Arthur, King of Time and Space Arthur, King of Time and Space

Rants 2005 January - July


I still haven't received anything from my Secret Santa. Neither have many participants, according to the organizer's deadbeat list. The deadbeat list is published not just to embarrass the deadbeats but for those, including me, who volunteered as safety net squad for deadbeats' victims. Another victim was Fish Institution, who according to my count is diametrically opposed to me on the list (or would be if the list was arranged around a circle), which is how I decided who to draw for.


I looked at what I wrote for yesterday and decided there was something I'd forgotten to say, then before I got it down I forgot it again. Stay tuned.
Later: It was probably that R. Goforth emailed me back that his Secret Santa had in fact coughed up but while R. was away from his email for the holiday.

At the Comixpedia forum I posted that my new year's resolution is to have more fun with my art because it's better then. Today I wasn't paying attention to that so much except when I got to Nimue and Arthur. It's not easy to remember to take your time and enjoy scenes like putting coats on at the school locker, but maybe if I talk about it here I'll embarass myself into paying that attention even to the mundane scenes.


Will Eisner died Monday, from complications of heart surgery. I feel compelled to comment, but am left totally unequipped by a lack of any but second-hand familiarity with the work of this pioneer of, nay the coiner of the term for, sequential art.


This gag would've gone to Aihok & Effex except Merlin is half the world away from his scanner.

There's still debate in the webcomics community whether webcomics are paying enough attention to the tsunami disaster. I've seen a comment comparing the amount of tsunami attention unfavorably to that paid to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, with perhaps the implication that the latter disaster was more significant to webcartoonists, despite the disparity in number of human lives lost, because that was us but this is them (certainly not all webcartoonists are U.S. residents and citizens, but the grand majority are of western rather than eastern nations and societies). A followup to that comment expressed having reached a tolerance point for news of death and destruction and needing more reaffirmation of triumph and survival. I think that there's a key point there.

I've written previously that, in retrospect, the best 9/11 coverage in webcomics seems, to me, not to have been launched without at least a few days' perspective nor without an approrpiate brevity. At the first anniversary not a few media commentators voiced hopes of a great dropoff of disaster coverage. The tsunami disaster is so great that it's difficult to get perspective on - except that three years ago we got a lot of trial-and-error experience at trying to keep disaster in perspective.

On the one hand, a tenth of a million people are dead and the planet is an inch off its old orbit.

On the other hand, you still have to get up and go to work in the morning if you're going to pay your rent and your bills.


I wanted to put contemporary Guenevere in today's without making it what I'm starting to think of as, in so many words, a sprite cop-out. Then the gag came to me (Actually it's one that's been lying around for awhile. There's a sign that says exactly this on a closed gas station on the main drag in my city.). Thing is, the sentiment expressed is that of someone who lives and works in the city - but I suspect Guenevere and her family are suburb dwellers, whose unexamined assumption would be that people start out out there. But I gave her the gag anyway because it was her turn. Maybe they don't live in the suburbs.

Also: a reader wrote in response to my discussion of cop-out at Thanksgiving, when I drew Guenevere and Gwenhyvach at home but clothed:'s _November_. GOD HIMSELF would have difficulty convincing me
to stand around naked indoors. Because indoors, it's still COLD! And I
don't care how high you crank the furnace; it's not high enough.
Outside the covers, my hands won't get really warm again till spring.
Which is why I'm somewhat unhappy that my heater's not working at

Myself, I'd think going bareshouldered and barefoot is more than naked
enough for this time of year, even for a "naturist".

I replied at the time that contemporary Guenevere must live in southern California near San Diego - since she made a day trip to the Comicon without any need for planning ahead - where the climate's more temperate. Here's proof that she doesn't need to bundle up the way Arthur and Merlin have been doing since before Christmas.

Also, note the first appearance of Guenevere's mother, whose name I don't know yet.


There's a Websnark essay from this week that no one ought to miss.


Here's the second parody arc week - well, not a whole week. I actually drew this for last Sunday and decided the timing was wrong.

(Is it obvious enough that the princess is a cross between Guenevere and Morgan?)


I've been remembering to have fun with my drawing as I resolved to do for the new year. I hope it shows. (Depending on what you thought of drawing I wasn't having fun with. Not that there's any way you would know which was which, unless it was just obvious. If you liked everything I drew last year I hope you don't notice any difference, and there's no reason you should.)

The best example of this was the cartoon about Guenevere and the gas station. After drawing the gas station I initially set about trying to draw the four figures by crowding them into the remaining space on the same sheet of paper, which already had a previous day's rushes on it too. But before I got far I realized I had my priorities skewed, so I drew the figures on a separate sheet of paper even though that seems less tidy.


I have to say, after however many months it was Torg was trapped in an angsty alternate universe, it's great to see Sluggy Freelance's four stooges shut up in a house together again.


In Thursday's Real Life Greg proposed to Liz. Greg Dean's webcomic is of course what's known as a journal webcomic, what I refer to in my FAQ as a cartoonist-and-his-pals comic like my pencil "blue binder cartoons" were. In the Real Life discussion forum Greg confirmed that he and Liz have been engaged for some time. I'd say Real Life is tied with Penny Arcade for Highest-Profile Webcomic to Announce and/or Implement a Marriage Proposal. Congratulations to Greg and Liz - may there be many happy years ahead.


Last Sunday I said this parody wasn't going to last a week. I hadn't yet written several of the gags I've used, including this one.


My Secret Santa guest art came last week. This is courtesy Raymond Cobbs whose animated cartoons are at 100% Originality Theatre. Thanks, Raymond, and happy new year.


The history of King Arthur romance is one of new characters supplanting old characters. With the invention of Lancelot, Gawaine's and Kay's importance diminished. With the invention of Galahad, Percivale became mere second-best in the Grail quest. Griflet was originally one of Arthur's most steadfast knights - until Le Morte d'Arthur it was he at Arthur's side at the end, charged with returning Excalibur to the lake, rather than Bedivere. Le Morte d'Arthur made Bedivere Arthur's last knight, and the Idylls of the King made Bedivere Arthur's first knight, and between them they pretty much bumped Griflet out, though Le Morte d'Arthur did leave him this minor quest. Sir Miles' squire's dialog in the second panel is nearly verbatim.

Griflet. Sounds like a miniature hot sandwich at Denny's.


Many happy returns of A.A. Milne's birthday, by the way.


This abrasion between Tristram and Merlin doesn't go back to the sources. Merlin and Tristram rarely share scenes in Le Morte d'Arthur and when they do it's because Merlin's stopped in just long enough to recite one of his prophecies. But their philosophical differences will go to set up something I'll be doing a little later which doesn't call on Le Morte d'Arthur for a source.


In the headline of his article on Saturday's Superosity, alluding no doubt also to recent developments in Todd and Penguin and Real Life, Websnark asks whether this is the Year of Shocking Marriage Proposals in webcomics.

Heh. Heh heh.


The banner ad for Starport: Galactic Empires that I saw at Penny Arcade has the slugline: "Captain a spaceship, rule the stars."

No thanks. I already do that, here.

I've never been one much for games: board, field, or computer; pass Go or role-play. Tried it all, it just didn't take. But I have been enjoying lately those banner ads on webcomic sites where you have to sink the basketball or shoot the zombie or whatever. (Except the one where you have to squish the roach. That's just nasty.) Bring back classic Missile Command or Asteroids and you might hook me after all.


David Gerrold Joe Adamson in Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo wrote, "People don't laugh at puns. Puns aren't funny. The nerve to say them when they aren't asked for, that's what's funny." Well, I laugh at puns. But I guess there're people who think puns are some sort of lower class of humor, and that a cartoonist falls back on puns when s/he can't think of a real joke. This is not a website for those people.

The abduction of Guenevere is a frequent motif in Arthurian romance. Over the years there may be quite a few Arthur, King of Time and Space gags very like this one.


"Wait a minute," say you, loyal reader, "six months ago Guenevere said no one knows anything about Morgan except that she's the time-traveler's apprentice, but now Guenevere knows Morgan's originally from Cornwall? I didn't know that unless I was already a student of the legends (though, I admit, her surname in the contemporary arc is suggestive)."

That was six months ago. It's not unreasonable that more incidental data about the characters'll have become known amongst themselves offpanel since then than in the two months they knew each other before that. Remember the chapter of So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish about toothbrushing and nutshells? Yes? Well, then.

"But then," you may say, "what about that other important thing about Morgan that I already know if I'm a student of the legends, or even a casual reader or viewer of certain works based on the legends? Does Guenevere know that now?"

That's a spoiler and I'll thank you to keep quiet now.


Recording the creative process: breadcrumbs

Around 1990 sometime there came out a special edition of Stephen King's The Stand with all the bits put back in that, a dozen years before, the publishers had made him take out only because they hadn't yet realized that people'll buy a Stephen King book even when it's a doorstop. (Especially, maybe.) King wrote a new foreword explaining why he thought putting those bits back in was necessary.

As an example of the principle involved, he summarized the Hansel and Gretel story in a paragraph of about a dozen lines. He pointed out that all the facts of the story were there. Then he pointed out how dry and lifeless it was, as an exercise in storytelling, to summarize the facts of the events in a paragraph.

"For instance, there's nothing in this paragraph about the breadcrumbs," he wrote [I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember it verbatim, even though I'm using quotation marks]. "Hansel dropped breadcrumbs behind them so they could find their way back through the forest, but birds ate the breadcrumbs so they got lost anyhow. You don't need the breadcrumbs in a recitation of the facts because, in the long run, they don't affect the outcome of the story. But that's the part that everyone remembers."

How a story is told matters. Style matters. Details matter. Breadcrumbs matter.

Gag-a-day comic strips are breadcrumbs. Even when some continuity is present. It's a breadcrumb when Torg makes a pun during a swordfight with a devil king. It's a breadcrumb when Largo beats the airport security ninja at mortal combat Mortal Kombat. It's a breadcrumb when Brent Sienna gets attacked by a giant panda. Gabe and Tycho do hardly anything that isn't a breadcrumb.

I started Arthur, King of Time and Space, as I said the first month, because "the proper way to retell the Arthurian legend in a visual medium [is] serially over years in monthly or weekly installments, to cultivate a fan base the way Sherlock Holmes and STAR TREK and James Bond have cultivated their fan bases." Arthur, King of Time and Space is for King Arthur's breadcrumbs: Pellinore stole his horse. Guenevere got kidnapped all the time. Lancelot painted. Merlin told everyone their life stories ahead of time, and no one listened.


Pardon me, I seem to be channeling Websnark.


Previously in cartoons when Merlin and Morgan meet historical figures, those historical figures have been parodies of other comic strip characters. I meant to do that with yesterday's visit to Plato, with Plato and the cave dweller wearing the faces of some team of characters of whom one character is always taking advantage of the other. But I never thought of an appropriate set of characters to insert, and in the event I forgot these intentions entirely. When I was drawing I just went to Google Images and searched on plato, and for the cave dweller I merely tried to draw someone who looked like he'd been chained up in a cave all his life. Well, next time.
As long as I've got your attention I'll mention for you power-of-two fans that today's is the 256th daily Arthur, King of Time and Space.


Here's a new occasional feature: Today I Laughed Out Loud At. Note that I don't promise I'll remember to do this every time I actually laugh out loud at a comic strip.

Sunday: Dilbert. Monday: Penny Arcade.


This has been an entire five-day week of those Unwritten When I Woke Up And Still Uploaded By Deadline gags which I love so much. (Well, Wednesday's wasn't uploaded till late because I wasn't home, but it was ready for upload by deadline. So if there're any confrontational people reading this who want to say, "Then how do we know it's true?", I would reply, "The thrill's still the same for me.")

Today I Laughed Out Loud At for this week include: Kevin & Kell twice, User Friendly, and Boxjam's Doodle.


Greg Dean is a Star Trek: Enterprise fan. All is forgiven.


I haven't written this for the site yet, except for an in-progress How do you create a strip? section of the FAQ, but I've begun drawing in pencil rather than pen because I figured out how to change the scanner settings in MSPaint so that pencil lines show up. I've also noticed that, since my resolve to enjoy drawing more, I haven't been working with the mouse any. Maybe I'll change that.


In Le Morte d'Arthur it's Arthur who rescues Merlin from the bandits and thinks it scores him points on the old man. The sequence's given to Tristram here because he needs the screentime more'n Arthur, in anticipation of a revelation later in the month. But when Arthur does it, it leads pretty directly on to events we will be covering later; so maybe Merlin gets to run afoul of bandits again in six weeks.


The previously existing flashbacks oughtn't be in sepia when the previously existing flashforwards aren't similarly differentiated, so those flashbacks have been colored here and here.


I don't blog or LJ. I maintain two daily webcomic sites (well, a daily webcomic site, and a fanfiction site at which I draw cartoons two to four times weekly), and I don't wish to divide my energies any further. A temptation to add LiveJournal to my list of daily or quasi-daily electronic forums (forum in the original, not the internet-specific, sense) failed when I allowed myself a day to think about it. The Websnark guy only reinforced my prejudice on the subject, if prejudice it be, by writing less there while he's working with an artist to develop a webcomic of his own.

But in transferring several favorite bits onto the Websnark site from some previous online journal, he posted his responses to a "meme" of the sort that LJers are always posing to each other. This meme is about writing. Having no blog I thought here might be a good place for me to tackle them, when I found myself unable to resist.

What's the last thing you wrote?
The cartoon above.

Was it any good?
I think it's funny.

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
That exists, or that's in my possession? That exists: In my mother's memory book there's something from when I was in grade school, a picture of Batman and his dog, with a caption that goes something like: "Batman's dog is eating outside. Batman goes out and looks at the sun."

That's in my possession: Probably the oldest of what I refer to in the FAQ as my blue binder cartoons.

Was it any good?
The cartoon? Someone stole the original. I guess so.

Write poetry?

Angsty poetry?

Favourite genre of writing?
Science fantasy. Humor.

Most fun character you ever wrote?
I can't single one out because too many of the characters I write are archetypes. The blind spots of the Wise Innocent (e.g., Arthur, Clark Kent) are fun to find punchlines in, as well as the arrogance of the Omniscient Sage (Merlin, Doctor Who*).

Most annoying character you ever wrote?
To me, or to my audience? ...I still can't think of anyone. Even the villains I write are nice guys in their own minds. Some of my fanfiction has Wesley Crusher in it, does that count?

Best plot you ever wrote?
The most successful that was the most work? Perhaps the Doctor Who/everything crossover The Circle of Time.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
The space arc version of the last book of Le Morte d'Arthur. Oh, that people have read? Um ... it got a lot of reaction when, in the blue binder cartoons, the party guy took my roommate to the bar to get him drunk.

How often do you get writer's block?
As often as seven times a week.

How do you fix it?
I write a joke anyway, or I swipe a joke from the blue binder cartoons, or I use a cartoon from the filler buffer.

Write fan fiction?
Won't ever stop.

Do you type or write by hand?

Do you save everything you write?

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
I'm not sure I ever abandon ideas, though there are some I let stew for a long, long time before they get used.

What's your favorite thing that you've written?
I tend to reread most often the fanfiction stories that have courtroom scenes in them.

What's everyone else's favorite thing that you've written?
The captionless cartoon Good Friday depicting Pooh and Piglet at Golgotha.

Do you even show people your work?
But that's what it's for.

Who's your favourite constructive critic?
Websnark. Oh, of my work? You know who you are.

Do you have a web site for your writings?

Did you ever write a novel?
Tried once. It only reinforced that my medium is daily cartoons.

Have you ever written fantasy, sci-fi, or horror?

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?
There's romance in some of what I write, but I can't say I've written capital-R Romance.

What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Toss-up between contemporary life and alien planets.

What's one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
I was going to say horror, but I've written Buffy the Vampire Slayer fanfiction so maybe not. Romance? Teen angsty drama? Wait, Arthur, King of Time and Space has those. Um, I've never written a murder mystery. Wait, there was an episode of murder mystery in in the work Aihok and Effex came from ...

How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Do you want to write for a living?
I'm of an age unwilling to give up conventional retirement planning benefits. Ask me again ten years ago.

Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
Drawn? Yes.

Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Ever written something in script or play format?

What are your five favorite words?
I used to overuse basically till I noticed. Time, space, "Oh?", ... I've got nothing else.

Do you ever parody?
Occasionally I parody in my fanfiction, sort of, but I think I keep the characters in character.

What's your favorite thing to parody?
A common motif in a work I write fanfiction of.

Do you actually like that thing, or are you spitefully making fun of it?
I love that thing.

Do you ever write based on yourself?
The leads here at Arthur, King of Time and Space all have something of me, as it says in the relevant FAQ question. Then of course I myself was the protagonist of the blue binder cartoons.

What character that you've written most resembles yourself?
The protagonist of the blue binder cartoons.

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
I use the ones I like best from my experience as an audience. On the rare occasion I invent a character, it's as a plot device and as such is developed according to the needs of the story or the cartoon. Well, now, I did invent some characters for the blue binder cartoons. One was an astronautical genius so that I could draw cartoons about myself and my friends engaging in space travel, so I suppose he was a plot device. But the other was an elephant genetically altered to talk and walk upright - so I suppose the idea for him came from science fiction and Aesop.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
As a rule I don't remember my dreams.

Do you favor happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
Happy. Well, not necessarily (though usually) happy, but appropriate. The endings of my stories could perhaps be characterized as just whether they're happy or not.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you've seen?
Can't think of an example.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)
Cartoons about chatters.

Entirely in L337?
|\| 0.

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?
I give up. Was it?

Does music help you write?
Having or not having music on while I write has no observed influence.

Do you have a weblog or livejournal?

Are people surprised and confused when they find out you write well?
I can't say I've ever noticed that, though often they're impressed that I draw well.

Quote something you've written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
"Making a difference to only one person was never enough for you." [Doctor Who* to Captain Kirk.]

* I'm fully aware, fellow Doctor Who fans, that Doctor Who is the name of the program, not of the character. But I can't assume that everyone reading Arthur, King of Time and Space would know who I meant if I were only to say "the Doctor", so ...


This week in Today I Laughed Out Loud At: Megatokyo, B.C.

The line I laughed at in Megatokyo was from Wednesday's: "Ninja live by code of honor. Magical Girl live by code of love. This lead to many disaster and much destruction of urban area. Honor much safer." It wasn't even the punchline. I'm not even an anime fan (though not wholly unfamiliar with the conventions). And this was the funniest thing I read all week.


You know, some days it's as difficult to draw only two cartoons as it is on other days to draw even one.


All right, I know, I blew a Sunday on a sprite copout. But wait'll you see next Sunday's.

By the way, for anyone who hadn't connected the dots before now, when I said in the text underneath Tristram's initial appearance in the fairy tale arc that Tristram had already appeared in the contemporary arc, it ought to be obvious now that I was speaking of Sadslacker. You could tell from the pink. Or (as at least one reader did) you could tell if you know Tristram means sad. Whichever.


Googling for something else Saturday, I discovered that the free Talk About Comics discussion forum I requested in December had been set up. I got a form email from the site at the end of January, so I suppose that's when the forum went active, but the email only said that TAC was online again after a period of being down. I had decided while waiting to hear from them that it'd be fine if my request didn't go through until May when something that's common knowledge to followers of the legend is no longer an Arthur, King of Time and Space spoiler, but we're live now so let's go for it. I didn't get it together soon enough to announce the forum with Sunday's cartoon. But there's now a forum button in the set underneath the cartoon, and a welcome message on the forum itself. You don't have to have a login to post at Talk About Comics but you have more privileges if you do.


Okay, how many of you finished today's cartoon thinking I'm an evangelical Christian? Why? Does it matter that much? Why? This assignment is not to be turned in. But there may be a test.


Readers may wonder whether I've made Tristram female in the space arc as a swipe from salute to Mike W. Barr's graphic novel Camelot 3000 in which Tristram is reincarnated female in the 31st century. Well, I did read Camelot 3000 during its original twelve-issue release; but, if I swiped Tristram thence I did so only subconsciously. (I'll point out too that I'm always quite forthright about which sources I've swiped what from.) Here's how my conscious thought went:

If in my future Round Table women can be knights, then among the knights I ought to gender-bend is at least one of those whom T.H. White calls the top three in the tilting averages: Lancelot, Tristram and Lamorak. Lancelot? No, that changes Arthur's story more than I'm willing. Tristram? No objection. Tristram then.

Then I had to decide whether to gender-bend Tristram's queen and lover Isolde and her husband and Tristram's uncle Mark, in compensation. The alternative, leaving Isolde female, was to perhaps risk seeming to jump on the lesbian bandwagon trail blazed by Joss Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and/or to risk reinforcing that I was just mimicking Camelot 3000, in which the reincarnated Tristram's quest to magically revert to male goes sour and she elects to make lemonade with Isolde.

In the end I decided to leave Isolde and Mark alone for the best reason - for a joke. This joke, which as the incorporation of the baseline arc may suggest is a twist on a classic scene in the Tristram story cycle.

I wish I'd thought of the gag in the first two rows of panels soon enough to have made a separate cartoon of it.


The new discussion forum is getting a fair amount of traffic, for a new webcomic's forum, even if about half of it's from me.

I Laughed Out Loud At since last report: For Better Or For Worse, User Friendly, Checkerboard Nightmare, Peanuts, Boxjam's Doodle.


Hot topic in currrent webcomics culture: The Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge. More than thirty fifty webcartoonists have thrown $20 each into a kitty. Whoever goes longest updating their webcomic every Monday through Friday without fail gets the kitty. Some of the guys I read, enjoy and respect most have got involved. And I'm right in there with them. Wooh.

The contest requires that you update daily Monday through Friday. I update daily all week. The contest requires that you update by midnight Pacific US time the same date. I update midnight Greenwich Mean Time the previous date. The contest requires no fillers, guest art, or sketches, and limited single-panel gags. Aside from last Christmas week I've resorted to filler or guest art five times in an otherwise unbroken daily-or-better streak of sixteen months (including the fanfiction site before AKOTAS debuted). I might actually walk away with this, though it won't be easy.


So because I'm in The Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge I felt compelled to draw all three panels of today's gag. Another day I might've pasted the same drawing into all the panels with minor variations as I've done with talking heads gags before, but today I didn't (except for the brickwork of course). I can't decide whether this is the tail wagging the dog.


Here's the deal on non-green pages.

When Arthur, King of Time and Space pages are red instead of green, that means the day's cartoon is set sometime in the future of the cartoons' regular, current time. For instance, right now on green pages it's nearing the end of the first year of Arthur's reign. Cartoons set near the end of Arthur's reign, or in the middle of Arthur's reign, may appear here on red pages.

When Arthur, King of Time and Space pages are blue instead of green, that means the day's cartoon is set sometime in the past of the cartoons' regular, current time. For instance, when now is near the beginning of Arthur's reign, cartoons set before Arthur's reign may appear here on blue pages. Like, say, today.

This is in keeping with Einsteinian concepts of time travel. If you go backwards or forwards in time, it'll artificially lengthen or shorten the lightwaves you're looking at, giving them an artificial red or blue tint. Notice the same thing happens to the holographic orrery of the universe which Merlin's time machine's console projects above itself: when the time machine's under weigh backwards in time the orrery turns blue and when it's under weigh forwards in time the orrery turns red.

(Actually I'm not certain I don't have this reversed. But I'm pretty sure, and I'm committed now... If I find out I'm wrong - no doubt several of you will post on the forum - I'll admit it here but I won't change it in the cartoons.)

Note that this displacement in time hasn't anything to do with the timeshifting between story arcs. It's relative to Arthur's time-hopping history, not absolute to time itself. There could be a red-paged fairy tale arc cartoon that's set during the Renaissance or a blue-paged contemporary arc cartoon that's set in 1976.

Hopefully, to the casual doesn't-read-the-text-section reader this will be wholly transparent and/or perfectly obvious.

This is all consequent of what I wrote about once before: not being accustomed to writing characters in linear time when I know their whole history already. My mind, or my muse, just couldn't leave things linear and niggled away till I came up with a way to accomodate nonlinearity. This doesn't mean I'll be abandoning linearity entirely; it just means I can abandon it when the characters drive me to. Like, say, this week. Or if, say, one day they get paranoid about me living all the way to 2029 which is when the ending of AKOTAS is currently scheduled.


In I Laughed Out Loud At this week: Checkerboard Nightmare, Todd & Penguin, PvP, B.C., Calvin & Hobbes, Little Dee, Sluggy Freelance.


On the forum Paulus* set me straight on exactly what red- and blue-shifting is:
By this, do you mean relativistic time-dilation? In that case, it should only be possible to travel into the future (unless a wormhole is carried along on the ship).

And as the ship approaches lightspeed, the light will look blue ahead (in the direction of acceleration), and red behind. Hope this helps.

As I feared: I misremembered, or only half-remembered, what I was talking about and didn't get it quite right. As I promised, I admit the mistake here but nevertheless shall not as a consequence be modifying past cartoons or future procedures.

* I said before that I wouldn't use readers' names on this page without express permission, but I think it's reasonable to equate posting to a public forum with giving permission.


In The Once and Future King Kay admits he intentionally misrepresented that he himself had pulled the sword from the stone. In Le Morte d'Arthur it could be interpreted that Kay genuinely believed, when Arthur brought him the sword, that that meant Kay was to be king. After all, in Kay's place, would it be your first thought that your (for all you knew) father's bastard was the true heir and rightwise born king? In Arthur, King of Time and Space Kay does the mean thing in the past - but does the merely clueless thing in the future. Could it be some sort of progession being manifested here? I'm not telling. Not soon.
Laughed Out Loud: Superosity, User Friendly, Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts, Penny Arcade, Digger.


It's just past 0600 GMT, which is the latest I've ever updated, because I've been on I-80 between cities. I hope no one was spooked.


So, if that other gag made you think maybe I was an evangelical Christian - do you still think so?


I drew this gag, and the next, several days in advance because I'm away from home for the weekend right now. These gags had been planned for today and tomorrow, and the whole swimsuit issue deal planned for this week, for quite awhile beforehand. After I drew the cartoons I was less certain it's gonna fly. But in order to change my mind and still have cartoons in the can for my trip, I'd've had to think of and execute other gags for today and tomorrow on Tuesday, while I was working an eleven-hour day so Wednesday I could start a ten-hour drive in the afternoon instead of in the evening. Nothing came of that, so for good or ill here we go.

It also occurred to me that this sequence was planned before I got involved in The Daily Grind Iron Man Challenge, and it might be seen as not conforming with the rules. I thought of a fix for that, but the challenge rules only apply to Monday-through-Friday updates so you won't see what I came up with till tomorrow. I hope (and expect) the judges will agree that I'm still within the bounds of the rules, but if not I'll abide by their decision. When I joined in I was thinking, "I can do this by just doing what I'd do anyway," so if what I was planning to do anyway gets me booted so be it. Watch this space.







(This is Daily Grind challenge fan art.)


Recording the creative process and the Temple of Doom

Usually when I have a gag with a lot of repeated figures like this one, I do what any webcartoonist would do: I cut-and-paste.

If I have a gag in which one, some or all of the figures are identical in two or more panels, I'll draw the figure/s once, scan it/them, and paste it/them into each panel where the character/s so appear/s. (Those are easy to color too - I just color the first figure, select the colors without the outline, and copy the color selection into the figure/s in the other panel/s.) If I have a gag in which some figure/s are near identical in two or more panels, I'll draw the figure/s once with all the attributes required for every panel, scan it/them, paste the composite figure/s into each concerned panel, and for each panel erase the bits that don't belong there. (Coloring these is more difficult, which is why I say cutting-and-pasting near-identical figures into multiple panels is probably more work than drawing each panel separately.)


Today I had six near-identical figures. I've never had six near-identical figures. I didn't believe I could draw the figure in all six configurations (well, five; the only difference between the first and second is Arthur's mouth) at once, scan it, and not have it come out too muddled to sort out. So I drew the figure in one configuraton, scanned it, erased his arms and drew them in the next configuration, scanned it, etc. Consequently there were minor differences between the figures in their outlines, even the outlines not erased and redrawn, that required individual coloring of all figures (except the first and second).


So I'm browsing my own website on a Mac for once, and I'm looking at the 2004 news archive; and, about halfway through the Mary Sue test from October 9, italics come on and don't go away, all through till the end of the page. So I say, "Huh! That's not what I meant", and when I get back to my desk I FTP myself the file from the webserver ... in which the close-italics tag is not missing as it appeared to be in the Safari window. I look at the page with IE on my XP, and there the italics close where they're meant to. So what gives? Anyone know? Is Safari capable of reading only so many close-italics tags per page? If you're looking at me on Safari now, do me a favor and go look yourself, then let me know what you see on the forum or by email. Thanks.


Recent Laughed Out Loud At: PvP, Peanuts (twice), User Friendly, B.C., Fish Institution, Pearls Before Swine.


For the record, this isn't a parody arc installment. This is a new arc.


Notice: the Talk About Comics management has announced that, due to spambot activity, all forums will become registered-user-only for posting as of sometime March 30. (The specific time was in the announcement but I've forgotten it.) I hope that's not an issue for patrons of the Arthur, King of Time and Space forum, and if it is I apologize for the short notice. I didn't see the announcement myself until just before the update of the above cartoon, which I'm doing about seventy-five minutes early - about 22:45 GMT March 29 - in case anyone does care about this notice.


Woooah! Snarked!

Unfortunately for Eric, I didn't watch The Paper Chase. It's just as well. Were I to do as he suggested now, it'd be for impure, or at least immodest, motives. But in the immortal words of Scott Kurtz, "Websnark gets me"; when Eric likes Nimue playing Radar as much as I do, then either I've effectively communicated who she is in her few appearances during the month since the Daily Grind started, or AKOTAS's grabbed Eric hard enough that he's read the archives.


Recording the creative process Goes To Maine

The genesis of today's gag was ... well, here's how I elaborated on this in the forum:

The choice of Morgan as analog for Trapper John may seem a bit odd, but recall that, in the space arc, their relationship is tops on Arthur's mind at the moment. Lancelot and Guenevere are work pals - they're Buddy and Sally, but Morgan's Laura. And in neither of the other two major arcs are Guenevere and Lancelot even present in his daily life (aside from as online pals in the contemporary arc). Though in the baseline arc Arthur hasn't met Morgan either, in the contemporary arc they do meet daily; and in the space arc she's the most important person in his life and vice versa, and that's whence this developed.

On an unrelated note: You'd think coloring strips dominated by a single color (say, olive drab) would be less time-consuming than coloring strips with a more varied palette, but I've found the opposite to be true. Or maybe I tend to work in more detail when I'm after reproducing a previously existing milieu than when I'm defining an environment from scratch.


Aside from running it out during Christmas week, this is the first time I've dipped into my filler reserve since Halloween. While fillers or previously-drawn works are disallowed in the Daily Grind challenge, the rules only apply to what's updated Monday through Friday, so I'm still good with that.


Guenevere and Merlin are discussing this event.

Also, perhaps now would be a good time to mention that I'm a storyteller, not a theologian.


I give up. I'm moving Schlock Mercenary onto my daily reading list from my middle-of-archive list (which was created for it) without having finished the archive. This is the first time I've ever done that, but there's just too much of it.


I don't know whether the letter still starts, "Greetings!", like in the days of classic Doonesbury; or even whether you get the same letter for reactivation as for being drafted. But if this website is about anything besides myth propagation, it's about pop culture iconography - and if it can do both at once ...

My 45-year-old sister-in-law, an imminent grandmother, has been reactivated and is likely going to go to Iraq. Ector's only two years older'n she is.

For those keeping score, this is the first mousedrawn AKOTAS of 2005.


Saturday morning (CDT) all Talk About Comics forums were down, but by early afternoon everything was normal again.

I've written about this almost every place but here, so:

Participation in the Daily Grind has provided a significant boost to my readership. Given x, where x is approximately my average daily unique visitor count for February: On March 2 after the contest had started and been linked to by PvP and Slashdot, my daily unique visitor count was 4x; then throughout most of March it settled down to about 2x. Then at the end of March I was Websnarked, no doubt as a result of Eric's pledge to read every active Grinder every day (though I was in 2004 quasi-snarked as one of several titles recommended to him but not yet scoped out); that day my unique visitors went up to 10x, and since then the weekday count has been hovering at about 3x or 4x. This seems to show that, for every spike in daily visitors totaling y, Arthur, King of Time and Space levels out afterwards at about y/2.

So thanks to all of you who've tried it here and stuck around.


This was inspired by a fellow Daily Grinder.


12:50 GMT; 05:50 PDT

About twelve hours after I updated today's cartoon I realized I was in violation of the Daily Grind's single-panel rule: to wit, there must be nine multi-panel Monday-Friday cartoons between every single-panel Monday-Friday cartoon. I drew a single panel Friday and told myself, "Now I can't do another till the 29th;" and then I turned around and drew one today, Monday. Moron.

Fortunately I realized this nineteen hours before the contest daily deadline, midnight Monday PDT. Before then I shall have another panel uploaded here in the news section (as I was doing during Swimsuit Issue Week, for the same reason). Watch this space.

13:15 GMT; 06:15 PDT

And here it is.

Daily cartoon


I'm exactly twenty-nine years older than Arthur.

Today is the twenty-ninth anniversary of the first time I drew a cartoon with the intent of drawing one every day.


The Thing of Shapes to Come

I think Arthur's MSPaint style works pretty well, for something that wasn't planned out ahead.

Obviously it needed to be something that was easily distinguishable from my normal style; like Merlin's is, I hope, with its lack of outlines and its handwritten dialog. I had already decided Arthur's style would be computer-generated geometric shapes, which I like to use sometimes. But when I wrote the dialog I hadn't imagined anything yet but a couple of featureless shapes with dialog balloons hanging over them. I thought probably the triangle would have a pony tail so Guenevere would think it was her.

I like minimalist cartoons, but not that minimalist. When I gave the triangle its pony tail, it didn't look right without some hair on top of it too. Then the square didn't look right without hair. Then they needed at least eyes and mouths. Then the square's hair should probably be square instead of rectangular, duh. Meanwhile the dialog and balloon outlines were done in white instead of black because originally the background was the same near-black as the background behind the webcam windows in the other panels. So I played with the background color, and whether the balloon interiors ought to be the same as the background, and ... and I think it's nicely different from AKOTAS's normal look and still interesting in itself.

Of course, while Merlin and I are pretty set in our styles, Arthur's only sixteen. His shape characters will probably evolve a lot over the next few years.

While Arthur's panel depicted here is probably funny to AKOTAS readers, it's probably only the last panel of a multi-panel strip Arthur drew. Unless you know his pals as well as he does (as I would hope AKOTAS readers do by now) the gag would need at least some set-up. Arthur'd realize that; unless, maybe, this is one of the panels he drew toward the end of his twenty-four hours.

I wasn't going to write any commentary on today's cartoon. I still believe that it shouldn't take longer to read all the text on a webcomic site than it takes to read all the cartoons. But I reluctantly decided that it fell under the heading of recording the creative process. Then the title at the top of the essay came to me. Maybe that'll be the name of Arthur's webcomic. Stay tuned.

And I should probably before now have provided a link to the 24 Hour Comic Day website, since tomorrow's when the event happen.


I try not to refer to this text section of the Arthur, King of Time and Space site as the "rant", though that's the webcomicsite vernacular for it (hence the legend News/Rants on the button above), because I don't write here about things that drive me crazy. Usually I'm smart and I put'em in a cartoon instead. Today, both.

Some observers felt that Charles M. Schulz' work deteriorated after about the midpoint of his career. I wasn't the only one, but I was one of them. In the mid 80s sometime I made myself a promise that, if I ever sold a strip to a syndicate, I'd retire after twenty-five years rather than risk what I perceived had happened with Schulz after his twenty-five year mark. I mean, if this happened to him what hope had I?

(Nowadays of course I'm doing Arthur, King of Time and Space on the web, because the only reason I specified syndication in articulating my youthful aspirations was because, then, that was the only way to get a daily cartoon distributed to the world. And, as the faithful reader of this text section or of the FAQ will recall, I've pledged to do Arthur, King of Time and Space for twenty-five years. It's because in the mid 80s sometime I was rereading The Once and Future King, and taking notes, and concluded that according to T.H. White twenty-five years is how long King Arthur's reign lasted. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. I dunno.)

Webcartoonist Greg Holkan commented at Eric Burns' Websnark blog that that's a pretty crappy thing to do to one's memory of the man who is (at least according to Burns, who's probably right) the most cited influence among webcartoonists, even webcartoonists half my age, which seem to be almost all of them. "I ... feel it's ridiculous to propose that [Schulz] had a 'golden age' when his work was 'better'," Holkan (inkbrush) wrote. "Like anyone dedicated to their craft, he always got better. It's just that past a certain point, most people can't tell the difference between the work of a master potter and a clay jug made on an assembly line. There's an inability to appreciate the knowledge and expertise that go into the creation of something great and complicated, and there's a great deal of arrogance that goes along with it when one presumes that they know more about a subject than someone who's been dealing with it their whole life." Holkan's words persuaded me, particularly because I'd already been gifted with a collection of the last year of Peanuts which was pretty damn good.

Second only to Peanuts as influence and inspiration to me in my formative years was B.C. from Johnny Hart. His art was clean and his puns were art. But in the two decades between when I stopped buying every paperback collection as it hit the shelves and when I started reading B.C. on the web, Johnny Hart seems to have alienated the cartooning world - or at least the online cartooning world - by getting religion. Complaints when the subject comes up consist generally of evangelism bashing, occasionally broken up with concessions that "the strip used to be funny but isn't any more because" ... and then more evangelism bashing.

Well, B.C. still makes me laugh.

I think Hart is due some slack. I suspect he's being judged not on his work but his message, in an era when Christianity-bashing has become a socially acceptable prejudice (We gotta be spotted one, right? Right?). I note that if he keeps going just three or four more years he'll reach the fifty-year mark for drawing his strip every day all by himself. Fifty years even would beat Schulz out by eight months (the flesh was weak). If that's not a record, and if there's any other cartoonist besides Hart who's within a decade of it, I don't know it.

Record-breaking or not, it's still nearly fifty years. And we online cartoonists are patting ourselves on the back because the best of us has never missed a day since ... well, 1999. Jesus Christ.


In Le Morte d'Arthur the sword in the stone is not named, and Excalibur is the sword that comes from the Lady of the Lake at the time of the duel with Pellinore. In modern times it's generally assumed by the masses that Excalibur was the sword in the stone also. In the movie Excalibur John Boorman (who claimed his movie to be a faithful adaptation of Le Morte d'Arthur) addressed the muddle by having Arthur pull Excalibur from the stone, break it in a duel with Lancelot (not Pellinore), and - once he'd learned his lesson - get it back reforged from the Lady of the Lake. Above is the Arthur, King of Time and Space fix for the muddle.

Then there are earlier sources in which Arthur hands off Excalibur to Gawaine for most of the story, when he finds another sword that's shinier, that he takes from a defeated enemy who's supposedly Hercules' descendant and whose sword was supposedly once Hercules' sword despite having a decidely French name.

I really don't mean to use the fairy tale arc for nothing but its capacity as the baseline arc. There's just a lot to be covered at the beginning.


It's Saturday. It's Saturday, and I've been indulging all my appetites today because they're the appetites I get when I'm feeding a cold. It's Saturday, and a filler won't knock me out of the Daily Grind challenge. It's Saturday, and I'm running a story series of gags at the moment, but I can't bump Saturday's to Sunday and Sunday's to Monday - because Sunday's is a traditionally expanded Sunday gag which won't fit in a four-panel Monday - nor bump Sunday's till next week; but I can tack Saturday's onto the beginning of Sunday's and draw the lot for then. It's Saturday and I'm running a filler. Story concludes tomorrow.

A reader writes:

Love the comic! Question though, on Irregular Webcomic you can go back and check out a specific storyline if you wish, such as Cliffhangers or Pirates. Would it be possible to set up such a system for Arthur? The other day I realized I wanted to re-read some of the comic, and then realized I felt like re-reading just the contemporary arc ...

I considered that when I set up the website. Two factors made me decide not to go that way. First, and more important, my different "arcs" don't concern all different characters and plots like Irregular Comic's different threads do. In AKOTAS what happens in one is a mirror-reflection of what happens in all others. They're all the same story; we the audience are only looking at it through many different filters. Second, I don't know PHP and I handcode the site to update it. Under these circumstances another couple links to edit in each affected file every day unnecessarily multiplies the risk of human error.

Thanks for reading.



Since I opened the door yesterday, I suppose I ought to update you and let you know I'm still under the weather. (I hope you can't tell from the cartoon.) (I hope the cartoon's not noticeably better than usual either.) I've started coughing so this probably isn't, as I had thought, just my usual one-day-a-year when my seasonal allergies are bad enough to keep me home from work. You can tell I feel like crap because this is precisely the sort of whining I usually don't permit in this space. I suppose I could've halted that by telling you I'm over it now even though I'm not, But That Would Be Wrong. Today's dialog all adapted from Malory, by the way. First person out with the watery tart speech gets oppressed.


Sick watch: Yeah, still. Sunday my wife persuaded me to take an Allegra*, which I hadn't done Saturday because (as I wrote in the last news) I didn't think allergies were the problem. The Allegra seems to have reduced my present symptoms to merely that of my seasonal allergies at their worst. But now it looks like maybe she's caught it, and this is her last finals week of law school.

* I don't take the Allegra daily, because it was prescribed as a result of the development of a food allergy but I now avoid Pepsi products when possible - which turns out to be most of the time, even though the university where I work is a Pepsi-only zone - and only take an Allegra when they can't be avoided.


Sick watch: We're on the mend. Move along, nothing to see here.

Reactions to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie are all over the map. Trust no one; see it yourself.




My wife's getting her J.D. this weekend. Updates may be significantly unusually late.


This dialog's a little overcrowded because when I wrote this weekend's gags I miscounted and thought this one would fall on Sunday.



In the original advertising campaign for the first Star Wars movie, now Episode IV - A New Hope, there was a sentence of voice-over I only remember the last three words of, but it must've gone something like this: "Never before have so many put so much time and work into a movie -

"... just for fun."

People complain about what George Lucas has done to his own property since 1998 or whenever the theatrical "special editions" of IV, V, and VI were released. They complain that Christian Hayden doesn't belong next to Alec Guinness and Frank Oz in place of Sebastian Shaw, or that Greedo shouldn'ta hadn'ta oughtn'ta shot first, or just that change is bad, mmkay, because this was special to me when I was a kid, mmkay. Well, in 1978, my friends' and my most important conclusion about Star Wars was that it's best to be Luke because Luke gets to use a lightsaber and man a Millenium Falcon weapons port and pilot an X-wing. We were high school seniors.

When you watch Episode VI next, don't count the shots in the cantina - rescue the girl and destroy the Death Star. When you watch Episode I next, don't gripe at Jar-Jar and the midichlorians - win the race and avenge your master.

When you go see Episode III at midnight tonight, screw the performances! Screw the plot! Screw George, for that matter, if necessary. (Note, though, it's not my argument here that he's the one who's lost the Vision.)

Rescue the children! Pilot the newest superfast flying shooting pilotable thing! Maim the bad guy for life! Have fun! That's what it's for.


This is the "spoiler" I've referred to in the FAQ, and the "elephant in the room that's invisible to those unfamiliar with the legends" I referred to in the introductory post in the forum: Arthur and Morgan have the same mother. The three ringleaders of Arthur's subject kings contesting the succession are married to his three elder half-sisters - gee, you 'spose there's some causality there? It'll be good not to have to dance around this any more. (Assuming AKOTAS has any readers who didn't already know this. In fact, I recently realized that I mentioned that Morgan is Arthur's sister already in the essay on character color-coding. I think I recall noticing then, too late, that I'd done it. I had to hope no one made anything of it, when Arthur's birthday finally rolled around. Certainly no reader's written to say, "Now, in the color essay you said ... But ever since Arthur's birthday they ... Ew, ick." But again, that's probably because you all already knew.)

For example: There's a cartoon I originally wrote for the end of the first contemporary arc week but never updated with, because it was a spoiler for today's revelation. It's now on the (new today) extras page. But there are a couple corrolary revelations still coming over the next few days, so the FAQ won't be updated till that's over.

The full sister whom Pellinore marries is named Anna and is mentioned as far as I know solely in Geoffrey of Monmouth who as far as I know doesn't say anything else about her. I 'spose I'll get around to that eventually.

(And all you webcartoonists with your Luke-and-Leia-find-out-too-late jokes during the advent of Episode III, or since 1983: we Arthurians got you beat by at least a thousand years. Eat our dust.)

Finally: Today's is AKOTAS's 366th consecutive daily update on its first anniversary. Name me more'n five "freshman" webcomics that can boast they did that. I can think of two or three possibilities, but I'm not certain these were their creators' freshman efforts, or whether they missed a day their first year. But then, given my fanfiction site, it could be argued that AKOTAS isn't my freshman effort either. But still, I dare you.


Occultatio of The Living Comic responded to my call for five freshman first-year no-miss webcomics with the following list:
  • Sluggy Freelance
  • User Friendly
  • Schlock Mercenary
  • 1/0
  • Funny Farm
  • Superosity
The three possibilities I'd been thinking of were Sluggy, Schlock Mercenary, and Superosity. Occulatio's original list of five emailed me had been Sluggy, UF, Schlock, Irregular Webcomic! and General Protection Fault. Then Occultatio recalled that GPF had only run six days a week when it started, and I recalled that in Irregular's archives the first anniversary strip commentary admits that a few days were missed. But I reminded Occultatio of fellow Daily Grinder Superosity who's not missed a day in its seven years, and Occultatio recalled 1/0 (which I've never heard of) and Funny Farm (another fellow Daily Grinder). So Occultatio's list now has six names on it, which beats my dare. Occultatio gets a tasty, tasty peanut butter cup.

(I have, however, a hazy, unreliable impression that I once read that Superosity is not Chris Crosby's freshman webcomic. Can anyone put that to rest one way or the other?)


(For Morgan's and Morgause's previous discussion of the time anomaly in the space arc see here and here.)

Here we have, in the fairy tale/baseline arc, Morgause setting off to, ultimately, become the mother of Arthur's bastard heir - but in the space arc the half-sister concerned is Morgan. This deviation from Le Morte d'Arthur (Malory incidentally couldn't decide whether Morgause was Arthur's half-sister or his aunt) isn't original with me. It's a salute to my second-most influential modern retelling of Le Morte d'Arthur, Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.

My most influential retelling of Le Morte d'Arthur is T. H. White's The Once and Future King which, according to White a retelling of Le Morte d'Arthur without invention of his own*, contrives to leave Morgan le Fey out almost entirely. Thus The Mists of Avalon, retelling Le Morte d'Arthur from the point of view of Morgan as the high priestess of the old religion while Christianity becomes entrenched in Britain, was pretty much my introduction to the character. Revisionist view of Le Morte d'Arthur that it is, it was also the work which brought home to me the way the legend lives on by adapting to successive cultures. The Mists of Avalon is the mother of Arthur, King of Time and Space in the same way that The Once and Future King is its father: Take away either of them, and there's no AKOTAS.

There's been a general trend in recent literature to replace or conflate Morgause with Morgan: John Boorman's film Excalibur, Mike W. Barr's graphic novel Camelot 3000, the Doctor Who serial Battlefield, The Road to Avalon by Joan Wolf (which I like just because Wolf keeps everyone but Agravaine from being a bad guy). You may know of more examples.

The difference in Arthur, King of Time and Space, in which sister is Mordred's mother when, is to make a profound difference on him in the space arc. For one thing, because of the space arc time anomaly, he's now old enough to be a squire on the Excalibur. In fact he's already appeared in the space arc more'n once. The parody arc, too. And all this is now covered in the FAQ.

* Except for the love affair for Pellinore, and "Malory did not say that Lancelot was ugly".


When I get off my duff and look into getting AKOTAS collected into book form, this will be the last cartoon of the year one volume.


I'm going to stop reading webcomics' archives.

I read and participated in Tuesday's discussion at The Living Comic on Dinosaur Comics. Dinosaur Comics, you need to know for the sake of this essay if you didn't already, is the webcomic with which Ryan North pioneered the re-use of the same six panels every day with only the dialog changed. (Well, I say pioneered but I'm not aware that anyone else has followed North on this trail.) What was it that Dr. McCoy said after he announced tribbles are born pregnant - "It seems to be a fantastic timesaver"?

In a Socratic dialog Occultatio and two friends also with Greek-sounding nicks arrive at the conclusion that there's no accounting for taste. The vote on Dinosaur Comics seems to go two-to-one against. Occulatio in particular speaks of having read the archives and not finding the humor. I posted this comment:

I don't know why I keep it - unless it's for moments like this, of which this is the first - but I have a list of about a dozen webcomics whose archives I started and which archives failed to engage me after I was partway through. Daily Dinosaur Comics went on that list just last week. But then, that's easily the sort of gimmick that works just great when you look at it only three or seven times a week but grows old fast when you read thirty in half an hour. Perhaps I ought to try reading it daily for awhile in order to give it a fair chance.

I wonder whether all webcomics are best experienced in the eyes of the new reader by massive consumption of their archives - some, no doubt, but all? I've also been finding my webcomic-archive-reading stamina to be easily run out lately, which I presume to be a growing susceptibility to CRT fatigue. Plus a couple of the webcomics on my failed to engage list are in the Daily Grind, so I'm reading them daily now without having finished their archives, and at least one of them does make me laugh sometimes. So I'm adopting a provisional policy of adding new webcomic finds to my daily lists without having read the archives first. So, you'll notice in the links section below that the archives I'm in the middle of list has disappeared (one of the current entries of which was a reread) and that Dinosaur Comics now appears in lunchtime reading.

No, I'm not going to name anything else on my failed archives list (unless, as in this case, something genuinely interesting is to be said). And this policy change probably means my reading lists are going to explode, so if and when new links start appearing there you can't presume correlation with the failed archived list.

(While I'm at it, I'll mention that you can't know the be-all and end-all of my opinions of fellow Grinders by reading my links list. I read all active Grinders daily from the main Grind links page, except those Grinders I was already reading when I joined the Grind, who remain in the lists of individual links. Only when the Grind is over will I decide which other Grinders I'll link to individually and will continue to read.)


The House At Recording the creative process

I put the rebel kings in Pendragon dress whites for the swearing of fealty as ceremonial symbolism of their vassalage, a message from Arthur the rightwise born High King and from the House of Pendragon to these kings, their subjects, and all the people of Britain. And because I didn't want to have to invent livery and color palettes for half a dozen never-before-seen characters at once who are mostly never-seen-again too. I hate crowd scenes. I think I wore myself out - I took a couple of shots each at the Uriens figures of the final two panels and didn't think they got any better. I drew yesterday's panels in reverse order; shoulda thoughtta that today.

My impression from the forums is that AKOTAS's audience reads it for interest in itself rather than for existing Arthurian interest brought along; but if there's anyone wondering which of the Eleven Kings and (here in the space arc where these things are more fluid) Queens is which, they're lined up in the first panel essentially in alphabetical order (except Lot who's dead now): Angwyshaunce of Ireland, Brandegoris of Stangor, the King of a Hundred Knights (alphabetized under the Roman numeral C which is also his crest), Carados, Clarivaunce of Northumberland, Cradilment, Mark of Cornwall (called "Idres" in this passage of Le Morte d'Arthur, I care not why), Nentres of Garlot, Uriens of Gore, and the unnamed "young" King of Scotland. Nentres, Mark, and Uriens are the ones who've appeared in AKOTAS previously; of those appearing for the first time today, I believe only Carados is likely to appear again because he figures in Lancelot's stories.


Remember the other day when I said that day's cartoon will be the final one in the AKOTAS year one print collection when/if that ever happens? When I wrote that I realized, if there was a year two collection, then the week's cartoons since could one day possibly become the introduction to AKOTAS of someone who for whatever reason picked up the second book first. So I've been trying to couch the gags in dialog that'd be good orientation for a new reader. Have you noticed? Is it too heavy-handed? If not, is it getting the job done? Or am I just always that expositional so you couldn't tell the difference? I also plan that I'd reprint the very first gag on the back of every year's collection...

In general the attempt at introductory material has served to lend to the opening of AKOTAS's second year a sense of occasion to me that I don't recall experiencing with any other instance of anniversary during my long history of drawing cartoons daily. For example, I feel very conscious that yesterday's gag was more wacky and slapstick than AKOTAS usually produces; and I noticed because I've been reflecting that I did draw wackier, more slapstick gags in the 70s and 80s, so I wonder whether the present-day lack of wackiness is a symptom of mature sophistication, or of creative stagnation, or both; and I wonder whether I ought to make year two The Wacky Year just for the creative exercise. I wonder whether I'm going through midlife crisis, and whether contemporary Merlin ought to buy a compensatory sportscar (compensating for my own disinterest in sportscars). And since midlife crises are all about the mortality, I wonder whether I'm going to live till 2029 as I committed to doing when I started AKOTAS - even though I'll only be sixty-nine then, and both my parents are older than that and going strong, and both my grandparents who died of natural causes lived to nice margins older than that.

I bet other webcartoonists, generally being half my age, don't go through this at their first anniversary. Maybe I'll ask one the next time I catch them cutting across my lawn.


I give in. You'll notice that there's now a link underneath the main page cartoon for the cartoon's permanent page.

Good ol' Eric Burns of Websnark has a list of webcomics "best practices" which includes - among other things that I have done since the beginning of Arthur, King of Time and Space - a link on the current cartoon page to the cartoon's permanent page. Such a link facilitates the convenient linking to said cartoon by, for instance, the writer of a popular webcomic blog who doesn't wish to have to wait till after the next update to link directly and permanently to what is presently the current cartoon.

For instance, when I was Websnarked March 30, Eric thumbnailed the current cartoon of the day - but if you click on that thumbnail you'll always arrive at the latest AKOTAS cartoon instead of the one Eric thumbnailed and was actually talking about. Unless he reads this and is so flattered by my capitulation to his reasoning that he edits the code in his old entry.

Up till now I've resisted this because, as regular readers of this space may be tired of reading, I handcode this site. I'm therefore inclined to keep the daily routine as simple as possible, and am reluctant to add new procedures to the routine because that's one more opportunity for the statistical likelihood of human error to burn me.

For instance: Just now when I was creating the permanent page for today's cartoon, I had to think twice or three times to realize that this essay goes on that page rather than yesterday's essay. Tomorrow, the first time I'll invoke what will from now on be the routine creation of an additional page every day, will no doubt be great balls of fun.

Now Eric has a point. When Joe Surfer finds a bit of web content he wants to share with everyone who ever emailed him a top ten list, he wants to be able to link directly to a page that'll still have the same content if his parents don't open their email for a month. And, credit where credit's due, when Eric started his own webcomic he implemented all the practices he preaches. (Well, Wednesday White his webmaster* implemented them.) But I'm doing this at least as much because I think now it's more likely Eric will be inclined to snark me, feeding my ego and my readership numbers; and I fear my false modesty is cracking.

* Master of unintentional alliteration!


Yeah, I blew a Sunday on talking heads. When I scripted the gags for the past week and the coming week, I neglected to notice that this one would fall on a Sunday. Of course I could have filled it out to Sunday proportions with flashforwards as I did on a Sunday once before - but today's topic is the same as that day's so they'd only be the same flashforwards.

It turns out in practical terms that I'm not having to create an extra HTML file every day in order to accomodate listing permanent URLs on the main page - I've simply contrived that I'm creating a new page for the current cartoon daily instead of creating a new page for the previous cartoon daily as the previous procedure had encompassed. It's a matter of the default setting of code and to explain that any more would take longer than it's worth. But effectively the only extra work I've created for myself is the daily editing of the permanent link code on the main page, and as long as I proof links before daily uploading as I'm accustomed to doing it shan't be a problem.


Here you go. I didn't do an expanded Sunday strip last weekend, because I hadn't realized the scheduled gag would fall on a Sunday. This gag, on the other hand, I originally wanted to expand to Sunday proportions, but it got scheduled for a weekday; so in compensation I've expanded it, making it the first expanded weekday gag (outside of fillers).

So, was that marriage proposal shocking enough for you? Huh? No? Oh well.


Despite my resolve not to read the archives of my new webcomics, today I did read Ctrl+Alt+Del backwards from today for a bit. At least there's one other person who sees the danger I do.


There was hope expressed on the forum to see an arc saluting such sources where Mordred is Lot's natural son (such as Tennyson), and it sure fits here.

I'm afraid I've slighted the western arc a bit. There ought to have been, before now, more development of Miss Ginny's growing attachment to the Kid than this and this. I hope it was nevertheless obvious yesterday that she hoped and expected he'd top the sheriff's offer when she told him of it. But no Lancelot believes he's the marrying kind.


I suppose the anachronistically mad scientist only became a convention of westerns near the end of their reign on network broadcast tv ... but that's as far back as I can remember.


For any Tristram & Isolde fans out there, I guess: Since I didn't do their origin story in the baseline arc, here's the western arc version. Note the shared bottle - in the legends there's a bottle of love potion Isolde doesn't know about. She tells the maid to serve poison to Tristram and herself on the trip back to Mark, because she doesn't want to marry Mark and because Tristram killed her brother (in a fair fight). But the maid won't kill Isolde so she serves the love potion because it's the only liquor on the ship. Only in some retellings is there a love potion. Also in some retellings the maid has the hots for Mark.


The Incredible Shrinking Recording the creative process

Back when I was drawing AKOTAS with the computer mouse regularly, I made the observation that one advantage to it was composing directly in the final presentation space. There've been several pen/cil-drawn AKOTAS with sloppy panel compositions because I have a tendency to draw just a little bigger than'll fit. That can be dealt with even in MSPaint, but it takes some forethought. One lunchtime when I'd discovered I'd drawn too large, it occurred to me I could walk down to the receptionist's copy machine and reduce the original so that it'd scan into MSPaint the size I wanted. (Could prolly do it at home, too, on the three-in-one that does my scanning, but when I'm at home most of my work is on Sunday cartoons where size matters not.) Then earlier this week - oh, I think it was when Morgause dosed Arthur - there was a day when I didn't even try scanning the original before I took it to the copy machine to be reduced.

Today looked like another day like that ... but when I scanned the reduction it seemed to be too small. So I tried scanning the original after all. I ended up using the original size for panels one and two, and the reduction for panels three and four.

Say, does today's gag communicate even if you don't already know that years from now Morgause dies at the hands of her sons in Lamorak's bed?



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