Script Format is kind of fun.

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I'm not entirely sure what this post is.

It was born out of a couple of Aaron Sorkin parodies I'd seen, like Mad TV's Studio 69 on Van Nuys Boulevard or Kevin Levine's brilliant If Aaron Sorkin wrote a show about baseball. I was laughing about it with Weds, and said "I should write a script where Aaron Sorkin was writing about a webcomics collective."

And, since this has been a week where I've needed a diversion or two, I did.

Only I'm not sure what it is, in the end.

It's not a parody of Studio 60. If anything, it's a Sorkin satire. Only I caught myself trying to really catch his cadences. I caught myself trying to invoke what I really like about Sorkin.

Because despite everything, I do like Aaron Sorkin. On a recent episode, he had a subplot featuring two freshmen writers and the staggeringly brilliant Mark McKinney, and whenever they were on the screen, it was electric. It gave me hope. (There was also this subplot where we learn Harriet Hayes might be the most brilliant comedienne ever according to the show, but despite the fact that she does their Weekend Update pastiche -- an entire sequence where she does nothing but joke setup-punchline -- she is incapable of actually telling even the simplest knock knock joke in the world. It was a subplot meant to make Harriet endearing and instead makes us think she's got neurological damage and would never in a million years be hired for a comedy show, but I digress).

So... I'm not sure what the resulting three scene script is.

And as a result, I'm going to post it here. Behind a cut, as it's... well, huge.

Please enjoy Aaron Sorkin's Comicsense.com.

(Oh, and yeah -- I'm fully aware no actual webcomics collective would be organized like this. Cut me some slack. Sorkin writes about workplaces.)

AARON SORKIN'S

COMICSENSE.COM

[SCENE ONE: The metropolitan offices of Comicsense.com -- a webcomics collective fighting its way up the pack. The offices are full of desks and piles of clutter, made all the more chaotic by the lack of cubicles, walls or offices for the most part. There are several winding paths around the desks, drawing tables and production equipment. As we fade into the scene we see DANNY WALSH, Executive Producer in charge of web content. He is looking over a messy pile of printouts. Near him, two Administrative Assistants, CAROL and SHELLY, are waiting on his words.]

DANNY

Eight months Bobby's been drawing this thing and Hell if I understand what this strip is about.

CAROL

It's about a robot pirate captain.

SHELLY

I thought it was about the talking dog.

CAROL

The talking dog is comic relief.

SHELLY

The talking dog is comic relief?

CAROL

The talking dog is comic relief.

SHELLY

But he did that whole plotline where the talking dog met his parents.

CAROL

Did you notice the parents were talking dogs too?

SHELLY

Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

CAROL

I'm just saying -- they make such a big deal over the talking dog--

SHELLY

Well, it's not like you see them every day.

CAROL

But when his parents show up, everyone just accepts that they're also talking dogs.

SHELLY

What kind of parents would you expect a talking dog to have?

CAROL

My point is--

SHELLY

I mean, is it that they talk or they're dogs that has you in a tizzy.

CAROL

I'm not in a 'tizzy.'

SHELLY

You seem a little tizzed out.

CAROL

I just think that if they're surprised at one talking dog, they should be three times as surprised when they meet three.

SHELLY

Is the surprise cumulative?

CAROL

It seems like it should be.

SHELLY

Because after the first talking dog, I'd think you'd get jaded.

CAROL

I think I'd always be pretty impressed by dogs that talk.

SHELLY

The talking dog really isn't the main character?

CAROL

He's the comic relief.

DANNY

You two keep talking and talking but I still don't have any idea what this strip is about.

CAROL

A robot pirate captain.

SHELLY

With a talking dog.

DANNY

See, this is how wars break out.

[Danny hands the paper pile to Carol and begins to WALK TOWARDS CAMERA on a Steadicam shot. He is joined almost immediately by JAKE PARSONS, Editorial Director and writer of the hit Comicsense.com webcomic COFFEE SHOPPE. They WALK AND TALK as they weave between the desks.]

JAKE

I've lost it.

DANNY

You've lost it.

JAKE

I've lost it.

DANNY

You had it?

JAKE

Oh, I had it.

DANNY

But now?

JAKE

Not so much.

DANNY

What's the problem?

JAKE

I can't find the funny.

DANNY

You can't find the funny?

JAKE

I can't find the funny.

DANNY

How's the plot coming?

JAKE

I'm not doing plot today.

DANNY

You're taking a break from the plot?

JAKE

It's been plot heavy. I need a couple days.

DANNY

Away from the plot.

JAKE

I'm giving the readers a break.

DANNY

Easing back on the heavy.

JAKE

My audience likes to laugh.

DANNY

Everyone likes a few yuks at the end of the day.

JAKE

It's what makes me at the top of my game.

DANNY

Fifty thousand readers.

JAKE

Fifty thousand unique IPs.

DANNY

People from around the world.

JAKE

I get hits from Dubai.

DANNY

I've seen the webalizer stats.

JAKE

Presidential suite of the Burj al-Arab, they're trolling the archives.

DANNY

Sunnis like to laugh.

JAKE

That's a problem, though.

DANNY

'Cause you can't find the funny.

JAKE

I can't find the funny.

[The pair are joined by systems administrator SIMON FISHER, a somewhat geeky but oddly compelling figure. He is played by Joshua Malina.]

SIMON

I'm hearing an interesting buzz around the building.

DANNY

Yeah, that's the lights. We're having maintenance look at it.

SIMON

You're so funny! I have a hard time believing United Press Syndicate let you go.

DANNY

Well, you know. No one likes to laugh while wearing ties.

SIMON

The buzz is we're courting Pennyfarthing.

DANNY (snorts)

Yeah, and while we're wishing I'd like that Baron Karza I asked for when I was seven.

JAKE

I was more a Force Commander kind of guy.

DANNY

Force Commander was lame. He had handles on his cheeks.

JAKE

Those were air hoses. He had to breath in that helmet, you know.

SIMON

This is fascinating but let's get back to the subject at hand, shall we?

DANNY

Pennyfarthing.

SIMON

You know how many readers they have?

DANNY

Seven and a half million.

SIMON

Seven and a half million readers, Danny.

DANNY

Jokes about Super Mario Brothers never go out of style, do they?

SIMON

If you seriously court these guys, I gotta know about it, Danny.

DANNY

It's not gonna happen, Simon.

SIMON

Seriously. I have to know.

DANNY

Seriously, it's not gonna happen, Simon.

SIMON

I don't care how much of an ad buyer's dream they are. They're an IT nightmare waiting to happen.

DANNY

It won't happen in a million years, Simon.

SIMON

They update spot on at 11:27 in the morning three days a week.

JAKE

You can set your watch by them.

SIMON

By noon they've had millions of hits. They make servers sob like schoolchildren just by showing up on time.

DANNY

We're not getting them, Simon.

SIMON

They link to a website and it crashes, guys.

JAKE

Wait, what do they call that? They have a name for it--

DANNY

Sporking.

JAKE

Right! Because they did all those strips early on--

DANNY

The ones with the sporks, right.

SIMON

I'm serious, guys. We get these people they're gonna need a dedicated server. They might need dedicated bandwidth. We try to put them on our existing servers and our whole three-day lineup's going to hemmorage.

DANNY

Simon, listen to the words I'm saying. We're not going to get the Pennyfarthing guys. It's not gonna happen. There is no way in Hell Pennyfarthing is coming to Comicsense.com.

SIMON

I need a heads up if they're coming.

DANNY

They're not.

JAKE

I lost it, Simon.

SIMON

You lost it?

DANNY

Jake has just four hours to get a script to Dale or Dale won't have time to draw it and then half the United Arab Emirates won't have their morning Funny.

SIMON

Yeah, they're big comic strip fans over there.

[SIMON splits off from the pair as they continue WALKING AND TALKING.]

JAKE

We're getting Pennyfarthing, aren't we?

DANNY

I need to talk to Jubal about it.

[The pair are joined by MIRANDA CLAUSS, reporter for The Comics Informant.]

MIRANDA

You've been ducking me, Walsh.

DANNY

I wouldn't call it ducking you, Miranda.

MIRANDA

What would you call it?

DANNY

More of a sidestep, really.

MIRANDA

Joke all you want. The word on the street is--

JAKE

Wait, they're talking about us on the street?

DANNY

Actually, I think they actually draw the words on the street. Like, with chalk.

MIRANDA

You had seven cartoonists walk.

DANNY

It's the most exercise they've had in months.

MIRANDA

Laugh all you want, Danny. You lost Hinterlands, Sirocco, Furbridge Heights--

DANNY

Yeah, we "lost" Furbridge Heights.

MIRANDA

It's got a solid readership, Danny.

DANNY

And that fact scares me more and more every day.

MIRANDA

The furry community thinks you guys hate anthro comics.

DANNY

We... have that talking dog in Bobby's strip.

JAKE

Doesn't he just play second banana to the Robot Pirate Captain?

DANNY

There's some debate.

MIRANDA

Danny--

DANNY

His main character is a skunk/beaver crossbreed stripper, Miranda. This wasn't The Class Menagerie or Kevin and Kell. The only reason Furbridge Heights wasn't porn is because we told him we'd lose our Paypal rights if he crossed the line.

MIRANDA

And if you had The Class Menagerie or Kevin and Kell, Furries wouldn't care, but you don't. So they just know that you had a solidly read Furry comic, and he walked. Along with six other people.

DANNY

It happens. We have churn.

MIRANDA

You're not upset?

DANNY

Why should I be upset?

MIRANDA

The Alexa stats on Hinterlands alone--

DANNY

Oh, don't tell me you buy into Alexa rankings.

MIRANDA

It's an independent website that gives you a solid indicator of--

DANNY

It's a sham, Miranda. Pure and simple. It's not a representative sample of anything. It doesn't use statistical modeling or selection criteria or anything else. It only includes those people who actually download the Alexa toolbar. It doesn't include Mac users or Linux users because it's for Windows only. It doesn't even include Firefox users. If you want to measure impact on the web, use Google PageRank. Or Technorati. Hell, check Bloglines but don't shove an artificial "ranking" down my throat because it sounds good.

MIRANDA

So. You're saying Hinterlands wasn't a popular webcomic?

DANNY

...it was popular enough.

MIRANDA

So. You're not upset that seven popular comics left, regardless of whether or not you liked them.

DANNY

Jesus and Mary Chain, Miranda -- of course we're upset. Of course we want those strips. Of course we want their audiences looking at our ads and going to our online store. But they felt they could do better on their own, and I'm not going to trash them in your magazine just because of that. I hope they do better on their own.

MIRANDA

Commendable.

DANNY

We try.

MIRANDA

Will you be that philosophical if Debbie takes Fishtails to the Houghton/Wilkes Syndicate?

[JAKE stops walking, prompting the other two to follow suit.]

JAKE

Debbie's doing what?

DANNY

Oh, Hell.

JAKE

Debbie's considering a newspaper jump?

DANNY

Thank you, Miranda. Like Jake wasn't heading to a nervous breakdown to begin with.

[JAKE crosses OFF stage left]

JAKE

Excuse me.

DANNY (shouted after Jake)

Don't lose focus! Fifty thousand expatriate Iranians need their Funny!

JAKE (shouted from off camera)

Whatever!

MIRANDA

I thought those two broke up.

DANNY

You'd actually have to start dating before you could break up.

MIRANDA

Are you guys getting Pennyfarthing?

DANNY (crossing off)

Oh, leave me alone.

[SCENE 2: One of several art studios in the building. This is DEBBIE DAWSON'S space. The area is cluttered with art supplies of all varieties -- pencils and pens and easels, of course, but also brushes and paints and watercolors. A powerful Apple computer sits on the desk, silently earning us product placement money. DEBBIE DAWSON is there -- a twenty-eight something perky artist with cascading blond hair and a cheerful attitude. As she sits and painstakingly draws a line, her door is slammed open and JAKE storms in, causing her pencil to skid.]

JAKE

Are you out of your mind?

DEBBIE

That was two hours of work, Jake!

JAKE

Are you out of your mind?!

DEBBIE

Two hours I can't get back! I have deadlines too, you know.

JAKE

When were you going to tell me about this?

DEBBIE

Some of us actually draw our own strips, you know? We don't spend all day frittering away--

JAKE

When were you going to tell me about this?!

[DEBBIE turns away, uncomfortable]

DEBBIE

...I don't know what you're talking about.

JAKE

Houghton/Wilkes, Debbie?

DEBBIE

Jake--

JAKE

Houghton/Wilkes, Debbie?!

DEBBIE

Yes, Jake. Houghton/Wilkes. The Houghton/Wilkes Newspaper Syndicate. I'm having discussions--

JAKE

You're doing a newspaper jump.

DEBBIE

I'm having discussions with their editorial board.

JAKE

You're not going to do this.

DEBBIE

I think that's my decision to make, Jake.

[JAKE stares at DEBBIE a long moment, then walks to one side, looking at a framed strip on the wall.]

DEBBIE

You know, some of us didn't start all this out of some dream of redefining the world of online distribution, Jake. Some of us fell in love with comic strips in the newspaper. We read Bloom County and Calvin and Hobbes and fell in love with the form. And we dreamed about the day when we could open the newspaper and see our strip there.

JAKE

Sandwiched at 40 LPI between Beetle Bailey and Hagar the Horrible.

DEBBIE

Not all newspaper comics are Beetle Bailey or Hagar the Horrible.

JAKE

And none of Houghton/Wilkes's strips are Bloom County or Calvin and Hobbes.

DEBBIE

Jake--

JAKE

We have a responsibility, Debbie. In fact, more than we, you have a responsibility--

DEBBIE

A responsibility to who, Jake? Fishtails is a good strip. I want people reading it. Houghton/Wilkes is going to put it in a hundred papers to begin with. They're talking about print collections. Collections sold in Barnes and Noble, not just on the Comicsense.com website.

JAKE

Where they can sit between fourteen Garfield collections and seven Foxtrot collections.

DEBBIE

Alphabetically they would come before Foxtrot.

JAKE

Trust me. Bill Amend trumps the alphabet.

DEBBIE

Jake--

JAKE

You have a responsibility to those who came before us, Debbie. To Al Capp and Walt Kelly. To Charles Schulz and Chester Gould.

[JAKE turns to face DEBBIE, slowly advancing as he speaks.]

JAKE

Comic strips used to be epic, Debbie. They used to be the playground of Windsor McKay and Segar and Hal Foster. Flash Gordon wasn't a movie or a movie serial, Debbie -- it was a comic strip. This is the form of Terry and the Pirates. Look at Blondie in the thirties and then look at it last week, and you tell me you want to be in the newspaper.

[The pair lean close, suggesting a kiss.]

JAKE

You're a foot more talented than any of us, Debbie. Fishtails is the real deal. Of course Houghton/Wilkes wants it. But they don't really want it, Debbie. They don't want your grand stories or your edge. They want a family friendly version of it. They want the version that would come after their editorial board gets done with it. Your gay characters would lose their teeth. Your wit would be blunted. You'd be just another flash in the pan strip that they'd announce and trumpet and then would vanish. You'd appear in a hundred newspapers and then you'd be in fifteen papers after people complained that Luann got cut to make room.

DEBBIE

For Better or For Worse has edge. The Boondocks has edge.

JAKE

They're not Houghton/Wilkes either.

[DEBBIE looks away, at the wall of cartoons.]

DEBBIE

Bloom County was in a thousand newspapers, Jake.

JAKE

Opus is in two hundred, and you're not Berke Breathed.

[DEBBIE turns back to face JAKE.]

DEBBIE

So I spin my wheels here?

JAKE

You're not spinning your wheels.

DEBBIE

Jake--

JAKE

You're not spinning your wheels. You have three hundred and fifty thousand people show up to read you every day. You quit your day job to do this. You have a rabid fanbase. You have awards. And you're going places. You're going to break through. There's going to be animated specials. There's going to be collections in Barnes and Noble. Collections where you get the lion's share of the royalties -- not a syndicate and not even ComicSense. And one day you will be in newspapers, but you'll hold onto your web rights and your merchandising rights and your control over your own property. You're going to do it. Don't grab a third rate newspaper syndicate with a fourth rate deal. Don't give up your merchandise and your freedom. Not for these guys.

[The two look at each other for a long moment.]

DEBBIE

I hate you.

JAKE

I'm comfortable with that.

DEBBIE

I have a deadline.

JAKE

Me too. People in Dubai are yearning for my wit.

DEBBIE

Someone would have to be.

[JAKE turns and walks out. DEBBIE watches him go, then slowly smiles, very slightly.]

[SCENE THREE: Musical cue: "Take a walk on the wild side." The office of JUBAL GREEN, elder statesman of comics and the principal investor and chairman of ComicSense.com. He is gruff, but speaks with wisdom. DANNY enters through the door, knocking on the frame.]

DANNY

Are you aware that they're reading Coffee Shoppe in Dubai?

JUBAL

I suppose that explains all the burka related fan mail Jake and Dale get.

DANNY

Seriously. The webalizer stats--

JUBAL

Webalizer tracks location based on domain name. The domain name for the United Arab Emirates is dot ae. What happened is someone, probably in America, came up with a domain name that dot ae suits, and they registered with whoever owns the rights to dot ae. Some firm in Qatar gets twenty bucks, some guy on the web owns the rights to 'titan.ae,' and Jake--

DANNY

--has readers in Dubai.

JUBAL

That's right.

DANNY

Only not really.

JUBAL

That's right.

DANNY

Okay.

JUBAL

You didn't come into my office to talk about Jake's stats.

DANNY

No.

JUBAL

Mind telling me why you did come into my office?

[DANNY looks off to the side.]

DANNY

Pennyfarthing.

JUBAL

I've been hearing rumors.

DANNY

You and everyone else.

JUBAL

You made them an offer?

DANNY

They made us an offer.

JUBAL

They made us an offer.

DANNY

Yeah.

JUBAL

Pennyfarthing made us an offer.

DANNY

Pennyfarthing made us an offer.

JUBAL

I'm listening.

DANNY

They're sick of bandwidth bills, their sysadmin is in the extended process of flaking on them... they want to get out of the business of running a comics website and into the business of exploiting their brand.

JUBAL

What's the deal on the table?

DANNY

Eighty percent of ad buys, reduced Comicsense.com branding on the site -- though we can do the linkbox -- merchandise in our store but book collections through their guy. And they would comp us nine designed banner ads, so we could get their look and feel in targeted advertising.

JUBAL

Have you talked with Simon about this?

DANNY

He caught me in the hall. We'd need a dedicated server. Probably manage the bandwidth. He says it's an IT nightmare but you know Simon. He kind of lives for IT nightmares.

JUBAL

So what needs to be done?

DANNY

Nothing.

JUBAL

Nothing?

DANNY

Nothing.

JUBAL

Everything's been done?

DANNY

Nothing's been done. I'm passing on the deal.

[JUBAL leans back. He doesn't look surprised. DANNY is slightly nervous, not looking directly at JUBAL.]

JUBAL

The most popular webcomic in the history of webcomics offers to come over to our website, and you're passing on the deal.

DANNY

Yeah.

JUBAL

And that's why you came to my office.

DANNY

No, I came to your office so you could fire me.

JUBAL

For passing on Pennyfarthing.

DANNY

Yeah.

JUBAL

Why?

DANNY

'Cause Pennyfarthing is a slam dunk. We get them, we shoot past Keenspot and Modern Tales. We reverse the trend away from online syndicates and towards online guilds. We wipe the bad press for losing seven creators in the last week, and we replace a contentious furry fanbase for Furbridge Heights with seven and a half million gamers. Of course you need to fire me for saying no.

JUBAL

No. I mean why did you pass on Pennyfarthing?

DANNY

For the same reason Debbie needs to pass on Houghton/Wilkes. It's a dream deal but it's not a good deal.

JUBAL

I'm listening.

DANNY

We bring in Pennyfarthing, and they become the eight hundred pound gorilla. We have to rededicate a majority of our press and advertising to them. Getting the message that they're part of Comicsense.com. Their deal would be better than what we give anyone else, which would breed discontent in the creator pool. Discontent that would only be increased by the staggering degree to which Pennyfarthing would overshadow everyone else on the site.

JUBAL

We could manage that.

DANNY

Maybe, but that's not the whole of it. Editorially, they're just not a good fit.

[DANNY turns to face JUBAL, walking towards the desk.]

Pennyfarthing reaches gamers. It's a niche we barely scratch, and on one level getting them would be good. We'd get some percentage of them reading our comics. But on another level, most of them wouldn't be interested in Coffee Shoppe or Hybrid Deal. Pennyfarthing just isn't like our lineup, and we can't expect a huge crossover appeal from their readers.

JUBAL

We would get some of them. And some of seven and a half million--

DANNY

Sure, but there's a downside to that. We'd also get buried under an avalanche of trolls and dicks. Fractions of men who hide behind an internet login and spew over everything they see.

JUBAL

Danny, I don't care what their rep is. The vast majority of Pennyfarthing readers are perfectly nice and responsible internet citizens.

DANNY

Yeah, but a certain percentage of all internet fandoms are mouth breathers who think this whole thing is a video game and that winning comes through slash and burn. Apply that percentage to Pennyfarthing's readership and you get a number close to Comicsense.com's whole current readership. All people who take delight in hitting forums and messageboards for webcomics they hate and turning them into steaming piles of crap. And they'd hate most of our comics.

JUBAL

And you figure all this means I should fire you?

DANNY

Seems like it.

JUBAL

Is that why United Press Syndicate canned your ass?

DANNY

It... might have something to do with it, yeah.

JUBAL

And you don't credit me with being smarter than United Press Syndicate? Danny -- what was the most significant comic strip to come out of the thirties and forties?

DANNY

Li'l Abner.

JUBAL

What about the fifties?

DANNY

Peanuts.

JUBAL

The sixties?

DANNY

Pogo.

JUBAL

The seventies?

DANNY

Doonesbury.

JUBAL

The eighties?

DANNY

Lemme jump ahead here. The eighties was Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County and The Far Side, in kind of a three way race. And the nineties was Dilbert. Why?

JUBAL

Just this. What's the most significant newspaper comic strip of the past six years, Danny?

DANNY

I... don't really know. I'm not sure it's been figured out, yet.

JUBAL

We're six years into the decade, and you're an expert in comic strips, and you don't know which comic strip is the most significant of the decade?

DANNY

Well... yeah. I mean, the Boondocks got a deal at Adult Swim, but--

JUBAL

But nothing. The newspapers are dying, Danny. It'll take decades, but they're going the way of eighteenth century pamphlets. For a while, the only reason half the newspapers in this country were being sold was the comics page. Now, that's not a compelling reason any more. We're in the wild times now, Danny. It's chaos. And if comic strips cling to newspapers, the form will die with them.

DANNY

Comic strips aren't dying, Jubal. There's... like a billion of them right now.

JUBAL

That's right. On the web. Where we are. It's a crazy time. An exciting time. An explosive time. But it's fragmented, right now. No one webcomic -- not Pennyfarthing, not PvP, not Something Positive or anything else has taken the cultural place of a Li'l Abner in America, because no one knows where to go. No one knows where the really good webcomics are. The independents thrive on word of mouth. The first generation of online syndicates grabbed every strip with an audience they could get. Or they went the other way, and went so idiosyncratic only the intellectuals or the gamers wanted to read them. The one way an online syndicate can really thrive and flourish is through editorial standards, Danny. If they grab strips with the broadest appeal, that fit together into a cohesive comics page, representing the spectrum of comics while remaining consistent in quality, the word will get out. People will begin to gravitate to that syndicate. The publishing world will see them as professionals. The reading public will ee them as a gateway to good comics.

[JUBAL leans forward.]

JUBAL

That's where we're headed, Danny. I don't know if Comicsense.com will become that portal. I do know that the only chance we have is if we make hard decisions. Professional decisions. We need to say 'this is a good strip, but it doesn't fit our site, and we pass.' That's why I hired you, Danny. I need someone who can look the single most popular webcomic's creators in the eye and say "I'm sorry. You don't fit."

[DANNY looks away, smiling a hint.]

JUBAL

What's the PR fallout look like?

DANNY

The rumors are out there. I'm saying there's no chance Pennyfarthing would come to our site.

JUBAL

What are the Pennyfarthing guys going to do?

DANNY

They're going to have to address the rumors, and keep their street cred. I expect they're gonna make fun of us.

JUBAL

Sooner rather than later?

DANNY

I'd bank on it.

JUBAL

And they'll link to us in the bargain?

DANNY

Seems like they generally do.

JUBAL (smiling)

Then you might want to let Simon know that at 11:27 tomorrow, we're going to be having a few hundred thousand guests show up.

DANNY

Seems likely.

JUBAL

Now get the Hell out of my office. Some of us have work to do.

[The camera pulls back. The music swells up, taking center stage, in time for Lou Reed to sing: Jackie is just speeding away/Thought she was James Dean for a day/Then I guess she had to crash/Valium would have helped that bash/Said, Hey babe,Take a walk on the wild side.]

[Fade to black and EXEC. CREDITS, as the song continues: I said, Hey honey/Take a walk on the wild side/and the coloured girls say/doo do doo do doo do do doo....]

61 Comments

Dear sweet monkey Jesus.

That was awesome, Eric. Fantastically awesome even. It was like Sports Night in my head. Very well done.

Stop being so good. Seriously. Its unfair. I mean right now I'm thinking I'm going to have to go all "Dark Crystal" on you and drink your essence just to feel less inadequete. You evil bastard...

A very proficient emulation. The .ae routine sounds exactly like something a Sorkin script would have. I caught Pennyfarthing, but who are Fish tales, Hinterlands, Sirocco, and Furbridge Heights supposed to be?

I caught Pennyfarthing, but who are Fish tales, Hinterlands, Sirocco, and Furbridge Heights supposed to be?

No one. Pennyfarthing was an obvious Sorkinesque "we can't really use the real thing here" nod, but the others were just random webcomics names I came up with.

Very well done. I'm not a Sorkin fan per se but I've seen enough of his shows to recognize the influence.

Why aren't you writing for television, man? You just did Sorkin better than Sorkin does Sorkin, half the time. Though the "bringing the funny" thing was a little too blatant for my tastes.

Ahhh -- but I never said 'bringing the funny.' ;)

Ah, right. He can't find "the funny". That's...slightly different.

Is the toxic subculture within PennyA, er, Pennyfarthing really that bad? I know Radioactive Panda did a comic on how they flame their own fans (who beg them to do it), and that a linkeage by them was bigger than a bazillion banner ads, but I hadn't heard about fans going out to other sites and ruining other peoples' fun. Is that true?

As stated above, the vast majority of Penny Arcade's fanbase are seriously cool people. There are only a few who are utter and complete asshats, and they would be in the same percentage as... well, complete asshats can be found in any internet group.

That said, there are a lot of P-A fans, so that percentage means a larger number, per capita.

But, it shouldn't be considered typical for P-A at all.

I've neverr watched any of Aaron Sorkin's stuff, but this was damned entertaining.

That was seriously cool, and really good. I would actually enjoy reading these adventures more than watching Studio 60 right now, and probably on any given day as well. Well done, sir.

Holy wow, that was BEAUTIFUL.

Very well done, sir. I'd watch it.

I add my "you did Sorkin better than Sorkin does Sorkin" props.

That read like an auctioneer on speed. Sorkin's style is nuts.

Needless to say, I like it. When's your meeting with the network?

Wistful Dreamer: I really don't remember the details of the incident all that well, so I might be mistaken, but consider Squidi and the drama surrounding him from a while back. Not to say that that sort of thing happens all the time or even occasionally, but if I were in Danny's position, I would probably have to consider the possibility.

You make me wish I'd done Sorkin this way at Arthur.

I loved that, although I don't think Sorkin's ever done three straight scenes without a "not for nothing" in there somewhere.

Speaking of "comic strips used to be epic", have you seen the new Popeye collection? It's so great.

First off- great stuff.

Second off, and it seems like I'm the only who has a problem with this, but this line confused me:

"If they grab strips with the broadest appeal, that fit together into a cohesive comics page, representing the spectrum of comics while remaining consistent in quality, the word will get out."

This line was used as an argument AGAINST getting Pennyfarthing.

Now, wouldn't getting a popular gaming comment fit exactly into a comic that's part of the "spectrum of comics while remaining consistent in quality?"

The other arguments about overshadowing the other comics, and the rest, make sense, but saying "we shouldn't sign this comic because it's extremely popular despite being in one of the most competitive niche genres" doesn't make sense to me.

The key phrase is "that fit together into a cohesive comics page." Pennyfarthing wouldn't fit with the other comics. It's a good comic in their world, but it doesn't gel with the other comics they've selected. It would break the effect they're going for.

So enamored was I by the "sporks" reference that I forgot to mention that I'd actually love to see this as a regular series. Find an artist and get this shit DRAWN.

I love it.

Speaking as a massive Sorkin fan...brilliant. Kickass. Unbelievable.

Especially Joshua Malina as Simon.

That was pretty gosh-darn awesome, despite never watching more than like, 5 minutes of anything by Sorkin.

If this were to be an 'net cartoon, I would SO jump at a voice-acting part. I'd buy a good mic and everything!

"If they grab strips with the broadest appeal, that fit together into a cohesive comics page, representing the spectrum of comics while remaining consistent in quality, the word will get out."

This line was used as an argument AGAINST getting Pennyfarthing.

Yes, because it wouldn't be part of any coherent whole. At best, it'd be "Pennyfarthing and all those other comics."

Oh, and Eric? If you ever decide to record this, I so utterly call dibs on Danny. ;)

Sheer brilliance. It is a travesty that this ISN'T available as internet television or something yet.

"I hate you."
"I'm comfortable with that."

Fantastic. I was left with a deep desire to watch Sports Night again.

Holy shit that was beautiful. I wish this an online radio drama.

I have to chime in with the praise for this. The Sports Night DVDs just made the move to the top of the player, since now I'll have to watch them in the near-to-immediate future.

Couple of thoughts/questions.

1. Damn, Eric. Your writing has done a first for me: kept me awake. It's not quite Sorkin, but it's certainly interesting. And yeah, the dialog for most modern tv tales these days is rather sporadic.

2. The conversation makes me wonder: How the Hell did Penny Arcade get to be so damn popular? (I follow it, too, grant you, but still if their Child's Play charity is any indication these guys are going to a factor for at least ten more years.)

3. I respectfully disagree with Jubai's assessment that editorial control is what will help webcomics to thrive these days. I think it's actually going to be book publishing and turning the webcomics to an permanent product that you can hold in your hands without a need of a computer, Ipod, or some blackberry device. That also includes any products or advertisement deals they can find. I really don't believe webcomics would turn to editorial content to help pay their bills if it means giving up their own editorial control.

4. "Jokes about Super Mario Brothers never go out of style, do they?" Ain't that the truth...

5. Seriously, you ought to make this your next websnark podcast, Eric. Seriously.

Wow. I salute you sir, for completely rocking the webcomic fan/Sorkin fan demographic. I loved it!

I really don't believe webcomics would turn to editorial content to help pay their bills if it means giving up their own editorial control.

I'm not going to claim Jubal speaks for me, mind, but you're missing the difference between editorial standards and editorial control. When Jake and Debbie have their (moderately strawman, because hey -- Sorkin) debate, one of Jake's key points is Debbie doesn't want to give up her editorial control. Jubal, on the other hand, is speaking of editorial standards -- the set of professional expectations and aesthetic decisions designed to produce a specific lineup of webcomics that properly fit together. The editorial standards implied at Comicsense aren't really very 'control' oriented -- they're very selective about their overall lineup, they seem to be sticklers for updates and quality, and in the one known mention of content restriction, they told the Furbridge Heights cartoonist he couldn't cross into explicit porn because that would lose Comicsense.com's paypal rights.

As yet another Sorkin fan (Who became such, rather than a West Wing fan, partly on your recommendation) I have to agree with the above, that was awesome.

Also: Less dirty-laundryish than S60's going. So more kind of early Sorkin, which kind of fits.

It not only brought the funny, but also the special funny dip to dip the funny into that people enjoy more.

"Trust me. Bill Amend trumps the alphabet."

For some reason, that struck me as the best line out of the script, no mean feat considering the competition.

Too bad he's going weekly now.

I too would audition for the podcast version of this. I've been Nick Bottom, Teddy Brewster, Horace Vandergelder and Clark Kent onstage, and both Felix and Oscar at once in forensic competition.

I've never been a fan of Sorkin, but this made my day. If this really is about how he used to write, I might have to take a look back at his old stuff and see what I've been missing; still, this definitely has your mark on it.

It's a little hard to pick anything out of this, really; although it's not a realistic workplace, as you said, it's a good dramatic framework for the politics underneath webcomics. My favorite point is the contrast between what people think is important and what's actually important for success (Alexa vs. Google/Technorati, fringe audiences vs. the Slashdot/PA effect...) "This is how wars break out" indeed, Danny.

Strangely, as I was reading this, I had no sound track in my head; I can't imagine what someone could put in the background that wouldn't get in the way of the dialogue, unless it was left on the radio or something (which is how my mind handled the last scene). Still, I doubt this would happen on TV; the only time I've seen this effect was in the movie Collateral, after all.

Ah, and I second "Trust me. Bill Amend trumps the alphabet" for best single line. I've seen that happen in Borders, after all.

This made me really happy, and nostalgic for the good ol' Sorkin days, when the funny consistently trumped the dirty laundry. But mostly happy.

Get this made.

Seriously. It brings the funny and the cool.

Dude, this rocked my morning. Thanks for it.

So, uh, what's the update schedual going to be for these, and when will the cast page be up?

I'm shocked that you were able to reproduce these conversations -- ones that we had during your brief stint as Modern Tales editor -- with such startling accuracy.

Ha!

This would be the best webcomic ever, if you could find just the right artist. Brian Moore maybe? Roger Langridge? Neil Babra? I'm not sure which one, but *one* of Shaenon's artists must be just right for it. You should steal them.

Joey
www.moderntales.com

I'd audition for the podcast too, come to think of it. I think I'd make a decent Simon.

This would be the best webcomic ever, if you could find just the right artist.

And if Eric could actually keep producing it for more than 6 months...

Because nothing says webcomic gold like people talking for panel after panel after panel after panel....

And if Eric could actually keep producing it for more than 6 months...

And that seems pretty unlikely, doesn't it?

Because nothing says webcomic gold like people talking for panel after panel after panel after panel....

Definitely questionable content.

I disagree with everyone saying that this eneds to be made into a webcomic. This isn't webcomic writing - this is television writing. It'd make a fantastic videocast (which is something to consider, definitely, if you want to develop this more), but a mediocre webcomic at best.

The pacing is very different in webcomics. Even the best webcartoonists at snappy banter - Allison, Jacques and the like - don't approach the sort of pacing needed to make Sorkin's dialogue flow well.

Because nothing says webcomic gold like people talking for panel after panel after panel after panel....

That's what the walk-and-talk was invented for!

Yes, script format is fun.

Is that what Sorkin's shows are actually like? (I've never seen one - no TV for almost a decade, and dramas were never my bag anyway.) Gah! Watching one would make me want to stab my ears out!

Nevertheless - nice work! I can stop writing now.

Wait, that's what Sorkin's writing is like? Now I'm wondering why my friends are all trying to lend me their Sports Night DVDs.

You know what's funny in all this? I read the above, and saw in many places, Eric's interpretation of Sorkin's interpretation of us. Not that all of us are webcomics creators or syndicators or so on, but in between clipped sentences, I recognize quite a bit of Websnark. And not just Eric's stuff (which is there of course), but I saw a bit of Lark, a bit of Miyaa, and a few others I've come to know as words on a blog.

As for this kind of thing being a regular thing... I dunno. It's funny in one shot as a parody, but I could already feel it wear on me. I couldn't imagine being entertained by this continuing. Maybe it's just Sorkin not being my cup of "I-can't-taste-it-anyway" tea, though.

Wow. Just wow.

I recently revisited the complete Sports Night DVD collection, and this is the kind of writing that made me such a fan of that series. Not only that, but I think the "webcomic office" scenario, unrealistic as it is, would be a much better setting for a series than Studio 60. The struggling underdog vibe of Sports Night brought the kind of dramatic tension that is mirrored in this setting.

I also agree with Darth Paradox. This flows like a film. It might be interesting to see it done as an animated film (especially an animated film that mimicked Sorkin's pedeconference scenes), but it just wouldn't flow right in comic form.

That's not a knock on the comic form by any means. There's a lot of brilliant comic-form humor, action & dialog that just would not play in a film/tv/animation format. Not without such rewrites as to significantly change the tone of the writing. Same thing would happen here. I've no doubt Eric could write a brilliant webcomic using the same setting and characters he used here, but it would not have the "Sorkinesque" feel of this. Not and still be brilliant.

Alright Eric, you're brilliant. Fine. Whatever.

Your homework is to write a pilot television script. Like this, but
with a couple of modifications:

1.) You should change the setting. This office isn't real. That
shows. But you have to be equally passionate about your new setting
as you are about this one. It also has to have people in it who are
as passionate as these characters.

You are obviously passionate about web comics, but web comic related
characters don't interact in person much. If you don't have any equal
or greater passions you can use a convention as a setting, or you can
move a few years in the future to where this office does exist.

(A convention setting will make it difficult to make it a long-running
show, but with great characters and great writing that is something
that can be overcome. In addition, it'll give us an excuse to make
four hours of convention into one hour of television. And if there
are only six one-hour episodes of great material available, it is far
from a sin to do that and stop there. (n.b. Battlestar Galactica, Star
Wars))

2.) Keep everything you love about Sorkin's writing. Don't be the
least be ashamed about this. Good writers borrow. Great ones steal.

3.) Lose everything you hate about Sorkin's writing. (Ie the
walk-and-talk where the characters have nowhere to go and no reason to
be walking.)

And please, please, please, give me a chance to audition. There is
nothing an actor love more than to work with good writing.

Also, your script formatting is wrong, there are no page numbers, and you're not a member of the writer's guild.

I'm very interested in the Miranda, but she's flat. Give her some backstory, like a divorce or recent loss of her father. What color is her hair, how tall is she?

I don't know how you ever expected this to be picked up by the networks!

I woulda made Pogo the most significant comic of the fifties and Peanuts the one for the sixties myself....

Mike

A. No. This (and Sorkin's) writing does not lend itself to a comic or even animated format. It must be shot. I'd be pricing steadicams if I were you. Seriously. Although a table-read style podcast would rock if you had the right performers endowed with the proper Sorkin comic-dramatic timing of just almost stepping on each other's lines.

2. Someone mentioned setting it in a convention but having to pare an entire convention down to 1 hour would be difficult. What about an entire series called 'Convention.' The same way '24' or 'Big Day' has each episode represent a real-time hour in one day, each episode would be 1 hour of the Con and the imaginary angling by online syndicates and collectives to land the next big webcomic creator! Just think of the crazy characters and cameo possibilities!

Bah, a television series about a convention couldn't work. You would lack the vital olfactory compnent that's quite evident at any convention. You don't have the con experience if you don't ever smell con funk.

"Also, your script formatting is wrong, there are no page numbers, and you're not a member of the writer's guild."

And he used a brad in the middle hole! No one will take him seriously.

Pretty good, but to be honest it seems a little bit more like seinfeld than sorkin.
I am no expert though.

You (and Sorkin) need a little editing. At least three spots would have been better if there were less repetition, and also? Having everyone saying everyone's name when they talk to them is annoying. Eurgh.

I actually just watched the first 3 DVDs of SportsNight with my parents (early Christmas!) in the last couple days, and this is dead on. Though you're missing the preachy alcoholic.

I agree that this is /not/ a webcomic, though it could potentially thrive as a podcast (video is so hard to do -- among the other problems, your actors need to be in the same place at the same time, modulo shooting schedule).

A little late on the commenting here, but hey, it's not like there's a lot of new stuff burying this on the page.

I think Jubal's thesis here is a classic example of what some in the blogosphere have dubbed the Nunberg Error. That is, simultaneously exaggerating the future impact of novel technologies while utterly ignoring social changes. The classic example is an an image from a 1950 issue of Popular Mechanics (included in the link above) of a housewife hosing off a couch with the caption "Because everything in her home is waterproof, the housewife of 2000 can do her daily cleaning with a hose." It extrapolated the technological impact of plastics far beyond reality while utterly missing the possibility that 50s housewives would not be a permanent fixture of our culture.

In the same way Jubal assumes that the internet will brush away traditional print media while ignoring the substantial social changes that the internet has on the way we take in media. While he is right that the primary problem of web-based media is sorting the wheat from the chaff, I think he is very short-sighted in assuming that old fashioned elitist editorial decision making is the way that we will solve that problem. On the web, and particularly in the world of Web 2.0, that problem isn't solved by a few gatekeepers, but by the sheer power of social networks, of linking, of friending. It's worth noting that the Myspace-style webcomic site signed up hundreds of members in a few days.

The other flawed assumption he makes is that there will still be singularly definitive comics for the culture as a whole the way there were in the past. That sort of monolithic culture is history, even in more traditional media than the internet. There just aren't events like Lucy's baby or the Beatles on Ed Sullivan or the moon landing. Highly specialized magazines have replaced general-interest ones like Readers Digest as the primary periodical reading material. This is even more true on the internet. The most popular webcomics don't target a general audience the way Li'l Abner, Peanuts, Doonesbury, and Calvin and Hobbes did. They target niches. This trend towards niches, more than the decline of the newspaper, accounts for the lack of a definitive comic of the 2000s. And the web isn't going to change any of that.

...Wow.

I'd forgotten why I read Websnark, for a while. You just reminded me.

Excellent, both as writing and as thinking about webcomics.

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