Someone I know once asked me if I’d thought of taking Tina’s Groove to the next level. The next level of what? I asked. What the person was asking was whether I’d thought of writing the strip in a less “gag-ish” way — a way that would allow me to address more serious topics. It’s a syndicated newspaper comic strip, I said. It’s supposed to be lighthearted and, well, comical. And besides, I love writing gags. If I’d wanted to write a continuity strip, or soap opera, then I would’ve, right from the start, but my aim with Tina’s Groove has always been to write (mostly) stand-alone gags. And, I have to say, what’s wrong with that?
Maybe I’m Too Sensitive
Often over the years I’ve gotten an uncomfortable impression that serious comics readers tend to look down on strips that are gag-a-day. But then I think, what exactly is a “serious” comics reader? It sounds to me like an oxymoron. I think the vast majority of daily comic strip readers — serious or not — enjoy gags, and humor, about everyday life, and if you’d ask them what they wanted out of a daily, most would say they want a quick read, and a chuckle. That’s it. As someone who is serious about this funny business, I think there are a lot of snobs out there who wouldn’t know a banana peel if they slipped on one.
Why Gag-A-Day May Be Better In Today’s Market
A few conversations with editors have turned up some unsurprising observations about today’s daily strip readership. It’s been said that a growing number of readers tend to favor straight, fast humor over lengthy, continuous story lines. It’s true that over the last 15 years or so, we’ve seen less of the continuity style strip, and more of the Gag-A-Day kind. Why? I can speculate that a continuity strip asks for more of an investment from the reader (if you miss a couple of days, the present day’s strip is lost on you). Catching up on story lines takes a degree of investment, whereas with a gag strip, the reader gets a stand-alone bit of humor every day. There’s no catching up, no going back to see what the story’s about — what you get is a fun, quick read, which makes it all the more attractive to eyes that are bombarded with constant in-your-face entertainment. Also, it’s these types of quickly read “slice of life” strips that get clipped out of newspapers and tacked onto walls. (Or downloaded and shared.) People like them.
Quick-Read Doesn’t Necessarily Equal Crappy-Read
I believe the adage that says brevity is the soul of wit. To me — and I think to most readers — daily comic strips should be short and fun. The quality — or lack of it — lies in the crafting of the humor, how the idea is delivered, and whether or not it’s original and fresh. And, really, what’s wrong with that?
Let me know what YOU think!
(I’ll be posting more of those “sketches of Tina’s life” soon…..)