What if Comics - are we doing webcomics right?

AjseeAjsee Registered User regular
edited February 2012 in Artist's Corner
Aloha!

First up: Long-time visitor, no-time poster! Used to be a member back at GamingW.net and was/am a great old enthusiast of the create-your-own-games-cadre, and from back in those days Penny Arcade was basicly the go-to-site for input. I diligently lurk the Awesome Topics, and the comic edits (especially by SabreMau and Stale) always were a favourite of mine. And the outreach you guys do is seriously one of the best online - from Secret Santa to helping each other out in hard times, I'm constantly struck by the power of your collective consciousness. These days I'm lurking around the games department trying to summon up the gusto to actually activate my Playstation between medical school studies and more medical school studies - all those delicious screenshots of SWtOR-characters makes me wish for more hours, specificly.

So, with the love-letter our of the way, I'm here to talk about one of the few things that keep me sane during days of seriousness: A project that's being handled by a good artist friend and myself, What If Comics. Queue logo and quote from meta-tags:
A weekly comic strip that takes your fondest culture memories and asks the simple question "What If?". Updates Thursdays.

What we're doing is exactly that: We're taking movies (for the moment, only movies) that we like and ask ourselves what would've happened if something else had happened, at a certain point. This is maybe the most common thing to do amongst friends when watching movies, playing games or generally just goofing around, and growing up in a small town with nothing else to do but challenge our creativity, we've made a lot of these things during the years - this webcomic is only the latest of them.



The art is done by Anna Nilsson, who's gone to all the right places to develop her artistry. She's, for example, made a chessboard consisiting of characters from her favourite films:

chess.jpg

And some X-Men, if they, y'know, "regular" folks:

ordinary-x.png

I think that serves as enough examples (tho she makes clay and portraits and even Modesty Blaise art), but you can find Anna's art over at DeviantArt, her webpage or her blog (the blog design needs to be slightly adjusted, I'm guilty as charged, tried too many things at once).



Most of the writing is honestly made by Anna, or as she refers to herself "Art Fag Anna", as she's sitting and putting one and one together, but we're developing these things together - cramming out ideas, putting some rough sketches and showing it to peeps to see if it's funny or if we think it's funny. Sometimes there's a difference, and we're still learning to time our punches. Otherwise, my part in this whole thing is putting it all together in Photoshop, editing the language of it all, developing the ComicPress/Wordpress-website, and generally taking care of the tech stuff - aka, Tech Guy Timmy.

If you're aching for some actual examples of the actual comics, here they are (the first is our first, and thus not as fancy):

seventh-seal.png

juno.png

disney.png

inception.png

spirited.png

matrix.png

And then there's Twilight, Pretty Woman, Shaolin Soccers, Jurassic Park, Cinderella, True Grit, Shaun of the Dead... you name it.



Anyway, to sum things up: We're trying to reach out there and spread our work. We're on facebook, twitter, digg, stumblupon, reddit, dayviews, deviantart... you name it. But it doesn't seem to gain any ground. We're pretty constantly seeing 200-250 visitors per comic day, and then there's the background noise of 30-50 visitors each normal day. I'm not sure what I should be doing to rustle things up.

Naming the site after the popular Marvel "What If"-scenarios is purely co-incidence and keeps us slogged underneath them in google searches. But to be honest, we were so excited when we started this and found that the domain was free that I forgot to google it - silly mistake, but we're gonna stick by it for a while.

What I need to do, that I know, is:
  • Fix up the metadata, so that posts are tagged correctly for OpenGraphics.
  • Wip together a more unique design - more movie poster of the 30s/40s.
  • Make it more interactive. But how?
  • Edit in a web-adress in all of the strips, so that when spread, people can find our site.
  • Make a written, attached transcript of all the comics, for search engine optimization of the "what if"-scenarios instead of just tagging their posts.

So, guys and girls: What are we missing? Are we even any good? Sometimes, we're not sure. But we like to do this, and we're gonna keep on going if only for the hell of it. :)

Thanks if you've read this far, you're a proper pal! <3


edit: Bad BBCode.

Ajsee on

Posts

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    The art is good, certainly better than most start up webcomics, To me, The format is too rigid. It probably will work for some folks, but part of being funny is catching your audience off guard, and hitting them with something they didn't see coming. The very nature of the set up is like "Hey guys wouldn't it be crazy if whakidy smackidy doo?". Its like those demotivational posters, eventually the format itself makes even the funny ones kinda like "oh I already know how this works."

    Actually, if you take the top off of some of these, or put them on the bottom, even, you get some better comics, here. Let the joke stand for itself, don't explain it before you even tell it.

  • squidbunnysquidbunny Registered User regular
    I agree, I think, that these would be stronger with the simple switch of moving your what-if to the end.

    Also I dig the art but I'd like to see these hand-lettered, I think.

    header_image_sm.jpg
  • ninjaininjai Registered User regular
    Iruka wrote:
    Its like those demotivational posters.

    Actually, if you take the top off of some of these, or put them on the bottom, even, you get some better comics, here. Let the joke stand for itself, don't explain it before you even tell it.

    I agree with the first part there. The most it got out of me was a "heh."

    I don't know if the second part would fix that. Single panel jokes lack the pacing of segmented panels. Take the Inception joke.

    Panel 1 "hmm this is your dream and you need to take a leak badly..."
    Panel 2 "what the hell is pouring down on us..." IMO lose the "ewie" it breaks up the pacing of the text and her face tells us what she is thinking
    Panel 3 "Oh my GAWD Its in my MOUTH!"


    This would have worked much better IMO. Now, I'm not trying to say that every comic should be 3 panels, but that one seemed to feel like it to me. It might have been more appropriate to have Dicaprio have a slow realization across the single panel, and have him say all those lines. The rest of the characters in the scene seem to detract from the intent of the joke, and since you already told us it was inception, you don't really need to show the rest of the cast.


    Another issue could be your speech bubbles. They overlap and fight for attention from one another in the inception comic, and in the 7th seal comic they're just too damn big, you could do without the "...the green is obviously darker" bubble entirely. "Brevity is the soul of wit." William Shakesman. (<< joke) The funny here for me is "I wanted to play hungry hungry hippos." I even think you could have done without the first speech bubble and had a better effect.

    The princess, spirited away, and matrix comics were by far funnier to me. They conveyed the joke simply and concisely, sort of a snapshot moment of time, so it didn't have any of these pacing issues I mentioned before.


    Take what I said with a grain of salt, I have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about. Though, I also agree with IRUKA, I like your art :P

  • ninjaininjai Registered User regular
    Ajsee wrote:
    Aloha!


    The art is done by Anna Nilsson, who's gone to all the right places to develop her artistry.

    Isn't this sort of against the rules? Unless you're Anna Nilsson of course...

  • GrifterGrifter BermudaModerator mod
    Indeed, if you'd like to send the artist over here, that'd be great. However, if you're looking on better writing advice for yourself then please post in the Writer's Block.

  • Faded_SneakersFaded_Sneakers Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Read through some of the archive from the website.

    These would be much funnier if they were multi panel comics with dialoge instead of a What If title. Its too much of a "Look a blue can" and then theres a picture of a blue can. If youre drawing a blue can you really dont need to tell the audience its a blue can.

    And like a couple others have mentioned, the use of the title gives away the joke.

    Its okay to make people think. Your audiences will understand far more then you may believe. And if they have to work for it a little they may like it all the more. Your website is called What If, so if you only titled each comic with the Movie Name ONLY then the audience already knows youre doing a What If of that Movie / Topic and they can figure out the rest for themselves.

    For instance with the Matrix Comic.

    Title ... The Matrix
    Comic ... Fishburne talking to Moss says, "He just said he wanted to get a closer look at them, I didnt think he'd eat them both."

    Best of luck with it.

    Faded_Sneakers on
    Instagram: fadedsneakers
  • squidbunnysquidbunny Registered User regular
    I thought we'd allowed the writer half of writer-artist teams to post here in the past....?

    header_image_sm.jpg
  • NappuccinoNappuccino Registered User regular
    We have, i'm pretty sure.

    Those threads have always focused on the writing over the art though.

    Like to write? Want to get e-published? Give us a look-see at http://wednesdaynightwrites.com/
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

    Not even BEAR vaginas can defeat me!
    cakemikz wrote: »
    And then I rub actual cake on myself.
    Loomdun wrote: »
    thats why you have chest helmets
  • AjseeAjsee Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Holy moly. Here's some serious feedback, thanks for that! :D

    Let's deal with it in some sort of order. First off: Placing of the What If.
    Iruka wrote:
    To me, The format is too rigid. It probably will work for some folks, but part of being funny is catching your audience off guard, and hitting them with something they didn't see coming. The very nature of the set up is like "Hey guys wouldn't it be crazy if whakidy smackidy doo?". Its like those demotivational posters, eventually the format itself makes even the funny ones kinda like "oh I already know how this works."

    Actually, if you take the top off of some of these, or put them on the bottom, even, you get some better comics, here. Let the joke stand for itself, don't explain it before you even tell it.
    squidbunny wrote:
    I agree, I think, that these would be stronger with the simple switch of moving your what-if to the end.

    Also I dig the art but I'd like to see these hand-lettered, I think.
    ninjai wrote:
    Iruka wrote:
    Its like those demotivational posters.

    Actually, if you take the top off of some of these, or put them on the bottom, even, you get some better comics, here. Let the joke stand for itself, don't explain it before you even tell it.

    I agree with the first part there. The most it got out of me was a "heh."
    [/quote]
    Read through some of the archive from the website.

    These would be much funnier if they were multi panel comics with dialoge instead of a What If title. Its too much of a "Look a blue can" and then theres a picture of a blue can. If youre drawing a blue can you really dont need to tell the audience its a blue can.

    And like a couple others have mentioned, the use of the title gives away the joke.

    Its okay to make people think. Your audiences will understand far more then you may believe. And if they have to work for it a little they may like it all the more. Your website is called What If, so if you only titled each comic with the Movie Name ONLY then the audience already knows youre doing a What If of that Movie / Topic and they can figure out the rest for themselves.

    For instance with the Matrix Comic.

    Title ... The Matrix
    Comic ... Fishburne talking to Moss says, "He just said he wanted to get a closer look at them, I didnt think he'd eat them both."

    Best of luck with it.

    Good points here, gentlemen! Let's see, for example, how an edit of our Dirty Dancing fares:

    dirtydancing.png

    Pretty good! My main concern is that the whole thing gets a bit too segmented, two pieces of info and one piece of art? I even tried moving the whole "introduction"-thing to the bottom when we were trying out for the Seventh Seal (we made like, seven versions of that), but the black space between the logo and the what if-line sort became a lot of empty frame. Like so:

    dd2.png

    But that might be our opinion solely - I can clearly see how it improves the flow of the comedy...

    In fact, we've used something similar in strips we found too hard to decipher without some sort of clue, and found it pretty cool:

    amelie.png

    Does anyone have any idea on how to implement the logo of a movie, for recognition, and still contain Anna's art without competing with it? It's gonna keep me thinking tonight, that's for sure.



    Second: The single frames.
    ninjai wrote:
    Iruka wrote:
    Its like those demotivational posters.

    I don't know if the second part would fix that. Single panel jokes lack the pacing of segmented panels. Take the Inception joke.

    Panel 1 "hmm this is your dream and you need to take a leak badly..."
    Panel 2 "what the hell is pouring down on us..." IMO lose the "ewie" it breaks up the pacing of the text and her face tells us what she is thinking
    Panel 3 "Oh my GAWD Its in my MOUTH!"


    This would have worked much better IMO. Now, I'm not trying to say that every comic should be 3 panels, but that one seemed to feel like it to me. It might have been more appropriate to have Dicaprio have a slow realization across the single panel, and have him say all those lines. The rest of the characters in the scene seem to detract from the intent of the joke, and since you already told us it was inception, you don't really need to show the rest of the cast.

    Actually, we're not that settled on the format of a single frame! We try some thing, occaissonally, but it's more of a treat than a rule seeing as how we're trying to make "snapshots" as we're gonna tackle in the next part.

    For example:
    alice.png

    Problem is that we just can't afford the time it takes for Anna to draw big, multi-colour pictures in plural. She's got a book deal, orders and whatnot to deal with at the moment, and I'm already breaking her back trying to get us another entry a week (which is gonna happen just as soon as Obama joins the KKK, apparently). I'm the editor, and can edit a lot more frames since my job is simpler, but the art depends on her schedule. So within the boundries of what we can possibly achieve WHILE keeping the art "top-notch", one frame is genereally all we can muster, but we try to muster it in excellence.

    Is there anything we can to do to improve the formula from these ingredients and make You, yes, the reader of this paragraph who we'd very much like to join in on the laugh, want to come back? Or do we need to change it all up to make it delectable? We're open for ideas, folks!



    Third: The speech bubbles.
    ninjai wrote:
    Iruka wrote:

    Another issue could be your speech bubbles. They overlap and fight for attention from one another in the inception comic, and in the 7th seal comic they're just too damn big, you could do without the "...the green is obviously darker" bubble entirely. "Brevity is the soul of wit." William Shakesman. (<< joke) The funny here for me is "I wanted to play hungry hungry hippos." I even think you could have done without the first speech bubble and had a better effect.

    The princess, spirited away, and matrix comics were by far funnier to me. They conveyed the joke simply and concisely, sort of a snapshot moment of time, so it didn't have any of these pacing issues I mentioned before.

    Take what I said with a grain of salt, I have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about. Though, I also agree with IRUKA, I like your art :P
    squidbunny wrote:

    Also I dig the art but I'd like to see these hand-lettered, I think.

    Thanks for the compliments! Seeing as how Anna and I diligently follow this thread, with me being the mouthpiece, and after having stalked your story squidbunny, we're psyched that you guys like it. <3

    As for the speech bubbles, that part is actually my part of the job. I place the bubbles and try to keep the lettering neat and legible. Anna's been pretty much in denial of different fonts for different characters and whatnot, but perhaps hand-lettering could work? She writes brilliantly in longhand, let me tell you that much. My worry is trying to fit the bubbles, making the arrows go where we need etc. with hand-lettering...

    As for the Inception, agreed, it's pretty heavy in dialogue! We're trying to go more minimal, with less letters per row, "less is more" and all that. We made that one very early, but if you comprare it to the Matrix or Disney Princesses, that's where we're going at the moment. Honestly, I think it's all about practicing, reading and taking feedback such as this, but I'm trying. Even from these long-ass posts you can probably tell that my writing is a bit on the long-winded side! :)



    Fourth: Where's Anna?
    ninjai wrote:
    Ajsee wrote:
    Aloha!

    The art is done by Anna Nilsson, who's gone to all the right places to develop her artistry.

    Isn't this sort of against the rules? Unless you're Anna Nilsson of course...
    Grifter wrote:
    Indeed, if you'd like to send the artist over here, that'd be great. However, if you're looking on better writing advice for yourself then please post in the Writer's Block.
    squidbunny wrote:
    I thought we'd allowed the writer half of writer-artist teams to post here in the past....?

    As you can see in my avatar, this is a duo-kind of thing. She reads all of this, we talk about it, and I mouthpiece. It's not that she's bad with English (her verbal fu is excellent, and I dare say lethargicly lethal, as in sick awesome), it's just that I'm generally the diplomatic "take critique and try and make something of it"-guy, where she's an artist with a mood. Seeing as how I'm familiar with PA since many years, coupled with mentioned facts, we/she decided to send me down the trenches. But if you want her words and not mine, we can make accounts and/or I can copy-paste dialogue here etc. Don't wanna be a rule-breaker in any way, yeehaw, and I only posted seeing as how we're a team and I vaguely remember going through threads where the writer-half represented! :)

    As for my writing, it's (as I said) our writing. Should I make double threads? I think most of what I need to learn is already asked over there tho, I just need to read it. ;)


    Phew. Also thanks for peeking through the archives, FadedSneakers, hope you enjoyed it!

    Ajsee on
  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    The art is really good, the execution is not great at all.

    And I'm not sure if you were going for an homage, but that Seventh Seal comic is pretty much just a rip off of Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    wrote:
    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
  • AjseeAjsee Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Sentry wrote:
    The art is really good, the execution is not great at all.

    And I'm not sure if you were going for an homage, but that Seventh Seal comic is pretty much just a rip off of Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.

    Thanks, nice to hear your eyes were sort of pleased, I guess! But how is the execution not great at all? The same pointers given above? How would you see us present things differently?

    The Seventh Seal was filmed only kilometres from where we live, so it felt like a natural joke to start the comic up with. And yeah, we were linked to Bill and Ted's thing a couple of months back, but at the time of writing we had no idea the joke had already been made. :)

    Ajsee on
  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Ajsee wrote:
    Sentry wrote:
    The art is really good, the execution is not great at all.

    And I'm not sure if you were going for an homage, but that Seventh Seal comic is pretty much just a rip off of Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.

    Thanks, nice to hear your eyes were sort of pleased, I guess! But how is the execution not great at all? The same pointers given above? How would you see us present things differently?

    The Seventh Seal was filmed only kilometres from where we live, so it felt like a natural joke to start the comic up with. And yeah, we were linked to Bill and Ted's thing a couple of months back, but at the time of writing we had no idea the joke had already been made. :)

    Pretty much. Honestly, I wonder if it's a thing when someone is doing the art and another person is writing the comic. For some reason every time people post comics written like that there tends to be way too much talking. It oversells the jokes and makes them fall flat. You want the bear minimum of explanation to get the joke across. Less is always more. For example, the Dirty Dancing comic... do you REALLY think the Patrick Swayze character needs any dialogue at all? Do you think people won't be able to get what happened here? And the Matrix comic is the funniest of all and it has zero dialogue. One of two things is happening here... either you don't trust the art to convey what's happening, or you don't trust the audience to get it.

    Edit: Or, if Anna is doing most of the writing (just re-read the OP) then it's probably option B up there. That you guys don't trust the audience.

    Sentry on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    wrote:
    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
  • AjseeAjsee Registered User regular
    Sentry wrote:
    Ajsee wrote:
    Sentry wrote:
    The art is really good, the execution is not great at all.

    And I'm not sure if you were going for an homage, but that Seventh Seal comic is pretty much just a rip off of Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.

    Thanks, nice to hear your eyes were sort of pleased, I guess! But how is the execution not great at all? The same pointers given above? How would you see us present things differently?

    The Seventh Seal was filmed only kilometres from where we live, so it felt like a natural joke to start the comic up with. And yeah, we were linked to Bill and Ted's thing a couple of months back, but at the time of writing we had no idea the joke had already been made. :)

    Pretty much. Honestly, I wonder if it's a thing when someone is doing the art and another person is writing the comic. For some reason every time people post comics written like that there tends to be way too much talking. It oversells the jokes and makes them fall flat. You want the bear minimum of explanation to get the joke across. Less is always more. For example, the Dirty Dancing comic... do you REALLY think the Patrick Swayze character needs any dialogue at all? Do you think people won't be able to get what happened here? And the Matrix comic is the funniest of all and it has zero dialogue. One of two things is happening here... either you don't trust the art to convey what's happening, or you don't trust the audience to get it.

    Edit: Or, if Anna is doing most of the writing (just re-read the OP) then it's probably option B up there. That you guys don't trust the audience.

    Honestly? The latter. We had some pretty brutal feedback from our friends at first that "no one got the jokes", and that "no one had seen the films", so we're trying to be more available. But there's a line somwhere, and I think - as you pointed out - that we've gone a bit too far in trying to please the lowest common denominator, leaving the good people who like movies and comics hanging with a frown.

    Both Anna and I are pretty talky, so it tends to get a bit word-heavy. Maybe it's also the part where we are trying to get three frames of dialogue through in a single frame, sub-consciously. We're especially taking this piece of advice to heart.

  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    I guess I would ask if you'd prefer a mediocre comic that everyone can "get" or a funny comic with less broad appeal. I'd prefer option B but then, Michael Bay is one of the highest grossing directors working today, so wtf do I know.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    wrote:
    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
  • NappuccinoNappuccino Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    It probably wouldn't hurt to use a couple panels to add space and timing to your comic. Plus it lets you have changing facial expressions.

    But, I agree with Sentry- there does seem to be too much dialog to really sell the joke. You'll want to spend your time stripping your comic down to its essential elements and figuring out how you're setting up the punchline and executing it.

    Typically, if people have too much to read, the distance between set up and punchline is too great, the impact of the joke is greatly diminished. I think a lot of comic writers try to make every panel or every word bubble funny. But you only need one joke to be a sucessful comic. Load it up with jokes and often the whole thing falls apart.

    For example your Dirty Dancing comic: He could just say "I... I don't know how it happened" because that is all he's actually saying. Or, he could say nothing at all and let his expression do all the work. Everything else is just filler that detracts from the joke (and he gives away the visual joke by saying exactly what happened.)

    Nappuccino on
    Like to write? Want to get e-published? Give us a look-see at http://wednesdaynightwrites.com/
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

    Not even BEAR vaginas can defeat me!
    cakemikz wrote: »
    And then I rub actual cake on myself.
    Loomdun wrote: »
    thats why you have chest helmets
  • squidbunnysquidbunny Registered User regular
    Honestly, yeah, I'd prefer the DD one with no dialogue at all and just end it on the What If. The copy just gets in the way.

    header_image_sm.jpg
  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    I also think the Disney' Princesses joke is a wasted opportunity. The joke shouldn't be "Where were you?" because it's just not funny. But you could use the exact same art and set up a great joke about how sexually assaulty it is for two random princes to just go up and start messing with an unconscious girl in a forest.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    wrote:
    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
  • melting_dollmelting_doll Registered User regular
    The most glaring issue to me is what you said about people who don't get it because they haven't seen the movies. In this format it seems hard to pull off jokes for those not in the know. Penny Arcade is a prime example of being able to tell a joke about a game and have everyone find it funny whether they've played it or not. One panel formats are very slice of life, but making movies as the subject is too specific.

    I really like the art!

  • NappuccinoNappuccino Registered User regular
    Sentry wrote:
    I also think the Disney' Princesses joke is a wasted opportunity. The joke shouldn't be "Where were you?" because it's just not funny. But you could use the exact same art and set up a great joke about how sexually assaulty it is for two random princes to just go up and start messing with an unconscious girl in a forest.

    "The hell do you think you're doing?"

    Like to write? Want to get e-published? Give us a look-see at http://wednesdaynightwrites.com/
    Rorus Raz wrote: »
    There's also the possibility you just can't really grow a bear like other guys.

    Not even BEAR vaginas can defeat me!
    cakemikz wrote: »
    And then I rub actual cake on myself.
    Loomdun wrote: »
    thats why you have chest helmets
  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    I think MD has a good point. Occasionally there is a PA strip where the reference is obscure enough that I just don't know whats going on, but generally, I can just infer from the strip and use my basic knowledge of games fill any gaps. You are targeting an audience that maybe watches more movies than the average person, so give them some credit for already knowing the setup.


    If you havent checked out Scott McClouds books, they are worth a read for some fundamental principals that are good to know, even if you dont go beyond the gag strip. Silence is pretty important in comics, but its not just the "less is more factor" its also because of the the way time works in comics. By not having panels, you lose the ability to have comedic beats. Everything in your comic is more ore less happening all at once. If you want the reader to reflect upon an expression, or give a joke some breathing room, you need either space or images, which in comics translates into time. I could try and write it all out and draw up explanations and show you examples, but really Mccloud does it so well there's not alot of reason to not buy Understanding Comics and Making Comics.

    Personally, I think Gag strips are the hardest to pull of with any sort of consistency, and I think there is some good humor buried under some jumbled execution. I hope you guys keep at it, and are bold with your experiments.

  • earthwormadamearthwormadam ancient crust Registered User regular
    I like the Matrix one. I never even thought of that, good one!

    The most successful ones, are the ones you have with the least amount of dialogue. For example, that first one would be just as funny, if not more, with all the dialogue completely removed. They're playing Twister...instead of chess. That's the joke and having that much text just squashes the joke into the ground until there's nothing left.

  • The_Glad_HatterThe_Glad_Hatter Registered User regular
    squidbunny wrote:
    I thought we'd allowed the writer half of writer-artist teams to post here in the past....?

    Only if we like their comics!

    Carry on Ajsee..

  • AjseeAjsee Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Back again! Had an exam, and had to reflect a bit on what has been written.

    Sentry wrote:
    I guess I would ask if you'd prefer a mediocre comic that everyone can "get" or a funny comic with less broad appeal. I'd prefer option B but then, Michael Bay is one of the highest grossing directors working today, so wtf do I know.
    Nappuccino wrote:
    It probably wouldn't hurt to use a couple panels to add space and timing to your comic. Plus it lets you have changing facial expressions.

    But, I agree with Sentry- there does seem to be too much dialog to really sell the joke. You'll want to spend your time stripping your comic down to its essential elements and figuring out how you're setting up the punchline and executing it.

    Typically, if people have too much to read, the distance between set up and punchline is too great, the impact of the joke is greatly diminished. I think a lot of comic writers try to make every panel or every word bubble funny. But you only need one joke to be a sucessful comic. Load it up with jokes and often the whole thing falls apart.

    For example your Dirty Dancing comic: He could just say "I... I don't know how it happened" because that is all he's actually saying. Or, he could say nothing at all and let his expression do all the work. Everything else is just filler that detracts from the joke (and he gives away the visual joke by saying exactly what happened.)
    squidbunny wrote:
    Honestly, yeah, I'd prefer the DD one with no dialogue at all and just end it on the What If. The copy just gets in the way.

    This is the same conundrum we're facing, and one of the reasons I brought our schtick to these forums. Let's face it: Folks like you guys are our prefered audience. Thinking people who are savvy enough to get it. Then again, Michael Bay-things are (according to me, not Anna) entertaining for the times when you're burnt in both ends and just can't get your neurons firing.

    We've talked extensively about it these last few days, and we're gonna start mixing things up. Keep people on their toes. This starts with the format, and might even end in more frames. We won't start setting rules for ourselves, because we're limited as it is, and that's just about the only rule we're gonna follow. :)


    Sentry wrote:
    I also think the Disney' Princesses joke is a wasted opportunity. The joke shouldn't be "Where were you?" because it's just not funny. But you could use the exact same art and set up a great joke about how sexually assaulty it is for two random princes to just go up and start messing with an unconscious girl in a forest.

    Yeah. Some are really hit-and-miss. This one, for example, almost no-one got:

    cinderella.png

    And we can see why, now! We love puns, but people in general didn't find this funny. We rode a real high wave until this one, then people stopped coming for a while - sadface. Which is why we're gonna go back during the summer break and re-do every single comic. Walk 'em through, make all fall in line with some sort of graphical consistency, same fonts etc. We also talked about hand-writing, but sadly Anna's marvellous long-hand is too cool for comics, which basicly means she flat-out refused. Anyone got some font alternatives they can think off instead of Garamond, we're game!


    The most glaring issue to me is what you said about people who don't get it because they haven't seen the movies. In this format it seems hard to pull off jokes for those not in the know. Penny Arcade is a prime example of being able to tell a joke about a game and have everyone find it funny whether they've played it or not. One panel formats are very slice of life, but making movies as the subject is too specific.

    I really like the art!
    Iruka wrote:
    I think MD has a good point. Occasionally there is a PA strip where the reference is obscure enough that I just don't know whats going on, but generally, I can just infer from the strip and use my basic knowledge of games fill any gaps. You are targeting an audience that maybe watches more movies than the average person, so give them some credit for already knowing the setup.

    If you havent checked out Scott McClouds books, they are worth a read for some fundamental principals that are good to know, even if you dont go beyond the gag strip. Silence is pretty important in comics, but its not just the "less is more factor" its also because of the the way time works in comics. By not having panels, you lose the ability to have comedic beats. Everything in your comic is more ore less happening all at once. If you want the reader to reflect upon an expression, or give a joke some breathing room, you need either space or images, which in comics translates into time. I could try and write it all out and draw up explanations and show you examples, but really Mccloud does it so well there's not alot of reason to not buy Understanding Comics and Making Comics.

    Personally, I think Gag strips are the hardest to pull of with any sort of consistency, and I think there is some good humor buried under some jumbled execution. I hope you guys keep at it, and are bold with your experiments.

    Yeah, the PA guys knows how to use their tribe (gamers) basic knowledge to their ends. It's sort of hard with movies though! Gamers tend to be a hard-core community of folks who know a lot about a lot, while movie-people are more divided. The hard-core folks, for example, sometimes don't watch "the blockbusters" because they feel they're wasting time - while the novice public, Average-Sven-Svensson (Swedish John Smith), hasn't seen most of the films we're making fun of if it isn't really, really mainstream. Most people maybe go in the in-between, but more often than not we're seeing a "I didn't get it..."-reaction from people when we're sparse with dialogue. But I guess that's a matter of tuning the execution, isn't it? :)

    As for new subjects: We're on-board with the idea! There needs to be a broadening, but we're gonna stick with movies until maybe May, when we've gone a full year. Y'know, then we can look back and really analyze (I keep full Google Analytics on EVERYTHING) what worked and what didn't. I'd be happy to share this info with you guys in my next post, sort of dry for time right now tho!

    Here's a link to the archives, if anyone cares for guessing!


    Oh, and the Scott McCloud-things - we'll give it a good barrel-roll and see if there's something for us. More on books and comic-learning below!


    I like the Matrix one. I never even thought of that, good one!

    The most successful ones, are the ones you have with the least amount of dialogue. For example, that first one would be just as funny, if not more, with all the dialogue completely removed. They're playing Twister...instead of chess. That's the joke and having that much text just squashes the joke into the ground until there's nothing left.

    Thanks, we're really happy with the Matrix one! Didn't knock the roof off of the visitor count, tho, but it lives in the hall of fame. As for the Seventh Seal, we wanted to convey the issues of playing Twister in a black and white world... would people get that without dialogue?

    Condensing all of your points, then, is this list:
    • Less exposition. Let the reader figure out what the hell's happening. Show instead of telling.
    • Trimmed dialogue. As Nappuccino and Squidbunny said about Dirty Dancing, we could've done without Swayze spilling his guts, his mortified expression enough as it is.
    • Essence. We are talky folks tho, so we'll not remove dialogue everywhere, and we need to stick to some sort of core of our vision, otherwise we'll perhaps stand to lose what we put of ourselves in this thing.
    • Less stretching. That means less complicated punchlines, and removing the plural of funny from each image and at first try to stick to a single punch-line.
    • More topics. We had a poll about this on facebook some months back, and we have prepared What If's for series, games and generally history (fav of mine). Will launch in the future, but gotta get our existing stuff in order.
    • Re-editing what we've got. Because we need to salvage the good times!


    squidbunny wrote:
    I thought we'd allowed the writer half of writer-artist teams to post here in the past....?

    Only if we like their comics!

    Carry on Ajsee..

    Finally, a thanks to you guys: As I said, there's been talk about these things for a while. Anna actually teaches comic to kids in Swedish school (go Swedish education system, woooh!), basic knowledge on how to draw them, pace it and frame it. We've read 'em for all of our lives. Still, when it came to our own thing, we couldn't for the life of us imagine how it looks to other people. We tried, god knows, but we apparently couldn't! The people in real life are too kind to us and just generally pat our backs, but you multi-faceted diamonds of people give us the straight shot, no pulling the punch. Domo arigato, and... carrying on.

    Ajsee on
  • NibCromNibCrom Registered User regular
    You're going to redo every single comic? Seriously?

  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Okay, again, you missed another fantastic joke opportunity with that Cinderella one... (not withstanding the overuse of dialogue, again), but you could have made a hilarious joke about phallic shaped vehicles... you could have had the guard nudge the other one and say "looks like someone is overcompensating for something...." or something along those lines. You guys have a lot of potential, but your aim is just too on the safe side. If you look at the popular webcomics, playing it safe is usually not what they do. If you want to be in the Sunday papers next to Garfield, this might be a way to go... but I say dream bigger.

    Also, jokes based on puns need to be really really funny, otherwise they just come off as lazy.

    Sentry on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    wrote:
    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
  • UnterpreizUnterpreiz Registered User
    Redoing every comic is going to be a huuuuge time investment! Please reconsider, as you guys have a great thing going so far! I'd hate to see you burn out on redoing every strip and having trouble producing new content. The webcomic business is all about pushing out regular and fresh content-- people don't care if your archives from 2003 aren't 100% consistent (Penny Arcade)-- they want the newest comic to blow them out of the water! For printing purposes, maybe some time down the line, redoing a couple of strips with a consistent typeface would be a good idea, but I wouldn't make that a focus right now. (putting the cart before the horse) The visual style right now is working for me as being fairly consistent. With that being said, I would suggest you still experiment and play with designing the strips differently to suit the joke. I think that's going to be on a joke-to-joke basis, where the "big reveal" should be.

    The art is really strong right now-- stronger than most webcomics get to begin with, so feel good about that. The writing, as it has been heavily critiqued so far in this thread, could use some work, but don't worry too much about that just yet. A gag-centric strip like this is so reliant on pop-culture references and as such its going to be really hit-or-miss depending on each individual audience member's personal experiences.

    You've received some great advice in this thread so far. Most of it has been about shaving off what isn't important for a joke to land successfully. Brevity is one of the biggest challenges writers can face, especially in comedy. Keep working at it, and I'm sure you can consistently hit some more strips on par with the "The Matrix" one.

    I chuckled at the 7th Seal one, but held back a bit, I have to admit because Bill and Ted got there first :P Most of the other jokes I found fairly humourous or at the very least clever juxtapositions. (There's a big market for clever, look at xkcd and theoatmeal-- they don't always release "laugh out loud" content, but they keep impressing their audiences.) You're going to find your comedic "voice" very soon, I think-- just keep experimenting!

  • AjseeAjsee Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Sentry wrote:
    Okay, again, you missed another fantastic joke opportunity with that Cinderella one... (not withstanding the overuse of dialogue, again), but you could have made a hilarious joke about phallic shaped vehicles... you could have had the guard nudge the other one and say "looks like someone is overcompensating for something...." or something along those lines. You guys have a lot of potential, but your aim is just too on the safe side. If you look at the popular webcomics, playing it safe is usually not what they do. If you want to be in the Sunday papers next to Garfield, this might be a way to go... but I say dream bigger.

    Also, jokes based on puns need to be really really funny, otherwise they just come off as lazy.

    Reading you loud and clear: Dreaming big! Thing is, when you're comfy in a couch and laughing with your friends, all puns and inside-jokes make so much sense. It's first when you see people reading the tunes, but not hearing the music, that you feel like a doofus.

    Unterpreiz wrote:
    Redoing every comic is going to be a huuuuge time investment! Please reconsider, as you guys have a great thing going so far! I'd hate to see you burn out on redoing every strip and having trouble producing new content. The webcomic business is all about pushing out regular and fresh content-- people don't care if your archives from 2003 aren't 100% consistent (Penny Arcade)-- they want the newest comic to blow them out of the water! For printing purposes, maybe some time down the line, redoing a couple of strips with a consistent typeface would be a good idea, but I wouldn't make that a focus right now. (putting the cart before the horse) The visual style right now is working for me as being fairly consistent. With that being said, I would suggest you still experiment and play with designing the strips differently to suit the joke. I think that's going to be on a joke-to-joke basis, where the "big reveal" should be.

    The art is really strong right now-- stronger than most webcomics get to begin with, so feel good about that. The writing, as it has been heavily critiqued so far in this thread, could use some work, but don't worry too much about that just yet. A gag-centric strip like this is so reliant on pop-culture references and as such its going to be really hit-or-miss depending on each individual audience member's personal experiences.

    You've received some great advice in this thread so far. Most of it has been about shaving off what isn't important for a joke to land successfully. Brevity is one of the biggest challenges writers can face, especially in comedy. Keep working at it, and I'm sure you can consistently hit some more strips on par with the "The Matrix" one.

    I chuckled at the 7th Seal one, but held back a bit, I have to admit because Bill and Ted got there first :P Most of the other jokes I found fairly humourous or at the very least clever juxtapositions. (There's a big market for clever, look at xkcd and theoatmeal-- they don't always release "laugh out loud" content, but they keep impressing their audiences.) You're going to find your comedic "voice" very soon, I think-- just keep experimenting!
    NibCrom wrote:
    You're going to redo every single comic? Seriously?

    Thanks for all the kind words, Unterpreiz!

    We're not gonna re-do them as in "re-do them from the ground up", but rather tweak the dialogue and the shape of the frame. We've only got about 50 strips right now, and by summer we'll have a maximum of 70, so it should be a rather quick effort. We just really want it all to be consistent, and we've got the time for it. :) As for the writing and finding our stride, we too feel we're getting there, I was simply worried that we were doing something extremely poorly (and I was sort of right about being in the wrong!). Gag-centric is hard to pull off for the reasons you mentioned. You also have the problem with no re-occuring themes, but we're sort of trying to get that in there as well! Original characters, like Earl from Dirty Dancing, will be back where they're needed to build that sort of familiarity while still swinging for the fences.

    Bill And Ted, yeah, we're blushing. And as for the art praise, again, we're blushing! We realize it's one of the strong suties we got going since we've got both an artist with a past and an internet-designer-guy that can parse something worthwhile. But it too needs to be excited a bit in some old strips, like the first Narnia (which I'm not even gonna link, it's horrible in both art and execution).

    This week salutes the last of the "top what if" (big reveal) for a while. We're gonna be moving it around depending on the placement of the punchline - sometimes the What if is the whole thing that starts the joke, like today, and without it people are sort of left hanging. Don't you agree?

    Link to this week's comic:

    Ajsee on
  • The_Glad_HatterThe_Glad_Hatter Registered User regular
    Do try to post your comics in here? Altough i do suggest you link to your site in your sig to promote your comic.
    Looks nice, altough i don't get today's joke, altough i guess because i see treasure hunters is a US only tv-show...

  • melting_dollmelting_doll Registered User regular
    I am going to be blunt here and say I find very little humor in these. Too often it seems like you're trying to spell out the joke. Which REALLY takes away from the funny. I will reiterate what was said about your potential being high and your execution being way off the mark. If your dialogue only exists to clarify a joke you don't think your audience would get otherwise, maybe you should rethink the punch line. You make the argument about movie fans being divided and very specific, and yet even to them you still don't seem to have any faith in their intelligence on the subject.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    If you want continued feedback, post the comics in the thread. You don't have to sell your comic to us, The active community in the AC tops off at like 40. We're a small enough community that the traffic bump isn't comparable to the amount of attention and advice you get if you just keep posting them in the thread. Drop a link to your website in your signature, and post around the site, people will support. We'll remember you, and check your thread, give advice, and click through to the site if we want to read the archives. Just make it easy for us to keep critiquing your work, here, or you'll watch the activity in this thread drop drastically.

    I'm happy you are going to drop the what if, thing for a while. I hope you really push yourself out of the format and fight the urge to do whats familiar.






  • SentrySentry Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    oh man... seriously?
    You actually made the entire joke into a checklist you've inserted at the beginning of the joke.

    Let's look at this from another angle. You are making a joke about how Indiana Jones entire persona, including his fear of snakes, comes from a brief encounter on top of a circus train at the start of Last Crusade.
    Now... how can you illustrate that in ONE panel, NO dialogue, keeping the same title?
    I can think of at least five ways you could do this comic and have it be at least marginally funny.

    Sentry on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    wrote:
    When I was a little kid, I always pretended I was the hero,' Skip said.
    'Fuck yeah, me too. What little kid ever pretended to be part of the lynch-mob?'
Sign In or Register to comment.