Less Is More? ~OR~ Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken

With my interest piqued and my mind sparked by the most recent Yirmumah! story arc, I have a simple question for you all:

Comic book or comic strip?

Those of us who frequent both forms of art are immediately thrown into a frenzy to defend one or the other, but what about everybody else? What of those who know nothing of the differences between these two story-telling techniques? And why should we have to choose between the two? Can’t we have both?

First, a synopsis. The comic strip is a quicker method of telling a story with pictures that typically employs the one-liner to land a punch line or make a point. Some writers/artists may choose to ignore this convention and tell a longer, more involved story in easy-to-digest chunks. Either way, the task is to get in, do your thing, and get out.

Conversely, the comic book format is more fluid and less predictable. On the same page, one artist might choose to continue the story by depicting the hero blasting the villain across one giant splash page while another could play it out in a more methodical and dialogue-heavy manner. The comic book page allows for more variety and depth than the comic strip simply because it is larger and gives the characters as much (or as little) room as they need to breathe and exist.

So it’s mostly a matter of personal preference; an OPINION, if you will. Nothing wrong or right in this debate. But which do you prefer? For the sake of comparison, I’ll go back to where I started. As previously cited, D.J. Coffman’s Yirmumah! has gone from a stagnant, four-panel format to a much more dynamic comic book layout for the current story depicting the origin of the strip’s main character, Drew. Coffman wished to tell a story more involved and intricate than the usual gag-a-day fare Yirmumah! is known for and changed the playing field accordingly.

For my money (traffic?), the comic-book layout of this new story is a welcome change of pace and gives me that much more confidence and respect in Coffman’s abilities. When art looks a certain way due to a lack of skill or craft, that’s one thing. But when that distinct style is revealed to be a choice, not a pattern, the art gains more of a life of its own. It’s hard enough to possess the wit to keep’em coming back, four panels at a time, but it’s even rarer to be able to increase that flow AT WILL. Kudos to you, D.J.; you’ve really cranked it up to 11.

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7 thoughts on “Less Is More? ~OR~ Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken

  1. I see no reason why you can\’t have both. I\’ve taken a crack at it a few times – switching from gag-a-day to longer stories. More of a hybrid, really. I still can\’t resist tossing in the jokes.

    I think DJ is knocking it out of the park with this origin story. He has a serious background in sequential art, but it\’s not a side he\’s shown of himself for a long time.

    I\’ve wanted to do my own origin story in comic book format for years now. But I could never get organized enough to do it alongside the regular comic. My plan was to have it be a one-off book that people could purchase seperate from the site. Something to have at conventions.

    At any rate, DJ\’s work here might inspire me to get it together!

  2. I think switching it up every so often is a wise move. I had a small press table at my first HeroesCon over the weekend and I soon found out that there is a distinct difference between people reading comic strips and people reading comic books. I was one of only two webcomic artists in attendance. The other was Jennie Breeden and her DP creation but with a comic book filter on top compliments of her recent deal with Silent Devil Press. If webcomics/comic strips ventured more into comic page format, I think there would be a larger audience to grab. Webcomics shouldn\\\’t really be confined to the four panel horizontal template anyway. That format is for newspapers not computer screens. I know most artists use the format because they still think a syndicate will pick them up. Foolish mortals.

    I am winding down my AWA comic strip by year\’s end (when my archaic ComicsSherpa account expires) and I have been kicking around the idea of a comic book format finale in 22-parts. Coffman has now convinced me just like he did when I switched to a 2 over 2 panel format late last year. Keep up the great work.

  3. I quite like these origin style stories, very nice. Also, if you\’re a Yirmumah fan, there\’s a Webcomics in Print competition just for Yirmumah to win some superb goodies! 😀

  4. On the web, the key is entertaining them in bits. It doesn\’t HAVE to be a joke, although gag-a-day builds return audiences faster– I think you can hold people\’s attention if you know sequential art well. Really it\’s ALL sequential art. If you look closely, the \”comic pages\” of ORIGIN are the exact same dimension pixel wise as my gag strips were, i\’m just packing in more tiers and content.

    I\’m guessing that putting out more paced stories, will actually cement the audience to the characters. If I go back to gags, and the Deacon character appears again, people will know ALL about him– almost like befriending your characters with your readership. That\’s a little deep though.. probably too thought out.

  5. Straight from the man himself! I hadn\’t even considered that the dimensions were the exact same, but they are indeed. And right on about befriending the characters to the readers; that is KEY in making a long-lasting, successful series.

  6. I kept the same dimensions for multiple reasons, but a main one being that a few sites feed in the strip into their blogs and sites like crapville.com and cracked.com– I didn\’t want to disrupt the size that the comic has been for over a year now. I like that people can fit in their blogs and newsposts easily.

  7. It always comes back to the story, doesn\’t it? As long as you tell it well, whether in a standardized format, or a variable one, the readers will return. At least that\’s how I feel.

    On my strip, Least I Could Do, we do stick to a size format and usually four panels, but within the overall size the panels are flexible. And for longer story arcs, those strips spread over the days is all. Our readership appreciates both the one-a-day gags and the story arcs. Other strips use their discretion and I suspect do so quite successfully.

    Funnily enough (warning: I\’m about to whore myself out here) we\’re doing an offline print comic of original material specifically to allow ourselves to stretch artistically and do the different narrative and more action etc. It\’s been a terrific and exciting challenge. You can check the website for details (www.leasticoulddo.com).

    Later!

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