May 2008

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« Dilbert rerun? | Main | Basic Instructions, Part 6 »



If you go to Scott M's site you will find several two-panel postings which are quite good.

He does not need a four-panel format.

On the above example: Perhaps I am wrong, but I would think that SM could easily make two seperate two-panel postings out of this, and both would work successfully in their own right. Anyway, many cartoonists, eg Doonesbury, would from time to time, run a small series on the same topic over two or three days. And it works well.


why don't you simply ask your syndication company?????


I think all the strips of his that you've shown here, in their different formats, are fairly good.

Something about this focus group approach to getting the most marketable comic is a turn off, though. I know that the whole point is that you became a success by listening to what your readers wanted, and you're trying to help this artist do the same. I'd rather just see the artist follow his own "vision", though. If it sells, great. If it fails, well, hopefully he knows how to do something else.

Yes, I know, bound to be a minority opinion. It's only a comic strip, for crying out loud, and in any case, it makes sense to study the market. I just kind of miss the Bill Watterson attitude, that Calvin and Hobbes was *his*, he was going to do what he wanted with it, and the public could take it or leave it. Of course, it helped that what he wanted to do with it was what a big chunk of the public wanted, too.

Dan K

I have to say I'm feeling a little geriatric (spellcheck anyone) with this latest one, I'm going to risk coining a new phrase but I think you are helping him to death. I'm pretty neutral on the previous format changes, but this last one would keep me from reading it. I read small text all day long, but I think maybe the comic font is particularly annoying when it's small compared to more typical fonts.


Probably not what you want to hear, but I first read the smaller, condensed version, and thought it was forgettable, then I followed the link in someone's comment to the original version, and I laughed out loud. The text was just so much funnier in the wordier-version.

But is this the kind of comic that'd appeal to your general newspaper reading audience anyway? It seems like anything that's both clever and popular also has some element that dumb people can appreciate. The Simpsons is clever, but you just know that 85% of its viewers don't get the jokes and just like it 'cause Bart is naughty and Homer is dumb. Dilbert is clever but also has talking animals. What is the part of this comic that will appeal to dumb people as well?

C Johnson

I've seen plenty worse, syndicated and without jokes...

christian huber

i'd go for less words. the density somehow turned me off from reading it. from far enough away i guess it just looks like 4 black dots

but then again i am very lazy

Kevin Kunreuther

I prefer the original 4-panel box over the 4-panel strip. I also love the technique where there is a punchline in every panel, each one building on previous. Obviously Mr Meyer has honed this approach vey well. Lots of very funny post-modern irony and sarcasm. Emphasis on very funny. The narration is good, maybe edit it down a mere tad, not so much that it becomes "haiku".
Find an aggressive and sympathetic agent who will sell your strip on your terms to syndicate and newspaper editors(The patter:"People still read Marmaduke? And Heathcliff? Won't those suscribers be dead soon? Cancel 'em, and fill the space with this comic. It's hip, urbane, attracts younger, richer suscribers who'll live a lot longer and not scary to advertisers like that "Boondocks" strip, or highbrow elitist, like "Doonesbury" ... yeah, it's real refrigerator/office space clip out stuff, gonna' sell a lot of ads, I guarantee!")

David Creech

A relevant follow up question might be to find out how many of the respondents actually purchase a newspaper as opposed to reading comics purely on the web...The last time I actually purchased a newspaper was several years ago when I needed the Sunday comics to wrap a present for a friend as a bit of a piece of humor.

Tom the Pooklekufr

Everything that can be attempted in comics, has been attempted. Except for Scott's distinctive format. What other comic uses Scott's large format? There's a niche in the comic world his comic uniquely fills.

What is really so unmarketable about Scott's original format?


I don't like the extra text. It's too busy, making me not want to read it. I want to move on. Besides, it doesn't really add anything that you can't figure out by reading the comic conversation bubbles. It simply restates the obvious and it usually isn't funny. I don't see the point.


It seems that your really trying to format Basic Instructions into what worked for Dilbert, i.e "use fewer words, increase text size, and dilute the humor density." While this could be successful, it's probably better for the strip to find it's own system.


Looks too texty.


First... And this has been pointed out earlier... The punch that makes the original comic funny is missing in the re-formatted one...

Second... There's SOMETHING about the original format that ADDS to the humour of the comic than the re-formatted one (Even if the text is the same)...

Third... I didn't think the text was too hard to read in the new format... But i still think that the original format was better... But, keep in mind that i have not the foggiest idea about how to get a cartoon syndicated... I'm just going by my standards for what is funny and what isn't...

P.S: LIFE is NOT funny...


Um, I think the whole idea is good, but the punchline is lost in the text we have to wade through... something sharp and concise will really puch the joke through.


Why couldn't you ask something simple like where does the universe end? I like his work and it is funny. It does loose something in the translation to 4 panel letterbox format. I agree though it works but just barely. If he could work on the wordiness (which I admit is some of the charm) it would be better.


Is it just me? I don't think it's funny.
Definitely too small. Fewer words would be more desirable especially on newspaper. That's why I love F Minus.
If the instruction part on top is to be typed up instead of handwritten, it'll be more readable and yet preserve the instructional flavor.


I think he should go with his gut instinct and design these cartoons the way he thinks works best. Getting advice from an unknown bunch of Internet users is the worst form of design-by-committee.


Maybe it is just this particular one, but it looks too "busy" to me.
I was a huge fan of the previous format, and will continue to read it on line, so the format issue does not bother me as far as newspapers are concerned. And quite possibly I would buy a book, and I think format would be less of an issue there too.


With a little editing, this single strip could have been spread over a multiple days using the standard 3 panel format. Many strips take several days to complete a train of thought.


Yeah, keep the hard to read format. It retains the humor, and that's what's important. I loved that "non-threatening" stance.

Shane Ash

I say give up on newspapers. They're on their way out anyways so adhering to an archaic/limiting format is pointless. Seriously.. who's going to be flipping through those clumsy things in 5 years?

"But that's 5 years of income and exposure!"


The original format is great and it seems to just click, is what I wanna say.


I like the strip form better. And I definately think the four panel version is too wordy. The dialogue tends to be much funnier than the text at the top, which doesn't seem to flow well.


Although he does use some superfluous words, maybe he could gain a bit of space by learning to be more economical. Minor rereading, not a complete restyle though. That would definitely be too ambitious.


I have to agree with those who mentioned that it still doesn't work quite as well as the large four-panel format. The text and drawings are squeezed just a little too much. However, I think that this move would be a HUGE help for syndication, while still keeping the comic much closer to his original vision than the abbreviated one.
I do not think he should radically change his idea: this way is better.

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