Reality television contests ranging from The Amazing Race, Iron Chef, Survivor, and Chopped always interested me when I first took a look at them. It was always interesting to see the diverse cast battle it out in events, and these shows sparked some fan rivalry within my own household. Unfortunately as some of the shows went on, accusations of the contests being rigged arose, and taking a look at some of the seasons, I can see where that angle comes from. Soon after I lost interest in these kinds of shows until I saw a plug from the Loading Ready Run cast for a new series that they were collaborating on with Penny Arcade. The title? Strip Search.
Leaving aside any innuendo, Strip Search is a competition between artists of varying backgrounds who lack widespread recognition with, “The highest prize ever given in an Internet reality TV show.” Twelve artists are shipped off to a house in a secret location where they compete, and are allowed no online or outside communication for the most part. The winner would essentially have their work incorporated under the Penny Arcade title, shoving them into the spotlight of the internet, as well as a $15k cash reward.
Formatting of the show is fairly consistent with other reality television shows, having three events, each highlighted in their own twenty minute episode, rather than hour-long video. Interspersed between are the artists’ thoughts in Confession Cam style. First there’s a group event where the artists collaborate with each other for the challenge, with the players themselves pointing out the winner for that event, who usually gets some awesome reward. Then the artists compete in an individual event that usually focuses on some aspect of web comics that the players would have to deal with if they go professional as a web comic. Guest judges specializing on the event topic decide positive and negative performance of the contestants and decides who is the winner. The winner, in addition to receiving some material reward, also gets the onus of picking the two contestants to be up for elimination, which leads to the third event. The two selected artists go to a separate studio where they have to face Tycho and Gabe of Penny Arcade fame. The artists then pick a crumpled piece of paper from the wastebasket presented to them, each containing a subject, and they have to create a comic based off of a combination of the subjects. Afterwards, Tycho and Gabe critique the two works on print, then destroy the losing comic in some fashion, with the winner going back to the house.
Now what I like about this show are the rules and how the players present themselves. Whatever art they create for the show can be marketed by the contestants, and popular art will go online for sale as soon as the episode gets uploaded. The morning challenges give the artists a new perspective on art, either through a different way of drawing, or using a new medium entirely, such as spray paint and clay. The afternoon challenges pertain to what they would have to deal with if they were a big-name artist, such as dealing with the fanbase, working commisions, and running a merchandising booth at a convention. From what I’ve seen, there aren’t really any petty squabbles that arise between the artists that one would normally see on say, Survivor, and the artists seem to have grown close as a kind of work-family. Which makes it harder for the winner to choose two others to compete in the elimination round. It’s still going on, and you can check it out from links on Loading Ready Run website, or at Penny Arcade, or just click this link.
How this relates to graphic novels? Well, this shows that if you are serious about making comics for a living, then several other skills are required for you to make it as an artist. The two most valuable skills I see required aside from the actual artistic know-how would be communication and time management. Being a good artist is nice, but having connections and friendships with an artistic community is just as valuable. Knowing how to respond to trolls and haters well reflects on the image that the artist is trying to show to the world of themselves, and can show others that they aren’t just stuck-up. The latter is just as valuable, seeing that several of the artists had trouble during the challenges due to this particular issue. For Professor Whalen’s Graphic Novel class, where the students were required to make a comic per week as a team, imagine the difficulty of trying to make one by yourself in ninety minutes. All in all, this series is great and I hope that it doesn’t ever degrade in to any of the drama-ridden shows some of the others have turned into.