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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Real Life jumps the shark?

Life changing events from Real Life
Most people have noticed the changes which have been going on at Real Life, but Friday's comic is the first "official" word we've heard of it, I think. Anyone who's familiar with Real Life knows that the comic strip is meant to provide a (somewhat fantastical) depiction of the real life of its author, Greg Dean. Now, obviously Greg deviates from his actual real life quite a bit over the course of the comic (at least I hope so. We do NOT need someone like Tony with that much power running around our country. That would be a VERY BAD THING), but he has consistently kept the strip at least quasi-updated with the actual event going on in his life. As he's made new friends we've seen the characters change somewhat. We've seen Liz evolve from a "Hey, I've got a girlfriend in real life, let's throw her a few comics" into a full time character who is probably second only to Greg himself in terms of importance to the world of the comic now, which is as it should be if he married the woman and he wants his comic to in any way represent his real life. You can't just marry someone, not have her in the comic, and still title your work "Real Life". First of all, your wife would probably kill you.
That being said, it doesn't change the fact that the comic has jumped the shark. In fact, in this comic, Greg openly admits it. He basically outright says, "Hey guys, my life has changed. I'm not the hardcore gamer I used to be. I'm married! I'm moving into a new place! I'm MATURING, for goodness sake!" And I can't fault him for that.
But the real question here is what this means for Real Life the comic. This is a fundamental change in the premise of the strip, and I don't think some people fully realize the ramifications because it has happened so gradually. It's like your favorite sitcom that starred some child actors. You watch it year by year, and the kids grow up and lose their cuteness and energy which gave the series so much strength in the beginning, and you don't even notice it until they start releasing old episodes on DVD and you see just how much different the beginning of the series was. Go back and read through the old archives of Real Life. It's a DIFFERENT comic strip. The characters are different. It may be the same people, but they had different interests, different likes and dislikes, different things they would and would not do. It started as essentially a gaming comic, but the characters have evolved. I personally like to think the characters in the comic have become a lot more like their real world counterparts than the parodied, stereotyped versions of themselves that they were back in the beginning. And this makes the strip much more subdued, much more relationship driven than "gag a day". Back in the day Real Life much more closely resembled Ctrl-Alt-Delete (although it preceded Ctrl-Alt-Delete, I know), now it more closely resembles Questionable Content.
Now, combine this with the recent announcement by Greg that he has joined Blank Label Comics, the new spinoff group from Keenspot. Most people probably don't remember this, but Greg Dean used to be on Keenspot, in fact, he was one of their biggest draws back in the day, which is why he decided to go solo. Now he's back in collective land. Sure, it's a little different than Keenspot, a more loosely associated "Let's help each other out" group than a "Let's make the single best place for webcomics online and dominate the industry" group, but a collective nonetheless. And I can't help but thinking that Greg is using this opportunity (and the potential new readers it provides) to sort of "reboot" his comic, to recreate it in some new fashion, aimed toward a slightly different (possibly wider) demographic, trying to make his comic break out of it's old mold and soar to new heights. It seems like the perfect time to do it, with his life changing and a new collective to support him in his experiment, so why not? Why not jump the shark, and take a stab at pushing your comic into a new realm of existence?
I'm personally wary of where Greg Dean might end up at the end of this, if he manages to alienate his current readership without successfully building a new one, but I'm hopefully. It's always exciting to see someone try something new, and when they succeed at it, it's just that much more of a joyous celebration. So good luck to you, Greg Dean! I can promise you you've got at least one reader who'll stick it out and see where you take it.


At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Zebra Danio said...

Hey Gilead! Saw that you had no comments, so I thought I'd be the first.

I'm one reader that jumped ship awhile back. I used to have Real Life as my home page back in 2001. About a year or so ago the strip lost its gaming and computer hardware focus... so I just lost interest.

At 11:06 AM, Anonymous Jen said...

I've got a more interesting "real life" idea about this comic than my darling fiance - I sorta keep up with this comic, and I couldn't help but notice how events in this comic somewhat spurred on events with some mutual aquaintences...

So, In late December/Early January, Greg and Liz got engaged. Now, I'm not sure if you know, but real life is a darling former roommate of mine's favorite comic. I think she saw it, went to her then-boyfriend-now-fiance and said "we've been dating longer than they have, and they're come we're not engaged?" so he went out and bought a ring (if she even has a ring..I'd assume she does, but I don't know). Either that or she's pregnant ;).

Or, it could just be a coincidence. I'm amused by my theory, though.


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