GPF News Archive

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Hey, gang. I know, I know... eight(-ish) months since the last News post. My track record is still terrible. I started working on another post tangential to the previous one (about GPF's lack of Patreon support), but I just never got around to finishing or posting it. Now, I'm not sure I'll ever post it, despite its continued relevance. That said, I did want to post this one, mostly because I've been doing this comic long enough to know what's coming, and I wanted to get my two cents in before they get drowned out by the deluge.

Today marks the start* of our third Harry Potter parody. This time we'll be riffing on The Prisoner of Azkaban, and while intimate knowledge of the original source material isn't required, at least a passing knowledge of the film will come in handy. However, reading the prior two parodies is an absolute must, so if you haven't read "The Napier's Bones" and "The Chat Room of Enigmas" recently, now might be a good time to refresh your memory.

So what about this warrants a News article? Well, it seems like, based on the past inundation of my inbox, my Potter parodies tend to produce the most negative feedback of just about anything I've ever posted.**

Why do so many people not like "Harry Barker"? I'm not entirely sure. I suppose the majority of it comes from a dislike of the source material. The Harry Potter series has both its fans and detractors, and I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with getting frustrated by an overindulgence in something you don't particularly like. "Pottermania" has been in full swing for nearly two decades now, and only now after the books have been turned into films lining the uberfans' video cabinets does it seem to be abating, if only slightly. Some people oppose the series on religious grounds, while others are critical of its themes, characters, or plot. Some folks just don't think the series is very well written. Personally, while I'll say its far from flawless, I did enjoy the books immensely and found them engrossing and entertaining. I found the films to be a nice condensation of the much denser and richer prose, and I enjoy the overall themes of friendship, family, loyalty, and acceptance to be well executed and worthy to sharing with young readers. To each their own, I suppose.

I think another objection some folks have had to "Harry Barker", at least based on e-mails and forum posts of yesteryear, is a general sense that many Faulties consider my original stories to be overall superior to my parody work. Naturally, I'm flattered by those who have said as much and that's one reason why, after GPF's early formative months, most of my parody bits were reduced to one-shot jokes buried within larger, original stories. I can't argue with these complaints one iota, and I won't endeavor to try.

So why do I feel the need to come out and defend "Harry Barker"? I think, in large part, many people who dismiss it so quickly do so because of its association with the source material than anything else. They roll their eyes and think, "Oh, he's parodying Harry Potter again" without even bothering to give the stories a try. As such, I thought I'd share a few little tidbits of information that, while I doubt it will persuade the detractors, at least it will help them understand why I keep coming back to this well:

  • These parodies require a tremendous amount of work: Outside of GPF's "mega-arcs" (Surreptitious Machinations, To Thine Own Self..., and Scylla and Charybdis)—which, in addition to taking a year or more to execute and serialize, require multiple years of pre-planning and foreshadowing—the "Harry Barker" stories are some of the most intense and complicated stories published on this site. Each one requires an enormous amount of planning and research, first to be true to the source material and be worthy of calling a parody, but secondly to work as a completely separate, geeky tale in its own right. Unlike the "mega-arcs", where I can draw that research and planning out while "relaxing" with shorter, funnier stories, these parodies concentrate that research into a very narrow window of time, requiring a huge amount of focus to get it right. These strips are also some of the most visually challenging as well, requiring more special effects and detailed art than the majority of GPF's simplistic style allows. I often feel relieved and exhausted once these stories are finished, but I also feel accomplished and proud of what I've managed to pull off.
  • These are some of the geekiest stories I've ever written: Many readers have complained over the years that GPF isn't as geeky as it used to be. Admittedly, this is because I've found that my strength in storytelling lies in characterization. I think my best writing is character-driven, where I let the characters' personalities lead the story and their interactions shape the plot. This means I've come to rely less on "Linux and Java jokes" and let the tech angle of the strip form the setting and background while the characters' relationships take center stage. By contrast, the "Harry Barker" stories contain some of the highest concentrations of high-tech in-jokes in the entire Archive; they are, quite literally, a translation of the Potter universe into computer geek terms, replacing "wizards" with "hackers" and "magic" with "coding". The references under the comics and Premium-exclusive Author's Notes are littered with links to Wikipedia to explain some of the references, and I never write these parodies without a browser tab permanently open to the infamous, one and only Jargon File. I've never been one to toot my own horn, but some of the substitutions I've made in translating these stories have been some of the work I'm most proud of. (The "worms" and "spiders" in "Chat Room of Enigmas" in particular always tickle my fancy, while some of the items in this current story are sure to generate some laughs.) Anyone who has complained about GPF's lack of geekery in recent years but who has been dismissive of the "Barker" stories because of the Potter association are really selling themselves short.
  • I have a lot of fun writing them: Despite the huge amount of work these stories require, I wouldn't keep coming back to them if I didn't enjoy them. With the story itself largely written for me, I can spend more of my time compacting it (and still trying to keep it coherent) and concentrating on making it both fun and funny. I enjoy it on multiple levels: first as a Potter fan, second as a computer geek, and third as an artist and writer. It's a chance to play in another universe, with characters and concepts that are both familiar yet foreign at the same time, and to bring something new to both the GPF universe and the Potter one.

For those who insist on raining on the parade and demand to know "When will this crap be over so I can start reading the comic I like again?"***, "Harry Barker and the Prisoner of Angband" is scheduled to run for the remainder of the current GPF "year", meaning it should end somewhere around the end of October 2016. Since I'm still in the process of writing it, it might end up running a bit shorter or longer than I originally planned, but not by more than a couple weeks at most. To those folks, I insist on sharing my usual advice: If you have problems digesting the story piecemeal, as it's posted, please come back and try reading it all at once, in a single sitting. Some people who have tried this have found the stories much more enjoyable, and maybe you will too.

*OK, technically the story started on the previous Monday; all of the "Harry Barker" stories have a short prologue and epilogue that puts them into context with the real, canonical continuity. However, as the story gets posted, I generally avoid advertising the fact before the "big reveal" in the story's "title card" lest I give away the surprise.

**Actually, the most polarizing GPF story to date is, hands down, Year Seven's "Providence", where Trudy meets Dr. Akhilesh Sehgal. Despite what I think is a carefully crafted story that gives equal time to Dr. Sehgal's Christian beliefs and Trudy's apparently atheistic views, many people either praised it or panned it, usually on the basis of their perception of whether or not I was trying to evangelize the audience. Interestingly, I think the feedback from that story says more about the people who commented upon it than about the story itself, with some of the most interesting comments coming from people who recognized both the balance I gave to the story and their own personal bias.

***This is a paraphrase of many e-mails I've received over the years, not just about the "Harry Barker" stories. It's been asked of the "mega-arcs" too, as well as a few other stories that somehow didn't fit neatly into the correspondent's preconceived notions of what a GPF story ought to be. In all cases, my response has been the same as the one written above.

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