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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 12:07 am 
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Hello.

After discovering for myself the comic Sluggy Freelance several days ago, my time has been almost entirely consumed by the endeavour of reading the entire archives - no mean feat, since I would estimate there have been over two-thousand Sluggy Freelance comics, and the vast number of secondary characters and subplots means the archives should be read in their entirety.

It has taken time, but I have finally managed to formalize the entirety of my thoughts on this comic - thoughts which have gathered like dust since the beginning of this long, long task - into the following writings. I have even sub-categorized my thoughts, comments, opinions, and questions into various groups based on their purpose.

On the topic of Storytelling

The story of Sluggy Freelance is long, and for it to go on this long requires it to be compelling. For someone to invest hours into creating the comics, and for countless others to invest time into reading it suggests there is something within the story that drives readers to keep reading.

Just what that is is difficult to identify. Is it the comedy? Admittedly, the series is very funny - it manages to use it's comedy strategically, to make a situation entertaining without smothering it or ruining any intended dramatic moments. What about plotlines? There's some definite grounds to say that it is Peter's skill with plot-twists and solid writing is the heart of the story. However, I would say the heart of Sluggy Freelance comes from it's characters.

This is probably no revelation - think about it. What separates Sluggy Freelance from other webcomics? There are a lot of comics out there, and no doubt you could find a number of them who crack jokes and have characters of a similar archetype. But that's just the thing, isn't it? The characters don't feel like archetypes, they feel almost real. They are not easy to second-guess until after the fact, when you understand them a little better for their actions. The storytelling qualities that make Sluggy Freelance such a good read once the initial laughs wear off is that the characters develop almost into real people - we share in their triumphs, feel down when they fail, and secretly hope for their elusive happy endings that are always just out of their reach.

On the topic of Subplots and Secondary characters

If one thing is learned about Pete's writing style from Sluggy Freelance, is that he never wants to cut off a Subplot. Sure, he may whittle down it's cast of characters, or give them major setbacks, but there's always the suggestion and the fear that they may return. I'm still only up to 2002 in the archives, but with a few of the recent comics I've checked out, it appears Pete remains consistent, denying his heroes anything more then brief respites - breathers before another demon possession, or ghost haunting, or conspiracy from the future, or conspiracy from the present, or something.

By the way, much applause to Pete for avoiding the fear many writers have of killing off secondary characters. If Torg were to die, for example, that would cause probably fatal damage to the strip - but besides the few central characters, Pete has shown no fear when it comes to killing or dismissing people from the story, which creates an aura of actual fear and suspense - I only recently finished the plotline where the evil corporation created an evil Aylee that ate people again, and shortly after the consumption of Mike I honestly thought Gwynn was going to be killed off - it's that sort of suspense that lends more credibility to Sluggy Freelance and engages readers more with the stories.

On the topic of violence

Violence is a volatile element when added to any genre - especially a comedy, and especially if it has continuity. I enjoy how Sluggy Freelance handles violence well, and how much better it gets at dealing with it. Sure, there is slapstick violence - when Bun Bun becomes frustrated or otherwise angry, and takes it out on Torg, we laugh - but fortunately the temptation to resort to unrealistic violence at all times is denied. When people get eaten, shot, blown up, or otherwise killed, the characters act much like anyone would if they saw people killed, eaten, and so forth - in fact, they act better than that, which helps build up their character and their believability.

I would also like to say that Tim's ability when it comes to drawing action scenes is quite impressive. It is a difficult thing, to draw combat, and it is a skill worth recognizing.

On the subject of the characters

As I have previously stated, the effective use of characters and their development have truly helped fuel Sluggy Freelance. Almost everyone who passes into the story is more then any easy-to-use archetype or stereotype, they are suprisingly real.

Torg is perhaps my favourite example - at the beginning of the comic, and during downtime between adventures, he might come off as a simple character, just your average 'clumsy-but-well-meaning-guy', but when things start happening he reveals himself to be quite heroic and even fairly cunning - exhibiting a complex bravery tied into his loyalty to his friends and his desire to protect them that often conflicts with his own natural abilities, as they are not quite so impressive as, say, the famously over-equipped Riff.

Riff is another good example. At first glance seeming like nothing more then the less-clumsy of the two, he turns out to be what could be the most complicated character in the entire strip. He exhibits a difficulty to express his emotions, hiding them behind a false-apathy which quickly fades when he is truly needed. Whenever anything threatens his friends - which is often - he fights it not just with all his might, but with every ounce of his intelligence, trying to outwitt his foes. Maybe this is why he has trouble expressing his actual emotions, since he ties himself up trying to think on a grander scale and stumbles when asked to actually speak for himself.

These two characters, which so easily could have been just your average comic duo of clumsy-guy and the serious one, are instead a pair of the most emotionally engaging and curious characters I have ever seen. When Torg or Riff are in serious trouble, you can actually feel for them, want to help them, because they feel like people you know. This is brilliant writing, to the point that after a while it doesn't even feel like writing any more, the comic seems to take on a life of it's own in the minds of it's readers.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I will say that I have never experienced a better-written webcomic then this. I might go so far that it is the most exhilirating find of my entire time on the internet. Working my way through the archives has been a veritable gift, a neverending stream from which these stories spring.

The world of Sluggy Freelance is a hard one, filled with dark forces and sinister plots. The characters are constantly put into unreasonable situations that break lesser people - need we go back and check the body-count. or count those who have been driven mad by the situations they have faced and escaped? Despite all this, our heroes hold on to their humanity and find time for each other - although sadly, never enough, it seems. They are an anti-Lovecraftian story whereby terrible forces from across the spectrum of existance do not drive them apart or force them down, but draw them together and strengthen their resolve.

I cannot thank it's stalwart writer and artist, Pete, enough for this creation. I have read many stories, seen many films, and Sluggy Freelance has a permanent place in my mind as one of the greatest tales I have ever had spun within my mind.

That is all I have to say for now on the topic of Sluggy Freelance. Thank you for your time, and for now, I shall lurk happily on the edge of this site, reaping joy from every crop of new stories sowed at this place.

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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 12:17 am 
 
Thank you Dolash :)

Pete doesn't read Sluggy Related Chat as a rule, but I copied and pasted your entire post to him so he could read it too :)

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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 12:32 am 
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Why thank you, that is most kind.

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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 1:30 am 
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*starts a slow clap*

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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 3:08 am 
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Dolash wrote:
I would also like to say that Tim's ability when it comes to drawing action scenes is quite impressive. It is a difficult thing, to draw combat, and it is a skill worth recognizing.


(Adapting from MP&tHG)

Pete: "Some call me...Tim?"

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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 12:00 pm 
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Whoops, typo.

I was talking to my friend Tim at the time I was writing that.

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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 6:01 pm 
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Nicely worded.

Except for the part where you called Pete Tim.

And if you count filler art and guests then sluggy has nearer to 2900 comics.

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 Post Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 6:26 pm 
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Although I intended to write but one post, the further I read into Sluggy Freelance, the more questions and observations piled up. Even when I ceased reading for sleep or other activities, my mind continued to think up new things to say with regards to the series.

And so I intend to stay for a time longer, to satisfy my need to speak aloud that which occurs to me in regards to this series. When I feel I have enough for a second thread - obviously a thread that would be more specific than this general overview - then I shall post again.

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