Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show

The best-known webcomic about movies, Multiplex by Gordon McAlpin, will release its first book collection this week. Enjoy Your Show is available for order from the website.

Multiplex Enjoy Your Show cover

It contains the first 102 strips (which ran July 2005 – November 2006) with some art revisions and cleanup, plus a new 12-page story set on the opening night of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (authorized by Lucasfilm, according to the author). The bonus comics previously available in the PDF ebooks McAlpin sold are also included.

Books are a great way to catch up with well-known webcomics, but I am beginning to wonder about the strategy behind them. By the time a strip builds the audience that wants and can support these kinds of print collections, several years have gone by. Should reprint books always start with the first strips? Well, that’s a question outside the scope of this review. In this particular case, the early start means that the film references are outdated, but since the strip is really about the soap opera that happens among the staff of this particular multi-screen movie theater and how frustrating their customers can be, that’s not too much of a detriment.

As a new reader, I would have appreciated more context from the author. The introduction (by a friend of McAlpin’s who actually worked in a theater and suggested the concept) and foreword by McAlpin provide some background on the strip’s origin, but the book starts right up with a Prequel (the new story mentioned above). I didn’t realize until I read the accompanying press release that this was even a new story. It’s intended to introduce the cast all in one place, but that’s a lot of similar-costumed characters to take in. I would have preferred a more traditional text explanation of the premise and characters, or a story without such an outdated punching bag.

Because there’s no table of contents, I didn’t realize until finishing the book that there are character bios in the back. Other extras include a strip about how McAlpin creates the strip, using his templates from Illustrator, and guest strips he’s done for other webcomics. I’d have been more into the new opening if I’d previously been following the strip online, which is probably the more likely audience for this book. I mention feeling uncomfortable about the beginning material and the book’s structure because the author has said he’d like to get more bookstore distribution, and for that audience, this kind of concern may be more of a stumbling block.

Multiplex pirate strip excerpt

In honor of today being a made-up holiday, here’s a strip excerpt in which Kurt takes down a film pirate. The distinctively flat style is reminiscent of a grown-up South Park. McAlpin doesn’t use black lines to surround his characters or elements, so sometimes, depending on colors, foreground elements fade into the background. (A girl’s blonde hair against a tan wall, or the staff’s red vests against burgundy theater seats.) The art is often static, with strips driven by dialogue. It took me a while to get used to reading it, and at first I had to pay close attention to the hair colors and styles to tell the characters apart.

The comics are accompanied by short author notes, which I always appreciate. They mention how he feels about the art or the techniques used or comment on the characters or the movie references or give some history about how that strip was created. Because the comics don’t have a set length (number of panels), the layout is continuous. By that I mean, strip A may take a full page, while B may take only 2/3rds and C runs from the bottom of B’s page to the top of the next. Since the panels are most often basic rectangle pictures, with few artistic effects or panel-to-panel connections, this is rarely a problem. I just don’t think I’ve ever seen a strip collection before that splits single comics across a page turn.

Overall, the book didn’t win me over, by which I mean I’m not subscribing to the webcomic, but I don’t regret the time spent reading it. I do feel like I know the cast better and get the jokes about their personalities (stereotypical as some of them are — the white-boy black wannabe, particularly). If you work retail in some fashion or like jokes about what’s playing at the local theater, then you’re a better match for it than I am. (The author provided a review copy.)


13 Responses to “Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show”

  1. Nick Says:

    I used to read this strip and found it generally very likable. It is very much of-the-moment, though: the movie references probably aren’t as clever or interesting after a few months, let alone years.

    I gave up reading Multiplex because McAlpin had become (to my mind) pretty intense about raising start up money for this book project. It may have turned me off, but I guess it worked, so good for him…

  2. AngieBatgirl Says:

    Are you serious? You stopped reading a great webcomic cuz he was trying to raise money for the book? Wow…how dare he do that. What a jerk.
    I follow him on FB and Twitter and I don’t recall his Kickstarter thing being all that intense. And he’s been trying to get the word out about preordering the book but so what? How the hell else is he supposed to sell them?

  3. Bryan Says:

    @Nick

    How dare you criticize an artist for wishing to make a living off of his art? How about you ask an actor to be in a movie for no money, or a singer to release an album without seeing a cent. Gordon is passionate about what he does and he works hard to give people comics to enjoy for FREE. If you don’t want to buy the book or send him KickStarter money, so be it! Don’t do it. From what it sounds like, he didn’t lose much when you stopped reading.

  4. Anon Says:

    @Bryan: I’m pretty sure he meant that Gordon was asking for donations so he could print a book which he later sold at additional cost. I could be wrong about the specifics though.

    And he did lose some ad revenue.

  5. Kira Says:

    Anon: Check out the Kickstarter page set up to fund the book.

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gmcalpin/join-the-multiplex-book-1-club-of-awesome/posts/3533

    All those donations were rewarded. If you paid $30 for the book, it was sent to you once it was printed. Supporting the Kickstarter project was more of a preorder than a donation.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Hey now. Nick wasn’t saying McAlpin shouldn’t make money. He was saying that he, personally, was being turned off by how it was done, so he found different entertainment elsewhere. I compare it to no longer watching a particular TV show because the bugs and banners advertising at the bottom of the screen become too annoying.

    Don’t jump all over him. You’re saying the same thing he is — “if you don’t like it, quit reading” — only you’re being ruder about it.

  7. Nick Says:

    Thanks, Johanna.

    Please, make no mistake, I think it’s great if people can make a living off their art. I mean, GREAT.

    However, I don’t personally want to deal with Kickstarter. This is a major recession that is ruining a lot of lives. If I’m going to be altruistic, then there are people who need money a lot more than web cartoonists at the moment. (And Kickstarter is altruism: there is no guarantee that the project will reach fruition or that the product will be something that I’d want had I reviewed it before giving).

    Go for all the funding you can get, and more power to you if people want to give. But that’s not what I want to do. As a result, the more pleas I hear, the more I’m inclined to visit other sites.

  8. Gordon Says:

    I appreciate my readers wanting to “defend” me, or whatever, but I lost maybe 50–60¢ in ad revenue over the course of a YEAR due to losing Nick as a reader.

    Saying the fundraising project was “pretty intense” irks me, because if he had simply not scrolled down to read the blog post, he would have been blissfully unaware of its existence, save for a 23 pixel high progress bar above the strip. And even THAT was avoidable, because it wasn’t in the RSS feed.

    That’s hardly in your face or obtrusive.

    There was NO expectation for people to give. Since you read the posts about it enough for it to annoy you, you know that I said so many, many times. I actively discouraged some people from pledging, because I had people saying “once I get my next paycheck,” and for God’s sake, if it comes down to that, you should be spending the money on something else.

    PLENTY of people waited ’til it was available for pre-order online, and plenty of others will wait until they can flip through it in their hands in the coming months.

    Nick’s comments show that he didn’t value the strip beyond the act of generating ad impressions for me (assuming he doesn’t use AdBlock). If he had, he would realize that altruism means you’re giving something for nothing in return — and that people who support the strip have ALREADY gotten something in return.

    The comics are free, sure. But every hour I have to spend doing technical illustrations or book production is an hour I’m not drawing comics. The people who chose to support did so because they wanted MORE comics than I can generate in my spare time. In no way can you describe that as purely altruistic unless you don’t value the comics at all.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for clarifying how you ran your campaign, Gordon. I agree, Kickstarter projects to print books, if handled correctly, are more like preorder drives than charity.

  10. Gordon Says:

    Thanks for the fair review, too; I forgot to mention that. I often err on the side of letting the comics speak for themselves (for similar reasons to why I resisted doing character bios in the Bonus Features section). But perhaps you’re right that I could have done more to make the book a better introduction to new readers than it is. I disagree that Star Wars is an outdated punching bag, though. ;) Star Wars is ETERNAL.

    I may change my introduction if/when I get to a second printing (along with a few errors to correct) — or at the very least, it’s something I’ll keep in the front of my mind when cooking up the front matter for future volumes (if they ever get made).

  11. Thom Says:

    It’s been a few months since I read the strip, but it was really more just my forgetting to check and falling behind. I am good at that with web comics. I definitely connected, but I had years of working at movie theaters that gave me an instant connection with the strip.

  12. Johanna Says:

    Oh, yeah, Star Wars is eternal — but only the original, good, first three. :)

    Sometimes, as a new reader approaching a long-running project, I want a little hand-holding so I don’t feel so new to the party. I’m not sure everyone’s like me, but I figure intro content can’t hurt.

    I hope you do get a chance for more books.

  13. June 2011 Previews: The End of the Summer » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] movies? Especially jokes about them? Then Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show (Chase Sequence, JUN11 0987, Aug 24, $19.95) is for you. This webcomic collection, based around [...]

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