Strip Search: Episodes Two and Three
So when we last left our contestants, the were led away from the Hotel Max with bras over their eyes to live in a house in blustery Seattle. Hopefully they all brought umbrellas. So now these bunch of strangers have to get to know each other. Our tenants in the Emerald City are a motley crew, who helpfully have a roster on the Strip Search site because other than Erika Moen, Abby, and Maki it’s kinda hard to tell them apart.
- Abby, whose appearance and attitude remind me a lot of Vicki from Community. This is, incidentally, a good thing. She might actually be my favorite for reasons I’ll explain later.
- Alex, who looks like Jesus. He is from Arizona. He’s not going to last in this weather.
- Amy, who’s… um…. sleepy eyed? Anyway, we learn from Episode One that she quit her job to be on this show. That does not sound like a solid five-year plan. The contract with Penny Arcade is only for a year.
- Erika Friggin’ Moen, who I still have a hard time understanding why she needs to win this contest. I think she is secretly a mole. I imagine in a future episode, she’ll be all, “Ha HA! I’ve been secretly reporting your activities to Gabe and Tycho and your secrets will now be known TO THE WORLD!” And they’ll be all, “Girl, cameras are on us 24/7, they already know what we’re up to.”
- Katie, draws herself like a little girl but is probably the oldest in the crew. She also looks a little like Kate Beaton.
- Lexxie, who has hipster glasses.
- Mackenzie, who looks like Brad Guigar.
- Maki, who has an awesome name, a neckbeard, and hipster glasses, and is probably the most huggable guy in the group. In the dictionary, you will find his photo under “twee.” Probably my second favorite. I want an Abby/Maki finale. It will be adorable.
- Monica, who I am surprised doesn’t wear hipster glasses. She’s actually got a Colleen Haskell from Season 1 of Survivor look to her, actually.
- Nick, who… um… (don’t mention race, don’t mention race, don’t mention race) wears a hat?
- Tavis, who looks like a less awesome Maki.
- Ty, who wears hipster glasses.
So Episode Two is all about the group paying a game called Fax Machine. Remember what those were, kids? They were like internet, only printed on these things made out of pulp and fiber called “paper.” The made the most melodious noises. We would play them because mp3’s hadn’t been discovered yet. Anyway, the goal of the game is to write down a phrase in a notebook, pass your notebook to the next artist, as to which the artist has two minutes to draw that phrase. And then the next artist has to write down the phrase based on the drawing, and then it’s passed on down to the next artist. It’s actually an interesting game that I’m going to have to bring up at the next ice cream social.
So the crew loosens up, there are plenty of pictures to be had, and they get to know each other. They all agree that Maki is the best, which is a pretty undeniable fact. The host declares him the unofficial winner.
But wait! There’s a twist! Unlike those circulars you get in the mail from your local auto dealerships bundled with fake keys and such, there’s actually a prize to being an unofficial winner. For being the most awesome dude on the show, Maki wins a ticket! It won’t get him a tour to the Willy Wonka Factory, but it does give him the chance to “redraw”, whatever that means.
Episode Three introduces the first challenge. It entails what is apparently one of the most important tasks when it comes to being a webcomic creator. The contestants have to design … a T-shirt. Hey, you sensitive types who complain about webcomic artists being called glorified T-shirt vendors? Well f*** YOU! Because unless you can design a T-shirt worthy of the Penny Arcade brand, you ain’t moving on to the next round, homes!
Incidentally, this will be judged by three of Penny Arcade’s marketing folks. I really don’t know what the big deal is, by the way. Have any of them ever seen the shirts that Jeph Jacques is offering for Questionable Content? One of them literally just says “TEH.” And I imagine it’s probably one of the best selling webcomic T-shirts ever.
Here’s my main problem with the contest. They’re designing a T-shirt for the show, and not something for their own webcomic brand. I mean, T-shirts always seemed to me a natural extension of the enthusiasm fans have of the webcomic product. You’re fans love your story, they want to show their friends that’ll make them go, “Hey, that’s a nice shirt! What’s it referring to?” The artist provides something that could be a conversation starter. It’s a circle of love, and the artist benefits monetarily.
Here, the way it’s framed, you’re not being recruited for your storytelling abilities or your sense of humor. No, it’s all in the selling. You have to make a logo that people want to wear. It’s so… soulless. I mean, it’s nice that the winner gets all the profit of the T-shirt when it’s posted on the Penny Arcade site, but geez. There was no love involved in it. I understand that a lot of webcomic creators could stand to know the business side of things (I do have an MBA myself, so I get the importance), but, damn, this is like some other career that has nothing to do with pouring your heart out into making a comic.
Anyway, this is where I begin to really like Abby. She’s the one who’s all bluster and bravado… and yet the judges see right through it and realize that she’s really, really nervous. She’s constantly pointing out her own errors, which is a big no-no. Oh, Abby. I feel for ya, girl.
Anyway, after a bunch of disappointing designs (the judges’ words, not mine) they settle on the one below created by Amy:
And honestly? It ain’t bad. Once it popped up on the screen, I actually came to the same conclusion. Amy scored major points by mocking it up on a drawing of T-shirt and showing the judges what her concept of the final product was. I checked it up on the Penny Arcade site, and it does look like something I would wear. While the other artists focused on illustration and drawing cartoon mascots, Amy went the other way and considered what would look good on apparel. It works. It totally works.
This has nothing to do with webcomics. If this was something for a low-rent version of Project Runway, fine. But webcomic creators have sold T-shirts that have had much less panache, and little of it has to do with the design of the shirt itself. I mean, Good Lord, Wil Wheaton wore this Penny Arcade shirt on an episode of Big Bang Theory, and I doubt the final design had to go through such a rigorous selection process.
So Amy gets her prize. She also gets to decide who’s going to go up for elimination in the next episode. She selects Jesus and Not Kate Beaton. Tough luck, you two. Looks like you’re being sent to the principal’s office.