Thursday, February 28, 2008

How I See Your Comic

I made this illustration small because I can hardly bear to reprint it. The reasons are discussed below. Click to enlarge it. Copyright Seth C. Triggs, who should remember that my opinions are my own and that I wish him well regardless.

There are easily 75,000 web comics available for viewing right this second. To find the good ones, I've only got a few strategies. One is to click lots of links and see what comes up. But what makes me stay and read, and what makes me click on to another destination?

Below are my deal killers, the qualities that turn me into a two second visitor on your site analytics. It's a portrait of me as a prospective reader that is only partly transferable to other visitors, but it may supply some authors with clues as to their high bounce rates.

  1. It's in pencils. Illustrators do finished pencil work. Comics artists don't.
  2. It's in black and white. I'll still consider it, but color attracts me more. Not a fatal error, but an influence.
  3. The lettering presents barriers to comprehension. I can't say this frequently enough.
  4. The actors stays the same from frame to frame as some long conversation drags out.
  5. The writing is cliched.
  6. There is more cheap sexiness than brains.
  7. It's yet another weak Far Side imitation.
  8. The page opens to a note bearing some explanation as to why a new installment has not been posted, and how busy you've been, and boo-hoo-hoo.
  9. The page opens to a mess of ads and clutter, and your comic is not readily apparent.
  10. The customary "First, Last, Previous" navigation links are absent.
  11. There is no table of contents, telling me how much material is in the strip archives. Don't force me to read your archive blind, or I can't budget my time. I want page counts.
  12. The humor is based on overstatement.
  13. The "explaining hands" are overused.
  14. Ads crowd the strip.
  15. The dialogue balloons are rectangular. If you are drawing them this way, try ovals on the same strip and do a side-by-side compare. Rectangles clash with architecture and furniture. Ovals are more dynamic.
  16. I see sprites. I suspect these are more fun to do than to read.
  17. There are exceptions to all these "rules," but you should know what you're doing if you're going to test them.
How many of these rules does this one break?  Newshounds  Note especially the "explaining hands."
Artistic repetition, even as a gimmick, is boring: Red Meat
Font trouble, or, My eyes! My eyes! : Jump Leads 
Lack of dynamic action, chronic offender: Real Life
Intro page is a mess: Sabrina  Clan of the Cats
It looks like a story board: Buddies in Big Places
Rectangular balloons: Partially Clips 

Really simple comics follow different rules (though the copyright banner is an abomination):  Cyanide and Happiness  This is perfect lettering for this comic.

Next: How I see my strip.