May 2008

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Having perused some of Mr. Meyer's work, I noticed that many of the four panel comics work (very) well *without* the fourth panel. I also liked the example three-panel. And the "instructions" theme is already a theme, right? Reminds me of Letterman's Top Ten lists...and he's been doing those a long time...


i thought the strip in this blogpost was great-funny, and right to the point. while i enjoy some of the wordier comics i've read through scott's archives i agree that for the general public shorter is sweeter. when i read wordier comics in a newspaper i tend to feel a bit antsy, like i'm thinking the author should get to the point already. i am definately for #1, as for the rest am not quite sure...i think it would be dependent on how successful the comic became when it was syndicated.


My problem with Basic Instruction is that the word balloons are not in the right place. Scott, they are not where you would have put them; you kinda have to look for the next phrase a little, which disrupts the
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Why is the format of Basic Instructions such a big deal? I think it can work, and as we can see from Opus, it already works. Opus takes up a little more than the whole bottom half of my Sunday LA TIMES newspaper page, and I love it. I wouldn't recommend them to kick out Pearls Before Swine and Doonesbury, which make up the other half of that page, for Basic Instructions, but there are a lot of boring comics that BI can replace. Like Tundra, which is only there to fill in for Foxtrot. I'd love to see Basic Instructions in my newspaper, and I have sent links to it to my friends!

And do keep it in its untainted, un-Adammed form (aka the long version).


beautifull. his some gordon. tahnk you brother.


I think "humurous advice" is a theme all in it's own right, and by focusing on everyday issues, you've hit upon a topic that can resonate with almost anyone.

Mike E

Both 1 and 5. There is a good chance that he will achieve the long form as part of the creative process involved in cutting it down to the short form. He could easily then market the long form on his website while still trying for syndication with the short form without much extra work.

Rex May

Interesting. I can write a hundred single-panel gags in three or four hours, but writing for a multipanel strip is pure agony.

peter fleming

To answer your suggestions.
Yes to 1 and 2.
No to 3 and 4.
Continue with 5, but no reason to make it exclusively on-line. Why can't the current format work as a Sunday only strip in the papers?

I don't think it's too wordy, not when you comapare it to Pearls before Swine. I think the artwork is fine, and I think bringing in an artist is a bad idea, I rather like the art style.


I would definitely advise AGAINST telling him to add a theme. I read the ones before where he tried that, and they weren't as funny as his usual work.

I don't see why the small format has to be only three panels. There are plenty of successful four-panel strips out there...I think there are more four-panel strips in my newspaper than three-panel strips (The only one that comes to mind is Dilbert).

My advice would be to try re-working the longer strip into the small format, but without compromising the content. That would mean using four panels, not three, and dropping the Trebuchet MS for a font that's easily read at smaller size. But I think the wordiness contributes a lot to the strip (such as to distract the reader from the fact that the art in every panel is the same).


I just finished reading all of the archived Basic Instructions. Thanks Scott Adams for recommending this website, and thanks to the other Scott for doing such a good job. I have gotten a few other people hooked on your website too, and I don't recommend things unless I really enjoy them. Please keep up the good work!

Johnny Ouais

Both Scott,

Scott, I think your guidance miss something important here. The only thing Scott is lacking to converge to smaller strip format is optimization.

Scott's good at what he's doing. But, he can't think of creating something quite fitting the syndicated cartoonist creteria in a single shot. Clearly, he's not used to.

Scott, try follow those steps.

1. Create a new strip exactly the way you are used to.
2. Enjoy the result. Enjoy it again. Then stop enjoying it.
3. Now, think how you can remove some stuff from it. Simplify, merge. But keep the main idea without losing the precious funny effects.
4. When you think doing more could alter too much your comic strip. Stop.
5. Enjoy the result. Enjoy it again. Then go back to step 3.

An analogy in the computer world might be this one. You have a problem to solve. But, the fastest algorithm in the smallest exe possible is your first goal. Starting this way, you'll never succeed even resolving the problem. Start with a working solution, then optimize until performance requirements are met.

Scott has a working solution but yet not optimized enough to meet the syndicated cartoonist criteria. Premature optimisation is the root of all evil.

Scott, I wish you good luck and hope this little post might help you a bit. Keep up the good work.


1. + 2. I prefer the long form and would prefer it in my newspaper. Some of the short form ones work well though.
I particularly like the "You Will Learn" logo.
3. Add no other artist.
4. Already has a theme. And I love it.
5. Distribute the long form online only. That is an idea.

Publish the shortened version in papers and let the "true fans" see both versions... AND they can then buy the "real, artistically honest" 4 panel square version that works better on shirts, calendars, and mugs anyway!

Dave K.

He should add a theme song to his strip. The first panel could have a code that allows the reader to access the theme song online. It's a first - and would allow the newspapers to participate in the internet age!

People love theme songs and care about little else.


I say number 2

this could work for him because the funny is there

a good amount of comics are not always short

i looked at my comic pages today and saw multiple wordy ones like 'Get Fuzzy", "Zits", "pearls before swine" had some wordage today itself

All i am getting at is if he gets in the door he is gonna get all the way thru

i see true potential in it


1 and 2. Try to get the wordy, 4-panel format accepted, but keep evolving the 3-panel as a back-up. No need for option 3; I think the cartoonized photos are hilarious and more expressive than most drawn faces would be.


I know of a single panel you did that was funny. I'm sure it was part of a longer strip, but someone at the office cut out only one panel. Dogbert is lecturing, "Dance like it hurts. Love like you need money. Work when people are watching."


I'd say to stick with the short form and see if in a few days or weeks he can shorten the text (too wordy for newspapers, also it may be slightly illegible when printed) to reach the same quality level of the long form.

Haven't you done the same, Scott (Adams), when you transitioned from the "general life" strip to the "workplace" strip? The first strips were still an hybrid between the two, and as time passed the comic stabilized.

Drawing is very subjective. However I haven't seen many strips drawn using traced photographs (or a style which imitates that). I would make the art into something more cartoonish, not doodle-like like Dilbert or Pearls Before Swine but something like Bloom County or Liberty Meadows. Using animals instead of humans could make the production of merchandising easier, but perhaps that's not the point.

police diver

First of all Basic instructions does have a "hook", is about something ect "Basic instructions", its in the name these are basic instructions to live life this is the best subject ever whatever you want to call it. Second Scott, (Adams) your best work is always on Sundays and you use like six panels and sometimes half a page. Scott should adapt the three panel basic instructions which are funny enough and funner than 99% of everything out there and do his classic four panel on Sundays and no one would notice the bigger size. this would make Scott a wealthy man some day, He also needs to write a book or two that hit the charts this would help him allot.

Ewan MacKenzie

2, and consider 3 if it's too much effort for SM to make the artwork different in each pane. I quite like the style of the artwork as it is, but I don't like the repetition. Also, I think the artwork ought to emphasise what the words are saying, the majority of the time. At the moment I find the words are funny but the artwork usually isn't.

Finally, I much prefer the wordier format. The style and the content of the explanations are what makes this strip funny. True, some people can't be bothered to read a wordy comic, but why should all cartoonists have to pander to the lowest common denominator?


i before e

I still like the shorter "newspaper" versions. I would recommend that he tries that approach if he is serious about being syndicated.


Scott what i see is Meyer has a longer format whose each panel can be converted to a three panel strip that just fits perfectly with newspaper. It does lose its humor quotient a bit, but then it doesn't lose it completely.

So why cant he just come up with both versions. Draw a longer version for net. And convert a panel to come up with corresponding three panel strip.


I would just like to point out that there is a broad range of incomes between high powered lawyer and barista. Some of which can still support a family, a house, and new gaming consoles while not making money your highest priority.

I'd say that is entirely up to what Scott Meyer wants himself, and anything advice that we as an audience has to give is kind of pointless there.

Is there any reason he can't make the short versions for syndication and keep up once a week "creative freedom" and books or whatever online? Similar to how you often post your pre-censorship strips here on your blog?

christian huber

i'd go for 1

i think his style is cool, but still rather give away some style and get read than be stylishly ignored

(note: this does not apply to every situation in life, nor does it work in extreme ways)


One thing about Meyer's style is that while the drawings are great (and, I think, basic to the humor in the strip) they are visually repetitive. This is fine if you're going for a 'Red Meat' type of strip, but it is a style that's quite different from what's normally seen on the comic pages. Kinda computery, in a way. I'm not suggesting that he should add a 'Mark Twain'-like panel with an uppercut to the jaw every now and then, but... well, maybe I am. I dunno.

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