Fight! Fight To The Death!

While a subject such as this is generally reserved for a webcomic’s respective message board, a cold land, rife with fan loyalty and bitter resentment, we’ll just agree that this may be carried on in that arena at a later date.

For readers of my column here on DS, you know of my interest in the experiment that is now The Pet Professional. This previously stellar strip has seen a creative shake-up not once but TWICE in as many weeks and now faces the possibility of having four different artists in a rotation more crowded than a guest strip week.

Jason Salsbury, the creator of PetPro, has stated that there is no competition ongoing between the artists and that they are coexisting in an effort to bring the strip back to a respectable, regular update schedule. But what fun is it to have four guys in the same creative position getting along? That’s why I’ve arranged this first-ever Webcomic Steel Cage Death Match, to determine a winner of this non-contest. Everything’s legal; eye-gouging, sharp composition, vulgar language, it’s all fair game. But who will come out on top? Here’s how our challengers stack up. (I’ll do my best to keep them straight and separate, even with Salsbury sabotaging my efforts to do so.)

In the first corner, bringing a hefty dose of cartoony fun and likewise unrealistic proportions, we have Jason Williams. While it’s hard to gleam much from each creator’s first effort, it’s clear from this first shot that Williams is well-honed in the arena of cartooning. Both Williams and his next opponent were given a parodied script of the classic Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck Wabbit Season/Duck Season routine. True, his takes on the famous duo are quite faithful to the source material, but it’s his depictions of all things Star Wars on his website that suggest he has more than enough chops to take on the others. Lacking in very little (other than a complete disregard for the respect of Elmer Fudd’s prized speech impediment, but that may be blamed on the writer, not the artist), Williams shows that he is a strong first choice. What more could the others have to offer to make this bout an interesting one?

Enter the second combatant, Mr. Spencer Brinherhoff III! Upon a first, second, or even third look, the reader might be fooled into thinking Brinherhoff is the next Kaufenberg (the first and best PetPro artist). Ah, but look closer and you will see nothing more than a mere charlatan! Notice how closely he sticks to the sharp outlines and flimsy inside line work of his predecessor. The reproduction is SO close that the only things that stick out about this entry are the flaws of the copy. Kaufenberg’s line work, drastic and dangerous as it was, was still alive and kinetic, far more than I can say for this stagnant, bastardized reproduction. Sadly, a visit to Brinherhoff’s website affords a few more reproductions and not much else. If Spencer doesn’t show us something more and soon, he may be out of this fight before it ever starts.

And speaking of more, here comes contestant numero tres, Ric Nicholls! Easily the most charismatic of the four fighters, Nicholls has somehow gotten away from the restrictions of a Bugs/Daffy slaughter and worked on something much more imaginative and fun. Regardless of whether the idea came from his own brain or that of Salsbury’s (though my money’s on the latter), the execution, pun intended, is quite nice, with lighting and line work to rival that of today’s best cartoonists. The setup alone allows for at least twenty-five more hits similar to this one and I for one can’t wait to see each shot, pun, once again, very much intended. Oh, and his website is by far the best of the bunch. Check it out.

And last, but never least, is the already established Chad Diez. Chad’s work can be best judged by his year’s efforts on his other strip, Today: The Comic. Today features a reworking of today’s biggest headlines, twisting them from front page news into something much more biting, revealing, and often times, just plain funny. But the proof is in the pudding, and with this, Diez has served us up more offerings than anyone else as of this printing, publishing three strips to the others’ one. Even though Diez’ strips tell a story, a convention once thought to be too strenuous for the PetPro to endure, they tell it well and open up all manner of gritty, crime noir-style tales featuring our favorite animal assassin.

So who is the winner? Who has risen above the rest to become the once and future PetPro artist?

… Er… um… no one, at least not yet. The tale of the tape reveals strengths and weaknesses in all four corners of the squared circle, leaving the fight itself to be the determinant of our victor. Is it possible to have all four men work together and make The Pet Professional that much more potent of a force in the world of webcomics? Of course it is. But you’ll secretly be pulling for one artist above the others to deliver the goods each and every week.

I know I sure am.

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