Moving on…

Sports Watcher later today. I hope everyone reading Da Blog or even Sandsday watches the debate tonight. Don’t worry, McCain will show up. Apparently some of the people in the room trying to hash out that bailout effectively told him, “You know, why don’t you just go off to that debate and we’ll work things out on our own. Seriously, go. Now.”

Meanwhile, my bank just failed!

I would have written a stronger post, but between my plans for future posts and the tangent it would have gone off to, might as well not. Oh, and I didn’t start as soon as I should have.

Tonight – last night as you read this – was not a good night for me.

Actually, I take that back. This whole month has not been good for me, and to a lesser extent the last three months plus have not been good to me. I haven’t found any jobs (and it’s become abundantly apparent that I’m not remotely qualified for all that many), I’ve developed a humoungous backlog on Da Blog just as I have to deal with the start of the new school year and all that entails, my USB drive stopped working and just getting my files back will cost me upwards of $800 if it works (more on that later).

I went to a Mariners game last night on what amounted to a last-minute change in plans, which didn’t go well. There were rowdy people behind me and I think I was especially sensitive to everything – my mom thought my nervous system was on overdrive. I did settle down but didn’t get into the flow of the game, since the Mariners stink so bad they essentially threw in the towel before the game even started, and while I generally like to pretend I’m a TV or radio announcer at games I attend live, a string of controversial calls going against the Mariners (and thus not replayed on the big board, preventing me from assessing them for myself) pretty much soured me on the idea.

Things continued not to go well on the way home, which I won’t bore you with. I will mention that when I get mad, I get Hobbesian, and so I can’t help but wonder if civilization is based on a denial of humanity’s basic nature, and on attempting to get everyone to deny it. Civilization can be considered as the ability to be complacent about one’s own safety and tranquility, and for it to be maintained we must ignore the fact that humans have still spent much longer scratching out a tightrope, dog-eat-dog, alliance-for-protection lifestyle than we have employing something called civilization.

(GRR. I HATREkahmi eo;lgn the fact I got the idea for this post on a bus and was in too cramped quarters to start writing it while the ideas were coming.)

(And my mom just lectured me about the direction of my life and my priorities. Remind me to write a post on that topic soon.)

A webcomic post that isn’t about Darths and Droids or Order of the Stick? It’s the apocalypse!

(From PVP. Click for full-sized awkward re-introductions.)

Here’s what’s happened over the past year in PVP:

First, Jade was invited to a high school reunion, which started out fairly normally, until it turned into a murder mystery (and a locked room mystery to boot!), with the obvious suspect soon ruled out and turned into the murderee. Oh, and there’s a fairly blatant continuity error.

Then Brent and Jade showed up as superheroes for a halloween party, which thankfully lasted for only two strips, before Cole pressed Francis into training the rest of the gang for a Halo 3 battle with Max Powers, prompting Brent to ask, “Since when is this comic strip about video games again?” The match itself takes place entirely off-screen, though, and is also mercifully brief.

Then a panda in the office nearly dies, and with Brent’s interference almost does, attracting the attention of the WWF, touching off a flashback sequence that’s really a three-strip Liberty Meadows tribute, complete with Frank Cho art, ending with Brent bringing in the panda and trying to pass it off as Skull. The WWF reintroduces the panda to the office on the grounds that it can’t survive outside an urban setting, and effectively bribes Cole into keeping him, allowing Cole to buy out Max Powers and end the financial support he’d been providing.

That leads into the annual rising of Kringus, demon god of Christmas trees, which – in a last-minute change in Scott Kurtz’s plans – consists of Kringus and Scratch teaming up to steal presents and steal the secret of world-travel-in-one-night from a mall Santa, only for said Santa to turn all bad ass on Kringus, only for Scratch to taze him and reveal him not to be the genuine article.

I’m only three months into the past year. That’s before Shecky, Skull’s cousin, shows up and takes Skull to impress the woman he wants to be his fiance, only for her to decide that just because Skull loves Shecky, doesn’t mean Shecky has any redeeming qualities. Since it can’t just end like that, Skull and Shecky get into a bit of a bother, which Madeline (who did I mention is a Gorgon, better known as a Medusa?) exonerates Shecky for, though not for the reasons Shecky thinks.

Then things return to some semblance of normalcy as it only now dawns on Brent how much Francis looks up to him, just as he set a date for his wedding with Jade, which he makes up for by making Francis the ring bearer and making it sound like Lord of the Rings. Then Francis decides to keep the name Brent changed one of his World of Warcraft characters to as a joke, and along with Skull, starts forming an in-game guild, in a setup to the launch of a spinoff comic.

Then Scratch starts modeling his world domination plans after Garfield, then considering modeling it after Calvin and Hobbes. Then Cole trash-talks his way right out of being the best man, briefly plopping Francis in the role until it turns out to be a result of trouble in his own marriage. That leads to Cole rooming with Brent for the moment. And then Brent gets surprised by his parents who don’t want to wait any longer to meet Jade, and Brent’s father pressures Cole into making up with his wife, which leads to an office paintball tournament, which Miranda turns out to be an expert at, and which ends when Brent suffers a dislocated nipple. A dislocated nipple. Which means he has to wear a bra. And it turns out they left Skull behind in the woods which turns into another super-serious mystery as he goes on a mushroom-induced high.

Seriously, you will never see a more ridiculous serious line in your life than “Cole, get the equipment out of the van. We’re painting troll tonight.” Not even in a fantasy story.

And the whole thing ends when Kurtz himself shows up and ridicules the ridiculousness of the whole thing.

Then, after a lengthy bout of guest strips, the wedding arc itself starts with – if you saw this coming collect your prize! – Jade backing out. Well, turns out it’s not Jade, it’s her mother by way of Miranda, so Cole has to ask Robbie for a favor. And even the wedding becomes super-serious when Skull’s case worker shows up to tell him his job is done. And Brent is slow enough to let go that he knocks a statue’s head off with a golf club.

Sensing a pattern here? Utter silliness wrapped up in mega-serious plots. Perhaps we call this PVP Syndrome?

Okay, I know that didn’t make sense, so to further clarify what I mean by PVP Syndrome (or maybe it’s Goats Syndrome), let’s compare PVP to Order of the Stick. Both underwent Cerebus Syndrome, but OOTS was always very well-grounded in a fantasy setting. It wove a compelling plot with new elements that made sense in the setting. I haven’t read much PVP at all beyond the past year, but I get the sense that once upon a time, it was just about a bunch of people in a magazine newsroom. Yes, they had a giant blue troll as a friend, but other than that it was essentially a standard workplace comedy. Well, some of those more outre elements have become even more outre, yet they’ve also helped provide the underpinnings of what’s presented as a fairly serious plot, and it just doesn’t mesh.

Eric Burns described Cerebus Syndrome as “the effort to create character development by adding layer upon layer of depth to their characters, taking a character of limited dimension (or meant to be a joke character) and making them fuller and richer.” That’s essentially what, over the years and especially recently, Kurtz has tried to do with Skull: create a broader underpinning for the character and his concept – but not really changing the fact that he’s a big blue cuddly troll who hangs out in a magazine office. He tried to put Skull through Cerebus Syndrome but he failed. That’s PVP Syndrome: trying to put your strip through Cerebus Syndrome, but through a misunderstanding of your own material, botching it so badly and creating something so unintentionally hilarious it comes off as something out of Bizarro Monty Python.

Seriously. Brent knocked the head off a living statue with a golf club. At his own wedding. And at least superficially, it’s supposed to be treated completely seriously.

Something tells me PVP needs to lose Skull at this point – if not to shake up the status quo (how much does the wedding of Brent and Jade change things, really?), to stop from becoming totally insane. Yet he just returned to Brent and the PVP gang (more on that later). It’s been hardly four months since the wedding and the strip is inexorably being drawn back to its old status quo.

And I’m not even going to talk about the Francis-and-Marcy-have-sex thing.

Then we get the misadventures of Skull’s new charge, which ends badly. Then we have more panda misadventures, this time involving a female panda who has to be brought in to copulate with the one they already have, which ends with the revelation that Brent has “the spirit of the panda inside [him]” and dressing up in a panda suit to fight the real panda, which ends when he accidentially knocks the real panda out and gets the girl panda all hot and bothered for him. But at least the boy panda has a new respect for Brent.

I swear to God I am not making any of this up.

Then Skull’s misadventures continue with a Family Circus parody, only to be saved by a Foxtrot parody. Then Robbie tries to work out his personal issues with Brent and Cole, prompting them to try to work things out with his friend Jason, who assures them that everything’s fine, which is belied by their actual interaction. The operation, then, is a success, much to Cole’s dismay.

Then we get an “interlude” where a bunch of literary supervillians team up to take on “the Lolbat”, a Batman parody that speaks mostly in Internet slang and mangled grammar, which ends badly. Then Francis and Cole get into an argument that seems intended to mirror D&D 4th Edition debates. And finally, in the current story arc, Scratch vows to get Skull back come hell or high water, starting by confronting Shecky, who gives him a key to the land of magic, where Scratch goes on a rampage, leading Madeline to agree to return Skull.

I haven’t even talked about the extraneous stuff, like the guest strips and the parody of 60s cop shows.

The funny part is, I actually developed more of an appreciation of PVP after reading all of that, and the growth and development of the characters and their relationships taking place all the while. But the two times I’ve attempted to start reading PVP have been during the second panda storyline above and the most recent storyline, and neither one has left a good taste in my mouth, seemingly proving to me that the general rule of webcomic popularity is that the weirder and more surreal, the better. I’m not even sure I understood the current storyline on first read.

This is a reference I know will resonate with Kurtz: Julius Schwartz was a comic book writer and editor, and one of the things he was fond of saying was that “every comic is someone’s first.” (I know I’ve heard that quote, but all of a sudden I’m not sure it was Schwartz’s, since he also said “the Golden Age of Comics is seven” or something like that.) Now, comics since then have largely forgotten those sage words, but that doesn’t necessarily make them any less relevant. Webcomics also have a propensity to forget them, maybe even more so, a natural result of the fact that any story-based comic is likely to have someone join in in the middle of some story arc, which is one reason why Eric Burns has recommended that any webcomic have some sort of cast page – any cast page, even one that hasn’t been accurate since the very first strip (which is why he’s also disdained webcomics that have taken down out-of-date cast pages).

But all the cast pages in the world can’t save someone’s readership of a strip if the first strip they see makes them decide it’s not their cup of tea. It’s possible for a mid-story strip to be a good introduction to the strip – I first fell in love with OOTS by reading an early strip in the battle of Azure City and becoming fascinated by the whole battle. But the current storyline is only resonant (and arguably only makes sense) if you already know who Skull is (thankfully he is listed on the cast page, which can’t be said for a good many others), that and why he was taken away, and even then you’d probably need to jump in fairly early in the storyline to understand what’s going on. With either of the storylines I started with, you might be left with the impression that PVP is a random, nigh-incomprehensible mess.

That leaves me with the impression that Kurtz is really writing for continuity-hungry fanboy geeks who jumped on board when PVP was good and popular, not trying to reach out to new readers. Perhaps this is to be expected, and perhaps Kurtz has a specific end point in mind with PVP and so doesn’t see the point in bringing in anyone new… but it’s interesting to note that Order of the Stick, a strip with a natural, clear end point, hasn’t gotten so bogged down in continuity as to turn off potential readers. All I know is that PVP gives the impression of pure chaos and randomness run amok, even if it isn’t and even if it’s still fairly decent, and that could magnify its already rather concerning flaws and obscure its virtues.

I’d like to think the ticket to webcomic popularity isn’t to be as weird and random as possible…

(Webcomic reviews will last one or two weeks into October and could resume in November depending on how easily I balance everything I’ve already signed up for until then.)

A note for any webcomic who hopes to ever be reviewed by me if I ever return to that.

(From 8-Bit Theater. Click for full-sized out-betrayal.)

I had been planning on posting on 8-Bit Theater in three or four weeks, starting my tracking of it after I was done with the strip I’ll post on later today.

But by all appearances, 8BT doesn’t appear to keep an RSS feed. I haven’t looked very hard, but I have looked quite a bit. In the past that would have worked; I used to follow Ctrl+Alt+Del, Irregular Webcomic, xkcd, Dinosaur Comics, and even Order of the Stick that way. And hell, I don’t have an RSS feed for Sandsday.

But at least recently (as in, for all those strips except OOTS because I didn’t subscribe to as many feeds when I wasn’t subscibed to the OOTS feed), it hasn’t worked well, and I decided to impose a personal policy to only subscribe to RSS feeds to track webcomics I wanted to review.

(No, Buzzcomix Reader is not an option. I can’t even find it on Buzzcomix at all, no thanks to the search function that produces errors in IE7.)

So I may still review 8BT… or I may not. Haven’t decided yet. But be warned.

Important notice on Da Blog’s future

Tomorrow (which could be today as you read this) I head back to school. It’s important to me that I do as well in school as I can, yet my summer has been positively dominated by Da Blog.

Therefore, posting on Da Blog will be severely curtailed in the near future. Sandsday, the College Football Rankings, the SNF Flex Schedule Watch, the lineal titles, the college football schedule, Sports Watcher, and the Random Internet Discovery will continue as normal, but all else will stop. Which essentially means you can wave goodbye to my webcomic reviews, and even those will continue until my next regularly scheduled OOTS post. In addition, on all of these I will attempt to work as far in advance as possible, except for the College Football Rankings, Flex Schedule Watch, and lineal titles.

College Football Schedule: Week 5

All rankings come from the new C Ratings, out now. I’m going to do some reorganization later that will mean that link will always link to the current ratings; this will also involve improving access to last year’s ratings, and making some CSS changes. The asterisk still indicates lineal title holders (also updated). All times Eastern.

Top 25 Games
#1 Alabama @ #6 *Georgia 7:45 ESPN
#2 *USC @ Oregon State 9 PM TH ESPN
Virginia Tech @ #3 Nebraska 8 PM ABC
Mississippi @ #4 Florida 12:30 R’com/Y’hoo
#5 Wisconsin @ Michigan 3:30 ABC/ESPN
Weber State @ #7 Utah 8 PM
Kent State @ #8 Ball State Noon ESPN+
Illinois @ #10 Penn State 8 PM ABC
Navy @ #11 Wake Forest 3:45 ESPNU
#15 TCU @ #12 Oklahoma 7 PM FSN
Arkansas @ #13 Texas 3:30 ABC
Western Kentucky @ #14 Kentucky 7 PM Gameplan
Central Arkansas @ #20 Tulsa 7 PM CBSCS XXL
#21 Colorado v. Florida State 3:30 ABC/ESPN
#22 Minnesota @ Ohio State Noon BTN
Troy @ #23 Oklahoma State 7 PM
#24 Connecticut @ Louisville 8 PM FR ESPN2
Mississippi State @ #25 *LSU 7:30 ESPN2
Watchlist and Other Positive B Point Teams
Tennessee @ Auburn 3:30 CBS
Michigan State @ Indiana Noon ESPN
Houston @ East Carolina 3:30 CBS CS
Northwestern @ Iowa Noon ESPN Classic
Colorado State @ California 6 PM
Rhode Island @ Boston College 1 PM ESPN360
South Florida @ NC State 7:30 ESPNU
UAB @ South Carolina 7 PM Gameplan
North Carolina @ Miami (FL) Noon ESPN2
Oregon @ Washington State 6:15 FCS
Fresno State @ UCLA 3:30 ABC
This Week’s Other HD Games
Maryland @ Clemson Noon Raycom
Virginia @ Duke Noon ESPNU
Purdue @ Notre Dame 3:30 NBC
Big 12
Army @ Texas A&M 12:30 Versus
Big East
Pittsburgh @ Syracuse Noon ESPN+
Morgan State @ Rutgers 3:30 ESPN+
Pac-10
Stanford @ Washington 7 PT FCS
MAC
Northern Illinois @ Eastern Michigan Noon ESPN+
Western Michigan @ Temple 2 PM CSD.TV
VMI @ Ohio 2 PM CSD.TV
Buffalo @ Central Michigan 4 PM CSD.TV
Conference USA
Southern Methodist @ Tulane 8 PM TH CBS CS
Central Florida @ UTEP 8 PM CBS CS
WAC
San Jose State @ Hawaii 9 PT Gameplan
Bowl Subdivision
Arkansas State @ Memphis 2 PM CBSCS XXL
Cincinnati @ Akron 3:30 Gameplan
Marshall @ West Virginia 3:30 ESPN+
Louisiana-Lafayette @ Kansas State 3:30
Bowling Green @ Wyoming 4 PM mtn.
North Texas @ Rice 5 PM CBSCS XXL
Florida International @ Toledo 7 PM CSD.TV
New Mexico @ New Mexico State 8 PM Gameplan
Idaho @ San Diego State 8 PM
Nevada @ UNLV 7 PT mtn.

Four straight OOTS posts! Four straight!

(From The Order of the Stick. Click for full-sized vigilante justice.)

I can’t tell if this is because I’m starting to succumb to my temptations to post on every edition of OOTS, or just because things are really ramping up in anticipation of the 600th strip.

But it certainly seems odd that a villain built up as much as Kubota has would be wiped out of the plot that easily. Of course, this is hardly the end; Qarr still lurks behind the scenes (and who knows who he represents), for one thing, and Vaarsuvius almost certainly would be brought in for his/her own trial if there’s even one supporter of Kubota left (and we did see a ninja seemingly disappear from the fight a few strips back), and maybe even if not – with, if the general consensus on the forums is to be believed, potentially massive consequences.

(If Elan is true Chaotic Good, he sure as hell won’t be the one bringing charges against V, freaked-out look aside.)

More interesting is what this says about V’s state of mind, which for nearly the past hundred strips has been slowly deteriorating as a result of his/her single-minded quest to find Haley and return her, hopefully with Roy or his body in tow, and go ahead and include Belkar if he’s there as well. Whatever moment (s)he doesn’t spend on some harebrained scheme to find them is spent on boosting his/her level to the skies to further advance those goals even more.

So it’s interesting to read his/her last line: “Now can we PLEASE resume saving the world?”

Now, V has said in the past that “any attempt to locate and resuscitate Sir Greenhilt is also the most reliable means of finding Girard’s Gate”, which would be the next step in “saving the world”, but it seems obvious that V would probably have nothing to do with any trial, and everyone else would only have something to do with his/her quest insofar as they could find things for him/her to fight and gain experience. Which, it would seem, giving Kubota a chance to win aquittal may be the better way to go. (I mean, V just vanquished a gigantic demon summoned by Qarr as a distraction. No matter how high level Kubota may be, he can’t compare to a massive demon whose toe is about as big as Durkon.)

So is this a sign that V has finally gotten into contact with Haley? That (s)he has given up the hunt and intends to move on without her or Roy, taking Hinjo and the in-exile government of Azure City instead? Something else? Am I reading too much into a throwaway line?

Well, I’m certainly eagerly anticipating the next episode, at any rate. Then again, I eagerly anticipate every episode.

(PS: I linked to this post from the OOTS forums, so there’s a short-term bump going on here.)