889 AKA the letter J.

As I’ve often said, I wrote the first script for Between Failures many years ago. Even so, no one is safe from the comedic black hole that is The Simpsons. When I wrote this I hadn’t actually seen the episode D’oh-in In The Wind where they reveal Homer’s middle name. The episode itself predates my work by a fair stretch. I actually only saw the episode a couple of years ago, and I didn’t realize how old it was. At this point the floating timeline The Simpsons use is more like a hovering one. Every year it’s a little harder to believe how many vacations the family has been on in the span of one year of in story time. Of course The Simpson Effect is so widely established that South Park took an entire episode to address it.

In any case, I added the line “Like Homer Simpson’s middle name?” to help slow down the flow of comments from people who would assume I wasn’t already aware of Homer’s name. I suspect that that The Simpson’s is going to be timeless enough that it will still be on TV as reruns long after anyone reading this is dead. Kind of chilling, isn’t it?

Anyway, the other day I said, on Twitter, that the Multiplex/Shortpacked crossover might be the thing that finally breaks me of reading Shortpacked. I hadn’t intended to explain the statement, but one person was curious, so this part is for them.

I started reading Shortpacked around the same time I started doing Between Failures. It’s one of the comics that made me think “Well shit, I could do that.” At that point Shorpacked was much funnier. Which is not to say that it’s not funny now, it’s just not funny as often. Over time the strip has evolved away from one off humor towards interpersonal drama. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but a person comes to expect certain things over time.

As time has gone on the spirit of the comic has also gotten much more mean. I might even go so far as to say bitter as well. It’s most easily seen in the character Amber, who has gone from timid and weak to strident. Strident, however, with an underlying feeling of malice. Her relationship with Mike brought this trait into the open. It has been hard to watch unfold.

Shortpacked is tangentially related to some of the cartoonist’s earlier work. Work which I don’t like. Whenever that stuff is referenced it’s always something from the part of the previous work I hate most. Some superpower, or alien bullshit, that skews the camera in Shortpacked. It has gone on and on for long enough now that I can barely tolerate it. In fact, I’m the last person in my circle of friends still clinging to the idea that Shorpacked will ever go back to being the enjoyable romp it once was. Everyone else just got sick of it and quit reading. The final straw for everyone else was Mike & Amber’s relationship, not that it matters. That just gives you an idea of what broke everyone else.

This brings me to Multiplex. I’ve tried to read Multiplex several times, but I always stop. And people don’t understand why I don’t like it, since I clearly enjoy movies. Well, it all comes down to the dialog basically. For the most part it’s okay, but whenever they talk about movies it shifts from people talk to blog talk. Especially when the one guy goes on a tear about something. It feels too clean and unnatural to my mind’s ear. Much like Kevin Smith’s dialog is actually harder to say than to read. It lacks the flow of actual speech. I assumed that this changed over time, but apparently it hasn’t. If the crossover pages are any indication at least. The first words out of the dark haired guy’s mouth made me bristle. That said, I don’t actually KNOW that’s how things are with Multiplex. As I said, I’ve never gotten past the first 10 pages or so. Over time it may be just fine. It may evolve into people just standing around and talking in a natural manner.

This is all subjective, of course. Thousands of people enjoy both comics without complaint, and I don’t intend to present these points as a complaint to either creator. They can subcreate in whatever manner pleases them best. I have the luxury of not being forced to watch it go down though.

Before I sign off on this part I’d also like to say that even if I get to a point where I can’t stand Shortpacked anymore I still have Dumbing Of Age. It is just about the perfect comic if you want to capture me. It’s basically people talking. No superpowers, no 25 years of science fiction backstory. The cast is fresh and not filled with bitterness and hate. They just have regular, everyday, levels of those things. I like it very much, so it’s a suitable replacement, or at least a consolation prize.

30 Comments

I understand where you’re coming from, on Shortpacked… I’ve been reading it for near on four years now, and when I switched computers mid-way through last year… It was one of the comics that almost didn’t make the switch to my new computer, because I was growing bored with it, and uninterested… The characters had stopped being fun…

I can’t say that’s changed… I only end up checking it once a week now, unlike before where I’d check every update…

So I hear you on that.

This sort of thing tends to happen with comics for me, a lot actually… But I do love comics that are more people based. Things that may or may not even need a plot, and still provide amusement due to character interaction and the like. Stuff like your comic, and Questionable Content (Not sure if you’ve read it… It’s actually far more work safe than the name implies)

Anyways, just my two cents on the matter.

A lot of my friends have stopped reading Shortpacked too. It seems like Willis is just getting… mean. Once I start reading a webcomic its VERY hard for me to stop.
For some reason I keep reading LICD even though I find myself completely loathing it at this point.

I guess I’m kind of hoping that reading stuff like that will keep reminding me what NOT to become with my own webcomic.

I’ve always hated LICD, but that’s already documumented.

Eventually, if your comic goes on for any length of time, you’re going to get stuff like this written about it. People fall in and out of love with things all the time. As long as you don’t start actively driving them away you’re fine.

I’ll probably keep reading SP! even though I’m getting sick of it because I follow Willis’s twitter. The link is right there, so I may as well read it.

I’ve never really got into Shortpacked, Multiplex I have read off and on for the past few years. I do enjoy the movie rants they tend to do but I don’t really try and dissect the flow of the dialogue too much.

My personal fallback strip that I’ve been reading without a break is Sluggy Freelance. It started as an over the top comic and has just gone crazier and more convoluted over the years. If you’re ever in the mood to read over a decade of daily comics its worth (a lot) of your time.

If he’s not happy about Shortpacked!’s occasional references to its sci-fi backstory, he would not like Sluggy Freelance.

Jay Thomas Blackwell (lupin) the third. Just had to say it. That is so awesome. In poor, cramped panel #2, just what is carol doing with that one curiously placed hand? I am getting a number of different interpretations in my head that don’t necessarily line up with her dialog, just curious.

I think that’s kind of like an “ugh!” gesture. Like, that thought is so unclean that she can’t even fathom touching it.

that’s an involuntary reflex to the mind saying “Whoa!!”, which accompanies the “OMG”… when this happens we sometimes raise one or both hands to make a stopping motion.

I’m kind of disappointed with how many webcomics I no longer read. I think yours is the only one I still follow and I used to read quite a few. Some of them stopped, some of them I just don’t remember to go to (or their names… ^^;) but did enjoy, and some of them I just don’t care about and decided to stop wasting my time on. I’m not going to name names just because I’m sure I’m on some peoples’ lists, too having not updated in … you know… like… 2 years now? I suppose you could take my continuing patronage as a rousing endorsement. :) Or my dropping of the others as supreme laziness. Either way, you’re it, buddy.

Jay Thomas Blackwell eh?… Crave you fool! You’ve played RIGHT into my hands!

Aaaannnnd…. nope! Still can’t figure it out.

Is Alex Melvil (Who works in a library) named after the library of Alexandria and Herman Melville? Or is it cooincidence and the pattern is something deeper?

…Yeah, I guess you can expect me to start posting regularly about this pattern. I WILL find it (Probably not).

On the subject of comics, I don’t mind too much when the style or subject changes midway through. I enjoy most comics I read, even the bad ones. That said, the only time I’ve ever been actually mad with a comic was RPG World. People who read it know what I’m talking about. This guy builds up a whole story, brings it to the final battle, where our heroes must defeat him to save the world… And he quits there. Literally the last story comic was the final boss juuuuuust about to engage them in battle, and the guy quits there. Worst part was I started reading AFTER that point, but skipped the current page to avoid spoilers, so I only found out the comic was incomplete after reading through the whole thing in one go.

Also, I know you’re a big Doctor Who fan ,as am I (Knitting a season 16 scarf right now) and when I found this comic I wondered whether or not you had read it.

http://comics.shipsinker.com/?id=16

It has about 6 Doctor Who fanfics in comic form, and it’s really good! The first one (linked above) is called “The Ten Doctors”. Hope you enjoy!

Melvil who works in a library is more likely to be named for Melville Dewey, who wanted to change his name to Melvil Dui; the judge allowed the first part but recoiled in horror at the last.

Lol I haven’t watched Simpsons since I was 11, 1991 with the exception of the movie. So when you said, “Like Homer Simpson” that caused me to have more questions than if you hadn’t *smirks*

I don’t know what it is about David Willis, but every single one of his things that I’ve read start our lighthearted and funny, and just turn more and more into DRAMA, angst, and meanness as time goes on. I don’t think he can help himself.

It’s funny; Shortpacked is right above your comic in my favorites list, so I just got done reading what you’re talking about. Shortpacked is at the top of the list, but pretty much out of habit – it’s one of the older ones I’ve been reading (and I carried over to it from It’s Walky). Yours is right under it, but Between Failures earned that spot while Shortpacked got the top just ’cause it’s an old one for me.

I’ve never even thought about whether or not I like the characters anymore. It’s still going, so I read it…I guess. Maybe “habit” is all I can call it. I know there are others where I just HOPE something happens, and I start to wonder why I keep trying; like Dresden Codak. I LOVE the artistry and the characters…er…well I did. They’ve changed? Then again, so has the story? Maybe? I don’t know. I keep hoping there’s gona be something going on that ties it together, and it seems like it’s finally going that way, but he’s so slow and I don’t bother checking until a month has gone by (or so).

Then there’s ones where the characters have changed so much – and I know this – but I keep reading to see where it is all going to go. Somehow I just don’t stop even though they don’t seem to be the same people; for that I had Penny and Aggie. Tell you the truth it wasn’t something usually up my alley, but I started it and kept it up. The dynamic between the two mains was interesting. Then it just…kept going. Dunno if that covers what I mean. Like they explained something early on that they were going to get to, but they had no idea how to get there, so they kept going regardless of thier lack of a map. They kept taking turns and hoping thier destination was around the next corner, but it wasn’t. I suppose there’s a lot of webcomics like that, actually.

Some of them have the map, but then the characters don’t seem to follow it in the same way. Perhaps there’s and ongoing story, but the characters have to change because…well I don’t know. It’s like the author ran out of juice on slowly changing the character. Perhaps that’s what you’re talking about with Amber. When did she get so angry? What the hell does she see in Mike? At first it was a sort of abusive thing that she seemed like she thought she deserved…? It’s still going though, and now we’re to believe it works, I guess. Tell ya the truth, it doesn’t bother me much ’cause he does a lot of gags, so I suppose I just gave up on actually caring about the characters; perhaps that’s why I haven’t thought of it.

Still, it feels like that thing that happens when a TV show goes on for too long: the writers get it in thier heads that the characters MUST makes mistakes for stories to happens. It’s cool ’cause we want to see them make mistakes – that’s how you grow (though there are other ways). But at one point they HAVE grown and they’ve MADE all the mistakes…the show should end. But it doesn’t. So the character just gets dumber and dumber; as examples I always use Eric Foreman from That 70’s Show and John Dorian from Scrubs. Both characters are funny to me early on, but make me want to scratch my eyes out near the end, because they both just become FUCK stupid. They make the same mistakes over and over, it breaks the flow, the characters are obviously being used as lightning to keep Frankenstien’s Monster alive, but we can all tell it’s just a mass of dead body parts.

That’s why I LOVE it when someone actually figures out how to end a story. Like Avatar: The Last Airbender. ‘Course I’ve heard of folks saying the same thing about it, but I thought it proved that a show can start and END and make a complete story. Say what you need to say without continuously pumping life into a dead body.

The relationship stories are interesting to me, and the toy stuff is moderate interesting (Different obsession/enjoyments, same sentiments, it’s interesting to see myself in a mirror…). Thus far, aside from Mike’s Hulking out, the only thing I really haven’t liked is that there are people stupid enough to rely on the pill, because I have a really hard time tolerating sexual stupidity…

So yeah, that thing. I enjoy it enough to keep reading, I guess.

I don’t like Multiplex because while I watch a lot of movies so I get jokes about the movies, I don’t usually enjoy them because I can’t relate to most characters… things like monogamy, worrying about cheating, wanting to kill people… these are all foreign to me. So is having such a huge drive for money, etc.

And unfortunately it’s not well written enough to get it’s own thumbs-up regardless of sentiment, like, say, Zero Punctuation/Extra Punctuation is. I can get what applies to me out of what Yahtzee says all the time, but multiplex leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Nevermind, I take the bit about still reading shortpacked back… Malaya just took the cake and that’s the last straw… I get the distaste.

If Dumbing of Age is a better comic than Shortpacked, then I’ll just stay away from both, since DOA I already got tired of since it never got funny.

I’m so far behind on the webcomics I was reading that I find myself not that ambitious to go back to certain ones, some because of how often they update (QC was tough since it’s 5x a week, but at least it’s one of the best comics out there), and some because I question whether or not I actually enjoy them (Misfile, Flipside has gotten boring to me, and a good chunk of my friends’ comics) (I know, you’re not supposed to admit to it, but I won’t name names).

One comic that saddens me to admit I may be over it is MegaTokyo, since that was my introduction to webcomics. I can’t tell if it’s because it has changed drastically since the beginning and has become more anime-ish (we’ve traded off Largos antics for magical girls and a goth chick who may or may not be a person), or if it’s because I’ve changed a lot since then (back then, I was always trying to trick myself into thinking I enjoyed anime as a whole and loved Japanese culture, now I realize I just happen to like a few shows that are classified as anime and care nothing for Japanese culture).

But The Space Between, man, that is an AWESOME comic that has never let people down with stuff like four months of no updates or anything like that!

I read Dumbing of Age regularly, but I’ve started to let Shortpacked fall to the wayside. It just feels like it should be ending soon. The story’s just not as fun anymore and I wasn’t really in it for the gags, since I’m not a big toy collector.

Currently, the comics I read regularly are Out At Home, Between Failures, Sluggy Freelance, Super Redundant, Misfile, Dumbing of Age, Menage a 3, Homestuck, and Sinfest.

Just about everything else I was reading stopped being interesting. I stopped reading PVP after Brent and Jade’s wedding and Ctrl Alt Delete after the pregnancy storyline. Pretty much everything has ended or I don’t read regularly.

The one web comic that is my go to and has been for the last decade is Sinfest, I started reading it my senior year of undergrad school 2002. I’ve picked up new ones and drops some over the years, but sinfest has always updated on amazing consistent schedule. His style has change would be an understatement though.

Well, I appear to be the only here to like this “mean” side in shortpacked!, rather than the zany adventures – and same in multiplex. But right now, there are a few comics that are becoming weaker, and I ponder to stop reading them: girls with slingshot and girl genius. Both seem to have reached a point of the lack of inspiration.

Ah yes… the Mike & Amber relationship in Shortpacked.
That was what brought about my proclaiming loudly (and twice, if I recall) that I hoped Amber would miscarry.

At some level I still hope it was my proclamation that Thundercats is greater than Transformers that got me banned rather than the miscarriage thing… but at some level it seems unfortunately unlikely.

I’ll never find out.
The little banned screen you get when you get IP-banned from Shortpacked is kinda funny though.

Still… yeah….

I actually read Willis’s earlier stuff, and it didn’t make much sense then either.
Not sure anything annoyed me more than the perpetual obsession with Transformers though.
Really… like the two avenues of geekery I cannot abide are superhero comics and action figures….
BUT I said I wouldn’t detail that…. v_v;

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