The process by which John and I pro­duce a new comic is twisted and tor­tur­ous, not entirely unlike the dark rit­u­als one might use to summon a bale­ful demon to this earthly plane. It’s not uncom­mon for both of us to come away from our Skype chats feel­ing drained of vigor and full of bile. One unlucky lis­tener once char­ac­ter­ized our con­ver­sa­tions as “con­tentious and blunt”, a charge we seem to have taken to heart over the years of our col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Inspired by other, greater indi­vid­u­als than our­selves, John and I have been con­sid­er­ing for sev­eral months now how to best inflict our cre­ative process upon you, dear read­ers. I think we’ve finally come up with some­thing.

And so, with the hope that I’ve dis­suaded at least a few of you from lis­ten­ing, I present to you the very first episode of Tempus Fugit, the Chronil­log­i­cal Pod­cast!

The title of this episode is Scatil­log­i­cal, for rea­sons that will become dis­tress­ingly clear should you choose to listen to it.

Although we are billing this as a “pod­cast”, we can’t really promise these on any­thing like a reg­u­lar basis. To be honest, it’s not entirely clear that we’ll be doing another one of these. The main dif­fi­culty in pro­duc­ing these things, we’ve dis­cov­ered, is the sheer, mind-​numbing drudgery—the drudgery of sift­ing through buck­et­fuls of old mate­r­ial to extract those few meager flakes of gold.

Also, the eerie horror of lis­ten­ing to a record­ing of your own voice saying vile, appalling things—things that clearly would never have passed your lips in a sane state. Mustn’t forget about the eerie horror.

Finally, a few notes of prepa­ra­tion, expla­na­tion, and clar­i­fi­ca­tion:

  1. The intro/outro music is a track called Just What I Always Wanted by Mizuk­isLastChance, from the ever-​awesome chip­tune repos­i­tory, 8 Bit Collective.
  2. John and I have potty-​mouths. If you don’t like potty in your mouth, then we def­i­nitely rec­om­mend you give this MP3 a pass. Con­sider your­self warned.
  3. Early in the pod­cast, we start talk­ing about the film Metrop­o­lis. If you’re con­fused why we abruptly start talk­ing about “the medi­a­tor between the head and hands” and robot sluts, it’s because we’re ref­er­enc­ing to this movie. I just want to clar­ify that I do not gen­er­ally bring up robot sluts in con­ver­sa­tion as a matter of course.
  4. You will hear the name David Schultz; he is a mutual friend of ours. Fun fact: he was the inspi­ra­tion for the design of Pro­fes­sor Malloc!
  5. We spend a lot of time dis­cussing “pavil­ions”. Specif­i­cally, we are refer­ring to pavil­ions as imple­mented at EPCOT Center in Walt Disney World. If you have no idea what that pre­vi­ous sen­tence meant, then I hon­estly have no idea what you will make of this record­ing. Good luck.

Alright, there’s clearly been too much ado here, and I need to wrap things up. Shoo, ado! Shoo!

Here, while I’m fin­ish­ing up with the ado, take the pod­cast and enjoy.

Tempus Fugit, Episode 1: Scatil­log­i­cal

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Not a whole lot to say here, but I wanted to give our read­ers a notice that we’re not dead! John is work­ing on col­or­ing the new strip, and I’ve been fid­dling around a bit with the new releases of Word­press and Comic­Press.

(Aside: I’m actu­ally grow­ing kind of annoyed with Word­press. It’s not bad soft­ware con­sid­er­ing it’s built in PHP—but that’s like saying that kick­ing a child in the face isn’t too bad, because you aren’t kick­ing 10 chil­dren in the face. Or… some­thing. Look, what I’m trying to say is that using PHP is a lot like kick­ing chil­dren in the face.1

Anyway, I’m get­ting annoyed with Word­press + Comic­press because it does a lot of stuff that we don’t want/use, and doesn’t do every­thing we would like it to. I’ve been con­sid­er­ing build­ing a comic pub­lish­ing plat­form in Ruby on Rails for a while now; maybe one of these days I’ll actu­ally get around to doing so.)

The upshot of all of this is: the rest of this week will prob­a­bly be sort of boring for you, with only maybe a blog entry to hold you over. But between John and me, we should be able to deliver some­thing inter­est next week! It should be excit­ing! So get pre­pared!

  1. Not that I know this from first-​hand expe­ri­ence.
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Hey gang! John here. Thanks for stick­ing around while I finish up the next comic. You know, it’s coming along! And to prove this, I will post an official-​brand Teaser Comic, cob­bled together using these unfin­ished, non-​contiguous panels.

What what!

Click to large-​make

Final dia­logue may or may not revolve around Pokémon.

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In 1989, in a small town in rural Utah, an Ital­ian film com­pany shot a horror film that would even­tu­ally be released under the title Troll 2—I say “even­tu­ally”, because the film was orig­i­nally titled Gob­lins. This ini­tial title made a lot of sense, because the film is in fact about a town full of gob­lins that ter­ror­ize and attempt to devour a vaca­tion­ing middle-​class Amer­i­can family. Hence: Gob­lins. Troll 2 makes com­par­a­tively little sense as a title, largely due to the rather con­spic­u­ous fact that the film does not, in actu­al­ity, fea­ture any trolls what­so­ever.1 And need­less to say, it is not an actual sequel to the orig­i­nal Troll in any mean­ing­ful way.

From even just this scant infor­ma­tion I’ve imparted to you, you should be able to get a good sense of the kind of film Troll 2 is.

But I’m get­ting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to 1989, with the Ital­ians out in Utah film­ing a low-​budget horror movie (with a cor­re­spond­ingly low-​budget cast). And so the thing gets shot, every­one parts ways, the Ital­ians fly back home, a movie gets cut together. Some­where along the way the name changes from Gob­lins to Troll 2. It gets released to VHS. The story of a thou­sand low-​budget flicks, right?

Well, not quite.

By way of expla­na­tion, let me show you a chart. It is rea­son­ably simple chart, plot­ting how good a movie is2 versus how enter­tain­ing it is.

This is what the site would look like if I were in charge of drawing the comic.

As you can see on the right side of the graph, high-​quality films pos­i­tively cor­re­late to highly enter­tain­ing films. Pulp Fic­tion is fun to watch because it is by most rea­son­able mea­sures a fan­tas­tic film. The Fifth Ele­ment: also very good.

Moving left, the films get a bit worse, and are cor­re­spond­ingly less fun to watch. Die Hard 2? Okay, but not great. Most movies fall into this cat­e­gory.

A bit fur­ther down the curve, there’s an inter­est­ing bump. By most objec­tive mea­sures, Armaged­don was a pretty bad film. But much like Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”, there is also some­thing unde­ni­ably great about it. We are firmly in the realm of guilty plea­sures. On an absolute scale, it’s still nowhere as enter­tain­ing as Pulp Fic­tion; but it is more enter­tain­ing than Over the Hedge, even though the latter is in some sense less of an Affront to the Art of Cinema.3

At some point, though, enough is enough. Case in point: most ratio­nal people simply cannot derive 80 min­utes of enjoy­ment from Look Who’s Talk­ing Too.

So far, I have been using Bruce Willis films as exam­ples. But the inclu­sion of Bruce Willis (if even just as a voice actor) adds some base­line level of qual­ity to a film. This base­line I call the Willis thresh­old; there are many, many films that fall below it.

Occu­py­ing the realm far to the left of the Willis thresh­old are movies like Manos: the Hands of Fate: unre­deemably bad films, the sort you hes­i­tate to call “films” in the first place, nearly-​unwatchable dreck made only barely palat­able by the inclu­sion of mock­ing com­men­tary a la MST3K.

But the most strik­ing part of my chart is the mas­sive spike just to the left of the Willis thresh­old. This is the cat­e­gory of film that I’m most inter­ested in for this post, and it is the cat­e­gory of film that Troll 2 squarely falls into.

Look at that chart! On an absolute level, Troll 2 is com­pa­ra­ble to The Fifth Ele­ment in terms of enter­tain­ment value! It is So Bad It’s Good. I.e., it’s awe­somely bad.

For this sort of film, it’s kind of point­less trying to con­vince some­one of its awe­some­ness by describ­ing the plot. I could tell you that it’s about a family that gets ter­ror­ized by a group of veg­e­tar­ian gob­lins; or that the gob­lins are com­manded by a spas­tic druid; or that the gob­lins keep trying to turn people into plants by hiding con­spic­u­ous green slop in their food; etc., etc., etc. I could try and tell you all these things, but they don’t really convey the genius4 of Troll 2.

Which is all to say: if you haven’t seen it yet, what the hell are you wait­ing for?

I saw Troll 2 for the first time two weeks ago. I had occa­sion to see it because a doc­u­men­tary called Best Worst Film—about Troll 2 and its cult following—was play­ing just around the block from me. The film­mak­ers were per­spi­ca­ciously screen­ing Troll 2 later that night in the very same the­ater, and after catch­ing the doc­u­men­tary I con­vinced my friend Cliff to join me at mid­night to see the cult hit.

I’ve told you about how great Troll 2 is, but I also want to spend some words on Best Worst Movie. It was a lot of fun to watch, and def­i­nitely enter­tain­ing.5 It focuses pri­mar­ily on the charis­matic George Hardy, who played the patri­arch of the ill-​fated vaca­tion­ing family in Troll 2.6 We catch up with him and other former cast and crew mem­bers, dis­cov­er­ing how their film has mor­phed into a cult phe­nom­e­non and how this trans­for­ma­tion has affected their lives. The whole doc­u­men­tary is pretty light­hearted and fun, and it’s really hard to dis­like Mr. George Hardy.

Most every­one seems to be in on the joke—that is, they fully rec­og­nize and have gen­er­ally come to terms with Troll 2’s posi­tion on the curve I charted above. But this isn’t the case for every­one. There are a few awk­ward moments involv­ing the direc­tor (an Ital­ian, type­cast as the eccen­tric for­eign film­maker), who seems unwill­ing to see his film for what it is. Hon­estly, he comes off as a bit of a stooge—a por­trayal that’s prob­a­bly unfair but is admit­tedly amus­ing.

Let me empha­size that the doc­u­men­tary is, essen­tially, fluffy fun. It does a great job at cap­tur­ing the verve and elec­tric­ity you feel at a mid­night movie screen­ing. At heart, it’s a poppy expres­sion of fan­boy­ish enthu­si­asm.

The doc­u­men­tary has are a few more poignant moments, but they really aren’t the focus; they tend to get swept up in the rest of the film. It’s a bit of a shame, really, because at times it feels as though a very human under­cur­rent of sad­ness or regret gets steam­rolled by the ironic joy of this cult phe­nom­e­non. For exam­ple, in one par­tic­u­larly moving scene, the actor who played Grandpa Seth in Troll 2 (now an old man) reflects resignedly upon on his life and asks: “What is there to do with a life besides frit­ter it away?” It’s a rather shock­ing rev­e­la­tion, but it gets swept aside pretty quickly.

Then again, I can under­stand why the film­mak­ers didn’t focus on this stuff more: it’s a total downer. Still, the film prob­a­bly would have felt more robust if these issues had been exam­ined more deeply.

If Best Worst Movie is show­ing near you any­time soon, I’d heartily rec­om­mend you go out and see it with a friend or two. And if they’re show­ing Troll 2 later that same day, I’d highly rec­om­mend you make an evening of it.

  1. I guess you could argue that trolls and gob­lins are kinda-​sorta the same thing. They’re magical-​ish things, with leath­ery skin and ugly faces. Nasty and brutish and gen­er­ally unpleas­ant for human-​folk to be around. But let me be clear: the crea­tures in the film are referred to exclu­sively as “gob­lins”; the word “troll” is never once uttered.
  2. I.e., based on the mea­sures we nor­mally use in cri­tique: Is each con­stituent ele­ment of the film—the acting, writ­ing, cin­e­matog­ra­phy, etc.—executed com­pe­tently? Do these com­po­nents work well together? Ulti­mately, does the film suc­ceed at what it sets out to accom­plish?
  3. I hope my use of Cap­i­tal Let­ters makes it clear that I am being Very Seri­ous about Very Impor­tant Issues here.
  4. Anti-​genius?
  5. In a good way: it falls squarely on the right side of my curve.
  6. Tidbit of cool­ness: George Hardy was tour­ing with the Best Worst Movie the­atri­cal run, and intro­duced the Troll 2 show­ing that me and Cliff were at!
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Part I: Apolo­gies

1. Sorry this post is up a little later than I’d hoped. I wanted to talk with John before putting it up, and the ear­li­est time we could talk was Sunday evening. Thus, the Monday post.

2. Sorry for the abrupt­ness of the ending of the Troy sto­ry­line.

Part II: An Expla­na­tion

For those of you who have pay reg­u­lar atten­tion to this blog­space, you may recall a post from March in which I dis­cussed our plan for Chronillogical’s nar­ra­tive moving for­ward. One of the com­po­nents of this plan was to wrap up the Troy sto­ry­line more quickly than pre­vi­ously intended. Per­haps our inten­tions were under­stated, and the extent of our stream­lin­ing caught people by sur­prise. But the essen­tial logic behind our task was simply this: we wanted to get on with telling other time travel sto­ries, so we cut away every­thing we felt was extra­ne­ous to the gang return­ing to the present.

That said, we’re not going to leave all these ques­tions dan­gling. More on that in just a moment.

Part III: Moving For­ward

We’re plan­ning to focus now on making larger, more self-​contained updates on a less fre­quent basis. These larger updates will vary in size and com­plex­ity, and as such I don’t think we’re going to be able to commit to a reg­u­lar update sched­ule for them.1

With a slower and more erratic update sched­ule, John and I feel oblig­ated to fill the inter­ven­ing peri­ods with some kind of con­tent to keep you engaged. We have a few ideas already: the one most press­ingly rel­e­vant is our plan to do “mini-​comics” in the gray-​scale style of our pre­vi­ous filler strips. The first batch of mini-​comics is going to focus on resolv­ing some of those lin­ger­ing issues from the Troy storyline’s con­clu­sion. Per­haps you could think of it as a kind of extended epi­logue? For exam­ple, we will be taking a look at how Cas­san­dra is adjust­ing to life in the 21st cen­tury.

We don’t have a plan as to the update sched­ule for the mini-​comics. One thought is to stick with the Tuesday-​Friday thing. We may simply try to do two a week and leave the exact days unspec­i­fied and vary­ing. We’re not sure now, but we’ll keep you posted.

We have some other con­tent ideas up our sleeves, but we’ll wait a bit before we promise any­thing on that front.

Part IV: Con­clu­sion

That’s it! If you have any ques­tions or con­cerns about the stuff I’ve men­tioned in this post (or else­where), ask away; feed­back is always appre­ci­ated 🙂

  1. I highly encour­age you to make use of our RSS feed if you do not already.
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