Apr 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Comic Strips

Okay, so I go to Comics.com. In fact, I subscribe to specific comics on Comics.com. Among them, my favorite comic strip since CALVIN AND HOBBES, Stephan Pastis' PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, and my other favorite comic strip today, Brian Crane's PICKLES. I also used to subscribe to CLASSIC PEANUTS, but with recent (awesome) developments that the Peanuts Worldwide LLC (meaning Schulz's estate) has the rights now, Peanuts isn't available on the site anymore.

I also subscribe to TARZAN CLASSICS. Although it's only ever credited to Edgar Rice Burroughs, the artist on the strip since I began the subscription has been John Celardo. And he is, bar none, an excellent artist. Here are selected strips from the past week. Just check out that level of detail. Click to enlarge.

I'm not one for adventure strips — 3 or 4 panels is simply never enough space to pace them out properly. But that quality of drawing is staggering. He knows when to cartoon and when to do realistic. There's a perfect example right here of what's called the masking effect — drawing the characters you're supposed to identify with (in this case, the boy) with less detail than the surrounding elements in order to facilitate relatability. Meanwhile, you can draw the other things with as much detail as you want. CHECK. OUT. THAT. ELEPHANT.

All right, moving on about 50 or 60 years later, let's go to a strip by a woman named Donna A. Lewis, who has a recently syndicated comic called REPLY ALL. This is her "funniest" strip of the past week.

Wow. Just quite simply, plain and simply, wow. What is that?

Putting aside the writing issues — the joke isn't funny and the pacing is off — the art looks like it was done in MS Paint. It also looks like she keeps copying and pasting heads and just modifying the eyes and the mouths as she sees fit. It's ridiculous. It looks horrible.

And it just got syndicated.

In the comments section of this article on Robot 6, Lewis seems to not really care about the criticism, going so far as to cite the problems of supply and demand when it comes to her work. I don't really see how that affects anything regarding her trying to draw better, and it definitely seems to me that this comics stuff to her is more a hobby than a genuine love.

I'm not saying that you have to draw realistically like John Celardo did. So many of my favorite comics artists don't draw realistically (Marcos Martin comes to mind right away), and there are strips like xkcd that even just use stick figures. The difference is that these guys knew pacing, body language, and the other basic elements necessary in order to truly convey what they wished to convey. With comments like "Luckily, there are folks who like the strip and don’t mind looking at it – or even enjoy looking at it. Go figure," Lewis definitely seems to not care about the fact that her strip — like everyone else's — could use improvement.

It's a far cry from John Celardo's artwork, that's for sure. But that's not what saddens me. What saddens me is that this unaesthetic Paint-manufactured strip, which lacks any sort of passion or energy or true love for the medium, gets picked up. Meanwhile, there are budding talented artists out there who will never ever even submit anything to any syndicates because they love the medium so much that they continue to think their work falls short in comparison to work like Celardo's. These artists are the types who won't be happy unless their work is perfect. It's not about the money. It's about the art. It's about the passion.

And meanwhile, there's REPLY ALL, which just got syndicated, and it has none of those things.

Oh well. I'll always have TARZAN CLASSICS.


Flash Fact said...

Y'know, maybe you should send this to Stephan Pastis' blog. He'd have a field day. Great article, and boy it is sad to see how low the standards are for the industry. Berke Breathed would weep.

Duy Tano said...

I'm sure there were horrible strips before, maybe just as bad as REPLY ALL. So using this as an argument for "It was better in my day," (not that Tarzan was my day) is kind of a strawman, but good God, is it depressing to see something like this get syndicated.

Martin said...

i read the "reply all" strip before reading your next paragraph, and i was all "why the hell would duy post this comic here? i don't see it." and my heart pounded for a couple of seconds there.

then i read your next paragraph. and all was right in my world again. this kinda sounds like a local comic strip we have here called "fringe benefits cafe". you should check it. a couple of years back, it was right between manix's kiko machine strip, and the beerkada strip in the star. maybe the editors thought it was funny to sequence them that way.

PynDragon said...

I will admit my art sucks ass but, compared to that? I may as well be DaVinci. Well, Okay that might be pushing it but still. I have done a few guest strips for the Broken Icon Comics website, so far I haven't gotten any bad reviews, that I know of. Things like this are just ridiculous.

I have some of those strips up on my blog if you want to make your own comparison. Crap that reminds me, gotta finish the strip for tomorrow, got caught up in your article and forgot what I was doing.

Jason Quinones said...

and it's because of "artists" like donna that make me wanna jump off a bridge. she probably just knew somebody who knew somebody who stupidly mistook her crude renderings as good and her "jokes" were funny and they hooked her up with a gig for a laugh which is now her profession.


this crap makes that lousy strip "cathy" look like god damn frank frazetta's jonny comet by comparison.

Lugh said...

xkcd is pretty awful too, especially the attitudes it espouses.

Duy Tano said...

Can't agree there. xkcd flies over my head sometimes, but most of the time, it's good for a laugh.

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