Wednesday, August 24

My Humps


This week in PVP, Brent spontaneously sprouts a new head from his back. You see it too, don't you? Look at that fine mop of hair, fit to make Brent's first head jealous!

In other news, we also got to see Cole's crotch. I don't think we've ever seen it before, but I'm not going to show it here because of my delicate sensibilities. Just imagine that he now has Penny Arcade legs, and you've got it!

Seriously, it was a good move to ditch the traditional, sweeping tent-pant garments that PVP's always used in the past.

Friday, February 11

There's Always a Bigger Cat


Since Scratch is the size of a 8-year-old human child, Hungry Cat's size relative to Scratch's seems to indicate that this new cat is probably some kind of panther that has fallen victim to domestication's wiles. He's either eating mud or about to plaster the mud all over the back of Scratch's head; either way, our introduction to Hungry Cat immediately lets us know that A) Hungry Cat is huge, and B) Hungry Cat is not to be fucked with.

Honestly, I love Hungry Cat. What a great character design! He has a hint of Heathcliff striping to break up his broad expanses and help keep him from looking too featureless (The way Scratch usually does), a false brow (That's what I'm going to call it) that gives his face a very vague similarity to Felix the Cat's, and overall he just looks like a goddamn classic third-string cartoon character that you feel you're familiar with already but have never actually seen before. The kudos I give are serious and not the candy bar kind -- Hungry Cat is fantastic. For some reason I'm thinking of Shecky, now, and how much I abhor everything from his design to his character. I shouldn't have mentioned him. We're probably jinxed because of it, and will see three strips explaining how he also moved to Seattle.

This storyline is not all Hungry Cat's, though. It's also about Kevin (Kevin was the child Skull mentored and sort of killed. The resemblance is vague, I suppose) Scratch's reverse-Hobbes doll! My memory tells me I didn't like what PvP did with the doll's potential the last (And first) time around, but so far? This arc is very good.


The interaction between Hungry Cat, Scratch, and the doll is a bit confusing. In the previous strip, Hungry Cat is apparently calling himself "Hungry Cat" through the doll -- but he's telling Scratch that he doesn't like that name, here? If that's not what's happening, then Scratch is continuing to put words in the doll's mouth and Hungry Cat is even now coming up with the prognosis that Scratch is afflicted by dissociative identity disorder.

I'd call attention to Hungry Cat's sudden Marilyn Monroe beauty mark, but the obvious answer is that its just one of the thousands of specks of food that randomly dot Hungry Cat's face every week.

Wednesday, February 9

The Plot That Wasn't There


When Miranda's time came to be introduced to the Seattle storyline, I was shocked. Look at this strip! Just look at it! I finally thought to myself, "Hey asshole, look at that! PvP just amazed you with its writing. The New Year's promise of better writing was real."

Here I sat, thinking that Miranda would only make her random appearances so that boob jokes could be made and her general stupidity could be reinforced, and I'm slammed with a deeply effective portrayal of a sister feeling betrayed, forgotten, alone and sad -- without any words! This is an A+ comic strip: The first panel showcases an excellent update on the hotel room we saw last year (Or this year, when I blogged about it while recapping last year), slumbering Cole looks great, there's a joke RIGHT off the bat that uses subtlety to drive the humor home (There isn't an onomatopoeic jumble of letters ruining Cole's snoring by trying to make it more evident while failing to encapsulate what snoring actually sounds like). The dialog smoothly moves from the joke to the dramatic final panel, and the artwork's points of view are classic and shifted to great effect. Wow! How could you not look forward to what was coming next, after that?


But what came next were boob jokes and reinforcements of Miranda's general stupidity. I must have imagined all of the dramatic tension earlier, because not once over the next three strips that continue this story thread does Miranda mention anything but petty jealousy as a motive for being upset. Wow. How could I have expected something else?

Miranda's status over at PVP Magazine was a little unclear, though. I believe she had worked both for them and then for Max's company (Powerplay) at different points in the past, culminating in being fired. Then Powerplay and PVP "merged" (Without absorbing PVP Magazine, meaning Max just bought them out or something), then separated. Miranda kept hanging around the offices (That's unclear, actually. It's nigh impossible to tell the difference between when PvP characters are at home and when they're at work) infrequently, for boob jokes and enjoying being kind of dumb. So this little character arc did one thing: It told us how Miranda became employed again (By Robbie, who probably owns PVP Magazine now. Does that mean she works for PVP Magazine? I can't say. It doesn't seem like it, but expect to see her around their office anyway), and justified moving her out to Seattle with the rest of the usual suspects. It was interesting that Cole pointed out that Miranda is useless as an employee, because that was goddamn stone-cold of him (And it was also true. Her worth as an employee is exactly the same as her worth as a character).

Exposition! What would we do without it?

I think that maybe the setting of PvP is changing to Seattle, guys. What do you think? We won't know for sure unless they keep unnecessarily mentioning Seattle by name and using location-specific in-jokes, though. The Fremont bit was especially confusing -- I'm familiar with Fremont, California, but I guess it's a place in Washington as well. Is it a place IN Seattle? And we were supposed to understand the "Mayor of Fremont is a hobo" thing? Anyway, the worst of all of that exposition seems to be over. If I had to compare it to something, it would be the way the Star Wars prequels shoehorn hours of ridiculous and dry political exposition into movies that everyone thought would be fun adventures for all ages.

Oh, and somewhere in that there was a theoretically-racy joke from Brent about "not nouning her verbly enough". Is this the most awkward punchline I've ever seen? It could be. Even swapping "noun" and "verb" doesn't help. How does a noun fit into that anywhere? Nouning is a self-contained oxymoron. Brent, you're supposed to be the clever one!

Sunday, January 30

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants


I no longer look forward to seeing the familiar PVP characters dressed up for Halloween or roleplaying. Why? Because there's no visual continuity. The real Jade's shoulders are about a third as wide as those of her bardic giantess counterpart. It just doesn't feel like the same person -- because it doesn't look like the same person. I don't see any reason for this to be happening, but it's been the case more often than not over the past two years. And it really shines through in the shoulders and body length. Skull, of course, always looks quite recognizable -- because you can't find Skull in a Google image search of costumes to trace. The real shame is that dressing familiar characters up in new ways is one of my favorite things to see, and can showcase real depth in both the character and the artwork.

I don't want to see familiar faces slapped atop completely unfamiliar bodies. It seems... well, it seems like a lot of things. Careless, for one. Maybe thoughtless. It could be better, is what I'm saying. If you keep forcing your characters into unnatural (For them), realistic shapes, perhaps you should decide to change your characters' normal appearances? And if that's not what you want to do, then maybe you can go back to costumes that genuinely clothe the way you normally draw your own characters.

The only saving grace is the element of fantasy that's involved here (And in most other cases). Still, the lack of continuity is jarring.

In other news, yes: Francis definitely caught the eye disease that Jade used to have. Hell, I think he has it worse! Maybe after multiple years of uncomfortable irritation, he too will regain control over his eyeballs and be applauded for looking nicer.

I'm going to continue with a side-note that is comprised of a quote from the Comics Curmudgeon:

"Cartoonists: I understand that there are good reasons for drawing your characters with four fingers instead of five, mostly because in the limited space you have available drawing too many fingers risks having none of those fingers be really visible. But if you’re going to go down that road, you absolutely must not depict your four-fingered characters as making distinctive hand gestures that generally rely on the full complement of digits — like, say, the devil horns/rock-n-roll symbol — or else you risk giving the impression that your characters are freakish claw-handed mutants."

Of course, Skull isn't a human -- the humans in PVP have the correct amount of digits, these days -- but his hand really does suffer visually in that panel. Okay, side-note over.

This strip's biggest disappointment is that it's trying to reinvent the wheel that Skull is based on. Go ahead, think up two words that sum up Skull for you. Are they "Lovable" and "Dumb"? Perhaps "Bumbling" and "Spaz"? It's not impossible that I'm too attached to the Skull of "olden" days, but this new Skull with his "fresh" lyrics and "in your face" attitude is freaking me out in a big way. I'll be honest: I hate it. That isn't who Skull used to be, and I am entrenched in the old ways. I don't like when he's given human eyes instead of beady (Cole-type) eyes. Skull's look and feel was a classic; it's one of the (Perhaps few) things I never felt was worth switching up or letting evolve in PVP. Maybe I've grown up too much, but Skull doesn't seem as big as he used to, or as dumb, or as fun. His character isn't dependable when he keeps doing "funny, cool" things like this. Do I need to move on?

Hang on, let me post another picture of Skull...


Fourteen years ago, The Simpsons tried to warn us with one of their best-remembered episodes, The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show. But did we listen? I guess we didn't. There are too many uncomfortable parallels that can be drawn between this PVP strip and that masterful satire. The PVP strip has no point -- it's showcasing "hip Skull", in an interesting, rich role-playing environment where we ought to be getting treated to some sort of fireworks factory finale.

There's nothing more I can add. If I can convince you to do anything right now, I would want it to be that you go and re-watch that classic Simpsons episode.

Saturday, January 29

The Great Divorce


This was PVP's first noteworthy event of 2011. Was it a surprise?

Well, no. Cole and Donna's "relationship" -- as portrayed at all times by Cole and his inability to express what's supposed to be wrong with it -- was always a depressing thing to see crop up. Notably because we never saw anything come of it. Granted, that is exactly what the underlying joke here is. And on that level, sure, this kind of thing is probably the best way to end it all. We will never again wonder when or if the "Cole's marriage" story will be revisited -- it won't be. That could easily have been the punchline in the last panel, as opposed to Francis' tacky nonsense.

If there was never any apparent marriage in the first place, though, why was ending it so much more difficult and so much more noticeable? Not to mention drawn out. It was all wasted effort, when you can sum it up with a "We got divorced two years ago!" strip. I highly recommend reading these two blog posts on the subject... from three years ago.

Having said all of that, perhaps you feel that I loved that strip.

Not particularly. It starts off well: Francis is essentially in our shoes, and it's comically believable that his typical teenager ways caused him to miss a momentous occasion or two. That all works. Great first two panels. But the next one tells us that Cole was "stumbling drunk" for four months, which is a bit much to ask people (Both Francis, in one sense, and the actual PVP audience in another) to swallow when there was never any evidence of it.

It sounds like a funny idea when spitballing, I'm sure: "Hey, we'll have this guy reveal that he went through a CRAAAZY time and we all missed it!" But god damn, no. Smack yourself down if you get that idea and never laid any groundwork for it. It doesn't work for Cole, because he's the single most visible character in PVP. It's unbelievable. That type of joke is built to serve characters who are gone from center stage for long, random periods of time but always end up coming back. The PVP world certainly isn't lacking for that type of character.

Finally, the punchline of Francis' smug satisfaction (How does it even make sense that his final comment is related to Cole's?) is a shame.

Honestly? Thank god that's over with. This came pretty close to the mark, and I believe it was a tasteful and dignified approach to the subject matter (Without turning it dry, and still leaving room for humor). Not a perfect execution, but a big relief.

Saturday, January 22

The Hair and Now

The second noteworthy event of 2011 -- no, I haven't mentioned the first, yet -- is that Francis also got an updated look. Remember the last time that happened, where he didn't actually change much (Aside from losing the Charlie Brown / Cole Richards "unibrow". The event was clearly geared towards changing Marcy's look, which perhaps... didn't really paid off in the long run? I'm just saying that we saw Francis a hundred times more often than Marcy, and now her character is in a position where we could, conceivably, never see her again)? This isn't like that time.

Most importantly, his replica of Cole's glasses are gone. That isn't just a "good riddance", that is the best riddance. We've flip-flopped between seeing those things portrayed as glasses and as eyeballs, and now we don't have to wonder what they were -- unless Francis mentions three years from now that he used to wear glasses.

What to make of the new Francis? Well, he has real eyes, now. The curvature of which makes his nose look like a real nose (Perhaps a coincidence! But it looks nice). The bad news? They seem to be bug eyes, received from Jade since she wasn't using them anymore. His chin doesn't look like shit anymore. Ooh, he changed his shirt...? No, sorry, the alien skull came back in the next panel. He grew shoulders! He still doesn't know how to style the back of his hair, but that's not too embarrassing if you really consider Cole's long-lasting failure in the same department. Essentially, he looks like the previous Francis' old and busted shit melded with Scott Pilgrim's new hotness.

Wait, Scott Pilgrim predates Francis' previous look? Well, I didn't know about it back then, so it doesn't count. Scott Pilgrim's popularity is still pretty new to me.

Alright, alright, I get it! There are some similarities going on. I'm not claiming some sort of shenanigan is happening, though; far from it. I'm just saying that this kind of thing has been done before, which is the saying that falls one rung above done to death. If everyone's aware of Scott Pilgrim now, then maybe repeating something both you and Bryan Lee O'Malley have done isn't the best way to ring in the new year's promised "better writing"? Ring in the new, wring out the old.

Wednesday, January 19

A Kinder, Gentler Tomorrow

Wait a minute, what happened to all of my posts from the year 2010?

Just kidding -- I wasn't reading PvP regularly enough to make any. But it's been an entire year, so I should at least make the effort to recap it with PvP's best moments, right? We'll start by completely ignoring the first few months of 2010, and skip to the parts where I noticed landmark events taking place.

Somewhere between July 15th and August 5th, Jade's bug eyes sank back into the recesses of her head that are known as "eye sockets". I believe I spat a beverage of some kind all over my dashboard when I noticed, since I was probably driving while browsing the internet on my phone (Guys, this is how you look cool to the ladies).

Now, I'm not going to pretend that Jade's eyes never appear to be floating above her hair anymore, but they're about 99% restrained. There is hope that she won't eventually decapitate and devour Brent, after all! Looking good, Jade.

On October 8th, there was a really funny strip. I'd already seen things that used a similar joke, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't laugh. Curiously, there is a decent amount of fodder for critiquing in that strip (All in the last panel). But I really like seeing a giant roach perched on Cole's head, and I imagine it is probably rubbing his dinner-plate-sized bald spot and whispering. Who can concentrate on speech bubble placement, a background painting, or coloring in all of Cole's fingers when there's THAT going on? Nobody!

Did you guys see these toys? Those are fantastic toys. Using one shape for three different characters -- and doing it so well -- is brilliant. It is merchandising at its finest and most clever, as far as I'm concerned. This kind of things makes me want to put on a hat so I can doff it in respect.

Somewhere between November 22nd and January 4th, the hideous black widow markings on Cole's chest turned into something that people can recognize as a tie. Well, I mean, usually. What is that over to the right? I don't know. Tim Gunn didn't tie that Gordian Knot, is what I'm saying. In fact, the tie has a very odd single, skinny black line that winds along it diagonally -- unless that effect is just a coincidence, every time the tie is shown, brought about from drawing creases. I can't tell which is the case, but I'm definitely complaining about finding seeds in the delicious apples that just replaced my dinner of red circles at this point.

On a sad note, this does mean that my amazing parody character "Fat Tie" is ruined. He died a warrior's death, though. Valhalla will welcome him.

Hey, you know who else didn't show up for PvP for a year?

We last saw Max Powers on Hell I-don't-know-whenth, 2009, when he ran a game company and dispensed business advice for rich entrepreneurs, and he returned last April 5th so he could stop doing that and join PvP Magazine's sitcom instead. Which is almost an exact depiction of events, according to the strip. Awkward, and self-referential humor like what we saw there is PvP's weakest link in a chain of humor and story-telling... but damn, he looks good. He also has Brent's hair color. Brent better watch his ass, if Max grows his hair a couple of inches longer.

Also, Scratch's constant, radiation-induced growth finally got him within spitting distance of Skull's height, at which point Scratch pulled one of Skull's arms out of its socket.

Happy New Year! This post is for our one subscriber, as well as Creatorian, who left a kind message that I greatly appreciated.

Monday, December 21

New Thread

Hey, I am still alive. On the other hand, my computer did not successfully make the trip to Boston. So that was unfortunate. I honestly haven't read a PvP strip in about two weeks, and am woefully unprepared to make any comments. I should have a laptop by Christmas; until then I can try and put up some new threads when appropriate.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, October 28

Leaving, on a jet plane.

Hey, I'm moving from Minneapolis to Boston as of tomorrow morning. I will return when I get settled/internet connected. I'm guessing that will be first week of November (no, I'm not taking a wagon east, but a lot of my stuff is following behind me) So, until then, you are in Jai's capable hands.

Don't get into too much trouble, Jai. ;)

Sunday, October 25

More Non-PvP Weekend Stuff

Yesterday I was nice, today; cruel. This is what happens when you project into your creative work. (Hint: Brother is a metaphor!)