Tuesday, June 5, 2007


What's this? A cup of buttermilk before me? This can only mean.... RANTING!

One of the comics that I used to read -- as in, I don't anymore -- is Elf Only Inn. I'm not going to tell you what it's about, or even bother linking to it, because as you will see in a moment, there really isn't any point. Elf Only Inn (hereafter "EOI") is written and drawn by a person named Sortelli... or at least it was, until Memorial Day.

You see, Sortelli had entered a webcomic challenge known as the Lazy Grind, which is a kind of Ironman marathon for cartoonists who habitually miss deadlines. They all enter and agree to stick to a publishing schedule; those who fail to meet the schedule are mocked. (Follow the linky for details on the rules and history.)

This iteration of the Lazy Grind started on the inauspicious date of 9/11/06. The first contestant (out of 23) washed out after 14 days. After three months, only five artists were left... and it carried on that way for a very long time. 257 days and 144 updates later, Sortelli finally dropped out of the grind, because he chose to enjoy his Memorial Day.

Let me say this right now: I have no problem with that. The man deserves a holiday with friends and family. What bothers me so severely is that, on Monday, he said he'd have a comic up on Wednesday... and he didn't. Not on Friday, either. In fact, it's been an entire week plus another weekend, and not only is there no comic, but there hasn't even been an announcement or an apology from the cartoonist regarding his absence since Monday.

I hear you saying, Way to freak out, Pal. Sometimes these things happen, you know? Cut the guy some slack. And to that I say, Shut the hell up, voices in my head. You're wrong, and here's why:

This is the last comic Sortelli drew before he went on his first hiatus -- in August 2004. Guess when he started drawing again? That's right: September 11, 2006.

Two years. Two goddamned years before he got his act together again. And since he's gone missing again I have a sneaking suspicion, like a stiletto slipping between my ribs, that it'll be at least 2008 before he comes back to EOI.

But it's not like you're paying for this comic, I hear the voices say. Again, I say: Shut up! You're wrong! I may not be paying money for this comic, true, but that doesn't mean I have nothing invested in it.

You see, as a writer -- whether of Pulitzer Prize-winning novels or of freebie webcomics of dubious comedy -- your sole, overriding goal is to make the audience care. A reader that does not have emotional investment in your story is a reader you're very likely to lose.

Sortelli succeeded in that: I have an emotional investment in the characters of Elf Only Inn. And dammit all to hades, if I'm going to give Sortelli what he wants, then he is fucking obligated to give me what I want, which is a return on my emotional investment.

And now he's done the literary equivalent of skipping town with my life's savings.

I don't read Elf Only Inn any more. He could start updating it tomorrow and I wouldn't know, because he's lost me as a reader. Now perhaps I'm being unfair in that judgment, Voices in my Head, but he's already done this to me once before, two years ago. And I refuse to click on that link "just once more" to see if maybe, perchance, oh-it-is-to-be-hoped that he's finally deigned to update.

This, you see, is the flip side of emotional investment. If you get me to care about something, and then take it away, I react -- who would've guessed? -- emotionally.

So yeah. Screw you, Sortelli, and screw Elf Only Inn. You had me, and you lost me, and it's your own goddamn fault because you took away something that I cared about. Maybe you don't care that you've lost a reader -- but you should.

I think I'll go invest my emotions in a webcomic that actually delivers. IE, not yours.


  1. Now, are you mad because the writer did not fulfill some ethereal obligation to provide the goods, or are you mad at yourself because he proved that he did not care enough about his creation to warrant your initial interest? All break-ups work like this. Be it with an ex-artist or ex-lover, the hate stems from the same question, "why did you make me like you?" At least he had the dignity to just give up the facade, unlike others who let there work devolve into a putrid writhing mass, a macabre emulation of its former self. Then we have the unfortunate privilege to look back and see it wasn't so good in the first place...

    Fuck George Lucas. He broke my heart too many times.

  2. Ethereal, my shiny pink ass. What's ethereal about "I'm having an awesome Memorial Day. It's the first good day in awhile. See you guys Wednesday." ?

    And yes, fuck George Lucas. We should have known something was wrong with him when he used those filthy, stupid Ewoks. RotJ would have been 10 times more awesome if they'd been Wookies.

  3. ...enough so that you're exploding about it 3 YEARS after it ended?

    Come on. It's not healthy to nurture your hate that way.

  4. I certainly wouldn't try reasoning with her at a time like this.

    While I've never had quite THAT response to a form of media, I know how it feels to have someone that you invest a great deal of time in. Not only that, but they took away my favorite TV show three times...THREE TIMES. If they take it away again, I'm not coming back. Ok, well maybe I am but still.

    I think Erin's feeling much like the chorus of Flogging Molly's "Within a Mile of Home", which is an excellent and poignant song you all may look up (songmeanings.net) if you'd like to.

    Oh, and ROTJ? If it had been Wookies, I might actually LIKE Star Wars. You know, instead of detesting it..

  5. I'm still pissed off that Bloom County ended. And even more pissed that it "came back" as Outland and Opus.

    For some reason, I made peace with Bill Watterson concluding Calvin and Hobbes, and give him endless respect for keeping it dead.

  6. In my opinion, which is worth about as much as a dead rat in a tampon factory, admittedly, creators have certain responsibilities to their audience. For example, I felt like DC Comics shafted a lot of us 20+ years ago with the first Crisis (and in retrospect, some of the editors realize it, though damn few will admit it). Likewise, if you tell folks up front you're doing a comic at x-frequency, you have a certain responsibility to meet that frequency, or at the very least let them know what the hold-up is. There IS an investment of time and interest, even if there's no money changing hands (there's a concept that makes me cringe). If Neil Adams tells us Ms. Mystic is his new bi-monthly comic, and then there's 3 or 4 years between issues, I feel somewhat mislead. Had I known it was a bi-decade comic going into it, I might've thought twice about picking up issue #1.

    Having said that, things can come up. There could be deaths in the family, illness, floods, locust, etc. But in such cases a "sorry, gang, personal troubles have come up" would be appreciated.

    I'm a bit biased, though, as I've been doing comics long enough to know that 90% of the talk about what's "going to be" never comes to fruition.

  7. Oi.

    Never read EOI, but... this is why I've stopped reading Sluggy Freelance. Some of the gang up here in DC complained about specific story arcs, but I mostly enjoyed them. The increasingly frequent breaks, the "No Content Saturdays", and the seemingly endless stream of guest artists make it harder to enjoy the actual plotline on those rare occasions when it occurs.


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