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A Request and A Rant

May 14th, 2008

OK so I took some time to update the Photoshop Actions involved in the creation of Moose River pages: making them a bit more efficient, fixing broken links, and so forth. One of the things I did was upped the halftone detail (from 53dpi to 115dpi) just to make edges look less jagged when I finally print them out. I also changed it so that the version of the page that appears online is not in halftone but in regular greyscale.

The thing is though, while having it halftone-less makes the final web version easier to read and distinguish objects, I still really like the halftone effect. Seeing as I upped the halftone detail, it might still make the final web version easier to read that the previous halftone version, while allowing me to keep the halftone effect that I love so much. But I’ll let you be the judge on this.

Here are three different versions of the same page for you to compare:
The original halftone version (at 53dpi)
The updated halftone version (at 115dpi)
The plain ol’ greyscale, no halftone version

Now like I said, I prefer to keep the halftone but I also would like to make it easier on the eyes. The second version does just that. But I’m sure a lot of you guys would like to bypass the halftone all together and keep things straight greyscale. Now this isn’t an issue that’s a “my way or the highway” kinda thing… whatever you guys think is best I’ll stick with. But at least I wanna get this straighted out before I commit myself to reformatting the entire archive.


I really loath irrationality in my writing, and even in the writing of others. Apart from the fact that there are a lot of FAIL webcomics out there which attempt to be funny and witty just by being RaNdOm!!1!, even the ones that are actually close to being legitimately good are straight up a pain to read.

Now how I define irrational isn’t that far off how you would imagine an irrational story or character to be. I would only stick onto it: “…to the point where, in real life, someone would stand up and say ‘no, that’s wrong, stop it!’, but no one in the story does so.”

For example, I was watching an episode of Tom Goes To The Mayor called Surprise Party. In it is a character named Gibbons who acts, as I define it, irrational. The episode starts off with Gibbons being over at the horse of his best friend, Thom P. Tiers Tom Peters, which generally is always uninvited. There is a $800-$950 sword that Gibbons Tom to buy for his birthday, which Gibbons continually bothers Tom about while Tom is obviously busy with other work. If Tom doesn’t buy it, Gibbons won’t invite Tom to his “surprise” Birthday party. However, Tom doesn’t have the cash, and tells that to Gibbons, which Gibbons throughly ignores. Now in order to scrape up the cash, Tom resorts to fishing out coins from the fountain. Gibbons, now a mall security guard, finds out about it. He doesn’t report Tom to any authorities, but only if Tom gives Gibbon’s half of his “earnings”. Tom really doesn’t want to, saying that Gibbon’s will eventually get 100% of it all in the form of that $800-$950 sword. Despite that, Gibbons still demands half of the earnings. Once Tom reluctantly agrees to giving Gibbons half, Gibbons then inquires if Tom will get him that sword. Tom bites his lip and says yes, which in turn allows Tom to get into Gibbon’s birthday party. Tom finally manages to get Gibbon’s the sword, and gives it to Gibbons at the party. However, it was revealed that the town’s Mayor ended up buying Gibbons a better version of the same sword, and Gibbons was “upset” that he ended up having a second, “useless” sword. He then sells Tom out for stealing the coins from the fountain. The episode ends with Tom picking up litter off the side of the road as part of his 6000 hours of community service punishment… Gibbons gives Tom his salutations and subsequently litters. In all of this, however, everyone can see how much of an asshole Gibbons is to his “best friend” Tom, but no one stands up to him.

I hate Gibbons. I want to choke the little fucker. I want to poke his eyes out and smash his head against the wall. Now I understand the humor appeal of the character, and I’m sure he was intentionally written to invoke that kind of frustration and irritation from the viewer. But that’s exactly my point too: irrationality frustrates and annoys me. Now if I was reading another story that frustrates me through how irrational the characters are, I would put it down and never read it again. Most of the time the characters are unintentionally irrational, as opposed to the intentionally irrational Gibbons. But this is largely because writers of unintentionally irrational stories and characters suck ass.

I can’t say “irrationality” as a means for comedy is cliche, since “irrationality” is too broad of a subject matter. However, I’ve been noticing that a particular brand of irrationality is becoming way too commonplace in comics, television and other medium. Shows like The Simpsons, Monty Python and Family Guy wallow in irrationality. Monty Python did it best first, which (un?)fortunately set a precedent. The Simpsons pull it off well during the 90’s when they were starting off, but have unfortunately fell into their own trap. Family Guy is like the last series which I can accept irrational humor, much in the same way the movie Juno is the last movie I can accept teen pregnancy being a non-cliche topic (in that every movie about teen pregnancy after Juno is clicheic). It’s gotten to the point where writers believe that all they need to do is make their story irrational and RaNdOm!!!1! in order to gain acceptance and readers. Sorry, but that doesn’t cut it any more. Monty Python and The Simpsons were irrational stories, but they were consistent and, dare I say, even rational in their irrationality.

Now one of my many goals as a writer is to bypass all this and just straight-up write rational stories and rational characters. In the end I think it takes more effort in creating a story and universe that has a structure, versus creating an irrational world that looks like you just slapped a bunch of bullshit together in the hopes it’ll stand up on its own. … Sure maybe a character will do something irrational, but that’s only because we’re all capable of irrational actions. But even if someone does act irrational, someone will notice it and point that out to someone else. All the other times people will act rationally… that is to say, even if a character does someone the reader doesn’t agree with, there is a rhyme and a reason for that character to do it. Characters like Gibbons will never exist in my work, and if they did, they would not go unpunished. Well, unless the goal was to write a story where a Gibbons character goes unpunished for the sake of frustration the reader. But generally speaking, good things will largely never come to a Gibbons character in my work, because characters within the story will not take their bullshit any more than the readers will.

… I’m sure there’s more examples of “irrationality = bad writing”, but that’s all I can think of right now. Essentially irrationality frustrates me as a reader and writer (and frustration is an unnecessary barrier between reader and writer), irrationality as a brand of humor is overdone, and may even be a mark of a poor writer who is incapable of creating a structured and consistent universe.

Care to fill in other ideas?

OK, that’s all I got.

4 Responses to “A Request and A Rant”

  1. Tom sezzzzz:

    Well said. I’d imagine “Tim And Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job” draws the same level of distaste from you as well.

    Strings-of-non-sequiturs-as-humor is a lazy way to go, writing-wise, and Family Guy has it in spades. It’s a funny show, but once you’ve worked out the formula for writing an episode – 12 minutes of plot with 12 minutes of nothing-to-do-with-anything humor interspersed to pad out the half hour – the Man Behind The Curtain is all too obvious. What keeps Robot Chicken from going the same route is that, to its credit, it makes no pretense towards a single unifying plot. All the gags are self-contained.

    Now how I define irrational isn’t that far off how you would imagine an irrational story or character to be. I would only stick onto it: “…to the point where, in real life, someone would stand up and say ‘no, that’s wrong, stop it!’, but no one in the story does so.”

    Oh, Jesus. You’ve just described damn near every episode of Ranma 1/2 ever made, as well as Love Hina and any number of others where the humor stems from everyone being just so aggressively, distractingly stupid when the plot calls for it. Y’know, Ranma’s got his hands on Shampoo’s tits for one stupid reason or another – usually as a direct result of Shampoo’s “cute” treachery – Akane walks in and goes utterly apeshit on Ranma despite a long history of This Sort Of Thing from Shampoo. That sort of thing. Pisses me off no end, and just gets in the way of enjoying the show.* If I were Inu-Yasha, I’d have beaten Kagome to death with a tree branch at the outset for much the same reason.

    *(As well as Viz’s shitty handling of “The Principal”; they changed him from a Japanese guy who intersperses English into his speech to a Japanese guy who intersperses pseudo-Hawaiian/Jamaican gibberish into his speech. Even when translated into English there are ways around that little obstacle. But I digress.)

  2. Tom sezzzzz:

    PS – Ever see “Cromartie High School”? It’s a fucking riot. ‘Least I think so, anyway…

  3. David sezzzzz:

    About what you said regarding conventions….Hi, I saw you at Fanime Con in San Jose. You sold me (or rather, I bought) the cheapest thing you had, a $2 compilation of the first chapter of Moose River (series). I didn’t have enough cash on hand and returned an hour later for my autographed copy. Anyway here’s my thoughts since then….
    I’ve read every chapter now online. Not bad, at times I can not supend my disbelief high enough to enjoy the conversations between the female characters thinking, “This is SO, not writen by a girl”. But otherwise a pretty fun drama (yes that’s the correct catagorization) and I’m going to send my autographed book in a gift package to my old friend who’s in the Air Force now. He’ll like it. However, my criticism does not end!!! The story is best read as I have read it; in bulks at a time, not segmented. As a result I DO wish I had just bough one of you full book versions as I find myself wishing I could keep reading right now, uniterupted. Definitely put this into a graphic novel, that’s where Moose River ought to be going.

  4. mayor of moose river sezzzzz:

    DAVID: Ah yes, I remember you. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I’m even more glad you came to give me your thoughts on it. I mean, honestly, as much as I don’t mind making money on my work, people’s (constructive) criticisms of it is extremely valuable to me. 🙂

    “This is SO, not writen by a girl”
    I’m trying my best to work on fine tuning that. I think I do a pretty OK job of it right now, as I’ve had plenty of my lady friends tell me how much said female-to-female dialog actually helps make the story seem less like a guy wrote it. But I know I could still do a lot more to make their conversations sound a lot more realistic. Fortunately do I have the ability to go back and edit past conversations if I find a better way to have them talk.

    Definitely put this into a graphic novel, that’s where Moose River ought to be going.
    Oh yah, that’s my ultimate goal with Moose River. I have the first chapter in mini-comic form because I know most people will enjoy the story even though they aren’t willing to throw down $10 for a book they have no idea about; at least they can have taste of it for a mere $2. But in the end I’m gonna bring all (ultimately) nine chapters together into a single collection.

    Anyways, I already paid for my table for FanimeCon next year, so you can pick up a(n autographed!) copy of Book One and maybe even Book Two there. Super keen, huh? I will also be at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco this November (hopefully) just in case you can’t wait until next May to get copies of the book(s). 🙂

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Moose River
by Philippe Van Lieu
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