Friday, January 22, 2010


So earlier this week I dropped Zap! from my read list because I thought it was going to slow and wasn't interested in it any more.  Today, I explain what I mean, because really it's all about pacing.

Every comic, hell, every story, has a beat.  You don't hear it or anything, but the events unfold at a certain pace, one event after the other, and typically as the climax comes up, the beat gets faster and faster.

The simplest beat for a comic is the daily, joke-a-day beat.  Sinfest and Station V3 play that beat all the time, every day, without fail.  Joke, beat, joke, beat.  It's simple, and effective.  Whether the jokes are funny or not is a different story, but the pacing is easy enough to do it with these comics.  But this wasn't Zap's problem, because it was a story comic.

Allow me to present a hypothesis regarding story comics:  The value of a individual strip of a story comic is inversely proportional to the frequency of the comic's updates.  To make that simpler, the more strips a week you have, the less important the individual strips are, the fewer strips a week you have, the more important the individual strips are.

Let's look at an example of the former, Wapsi Square.  This is a long story comic that updates five times a week.  Each strip is about two panels long and might have one or two exchanges in dialog.  Each individual strip isn't really all that important, but a week's worth of strips can tell you a lot.  The comic's beat is weekly, and but the events have time to unfold and grow through that week.  And it's a lot better after expanding the size of the strips too.  It feels bigger and more epic that way.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Zebra Girl, a comic that MIGHT update once a week.  Sometimes.  One strip thus must carry an entire story on it's own.  Remove that one strip and the entire story line falls apart.  More in the middle is Errant Story and Gunnerkrigg Court, which update 3 times a week each.  This covers a spectrum of story pacing, which brings us back to Zap and why it fails at proper pacing.

It all reminds me of something I was taught about short stories:  Every word counts.  And for webcomics, the similar is true:  Every panel counts.  Zap's strips are about the same size as Errant Story or Gunnerkrigg Court, and does about as much in each strip, yet it only updates once every week.  So as a result, each panel should be worth more, should tell more story, but it doesn't.  Each strip tells as much story as ES or GC.

Look at Zebra Girl again.  Look at the most current strip and look at how much story is told, not just in the text but in the art.  It's detailed and not a section of the strip is wasted.  Now here's a strip from Zap.  Dull, huh?  There's some movement, but not much else.  Now if we compare it to a strip of GC, well, that seems about the same doesn't it?

Zap's pacing is off.  The beat of the comic is about a month apart!  Whereas comics with comparable designs are at about a week, and flow at a proper pace.

Now there could be any number of reasons why the comic is being released at this rate.  Maybe it takes a while to produce a strip due to either artist skill or real life, but if that's the case, perhaps it's time to change up the size and scope of each strip.  Make each strip worth more story wise, and it might be worth the effort again.  

Keep this in mind when doing a comic.  Give your comic room to tell the story, either by more strips or deeper strips, lest you lose your audience.  I also need to state again that Zap! is NOT a bad comic, and even when scrolling through the strips to find my example, it felt paced right, but this is about it's publishing date, which is why I've had to give up on it.

Alright, enough of this.  I might have my 200th review Wednesday, so see you then kiddies.

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