May 2008

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

Comments

Freda Ho

Once again, Scott proves that an artist should be just left to express in his own most natural style. All in all, it's ART! I can't see if you do not want to force a novelist to write poems, why would you like to change how Scott draws?

rd

Mokkery,
a nice review for Scott Meyer
this is for you, hope you'll like it
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kE6PRly2_U

Peter

if those are the only two options, keep the wordy format. too much is lost in translation with the shortened version...

scottmag

I think that the people claiming to like Scott Meyer's condensed four panel version are overestimating the typical newspaper reader. I imagine that those readers that pass by the comics page, or even navigate to it, are going to read a couple of favorites. Probably light-weight stuff like Family Circus. It's going to be hard to win over those readers trapped in their routines. Maybe impossible with a dense, wordy strip. If you want to catch the eye of casual readers with the goal of building a loyal reader base then it may be best to lighten it up (in terms of wordiness and overall density). It's hard to suggest changing one's art, but for the sake of this overall experiment how about splitting that strip into two? Take each half and expand the two panels to three. I bet Scott could get two good three-panel strips out of it. It may not be his vision, or the most comfortable for him to write, but we're experimenting here, right?

Matt

I think if I knew that Basic Instructions was printed in a particular newspaper, I would go looking for it regardless of the format.

Newspaper Editors, in my opinion, are like Poodles - they rank 9 out of a score of 10 in their respective fields (ie: journalists/dogs) but that is just in their opinion. In reality they rank a 3 or 4.

What this means is that they usually don't have a clue what they're doing and don't necessarily know what the reading population want.

'Basic Instructions' is just plain, bloody funny and should be printed in the format that Scott prefers.

It definitely beats shit like 'Family Circus' which seems to be in every goddamn newspaper I've ever picked up.

Matt

I think if I knew that Basic Instructions was printed in a particular newspaper, I would go looking for it regardless of the format.

Newspaper Editors, in my opinion, are like Poodles - they rank 9 out of a score of 10 in their respective fields (ie: journalists/dogs) but that is just in their opinion. In reality they rank a 3 or 4.

What this means is that they usually don't have a clue what they're doing and don't necessarily know what the reading population want.

'Basic Instructions' is just plain, bloody funny and should be printed in the format that Scott prefers.

It definitely beats shit like 'Family Circus' which seems to be in every goddamn newspaper I've ever picked up.

Mokkery

HOW TO TAKE ADVICE FROM A BLOG BRAIN – ADVICE FOR SCOTT MYER

Blog brains are a new and wildly unpredictable creature popularized by cartoonist Scott Adams. Individual cells in the blog brain are made from people who are highly intelligent, educated and experienced. They have a wide range of geographical, ethnic, national backgrounds and they hold a variety of political, cultural and spiritual views.

As a whole, the blog brain is quite psychotic. It’s comprised of thousands of lurking thoughts and hundreds of voices screaming to be heard. The only way to take advice from a blog brain is to step back and look at the big picture. You must learn to ignore the distracting comments and focus on what the entire blog brain has to say.

PEOPLE WHO LIKE BASIC INSTRUCTIONS

• Your audience isn’t reaching for reading glasses to try and see your comic. They’re adding RSS feeds and texting their friends when a new “Basic Instructions” comes out.
• They’re technically literate.
• They get a large portion of their content from the Internet.
• Think about it: Your audience is currently participating in an online mentoring session between an award-winning syndicated cartoonist and an aspiring cartoonist.

WHAT THE COMMENTERS SAYS ABOUT YOUR COMICS

• It’s funny – the humor hits home with many people.
• The individual frames often stand on their own.
• There are several punch lines in each comic.
• You should think outside the box. Don’t do things the way they were done in 1989 when Dilbert was first published, do them the way they’re done in 2007. Or even better, so then the way they will be done on 2010.

WHAT THE EXPERIENCED CARTOONIST SAYS ABOUT YOUR COMICS

• Newspaper syndication is where the money is.
• Mr. Adams says: “The rational path is to try and develop the strip to the point where Scott gets a syndication offer.”
• Mr. Adams says: “Newspapers are looking for single-panel strips like Bizarro, or the three-or-four panel strips like Dilbert. And the words have to be large enough for their older subscribers to read.”
• Mr. Adams is concerned that the “…physical shape, and his wordiness, won’t sell to major newspapers.”
• Mr. Adams has adapted his comic over the years to make it more marketable. He thinks Mr. Myer should consider doing the same.
• The precise format isn’t entirely obvious.
• Changing the format may dilute the comedy and ruin the strip.

THE PLAN

• Make it a goal to syndicate a one panel cartoon.
• Include online access to an expanded strip in the original format. Most people, including Mr. Adams, think this is the best format for your style.
• Rather than compromising and switching to a different format, keep the original format but add to it. Learn to create a “teaser” in the form of a single panel that gets published in newspapers.
• The strip that goes in the news papers would be a single panel comic like the Far Side. The Internet version would expand on the theme of the news paper version.
• The single panel strip for the newspaper would have to stand on its own. This would be a challenge. Fortunately, many of the existing strips have individual panels that are very funny.
• For some of your comics, you could run each of the 4 panels consecutively for 4 days.
• Make the Internet interaction with your audience an integral part of the plan (much like Scott has done with his blog).
• Have a “members only” area that you can solicit feedback from a core fan base. Give them exclusive access to content. Bounce your ideas against them before deciding on a final version for the newspaper. But always make the newspaper a surprise even for those core fan base members who have looked behind the scenes.

THE CHALLENGE

• Rework some existing comics and/or draw some new ones that would fit the new format. Focus on making a single frame with a lot of impact.
• You’ll probably need to experiment with a personal process for creating a comic. You might, for example, draw the 4 panel comic first, the way you do now, and then use that to create the single panel comic that will end up in the news paper.
• Read “The Day You Became A Better Writer” by Scott Adams (http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2007/06/the_day_you_bec.html)
• Read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White (Specifically, Rule 17 – Omit needless words)

Mark Harrison

I found the "four-panel" one taxing to read.

That having been said, I think the content is great, but "too dense."

You could easily split the first two frames into three (Question, Response, Crouch silhouette).

For me, the funniest thing in the strip was the silhouette of the man crouching, in "ninja pose" in an attempt to calm down the child.

... I suspect that the rest of the original could be split out into a following day. I'm probably showing my age now, but Breathed used to do that all the time in Bloom County.

js

I like the original format best. I think the strip format is too restricted. Then again, the original format would work as a feature of its own, apart from the comics page.

steve?

The comic was hilarious, but it was visually intimidating with all the text. If it was in a paper, I'd probably just skip it.

Stu

[You're addressing issues of formatting but one thing seems to escape you Scott. Basic Instructions is not funny.

[How did you rule out the possibility that the problem is on your end? Was it all the comments on this blog saying they love Basic Instructions? -- Scott]]

That did worry me until I saw todays post when you re-wrote it in your own style Scott. Then it became funny.

There's a reason why comedy writers aren't 10 a penny. It's a real skill to distill an idea down to the barest minimum that is required to make it actually funny.

The original idea of that Basic Instructions strip had a germ of an idea but it was wrapped up in so much verbiage that the humour got lost. Comedy is a bit like archaeology - the writer has to scrape away the unnecessary layers very carefully until that funny germ remains.

Thanks for taking time to address my post. Stu.

Regret

Echoing a lot of comments here - I personally like the original format better. I have no experience to comment on how this works in syndication - I don't even read hard copy newspapers anymore. I think this is going to be challenging.

Alan

Worst of both worlds, IMHO. Run 1 block over 3 or 4 days (or 5 if there is enough material for 5 days). Save the blocks that can't be broken into several days of good lines for Sunday.

SharonDee

I saw this four panel version before I saw the original. In the case of the former, it didn't make sense to me. In the latter case, I understood and got a chuckle out of it.

Give it up. If the only way he can get newspaper syndication is to change his style, it won't work.

Snowden

This is better than the previous attempt to cram it into newspaper dimensions, but my favourite part - the cries of the alien begging to be spared - is still lost. I think it needs to keep to the large format.

Miguel

I think that if the current format (wordy 4-panel strips) helps him selling to newspapers, he should go for it.

This way he doesn't have to compromise the humor - just some readability (you do lose some of the humor, but not that much).

But this change should be done only if it really enables sales, otherwise it's a waste.

Dildog

That's horrible. I find the originals hilarious for the most part, and this mess is too cluttered. Less text or a better font might help, but I'd hate to think what would have happened if someone told Gary Larson he had to work in a four panel format.

Some (most?) papers still have a few comics that are a large square instead of the short wide strip, why not go forward trying to sell that, even as a Sunday only strip, then see how it goes?

Bill McCai

I find the wordy version much funnier, but having all the text crammed into the strip style instead of the spacier square style he had before is definately visually awkward. perhaps there is some middle ground between the two? i mean, don't over simplify the dialog, but maybe cut back just a little for the sake of the visual.

bgarrett

Sundays (today) comic is be the best EVER!

Simon Allen (UK)

The original square format has the advantage of being unusual - if it he can get commissioned. Some papers run a whole series of strips on a page and then I tend to ignore them as they all look the same. I realise that the square format might hold him back from some old style publications but the new look should(!) carry an edge of it's own.

As to wordiness, I think that he can reduce the words because the words of the characters are already amusing. He goes to great lengths to 'set up' the punchline twice by the top panels and then the character's own feed line and then we can already see the punch coming.

In many cases the top panel feed line is 50% too long or completely redundant. Bear in mind that I like wordiness in stories but ... Scott is drawing a cartoon, not a wordtoon.

Geoffrey

I don't know what idiot at the syndication company is feeding you demographics, but if somebody can't read that strip, they can't read newsprint either. What do you think they're doing with the newspaper?? Making paper hats?

Artemas Gruzdeff

Scott, do you believe that to succeed Basic Instructions should be more like Dilbert?
Dilbert turned out so well not because it was like Dilbert, but because it was unlike anything else.
The best policy is to leave the artist alone. He'll figure everything out himself, eventually. Or he won't. In any case, he won't have you to blame.

Rick Miller

I don't think it works as a "strip".

He already HAD something that worked. He should run with it.

Newspapers?!? Does anyone still read those???

Graham

I think it works... but I tend to view my comics "first" on a source like Yahoo! and what I've found with more "wordy" strips like Cathy are that I have to click on them so they are ever so slightly expanded, otherwise the text is too small to make out.

Strips like Dilbert and Garfield only occasionally need this treatment because they are usually completely readable at the first size.

Doesn't stop me reading the more wordy strips... but in the bigger sense of syndication maybe this is something Scott might want to think about.

Mitchell

Is it just coincidence, or a little mental manipulation, that you ended this post with an "Option A + risk, or Option B" format exactly like you described two posts ago? :)

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