Monday, March 17, 2003

Looking To The Stars: PVP? A POS!

Stock characters. Sub-par, unrealistic artwork with a poor grasp of anatomy. Badly written AND chronically late. Written by a man with an over-inflated opinion of his abilities who turned his back on the people who got him where he was for money and fame. Yeah. PVP and Scott Kurtz will fit right in at Image.

I’ve been aquatinted with PVP in the past. It’s hard not to be when you are, like me, a gamer and a comic book guy. It’s even harder when some of the comics you do like featured PVP as a back-up piece or are linked to it off their web site. And you’ve seen me write about “Knights of the Dinner Table” and “Dork Tower” and “Nodwick” and many other comics dealing with “gamer humor” in the past and praise those titles. I’ve written about a few net comics that I read every day and said good things about them as well. And yet, I had a few of you write me and ask “You forgot to mention PVP, didn’t you? It’s a gamer comic. It’s on the Net.”

Well, I’ll cop to being a wee bit forgetful. I have misplaced my keys only to find them in my other jacket pocket. I’ll occasionally leave the house and then run back to make sure I did lock the door. I’ve forgotten names, faces, directions and the answers to test questions I had down cold the night before. But I did not forget to mention PVP among the ranks of the web comics and gamer comics that I enjoy. I didn’t forget this because I do not enjoy it.

Why not, you ask? And by “you” I don’t mean the metaphorical you, the general audience. I mean both of YOU out there, who did ask why I don’t like PVP: Christine and Tony. To answer that, let’s start with a brief dissection of the brand new PVP #1.

My first beef with PVP #1 is that it is, in the purest sense, a scam. It is not, as it has been advertised, a brand new comic book about gamers. It is not a comic book. Most of it is not new. And it is barely about gamers.

I should explain why I don’t consider this issue a “comic book”. Strictly speaking, a comic book has a cohesive plot that carries on throughout the whole of the printed object. A comic strip is a few single panels conveying a single thought. All this issue does is collect several comic strips. It is as much a comic book as your average bound collection of Calvin and Hobbes is a comic book. The PVP title released by Dorkstorm Press was a comic book, with an ongoing story that lasted through the whole issue as well as some smaller strips in the back.

Secondly, PVP #1 is not brand new. With the exception of the strips on the inside cover and back cover, everything in the book has been previously released on the PVP website. In short, you are being charged three bucks for something you can easily get for free off the Internet. And the two original strips, which I will discuss later, are not quite worth a buck-fifty,.

Finally, PVP #1 is not really about gamers. Of the reprinted strips, only a few towards the end deal with gaming in even the most remote sense. Most of the book is taken up with an in-office Nerf-Gun fight and the tired sitcom cliché of a mouse being loose in the office and various idiots destroying the office trying to kill the mouse. I’m not saying that every strip has to be popped-full of gags about Everquest dating and Lord of the Rings jokes. I’m saying that if you’re going to be plugged as a gamer comic, you should darn well mentioning gaming outside of the context of what the characters write about in their office.

And speaking of the characters, let us talk about them now that I’ve gotten all my complaints about PVP #1 out of the way and focus upon the many problems I have with PVP as a strip.

1. The Characters

The basic sitcom cast. Skull is the well-meaning dumb guy. Brent is the pretentious jerk with a heart of gold. Cole is the clueless boss who wants to join in on the wacky antics until he gets screwed over. (Come to think of it, he even LOOKS like Gordon Jump from WKRP with glasses). Francis is Bud Bundy, minus the moral code. And Jade is the standard Ally McBeal package ; “smart, but attractive, independent woman who is smarter than every man around her put together”. And speaking of Jade…

2. Strong, Smart... and damn sexy on a bearskin rug.

Scott Kurtz has no problem with whoring Jade out for the cheap sexual titillation of his male readers. Consider the cover of PVP #1, where all the other characters are pushed into the background so that attention can be played to the curvy posterior of the strip’s main female character, as rendered by Frank “My target audience is the guys too chicken to buy Betty Page comics” Cho.

It is also worth mentioning that Cho did a nude picture of Jade, naked on a bearskin rug as a “reward” for the patience of readers who sat through a week-long story involving a nude picture of Jade that turned out to be… a baby picture. (Hmm… think I saw that on WKRP too.) Now, this would have been pretty funny; a stab at those who were getting so worked-up over nude artwork of a cartoon character. Too bad all those people were rewarded in the end for their lewdness. And speaking of lewdness…

3. Toilet Humor

When sex fails, you can get a lot of mileage out of a story by mentioning bodily functions. There have been several strips based around the poor hygiene and gaseous discharge of Skull, Robby and Jase. In fact, the cast page lists Robby and Jase as having the special skill of “converting beer into pee”. And the back cover of the comic has Jade, who is briefly ensnared by the Witchblade in another cheesecake moment as her clothes are ripped off, wondering how she is supposed to go to the bathroom in her scanty armor.

Finally, there are the problems I have with the man, Scott Kurtz himself. Judging from the “rants” on his web site, I can only conclude that the man is incapable of taking criticism and that in his black and white world, to say that he is wrong is to suggest that the sky is orange and that birds swim north for the spring.

For example, consider the story arc built upon the concept that all “Furries” are deviants who want to have sex with animals.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit being uncomfortable with some people in the Furry community who do seem to be a little too into animals. But I realize that is just a section of the whole group. There are some whom feel a connection to a certain animal and dress like for totemistic reasons. There are some furries who just like dressing up in cat ears and a tail for the fun of it. That’s no odder than like the people who wear all black and like to pretend to be a vampire or put on a codpiece and pretend to be in medieval times. (And let’s not get into a discussion of the mental health of Vampire RPGers or Renaissance Festival attendees right now, as Unca Stars has dabbled in both.)

Kurtz ignores this distinction, however, and in this week long story portrayed all furries as animal-lovers in the physical sense. Moreover, with one exception, all the furries depicted in the strip are overweight and unattractive. Not a sight to be seen of any Playboy bunnies or Julie Newmar-types.

Interestingly enough, there seemed to be a “bug” in the PVP Archives that makes it “skip” over this strip where “equal time” is given to the Furries to defend themselves.

You could not originally reach this strip except by typing out the specific date. Trying to use the previous and next buttons will take you to the comic for Either September 30th or October 2nd. And while his daily news comments are not archived, I distinctly remember Kurtz telling the Furries who wrote in to complain that they should shut up and (I am paraphrasing a bit) “stay away from my dog”.

But the peak of insulting your fan base while ignoring their complaints came here, where Kurtz insults the independent comic industry as a whole, the fans of independent comics and, in an indirect but unsubtle way, all those who suggested that maybe he was a sellout after Wizard Magazine reviewed PVP and he started trying to capitalize on the exposure.

Now, I’m there’s nothing wrong with making money off your creative product. Lord knows I’m trying hard to find paying work with my writing. But just because you make it big and are recognized does not give you the right to act like an ass. It especially does not give you the right to try and shoot down those who don’t like your work. Of course that’s just my opinion for what it is worth. I’m sure Mr. Kurtz would disagree with me and that if he ever reads these words of mine, I will probably get a response like this one.


Oh, and incidentally… Mr. Kurtz? If you’re reading this, know three things.

1. Substituting “Comics Urinal” for “Comics Journal” is not that funny or clever. I knew Wizard-reading fanboys who made that joke five years ago and I doubt they were the first.

2. I also wouldn’t start talking trash about comics where “layout is poor”, “anatomy is way off” and the writing “isn’t very polished”. Sinless as you might be, some of those stones might bounce off your plexiglass wall and smite you upside the head.

3. For future reference, take a page from Brian Michael Bendis. It’s only funny to make jokes about being an artistic sellout when you AREN’T an artistic sellout. The other original strip in PVP #1, on the inside cover, where Cole talks about the artistic integrity and hard work being shoved aside for sucking up to Wizard and a contract with Image Comics? A slap in the face to everyone who has supported you since you were a small, self-published comic strip with no readers.

Final analysis? PVP is a P.O.S.

Special thanks to "Great" Scott Smith (The Last Reasearch Assisant From Krypton) and his son, “Beppo”, The Super Assistant Monkey for reading hundreds of PvP strips to find the links to my examples so I didn't have to suffer through reading them all again. You are both Supermen to me.

Tune in next week! Same Matt Time! Same Matt Website!

Note to Scott Kurtz and Image Comics: The Opinions of Matt Morrison do not necessarily reflect those of 411mania.com or the editorial staff. In fact, we can't stand the guy and don't know why he won't leave.

Looking To The Stars is a critique/satire published by 411mania.com, and is not intended maliciously. 411mania.com has invented all names and situations in its stories, except in cases when public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental, or used as a fictional depiction or personality parody (permitted under Hustler Magazine v. Fallwell, 485 US 46, 108 S.Ct 876, 99 L.Ed.2d 41 (1988)). 411mania.com makes no representation as to the truth or accuracy of the preceding information.

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