, also known as Player vs Player
, is a webcomic
, written and drawn by Scott Kurtz
, with around 100,000 unique visitors per day (as of August 2005
). On February 1 2007
, it became the subject of its own animated series
The comic chronicles the adventures of a fictional video game magazine company and its employees. A popular but often controversial figure in the field of online comics, Kurtz is usually willing to share his opinions about comics and gaming culture in his blog, which is hosted on the same website as his comic strips.
Originally, PvP focused on video gaming and the larger "nerd culture" including comics and RPGs. 1UP.com described it as one of the first game-based comics, but not the original, saying, "...neither Scott Kurtz's PvP nor Jerry Holkins and Michael Krahulik's Penny Arcade were the first gaming-themed webcomic on the Internet. Over the years, the humor has broadened to include technology jokes, relationship humor, in-jokes about and mocking of the generation gaps between the different characters, with gaming increasingly taking a back seat. Kurtz occasionally comes under fire for his satire. Sometimes Kurtz will speak of his father's open disdain with the strip.
The first online strip was posted on Monday, May 4 1998 Kurtz normally updates the strip every day but has occasionally missed updates since the comic's inception, less so after the PVP 2.0 revamp. In April 2005, Kurtz changed to a Monday through Friday schedule, with Friday's strip in color and sketches on Saturday and Sunday, in response to the mounting work he had taken on as a monthly comic at Image and associated side projects. On June 4, 2005, Scott Kurtz posted on his blog that he was returning to the daily schedule. On May 6th 2008, Kurtz reaffirmed the strip to a Monday through Friday schedule . Although the strip was initially formatted 2x2 to fit on 800x600 resolution screens, it switched to "widescreen" (1x4) on February 3, 2003. The strip celebrated its 10th anniversary on Sunday, May 4 2008 with the wedding of two of PvP's main characters, Brent Sienna and Jade Fontaine.
The PVP hosting company Speakeasy.net has been criticized for their site being frequently down. In May 2007 Kurtz released a statement taking the blame himself, and asking readers not to blame Speakeasy.
Previously, Dork Storm Press printed 6 issues of original content as well as a trade paperback of online strips. The Dork Storm issues were collected into a trade paperback entitled "The Dork Ages."
In March 2003, Image Comics began publishing a monthly print comic book collection of the strip that combines old strips with new material. As of April 2006 25 issues have been released, as well as a 16-page primer (numbered as #0), and four trade paperbacks (each collecting 6 issues) - "PvP: At Large" (#1-6), "PvP: Reloaded" (#7-12), "PvP Rides Again" (#13-18), and now "PVP Goes Bananas" (#19-25).
At the 2004 San Diego Comicon, Kurtz announced that he would offer to newspapers the entire PvP series to reprint for free , but only if the strips were reprinted without any changes made. Kurtz said he made this offer because of his dissatisfaction with the terms offered to cartoonists by syndicates. As of yet no major American newspaper has agreed to regularly pick up his strip, even though it is free. One newspaper, The Kansas City Star, briefly ran one PvP comic per week in the fall of 2004.
A special edition of PvP was included with the purchase of the City of Heroes collector's edition, featuring Cole, Brent, Francis, and Skull and their misadventures in the game, depicted as the actual characters they were playing, which, appropriately enough, resembled their 'real world' appearances.
Kurtz's work for Image Comics was nominated for a 2005 Eisner Award for "Best Writer/Artist—Humor."
PVP won the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic July 21, 2006.
PvP: The Series
Kurtz announced on November 27
2006 that from February 2007, a traditionally animated
cartoon series would be available over the internet via a subscription service, produced in conjunction with Blind Ferret Entertainment
. Episodes will be 4-6 minutes in length and released on a monthly schedule, co-written and co-produced by webcartoonist Kristofer Straub
. A total of 12 episodes were produced, and are available at http://secure.blindferret.com/PvP/
The announcement of the series was marked with some interest on video game forums due to Kurtz's previous criticism of Tim Buckley when he announced CAD Premium, an animated series based on his own web comic. Particularly when both Buckley and Kurtz used the same animation studio for their respective ventures.
The boss. A committed family man, he has a rather loose grasp of new technology and is often nostalgic for 1980s
pop culture. Cole is (relatively speaking) the straight man
of the group and the one most likely to insist on actually making the magazine. When that's not an issue, off to join the silliness he goes.
In a newer running gag, he and Brent often jump a bridge in a forest area in a 1969 Dodge Charger
a la The Dukes of Hazzard
. He is also in possession of the De Lorean
from Back to the Future
which he acquired in medieval England after accidentally travelling back in time. Cole has a longstanding 'rivalry' of some sort with Max Powers, who runs Powerplay
Magazine in the offices one floor above the PvP offices. For a brief time, Cole was forced to allow a merger between the two magazine companies, but as of the strips from November 30th to December 2, which concluded a storyline called 'pandamonium', that had been running for several days in the strip, this changed, as Cole came into a large sum of money from the World Wildlife Fund, which he will receive annually because of a giant panda that is more or less living somewhere in the PvP offices. (This is the same Panda that repeatedly attacks Brent Sienna on a regular basis, and whom Brent brought to the office as an attempted replacement for Skull when he went missing.) Due to the large amount of money Cole has received (though the official amount has yet to be disclosed), he has since bought out Max's side of the partnership and once again runs PvP on his own terms. In a more recent story arc, it's revealed that Cole has been having problems with his marriage with Donna, although apparently he's now in counseling for it.
Brently Irving Sienna
Master cynic, creative director of the magazine, coffee addict/snob, married to Jade, and Apple Computer
(and recovering Amiga
) fanatic. His apathetic attitude towards everything frustrates his co-workers. At one time, Brent was an elementary school art teacher. He is also the master of insults (he temporarily lost the power to insult others when he cut off his ponytail
) and drives a Mini Cooper as a "statement". A running gag in the strip is that whenever the words "Panda", "Panda Attack" or "Giant Panda" or any variation of a phrase or sentence featuring the word are mentioned, Brent is immediately mauled by one that is living in the PvP offices. Brent got revenge in the August 6 2005 edition of the strip as he mauled a panda in a parallel universe. Brent's name was originally inspired by the Crayola crayon
color "Burnt sienna
". Brent has rarely taken off his sunglasses in panel, going so far as to pick up a loaner set of sunglasses while his were "in the shop". It has been revealed that this is because his eyes are extremely sensitive to sunlight - after removing his sunglasses at his wedding, he was quickly blinded. Brent also bears a resemblance to Sketch Turner, the protagonist of the game Comix Zone
for SEGA Genesis. As of July 9th, 2008, a new story arc has begun in which the World Wildlife Fund is planning to bring a second panda to the PvP offices in order to mate it to the male panda living in the offices, much to Brent's terror.
Jade Evelyn Fontaine Sienna
A columnist, and Brent's wife. She plays MMORPG
-style games such as EverQuest
and World of Warcraft
, and also chats online with friends she's made in the series. She is often criticized for being "unrealistic", although Kurtz states that she is somewhat modeled after his wife. In her first posting to the PvP blog, Angela Kurtz stated, "90% of the time, when you’re reading Jade, you’re reading about Scott’s feminine side, not about me."
It's also been revealed that Jade was not always the good, moral figure that she appears to be. In high school, she and her friend Sam were caught stealing the answers to their chemistry final. Jade also took her stepfather's car without permission, and was subsequently charged with robbery by her stepfather in order to teach her a lesson.
Needless to say, this has delighted Brent and Francis, since they tend to be the ones Jade rolls her eyes at in disgust when they're engaged in their antics. Despite her enjoyment of MMORPGs, Jade, in a City of Heroes based story arc which was later compiled into a special edition for the collector's edition of said game, claimed to have no desire to play in City of Heroes, as she is more a fan of sword and sorcery-type MMOs.
Francis Ray Ottoman
The youngest member of the staff. Technical support for the office (and also known to write the occasional review), he is currently working on a "he said she said" column with his girlfriend Marcy. Immature, easily excitable and always eager to be on the cutting edge of fads and technology, Francis represents every 'annoying gamerkid' stereotype. He loves his PC to an almost scary degree and routinely gets into arguments with Brent over Macs. Rarely does he show interest in anything besides computers or video games, though it has been stated that he owns a prominent collection of pony figurines.
He could be considered a young genius because he works for a gaming magazine at the tender age of 16, but he claims he only took the job so he could play video games all day long. Also, Cole mentions that he knew Francis' mother from high school, so Francis' continued employment may be a favor on Cole's part. Francis' appearance in the comic has gone through the most changes. His first artwork was choppy and caused reader confusion due to readers mistaking a zit for his mouth and his mouth for a "jagged chin" or part of his hair,
so his design was drastically changed later. For a long time he sported a T-shirt
depicting a human skull
, and messed-up moussed hair (the mousse was originally, and may still be, Skull's phlegm
He is rumored to be a "total Gaylord" (who collects pony statuettes) in the internet community due to a leakage on a Wiki article ostensibly by a close source (Marcy).
Due to his recent consummation of his relationship with Marcy "predicted" in a previous comic
strip, he "leveled up", aging three years and developing chin scruff.
Soon after he decided to be "so over" his old giant-skull tee shirt and opted for a different black t-shirt, this time depicting a much smaller skull-and-crossbones logo.
Skull Theodore Troll
A lovable troll
who is assigned to be a mythological animal friend to Brent a lá Pete's Dragon
. Nervous and childlike, he has an occasional girlfriend named Sonya, although Skull was exposed to be female in an early comic
This was in fact revealed to be a joke.
He is now typically portrayed as genderless, though Brent and Francis do their best to figure out which gender he really is (even going so far as set a lingerie magazine out, to see his reaction. Skull first acts like a typical male, whistling at the pictures, then wondering to himself if they had a piece in his size and color). Skull debuted in another of Kurtz's web cartoons called Samwise
, which focused on the world of Ultima Online
. Though he seems to be an utterly harmless, rather clueless and childish creature who doesn't even seem to understand the nature of violence, Skull has a dark underside that the other characters sometimes see but blame on outside forces.
He has actually threatened to eat Francis,
and doesn't always take Brent's abuse
—not to mention his epic battle with the crazed Emperor Blue.
His carefree, clueless and therefore very un
-monsterish nature could be a side-effect of the numerous blows and shocks he's received over the run of the comic. The comic's cast page states that, as a mythological creature, Skull's only real need is attention, something not in short supply around the office. The middle name "Theodore" was recently revealed to be the long form for "the" (as "Skull The Troll"). Skull was reassigned when Brent finally got married, much to Brent's dissatisfaction. His first assignment was a young boy named Kevin with a somewhat sadistic streak, who lived near U.S. Route 422
in western Pennsylvania
, at least until his death due to a reckless wagon ride after four days (reader time) with Skull
Since then, Skull has attempted to befriend parodies of the children in The Family Circus
escapade ended when Skull was rescued by Jason Fox
Robbie and Jase
Originally, these two fat, beer swilling drop-outs sat in the break room on an old sofa and played sports video games endlessly. Old friends of Cole's, they were kept employed mostly out of pity and were only occasionally seen. After Robbie won the lottery, he bought a mansion and employed a butler named "Butler". He also quit the magazine so he and Jase could play video games together without being hassled to actually produce anything. For a short period of time Max Powers took away their sofa, games and beer, causing them to sober up, lose weight, and produce game reviews.
Following the lottery win, Robbie and Jase had a falling out when Jase started dating Robbie's gardener and had less time for him. Jase has since moved in with her, lost weight and no longer wears the hat over his eyes. This ended when Cole and Brent paid him a visit on behalf of Robbie and inadvertently sparked a row between him and his girlfriend who wanted to forbid him from playing console games ever again. As a result Jase moved back in Robbie's mansion, where his old friend gave him back his hat.
Arch-enemy and rival publisher of Cole, Max Powers runs Powerplay
magazine. While seemingly jovial and outgoing, for some reason Max is generally despised by the PvP crew. While perhaps not as truly evil as Brent and Cole claim, he can doubtlessly be quite annoying. Eric Burns
of the webcomic review site Websnark
wrote an interesting analysis of Max. Powerplay
recently merged with PvP
to prevent PvP's
certain financial ruin. Because of his narcissistic attitude, Max was unable to see Skull, and was unaware of the troll's existence. However, Shecky punched Max as an 'incentive to see the world beyond [his] nose', changing Max's perceptions. Unfortunately, Max now thinks Cole is letting the staff keep a pair of 'dogs' on the premises and says the 'yappy one' (Shecky) snapped at his face. (See March 13, 2006 blog entry.) As of December second in the strip, PvP
have gone their separate ways, as Cole has come into a large sum of money which he will receive annually from the World Wildlife Fund, thanks to the near-constant attacks on Brent by a giant panda, and the fact that it appears said panda is now more or less living somewhere in the PvP offices.
Another intern, Francis' long time FPS
opponent and romantic interest. She was originally referred to as "Devilfish," as Francis only knew her as an online rival, and in fact he didn't even know she was a girl until Skull caused them to meet in person after substituting for Francis in an online fps
tournament. She is an avid fan of anime
, especially Sailor Moon
. Marcy has had two artwork changes. She started out geeky and tomboyish
, then changed to an average 16-year-old girl,
and then returned to geeky and tomboyish, much to Francis' displeasure. Due
to her recent consummation of her relationship with Francis, she "leveled up", aging three years and developing a more voluptuous physique.
Acquaintance of Sonya's and a radio producer. Gwen had a crush on Jade and kissed her once at party. Brent had a crush on Gwen before he knew she was a lesbian
Jade's younger sister. She is a sly coquette who aims to seduce most of the men on the PvP
staff just to irritate Jade, not necessarily because she wants male attention. She has attempted to seduce the "handsome, young, powerful, and rich" Max Powers.
She has a mutual crush on Reggie and the two are now secretly dating one another.
Scratch Fury: Destroyer of Worlds
Skull's cat. Francis attempted to give it to Brent to make the latter feel some Christmas spirit, but the ploy failed and Skull decided to take the cat in. Skull accidentally zapped him with his "genius machine"
, granting him superhuman intelligence. Scratch is bent on global domination, but his evil plans for attaining it have so far been foiled by his feline foibles and proclivities
He is Pinky and the Brain
in the same body, and they're fighting for dominance. It is worth noting that while Scratch is still a genius - after Skull's departure, he was seen in the basement, working on a machine of some sort with a welding torch - he appears to be unable to communicate to the other members of the magazine. It has been suggested that the ambient magic surrounding Skull was what made Scratch's ability to communicate with humans possible in the first place. However, Kurtz has admitted that the lack of understanding Scratch was just a mistake, and changed the strip to have Scratch deliberately talking in cat-speak.
Cole's pet basset hound. Scratch, feeling that he needed an archenemy of his own stature, used Skull's "genius machine"
to grant him ten times the intelligence of a normal basset hound. As it happens, "ten times as smart as a basset hound" is still pretty stupid, but at least now he can talk (when he remembers it). Kirby also recently had a seizure
Scratch blamed himself and decided to make Kirby his minion and friend instead of his enemy. In a rare moment of affection for the slow-witted dog, Scratch actually hugged Kirby. Named after Kurtz's own basset hound.
Skull's girlfriend. She does not seem to mind that Skull is apparently genderless. Sonya is also the little sister of Max Powers, Cole's nemesis. They share a dislike of Max, although Sonya's dislike is at the level of sibling rivalry
, instead of the blind, vindictive hatred of Brent and Cole.
Reggie is a blind, black friend of Brent's. He is very assertive, and is very forthcoming about his disability. He was later hired by Max Powers when he started Powerplay
. After the merger he began working at PvP
. He is immune to Miranda's sexual advances because he is blind, but would remark that she smelled good whenever she would pass by him. He and Miranda have decided to start dating, but Miranda posed the question of keeping it a secret from Jade and Brent since Reggie works with them. He says that it won't be too difficult since he is a "third string character", an allusion to the fact that he doesn't appear in the comics on a regular basis, and breaks the 4th wall. Based on a friend of Kurtz's.
Cole's wife. Seldom seen in the more recent strips. She was married to Cole on February 24, 1996, which is the same date as Angie and Scott's wedding. Recently, Donna and Cole were attempting to divorce. It is not stated if they reconciled, but it seems that they are attending counseling.
Although not a part of the official PvP
Universe and therefore not normally seen with the other characters, Kurtz's dad, a German immigrant, occasionally appears in the comic to share his views on profanity, modern American culture, or whatever else happens to strike his fancy. According to Kurtz, everything the character says is transcribed from his real father's words. Kurtz's dad usually says something quirkily funny (
) or talks about things which he does not know much about, which is followed by Kurtz himself saying "This is so
going in the strip!". He often complains about his son not being in the newspapers and wants him to be more like his vision of perfect cartooning, Charles Schulz
. Additionally, he represents the community of older PC users and gamers (at least in the comic, Kurtz and his dad play World of Warcraft
, with Kurtz's dad as a pink-haired gnome, an example of his lovable crankiness).
Also known as the Ottobot
. Originally a robotic girlfriend built by Francis, the Robot was rebuilt and reprogrammed into a robotic clone of Francis, which took his place in front of a theater camping out for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
. However, at some point between the time the robot was placed at the theater and the release date for Episode III
(Francis tried to make national news by camping out for Episode III before Episode II
came out), the theater was turned into an antique store. When Francis returned for the robot, it handcuffed him to a pipe and took his place at the office. It was discovered that the robot was not really Francis when it shorted out while making out
with Marcy. Scratch Fury has now turned the robot into a machine to disguise himself as a human and attempted to take over the town at by attacking the Mayor. The plan failed and the robot was taken as evidence after Scratch Fury escaped.
In a long-running gag, Brent is occasionally, suddenly and inexplicably attacked by a giant panda
). Brent brought The Panda in as a replacement for Skull after the troll ran away, but Brent quickly discovered that the Panda wouldn't take the kind of abuse Brent usually heaped on Skull.
At one point, Brent was temporarily blinded
and the panda refrained from attacking him
, suggesting either that it prefers to maul Brent through surprise attacks, which Brent had foiled this one time unknowingly due to improved senses from losing his vision, or that it figured he had suffered enough and refrained from attacking due to sympathy. Once, the tables were turned
The panda has been a topic for multiple guest strips:
A new story arc beginning on July 7th saw a visit from an agent of the World Wildlife Fund, which is paying PvP for having the panda on its premises, revealing on the 9th that the Fund wishes to mate the panda living at the offices (which is claimed to be a male) to a female which is to be brought to the PvP offices, much to Brent's terror.
Ricky "Turtle" Tuttle
was formerly a student at Francis's school. Tuttle hero-worshipped Francis, and annoyed Francis by following him around and imitating him. It turned out that by imitating Francis, Turtle became one of the most popular kids at Francis's school
His imitations ultimately resulted in Tuttle's death in a bungee jumping accident.
Tuttle has since returned as a ghost; Francis finds him no less annoying
Sheckles Montgomery Troll
Skull's "baby cousin".
He is in fact an adult con artist by the name of Shekels Montgomery Troll. Soon after his appearance he attempted to steal Brent's wallet with a hug and farewell advice but was caught. Based loosely on W. C. Fields
Samantha "Sam" Woods
Jade's High School best friend
, with whom Jade rebelled and spent some time in Juvenile Hall.
Butler (his real name) is the butler for Robbie and Jase, two millionaire ex-jocks. He often uses Robbie and Jase's slang terms, although in a much more sophisticated manner. He is typically capable of solving any problem in the other characters' lives, nearly to the level of deus ex machina
, and has skills ranging from massage to ordained ministry.
The Weird Gaming Store Witch
The owner of a weird little gaming store which stocks some actually magical items, such as the twenty-sider Knuckle of Ka'Pua Pua
He insists that he is an "actual" witch, not a Wiccan
. He has a strict policy of "No refunds." He looks somewhat reminiscent of Severus Snape
Many of the running gags in PVP are actually references to running gags from other media (television programs, films, games, cartoons, etc.).
- When any character expresses (intentionally or otherwise) a habit or taste that Francis considers effeminate, Francis appears from off-panel to quip, "Gaaayy..." (Note: This statement initially was made by Moe the Ogre, a friend of Skull's from his Ultima Online days )
- Cole hearing things out of context, causing him to think 'hanky-panky' is going on; a reference to Don Knotts' character, Mr. Furley, on Three's Company. Alternately, Cole assuming he's hearing things out of context, causing him to not realize he's actually jumped to the correct conclusion.
- Brent often becomes the subject of ridicule because of his exclusive use of a Macintosh computer. During one storyline, he actually convinces Francis to use an iPod in an attempt to be featured in an Apple commercial.
- Skull guarding a door for Brent, Francis or Scratch and finding different ways, with varying degrees of success, for keeping Cole away.
- The panda attacking Brent (or others like him ) whenever anyone says the word "panda" or a variation of it.
- Brent always wears sunglasses, even while wearing a mask or in bandages. There are very few (less than 10) comics featuring him without glasses, one of which is in a guest comic. In his words, they are "For your protection" because any woman that looks into his deep blue eyes immediately falls in love with Brent. Lesbians are immune (as seen in a strip where he takes the glasses off for Gwen). The first time he took off his glasses with his face fully in frame was during his wedding
- Brent and Cole appearing as 70s detectives Bulldog and Cooch, invariably ending in an explosion.
- The "Gaming Fez", which grants godlike gaming ability to the wearer.
- Small strips about what Scott Kurtz's basset hound has done.
- Cole sporting a wizard's hat signifying that the next few strips will involve Dungeons & Dragons.
- The first three panels showing actions, with the fourth panel showing a character saying, "And that's when [outrageous action occurred]."
- A character screaming "KHAN!" (like Captain Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) when their archenemy has made a move against them
- The Revolution overthrowing the Halfpixel forums (thus breaking the fourth wall) and establishing an Empire against the oncoming GasBandit threat. Occurs randomly once a month.
- Breaking the "Fourth Wall" which inevitably leads to a character, usually Brent, being beheaded. Although referred to as breaking the fourth wall, the act is more like breaking continuity, as aside from the characters saying "we are breaking the fourth wall", there is rarely any actual fourth wall-breaking going on.
- The fictional PVP Magazine has appeared many times as a prop in Real Life Comics, but has never appeared in PVP itself, with the exception of an April 19, 2006, guest comic by Kristofer Straub.
- Scott's dad calling to complain or ask questions about the strips.
- A running "fight" with the Penny Arcade guys.
- Brent's hatred for Christmas spirit.
- Jade's planning of Halloween parties and Brent dreading them.
- Occasional references to popular MMORPG's, beginning first with Ultima Online, then Jade playing EverQuest, and more recently World Of Warcraft. The WoW jokes have recently spun off into a new comic strip, "Ding!".
- The first three panels showing actions, with the fourth panel showing an ambulance after one of the characters unknowingly puts themself in a dangerous situation.
- Skull doing something on the phone (listening on someone else's conversation or making prank calls) then getting caught doing it and literally saying "click" and "dial toooone" in a feeble attempt to fool the person who caught him.