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The Trenches

First off, I’d like to thank everyone who gave their input to my comic last week, thanks a lot. I was happily surprised at the amount of detail you all went in to. What I’m also happy about is for the first time in way too long, my websites are now clean and google has taken down the Malware warnings. So why not take a look at Living With Insanity and Domain Tnemrot to see what my writing is like when done by someone who can actually draw. And feel free to review those two if you want. While I review a comic by people who actually know how to make a living off of it.

So back in 2010, Mike Krahulik, Jerry Holkins and Scott Kurtz made an announcement at PAX that they would be collaborating on a comic together. I was intrigued, like many of their fans. After all, these three are considered pioneers of the webcomic industry, so imagine what they could create. Plus, these guys are the experts, one even helped write a book on making webcomics. It’d have to be one of the best things ever.

You might be guessing the above is sarcasm. You would be correct; I have been quite underwhelmed by this comic.


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Videogame webcomic supremacy?

Philip J. Fry, Harry Knowles, Sarah Rue, Dr. Robotnik, and that guy from PvP

Man, getting tired of all the videogame webcomics getting press on this site? Well, get tired a little longer! Now that Scott Kurtz (PvP) has hung his hat in my hometown of Seattle, Washington, it looks like he’s game for more collaborations with his Jet City-based Penny Arcade pals Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Like the all new webcomic, The Trenches. Things haven’t started up yet, but Kurtz has a short blurb up on his site:

…Mike, Jerry and I announced a new project today. It’s called The Trenches and it’s a brand new webcomic that we’re collaborating on.

You see, a couple months ago, I got called into Mike and Jerry’s office. Robert was in there too and they wanted to talk to me about something. That can be good or bad, but this time it was good. Awesome even. A new comic strip about video game testers that they wanted me to help write and draw. Working together on something brand new, from the ground up.

So there you go. Videogame webcomics don’t die. They just sorta evolve… or at least merge like two amoebas.

I imagine that this is a way for the guys to get back to their roots, since Kurtz has mentioned that PvP is not really about video games anymore and Penny Arcade doesn’t really have a plot narrative or anything. But it makes you wonder: do these guys have anything left to say that hasn’t been said in over a decade of writing their own comics?

(h/t Comixtalk)

The PvP app for your iPhone is live

Technology to keep your eye on: we’re living in a rapidly changing world where desktops gave way to laptops, and those seem to be giving way to smartphones and eReaders. There are a few schools of thought on how webcomics should adapt. The first is to do nothing, since the devices will have to catch up to the parameters of online content. The second is to provide a secondary, mobile platform for the smaller devices. The second seems to be winning out, since — and you smartphone users can probably relate — reading stuff of your phone’s tiny screen can be migraine-inducing. This is worse for webcomics, by the way, since the text in the word balloons just doesn’t scale to readable levels without cropping out the art.

Scott Kurtz announced his new PvP app for the iPhone, which is downloadable free through iTunes. While app-enabled comics have been available through other channels for some time, this is the only time I’ve seen it implemented for short-form webcomics (or as Scott calls it, “dailies”). It looks like that the day’s comic strip is free for reading, while comic books (like PvP #1) is available for a $0.99 purchase.

I haven’t given the app a test run yet, but it’s sure to be easier than the regular routine of zooming and squinting.

Kurtz to host some awards ceremonies and some other stuff

  • Notorious webcomic creator Scott Kurtz, of the Eisner-Award winning PvP, will be hosting the Harvey Awards (h/t The Beat). Also, according to Comics Worth Reading), the Webcomics Weekly podcast was goofing on awards ceremonies this week. Interesting choice of MC, methinks. Are the Harveys trying to drive home the point that webcomics are rising in importance? Or were they simply charmed by Mr. Kurtz’s snarky yet comfortable speaking style? (Crazy mad trivia: not all comic professionals are good public speakers.)

    To be honest with you, I don’t really follow the Harveys. Every time I hear it mentioned, I think it’s named after that invisible rabbit that Jimmy Stewart always talked to. Wikipedia says that, unlike the Eisners — which are voted on by a five-person panel — the Harveys are selected by an open vote among comics professionals. So it’s sorta like the SAG Awards to the Eisner’s Oscar. Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about previous award winners in the “Best Online Comics Work” category:

    OK, so I guess that’s a better selection than the Eisner’s, and Lord knows that PBF needed some sort of recognition. Still, meh.

  • Dean Trippe (of Butterfly) and Evan Bryce decide to take a look at the current administration in their new webcomic, President Awesome. The press release says “President Awesome is a weekly political comic about President Barack Obama! Basically, it’s The Daily Show meets The Far Side, but you know, way better.” I don’t know how Daily Show you can be when you’re calling the comic President Awesome already. (h/t The Beat, again)

    Of course, if you’re not too optimistic about the current presidency, cartoonists will oblige in gruesome ways.

  • Meanwhile, the Floating Lightbulb takes a good look at the art of Winston Rountree’s Virus Comics. An excerpt:

    Lost in my ranting is my real point: characters should have character. I tire of comics that pander to current ideals, and Winston doesn’t do this. He invents new ones. He can make your brain entertain sexual scenarios you never, ever considered (sometimes considered momentarily).

    Also, are you telling me Winston’s not really a dude? Ya fooled me, Winston. YA FOOLED ME.

Christmas Toon #9: PvP


My stars and garters! Jingle Force Five from PvP looks awfully familiar. Is it because Professor X-Mas looks like Sigmund Freud? Yeah… that’s probably it.

Webcomic Overlook’s Greatest Trivial Moments of 2008

Ah, 2008. It may seem a year just like any other. I mean, sure, the US elected its first African American President after, like, two years of campaigning. Meanwhile, a peppy governor from Alaska stole our hearts.

And then there were the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where a big-eared man taught us he could swim pretty fast, a Jamaican fellow lived up to his awesome surname of Bolt, and China shamed the world with its absolutely ginormous opening & closing ceremonies.

And there was a devastating earthquake months prior, too.

And the financial giants of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ushered in a recession, while bank giant Washington Mutual ceased to exist and the government issued a record bail-out, which automakers were eager to get a piece of the pie.

And the lowly New York Giants managed to topple the previously undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

But how about the big things to happen in webcomics? OK, so this site is mainly an informal blog, so it’s not going to cover the really momentous occasions. Such as R. Stevens’ decision to pull Diesel Sweeties from newsprint, striking a salvo for the digital format. Or Half Pixel’s decision to pick up the domain from T. Campbell. Nor Marvel Comics’ huge push into the digital world, causing PW Beat’s Heidi MacDonald to declare that “the end of the pamphlet draws ever nigh.”

Nah, that would make this humble little blog some sort of authority on the subject, which it is not. I’ll let the big dogs cover those. This list focuses on smaller events, things that may not affect the business as a whole, but were probably important to someone. Things that will be forgotten if Megatokyo suddenly gets animated by Gainax or Sluggy Freelance gets mentioned on, say, The Big Bang Theory. Things that are more trivial.

Thus, the Webcomic Overlook’s Greatest Trivial Moments of 2008!

(NOTE: Yeah, I know this is a tad early, but you’re crazy to think if I’ll be compiling this list over friggin’ Christmas holiday season. The first week of December is as good a time as any.)


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Kurtzchat: Your guide to the PvP Onomatopoeia controversy

Recently, on PvP, Scott Kurtz introduced a cadre of villains nominally named the Algonquin Hate Table (or The Sophisticates) as part of his current LOLBat storyline.

However, the strip was updated moments later.

Catch the change? Here, I’ll make it easy for you.

As it turns out, unbeknownst to Kurtz, the character of Onomatopoeia had already become cannon in DC Comics. He was created by Kevin Smith (of Clerks and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back fame) as an enemy to Green Lantern. He shared a similar gimmick, as well as a similar costume.

So when his fans noted the similarity, Kurtz had an “Oh, sh**!” moment and redesigned the character. (Although, in my opinion, the new character of The Palindrome bears a visual similarity to this guy.)

I’m going to believe Scott Kurtz’s blog post, and that this was all some freaky coincidence. After all, there are only a few things you can do when your villain is named Onomatopoeia, all of which are awesome. What I don’t understand is the complete gimmick shift. “The Palindrome”? The new dialogue is already giving me headaches. (I am not a fan of Buckley’s Chef Brian character in CAD, and these lines are reminding me of him. A lot.) Is Kurtz going to redraw ever panel that formerly featured Onomatopoeia and replace all dialogue with nonsensical jibber jabber?

Secondly, I think Kurtz could’ve easily gotten around the whole Onomatopoeia thing by simply re-naming they guy. How about this: Foley Man. (Named after the Foley sound effects used for movies. No relation to WWE Superstar Mick Foley.) All that would require would be a slight costume change. No dialogue change needed.

Oh, sure… fans in the know would still connect Foley Man with Kevin Smith’s Onomatopoeia, but is that so bad? Are you telling me the weasel guy isn’t some sort of take on the Penguin?

Of course, now that I’ve thrown out the Foley Man idea, Kurtz can’t possibly use him because everyone would now say that he took his idea from me. So Palindrome it is.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This blog post was solely created to have yet another Scott Kurtz related post this month, easing the transition to when this site is re-named “The Scott Kurtz Overlook.”

Kurtz, Kurtz, Kurtz!

EDIT: Smith Michaels of the Blurred Productions blog theorizes that Savage Critic is a stand-in for Johanna Carlson, whose review touched the whole “Critic vs. Artist” debate. Supporting evidence? Ms. Carlson used to write for a site called “The Savage Critic.” Hmmmmm….

(If it is a jab, I’d consider it somewhat tongue-in-cheek, especially since Scott and Johanna have had more or less a civil encounter on ComixTalk and Newsrama.)

Scott Kurtz vs. Webcomic Reviewers and the Democratic Response!

Scott Kurtz has been making waves lately with a recent blog post.

Here’s the key paragraph, methinks:

I’m not sure how I ended up in so many tug-of-war competitions with bloggers, where the outcome of our match determines the superior position: creator or critic. But it seems to be cropping up again. There is a strange sense of entitlement, an eerie assumption of an unspoken working relationship that I am happy to inform does not exist. Why we insulate ourselves from the notion that the external critic can EVER be right, is because their critique is moot in regards to the progression of our work.

“Critique is moot,” you say? Now, I’m a reviewer-type guy. I feel compelled to respond to this absolutely inflammatory notion put forth by the Big Man.

He’s mostly right.*

As a reviewer, this site wasn’t set up to improve or fix webcomics. I had one stunning goal in mind when I created The Webcomic Overlook: to talk about the webcomics I read and whether or not I liked them. That’s it. My target audience were readers who haven’t read webcomics, or those whose only experiences were perhaps xkcd or Order of the Stick.

Now, when Kurtz and Dave Kellett say that “critics are never right,” I take that to mean that opinions are absolutely subjective. Look outside of webcomics and into movie reviews. Roger Ebert can flat out state his opinions for why he thinks “Team America: World Police” is a terrible movie. Perhaps he’s got very legitimate concerns, but his opinion is still an opinion. Plenty of people will still go watch the movie, perhaps find it hilarious, perhaps gape at the mastery of low-tech special effects, or perhaps come away with a personal message. So, in a way, how can you be right about an opinion, which inherently is neither right nor wrong?

So if an artist or writer comes away with something valuable from some of my reviews, then great! I’m glad for you! But the truth is that it’s probably something that, deep down inside, you knew you had to improve all along. When Scott DeWitt of Fanboys, for example, decided to switch up his style based on online criticisms, I’d like to think that part of him already knew that he had to do something for his comic to stand out from those lookalike gaming comics out there.

That’s the path of an artist. Critics hated the Eiffel Tower when it was built; now, it’s a Parisian landmark. The Académie des Beaux-Arts derided the struggling artists who didn’t practice classical painting, and yet the Impressionist movement changed the way we looked at art in the century after. There are thousands of examples of artists who eschewed critical assessments and created something new and exciting. There are thousands more who didn’t take criticism to heart and failed. No one can really know what the consumer wants, but you have to try.

That’s why, in my “About This Site” page, I include this quote by Anton Ego from Ratatouille:

“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

Heads up to The Floating Lightbulb and fellow Comic Fencing blogger Delos at ArtPatient (who has his own excellent, different, and rather enlightening response from the standpoint of a creator and a critiquer) for directing me to Scott Kurtz’s blog. Also, check out Kurtz’s response at ComixTalk.

* NOTE: I said “mostly right.” The part that’s not right: his godawful analogy to the Prime Directive.

What the hell, Scott Kurtz.

Not only is that the most dorky analogy I’ve ever heard, it doesn’t even apply to making webcomics. By saying that a creator should just evolove naturally, you’re almost saying that writing courses and art classes are detriments toward the ideal. Artists and creators don’t live in a hypobaric chamber, isolated from the rest of society like the alien civilizations in Star Trek.

Otherwise, you were spot on.

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