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Eric: Strange Homes, Strange Times

HotS: Izzy and Tanner(From Home on the Strange.)

There's been plenty of discussion, over on the internet byways, about Questionable Content's core premise. The debate, simply put, is whether or not Questionable Content is specifically a romantic comic strip -- and whether the core relationship between Faye and Marten is the centerpiece of the strip -- or if the comic is a more general comic about a group of people and their various relationships and oddities. As late as last year at this time I would have solidly said it was the former. These days, I'm not as sure. Still, for a good number of Questionable Content's readers (and various obsessed thanksgiving turkeys), the question remains "when are Marten and Faye going to hook up/have sex/declare everlasting love."

I'm not here to talk about Questionable Content today. I realize that might be slightly confusing, but bear with me. You see, I'm here to discuss Home on the Strange. And it's hard for me to discuss Steinmetz and Pare's strip without at least having Questionable Content come to mind. Because if the central question of Questionable Content is "when are these two going to get together," the central question of Home on the Strange seems to be "when are these two going to break up already!?"

In this case, "these two" can refer to either of the major couples in the strip. Tom and Karla are the primary couple -- theirs is the home which is apparently on the strange. Izzy and Tanner are the other. Not long ago, I read a comment by Steinmetz about how Izzy and Tanner were the "more dysfunctional couple" of the two, and I agree with that -- but it's like saying a 36' sloop is "pricier" than a powerboat. That's very true, but that doesn't mean the powerboat's cheap. And you can't exactly call either relationship a pillar of understanding and stability.

Not, I hasten to add, that there is any problem with this. Home on the Strange is a strong strip and all the characters are believable. So don't take this as your old pal Eric panning a strip he in fact loves. I'm not. This is analysis. You remember that, right? I used to do that sort of thing, once upon a time....

Let's pause for a moment and examine how the two relationships are similar. Both involve a male and a female. In both cases, the woman has taken a dominant position -- this isn't absolute, mind, but it's persistent. In both relationships, the woman is setting the tone, the rules and the agenda. When the male is setting out on a misadventure of some sort, the woman is generally being indulgent (or finds out too late to do anything about it, which leads to the argument). When the woman sets out on a misadventure, it is generally against the advice and better judgement of the male. (In fact, more often than not, it's against the better advice of Tom, who has been generally cast as the sanest and most well adjusted of the characters -- the Mary Tyler Moore to Izzy, Karla, Tanner, and the rests' Ted Baxter, Murray Slaughter, Lou Grant et al.) Both use various geek reference points as channel markers, and both are largely based on sex.

But more about sex in a bit.

Finally, both are marked by a strong desire on the part of the woman in the relationship to have the world be the way she wants it to be, while both are also marked by a strong desire on the part of the man to have the woman be happy while actually living in the real world. Which is where we get to the nub of things.

This is actually best demonstrated between Karla and Tom -- the 'less dysfunctional couple.' Karla is a woman who sees the world dogmatically. She typifies a geek trope, actually -- she believes her opinions and experiences are natural laws. When she meets Izzy -- a "fellow nerd" as she puts it -- she proceeds to "pour all her favorite fandoms into her." It's a cute, funny and very real strip. I've seen the phenomenon between geeks many times... right down to "we do not talk about season five."

Which is the nub of Karla, in a way. She loves Babylon 5, but we do not talk about Season Five. The same with Buffy. She loves Buffy. She talks about Buffy constantly.And if you haven't seen Buffy, you will see Buffy. Karla's world is the way Karla wants it, and when it isn't the way Karla wants it, there's trouble.

Which is where a lot of the conflict of the strip comes in. Karla has a new friend, and she has a lonely friend in Tanner. So she sets them up (against Tom's advice). The date goes as badly as Tom thought it would, and it looked like Izzy was on her way out of the strip. Tom manages to patch things up.

Then, Karla wants Izzy involved in Seth's roleplaying game. Now, she doesn't acknowledge all the warning signs that Izzy isn't like her when it comes to roleplaying, because Karla can't comprehend that another girl gamer might not want what she wants from roleplaying. So once again, we hit disaster -- Izzy nearly destroys the campaign. (And naturally, it's Tom who saves it. See a trend? Thought you might!)

Izzy, on the other hand, is generally more than happy to live her own life and let Tanner live his -- so long as the terms of their life together are absolutely locked down. After their disastrous first date, Izzy declared they would never have a relationship. There was no romance. Now or ever. But, of course they could have sex. Eventually, they clearly settle into a committed relationship -- only Izzy refuses to admit there is a relationship. Eventually, this becomes problematic -- Tanner wants there to be something he can point to. Izzy simply doesn't. It leads to arguments which leads to problems. Now, obviously the last panel is the evocative one there, but the most significant panel of that strip, to my mind, is the third. Tanner says "oh! So you set all the boundaries in this? I don't get a say?" The answer, unstated, is of course yes. To the point that Izzy refuses to tell Tanner she's moving to a new apartment on the chance he might want to live together.

Which brings us inexorably to sex. Obviously, the one area where Tanner and Izzy do see eye to eye is sex, right now. And it's pretty straightforward. For Karla, on the other hand, sex is power.

And more to the point... sex is currency.

In its most benign form, sex becomes a reward. Tom saves Seth's RPG campaign, despite the fact that Seth is actively trying to sleep with Karla (which Karla apparently knows, which says something). He does it because it means a lot to Karla. So Karla rewards him with hot Cosplay sex. Which is successful. In fact, it seems pretty much always successful. (Possibly because Karla is absolutely attracted to Tom's conversational skills, as opposed to his body.) Later, Karla -- having learned absolutely nothing from her experience with Izzy and roleplaying -- wants Tom to teach Branch how to roleplay. Branch is a monotoned creepy girl and Tom knows this is a desperately bad idea, but Karla sees herself in Branch (see above: Karla sees her experiences as universal) and wants to draw Branch out, the way she wishes someone had drawn Karla herself out as a teenager. Tom absolutely refuses. As he says, there are limits, and she just hit them. The way Karla gets around it? Cosplay sex. I'm reminded of the old Berkshires circuit joke: a prostitute is a woman who has sex for money. A wife is a woman who has sex for a new refrigerator.

Well. In the last couple of weeks, we've absolutely hit pinnacle point with both of these relationships and all of these relationship trends. Tom is running a play by e-mail campaign with Branch, and Branch wants to go sexual. Tom is opposed to it. He knows this is a bad idea. Karla, still embodying herself in Branch's experiences, demands he go through with it -- to the point where she takes over writing the sex scenes to live out the fantasy. Only they learn that Branch is a virgin.

2006-12-22

Tom freaks. This is way out of his comfort zone. He refuses. He knows this is a bad idea, and when Tom knows things like this, Tom is always right. Karla, on the other hand, is still convinced that this is a safe way to bring Branch out of her shell, and she continues to see herself in Branch, so she pushes. And when Tom doesn't budge, she uses sex to entice him once more.

Okay. Two things, before we go on.

First off? We already know that Branch has become romantically... let us say interested... in Tom. Not in the game, mind. In Tom. Which means yes -- Tom is right. This is absolute dynamite and Karla's lighting the fuse while smoking in a room full of gasoline. Which is not a complaint, mind -- we the readers are waiting patiently for the Earth Shattering Kaboom.

Secondly, however... this is staggeringly creepy. Think for a moment if Tom was the girl and Karla the man. Consider a wife being pressured to consent to explicit cybersex with someone she finds creepy and clingy and problematic by a husband who sees this in terms of a fantasy and who sees himself in the potential stalker? This would not be the adorable misadventures of a geek couple in an odd world, this would be grounds for the wife's friends offering to give her a place to stay until she can get her feet under her. I'm pretty sure Lifetime's done three or four movies on this topic. Pushing your mate past their comfort zone in sexual matters is never good. Pushing your mate past their comfort zone in sexual matters with someone outside the marriage is not cool, man. It's just not cool.

Over on the other side, Izzy has learned that Tanner continues to talk to the ex girlfriend who cheated on him. Now, let me open by saying Tanner's a fucking moron. I'm sorry, but if a person cheats on you multiple times, stiffs you on large amounts of money, and actively uses you, and you give that person any opportunity to continue to screw you over, you're an example of evolution in action and should not be permitted to breed. Please let us stipulate that before we move forward.

Izzy is not reacting as a friend who is concerned. She is acting as a girlfriend who is pissed off. She is demanding that Tanner not "keep secrets" from her. And when Tanner (rightfully) points out that she moved apartments without telling him, her response is "I never fucked my apartment!" When she continues to scream at him for "going behind her back," he answers that he thought they weren't dating, and is angrily told to "stop using my own logic against me!" It's all a very clear call back to the last argument. Izzy wants to set the boundaries. She wants to be able to live her life exactly as she's comfortable with. She wants Tanner to mold into that boundary without complain. And she doesn't want him to push those boundaries or set boundaries of his own. In particular, she wants him to act as a boyfriend would, without actually letting him even talk about her to others as a girlfriend.

And then goes on to talk about how she has decided what movies they're going to watch on Christmas, because after all this is setting a tradition for next year. And the readers start thinking expletives about this woman, while Tanner quietly -- veeeeery quietly -- rebels.

So.

Like I said at the top, this strip has become an interesting contrast to Questionable Content. Both strips are entirely about relationships and interpersonal interactions. Questionable Content's conflict and tension derives from wondering just how the romantic tension between the cast members will finally, ultimately resolve. Home on the Strange, on the other hand, has developed the opposing tension. We can see that these things aren't going to end well. There are going to be explosions, on all sides. Which could lead to severe ugliness.

And that's why we like this strip. It's one thing to rubberneck at a train wreck. It's another to watch two trains very slowly head for each other on the same track.

And you will note: Tom and Tanner can both see the trains coming.

Ain't that a kick in the head?

Posted by Eric Burns-White at January 3, 2007 11:29 AM

Comments

Comment from: Ford Dent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 12:55 PM

I'm glad I'm not the only one who is waiting for everything to go to shit with these characters.

And I think it is telling that the men, for once, are the ones who can see the problems on the horizon. In television, it's usually the other way around.

Either way, I have on more than one occasion gotten the urge to throw something at both Izzy and Karla because they are being morons. Then again, if they weren't terribly selfish and flawed, we wouldn't have a very good comic on our hands.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 1:16 PM

Boy, if I were someone of whose work a critic has just said (to paraphrase), "The women live in their own worlds and the men are the smart ones," I sure hope at least I could say, "I meant to do that."

Comment from: Will "Scifantasy" Frank [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 1:20 PM

Focusing on Tom and Karla for now: First, I don't think they're going to break up in any irrevocable way. Tom seems comfortable with his inability to talk Karla out of her wrong ideas; I don't see why he would, for example, separate or divorce.

I think what's more likely to happen is that Karla will be hurt--very badly--by one of these, and realize it's her own fault. (The Izzy/Tanner date disaster doesn't count; she has any number of other places for Karla to allocate blame--right or wrong. Tanner, Izzy, just bad chemistry, Ann...and likewise, the RPG meltdown has Izzy and Seth as blame-sources too. Besides, neither one was a real serious injury to Karla.) And maybe, just maybe, she'll start taking Tom seriously.

Unless, of course, she refuses to see it as her own fault, and blames, for example, Tom over the Branch thing (depending on how far it goes) and she walks out. Not too likely, I think, but possible.

Second...I said a while ago, on Ferrett's LiveJournal, that I appreciated how Tom has been a geek forever, and he's moved through the completely obsessive phase...but since he introduced Karla to geekery, and that was when both were adults, she's still caught in that early stage. It's completely natural for her to pour her fandoms into Izzy, because that's what you do when you're still a relatively new fan. But Tom has been a geek long enough to understand how it works, and to have learned from the Geek Social Fallacies (taken from a webpage which isn't online anymore, but I kept a copy).

As to Izzy and Tanner? Yes, "train wreck in the making" is the exact way to say this. Though you're right, and Tanner is a moron for still talking to Ann, Izzy's controlling behavior is way out of line for a friend, and, frankly, on the border for a girlfriend.

Comment from: benlehman [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 1:38 PM

Good to have you back, Eric.

I stopped reading Home on the Strange because it felt exactly too close to the wildly dysfunctional relationships that geeks find themselves in. The perceived female scarcity in geek circles tends to lead to the idea that "relationship = girl gets everything." And HotS is breaking that down quite effectively.

Maybe I should start reading again...

yrs--
--Ben

Comment from: Starline [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 2:12 PM

I agree that the whole Branch thing is really REALLY creepy.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 2:31 PM

Home on the Strange always tears at me. On one hand, I see Karla and Tom embody much of the working geek relationship moments that I see both in my marriage and the working relationships in many of my geek friends, for better or for worse. For the most part, I feel like it handles geek relationships better than any other online comic I've read.

On the other hand, stuff like you describe here drives me crazy. I could enjoy the "set up Izzy and Tanner" storyline because while it was foolish, it was believable and wasn't any huge imposition. But the whole "roleplay explicitly with someone who has the hots for you" thing pushes me past uncomfortable and straight into "I can't read this." I don't think Tom and Karla will break up over this (they fight like my wife and I fight - maybe heated at times, but never putting the marriage in jeopardy).

But it certainly has me asking whether or not I should continue reading. I read comics to be entertained, not creeped out.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 2:40 PM

(This may be a repeat post. I can't tell -- typekey is giving me fits. All apologies if this post seems familiar.)

Now, let me open by saying Tanner's a fucking moron. I'm sorry, but if a person cheats on you multiple times, stiffs you on large amounts of money, and actively uses you, and you give that person any opportunity to continue to screw you over, you're an example of evolution in action and should not be permitted to breed. Please let us stipulate that before we move forward.

I don't think I can stipulate that in any kind of permanent sense, since I've seen, time and time again, perfectly rational and reasonable people do the stupidest things where relationships are concerned. In college I used to compare love to brain tumors, because when either one made itself known it often resulted in drastic changes in personality -- changes that would disappear when the "tumor" was "removed."

And if I were Tanner, at least insofar as storyline logic goes, I too might, when faced with an utterly controlling non-girlfriend, look back fondly on the days when the only thing my girlfriend did was cheat on me and steal my money... ;)

Comment from: quiller [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 4:26 PM

I agree with previous commenters that I don't really see Tom and Karla headed for a breakup. I don't see it anymore than I saw Ricky and Lucy headed for a breakup in I love Lucy, because Tom is aware that Karla is the way she is and accepts her for it. That the current situation may be leading to a fight or a trainwreck or the like I can accept, but there is something about their relationship that says to me that it may be outwardly disfunctional, but it is pretty solid at its core.

Tanner and Izzy, well I don't think it has that inner solidness, and unless both of them manage to deal with a bunch of issues and grow then it is most likely crash and burn. (Yeah I'm an optimist, what can I say.) Tanner lets women walk all over him way too much, and Izzy is so afraid of commitment it makes your head spin. Not what you call a stable set of traits.

Comment from: Recovering Extrovert [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 4:52 PM

Wow. It's weird to me to see several reactions to a comic that are so distant from my own, especially in Eric's case; he so often puts in words the ideas kicking around in my head. So, without further ado, I think all of you are wrong.

Ok, not all of you. And not completely wrong. But Eric's description of these relationships as train wrecks misses the mark entirely. Specifically, describing Tom and Karla's relationship as dysfunctional is a dysphemism. They are not on any kind of route to splitsville, and Karla's crazy ideas are not actually horribly wrong. In fact, Karla is right most of the time, but is horrible at executing any kind of plan (otherwise, it wouldn't be funny).

For example, Izzy and Tanner had a horrible first date, mostly because Karla didn't take into account Tanner's darwin-award-nominee attitude towards Ann. But they're dating now, and they're good for each other. Izzy is a strong and kind woman who can help Tanner get over his idiocies, and Tanner is supportive in a way that can overcome Izzy's cynicisms about life. Just because their first date was disasterous doesn't mean that Karla wasn't correct in hooking them up. Her execution is just piss-poor.

Introducing Izzy into the campaign is another example of poor execution. If you will remember, Izzy had a great time gaming, which was Karla's intention. Trouble is, she didn't (or couldn't) predict Izzy's impact to the campaign. However, Izzy did not destroy the campaign, and any good GM would be able to get over what she did; in fact, Seth is persuaded (by Tom, which is significant, just like Eric points out) to continue the campaign despite being shaken to its core, because it's what a good GM would do. Currently, there are no signs that the campaign is not running fine, which means that things turned out all right in the end. In other words, Karla was right.

Karla's right about Branch as well; even though Karla has a habit of applying her life to everyone's situation, it doesn't make her wrong about Branch being like her when she was young. Branch totally needs someone to do what she's having Tom do. The only problem is that Karla doesn't see how Branch is getting attached to Tom. That's funny, not hopelessly tragic and dooming a relationship to failure. It's a good idea gone wrong that someone is going to have to step in and fix, just like the rest of Karla's ideas.

Tom and Karla work great together; we see where their personalities conflict because it makes for a good webcomic, not because they're in any sort of trouble. Little together moments tend not to be as interesting. We know that Tom and Karla have seen a massive amount of movies together, but we don't actually see any of that happen. Meanwhile, the situations where either of them use poor judgement or have an argument are placed front and center. Seth's gaming group is the same way: we only saw it when it was in conflict, not when things were running smoothly. I'm sorry, but there is no reason to believe there is a train wreck, and thus there is no wreck for Tom to actually see coming.

Oh, and if I insisted that my girlfriend stop interacting with the friends of hers that clearly desired her sexually, we would soon run out of friends. A similar situation happened to a couple my friends in high school; they were surrounded by men who all wanted to have sex with them. Seth is detestable and obnoxious but by no means unbelievable.

Comment from: Montykins [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 6:56 PM

But they're dating now, and they're good for each other.

How are they good for each other? Their relationship, as far as we can judge from what's been shown in the strip, consists mostly of lying and screaming. Also, for Tanner, cringing. He looks miserable every second he interacts with Izzy.

Comment from: Tom Lynch [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 7:12 PM

Currently, there are no signs that the campaign is not running fine, which means that things turned out all right in the end. In other words, Karla was right.

There aren't any signs that the campaign is running, actually. Tom tried to point Branch at Seth; the game wasn't active at that point. We've seen no indication that's changed, and it seems unlikely they wouldn't have just waited a couple of weeks if Seth was about to restart.

Comment from: The Ferrett [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 7:15 PM

Innnnteresting.

Suffice it to say that I don't see it quite the way that you do, but it's neat to see an alternate take. (I don't see Tanner as a rebel, for example.)

Part of the issue is watching the characters struggle through the problems they have. They are dysfunctional. But the whole point of the strip is getting to the sweet spot where you can relax, and I hope y'all will trust me when I say that it's not going to go the way you expected.

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 8:03 PM

Sex maybe a valid form of social currency, but it's hard to make change out of it. Which is why, indeed, these relationships are going to be heading for some rough times.

Comment from: LurkerWithout [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 8:16 PM

Man, I so want to like Karla. But I can't get past the way she constantly forces Tom to adapt to doing things the way SHE wants. They game with the GM she likes (and Tom hates). He works with the girl he just finds creepy (and Karla projects herself onto). And she just ends up making me want to tear my hair out...

Which is probably a sign of the skill Ferret and Roni are bringing to the strip. But really I like Tom. I wish he was a real person I could hang out with and game with. Karla seems to be someone I'd put up with because she's married to Tom...

Comment from: kviri [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 8:17 PM

How are they good for each other? Their relationship, as far as we can judge from what's been shown in the strip, consists mostly of lying and screaming. Also, for Tanner, cringing. He looks miserable every second he interacts with Izzy.

I think it's more accurate to say that they have the potential to be very good for each other, if they can get each other past their primary hang-ups. The problem isn't that they're "screaming", it's that neither of them is really listening to what the other is saying. (Though, in that sense, each could do a better job of delivering their message.) Tanner isn't wrong when he calls Izzy on her fear of commitment, though he's a fool for enabling it. Izzy isn't wrong about the total lack of wisdom in Tanner's dangerous dance with Ann, but she's not going to get anywhere with her arguments until she comes to terms with the fact that Tanner's well-being isn't her only concern.

None of these are insurmountable issues, though I do suspect they'll get worse before they get better, if they get better at all.

As for Tom and Karla, I'm with Recovering Extrovert -- I just don't see anything truly relationship-threatening there. On the other hand, I have no idea what the outcome will be for Branch, and I'll be interested to find out.

Comment from: Faou [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 8:23 PM

I've been a reader of this blog for over 2 years now. I took note when Home on the Strange premiered, and was snarked here as something to watch. I found QC through websnark as well. I consider both to be among my top 5 favorite current webcomics to read, and would like to thank you, Mr. Burns, for turning me towards them.

That said, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. So much so, that I even registered to comment as such. It's good to have the old commentary back again, I hope you keep it up! I'll be watching for the incoming trainwreck with baited breath.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 9:39 PM

"Currently, there are no signs that the campaign is not running fine, which means that things turned out all right in the end. In other words, Karla was right."

Um, may I be the first to point out the logical fallacy here. Just because it turned out for the best does not make something right. For it to be right, an informed, rational agent should be able to forsee that it would turn out right. Something can even end up going horribly wrong and still be the right course of action -- if it was a reasonable risk. The ethics of a course of action are determined by their rationally expected outcome, not by there eventual outcome, unless you happen to be omniscient and knew ahead of time what was going to happen.

Comment from: Wistful Dreamer [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 9:55 PM

"I don't think I can stipulate that in any kind of permanent sense, since I've seen, time and time again, perfectly rational and reasonable people do the stupidest things where relationships are concerned. In college I used to compare love to brain tumors, because when either one made itself known it often resulted in drastic changes in personality -- changes that would disappear when the "tumor" was "removed.""

Gotta go with Chris on this one. Tanner's not an idiot. He's not evolution in action. He's wrapped around someone's finger. There was a girl I knew in college that had me that way. I knew full well that we were never going to end up together, yet I ran through hell and back for her. Couldn't end it. Felt like she needed me. The need felt so good, made me feel like I had worth, even if I wasn't going to profit from it. Eventually, after end of classes, told her to call if she needed anything, and then demanded of myself not to call her. If she really needed me, she knew how to reach me. Went and got into a healthy relationship and a new circle of friends. Over a year later, unexpectedly ran into her at a friend's graduation. Took about 20 seconds to fall into the same old routine and about six weeks and a gallon of scotch to get back out of the maelstrom. Simply put, people can get caught in relationships that are destructive and tear them apart, that they cannot extricate themselves from -- and it isn't because they are morons, don't want to be happy, can't see what's happening, or don't love the people they've moved on to. They just don't know how to get rid of the hooks the relationship (more than the other person) has lodged in their flesh.

As for Karla and Tom in regards to Branch: No, they don't look like they're about to break up. Karla is doing something very unhealthy towards the underpinnings of their marriage (treating Tom's safety zone, and therefore him, as if it is unimportant), but nothing here is going to nblow up. Karla, however, is doing something very bad to Branch, both violating her autonomy in making her interact romantically with someone other than whom she intends, and positively reinforcing sexually and emotionally unhealthy behaviors (enticing someone to have an emotional affair with a married "man" is not in any mental healthcare workers regular handbook). I think the more likely explosion would be for Branch to find out, misinterpret this all as a cruel joke, and K&T become known among their friends as the couple that torture virgins.

But that wouldn't be funny.

Comment from: Dragonmuncher [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 3, 2007 10:59 PM

For the Ann thing: maybe he's an idiot (well, yes, he is), maybe he's just wrapped around her finger. The thing that annoys me is that, as far as we know, there aren't really any redeeming qualities about Ann. So that's why, at the moment, Tanner's an idiot.


Karla and Tom won't break up because of Branch. I wouldn't be surprised if Branch tries to somehow seduce Tom, but I think it's almost definite that Tom would pick Karla over Branch, any day. MAYBE some sort of Three's Company-esque walk-in misunderstanding will happen, I don't know.

Most likely scenario: It all comes crashing down, Tom basically goes, "SEE?" Karla reluctantly admits he was right, and they move on.


I don't think Tanner and Izzy will break up, either. At least not right now. If they do break up, current circumstances will make it a messy one. There's too many emotions in the air at the moment. Since they're really the only main character- I'm not counting Branch, Seth, and maybe a couple others I'm forgetting- they'll have to stay at lease civil to each other for the comic to continue. Since their breakup will almost certainly be messy, I think it's unlikely they'll break up.

Comment from: Brendan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 12:39 AM

Whoa. I was expecting this one to end with your trademark "you had me, and you lost me."

Honestly, the idea of Tom and Karla breaking up never even occured to me; they seem, to me, like a perfect couple. Yes, she uses sex to control him, but what's wrong with that? Tom accepts this as his lot. Like it or not, that's now most marriages are, at least at this age; the woman uses sex to control the man, and the man accepts it for the sex, or even because he dislikes control. In any case, Tom seems happier outside of his self-declared boundaries. True, he can see trouble when it's brewing, but he also sees it when it isn't brewing, ("I'm not polygamerous!") and that just isn't good for him. It was for Karla's sake that he kept Izzy in the group, even, in the wake of the one time his concerns led to significant trouble.

Tanner and Izzy, on the other hand, that's a problem. They have a relationship, whether Izzy likes it or not. I learned a long time ago that fuck-friends don't come in twos. Romance just doesn't work for some people, but relationships aren't defined by romance, but by mutual dependency. "Ah wish ah knew how to quit yew!" This bit about making a tradition of their Christmas films is not something fuck-friends do. Roommates, maybe, lovers, yes. Part of me is saying that the sooner she admits it, the better off they'll be, but Tanner seems like the kind of guy who would take that admission and turn it into a Hugh Grant film. Maybe that's a sign they shouldn't be together. I don't think that they see eye-to-eye on sex, anyway. Tanner (in yet another role reversal) sees it as a lot more intimate and serious than she does. She seems like she spent college in one of those cliques where every pair that makes sense is sleeping together. Although, I don't really think she makes him miserable. Keep in mind, at the beginning and end of each storyline, they're usually both almost deliriously happy, which gives the impression that we're only seeing the fights because, let's face it, the rest is boring.

Tanner and Ann, though - well, I know I'd still talk to her, but I'd be an idiot for it. She's controlling Tanner by sex in a bad way, not a healthy way like Karla. I mean, Karla uses it to get Tom to do things that are outside boundaries that tend to be a bit too tight anyway; Ann uses it to rob Tanner blind. If he lets her (and you know he will), she'll do it again. Of course, we've got to keep in mind what The Ferret has said "no one is completely worthless." Presumably, that includes Ann.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 12:56 AM

True, he can see trouble when it's brewing, but he also sees it when it isn't brewing, ("I'm not polygamerous!") and that just isn't good for him.

... er... how is Seth not trouble, exactly?

Comment from: The Ferrett [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 1:53 AM

Looking over these comments, I have four more things to say:

1) I'm kind of glad there's a lot of opinions on how Tom and Karla operate here. Are they healthy? I tend to think that if I'm doing my job right, you argue about them in the same way you do a set of friends you know well.

2) One of the things that is NOT brought up here is Tom's behavior - namely, getting arrested at Die Arthaus. It's not like Karla's thrilled about that, so it's not like Karla endures nothing from her sweet hubby. And again, we'll explore that eventually.

3) I wouldn't normally give this away, but all will be revealed in Wednesday's strip, so what the heck; the Seth campaign, Gotterdammerung, has effectively been on hold for the past several months. The campaign hasn't been continuing in secret; Izzy really pushed it off the tracks. But we'll be jumping back onto that particular storyline (kinda) in about T-minus 22 hours.

4) Two beers and a whiskey and good friends? That's a pretty good night. That's not webcomic-related, but hey, it makes me happy.

Comment from: Roni [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 7:07 AM

You like us! You really like us!

I hesitate to comment because we're about to launch into a lengthy storyline discussing several of these points. I do get a huge kick out of watching people debate the relationships in the strip. When working on a storyline, Ferrett and I go endlessly back and forth on the power dynamics, what's healthy, and how things will be interpreted. It's neat to see how other people are looking at these same issues.

A slight correction: Gotterdammerung will be mentioned in Friday's strip. Ferrett's just thrown because I was actually working on a strip early.

Comment from: Dr Chuck Pearson [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 10:21 AM

Just a random comment.

I was not the greatest English student, I will admit that full well.

But I've learned more about literary criticism from this site than I have from every interaction I've ever had with an English teacher or professor COMBINED.

Eric, you ought to cook up one of your tasty, tasty biscuits for yourself.

Comment from: Dragonmuncher [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 10:52 AM

Oooh, we need some tasty, tasty, biscuits. Haven't had those in a while.

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 11:26 AM

You know, I don't think we ever established where Eric gets the biscuits. He might have a secret underground lair with biscuit-making gnomes, bubbling with vengeance that those cookie-making elves took the limelight when their products are superior (and thus worthy of being a critic's award). He might make them himself.

Or maybe they're the Platonic ideal of a biscuit, without actual form but yet perfectly satisfying as the ideal of a biscuit.

Of course, maybe as a New Critic, he can't actually analyze the biscuit outside of the context of giving it to each writer, so we might not ever know where any given biscuit comes from.

By the way, I now have this image of writing up an entire essay (or series of essays) on how to describe different schools of criticism based on the making and eating of sweet baked goods.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 11:45 AM

If this is a biscuit completely in line with New Criticism ideals it would only be relevant if Eric gave the biscuit to himself. :)

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 12:16 PM

Ah, but as the past has shown, Eric isn't perfectly in line with New Criticism ideals. So the understanding of the biscuit and the ideals behind it can be understood if he gives it to someone else.

Of course, keep in mind that I'm a Surrealist, so I see the cookie as merely being an aspect of the True Form, and that in fact the art is not complete without the gifting of a deserved biscuit, and that the giving of the biscuit brings all of us closer to understanding the truth of all existence.

It's a very important biscuit.

Comment from: sqbr [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 6:29 PM

This precipitated an interesting conversation with my fiance (I don't roleplay, he does and has a female GM)
Me: So, would your charcater ever have sex or romance with any NPCs?
Him: Dude, she's a courtesan. Based off Saffron from Firefly.
Me. ....oh.

*shows fiance comic*
Him: Ewwwww, not like that.

Apparently he has seen GMs that sleazy, but agrees with me that the issue is Karla playing along with it given how uncomfortable it makes Tom.

Comment from: Klein [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 7:11 PM

Thanks for posting again, Eric. Mr. Burns. Websnark is still my preferred method of learning about good webcomics to read.


I found a couple new ones in the last couple months that you might like, and that you may not know about. Thinkin' Lincoln and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Not as cereberal as other comics, but they are quite funny.

Comment from: kirabug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 4, 2007 8:59 PM

Brendan wrote:

Like it or not, that's now most marriages are, at least at this age; the woman uses sex to control the man, and the man accepts it for the sex, or even because he dislikes control.

Serious question (back on the subject) -- do the majority of people really feel that way? I mean, there's in-bed roleplay that could go either way at any time, but "I want a new fridge" control? That's just creepy to me. Am I wearing rose-colored glasses? Am I just really lucky to be married to someone who's not going to put up with that crap?

Odd.

Comment from: sqbr [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at January 7, 2007 2:45 AM

Kirabug: waaay too late for you to read this I'm sure, but I felt the same way re marriage (not that I'm quite married yet. Nearly!)

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