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Eric: Apropos of nothing at all, I have it on good authority that today is the Feast Day of Saint Mara of Roslindale

Shortpacked!

(From Shortpacked! Click on the thumbnail for full sized NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!)

Let me get this out of the way -- I'm enjoying the current storyline in Shortpacked. It's being handled with just enough boffoness that the whole meta/fourth wall stuff isn't bothering me as much as meta/fourth wall usually does.

Which is not to say it isn't bothering me at all, because it is. However, I'm willing to accept there will be something to vindicate it. Discovering this is all a dream sequence or whatever. Or that Robin's just gone a little squirrelly from sugar overdose. Something like that.

(Why do I care? Because going through the fourth wall on a strip that doesn't currently have metahumor elements changes things at a core level in ways that often doesn't work. It makes Willing Suspension of Disbelief harder. It makes people too conscious of the fact that it's a comic strip. It weakens our ability to care about the characters. When we already do care about the characters, it makes us second guess. So, yeah -- I always kind of wince when we see some fourth wall breakage on a strip that hasn't really had it, before.)

Anyway, the sheer absurdity of finding the plastic "Drama" tab for the strip and pulling it out is ridiculous enough to make the fourth wall elements acceptable. And throwing in the captions at the bottom of each strip ("HILARIOUS!") have been pretty good. And despite the potential heaviness of the topic (child abuse isn't exactly a fun time in the park) I think Willis has handled the storyline well. Like I said back in paragraph one, I'm enjoying the storyline.

But, seeing the colored octagonal speech bubble put the Fear of God into me. Because I've known -- I've known -- that sooner or later, we would be getting back to this stuff. I've allowed myself to hope it would happen over in Joyce and Walky. But, it looks like the door's being opened for it to happen over in Shortpacked instead.

For those who came in late, the colored speech balloon and octagonal borders on it indicate the presence of one of the Aliens from It's Walky. Almost certainly, it's the Head Alien, who was last seen eliminating the child of Joyce and David Walkerton from history through the conscious decision to kill Joyce and Walky.

Now, there's been tons of fun Alien hijinks in the Willisverse up until now, and I'm sure there will be tons more. David Willis enjoys himself some aliens. But, there is so much baggage incumbent upon the Head Alien at this point that, barring this being some kind of 'episode' Robin's having, his inclusion into Shortpacked threatens to subvert it into the Head Alien show. More to the point, it threatens to take what has been a light, cheerful, and above all not cosmic Workplace Comedy and turn it into....

Well, into It's Walky.

Suddenly, I have the fear of Galasso having the potential to actually take over the world, or at least the temptation. Suddenly, I see the thoroughly mundane -- and thoroughly enjoyable -- conflict between Ethan and Faz playing out not for the assistant managership but as an epic conflict of good and evil that will spread out across the world and consume it in flames and just maybe redemption.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm David Willis's bitch. I walk away, and he sucks me back in. He's good. He's talented. He's funny. And he's poignant.

But if this really is a move towards Cerebus... if this really is a step down the path where the staff of a freaking Toys Backwards R Us knockoff shop will one day hold the fate of reality in their hands... or even if we move into a world of heartbreak and despair instead of regular laughs and sudden, random Batman strips... it will make me a sad panda.

And I'm reminded of something I said a year ago, on the 31st of January, about Shortpacked. It was a post about Cerebus and First and Ten and "You Had Me and You Lost Me" and all the rest. Right close to the end, I said:

At least this one can't go for a Cerebus Syndrome. I mean, it's a gag strip about toys, right? Right?

...right?

Right.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at January 18, 2006 10:52 AM

Comments

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 18, 2006 11:10 AM

Personally, I'm hoping for a big "gotcha" strip at the end which will laugh at everyone for falling for the supposed turn towards drama.

Though at this point, it's going to have to be a really great "gotcha."

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 18, 2006 11:13 AM

Also, looking back at the first Shortpacked snark... we all thought Greg Dean was kidding back then, didn't we?

Comment from: John posted at January 18, 2006 11:21 AM

Was wondering when you'd notice this development.

Personally, I loved It's Walky and would hardly refuse a few extra-terrestrial elements in Shortpacked. I mean, Robin and Mike were both anti-alien agents in their previous jobs.. how do you just leave that behind and go work in retail? That to me is actually less believable than an appearance of the Head Alien would be.

Nonetheless, take heart; here are the words of Willis:

And, yes, as the ending narration claims, we do get a strip tomorrow. There will be updates Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday until we get the drama All Clear.

Seems to be temporary drama, for better or worse.

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank posted at January 18, 2006 11:27 AM

32_footsteps: I remembered that line, but didn't recall it was Greg's. Heh!

I like how much overkill is present in the drama. I think it's in large part a nod to Websnark, and probably a "fine, have some drama!" swipe at any people who demanded "less fluff" or the like in SP. And since you can't (I don't mean "he won't," I mean there's a point where you physically can't) mainline drama permanently, I think this will settle down.

When the time comes to actually go back to the story of the Head Alien and Bobby Walkerton's vanishing, it'll probably happen in J&W. Of course, it could happen that they need Robin and Mike, and the two strips could merge together and...yeah.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at January 18, 2006 11:34 AM

Head Alien is launching a toy line.

Comment from: Bo Lindbergh posted at January 18, 2006 11:39 AM

How about this: Robin is hallucinating and Friday's page ends with the rest of the staff watching her leave on a stretcher. Permanently. Then the unrighteously fired employee gets rehired, removing the "bloody vengeance" drama opportunity as well....

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 18, 2006 11:45 AM

But it's not alien hijinx (it gets misspelled because they're wacky!) that Eric is inherently objecting to. It's drama.

I mean, Willis could easily have revealed that Faz is an alien in a robot suit like Alan was (or heck, could be the same alien as Alan). And one that isn't bent on world domination so much as being an obsequious ass who would do anything to stay working at a toy store. Much less drama, still plenty of purple-suited alien jokes, and no fourth wall damage.

Also, Willis never said *when* the all clear would be sounded. It could take months. It might not ever happen. As the Murphyists say, "Nothing is as permanent as that which is called temporary."

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank posted at January 18, 2006 11:53 AM

32: Well, it always seems to me that for Willis aliens=drama, but your point is well-taken.

And frankly I don't think the all clear will tkae months. That would mean Willis does months of five-day-a-week SP plus the J&W strips...I don' think he wants to work that hard.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at January 18, 2006 12:09 PM

I never read It's Walky, but I would love to assume that this particular race of aliens has transcended the need for drama. Perhaps they've ventured to Earth to find entertainment. Please?

Comment from: ptdebelak posted at January 18, 2006 12:16 PM

If Willis really is going for the drama, then reminding you that you are reading a comic strip by breaking the fourth wall might be the whole point. Bertol Brecht wrote a lot about his idea of "epic theater" in which you remind the viewers that they are watching a play so they can more effectively remove themselves from the drama and reflect on the messages contained therein. Or not. Whatever.
Hi. First time posting.

Comment from: sun tzu posted at January 18, 2006 12:52 PM

I might be in the minority in this, but...If the toy store becomes a nexus point for the battle between good and evil, if the Head Alien becomes a semi-regular, if Galasso turns out to have a REAL plan for world-domination...it won't bother me. Far from it.
And I'm saying it as someone who's loved Shortpacked so far.

Comment from: Denyer posted at January 18, 2006 12:56 PM

It makes Willing Suspension of Disbelief harder.

Mmm... feels far off in leftfield anyway.

SP! is what I'd impolitely call a fuckaround strip. Something to experiment with and consciously use as an outlet for the ol' authorial inner monologue. More-so than R and IW! were, because Willis became aware of his attitudes shifting as he was writing them.

The fact the sandbox environment is out in public just makes it more interesting.

Comment from: JediLora posted at January 18, 2006 1:00 PM

I'm just kinda amused by the timing of this. On Saturday at Arisia, during the Cerberus panel, you ended it off with a quick note about Shortpacked and the possibility of it going the same route as It's Walky. And now we all come home and...hmmmm.

Comment from: PatMan posted at January 18, 2006 2:10 PM

Was the fourth wall ever really breached? We still don't know where that drama tag came from. It could very well have been a gag that someone placed back when Amber said the store needed more drama. (In the fist-AIDs strip.)
The line, "What part of "there's no going back" don't you understand?", could just be a coincidence. The alien is refering to Robin's past life, but inadvertantly is fueling her belief that the tag has meaning.
While the drama is real, maybe Robin's breakdown is coloring her perception of reality so that she thinks all these events are related. It could be that these things have always been happening, she just wasn't paying an obsessive amount of attention until now.

Comment from: PatMan posted at January 18, 2006 2:12 PM

Was the fourth wall ever really breached? We still don't know where that drama tag came from. It could very well have been a gag that someone placed back when Amber said the store needed more drama. (In the fist-AIDs strip.)
The line, "What part of "there's no going back" don't you understand?", could just be a coincidence. The alien is refering to Robin's past life, but inadvertantly is fueling her belief that the tag has meaning.
While the drama is real, maybe Robin's breakdown is coloring her perception of reality so that she thinks all these events are related. It could be that these things have always been happening, she just wasn't paying an obsessive amount of attention until now.

Comment from: quiller posted at January 18, 2006 2:21 PM

I'm also inclined to believe that this is just Willis messing with Eric's head. And making fun of himself. It is setup too perfectly to hit those points.

Otherwise we believe that the Head Alien has been hanging out in the stockroom of a toy store waiting to make comments about a drama tag being pulled? I think I'll take nightmares of the war weary (and weird) coping with peacetime passivity for $2000, Alex.

Comment from: TheSporkWithin posted at January 18, 2006 2:33 PM

Honestly, I don't think the fourth wasll was ever broken. The only thing that I can think of is Robin saying that she pulled Shortpacked's drama tab, but Shortpacked is the name of the store, so there's no fourth wall being broken there...

Comment from: PatMan posted at January 18, 2006 2:39 PM

Otherwise we believe that the Head Alien has been hanging out in the stockroom of a toy store waiting to make comments about a drama tag being pulled?

Maybe he went crazy and thinks he's Sal.

"I measured my time in Tickle-me Elmo battery charges."

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 18, 2006 2:41 PM

It's Shortpacked has been losing me for a while. Willis seems to be fighting to keep both groups of fans interested: those who want drama and those who want funny. And he's not been finding a happy medium.

I'm almost ready to just give up on the comic altogether. Hey, I should drop some of the comics that I don't enjoy much to increase time to read new strips anyway... reading a comic just because it's on my update bookmarks isn't sufficient reason to read them.

*shakes head* I don't know. I've just not been enjoying the comic of late. And I've enjoyed this new "drama" storyline less than most.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews
http://www.tangents.us

Comment from: Sundre posted at January 18, 2006 3:11 PM

How does one celebrate St Mara's day?

Is it a boisterous holiday with pinatas and parades? Or is it best observed at home with a pot of tea and quiet conversation about the language of beards?

Comment from: ItsWalky posted at January 18, 2006 3:45 PM

Argh, Mr. Burns. You told me you were going on vacation. I was totally attempting to slip the beginning of this storyline under your radar! But no, you had to stop having sex for 30 minutes to go read my strip. That's sort of flattering, but dude!

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 18, 2006 3:52 PM

Dude, one word - foreplay.

Comment from: Archon Divinus posted at January 18, 2006 3:55 PM

This all seems like a parody of drama, as opposed to actuall drama. The whole thing is so over-the-top in terms of drama, that it can't be real.

Comment from: Dan Severn posted at January 18, 2006 4:01 PM

I am Batman, and I can breathe in SPACE.

I don't really have anything more useful to say.

Comment from: NthDegree256 posted at January 18, 2006 5:03 PM

You know, I'm normally opposed to anything that tries to tell me when to laugh... laugh-tracks in sitcoms, for example, make me groan.

But the tagline "HILARIOUS!" at the end of the other day's strip had me cracking up.

Comment from: Matt Sweeney posted at January 18, 2006 5:38 PM

I am Batman, and I can breathe in SPACE.

I don't really have anything more useful to say.

But really, what else is there to say?

I'm surprised that no one else has realized what's happening. Its a "Its A Wonderful Life" kind of thing, but with aliens, and drama, and it happens in a toy story.

Just wait, Robin will wake up when this is all over and be really happy that her life is back to being boring. Just wait.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 18, 2006 5:44 PM

You know, David, I truly hope you were joking there. Because it scares me, as both critic and reader, to think that any of us might have so much influence and power that cartoonists have to "sneak stories in under the radar" and the like.

We're just readers who say something about comics. Why the frak would anyone be concerned about what we think? What makes us so special? Nothing. We write well and have our own websites, but do we *really* have that much influence over people?

*shakes head in surprise* It almost scares me to think that some of us might.

Rob H.

Comment from: Robert Hutchinson posted at January 18, 2006 6:35 PM

Um, dudes?

I traverse the Shortpacked! forum. And if this is *anything* other than David tweaking that subset of his fans who start drooling uncontrollably when the word "drama" is even whispered, I will buy a hat, and then I will eat it. I'm frankly surprised that Eric saw the beginning of the drama ramp-up as obvious absurd humor, but then got scared when the ramp got steeper still.

I was somewhat disappointed by the quasi-drama of the December storyline, but that was due to it feeling lifeless and wheel-spinning to me. This, I really believe, is David dumping a bucket of ice water on his own head, in comic form.

Comment from: wingie posted at January 18, 2006 8:33 PM

1 - I swear, Amber's dad is probably Batman.
2 - I love how Brecht is referenced in a conversation about a webcomic that makes jokes about toystores.

Comment from: ItsWalky posted at January 18, 2006 9:10 PM

Mr Tangent Guy, I am troubled that you assign no value to the words you publish. Sure, you may tell yourself that it's just your words on a page on the Internet, but that's a page that other people may read, and as sad as that may be to us attention whores, we don't get to decide how important our words are.

And, frankly, Eric Burns' words are very important. He just got back from a convention where he was a guest due entirely to the strength of his words. And if I take my own medium of expression seriously enough, I'm going to want those words on my side. It's capitalistic, and a little cynical, but it's honest.

And, so, yes, if I have a storyline that I think will raise eyebrows on a website that's read by lots of people and will therefore give me a link and deliver me more readers, I am going to want that website to link me on the most fortuitous day in the most fortuitous way.

Don't shrug off the power of your own words, and don't pretend they don't matter.

Comment from: Mario posted at January 18, 2006 9:32 PM

Um... I'm pretty sure Eric wasn't an invited guest.

Comment from: ItsWalky posted at January 18, 2006 10:05 PM

Guest, panelist, rooster, whatever!

Comment from: PatMan posted at January 18, 2006 10:31 PM

Dangit, Willis. That's the second time I've tried to guess where you were going with a story and I failed again. You'd better start writing more predictable plotlines or there will be repercussions. I swear, reprecussions.

Comment from: PatMan posted at January 18, 2006 10:32 PM

....

And I spelled it two different ways. Go me.

Comment from: DarkStar posted at January 18, 2006 10:57 PM

I'm sorry, but I just can't take this whole jaunt seriously. There is just something that smacks of non-sensical. And I'm far too cynical (or something) to believe that Willis would depth charge a perfectly good funny strip.

Oh... and captions.

"Tomorrow: Thusday"

Nope... nothing serious will come of this. (I hope!)

Comment from: Nate posted at January 18, 2006 11:01 PM

Like I said over on Snarkoleptics, I bet it's setup for a joke too, but the interenet's got too many things that are meta-ironic for me to be sure about anything like that these days.

Comment from: thok posted at January 18, 2006 11:53 PM

Dude, Tits.

Dude.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 19, 2006 12:12 AM

David: Never said I assigned *no* power to my words. My Meta-review of Schlock Mercenary helped Howard Tayler decide on a future direction for SM after he finished the Time Travel storyline. And I've had cartoonists gleeful for being mentioned on my review site. Not even reviewed, just mentioned. *shakes head and smiles*

My worry is that too much meaning and power is attributed to these words. I've mentioned several times that people shouldn't take my word for granted, or Eric's, or anyone else's, but to instead read the comics and decide for themselves. (This was after I read GPF and realized that I did enjoy the SM storyline; I'd not read far into the archives originally because Eric had stated how much he disliked it.)

I mentioned in passing once that I was anticipating one comic to be the next to fall from the 3x Grind because of that comic's update schedule. I received a "Fuck You Tangents" even though I was just pointing out the similarities between the previous comic to drop, and that comic. (And I've not been proven right - for the past several months the last four comics remain in the running for the 3x Grind.) I wasn't stating it would happen. Just that it was likely.

They're just words. They have power... but the power they hold depends on how much power you grant them. The same holds true for the person behind those words.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews
http://www.tangents.us

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 19, 2006 12:17 AM

(Forgot to mention... the Meta-review helped Howard decide on a future course... but it was his decision. The Meta-review just consolidated stuff and brought it to his attention. It was his choice, and it's entirely likely he would have done the same even without the Meta-review.)

(I don't pretend that I actually can change the course of a comic with a review. I mean, dude, it's just a review. They're doing the hard work (writing and drawing it). :) )
Rob H.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 19, 2006 12:25 AM

In my experience, a critic doesn't realize what effect they can have until they look back and see the effect they have had. And it's never up to the critic to say whether or not his words have too much or not enough power. It's only for the readers.

Comment from: miyaa posted at January 19, 2006 12:34 AM

This is the problem I have with "spin-offs." At some point, spin-offs will refer back to their parent shows for sometimes no apparent reason than other to satisfy the dumb curious question of "Say, what ever happened to...?"

And I really felt there would be something like this, which is partly why I've only seen glimpses of Shortpacked. It really ought to be called Walky Light.

And speaking of Greg Dean, what happened to Real Life Comics? I know he's busy and such trying to become the next Food TV star, but I hope there could be some time for some new Real Life strips.

Comment from: Escushion posted at January 19, 2006 12:44 AM

I'm curious as to what Eric has to say about the latest "Shortpacked!" developments with Head Alien.

Anyway, I don't see this as Willis trying to appease both sides of his fans. I mean, look at the latest strip. Look at the storyline so far. This is satire. He's poking his own work, and even poking us fans of his work. And it's funny. Whether it turns out to be a dream sequence or whatever, I don't think is a really big deal.

I'm seeing the situation as continued escalation until it taps out. Like a dream vortex without the bang if allowed to complete; in this case it must complete, but it will continue to get worse.

As for words, according to Willis's LJ, he'd rather Eric 'Snarked the strip after the one he 'Snarked, or something along those lines, but that's just not what happened. It's still putting focus on "Shortpacked!" and people reading what Eric has linked to might form a different opinion than he did about it. But I don't think that necessarily has to mean slipping something under the radar, but it's really a matter of who you're trying to get on your side.

Frankly, I'm just over-joyed that "Shortpacked!" is updating 5 days a week for now. In a way, this is the first "big" thing of the comic, and it's totally silly at that.

Comment from: Dan Severn posted at January 19, 2006 1:02 AM

I never have gotten around to reading It's Walky, but I do quite like Shortpacked, even if I don't read it al the time. If Willis did an all-batman strip, I'd be in hog heaven.

Granted, DC Comics would be less that thrilled, but hey, SCREW THEM.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 19, 2006 1:27 AM

Um... I'm pretty sure Eric wasn't an invited guest.

In that, you would be wrong. Both Weds and I were invited.

Comment from: ItsWalky posted at January 19, 2006 1:30 AM

Hooray! Now I don't have to inhabit that valley of shame we call "being mistaken."

"Chronic masturbation," yes. "Being mistaken," no.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 19, 2006 1:37 AM

Pshah. You don't need to inhabit the valley of shame for Chronic Masturbation. Just friction burns. :D

*flrrd*

Rob H.

Comment from: Greg Dean posted at January 19, 2006 2:33 AM

32_footsteps - God damn. I'm prescient as hell. One year - I so called it.

Between this and Fox officially announcing the cancellation of That '70s show THE DAY AFTER I blasted it, it's apparent I've just got some sort of supernatural powers. Before you know it Patrick Swayze's gonna have me saying "ditto" to Demi Moore or some shit.

Comment from: William_G posted at January 19, 2006 7:11 AM

Don't shrug off the power of your own words, and don't pretend they don't matter.

This is totally true, David Willis. Even "wastes of flesh" like myself have the ability to change the way people feel on a given day with our words. Too bad we all can't be aware of this, and as mindful of it, as you are.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 19, 2006 8:16 AM

I don't trust prescient remakrs. Not after my friend Clay once publicly stated that nobody would be stupid enough to do a movie remake of Starsky and Hutch.

And personally, I've heard all about masturbation a bit too much the last several days. Especially long-term masturbation. I would ask what I did to deserve this, but I already know.

Comment from: Pseudowolf posted at January 19, 2006 9:21 AM

Dude, one word - foreplay

Reading webcomics is foreplay? To each his/her own, I guess.

32_footsteps - God damn. I'm prescient as hell. One year - I so called it.

Between this and Fox officially announcing the cancellation of That '70s show THE DAY AFTER I blasted it, it's apparent I've just got some sort of supernatural powers. Before you know it Patrick Swayze's gonna have me saying "ditto" to Demi Moore or some shit.

If you praised Firefly do you think your superpowers might get it back on the air? It's close to happening as it is.

Comment from: Mario posted at January 19, 2006 10:01 AM

In that, you would be wrong. Both Weds and I were invited.

I sit corrected. (I'd stand corrected, but it's harder to type ;) )

I'm of a divided mind on the "words have power" idea. While I certainly understand that a writer must take responsibility for the consequences of his work, it also occurs to me that some of the WORST work I've ever done was when I tried writing for my (percieved) audience, instead of writing for myself.

Of course, my work tends to be relatively angst-free, so I don't have the same sort of issues David might.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at January 19, 2006 10:15 AM

If words lack the power to convince people, we're left with baseball bats. And trying to do that via computer just breaks the monitor.

Also...mmmmm, pert jugs.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at January 19, 2006 10:15 AM

Looking over the whole storyline, it's way too hilarious to be not a joke. But I suppose since I haven't read IW, or anything else, I don't really know Willis' style well enough to assess.

I think it's funny anyway.

Comment from: John posted at January 19, 2006 11:28 AM

"Tomorrow: Thursday!" may be one of the funniest things I have read this year.

Granted, it's only January -- but still!

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 19, 2006 12:57 PM

Well, Mario, that's why I say that you never know the full effect of the words until after the fact. It's very rare to know what your words will do before you put them out there.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at January 19, 2006 1:47 PM

Shampoo comes in jugs now?

...Oh!

Comment from: Ojin posted at January 19, 2006 2:04 PM

Well, heres my take on it, from an IM conversation about the same...

Willis has unquestionably started what could be referred to as a 'Drama Situation'.

To me, it seems that this is a Drama Situation because there is background to a character that -is- nasty, and Willis wants to show it. The story of Shortpacked is generally lighthearted (for a given value of lighthearted... I could argue that there are parts of it that tear at Willis' heart in a way, but that they are not especially always to do with characterisation)... but while it -is- lighthearted, it still has characters within it that are realistic and have histories.

But rather than risk that Drama dragging the strip down into Cerebus syndrome, he is going down a route of metahumor and saying "Yes, I know, this is dark. And by acknowleging how dark it is, I can strive to make it -less- dark."

He has found himself in a situation that requires Drama in a strip that generally doesn't, and is juxtaposing some cliches of Drama with an absurd method of portraying it to both parody his own previous Cerebus Syndrome's and to remove the chance of such a situation developing this time.

That, at least, would be my take. ;p

Comment from: Mario posted at January 19, 2006 2:59 PM

32_footsteps: Good point. Perhaps that's why I rarely go for The Drama.

Comment from: PatMan posted at January 19, 2006 3:20 PM

After reading Thursday's strip a second time, I'm begining to get the idea that the Head Alien is talking about the comic, but staying in continuity by discussing the store. The whole bit about how people will know he's important, but not want to be bothered with investigating why sounds like he's describing a cameo appearance.

Hopefully, this little psychotic break by Robin will fulfill her need for drama. She'll sigh contently, walk back out on the floor, and resume her duties stocking shelves.

Or maybe she'll go find the power booster rod and use it to alter time itself. You never know!

Comment from: KennyCelican posted at January 19, 2006 3:56 PM

32_footsteps:

Knowing the full effect of your words before the fact can be done. Unfortunately, it's damnably difficult.

It takes a good solid knowledge of your potential audience. In the case of words that will be exposed to (potentially) everyone, you either need to set up a common frame of reference or find themes and references which are truly universal. The earlier is easier than the latter.

It also takes a talent for communication, a good working knowledge of the rules of grammar and when to break them for effect, and a large enough vocabulary that you can use precisely the right words.

And if you can do it even once, even with a tiny, tiny pre-prepped audience, it's a hell of a rush

Comment from: mara posted at January 19, 2006 4:27 PM

When do I get my own account for the posting of non-sequiturs? WHEN WILL IT BE MY TURN TO SHINE?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 19, 2006 4:27 PM

Trust me Kenny, I know. Of all people, and of all times to tell, I understand this all too well right now.

Ultimately, I think the way to go is to write to please yourself. I think that the only way I'm able to muster enough that could theoretically create an impact is if I write the kind of piece that I'd want to read.

Sure, you'll get those who won't want to read. But if it's obvious that the writer cares, and has worked their best to write like they feel, it will work.

And the funny thing is, even if you know your target audience, have written something solid and true, and put it out where you'll have the best chance of exposure, you can still easily be taken off guard by the whole experience and how much affect it has. Because no matter what prep you do, you're never quite prepared when you take a step, and it causes an earthquake.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 19, 2006 5:14 PM

*chuckle* Considering a third of my audience seems to be webcomic creators... when you get back an e-mail thanking you for the review and how it helped cheer them up and the like... yes, words have power. And I like to think that that power is used responsibly and effectively. (I mean, being told "Fuck You Tangents" because of a comment made in passing is a bit of a warning.)

The problem is when the words are given too much power. I allowed that when I let Eric's opinion of GPF's SM storyline influence my reading. And I have to wonder how many others were likewise influenced by a YHMAYLM. I mean... how did David Willis feel when Websnark lowered the boom on It's Walky, right when the comic was coming into its culmination? Did any of Eric's readers agree and likewise quit, because they were influenced by Websnark? And so forth, down the road.

I periodically tell people that they should make up their own minds, rather than start reading something (or stop!) because of something I said, or Eric said, or any of the other critics out there. They're just words. They're just our opinions and impressions. It's a means of saying "hey, look at this, isn't it cool?" or "You know, this could be better if it would stop dwelling on X..."

What you take out of it really is up to you. I just don't want cartoonists to start writing and drawing to please the critics. Then we start getting into the whole "pretension" shtick... ;)

Rob H.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at January 19, 2006 5:59 PM

Pesonally, I never stopped reading GPF or MT, and I never did read IW.

(Where reading Websnark does me wrong, which I've commented about before and is not Eric's or Wednesday's fault, is when they've snarked something I haven't read yet today and I don't take the time to form my own opinion before I read theirs, and I then never really do.)

Comment from: Mario posted at January 19, 2006 6:43 PM

I've been following the "write for myself" advice for quite some time. The way I figure it, everyone has different tastes, and there's probably a few out there who have mine. :)

I used to take negative criticism very badly. But for a couple of years, I was moderator of a board that had Walt Simonson as a regular poster. Periodically, one of our native troll population would pop up and say that he thought Walt's work was crud.

Walt's response was usually along the lines of "I'm sorry you didn't like it. Thanks for giving it a try."

I love that attitude, and I try very hard to emulate it... admittedly with limited success. But I keep trying. :)

Comment from: Alexis Christoforides posted at January 19, 2006 7:02 PM

But rather than risk that Drama dragging the strip down into Cerebus syndrome, he is going down a route of metahumor and saying "Yes, I know, this is dark. And by acknowleging how dark it is, I can strive to make it -less- dark."

The problem is, doing that often comes out as apologetic. It's kind of a horrible thing for creators to become self-mocking to prevent backlash from critics. I've seen it before, and it's one of the reasons I am kind of appaled by the emo hate-party that is the (non-emo) internet; it makes people scared of doing what they would like to do, lest they are associated with "the other team".

(I'm sorry if this sounds kind of confusing, I should restart my blog and start ranting there, in more length)

Comment from: Alexis Christoforides posted at January 19, 2006 7:14 PM

comes off, not comes out. Freudian slip?

Comment from: Denyer posted at January 19, 2006 8:06 PM

Did any of Eric's readers agree and likewise quit, because they were influenced by Websnark?

I don't pay much (if any) attention to his (or Weds') dislikes, personally. It's a way to find new stuff and hear another opinion on stuff I do like.

Actually, I think the odds are I discovered IW! through Websnark... and it's not particularly my cup of tea, but nor did I start reading when it was lighter in tone, so I couldn't really form similar reactions...

Comment from: Brendan posted at January 19, 2006 9:04 PM

Oh, my God...after this one, I think he's serious.

Stay good, DW! Stay good!

That's not to say it's impossible...look at Nukees. They've gone pretty far into the depths with suicide and implied child abuse, and I can't think of one gag-free strip.

Comment from: Escushion posted at January 19, 2006 9:48 PM

"I mean... how did David Willis feel when Websnark lowered the boom on It's Walky, right when the comic was coming into its culmination? Did any of Eric's readers agree and likewise quit, because they were influenced by Websnark? And so forth, down the road."

I don't know how he felt exactly, but I remember the forum thread about it and the joke-version of that day's strip which Willis posted there, with Lith explaining everything very thoroughly in her thoughts. So it didn't appear to bother him much, and he even said he agreed with Eric on some points.

"The problem is, doing that often comes out as apologetic."

This is the first time Willis has ever done it.

Comment from: Danalog posted at January 19, 2006 10:21 PM

Nukees has maintained a pretty sadistic sense of humor since the beginning, though. So bringing in heavier-toned elements doesn't really effect it much.

Comment from: William_G posted at January 19, 2006 11:41 PM

I don't pay much (if any) attention to his (or Weds') dislikes, personally.

Yup. Me too.

I'm just here because of the entertaining writing, and charming personalities.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 20, 2006 1:13 AM

I'm just here for the theoretical pie.

Comment from: Ray Radlein posted at January 20, 2006 1:52 AM

Why does everyone insist that the appearance of Head Alien necessarily means Drama, anyway? Just because his last few appearances have been particularly gruesome affairs is no reason to forget that he has spent a great deal of time as Comic Relief. That's one of the things that I've always found fascinating about Head Alien: he's hilariously bumbling and inept; puny and yet egocentrically grandiose; his plans go wildly and comically awry, causing Monkey Master to roll his eyes in disgust; he makes jokes while running for his life; oh, and then he kills your entire family horribly right in front of your eyes. Ha ha ha! What a card.

Comment from: Abby L. posted at January 20, 2006 1:53 AM

I'm just here because I have nowhere else to go. :(

Comment from: Bongo Bill posted at January 20, 2006 2:34 AM

I think that the inclusion of a dramatic character in a drama-filled storyline is just a part of the whole teasing-at-Cerberus-Syndrome thing. He's even fooled you, Eric!

On the subject of whom to write for, Kurt Vonnegut said that we should write for one person for each work, and know who that person is before we start. It's not so much that you write for yourself as it is that you write consistently for the same person (even if that person is imaginary, or yourself).

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 20, 2006 2:38 AM

I write for that gleeful child inside of me who loves these comics when he reads them. :)

Comment from: Padre posted at January 20, 2006 3:56 AM

I'm loving every minute of this!

The blue captions just make it.

Comment from: Mithandir posted at January 20, 2006 4:49 AM

Like many cartoonist, I'm just here for the off chance that any of the critics around here will click my name when I post a comment and write a snark/tangent/whatever about me.

Hey, I may be cynical, but at least I'm honest :)

Comment from: Escushion posted at January 20, 2006 9:46 AM

I think you'd probably achieve that goal better with relevant commentary.

I'm here to talk about my favorite comics. I think ridiculous that this "Shortpacked!" storyline should even need to be defended or explained.

Comment from: Mario posted at January 20, 2006 10:23 AM

I write to quiet the voices in my head....

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 20, 2006 11:10 AM

I don't think it does need defense or explanation. I'm just rendering my opinion on how I think it's going and the issues it raises in my head. Which, now that I think about it, is precisely what this thing is supposed to do.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at January 20, 2006 2:56 PM

I have to reflect after today's Shortpacked.

If I'm following correctly, Robin is now seeing Ethan comforting Amber after she had an obviously traumatic moment. The same Amber who is the only person in the cast to have a relationship, one she is quite happy with (as in, she's not about to end it). The same Amber who is firmly convinced that Ethan is gay (I don't think Willis ever confirmed or denied it, but Amber is certainly sure of it at any rate). And we're talking about the same Ethan that tries to act ethical as much as possible, and thus would presumably not make a play for someone both emotionally vulnerable and in a relationship. And moreover, Robin is quite aware of all the facts I've just mentioned.

I feel like I just caught wind to the fact that this is the longest "No soap, radio" joke in history.

Comment from: Tangent posted at January 20, 2006 4:28 PM

I kinda just saw it as Robin "jumping to conclusions" with the Drama Tag being pulled. Seriously, how is what's happened any MORE dramatic than what's gone on before? Remember when Amber had her laptop break? Remember the recent "drama" with the nobody being let go? Or for that matter the whole Protection Racket bull?

(Though I do wonder if Glasgo or however you spell that is owner of the store or just a manager... because what would the owners think of this whole "Protection Racket" bit going on here, obligating them to replace broken toys? And also disrupting customer service?)

There's nothing weirder going on here than normal. And there's no love triangle happening, just a friend comforting another.

Rob H.

Comment from: PatMan posted at January 20, 2006 9:05 PM

There's nothing weirder going on here than normal.

Except for Robin going bonkers and halucinating that the Head Alien is disussing meta-comic issues with her.


No, wait. That's perfectly normal for Robin.

Comment from: J.A.K posted at January 22, 2006 12:17 PM

Would it be accurate to say that, while Shortpacked has gone into meta-humour, it's not outright meta-fiction yet?

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