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

Rants 2006 January - June


My new year's resolution is to stop behaving in such a way so that detractors of fanfiction could tell themselves and others that I'm ashamed of mine when I'm not. As of today there is a link to my fanfiction site among the main page links.


Foundation and Recording the creative process

It's great when the characters write the gags for me. I wish they'd do that every week, like they are this week.

Till now.

Today's gag was a minor pain. As you see it is how it came to me, its first form. Then I got to thinking about it. Bit of a bummer, innit? I thought. And very like that other one, the one that got message board comments that said both, "You made me laugh," and, "You made me cry." Am I trying to recapture past glory (such as it is)? Whether I am or not, what about pacing? Is it time for another gag like that so soon?

So I rewrote the gag into a four-panel gag. Same two beginning panels. Third panel, no dialog (a "beat panel"). Fourth panel Arthur says, "Perhaps nine months from today," and Guenevere says, "You read my mind."

But I didn't like that either. Well, no, I didn't dislike it, but I wasn't sure it was right. So I was trying to decide which version of the gag to draw. Even as I started drafting this essay I was trying to decide how to decide. So I started the essay with the paragraph about the characters writing themselves, a paragraph I've been thinking about putting in this space all week anyway. And I realized that that was how I was going to make my decision - which gag did the characters write?

I hope they're still at it tomorrow. Hear me, kids? I can't use the "nine months from now" gag tomorrow any more cuz I quoted it here. You listening to me?


I don't know whether it bothers anyone that I'm not consistent with the dialog in the fairy tale arc in terms of chronism. For instance, in today's cartoon Merlin's lines are, "That's meet [faux-medieval for appropriate or just]," and, "Yup"; and Blaise's line is the most pervasive Homer Simpsonism on the internet. Well, the AKOTAS FAQ warns you that the fairy tale arc is "laced with anachronism". And unapologetically so. Arthurian stories have embraced anachronism at least ever since Arthur's knights started being portrayed as knights in armor when, if there was a historic basis for Arthur, he lived in the fifth century.

My own language usage is such a mixed bag that, years ago when I wrote a paper on Rhapsody in Blue for a music appreciation class, because there was such a contrast of formal and informal phraseology the professor wondered to me whether I was using quotes but failing to put quotation marks and citations on them. (I described that rest in the middle of the second piano solo in the Bernstein recording as lasting "exactly a bar and a deep breath".) (Well, it does.) You probably can get what I mean from reading AKOTAS dialog. I'm not any good at giving my characters "voices" that are different from mine, let alone from each others'. I try to remember to give fairy tale- and space- Lancelot and his family syntax as if they were speaking with a French accent but I don't always.


I really didn't mean to go from January to January without another movie parody, but that's how it's worked out. I guess I was waiting for the right movie to come along. I guess, too, it might help if I saw more movies.

I haven't scripted all of the rest of this Serenity parody, but I have scripted some. Arthur is serious when he says spoilers will not be avoided.



The special effect, with the holo person visible behind the holo holos and Guenevere's gun arm visible behind both, looked so much better in my head.


Scott (PvP) Kurtz has written a commentary on Serenity [screwy HTML on the page means you have to scroll down a screen or two to find it with this link] which I find flawed.

Kurtz seems a relative newcomer to whedonophilia. I recall maybe the vaguest references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel in PvP's archives or old newposts. But when Kurtz discovered the Firefly DVD box set it was all over his website; and when Episode III premiered he started selling t-shirts with the motto swiped from one of his strips' punchline, "Joss Whedon is my master now."

In his review of Serenity Kurtz posits that the other two Firefly movies rumored to be on Whedon's drawing board must be prequels to Serenity, based on the air of conclusion that permeates Serenity. "You can't have Firefly without Wash," he says. "River's story has been Firefly's unifying theme, and now it's wrapped up," he says. What Kurtz doesn't seem to realize is that on Whedon's previous tv series he did this sort of thing every year. Serenity isn't the patch for what would have been Firefly's series finale, it's the patch for what would have been Firefly's first season finale.

Of course the disappointing box office receipts for Serenity have cast major doubts on whether more movies will be made. Serenity DVD sales may or may not resurrect them. But comics companies are all over Whedon too; there's already been a Firefly miniseries, from Dark Horse, set between the tv series and Serenity. I'm confident the stories will be told.


Yesterday, showing off that there's something I know more about than does the guy whose webcomic I save for last every day, I forgot to mention that the two new faces in bit parts in the Serenity parody (Griflet played the twin fences) are characters who'll be appearing in regular arcs in the future.

Oh, and the party on the other end of Merlin's phone has appeared in the contemporary arc before.


Today's fan art is especially for Discworld readers.



No, really. I searched the online Morte I use. Tor is mentioned again in lists of Pellinore's sons, and that's pretty much it.


Geography review
because it came up on the forum

Contemporary Arthur lives in the U.S. midwest. Lancelot lives on the east coast and Guenevere lives on the west coast.

Guenevere's location has been discussed in newspost before: She lives close enough to San Diego to attend Comicon as an unscheduled day trip, and it's somewhere you can wear light clothing in January.

Lancelot lives in the Eastern time zone. He's seven or eight hundred miles from a city six hundred miles from where Arthur lives.

Arthur and Merlin live in Springfield, a suburb or small town a day trip's drive from a big city called Camelot which is in or near Kansas. (In the forum discussion I announced that Camelot and Springfield are in an imaginary state whose name I've chosen but not yet revealed.)


One of the extant sources, written down around the twelfth century but certainly much older, is Hoianau ("Greetings"), a poem in Merlin's voice addressing a pet pig during a bout of madness spent living in a forest (Lancelot and Tristram have their forest Wild Man phases in the sources also). I haven't today been able to verify my impression that the pig has only three legs, but I'm pretty sure it's in Mary Stewart's trilogy if no earlier.


My hourly comics will be here about 23:00 CST 2/1.


A Midsummer Night's Recording the creative process

The first script of this gag consisted of three panels of Merlin and Arthur discussing that Morgan had probably acheived the alliance she'd always wanted and how an alliance with fey isn't very practical, and a fourth panel with the dialog from what's now the third panel. Then some indicator light in my subconscious mind must've started flashing Show, don't tell, moron.


We're reliably informed by Gossamer Commons that all webcomics must post fan art of Faye of Questionable Content. Hence the character design for Merlin's friend today, and the return of the trope in which Merlin's time-travel pals are other cartoon characters.


One of the regular - or, more accurately in tv writer talk, recurring - posters on for the past ten years (besides me) is Larry Gelbart. You know, the guy in the show's credits under developed for television by and, if it's an episode from the first four years, story editor (or something like that).

I once responded to a query what he looks like by stating he looks like a cross between Woody Allen and Larry King. Before I posted this, however, I began to wonder if it was quite a polite thing to say, particularly in front of him. So I emailed him first for his reaction to the statement. He wrote back a polite but vehement denial of having any desire or right to censor what anyone else writes. Now I wonder whether I offended him with my attempt not to offend him.

People have asked him a few times what he'd've done for a series finale if he'd been with the show all eleven years. Larry's never responded definitively enough for me to recall now what he's written about it, but I always like to suggest, "Well, look at the last episode he did do." ... which was The Interview.

Thursday, in response to a request from another poster, Larry posted what he might have written for Henry Blake had McLean Stevenson still been with the show to appear in The Interview. It's at the top of this page. It was weird and a little spooky to see new material, from the creator, featuring the character from all fiction who at 14 I thought was most like me, from a tv series that's been off the air for thirteen twenty-three years come the 28th.


I owe apologies to two of my fan art contributors, Daibhid Ceannaideach and Paul Shryer. I ran Daibhid's art almost a month ago and forgot for that time to add a link to it from the respective section of the extras page. Then when I went to add Daibhid I discovered that the link there for Paul's contribution was pointing to the wrong page; it probably had been ever since it went up. Sorry, guys.

The context of these realizations was contemplating the fact that it's a month and a half since my annual running out of my filler reserve, and the only filler I've drawn since then was used the day I drew it. My buffer's empty, people. Heretofore it's been my policy when sent fan art to make a normal update of it at the earliest opportunity (movie parodies and Daily Grind challenge rules permitting). But today I'm soliciting fan art for the purpose of stockpiling the filler reserve. Send me fan art and I promise I'll run it, as I always run fan art, but possibly not until December when it's time once again to run the reserve out.


I reviewed the archives yesterday. I probably ought to do it at every multiple of fifty. I corrected some typoes and discovered that the king who covets Arthur's beard has been called several sources' different versions of his name. (I also discovered he looks almost exactly like Gorlois of Cornwall, which I would rather have done on purpose than accidentally but would have preferred not to have done at all. But it's not like they'll ever meet.)

For those keeping score, Guenevere calls Griflet Girflet, but I think no one else does. And Tristram's pal Palidomes' name usually has the M and the D transposed. But, as I said in the forum when a reader brought the latter thing to my attention, that's the sort of transmission error that happens in redactions, the sort to be expected. After all creating a story as a webcomic amounts to something similar to putting a page a day of a novel online as you write it - it's all first draft. When the booboos crop up all you can do is say, "Oh well," and move on.

I probably ought to have mentioned under yesterday's gag that my spouse has always been a hundred percent behind my participation in the Daily Grind challenge. The first couple of times we left town last year she was concerned whether I'd be able to keep up. She still asks me every once in awhile, "Hey, what ever happened with that?"



I think I've run out of funny sequel titles for posts on recording the creative process

The original script for this cartoon had the fourth panel set later the same evening as the first three panels, Guenevere in bed with Arthur complaining, "What's got you out of sorts now?" Yeah, Arthur's going to have years of adjusting to do when the affair starts, but time enough for that when the affair starts.

Still, I hate to imply that Guenevere's slow, taking so long to figure out what Merlin meant. But she and Lancelot had to be visibly older in the last panel, lest readers mistake it for the same evening as the other three. I don't want readers complaining that I've accomplished a major plot point offpanel, not when I haven't done it at all yet.

With this being the third example I can think of off the top of my head, I guess the fourth-panel two-decade flash-forward has officially become a convention of Arthur, King of Time and Space. ...And they all seem to be Guenevere feature gags. I must see about giving everyone else a chance.


THEN King Arthur let send for all the children born on May-day, begotten of lords and born of ladies; for Merlin told King Arthur that he that should destroy him should be born on May-day, wherefore he sent for them all, upon pain of death; and so there were found many lords' sons, and all were sent unto the king, and so was Mordred sent by King Lot's wife, and all were put in a ship to the sea, and some were four weeks old, and some less. And so by fortune the ship drave unto a castle, and was all to-riven, and destroyed the most part, save that Mordred was cast up, and a good man found him, and nourished him till he was fourteen year old, and then he brought him to the court, as it rehearseth afterward, toward the end of the Death of Arthur.

- Sir Thomas Malory

In the so-called "Heroic Age" a hero was just someone who did great things. Hercules was a hero because he performed the Twelve Labors, and not because he did them from the goodness of his heart, which in fact he didn't. He did them as penance for killing his own family (in a madness that was visited on him by an outside force [his father's wife who hated him, and who happened to be a goddess], but that wasn't seen as mitigating circumstance in those days, except by forward-thinking logicians like Theseus).

Arthur's bout of herodism at Merlin's suggestion is a traditional element of the legend, but it's not compatible with the accepted definition of the word hero in these our post-Kryptonian times. And it makes no sense for Merlin to have advised him to do it when Merlin will have known it wouldn't work. Modern authors have found various ways around it - e.g. Mary Stewart in The Hollow Hills, in which Lot ordered the massacre, Morgause contrived to get the order attributed to Arthur, and Merlin started a successful rumor that it had been the wizard's bad advice. Others modify the motivation behind the event, or some of the players' motivations. T.H. White leaves it in and makes it a sticking point between Arthur and Mordred during their final days.

Balin's story cycle, however, is one of always doing the wrong things for the right reasons. For all his prowess I think Balin's an idiot, and I'd have left him out of my version of the legend entirely but for wanting the May Day fiasco to be somebody's other than Arthur's fault. And because I think the last gag he'll be in is clever.

(Before you ask: The reason "May Day" comes in March in AKOTAS is because AKOTAS characters have been given birthdays that are birthdays or anniversaries significant to me, and the birthday I've given to Mordred is March 22. But I run this gag today instead of March 22 because it's a Sunday gag.)


Recording the creative process

The interesting thing about this one is that I drew it before I was done scripting it. The best block of the day for getting the drawing done was passing by while I was working on the script. But I knew what I wanted to accomplish with the gag and how that must play out visually (where most of my gags are much more verbally oriented), so I just went ahead and drew while I could and finished the script later. Sort of like those magazine or web contests with a captionless cartoon, or a strip with empty dialog balloons, and whoever sends in the best dialog wins a prize.

Maybe the next time it gets to be drawing time and I haven't thought of a gag yet, I'll just draw something and fill in dialog later.


Pellinore and Pelles told Arthur about the family collection of relics here.


Recording the creative process

This gag didn't start out conceived as a Thing of Shapes to Come. It was going to be a normal contemporary arc gag, but when I sat down to draw it I wasn't awake or alert enough or something. And, I'd figured out how to shape Fasha in the intervening time since the subject first came up. So.

This isn't an apology. This is a description of a creative process. I like this kind of minimalism, as you well know if you read the fanfiction cartoons. Sometimes I wish I drew AKOTAS that way. So sometimes I do.


Recording the creative process

The one with the sound effect upside prompted a reader to comment on the message board that Guenevere had struck Arthur twice in a week. My initial reaction was to resolve to back off. She's supposed to be a hero(ine), isn't she? Can't have her beating her spouse.

But after a coupla days' thought, I posted this over there, which deserves to be posted over here too:

Maybe my views are colored by having read The Once and Future King first - White supposedly having been something of a misogynist - but if you go back to the Morte, Guenevere is abusive. She screams at Lancelot a lot. She refuses to believe his story of his betrayals by Elaine, which drives him into a two year madness or at least is the last straw. Even when she mellows with age she's always sending him away (so that she can get in trouble and he can show up to rescue her in the nick of time). I try to portray Guenevere as a free spirit and not as a stereotypical hysterical female, but really in the sources that's someone she is.

White tried to explain the contradictions in her by saying "it's difficult to write about a real person", which I used to think was a cop-out, but if he was a misogynist that might have been the best he could do. Guenevere has always been the character out of the three of them who differs the most from treatment to treatment - compare Parke Godwin to Marion Zimmer Bradley, or Camelot to King Arthur. I never really got the handle on her I have now until I started globally replacing the characters in my Star Trek fanfiction with these characters and she got McCoy; that's who she is to me, the bleeding-heart sensualist cynic, the personification of the hero's heart in the conflicts between his heart and his mind. But to me she's also who she is in White, and White always claimed his characters were Malory's.

Maybe I need not to stop her thumping Arthur (and eventually Lancelot) every once in awhile, because that's who she is.

The guy who writes Home on the Strange has been blogging this week about making sure all his characters are flawed. I wonder what Arthur's and Lancelot's flaws are in AKOTAS.

Anyone got any observations on that? Have I been allowing my characters to be flawed? Yeah, they're supposed to be archetypes, but if I want the reader sticking around for twenty-five years they've gotta be interesting people too.


This really is Sexual Assault Month.

Responses to my request for input on character flaws has come in on the message board, by email and on my LiveJournal where I also discussed this. To condense the several elaborate replies: Lancelot comes off as too self-confident (when not in depressive cycle [an element I haven't paid due attention lately, note to self]) to relate well to others, and Arthur as too passive in his dealing with other people or nations. That aspect of Lancelot is one which I more or less consciously imported from the sources. Arthur's passivity, on the other hand, is something I've been regarding as a flaw in my writing rather than a flaw in the character I meant to recreate.

Many modern writers (including me when I transplanted these characters into my Star Trek stories, as one longtime reader pointed out) paint Arthur as a supercharismatic leader of men. Since the intended theme of AKOTAS was best articulated by Ector when he said, "When you're called, you answer," it often troubles me that the Arthur here isn't more like those Arthurs. On the other hand, those Arthurs are largely a byproduct of the "new Matter of Britain", the twentieth century versions of the story that hark to the theoretical historical Arthur who against all odds generaled a disunited Britain into beating back the inevitable Saxon encroachment for a whole generation. I've unapologetically eschewed the historical perspective, choosing instead to take as my sources portrayals of Arthur that range from the passive to the downright foolish. It's no wonder if my Arthur takes after them instead of the more recent, heroic ones.

The gripping hand is, as I said somewhere yesterday, the joy and pitfall of working with existing characters you love is that they tend to take over. And I said at the beginning I "did start this strip expecting it to evolve in some ways I hadn't necessarily planned or would not have preferred if asked in advance." I generally am careful what I wish for, and here it is, so I hope you're enjoying the ride too.

In other recording of the creative process, the washed-out pastel effect in the second panel is something I was also trying for in the second panel here and at first botched for technical reasons, but have now corrected.

(This really is Sexual Assault Month.)


One last (probably) (for now) remark on flawed characters. Since I last wrote, a reader wrote to argue AKOTAS's characters' flaws are the flip sides of their strengths. This suggests to to me that the characters I've borrowed and/or recreated are the organic, holistic three-dimensional people that I was wondering about when I had my revelation about Guenevere and asked all of you about Arthur and Lancelot. That's good news. Thanks to all who joined in on the discussion at whatever forum.


For today's cartoon I got to test my frequent assertion that the reason I persist in using software to create AKOTAS that can be found on any Windows computer is so I can work and update from almost anywhere under almost any circumstances. Yesterday I forgot the flash drive (or thumb drive, or USB drive, or whatever they call it where you are) with my template files at home when I left for work.

Actually I'd done most of my daily prep - creating or modifying the index and archive pages, creating the cartoon file from the template - before I left for work, which isn't usual. I'd be home from work before scheduled update time (though there's a vet appointment after work, so today I still may not update at 00:01 GMT promptly). So when I got to work and I realized what I'd done, all that was left to do that ordinarily I do during work hours* was to actually create the cartoon. I went to the website (I visit the AKOTAS website as little as possible, so as not to skew my traffic numbers. Internal site links are all relative so, when I just want to refer to past cartoons or proof links or stuff, I can do it on the local files on my computer.) and saved the most recent three-panel cartoon to disk to act as a template. Then I worked on the cartoon normally with MSPaint. As soon as I'd completed the cartoon I uploaded it to AKOTAS's host, as usual, to make sure there's one copy of the file offsite from where I am. To update, as usual, I'll only need to upload the new pagefiles that are waiting for me at home.

(Yes, I've just confessed that, with minimal surfing skills, you can usually see the next AKOTAS as much as five or six hours before actual updating. Big deal. It's not like I work ahead two or six weeks like some people.)

But even if I hadn't already done the other prep, I could have downloaded active files to use as templates for the pages in question as I did for the cartoon, and edited them with MSEdit as usual; and then emailed the files to myself pending update time. Every list of recommended best practices for webcartoonists leads off with always update on schedule. If my work is an eyesore to some self-appointed experts, the rest of you still get a joke every day.

* By which I mean to say, on my breaks. Honest. Yes, that's honestly what I mean to say.


Happy Easter.

On the message board TheFishyMan asked:

Today's [yesterday's] Comic bothers me a little bit. Is it in the Space Arc? That's space Lancelot, despite the fact that the action occurs in a castle. (It's been established that British Space is sometimes a little odd like that, and also loose with it's definition of 'castle'.)

If it's the Space Arc, though, wouldn't the Wandering Jew be considerably older than 'over five hundred years old'? Didn't Jesus live and then die on the 'hypothetical origin planet'? Or is something stranger going on?

Or is he in fact Mel Brooks?

I responded:
As noted in the FAQ (in the paragraph about space Merlin's time-travel pals), in the space arc the cycle of the history of this planet seems to be transposed to the entire universe when Arthur's company goes to space. In the history of the planet Greece was a nation (or more accurately a group of city-states); in the space arc a planet. At fairy tale Arthur's time on our planet Rome was a declining European empire; at space Arthur's time in the universe it's a declining star empire. On Earth Jesus was a contemporary of the Caesars; in space Jesus was a contemporary of the Caesars. Recall that even space Merlin the time-traveler refers to the "hypothetical origin planet" because even he knows nothing of time earlier than "the colony on Eden". History follows Arthur into space when he goes, including the history of Christianity. I can see how that might not be entirely clear when the other time-jumping he does is within the planet's history.

I mean Jesus to be one of Merlin's pals, but suitable gags haven't been forthcoming.

Hopefully at least the issue of space arc castles is clearer today. I don't think I recall that space arc castles have ever been portrayed as buildings on planets, though there's a niggling reservation at the back of my memory when I make the assertion. Am I wrong?


Recording the creative process

When I saw History of the World, Part I two Saturdays ago, I thought, "Huh, that'd make a good AKOTAS crossover." Once I'd written in my head the gag which ultimately ran last Friday I thought, in no particular order, "With all the timejumping in the middle it'd be a better Sunday gag, but I've just drawn tomorrow's. Next Sunday, then," and, "It'd also make a fantastic lead-in for the two gags I drew years ago with Lancelot and the Wandering Jew, which I've always meant to re-draw for AKOTAS." Then I thought, "Next week is Easter. Having three gags, I'd be better to run them Friday-Saturday-Sunday for the holiday weekend."

Later, when I'd already run the Mel Brooks gag Friday and while I was redrawing the first Wandering Jew gag for Saturday, two more gags came to me. I decided I had to run them, even if it meant running over the holiday weekend, because the last one - today's - has a punchline I've been meaning to work in for weeks but I couldn't come up with the right setup.

As for TheFishyMan's question, "Or is he in fact Mel Brooks?" ... well, the two gags revived from years ago were in fact written as a tribute to Reiner and Brooks' 2000-year-old man. The "Oh, boy" in his first panel is a dead giveaway to those who know the routines. Is it my intent that Mel Brooks jumps time like Arthur? Or is the Wandering Jew? I would say, that depends on future story needs if any.

The original verions of first two Wandering Jew gags are now on the extras page.


You may recall King Pelles of Carbonek as King Pellinore's brother, as introduced in the fairy tale arc. For his one appearance in the contemporary arc previous to today, I arrived at the decision that he'd look weird with his fairy tale arc haircut if he didn't have any headwear. So I decided to fool with his hair. Having tried that, I decided that from then on it'd be better to give him headwear.


Gawaine, Agravaine and their brothers have trouble telling Gawaine from Agravaine in the text section of this page.


After the Serenity parody I promised that the two characters appearing in bit parts that had never appeared in regular AKOTAS would eventually do so. Here's the first of them.


Today is Online Comics Day, formerly known as Webcomics Awareness Day.

It's also No Pants Day. I wonder whether Arthur and Merlin are celebrating that.


Now that I've done one of these for Lancelot and one for Arthur, I suppose I must do one for Guenevere.


Remember last autumn when I had no scanner at home for a month? Yesterday it stopped powering up again. Stay tuned.


The home scanner's still not working.

Here's how you can tell the difference between regular The Thing of Shapes To Come and what we might call Shapes AKOTAS, if you haven't made it out already.

Regular AKOTAS and Shapes AKOTAS appear in panels that are set against the green background of the actual webpage in your browser.
The Thing of Shapes to Come panels are outlined in black inside a panel against the green webpage. Usually, or at least lately, Arthur's byline appears at the top.
Recording the creative process

In trying to come up with a gag for today which showcased shapes-style AKOTAS I initially decided, "I'll write my own gag based on analysis of whatever humor trope Narbonic used today." Today of course at the time being Sunday, Shaenon ran fan art instead of writing a joke.

Next I said, "I'll look at the Morte and come up with something that's different between the baseline arc and the space arc," because I wanted to highlight how those arcs are differentiated visually in shapes (i.e., the space service insignias as opposed to Lancelot's helm or Arthur's crown). But the only thing in the Morte that's really different from the space arc between the Accolon story and the beginning of the war with Rome (which will start in the baseline arc and the space arc this summer) is that in the baseline arc Gawaine, Ivaine and Marhaus go off on the adventure of the three damsels while in the space arc Ivaine isn't old enough to be knighted yet because Morgan married Uriens only ten years ago.* That's a little complex to cram into a weekday gag.

Finally I came up with a gag that derives from the biggest difference in the leads' day-to-day lives between the two arcs - and one that showcases the differences between the characters very nicely, in how they react to the other difference. Sometimes having to work for a gag pays off unexpectedly.

* Those of you who read the first (and only) draft of the novel version of AKOTAS may recall that Space Ivaine doesn't become a Round Table knight till the year of the Grailquest.


Whoops. I alluded yesterday to "the novel version of AKOTAS" (which is really a misnomer), thinking I'd mentioned it in this space before. But I've only mentioned that in drafts of future newsposts and a message board poster called me on it.

The evolutionary steps between my fanfiction and the present project go like this:

  1. Fanfiction crossovers on Usenet and my ISP member website.
  2. Global replacement of the franchises' proper nouns, to create new versions of the same stories which are not fanfiction crossovers but King Arthur stories set in space, on Usenet and the fanfiction website. Given the umbrella title King Arthur in Time and Space.
  3. Fanfiction daily gags on the website.
  4. KAITAS daily gags on the website alternating with the fanfiction gags.
  5. The first draft of a KAITAS novel The Grail Project, derived from but not quite the same as the fanfiction-based material, on Usenet and my website.
  6. The webcomic Arthur, King of Time and Space at its own domain.
All the previous material except the novel you can still find among the fanfiction pages at the link on the AKOTAS main page. Attempting a KAITAS novel taught me several things. The most valuable: my medium is the daily cartoon, not the novel.

Then I got Megatokyo Chapter 0 for Father's Day and discovered mainstream webcomics, I decided to launch a King Arthur webcomic and not to confine it to only Star Trek pastiche, and my wife suggested Arthur, King of Time and Space was a better description of the webcomic. The rest you know.


Arthur's half-sister Elaine spends most of the sources offstage, and after the rebellion of the subject kings her husband capitulates to Arthur totally. Morgause remains in power despite her emnity to Arthur because after Lot's death she's in charge in Lothian. But it's a little odd, isn't it, that Morgan should be discovered in a plot against both Arthur and her own king and husband, and still retain her title and position in later tales. Even Arthur isn't that generous. The Mists of Avalon gets around it by moving the Accolon story later in Arthur's reign than Le Morte d'Arthur had it. I think Occam would favor my way.


When a high school sophomore in 1976, I was foolish enough to attend prom dateless while the girl I wanted to have taken attended with someone else. During the evening I secured a promise that she would dance the next slow song with me. When the band struck up Color My World she said, "I'll dance with you the next one." There wasn't another slow song.

When I like a piece of music I'll listen to it over and over. When I started drawing a cartoon a day - about two weeks previous to this prom - I picked out the longest single piece I had in my collection so that I'd have to turn the phonograph needle back least often while drawing. In that way the alltime theme for my daily cartoons became the Ballet for a Girl from Buchanan suite on Chicago II.

Color My World is one movement of Ballet for a Girl in Buchanan. I try to draw about unhappiness in love every May 7.


The Knight Who Won't Give His Name is a classic trope that I've unduly neglected in Arthur, King of Time and Space to date. In the Old French Vulgate cycle, Lancelot doesn't give his name when he first arrives at Camelot because he doesn't know it himself yet... He only finds it out when he liberates a cursed chapel by lifting a stone from a tomb which is enchanted so that only the person whose name is inscribed underneath, who is the same person fated to be interred there, can lift it. The Morte skips over all that. Of course I'll get to the nameless knight trope when I arrive at Gareth's story, and probably Percival's too.

This is the same chararacter whom I declined to identify when he appeared in the fourth panel of the Schulz salute reprint. Anyone care to go on record with a guess who it is, before the reveal tomorrow?


For those keeping score, this's exactly two years of Arthur, King of Time and Space and never a missed update.

And it's paying off. Now, aside from joining the Daily Grind and the one 'snark, both more'n a year ago, AKOTAS hasn't got any high-profile notice from webcomics culture. But readership grows steadily. And there's been incidence of being casually linked to in passing; from Fleen, from LJ webcomics communities, from the Arthurnet mailing list. Better taken for granted than a flash in the pan.

The most important thing about holding the webcomic audience is setting an update schedule you can keep, and then keeping it. I once pledged in this space that to miss an update I'd have to be "in mourning, or hospitalized, or dead myself". So far, none of those things have happened and, so far, I haven't missed an update. I'm a webcomics reader too, and if I'm told - or left to infer by observation - you update three to seven times a week and then I don't see an update for a month, see if you stay in my links. Unless, of course, you're Boxjam.

(Quality work is important too. I hesitate to say that, because in context it sounds immodest and I attempt most of the time to appear modest. However I do try for quality as well as quantity - and I daresay after thirty years of daily cartoons, on paper and electrons, whatever positive and negative qualities they possess must be consistent - and not to at least acknowledge I try could be twisted into an insult to the readers by someone prone to that sort of behavior of which the internet has plenty. Still, if someone called me a hack I'd have to reply, "Your point being?")

And everyone who ever guessed since December who is the mystery knight got it right. Interesting that The DaVinci Code should open on the same weekend as Galahad's debut here.

Thanks for reading.


Recording the creative process

A reader emailed last week to complain of all the interesting things that happen offpanel, e.g. Balin and Balan's deaths and Morgan's attempt on Uriens' life. "I felt cheated after not getting to see the two knights meet one another disguised, and the comic highjinks that were sure to ensue, not to mention the pathos of the act that truly demonstrates that those who live by earnest stupidity die by earnest stupidity.

"And today, Morgan tried to kill her husband offscrean. Couldn't there have been a story of that? It seems like most of the comic is jokes and silly puns with occasional jokes starting off with 'Well, this exciting thing happened off screen...'"

I replied:

This is a very good point, and I do have an answer.

The reason Balin and Balan killed each other offpanel is the same reason the first three Round Table quests and Griflet's first quest happened offpanel: as Arthur complained when Griflet returned, in the fairy tale/baseline arc Arthur, despite being the central figure of the romance cycles, actually participates very little in the stories besides as debriefer except at the very beginning and at the very end. Yet in my work he's the point-of-view character. To highlight the contrast between his personal level of activity in the baseline and space arcs (the same contrast I highlighted in last Monday's cartoon) I decided at the time of Griflet's quest that in the baseline arc all the second-tier characters' quests must happen offstage and be related to Arthur afterwards.

As for Morgan's attempt on Uriens, that remained offpanel partly because Arthur wasn't there and partly because it happens in the middle of the Accolon story and I thought the story's pacing demanded that it be skipped over.

Naturally there are limits. As this week's cartoon with Morgan shows, baseline events directly affecting, and participated in by, the other main cast [as opposed to "second-tier characters"] ... will not be offpanel.

I'd also like to reiterate something I've said in this space before and in the FAQ: Arthur, King of Time and Space was always intended to be primarily daily standalone gags. Yes, in my own words I'm "retelling the legend in realtime", but "less as a novel than as a journal, as if it were Arthur drawing one of those cartoonist-and-his-pals webcomics". Remember also that my writing background consists of decades of writing fanfiction, and writing journal comics for no audience but the people who appear in them; genres which reasonably, unapologetically assume at least rudimentary audience familiarity with the backstory. I've written in this space that Arthur, King of Time and Space is for the legends' breadcrumbs. If you're looking for meat too, I recommend The Once and Future King, Le Morte d'Arthur and The Mists of Avalon (that's the order I encountered them).

This reader closed by emphasizing that on the whole she enjoys AKOTAS despite the frustration afforded by this particular facet of it. I must assume - because it's my policy - one email means several readers also experience the work similarly. Those of you who are frustrated by this and stick with AKOTAS anyway, thanks for reading.


The great thing about having a webcomic within your webcomic is that it makes room for gags that don't fit your format.

Or that you'd like to pretend someone else drew.

Recording the creative process

I debated with myself even as I was preparing to letter this one whether it was going to be one of Arthur's Thing of Shapes to Come or a "Shapes AKOTAS". I finally decided the latter because for Arthur to draw this gag would reflect a sensitivity in him that I'm not sure I want him to be conscious of.

I also considered the possibility of doing yesterday's as a Shapes AKOTAS. I think the reason I didn't is because I couldn't think of shapes for Gawaine and Ivaine. But I'm not sure the art remained consistent through all nine panels. I must remember to nap before drawing on Saturdays.

(I'm not quite sure why I wrote a guide to distinguishing between Thing of Shapes to Come and Shapes AKOTAS under the first Shapes AKOTAS, when the Shapes AKOTAS template strip had that banner on it that appears on the top of them.)

If you think fast enough you may have realized that all the option considering I've described above means that my home scanner is working again. Apparently pulling the power cord out from the back won't reset it but pulling it out of the power source will. You may ask, "Then why do Shapes AKOTAS at all?" Because (as discussed before) I like them. Plus the fanfiction "triangle" cartoons are on their annual summer hiatus. Last year I didn't put the fanfiction site on hiatus for the summer as I'd always done before, because I'd just invented the "sketchbook" format and I didn't think that needed the break. Looking back on my productivity there since then, I've changed my mind. Anyway, since I prepared the avenue for similar work here when I was afraid my scanner capability was limited for an indeterminate time, I shall take advantage of that during the hiatus.


Okay, I know what you're thinking: "Who are all those shapes around the Round Table in the first panel?"

Most of them, note, are Camellaird blue. They're some of the knights who came with the Table. Their symbols were generated with the Microsoft Wingdings and Wingdings 2 fonts.

The rectangle next to Merlin is Gawaine, with the diagonal cross from the Orkney flag. Next to him is Agravaine, the Orkney cross against Agravaine's darker green. Next to him is Gaheris, Gawaine's rectangle with the colors transposed. The parallelograms are Uriens and Ivaine.

The other side of Lancelot from Arthur are Kay and Bedivere as they've appeared in shapes once before. Next to Bedivere is Griflet. The oval next is Pellinore, the crossed diagonal lines from the Pellinore shield on a website I googled. Next to Pellinore are his two eldest sons, the ones who've appear in AKOTAS to date; the one with diagonal lines dexter is Lamorak and the one with diagonal lines sinister is Tor. The upper case K in the dunce cap is Sir Kay the Stranger. The musical note is Tristram.

I may have discovered a device for dealing with my dread of crowd scenes.


The Roman ambassadors are described in the Morte as "twelve" and "aged". They're not even given names when they have dialog. At first I was going to do this one in shapes, and represent the ambassadors only as Roman numerals with white beards. After all, I've warned you that I liked doing crowd scenes in shapes. Then Jiminy Cricket told me I was being lazy.

By the way, though the majordomo here has appeared in several strips before now, it's never come out in dialog that he's Sir Lucan, Arthur's butler and Bedivere's brother. Just to put a name to the face.

Anyway. So here starts the Roman War.

The Roman War is one of eight "books" making up the Vinaver edition of Malory (though it doesn't make up an eighth of the text by pagecount). Caxton left out much of what was in Malory's manuscript (and I'm pretty much working from the Caxton edition, the online version linked below). Malory was the first or one of the first romancers to put the Roman War at the beginning of Arthur's reign. In earlier sources it's the war with Rome during which Mordred makes his final bid for power. Nowadays the warring across the Channel at the end of Arthur's reign is more often with Lancelot.

Here at AKOTAS the Roman war'll last till something like half a year from now.


Forum posters have noticed that the twelve ambassadors' faces are my likenesses of the actors to have played Doctor Who (when you include Rowan Atkinson and Richard E. Grant, as I do, you get twelve), suitably aged and shorn to be Roman ambassadors. As when I gave the False Guenevere's henchmen the faces of the Three Stooges (and as I may have disclaimed then and forgotten since), this is just because (after I changed my mind about doing the ambassadors in shapes, as described earlier) I thought to myself, "I need a certain number of faces - what set of this number of faces do I know of?" There's no deeper meaning to it than that. It doesn't mean I think the Doctor is some sort of time-traveling Roman philosophically, or that I admire the Stooges' work as much as I do Doctor Who. It just means I'm disinclined to invent characters when I can find a way around it, and am not necessarily good at it when I don't avoid it (Have you noticed Roynes looks just like Gorlois? I didn't, till weeks later.). That's why even my mainstream webcomic is fanfiction of a public domain property. But you knew that. The point is, I needed twelve faces. If I had been more familiar with The Last Supper than I am with Doctor Who ...

P.S. The Roman envoy in the space arc is the Romulan commander from The Enterprise Incident.

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