My friend Matt “Powers” Wilson, the creator of the Sam and Nate characters from the Classic Pub strips, posted some pretty excellent feedback to today’s strip:

Not that I have any right to tell you how to do your comic… but I wonder if you could have excised the second panel and pushed the monologue into the other two. As you note, space is at a premium in comics, and so sometimes you have to show your action in as few panels as possible.

I have mentioned repeatedly that I struggle with “panel density” in these new strips, especially given the dearth of updates (one per week) which means that there is a long wait between comics.  This presents difficult problems for keeping readers engaged, and so I want to try to get more panels, more dialog, more action into the comics.  So here, Powers has definitely tapped into something with which I struggle often.  The biggest problem for me is that I do not like working small.  I dislike drawing small, and I don’t like putting small font into the comic.  It’s bizarre because, when I am reading comics, I don’t even notice when there are 8, 9, 10 panels on a page.  The art looks fine, and everything is clear and readable.  I don’t know why I have trouble with it myself.

I will say that I am writing the script as clearly defined pages, which is something I’ve never done before.  In the past I would write scripts panel-by-panel, and decide which panels (and how many) to include on a page when the time came to sit down and plot the page out.  Now, I try to capture a logical sequence of action to “fit’ a single page.  A great example, I think, is the “I have had enough of you” page, and the following “jetpack ignition” page as well.  I would not have wanted to break that action sequence across multiple pages, especially if that meant starting it half way through one page, and ending it half way through another.  I’m trying to make careful, thoughtful decisions about what is going on in a single page.

So, as I said, this page was supposed to be 6 panels originally and I struggled with that for a day or so when trying to do the rough layout.  I could NOT figure out how I was going to fit Trebarg, the cats, and the dialog into 6 panels.  Not without making some dramatic concessions.  So, the next logical question was, how do I break up the page to make the new, individual pages, still work as individual units?  As it happens, the logical point of separation was the half way mark; 3 panels on this page, and 3 on the next page.  I absolutely hate talking about upcoming strips in any detail before we actually post them, so I’ll refrain from getting too specific as to why I felt that way, but I hope you’ll trust me :)

That being said, Powers’ comment is absolutely valid: these three panels absolutely could have been condensed into two with some success.  The action between panels 2 and 3 (which basically shows several of the cats pulling out knives) is fairly subtle.  I would still have some misgivings about fitting the dialog into two panels, but I probably could have made it work.    The problem then would be what to fill the remaining space with.  I could pull a panel from the next page, but that would leave me with only 2 panels for page 11, unless I started sucking panels in from page 12.  This would begin to affect the flow of the script, and how I’ve decided to break up the action from page to page.  Would anyone even notice besides me?  Probably not.

Suffice it to say, these are things that we really do put a lot of thought into.  On some days it feels like we have no time, and that we are churning these pages out at a breakneck pace.  As readers I can understand why it would feel slow and tedious between pages, but for us we are literally working on these every day.  We make decisions by the seats of our pants and hope that you’ll just bear with us.  But, feedback is always good, and I want folks to know that we don’t make even simple decisions, like how many panels to include, lightly.  Knowing what readers would like to see definitely factors in, though, so in the future I’ll try to work a little more outside my comfort zone to pack more into each page!


Discussion (2) ¬

  1. Powers

    I’ll be honest — I didn’t notice the knives. I thought the only difference between panels 2 and 3 was one alien standing up. =)

  2. phinn

    I rescind my earlier comment about you having a good eye.

Comment ¬

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