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Eric: On the other hand, I have *no* idea what's going on with Tom's hair. Maybe he needs to condition.

Home on the Strange

(From Home on the Strange. Click on the thumbnail for impending railroad of doom bearing down on all and sundry!)

It's been a few weeks since I mentioned Home on the Strange was starting. And like all webcomics, there has been some shakedown since it began. Some experiments, some of which have worked and others of which... well, not so much. That's normal enough.

As for me? Well, I'm grooving on it.

For one reason, it's the sense of experimentation. Steinmetz and Pare really are trying things out -- seeing what fits and what doesn't. It's not that Home on the Strange is experimental, mind. They're not breaking new ground (at least, not yet). However, they are experimenting on what works for the two of them. And that's pretty cool.

For another, it's the feel. There's a real Queen of Wands vibe to this comic. Oh, it's not the same comic. Queen of Wands was a coming of age story with relationship subplots. Home on the Strange puts relationships front and center. Karla and Tom have solid chemistry that doesn't feel forced.

And, like Queen of Wands, pretty much everyone is flawed. And at the same time, everyone gets to be right.

That's actually pretty rare. When you have a geeky male and a geeky female sharing the lead, it's kind of astounding how often the female can do no wrong. They aren't just geeks, they are geek exemplars. Their opinions are solidly right. And they're gorgeous to boot. And they also see beyond the banality of handsome or in shape and marry omnigeeks with pontoon boat feet willingly.

(You know, I could swear someone wrote an essay about this.)

Karla, on the other hand, is allowed to... well, just be a geek. She has her geek interests she is dogmatic about (with the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of that dogmatism). She is allowed to be funny and wise about some things, and boneheaded or just plain wrong about others. She's allowed to be attractive without being a Supermodel in the rough.

The same with Tom. Tom is sometimes boneheaded, and sometimes smart. He's not quite as realized as Karla yet (which may be why I have a Queen of Wands vibe instead of a Something Positive vibe), but there's potential there.

The last few days have been a nice introduction of a storyline. We've had Tanner, their friend who is oft dumped. We have Izzy, a girl who likes Geekish pursuits but who has never had a chance to indulge in them in any kind of supportive group. We have Karla, who's both hurling Izzy into the deep end in Geekdom (which might be a problem moving forward), and who immediately wants to hook Izzy and Tanner up. We have Tom, foretelling doom.

We have the pieces arranged for conflict. Funny, funny, tragic conflict. And the latest strip made me grin.

So far, I feel my faith in Steinmetz and Pare has been rewarded. Because the thing is? I want a strip that gives me a Queen of Wands vibe. I miss Queen of Wands.

Well, Home on the Strange isn't Queen of Wands. It's nowhere near as polished as Aerie's work became by the end. But it has potential. And while it will never be Queen of Wands, it's beginning to realize its potential to become... well, what it's becoming.

So, I'm still there.

(And still here. Though admittedly, I'm going into the week before production in a play, which has me "busy." Also, there's some difficulty in finding a decent dress in my size that the school can afford... but perhaps I've said too much.)

Posted by Eric Burns-White at April 4, 2006 10:40 AM

Comments

Comment from: Ford Dent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 12:46 PM

A dress, eh?

Colour me intrigued.

Comment from: HKR [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 1:02 PM

How much is it going to cost for pics?

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 2:26 PM

Come on... he's part Scottish. It'll hardly be his first or last time out of pants.

As for trying for a specific size and affordability - consider eBay. Seriously.

As for the thrust of the essay... I think one big problem is that writers often forget that any personality trait can be either a boon or a hinderance.

I'll use myself as an example. I stick by things tenaciously. Be it an idea, a person, a game, a comic, what have you... once I've come up with an opinion on something, I hold onto it.

At times, this makes me resolute, steadfast, and sure. This can give great support to people affected by this - it's easier to do something if you can count of someone getting your back.

At other times, this makes me stubborn, bull-headed, and obstinate. If things can't go forward until I change my mind, then grab a drink because things aren't going to be moving for a while.

Most personality traits are like that. And they generally are consistent within a person - I'm almost always going to be resolute/stubborn, whether or not it's to my benefit. And for a character to work, unless the thrust of a story is that a trait is going to change, those traits need to be applied consistently.

More often than not, I've found that complaints such like the ones raised in the article linked to arise because the traits of the character are never allowed to affect them negatively. Why they arise is something I'll let others speculate on. I'm just thinking of the nuts-and-bolts right now.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 2:49 PM

I don't know what you mean. I don't have any undesirable personality traits whatsoever.

...

Comment from: Doublemint [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 2:52 PM

Right on, CBW. I myself certainly don't molest orphans for their food stamps. At all. Anymore.

Comment from: Aerin [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 3:38 PM

I love the punchline. It's a terrible pun, and yet... sublime.

Comment from: Wednesday White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 4:10 PM

Come on... he's part Scottish.

Nope. His claim to a UK passport is precisely nil. The man's from Maine, and so are his parents.

It'll hardly be his first or last time out of pants.

In the British or the American sense?

(Of course, the last time I asked this question, I got told that an unrelated third party was Canadian.)

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 4:52 PM

Oh, I mean in the "part of a nationality in his ancestry" sense. Am I just not saying enough, or are my posts really all that confusing?

As for I mean the line about pants - in as many ways that one can interpret the line humorously.

Comment from: chalcara [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 4:55 PM

I know it has been said before, but the last line is gold worth. I'm going to read this whole archive, just because of that last line!

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 5:55 PM

I used a variation on that punchline in a Raiders parody I drew in 1982.

Uphill. Both ways.

Comment from: Aerin [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 6:00 PM

Oh, and the "Nerds don't have friends, dear. We have receptacles to pour our favorite fandoms into" line from last week? Spot on. This strip didn't quite make the bookmarks the first time it got snarked, but it's certainly there now.

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 6:34 PM

I'm with Aerin. I didn't bookmark this on the first snark, but I suspect that was a function of my state of sanity in early January. I seem to recall doing quite a bit of PHP coding in January...

I'm in now, though. A quick skim through the archives while I was at work sold me. I even know the exact moment...the "Stealth Nerd" strip, and the rest of the Being A Geek sequence.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 6:43 PM

And now that I'm no longer behind a firewall, and can read more of the strip...

Honestly, the "Cliffs Notes for Geeks" thing got me. Particularly because I've been in the opening panel - repeatedly. Apparently, every single geek I know in real life feels the burning need to discuss Buffy in front of me.

Hell, give me the three-pack with Buffy, Firefly, and Babylon 5, and I'll be all set.

Comment from: ANT Link [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 6:44 PM

Chalk me up for the "didn't start reading after the first snark but have read the archives and added it to their trawl after today's" group. I don't have a specific strip that did it for me, but going backwards and forwards through the archives to see how we've gotten here, I really like the realistic-feeling presentation of older-than-usual-webcomic-geek-characters, who I feel have been really well developed for such a small amount of strips to date. Definitely looking forward to more.

Comment from: The Ferrett [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 7:11 PM

Thanks for the kind words once again, chief. For the record, this story's gonna run for the next three weeks, so we're going to take our time exploring a little more.

I'm also thankful that you noticed the fact that everyone is flawed, which when I pitched it to Roni was a critical component. I hate strips where you have the one guy who can do no wrong, and pretty much everyone will screw it up on a daily basis. Karla's a nerd, but not a perfect nerd; in fact, Roni and I took her down a few notches on the attractive scale in the initial character models.

Also, Tom will eventually get his day in the sun, but as I noted in my blog recently, we're just starting up the soap opera. That'll come soon enough, assuming Roni doesn't collapse before her wedding.

Also to the also to the also, I really demand to see you in a skirt. But you may be referenced in my essay tomorrow. So goes the backscratching.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 7:16 PM

At this point, it looks less like a skirt or dress and more like a housecoat and polyester kimono. We're going for British Frumpy Housewife, I guess.

Oh. Pink chenille slippers, too.

I suspect there will be photographic evidence, yes.

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 7:41 PM

Hell, give me the three-pack with Buffy, Firefly, and Babylon 5, and I'll be all set.

Well, there is one for the latter: http://www.tomsmithonline.com/lyrics/five_years_annot.htm

Comment from: lucastds [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 7:46 PM

I love it when you review comics I've never heard of! Keep doing it (I'm not being sarcastic, just for the record... I really do like it...)

Comment from: coldcut [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 9:31 PM

There's a really great entry a few weeks back where he compares talking about geekdom to friends and coworkers to being gay and trying to find others of that ilk. Really cracked me up because it home. To us stealth nerds, it's really true. I have to keep in mind that just because Battlestar Galactica is superior to Grey's Anatomy in each and every way, it may not be the best thing to announce at a Superbowl party.

Comment from: quiller [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 10:32 PM

While I recognize the stealth nerd thing, I don't have to do it at my office. Out of 9 current occupants, 7 are in the SCA, 4 are gamers, 2 have physics degrees, and most are fond of one geeky show or another (I'm actually on the light end of that, having not watched TV for a while, and pretty much skipped any SF show since 2000 or so. So I've seen most of Buffy, but never Firefly or the new Battlestar Galactica.) And the President and Vice President are included in these geek tallies for everything but the gaming. (Though I did DM for the President and some others after work so they could try out D&D.)

Comment from: coldcut [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 4, 2006 10:55 PM

A minor revelation I've had is that a whole lot more people are stealth nerds than you would think. I'm always surprised by the people that I discover read comic books. But not enough yet for revolution. Some day, some day....

Comment from: HumanSockPuppet [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 5, 2006 1:59 AM

I'm also thankful that you noticed the fact that everyone is flawed, which when I pitched it to Roni was a critical component.

That is very true, and it is good to see that webcomic writers recognize the importance of this. It is much truer to say that we love people FOR their flaws rather than in spite of them. Flaws contribute much more towards shaping who people really are.

Comment from: Nate [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 5, 2006 5:06 AM

Just a quick off-topic question, but when are the side links going to be working again?

Not to be an ass or anything, but I snicker at the fact that you have no cast page...

Comment from: Pseudowolf [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 5, 2006 12:42 PM

A minor revelation I've had is that a whole lot more people are stealth nerds than you would think. I'm always surprised by the people that I discover read comic books. But not enough yet for revolution. Some day, some day....

And the geek shall inherit the earth.

Comment from: Fishdinner [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 5, 2006 4:20 PM

So, I just finished re-reading QoW. And now I hate you. And her. Because I liked it.... I liked it a lot, and now there is no more, and there isn't even a print edition to buy to make myself feel better.... Jerk.

Comment from: twistmeyer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 5, 2006 5:05 PM

Yeah, it's like Queen of Wands, only with pupils. And it also looks like the characters actually do stuff, rather than stand around talking about stuff they did some other time and how they felt about it.

There was a lot to like about Queen of Wands, but the writing here is a lot sharper. I always found the characters and situations in QoW to be a bit off, too self-consciously snarky and mannered, and the conflict a bit forced.

Comment from: sqbr [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 5, 2006 8:02 PM

quiller: well, I think it depends very much where you work. I was coincidentally discussing this with someone last night. eg, the fact he hides his nerdiness and I don't may have something to do with him being in the navy and me working for a children's science centre :)

Comment from: quiller [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 5, 2006 8:27 PM

twistmeyer: Have you looked at the reruns with commentary? I'm just curious if the parts where you thought the conflict was forced was the madeup bits, or the parts that actually happened with Aerie and her friends. The most out-there stuff that I recall all seems to be based on actual experiences.

Comment from: Egarwaen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 6, 2006 12:57 AM

Curse you, Burns! CURSE YOU!

Excellent comic. The dialog flows much better and seems much less self-conscious than most "geek life" comics. Many of the situations (after the first few, which are kind of awkward) I can see actually happening with people I know, and the dialog is things I can see them actually saying.

Comment from: Prodigal [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at April 7, 2006 10:45 AM

A dress? I'm guessing "Charlie's Aunt."

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