Dropping the F-Bomb

Okay, I know I’m about to stomp all over a sensitive nerve with some people, but that’s sort of what I do. What I’m talking about is dropping the “F-bomb” into a comic. From what I can tell most creators insert language like this into their strips to get a rise out of people and boost their traffic. The model for this is usually something along the lines of “if Creator A drops the F-bomb into Strip B then he/she will increase readership by C amount of people.” A+B=C, simple enough. However, and I’m going out on a limb here, what would happen if the writing and art spoke for itself and you told people about your comic instead of just tossing swears around like beads at Mardi Gras? I’m willing to wager that you’d probably get just as many new readers this way, if not more.

Now, I am by no means on the moral high ground about any of this, far from it. Anyone who knows me personally can attest to my ability to make a trucker blush under the right conditions. Having just been released from the navy little over a year ago and raise around some pretty crude people, I’m not stranger to harsh language. I even use it myself from time to time in my own comic, but only when I deem it absolutely necessary for a joke. I don’t go throwing them around just to increase my traffic.

This isn’t like the dick and fart joke article that 7 posted a couple of weeks either. Some people may view those as crude, but they’re still jokes. They took some sort of intelligence to think of, how much is entirely a matter of opinion and one discussion of which I’m steering clear. Flatulence is funny because it’s part of everyday life, much like every other bodily function.

I’m not trying to get you to start counting each time you cut a muffin, or debating over whether you hit the brown note daily or not. That’s personally and more than I care to know about pretty much anyone on the planet. All I’m saying is that those things have a root in humor based on life. Profanity, on the other hand, seems to rely on shock value when being used by most people.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is if you create a comic try to evoke a reaction from your audience. Be it laughter, anger, sadness, whatever, because after a while the profanity will get old and the only reaction you’ll be left with is “Oh look, another four-letter word.” And before any of you strike up with your hate mail/comments, this isn’t directed anyone specific and I’m even doing all I can to clean up my comic.

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9 thoughts on “Dropping the F-Bomb

  1. How much traffic can swearing actually generate? It feels so commin-place that I don\’y see a reader saying \”gasp! So-and-so swore in this comic and I\’m going to post about it in my blog!\”

    I\’m not saying that it won\’t be mentioned, but swearing alone isn\’t shocking enough to get people to talk about your comic.

    On the other hand, the sparesly used swear go far in ratcheting up the drama in a comic. I just don\’t see it helping TRAFFIC.

  2. People swear often in real life– unless you fucking live in a churche or something. It\’s everywhere, and it\’s a way of ultimately expressing your point.

    I curse often in my comic, not every day, but how I do it is– you have to hear your characters in you mind. And if they swear, then those characters should swear.

    Sure, you don\’t want swearing every day and use it as a crutch. I\’ve also made a mini-theme about cursing with my CUSS JAR line of strips: http://yirmumah.net/archives.php?date=20051208

    I think it\’s a flawed argument that swearing increases readerhip though, just dropping an F-bomb out of the blue is pretty dumb. You have to let your characters speak for themselves, period.

  3. That was my entire point, don\’t use it as a crutch. Using it as an emphatic makes perfect sense, as that\’s how it occurs in everyday speech.
    Likewise, I think it makes a lot of sense to use profanity if that\’s part of your character. Like the Bunny that says \”Fuck\”. Kind of hard to do without actually saying fuck, right? If you\’re character is a foul-mouthed personality, not having them curse is going to seem out of place.

    I agree with both of you that it\’s stupid to think that just tossing profanity into your comic will generate traffic, but you\’d be surprised as to how many new creators I\’ve talked to seem to believe it. I\’m not sure if they believe any publicity is good publicity or what

  4. Using language to shock is only as effective as the rules that govern the media. I would, for example, find it less \”shocking\” to see a webcomic character using certain words than a character on television where there are usually tighter regulations regarding language.

  5. I agree, for the most part, with all the comments thus far. Using profanity for drama\’s sake (and sometimes, consequently, ratings/traffic) is simply setting up for disappointment and disrespect later on. If the character(s) warrant such language, by all means, use it as necessary. Would Gabe and Tycho be the same crass masochists if they were to suddenly cut back on the profanity? Possibly, but it certainly helps to drive home the fact that they are a)young and b)that much more ill-equipped to deal with the general public.

    For my own strip, I try to be faithful to the characters and make it an all-ages affair. The Zeroes are fun, whimsical heroes who have no reason to be spewing expletives from strip to strip. Now Stupendous Steve, on the other hand, who has been in the game longer and thus seen more evil in his long career, might be more inclined to let one slip every once and a while. I hear his voice, gruff and impatientas it is, in my head and find it hard to supress the profanity. Someday, maybe he will just cut loose with one big F-Bomb, but for now, he is trying to keep it in check for the sake of his new, optimistic, untainted proteges.

    It boils down to this: if you don\’t know your characters well enough to know when or if it is proper to drop the F-Bomb, you should probably just stop writing and work on your characterization skills elsewhere. The overcrowded world of webcomics will CERTAINLY appreciate it.

  6. well gordon , aleast that\’s for a joke, a joke that took a while for me lol

  7. I agree with you. Personally, I think it\’s much harder to keep a comic fairly PG than it is to fall into cursing. There\’s nothing wrong with using it to emphasize a scene or a point from time to time, but using it too much becomes a crutch and causes the comic to stagnate.
    The thing is, excessive swearing makes you look stupid. Swearing is perceived by many people as being the lowest form of arguing one\’s point. Think about it. If one person is expressing their opinion rationally, and the other is swearing like a sailor with tourettes, which do you think sounds smarter?

    In short, swearing can be used well in moderation. But like everything, it is easily used in excess, and ruins the entire experience.

  8. \”From what I can tell most creators insert language like this into their strips to get a rise out of people and boost their traffic. The model for this is usually something along the lines of if Creator A drops the F-bomb into Strip B then he/she will increase readership by C amount of people. A+B=C, simple enough.\”

    So the main focus of a webcomic is ultimately traffic? Wow, and this whole time I was making a webcomic to learn more about cartooning, writing, art, web design, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, not to mention belonging to exceptionally versatile and fascinating community. I guess I should add some more \”fucks\” here and there to boost my hits by five percent, which it appears is now defined as the quintessential artistic goal.

    Your argument is targeted toward a small percentage of creators, most of whom are embracing vulgar shock values as a primary element of their work. How many exceptional films, books, and songs carry an evil four-letter work as a shock device compared to media that simply contains mature themes with offensive language?

    Maybe if you are bothered by viewing graphic content, or have a problem with the minority of shock-rockers in question (in rehashing a very, very tired black-and-white-argument) just! don\’t! read! it.

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