Yet more talk about dancing bears.


(From Gossamer Commons. This is not a snark. This is only a rumination. Had this actually been a critique the thumbnail would have been followed by official opinion.)

It's been just shy of a month since the last Gossamer Commons notasnark, and I'm not really here to talk about the strip. This is more... well, an experience comment. Something of a philosophical snark, in other words. More or less.

Over the past few days, the premise of the strip has been made explicit (the process isn't fully over, but the premise could be pretty much stated from what has been said). And there's been a run of good strips, in my opinion. I think my writing's been as good there as anywhere in them, and Greg's art has been superb. And there have been increasing numbers of forum comments on what it all means, on the ground rules. And that's been cool.

With the above strip, however... things changed. With that strip... Gossamer Commons stood up on its own.

See, I mentioned a few snarks back the old saw about dancing bears. You know -- "it's not that the bear dances well -- it's that it dances at all." (Which Shaenon Garrity reports was originally about dogs and was sexist, but that's neither here nor there for my current purposes.) Only this time, I was the dancing bear.

I have been extraordinarily lucky. I got to have people reading a comic I wrote from the first day. Of course, that means that the inevitable shakedown strips at the start of especially the very first serious comic strip someone writes had a lot of attention. But it also means I didn't have to go through long periods of twelve people reading the strip. And, I even would get a few links and mentions. I seriously appreciated all of it, and I know Greg did too.

But all the comments outside of the forum, up until now, have been of the form "Eric Burns of Websnark is writing a comic of his own! Check it out! It's not bad!"

Like I said, we took it and were damn happy -- but the point was that the bear was dancing, not that the dance was good. The Websnark Guy was writing a comic strip.

Yesterday, there were a good number of links to the strip (including some from people I strongly respect, which blew my mind). But, almost without exception, they weren't about the Websnark Guy writing a comic strip. They were about yesterday's strip. Some people agreed with it. Some disagreed. A lot felt it resonated. It was about writing. About the dream of writing. One quote from it that I've seen quoted elsewhere was:

I want to inspire dreams. I want to be remembered. I want this to be my novel. I want to write it. And I want the world to know it. I want annoyed Freshmen in College forced to read this thing four hundred years from now. I want symposiums on Keith Onzeker. I want theses and discussions on where I fit as a voice of my age. That's the boon I want. If you're not going to give it to me, you might as well kill me right now.

This passage meant something to people. And they wrote about it. And they linked to it.

And a number of the links never mentioned my name.

I know this sounds weird, but the most complimentary thing anyone could have done was link to Gossamer Commons and not mention my name or Websnark. It means that they like the comic strip. They really honestly like the comic strip for itself. People are getting it. They're getting something from it. And it doesn't matter who's writing it.

It's not about the dancing bear. For yesterday, at least, it was just about the dance. For at least one day, we succeeded on all levels.

That means everything to me.


Awww.. *sniff* You're gonna make me cry. :D

In all honesty, you deserve it. I don't read GC because it's "the comic by the websnark guy", I read it because from nearly day 1, it grabbed me. The most recent strips have solidified that. I think you've pretty much proven by this point that you're more than a dancing bear.

Well gee, if I'd known you were gonna post this, I would've waited and posted the link to my comment here instead!


I'm like a ninja!

(And thank you for that comment. It and Chad Underkoffler's were two of the best.)

Just read through the archives, and then hit the cast and synopsis pages ... where's the update? Huh, punk? Promise weekly updates and leave them stagnant for a month‽ Huh‽ You think you can get away with that in this town? Huh‽ Huh‽ (finally, a use for the interrobang, and proof some speech just can't be transcribed well).

Good use of Interrobang!

And yeah, I suck. It's been a long few weeks.

*wry smile* Is that why no comment on my review of GC, because it was "look at the dancing bear!" more than review? *wry grin*

Well, next time I'll have to do better, I suppose. The way I see it is thus: I'd not be reading GC if it weren't good. I'm reading it, thus it is. (Hey, this from the guy who, at the height of his Sluggy Freelance archive crawls, constantly skipped all of Gofotron because they just weren't interesting. And I like Sluggy. Just... not that story (or the most recent ones))

*evil grin* Hey, I so like GC that I refer to it in other reviews (well, Malachite at least...) that kind of shows you that the strip is more important than the man behind it.

BTW, did you have to say that seeing the fae marks you for death? The faeries living under the cupboard have taken to arming themselves with spears and threatening to tie me down when I'm asleep. Tsk... I swear, I feel like I'm in the movie Willow....

Robert A. Howard, Tangents reviewer

Tangent -- I sometimes reply to comments, but generally I try to hold to the Milholland principle when it comes to that sort of thing.

If it makes a difference, I liked it. ;)

Thanks, it does :)

I honestly have renewed respect for you. I mean, you've been doing this for 3/4ths of a year. After a month I'm struggling at times to think of what to write. Of course, I'm also expanding on my reading, so I will /have/ more to write about... but still. You do a heck of a lot of work writing these snarks.

And a webcomic on top of all that? :) *You* deserve those tasty tasty biscuits you hand out to people. :)


So now you know, Eric, what it is that getting Websnarked has come to mean to the rest of us. Who deserves it more? Congratulations.

I really expected at least one comic going over a wish to not be killed, but I guess having Kieth not even think of it strenghens the characterization.

Whoa! Interrobang‽ Dude! Learn something every day. Now to figure out how to do it.

I have just this to say about this most recent strip:

I've been reading GC from the beginning. My opinion has been something like "Eh, it's pretty good." When I looked at this strip, I sat up straight and thought, "Holy bleep this is gonna be good." Bravo.

I'd give you a tasty, tasty biscuit, but you have cornered the market with a monopolistic capitalist biscuit opression. ;) (Sorry...spent the last few days reading completely through Narbonic.)

Oh, and yes, I actually thought "bleep."

Don't ask.

Interesting... I'm glad I stopped by here before writing my update for today. My immediate reaction to this strip was also, "Wow, okay, *now* I'm officially hooked," but for a slightly different reason. I enjoyed Keith's speech, thought it was very well-stated and properly dramatic, but that on its own didn't sell me.

No, what tumbled me over the precipice was the expression on Malachite's face in the penultimate panel. The speech and the establishment of the motive was great, but that expression made me giggle with gleeful anticipation of the conflicts to come.

In other words: whoa, that bear is dancing a samba!

Good work, so far. But, to play devil's advocate...

I'm still reading it because it's by the Websnark guy. This Wednesday's strip was certainly good, but it seemed a bit long in coming. Until this strip, I was looking for sure footing as a reader, in terms of what to expect and look forward to. Just a matter of pacing, really. (Not that having full certainty of the coming material is important, or even necessarily good -- but it does give a person some sense of what the show is about. Screenplays have to do it within ten pages, for example.)

Also, and this isn't a criticism of any kind, you can definitely tell that the writer of the dialogue is Eric Burns. There's a proof-positive match in writing style betweeen the GC language and the posts here on Websnark. Meaningful at all? Probably not; but it's noticeable, for what that's worth.

The visuals, also, are wonderful. That's some good detail to get in on a thrice weekly showing.

I'm not fully won over, but I want to be, and I read GC regularly. :) I do like it.

I'm really surprised it took this long to get to the hook, I really truely am. I mean the comic was ticking along nicely, amusing but nothing spectacular and then along comes the whole premise, and WOW it's a damn good one. You more than other people would know that every webcomic needs a hook, gimmick or dancing bear, so i'm left wondering, what was your creative process on this one, what came first? the farie or the muse?

if only you had promised the torture of people everywhere in the first few pages, then it would have rocked for longer.

Well, this strip was what made me decided to permanently add GC to my bookmarks. (Before that it was just a periodical check)

I always did believe that you need at least 20 pages of comics to hook someone, so promoting before you have 20 page tends too not work very well for me.

It may just be me, but the style feels slightly similar to Sandman. I like both a lot, and at this point I have stuck it in with my daily tab list.

Thank you for the great deal of enjoyment I recieve from your excellent writting.

I know exactly what you mean.

It's great to hear people say: "Wow! This guy's only twelve/thirteen! Check out his comic!" But then I feel like it's not the comic that is getting the recognition, it's me. Or when people say: "The art isn't great, but that's to be expected; he's only thirteen." I don't want lenience just because I'm younger, I wanted to be treated just like any other webcomickist doing what I'm doing, and if my art isn't good, my art isn't good, and I can take steps to make it better.

But when people say that they really like my comic, and praise it without mentioning that I'm thirteen, that's the best feeling of all. I may be amazing for my age, but I'd rather be good in general. Like you, I don't want reputation to judge my comic instead of quality.

I've read through GC, and I like both the writing and the art. Good job with the former.

I should also mention - I've made a habit of reading GC EVERY update day without missing one, and it was only now when I wanted to jump back to the first strip that I noticed the navigation links - Initial, Prior, Subsequent, Incumbent. That's fucking brilliant, man. I love it. I can just see some dumbass going "What the fuck is Incumbent? I JUST WANT TO GO TO THE CURRENT STRIP!!"

Now that I think of it, I have a similar experience too. While I have no creativity skills and nothing that anyone would mistake for prodigy at any age, I did spend 2 years at a school in Japan learning their language, and whenever some Japanese person would compliment me on my meager command of such, I couldn't help but think "Why can't I just talk to you like I would anyone else without my (nonexistent)skill at talking becoming a topic?" So in the same way that Eric and Alan have had plenty of times when someone praised their work backhandedly by saying how good it was for a critic or a kid, I was always being backhandedly praised by being able to speak anything at all while being non-Japanbese. And when I stopped getting praised everytime I would talk with someone new, that turned out to be the best compliment of all.

And yeah, I know it's a bit of stretch comparing artistic ability to language learning, but for anyone who's experienced the latter in the country where it's spoken, you'll see how similar the perceptions can be.

"Initial, Prior, Subsequent, Incumbent. That's fucking brilliant, man. I love it."

The "Initial" part was all me. Assuming that it was indeed him taking my suggestion, rather than him just coming up with it on his own after I suggested it here. Either way I'm taking credit and basking in all its reflected glory.

Mmm...reflected glory...

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