Friday, April 12, 2013

Why I Watch Strip Search

The past couple of years, I haven't posted much about webcomics here at the blog since I'd been working on my webcomics column over at MTV Geek. But as I've got a very different type of column now, I figure it's more fair game to talk webcomics over here from time to time.

Strip Search, if you're unfamiliar with it, is a reality game show about webcomics. More specifically, the Penny Arcade guys have gotten together twelve "relative newcomers" to webcomics, holed them up in a house together, and throw a series of webcomic-related challenges their way, some leading to prizes for the artists, some leading to elimination challenges.

I was skeptical about watching the show at first. I don't like reality shows in the first place, and I've never been too keen on Penny Arcade. (I'm too far removed from games and gaming culture, I think, to really get into it.) But I watched it initially as a sort of duty to keeping up with All Things Comics. I was quickly surprised by two things. One, while Jerry Holkins' and Mike Krahulik's fingerprints are clearly all over the show, it doesn't focus on them very much. Two, the typical tropes that I especially hate about reality game shows -- the rather artificially-generated and editted-to-increase-the-on-screen-drama personality conflicts -- are entirely absent. After a day or three at the house, they all come across as really good friends who genuinely like and respect each other.

What's also interesting to me is that, while Holkins and Krahulik play (somewhat farcicly) at being evil masterminds, they show a lot of real concern for the talent they've brought on. Every time someone is eliminated, they sit down with them separately and make sure they're emotionally okay and provide some advice on what they can work at to become better and more successful.

Personally, I relate most to the contests Alex and Maki. Alex reminds me a lot of myself in college, and Maki reminds me more of a 30-year-old version of myself. I'm not either of those guys today, but it's interesting to see with another decade of hindsight some of the "what ifs" played out.

Anyway, I just really enjoy the lack of trumped up bullshit nonsense faux drama, and seeing these new-ish webcomickers work on their skills. I'm not sure if that's everyone's cup of tea, but I get a lot out of it.

Also, go Team Maki! ;)

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