On Shortpacked

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On Shortpacked

Postby TCampbell » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:38 am

I've followed David Willis' strips compulsively since 2002 or so; they're now two of only four or five strips that I still check out right as they update. (Honestly, he's the reason you get your P&A and Fans at 10pm. He kept that update schedule for years when everyone else was midnight or later, and I think that's part of what set him apart from the pack for me, even though he's now a midnight man.) Lately, a combination of mild writer's block issues (now resolved) and his most affecting work in years, possibly to date, has made me a prolific commenter over there. It's gotten so excessive that I've been promising David and myself to step back from it for a bit, for a while now.

But sometimes you gotta follow that muse.

Still, now that the story's over, it's time to refocus my energies. But I did have one more megacomment to mark its passing, which seems to have been so lengthy or link-heavy that it tripped the Comicpress spam filter. So it goes here instead, where a few of you who read both me and David are more likely to see it anyway.

If you don't read Shortpacked, the following will not make much sense. Seriously, I wouldn't even try to parse it. Just summarizing David's latest storyline would take a few paragraphs, and this thing is chockablock with references to an entire 13-year career.

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The odds of hitting some kind of reset button on "Bi Partisan/This Is SO Babies" (Skittles-fueled time travel, drama tag magics, joint voluntary mindwipes with old SEMME tech) have dropped to almost zero. They were always low, and Amber's line about "consequences" (a recurring theme of David's since 1997) really seemed to finish them off.

I was kind of hoping for a "reset" a couple weeks ago, but now I think I was wrong. Robin can't have an easy out if she's going to change, and if she doesn't change, then the issues that torpedoed her happiness once will do it again. The situation's not fair to Leslie (oh, Lordy, is it not fair to Leslie), but neither is putting Les back in a relationship that would be a time bomb.

And I'm getting curious about how Robin and Leslie will each change now. Robin already knows that her unfettered zaniness can alienate those around her, and she needs friends now more than ever. She might continue to be somewhat muted compared to her old self. On the other hand, it's hard to see her living the quiet life for too long. She might focus on giving gifts, favors and other gestures, not just to buy back her friends but to buy back her self-respect. "I don't totally suck this week, because I got Amber onto the set of that Turtles movie!" Or she might throw herself into some new project that doesn't surround her with reminders of her mistakes. Music stardom, maybe? It's the only other item on her original bucket list she might still want, and hey, music is FULL of people singing about their bad relationship choices!

Whether Robin can continue to navigate Leslie's boundaries is another question. Robin and boundaries have rarely gotten along. Moving out voluntarily was a good move, but a pretty obvious one. She could make a mistake in either direction. She might not leave Leslie alone when Leslie wanted to be left alone ("Need help in the stockroom, Les'? Want me to go get lunch? Let me handle that customer! You look tired sittin' there with your face in your palms. Want a pillow?"). Or she might overcompensate for her usual habits and avoid Leslie when Leslie was ready to have an important talk. "What's the point, I'll only hurt her again," that kind of thing. "Why would she talk to me? I wouldn't talk to me."

At least she's got Amber, whose more caring side has been in evidence lately, to even her out a bit. On the other hand, she's also got Mike. Hopefully she remains beneath his notice.

Leslie's future is even more malleable. She was introduced with one defining trait—"Loves Robin unconditionally." She hasn't shed that trait yet, but it's not doing her a lot of good right now. And while she can self-sacrifice more than most of us, if she hits her limit, she can assert her needs or even find the strength to say goodbye. She's had to assert those needs before, even at the cost of other important relationships. If she didn't, she'd still have a husband, and she and her parents would be speaking.

It might be that losing Robin has truly broken Leslie, past healing, but I think her emotional self-preservation will return at some point. What form it will take, though, is anybody's guess. We might see a Mike-ish "Dark Leslie" phase. ("Happy birthday, Robin. I got you a restraining order. This might make working at Shortpacked complicated, but you're a genius, I'm sure you'll figure it out.") She might go just a little crazy and will herself to forget Robin's existence, completely and repeatedly. ("Robin? Who's Robin? …Look, I told you, Ethan, I don't get all your Batman references.") Or she might try to find "the Robin within:" become the adventurous, brave free spirit that attracted her in Robin in the first place. (Look out, fundies! You just got a super-energized enemy with an EPIC amount of frustration to burn!! She's eating much more sugar than she really should be without hyperspeed metabolism!!! AND SHE HAS A HELICOPTER.)

At least she won't be returning to the supporting-character limbo where Robin found her. (Though a temporary leave of absence is another option.) She's front and center in the new homepage design. David doesn't give that kind of privilege to just anybody any more, Faz.

Either or both of them could find someone else, or flirt with the possibility of someone else, at a certain point in the healing process. That someone else would probably have to be someone outside the current cast, unless New Asian Hire grows a lot of charisma real quick.

(I still think Joe's a possible temptation for Robin, assuming he's now single again, as the evidence suggests. He's a wealthy sex machine obsessed with Robin's profession, and he might be willing to give commitment another try, and he and Robin are old friends with tension in their past.)

People change, and then keep changing. None of these options precludes an eventual reconciliation. None precludes Robin and Leslie finding peace elsewhere, or as friends, and moving on for good. I know which I'm rooting for, but with Shortpacked, the joy is in the journey.

TL,DR: There's no way back, only forward. But sad as the new status quo is, it bristles with story potential.
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Postby sun tzu » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:13 am

One thing concerning Robin - I think much of her annoying, ditzy persona is forced.
Remember how Robin was back in It's Walky? Sure, all the seeds of her current self were there. But she was still, I dunno, mostly functional. A bit annoying, a bit ditzy, but...still, not the insufferable madwoman she's been acting like for most of Shortpacked's run.
It occurs to me that Robin's comedic sociopathy-cluelessness combo only went into full swing after she pulled the drama tag. Which leads me to the following suspicion: For the past few years, Robin has been pushing the comedic aspects of her personality up to eleven in an attempt to keep the comic more comedy-based than drama-based. She's not that stupid, she's just forcing herself to act that way.
...And now, all her attempts have failed miserably. Drama will not be denied. Actions have consequences. So what now?
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Postby TCampbell » Mon Jan 31, 2011 9:55 am

sun tzu wrote:One thing concerning Robin - I think much of her annoying, ditzy persona is forced.
Remember how Robin was back in It's Walky? Sure, all the seeds of her current self were there. But she was still, I dunno, mostly functional. A bit annoying, a bit ditzy, but...still, not the insufferable madwoman she's been acting like for most of Shortpacked's run.
It occurs to me that Robin's comedic sociopathy-cluelessness combo only went into full swing after she pulled the drama tag. Which leads me to the following suspicion: For the past few years, Robin has been pushing the comedic aspects of her personality up to eleven in an attempt to keep the comic more comedy-based than drama-based. She's not that stupid, she's just forcing herself to act that way.
...And now, all her attempts have failed miserably. Drama will not be denied. Actions have consequences. So what now?


I've enjoyed her antics more than you have over the years, I'm guessing, so I'm more inclined to take some of her at face value. (Zii and Lisa present similar problems, as did early Alisin. I suspect most readers enjoy them, but there's a vocal contingent who definitely don't, and figuring out how much to listen to that is always a challenge.)

And her meta-awareness seems to come and go. But I think you're right that when she faces real problems, she's responded by turning up the zany to drown them out. The last time she alienated her friends, Leslie was her only refuge. When she tried to ignore problems with the relationship, it was Leslie who forced her to face them. She even tried to joke away her deepest, darkest issue with a Glee reference, and unfortunately, Leslie wasn't there to force her to talk about it before it was too late. She clearly can't rely on Leslie now, and while her conflicted friends can help her some, it does seem like some sort of change is her only hope.
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Postby sun tzu » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:12 am

TCampbell wrote:
sun tzu wrote:One thing concerning Robin - I think much of her annoying, ditzy persona is forced.
Remember how Robin was back in It's Walky? Sure, all the seeds of her current self were there. But she was still, I dunno, mostly functional. A bit annoying, a bit ditzy, but...still, not the insufferable madwoman she's been acting like for most of Shortpacked's run.
It occurs to me that Robin's comedic sociopathy-cluelessness combo only went into full swing after she pulled the drama tag. Which leads me to the following suspicion: For the past few years, Robin has been pushing the comedic aspects of her personality up to eleven in an attempt to keep the comic more comedy-based than drama-based. She's not that stupid, she's just forcing herself to act that way.
...And now, all her attempts have failed miserably. Drama will not be denied. Actions have consequences. So what now?


I've enjoyed her antics more than you have over the years, I'm guessing, so I'm more inclined to take some of her at face value. (Zii and Lisa present similar problems, as did early Alisin. I suspect most readers enjoy them, but there's a vocal contingent who definitely don't, and figuring out how much to listen to that is always a challenge.)


In Robin's case, while she makes me see red to an extent few comedic characters can match, I still consider her presence a good thing for the comic - I don't want her gone, annoying as she may be (as opposed to, say, Ultra-Car, who I don't feel really adds much to the comic).

it does seem like some sort of change is her only hope.

Probably. But what change, though?
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Postby EmptyHat » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:13 am

Actually I've been enjoying seeing your comments over there (possibly because I got introduced to Faans and P&A because of an Its Walky archive trawl).

I think that if Robin did try and hook up with Joe we'd see his old (ex?) girlfriend reappear and snatch him away from her again in a suitably dramatic way.

I'm also inclined to agree with Sun Tzu about the pushing happiness thing. Perhaps now it has failed she'll pack up her things, buy out and move up in the world. She's shown the world she can really do amazing things when she isn't messing around, so working at a store as a shift worker is much more a consequence of her unresolved issues than anything else.
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Postby maritza » Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:38 am

I remember I hated Robin the first time she showed up in IW! But I warmed up to her in Shortpacked, a lot. I finally ended up liking her. Ethan and Amber and she are my fave SP characters.
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Postby MudFlap33 » Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:06 pm

I definitely appreciate this perspective. I like Shortpacked a lot, but don't look at its forum, so your perspective (and better knowledge of the strip's world; I haven't gotten around to reading Willis's other strips) is extremely welcome. Thanks for the look forward, T and Sun Tzu. (*sniff* poor Leslie...)
adamiani wrote:Hormones are the real unsung heroes of this series!
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Postby brasca » Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:30 pm

I like Shortpacked too. I think I found it because of a link from this site. I wanted to ask is it just a coincidence that pre makeover Amber resembles Helen?
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Postby TCampbell » Mon Jan 31, 2011 5:49 pm

I'm pretty sure it's a complete coincidence, unless you're talking about the archetype they're both taken from. Helen was a one-time throwaway extra when Amber was introduced.
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Postby brasca » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:20 pm

TCampbell wrote:I'm pretty sure it's a complete coincidence, unless you're talking about the archetype they're both taken from. Helen was a one-time throwaway extra when Amber was introduced.


That's what I thought although the archetype is uncanny and encouraging. A dead end job at a crazy toy store isn't the greatest outcome, but it's a slight improvment.
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Re: On Shortpacked

Postby EvilLlama001 » Sat Jun 11, 2011 12:52 pm

I think Leslie is being very unfair to Robin. Robin has made a lot of sacrifices for leslie: buying her a house, taking a beating from sarah palin for her throwing our Amber because of Leslies insecurities. Now after ONE transgression she is suddenly Hitler?!

Robin was perfecly happy to be just friends. But Leslie was unable to accept the fact that Robin was not a lesbian. She was willing to force Amber and Ethan to become homeless just because of her in ability to accept Robin for who she was and not what she wanted her to be.

Now Leslie is completly blanking out Robin. In the recent strips she is laughing and joking with Ethan and Amber. But she cant find the time to talk to Robin, you know ask how she is, check if she is OK. But nope, she'd rather talk to a bitchy Fillipino chick than have the talk to her supposed 'Princess Leia'. I guess YOUR feeling s are the only ones that matter, eh, Leslie?
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Re: On Shortpacked

Postby TCampbell » Sun Jun 12, 2011 9:26 pm

That strikes me as an uncharitable reading at best. Leslie kicked Robin out of her house and her life, not only because Robin humiliated her in front of millions of people, but because Robin seemed to demonstrate, with words and actions, that the relationship was making Robin unhappy. In other words, Les did it largely for Robin. What Robin now wants, or thinks she wants, is irrelevant. Leslie's convinced that her absence is what Robin needs.

Leslie stayed "just friends" with Robin as long as she could, and when she finally couldn't anymore, she told Robin so. That's within her rights. You can't always be friends with your crush, or your ex.

Amber was scared of becoming homeless after that, but it was actually Leslie who made preparations to leave the house herself. The house she owned, and let Amber and Ethan stay in, rent-free. That's above and beyond the call of duty, there!

Robin doesn't seem to be "Hitler" to Les, even now. You attack Hitler. Leslie is simply avoiding Robin, for the sake of her own sanity. I love Robin, but after what she's done, Les is definitely letting her off easy.
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Re: On Shortpacked

Postby EvilLlama001 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:18 am

TCampbell wrote:That strikes me as an uncharitable reading at best. Leslie kicked Robin out of her house and her life, not only because Robin humiliated her in front of millions of people, but because Robin seemed to demonstrate, with words and actions, that the relationship was making Robin unhappy.


Robin didnt seem that unhappy to me, she was fine in the pre-break up strips. And the sex-tape came after Robin expained to Leslie that she wanted to bang a dude to achieve inner-peace and broke up with her. As it was, it didnt work out. Such is life. No reason for Leslie to act like a big baby.
In other words, Les did it largely for Robin. What Robin now wants, or thinks she wants, is irrelevant. Leslie's convinced that her absence is what Robin needs.


Robin's feelings are hardly irrelevant, she was the one who tried the hardest to make the relationship work, Leslie didnt do anything. Also, your reading of Leslies actions doesnt really jibe with her pestering Amber to hire a new employee just so she cant talk to her ex.

Leslie stayed "just friends" with Robin as long as she could, and when she finally couldn't anymore, she told Robin so. That's within her rights. You can't always be friends with your crush, or your ex.


You say potato, I say emotional blackmail.

Amber was scared of becoming homeless after that, but it was actually Leslie who made preparations to leave the house herself. The house she owned, and let Amber and Ethan stay in, rent-free. That's above and beyond the call of duty, there!


If Leslie owned the house, and she left, then where does that leave Ethan and Amber? 'Yeah, screw you guys, I have emotional issues'


Robin doesn't seem to be "Hitler" to Les, even now. You attack Hitler. Leslie is simply avoiding Robin, for the sake of her own sanity. I love Robin, but after what she's done, Les is definitely letting her off easy.


By being friends with Malyaya even though she hates Robin?
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Re: On Shortpacked

Postby TCampbell » Wed Jun 15, 2011 2:04 pm

Yeah, I could go on and on about this, but I kinda feel like I already have.
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Re: On Shortpacked

Postby EvilLlama001 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:53 pm

TCampbell wrote:Yeah, I could go on and on about this, but I kinda feel like I already have.



Way to run away from an arguement.
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