Larry’s Lazy Sunday Strip #8

Oh boy, is this a big subject among cartoonists. Why is it that exceedingly funny, yet poorly drawn comics seem to be far more popular than their equally funny, yet more beautifully illustrated counterparts? (I’m not trying to lump Robot Beach into either category mind you.)

I discuss this in more detail in today’s audio commentary track.


Discussion (18) ¬

  1. Tony says:

    Nice audio commentary. I was worried that it would just be sour grapes (since that’s what people usually express), but this was very thoughtful.

  2. fluffy says:

    Not surprisingly, the most popular comics on my site are the ones where I gently make fun of xkcd.

  3. Flawedprefect says:

    Wait… Xkcd? I thought you were having a go at moon town!

  4. wit says:

    Those stick figures are too-well rendered. Try drawing them with your opposite hand.

  5. Og says:

    Wow, I bet you could really keep quite the update schedule with that style! And ya know, I think those stick figures make the strip *even funnier* than if you’d wasted all that time on draftsmanship and character design… WIN!

  6. Og says:

    I like the audio commentary very much, too. I want to argue with you, to tell you that you’re wrong when you say that writing is 75% of the strip. I want to, but as much as I believe in the importance of art, the facts bear you out. The people have spoken, and they obviously would prefer less artistic quality and more content, if you have to choose one over the other.

    But that is the question – do you have to choose one over the other? Watterson was somehow able to get both, but he is the oft-cited exception, isn’t he? No one goes on and on about how well drawn Dilbert or Pearls Before Swine are, and those are my current favorite newspaper strips.

    What I’d love to do sometime, however, is to a side-by-side comparison: run an original Peanuts strip alongside a duplicate featuring stick figures. Then do the same for Calvin and Hobbes. Then do the same for Pearls or Dilbert or Garfield. Do the same for Kukuburi, Twilight Monk, or Red’s Planet. Compare the fully-drawn strip to the stick figure version and see which one people prefer.

    I’d LOVE to do that. But who has time for that crap? Like I say, to a degree, the experiment has been performed. By and large, the hugely successful webcomics tend to be those which are less exhaustively rendered, and more frequently updated. We can argue about whether they’re funnier, or better written, because that is not borne out as well.

    But in terms of sheer success, quality has not equated profitability, and I guess it rarely does. There is a lesson in there for anyone who wants to make drastic changes to their aesthetic.

    • Og says:

      “Quality has not equated POPULARITY”, I meant to say, not “profitability”. Although to a degree on the web, that follows. More fans = better chance of selling something.

    • Matt says:

      I don’t think Moon Town fits into that 75%/25% category. Moon Town is very cinematic. There are these beautiful, quiet moments in the strip, punctuated by moments of intense action that are critical to setting the tone of the comic. Without the very fine rendering that you bring to it, it would never work.

  7. Og says:

    I’d like to believe in a Moon Town exception, because I’m stuck in a situation where I actually can’t update more frequently than I am. However, Rice Boy is extremely simply rendered, extremely simple in its approach to color. It looks good, but he’s not wasting a lot of effort on it. And it reads really well, is very cinematic.

    Actually, reading it this summer, it struck me that I was putting too much into Moon Town for the amount of reward it’s giving me, and for how much the audience may or may not appreciate it.

    That said, I’m drawn to graphic novels that are heavy on art – Mice Templar, Hellboy, Bone, Amulet – and since I admire them so much, I’m always frustrated with my own stuff when it falls short of that goal (or if I don’t at least try. I’m not yet actually capable of reaching that goal yet. Still, I should try.)

    • Matt says:

      Yeah that sounds like a “Grass is always greener” scenario. I am reading Order of Tales right now and it just makes me weep. But I know that if I were to try something like that, I’d loose intrest quick.

      I imagine that same thing would apply to any one of us. We all have vastly different style strips and we do it the way we do it because our technique, our individual styles are what we really love and respond to the most.

      Being in the “trenches” of drawing our strips right now, we see it as a long, hard slog. I imagine that ten years from now, we will look back on the massive amount of work we were able to create fondly. It will be something to be proud of for sure.

  8. Moroni says:

    I guess it is a “quanity” kind of thing… at least in the circles of comics I’ve looked at, the comics with less artistic investment can update more often and thus draw readers in daily opposed to the beauitifully rendered comics that only update once a week.

    But I wonder how that would affect sales of merchandise? Reading comics are free, but if you have to pay for something, would then the comics with better art make more? *ponder*

  9. Russ says:

    This isn’t Matt’s first stick figure. I REMEMBER Harry and his magical armpit hair. You can’t hide that kind of talent!

  10. I listened to your audio comment and I can see where you might think that, but tend to think web audiences are different then print audiences (of course this gets interesting when webcomics try to sell books). Don’t forget the popularity (traffic) of a webcomic doesn’t always translate into cash. I know even if I thought a stick figure comic was funny, I would not pay money to have it in print.

    I’ve heard the argument that good writing will compensate for bad art throughout the recent history of syndication and sure you can find a few examples that might give it the appearance of truth… But the long term affect (I believe) is the near death of the medium.

    I remember looking at the comic page when I was a kid and saying, “Gee I wish I could do that”. Now most people can and do look at the comics page and say, “huh, I could do that”. It wouldn’t be the first time I heard someone say the funnies no longer inspire them. When people recall the greatest comics of all time, most choose those which were more artistic (Pogo & Calvin and Hobbes for example). I am sure they would have met with some popularity with lesser art, but they certainly would not have the profound and ENDURING popularity they still enjoy without it.

    I get a feeling that there are much lower expectations on the web so some strips can get away with more, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I personally think both you (Matt) and Og are producing comics of equal or greater quality than many in print now… and quality will endure. I know one of the things that make me keep going is the desire to create work that will endure.

    Boy, I got blabby today…

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