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Eric: On pretentiousness, movies, and stuffing kids into metaphorical lockers.

I should have written this snark five days ago.

It's not going to make me any friends, mind. Not on either side of this little debate. But that's no excuse for not having written it then. Still, it's something that needs to be written, because the issue seems to be growing instead of shrinking, and it's time that there be a little bit of reality thrown down for everyone. Or, at the very least, time for me to prove I can be as much of an asshole as anyone.

For the record, several years ago a production company called Top Two Three Films began putting together a documentary on digital comics, examining the crash of print comics in the bust of the 90's, and the rise of digital venues for comics. Obviously, there's a lot of Reinventing Comics thrown in for good measure. And they interviewed tons of people, ranging from Joey Manley to John Byrne, to get their perspectives on... well, what was going on with all this.

They're in post production at this point, and they've released a trailer for the documentary, which is now called Adventures Into Digital Comics. I've watched this trailer, as have many others. If you want to see it for yourself, you can go to their main page and request it.

I should have written this several days ago. I really should have. I'm sorry I didn't. Maybe I kept thinking people would figure out what they were saying... what they were doing... and start doing the right thing. But it didn't work out.

If you watch the trailer, you see a lot of... well, 2001-2002 attitudes towards what was going on with the web. And you see a lot of quotes taken. Out of context, of course -- we haven't seen the movie yet, so we don't know if these are just pull quotes designed to drum up interest or if they're a fair representation of what the movie is about. Someone talks about... well, the infinite canvas, more or less. Someone else talks about the fact that you don't need to be concerned about commercial concerns on the web -- you can honestly make art for its own sake. And others say other things. Scott McCloud makes his requisite appearance. Really, it'd be surprising if he didn't.

And the whole thing is bookended by Cat Garza, of Magic Inkwell. And Garza talks about... well, something that every documentary about art since the invention of the moving picture has talked about -- the barriers to the artist, to experimentation, to innovation in the art world. Doors being shut and the like. I've heard it before. I've heard it all my life. As long as I've had any interest in art of any stripe, there has been the voice of the avant garde saying "we're being held back. The Man fears us. They want the nice, the safe, the things they know we can sell. They hate real art, and we have to take art back from them!"

And, as long as artists have been saying that, it's largely not been true.

Yes, it is true that experimental art often can't find publishers or sponsors. In a lot of ways, this is natural. Publishers and sponsors are generally looking for the innovative, but their impulse is rarely artistic or altruistic. They want the "next big thing." This is why it's important to have a National Endowment of the Arts. This is why it's important to have colleges where art is studied and taught and where artists have a chance to produce. It is important. Art does matter.

And this is the monumental revolution of the World Wide Web. Illustrators and cartoonists, pushing the limits of sequential art, experimenting and finding the next innovation and trend and movement and piece of brilliance, are free to do so at little or no cost.

But don't kid yourself. Innovative and brilliant sequential artists and illustrators and cartoonists are being published. I live in fucking New Hampshire, which is not known for being an artistic mecca. But if I drive to my nearest comic book store and walk in, I can pick up James Kolchalka on the shelf. I can pick up Flight. And for that matter, I can pick up PvP or Knights of the Dinner Table or Nodwick. They have Girl Genius there, and Vertigo titles, and compilations. They have Derek Kirk Kim.

And it's important, at this juncture, to mention Derek Kirk Kim. Because we talk a lot about how our major success stories are PvP and Penny Arcade and Sluggy Freelance and Something Positive. And here's Derek Kirk Kim, who had webcomics, and promoted his webcomics. And then sold his print collections of his webcomics.

And then won the Harvey, the Ignatz and the Eisner Awards. And got written up by Time Fucking Magazine. And who gets grants and who is talked about the way earlier generations talked about Dan Clowes or R. Crumb, and who is no doubt being courted by major publishers at this point.

So yeah. The myth of the Man keeping down artists and closing doors to artists is just that: a myth. It's up there with the myth that the Comics Syndicates don't want funny strips or controversy or good storytelling in lieu of continual retreads of Hagar the Horrible. It's just not true.

But... to take Cat Garza to task for it is patently ridiculous. This attitude, like I said, has been part of art for generations. It's just part of the playing field. It is no surprise that the producers of the documentary would pull this stuff up for the trailer. This stuff plays well among their target audience. This stuff helps sell the film. The kinds of people who'll watch a documentary about online comics are the kind of people who want to believe in the myth of the man keeping down artists out of fear and ignorance and hatred. Trust me on this. I'm a college educated Liberal. I got the memo with my diploma.

Still, there has to be a certain amount of understanding on the part of the dreamers and visionaries that this is pretentious, and it's also... well, not true. And easy to deflate a little. And part of that stems from the fact that Garza's comments are years old. If he were interviewed today, I suspect Garza would talk about different things. I suspect most of the interviewees would. It's been a couple of years -- otherwise known as several lifetimes on the Internet. Things are different. Things have changed.

At the same time, I'm excited for this movie. I'm excited over anything that gives people who don't know the first thing about webcomics some idea that we exist. I'm excited over any mass media treatment that doesn't superimpose BAM, ZAP, BOOM and BIFF! across the screen when talking about sequential art. I'm excited over anything that might help broaden the audience for webcomics, particularly among those people who might not have any interest in all over newspaper comic strips or superhero comic books -- the sort of people the Graphic Novel Review says they're trying to hook -- the mainstream folks who bought gobs and gobs of copies of Maus and went to see Crumb in droves. We want those people checking out online comics -- and to be blunt, those people are more likely to want to read things on Modern Tales or infinite canvas experimentation than they are likely to read Sluggy Freelance or PvP. This is definitely a documentary pitched towards the art appreciation crowd. And getting them to come by the webcomics tent would be a good thing for the development of webcomics as a whole. It honestly would. We have to get something other than geek-fandoms and gamers as our majority sooner or later if more people are going to start making a living at this.

Scott Kurtz weighed in on this and did so moderately well. He elaborated on why he felt the trailer (remember -- no one has seen the movie yet) didn't serve the webcomics community particularly well. You might disagree with him, but at least this time he didn't throw gasoline on the fire. Had Kurtz's comments been the only ones, I wouldn't have had to write this, and I wouldn't feel so badly about waiting.

Shaenon Garrity also weighed in, on the other side of the equation. She talked about how excited she was that the film was coming out, and some of what she hoped from it, and she was overwhelmingly thrilled to announce she was one of the interviewees. She's also not why I needed to write this snark, and why I feel badly.

Checkerboard Nightmare weighed in today too. Dogpiling, to a degree (though at least he was somewhat funny and pointed out the true foible that all the interviews are old). Still, Straub's comments made me realize this wouldn't go away. And I did need to write this snark.

Because at the start of all this, Penny Arcade weighed in, with both a strip, and a rant.

Everyone who's read Websnark for a while knows I like Aaron Sorkin a great deal. And they should know that his Sports Night was a particular favorite of mine. Well, there was one evocative episode I'm thinking of right now, where Jeremy has gone out to produce his first solo remote segment. It's a hunting segment, and they shoot a deer, and Jeremy has a panic attack and has to be hospitalized. Justifying himself, he says the following:

Yeah. Bob and Eddie were using the IR-50 Recon by Bushcomber. It's got a sixteen-inch microgrooved barrel with 30-30 mags, side-scope mount, wire- cutter sheath, quick-release bolt, mag catches and a three pound trigger. So I figured we must be going after a pretty dangerous duck. We shot a deer. [...] There was a special vest they had me wear so that they could distinguish me from things they wanted to shoot, and I was pretty grateful for that. Almost the whole day had gone by, we hadn't gotten anything. Eddie was getting frustrated and Bob Shoemaker was getting embarrassed. My camera guy needed to re-load so I told everybody to take a ten minute break. There was a stream nearby and I walked over with this care-package Natalie made me. I sat down and when I looked up I saw three of them; small, bigger, biggest. Recognizable to any species on the face of the planet as a child, a mother and a father. Now, the trick in shooting deer is you gotta get 'em out in the open. And it's tough with deer, 'cause these are clever, cagey animals with an intuitive sense of danger. You know what you have to do to get a deer out in the open? You hold out a twinkie. That animal clopped up to me like we were at a party. She seemed to be pretty interested in the twinkie, so I gave it to her. Looking back, she'd have been better off if I'd given her the damn vest. And Bob kind of screamed at me in whisper, "Move away!" The camera had been re-loaded and it looked like the day wasn't gonna be a washout after all. So I backed away, a couple of steps at a time, and closed my eyes when I heard the shot. Look, I know these are animals, and they don't play bridge and go to the prom, but you can't tell me that the little one didn't know who his mother was. That's gotta mean something. And later, at the hospital, Bob Shoemaker was telling me about the nobility and tradition of hunting and how it related to the native American Indians. And I nodded and I said that was interesting while I was thinking about what a load of crap it was. Hunting was part of Indian culture. It was food and it was clothes and it was shelter. They sang and danced and offered prayers to the gods for a successful hunt so that they could survive just one more unimaginably brutal winter. The things they had to kill held the highest place of respect for them, and to kill for fun was a sin -- and they knew the gods wouldn't be so generous next time. What we did wasn't food and it wasn't shelter and it sure wasn't sports. It was just mean.

Cat Garza is a good artist. He's one of those rare infinite canvas artists I like and respect, because you can see him honestly trying to push his limits, push the limits of the medium, push something as he works. He really is experimental. He really is trying. You might think it's all bullshit or pretentious or whatever, but he doesn't. He believes it.

And he's not been a success story in webcomics. His output has dropped way down, because he's got bills to pay and a family to feed. He believes, with all his heart, but he doesn't get to play fucking video games for a living. He does this because he loves it, and he believes in it, and in the end it hasn't gone where he wanted, and if you have no empathy for that then you're just a stone cold bastard, whether you believe him or not.

Do you have any idea what Cat Garza must have felt to see that trailer? Do you have any idea what that must have meant to him? He was the centerpiece of a trailer for a movie, talking about a subject that means the world to him. For that one, brief moment it must have all seemed worth it to him. It must have seemed like maybe -- just maybe -- he has had a profound influence on this medium that he loves.

And then comes Penny Arcade to take a gigantic, massive dump on him for it.

It's like Krahulik and Holkins are so desperate to be cool that they're emulating the jocks in high school. It's like they're abusing the people weaker than they are because they know it'll make the cool kids laugh, and prove they're cool. It's like they're abused children, who get big enough so they can abuse children of their own -- their lunch money got taken away and they felt weird and awkward and weak -- Jesus Christ, look at those freaks. They play video games way too much. They're, like, obsessed! Hey, let's go smack them around! Let's go stuff them into lockers! That'll be funny! -- and now they've got hundreds of thousands of people reading them. They've fucking won. They beat the assholes who used to rag on them once and for all, because those assholes are working fucking retail and Krahulik and Holkins get to play video games for a living. And so now they're taking glee in tormenting this guy who's never done a thing to them and who couldn't do a thing to them if he wanted to. They mock how he looks and what he says and they just generally tear him down at the moment when he probably felt the best about himself and his art as he ever had.

That's not funny. That's not a joke. That's not editorializing and it sure as Hell isn't deflating the pretensions of others. It's. Just. Mean.

I should have written this on the day. I should have opened up my web browser, gone to Movable Type, and said in a loud, clear, and utterly clear voice fuck you, you assholes!. I didn't, and I'm ashamed of myself because I didn't.

For the record, I'm fat and goofy looking, with a beard. I wear a lot of polo shirts. There isn't a cool bone in my body. If they want to caricature me and make me look lame and stupid, it'll be easy. And also for the record, there's no chance in Hell they give even the slightest damn what I say about them. I'm nothing to them. Every person who reads Websnark could stop reading Penny Arcade tomorrow, and it'd barely show up as a blip in their page views. Whereas I know from direct and personal experience that parts of their fan base are more than willing to bury people they don't like in negative e-mail.

But that doesn't change the simple, inexorable fact that what they did was pure, unadulterated bullying. It was kicking the weird kids who liked different things than they did. It was mean. They should be ashamed of themselves. How dare they take that pinnacle moment from Cat Garza? How dare they piss on all the people who might -- just might -- have been feeling good about this? Who the fuck are they?

I'm looking forward to this movie. I think it can do some good. I'm also glad that the people involved with it are proud of it. And if I disagree with parts -- if I feel that it's outdated in places and extols artistic myths in others -- I also think that everyone involved was speaking in good faith. I think those folks need to know they came off as pretentious. But I think trashing them for it was a horrible thing to do. And it colors Scott Kurtz's rant, because it makes it seem like Kurtz is piling on, and making Garza even more of a chump. And it colors Straub's comic, because it makes him seem like he's piling on too.

It's all happened, and it's all in the past, and there is nothing at all to be done for it now. And everyone involved should recognize both where they're being deluded and where they're being intolerant. But even though the Penny Arcade guys can't take it back, at the very least someone should tell them that was a shitty thing to do. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

And if that means I get buried again, so fucking be it.

At least I don't have to be ashamed of myself for saying nothing any more.

I'm sorry, Mr. Garza. I'm sorry this happened to you.

And I'm sorry I didn't write this five days ago.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at June 6, 2005 5:50 AM


Comment from: Mithandir posted at June 6, 2005 7:54 AM

What struck me when I read Mr Kurtz post on this issue were the words from the IM that the penny arcade guys sent him. I quote here from his website:

¤Somebody╠s making a video documentary about webcomics without letting on that either of our sites exist (again).Ë

As you can see, there's nothing in there about pretentiousness, claims of 'keeping art down' or any of the other reasons that both the pvp and penny arcade sites gave for bashing this documentary.

Now I've seen neither the trailer or the documentary so I'm not going to bother forming an opinion about who is right and who is not, but am I the only one who finds the points Kurtz e.a. are trying to make hypocritical, given that IM? Sure they are the biggest, sure they should get a mention in a documentary regarding webcomics (and as of now there's nothing indicating they don't), but if that's their gripe they shouldn't wrap it in a layer of hurt righteousness.

Comment from: Mitch Clem posted at June 6, 2005 8:03 AM

I still disagree with this notion that the mainstream entertainment industry DOESN'T stifle the creativity of creative people, and I don't agree that the core audiences of mainstream film, television and music are boring people who either fear real art or are ignorant to its existance. You can't tell me Limp Bizkit on the radio, "You've Got Mail" on screens, and "Big Brother" on television doesn't point to a few massively fucked-up indistries almost completely devoid of nurished creativity and intelligent audiences.

However, what needs to be taken into consideration here is that the comic book industry is not that. They have subversive and progressive entities like Vertigo and indie comics, like you said, but which are almost fully integrated into the mainstream (or what is theoretically to be considered the mainstream - comics themselves are not a mainstream entity until they're turned into a film or television show, and even then I doubt book sales are really skyrocketing that much).

There are independant music labels that put out amazing music that the radio will never touch, there are filmmakers out there who could make a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie that might actuallly move someone emotionally... The difference is that, in these mediums, rarely are they integrated into the rest of the system. For the most part, these industries are dominated 99% by insulting garbage aimed at the lowest common denominator under the assumption that Americans are stupid and will pay money for whatever the industries want.

What needs to be considered is that, like I said, comics don't work like that. They CAN'T. If that new fucking Adam Sandler movie with the prison football crap whatever... if that was a comic, I'm sorry, no one would buy it. If it was a webcomic, its fan base would be miniscule. It couldn't quit its job and live off of t-shirt sales, you know?

NEWSPAPER STRIPS, that's a different story. If you don't think newspaper strips are overly censored and watered-down to appease the tastes of rickety old coots who are offended by everything they see, then you are absolutely wrong, I'm sorry. Go read "The Prehistory of the Far Side" by Gary Larson for more on that. He would get censored on a weekly basis, and that has to constitute stifling one's artistic drive on some level, yeah?

God, I'm rambling in someone else's blog, I'm really sorry, I'll stop now.

P.S. That P-A thing was pretty weak. People fail to realize that, when an interviewer is prodding you to explain something you have any passion for whatsoever, you're going to sound a bit pretentious. That's how humans operate. Kind of like my rambling here...

Comment from: jeremiahsmith posted at June 6, 2005 8:35 AM

That's not funny. That's not a joke. [...] It's. Just. Mean.

Are you saying there's a difference...?

Comment from: Merus posted at June 6, 2005 8:57 AM


A pun's a joke. A shaggy dog story's a joke. The idea that a joke is being mean to someone, somewhere, is quite frankly bullshit.

(I've actually heard people espouse that idea before with a straight face, that the essence of humour is laughing at other's misfortune. They all seem to be American, too. Tells you something about ol' Fair Go U S of A)

Comment from: Mathron posted at June 6, 2005 8:58 AM

I think the real issue was that PA made it personal.

The strip, decrying the documentary as pretentiousness and nothing more? I have no problems with that. That's just criticism - biting criticism, yes, but criticism all the same. Penny Arcade is based around having commentary on the current events of their various spheres (gaming, webcomics, etc.)

But they didn't need to go to the lengths they did. Making fun of how the guy looks? It wasn't just that it was low - it was that it wasn't necessary.

Now, it wasn't just cruelty for its own sake. I think, honestly, that it wasn't 'Just.Mean' - it was Tycho trying to provide amusement for his fans, and not really caring if he was stooping lower than usual to provide it. But while it might have been a stab at humor, it certainly didn't contribute anything to the criticism of the documentary - and, in a lot of ways, undermined the critique itself.

For myself, wherein that rant was the first I heard about the whole thing, I'm somewhat ashamed to say I found the reference amusing for a few moments.

Once I thought about it a bit later, I felt rather low about the whole thing. When I saw the banter escalate in Narbonic, I felt a bit worse.

I hope that the personal insult doesn't shatter someone's joy in their own accomplishment. I hope that the genuine bits of criticism on the topic (the PA Strip itself, Kurt'z rant, etc) are taken in the appropriate light - as commentary to accept and learn from.

Comment from: egometry posted at June 6, 2005 9:39 AM

Yes, Merus, that's why Americans invented schadenfreude.

...oh, wait.

Comment from: Stuart Robertson posted at June 6, 2005 9:44 AM

There are many, many examples of British humour where the point is laughing at someone else's misfortune. Monty Python. Mr. Bean. Some Mother's do have 'em. etc. It's absolutely not an American thing.

I don't see how Garza was metaphorically stuffed into a locker either. Their only comment on his appearance was:

"...the trailer for it is also an adventure, and informative as well, because now I know who keeps trying to buy weed from me at the San Diego Comic Con."

And they posted a screenshot where he's blinking to make him look goofy. It's not friendly, but it's not *that* bad.

Did Garza say his feelings were hurt?

Comment from: JimRob posted at June 6, 2005 9:48 AM

To be a little more of a devils' advocate yet... if personal mockery is off-base, isn't it also off to speculate on whether Cat Garza is crushed at his 'brief moment' of 'profound influence' (which you seem to imply is doubtful)? Or to characterise Krahulik and Holkins as jocks?

We're arguing on a very personal basis: what characters people have, how they feel, how popular they are. I don't think criticism turns into 'pure, unadulterated bullying' when one side happens to have more readers. It's unfair as far as greater popularity makes you 'bigger' in discussion - each utterance you make influences more people - but that doesn't affect the justice of what you've said. I don't think Penny Arcade decided to attack because they knew they could exploit their status or the army behind them, but because they disagreed, and no-one else had as yet brought it up. They thought it was bullshit and they said so. Incorrectly, I think, but in that much, not improperly.

Of course the personal mockery was unfair, and they may have disqualified themselves from the debate by doing that. But should they have weighed up their relative influence and let their criticism slide? Morally perhaps they should have, but as satirists I don't think so.

Comment from: Allen Shull posted at June 6, 2005 9:51 AM

As for comedy and meanness, I must cite Mel Brooks on this one: "I cut my finger. That's tragedy. A man walks into an open sewer and dies. That's comedy." There is a certain meanness inherent in quite a bit of comedy. Does that mean that comedy has to be mean? Of course not. But it does mean that being mean doesn't make it not-comedy. It simply places it in bad taste.

And I must say, I like Scott McCloud, I like Websnark, and I've been reading PA for a long time. Personally, I love how a fat bald guy is getting harangued for making fun of a fat hairy guy, and we assume it's because the hairy guy is fat. Why can't it be because he's hairy and Holkins has some sort of maddening hair-envy that consumes him in the dark of night?

I just see this whole thing and laugh, because I love it when arguments don't make sense, and when they're clearly designed along ideological lines, and people just can't seem to realize it. On one hand you have solid capitalistic forces like Holkins and, well, Kurtz. They worked hard, put out a good product, got in at the right time, and were more than a little lucky, and as a result are both unmitigated successes. That's capitalism at its best. Now you take the rest of the people: they want to make money too, but stand forever in the economic and popular shadows of PA and PvP. They go for alternate payment systems and hopes of the future where they aren't obscured by others. They wish that hard work would always pay off, when there is that significant luck factor involved.

Personally, the funniest thing about this whole debate is that there's a debate at all. PA, creators of the genius of "It's not for you", are now being strung up by a mob because they took that same pretentiousness and went a little bit farther, on old horses that they rode before and will ride again.

Seriously, getting angry at PA because they complain about Scott McCloud? In other news, Democrats don't like Republicans , fundamentalist Christians don't like scientific athiests, and Linux and Mac users don't like Windows.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at June 6, 2005 9:52 AM

Yes, Merus, that's why Americans invented schadenfreude.

...oh, wait.

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I found this to be absolutely hysterical. Though to be fair, I didn't get much sleep.

Comment from: Doug posted at June 6, 2005 9:55 AM

Seems to me that criticizing PA for being mean is like criticizing the Pope for being Catholic. Its a large part of what they do. And while they generally target corporations, they dont hesitate to say pretty nasty things about individuals (look up the one about Infiniums CEO).

Thats not to say you cant critique or disagree with them when they do it--just dont be surprised when it happens...

Comment from: Doug posted at June 6, 2005 9:59 AM

Darnit, I was too slow typing! Allen made my point and much better than I did. He even included the famous "sewer" quote. Though I'd always heard it attributed to Groucho Marx.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at June 6, 2005 10:02 AM

There is this iconic image of a sign that was posted in the early years of the punk scene in England. It was a crude attempt at guitar tablature where someone had crudely written out out two guitar chords -- I think E and C, but I can't remember specifically -- and then underneath it had scrawled out "these are two chords. Now start a band."

I *love* early punk. There were bands that really and truly sucked -- and there were the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks, the Damned, and they gave rise to the Subhumans, the Exploited, etc. The idea that anyone could just get out and do it -- and people did.

People who have genuine talent tend to cringe at that kind of stuff, because they feel it drags them down. The other things associated with the music other then the actual quality tend not to mean much. I mean, when I first heard about punk, it was in the context of friends of mine -- and people I didn't even *know* -- desperately trying to keep me from hearing it on the grounds that 'none of these guys could play.' And this was at least a DECADE after it had originally started, and much of that scene had gone back underground.

I've always thought webcomics were the punk rock of "sequential art." I tend to point to myself as an example -- I'm pretty solidly in the "one-two-fuck you" crowd.

That said, I don't know that it has anything to do with breaking down barriers the comic industry is putting up. When I started Help Desk I wanted to provide extra editorial content for a web magazine. I essentially slipped into web comics sideways -- it just happened to be the medium I chose to use to do what I wanted to do. At some point it became a goddamn industry, where the ONLY legitimate reason for doing it was to MAKE MONEY -- either in the "traditional way" championed by Kurtz and others or the "revolutionary way" championed by McCloud and others.

Basically, the web gave people a new area to try stuff -- and because technology has a tendency to lower the cost of publishing, it meant that anyone could post anything they liked and call it whatever they wanted. Which means that people far more talented than I -- *real* cartoonists, who practice drawing daily, and try to improve their craft -- have to deal with barbarians like me who publish talking head strips and are *satisfied* with it because it does exactly what we want them to do.

But in the public eye, of course, Punk got co-opted by New Wave -- a less offensive rebranding of the original "product." And then there was indie, which was a reaction against that, and then there was "Alternative," which was the less offensive re-branding of indie. And now when people think of Punk they think of former emo bands what made it big by singing cheerful singsong anthems about high school love triangles.

Christ, I'm rambling. But I get very annoyed at this sense of shame that seems to permeate the "world" of webcomics. What the fuck are you ashamed of?

Ahem. Ok. I'll shut up now.

Comment from: Quellan posted at June 6, 2005 10:22 AM

A propos schadenfreude - All of the people I know that have lived in both Germany and the US for extended periods of time (all three of them) have noted that the word is used much more frequently in the US than in Germany. Also, it's worth noting that it's one of those compound words that Germans are so fond of. An extremely crude translation would be something like sadhappy or maybe sadjoy (schade - sad, or possibly it's a shame; and freude happiness or joy). The point being that it's not a natural/important enough concept to merit it's own 'real' word/primitive, and instead has to built up.

Also vis-a-vis the whole happiness = someone else's sorrow often humour can be categorised in multiple ways, and people who propose this model seem to (in my opinion) force humour into the cruelty model. Things like Mr. Bean and Monty Python can, as mentioned, be considered humour by way of cruelty but it seems to me that humour by way of silliness/absurdity was a better fit.

Also, does anyone know where this idea came from? To the best of my knowledge it was originated by Heinlein, which would play a large part in it's superior presence on this side of the pond (this side being the American one).

Comment from: Xaviar Xerexes posted at June 6, 2005 10:25 AM

Hey Wright - webcomics are punk rock is my analogy! I was saying that in 98/99 when webcomics were still punk!

Kids... :)

And who said webcomics were all about making money? 99% of the folks who are making webcomics are still DIY for love and attention.

Anyhow we have a comixpedia forum thread on this too if anyone's interested. Briefly though I disagree with Eric - this is just a flareup of a debate that's been ongoing since there have been "webcomics". And on some levels it a real debate over what webcomics mean and on other levels it's just jostling for credit in the webcomics world. But this latest go-round is neither exceptionally mean nor exceptionally revealing - it just points out that there will always be disagreement between those who emphasize the artistic possibilities of webcomics and those who emphasize the distribution possibilities of webcomics.

I happen to think they're both right but sometimes I think I'm the only one who thinks that.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at June 6, 2005 10:32 AM


I started my webcomic in 1996.

Ahem. :)

Comment from: djcoffman posted at June 6, 2005 10:50 AM

I don't know about anyone else, but I was wondering if Cat really tries to buy weed off of them at the San Diego Comicon. That's too funny.

My opinion. Everyone needs to lighten up on the issue. Hell, they drew him how he pretty much looks, they didn't have an arrow pointing to him saying LOOK AT THIS FAT COMIC IDIOT! -- And I'm just as fat and unhealthy as the next guy.

Another perspective is this.. look at this CONVERSATION this has started. Webcomics actually have EDITORIAL cartoons. And we all know Editorial cartoons can be..well, a little mean. Especially if you're the person they're digging in on.

It's just a comic strip, it's not WHO Cat is or what he's about.

If you put yourself out there, you need to be ready for people to ridicule you, criticism. If that strip had been about me, I'd of been entirely elated.

Something to think about.

Comment from: Freak posted at June 6, 2005 11:06 AM

Doug, I don't think the problem is that they're going after an individual; in "attack humor", it's important to choose worthy targets. An incisive review of a poor CD by a top 10 band could be witty; an equivalent review of an equivalent CD by a high school band would come off as just being mean-spirited. Somebody who's been issuing hype like the Infinium guys is fair game for anyone; Cat Garza just isn't in the same league.

Comment from: William_G posted at June 6, 2005 11:07 AM

But that doesn't change the simple, inexorable fact that what they did was pure, unadulterated bullying.

Yes, it was. You seem to have picked up on what happenes when dorks get some small amount of weight of their own to throw around. Good show.

Comment from: jeremiahsmith posted at June 6, 2005 11:21 AM

If you've been made fun of for sounding like a pretentious arthouse dork when talking about webcomics, I would suggest that the best course of action is to, uh, not sound like a pretentious arthouse dork.

Comment from: scrubbo posted at June 6, 2005 11:23 AM

You're seriously comparing a comic strip mocking a seriously out of date 'cutting edge' documentary to shooting a twinkie addicted deer? (Wait, maybe the deer was also a cartoonist. Lord knows most webcomicers look like twinkies are a staple of their diet.)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at June 6, 2005 11:32 AM

We are all twinkie-stuft deer, stumbling blindly through the undergrowth.

The twinkie part of the Sorkin quote makes me seriously recast hunting shows in the old comic book Hostess ads.

"We can't seem to get those deer to come out, Cap!"

"Darn, Bucky -- wait! I've an idea that just might work! Deer love twinkies brand snack cakes, after all! All that moist golden cake and creamy filling just pulls them in"

"Wow, Cap! Another twelve pointer bagged!"

"Bagged with Twinkies brand snack cakes, you mean!"

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at June 6, 2005 11:43 AM

Which in turn makes me think of early Bloom County comics, when Milo and his uncle (grandfather? can't remember) would be hunting liberals:

"Use the lure, Milo."

Milo: No Nukes!

(undergrowth rustles)

Liberal: No Nukes! No Nukes!


Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at June 6, 2005 11:47 AM

Dammit. Now I feel bad.

Thanks for the reality check, Eric.

Comment from: Allen Shull posted at June 6, 2005 11:53 AM

Christopher: Another quote, from Samuel Johnson, re: making money: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." The only people I seem to ever hear complaining about how money ruins things are either college kids whose parents pay for everything or the rare legitimate hippies who don't actually use money, and therefore don't need it. For the rest of us trying to pay rent and eat, as well as move a little higher in life, making money helps out quite nicely.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at June 6, 2005 11:56 AM

I have nothing against the fact that people want to make money off this. Nothing at all.

What bugs the hell out of me are people who feel that the only way this can happen is if they hunt down everyone else who dares say or do anything different from their Official and Approved Plan For This To Happen, brand them as traitors and idiots, and drive them out of town with sticks.

Comment from: chaos cricket posted at June 6, 2005 12:12 PM

I got driven out of town with sticks once. Actually, I got driven out of town with the band Styx once. And really, I didn't get driven out of town with them, it was more like I was driven out of a town they were in.

Comment from: William_G posted at June 6, 2005 12:28 PM

If you've been made fun of for sounding like a pretentious arthouse dork when talking about webcomics, I would suggest that the best course of action is to, uh, not sound like a pretentious arthouse dork.

Shhh... the adults are talking.

What bugs the hell out of me are people who feel that the only way this can happen is if they hunt down everyone else who dares say or do anything different from their Official and Approved Plan For This To Happen, brand them as traitors and idiots, and drive them out of town with sticks.

Did you consider telling this to Holkins and Krahulik, Christopher?

Anyway, Joey Manley better described this all as "those whose webcomics owe more to the newspaper strip tradition, vs. those whose webcomics arose out of the indie comic book/graphic novel scene"

In fact, I'm willing to suggest that both the "Art vs Hobby" "Art vs Money" debates are mcguffins.

Comment from: SeanH posted at June 6, 2005 1:03 PM

The point has been made that Jerry Holkins is a fat bald guy and Cat Garza is a fat guy with a lot of hair. I personally find it amusing that the PA strip in question featured Garza drawn more or less accurately, but Holkins/Tycho drawn as a thin guy with lots of hair.

Comment from: joeymanley posted at June 6, 2005 1:04 PM

Thanks for quoting me approvingly, Willie G, but, just in case anybody thinks I was taking sides when I said that, or that I was even taking myself very seriously and offering some grand perfect categorization scheme, here's the full context of what I said over on the Comixpedia thread about this snark:


I'm of the school of thought that both "camps" (crudely and inaccurately: those whose webcomics owe more to the newspaper strip tradition, vs. those whose webcomics arose out of the indie comic book/graphic novel scene) are vital & interesting & have brought great comics & good business ideas into play. I'm surprised, actually, that there are still "camps." I thought those divisions broke down long ago.


I get accused of being pretentious myself, a LOT, and I just don't see it. If you don't KNOW you're pretentious, are you really pretentious, or is the "pretend" part of the word meaningless? Is it possible to be, I guess I'm asking, sincere in pretention? If so, maybe I am that thing they say. I dunno.

As for cat, he's about the most humble and down-to-earth guy I've ever met. A real sweetheart. It should also be mentioned that he was producing the kinds of comics he makes *before* Reinventing Comics came out (his work is referenced within that work), and long, long before Modern Tales. So if anything, McCloud and I have swallowed the cat garza Kool-Aid, not the other way around.



Comment from: jeremiahsmith posted at June 6, 2005 1:06 PM

Shhh... the adults are talking.

I'll just sit tight and let the Internet kindergarten teachers here settle of all this, then. After you're done yelling at Penny Arcade to play nice and get along and not be mean to anyone ever about anything even if some people are being obnoxiously pretentious, can we do fingerpaints?

Comment from: Allen Shull posted at June 6, 2005 1:06 PM

I can see why you're confused. Holkins takes the Tycho role and Kahulik takes the Gabe role, but in the actual comic there's not a whole lot of actual personification going on other than "Tycho smart one, Gabe loud one"--they're charicatures at best and completely independent at the least. I think what would more comfortably entertain you would be if Tycho and Gabe were accosting a character of Cat Garza's

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at June 6, 2005 1:33 PM

Did you consider telling this to Holkins and Krahulik, Christopher?

Why would they care what I think? I suppose if I played it off just right, they might target me at some point down the road. Which would be kinda neat.

(Of course, there's no reason any of you should care what I think either. But I'm already inclined to post here so that becomes less of an issue.)

Comment from: arscott posted at June 6, 2005 2:01 PM

Two points:

1) You can make a joke about the misfortune of others. But it's cheap, second rate humor. The best jokes laugh at the misfortune of the person telling the joke.

2) How much of this is because Kurtz and the PA guys refuse to acknowledge that other webcomics even exist? Think about it. Their biggest complaint seems to be "This movie is not about us." But why should it be? Neither is particularly innovative, neither acknowledges that other webcomics even exist, and one of them isn't even good.

The essence of any internet phenomenon is that it's a community. Every webcomic I read today, I read because I started reading Real Life in 10th grade.

I have forty comics in my regularly checked bookmarks list. All except sluggy have permanent links to other comics or comics collectives on their main page or on a seperate links page. And my list includes Doonsbury and several other syndicated strips. Comics that are bigger that Kurtz and Krahulik will ever be.

Penny-Arcade has no permanent links. The only time Gabe and Tycho ever manage to link something is when they're brutalizing it to satisfy the Roman-Circus crowd that gets off on their rants.

Scott's not much better. A few weeks ago, he posted a rant that Aaron Williams was the unsung hero of PvP. Kurtz said, among other things, that "Most of your favorite PvP strips have had Aaron's direct input. Some of them were COMPLETELY written by Aaron." And yet the only way I can find a link to Nodwick, Aaron's comic, is by hunting around the old news archive.

The only links on the PVP main page are one for Image, and one for Blank Label. But if he actually felt the Blank labeleers deserved support, why didn't he link to them earlier? As it stands, his actions read "I honestly don't care about any of you or your comics, but I want to take a shot at Keen and Crosby".

Fact is, they're just annoying whiners who hate the idea of competition. It's not the syndicates that are trying to stifle the little guy. It's P-A and PvP. The big names of our webcomic revolution are setting up their own pet dictatorship. I say it's time for a coup

Comment from: RMG posted at June 6, 2005 2:17 PM

The point has been made that Jerry Holkins is a fat bald guy and Cat Garza is a fat guy with a lot of hair. I personally find it amusing that the PA strip in question featured Garza drawn more or less accurately, but Holkins/Tycho drawn as a thin guy with lots of hair.

The characters in PA didn't start off as being representations of Tycho and Gabe (as evidenced by that early strip where they're given names like "Jack" or "John" or something), they only evolved into the mouthpieces/avatars of their creators later on in the game.

Anyway, yayyay webernet comic drama!111

Comment from: Shaenon posted at June 6, 2005 2:32 PM

For the record, Cat Garza is much cuter than either the unflattering still from the trailer or the ugly PA caricature suggest. And I seriously doubt he's ever hit the PA guys up for weed. CAT GARZA HAS HIS OWN BUD, DUH.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at June 6, 2005 2:33 PM

Two points:

1) Nodwick had, for a very long time, a permanent link and graphic on the PvP home page. Scott Kurtz has always been very good about drawing attention to Nodwick.

2) There is much in the Kurtz essay I agree with. And I think the Kurtz essay was well done.

None of what I'm saying, above, means that Cat Garza is right and Gabe and Tycho are wrong. (Or vice versa -- I open by essentially disagreeing with what Cat Garza was saying in the trailer.) Nor is it about my opinions of what the trailer covered or what the movie will cover.

My points are twofold: 1) by casting the traditional artist vs. establishment vibe (as well as referencing 'movements' that are years old now) the trailer opens itself up to mockery or at the least deflation, and the people involved need to know that. 2) one can editorialize, be funny, and even be brutally honest without being mean -- and when people are mean, it skews the entire discussion. Kurtz and Garrity are on opposite sides of the issue, but both wrote good stuff about it. But both their bits were colored by the Penny Arcade strip, and both are seen cast within it.

Most of all, Gabe and Tycho came across -- to me, admittedly -- like they were beating the Hell out of a target out of their weight class. I stand by that interpretation, and stand by my essay about it.

Comment from: jeremiahsmith posted at June 6, 2005 2:37 PM

The big names of our webcomic revolution are setting up their own pet dictatorship. I say it's time for a coup.

*ponders* I'll bite. How do you plan on doing this? Are you going to stop linking to them? Write angry rants about them? Boycott them? That'll show 'em!

(And why is "Won't Get Fooled Again" running through my head all of a sudden?)

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at June 6, 2005 2:59 PM

Well, the PA guys have taken note of this post, but largely dismiss it with that old canard about dissecting jokes and frogs (i.e. fooey on critical analysis, who cares?). So no stomping forthcoming, apparently.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at June 6, 2005 3:06 PM

I wouldn't call it a dismissal, per se. I mean, no one says they actually have to like Websnark. They acknowledged along with rendering their opinion (with a surprising amount of restraint, to boot.)

They also link to several other places where the discussion is taking place, which is likely a good thing for folks to follow up on if they're interested. They didn't link to Shaenon's strip, but otherwise I think they got everyone.

Comment from: miyaa posted at June 6, 2005 3:10 PM

Eric, first of all your quote about Jeremy from SportsNight is followed by what many feel is the best quote from SportsNight, from Robert Guillaume playing Issac. He says, "If you're stupid, surround yourself with smart people. If you're smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you."

And I think that applies here. As Gabe mentioned today, he wants debate. He wants "people intelligently debating", and he's got it. But I don't know if the initial opinions have come after much thought or if its off-the-cuff.

I also like to make one other point. It's just the preview that we're debating about. No one has seen the entire documentary. (This is why I don't download software betas. I'd rather buy the whole thing and return it if I'm not happy than to download a free preview, but that's another subject for another time.) I wouldn't sweat it until someone has seen the entire movie and given his or her opinion.

Comment from: SarDeliac posted at June 6, 2005 3:17 PM

I'm very glad you're around to help defend Cat Garza. It's a shame he's completely incapable of defending himself, or responding to his critics in his own way.

Should he have chosen to do so.

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at June 6, 2005 3:52 PM

A gross oversimplification:

Drama is cat beating mouse. Comedy is mouse beating cat.

Eric, your main beef seems to be that Penny Arcade (huge webcomic juggernaut) is picking on Cat Garza (not-huge webcomic non-juggernaut) and calling this cat-kills-mouse game "humor" when it's not From the Penny Arcade perspective, on the other hand, it makes sense. The PA guys are casting themselves as the scrappy, wily artistic small-guys here against what they see to be the huge, overblown pompousness of "High Art". They cast it as funny because they're the mice beating out the...

...well, um, beating out the Cat, as it were.

That was actually pretty clever of me! I'm going to pretend I planned it.

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at June 6, 2005 3:55 PM

Dangit, there has got to be a way to edit your posts on this thing, somehow. Until we find it, please mentally append a Paragraph Break before "From the Penny Arcade perspective...". Thanks.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at June 6, 2005 4:17 PM

Man, what does it say that I saw you mention people playing video games all day, Eric, and I initially thought it was a shot at me and anyone else who does spend their day playing video games and then writing on them? I know what you meant, but you probably should have made that more obvious more quickly.

As for the PA guys... well, the best way I can say it is that they're video gamers, and you should expect this from them.

I hate to get into stereotypes, especially amongst a group I proudly consider myself a member. But to be honest, video gamers tend to be exceptionally harsh towards anything that they see as being against them and their particular prejudices.

My clearest example is with Final Fantasy 7. Personally, I hate it - one of the worst games I've ever played. I wrote a piece over five years ago detailing specifically why I hate it. Keep in mind that I never insult anyone for liking it or being associated with it. One of my best friends, in fact, helped make the game and is listed in the credits. But you would not believe the venomous responses I've seen in regards to that piece. You'd think I kicked kittens for sport and held daily sacrifices to Cthulhu from the tone of these responses. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn't get so many negative emails if I did claim to do those things.

In some ways, I think that it's important for the trailer to specifically avoid mentioning PvP and PA. It should give someone less recognized like Garza extra attention. Quite simply, everyone in the target audience probably already knows the former two comics and already has their opinions in place, while only a small percentage know of Garza (I certainly didn't). I don't think any given artist would have made the trailer become more palatable to those outside of the target audience or within it. So why not use the trailer to hype someone smaller, who could use the boost?

Besides, for all their complaining, we don't know which webcomics will be discussed in this piece. I'd like to hope that Kurtz, at least, would issue some small apology if they discuss PvP at all during the finished documentary.

That, and I could hope for a "Kurtz vs. Keen" documentary to finally happen, just to see an ink-stained soap opera disguised as a webcomics documentary.

Comment from: nukethewhalesagain posted at June 6, 2005 4:36 PM

Here's the thing about comedy. I know I am fat and ugly. I have made fun of my own fat and ugliness. So I reserve the right to call anybody I want fat and ugly as long as its funny.

This is not hunting. Nobody is going to die. And bambi can have his fat and ugly mom back.

To take Gabe and Tyco to task for making fun of someone who is "weaker" seeems to make the point that gabe and tycho are somehow better than cat for gabe and tycho. I don't think that when Gabe and Tycho made fun of Cat's looks by saying that he looks like a pothead (which he does) is someone making fun of a weakling. Gabe and Tycho aren't claiming to be beautiful, they just think Cat is funny looking. If they were making fun of him because of how much more popular they are than him (which they haven't done) then they would be claiming superiority therefore changing the argument a little.

Comment from: Tachyon360 posted at June 6, 2005 4:52 PM

I only skimmed over the comments, so forgive me if it's been said before, but to the first post: it doesn't seem to me like PVP and Penny Arcade have a beef with Cat because they're not included in the documentary. Everything seems to be a beef with the lack of any inclusion of their side of the argument. It's kinda like how every time President Bush goes to a town meeting somewhere, his staff makes sure no liberals, moderates, or dissenting conservatives from the area actually get into the meeting, so that Bush would face no criticism.

Besides, it seems to me like people here are getting way more offended than Cat Garza himself. Either that, or he's too busy crying in some corner to make a rebuttal (which I really doubt, but it remains a posibility).

Comment from: Snowspinner posted at June 6, 2005 5:32 PM

No argument that it's mean. It was mean. It was a gratuitious attack on somebody of the sort that they always do.

And that's before I get to the one where they insult Scott McCloud in the archives.

Comment from: Montykins posted at June 6, 2005 5:59 PM

You can make a joke about the misfortune of others. But it's cheap, second rate humor. The best jokes laugh at the misfortune of the person telling the joke.

What do you mean by "best", exactly? I'm pretty sure it can't be "funniest", since the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, and any number of other extremely funny people I could mention made many hilarious jokes at other people's expense.

I don't think humor comes with "second rate" classifications. If it's funny, it's funny. Mel Brooks isn't high-minded, but he's funny. The SNL "presidential debate" sketch with "strategery" and "lockbox" wasn't fair (or even all that accurate), but it was very, very funny.

It's a mistake to expect humor to live up to moral standards.

Comment from: Prodigal posted at June 6, 2005 6:55 PM

Unfortunately, Miyaa, the way to get an intelligent debate started is not to start throwing feces like a monkey in the zoo.

Comment from: JackSlack posted at June 6, 2005 7:11 PM

All I know is, you'd better believe Penny Arcade /will/ respond to this. They've never liked Websnark in the first place (watch how swiftly and gleefully Gabe leaped on Eric's mistake involving the Keenspot newsbox) and this is tantamount to a declaration of war for them.

Comment from: Merus posted at June 6, 2005 7:19 PM

You can't say that a quality of a joke depends on what it's trying to achieve. Leno can be funny.

About the only thing I said was that you can't say that cruelty is at the heart of all humour, and that it's a more common form of humour in the United States. I can't find the study where they found the correlation, but it's the one where they tried to find the funniest joke in the world. (Which is weird enough to throw off my search-fu, apparantly).

I'm sure I could draw correlations here, but it's a tiny debate about humour of the sort (and size) I've stirred up before being lost in a relatively tiny debate about some three-year-old trailer for an industry that's just a blip on the radar, so I couldn't be arsed, frankly.

Comment from: jeremiahsmith posted at June 6, 2005 7:27 PM

All I know is, you'd better believe Penny Arcade /will/ respond to this. They've never liked Websnark in the first place (watch how swiftly and gleefully Gabe leaped on Eric's mistake involving the Keenspot newsbox) and this is tantamount to a declaration of war for them.

They already did respond. Read their front page.

Comment from: Archon Divinus posted at June 6, 2005 8:33 PM

I think Gabe and Tycho (and Buckley) are right here. These people are talking about how great they are because they're pretentious gits, and acting like the mainstream webcomics don't exist. They're the kind of jerks who deserve to be made fun of because they act like they are better than everyone else.

Comment from: Quellan posted at June 6, 2005 9:05 PM

Merus. The article is here: (no link because I'm not quite sure how to do that)


Comment from: Tangent posted at June 6, 2005 10:03 PM

I don't think this is going to end up with PA declaring war on Websnark. I'm not saying Websnark is below their radar or anything like that, but... if they're going to attack Eric, it'll be when he's wrong about something. They attacked when Eric slipped up about the Friendly Hostility newsbox thing (though that was an honest enough mistake caused by not having thoroughly read what was said - a basic misinterpretation that quite a few people made. Besides, Eric admitted when he was wrong and printed a retraction, without erasing the original. That is something I truly respect Eric about), but in this case... Eric has one major complaint: Tycho and Gabe were a bit mean-spirited in their comments.

And it's true. They were. It wasn't even funny (which is sad, the least they could have done was been light-hearted in their mean-spiritedness).

So, outside of a comment on Eric taking the fun out of comics by reviewing them, I doubt they'll take Eric to task today. And they'll likely forget it in a week.

After all, they've got their Great Rivalry with Scott Kurtz to think about. ;)

Robert A. Howard, Tangents reviewer


Comment from: Prodigal posted at June 6, 2005 11:48 PM

"They're the kind of jerks who deserve to be made fun of because they act like they are better than everyone else."

So does that mean when Gabe and Tycho decided to act like they're better than everybody involved with the documentary, they became fair game? Whee!

Comment from: gwalla posted at June 7, 2005 12:19 AM

Snowspinner: those links aren't working for me. :(

Comment from: Zetjintsu posted at June 7, 2005 12:36 AM

Yes, it was mean, but damnit, I found the PA strip/rant real funny. Instead of looking at it as PA (bully) vs. Cat (little guy) I see it as PA vs Artistic Pretensionous Bullshit, which is definintely not the little guy, but a huge inflated (with hot air) monstrousity, which deserves a good thrashing whenever it rears its ugly head.

Comment from: Lapis Lazuli posted at June 7, 2005 1:14 AM

Christ, I thought I had finally evaded all the faux-persecution and enfeebled, retaliatory denigration of "well they did this, it's because they're trying to be cool! See how not like us they are! See how genuine we are!" when I was no longer considered a subscriber of self-important high school student papers.

Claiming that the PA guys did it as a malicious rag on Garza is either ignorant or dishonest. They've never tempered their reactions to something, and they've always been direct, without all the melodramatic bullshit that seems to be so inherent in digital comickry. Calling something as it is plainly pretentious is not a vitriolic attempt to ingratiate themselves in some leering company, the us and them, but just their candor. The reason PA has held my attention so long is because they often seem to be the only honest and self-aware group in the spotlight.

Why portray things as a such a puerile, petty battle when it's fire and forget? Given also their past tendency to disparage and disclose their own physical and social alienations, I fail to see how anyone familiar with PA could imagine such playground antics in their response rather than in the environment around them.

Comment from: Maritza Campos posted at June 7, 2005 1:42 AM

What I don't understand is why webcartoonists insist on attacking each other *personally*, instead of the *ideas* behind them. I can, and will disagree with a lot of people lots of the time. Jumping from "I disagree with you" to personally attacking the cartoonist is the best and quickest way to kill an intelligent point that is trying to be made.


College Roomies from Hell!!!

Comment from: siwangmu posted at June 7, 2005 2:46 AM

Er, I have thoughts I wanted to share regarding the Sports Night Hunting thing, but I put them on the next snark instead of this one, so--oops! If by some chance you care, look there!

Comment from: TheBard posted at June 7, 2005 4:55 AM

I don't think Gabe and Tycho are mean, just because of their posting. They aren't bashing Cat because of his appearance. They are making fun, because he looks funny. They even use the same picture which is used to promote the movie trailer. And I don't think there is anybody who wouldn't agree that this very picture is somewhat... not well taken.

Anyway, that's not the real point. What I see here is that it's quite ridiculous writing a posting like this. "How dare they take that pinnacle moment from Cat Garza?" Oh COME ON. This isn't about Cat Garza, this is about the Webcomics Community. We all know that there are MANY established comic artists out there, many who defined the webcomics community when it was young. I don't spend all my time reading every single last webcomic there is, but I know quite a lot and I've been reading many years. Now I watched the trailer, read the article and most of these names I've never even heard of. Where are the interviews with the people who are REALLY part of the wc community?

It's like having some klisch╗e artists walking into a flourishing town, taling about building a town there, not mentioning or seeing that there already is one. And its inhabitants wonder what the fuss is all about.

(I also must say that English isn't my first language, so please excuse some errors)

Comment from: Old Man posted at June 7, 2005 8:55 AM

The whole concept of, "don't pick on him because he's little" is wrong on many levels. First, it's insulting to Cat. "Poor little Cat, he tries SO hard". "It means so much to the poor dear". Am I the only one who found this condescending?

Also, you can quickly see that this would not work applied largely to our society. "Looking how brutish that large NGO is being on that little group of neo-Nazis". Exaggerating to make a point here, of course, but being "small" does not give you rights to avoid criticism from all sides.

Was showing the photo making it "personal"? Let's be clear that PA has a large streak of juvenile humor. Also, insulting humor. It's part of their shtick. That doesn't justify what was done here, but if you don't like it, you need to make an argument that PA should remove this juvenile, insulting style from their comic.

Someone might say, well, juvenile insults are fine, just not in this case! Every juvenile insult offends someone. It just happens to be you here. Ergo, if the criteria to remove one is that it offends someone, you end up removing them all.

I don't think the PA folks are saints or gods or whatnot. But I find it very strange that their very well thought out criticism gets less treatment then the probably 2-second gag they put in. I'd rather have heard more about "let's reach out to the mainstream" and the ensuing issues than hear about how those PA meanies were hurting poor Cat's feelings. And if someone could direct this particular idiot to where you learn to, say, put spaces into posts, I'd appreciate it.

Comment from: Tangent posted at June 7, 2005 10:23 AM

Maritza: The reason attacks go personal is twofold. First, people sometimes consider attacks on their beliefs to be personal attacks. If you attack their philosophies, their ideals, then are you not thus saying that they themselves are a bad person? (Of course not. But a person's self-doubt and self-loathing can be powerful things.) This often happens when a person is defending a point that is weak and the counter-argument is making them doubt themselves.

Second, if you attack the person and make them look bad, then their beliefs are likewise dragged down into the mud with them. If such and such mentions an ideal that should be followed and then party B turns around and reveals that such and such is a pothead, buys drugs regularly, and has bad hygiene, you start to wonder about that ideal.

So there is a madness to their insanity. (And yes, I mean insanity instead of method.)

Robert A. Howard


Comment from: SteelTemplar posted at June 7, 2005 5:41 PM

Penny Arcade has always been telling things like they are pretty much as long as they've been around. That includes now.

And, personally, I thought the comic was spot-on hilarious.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at June 7, 2005 6:01 PM


Though I had less of a background in the... Er... Background, I had pretty much the same reaction when I saw that PA. It went something along the lines of "Oh hell, Gabe and Tycho are picking on some poor guy who's dared to talk about how things might be better again."

Frankly, some of the best webcomics I read are the ones that don't try to make money. I don't remember ever seeing any Demonology 101 merchandise, for example. And Faith hasn't followed the standard model and dumped the whole thing on Modern Tales in the pay-per-view section.

Comment from: Prodigal posted at June 8, 2005 1:03 AM

"Claiming that the PA guys did it as a malicious rag on Garza is either ignorant or dishonest."

No, it is the honest conclusion I came to after reading what they wrote in the comic and the rant, and then remembering how one of them complained to Scott Kurtz about how they weren't in the documentary. An informed, rather than ignorant, opinion.

Comment from: EsotericWombat posted at June 8, 2005 2:42 PM

Ok, I've weighed in on the whole PA/PVP thing before and, quite justly so, been called bullshit on it. Here's what I'm getting from this.

It would have been a thoroughly chickenshit thing for Tycho to do if he'd posted what he said to Kurtz on his newspost

But he didn't. That was private correspondance, the proper forum for such discussion. Its hubris to come out and say it in front of everyone, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with saying something like that privately. It was Kurtz's gaff there. However, just because its not something you should go around saying to everyone doesn't mean that the sentiment is valid.

point is, if the topic here is the enablement of creator-controlled sequential art, then PVP and Penny Arcade are vital points of discussion. Both strips are shining examples of self-reliance through autocommercialization. And both of them did so without altering their art. And furthermore, each has pioneered its own method. When Penny Arcade almost went under years back, they were among the first content-based websites to see signifigant sucess with the donation model. Now they're doing the job with targeted, non-intrusive advertising (I'm not going to claim that they were revolutionary there, but their excecution is a shining example of good web advertizing)

That was fucking huge for webcomics. As a direct result, we're getting (among other things) a tremendous bounty every week from Randy. Its allowed plenty of cartoonists to go pro, and while its entirely plausible that someone else may have made the model work, it wouldn't have been the same.

As for Kurtz, we all know what he's doing. And sure, his free syndication plan doesn't seem to be panning out at the moment, but who knows? The point is, you can't argue its relevancy. Especially given what this would mean if it works. If his vision of a creator collective is ever realized, then I don't even need to say how important that would be. Even if it doesn't seem to be taking off, it is still a very real possibility, and thus relevant.

What I'm saying is that the contributions that PVP and Penny Arcade have made to webcomics are inarguable, and thus, not including them in a discussion of this alleged digital revolution, if as nothing else other than an alternate perspective.

Having read Tycho's newsposts I get the idea that just maybe he's a bit offended about Penny Arcade being excluded from so many "serious" discussions of webcomics. Wouldn't be a stretch to think that Gabe feels the same way. I'm making no judgement as to whether they have any business being offended, save to restate what Rosenburg said. Tycho is fucking serious about writing comedy, whether you appreciate his brand of it or not. And Gabe is serious about his artwork. So whether or not they're in the right to be offended, I can certainly understand it if they are.

And they responded with a comic strip, because that's what they do

And yes, the comic strip was mean. Because thats how they do comic strips.

And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Comment from: joeymanley posted at June 9, 2005 12:35 PM

From Scott McCloud:

Why Tycho Owes You an Apology

There's a lot of juicy stuff. Most relevant excerpt to the post immediately above this one:

"...the makers of this documentary contacted Penny-Arcade twice asking Tycho and Gabe to be involved in the documentary and they never responded. And Scott Kurtz? They contacted him at least three times*, also with no response."

This is finished.



Comment from: nukethewhalesagain posted at June 9, 2005 7:09 PM

Since there is no comment space in McCloud's site (that I can see) I will post MY response to his argument here.

His first issue is with that statement that Tycho made to Kurtz. It seems to me that Tycho was being funny when he sent a casual message to Kurtz. It was a joke. I doubt he meant it as seriously as everyone seems to be taking it. His second issue is with the idea that this movie is full of his followers saying the same old thing all of his followers have been saying. And that Tycho got this impression after seeing a 70 second trailer. It would seem to me that if that wasn't what the movie was about why did they make it what the entire trailer was saying. Then he talks about how Tycho says that experimental comics are a waste of time. Tycho said no such thing as I read it. And finally again someone derides a humorist for making a pot smoking joke about a guy who looks like he smokes pot.

He ends it by saying that Tycho should apologise for seriously hurting the reputation of the people who made the movie. The only people who are giving these people a bad reputation are those makeing a big deal of a few jokes. I think "these guys have no sense of humor how can they tell me anything about the comics I like (funny ones)." Even worse rather than hurting their reputation this whole brouhaha has made them a pretty big deal and are getting free publicity.

Comment from: Prodigal posted at June 9, 2005 8:49 PM

No, the people giving Gabe and Tycho a bad reputation are Gabe and Tycho.

Comment from: Luggage posted at June 9, 2005 10:59 PM

I think this is ridiculous.

Gabe and Tycho see a trailer about how "The Man" is keeping webcomics down, and how "The Man" is trampling creative freedom.

They then post a comic, making fun of it, and just happen to say that one guy looks like he smokes pot.

Everyone gets all up in arms about it, calling it a personal attack on an innocent.

Kurtz makes a rant, and happens to mention that Tycho said that, when most people talk about webcomics, they only to talk about these people, rather than those don't think there's "The Man" (i.e., Penny Arcade and PvP). This is presumably because they are "The Man", although if Gabe and Tycho are "The Man", then presumably, Kurtz is "The Woman".

Scott McCloud gets pissed off and interprets it as a personal attack, and rallies the troops. Wailing and gnashing of teeth, blah, blah, blah, etc, etc.

Meanwhile, Cat Garza makes an incredibly badly spelled and grammaticized post about how indifferent he is.

Comment from: TheHappyToaster posted at June 9, 2005 11:24 PM

(First, some background. I'm not a part of the "scene", or "industry" or whatever you're all calling the act of drawing pictures and posting them on various intrawebs. I'm a person who only reads 3 webcomics when he has the time/inclination to check into them at all.)

To put my opinion of this whole issue into simple, concise terms...you're all pretentious fools. This whole debate is nonsensical.

Saying that Penny Arcade is "not funny" and quantifying humor is useless. Humor is in the eye of the beholder. I'm laughing harder at all of the preaching on both sides of this lunacy.

And it's all because neither side has a valid argument. Everyone here is taking things out of context and imbuing them with a seriousness that reminds me of a biblical discussion.

Both sides accuse the other of pretention, and that the other side is wrong, based on private IMs and movie trailers.

These are opinions about the concepts presented in a TRAILER. Wait for the film before formulating an opinion. It's like Chris Rock said, "Pretty much anyone who makes up their mind before they hear the issue is a [friggin] FOOL."

I think that you're all idiots for taking funny pictures on the internet about a 1-minute trailer of a documentary about about funny pictures on the internet so seriously.

They're funny pictures. Laugh and go along. If you want to be serious and preachy, get into politics or the clergy. Now shut up and let me go back to my funny pictures.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at June 9, 2005 11:29 PM

"Meanwhile, Cat Garza makes an incredibly badly spelled and grammaticized post about how indifferent he is."

Great! I'm all for holding people accountable for their statements and making judgments based on the clarity and accuracy of their phrasing.

On the other hand,

"Kurtz makes a rant, and happens to mention that Tycho said that, when most people talk about webcomics, they only to talk about these people, rather than those don't think there's "The Man" (i.e., Penny Arcade and PvP)."

Specifically, "they only to talk about these people, rather than those don't think there's "The Man.""

. . .

After intensive analysis, I think I have deduced what the hell that's supposed to say, but let me tell you a story:

There once was a native chieftain who lived in a beautiful two-story hut woven of native plants. He always received visitors in the large room on the second floor. Now, when some foreigners came by and saw that he sat on the floor with them, they scoffed and said that if he were a real leader, he would have a seat of honor. So the chieftain went and got himself a beautiful molded metal chair that would convey his authority and power on sight. Unfortunately, when they got it up to the second story, it fell straight through the floor. The moral of the story? People who live in grass houses shouldn't stow thrones.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at June 9, 2005 11:32 PM

TheHappyToaster: You are judging others for making judgments based on insufficient information, and calling them idiots for it. Eric got mad at Penny Arcade for broadcasting a judgment based on the same information, but you're including him and any who agree with him in your "idiots" category. Man, I'm going to be sure to invite you to all my discussions! Your demonstrated reasoning skills and ability to separate the individual from their opinion are truly impressive.

Comment from: Luggage posted at June 9, 2005 11:42 PM

"Meanwhile, Cat Garza makes an incredibly badly spelled and grammaticized post about how indifferent he is."

Great! I'm all for holding people accountable for their statements and making judgments based on the clarity and accuracy of their phrasing.

Alright, I'll bite. It is kinda mean to critique someone's worth via there spelling and Gramer. I was just the teenciest bit annoyed when I wrote that.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at June 9, 2005 11:50 PM

Luggage: Hey, I can understand that, I've been there. And thanks for not taking it personally that I sorta made fun of you.

Comment from: Obdicut posted at June 10, 2005 4:02 AM

Oh lord.

It's simply, and sadly true that experimental art, art in new forms, etc. is rarely well-funded when it's invented.

It's sadly true that most artists never achieve financial success through their art, whether they're experimental artists or perfectly mainstream.

It's just market forces.

Penny Arcade made a success of themselves, a huge success. If you really want to make a documentary about webcomics in order to help artists achieve financial success, why on earth would you ignore one of the most successful? You don't have to interview them; the fact they didn't respond to requests for interviews is a totally moot point. You can interview other people about them.

If the documentary is just about the art, then PA's got no valid argument; they certainly aren't all that envelope-pushing in their art.

But if it's really a documentary to try to help artists... well, I doubt it'll have any success at all.

Comment from: Kynikos posted at June 10, 2005 4:10 AM

This just in: cartoonist creates unflattering caricature, appends critical dialogue. In other news, Hindenburg explodes.

Film at eleven.

Comment from: Grover Spacenut posted at June 10, 2005 8:21 AM

I read both sides, and i is crap. We Cartoonists are nasty, I have nasty cartoons about all my friends and myself. You know what,they laugh and want to see more, so humour is cruel. America's Funniest Video was the worse. How many times does a man need to get tagged in the nards??

So Tycho is big and he is drawn thin??? i draw mayself the same way, and I weigh in @ 270lbs, I am 100% behind PA. They are funny, sure it can be nasty."Baby vs. Rhino", but I have a laugh and move on.

Comment from: Hands posted at June 10, 2005 10:31 AM

Penny Arcade satirised a topic ripe for satirisation? Wow. Too bad that's what they do, really.

Let's be fair here, Penny Arcade deliver comics that by and large satirise all aspects of the game and webcomic industries and, judging by their active fan base, they do it extremely well. Then, when Tycho writes a comic that shows his personal opinion and also a cartoon representation of Cat, he's a bad guy for it? What a lot of people seem detirmined to avoid here is the fact that the image Tycho used was the official one, he didn't do it to spite anybody.

McCloud doesn't make a single adequate response or useful point in his post. Moreover, in his first three summaries of Tycho's point he mentions himself as though he was a key player in this. He flaunts his statements as though they are fact: "But then again, I don't publish insulting caricatures of other artists while hiding behind a mask. Not cool, guys". If you can find a single instance of either Gabe or Tycho deliberately masking their appearance I will be very surprised; their characters were never originally supposed to be themselves and that is why there is a visual discrepancy.

Visit McCloud's site; he is arrogant in his assertions. Because a format of entertainment is a standard, successful one, that means that users of this format are actively seeking to quash any other format? What would this possibly achieve?

Considering that McCloud is at the forefront of new format styles, is it likely that he would fail to aggressively defend his own work and projects he is involved in? There is more than a little bias at work here.

So a group of artists are trying something new; fine. Tycho did not isolate them and insult their viewpoints; he made light of the fact that such artists blame successful formats when their own, undoubtedly unique style, fails. As Scott Kurtz posts - "Once again I find an unfortunate situation where simple acts and well written posts are over-analyzed, spun and placed within a context of assumed motivations, until the truth behind them is lost." McCloud is such a character.

Also, just in response to Mitch Clem; you claim that "You can't tell me Limp Bizkit on the radio, "You've Got Mail" on screens, and "Big Brother" on television doesn't point to a few massively fucked-up indistries almost completely devoid of nurished creativity and intelligent audiences." I personally have the same opinions as you; but that's all they are, opinion. You simply cannot claim that because you do not like similar instances of film, television and music, the industries are "fucked-up".

Comment from: Prodigal posted at June 10, 2005 10:59 AM

"They then post a comic, making fun of it, and just happen to say that one guy looks like he smokes pot."

No, they said Cat Garza tried to buy pot from them. A subtle difference, perhaps, but still a difference.

"If you really want to make a documentary about webcomics in order to help artists achieve financial success, why on earth would you ignore one of the most successful?"

That must be why the documentary-makers tried several times to get Gabe, Tycho, and Kurtz to be in teh documentary. Pity that none of them ever responded to the invitation, now isn't it?

Comment from: Modab posted at June 10, 2005 1:25 PM

Prodigal -- let's take a look at the wonderful bits of wisdom you've added to this discussion, shall we?

"Unfortunately, Miyaa, the way to get an intelligent debate started is not to start throwing feces like a monkey in the zoo."

No this is actually fortunate. Feces is stinky. And the only point it makes usually is that it is stinky. *Editorial cartoons* however usually have an obligation to make an opinion, and it can be both harsh, obvious -- the goal is to get a point across in 3 or less frames.

"So does that mean when Gabe and Tycho decided to act like they're better than everybody involved with the documentary, they became fair game? Whee!"

Firstly, they drew a cartoon, and expressed an opinion. That doesn't qualify them as being better than anyone else. If anything, it qualifies them as being editorialists, and probably cynical as well. Though your premise is wrong, they, like any prominent figure, are fair game. Good job. And yes, I am being condescending to you because I think I am, in fact, better than you ;-)

"No, it is the honest conclusion I came to after reading what they wrote in the comic and the rant, and then remembering how one of them complained to Scott Kurtz about how they weren't in the documentary. An informed, rather than ignorant, opinion."

You, with your fount of wisdom, have misread the quote. You fail to understand the concept of context, and I am unsure as how to bring this concept to you. They could care less if they were interviewed. They just think it's incredibly funny/stupid that someone could make a documentary about web comics and not talk about commercially successful web comics.

"No, the people giving Gabe and Tycho a bad reputation are Gabe and Tycho"

Actually, they have a wonderfully fantastically *good* reputation. That is certainly one of the reasons they are so popular. If you want to read comics without sting, may I suggest Marmaduke or Family Circus? But yes, in general, one earns ones own good or bad reputation.

"No, they said Cat Garza tried to buy pot from them. A subtle difference, perhaps, but still a difference."
I can't debate you on this fact. It is a difference. Fortunately, since it's a subtle difference, and the whole debate is about the broad strokes of the comic/post, it's irrelevant.

Finally, Obdicut said:

"If you really want to make a documentary about webcomics in order to help artists achieve financial success, why on earth would you ignore one of the most successful?"

And you replied:

"That must be why the documentary-makers tried several times to get Gabe, Tycho, and Kurtz to be in teh documentary. Pity that none of them ever responded to the invitation, now isn't it?"

And that is a sloppy argument. you obviously read the post, so you obviously ignored the statement *immediately* after the first one that says:

"You don't have to interview them; the fact they didn't respond to requests for interviews is a totally moot point. You can interview other people about them."

Not much to add to that.

In summation, your comments are useless.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at June 10, 2005 1:49 PM

In summation, your comments are useless.

That stops now.

A reminder of the rules of the road, for everyone. If you want to insult me, that's fair game. This is my place. This was my post.

If you want to debate your differences of opinion, that's also fair game.

If you want to insult each other, find a message board or take it to mail. Don't do it here.

We went through Kurtz v. Keenspot, William G. v. Most Everyone, and most of this round of drama with most people focusing on the issues. Don't tell me at this stage we can't any more.

Only warning. After this, I lock comments on this entry. Take your comments to other entries, I ban folks.

To sum up:

1. Say what you want about me. I'm fair game.

2. Debate issues, rigorously. That's cool.

3. Attacking each other doesn't happen here.

Got it? Good.

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