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You Crazy Kids With Your Rough Housing

So we're two issues in to Rough Housing, with the third issue written and under construction. As I started to say on Twitter the other day, I'm enjoying the new SJ series, and I hope you are too. :) It's not quite settled into "home" yet, but getting there. When I start getting ideas that aren't "part of the main story," I'll have it.

The comic page is a different beast from the comic strip format, with a much different pace and, more importantly, a tighter focus. In a 3-4 panel comic strip format, each day's comic is a more discrete entity that follows a pretty solid pattern:

  1. Premise

  2. Development

  3. Twist

  4. Punchline (with optional rejoinder)

Each strip is a self-contained building block, another brick in the wall so to speak, creating a natural rhythm. A collected series of comic strips thus become a kind of visual poetry, with the occasional longer "Sunday style" comic acting to break the monotony like a musical bridge.

No, seriously! Read a full book's worth of Peanuts or Pogo sometime if you don't believe me, and pay attention to the dramatic beats.

The comic book, not so much. While each page of the comic may stand alone, it's not a requirement that it must. The core unit of the comic is the book, which is a longer form, calling for a longer narrative, but which paradoxically leaves less room for diversions. When you go from your building block being "today's gag" to being "1/22 of the current story," it becomes harder to fit in little moments that don't move the story along somehow.

Thing is, those little moments are the part that I'm actually the most interested in. Y'know, like those cool things the characters do in the opening credits that never actually appear in the TV show? I want my characters to be doing those things!

In the original Suburban Jungle, I would switch off between doing "plot heavy" strips for a while, and then doing a week or two of "gag strips" that were just little slice of life moments, and I loved those. The danger of course was that sometimes those little slices sometimes became big slices that ended up taking over, such as Yin's trips to The Village.

Suburban Jungle by The Gneech, July 16, 2007

These things are harder to fit into the comic page format. Content-wise, each page is roughly equivalent to two strips (or one Sunday style). That means a minimum of two gags per page, with what would be a week's worth of gag-a-day strips in a traditional comic strip becoming a three-page story arc in the comic format.

Three pages? That's a really awkward size, dude. In a comic page format, if you have more than one page, you pretty much need to have at least four, or it feels rushed. And if you have a 22-page book, that suddenly puts you in the situation of having one four page story, and one eighteen page story...

So you see the problem? Small stories become harder to tell. Toss-off gags become downright difficult to squeeze in. All of the little moments that create texture, subtlety, and nuance (in as much as a comic can have texture, subtlety, and nuance) have to fight to earn their place in the headlong rush of getting through the plot.

I don't think it's an unsolvable problem, but it is something I'm going to have to devote some attention to. For instance, in the first two issues, we've seen almost exclusively Charity, Langley, and Roxie. Obadiah Otter, a supporting character created purely as a vehicle for the Cangrejo Diablo storyline, has had more screen time than Rufo Redwolf, Parker Peacock, and Bounce Otter, who are ostensibly permanent and important cast members. Fortunately, those guys will finally get to do some stuff in issue three!

One of the things I'd like to do to get around this is more on-the-side art, which can tell whole stories in a single image, but of course those require time and energy, two things I'm always strapped for. But as I look at some of my "role models" for the comic, such as Love Hina, I see that there are tons of extra images scattered around those books: covers, of course, but also as flourishes for text pages, pin-ups and standalone filler pages, etc. So maybe I should "bake in" extra art as part of my expected workload.

What do you think? How do you like Rough Housing so far? Is there something you'd like to see more (or less) of? How would you incorporate "smaller moments" into the comic book format? Inquiring Gneeches want to know!

-The Gneech

This has been a noise from my thinkybits.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 19th, 2014 03:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks. :D

You notice that the strip I posted follows the 4-step comic strip progression perfectly? ;)

Nov. 19th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)

I can definitely see how the format change can pose a challenge to getting smaller side stories and character moments into things.

Feedback from readers will help, especially as the story advances and the hotel starts getting customers. You never know which one shot character people will take a liking to.

Another thing you could consider doing is occasionally putting two or three shorter stories in an issue, showing the same events from different points of view, or doing something unusual with the medium.

I've found the series interesting so far, and want to know what happens next.

I'm also eagerly awaiting the day when this series gets its signature running gag.

Nov. 19th, 2014 04:14 pm (UTC)
I'm looking forward to that too, but I have no idea what or when that'll be. It kinda has to happen organically in order to work. :)

I have been playing with the idea of "anthology" issues, say six four-page stories instead of one 22-pager, that kind of thing, but that's still in development. The Cangrejo Diablo story is basically a single 44-page tale, so that's got me booked through the end of issue three either way. We'll see what issue four brings! :)

Nov. 19th, 2014 10:41 pm (UTC)

I tried the comic strip-->comic page writing, and I found it massively awkward. What I found worked best: the overall issue was plotted first, the page breakdown was decided, and the gags were inserted where appropriate (and as often as possible)--some gags require more or less setup. Since a traditional comic page is drawn in 2:3, and thus six equal panels, I'd script it as six beats/plot points/actions/whatever, and build the gags into that with whatever additional panels were required. (This is why I sometimes ask about your outline pacing). As long as there's at least one gag per page, you have plenty of time for futzing around.

Then do longer than 22 pages ;-) Though I can't say I disagree with the sentiment, I've never had any luck with shorter stories.

I know you showed a few sample outlines, but I was always under the impression Charity/Langley were going to be the most heavily featured anyway. Or maybe I'm still in the mindset of your previous comics...

Bonus art is always fun, but I don't think you could take away from the "story" pagecount; that'd have to just be additional pages.

Overall? The comic is coming along nicely, but as you said, we haven't seen enough of the entire cast. How is the scheduling looking like it'll pan out? If these were quarterly releases I think it'd be good, but if these are only semi-annual releases, it's going to take awhile to thoroughly get to everyone. I'll be honest...the Cangrejo story could have been condensed to one (longer) issue, if you wanted to power through to other (coughRufo) plotlines ;-)
Nov. 20th, 2014 05:55 pm (UTC)
I like the comic! I look forward to seeing more of the cast and their stories.

The 22-page comic-book format doesn't appeal to me at all as a consumer and I'm iffy about it as a reader. As a consumer, I dislike comic books: they're flimsy, and not long enough to be a satisfying read, and they tend to be more expensive per page than the more satisfying and durable experience of a graphic novel. As a reader, I don't want to notice that the story has to fit in exactly 22 pages; when I do notice (because it feels rushed or stretched out to fit), it annoys me a little.

I do not have any insights on how to make these things work better, but I agree with you that the slice-of-life stuff usually engages me more than the plotiness of a webcomic. I care about the characters more than the problem-du-jour, as a rule.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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