Wayne’s Word

February 12, 2008

Heroes Happen Here?

Filed under: General — Wayne @ 10:00 pm
Tags: , ,

I don’t which is stranger: that there is a new comic book style comic strip featuring IT (Information Technology) people or that there is a new comic book style comic strip from Microsoft. They’re the same thing and it’s called Heroes Happen Here. You can read it at Microsoft’s Heros Happen Here website which is promoting new versions of Visual Studio, SQL Server and Windows Server. You can also read it at their Technet blog or subscribe to the feed. To read the past strips in their full glory at the HHH website, you need to install Microsoft’s new bright and shiny “software tool”, Silverlight. If you don’t have Silverlight and don’t want to install it, you can read the archive in plain ol’ JPEG format at the Technet blog.

I liked the idea when I heard about it, but the actually strips give me mixed feelings. Perhaps the kindest way to put it is to say that the writers have yet to find their “voice“. The strip can’t decide if it wants to be Dilbert, Drabble or Spiderman.

There Are Two Ways We Can Do This

I’ve come to the conclusion that a strip like this can go in one of two directions:

  1. A strip about the ordinary things that happen to an IT person, but with a dramatic flair. Short to medium length story arcs, but with a minor resolution each day: a punch line or plot point. This is like most newspaper “funnies”. Think of it as Dilbert, but with humor and drama with more detailed art work.
  2. A classic comic book melodrama that involves IT; heroes & villains, but no superheroes or supervillains. More drama, less humor, longer story arcs. It would be about IT in roughly the same way that Superman was about the newspaper business.

HHH clearly started as the first type. Here is a good example, the strip from day 4. This has humor and IT, but also can be part of a larger, more dramatic, story arc. BTW, does anyone know what his shirt says? In an earlier strip his shirt proclaimed “DO THE MATH”

HHH Day 4

However, on day 8 the strip morphed into the second type fast enough to give your brain whiplash. I had to re-read that strip and the past few strips and was still confuzzled, as my daughter would say. Anyone who has read Robert Heinlein’s “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” will remember that moment in the story when reality suddenly vanished to be replaced by a surreal melodrama. Same thing here. Below is the comic from day 9. Hold on to your brain. The following days’ strips get even more surreal.

What Is a Comic Strip Storyline Writer To Do?

I don’t think that mixing the two types of comic strip will work. HHH should pick one and stick with it.

Which would be best? I think a strip of the first type would be best. It’s funny and light-hearted. Sure its stereotypical, but it is a comic strip. The first week’s strips might be called hokey or corny by some, but they were still funny and IT people could identify with them. I cut out the first strip above and put it on my door at work.

The changed strip does feel more like a comic book, or at least what they were like–I haven’t read one in a few decades. But, it feels a lot less “real”. These things don’t happen to real IT people. We don’t have a helicopter sent to take us and an old computer to catch a chartered plane. (Well, maybe if you do IT for the CIA.) We can’t identify with this sort of thing. If the strip is supposed to be about “real” IT heroes, this won’t work. And I can’t see anyone putting any of this type of strip on their door. Certainly not me.

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