Because I’m usually checking my e-mail, playing with my iPhone, or staring off into space during breakfast, D tends to read through the morning newspaper much faster than I do. (She also skips the opinion section, but that’s another story.)
This morning, while reading the Sunday comics, she did a facepalm, shook her head, and turned to me and said, “You’ll enjoy today’s Pearls Before Swine.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because it’s terrible,” she replied.
She was not wrong:
On a related note, I find that I often enjoy reading Stephen Pastis’ blog more than his daily comics. I kind of wish he’d do more writing. Not that he’s a bad artist, but his brand of humor actually works really well in a prose format. You can see it in the way he composes his panels. One might call him the Kevin Smith of syndicated comics: all about the dialogue (but without the constant profanity).
Compare that to, say, xkcd or Dinosaur Comics, which also feature minimalist artwork, but in which the art serves a specific purpose. xkcd wouldn’t be the same if it featured people with faces, or full-color strips; the few times when Munroe does use color, it’s to make things pop. Just as his stick figures say something about the nature of his work, so does Dinosaur Comic’s use of the exact same artwork every single time make a statement about the malleability of interpretation. And when it does stray from the template, it’s for a reason–like now, when Ryan North is on his honeymoon and guest artists are supplying their own riffs on his creation.
Those two webcomics also have something else in common: they make liberal use of ALT tags, which cause a little block of text to pop up when you hover your mouse cursor over an image. In some cases, it’s a pretty big block of text. Sometimes that text is a continuation of the joke in the comic; sometimes it explains what inspired the comic; sometimes it’s just a wry parenthetical. Geeks love making oblique connections.
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah, writing instead of drawing. I’m not saying Pastis should give up the comics thing, just that there’s a big gray area where words and pictures meet. Just as people still call television “radio with pictures,” due to the tendency of TV shows to emphasize dialogue over imagery, I find that the comics I enjoy most tend to punch with text more than art. Guess that says something about why I’m a writer.