Very good. Although, I think that guy is a loser for posting on a recruits facebook page. I mean get a life, like really.
that makes one of us
Today the Blockhams are attending services at East Pneumonia Lutheran Church, and youngest son Desmond has recruiting on his mind. It won't be long before he heads back to the South Quad for spring classes. Sitting beside him is the middle child, Chalmers, better known as 'Bump'... who we'll get to know better on Thursday.
As stated before, THE BLOCKHAMS™ will run every Tuesday here at MGoBlog, and every Thursday on its official home page. And as we saw last week, don't be surprised if they make a few unannounced appearances from time to time as well.
Follow THE BLOCKHAMS™ on Twitter at @theblockhams.
Very good. Although, I think that guy is a loser for posting on a recruits facebook page. I mean get a life, like really.
"Teenager posts on FB" isn't exactly front page news. It's only creepy when adults posts on kids' FB pages.
it's sarcasm, son!!
Do we get extra points for finding the easter egg? I won't ruin it for other ppl to find.
Extra point to you for being the first (actually, because I don't want to have to do it for everyone).
This comic was already far-and-away my favorite of yours so far. The easter egg just sealed the deal. Great strip, great series, Six-Oh!
pssst,... What happened to your "million MGoPoints"? (Lord giveth, eh...) 8)
L. Brady seems to have a knack for always being in the frame...
Great comic, 6-0. It's awesome that MGoBlog has its own MGoComic.
What kind of easter egg are we looking for?
YES! Nice touch, Six Zero!
Ah ha, I see it. Very clever.
okay, just tell us. I've been looking for it for a good 10 minutes? ha, jokes on me, right??
Great Easter egg. I'm loving the strip Six Zero, thanks for keeping us entertained.
third panel, top left.
You are a talented man, SZ. thanks for sharing.
whose voices do you hear when you imagine the characters talking? Not usually, but just this once, I imagined vicki lawrence from "mama's family." For the grandpa (Glenn?), I usually just hear Ernest Borgnine.
My dog could probably tell you-- I'm sure I've let a few lines slip out loud when drawing their faces before. Been doing that since I was a kid drawing star destroyers and making explosion noises, haha
For Glenn I hear Red Foremans voice, even though he was (gasp) from Wisconsin. I can just hear him saying "you dumbass" every time the TV showed Gerg
So have you hidden something in every strip so far, or is this the first time?
Is that preacher raising his middle finger? Or does he only have three fingers?
my favorite so far was the price of a sugar bowl victory one.
who wouldn't name their kid Desmond Howard?
I really hope you don't take this in the wrong spirit, because I am blown away ecstatic that you're making this strip. But I think you need some more development on the characters, some of whom are bogging down the strip. I wanted to offer some suggestions for a different direction you could go with some of the cast so that they become more identifiable.
As I mentioned in today's DD, you've got Tom, who I presume is you, pretty much down. However, he's almost too identifiable. By that I mean he's almost too much of an MGoBlog reader so that he overshadows the rest of the cast whenever he's on stage. If you're going to have him be, well, you, then he ought to be the strip's lead, and the rest of the characters should be seen through his eyes (see: Calvin & Hobbes). If your intention however is to have this be more of a Peanuts style (where each character can star with their own POV) then Tom needs to be a little off, perhaps a Lloydist, or an ESPN-er rather than an MGoBlogger (which he thinks is for Desmond).
Tom, despite being the golden child, is actually the least invested in his immediate family, and the least likely to get philosophical--his focus is all taken up by his wife and kid and job and Michigan.
So far is just an asshole. I know it's a cartoon, but he's too much of a cartoon character, i.e. a characterization of what a 25-year-old thinks an 80-year-old acts like. This one is going to be tough because to "get" Glenn you're going to have to get inside his head more to find his real motivation. This is a man who has his priorities straightened out, and considering his familiy is always around him I think it's a good bet he figured out long ago that his familiy is more important to him than being a "die-hard" fan. Whereas Tom will sit with bloodshot eyes pounding his fist on the coffee table at every 3rd and long the defense gives up to VT, Glenn can't be that emotional. You're going to have to figure out who this man is, because Rule One of having old people for characters is that they are blunt in decision-making but very subtle in action.
For example with the (pretty good) episode where he gets Three & Out for Christmas, he goes off on a rant and makes metaphors. Think about this: how many old people do you know who think metaphorically? That is a thing more prevalent in younger minds--all the comparing things to things is the enquiries of a mind still trying to figure out what's what. Not to mention old guys have to be stingy with the energy they expend. Going off on a rant at his son for buying a Christmas gift tells us this man cares so much about HIS Michigan fandom that he'll use up the limited air in his lungs to make his kid feel bad about it. This just makes him unlikeable. Where I would have liked to see that one go is to find Glenn reading the cover out loud, and then before he can react Donna swoops in to take the book away and warn him "Remember what Doctor Cohen said: no Rich Rodriguez!"
Same with when he went off on his Sparty son. I'll cover that with Chalmers.
This is by far your worst character but could be your best. Right now you've made him nothing more than a lightning rod for the worst kind of Sparty trolling. I'm begging you to re-write this character to make him someone we can empathize with. Take the latest strip, which is the first where Bump is featured:
Panel 1: Chalmers starts in on the "it's not fair Michigan went to the Sugar Bowl" thing.
Panel 2: Now he's going off about it but he's crying! (this is wrong).
Panel 3: Glenn comes in to holler at him and make him feel unloved.
Panel 4: Chalmers says he's got to go work, then the punchline is he's a pizza delivery boy.
So the punchline is...wait, that has nothing to do with the question Bump asked. Bump asked a fair question, while crying, and then the answer from Michigan is to ignore the question because his father doesn't love him for having gone to State. So Bump says "okay, I gotta go make my living" and then we laugh at him for that job being a shitty job any kid with a driver's license can do.
Man are we assholes!
Bump's question is fair: if Michigan is graduating seniors who never beat Michigan State, and if national relevance is all about winning football games, why haven't the tables turned?
The answer is because that's not all that goes into national relevence. The answer is because only at Michigan State is a 3-loss season where you beat Michigan and won the Outback Bowl considered a National Championship. The answer is because if Michigan had that same season we would be bitching about our safety play in coverage and the stupid Lions-esque penalties our eminently unlikeable players keep taking, not whining about comparative national respect with another conference team.
Michigan State is petty and provinicial, but they're not losers; if there never was a Michigan, they would be Wisconsin.
Bump Chalmer rewritten: First of all he hates that he's named for Bump Elliott and asks people to call him Chas (Glenn and Tom and Desmond and Charlie still call him "Bump" but Pam calls him Chas and his mother calls him Chalmers).
He's the strip's tragic hero. He is close enough in age to Tom that they competed against each other growing up, but far enough away that Tom always won. He looks up to his brother, though he won't admit this to himself, and he is also jealous of Tom's position as the family's golden child. Little things like his mother fauning over Charlie secretly bug Chas, and make him feel uncomfortable, often leading to him doing something comic-worthy.
Chas's problem is not intelligence: he is actually very smart, but not very practically smart -- more of a dreamer and liberal artsy mind as opposed to Tom's literal engineering mind. His ultimate failing is that he is just a little bit too lazy. He's also a little bit unlucky (Sparty NO!), e.g. when he was applying to Michigan he got his application turned in just a day late for fall admissions in '97, and then Michigan won the National Championship and suddenly he was wait-listed as Michigan was flooded with 3.8 GPA kids with 32s on their ACTs.
He is an innately good person but this conflicts with the petty Spartanhood and this is a constant struggle for him. He doesn't go for Sparty trolling, but he does often send up test balloons that he's heard from other Sparties, and which the Michigan fans around him take as evidence he's stupid (when really he's desperately trying to create a philosophical basis for Michigan State fandom within the framework of what he's been told Michigan fandom is about, which is hopeless).
His mother is fiercely protective of him. His job is a bad fit for him -- perhaps he has gone to work for his father (this would give him and Glenn an interesting relationship since they are such different people).
Chas also has a SMOKING HOT female friend from college who is obviously in love with him, but Chas is too caught up in his own insecurities to realize it. Chas also got used to being smarter than the other kids in his class at State and thus has a bit of arrogance around other MSU folks. The girl friend however is the perfect patsy to be the butt of the Spartan jokes that wouldn't work on Chas, since she is kind of dumb, likes drinking and partying, has a fine appreciation of basketball and the proper method of igniting a couch, and is always ready to troll Michigan fans (especially if she thinks Chas needs to be defended) despite not having any clue what she's talking about.
In a future strip, Chas has a dream in which he is a Michigan student having a profound debate about philosophy. Michigan-Bump is also extremely arrogant and unlikeable, and we get the sense that this is really what he would have been like.
THIS is your MGoBlog reader, except not the diary-writing kind but the kind who knows Lloyd Brady and avidly follows recruiting and finds excuses in conversations to bring up the fact that Richard Ash and Delonte Hollowell are in his History lecture. Whereas for the rest of the Blockhams a Michigan game is inner monologue is "don't lose, don't lose, don't lose," for Desmond it's "please win, please win. AAAHHHHHHWWWWESOME!!!!!!!" Desmond is the complete opposite of Chas -- he is alive in the now, easy and eager to be pleased, athletic, energetic, and constantly starved for attention and his father's approval. In his NCAA Dynasty Michigan has never lost.
Every year when Michigan beats Notre Dame by 4 points in some incredibly preposterous manner, Desmond goes insane for a week.
Like Glenn, she's too much of a caricature, and not enough of a character. If Donna plays like a foil out of a Norman Rockwell painting her act will get cliche really fast.
Suggestion: Give Donna a makeover so that she's more Ann Arbor former hippy baby boomer than Iowa WWII generation. At the same time her husband was trying to survive Southeast Asia, Donna was on the Diag (and was there for the '69 Ohio State game). Dye that hair (you can leave the gray streak if you like) and have random famous people about the Michigan program (Dave Brandon, Jim Shaeffer the owner of Blimpy Burger, the barbers on State Street, Coach Jackson) recognize her as if they know her a little too well, though she never ever name-drops (hinting that she may have been "known" for other things than cherry pies at one time in her life).
Hope this helps.
You're closer than you think. I don't want to tip my hat yet, but they're not as one-dimensional as you're afraid they will be.
Bump is not just fodder. He'll occasionally give it back, up until he knows when it's time to shut up (remember, Glenn always has the ace card in any conversation). And as far as Glenn vs. Chalmers goes, I don't mind saying now that he'll always give Bump a hard time... but NO ONE will ever be allowed to say anything about him, even if it's the exact same thing.
Glenn is Glenn. If you hate him now, it's exactly what he wants you to think of him. He's not gonna let you inside this early, that easily.
Pam will be more active than you think, and not just as, well, Deb Barone, as easy as it is. She will play off Charlie that way at times, but she's just as much a UM fan as the boys. One thing that's I've enjoyed seeing on the Twitter page already is how many female fans have responded-- and they will not be ignored.
Donna, at least for now, will be the glue of the family. She probably won't develop as rapidly as the others... forgive me for not making my Michigan Wolverine comic about a grandma.
Good stuff, my friend... shoot me an email if you wanna discuss it in further detail.
But I think the problem is that you want your life experiences to be completely reflected in the characters in the strip, rather than the guy who's writing them. Not trying to be snarky, but if you wanted it to mirror your life, you should have come up with it. More to the specific points-
Tom: I'm not sure what you mean by "a little off", like there's any one MGoViewpoint (other than Brian's), but I'm not sure he even reflects any one viewpoint. I mean, if he's really the MGoProxy, he'd have to be a lot more Emo and down about the potential of all things. I wouldn't equate Six Zero to MGoAnything. He's pretty even keeled. (And while you may be spot on over the age category of your readership, I'm not sure your contributors, that express the views, are all as young as you necessarily seem to believe). And I prefer the the ensemble to having it through the eyes of anyone.
Glenn: Agree to disagree. I think he's been the funniest character in the strip. We all have a Glenn in our lives. And I think your characterization is far more what a 25 year old thinks an 80 year old is like than what Six Zero has done. I'm not sure where old people don't get worked up about Michigan Football..you obviously weren't anywhere near where I was sitting at the Sugar Bowl where the loudest most upset guy was the older one in the handicapped seating. And I don't know what fiction you're reading where old people are subtle in action, but man, that doesn't seem to be any track I've seen. From Archie Bunker (and before, I'm sure) to today, bombastic older people seems as common as grandfatherly figures. I mean, look who he's named after. (And the "old people don't think methaphorically was borderline offensive. I'm sure your professors were all 30).
Bump: This is where "but..but...that's not how it is in MY life!" really came out. We know you're stuck with a bunch of related Sparties. We know they're not all horrible dregs of society. We sympathize. But I don't know that anyone is clamoring for well rounded Spartan characters in a Michigan strip. I don't need a cousin who's from Ohio who's "really an ok guy". People who are mean to Charlie Brown don't really need to have a heart of gold. Or poop it. It's not for Spartan readers. And being nice to them in a comic strip isn't going to make them think we're not assholes. I'll agree that the punchline in that strip was kinda lame...but not because it was mean, but because it was lazy. No punchline should ever be one that you could use any of the "fill in the blank" generic college football jokes. But I didn't really see a need to counter Bump's crying. This is a comic strip, not a debate. And if he's a tragic hero, it's only in the most Dantonian sense. And the "smart but artsy and good natured Spartan fan" may be your experience, but it's not going to connect with the majority of his readership. Trolling Sparty is the more common interaction when it comes to how they react to Michigan sports. And the need for point/counter point for MSU with some smoking hot girlfriend (really, can we be any more stereotypical?) is unnecessary for a Michigan strip. No one cares that Bump isn't Hamlet.
Desmond: He might be a type of MGoBlog reader. The kind who thinks doom is always coming, because that's what he's experienced. Who goes nuts over every loss, because it means the world is coming to an end, and has no perspective of time, the long haul, or success. Maybe the guy who was tired of boring Lloyd, and got rewarded with the next 3 years for his schooling troubles, so he doesn't know what's right or wrong anymore. The kid who has experienced hurt, and been made fun of, and expects us to lose every game (thus going nuts when we win), because we have, rather than the guy who expects us to win every game, because heck, we're Michigan, and we can beat anybody on any given day. Or go darker,and have him be that guy who even when we win, still finds fault with a great, exciting win, and is constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop (hmmm...do we know anyone like that around here...?). Because the crazy excited guy seems to fall more to Charlie than Desmond.
Donna: I'll agree she's a bit stereotypical Grandma. I'll agree with Six Zero that I wasn't really expecting her to be the main character in the strip either. I'd just say that she can still be the supporting, consoling one, but with a viewpoint. It could go either way. She could be the one that married into the family, and doesn't really care about football, but just wants us to win every game because it means he family is happy and they're not making everyone's life miserable (we all know someone who has a wife like this), or she could be the more original cool mom, who everyone thinks is just baking cookies, but actually knows how to tell the difference between a weak side and strong side defensive end, and surprisingly gets into the games to the shock of her family, but still is the backbone of the family (even if inside she's seething too). Which would be good, because the former role seems to go more to....
Pam: Who seems more along for the ride, and very supportive, but has other things on her mind than Michigan games. She just knows if Saturday goes badly, she's going to have a grumpy husband, a wildly sarcastic father in law, and distraught children. Which is why I think it'd be kinda cool for Donna, who's already described as having skills "to analyze defensive game plans" would fit the surprising football astute, (and maybe what needs to be portrayed a little more, over time, CARING) character. It's not that unreal, and it is a bit more out of the ordinary.
I'm at least glad you didn't write a whole backstory for the baby and dog, who I'm guessing are comedic relief. Critical analysis is fine. But I'd venture to say a lot more of this wasn't "how to make these characters better", but "make these character more relatable to me, and my experiences". But he can't cater to any one reader, so he's best off writing what he knows, from his experiences and views.
I think Six took it in the spirit offered and you didn't. This is an artistic critique full of suggestions, not a "you must do this."
Yes I'm surrounded by Sparties but none of them are so good-natured as the suggestions for Bump, or anything like Bump. That character was written from looking at his drawing and reading the biography of the character on the blog.
I'm very excited about this strip, and want it to be awesome. I also want it to reflect well on Michigan fans in general, and that won't happen if there are too many more strips where the punch-line is "ha ha the MSU kid delivers pizza." Do we really encounter many Sparties who are complete live-at-home losers who cry to their mommies about the Sugar Bowl? If this guy's going to be a recurring character and not drag down the script he's going to have to some kind of Michigan State fan that highlights what really is wrong with Michigan State fandom. Comics can have stereotypes--they thrive off of them if used appropriately--but they have to be things we recognize. The Sparty-On! girl is someone we recognize; the Chalmers represented so far on the other hand is half-way to becoming a serial killer, and is nothing like any Spartan we know.
On Tom, I'm going off the understanding that the basis for these characters are the factions discussed almost exactly a year ago today, which is the most inspiring part of the strip. Really, that part is absolutely brilliant: each character is a stereotype of one of the "Clans". Except Tom strays out of his clan because the author identifies most directly with him and thus has Tom as more of a Fierce Pragmatist (what Six Zero is) instead of a Lloyd Lloyalist, which works better for the character. My suggestions for Tom do not say anything about the demographics of MGoBlog readers (I have very accurate data on that and you're right: 25-30 is the peak). I'm not saying Tom can't be an MGoBlog reader because he's in his 30s; I'm saying Tom shouldn't be an MGoBlog reader because the cast already has one in Desmond.
You don't need both a Fierce Pragmatist (Tom) and a member of the Rebellion (Desmond) because that leads to a sense (already prevalent in some of the scripts) that the family is in general agreement on things Michigan, or at least that there's a majority party. You're looking to generate conflict, not a perfect "this is the RIGHT way to root for Michigan." There should be some moral ambivalence as to this subject so that all sides can be made fun of.
This is Six Zero's concept, or at least that's what I am pretty sure he was going for, so I was trying to help him flesh that out:
And then Donna -- This character I suggested a little backstory but she is Six Zero's creation 100% and, even if she's just in a supporting role, she is a brilliant additon. You're expecting her to be the Corduroy Jacket and then out of nowhere once in awhile it pops out that she's actually a Fierce Pragmatist.
Six did a great job creating her but I think he went to far with the "just grandma" disguise. She is just a supporting character obviously, but she's also, as Six mentioned, the "glue" holding the family together. She is the calmer who can soothe the Cotton Picker, who can ground the Rebellion in reality, who can ease the Lloydalist's arrogance. But how can she touch the 2nd estate? Well perhaps--and this is never more than only slightly hinted at--she slept with a few of them back when they were collegiate kids. Anyway, it seems obvious what Six was going for with Donna was that she be a throwback to and constant reminder of 1969. Think about it: what's the one unifying thing that all Michigan fans feel exactly the same about? 24-12. Donna is Michigan-Ohio State 1969 personified. OF COURSE she was there. So all I was saying is play this up: she's the great baby boomer who turned matriarch. Obviously she can't be present all the time because, again, the strife between family members is the comedy source. But Donna in the background says things will all be okay.
For the record, in any of these iterations, she is nothing like my mother. My mother is Sheila Broflovski.
Now for Glenn. I guess I can't relate because I don't have a Glenn in my life. The closest is an uncle who says racist things sometimes and I wouldn't ever want to watch a game with him because he's an asshole. That said I want to make it clear that I'm totally on board with him being a kind of Archie Bunker trope -- this is a tried and true patriarchal archetype and one that ends up being much more beloved than the "Bumbling Dad." Of course he's the strip's most popular character right off -- he's a very very old trope. The thing is this trope comes with instructions because when you're dealing with a jerk-off you're dealing with fire.
The thing about Archie Bunker, or Red Foreman (That '70s Show), or Jay Pritchett (Modern Family) is that they're always shown to be a jerk with a heart of gold after just a few episodes because the jerk routine played out too many times without a super-softie moment makes the character come off as a sociopath and you start to hate him.
Now in real life yes there are lots of guys Glenn's age who are just jerks, end of story. The reason the jerk works as a character is that we all kind of want to be jerks sometimes, and it's a common fantasy that you can be a jerk AND be a good person. Glenn fought in a war nobody wanted to fight in, he built a good career, and is presumably the person who, between the tuition and the board for himself and his progeny, plus all those years of tickets, has by and large funded the family's Michigan obsession. This earns him some leeway, but he crossed the line for me when he started ripping into his Sparty son. Six mentioned above that Glenn has a double-standard for this: that nobody else can say to Bump what he can. I'll reserve judgment until this plays out.
But while it wasn't a "you must do this" it was to some extent suggestions rewriting what he had created to better fit your vision of his strip, and not his. It's one thing to say "I'd like to see more of X from character Y", and another to say "rewrite the whole Spartan character, he's not working for me". So it was definitely a "you should do this".
And if you're seeing Bump as "halfway to being a serial killer" from an appearance in really only one strip....I can only say, you're reading WAY to much into what we've seen. Which is kinda my point; you're writing the story down the line in your own head. Do we know any loser, crying Spartans in our lives, or are they internet myths?
I think there's some basis to the clans as characters, but I don't think they're designed to ONLY represent them. That would be so inside and limiting, and it completely goes against how you want MSU fans represented non-stereotypically. Yet each Michigan character should be a stereotype of one subset of Michigan fandom? If you want less of that, which I think you do, then it would make more sense that Desmond isn't the MGoBlog reader type. It might not fit the categories very well, but I don't think the strip is intended to breakdown all the humorous inconsistencies in that breakdown. Just be a starting off point. I think whatever view Six Zero has will get imparted through his lead character, and since he's the real life MGoBlog reader, that will come out no matter what his views are. It's not really necessary for ALL the character to disagree and have conflict to be funny. Charlie Brown and Linus are always in knock down drag out arguments. There's a reason it's not a half dozen Lucy's.
And I don't think I ever said that your vision of Donna was like anyone you know. But I'm glad to hear that your mom never slept with Joe Falls. (The complete ickiness of is why I'm not sure that's where I'd go in a comic strip). What what what??
And I'm just not reading into 3 appearances of Glenn what you are. He gets mad to get a book for Christmas that half the people on here who were infatuated with the last 3 years are saying they're having a hard time getting through because it's too painful. It really seems that out of character to sarcasticly vent about having to relive it? Heck, I bought it, and read it, but if someone had bought it for me as a present, rather than the drag of a homework assignment it was, I might have punched them in the nose too. Then he appears, rather comically, speaking of old times with his tv. And I think many of us have said things, maybe not literally to, but AT our tv that aren't said to any living people. Usually involving a lot of cussing. But it certainly doesn't paint him in a negative light. So it all comes down to the strip with Bump. And I don't see that as being harsh...it doesn't seem Bump is even taking it harshly...just more like "not this again dad". I don't read it as a brutal attack on his son; it came off to me much more as a "you think YOU have it bad?!? I had to walk to school every day in snow, without shoes, uphill, BOTH ways" speech that anything as nasty as you attribute. If he's supposed to be Bo-ish, I can easily see him in the "stop your whining and man up" attitude.
They may all have hearts of gold, but I'm not sure they're designed that way, or end up revealing it nearly as fast as you say they do. Is the bluster taken out of them all by the 3rd episode? Frankly, they're designed to be made fun of, not be beloved. It's just that the people designing them are like you in that they don't see anything really redeeming in them, yet find out afterwords that the vast majority of people related to that character more, and they become popular because of it. It's the Alex P. Keaton syndrome. Let's make fun of stereotype character born to the reasonable ex-hippie parents, but because more people watching relate to the character (due also to usual superior acting performances of the performers playing such characters), even as the creators don't, they become the stars of the show, and can still have the piss taken out of them, but are more the driving force than what the people thought the show was going to be about. That's where you're at...you can't relate to a character like that, don't know anyone like that, and his views don't mesh with yours, so you're seeing him as nasty. I don't think a poll of readers is going to see him as some horrible person so far.
And since he's not the star, and this is a comic strip, not developing character piece, he doesn't even have to be redeemable. Lucy never really stops pulling the football away. Mr. Wilson never stops being annoyed by Dennis the Menace. Bathing suits never stop Cathy from going Gak! (OK, I might be stretching the comparsion here...) If everyone has to love every character in the strip, you're not going to have your conflict.
It doesn't matter, because while Six Zero will take what is written to heart, it's still his to form. And your intentions were fully to be helpful, not tear down. But there's a fine difference between seeing "what will make your strip better (in it's on constructs and world)" and "what would make your strip better for me". And while there certainlly can be some overlap, it's important to be able to distinguish the two.