Warning: Contains minor spoilers.

Scott Kurtz's PvP (Player vs. Player) is one of the longest running webcomics around, having debuted on May 4, 1998. Moreover, unlike most webcomics, PvP runs seven days a week, meaning it has more sheer content than just about any other online comic. While it's not as well-drawn or (in my completely subjective opinion) as funny as, say, Penny Arcade, it certainly holds it own. You can read it at pvponline.com.

PvP is nominally a gaming comic, which pretty well explains its setting; most of the action takes place in the offices of PvP Magazine, a publication devoted to video games. Over the years, Kurtz has been focusing less and less on gaming (earning complaints from some readers, who he occasionally mocks in the strip), so at this point the magazine company pretty much exists for the sole purpose of having jokes about slacking off and business meeting lead-ins.

Continuity is a strange beast in PvP. While the characters acknowledge the passage of time, they don't seem to age - Francis, for instance, has been 16 for about six years now. Most things in the comic affect future events, but not all of them; for instance, one of the running gags of the strip is that, upon someone saying the word "panda", a giant carnivorous version of one comes out of nowhere and mauls Brent (one of the main characters) to death. Obviously this doesn't have any continuity with the rest of the strip, because the next day he'll be fine. Furthermore, the characters will sometimes "break the fourth wall" - which Kurtz apparently believes means that they get Matrix-like powers - and manifest lightsabers or adamantium claws or some other pop-culture reference, which almost always results in someone's head getting lopped off. Probably the best comparison one could make is that continuity in PvP is similar to continuity in The Simpsons.

Now then, here's some character info:

Major Characters:

These are characters which appear in the majority of strips:

Cole Richards is the editor-in-chief of PvP Magazine. Despite his middle-aged appearance, Cole is a man is his early or mid-30s. He's an island of stability in an ocean of chaos. Or something. Cole is often perplexed by modern video games, which is rather unfortunate considering that his livelihood is intimately entangled with them. His main hobbies are complaining about his wife, playing 80's video games on emulators, and complaining about his wife.

Brent Sienna is the "Creative Director" for PvP Magazine (whatever the hell that means), mostly because he and Cole have been friends since grade school. Besides being a complete cynic and a pompous ass, Brent partakes of the greatest vice of all: being a Mac user. Never at a loss for a sarcastic remark, Brent has been known in the past to mock everything from RPG players to alternative comics to furries. Nonetheless, he's somehow managed to get involved in a long-term relationship with...

Jade Fontaine, the magazine's lead writer. Jade prefers MMORPGs, but she can frag with the best of them, given the opportunity. She also spends a lot of time trying to extinguish the dogma that most gamers are men, to the degree that one sometimes wonders if she plays video games because she enjoys them, or just to prove a point.

Francis Ray Ottoman is a computer geek of the highest order, and provides tech support and game reviews for the magazine. He's also one of the most unscrupulous teenagers you'll ever meet; to wit, he got his job in the first place solely as a means of getting free games. Francis can frequently be seen insulting Mac users (like Brent) and console gamers, when he's not coming up with some nutty money-making scheme.

Skull is a Troll. Literally. Despite being hundreds of years old, he often acts like a young child - certainly, he often seems as intelligent as one. Despite the expectations one would have of a troll, Skull is quite innocent and lovable - which also makes him a target of Brent and Francis' pranks.

Robbie and Jase are employed by virtue of sympathy. They were buddies of Cole and Brent's (well, Cole's) in college, and he simply can't bear to get rid of them, even though they've done precisely one bit of work during the magazine's entire run. They exist mostly as an outlet for fart jokes, which could explain why Kurtz seems to be phasing them out.

Minor Characters

These characters, while appearing relatively infrequently, are still somewhat important to the strip:

Donna Richards is Cole's wife, infamous for her Death Glare. She really does love her husband, but wishes he would spend less time on the computer and more with her and their children, Dylan and Lindsay.

Marcy "Devilfish" Wisniewsky is Francis's arch gaming-nemesis and "sorta-girlfriend". She mostly appears in story arcs revolving around him, but since Cole has hired her on as a receptionist, that has changed to some degree.

Max Powers and Cole have been enemies since their college days, so you can imagine how the latter felt when Max started up his own gaming magazine in the office right next to PvP Magazine. Max is a stereotypical business type: Slick and insincere with a fake smile that never goes away. He usually appears at the worst possible time.

Sonya Powers is nothing like her brother; she's kind, considerate and caring (if not too bright). She seems to be smitten with Skull, and is completely unaware of the fact that he's not human.

Gwen Dawson is PvP's token gay character, introduced to the group via Sonya. To Kurtz's credit, she possesses none of the stereotypes typically attributed to lesbians. (The cynical part of me, however, gets the feeling that Kurtz didn't originally intend for Gwen to be gay; it may have just been a convenient way to finish a story arc.)

Scratch Fury, Destroyer of Worlds is Skull's pet cat, made super-intelligent by a machine intended to affect his owner the same way. (As you may have guessed, he was named by Francis.) Scratch's few adventures thus far have all involved him plotting to take over the world, but then being distracted by something a normal cat would be interested in. Basically, he's both Pinky AND the Brain. As of yet, Skull is the only one who's aware of his super-intelligence, but has been unable to get anyone to believe him.



In addition, Image Comics publishes a bimonthly comic by Kurtz with the same title. I can't really say much about that, since I've never read it, but I felt it at least deserved a footnote.

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