Friday, August 28, 2015

Comic Formulas

No technical post today, just me getting some thoughts out there about what types of comics seem to work out the best. I've had a lot of time to think about this over the past 13 months.

Four panels seems to be the best length for me. Particularly, I am fond of a 2+1+1 pattern in which the frogs talk back and forth for two frames, a third frame cuts away to another scene, and then in the final frame a punchline is delivered. You'll notice that pattern a lot in my work. I've done some as short as three panels and as many as 8, but four seems to be my favorite.

Obviously, I do a lot of work with puns. I like puns. I think everyone should.

Do you get it?
Over time, I've tried to back away from the really technical jokes. I had a set of comics about the frogs trying to get accepted into the Order of Log N, but I've never published them. There was a log that guided them through a series of tasks related to efficiency of algorithms. You know, O(log n). No, probably not. Unless you are a computer scientist or software engineer you probably have no idea what that means. I'm not saying that I write jokes specifically for an audience. I write the comics for myself, but part of that is my desire to make people laugh. If more people are confused than amused, I don't feel I've accomplished my goal. It's a complicated feeling.

The comics that I like the least are usually the most well-received. I get more compliments about comics that I almost deleted than any others. I'm not sure what's going on. Maybe I over-think things. Maybe I'm too critical of myself. Maybe my sense of humor is shared by no one else in the world.

I have to write what I know. The whole point of Amphibian.com is that the frogs are trying to master and profit from the latest technologies. As a software engineer who was self-trained from age 10 until entering college in 1997, that's what I know. It's what I still do. It's probably what I'll always do. My kids want me to write comics about soccer or gymnastics because that's what they know (I did a game about frog soccer though). I have to explain to them that my work expresses my own experiences and encourage them to write their own comics about their experiences. I am trying to train them to take over writing Amphibian.com someday, but I can't convince any of them to become software engineers.

Today's comic is about something else I know - answering tech support questions. Besides doing this for family members since 1991, I used to work at a small Internet provider back in the days when Windows didn't always come installed with Internet Explorer or even TCP/IP. Helping people over the phone was tough, but there were worse parts. I once had to re-install Windows on a customer's computer because it would no longer boot. After they took the computer home, they called in furious at me because they couldn't find Windows anymore. I asked what was on their screen. Just a little picture that said "My Computer" and another one that said "Recycle Bin." I told them that they were looking at Windows. They called me a liar. I decided that I should get a real job.

Amphibian.com comic for 28 August 2015