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Eric: Why can't I get Kyle Maclaughlin shouting "How's Ollie? How's *Ollie?*" out of my head, now?

Something Positive

(From Something Positive! Click on the thumbnail for full sized polychromatic mrrrrow!)

You know it's a good sign when you have to wrestle with your brain as to which snark to do first, Narbonic or Something Positive. Add into that mix stuff like Schlock Mercenary, PvP, Penny Arcade and Scary-go-Round, all of which have been firing on all possible cylinders -- and those are just the strips I usually talk about -- and we can tell we're moving into a significant upswing.

Fortunately, I have a term for this. I mean, what the Hell, right? How long has it been since we've added shit to the lexicon? Today's term is New Fall Season.

You should all know where it comes from. Still, since the world is very different than it was in the wilds and primitive age I grew up in -- the 1970's and 1980's -- it probably bears some discussion. Once upon a time, American television followed the season model. You see, different times of the year brought three different, very clearly distinct patterns on network television. In the dead of winter, usually between December and February, certain televisions shows would fail and be taken off the air, and Midseason Replacement Season would start. These would typically be risky television shows -- new formats and formulas -- designed to try to generate buzz. Almost always, they would be picked up for a thirteen week "season." As those thirteen weeks ended and we moved into the Summer, we also moved into Summer Replacement Season, which was different than Midseason Replacement Season because summer replacements generally didn't 'replace' cancelled shows. Instead, they would replace shows on 'hiatus.' And there weren't that many summer replacements back then -- only third place networks that wanted to generate buzz by taking their successful shows out of reruns and touting tired ad campaigns like "while the other networks are in reruns, our network is all new, baby!" even bothered to do it. Most networks just reran their popular shows, because most people didn't stay indoors during the summer anyway. It was the summer. Kids were outside playing until close to the end of the family hour. Families had stuff to do. People didn't watch television in the summer.

Oh, this bleak and dark past from which I was spawned.

Anyway, the big event of the year -- treated with as much hype and fanfare as was humanly possible, was the New Fall Season. Network schedules radically changed. There were huge production numbers and new campaigns like "Must See TV" and "Still the One" and "We're CBS. Please don't hurt us. We have Angela Lansbury so your grandmother is watching, right? You love your grandmother" would come on. And the new season would launch -- somewhere between one quarter and three quarters of a network's shows would be brand new in September, all ordering shiny 26 episode seasons designed to carry them straight through to the following Summer. Some of these shows would succeed. Some would fail, be taken off in three months, and the next Midseason Replacement would begin. It was the circle of television life, and it was as regular as spring planting, fall harvesting, and winter bitching at your kids for wasting all the damn food you spent the year growing.

But, just like truck farming changed the cycle of food growth and consumption, so did hundreds of cable channels change the face of the television seasons. These days, television shows are just as likely to follow a British "series" model, where somewhere between 6 and 12 episodes of a new series might be bought and launched at any time of the year. Hell, I've been watching Cheap Seats on ESPN Classic for a year and a half, and they have had three different seasons during that time. The biggest trend of the past seven years -- reality television -- was born of "summer replacement shows" like Survivor. And people stay home and watch television all year long, now.

And yet, the shifts and patterns of the old television cycle, as outdated as they are now, have ingrained themselves into our collective psyche. The autumn comes (or even approaches, like it is now), and creative efforts across all spectrums begin to gear up. We still have a big shift in habit in early September, when schools and colleges all go into their new years, and while television doesn't change that much any more these shifts of Today's Youth's activities are monumental for the internet. This is the time when millions of internet surfers from 12 to 22 are adapting to new schedules, finding new haunts and new places, and fitting in e-mail checking and websurfing around what classes they can ditch.

And consciously or not, creators -- especially on the internet -- start to ramp up as we go into this season. Things change. Big Things Happen. Chapters end and chapters begin. The battle for the brains of students begins. New, scrappy strips try to make a big splash. Established strips bring their A game. Shitloads of drama begin.

Which brings us to Something Positive.

Is Randy Milholland consciously shifting onto a Fall footing? Perhaps not, but the practical effect has been the same. We had a rollercoaster winter, with the death of Faye triggering shifts. But now Davan is back and the summer has been eventful. He has been moving his pieces into play where the most entertaining things can grow.

And with the mrrow of a polychromatic ghost cat, we are jumping headlong into Autumn, and it's a big one.

In a way, Kharisma has always been the mirror of Mike, in Something Positive. Mike is socially inept and horrible, the worst excesses of gamers and geeks given flesh. Kharisma is utterly shallow and pretty, the worst excesses of cliquishness and vanity run amok. And both Mike and Kharisma went into the crucible -- Mike finally being ostracized by essentially all geeks everywhere until he managed to start to grow as an actual human being. Kharisma was ousted from her position of privilege and put through an ever more degrading series of demotions and experiences. In both cases, the two were given a chance by the primary case. Davan helped both Mike and Kharisma, and Mike eventually bonded as a friend with Peejee while Kharisma went to work for Aubrey.

And Mike stumbles, but is trying. He's reaching for the light.

Kharisma... didn't. She had her chance -- the "birth of character" we saw in an earlier sequence. But in the end, she kept trying for the brass ring. Aubrey made it as clear as possible: if Kharisma left Nerdrotica to get engaged to Ollie, she was history. No returning. This was it.

Kharisma left. And as Aubrey predicted, the situation exploded on her. And she finally achieved depth, but a dark depth. It's like watching Bob consume Leland on Twin Peaks, with Randy's own take on dancing dwarves and log ladies. Kharisma, already scarred by burning and coffee, now has her shirt change color from one panel to the next. Kharisma has embraced the ultimate path of least resistance: murder.

Now, this is Something Positive. Maimings are just part of the fun around here. But murder is something else. When Twitchy-Hug went feral, he didn't just kill one hooker and be done with it. He started killing and killing and killing. (Sooner or later, Davan and Peejee are going to notice Jesus Mickey's head on their fridge. I look forward to their casually tossing the head into the trash and the jar into recycling.) Somehow, as his nature soaks into Kharisma, I don't think it's going to be enough to kill Avagadro. I think Ollie will go after that. And this is assuming that Ollie actually is in Avagadro's will.

Twitchy-hug needed to be put down. With prejudice.

It's the new fall season. Lots of strips are starting new chapters, moving in new directions, and bringing their A Game. Something Positive is just one of those strips, but man it's being done right.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 17, 2006 10:10 AM


Comment from: Dave Van Domelen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 12:49 PM

Oh, Ollie is going to go even faster if he's not an heir. Out of spite, if nothing else. :)

Comment from: Denyer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 1:16 PM

Oh, this bleak and dark past from which I was spawned.

It's still the model for UK terrestrial -- people start complaining about there being nothing but sport on in summer, rather than actually going outside and playing some of it themselves.

with Randy's own take on dancing dwarves and log ladies.

Mmm... apt comparison. Of course, the story's very much its own story as well, but the tone has some of that mirror moment.

Dammit, it would've taken just one more season of Twin Peaks to end things on a more hopeful note. Those last few episodes have all the hallmarks of David Lynch cliffhanger; blow stuff up and leave the audience gagging for resolution.

Comment from: Aerin [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 2:14 PM

So very good to have you back, Eric.

I vote for Narbonic next. You know you want to.

Comment from: HydrogenGuy [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 3:00 PM

Oooh, I never noticed her shirt changing colour the first time I read it. Thanks Eric!

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 3:01 PM

Mike maybe reaching for the light, but his girlfriend seems destined for a planned parenthood meeting. Then it will get interesting. (Hey, guys, how about getting the kid adopted?)

As for Kharisma, man, maybe she's possessed. That could well be, but I have to think that even if Twitchy-Hug wasn't possessing her, Kharisma would be willing to do such a thing.

And it just occured to me: you wouldn't suppose Avagardo's number is up? (*Ducks as a mol of tomatos comes flying at him*)

As for Narbonic, I'll reiterate, there's a 2001: A Space Odessey spoof in there somewhere. Or maybe Ghost in the Shell.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 3:02 PM

I was wondering if anyone else noticed Jesus Mickey's head in a jar.

You know, for some reason, I could see this ending up like the song "Timothy" by the Buoys. Not that I think it's likely, mind you (I already have gone on record elsewhere as saying that my guess is that Pepito will end up with the cash somehow). Just that if we did have the Timothy scenario, it'd be funny, and it involves a line that Milholland hasn't crossed yet (though one that has been joked about).

Besides, you just know Kharisma is on the South Beach diet and it'd be right up her alley.

Comment from: Orikes [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 4:40 PM

Oh.My.God. I never noticed Jesus Mickey's head in a jar.

Comment from: Howard Tayler [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 4:59 PM

Now that you mention it, this time of year DOES seem to be a fairly apt time to be opening a new chapter in my comic.

Honestly, I just thought I was doing it because I'd wrapped up the old story. Who knew I was falling into the New Fall Season pattern? Certainly not me - I don't watch television.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 5:02 PM

And yet, the power of New Fall Season has soaked up through the cultural consciousness and infected you. FEAR IT!

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 5:35 PM

As for Narbonic, I'll reiterate, there's a 2001: A Space Odessey spoof in there somewhere.

Another one?

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at June 27, 2005 10:31 PM

... The thing I laughed longest at wasn't even a punchline, it was from the first panel of a strip. It's when Dave's at the mad science con with Helen and he phones Lovelace to meet him at the dance and she replies, "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't do that."

Comment from: Plaid Phantom [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 8:44 PM

I hadn't really thought about it, but it did feel like there was a sort of...doldrum...during this summer.

I figure a lot of it has to do with it being summer; there's conventions and everyone seems to slow down.

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 10:51 PM

1) I hadn't noticed either the ghost of Twitchy-Hug or Kharisma's color-changing shirt until Eric pointed it out. Wow!

(I usually focus on the words in S*P. Well, in everything.)

2) Miyaa: I'm laughing. But you realize that the Pun Police of "Casey And Andy" might well find a way to cross the realities to get you for that one?

Comment from: Kris@WLP [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 17, 2006 11:56 PM

Well, two points: (1) it's possible I'll have something to announce in September; and (2) I think many of you are presuming far too much upon Kharisma's -competence.-

Not that she's so dumb she doesn't know that a pillow requires no loading, but with so much that can go wrong I just can't see it not going very badly for her.

(Of course, we're talking about a trio here any one of whom would deserve anything bad that comes from this... yes, I do mean -anything-...)

Comment from: Erik Larsen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 18, 2006 1:38 AM

I keep getting the feeling that we've stumbled onto another Milholland "tell" with the color-changing business and following evil-type stuff. Maybe I'll sift through the archives in the morning for proof (oh, the things S*P makes me do).

Then again, I could be completely off-base and this is another one of his let's-fool-the-readers-into-thinking-they've-figured-me-out bits. He does that too much. I see him now, sitting at his desk and cackling away while an army of webcomics fanboys tries to predict his next move.

....Yeah, I need to get out more.

Comment from: RKMilholland [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 18, 2006 1:44 AM

"Then again, I could be completely off-base and this is another one of his let's-fool-the-readers-into-thinking-they've-figured-me-out bits. He does that too much. I see him now, sitting at his desk and cackling away while an army of webcomics fanboys tries to predict his next move."


*writes Larsen's name down on "the list."

Comment from: Doug Wykstra [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 18, 2006 3:08 AM

Finally! I wanted to mention this, but it didn't seem right to let out a squeal of fanboyish glee in the realm of Bruno Kirby's obituary. That would've felt a bit too much like playing GameBoy at a funeral. With the sound turned on. And the game being WarioWare Twisted.
I thought the whole Twitchy-Hug storyline was Milholland's way of clearing out cast members he hadn't used for some time while also giving props to another comic he liked. The payoff of that storyline seemed relatively flat to me, but I wrote it off to Milholland being exhausted, behind schedule, and trying to get comics out as fast as possible. Then a few days ago, I turned on my computer to find that the payoff was muted because WHOLE DAMN STORYLINE was a setup. And the payoff had materialized in front of me overnight, in 12 panels of pure glory.
In a classical work, this strip would be called the climax of the Kharisma storyline. It's not directly in the middle, but it is probably the last significant decision Kharisma will make. All other decisions she makes will be traced back to this one. In other words, there's nothing left to do but sit back and watch it unfold.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 18, 2006 10:05 AM

Oh, Wario Ware: Twisted is hardly the worst thing to play at a funeral. I can think of at least a couple other games that'd encourage people to hum along with the music more.

You know, now I'm left wondering what Randy's list is for. All I know is that he's threatened my life at least once. And I still brag about it.

Comment from: quiller [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 18, 2006 3:34 PM

You know, intellectually I understand why I often miss stuff in webcomics, I read a lot of them, I don't have that much time, and most are pretty straightforward. But still the fact that I missed Kharisma's shirt changing color, and that figure in the background going Mrrow at the moment it starts changing color is pretty bad. When I miss stuff that has an actual speech bubble, I may need to slow down a little.

Of course, it looks like she may be trying for a more Kharisma solution now, though I don't expect it will work that well trying to seduce someone who has been fucking people over for years.

Comment from: storiteller [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 18, 2006 9:16 PM

What storyline was it where Twitchy-Hug killed people? I don't remember this at all for some reason...

Comment from: Jetstream [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 19, 2006 6:52 PM

"What storyline was it where Twitchy-Hug killed people? I don't remember this at all for some reason..."

There wasn't a storyline, per se. Over the course of about a year or so, Randy put in occasional little scenes of Twitchy Hug stalking and killing people. In most cases you just saw a body or saw him sneaking toward someone. The last bit involved Twitchy Hug sneaking up on Davan with a knife in his jaws, before the Pet Professional blew him to hell. This was several months ago.

Comment from: abb3w [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2006 3:04 PM

I have little doubt but that Milholland will have Ollie in Avagadro's will. The question is, exactly what will Ollie get in the will?

Comment from: Eric the .5b [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2006 7:48 PM

I'm still trying to figure out why I find the color-changing so damned creepy.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 23, 2006 11:49 AM

Just for the record? Today's S*P strip? About the last thing I saw coming. It's like The Most Dangerous Game, if it was being played by a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome going after a leprous Don Juan. It's facinating in the car wreck sort of way.

Comment from: Epyon [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 24, 2006 3:44 PM

The interesting thing here is that I think Kharisma will be successful, which is what Avogadro wants. Most of what he has been doing seems to be molding Ollie into a lesser version of him, or at least attempting to. Ollie has also mimiced his dear uncle in several regards, the attempts to direct a play, the backstabbing and underhandedness, but he lacks any kind of cruelty or malice. Kharisma kills someone that he loves dearly, it evolves into great betrayal, denial ends and he snaps, Kharisma ends up dead or in jail, and ollie ends up with the seeds of becoming Avogadro's mini-me.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 24, 2006 9:30 PM

I never found Kharisma that compelling of a character. We're supposed to hate her, and be glad when bad stuff happens to her. However, she was introduced, and BAMMM!, bad stuff starts happening to her right away. It's too much like kicking a lame puppy: It isn't as rewarding as seeing bad stuff happen to a more successful or competent bad guy.

Comment from: Doug Wykstra [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 24, 2006 10:03 PM

Kharisma is either going to end up dead or in jail. I'm guessing the latter, simply because that would allow Davan to drop in and torment her.
Love the current storyline, too. It's like Milholland's making his own version of "Fargo" or something.

Comment from: Epyon [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 24, 2006 10:20 PM

The actual problem of Kharisma is the swings we had in her. Remember that she actually began to develop some humanity and other fairly good qualities after working with Davan. She even showed small amounts of compassion, she did mention that Davan deserved better than that job. Maybe it doesn't mean much but then again it was possible that that was an anomaly.

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