If you are new to my ongoing reality series on cartoonist Scott Meyer, start with this link to catch up:
In an earlier post I advised Scott to try focusing on relationship themes, to make the strip “about something,” and therefore more marketable. The readers of this blog overwhelmingly advised the opposite.
So who gave the best advice? Was it the award-winning syndicated cartoonist with nearly two decades of experience? Or was it the random people who have no expertise?
See for yourself. Click to enlarge.
Yes, yes, you people with no experience as cartoonists seem to have given the best advice. If we are to judge by these four new comics, I think you’ll agree they don’t achieve the same level of humor as Scott’s work on http://basicinstructions.net/
First, these four comics yell to the reader, “I sat down and tried to think of some ideas about relationships.” Once you’re in that hole, it’s hard to write your way out. Scott’s a terrific writer, but my advice created a large burden.
Compare these new comics to Scott’s recent comic on http://basicinstructions.net/, about trying to silently open a bag of snacks at the movies. That premise is an inspired observation. You immediately have that “been there” feeling. And in its own way, it is a relationship theme because the woman solved a problem for the man. The premise lifts the writing and makes it easy. And the reader knows the premise came from life, not sitting and thinking of ideas.
As a creator, it’s tough to have a great inspiration every day. If you add the constraint that the inspiration has to be in a narrow field, you bring down the odds considerably.
Scott has another obstacle when focusing his comic on relationships, and this one is bigger than the first: Humor requires a level of truth that is incompatible with staying married. Realistically, Scott can’t venture too far into relationship truth with a comic that is autobiographical.
In the aforementioned snack-opening comic, his wife was the problem-solver. That comic works because it rings of truth. But there can’t be that many marital truths that are also a compliment to the spouse. So Scott is limited both by the narrow focus (relationships), and also by the fact he’s married.
When I started Dilbert, I worked in an office. I wrote truth about the workplace, and it had an immediate negative impact on my so-called career. If you think people will understand that a joke is just a joke, you’re wrong. Jokes are an implied criticism. That’s why you like ‘em.
My other advice to Scott involved changing the physical form of the comic to a rectangle, so it fits in newspapers. I also recommended making it less wordy. Most of you advised against those changes too. Judging from the rectangle samples I’ve seen (including a few you haven’t seen), I have to say you’re right again. His best work is in the wordier, four-square format.
So what the hell good is all my expertise if I keep getting everything wrong? Obviously I need to step up my game.
Do I advise Scott to quit on the relationship theme, and the strip format, and try to be the first cartoonist to make it big the “alternative” way? Does the Internet change the game enough to make that a smart strategy? Maybe, but that option stays open no matter what.
Let’s try one more strategy to make the strip format and the relationship theme work. I’d like you to suggest comic themes for Scott, based on your own observations. They don’t have to be husband-wife centric, as long as they expose a gender difference in how people think or act.
I’ll start. In my house, when it’s “time to go” someplace, I put on my jacket and go stand near the door. Once there, time stands still. To me, “time to leave” means “go stand near the door.” To other people, it signals the start of an infinite sequence of events that may or may not culminate in leaving.
That’s a comic.
What’s your relationship observation? (Watch how hard it is to avoid clichés you have seen a million times.)