The Webcomicker

Who watches the watchmen?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Followup to the last post

So, by taking the hardline stance against Kurtz in the last post, it seems I've generated a lot of discussion, which is good. We fleshed out some more of the details and I've got to say I'm really happy with the results.

First there was a rebuttal to my post over on Wax Intellectual, which made me rethink my stance a bit, and generated a bit of discussion.

Then, I got quoted on the front page of Comixpedia, and that post is where we really managed to hash things out, with me refining my thoughts and Kurtz responding to all the criticisms with some really great explanations. I'm completely satisfied now, and I think everyone should head on over there and read through those comments as they provide an excellent example of how to defuse webcomics drama.

I'd like to thank everybody who participated in the lively discussion, because this is just the sort of thing that needs to happen from time to time to keep everyone honest. Now go sign up for PvP The Series. I did.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Promotional logo for the PvP Animated Series, from PvP.

Ok. Not to rag on Scott Kurtz or anything, but someone's got to say it. We've seen lots of announcement posts, some discussion, and a somewhat tangential piece by Eric Burns on voice acting, and people have been dancing around the topic, so I'm just going to come right out and say it:

Scott Kurtz is a hypocritical man and he's ripping Tim Buckley off.

It's a gross oversimplification of actual events, completely one-sided, and a half-truth at best, but someone had to say it.

When Ctrl-Alt-Del: The Animated Series came out, the general response from the webcomic illuminati was a general "who cares?" I personally figured it was a pretty monumental step forward and predicted that other webcomics would soon follow suit, but no one else seemed to really think it was that big of a deal. In fact, I couldn't even find a decent review of the animated series after it came out, so I had to write one myself. And while the quality of the show wasn't spectacular, I felt it deserved much more than the "ho-hum" it got from the "enlightened" webcomic community.

Now, about a year later, we've got Scott Kurtz announcing that he's coming out with an animated series. Produced by the same production house, no less (Blind Ferret Entertainment). And sporting an eerily similar subscription pricing model. Kurtz makes it abundantly clear that it was Blind Ferret which approached him, and practically hounded him into making the series, but still... Do you think he wasn't suffering at least some animation-envy watching Tim Buckley's characters slickly walking around and interacting while he was playing with finger puppets?

But you know, I can excuse all that. Seriously, who cares? I mean, don't you think Tim Buckley was hugely envious of Penny Arcade when he first started (and probably still is, to a certain extent. I mean, who's not envious of those guys? They're living the dream)? The "I want in on this action" spirit is probably the driving force behind the existence of webcomics, and has spawned most of its greatest works. There's nothing at all wrong with that.

Here's what Scott Kurtz is doing wrong: He's touting PvP: The Series as some spectacular new thing, when Tim Buckley already did it a year ago. I mean, in Kurtz' own words: "Spread the word and help us make this a milestone in webcomics." It's a milestone that's already been past. If anything, the milestone that Kurtz is setting here is legitimizing that Ctrl-Alt-Del The Animated Series was a success, because another successful webcomics artist is following suit. And Kurtz doesn't even mention CAD in his announcement post (although he does address the issue in the comments, it's only because someone else brought it up). The closest he comes is when he mentions that this time Blind Ferret is using in-house animation instead of outsourcing, so it's going to be better then before. Yep, the closest he comes to mentioning CAD is with a subtle jab at the quality. That's class right there.

When I watched the preview for PvP: The Series, do you know what I saw? I saw Ctrl+Alt+Del: The Animated Series. The same style of animation. The same level of voice acting. The same pacing on the jokes. The same awkward "we're used to writing stuff with panel breaks" disjointedness. Kurtz claims the animation is going to be a whole lot better because it's in-house this time, but quite frankly, I thought the quality of animation in CAD: The Animated Series was darned good; far from being the low point (which was the poor writing). And he talks about the great voice actors, but CAD had great, professional voice actors as well, and in my opinion, at least from what I've seen so far, I think Tim Buckley did a better job matching his characters with voice actors than Kurtz has done.

So what am I saying? PvP: The Series sucks? No. I don't have enough information for that. I'm going to have to subscribe to it and see how things pan out. I had to subscribe to Ctrl+Alt+Del: The Animated Series to see how it was, and it was a show with very high production values and sub-par writing. I fear that PvP: The Series may have similar problems, but it's too early on at this point to tell.

What I am saying is that Scott Kurtz needs to give credit where credit is due, and not pretend to be the trailblazer that he isn't. That's all. Besides that, I wish him the best of luck and I look forward to seeing where this leads. It should be interesting.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My old chess coach was named Sheldon... not that that's relevant.

The first strip. From Sheldon.

This is not a review of Sheldon. Nor is this a commentary on the latest joke or the ongoing storyline or the overarching societal themes subtly undertoning the seemingly shallow geek humor (yes I did just use undertone as a verb there).

I linked this strip from Sheldon for one very simple reason: it's the first time that I can.

Yep, that's right, Sheldon has slipped from the surly bonds of and touched the face of, uh, the full archive diety. We shall call him Archivo. I think it's very striking when a comics author that's got a deal with a major syndicate (granted, a crappy deal, but a deal nonetheless) decides that he'd be better off just going it alone. It says alot the sorry state of syndicated comics these days, and a lot about how the major syndicates don't know how to communicate with the internet audience. 30 day archives, poorly designed, ad-ridden sites, no way for the artist to really connect with his audience...

I'm pretty sure Dave Kellett's not going to regret this decision. And when he's making his living solely off his comic strip (and with the quality of his work, he really should be), he's just going to look back at the syndication deal and laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

And I, for one, intend to go read his archives and join in the laughter.

Monday, November 06, 2006

NaDruWriNi Wrapup

Ok, so National Drunk Writing Night was a lot of fun. I showed up kind of late to the party (and then made myself even later by skipping out in the middle to go see a movie), but I still got a chance to chat a little bit with some guys from the Robot Army, so that was a lot of fun. I can't really comment on my personal post except to say that I really rambled on for a long time there and I'm surprised that even while drunk I was remarkably dedicated to proper spelling and grammar. I was going back and fixing sentences like two or three times to get them right while I was writing that post. I really need to learn how to let loose a little more, geez. I blame grad school for this.

Anyways, there's two other webcomics-related NaDruWriNi posts that I know of, so I'll point you to them:

  1. Phil Kahn, Zen Master, wrote for awhile about the future of webcomics. And while he claimed to have lost his lucidity last night amid the various toxins coursing through his blood, I think he's actually pretty spot on. Those of us around here might be "the pioneers" or whatever, but we really are just a bunch of indie artists appealing to niche audiences (although, granted, some of those niches are quite large), and webcomics aren't going to be huge until someone huge embraces the concept in a very real way (not just "Hey, I'll make the last thirty days of my archive available online! Hyuk!")
  2. Andrew Araki of Comics Rock actually experienced his first time getting staggering-giddy-face-to-the-floor drunk for NaDruWriNi. Brings back memories. I remember my first time really letting go, on a New Years a few years back. Good times... In any case, he wrote mostly about the greatness of music, and how it is possible to be a fan of more than one genre. As an avid fan of Pandora, I can say word to that. There are entire genres of music that most people are too narrow-minded to even discover. Up until a couple weeks ago I'd never even fathomed the possibility of a band like The Bob Crewe Generation. Now I can't imagine ever having lived without them. And Araki, I don't think you have to worry about this hurting your career as a teacher. Alcohol has been the steadfast companion of some of the greatest teachers of all time. But yeah, let someone else drive.

So, a good time was had by all! Now I've got to get back to work. Talk to you again soon.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

NaDruWriNi - Books and Ducks

[[Edit: It's got a title now. but no picture. Deal with it.]]

Ok, let's get this party started. I haven't titled this post yet, or added a picture to it yet, although I'm sure I'll think of a demonstrative title and picture and add them in later, thereby making this sentence a bit confusing for later readers. But as of right now I haven't really decided what I'm going to talk about tonight. Having not written a serious post in a few months, I've actually got quite the backlog of stuff to talk about.

My drink of choice for the evening is something I discovered at a Halloween party over the past weekend. It's a mix of Bacardi Big Apple apple rum and Apple Cider (in this case, generic supermarket brand apple cider, because I'm cheap). I got ridiculously drunk off the stuff at the party because it's so darn easy to drink. No burning, just sweet, sweet apply taste. And you can actually add a lot of Big Apple to the mix, making it a pretty strong drink (as the Big Apple is 70 proof. yum). I'll keep you updated as I finish twelve ounce cups of the stuff.

Being somewhat of a fatty, with a high fat diet, my tolerance for alcohol is fairly strong, so I'll be measuring my drinking in twelve ounce cups of spiked cider, each cup with probably about two shots of the Big Apple in it (I'm just mixing at will, no real rhyme or reason to it).

I just finished my first cup.

For chasers, I'm using donuts. Sour cream cake donuts picked up at a local grocery store while I was buying my alcohol. Sour cream cake donuts are the bane of my existence. I swear.

And yes, I know that technically a chaser is supposed to be a non-alcoholic DRINK, not a piece of food. But bear with me here.

But I digress. I actually want to talk about webcomics, since there are so many things that have happened since my blog went AWOL that I've really wanted to talk about. And I can't really think of a better place to start, so let's talk about The Biggest Webcomic Loser (Oh, if any links don't work, I just screwed up copying. Precision mousing is difficult while drunk. Use Google to find the site or something. Geez, lazy bums...). To me, The Biggest Webcomic Loser is almost an archetype of webcomics in general. It's a project that started with a whole lot of interest, lots of support and involvement, but then just very quickly disappeared. I mean, how many webcomickers quit within the first month? First two months? By the end even Edward J. "I make fifteen comics a day" Grug wasn't interested enough to keep updating. Now, obviously some of this can be attributed to failing diets, but in large part it was due to the "bandwagon" nature of the internet.

When something is new and exciting on the internet, everybody is quick to jump on the bandwagon. Look at youTube and MySpace. Had anyone heard of them two years ago? Nope.


Ok, so one problem with drinking alcohol is that it makes you very open to suggestion. I reached that post, almost finished with my second cup, and a friend bugged me to go see the Borat movie. So I did. And now, two hours later, I'm back. That's NaDruWriNi for you, I suppose.

Ok, just finished my second cup. Now, where was I?

Ah yes, bandwagons. Anybody remember the Webcomic Hurricane Relief Telethon? Remember what a grand event it was, how tons of people were getting on board and we were making history? It was huge, hundreds of people were involved, tens of thousands were following the site, and all told probably over 30,000 worth of donations for hurricane relief? Why was that such a success while the Biggest Webcomic Loser languished? Because it was short. People on the internet just don't have very long attention spans. Trying to run an event that lasts an entire year is kind of a preposterous suggestion. People don't want to follow you through your struggles and pains, to laugh when you laugh and cry when you cry. They just want their five seconds of humor or drama and then to move on with their lives.

Eh, maybe I'm being too cynical. I'd have to say that in general webcomics fans are the greatest fans in the world. They support their creators directly with donations, emails, and just general encouragement. The reason that some people are able to make their living entirely off their webcomic is not because their work is so great (not to say that it isn't) but because their fans are so great that they want to buy some goofy t-shirt or book from the creator.

And speaking of books... to all webcomickers out there, I've just got to say: Damn you. Damn you all to hell. Seriously. I'm going bankrupt here from buying your books. I'm like a book whore over here.

Actually, I'm not sure what that means. "Book whore". I buy almost every book I see. does that make me like a reverse whore or something? Cause I'm not really selling myself out, I'm more buying in other things, so it's like I'm taking the services of anyone wherever-

Anyways, the point is that I love books. It's as if there is some prehistoric urge within me that can only be fulfilled when I carry the weight of a perfect-bound book into the bathroom for some quality reading. I swear, the bathroom is the natural habitat of reading. I bet when the cavemen first invented wall painting in their caves or whatever, it was in the bathroom caves so they'd have something to look at while they did their business. I mean, it's the perfect activity: you're already sitting, you can't really go anywhere, no one's going to bother you... I've read entire archives of comics in a single trip to the bathroom, and emerged a stronger and more complete man. I mean, I also read in other places; before I go to bed, or just sitting in my desk chair if I'm exceedingly bored, but reading in the bathroom trumps them all in terms of sheer pleasure.

but I'm going to move away from discussing pleasure in the bathroom before everyone thinks I'm a little "off-kilter" and get back to my discussion of how I love webcomic books.

Just finished the third cup. It's becoming clear to me that I'm going to run out of cider before I run out of Big Apple, so I'll have to consider my options at that point. I've got one cup worth of cider left.

Anyways... I love webcomic books. I read a lot of webcomics. Perhaps not as many as some, but more than the average person, I think. And I'm constantly picking up new ones. I get emails from people who happen upon my blog asking me to read their comics all the time. And I always go check them out. I may not read the whole archive (some of them are really, uh, in need of shall we say, retooling (not to say my own comics are that great)), but I always read enough that I get a feel for the strip. And a lot of them I end up picking up, even if I never formally review them or mention them on The Webcomicker. I've got a list of comics needing reviews on my desk, and I'm not sure I'll ever actually get around to reviewing any of them. I also follow links from other webcomics (yes, advertising your webcomic on other webcomics will in fact get people to check you out, at least if I'm any indication), and ever since Piperka added rotating webcomic banners, I've been following a lot of those links and picking up new comics as well. But the point I'm trying to make here is, if I read a webcomic, and even if I really, really like it, I'll read through its archives once online. I don't think I've ever read a webcomic's archives twice online. But if you come out with a book, I'll buy the book, and I'll read through the archives again and again and again in the printed form. And the comics that I feel closest too, the one's I feel most connected to, are the ones I have books for.

I've already got a large collection of webcomic books, and every month I set aside some money to buy more. For example, this month I bought Fragile Gravity books one and two, the HOUSD collection, Evil Inc year one report, Ctrl+Alt+Del volume 2, and the Penny and Aggie book. At least, that's all I can remember. But on to the reason for the damning. The damning is because it seems like a ton of webcomickers are releasing more books for the Christmas season. Here I am at a time when my funds are already ridiculously low from buying presents, and I'm faced with buying a bunch of new books. A Brief History of Webcomics, Evil Inc year 2 report, Schlock Mercenary's The Blackness Between, and some other ones I'm probably forgetting (is Wally & Osborne doing a book? And where the heck is Melonpool Volume 6?) plus all the missing volumes I need to buy - Nodwick and Dandy and Company come to mind (I'm getting too drunk and lazy to link websites anymore), and I'm sure some more will come out for the Christmas season as well. Oh, I just remembered I bought You'll Have That volume 1, and You'll Have That volume 2 is coming out soon. So there's another pair. Oh dang, and the new Penny Arcade book, and the new Inverloch book...

so yeah, I'm basically screwed. Here I am a poor grad student trying to finish his Masters degree and apparently UNEMPLOYABLE (or so the last five companies I've interviewed with have led me to believe), and I'm stuck spending what few bucks I have on webcomic books because they consume my soul. How can you guys be so cruel?

Oh, and I'd just like to take this time to once again re-affirm that I'm standing strong against purchasing the Ugly Hill book. Seriously, Southworth. Ugly Hill is nothing without the colors. I demand the colors! Linework does not do it justice! I will pay the ridiculously high price for print-on-demand colors!

It seems a little odd to me that I would be so demanding of having webcomics in print. I mean, I was never a reader of print comics. Go read my "A Firm Grounding in the Basics" post for more on that if you care. And I never really intended to buy print collections of webcomics when I first started reading. The idea seemed kind of silly to me, especially since my first exposure was really from a Scott McCloud lecture (and those comics ain't never making it to print, unless we figure out some way of printing like three mile long single sheet scrolls). But then when I actually saw the print collections available (I think the first site I saw this on was PvP) I was reminded of my childhood days spent reading Peanuts and Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes and I knew I just had to buy those print collections. And I've never looked back.

And that's why Platinum Studios purchase of Drunk Duck is so interesting. This is the other topic I've really wanted to talk about. See, here's the thing. I don't know a lot about Platinum Studios. But they appear to be a comic book publisher (are they big? Are they small? *shrug*), and they bought Drunk Duck. And they took a lot of flak from the webcomic community for all their press releases that they were going to have "comics on the web! Wow!" and everyone pretty much wrote them off as being late to the party and not really understanding the world of webcomics. But has anyone been following their premiere release webcomics, Cowboys and Aliens and Hero By Night Diaries? This isn't your typical comic book publisher saying "Let's put up an issue of the comic every month or two, in some unnavigable flash interface or something!" Nope, each of those comics is releasing a page a day, every weekday, like your typical webcomic, with space underneath to comment and post rankings just like every other webcomic on Drunk Duck. Platinum isn't trying to take webcomics and shove them into some print comics mold. They've embraced the webcomics model, and they're working with it. When issues of Cowboys and Aliens and Hero By Night hit the stands, they won't be as some new small-time comic competing for shelf space. They'll be as printed collections of already existing webcomics that have developed a fan base that wants to support them. And that's what's truly revolutionary about Platinum Studios. They're a publisher that actually understands webcomics. And I'm very interested to see how the partnership with Drunk Duck works out. And I'm reading both Cowboys and Aliens and Hero By Night with much anticipation.

...And I'm done with the fourth cup. And I'm out of cider, which means I should probably wrap this thing up. There's enough Big Apple left for a few more shots but it's late enough in the evening and I think I've got enough logged here already to satisfy myself.

I guess I'm just a serious drunk, what can I say? Over the course of this post I've drunk more than three-quarters of this bottle of Bacardi big Apple, and I'm still trying to address "serious webcomic issues", so I guess maybe I'm just not all that exciting while drunk. Or maybe I'm just supremely single-minded. Or maybe all this typing helps me keep my mind clear... I don't know. In any case I doubt my post is as amusing as many of the other posts on this fine night, but at least I managed to talk about some things I've been dying to talk about, and hopefully you enjoyed it. We'll reconvene tomorrow and I'll link to some other NaDruWriNi posts with my thoughts.

I had a good time, anyways. Now I've just got to finish this stupid thesis and find a freaking job.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Ernest Hemmingway, patron saint of National Drunk Writing Night.

Things in my life are beginning to take hold. Like a dandelion blown by some innocent child, the pieces of my life have been aloft in the wind for the past month or so, but some of them are beginning to find their new ground and take root, which gives me hope. Give it a couple more weeks and perhaps I will find myself firmly rooted enough to beginning writing about and producing webcomics. You may not realize it, but I have sorely missed being able to update this blog. Something interesting happens and my id literally screams for me to open a new tab to, but the super-ego and ego put it in its place by firmly reminding me that I simply don't have the hour or so that it takes me to write an average post.

But soon. Soon I will return.

In the meantime, November means that once again it's NaNoWriMo time! Now don't get me wrong, I have no intention of trying to write a novel; I tried that last year when I actually had free time and only got a few thousand words in, but I do seem to recall an event from last year affectionately termed National Drunk Writing Night (NaDruWriNi, to be proper). And this year, I'm in!

Special thanks to Phil Kahn for cluing me in (via his blog) to the actual date of the event. I hope we can get as many webcomic critics as possible involved. I plan to be on instant messenger (a rarity for me) the entire time I'm writing, so be sure to stop by and say hello. I'll use Trillian to log in to AIM and MSN messenger, and I'll also have Google Talk open. Heck, I'll even pull out Skype for the occasion. My accounts in all places are simply GileadPellaeon (perhaps with appended @hotmail or @gmail), so it should be pretty easy for anyone who wants to chat to chat with me. I've been told I become very lucid when drunk.

See you all on Saturday!