Strip Search Episode 30: Finale, Part 1
So followers of The Webcomic Overlook may know that I’m not someone who was too keen on Strip Search. From the standpoint of a reality show, I thought it was too boring. From the standpoint of a webcomic show, I thought it was baffling. (A t-shirt design show? Really?) So before they even got to the show that had to do with contestant interviews, I was out. I mean, geez, if I have to sit through people sweating why they need to get a paying job, at least I should be getting HR money, feel me?
It seems that I may be the only person feeling that way, though. A poll on this site showed overwhelming approval of Strip Search. Or… overwhelming approval of Shakira, perhaps? The YouTube views support it. As of this writing, Episode 30 has had 20K YouTube views. I mean, that’s not Game Grumps bank, but it’s still super respectable. Thus, I suppose it’s time to tune in for the last couple of episodes and see if the show has anything more to offer.
We are down to our final three contestants: Katie Rice, Maki Naro, and Abby Howard. Surprisingly, I’m actually kinda happy with these three. I mentioned in a previous review that Maki and Abby were my early favorites just because their personalities were so appealing. And I’m happy to see Katie Rice there, too. She’s the one who looks like Kate Beaton.
Apparently, the three were asked to return to their studios and work on their final pitch, which includes a character sheet, some strips… and a T-shirt design. Now… come on. Someone tell me that there were other challenges in between that involved other pieces of merchandise. Like a plushie or a bumper sticker or a dorm room poster or something. (That last one is at least something a webcomic creator like The Oatmeal guy has had fantastic success in monetizing.) But, yeah… webcomic artists are T-shirt salespeople. I don’t know, it seems totally inorganic for me to say that the success of a webcomic depends on how great you are a designing a T-shirt. But I’ve already harped on this and I’m sure half of you are already accusing me of being a backwards troglodyte guy who doesn’t know heads or tails about making money (true!) so let’s move on.
The challenge: each contestant is to take a crumple piece of paper out of the waste basket to draw a theme for the final challenge. (Great use of that Kickstarter money, guys!) Each contestant has to create a comic out from two of the three themes. One by one, the contestants pick out their words: “Creation,” “Good vs. Evil,” and “Morality.” “It looks like there’s a Genesis thing going on, mah peeps,” says Gabe or Tycho. (I’m paraphrasing.) I have a feeling that the Strip Search guys were clearly trying to suss out a religious theme for this one, though. What did the other crumpled pieces of paper say? “Communion”? “Redemption”? “Movie portrayals of Superman”?
So our contestants have four hours to create a series of strips. They get to their tables with their computers and papers and they get to work! Incidentally, we are more or less watching this show in real time. This episode is a half hour long. I can’t remember when they started the clock… but by the end of episode an hour has elapsed. That is a long time to watch people drawing … and we don’t even get to see what they’re sketching half the time. So there’s a lot of shots with Katie, Maki, and Abby with their necks craned over their drawing surfaces.
There also seems to be a studio audience this time around. Where they always there? Where did they come from? I’m thinking that these final episodes were maybe filmed at PAX, but I’m not sure. I guess they can come and go as they please, too, because wow 4 hours is a long time to watch people draw.
So to pass the time, Gabe and Tycho grill the contestants over their comic pitches. (I seriously cannot remember which is which. I think the bald one is Gabe. Just to be safe, though, I’m referring to them as “Gabetycho.”) Katie Rice talks about Camp Weedontwantcha, which are kids in a “Kids in Game of Thrones” type environment. She talks about how she would update once a week, since three panel strips are not her thing. Gabetycho comment that a three panel strip is great for discipline when it comes to updating, which Katie kinda blows off. Gabetycho really like the character designs, though (expected, as Katie has an animation background), and they comment that they’re “ready for merchandise”. Little dollar signs would totally have popped up in their eyes with a “Cha-ching!” sound if this was JonTron.
It’s on to Abby Howard’s The Last Halloween, which is about a little girl who fights monsters. She claims she’s got 200 pages written, and if it were up to her she’d upload a week’s worth of content uploaded on one day. Gabetycho look a little disappointed that their three-a-week update schedule, which is a core value that propelled their webcomic to international fame and fortune, has been pooh-poohed by the second contestant in a row. Abby gets kinda defensive, saying, “I don’t want it to be a formula, I want it to be fluid, I want it to make sense.”
It’s actually interesting that the first two pitches are nominally long-form webcomics. When Strip Search started, is this what Gabetycho were looking for? Between them and associates like Scott Kurtz, Brad Guigar, and Kris Straub, you’d think that another gag-a-day comic would be a more natural fit in the stable, right? Additionally… do any of these comics fit the Penny Arcade audience? Because, let’s face it, everything about Penny Arcade is video games. A charity that gets games for kids. Video game news. Shows about game theory.
And… a webcomic about either a little girl fighting Halloween monsters or kids fighting war at a summer camp? Daring, to be honest … but a weird fit.
Finally, we get to big, cuddly Maki. His strip, Sufficiently Remarkable, probably had the least interesting premise. He introduces it as a slice-of-life comic, which puts it in good company of, say, 30,000 other webcomics out there. But Maki’s got a pleasant and winning personality. Plus, he’s got some decent-looking art. He’s also the only contestant who’s thinking out doing the three-times-a-week update schedule, something that you know is honey to Gabetycho’s ears. They praise him for the character design of Meg, who seems to be the breakout star despite not being the main character. They especially like how Meg looks on T-shirts.
Since there’s a lot of time to fill up, the discussion eventually turns to trolls. Gabetycho ask if they ever read the comments. Maki talks for him and Abby when he coolly says, “We both go into 4chan.” This flips Gabetycho’s wigs, as they were referring only to the ones posted on their videos at Penny Arcade. Abby adds, “Hateful comments stick with me a lot more.” I’m sorry, Abby. I’m sorry I quit the game so early. I coulda given you power. Real. POWER.
Katie talks about her friends in animation giving her crap for being on the show, causing her to swear more bitterly than when Abby was talking about hateful comments online. The talk moves on to mortality. What would happen if they’d died before they reached the final contest? Maki relates a sparkling anecdote about subway pushers in New York City, while Abby and Katie offer up general observations of death and whether they would be mourned. A pretty somber subject for a webcomic series, but weirdly consistent with the stuff they drew out of the garbage can.
Wait… if everything ties together…
Oh, God…. on Tuesday… they’re all going to die, aren’t they?
Run, Maki, Abby, and Katie! Run for your lives!