with messages... we were getting closer. The commitment they'd built up all that time ago kept a certain core of fans waiting and hoping.

Faith rewarded, as I said. It finally returned.

Except, there's no Life of Riley. They decided not to revive it "yet," though it's on "indefinite hiatus," which most of the time means "we're never going to actually do this, but we're not going to declare it ended, either." They announced that they'd continue to do Dreams in Digital (apparently as animations you have to download to watch, for reasons passing understanding), but that that there would be no more Life of Riley.

Now, even that wouldn't warrant more than annoyance. Annoyance mostly born of the fact that over all these months they might have mentioned they weren't actually bringing the comic back, so that the folks who came for other Clan Bob things could anticipate and the people who came to see if the Third Stage Dan could effectively fight Lilith would know it wasn't gonna happen and move on. That's minor.

Only, coming back, the front page had the following message from William (MentantBOB) on it:

Over the past year, and several failed attempts at getting the site back up and running (for too many reasons to list here) it is with great satisfaction that the site is here for all of you to visit again. Most of you will note that the 'Life of Riley' comic is missing. We have setup an FAQ where you will find many of the answers to the questions that you are sure to be asking.

Going to that FAQ page gives you:

LOR has been around for over four years now and there is much more we want to do with the current story line. However, after ***MUCH*** deliberation it was decided that we are going to take an indefinate hiatus on the LOR project until we can dedicate the time we feel it deserves.

That's it. There's nothing else about it. Nor is there any element of appreciation for their past fans, or anything like that. It was a short paragraph that, in the world of webcomics, means "we're not officially saying it won't be back, but duh. It won't be back, sparky."

Not letting your fanbase know your comic won't be returning while they wait for your site to return was an annoyance, because it strings them out and then lets them drop. Not having your comic return, and not even putting up a decent announcement message on the front page, but instead putting a link up to a FAQ page which itself is perfunctory shows contempt for your fanbase. These are people who have patiently held on, long after the casual fans had dropped off. They believed in the storytelling that Aaron and Dan had been weaving (I have no reason to think Dan's even still affiliated with the site, though again there's no info so he might be). They believed that with enough time, they'd get the technical issues resolved and pick the story back up.

There's nothing wrong with deciding not to continue providing the free comic strip you've been giving people for all this time. But to shaft your faithful readers, fail to give an appropriate announcement, and shlep them off the front page for what amounts to a brushoff? That, as I said, is contempt. "You weren't ever that important to us" is the message that gets sent. "We're a gaming clan. Anything else was secondary, and we've cut the secondary out."

And most nights, I'd just snort, say "that's bullshit," and move on. But today I'm in a bad mood, so I'll publicly say "wow, that's total bullshit. What a crappy way to treat your fans."

And then move on, because there's no reason anyone over at Clan Bob gives a damn what I think -- Websnark didn't even exist back in the day. But when I first put my Evening Trawl together, this is what it said:

Clan Bob. This is on the list in hopes that they may yet actually update. Until it does... no snark for you. NO SNARK FOR YOU!

Well, it's 'updated.' Whoo fucking hoo.

January 14, 2005

Views of the Q-List: The Dumbrella Meet and Greet.

Howdy, kids. This one's long. Five thousand words long, in fact, so I've done the unthinkable and put it behind a cut. If you're on RSS/Livejournal, hit the site to read the full thing. If you're on the main page, click the "Read more" bit at the bottom.

And if someone has some convenient caffeine in patch form, I could really use it. Thanks, kids.

Continue reading "Views of the Q-List: The Dumbrella Meet and Greet." »

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 07, 2004

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 02, 2004

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.

September 18, 2004

If I ever become this selfish, shoot me, okay?

The author of Comanche, the webcomics ripper I talked about in an earlier snark, has beed defending himself over on Comixpedia. I and several Webcartoonists, including luminaries like Boxjam and Graphic Smash editor T. Campbell, have all been debating with him.

I didn't think it was possible for me to lose respect for this thing. I mean, I used the word "contempt" in my last snark. "Contempt" isn't a word you pull out when you're trying to be openminded and fair and see all sides. "Contempt" comes out when you look at something, realize that in either concept or execution it's wholly irredeemable, and you close the door on it. "Contempt" means "I am yielding the right to later on say that I gave this a chance," and if you turn out to be wrong, the egg is on your face.

Today, having seen the author of the program justify and argue with it, I realize "contempt" was too mild a reaction.

I encourage folks reading this to have a look at his arguments for themselves, because quite honestly I don't expect anyone to be convinced by them. I'll sum them up here, but please realize, I'm trying to find a stronger word than "contempt" to describe how I feel about this guy and his software, so don't expect me to have any kind of objectivity.

In no particular order:

  • If all webcartoonists provided RSS feeds for their cartoons, I wouldn't need Comanche to rip their strips from their sites. Because, after all, if someone doesn't choose to provide alternate methods of reading their strip, you're justified to force it on them.

  • I want Webcartoonists to be paid. If they can come up with a way to change Comanche so they get paid, I'll change Comanche. Because the burden of correcting this rape is on the webartists, not on the author of the program, obviously.

  • Artists want readers. This will increase their readership. Which is of course why newspapers don't mind if you photocopy their pages and pass the copies around to all your friends, because they want readers, right? Oh wait, they do mind. Especially when you're stealing the photocopy paper from the newspaper publisher.

  • If the artists don't want Comanche to be used, they can block its user agent. Officer, if that lingerie model didn't want me walking into her house and stealing her panties, she should have locked her door. It's not my fault she didn't. Besides, the lingerie model should have been psychic and known I was doing this while it was happening.

  • The artists are publishing on the internet, and therefore should expect this will happen. Officer, she clearly wanted it. Look how she was dressed. And besides, she shouldn't have been walking down the street and she should have been on the pill.

  • You people hate 'pirates,' but its what the readers want! And here's my favorite -- the innate conflation of Comanche with the Kazaa/filesharing debate. Kids, I don't know how each of you feels about file sharing. You don't know how I feel about it. But Comanche isn't Kazaa. In Kazaa, the person who puts his entire MP3 collection up for free sharing is doing so from his server on his bandwidth. Comanche steals the artist's bandwidth, making them pay for unintended use of their artwork.

When I suggested that, if he really wanted to do right by artists, he let them choose to opt into the program instead of requiring them to block it if they don't like it. This seems to be non-negotiable on his part -- after all, people might not opt-in, and he WANTS IT! DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND! HE WANTS IT!

I'm accepting suggestions for words that incorporate "contempt" but at a higher order of magnitude.

September 10, 2004

Two immediate thoughts -- it's impressive they have a comic up anyway, and no one gives a rat's ass about today's comic. Just, y'know, for the record.

Today, Penny Arcade has a comic strip out, as they do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It's about line dancing or something. Honestly, who cares. That's not important, today. Normally it is. People love that crazy Penny Arcade. Today? Who cares.

No, Penny Arcade is all about the News Post today.

Penny Arcade is famous (infamous) for its News Posts. Scott Kurtz -- one of the few webcartoonists in Penny Arcade's league when it comes to readership and success -- has mocked Penny Arcade's habit of setting a newspost on a seperate page from the comic, necessitating two page visits for each visitor, two chances to look at the advertising, et cetera et cetera et cetera. He's also mocked the sometimes esoteric nature of the comic strips, making the news post required reading. Penny Arcade has fired back that yeah, that's all true. And by the way, they own his ass in page visits. All good fun, until someone loses an eye, when it will be even more fun.

Today's news post details the birth of Mike Krahulik's son. With pictures.

Mike named his son "Gabriel." Which is somehow one step dorkier than naming him "Mike Junior." And yet it is somehow incredibly endearing. Though when his child is old enough to go to gaming cons, he'll be confused. "Dad, why is everyone calling you by my name?" "SILENCE, child! Can you not see I am down two kills? I need total concentration!" And then someone calls Child Protective Services and we all have a good laugh at the end of the episode.

This is amazingly cool. It honestly is. In part because we the Penny Arcade readers have been involved with this marriage from the get-go, dating back to 1999, when Gabe proposed to Kara in a strip. Now, five years later (Jesus Christ -- five years later) they've had a child.

Of course... you realize... we own him now. Totally own him. Before, he just had a wife and a crippling addiction to Pocky. You can break those. But a child? That's forever, and you have to feed it regularly. If not, see the reference to Child Protective Services above. He's officially chained to his job, and we're his job. Now, we just need to get Tycho bred and we'll lock Penny Arcade in for the long haul.