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

Rants 2009 January - June


I've mentioned before that TV Tropes pages tend to show up in the referrals in AKOTAS's monthly reader stats. For last month it was TVTropes' main AKOTAS page. I don't think all the trope pages I've seen in my referrals are listed on the main page though.


As I was uploading yesterday's cartoon I noticed I'd neglected to include the pentagram lines as seen in the previous cartoon. They're there now.


T.H. White wrote that his characters were the same characters as appear in the Morte, admitting only that he'd invented two elements: a love affair for Pellinore, and "Malory did not say that Lancelot was ugly". Keith Baines in writing a modern-idiom "rendition" of the Morte "[undertook] to have ... added no material of my own invention". Yet in Baines, in the passage when Pellinore introduces the Questing Beast to us, has Pellinore name Palomedes as his heir when discussing who can capture the Questing Beast, whereas in any other edition of the Morte I know Palomedes' name does not appear. Why Palomedes is portrayed chasing the Questing Beast in later passages of the Morte when Pellinore says only a Pellinore can catch her is problematic to Arthurian scholars, but Baines couldn't resist putting in a repair. Actually White invented an explanation too, a comedy of errors I won't try to summarize here except to note that it involves Freud and a pantomime Questing Beast.

John Steinbeck's unfinished The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights was meant to be an unembellished retelling of the Morte, but by the quest of the three maidens the embellishments were coming hard and fast.

As readers of this space know, I want the fairy tale "arc" of AKOTAS to be a baseline by which readers can judge which bits of the other arcs are inventions of mine, and therefore I labor not, within the bounds of the need for a punchline every day, to invent anything in it. Yet even I have strayed from the path. I've given Elaine of Carbonek a new personality out of a webcomic left field. I also took responsibility for the May Day baby massacre away from Arthur and laid it squarely in the hands of a character I never cared about.

In the same vein as that last, in AKOTAS Gawaine resists taking family vengeange on Pellinore for killing Gawaine's father Lot in battle during Lot's rebellion against Arthur. Perhaps it robs the characters of some dimension, but I can't bring myself to allow Arthur infanticide or Gawaine cold-blooded (or, actually, hot-blooded) murder, and still present them as heroes.

I guess you can't just transcribe. Better men than I have tried, and failed.


Today's punchline swiped from T.H. White.


I actually wrote this gag Monday or Tuesday, thinking it'd be really cool to run it the day House aired especially if the patient was played by an actress who looks like Morgan. Unfortunately, it hadn't quite registered yet that House is on Mondays now instead of Tuesdays, and the gag would have had to have been executed Sunday. Also, now that school's started again we're running a week behind on our DVR. I did manage to get this week's House in, on Wednesday, and the actress did look a lot like Morgan, though with shorter hair. It's the episode about the special needs teacher. That would have been a good part for our Morgan. A good stretch.


It's not a can't-think-of-a-joke-today joke if it was written twelve hours before it was updated.

Or if the punchline is actually an in-character tangent off the can't-think-of-a-joke-today issue.


Sir Breuse Sans Pite is one of the most significant characters in The Once and Future King, being the epitome of the type of chivalry Arthur is trying to stamp out. He only attacks when he has the advantage and, according to White, he breeds specially fast horses so if things turn against him he runs and no one ever catches him. But in White he's entirely an offstage character - even this encounter with Lancelot and Bliant is related by Bliant to Pelles instead of narrated directly. You'd be surprised reading White first, or at least I was, how little Breuse actually appears in the Morte.

Really must work Bliant's name into dialog soon.


It occurs to me that I don't know whether it was T.H. White's invention that Bliant is one of Pelles' retainers. He may have just set it up that way as a device to recap the story of Lancelot's madness as a prelude to his showing up at Pelles' castle. Not that it doesn't make sense. Lancelot's madness isn't unlikely to have pointed him in the direction of Carbonek, where its cause lay. If Bliant's land was on the way, it's not unlikely he was Pelles' man.


Recording the creative process

"The Wild Wild West movie is on. Maybe I can get an idea for a western arc gag. Haven't been many western arc gags lately.

"Loveless has a giant mechanical spider. Western Morgan's my steampunk mad scientist - maybe Morgan could build a giant mechanical animal.

"What kind of giant mechanical animal would Morgan build? What precedent is there in Arthuriana?

"There was a giant wooden rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail ...

"Why would anyone build a giant mechanical rabbit?" ...


The first time Freud appeared in AKOTAS a reader emailed or posted that he ought to become a recurring character. Knock yourself out!


Today's was a bit experimental. I did the first panel with the new wireless mouse I picked up when I replaced my laptop at the beginning of the semester. I hadn't really tried before, because I don't seem to have the control with this one that I had with the mouse I used with the other laptop. How well I thought it worked out may be inferred from the fact that I did only the first panel of today's with the mouse.


I actually drew these rushes a few days ago. I had in mind to do a gag about Merlin's omniscience. Originally the only dialog planned was the punchline in the last panel, but then it wasn't clear enough that Arthur's predicament was that there was no one around to help (and, ironically, by his own contrivance). So I left the rushes aside for a few days to think on how they could be used after all. Finally I decided giving Arthur thought balloons would fix that, even if there resulted a lot of telling instead of showing. To sweeten the pot there's an accent in the thought dialog to Arthur's growing comfort in being a king instead of the knight he aspired to being when he only thought he'd ever be a squire, even if he's not comfortable letting anyone know.

With no explicit mention in the dialog, it's still left as an exercise for the reader to read between the lines and figure out that the gag's about Merlin's omniscience. Unless the reader also reads the text section.


AKOTAS reader Kris Overstreet suggested, when I asked in my LJ what would really happen next in terms of legal procedure, that a Homeland Security arrest would place one in the federal court system, which is much slower to arraign, bail and try just because there's less of it. He further suggested that the previous administration would have held on to Superman Kingman as long as possible to make an example of him, while the present administration would get him bailed out as quickly as possible having so much else on its plate for its first hundred days. I'm not as certain about the former, but I agree with the latter which is the relevant one anyway. But it does mean that the trial would be bumped quite some time off (which is what tomorrow's cartoon will be about), so I have some time to research and decide what happens then.


When I was Arthur's age, I aspired to a career as a screen actor and writer, on the model of Alan Alda, Bill Cosby and/or Woody Allen. One of my grand plans was to one day subvert the comedy trope of the Panicky Expectant Father En Route To The Maternity Ward*.

All of Arthur's history to date as not-a-morning-person has been leading up to this.

* Which, before you look, is not listed at TVTropes, except in passing as an element of Screaming Birth.


I ought've mentioned under yesterday's cartoon that, in the Morte (or at least in Keith Baines' "rendition" of the Morte, which is not quite as free of invented details as the author claims in the introduction), Andret gets his paramour to testify that she actually witnessed Tristram's death, at which time he named Andret as his heir. I streamlined things for the sake of the joke. I'd've felt worse about that - badly enough to remember to mention it here yesterday, probably - if the paramour had been given a name, but no. I think yesterday's gag concisely portrays how no one at Mark's court but Isolde seems to care about the news, even if it makes Isolde a stereotypical weepy woman. I looked for any sign of strength that I could latch onto from Isolde in this scene from the Morte the Baines, and there wasn't any, so I can blame the source. Though I suppose even strong characters get weepy when their One True Loves die.

Actually of course Tristram is still hanging out with the goatherds he beat up Dagonet for picking on. When Tristram actually dies it's either at the hands of Mark himself, or because a ship has the wrong color sails (you can't beat the classics).


As Elaine's dialog today implies, I've decided that AKOTAS won't conflate Elaine of Carbonek with Elaine of Astolat as, for instance, T.H. White does (see the discussion on this page). Elaine of Carbonek as I've developed her over the last two years just isn't someone who would sit back, pine away and die for love, of Lancelot or anyone else. That's just not where her priorities lay.


I honestly meant to draw this story out longer, with Kingman losing the initial trial, and going to the appellate court, and having what happened there being a profound statement on the state of Constitutional law in the U.S. today. But this is how I genuinely see the trial going in a universe where Superman Kingman exists. Of course I may have a higher opinion of how much Superman Kingman Superman is venerated in his own universe, and ought to be venerated in this universe, than people who've continued to read comics since Frank Miller.


The discerning reader will note that this gag has flashbacks to the premieres of all post-60s Star Trek series, including the movie series, except Enterprise. There are a couple of reasons for that. First, it's an adaptation of the pencil Dailies gag I drew in 1995 when Voyager came on; the origin gag predates Enterprise. Second, at the time Enterprise premiered I'd graduated from hand distribution to web distribution for my cartoons, but was without a functional scanner and hadn't yet arrived at the idea of using triangles for anything besides Amiga 500 animated cartoons; so I wasn't drawing cartoons at the time and didn't preserve any reaction to the Enterprise premiere for posterity. Third, I liked Enterprise, so any reaction I would have preserved wouldn't have fit the progression I wanted for this cartoon anyway.


If you don't get it, websearch "uncanny valley".


No, you haven't missed anything. This is the first instance even we audience have had that contemporary Lancelot's affections are returned.


Recently, in a comics shop looking for something else, I finally picked up the final volume of Cerebus. I skipped a lot of the text sections and consequently probably didn't understand the ending. Though if I can get the same last request from God as Cerebus did, I shall probably be as content as he.

It occurred to me that I am, perhaps, the Dave Sim of webcomics: both of us announced early in our project's history (AKOTAS, at its very inception) that it would run a quarter of a century to a planned ending, and both of us persevere in our work despite detractors of unpopular stances manifest in our work. Of course, Sim's unpopular stance is his unapologetic "anti-feminism", whereas mine is my refusal to upgrade from MSPaint to produce my work, but there you are.

Anyone who may feel I'm drawing this analogy in order to immodestly hint that Cerebus Syndrome applies to AKOTAS can relax. Cerebus Syndrome doesn't apply to AKOTAS because (as noted in the previous paragraph) AKOTAS was announced from the beginning as a serialization of the King Arthur legends; any increasing level of drama, mixed in with the standalone gags, as it goes along was planned (or, if not exactly planned, at least intended) from the start.

Anyway, tomorrow AKOTAS has exactly five of its twenty-five years under its belt, and continues its tradition of never missing a daily update.


You can't beat the classics.


The first thing you want to know about Arthur, King of Time and Space v. 2.0 is that it's not about taking AKOTAS off in a new direction. Or even back in an old one. It's about taking AKOTAS on sabbatical. Details at the AKOTAS-2 FAQ.


Today's cartoon is for people who don't read anything on the site but the cartoon.


Sometimes, like yesterday, an AKOTAS-2 gag is really about the characters whose names appear on the cast page; and sometimes, like today, it's fanfiction with the names globally replaced.

A coupla other topics, neither of which seem to have alone motivated a newspost.

1. All the reactions I've received on the cliffhanger before the sabbatical have been encouraging, perhaps best summed up by the first sentence of one of them, "You magnificent son of a bitch." Another referred to Merlin's death as unforeshadowed, which bemused me when Merlin first foretold it in July 2004; though I admitted I'd been talking it up less in the last couple of years than I did in the first couple of years, in hopes of getting this reaction when it came. Before I perceived the need and means of the sabbatical, I had planned to run the salute to Henry Blake's death just before the storyline depicting Merlin's losses in the baseline and space arcs when Nimue comes of age in 2011; when I decided on the sabbatical, I realized that making a cliffhanger of it better suited my purposes in doing it in the first place.

Yes, I did it this way largely to see whether I could; whether I'm having success at bringing these characters into people's daily lives as Captain Kirk and Little Nell and Snoopy have been brought, that the loss of one might be affecting. AKOTAS may not have the audience of millions that I feel the characters deserve, but it's encouraging that I'm successful enough with those whose attention I have that some small percentage is moved enough to say so.

But all the reactions have come by email, or by comments on the weekly compendium post in my LiveJournal. Doesn't anyone remember the discussion forum any more?

2. As 2001-2004 readers of triangle cartoons may have already deduced, one of the reasons I chose the format for AKOTAS-2 that I did is to permit me, on bad days, to crib one of those older cartoons for AKOTAS-2 (hopefully at least one whose gag I haven't already re-used; I must trust my spreadsheet on that) with only minor alterations required to the art. I've done it twice in two weeks so far (and one of those actually required pretty substantial art alterations). I feel badly when I do it, but I try not to. One, the purpose of a sabbatical, after all, is to be not burdened with your normal everyday concerns for awhile in aid of restoration and recuperation. And two, at least I'm not doing punchlineless fillers yet (those will probably start when I run out of pre-AKOTAS triangle cartoons that can be converted).


Here's an AKOTAS-2 departure from KAITAS (as predicted in the AKOTAS-2 FAQ): In KAITAS the next generation of space explorers was Sir Lohengrin and a company of Fianna warriors. In AKOTAS-2 it's Charlemagne and his company.

Having done it three times now, I'm going to go ahead and state that doctoring a previously existing triangle cartoon to turn it into an AKOTAS-2 cartoon can be, depending on a few factors, as much or more work as drawing a new one from scratch. But, and this is important, you don't have to think of a new joke first.


Okay, I was wrong about not doing punchlineless sketches till I'd run out of reprintable pre-2005 triangle cartoons. I didn't have a new joke and just wanted badly enough not to run reprints two days in a row that the purpose of taking a sabbatical wasn't being served. I'm going to have to get used to this sabbatical thing.


This cartoon will be entirely opaque to anyone who doesn't watch Doctor Who. Of course, there've been a couple AKOTAS-2 cartoons so far, like yesterday's, that would be opaque to anyone who hasn't seen the new Star Trek movie, too. I did say in the AKOTAS-2 FAQ that this stuff isn't going to be as accessible as normal AKOTAS is. tries to be.

Of course, it's probably equally as opaque to anyone who isn't familiar with Greek mythology and legends.


Recording the creative process

Here's an AKOTAS-2 first: Today's cartoon re-uses only the first two panels of a KAITAS cartoon, and only the first three figures from the second panel. I came up with the punchline, then cast about amongst the available characters for one to which to apply the punchline. Selecting a character whose imaginary screen source hasn't appeared in AKOTAS-2 yet, I decided there was no better way to introduce the character's venue than the way it had been done in KAITAS. I'd been considering rerunning the old gag as it was, but I may like the setup better than I like the old punchline - I think Achilles' and Hector's dialog here is some of the best Gelbart pastiche I ever wrote - so I'm happy things have worked out this way.

P.S. The imgage file imbedding code above calls a BMP version of today's cartoon because on my browser, at least (Firefox 5.0 on Windows Vista), the PNG version "cannot be displayed because it contains errors"; it's probably a server issue because the local file displayed fine. Can anyone download the PNG file and tell me what the problem is? I imagine it has something to do with the conversion of the file to a PNG from the KAITAS GIF?

Later Okay, now it's a GIF, which is at least better than a BMP. But I'd still like to know, if anyone can tell me, do I run the risk of this happening any time I try to convert a GIF to a PNG?

Even later I still don't know what the problem was, though I did discover that it also extended to past cartoons I edited yesterday that were not GIFs converted to PNGs; but resaving the PNG files in MSPaintXP instead of MSPaintVista solved it. So I guess I'll be working in MSPaintXP from now on. I'll miss the greater zooming capability, but it'll be nice to have the palette and the non-anti-aliased lettering back.


The effect I was going for with Roland's hair in this one didn't come out the way I wanted. Here I'm taking another shot at it.


The AKOTAS-2 FAQ has a new character analog timeline diagram, about half way down.


Recording the creative process

For several days now, every day when I've been preparing files ahead of time for updating the next day's cartoon, the template I've been using for the cartoon file is the sketch page template, as was used here and here. The template is for use during the sabbatical so that, when it's time to update if I haven't thought of a gag for the next day's cartoon, I don't have to: I can do a quick sketch instead. No pressure. (For the moment I've pledged to myself that I won't do two sketches in a row or two recycled cartoons in a row, which shouldn't be too hard to keep from doing. But if that pledge becomes a source of pressure it'll be tossed aside.)

Each time I've done that these past four days, before time came to execute a cartoon - usually while plotting what to doodle for a sketch (often derived from the results of a spreadsheet formula that tells me the biggest gap in the AKOTAS-2 chronology between the times set of existing cartoons so far) - a gag has come to me. Not a sterling gag, perhaps; not one every single AKOTAS reader has the referents for, perhaps; but something to make it unnecessary to actually use the sketch page template.

Perhaps I ought to come up with a sketch page template for regular AKOTAS after the sabbatical ... and see whether it ever gets used.


If you looked at the new character analog timeline table added a few days ago to the AKOTAS-2 FAQ, found it legible, and are a Doctor Who fan, you'll've noticed that Nimue is not analog to the two most recent Doctor Who companions, though she is to almost all the others past and future.

(This table shows that she's even analog to Leela in AKOTAS-2, which she was not in KAITAS. That's only because I got lazy when I was making the table, trying to fit all the lettering in. I'll decide for certain for the first gag that forces me, and if necessary update the table, somehow.)

I mentioned parenthetically the other day that often I draw inspiration for a gag simply by noting the biggest gap in the AKOTAS-2 timeline between existing gags. For today, according to my spreadsheet, the centerpoint of the biggest gap fell analog to the Doctor's time with Donna, one of those two companions Nimue isn't analog to. Having failed, in the time since I realized Nimue couldn't be analog to Martha or Donna if she were analog to Rose, to come up with a character from mythology, folklore and legends with red hair, yesterday I went to the Wikipedia page on red hair. There I discovered that, among others, Mary Magdalene is traditionally portrayed with red hair.

Mary Magdalene also, despite common or even base origins, spent a short time as a companion to a charismatic, world-saving man of superhuman ability, after which she descended into obscurity (doing so for the sake of survival, Dan Brown and others tell us), yet for her time as a companion has had songs sung about her through history (and is revered as a goddess herself, Dan Brown and others tell us).

I'm thinking about it. I'm thinking about it as hard as I thought about it when I was considering who ought to be the Superman analog in KAITAS, Hercules or Jesus. I made my decision then on the basis that Dejanira makes a better Lois Lane than Mary Magdalene does. But (a) that was back in the days before the Holy Blood, Holy Grail premise was made into novels, movies and History Channel programs, and (2) (b) not all the reasons Mary Magdalene lost out in the running for Lois Lane necessarily apply to the selection for Donna Noble. (Though I haven't any intention of showing or implying, as the paragaph above this one may suggest, that, in the AKOTAS-2 universe, Merlin turns out to have been Jesus in a predestination paradox. Jesus would be analog to ... I dunno. Wilf. Not that he wouldn't still be, you know, Jesus. He'd just also be Merlin's best friend in Mary Magdalene's neighborhood.)

Meanwhile today's cartoon takes another subject entirely. Or it will have once I've written it.

Later Crossposted to my LiveJournal.


Today I spent several hours creating a spreadsheet for Star Trek original cast episode and movie stardates. When I look for gag inspiration in the widest chronology gaps between existing AKOTAS-2 gags, which I've mentioned doing in this space before, the notation I use is based on the number of seasons of Doctor Who to date. Consequently I'm afraid I've been favoring Merlin over Arthur in the gags that result. My spreadsheet does prorate between that notation and stardates, though, for that segment of Doctor Who's chronology that has been designated to run parallel to original cast Star Trek. So I compiled a list of episodes by stardates, invented stardates for the four episodes that don't have'em (and for the one animated series episode whose stardate places it impossibly previous to the second pilot, which stardate jiggering can be explained away in-text by relativistic effects of traveling to the center of the galaxy) based on production order, and now I have a tool for setting such gags in Arthur's history. Tomorrow's gag will be set shortly after the imaginary AKOTAS-2 screen episode The Omega Glory.

This sabbatical thing is definitely having a positive effect on my interest in doing daily cartoons, if frequency and length of newsposts is any indication.


Some of these are so thoroughly fanfiction with the names changed that I may have to reedit the art and reprint them when The Hero of Three Faces comes off its summer hiatus.


At least one reader - the one who asked me - noticed that, when the character analog table on the AKOTAS-2 FAQ page first went up, there were only question marks for Morgan for role(s) in the Doctor Who revival. That was because there were two roles I was trying to decide between for Morgan, either of which she'd be superb for and neither of which are there any other good candidates for. As of yesterday's update, that element of the table's been revised. I decided Morgan needs to be the Master, instead of Sarah Jane Smith, on the grounds of the probability that I'll want her all villainy for the next Star Trek film.

But that leaves no good candidate for Sarah Jane. The only KAITAS traveling companion who doesn't already have a role in post-Magic War AKOTAS-2 is Boadiccea (the character I previously had left off the character analog table, as decribed in a previous newspost, now added in), who was specifically brought into KAITAS to be analog to a Doctor Who companion distinctly unlike any other who wasn't Sarah Jane. But if I can't think of a better candidate before I want to do a gag derived from Sarah Jane Adventures she may have to do. Too bad - I'd at least figured out who was going to be Morgan's Luke.

It's also possible that, when the next Star Trek film comes out, there'll be a non-villain character who I'll regard as the perfect role for Morgan, necessitating that she be retroactively reanalogized as Sarah Jane after all. By then, though, this working sabbatical should actually be over; and all but one of you will have forgotten all about this question by the time of the working sabbatical at the twelve-year mark. Assuming I don't do something else entirely then.

I've also finally updated the table with an analog for Donna.

Plus, anyone who had even an inkling of a response to the descriptions I gave June 8 of the troubles I was having with PNG files, please speak up. I had the same trouble with the character analog table when editing it just now, except the previous fix isn't working. It had been a PNG, I worked on it in MSPaintXP which I'd gone back to since the 8th, I uploaded and it gave me the same error message as the PNGs I worked on June 8. I even tried resaving it in MSPaintVista and that didn't help. Saving it as a GIF didn't help - the GIF version lost information during FTP or something. It's presently a JPG, for Pete's sake. Later Okay, restarting MSPaint and then resaving the files seems to have cleared it up. Never mind. ...this time.

Arthur, King of Time and Space

Email Arthur, King of Time and Space

Rants index


back to home

copyright notice