Wednesday, April 28, 2010

All Mediums Have Arbitrary Rules


2 major rules of the modern comic strip medium seem to be:
1) Design the characters so that they don't have faces-make it hard to figure out where the eyes, nose and mouth are.
2) Use the same drawing and poses in every successive panel.
I don't know who makes these rules and wonder if someone broke them, would they get fired? If I were to submit a comic strip to a newspaper editor and you could tell where the faces were and something happened in each panel, would it automatically get rejected just because it didn't follow the rules?

Does the editor actually tell the artists up front: "Make sure you repeat the same drawing in every panel. Don't make anything up." Or, do the artists who grow up reading these kinds of comics just sub-consciously absorb the rules and have never thought about it? Will they read this and have a revelation?:" Wow! Of course! I could do a new drawing in every panel!"

I'm not picking on this strip; I don't even know what it is; I just found it at Ger's great blog. But it looks just like so many other strips that it makes me think that there must be an actual strict rule book.

I think media has always had some sort of arbitrary rules, but they seem more narrow and strict than ever today. I had a pitch meeting once and the executive asked me if my stories followed the acceptable plot formula of all the sitcom cartoons. I didn't even know there was a formula, but they explained it to me with much sincerity. Supposedly, you have to have an "a" plot that takes 8 minutes to establish-then you drop it altogether and purposely frustrate the audience. There also has to be a "b" plot that sneaks in at some pre-ordained moment and who knows, maybe some "c" plot that doesn't go anywhere as well. Do they really think the audience cares about any of this? Or thinks about it?

I may be nuts, but it seems to me that if you have to have everything tailored to an equation, you aren't really going to be very creative. I always thought the idea of being creative was to have the ability to make things up. - and to have great skills that wow the audience. All these formulae and rules tell me that anybody can now do these jobs. You just plug in the assets to the equation. Homer asset, Homer-like character asset, assertive female asset, sarcastic baby asset etc.

As far as the comic strip rule that makes it ok to have characters with no faces, I think that may have started in the 60s with this strip:

The rubber stamp poses might also have started with Tumbleweeds.
I remember thinking how strange this was when I first saw it. Were these mistakes or just laziness? I never would have imagined that one guy's quirks would eventually become a mass religion that would take over the whole art form. Before this strip, there was a wide variety of techniques and everybody had faces, and each panel had different poses. That was expected. Now it isn't.

I'm noticing this mass-trend style thinking more and more today in everything I look at. All movie and TV posters look the same. "Reality" shows all have the same format (or maybe there are 2 or 3 variations). All networks have "bugs" and ads that crawl all over the screen while you are trying to watch your show. These are all things that almost nobody likes. People like variety and interest-yet someone who is in control imitates all the other mistakes that other people in control make.

I wonder if the idea of "creator driven" custom ideas and content will ever become the norm again.

Who came up with the idea that regular everyday dumpy people should try to look tough when they pose for their reality show posters? And did congress sign it into law?



78 comments:

Elana Pritchard said...

Let's pray it will.

Is is 2010 or 1984?

a strip where I tried to make the poses different and lively

Elana Pritchard said...

Let's pray it will.

Is is 2010 or 1984?

a strip where I tried to make the poses different and lively

Lampshade said...

There's also a rule on colors now; look for blue and orange.

Funky Al said...

http://www.gocomics.com/culdesac/
Here's a strip that runs in papers today that I think has some pretty damn good art. Granted, some idiot down at the syndicate decided it needed color (it looks much better in B/W) but otherwise it's cute, funny, and lively.

Matt Rasch said...

Bill Watterson did a strip once making fun of using the same pose over and over and had Calvin and Hobbes not move while they complained of the state of the comic strip today. (Or at the time it was published, which wasn't much better...)

Mitchell Vizensky said...

http://toiletrice.blogspot.com/2010/04/help-revive-roco.html

Mitchell Vizensky said...

Have you heard of Joe Murray's Kaboing TV idea?

Sounds a lot like you two have the same frustrations. I think You'd be an unstoppable team.

Niki said...

Sir, I agree with you 85%

Don't "F" with "Mythbusters" it's a good show and if they're driven enough, they can prove that you don't exist.

JohnK said...

It might be a good show. I just wonder why all the posters for TV shows have the characters standing back to back with their arms folded, looking tough.

Is that the only pose humans can make?

Spenk said...

theyve should do doggy style poses...eeeh...forgot what i said XD
btw on my blog u can find a few pics to my upcoming cartoon show that got inspired pretty hard by john K ^^ its an old school animated cartoon ^^

glamaFez said...

Cartoonists have also increasingly begun to put two punchlines in a single strip. It's as if they consider their readers too brain-dead to make it all the way through the strip to get to the real punchline.

David Gale said...

Who reads these strips?!

I'm amazed that there are actually minute differences from panel to panel. Somebody drew and inked the same drawing 6 times!

J C Roberts said...

There's nearly nothing left that isn't subject to formula thinking. I feel really sorry for all the creative minded types drawn to careers in cartooning, animation, film, motion and still graphics, music, you name it- that are forced to hire out their talents on mainstrean work. You just know they'll have to answer to some exec who will be sure to say "I want something like this" while holding up an image just like you have here.

To promote anyone who informs the audience or is an expert or authority on some topic, they'll have to fold them arms up and stare you down to prove they mean business and know what they're talking about.

Just like every big movie actor must brandish a gun while lookly steely-eyed on at least one movie poster. Every cartoon character used to advertise to kids must have a 'tude. And every time two characters are in a car together heading for trouble they must yell unrealistically in unison the entire time.

I'm afraid we'll never lose the executives love formulas dynamic that's infected everything like a virus. You can't make non-formulaic into a formula they could understand.

Jeff Overturf said...

I think you hit on it, that the rubber stamp poses were learned from the generation before. More proof that your right in your rants about sub-par work...it's more influencial than they think...good or bad are learned.

Doonesbury was the beginning of the xeroxed panel I believe...but Trudeaux's writing saved it...Tumbleweeds is an abomination.

James Anderson said...

"People like variety and interest-yet someone who is in control imitates all the other mistakes that other people in control make."

Babies and small children like to watch the same things over and over again because they find it comforting. Maybe society is digressing to an infant state.

mike f. said...

Amen!! As you know, these are two of my personal pet peeves...

Along with jazz, the comic strip is one of only a handful of truly indigenous American art forms. Yet (with only a few exceptions like The Far Side and Calvin & Hobbes), it's been allowed to degenerate practically into imbecility in the past two decades. So why isn't everybody screaming about this?

Commercial comic strips have no inherent "snob" appeal and aren't likely to be championed by European critics or the "literati", or whoever the hell makes up the "rules" about these things (that get blindly parroted, ad nauseum.) Only the French and the Japanese ever took them seriously as a viable pop-cultural form, anyway.

Whenever I dare to criticize the degeneration of modern comics on a blog, I get attacked by cultural illiterates with hazy "armchair" opinions, whose only knowledge of newspaper comics seems to have begun around 1985 - so get ready for a tidal wave of angry comments (with lot's of "creative spelling") by uninformed "experts", "refuting" your wild claims.

The last time this happened was on Cartoon Brew, by someone who's name I won't include here, because I don't remember it. He claimed to be informed about comic strip history, and insisted that "new" comics are "funny", and musty "old" comics are not.

His opinion apparently wasn't his only "proof". It seems he'd "researched" comic strips, and found that they only magically became funny in the "mid-seventies". (BTW, the mid-seventies was thirty-five years ago, by my math. What the hell that has to do with today's comic page is beyond me, but I digress...)

The guy turned out to be a modern "professional" editorial cartoonist, but one look at his minimalist, cookie-cutter scrawls and vague, tiresome, characterless "humor" was all it took.

He's also something of an expert on Dilbert; (no surprise, there.) According to Eddie, this genius is now threatening to come out to L.A. I can hardly wait...

KirkT said...

I think the "tough guy" pose is supposed to be somewhat ironic...in that none of them actually find themselves to be tough. The problem is they've abused the cliche so much that they've become a part of it.

Pat Desilets said...

I was thinking, a possible reason might be that those expressionless blank faces are an easy way of giving characters a sort of blasé smartass attitude. When characters are completely stiff it kind of makes you read their lines with an apathetic delivery, especially if it's long, pseudo-intellectual remarks.

Not to over-analyze (and be a smartass myself) but I think this is used as kind of a shortcut to a feeling of substance or sophistication. It gives the smartass author a chance to delight readers with succulent commentary about iphone software updates, it makes smartass readers feel like they finally found a Doonesbury they can understand, AND no time is wasted making the pictures different from one another.

I suppose people relate to that, most characters are smartasses now. It's not just comic strips, it's a social trend I think.


But anyway what I actually wanted to ask about was the plot formula explanation and your reaction to it, I'm very curious. Maybe that would make a good story to post, your dreamworks arenas thing was awesome.

mike f. said...

DON'T POST THIS...

I think media is the right plural - at least in the sense that you mean it here (as in radio, TV, newspapers, Internet, etc.) "Mediums" refers to spiritualists and conductors (of electricity, for instance.)

Maybe you should say "Every Medium Has Arbitrary Rules" -?

Whit said...

That dude on the far right of the "Pawn Stars" poster is potentially earth's funniest human, poised to take a massive dump but confused about where to perform the deed. They could get twenty years of conflicted existential near-crapping episodes with this man. Hollywood isn't blind to talent, they just don't know how to use it.

Oscar Baechler said...

John, always curious about something regarding the funnies...what's your thoughts on Calvin & Hobbes? I can't recall you discussing them in the past. The writing aside, it seems like C&H is the ideal example of doing away with religious model sheets.

Will Finn said...

Hey John, RE: the absence of faces in comics: this is something I began to notice around the advent of "THE FAR SIDE"--the ambiguity of the face somehow makes the reader "bring more to it"... Larson always seemed to go out of his way to either obscure the character's eyes with glasses, heavy brows or simply making them non-existent.... It was very effective. He could go for days without indicating a pupil...

It is kind of the visual equivalent to "deadpan" humor, a friend of mind calls it "Masking"-- I actually think it began with Herriman's KRAZY KAT--one of the things that enhances that strip's famously"enigmatic" appeal is that the character's faces are often highly inscrutable... In a traditional sense, their faces seem relatively divorced from their stated emotions...impenetrable really. Except for "Ignatz's" 'angry face', there's a strange vagueness to them...suitable to the whole world of the strip really...

Luis María Benítez said...

It's true about those posters. But everywhere is the same these days. They always stand in front of the camera with that pose. Also, Mythbusters is some sort of reality thing and just some filling for the network. Not even science channels are what they used to be in the past.

RooniMan said...

I agree 100% with you on this post.

I makes me wonder why ANYBODY would want to draw a comic strip with characters whos face you can't make out and sit in the same pose in every single panel. It also makes me wonder why all movie posters have the characters with their arms folded, acting tough.
Can't we have something different, please?

Mitch K said...

I was once handed a veal farm pamphlet where every photo of the family owners (from children to grandad) were in those tough-guy poses.

ardy said...

It might seem like it can't get any worse, but it does. Most web comics out there make newspaper comics look professional. It sounds impossible, but it's true. I won't link any examples, but This guy parodies them really well. Here's one that describes an arbitrary rule of comics perfectly. And this one just kills me.

Scrawnypumpkinseed said...

I thought the rule for cartoons these days was have bland characters with one-word personalities, deliver cliche puns, rehashed jokes and have a plot twist at the end that everyone could see coming from a mile away?

Jorge Garrido said...

This is the perfect example of what you're talking about.

www.slashfilm.com/2009/11/.../orangeblue-contrast-in-movie-posters

Peacock of Death said...

I remember learning to draw that pose as a kid. Suddenly I felt that my characters were SO BADASS NNNGH!

'Tude Smirk + This = ?????

Oisin O'Sullivan said...

jeez that first one just looks like plain crap.

The thing with the 3 plots, I noticed even when I was a kid. I think the simpsons probably started it. A simpsons episode always ended on a completely different note than what it started, and you couldn't recall most of the stuff that happened in between.

"Or, do the artists who grow up reading these kinds of comics just sub-consciously absorb the rules and have never thought about it?"

I think that's very possible, and likely true. Most people acccept what they're exposed to when theyre young kids and don't question it. And anyway, you dont have to be original to be able to draw. They aren't hand-in-hand.

Rusty said...

I see where your coming from with the reality tv posters. Tude is what marketing teams think makes a successful product. So you just don't see in animation you see it just about everywhere. That doesn't make these shows bad some of them are actually quite watchable. It does make you think that they should be advertising their product differently.

However I have to disagree with you about the sunday pages. Why they use the same poses is a stylistic choice. Besides the sunday comics is one of the only places in art these days were you wont find tude but sincere writing and characters. Sunday comics may overuse the same poses. Though atleast comics like BC, Shoe, Dilbert, and Wizard of ID come up with fresh new gags and material.

thomas said...

Great post. I always like the "general interest" posts.

Just to venture a vague guess- People are working harder, yet finding it more difficult to meet the bottom line, so the bottom line keeps getting lowered
...but its irrationally motivated by alot of the hippie schemes that you've mentioned before.

cultural Taylorism...

Martin Juneau said...

I'm glad that you mentionned about the comic medium because i worked since 1 year to a comic-story who required me lots of imaginations, creating new poses, having a fresh casting and follow the story. I almost finish it and i having positive comments who recognise the hard work i did.

But now, i scare to enter in the comic busines because of the arbitary rules and scare of creativity. I also scare that i waste my times.

Did you know Nelson? I read it and it's very bland like comic besides the characters are look like drawed by Family Guy writers.

http://yfrog.com/4j1712kj

About same boring poser in posters or for TV or radio shows, here's a poster from a local radio show when i constantly hate now because of the agressive gravity of their humor in there. Now i know because i seen them in show in 2008 and was pissed to the second act.

http://yfrog.com/jdgganpmj

drawingtherightway said...

I hate most reality shows but am guilty of liking a few of them such as Kitchen Nightmares and Ax Men. Their seems to be another arbitrary rule with reality shows: right before commercial break they will show what's coming up next and make it sound like some kind of huge disaster is gonna take place but when it comes back after break, its something minor.

Steve Hogan said...

Those pawn guys look too tough. I'm too scared to go to them with an old ukelele or grandma's engagement.

marcushelbling said...

The reason I think cartoonists today aren't doing too much in their comics is because they are focusing more on the writing and the story rather than the art. Or they just can't draw.

that's my guess. But this post was very funny.

Iron maiden said...

i agree with everything

but I for one really like the show pawn stars

JohnK said...

What writing?

Isaac said...

People like the jokes, so they praise the art "style". Pointing out that it's cookie-cutter straight-up-and-down features-glued-on-the-face bad drawings doesn't seem to affect anyone. Most people just want a three-panel joke, they don't care about the art, or lack of it.

Trevor Thompson said...

I never would have imagined that one guy's quirks would eventually become a mass religion that would take over the whole art form.


That sort of happened with Ren and Stimpy, no?

Cameron said...

"what writing" indeed. I'll open to the funnies maybe twice a year anymore. For starters, the frames are only slightly larger than postage stamps,so there's nothing interesting to look. But, worse, because comics today do have to concentrate on the verbal gag instead of the visual gag, all I'm treated to are stand-up routines that only manage to be consistently less funny than what I hear from my co-workers every day. That is, my co-workers are actually funny; comic strip writers usually aren't.

If there's no hue and cry about this I suspect it's because people signed the medium off as officially dead when Watterson retired. The medium has been a dead man walking ever since.

Peggy said...

I think a lot of the current 'rules' you see of modern comic strips comes from the lack of space. What the hell can anyone do in the amount of space left in the modern newspaper? There's a few people who strain against it - Watterson is of course one of the last greats of the medium, Billingsley usually pulls out the stops for his annual Kwanzaa celebration in 'Curtis', and works hard to have variety of shot and a sense of place in the regular strip, McEldowney keeps on tilting his camera at an angle just to have room to draw something tall - but tons of people just surrender to the lack of room and the demands of the daily schedule, and just rubberstamp out their art.

I can't imagine straining against the sizes these things get reproed at on a regular basis.

Martin Juneau said...

"Only the French and the Japanese ever took them seriously as a viable pop-cultural form, anyway."

Because we have many books imports from Europe in my small Canada's side, the comics from France and Belgium is more solded to quantity through quality. Which are most frustrating is they choose only the well-know, the most popular and the more oriented to adults readers. (I dislike the pretend Adult comics term as i dislike the
Adult cartoon term too.) And too often, it results to comics with poor drawings and writing quality because they are just good to draw characters in sketchs papers. The Japanese are now winners in this genre.

Rusty said...

"What writing?"

Isn't it obvious. Just because a comic strip uses the same poses doesn't mean that they still cant come up with witty lines. The visuals is only half the battle to create a good piece of animation or comics.

I have seen beautiful visuals done in comics and animation but its not watchable to me because they don't have any decent writing.
Despite comics being static in recent years I still see hilarious material written in BC, Wizard of ID, Shoe, or Dilbert. I cringe when I see Brenda Star, Rex Morgan M.D., and Garfield but they are not a new problem.

Though look at television animation budgets have been cut by executives so much so that interesting poses and fluid animation is only seen in features now a days. So in that case same thing can be said about animated television because of those executives most of us on here dislike.

Roberto Severino said...

I'm hoping that the creator driven custom ideas and content that you were writing about in the post will "revolutionize" animation and possibly other mediums by the time I'm 30, even though that idea is not even close to being new at all (kinda like the idea of "creator-driven" cartoons, like Ren and Stimpy). Sounds way far off now, but I still think it can happen with the advent of blogs and resources like yours. Just get rid of the people in control of this mass-trend thinking, and everything could become a lot simpler, IMHO.

JohnK said...

"- but tons of people just surrender to the lack of room and the demands of the daily schedule, and just rubberstamp out their art."

there has always been a daily schedule. At one time people were able to do good drawings - and 4 different ones each day.

I think there is still enough space to be able to get a face or 2 in.

Elana Pritchard said...

Upon reflection I think the whole thing is Andy Warhol's fault.

JohnK said...

"Most people just want a three-panel joke, they don't care about the art, or lack of it. "

What jokes?

Craig Something said...

That first comic is pretty bad. They could've taken a drink of coffee or made a slight hand gesture but not even that and I think using the word "mind" instead of "head" kind of screws up the pun.

Dan szilagyi said...

"Most people just want a three-panel joke, they don't care about the art, or lack of it.

What jokes?"

I agree, instead of drawing ( and not like pencil to paper i mean ) the artists spend much longer on a gag for something...but i detest when i say gag because mostly it's something that's quickly taken from pop culture or a vague idea.
Ideally i thought jokes were the best when taken from real life, personally i find some of the smaller indie comic strips on-line far more funny and well drawn then the sunday funnies.
I think Garfield was one of the more popular strips that started the whole " let's re-use the same drawing for x amount of panels "

i also think since the general public doesn't care for comics as an art that it does in fact lose it's appeal and sense of an art form.

SikArtist said...

Thank you so much! This is why I don't watch network t.v anymore. The redundant plot lines that never go anywhere and the cumbersome ads that just completely destroy any interesting aspect they might have. This is why I believe creative driven contact will take over sometime from now. Like Nick Cross's work. All that's needed is a viable form of mass marketing to let people know who's doing what and where.

Rusty said...

You people seem to have a great dislike for the new sunday funnies. Yes there not as good as the glory days of Charles Schultz, and Bill Watterson. Well is there any other part of the art and animation industry in better shape at this point? Some of you may say yes but I strongly disagree.

Standards have dropped to new lows in the industry. Its pretty easy to figure this out just compare what was going on in the nineties when we had a boom in a feature and network animation to whats going on now. If executives continue to oppress creative freedom and artists continue to have fear to innovate well be in a worse situation than the eighties.

The industry is in such bad shape that its a bigger joke than the ones they write.

kurtwil said...

On the MYTHBUSTERS web site it becomes pretty obvious its hosts tolerate rather than endorse some of the ideas the shows' producers serve up.

Interesting what Will offered. Still, it seems a surprisingly large number of early comic book figures have very little expression or face detail (Superman being one example).

Even with strong characters, entertainment formulas get tiresome, unless one "freshens the formulas" every so often (as Fleischers did for Popeye, or JK for Ren and Stimpy, or Jim Davis did in the early (not current) phase of GARFIELD).

EatTillBurst said...

Good post. There's almost nothing more depressing then looking through the Sunday Funnies. And as far as I know NOBODY likes them! So why are they all so bad?

I used to think it was "The Man" refusing to take any risks on new ideas, but things haven't seemed that much different since the internet made it possible for anybody to get their work to the public.

I really can't figure it out. Hopefully someday me and some other passionate peoples will make some art that raises the average quality of popular art.

mike f. said...

The Saddies.

Hans Flagon said...

That first example reminded me of Howie Schneiders Eek and Meek, whose abstraction of design was confusing enough to my young mind, without discovering the strip survived its first ten years, and its Mice became Humans in the eighties (and, even more abstract and odd)

Tumbleweeds, well, I never thought it was funny, and it may have set some bad trends, but, I thought the reason there was always the same constant posing was an attempt at deadpan humor. And despite the constant cookie cutter aspect, there was some degree of complexity and heirarchy in the design; that is some degree of draftmanship if total lack of expressiveness. It was a good deal More Professional than Cathy or DIlbert which followed in its wake, which really weren't as much about cartooning as much as hitting a certain demographic with its gags.

Ryan said...

The only comic strip I've seen that isn't bland and cookie-cutter in a 'real' newspaper has been Tatulli's Lio. It does pay homage to classic comics, as well provide (some) social commentary about the present animation/comic industry. Other than Zippy the Pinhead, I don't find much enjoyment from newspaper comics anymore.

yawn said...

Bloom County and Opus, seemed to break out of the mundane arbitrary rules.

Jayextee said...

RE: Limited comics.

I'm not sure where the horrible trend originated, but something like The Angriest Dog in the World doesn't help matters either; literally the same four panels every strip, the dialogue/writing just changes.

Wouldn't sound like a recipe for success, until you factor in that it's authored by David Lynch - throw a famous name in there (he's a FILM DIRECTOR. That means he can make ANYTHING, right?) and all of a sudden it's some mark of absolute quality.

The state of comic shorts is incredibly foetid anyway, just look at webcomics. :3

Katy Lloyd said...

This video sums it up the state of 'funnies' pretty good:
http://tiny.cc/vw6em
"Garfield is Terrible"

I used to like reading old paper Peanuts books when I was young. (little collections of strips from the 50s and 60s). They had faces and the characters actually had some depth. Newspaper strips these days are just plain ugly in comparison.

Brian Romero said...

Hey John, check out the Perry Bible Fellowship:

http://pbfcomics.com/?cid=PBF231-Baby.jpg

http://pbfcomics.com/?cid=PBF207-Gingerbread_Man.jpg

http://pbfcomics.com/?cid=PBF243-The_Shrink_Ray.gif

This guy is pretty funny in my opinion and changes the style of the art depending on the gag.

Kingfish said...

glamaFez: What's wrong with having two punchlines in one strip? At least the cartoonist is trying to give a little value rather that stretching those two punchlines into two strips.

The worst thing about the "Grandma" strip is that the art is lazy, ad only exists to support a joke that everybody has heard a million times before.

Re: The Far Side: I loved that strip as a kid, because the humor was twisted and original (at the time). Gary Larson has admitted he cannot draw, but his crude cartoons at least looked funny. What gets me is all the imitators now who actually copy his style. Can you imagine copying the "style" of a guy who ADMITTEDLY lacks skill? There are tons of them out there today. "Close To Home" comes to mind.

http://www.gocomics.com/closetohome/

Bill Watterson was great. Too bad he decided to stop sharing his talent with the rest of us, but I guess he just admitted to himself that he ran out of things to say and decided to walk away.

http://pizzasketchbook.blogspot.com/2010/02/15-years-really.html

Kingfish said...

I also feel that the advent of Webcomics has hurt the current state of things. These are guys who can't draw worth a lick and could never work professionally, so they just post their stuff online. Like almost every amateurish thing found on the internet, this has lowered the standards the general public finds acceptable and leaked into the professional world.

http://xkcd.com/
http://www.sluggy.com/comics/archives/daily/100423
http://www.sluggy.com/
http://www.qwantz.com/index.php

I truly believe that's why character designs in "Shrek" look ok to most people.

Pat Desilets said...

My favourite web comic is gunshow.com

This guy has a brilliant sense of characterization, he nails every expression perfectly. His drawing is on the loose side but it's just so alive. The last few ones are somewhat minimalist but do go back a few pages, the bulk of his work is awesome.


Perry bible fellowship also gets my vote, too bad the guy had to stop making them.

Bill said...

As long as they get dough from the papers they'll just trace all they want since the newspapers probably don't care. And while the Sunday funnies rarely ever make me laugh or even chuckle, they do make me tired. I rarely ever even see any funnies that are visually appealing! Most jokes for Sunday comics can be used anyhere since most don't require their accompanying visuals, more creators should make their characters visually funny too.

Repeating drawings could be called a "stylistic choice" but thats typically a fancy way of saying "I'm lazy and don't care for my work, just gimme that money.". Hardly anyones metioned the common yet basic "left right" cameras used in the funnies, even back in the day atleast the camera would be in an imperfect spot, not perfectly to the side with both characters neatly in frame.

And I doubt its comic size, I made a comic for my colleges paper that featured a panel showing the inside of a car in one frame, it was mostly irrelevant to the gag but I figured I could make something that looks nice atleast.

seckscab said...

On print comics:

The reason print comics are so universally awful is that newspapers "democratize" the selection process. Have you ever noticed the "Vote for the comics you love best!" routine that they try ever year or so?

It was my childhood goal to be a print cartoonist, and I had one syndicate editor flat out tell me that I was "too weird for Omaha". Print features are specifically designed in such a way that they must appeal not only to the 78 year old Tea Partying Omaha folk (the only people who read newspapers these days, as well as the only people cranky enough to go out of their way to protest a comic they don't understand or find offensive; hence why Zippy, Boondocks and Doonesbury are often relegated to the classifieds underneath the horoscopes... where kids might not find them), but they are also forbidden from expanding their size beyond 2 by 6, because newspapers can't afford to print more than two pages of comics total on a daily basis.

Comics are, at this point, an indispensable part of the newspaper. Newspapers without comics don't exist. Unfortunately, newspaper editors could give a fuck less about the comics, and will concede at even the slightest whiff of controversy, so it's a dead museum of a medium.

Webcomics, of course, are just as bad, because of the lack of gatekeepers with taste. The person who sets up an online "comics page", and builds a "quality" stable of cartoonists, preferably with a recognizable name behind them (sup, John), could make an easy million.

Bill said...

There are a few newspapers without comics, and I bet another reason for their size is so they can cram as many comics into a paper and leave room for ads.

Lew said...

I'm pretty certain the pose in the Mythbusters ad is ironic.

AtomicTiki said...

It seems obvious to me. Comics, television, cartoons, movies, music: all mass industry, not art.

And even if something sneaks in there is an edifice in place to ensure that nothing artistic stays for long or ever really gets through (lest it be unprofitable.)

As for the posters, it seems like this is how Television thinks we view ourselves (which should be insulting, but no one cares).

Zoran Taylor said...

"John, always curious about something regarding the funnies...what's your thoughts on Calvin & Hobbes? I can't recall you discussing them in the past. The writing aside, it seems like C&H is the ideal example of doing away with religious model sheets."

Everyone already knows the importance of C&H. It's practically in medical textbooks now. John's silence on the subject is necessary to temper the excess of praise....for something that deserves an excess of praise.

And "writing ASIDE"? Do I have to come over there and fix your wagon, boy?

J Marc Schmidt said...

Great post. I always like to read your thoughts on comics. I'm guilty, one of my webcomics often uses a lot of dialogue, and re-uses panels and art a fair bit too. One reason is that I just don't have much time for it, partly because I'm doing a book version of the comic at the same time which is taking most of my energy. The book will be far more influenced by this blog than the webcomic is.

I'm working on my cartooniness and liveliness in the webcomic now and then, though, eg.
this one and this one.

James Dalby said...

I've found this syndicated comic disobeys those rules! http://www.metro.co.uk/games/nemi/

James Dalby said...

I've found this syndicated comic disobeys those rules! http://www.metro.co.uk/games/nemi/

Martin Juneau said...

In my small side of the Canada's country, they having a small evolution of in-house comics who existed by the humor magazines in the 80's-early 90's. One of them is the Trand Baptiste who was publsihed by the Safarir magazine between 1987 and 1995 and it's one of the most ingenious comics made locally. http://yfrog.com/9fbaptiste5j

But like everthing today, the in-house comics made today consisted to draw flat, angular, full of cell-shaddings (A bad habit of my comic personally.) and without sense of perspective and proportions. And i think things is worse with webcomics and fan comics you can find on DeviantArt.

Rusty said...

EatTillBurst after carefully reading your comment I have to say while the internet has produced amateurs it has also given good and talented artists a chance for publicity. John K resurfaced in the public eye through here and many of his friends achieved some form of success through blogger and other websites showcasing their work so I completely disagree with you. Also if your anticipating to be the aritst that turns the industry around I would like to see your work your page is set on private so how will I know?

Kieran Pertnav said...

Ugh, I hate reality shows about boring people. Why would you want to watch a show trying to make regular jobs seem more interesting when you could watch something that actually has like...ideas.
I once saw a TV show about Tow Truck drivers. Ugh.

I've noticed that A, B, C plot thing on Family Guy, but I didn't realize they actually did it on purpose. I just thought the writer sat down and puked the whole thing out in one session and then got sidetracked. You get to waste 3 plots in one episode. The only thing worse is when the realize this and stick so rigidly to the plot that they forget to put in any jokes.

Matt Rasch- I saw that one, I must say Calvin and Hobbes was one of the greatest things that ever happened to America.

Bird said...

I had to stop watching The Simpsons because in their later seasons every story would begin with CRAZY Plot A and through even crazier circumstances change to Plot B in a couple minutes. Every story was the same and somehow it became more and more noticeable until I couldnt do it anymore.

I dont remember this from the early seasons and wonder if I didnt notice it or if something changed in the industry...

Bird said...

I had to stop watching The Simpsons because in their later seasons every story would begin with CRAZY Plot A and through even crazier circumstances change to Plot B in a couple minutes. Every story was the same and somehow it became more and more noticeable until I couldnt do it anymore.

I dont remember this from the early seasons and wonder if I didnt notice it or if something changed in the industry...