Perhaps I should have seen this coming, the way he wrapped up the Fantasy crew’s quest. Ironically, the Fantasy theme had an open-ended finale.

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized history of the periodic table.)

While researching the xkcd post from earlier today, imagine my surprise upon discovering that while I had stopped reading it, David Morgan-Mar had brought Irregular Webcomic! to a rather abrupt halt.

What’s even more freaky is that my very last IWC post predicted that the plan of the Steve and Terry and Scientific Revolution crew to turn Morgan-Mar’s pseudo-author avatar into Hitler (yes, that actually happened, and I never accused IWC of PVP/Goats Syndrome) could have wide-ranging effects on the timeline and universe of IWC.

(Not that IWC didn’t try to contract PVP/Goats Syndrome at the end, or entirely restore the history we’re familiar with, as it’s heavily implied that Death of Choking on a Giant Frog is actually Hitler, in Me’s body, after being assassinated by Haken in that fashion. Also, to clean up some loose ends from my other IWC posts, Shakespeare does in fact turn out to not only be from the 16th century, but to know it, but this leads to nothing but an incredibly cheezy and deus-ex-machina (even knowingly so) ending to the theme.)

Anyway, while Me’s death didn’t quite destabilize the timeline, that was only because the Head Death decided to send him back to 2002, because he was “the pivot point of this entire multiverse“, whose death wound up destabalizing it. So IWC wound up ending in a fashion quite similar to how I once predicted it might: Me discovering this newfangled “comics on the internet” thing.

Don’t worry, I didn’t give him the idea. In fact, he’d apparently had it in mind for years… but only came to the decision to end the comic less than a year before doing so, which makes me wonder exactly how planned the Irregular Crisis really was. (Although I call bullcrap on that claim, considering he ended the comic shortly after hitting Calvin and Hobbes’ comic-count, as he’d claimed his goal was.)

However, perhaps the real shocker of the Irregular Crisis and Morgan-Mar ending the comic? IWC was actually putting demands on his time! Who would’ve thunk it was even possible, with how many nonprofit projects he had?

How weird is IWC? I saw this coming by the second panel.

(From Irregular Webcomic: Steve and Terry. Click for full-sized talentlessness.)

So earlier this week I tweeted how weird it was that Steve was about to become Hitler.

As it turns out, I wouldn’t know weird if it held me down and beat me up for my lunch money.

Here’s the funny thing: It wouldn’t be surprising if the “Me” character, as the creator of Irregular Webcomic!, was more important to history than anyone else in the room knows. Yoinking him out of history could conceivably cause the very reality they inhabit to collapse from the lack of his presence, maybe even cause the timeline distortion they’re having to deal with in the first place. Of course, Me has already been killed off once, but in this comic, that’s relatively minor.

Beyond that? I quite literally have no words to describe this. Whatever David Morgan-Mar is on, I want some of it. (Of course, that depends on which Morgan-Mar we’re talking about…)

It’s like a big ball of timey… wimey… stuff.

(From Irregular Webcomic: Shakespeare. Click for full-sized command of the English language.)

Okay, I am officially lost as to how these time shenanigans work.

The only way I can make sense of Shakespeare’s nervousness in the third panel, and make the punchline not a complete non-sequitur, is to come to the conclusion that once the timeline is fixed, Shakespeare will “return” to the 16th and 17th centuries.

The conceit of the Shakespeare theme has always been “if Shakespeare had been born 400 years later“. While it has obviously never precisely adhered to “real” history, aside from the impact Shakespeare had on the English language apparently being applied anyway, neither has it ever hinted that that “real” history ever existed, if that makes sense. Shakespeare was in the 20th and 21st centuries before the Irregular Crisis, and we’ve established that the Nazis lost in their timeline.

If I’m right about where Morgan-Mar is going with this, it raises far too many questions: How did Shakespeare get time-displaced from the 16th and 17th centuries? Why didn’t the Irregular Crisis return him there, and why would fixing World War II do so if the Crisis didn’t? How does he know he was displaced 400 years? If he retains his memory of his time in modern times (which would make Shakespeare’s characters of Ophelia and Mercutio named after their IWC counterparts instead of the other way around), which seems to be the most consistent way of doing things, wouldn’t that cause as much upheaval of the timeline as anything else, and potentially more than just keeping him in modern times?

On the other hand, perhaps we now have a glimpse of where Morgan-Mar was headed with Shakespeare and Ophelia’s relationship upgrade

Yes, I know I’m using “nonplussed” wrong, and I don’t care.

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized timeline refugees.)

What I find exceedingly interesting about this comic, and what makes it the biggest development in the Irregular Crisis in months, is the first panel.

There is plenty wonky about the alternate 1940 that most of the IWC cast has been sucked into, but Mercutio mentions none of it in the first panel. Everything Mercutio mentions is business as usual for the Cliffhangers theme, especially Hitler being a brain in a jar, which in the first place, implies that prior to the Irregular Crisis, Cliffhangers and Shakespeare were not in continuity with each other, and that history for the Shakespeare theme was the same as in our reality.

In the second place, it implies that the time flux the rest of the cast is trying to untie may be as simple as the history of the Cliffhangers theme overwriting everything else. This isn’t the first time this has been suggested – Hitler being a brain in a jar came as a complete shock to the Steve and Terry crew – but I had always written that off as a secret, heretofore undiscovered application of Nazi science – the yeti was completely nonplussed to discover Nazi teleportation technology the other Steve and Terry members were taken aback by. It has never been made as explicit as Mercutio makes it here. What’s more, it suggests that all the activity that has centered around 1933 and the Reichstag Fire is ultimately irrelevant, and may be making things worse. While Nazi victory is the most obvious consequence of a timeline divergence, addressing (or causing) the proximate cause of that may ignore a more far-reaching problem, yet one potentially simpler to fix, at least for the Paradox Department.

I have complained about the pace of the Irregular Crisis in the past, but David Morgan-Mar may finally be laying the groundwork for its resolution… even it it takes a rather circuitous, and yet far more fascinating, route to get there.

I promise I’m not going to turn this into “TV Tropes: The Blog”. As interesting as that would be.

(From Irregular Webcomic: Martians. Click for full-sized discounts.)

I bring up this episode of Irregular Webcomic! from earlier in the week because it exhibits a trope I hate: when a seemingly bit character with a mundane life turns out to have an incredibly exciting past that often is more intertwined with the heroes and their present plot than we thought.

You know that ordinary proprietor of the pizza place Ishmael worked for? It turns out he’s actually a descendant of Alessandro Volta locked up by the Nazis in 1933 who was freed by time travellers and started the Reichstag fire, accidentally time-traveled with them back to the 1980s, and then got the idea to start a pizza place from a young Adam Savage from MythBusters.

(I think I may have just summarized IWC‘s appeal in a nutshell.)

Now, you could argue that Morgan-Mar is limited in his LEGO figures and is thus more justified in this economy of casting than most, and a similar case could be made for a related contrived coincidence: that Adam and Jamie not only attended the same college as Ishmael, but (it’s implied in the themes’ previous comic) stayed in the exact same dorm room. Still, I can accept a lot of things stretching my suspension of disbelief, but this is the sort of thing that takes a skilled hand to pull off, and part of what makes it work is often exactly what antics the character pulled off in the past, what led him to his current mundane existence, and how it’s presented to the reader. Typically, if he’s presented as a retired badass first and a simple farmer second, it can work well (even if he’s introduced as the simple farmer first), but not so much the other way around.

Once you start getting into things like supernatural powers and, oh yeah, time travel, it starts to stretch suspension of disbelief too much for my purposes. Especially when it raises questions like “how does he explain his appearance out of nowhere and his similarity to the guy who disappeared back in 1933?”

Hey, if I do like Robert A. Howard and post semi-regularly on just the comics I read, I only need to do a new full review once a month or so. If I read as many as he does, that is.

(From Irregular Webcomic: Shakespeare. Click for full-sized star-crossed lovers.)

This comic is not really as impactful as it should be.

Pre-Irregular Crisis, it had been hinted that Ophelia had a thing for Shakespeare (especially during Loren Ipsum’s original story arc), but aside from a bit immediately following the reboot of the universe regarding Ophelia breaking up with her fiance, the only real references to that subplot depended on knowing why Ophelia kept trying to reinforce and push Shakespeare to do his best.

So I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the audience has largely forgotten that Ophelia had a thing for Shakespeare in the first place. Even if they did remember, this probably comes completely out of nowhere, with the only indication that anything like this was coming being Ophelia sending Mercutio out of the room a few comics back. It’s a “where the hell did that come from?” moment instead of a moment of celebration, and actually makes Ophelia look vaguely out of character.

It does still captivate the audience’s attention, but it’s nowhere near as big a moment as it should be, and not all of that is Morgan-Mar’s fault. Watching two LEGO figures make out isn’t even as good as two stick figures.

(And in case you’re wondering, I can write a post about this comic despite it no longer being the current comic by the time it goes up because it should still be the current comic in the Shakespeare theme. You haven’t forgotten about IWC being several comics in one, have you?)

One problem with the multi-comic setup: The only major development since my last post has been Fireballs explaining the situation with Me, who then got recruited by the Halley-Newton group. Oh, and Shakespeare got involved.

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized potato salad.)

Few webcomics have the balls to spring a twist so huge on their audience it forces them to reassess everything they’ve been through before.

So give some credit to Irregular Webcomic! and its Cliffhangers theme, which used the occasion of its 3000th comic to drop an absolute bombshell on its audience: Erwin, the bumbling Nazi straight man to Haken’s Col. Klink-esque military commander, has been working for the other side the whole time.

I’ll admit, the reveal didn’t have the impact for me it probably should have at first, because the source was Ginny (also now revealed to be his wife), who hasn’t exactly come across as trustworthy in the past. But this comic, which features a past Erwin springing from jail and explaining his backstory to the 80s Mythbusters, suggests that at the very least it should be taken seriously at the moment (you never can tell with Nazis), which works out to be a surprisingly interesting, if relatively obvious, twist on the old trope of the bumbling recurring villains. I imagine either comic probably caused a good chunk of IWC readers to look back at all of Erwin’s previous appearances looking for clues and contradictions – and it’s worth noting that his blurb on the cast page says that he “restricts his individual thoughts to making scathing social commentaries on Nazi policies”. And that Morgan-Mar has teased an Erwin/Ginny relationship before.

Well played, Mr. Morgan-Mar (even if he won’t see this until next month). Well played.

I really need to get my writing muscle back in shape.

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized memory lapse.)

So most of what’s happened up to this point in the Steve and Terry theme since the reboot of the universe turns out to have been an extended flashback that just ended (in what may have supposed to have been June). Which is rather interesting in terms of fueling the “did the universe reboot to the beginning or not?” debate. All signs now seem to point to “no, except for Space”.
-From the last time I posted on IWC.

Want to know what was happening in the Space theme? You’ll never guess in a million years.

No, seriously. Guess.

The Space people were role-playing their first adventures together.

The Fantasy and Space themes, with their role-playing miniatures representing their characters, have always hewed closest to the idea of representing a role-playing game, and Space in particular has hewed close enough to it that the characters actually noticed the death of Me, but still, I did not see that coming. Not to mention the metaphysical questions it raises concerning the lack of Me.

As for the anticipated resumption of the Irregular Crisis, that doesn’t seem to be happening – at the start of the new year, Me solved his “on the run from Death” problem by settling down “in my own home town, with my only remaining family”, and that seems to have been the last it’s been mentioned. Instead of a resumption of the Irregular Crisis, we seem to be getting a new Irregular Crisis, this one composed primarily of time-travel shenanigans with the 1940s turning into a hub of activity. One of the Martians that buzzed Roswell is being held at Area 51, where the 1980s Mythbusters, after moving to an alternate universe where the Nazis won World War II (suggesting the “scrambled history” may have indeed been major), have shown up, become their own grandfathers, and posed as Martians. Isaac Newton and Edmund Halley have started using their Doctor Who-esque time machine to recruit great scientific figures throughout history to travel to 1940, where the Pirates have turned up, as have Steve, Terry, and Jane Goodall, in a parody of Casablanca to boot (no, I am not making any of this up), and you just know that Cliffhangers, already set just a few years earlier, will get involved somehow, where the protagonists have learned of Hitler’s plans to conquer Europe.

(Mythbusters used to be one of my favorite themes and one of the few I would follow religiously if DMM offered per-theme RSS feeds, but it’s been turning me off of late. The closest we’ve seen of the “real” adult Adam and Jamie have been their Nazi-victory alternate universe counterparts, who just caused a rip in the space-time continuum by bringing unstable explosives to a trip through time; otherwise, it’s been all the 80s versions and their would-be grandfathers. And despite DMM working to preserve a PG rating, the whole “Adam and Jamie become their own each other’s grandparents” thing, besides feeling ripped off from Futurama, has just been painful to read.)

This crisis isn’t, so far, as far-reaching as the last one; Fantasy, Space, Nigerian Finance Minister, Shakespeare, and the part-time themes have maintained their own plots and haven’t gotten involved, yet. And beyond those themes (save Space), several other themes have, eventually, gotten to the point where they have picked up where they left off without any indication that anything happened, only getting diverted recently into the new crisis, namely Scientific Revolution, Cliffhangers, and Steve and Terry. On the other hand, other themes have had their disruptions feed directly into the new crisis, namely Martians and Mythbusters.

The new crisis is far from over, and knowing DMM is likely to continue to build right to the last day of the year. But if it weren’t for DMM’s reluctance to make money off his webcomic, I would think he’s trying to use all these crises to jazz up interest and maintain readership in his comic, using the hope of a resolution to string people along as long as possible. Instead, I’m left to wonder if the man who surprised me by saying my idea of IWC consisting of (then) sixteen comics in one, each of those comics being irregular, had never occured to him before, has gotten tired of the gimmick.

While writing this post, it occurred to me that the comic in which Me dies, effectively the start of the Irregular Crisis, is #1800. We’re now up to #2743, so the leadup to the Irregular Crisis, the Crisis itself, and everything leading up to this new crisis, has taken up a third of the comic’s entire existence. Add on top of that the fact that the multi-comic gimmick evolved over a very long time, starting around #30 and continuing past #100, and we’re fast approaching the point  (in about a year’s time plus) where the multi-comic gimmick as it’s best known, before all the themes started being united by crises, will have lasted only about half of the comic’s existence. As I’ve talked about before, David Morgan-Mar started a webcomic not really knowing what he was doing, only knowing that this newfangled “webcomic” thing sounded cool. The comic was titled “Irregular Webcomic” because he really didn’t anticipate the comic becoming as regular as it became – he’d just throw up something whenever he felt like throwing something up. In fact, re-reading that post, I’m reminded of the mini-crisis in 2007 involving four themes and a Martian invasion.

Irregular Webcomic! has been undergoing a slow Cerebus syndrome for most of its existence, and the point of no return was arguably a stretch from #457 to #793. For all of that stretch, a new Cliffhangers strip appeared, like clockwork, every three comics (which basically meant every three days). It was this stretch that led to Morgan-Mar sending the Fantasy cast off on a quest, because he’d come to realize that themes with ongoing storylines were easier to write than themes without, which benefited themes like Cliffhangers at the expense of themes like Fantasy and Space. Although the Scientific Revolution theme, which until recently was as TV Tropes described it – “an excuse for DMM to write heartfelt annotations about Newton, Halley, Pascal, Pasteur, Linnaeus and their contemporaries” – may have represented a backslide towards more gag-a-day comics with how relatively fast strips were coming out, the other themes without lengthy plotlines have not been heard from at all. Harry Potter and Imperial Rome have seen a grand total of two comics apiece since the reboot of the universe, and Star Wars and Supers have other reasons not to appear very often (Darths and Droids and the fact it’s hand-drawn by another party, respectively).

So perhaps it’s a natural progression from giving all the themes plotlines to trying to create an over-arching plotline for Irregular Webcomic! as a whole. But in trying to give people a reason to read IWC every single day, Morgan-Mar runs the risk of falling into PVP/Goats Syndrome (which I really need to settle on a single name for) by shoehorning some of the sillier themes, like Mythbusters and Steve and Terry, into these ominous, world-threatening plotlines. Most of those same themes successfully went through Cerebus Syndrome on their own terms by embracing their silliness as part of the plotline (though not always to the embedded extent Rich Burlew did), but when I see, say, the complete comic relief character of Steve panicking over the impending unraveling of time itself, I’m not sure whether I should be sitting on the edge of my seat or tipping it over guffawing in laughter.

Morgan-Mar seems to want to have it both ways, having a slapstick humor comic while also giving people a reason to follow the comic as a whole instead of single themes, and he doesn’t seem to be doing a good job of getting the two to work together. And it doesn’t help that the disparate themes are not very compatible with one another, spanning a span of time from the 1400s to the far future (not counting Imperial Rome, Fantasy, or several themes’ trips to the age of the dinosaurs), spanning nearly every genre imaginable, and spanning the entire globe and beyond, so that even giving them a reason to interact with one another to this extent requires inventing ridiculous contrivances.

I’m interested enough in where Morgan-Mar is going with this new crisis to keep reading to at least the end of the year, but fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not going to keep reading for a delayed resolution that isn’t there.

(If this post comes off a little more critical than I originally intended, well, re-read the title. I was tired by the time I was done.)

Hope DMM didn’t break things by trying to do “IWC on a Postcard” for 2317, assuming he was trying to do so, especially right as he went on vacation…

(From Irregular Webcomic! Click for full-sized charitable act.)

So most of what’s happened up to this point in the Steve and Terry theme since the reboot of the universe turns out to have been an extended flashback that just ended (in what may have supposed to have been June).

Which is rather interesting in terms of fueling the “did the universe reboot to the beginning or not?” debate. All signs now seem to point to “no, except for Space”. Still, the fact that so many comics went into flashbacks with so many different approaches and explanations still seems to hint that the Irregular Crisis is not yet over, especially as regards the implications in themes such as Space and Cliffhangers.