"I try not to encourage people visiting me. It sometimes causes them to think I have interest in their company."


While we're recommending webcomics, I thought I should put in a word for my current personal favorite, Something Positive.

Something Positive's interesting and unique, as webcomics go. It started out as a fairly simple gag-a-day strip, but has gradually become a lot more serious and dramatic. That's actually not too uncommon; the same trajectory from funny-to-teh-drama happens in a significant portion of webcomics. The difference in Something Positive is that R.K. Milholland has managed to successfully transition from a pure gag-a-day strip to a strip with well-developed characters and an ongoing plot without sacrificing humor or changing the fundamental feel of the comic. The first strip is cynical and witty and it maintains that same essential tone throughout the whole run. It's a pretty rare strip that doesn't have some kind of joke, and the few that are pure drama are handled so well that it's hard to complain about them.

The strip started out with a fairly small cast of real characters and a coterie of cardboard cut-outs. Since then the main cast has grown and evolved, but done so in a very gradual way. Davan now is different than Davan four years ago, but it's not the result of any hammer-on-the-head life-changing after-school-special moments. And that's happened with all of the main characters. Meanwhile, the background characters have been developed and fleshed out into genuine people. It's weird to go back and read Monette in the early strips, where she's played as just a big dumb pseudo-lesbian, because now she's a full-on main character with emotions and depths. She's (literally) become a part of the family.

The plot's also well-done. Milholland does an excellent job of developing the story in a way that you don't necessarily expect, but he does it without cheating. The movement of the plot makes complete sense when you go back and re-read the strips, even if you didn't see where things were going at the time. Another unique thing about S*P is the way that a lot of the plot is told in a very subtle way. Milholland respects his audience enough not to hit them over the head explaining things. You're expected to pick up on certain plot points that happen in the background while the strip is looking elsewhere.

Reading through the archives, the strip starts out with a pretty vicious tone. The first strip is representative of the nastiness that was S*P early on. As the comic has evolved the humor's gotten a bit softer at the edges, but no less cynical. The surprising thing about Something Positive is that a strip that started off with a joke in astoundingly poor taste about abortion could evolve into what is probably the most emotional and affecting webcomic on the scene today. The characters are cynical bastards, but they're cynical bastards you come to really care about. So even if the early strips turn you off, I'd recommend plunging through and seeing if it doesn't grow on you. I'd recommend going through at least April 21, 2002. I also would advise against starting at the current strip and working backwards; there are a lot of spoilers in the more recent strips, and it'd be a shame to ruin some of the surprises. Also, don't read the cast page. It's up to date, which is nice, but that means it's full of spoilers.

Oh, also, Choo-Choo Bear. Choo-Choo Bear is impossible not to love. And that's good, because chemo-kitties need extra love!


The last time you plugged Something Positive, I made it the subject of one of my archive-trawls. In fact, I did everything you just said not to. I worked backward from the current strip with the cast page open in another tab to keep me from getting too horribly confused (I didn't get to the beginning, but I did read some very large number of strips). You could, if you like, blame my inappropriate approach for the fact that S*P didn't make it into my last batch of comic recommendations, or you could chalk it up to the fact that I forgot to bookmark the page and so the comic strip fell entirely out of my head until just now.

It's bookmarked now, in any case. I have some catching up to do, but at the moment the massive amounts of dialogue are just too much for me. Oh my addled head, et cetera.

I kind of thought you might have tried it already, and if it doesn't strike your fancy, it's no big deal; I hate to force anything down anyone's throat. It IS a very wordy strip; as I think about it now, I don't believe there's a sight gag in the entire run.

Oh, there's another strip I quite like, very schizophrenic in terms of style, but it has the advantage of having a very, very small archive. A Lesson is Learned But the Damage is Permanent. You can read that one in any order; I don't believe there's any coherent narrative going on worth speaking of.

Heh. Going back and looking at S*P again, I'd forgotten how deep the archives are. It took me a good week of reasonably dilligent reading to get through them when I started, and that was about two years ago. The trouble, I suppose, is that he started a long time ago and has been reasonably consistent about posting a comic a day.

There's actually something of a legend built up around R.K. Milholland with respect to his updating. The story, as I understand it, was that he used to post a new strip daily in the early days. Then he began slacking as other commitments, like job and life, impinged on his comic time. People complained, as people are wont to do.

Milholland got angry, justifiably. He was, he argued, providing a free service, for his own amusement. He worked full time at his day job and that got in the way of his getting a comic done every day. He made a statement to the effect of "As soon as you guys pay me as much as my job does, I'll happily quit and do the comic full time. Until then, you'll have to put up with sporadic updates."

And then donations rolled in, and within a fairly short period he received the equivalent of a year's pay at his job. So he quit and started doing the comic full time, and, for a period at least, was putting up daily strips like clockwork.

Since then the money's run out, and he felt kind of bad about the whole thing to start with; he didn't actually intend for people to give him all that money. He's back at another real life job, and doesn't try to make a living off the comic any longer. He still updates, theoretically, on a 7-days-a-week schedule, but he'll often go days at a time without an update, then do three at once, or a few double-length comics, or whatever. He still puts a lot into the comic, but doesn't put it out on an ironclad schedule like, for instance, Gabe and Tycho, Jeph Jacques, or Scott Kurz.

Something Positive does tax my attention span a bit; it's the same reason I can't seem to get into reading Sluggy Freelance. There's just... too much of it to try to follow. Some days all I really have the patience for is megaGAMERZ 3133T. That said, I'm certainly intrigued by S*P, and the outrageous cynicism appeals to me. As do R.K. Milholland's surly newsposts.

Yeah, I've been meaning to read Sluggy Freelance. I tried a couple of years ago, but never got beyond its larval stages. I think I quit when Cthulhu made an appearance (although maybe it was just some demon; I forget). Before the subject matter of webcomics got more diverse, it seemed like every damn comic had to have at least one series of strips about Cthulhu. Now that there are webcomics about subjects other than video games and computer geekery, Cthulhu is less pervasive and I've calmed down about it.

Hey! A Something Positive quote's the Google Quote of the Day today. For those too lazy/late to look it up, it's "There are people I know who won't hurt me. I call them corpses."

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on April 19, 2006 11:30 PM.

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