I’ve written at length about the dismaying slide of Scott Kurtz’ PVP, my one-time favorite web comic. I’m not a daily reader any more—I could no more handle the plummeting there than I could watch Matrix Reloaded again. I check in every once in awhile, though, just to see if perhaps Kurtz has returned to his senses. He did, after all, publish literally years of great material. Sadly, PVP has not changed since I wrote last year: It’s still an unmitigated mess.

Here’s a question for any long-time PVP reader: How would you describe Skull? Big blue troll, sure, but more specifically: Gentle giant, friendly, well-intentioned, flatulent, happy, and dopy-as-hell. For all his wonderful qualities, and they are many, he’s a dip. And that’s OK! He’s a great character that way. To wit, this comic from around 10 years ago:

Great comic, of course. Brent is snarky (as he should be) and Skull is happy and dumb. It’s a great little scene, true to both characters, and frankly touching too.

Here’s today’s comic:


What is Skull supposed to be there panels 1 and 2? Suave? Dear God, he’s never suave. He’s a dope. He’s happy-go-lucky. He’s incapable of even attempting to be suave! This is such a gross violation of character that it borders on what George Lucas did to C3PO in the droid factory. Characters in PVP have lost their characterization. This should be a scene of Francis meeting Marcy, not Skull and Sonya, but characters in PVP are now virtually indistinguishable from one another, so there we are. And it is painful.

Thought experiment: Re-imagine the above scene, staying true to Skull’s character. For me, it goes like this:

Skull (with eager expression): Hey, Sonya…Wanna see a movie tonight? Uh, with me?

Sonya: That’s sweet, Skull, but…

Skull (surprised): But what?

Sonya: I have a boyfriend.

Skull (happy): Oh, that’s OK. He can come too.

Everybody stays in character, you get a little Ghostbusters homage in there, and you’re set up for a wacky time at the theatre.

My best guess—and I don’t know the artist personally, though I did write him an email about these problems a while back—is that Kurtz is burned out. Maybe he has been for a few years now, and figured the recent move to Seattle might recharge the batteries. It won’t help, because PVP’s problems aren’t an issue of artist location or creativity. It’s that he’s moved away from the very things that brought him success, namely a superb comic style art and strong characterization.

As I’ve said before, I think Kurtz on his game is as good as it gets. He’s just been off his game for awhile now, and the above are some of the reasons why. I continue to hope he’ll get his mojo back.