Why everyone spoils simplicty?

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Why everyone spoils simplicty?

Postby two on Mon Feb 07, 2005 2:23 am

I've been observing that at a point or another into the development of a webcomic, everyone takes serious turns from the original "atmosphere" and "feeling" of their comic, often spoiling forever the simplicity and continuity of it. Think of mr Schulz's Peanuts: for fifty years he drew the antics of a group of kids involved in nothing but the daily deeds of normal kids living in a normal town. The characters eventually evolved and grew some unique peculiarities, yet the plot was the same and so was the overall feeling of the strip. When now and then he wanted to take a rest and free his imagination, he used the special character he reserved for such cases: Snoopy.

A few counterexample in the Webcomic scene:

General Protection Fault: J.T.Darlington had a brilliant comic there. One in the style of Dilbert, yet occasionally better because it felt more realistic, more in-depth with the real issues of software engineering. Spoiling time: when he began adding time travel, supernatural beings, complex plots, aliens, and so on.

Road Waffles: Extremely original, the atmospheres of Tarantino's movies brought to a comic strip, complete with slightly surreal yet somehow plausible cast, left to the unlimited possibilities of the on-the-road background. Spoiling time: when Eight began adding alternate universes, complex plots, aliens, etc.

College Roomies From Hell: One of the first strips about college roomies, and possibly the best one. Drew in a pleasant beetle-baileyesque style and always funny, of that kind of sitcom fun that anyone can grasp and enjoy. Spoiling time: when the author began adding aliens, mutations, zombies (you're beginning to see a pattern, don't you?), and the drawing style got exceedingly realistic and colorful.

I could name more and more occurences of this: Professor Ashfield, Hound's Home, etc. - So what I wonder is why this happens (Boredom? A tendency to indulge into pleasing the reader's trend of the moment? Curiosity to experiment new paths?) - and how the readership reacts (Do they enjoy the injection of weirdness or not?)
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Postby Phalanx on Mon Feb 07, 2005 12:56 pm

I think Eric Burns of Websnark calls this the Cerebus and First and Ten Syndrome.

Generally it's because it's difficult to be consistently funny all the time the creator starts finding other ways they think can make the comic interesting.

Most of the time, sadly, it backfires.
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Re: Why everyone spoils simplicty?

Postby communist trees on Mon Feb 07, 2005 3:18 pm

two wrote: and the drawing style got exceedingly realistic and colorful.


So improving the art is a bad thing? Sorry if I don't completely understand this...
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Postby tweebus on Mon Feb 07, 2005 7:55 pm

I don't see anything wrong with exploring new possibilities.
The Peanuts comics were always grounded in it's own reality
because Schulz always gave the characters a fresh angle. He
was a master at what he did- Peanuts.
But take the Simpsons for example. The shows been on 10 years.
It has done just about everything you can think of and is still highly
entertaining and sucessful. The alien episodes are one of it's funniest.
Then there's Family Circle. These kids have been 10 for 40 years.
Even their hair styles are still the same. Now if there ever was a
strip that needed an alien invasion.
Doing the same thing over and over gets old real fast.
I can see your point if the characters changed drastically for no
reason. Like if Spiderman got a cape and started to fly. But changing
the elements only gives greater depth to a character.
But honestly. Ask yourself. Wouldn't you just love to see Linus
without that stupid blanket?
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Postby Pascalle of Lepas on Mon Feb 07, 2005 8:25 pm

maybe's its possible that the creators wanted to get more from their comics. Maybe they wanted to explore their artistic potential. Maybe they felt that if they kept it the way it was, they would burn out or run the story into the ground.

Most webcomic creators make comics because they love doing it, and their comics are first and foremost personal expression. Maybe time travelling and aliens were elements the creators added simply to amuse themselves.


one can never tell with that crazy lot.
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Postby Jamie on Mon Feb 07, 2005 9:41 pm

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Re: Why everyone spoils simplicty?

Postby Quasispace on Mon Feb 07, 2005 10:19 pm

two wrote:
Road Waffles: Extremely original, the atmospheres of Tarantino's movies brought to a comic strip, complete with slightly surreal yet somehow plausible cast, left to the unlimited possibilities of the on-the-road background. Spoiling time: when Eight began adding alternate universes, complex plots, aliens, etc.

College Roomies From Hell: One of the first strips about college roomies, and possibly the best one. Drew in a pleasant beetle-baileyesque style and always funny, of that kind of sitcom fun that anyone can grasp and enjoy. Spoiling time: when the author began adding aliens, mutations, zombies (you're beginning to see a pattern, don't you?), and the drawing style got exceedingly realistic and colorful.


I removed the rest because I don't have enough experience reading GPF. I've read it but I've fallen out of the habit of reading it.

Eight's... Eight. great art and the intial story was just as good. But he got bored with the direction he was going in. At least that's what I got from what was mentioned on the site. It appeared to me that he'd gotten into a rut in the direction the story was going. Yes you'd have interesting adventures and deaths on your road trip, but as you went further along... then what? He was also Very protective of his work, but that's another issue.

As for Maritza's work on CRFH. (Fan, so expect bias) She's been plumping along on the story. But once you reach a certain point in the narrative the characters start taking over. I mean it's not a Three's Company episode where you can recycle the plot. There can not always be a hilarious misunderstanding. The Roomies have grown as characters and as such diverge into their own pathways. If you read the introduction, she (Maritza Campos) says that she tried to find the balance between joke a day and continuous story. IMO once you reach a certain point with backstory and character development there's nothing you can do but follow the paths that you've set out for the characters.

As for the artwork, uh... there's not much to say. Many web artists start drawing to increase their artistic ability. It helps them to create the vision that they have in their head. Ms. Campos even says that her art wasn't as good in the beginning. IIRC there are no aliens in CRFH. Except in the guest artist parodies. zombies and mutations, yes.

Do the readers enjoy it? For me the answer is yes. The mutations and such become the characters. To seperate them from it would remove part of what makes them, them. Do all the readers enjoy it? As your own post states, no. Obviously some people don't like the change and stop reading. Others ride the transition to see where the artist/writer is leading them.

Again, it's a matter of personal taste, but as an artist grows part of the reason they do anything is going to change. Does this necessarily qualify as "Jumping the Shark"? That's a matter of personal opinion. The best response that I can give to your question is this "Do you still enjoy the work?" Aside from that, nothing else matters.
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Postby Van Douchebag on Mon Feb 07, 2005 10:20 pm

[quote="Jamie"]It
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Postby Marcos on Mon Feb 07, 2005 10:21 pm

Jamie wrote:I wonder if there is a webcomic version of the Beatles, a comic that started out great, remained great despite its changes and then ended at the height of its success.


I don't know about webcomics, but in the print comic world, Calvin & Hobbes seems to fit the description perfectly.
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Re: Why everyone spoils simplicty?

Postby Maritza Campos on Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:27 am

two wrote:Think of mr Schulz's Peanuts: for fifty years he drew the antics of a group of kids involved in nothing but the daily deeds of normal kids living in a normal town. The characters eventually evolved and grew some unique peculiarities, yet the plot was the same and so was the overall feeling of the strip. When now and then he wanted to take a rest and free his imagination, he used the special character he reserved for such cases: Snoopy.


I disagree about this. In the first place, talking about artistic style, it took Schulz decades to *finally* set into a style.

Secondly, newspaper comic strips are all about the repetition. You never see any changes in them. Change is *discouraged* by their audience and editors. Characters remain always the same age, make the same mistakes and jokes over and over again, behave in a predictable way. This is *comfortable* to some people, who are happy to see that even when the world out there changes, some things always remain the same.

I can only speak for myself, but I try to do things differently. My characters evolve, they change clothes and hairdos, they wear a bandage if they get hurt. There are consequences to their acts. Their relationships among them change as events unfold, they age, they mature and they slowly become adults. There is a reason for this, of course, besides the fact that this makes the characters more complex and interesting. Setting realistic details grounds the strip and makes the oddities seem even more ludicrously absurd.

Also, I don't want CRFH to be just another sitcomish comic where people exchange sarcastic remarks. Perhaps that worked well in the past, where it was one of the few ones that did it... but nowadays, those comics are everywhere. And if I was doing the same kind of comic that six years ago, wouldn't it be accused of turning into formulaic and dull? :) It would be really sad if webcomics turned into something as harmless and predictable as print comics.

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Postby reinder on Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:59 am

I prefered the Beatles' early, funnier stuff.
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Postby two on Tue Feb 08, 2005 1:38 am

Ok, let me recap.

communist trees wrote:So improving the art is a bad thing? Sorry if I don't completely understand this...


Improving is good. But is not necessarily good relatively to a certain environment. Think of the Peanuts drawn like...uhm...Marvel comics. Can you see it?



tweebus wrote:But take the Simpsons for example. The shows been on 10 years. It has done just about everything you can think


Well, the Simpsons setup is just like "Goats". Since the very first episodes you know that everything which comes into the author's mind is gonna be in. So you don't feel like something has drastically changed when suddenly aliens, zombies or time travel makes the first appearance.


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Postby daringarlyn353x on Tue Feb 08, 2005 1:39 am

Marcos wrote:
Jamie wrote:I wonder if there is a webcomic version of the Beatles, a comic that started out great, remained great despite its changes and then ended at the height of its success.


I don't know about webcomics, but in the print comic world, Calvin & Hobbes seems to fit the description perfectly.


i think so too
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Postby Jamie on Tue Feb 08, 2005 11:50 am

[quote="two"]

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Postby Maritza Campos on Tue Feb 08, 2005 3:08 pm

two wrote:Ok, let me recap.

Improving is good. But is not necessarily good relatively to a certain environment. Think of the Peanuts drawn like...uhm...Marvel comics. Can you see it?



You mean a realistically drawn comic with a touch of absurdity? I don't see why not. Maybe it would be like the early Strangers in Paradise. It would be *harder* if Peanuts relied heavily on slapstick or physical comedy -or say, exaggerated facial expressions-, but when a lot of jokes are about two kids leaning on a fence, talking, it becomes easier. The fact that Peanuts is heavily melancholic and the humor is the quiet kind would allow it very well.

Maritza Campos wrote:I disagree about this. In the first place, talking about artistic style, it took Schulz decades to *finally* set into a style.


two wrote:That's true, but although his style evolved, changed, transformed, it basically stayed simple and minimalistic. As I wrote before, can you see Charlie Brown drawn with lighting effects, shadows, blurred backgrounds and so on?


Sure I can. There are plenty of comic and animated characters that have changed wildly their looks as different artists work on them. Tom and Jerry? Spidey? If you consider Berkeley Breathed's work, you'll see that now he prefers a much more complex coloring. I don't see it changing the spirit of a strip. Prettiness is, I believe, incidental (unless part of the value of something is the fact it's ugly).
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Changing things

Postby HiFranc on Tue Feb 08, 2005 4:35 pm

I can see both sides of the arguement:

Yes, if nothing changes it becomes repeatative but safe. Some people may like that, some people will get bored with that (that goes for both artists and readers).

On the other hand, a comic could change. That could be viewed as growth and development or it could be viewed as betraying the comic's roots. With every change: some people will carry on reading, some people will decide to stay (they were about to leave because it was getting stale), some new people will start reading and some people will leave. The relative proportions of those groups depend the direction of the change (e.g. whether it was considered a "natural"[1] change or an "artificial"[2] change) and the size of the change. If a change is large and the direction is not one that current fans are happy with, then the last group would probably be the largest but you may get some new people.

[1] i.e. one that fits in with what has gone before (e.g. a character who's been trying for a baby conceiving or a tense situation finally erupting).
[2] i.e. one where the change doesn't fit in with previous episodes (e.g. if Queen of Wands were suddenly to introduce aliens to the strip).
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Postby BOMC on Tue Feb 08, 2005 8:27 pm

I think it would be constraining for an artist to try and keep their comic the same or at least relatively the same for a long period of time.

I guess this brings up the question of whether you think a cartoonist should be making their comic for their readers or for their own enjoyment.... if it's for their own enjoyment, they should be allowed to experiment and take the story where they want, and in a direction they feel is better than what they are doing. That doesn't mean the reader has to like it, or continue reading, but they should respect the artist's decision.
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Postby bunnyThor on Tue Feb 08, 2005 8:31 pm

Why are you all having this overblown argument about something so inconsequential as cartoons. Cartoon are for kids. You all need to grow up and think about practical adult things like stock markets and celebrity marriages.
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Postby communist trees on Tue Feb 08, 2005 10:10 pm

It would appear that grammar is for children as well.
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Postby bunnyThor on Tue Feb 08, 2005 10:35 pm

communist trees wrote:It would appear that grammar is for children as well.


Well, if she's not playing bingo, or with her quilting circle, she is usually more than happy to do some babysitting.
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Postby gwalla on Tue Feb 08, 2005 10:35 pm

Phalanx wrote:I think Eric Burns of Websnark calls this the Cerebus and First and Ten Syndrome.


Cerberus Syndrome and First and Ten Syndrome are different. Essentially, Cerberus Syndrome is when an attempt to give a funny comic depth succeeds, and First and Ten Syndrome is when it fails.
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Re: Why everyone spoils simplicty?

Postby Sebastian on Wed Feb 09, 2005 3:37 am

Maritza Campos wrote:Secondly, newspaper comic strips are all about the repetition. You never see any changes in them. Change is *discouraged* by their audience and editors. Characters remain always the same age, make the same mistakes and jokes over and over again, behave in a predictable way. This is *comfortable* to some people, who are happy to see that even when the world out there changes, some things always remain the same.

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Beside is hard to put "plot" in a newspaper comic, a week storyline is the best you can do, even because it would be too hard to get the previous "issues".
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Enjoyment or market?

Postby HiFranc on Wed Feb 09, 2005 3:40 am

BOMC wrote:I think it would be constraining for an artist to try and keep their comic the same or at least relatively the same for a long period of time.

I guess this brings up the question of whether you think a cartoonist should be making their comic for their readers or for their own enjoyment.... if it's for their own enjoyment, they should be allowed to experiment and take the story where they want, and in a direction they feel is better than what they are doing. That doesn't mean the reader has to like it, or continue reading, but they should respect the artist's decision.


On Keenspot that decision is also constrained by the fact that Keenspot is a commercial organisation. However, development is possible without alienating readers. Clan of the Cats just carries on getting better[1] and Queen of Wands[2] has managed it as well.

[1] OK, I'm biased on that one but look for yourself.
[2] However, its artist feels the best way to develop her art is to work on something else so Queen of Wands will be ending this month.
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Postby Phalanx on Wed Feb 09, 2005 8:36 am

gwalla wrote:
Phalanx wrote:I think Eric Burns of Websnark calls this the Cerebus and First and Ten Syndrome.


Cerberus Syndrome and First and Ten Syndrome are different. Essentially, Cerberus Syndrome is when an attempt to give a funny comic depth succeeds, and First and Ten Syndrome is when it fails.


:) I know. I wanted to cover all bases, since if I had mentioned only one it would have implied this was always a bad thing/good thing.

Of course, that would have worked better if I hadn't been so lazy and separated the two in different paragraphs and explained it.

You may fault me for being lazy ;)
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Postby Tangent on Wed Feb 09, 2005 9:28 am

There is growth, and there is growth.

Take Sluggy Freelance, considered by many to be the top of the pack. Recently it's been struggling, with some not-so-great storylines... but for years it excelled. It's a b&w strip with occasional spot color, the artwork has solidified rather than grown, and it avoids most of the traditional fan-gathering exercises (crossovers and the like).

So why is it the top of the pack? Character growth. Up 'til I stopped reading it (the stupid "Will we or won't we lose the house" storyline drove me off), we had some significant character growth. Zoe is the most significant, with her going from carefree college student to one of the few supporters of the household. Torg also went through some significant changes, especially with the "That Which Redeems" storyline. However, while Pete has changed things... so many others remain the same. Kiki. Riff (more or less). BunBun. These are static and unchanging foundations of the comic which allow conservative fans something to grab onto.

Now let's look at CRfH. It has shifted away from a humor comic to a drama comic. While there is fun stuff popping up every couple of days, it doesn't *exist* for the funny now. Instead, it exists for the characters. And these characters all grow and change. Mike has gone from a jerk to a defensive protective friend who treats everyone poorly (outside of Marsha and Blue) due to how his mother raised him. Blue went from a hyper thoughtless little twit to a serious if somewhat impulsive young lady who has a tendency to go for what she wants. April went from a sardonic but otherwise "normal" young lady to a manipulative spiteful itch who is determined to make Mike's life miserable because he doesn't love her.

There are but a few things that remain static in CRfH. Professor Dover is still a jerk. College is still Hell. Satan has some evil plot in mind. And Waldo and Steve are still stupid. But even these (well, outside of Satan maybe) is subject to change. If Maritza focuses on Dover we might learn there is a reason why he's so inflexible (we had hints of this in Test Date, years ago). Waldo and Steve? They occasionally do smart things. Sometimes College ISN'T so bad.

Which is better? Well, change is good. Otherwise we have Garfield. Hell, even Cathy has had change, what with Cathy getting married. Too much change... and you risk alienating your fans. So you take it gradual. One step at a time. This is what the best webcomics do.
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