Webcomics You Should Be Reading: ‘Player Vs. Player’
It started as just a gaming comic, but expanded to much, much more. It’s one of the most popular independent webcomics out there. It’s spawned books, cartoons, shirts, and even plush toys. It’s won an Eisner Award. And it shows no signs of stopping after ten years online.
It’s Scott Kurtz’s PvP .
Cole, Brent, Jade, Francis and Skull make up the primary cast, and the staff of PvP magazine, a gaming-centric publication that’s typically ignored by the cast in favor of wacky misadventures. Cole is the responsible grown-up (when he’s not jumping ditches in his replica General Lee), Brent is the Mac-loving artist type (and constant victim of panda attack), Jade is the hot chick who also plays games (and is often the “straight man” of the group), Francis is the twitch-gaming teenager, and Skull is the loveable-but-incredibly-stupid mythological creature (he’s a troll).
Kurtz’s style is a broad-based humor, backed up with ongoing plotlines. Pretty much every strip has a punchline, but there’s a continuity over weeks and years, and the characters develop throughout the strip’s run. It plays like a newspaper comic, if the average reader was a software engineer, rather than a little old lady.
If you’re intent on paying for additional PvP, there are six books available, five through Dark Horse (collections of pamphlets produced by Dark Horse, which are “enhanced” collections of strips published online) and a book of original material produced by Dork Storm Press. Shirts and books (and toys, as they’re produced) are available from the store, and then the random-and-amusing animated series.
- Kurtz’s first major art upgrade
- Trump Songs
- Francis camps out for Star Wars tickets but his brilliant plan fails
- Cole has a serious moment
- Skull gets a cat, who will later become Scratch Fury: Destroyer of Worlds.
- A typical PvP Halloween
- Supporting cast romance!
- Brent and Jade’s wedding
Drama: Moderate. The comic has its serious moments, and characters are capable of emotional growth or harm, but the fourth wall is fairly fragile and characters are frequently mauled by pandas or decapitated with lightsabers.
Humor: Wide-reaching geeky humor. Early strips emphasize the “gamer” aspect much more heavily, while recent strips mostly mock pop culture, internet memes, roleplaying games, and geek-friendly movies and TV shows.
Continuity: Moderate. The strip tends to run in storylines of 5-15 strips, and though reading previous ones is not strictly necessary, it helps. The New Readers page [link: http://www.pvponline.com/new-readers] is particularly useful if the massive archive trawl intimidates you.
Art: Kurtz’s artwork tends to get an upgrade and overhaul every few years. The original art is weak, and some of the middle years got a bit cookie-cutter. His current style has gotten more active and adventurous, and while he probably still won’t get a gallery showing, it fits the comic excellently.
Archive: Over ten years of comics, 2000+ four-panel strips and double-sized Sunday strips.
Updates: Currently five days a week, down from seven days a week for several years of the run. Kurtz is significantly better about missed updates than in the early years, but the timing of updates is still occasionally irregular.
Risk/Reward: PvP doesn’t have an overarcing story that necessitates an end. If Kurtz decided to end the strip tomorrow, there would be very few dangling questions. However, barring disaster, Kurtz seems to be in this for the Charles Schultz-esque long haul.