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Eric: Perhaps the weirdest take on the end of "A Modest Destiny" out there

Sean Howard, known to Intraweb circles as Squidi, has posted that he's packing it in. I'm not going to go into it here -- have a read if you'd like. Certainly, if he is going away and packing it in, it ends one of the more... dramatic stories in our community.

When I say "if," by the by, I don't misdoubt his sincerity -- it's just, after seeing several strips have painful finales or painful "I'm just done" messages over the past eleven months turn around and come back within three months, I'm understandably dubious about grand departures these days. Howard has acknowledged he's going to continue producing his work, and seeking other venues. I think he'll reach a point of wanting to get it out to his audience. It would surprise me greatly if he simply went softly into that good night.

But, you know, I've been surprised before. And that's not what I want to talk about. No, surrounded by the drama and the long standing grievances and the whole zeitgeist that is Squidi, one overwhelming thought leaps out at me: my God, that's a great archival system.

Have a look at his A Modest Destiny archive pages. They break his story into "seasons," and give you the option of leaping into them, getting a synopsis (I am a big fan of synopses), or going through a page of thumbnails.

Thumbnails. At 100x80 pixels each.

That right there? That's brilliant.

See, when I go to the long list of archives page, it's because I want to either start with a given storyline -- which he gives an option of doing -- or because I want to grab a strip I remember. I do that a lot, in the criticism business. Some sites -- Something Positive leaps to mind here -- give descriptive titles, and that helps. Others, it's a crapshoot of remembering about when the strip was and then going through, strip by strip. Even those sites with keyword search aren't perfect, since you have to know the keywords.

But AMD? You go and glance for the familiar pattern, and you're done.

It wouldn't work with all strips (for example, I doubt it would work for Gossamer Commons). But for AMD, it looks like it works excellently, and I can imagine many other strips doing well by it. I don't know if he does it manually or if he has an automated system, but the folks who do automated systems might want to consider building it as functionality.

I can't speak in an informed way about either Howard's work or his travails -- his seems to be a competently done comic, but it didn't grab my attention, so I didn't become a regular reader. (Which isn't a knock -- there's always stuff that doesn't grab your attention. To this day, I can't stand Joseph Conrad, but that doesn't mean he wrote bad stuff.) But that thumbnail system really struck me as innovative and cool.

And if it spreads from there, that might be a better legacy than the one he seems to be afraid of.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 2, 2005 6:00 PM

Comments

Comment from: Kate Sith posted at August 2, 2005 6:37 PM

Ooh. I'll have to remember that. BAU had a kind of 'title graphic' for each strip--a small thumbnail-ish square image that pulled some detail from the comic it represented--but that's because all the articles for the webmag it originated on had graphics like that. But the full-on thumbnail is a pretty cool idea, too.

I haven't read AMD, but I did read the 'farewell' just now and it gave me a real sinking feeling. Not really sure how to respond.

Also, I hate Heart of Darkness. It is the only book I have ever actively hated, not because it was boring, but because I thought it was poorly written. I've blocked most of it out, but I can remember the little voice in my head ranting 'SHOW, DON'T TELL! SHOW, DON'T TELL!'.

Stupid book.

Comment from: SeanH posted at August 2, 2005 6:41 PM

I managed to miss the entire Squidi controversy - or series of controversies, or meta-controversy, or whatever happened with him. I think I was getting coffee at the time, or something.

Comment from: Kneefers posted at August 2, 2005 7:04 PM

Yeah, I don't really know how I missed all of the hullaballoo about AMD. It may have been before my time, especially considering that I've only been reading webcomics seriously since fall of '04 and AMD itself since late this past spring.

But what I do have to say is that I really did like AMD. It was cute and light at first, but then went a little Cerberus towards the third season, which was fun (I love Cerberus syndrome, so much so that I sometimes ignore something that's blatantly First and Ten...)

And I always liked the archival system, too.

I'm really sorry to see it go; the farewell message gave me a sinking feeling, too. He says he's going to make a zip file of the archives availible, though, which will be cool.

Comment from: David Morgan-Mar posted at August 2, 2005 7:22 PM

If you want to find a particular strip in my archives, you can just type a few words you remember into the search dialogue. It usually pops it right out. Better than scanning nearly 1000 thumbnails. :-)

Comment from: Phuul posted at August 2, 2005 7:37 PM

Someone in the PA formus made an avatar that had feet that looked similar to one of the characters in AMD. Squidi sent a message to the PA guys complaining about it. They posted this this their news page and then a number of the "fans" of the respective comics made obnoxious idiots of themselves.

I haven't read the farewell message off of the squidi.net website because it appears to be down. Although I did read a copy of it in a comment on Randy Millholand's LiveJournal. I don't know if it's accurate however.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 7:43 PM

David -- and it works, and I sure don't mean to add to your workload.

However, if someone kits together Imagemagik to do it automatically, so that when you upload your strip, it also put a thumbnail on a given page... well, that wouldn't break your heart, would it? ;)

Comment from: Kristofer Straub posted at August 2, 2005 7:46 PM

Porn sites use automated thumbnail generators.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 2, 2005 7:51 PM

Hey -- porn! That's another good idea!

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 2, 2005 7:59 PM

Porn's a good idea? You so just volunteered to store the collection when I move back to North America, Eric.

Not all porn sites use thumbnail generators, but those sites are typically run by stupid people who won't use stylesheets in their text-only pieces because "sometimes the text is red."

Comment from: quiller posted at August 2, 2005 8:24 PM

I was a thumbnail generator for a porn site. It doesn't take too long before you get really bored of pictures of naked female bodies. I didn't find an automatic thumbnail generator until the point where I really didn't have to do it anymore.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 2, 2005 10:06 PM

The household term for this, for years, has been "drawing quimagemaps."

Comment from: Kristofer Straub posted at August 2, 2005 10:50 PM

Quim is such a cool word, it's a shame that it's vulgar or I would actually use it somewhere.

Comment from: quiller posted at August 2, 2005 11:12 PM

I suppose that would be a good one to use on bulletin boards with censoring mechanisms. I doubt any board in the US has quim blocked. I probably couldn't use it properly in context though, and would be better off using Yoni if I was trying to use a technical context.

I'm not sure what kind of household Wednesday is in where she needs to have a word for this practice, but chacun son gout.

Comment from: tem2 posted at August 2, 2005 11:33 PM

I just this week borrowed a few ideas from The Soxaholix for text-based dialogue which is fully searchable and can include links. The strips on Last Week's News will be three cells wide instead of one and are set up so that each character's image links to his or her bio and the LWNacy logo links to the archive.

I've been having fun toying around with it for the past couple days.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 3, 2005 12:35 AM

My webcomic had a thumbnail archive too, pretty much since the beginning of it, well before we ever heard of this Squidi dude. I say "had" because while it's still there, we didn't have an automatic way of doing it, and it's gotten a bit behind.

Comment from: Bo Lindbergh posted at August 3, 2005 1:03 AM

Such a perfect situation for using a single image and a client-side image map rather than 120 individual image links....

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 3, 2005 1:16 AM

You'd think porn would be a good idea, but from what I understand Josh Lesnick's attempt to combine porn and webcomics has been kind of struggling. It's surprising, since I thought selling porn on the Internet was like a license to print money.

On the subject of writers thought to be great, I can't stand Toni Morrison. I read Sula. I read Beloved. I could stomach neither.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 3, 2005 1:59 AM

I'm pretty sure Slipshine is still doing okay, money wise. As I understand it, he's planning to stop drawing porn comics because he's getting sick of drawing porn comics. Since he's mentioned on many many occasions how sick of drawing porn comics he was getting.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 3, 2005 2:06 AM

Oh yeah, and I'm pretty sure he's still keeping the site around after he stops drawing porn comics for it. Which reminds me that I should really do another porn comic or something for it at some point . . .

Comment from: William_G posted at August 3, 2005 2:37 AM

then a number of the "fans" of the respective comics made obnoxious idiots of themselves.

HOLY CRAP! Penny Arcade fans would act in such a repulsive manner while the "community" turned a blind-eye to it and the authors shirked their responsibility for causing it?!

I tell you, I am SHOCKED that such a thing would happen! SHOCKED!

Anyway, Squidi's big problem will forever be that the internet, and webcomics community in particular, will never accept the truth about what an ugly, self-obsessed place it is. The man is right in being ashamed to continue to work in this field, and he's right in telling all of us to go fuck ourselvs.

Squidi, if you're reading this:

You've earned my respect. Good show man. Good show.

Comment from: Shaenon posted at August 3, 2005 3:43 AM

Sorry, I'm kind of out of the loop on this particular nerd fight. So, what, this guy is ending his comic, shutting down his website, declaring his eternal hatred of the Internet, *and* losing all faith in humanity because the Penny Arcade guys were rude to him? That's... um... You know, whatever. I'm just glad Cat Garza and John Barber have slightly thicker skins, y'know?

I hate to say anything against the guy's essay because apparently it'll make him cry and possibly shoot up a post office, but his petulant description of getting interviewed by T Campbell -- "He didn't want to talk about anything else, like how AMD has single handedly fought for the legitimacy of the pixel art genre it defined" -- is one of the funniest sentences I've encountered on the entire Internet, and I hang out on John Byrne's message board. Actually, that entire paragraph is awesome.

I'm trying real hard to side with the dude, 'cause I'm as sick of the Penny Arcade guys as the rest of the Internet, but I just can't. I'm sorry. He sounds like Ignatius J. Reilly after too many rounds of "Final Fantasy."

Nice archive navigation, though.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at August 3, 2005 3:50 AM

I always kind of got the impression that Squidi was PART of the whole self-obsessed problem of the internets. But I could be wrong on that, since I usually only pay attention to webcomic drama long enought to point and laugh at everyone involved before going back to drawing my own. Or doing something else that's more productive than getting involved in it. Which would be pretty much anything.

Comment from: Sam Logan posted at August 3, 2005 4:15 AM

You've got it, Will! Squidi is right! The entire rest of the INTERNET is wrong! There's an ambiguous sentiment I can get behind. "I'm ashamed to publish online!" Put that on your next t-shirt, Eric.

It's ludicrous. Self-important grandstanding right until the very end. No one needs to be "ashamed" to work online just because some online personalities and readers act like cocks. There are plenty of cocks in print, too, and I'm not even talking about the porn industry.

Comment from: andustar posted at August 3, 2005 7:04 AM

I can't stand Joseph Conrad, but that doesn't mean he wrote bad stuff

Yes. Yes he did. Urrrgh.

Comment from: Merus posted at August 3, 2005 7:41 AM

"like how AMD has single handedly fought for the legitimacy of the pixel art genre it defined"

When I think 'pixel art', I think Diesel Sweeties. I didn't know that it honestly needed to be fought for, although I guess you have a legitimate grievance if everyone keeps trash-talkin' you because you do a [i]sprite[/i] comic. As far as I'm aware, I think people trash-talked Squidi because they thought he was up himself.

WRT Penny Arcade, at what point should a creator be responsible for the actions of other people? Are PA responsible for their fan's conduct, outside of the official forums? To put it another way, should Eric be responsible for our behaviour if he was in the same position as the PA guys are? (Say, he links to an up-and-coming comic creator while decrying a particular action they've done. Is Eric responsible for what we say to this up-and-comer?)

Also, I think I know who the 'webcomic creator' was he referenced.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at August 3, 2005 8:08 AM

It's worth noting that Applegeeks uses a similar archive format, only theirs are 194x150 thumbnails, they don't make you load all of them at once (although you have that option), and each comic's page has a thumbnail of the comics immediately prior and subsequent.

My only comment on the Sean Howard thing is that when he talks about his readership declining after the Penny Arcade-related fiasco, he may be ascribing the event too strong a role in his loss of readership. The reason I stopped visiting squidi.net is that Sean ended A Modest Destiny and started up The Starship Destiny - and while I enjoyed AMD, I really, really didn't like TSD. It also may have felt like an abandonment of the readers: "Okay, I'm stopping the comic you all came to read and starting an entirely new one!" is, perhaps, not the best tactic when one wants to preserve one's readership.

Comment from: Chris Anthony posted at August 3, 2005 8:10 AM

What I forgot to mention in that last comment is that the Penny Arcade thing and the AMD/TSD switch happened within a month of each other, which is why the switch is relevant to the loss of readership that he ascribes to being attacked by PA's fans.

Comment from: T Campbell posted at August 3, 2005 8:19 AM

I'm the "guy from Comixpedia" he mentions. My response to that is here (revised this morning): http://tcampbell.net/2005/08/oh-geez.html.

Sean's "singlehanded fight for pixel art" actually isn't a total mischaracterization. "The flame war that wouldn't die" owes something to the question of where you draw the line, so to speak, between the Mona Lisa and a single pixel in terms of copyrightability and artistic merit. It owes something to the volatility of PA fandom.

But it also owes something to the fact that constantly citing the Man Who Done You Wrong, and threatening other comics with lawsuits and "shutdowns," is not good public relations.

Comment from: Kristofer Straub posted at August 3, 2005 10:37 AM

I never thought pixel art was in jeopardy. It's not like people think that R Stevens is a hack throwing up ugly work under some pretense. It's just that R Stevens doesn't bring up how Penny Arcade maligned him every time he opens his mouth. (I realize it's been au courant to hate PA for a while now, but I just can't. I'm too old-fashioned.)

Not that I don't understand Squidi not wanting to have his address broadcasted on the internet when he has a baby in the house. That's just creepy. But then, any WHOIS would show you that.

Comment from: benlehman posted at August 3, 2005 10:47 AM

I'm appalled that a comic that started after Diesel Sweeties and Kid Radd, which are pretty much the two seminal "pixel art" comics, could claim any sort of pioneering in that particular genre.

Okay, mostly I just wanted to link to Kid Radd. But you all should read it. It's excellent.

yrs--

--Ben

Comment from: Kirath posted at August 3, 2005 10:48 AM

Speaking as a reader who *did* stop reading as much because of the Squidi vs. PA drama as because I didn't like the new strip, I don't remember all the details exactly, but my impression from the whole thing was this:

Squidi found out (Dunno if he went to the forums himself, or a reader mentioned it, or what) that people on the PA boards were using forum icons that resembled his artwork. I seem to recall someone did say that they used some of Squidi's characters as templates with which to create their own sprite forum icons, and was making them for friends and such.

At that point, he went off the deep end. He accused people of stealing his artwork (Which they weren't), and swore that he would sue every one of them and get Penny Arcade shut down. Right.

At some point he threatened to simply close down his website if he couldn't keep the integrity of his work intact, and there was a flame war between his fans and PA fans that I honestly didn't bother to read.

My favorite part was when he commanded people from the front page of his website to not tell him about that 'Fair Use' crap. (Which, as I understood it, actually applied, though I am not going to claim I have more than a rudimentary understanding of copyright law.)

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 3, 2005 11:00 AM

Well, I don't want to start a flame war, but whenever someone argues that Penny Arcade (Gabe in particular) was mean to Squidi, I feel I should remind them to look at the actual exchange of e-mails. Squidi was being crazy and threatening to sue Penny Arcade, while Gabe was trying to explain nicely that he had no case. You could see clearly that Sqidi was not living in reality durring that exchange.

I only bring this up because I've had people tell me that it was actually Penny Arcade who started it by laughing at Squidi's copyright protection attempts before he ever spoke with them. Which, if you look at the actual post, could not be true because of the paradoxes it creates.

Just saying. Though I had no idea what PA fans were doing afterwards. I figured it just died out. But remember, this isn't limited to PA. Any comic with a large fan base will have zealots who parrot their idol's complaints for the rest of their lives.

It happened when Millholland complained about the editing in an interview, it happened when Kurtz took credit for "pirates vs ninjas", and it happened when Eric said his allergy medicine was making him drowsy. Oh, you should have seen the Websnark/Benedryl war. Snarkoleptics flooding pharmacies with great wailing and whining. ;)

(Excuse me if this doesn't look right. The preview keeps showing a block of text instead of paragraphs, so I added break tags.)

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at August 3, 2005 11:56 AM

Farewell, Squidi. Go, and never darken our towels again.

I never liked the guy. I don't like his comic either, but that has nothing to do with my dislike of the man himself. I can judge a comic on its own merits, and AMD just never really caught my attention. But after seeing the way he reacted to the "situation" with Penny Arcade, I realized it would be impossible for me to ever respect him.

I know it seems to be the "in" thing to do right now to be hating on PA, but the fact is, Mike was right. The guy had no case, and he was spouting off about shutting down websites and basically just being a complete and total dickweed. He gave the battle cry, and screamed foul when he got in over his head.

Now, here he is, in a completely different situation, and he's crying back to the Penny Arcade thing. Blaming it on Jerry and Mike. I call bullshit. And the nerve to claim he's some sort of martyr for the cause of pixel art - R. Stevens is and always will be the best and biggest cause pixel art EVER HAD. Squidi's just a guy hanging on to the coattails of greater people.

The tone of his goodbye post just hit me the wrong way. It just reeks of ego. Even Jerry and Mike don't have egos that big. He sure talked big for a guy that's only been around 2 1/2 years. :/

Sorry. I'll stop ranting now. I'm not saying the treatment he got at the hands of various readers is right - far from it. But it's not like he's an innocent soul, either.

Comment from: Ms Saint posted at August 3, 2005 12:41 PM

I must be the only person in the world who thinks _Heart of Darkness_ is not only well written, but downright amazing. Oh, the horror!

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at August 3, 2005 12:55 PM

I kind of liked Heart of Darkness. Better than Apocalypse Now, at any rate.

And while I watch all this with a peculiar sort of hazy dismay and anxiety, there is a small, dark little part of me that thinks it would be pretty cool to have a fanbase large enough that it could actually declare war on another fanbase.

Now that, my friends, is when you know you've hit the big time.

Comment from: Stan posted at August 3, 2005 1:07 PM

You also have to have a fanbase that can be whipped into anger and violence. I think it'd take something really big to get the Narbonic fan base into a web war.

(and no, that's not a challenge.)

I liked parts of the Heart of Darkness, mainly because I grokked the part about different kinds of evil.

Comment from: John Troutman posted at August 3, 2005 1:11 PM

You're talking to ME, aren't you? Dammit, Eric, you KNOW I'm too lazy to make extra pages for comics!

Archive pages. PFT.

Comment from: Black Dove posted at August 3, 2005 1:43 PM

People, People.. while we reflect on the fanwars of yore; we are overlooking the major current events ticker.

The PvP vs. PA war has spilled over into new genres! They have managed to subvert an entire server (Dark Iron) to the pure cause of allowinf their fanbases new, nonstop ways to attack each other.

As the Horde casts aside puny and decrepit Thrall to hoist the banner of the Pandaran legion led by Kurtz and embrace a new age of war, it begins.

As the residents of Stormwind reject an untried boyking and absentee heroes to hoist the banner of the Cardboard Tube Samurai himself, it begins.

How will this all unfold? What carnage has been unleashed? And what are the sociological implications of two fandoms subverting a third, related fandom to their fued...

Where will it all end?

(We now return you to your regular level of drama)

-D

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 3, 2005 1:55 PM

Well, since it seems to be obligatory for all the regulars to weigh in on this: I think I recall reading through the Squidi-Gabe exchanges, or most of them, and some or all of the crossfandom flamewar at the time or shortly afterwards. But when I read the snark my strongest reaction was, "That's not the same SeanH who posts here, is it? No? Okay."

Thumbnails are cool, I guess, but there's never been anything I wanted from a webcomic archive that I couldn't find with a calendar index so that's what my archive has.

Comment from: A.G. Hopkins posted at August 3, 2005 2:02 PM

"...Not all porn sites use thumbnail generators, but those sites are typically run by stupid people who won't use stylesheets in their text-only pieces because "sometimes the text is red."



Thanks, Weds. This made me laugh out loud, literally. Now my co-workers think I'm weird(er than normal)



Channing, your fans are too weird to get into a war, and the Narbonic fans are too bright. (I know, many are the same people, aren't we?)

However, if you ever want to start a rock fight with someone, let me know and I'll pitch a pebble or two just for you.

On topic? Oh fine. Squidi sounds like a drama queen. Unless he was trying to manipulate some controversy into usable PR, he was an idiot for not getting behind the free publicity, and if he was trying to manipulate, he went about it all wrong. There's got to be at least a semblance of injustice when you whine, or people will stay away in droves.


I've started AMD a couple times, and liked the beginning, but have never managed to get hooked enough to keep up with it. As Eric says, this doesn't make it bad, it just didn't grab me.


I'm sorry it's going away, but I'm not going to miss the drama by any stretch of the imagination.

Comment from: tsuibhne posted at August 3, 2005 2:13 PM

Having also missed this little drama the first time around, I've been doing a little reading this morning. Primarily the comments here, Sean's Wikipedia entry, and what Gabe said over at PA. And I have to side with PA on this one.

From what I can tell, Sean got pissed off because someone was creating avatars, using his art work as a template. I've seen no reference that anyone was trying to make money from doing this.

I'm left wondering, how many of the artists here learned to draw by tracing, or otherwise copying, the works of other people? According to Sean, this is a violation of the original's copyright.

There is also a slippery slope in all of this. How many people here created their first web pages by simply downloading someone else's page and modifying the code? As someone who remembers the early days of the 'net, this practise was rampant among personal sites. According to Sean, this is a violation of copyright.

This doesn't mean that Sean can't feel this way, that he has to accept it. Though given the current state of the copyfight, esspecially on the web, he shouldn't be surprised when he catches a load of crap for his views. Views that basically fly in the face of the subculture that he is working in (both comics and the web in general) And if he feels so strongly about these views, then he shouldn't be posting on the web to begin with, so this is probably for the best.

Comment from: Connor Moran posted at August 3, 2005 2:57 PM

Before commenting on this, I'd like to note that I am the author of a comic that sits heavily in a tradition of other similar comics. I'm not breaking any ground, nor do I expect to.



That said, I think Squidi's big problem is that A Modest Destiny is a modest webcomic. I read the complete original "A Modest Destiny" complete story when this whole mess originally broke. It is somewhat fun, occasionally marginally funny, but highly derivative. Kid Radd is substantially better, and so is Order of the Stick and any number of the thousand other jokey-but-also-kinda-serious Heroic Fantasy comics.



There's nothing wrong with any of that. AMD is a decent entry into a genre. The problem seems to be that Squidi doesn't recognize that. There doesn't seem to be a single link to another comic on his web site. Squidi even said, in his Comixpedia interview, "I don't read any webcomics anymore."



It just seems to me that Squidi is peevish that he was unable to strike it rich and rewrite the rules of a medium that he actually knew very little about.

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 3, 2005 3:28 PM

The PvP vs. PA war has spilled over into new genres! They have managed to subvert an entire server (Dark Iron) to the pure cause of allowinf their fanbases new, nonstop ways to attack each other.

Yes indeed. That was pretty scary. If you paid attention to the Worl of Warcraft servers, they said that those new PVP servers were going to die off, yet now three guys have managed to make it a big crowded mess. Congrats. :D

But when I read the snark my strongest reaction was, "That's not the same SeanH who posts here, is it? No? Okay."

Same here. And then SeanH posted right away and I was convinced he had split personalities.

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 3, 2005 3:29 PM

That part about World of Warcraft servers should say: "If you paid attention to the World of Warcraft forums"

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 3, 2005 3:31 PM

Fun question of the day: Why are the spaces after periods not showing up in my posts? Like that. Did you see that? There should be a double space.

Comment from: J.(Channing)Wells posted at August 3, 2005 3:37 PM

It's another fun thing about HTML, I'm afraid. For some reason, it hates multiple spaces. As a writer who occasionally relies on visual structure for psychological timing purposes in his own writing, this sort of thing drives me batty. You either have to use preformatted text tags or spit out a series of NBSP commands to convince it to do more than one space in a row.

Clearly, HTML was not designed by authors.

Comment from: tsuibhne posted at August 3, 2005 3:41 PM

Personally, I think it is Eric's doing. If you look it up, you'll see that Strunk and White say you shouldn't use double spaces after periods. Eric must have tweaked the site to force people to comply to his "gospel"

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 3, 2005 3:52 PM

Strunk and White might say it, but if you're submitting a book manuscript to a publisher in the standard left-justified, Courier 12 font, double-spaced, first-line-indented format you *need* to use both spaces in after the period, otherwise every sentence in your paragraph seems to run together.

Not that this has anything to do with the web. I'm just sayin'.

Comment from: flemco posted at August 3, 2005 4:00 PM

My 2 centavos:

ANY webcomic artist who claims that a fan using his art for an avatar is "INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY THEFT" deserves a kick right in the dick. Hard.

What a fucking moron.

I just keep wondering what it would be like if Milholland, Abrams, or fuck, even I tried to hunt down everyone who made avatars from SP, Sluggy or Two Lumps.

Then I punch myself in the groin for even going that route mentally.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 3, 2005 4:00 PM

Christopher -- I have at least three different publishers' guidelines that say to not double-space after the period. So the milage varies heavily, as it works out.

In my case, I did the post-period doublespace for many, many years. And then I went into DTP as a career, and that was a cardinal sin, and the various guides that came out said you should never do it in any word processor, and and and and.

Needless to say, I broke myself of the habit. I now have a contract with a publisher for some work... and that publisher *requires* it.

Aie yie yie.

Comment from: tsuibhne posted at August 3, 2005 4:02 PM

Personally, I think it is Eric's doing. If you look it up, you'll see that Strunk and White say you shouldn't use double spaces after periods. Eric must have tweaked the site to force people to comply to his "gospel"

Or, I've just lost my mind to boredom after being paid to spend 8 hours a day, five days a week, for two months, surfing the web.

so bored... so freaking bored!

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 3, 2005 4:11 PM

Christopher -- I have at least three different publishers' guidelines that say to not double-space after the period. So the milage varies heavily, as it works out.

Wow. And I thought that the one thing I could count on in this world was the eternally unchanging manuscript submission format...

Comment from: Black Dove posted at August 3, 2005 4:13 PM

"...I tried to hunt

down everyone who made avatars from SP, Sluggy or Two Lumps."

Oh No! By taking this quote completely out of context, I am now in a panic that Snooch is going to be sent to fall asleep on my face tonight and smother me to death for having the audacity to post the cats singing for food at 3am comic in my cubicle...

I must hide in fear in the supply closet and rock myself back to calmness after after set of footsteps walks past.

As for HTML and text formating issues; preach on, say it like it is!

I may formally be a computer programmer, and as such be fully aware of the tradition of "dead white space" used in code to make sections readable and allow for ease of later changes... but in function, HTML has become far more a word processing tool for internet writing than a programming language, as Perl, Java, ASP, et all take on the heavy lifting.

As a (very) minor poet, I deeply feel the pain of not being able to make the page my canvas and display my works with the same visual layout that I create them with other than by elaborate games with div's and css placement tags.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 3, 2005 4:14 PM

Christopher -- I have at least three different publishers' guidelines that say to not double-space after the period. So the milage varies heavily, as it works out.

Wow. And I thought that the one thing I could count on in this world was the eternally unchanging manuscript submission format...

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at August 3, 2005 4:15 PM

So apparently I didn't format the blockquote tag properly, AND I double-posted to boot. Apologies.

Comment from: SeanH posted at August 3, 2005 5:29 PM

So, uh... yeah, if anybody was still wondering? I'm not Sean Howard. I'm an entirely different Sean.

Comment from: lucastds posted at August 3, 2005 5:57 PM

William G. wrote: "the internet, and webcomics community in particular, will never accept the truth about what an ugly, self-obsessed place it is."



I think the reason, William, is that everyone seems to need to weigh in on the issue. You fall into the trap yourself by endorsing one guy over the other.



I am more inclined to follow Sam Logan's line of reasoning on this one: "No one needs to be 'ashamed' to work online just because some online personalities and readers act like cocks. There are plenty of cocks in print, too, and I'm not even talking about the porn industry."



Taking that one step further: there'd be a lot less cocks if people would just let personal feuds be personal feuds and just calm down. So I'm not going to endorse PA or Squidi on this one. I never read either comic anyways, and even if I did, I think both artists can take care of it themselves.



---



While I'm here, I might as well say that I quite enjoy both Sam & Will's cartoons... I was pretty saddened to see Will's website disappear though.

Comment from: jjacques posted at August 3, 2005 7:52 PM

Anyway, Squidi's big problem will forever be that the internet, and webcomics community in particular, will never accept the truth about what an ugly, self-obsessed place it is. The man is right in being ashamed to continue to work in this field, and he's right in telling all of us to go fuck ourselves.

This, from the guy who called ME sanctimonious over on the Comixpedia forums? HAHAHA!

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 3, 2005 8:17 PM

What was that, Jeph? WilliamG called you sanctimonious? That means I must take a side! But... I can't choose between the two of you! Whatever shall I do?

Oh, what the hell. I choose Jeph. Screw you, William! I'm gonna flame you until you die! Feel my meaningless fury!

:D

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at August 3, 2005 8:23 PM

Hey! Hey you kids! Don't make me get Mister Booboo.

I will get Mister Booboo. If you make me. I will get Mister Booboo, and then you will be sorry. Do I make myself clear?

Mister. Booboo.

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 3, 2005 8:26 PM

But they started it. Jeph and William had a minor personal disagreement so I had to vehemently take a side.

Anyone else see the hypocrisy in me joking about people going off the deep end?

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 3, 2005 8:27 PM

Not that I would actually start a flame war, real or fake. So, don't think I was taunting you there, William. That was pure, one time sarcasm.

Comment from: Egak posted at August 3, 2005 8:28 PM

One thing that's always struck me as weird about the whole PA/Squidi fued is that, despite the breadth of controversial stuff Mr. Howard has talked about in his blogs, it's something as trivial as his overzealousness about copyrights that he's infamous for.

Comment from: jjacques posted at August 3, 2005 8:32 PM

Man bring it on Eric! I have a pink Sunshine Buddy on my desk and he is out for BLOOD. Possibly even Bld!

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 3, 2005 8:35 PM

I am not getting the references here. I bow down to Eric and Jeph's superior referencing power.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 3, 2005 8:37 PM

Black Dove: HTML has become far more a word processing tool for internet writing than a programming language, as Perl, Java, ASP, et all take on the heavy lifting.

HTML never was a programming language to begin with. It's a markup language. It can't be expected to behave as a programming language. That was never the point.

Comment from: lucastds posted at August 3, 2005 8:40 PM

Jeph can get pretty sanctimonious sometimes though. Claiming to be some cool indierock god and whatnot.

Look at him using forign acnts and all, trying to look rocktrendy.

Bh!

;)

Comment from: PatMan posted at August 3, 2005 9:03 PM

Jeph can get pretty sanctimonious sometimes though. Claiming to be some cool indierock god and whatnot.

I wouldn't know. I never said hi when he was three feet from me in North Hampton during that spontaneous convention at the coffee house a few months back.

I saw a dude that looked like him, had those silly things in his earlobes like he does, and blond hair. But I figured it wasn't him because I thought he had brown hair. Go me.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 3, 2005 10:44 PM

William G. wrote: "the internet, and webcomics community in particular, will never accept the truth about what an ugly, self-obsessed place it is."

I think the reason, William, is that everyone seems to need to weigh in on the issue.

(One tries to refrain from commenting when one has nothing new to add, but one has successes and failures at it.)

Remember that the internet is still in its infancy, given its reasonable life expectancy barring nuclear holocaust or some such worldwide disaster. It'll grow out of what William dislikes about it, though not necessarily in our lifetimes, and not necessarily before evolving into something you and I might not recognize.

Comment from: Oolong posted at August 3, 2005 11:04 PM

I think calling it a "feud", particularly an ongoing one, is a bit melodramatic. I spend a lot of time in the PA forums, and I haven't seen a single word about Squidi going away in the past several days. You'd think if we hated him as much as he thinks we do, there weould at least be some gloating going on.

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 3, 2005 11:18 PM

Heavy metal umalut! Rckdts!

Comment from: XretsiM posted at August 4, 2005 1:54 AM

I believe, and have gone on at some length about on my blog, that Squidi fails to understand that almost everything he believes about the machinery of copyright is the result of corporate efforts to expand copyright's power. But corporations haven't been expanding that power to serve people like Squidi, they've been expanding it so that Disney can more effectively crush fan websites, and thus the copyright bludgeon that Squidi attempted to employ was a too-heavy weapon that twisted in his hand.

Comment from: Shinyarinka posted at August 4, 2005 2:27 AM

(Yeah, I'm new. Not a webcomic author or anything, just an addict. Read, uhm . . . 50 webcomics, been reading Websnark for a few months now . . . And that's my introduction-ish, I guess.)



Well, looks like no one else so far shares my view, or even my perspective on this issue, and it's one that I have a bit of feeling on, so here's my take.



Sean as a person: From reading his rants, I find that there are few things I can agree with him on. On many issues, I believe that he is dead wrong. He can often sound very pretentious or arrogant when speaking aobut issues. But, on rare occasions, there are points he states, which I just can't disagree with. That, and the fact that he's always bold and unabashed about his opinions has earned a good deal of respect from me.



Sean as a webcomic author: The comic's not really original, but he's acknowledged this. I first stumbled across AMD a couple years ago, when it was still young, and wasn't impressed. A bout a year or so after it,I decided to give it another chance, and something about it grabbed me that time, and I was more or less hooked since. The stories are all rather uninspired, but the art has a strong sense of character to it, and the characters themselves are what really kept the plot going, in my opinion. It's rather clear that Sean didn't want to do a comic. He wanted to do a story. Comic format is simply the only form he felt comfortable using.



As for his leaving, I think it was a good idea, simply in that he has and still does recieve a lot of flak simply for existing. He probably gets mroe stressed out over this than is altogether merited, but the fact remains that it's very taxing. It would b a disservice to himself, his wife, and his daughter if he kept up such a taxing pastime, especially when he has no obligation to do so.



The why of his leaving is also understandable if you're familiar with what he's gone through. Aside from the Penny Arcade incident, there have been many instances of people "stealing" his work. Though the earlier cases may have been misunderstandings, the later cases were deliberate actions, copying his work simply because it irked him. His citing of the communication with the comixpedia guy is not an attack on that person, or a demand fro respect. It is closer to a lament of the fact that, for all he's worked for, he has a dwindling fanbase and recognition as "The Psycho who tried to shut down Penny Arcade." With that as a resume, an endless barrage of hate, and a family to take care of, it's no wonder he's washing his hands of the whole incident and focusing on his life offline.



And then there's his pixel art claim. It's not that ridiculous, if you have a better understanding of pixel art. Rather than wax for hours on a relatively moot issue of what exactly pixel art is and waht it means, I'll just address the four(other) "pixel art" comics I'm aware of, how closely they fit the meaning, and their relevance to pixel art as a style for comics.



Comet 7: Simple, expressive, somewhat well-known. Probably the highest total on relevance and pixel-art quality. A nice attention to detail, but pixel art at that size and simplicity, though respected, is a bit on the low end as far as pixel art is concerned.



Kid Radd: Beautiful. Pixel art in its original incarnation as game elements, but totally original, with its own feel. Arguably the best webcomic out there, in my opinion, in appearance, presentation, storytelling, everything. I would not say, however that it is well-known by any stretch oft he imagination, as this is the second time I have EVER heard mention of it. Furthermore, since it is now complete, it can no longer be considered quite as relevant as active webcomics.



l33tpixelz: A small-little name webcomic, which is currently on hiatus. It is closer to standard pixel art,a s it is not from a game, nor is it intended to be such. Again, there is simplicity, but such simplicity is excusable, and often necessary when working on a smaller scale. Objects are recognizable in the small space and color allotment they are provided, and the pixel art has its own character to it, distinguishing it form other pixel art.



Diesel Sweeties: I may be committing heresy here, but I do not like Diesel Sweeties. I find the humor to be bland and uninspired, and, to be perfectly blunt, the pixel art is hideous. The color choices are jarring, the black outlining is amateurish, to say the least. Among pixel art techniques, only the most basic are applied, and in the most basic way possible. Where l33tpixelz and Comet 7 are simple, Diesel Sweeties is amateurish and unrefined.



Okay, enough sounding like an art snob. Onto the final point: The Penny Arcade Incident.



I've gone on about style and personality of pixel art and everything, and here's where it comes into play. The avatars were copies/edits/whatever of Squidi's work, and they looked it. They distinctly had Squidi's personality still intact. Much like a Megaman sprite edit looks like a megaman sprite edit or a Final Fantasy 6 sprite edit looks like a Final Fantasy 6 sprite edit. Anyone with even rudimentary experience in pixel art could tell you that. It is more than just "similar feet."



Sean, as previously mentioned, is particularly rabid about his work, so he got upset. He may be right about the copyrights, he may not. that's not the issue.



He approached the creator of the edits, and got blown off. He approached the moderators of the forums, and got blown off. Finally, he approached Gabe and Tycho themselves, and the real drama began.



Frankly, the whole Sean vs Mike & Jerry was a huge misunderstanding on both sides. Sean's e-mail to them was civil, but poorly phrased, to say the least. Since they were the top oft he pile, it would make sense that they had a say in the matter. Sean stated his case, and how he felt he was wronged. Mike and Jerry didn't understand the complaint, and disagreed on how far copyright covered. If that were the only issue, I believe that they'd have been nice enough to ask that they stop. Sean made the mistake of mentioning that he had had sites shut down for such incidents before, rpesumably to illustrate that he was serious about protecting his work. Mike and Jerry saw this, believed that it was intended as a veiled threat, and came to the conclusion that, rather than jsut irrational, Sean was psycho. As such, they dismissed his complaints. Sean saw their dismissal,a dn came tot he conclusiont aht they were being dicks aboutt he whole issue. Then the fans struck. Though it may be old news to Penny Arcade, I'm under the impression that the Squidi side is still recovering from the fallout.



Also, the Archive is in fact one of the better ones out there.



(This wasn't too long, was it?)

Comment from: Aerin posted at August 4, 2005 3:13 AM

:blink blink:

AMD never crossed my radar. I had heard of it, seen it on ratings and list sites and such, but could never summon sufficient interest to check it out. The whole PA thing was way before I started reading, and since I'm not a member of the forums of any comic I read (I tend to get a bit too wrapped up in things like that, and I read too many comics to participate in each of their communities) this is pretty much the first I'm hearing of the whole debaucle.

But that farewell message shows narcissism that borders on a God complex. Having never seen so much as a pixel of Howard's work, I was immediately turned off by the brazen self-importance of the post. There's an old maxim that the level of one's talent is inversely proportional to the noise one makes to proclaim said talent, and the amount of noise on that front page is enough to convince me that there's no need to investigate further to see if AMD is the exception to that rule.

Comment from: miyaa posted at August 4, 2005 3:20 AM

If that Eat, shoots and leaves lady ever decides to write a follow-up to it, it should be all about those funky punctuations that some languages use. Speaking of which, what's the deal with the O's with a slash through them? ()

Comment from: Tubeworm posted at August 4, 2005 10:03 AM

I believe what he means about the whole pixel art thing isn't that he created pixel art (that'd be like Al Gore saying he invented the internet), but that he defined the genre. Not too long ago, the phrase "pixel art" was entirely foreign to the webcomic community - both Kid Radd and Diesel Sweeties were simply sprite comics with original sprites. I remember the conversations (more like violent disagreements) on Top Webcomics back in the day where people were arguing that "pixel art" was a stupid term because things done in pixels couldn't be art. The term "pixel art" didn't exist in the comic community (at least, I'd never heard it before then). Squidi's stuff may not have been the first pixel art comic, but he was the first one to refuse to call his work a sprite comic - perhaps obsessively so. Read that interview with him on Comixpedia from a while ago - he corrects the interviewer when they call it a sprite comic immediately. I don't know if we should credit him with creating the pixel art genre (which is far more commonplace now), but based on the discussions I read on TWC back in the day, I can see why he thinks he did.

As for the creator, well, that's really up to the person. Some love him, many hate him. He once said that he thought the character of Howard Roark from The Fountainhead was eerie in how similar he was to squidi. I can see it too. Squidi would definitely destroy his own buildings if he didn't like how they were used. I don't think Howard Roark was a hero, and I don't think Squidi was one either - but the comparison has certainly made Squidi less of an enigma in my eyes.

As for the comic, it takes a while to really get moving. The beginning is kind of bland and generic, but later on, when the twists start twisting, it really becomes something interesting. I got the impression from his commentaries (worth a read, btw) that he liked screwing with peoples' minds. Most recently, he had a section in the comic where one of the main character's parents sold her into prostitution as a child - it was sick, it was twisted, but it was also gripping. It was only like six or seven comics, but it was probably the most tense and exciting week of webcomics I've ever read, or probably ever will read.

People spend an amazing amount of effort attacking Squidi's narcissism, but few of them actually read the comic - the WHOLE comic. They dismiss him and with him, his comic. I think that's a mistake, because AMD was truly great. I've never heard anyone say anything bad about the comic itself, and it's just too bad that the author was more visible than his work. If that's why he left, I can't blame him. But at least the comics are still there now - read them before they get taken down. Just grab a drink and sit down. Get past the first 50 or so comics and you'll find something that isn't just a vanity project or sprite comic. I think it really is (was) the best comic on the internet and I'll miss it, squidi or not.

Comment from: GiannaM posted at August 4, 2005 11:33 AM

"But that thumbnail system really struck me as innovative and cool.

And if it spreads from there, that might be a better legacy than the one he seems to be afraid of."



That's crazy talk! He'll come back from offline afterlife to sue and shut down our webcomic sites!

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 4, 2005 12:29 PM

I found this paragraph from the above linked interview with Sean telling.

Absolutely. In a way, I think that the more you know about copyrights, the more paranoid you become. It's like reading a health dictionary. When you realize that a little bump on your arm could be nothing or it could be the early signs of a deadly and painful disease, you tend to prepare for the worst, even when there's only a 0.001% chance that it is.

There is a "condition" known as first year med student. Basically, someone who starts learning about diagnosing medical conditions and suddenly becomes a hypocondriac.

After reading that interview and giving Sean the benefit of the doubt, I think what's happened is that Sean has read a little about copyright law and then seen the strong arm tactics used by folks like the MPAA, RIAA, Walmart, and others; and combined this with his own sense of perfectionism. The result is his crusade to defend his IP (intellectual property).

The problem is that copyright law is incredably complex right now. The legailty of the strong arm tactics that I referenced above is also highly controversial. And there is very little precedence backing his actions. The real problem here though is that the whole thing could back fire on him in ways that he might not realize. I'm not a lawyer, and this is based on nothing but a hunch, but the DMCA includes verbage that leaves people bringing baseless alegations open for fines. In otherwords, there is a possibility, though probably remote, that Sean himself could be sued over this little crusade.

This is why I was so dissapointed in T's copyright roundtable over at Comixpedia (though, after reading comments he made in my blog where I discussed this, I understand why said round table didn't live up to its billing). I still think that Comixpedia or someone else really needs to run an article or two on copyright laws. What they acctually say, what the options for creators are, and where they may go in the future. Esspecially as creators try to make a living from their work, it is crucial that they are aware of not only the current laws, but the directions in which the laws are moving. The whole copyright arena right now is extremely violatile. Hats off to T for attempting to address the issue. Now hopefully someone will follow up on it.

Also, in regards to the "it was just a big misunderstanding" arguement. After reading the above mentioned interview, I'm tempted to agree with this assessment. That said, if Sean doesn't want to take the time to make sure that he gets the proper message across clearly, then he is partly responsable for the attacks that he receives because of those misunderstandings.

I'm reminded of Kurtz, who also has a habit of shooting his mouth off with out thinking. And to a certain degree his "asshole" reputation precedes him more then his comic. As far as I can tell though, Kurtz has accepted that this is a reaction to his actions. In otherwords, he started it. He seems to be addressing the issue somewhat (the 24 hour hold on certain posts, that he has mentioned) More to the point though, he isn't throwing a hissy fit over it. So, if this all is just a big misunderstanding, fine, but Sean needs to own up to the fact that he created the situation in the first place by not making himself better understood.

Comment from: Stan posted at August 4, 2005 1:36 PM

By the way, a good source of info on copyrights is actually the copyright office. Much better than third hand distorted info.

http://www.copyright.gov/

There's even a breakdown of the case of MGM vs. Grokster.

Comment from: Black Dove posted at August 4, 2005 2:05 PM

"HTML never was a programming language to begin with. It's a markup language. It can't be expected to behave as a programming language. That was never the point."

Conceded; what I was trying to say was that HTML betrays the fact that the language was developed by programmers, who had a programmers set of prejudices for what is "normal".. and not by writers.

-D

Comment from: jpcardier posted at August 4, 2005 3:44 PM

From Christopher Wright:

"Strunk and White might say it, but if you're submitting a book manuscript to a publisher in the standard left-justified, Courier 12 font, double-spaced, first-line-indented format you *need* to use both spaces in after the period, otherwise every sentence in your paragraph seems to run together."

Grr. Love the comic, but incorrect as stated above by Eric B. The reason why it's incorrect is very interesting (at least if you are in printing and graphic design, as I am)....

Traditionally letters were spaced by typesetters using rules of track (space between letters) and kern (space between words). Note that typographers (folks who design typefaces or interact with them at a very high level of skill) may disagree with my definitions of these terms.

This was physically done with lead cast typefaces. The ideal is simple, to get the amount of space between letters and words to look right. This does *not* mean the exact amount of space. The rule of thumb is that if the space between two letters were filled with liquid, it would be the same volume. So look at how close ll are, as opposed to Te. They need different amounts of space to look right. This really starts to be a problem across typefaces, as a sans serif vs. a serif font tracking is different, vs. a Script font.

Then came typewriters. Typewriters cannot change the amount of space between letters. It is always a monospace. As a result, spaces after periods (a very small character) look too close. Thus was invented the double space after periods rule.

Once desktop publishing came into being, the rules changed again. After the Postscript language was created by Adobe, digitized fonts made it possible to do proper typography. Now it was even better, because you can build proportional type spacing *into the font*, creating the proper spacing automatically. Which fontographers / typographers promptly did.

Now when using a proportionally spaced font, two spaces after a period looks too big. And as stuff that is published will be set in a proper font 99% of the time.....

There is a small gotcha to this. If you are using a monospaced type, it is permissible to use two spaces after a period. And Courier is monospaced. But once it's formatted, they need to be gotten rid of. Thankfully, this is where either a find replace command in an editor / dtp program can help. Or alternatively, a Unix shell script applied from the command line.

Whew! that was long. Hope it was interesting.

Comment from: lucastds posted at August 4, 2005 7:22 PM

Actually, that was interesting. I never thought I'd learn anything by reading this site!

;)

Comment from: lucastds posted at August 4, 2005 7:33 PM

^ notice that the spacing between my semi colon and my bracket makes the winking happy face turn out not-so-great!

Comment from: JoK posted at August 4, 2005 8:24 PM

jp: Read through that completely, very informative. Thank you for the odd facts I may never need to know, but those are the ones I love best.

Now, on to the subject at hand.

I do not think anymore can be said of Squidi than what has already been said. I am especially partial to Matt Sweeney's assessment in which he states "So, if this all is just a big misunderstanding, fine, but Sean needs to own up to the fact that he created the situation in the first place by not making himself better understood."

I guess what I really wanted to discuss was "pixel art" and what distinguishes it. This annoys me, but I do have an open mind, so please feel free to counter my opinion.

I have played games for years upon years on some pretty old systems. I have even created a few, I am an amateur programmer, but I am no artist. However, I tend to surround myself with artists, and have a deep appreciation for the arts.

To make a game, you would need to build an environment, a world. I do not believe this is any different from a "pixel art" comic frame. I would liken it to a 2D platformer. You need the background, and SPRITES. These sprites would be set into a position in the frame each seperate. It was not one big canvas where you would draw the whole thing from one end until you finished putting the last pixel on the other end, it was all "pasted" into position. Now, you take a frame from a comic, you can tell the seperate sprites and the backgrounds. A seperate graphic entity, that is what a sprite is. An entire frame is just a bunch of seperate entities pasted into a background. A lot of their sprites are either modified or repasted. That is not a bad thing, but it is nothing to go creating a whole new name for "Sprite Comic" over either. It is just a label, but it was a label defined for this type of comic. As far as "Pixel Artist", well sure, you can call your self a Pixel Artist. You used pixels as your medium to make a sprite, and sprites to build a frame of your comic.

I just have a problem with how mundane pixels are. MS Paint sure gives you tools to make a lot of the shapes and lines 10x quicker, with pixels even. You see, pixels, as a medium, are not a new invention, or a standard one. It is old, it is pass. Pixels, as a medium, were used before because the artists were limited by the capabilities of the machine and lack of tools created to make drawing art simpler. Almost all digital art are reduced to pixels. That picture of Snarky in the upper right corner, 175 pixels by 168 pixels. It was not created, of course, with pixels, but it has been indeed pixelized.

You see, I am also conflicted with the amount of time one would put into their sprite comic. Once you have the sprites, you just modify, paste, write some words. The backgrounds and sprites could take a while to do, but once they are done, they are often reused. So, a frame could take in fact very little time to throw together. This can be likened to a copy-and-paste comic, it has been chastised in the past, for traditional reasoning. I am also not of mind to call this a horrible practice, but to some degree we have come to respect each frame as a new canvas.

I can respect the artist's creativity, but I am not impressed by their choice of medium. Shinyarinka chastised Diesel Sweeties on the black outlining, and continues on to say "Among pixel art techniques, only the most basic are applied, and in the most basic way possible." Well, I would love to see a list of these techniques, first of all. There really is not a whole lot, you either go with a darker color or you go with black, or a mix. I mean there is something to be said of shading, but you are already using a rudimentary medium, maybe Diesel Sweeties is going "way old school."

Basically, I guess I can see some people might like the "pixel" look. It is different. However, being an old gamer, I have seen it before. I passed that threshhold where SNES graphics were impressive to me because they were 8x better than the NES. Then step after step we have reached a realistic 2D graphic plateau where the only thing that gains ground is 3D. People berate games if they have graphics that do not measure up to today's standards. If they released a game on the Xbox 360 that looked like AMD, I would say that game would not be successful, unless it was cheap or free.

Another note, I love the Order of the Stick! I mention this because I want to show I am not biased to only fine art comic. It is really a matter of how the comic's creator views themselves that sets the bar.

Please excuse the length.

(Preview looks like a big block, but hopefully the formatting is in there)

Comment from: Wandering Idiot posted at August 4, 2005 8:39 PM

Posted by Shinyarinka:

It is closer to a lament of the fact that, for all he's worked for, he has a dwindling fanbase and recognition as "The Psycho who tried to shut down Penny Arcade."

If he didn't want to be recognized as such, then perhaps he shouldn't have sent them a letter saying "someone on your forum is doing X" and "I've had N number of websites shut down for doing X". Of course Gabe and Tycho took it as a direct threat. Any sane person capable of reading would. Not a threat likely to be taken very seriously due to the extreme weakness of his case, but not terribly friendly either.

In short, if you act like an asshole on the Internet and people act like assholes to you in return, that's... well, it's not even simply "to be expected" really, it's more like a tautology.

And for the record (because of course all of Websnark will eventually be collected in book form to be read by wide-eyed youngsters studying the non-neuralinteractive "comics" of the early 21st century), I never saw anything to suggest that Gabe and Tycho themselves were being assholes, just some of their fans. And given that Tycho has openly pretty much washed his hands of the forums calling it a "hopeless void of caterwauling inanity" (I paraphrase) I'm not sure how responsible they can reasonably be held for things which originate there (speaking of both the original avatars and the subsequent flamings/etc.)

Just as if I were, for instance, to say "Hay g1z! Lets 3gg sqid1's hous!!!111 LOLZ!1" in this thread, I wouldn't really expect Eric to take the blame for the ensuing unborn-chicken splatterage.

It is sad to see someone give up something they and their fans enjoyed due to Internet Drama, though.

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 4, 2005 11:20 PM

lucastds:There's quite a bit of expertise on many subjects (some quite obscure) to be found in the Websnark community. You'll learn all sorts of things here.

BTW, re: HTML typography: CSS allows you to fine-tune things. The letter-spacing property lets you tweak kerning, word-spacing is self-explanatory, and the white-space property lets you control whether it ignores or interprets extra whitespace or line breaks.

Comment from: Shinyarinka posted at August 4, 2005 11:58 PM

"Sean needs to own up to the fact that he created the situation in the first place by not making himself better understood."

"In short, if you act like an asshole on the Internet and people act like assholes to you in return, that's... well, it's not even simply 'to be expected' really, it's more like a tautology."

Yes. He's admitted that it was his fault, and that he made a few mistakes in dealing with it. That hasn't stopped the hate. People have decided to make a sport of him. Because of his beliefs about copyrights, he feels obligated to object. As such, the game continued, because they could still make sport of him.

"I never saw anything to suggest that Gabe and Tycho themselves were being assholes, just some of their fans. And given that Tycho has openly pretty much washed his hands of the forums calling it a "hopeless void of caterwauling inanity" (I paraphrase) I'm not sure how responsible they can reasonably be held for things which originate there (speaking of both the original avatars and the subsequent flamings/etc.)"

Sean really took issue with Gabe, not Tycho. Apparently, the issue sprouted up, Sean e-mailed Gabe, then stuff quieted down. Then Gabe posted the rant, and, if you ask me, he was pretty condescending. In addition, it caused the whole issue to flare up, with twice the intensity.

The guys at PA have probably forgotten it. They were never really involved in it to begin with. but Sean's had people after his head ever since, and has never been able to stop the harrasment. And yes, much of it is in fact harassment.

Even staying quiet about the whole debacle, or going silent entirely didn't work. He was still bombarded with constant harassment. As Sean himself said in his departing speech, "I've always been aware that the internet is full of shitheads, but I had always hoped that somehow, it required my involvement to set these things off. I find the fact that it doesn't to be deeply disturbing and what little faith I have left in mankind seems to be wavering."

So, not only is he simply recognized as "The Psycho Who Tried to Shut Down Penny Arcade," he is constantly bombarded with hate by people who've only heard of him as "The Guy Who Wanted to Sue Penny Arcade."

And he's also said that he has no intention on giving up on AMD. Only the internet. His fans got their own replacement forum and everything. I'm sure he plans on keeping in touch with those whom he feels really care.

Sometimes, especially when you have a family to care for, the only honorable end is to admit defeat.

As an aside, I'm sure Sean sees it as a fitting irony that, when he's finally snarked, it's not for the merit of his comic, not for a clever joke or plot twist, not his shutting down, not even for the web drama that has surrounded his site since the PA incident. No, squidi.net got snarked for the Archives. I'm sure, wherever he is, he finds that to be funny as hell.

As for pixel art, if you really want, I can link you to plenty of sites, if you're really interested. You can learn more than you'd ever want to know about pixel art. You'll learn about antialiasing, dithering, selective outlining, applications of color theory, the works.

As far as Diesel Sweeties is concerned, I truly consider it an insult to pixel art. It is not "old-school." NES games, even Atari games, are capable of better than that, and have done so numerous times. The color choices are poor, the lightsources are inconsistent, so the end result is shading which is simply bad.

And then there's expression. Compare this and this. Not only are Squidi's characters more active, with both a background and body language, their eyes and mouths, with the shift of a few pixels, cover an array of expressions. In contrast, Diesel Sweeties is little more than talking heads, with akward expressions and what look like facial injuries.

And that's not even touching on the texture and detail of the Squidi clothing, or the subtle features, like the bus driver's 5 o'clock shadow.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at August 5, 2005 12:38 AM

Great. Point me to an excellent comic that somehow slipped under my radar (plus the PA thing was before my e-life) just as the comic disappears from the intarwebs.

Say what you will about Squidi himself; I don't know much about the whole thing. However, From what I can tell, AMD is one of the better comics I've ever read, let alone sprite comics. (Granted, I've not gotten around to Diesel Sweeties.) There seems to be a certain 'depth' (not quite the word...) to the characters, especially with the motives. Is it groundbreaking? No. Will I now dismiss Nuklear Power as tripe? Certainly not. But it's solid. And fun. So I'm happy. And sad. Until I find more AMD. Then I'll be happy again. And sad. 'cause it's over. But I digress.

Also, he's not really parodying a game (see Nuklear Power, OotS). He's just telling a story within a genre. Bonus points right there. ;)

As for you, Burns, your time will come. YOUR TIME WILL COME.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at August 5, 2005 12:48 AM

Also, is there *any* good way to indent in a webpage?? I've formatted my short story (ok, fanfic; see link.) with indents and triple returns, and I don't want to have to change the formatting for over ten pages (and counting) of writing to compensate for the inadquacy of my markup language. So far I've gotten by with non-breaking spaces, but they're a bit unreliable, not to mention it's hard to go through and add four of 'em to every paragraph when it's been copied into Livejournal. Should I just put up with this and then just post a pdf when I'm done? (yay OpenOffice.org)

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 5, 2005 1:39 AM

Phantom: There's a CSS property for indentation, too: text-indent. The value it takes is a length (in pixels, ems, % of the box width, etc.). I can't remember the property that controls the separation between P elements; I think it might be padding-top. You'll probably want to remove the inter-paragraph separation if you add indents, because that's overkill.

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at August 5, 2005 4:22 AM

Forgive me for not being clear. I indent and then put paragraph separations between sections (kinda like books do, which is probably why I do it).

So I have to learn CSS now? Yay.

*slaps self for not learning html sooner*

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at August 5, 2005 4:24 AM

Oh, feel free to take a look. It's my first real attempt at writing in years and it's not finished, but eh. It's just a stupid fanfic (and some other stuff, eventually). ;)

http://www.livejournal.com/users/plaidphantom/

Comment from: Plaid Phantom posted at August 5, 2005 4:26 AM

Okay, now why doesn't Typekey remember the URL when previewing?

Comment from: Wednesday posted at August 5, 2005 11:20 AM

I find it more useful to balance out padding-top and padding-bottom than to cram everything into padding-top. The beginning and end of the paragraph batch can suffer otherwise.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 5, 2005 11:33 AM

Re: the whole Sean Howard/copyright thing. I think I've said all there is for me to say on the issue, so I'm just going to remove myself from that debate. If someone wants to take issue with a specific claim of mine, feel free to do so. Otherwise, I'm out of this one.

Now, the pixel art thing:

Re: Diesel Sweeties. From the first time I saw the comic I've thought, 'this is a guy who owns Slanted and Enchanted' (the first Pavement album). By that I mean that this is someone who appreciates lo-fi sensibilities. For those not familiar with the lo-fi sub-genre of indie, an over-simplified, over-generalized explanation.

Basically, lo-fi artists prefer the rawness of art created by people that don't really know what they are doing. Musically, it tends to involve things like guitars that aren't quite in tune and recording techniques that are primitive at best (think analog four track demos recorded in someone's bedroom). In most cases, the music is this way because the artists really don't know what they are doing, but are not letting that stand in their way. In other cases, you have artists who perhaps didn't know what they were doing when they started, but have learned over time. At the same time though, they prefer the raw energy of those early days and so willfully decide to explore the nuances of that embryonic period, instead of moving in more obvious directions. (NOTE: I have neither the qualifications nor the space to fully discuss this topic, so realize that the above description holds no value outside of this conversation.)

I've always seen R. Stevens as following in this vein. Whether or not he has the artistic talent to do something more involved is beside the point. He has made the decision to follow a singular vision for his creation. If you look through the archives, you'll notice that his style has not changed over the years in any obvious way. The art for the very first strip could be used today and no one would notice the difference.

Now, the artistic merit of such a move is debatable. Comparing something like DS to something like AMD, where the artist is obviously trying to further his abilities through repetition though is a mistake. It completely ignores the intent and objectives of the creator. To continue with this line of thought is to open up the comparison that AMD is complete and total crap because Sean isn't of the caliber of someone like Piro or Gabe. Obviously, that is a stupid thing to say, since Sean isn't working in the same medium of Piro or Gabe. Similarly, it is a mistake to criticize R. because he doesn't push himself as hard as Sean has.

Re: 'sprite comics' vs. 'pixel art' I can understand the desire of folks like Sean to promote the term 'pixel art' for their original creations as a way to differentiate themselves from people who are simply cut and pasting images from video games. While the distinction is subtle, it does exist. And given the negative connotations that the term 'sprite comic' has developed over the years, I feel it is completely valid for the distinction to be made. Further move I think the distinction is a good one to make. On one level it helps to differentiate the creation from a genre that has a bad signal to noise ratio, but it also helps to promote the medium in and of itself. By making the distinction, it allows others to reconsider the validity of this medium of art as a whole. And creates a situation where they made reconsider the idea of working in this medium. So, in my mind, kudos to Sean and others for pushing the distinction.

Comment from: JoK posted at August 5, 2005 2:41 PM

Shinyarinka:

Of course, I would be interested in any links you can provide. I am always willing to read up, if you would kindly present the material.

I still have problems with pixel art though. I checked out Comet 7. Brilliant colors and style, I thought, but, what a waste, if only the artist would apply that to a more updated traditional medium. That green tenticle is almost reminiscent of EarthWorm Jim, same graphics quality to boot!

I do not know about the genre switching still. So, "Sprite Comics" have a bad name, let us give up and start a new name, same stuff. Next thing you know there will be 200 "pixel artists", 150 of them are crap, and everyone will be changing names again. I am sure that is an exaggerated scenario, but I do love my hypothetical situations!

I am not sure on R. Stevens. Not a fan. I can agree on the facial expressions part, seemed he could make an effort. However, I have not heard anything loud from him about his efforts in art. So, I really have no opinion on that. Some people do not give a crap and focus on writing or marketability. Characters no matter how non-functional, as long as they have a personality, can be quite a commodity.

I can appreciate if someone is a pixel artist and they make great designs. That's great, good for them, I hope they are successful. I still believe their talent is being wasted in a medium that is not necessary in this modern age.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 5, 2005 3:31 PM

Full disclosure: I am a fan of... let's say experimental/fringe art. As such, arguments like this, kind of tweak me. Which affects my ability to debate. I apologies if the below isn't fully coherent.

"I can appreciate if someone is a pixel artist and they make great designs. That's great, good for them, I hope they are successful. I still believe their talent is being wasted in a medium that is not necessary in this modern age."

As I see it, the underlying question of a statement like this is, 'what is the role of the artist in creation?' Is the artist's role simply to create art with in a narrow frame work that is most accepted by the mainstream? With the central motivation of mass acceptance, and, possibly, merchandising? Which leads us to wonderful things like Garfield. Or, is the artist's role to create works that they find fulfilling, using a medium that they feel is appropriate to the work that they wish to create?

Especially with in the web comics community, I believe you will find many more artists, and readers, who agree with the second over the first.

In the above linked Comixpedia interview, Sean goes to great length to explain why he is working with in the pixel art medium. Yes, 'talent' does play a role in his decision, but so does a fondness for the medium itself. This fondness is the result of his history with video games and his own involvement in their creation. He talks about how he started out working in this medium to create graphics for his games, and then later discovered that he truly enjoyed the process of creating this kind of art.

Personally, I find more validity in his motivations for using pixel art then the 'everyone else is doing it this way' motivations that you seem to be promoting. Why shouldn't the artist work in the medium that they enjoy the most?

Of course, it also begs to be pointed out that if anything, pixel art is more of a modern art form then other styles being used in web comics, with the possible exception of cut and paste. I assume when you talk about more modern styles you are referring to more traditional "drawn" (be it paper based or computer based) styles or the CG styles employed in modern game creation. Both of these styles though are thoroughly steeped in the artistic theory, and restrictions that go along with that theory that have developed over the last several centuries of art. Pixel art on the other hand, while owing a certain boon to previous art movements, must break many of the prescribed rules of art because of its very limitations.

If you don't enjoy this style of art, that's cool. To question the validity of this style of art though, is a mistake.

Comment from: JoK posted at August 5, 2005 4:34 PM

You were very clear, Matt, and I do not mean to ruffle any feathers. Please remember, these are of my opinions only and in the larger scale of things, mean squat. I seek only an open discussion.

Although, I have no problem if they find fulfillment. Again, I'm glad for them. I do, however, believe that most artists seek recognition, and using an ancient technology will not garner that. They have a fanbase, but they have also possibly lost that many or more who were turned off by the crude style. If they are happy with what they have, then that's beautiful. Who is ever happy with what they have though?

Nothing I saw in any of said comic strips could not have been drawn out or colored digitally in a cleaner format. It is a nostalgic medium surely, I can see validity in that. In my eyes, I am not impressed. There is absolutely no style in the shape, only really in color. The color is used in todays standards, 16+million colors! The shaping however, is just blocks. Stack a bunch of colored blocks together, you can get a giant Mona Lisa! It only took you a year! Limit yourself to only a resolution of only 16x16 and you pull off a face.. it might be Mona Lisa.. maybe not. It's painting with one brush, dabbing it over and over filling a grid. It is the epitomy of restriction.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at August 5, 2005 5:18 PM

While recognition is deffinetly an issue, I sounds like the word you are looking for is validation.

The assumption you make is that validation is just as important, or may be even more important, then artistic expression. I don't see that as a valid assumption. This is critical since your entire arguement seems built on this assumption.

"Who is ever happy with what they have though?"

True, but the more important question is at what cost does that happiness come?

I find it kinda of interesting that this discussion is happening the day after I get an order in the mail that included a Cecil Taylor and an Albert Ayler sampeler CD. Taylor and Ayler were both highly regarded and highly accomplished jazz musicians, who turned their back on the way they were supposed to play jazz to explore the new realms of what would become free jazz. They sacrificed validation for artistic integrety. The most famous examples of this in music are probably either Miles's creation of fusion or Dylan going electric.

Now, I am in no way comparing Sean or R. to the likes of Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Miles Davis, or Bob Dylan in artistic ability. What I am doing though is providing examples of well known artists who sacrificed validation and recognition in favor of artistic vision. I could also rattle off a ton of fringe artists who have followed their artistic vision to the point of being forced to embrace obscurity.

What I fail to see is how this decision invalidates their art to the point that they should do something else. Would the world have been better if Miles had just played Cool Jazz for the rest of his life?

"It is a nostalgic medium surely, I can see validity in that."

Again, you're hooked on this 'pixel art is old time' fixation. And again, I don't see it.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at August 5, 2005 5:35 PM

Who is ever happy with what they have though?

A couple of years ago - before Arthur, King of Time and Space, when I drew daily cartoons for my fanfiction website - someone in chat asked me how my life would change if I won the lottery. (Well, he asked the whole room.) My reply was, "It wouldn't change much. I already draw a cartoon every day and have it read by people all over the world. I have everything I ever wanted."

(And those of you, if any, who read the fanfiction cartoons can guess my position on artists who choose to work in a backward medium/style because they like it.)

Comment from: Shinyarinka posted at August 5, 2005 10:40 PM

Matt Sweeny:

Okay, I can accept that explanation for Diesel Sweeties. If it is intentionally pixeled at such a low quality, it is understandable. But it is not "old-school" or "reminiscent of the early video game systems." I recognize that as a valid form of art, but in the category of "Art for Artists." It has artistic merit, and I can see such merit, but, in my opinion, such art misses the primary function of art: to appeal to the masses. In any case, Diesel Sweeties, though it can be considered in the realm of pixel art, is not an archetypical pixel art work.

JoK:

Here are a few Pixel Art resources, for your perusal:

http://www.henknieborg.nl/- The personal website of Henk Nieborg, best known for "The Adventures of Lomax"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixel_art - Pixel Art Wikipedia entry. Lots of nice external links.

http://www.spriteart.com/

http://www.gas13.ru/

http://www.finalredemption.com/

http://www.adamtierney.com/

http://www.zoggles.co.uk

Personal websites of a few of the more accomplished pixel artists.

As for techniques and such, most of the listed sites have tutorials or links to such.

Also, pixel art is more than jsut a euphemism for Srpite Comics. Sprite Comics are specifically those comics which rip sprites from video games and use them as characters, often with exaggerated versions of their in-game personalities, or personalities which the author chooses to attack to such characters. A pixel art comic, on the other hand, is a comic in which the illustrations are original pixel art works created by the author/artist. Oftentimes, such pixel art is in the form of sprites, because sprites are the most feasible way to illustrate characters in a consistent manner. Although, technically, they are not sprites, in that sprites are specifically the imagesets used by video games for characters, but that's splitting hairs.

Put simply, a Sprite Comic uses pre-existing sprites, a pixel art comic uses original pixel art images, often, but not necessarily, in a sprite format.

"Brilliant colors and style, I thought, but, what a waste, if only the artist would apply that to a more updated traditional medium."

I hate to sound confrontational, but who are you to dictate what he does in his free time? For all you know, one of these pixel artists may be a professional graphic designer. That aside, pixel art is much less expensive, in-depth, and labor intensive than updated or traditional media. Much less messy than traditional ones, too. ;)

Also, let us hypothetically say that someone has a beautiful voice, but only sings occasionally, with close friends. It may in fact be a shame that they do not dedicate themselves to becoming a renowned singer. But there is much mroe effort involved in going professional, possibly mroe so than interests this singer. But, wahtever the reason, does it detract from the singing this person does that they do not become a professional singer?

I do, however, believe that most artists seek recognition, and using an ancient technology will not garner that.

I know this is taking the statement WAY out of context, but, taken literally, you're stating that all acrylic painters, all watercolor painters, all pastel artists, all sculptors, all metalworkers, etc., will be unable to achieve recognition because they use an ancient technology as their medium.

Also, as you may note from some of the links I provided above, pixel art, when applied well, is far from crude. There is style in both shape and color. Take a look at some of the links I've provided, then tell me that it is only color, that there is no style in shape.

As for the Mona Lisa example, if you were to try to replicate the Mona Lisa in a 16x12(for proper proportions) area, using only 4 colors, you're working under some pretty heavy restrictions. Then again, there are 4608 different results which you can pull from those limitations, and only or two are a close resemblance to the Mona Lisa. It takes no small skill to pull off a convincing 16x12 replica, but you'd be amazed at how close it can come.(Activities like this are relatively common exercises among pixel artists wishing to hone their skills ;))

I would guess your low opinion of pixel art stems more from lack of exposure than any flaws of the medium itself. This is very understandable, as pixel art is generally a low profile form of art. There is in fact technology which can match or outperform pixel art, and often in a much shorter time. But that doesn't matter, because pixel art is a labor of love. Most pixel artists don't get into it, or stay in it, for that matter, out of a desire for recognition. It is something they love to do, so they continue with it. If they don't work with other media, it is not because they think pixel art is a better medium, simply that they have no interest in other forms of art, that they don't enjoy it as much. They aren't wasting their potential on a dead-end form of art in hopes of recognition, they're doing what they enjoy doing. Can you really fault them for that?

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 6, 2005 12:42 AM

Phantom: Fortunately, CSS is easy for simple stuff like that. It's only when you try to do complicated layouts that it becomes a headache.

Matt: Davis didn't really invent Fusion. Other people were already doing it. He legitimized it by adopting it, however.

Comment from: gwalla posted at August 6, 2005 3:09 PM

Shinyarinka: since when is the primary function of art to appeal to the masses?

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