Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

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Lew Stringer
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

tolworthy wrote: I'm not doing it with comics, because I haven't made any comics since I was a teenager. But I'm doing something very similar with video games and it seems to be working.
That's brilliant, but you've taken your own topic off at a tangent which still doesn't prove that a "compressed comic" would make its creators a living. Just because something worked for video games doesn't mean that a similar thing would work for comics. And as you admit yourself, even though your idea did well you're not actually making a living out of games so where is the evidence that "compressed comics" could pay the bills?

Perhaps we're talking at cross purposes? Of course anyone could do a "dead end job" and use their spare time to try any comics project they like. Many people do that, and I did the same myself in the early 1980s. But if you're talking about a commercial project then it has to make money. And the reason the comics industry isn't doing "compressed comics" is because it won't pay the mortgage. Sorry if that sounds mercenary, but it's realistic.

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tolworthy
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

Lew Stringer wrote:where is the evidence that "compressed comics" could pay the bills?
1. Economics. Lower printing costs = higher profit margin.
2. Common sense. If we can pack a big story into a £5 anthology then it can compete with other £5 forms of entertainment. At present comics are priced out of the market for all but a dwindling number of fans.
3. History. Previous generations had more compressed comics and sold more.
4. Newspaper strips. The only comics that still survive with mass circulations are those that can tell a story in very little space.
5. Analogy. Games, movies, books, etc. all pack more into a single product and sell more. Good value is not rocket science.
6. Authors like Kit Williams, Graeme Base, the Ahlbergs, the Where's Wally series, etc. In fact, children's picture books and adult puzzle books in general, all show that if a story can reward the reader for longer then it can sell more copies.
7. Viz. Not as compressed as my dream comic, but a lot closer than any other comic, and definitely pays the bills.

Now it's true that nobody's doing exactly what I have in mind. But that's the thing about new ideas: they're new.

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

tolworthy wrote:
Lew Stringer wrote:where is the evidence that "compressed comics" could pay the bills?
1. Economics. Lower printing costs = higher profit margin.
2. Common sense. If we can pack a big story into a £5 anthology then it can compete with other £5 forms of entertainment. At present comics are priced out of the market for all but a dwindling number of fans.
Of course value for money is a plus factor but, once again, you're going off at a tangent. This new proposal of a "£5 anthology" has nothing to do with your original proposal of a four page comic! A case of "moving the goalposts" to try and win an argument. Unless you intend to charge £5 for 4 pages? Didn't you start off this thread by objecting to the idea of a £7 price tag for 44 pages:
tolworthy wrote:Threads on comic prices (£7 an issue? I'll buy a book or DVD instead thanks) make me wonder why nobody tries compressed comics? That is, see how much story can be contained in, say, four pages?
Sorry to do a Dragon's Den but, I wouldn't want to invest in this as there doesn't seem to be any solid idea behind it. Good luck with it though. Let us know how it progresses.

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tolworthy
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

Lew Stringer wrote:once again, you're going off at a tangent. This new proposal of a "£5 anthology" has nothing to do with your original proposal of a four page comic!
If you recall, my original suggestion had nothing to do with comics sold on their own.
tolworthy wrote:That solves price and distribution at a stroke, as fans wouldn't mind printing that much themselves, and once it gets a few hundred fans it could easily piggyback on existing publications
However, your first reply changed the subject back to conventional distribution.
Lew Stringer wrote:1: Producing a four page comic wouldn't necessarily reduce overheads significantly. Distributors would presumably still charge the same for shipping a four page comic as they would a 52 page comic
It seemed rude to ignore your tangent, so I went with it, and began talking about anthologies.

If you would rather that I ignore your tangents I'm happy to do so.

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by ISPYSHHHGUY »

You've clearly put a lot of thought into your theories, tolworthy: I'm not sure the precise future of comics, but most folks seem to agree the medium is in a rapidly-declining state: perhaps your ideas will see daylight as the 'mother of invention' if comics as we know them actually 'go under'.........if the lot goes, some radical new form of comics will emerge in the aftermath , and it won't look like what is being put out today........

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Phoenix »

I must admit, tolworthy, that although I am generally struggling to understand the thrust of your proposed project, one aspect of your presentation makes no sense whatsoever to me. It relates to your link to the image you call 'masquerade'. Could you please elaborate on the function of the final image or page to which a picture like 'masquerade' would contribute, and in particular, what there is in 'masquerade' that made you choose it as an example.

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

tolworthy wrote:
Lew Stringer wrote:once again, you're going off at a tangent. This new proposal of a "£5 anthology" has nothing to do with your original proposal of a four page comic!
If you recall, my original suggestion had nothing to do with comics sold on their own.
tolworthy wrote:That solves price and distribution at a stroke, as fans wouldn't mind printing that much themselves, and once it gets a few hundred fans it could easily piggyback on existing publications
However, your first reply changed the subject back to conventional distribution.
Lew Stringer wrote:1: Producing a four page comic wouldn't necessarily reduce overheads significantly. Distributors would presumably still charge the same for shipping a four page comic as they would a 52 page comic
It seemed rude to ignore your tangent, so I went with it, and began talking about anthologies.

If you would rather that I ignore your tangents I'm happy to do so.
I didn't go off at a tangent at all. I was replying to the subject of the topic: "Why does nobody do compressed comics?" by explaining why nobody does compressed comics (ie: your 4 page comic idea). The subject of conventional distribution was only part of my reply and I didn't even mention anthologies.

I've just re-read your original post. So basically your initial idea was a comic kids could download and print out? Surely that's been done?

Anyway, as I said, interesting idea. Go for it.

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

Phoenix wrote:what there is in 'masquerade' that made you choose it as an example.
I think it's how I define comic. How I see them. And I think you've hit on the reason for any disagreement in this thread. When I say "comics" I'm not thinking of the Beano/Dan Dare/X-Men/Peanuts/etc. I'm thinking of something abstract and theoretical: communication and beauty.

My love of comics can be summed up simply:
Art good. Pictures good. Art + Pictures better.

But not just illustrations. I love stories where the art and words work in perfect harmony. If something can be said better with pictures, it should be. When something can be said better with words, it should be. And the very best combinations have a beautiful design to the whole thing. And stories nearly always have time passing, so it's only natural for some kind of sequential framing at some point, but I don't see it as essential. For me, comics are just the natural ideal and most perfect way to communicate visually.

So when people say that paper is expensive, I think good! That means that comics have a greater advantage! because I'm thinking of the most perfectly efficient form, possible, not existing forms that may take many frames to say something that could be said in one.

Which brings us back to Masquerade. As I see it, it's a comic. It's a story told in pictures with integral words as part of the art. Like my ideal compressed comic it can be read several times and you spot new details each time. He didn't feel any need to fit the whole thing on one page, so he has very large characters, but the principle is there: no wasted space, and the more you look, the more you see.

For me, Masquerade is like a cross between Steranko's Nick Fury and Frank McDiarmid's Cheeky: beautiful art that you read once then go back over to enjoy the pictures (Steranko) and all kinds of hidden asides and words wrapped around the images (McDiarmid). I loves those comics with writing between the frames, it was a sign that the artist really cared about squeezing in as much goodness as he could.

Now granted, Masquerade doesn't have speech bubbles, but it easily could if the story warranted it. A lot of medieval art has speech bubbles and that's clearly an influence.

I bring up Steranko because he would sometimes pack maybe ten or twenty frames onto an American style page, but do it in a way that the whole thing had a shape and beauty and didn't look cluttered. There's a saying in art that a picture is finished when there's nothing left to take away, and I think that's the key to compressed art. A story like Masquerade could be told in one tabloid style sheet, using Steranko style layouts so it doesn't look cluttered or confusing. We'd follow the main story, the hare chasing the moon, then we go back and see all the words that curl around the pictures, then we'd go back again and see that all the background art told its own story.

I love stories like that, where a second story takes place at the same time. Like those Ladybird story books, or the Perishers, where little animals are having their own parallel story. A single page like that would be a modern version of a medieval illuminated manuscript, or an alchemical text, full of layers of meaning. If done well you could frame it, it would be a work of art. Comic fans would recognize it as a comic, because of the sequential story telling and (if needed) word balloons, but most people would just see it for what it was: a beautiful ay to tell a story.

If I had more time (and it wasn't illegal) I'd scan a copy of Masquerade, and cut and paste it Steranko style to show what I mean. Other such stories would not have to be in color of course. I bet you could a really moody detective story in one page, using only black and white.

The first few times a page like that would take a very long time, but I think it could be streamlined: first rough out the story so the overall layout worked. Probably design it around a single large image to give it a strong shape: a snake, a building with rooms, caves, a tree, or whatever. Then work out the detailed design so that only the necessary images were shown, and only at the necessary size. Then go over using any secondary characters and objects to tell a parallel story, something the user won't notice fist time round. Then go over one final time to add in relevant asides: jokes, clues, thoughts, depending on the genre. It would take some practice, but I suspect that a single page like that could be produced in the same time as four or five normal pages, but would have a much wider market and would never go out of fashion. A well told period mystery for example could be reprinted for fifty years and still not look tired. And since the paper requirement is so low, why not?

Something I've noticed when making my games is that even a long and complex story an be simplified hugely: what matters is to retain the mood, and the feeling of depth. For example, I'm now working on a Tale of Two Cities and there are only about twenty decision points - twenty dramatic moments in the whole book. I'm not saying a full novel should take one page - adding a week between episodes would give it more drama. But something like a Sherlock Holmes story could be done in a foolscap page. The trick would be to train the reader to notice the detail and dwell on it, just as they dwell on other kinds of puzzle.

Sorry for rambling!

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

It's a nice idea, and thanks for explaining it in detail, but history and experience tells us that readers tend to like strips that are clear and snappy. Yes, they do like the odd page that has a lot going on (and I'm currently drawing a Super School in that vein) but feedback usually shows that clarity of presentation is more popular than intense detail.

It'd be worth trying though, but it could be an expensive folly. (Again, who pays the bills if it didn't sell? You suggested creators take up a "dead end job" to pay bills whilst working on the project, but it sounds to me that the project itself would be immensely time consuming.)

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Digifiend
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Digifiend »

If strips with lots going on in one panel were still really popular, The Beano might have asked Ken Harrison to draw some new Riot Squads when the Hoot Squad strips were exhausted. As it is, he only did one, for a Christmas issue. It's definitely better appreciated as an occassional thing rather than every issue these days.

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Peter Gray
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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Peter Gray »

I love the poster pages..look forward to your one Lew,,

Leo Baxendale
Reg Parlett
Tom Paterson
Ken Reid
Dudley D watkins
Roy Wilson
do lovely detailed pages..I would love to see this in The Beano weekly..

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by tolworthy »

Lew Stringer wrote:readers tend to like strips that are clear and snappy.
I agree, certainly for the last fifty years. Some of those earlier text stories were pretty detailed. But a comic like that today would have to be aimed at adults. Perhaps at an art market.
Lew Stringer wrote:clarity of presentation is more popular than intense detail.

Yes. But I think this is just how comics have evolved. We're used to keeping our eyes moving. But if some people could be persuaded to look on comics the way they look at art or puzzles...

A clear presentation would be a real challenge. Instead of seeing it as a strip it would have to be seen as a montage, that had elements that naturally led the eye in the right direction. The goal would be to make something that looked good just in a picture frame, and only when you look closely do you notice that the words are not just pop art but actually tell a story.
Lew Stringer wrote:it sounds to me that the project itself would be immensely time consuming.)
Yes, if it had to be sold as art, then it would probably be wise to take a very long time on the first one, then do maybe one more and gauge feedback. But if it was attractive enough then people would get used to the format and then people wouldn't need the art hook to get them to look the first time.

One day when I'm retired (ha!) I'd like to do just one. Maybe something built on Victorian London streets seen from above. Follow the streets and you notice writing that at first seems like comic pop art, then you realize it tells a sequential story in maybe twenty or thirty stages: with Sherlock Holmes (or similar) following clues. By the end of the streets you realize the murderer has been caught but it doesn't say who. Then you go over the story again and start to notice clues and solve the murder yourself. If the large scale design was strong enough I think it could be quite interesting.

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Lew Stringer »

I think the reason we differ is this is about art vs commerce isn't it? You're proposing something that is a labour of love, one page crafted over time for "the art market" and I was assuming you were proposing something that could actually make money. In fact the more you describe your idea, the more it begins to sound like an ornate illustration rather than a comic strip.

So to answer your topic header "Why does nobody do compressed comics?" I guess the answer is because we're too busy doing comics in a format that's worked for over 100 years. And by the time we retire to spend our days working on a "compressed comic" our eyesight will be too shot to put in the detail you're asking. Not to mention we might not live long enough to finish it. :lol:

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Re: Why does nobody do compressed comics?

Post by Phoenix »

I have spent quite some time trying to understand the points you raised, tolworthy, in your long posts and, of course, in your response to my request that you explain how the image masquerade fits into the scheme of things. I have to admit that I am still struggling but I do at least have some observations to make that you may find useful.

You start out by considering a four-page production, whose content would be as much story as you feel could be contained there. You then make an assumption that there will be a reasonable number of people prepared to download these four pages, although you are not clear about how they will all find out about the availability, or even the existence of the pages. Apparently, though, this somehow resolves at a stroke the dual problem of price (gratis presumably) and distribution.

When you then move on to the next stage, that of getting the pages into newspapers or magazines, you do not make clear how the fact that a few hundred people have downloaded your pages for free will persuade editors or owners, even of local papers let alone national magazines, to accept your work for publication, even if they don't have to pay for it. If you are relying on the internet downloads to be in any way persuasive, I suspect that there would need to be many thousands of them, and even so you would be seriously up against it. I also wonder just how many of the four-page compressed comics you will have to prepare for downloading and, critically, how long it will take you, before the necessary word-of-mouth recommendations create the groundswell of enthusiasm that will eventually lead to the many thousands of downloads. Something else you will need to think about is that although you are looking to get as much story as possible into your four pages, the end product would not be viewed as small by a newspaper, even on A5 sheets, another reason for them to reject it.

All this is before we need to concern ourselves with a contradictory element in your presentation. Initially, you are quite clear that your compressed comic would have four pages, but your main thrust appears to focus on a one-page puzzle, in which the reader will discover the meaning or the plot by staring at it in order to extract its essence. You become quite insistent about the idea of a puzzle to be solved. In a later post, however, you seem to be moving on from a single page to more pages when the chapters of the book you are reducing for your one-page puzzle require that procedure. I cannot understand this, especially as you refer to your work on games creation and the way in which you pack more and more into any one game. It's your guiding principle you say. In your reply to my request, you confuse the matter even more by talking about stories nearly always having time passing, so it's only natural for some sort of sequential framing at some point, but you don't consider it essential. To compound your problem you would also appear to be suggesting TWO versions of the same thing, one for children and one for adults, but the reasoning you use is not the same for both. The children's version would have more words because they can see them more clearly, the adult's version would have fewer words because each one can contain more meaning, not because an adult's vision is defective.

You have an interesting idea which is a non-starter in its current conception. Given time you may be able to refine the idea, but one of your principal assumptions, that any readership would have or acquire a different mindset to treat comics like works of art or poetry does not hold water. The general public, young or old, will absolutely have to welcome your first puzzles as enthusiastically as they did Sudoku, or there will be no point in offering them any more. Failure at that juncture will inevitably scupper all your hopes of riches from reprints. Incidentally, I have avoided any mention of the copyright clearance you will need, and have to pay for, so that you can incorporate such novels into your plan.

I don't think that you are likely to persuade many forum members to take your concept seriously until they first have an opportunity to study a complete novel in your puzzle format. I can't even conjure up in my mind's eye a visual picture of any description, even one based on the three images you posted to guide our understanding. It's just too diffuse. Can I therefore ask you to create one of these single-page epics and post it for us to see.

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