Friday, January 6, 2012

What's in a Name

Due to the sheer number of comic names I'm going to drop in this article, I will NOT be linking every single one.  Instead I refer you to The List for any comics you might want to check.  It's as updated as this past November 2011.  It should be noted that I started coming up with this article back in March of 2010.  This isn't the only one I hope to resurrect and revive.

There are so many attractors to a comic.  The art, a random strip, word of mouth, ads, links from other comics and the like all can pull different people into a strip.  However, I think one of the biggest factors in drawing someone in is the title of the comic.  There are a LOT of comics, and designing a title that will draw attention should be a high priority for any artist.  So here are my ideas on what can make a good title, though not necessarily.

Naming the comic after the main character is a pretty common practice.  Candi, Lizzy, Jeremy, Hector!, and Bruno are but a few examples.  The problem, of course, is that simple names like this can be easily confused with another comic.  Remember Jack?  Well, there is another Jack.  Different concepts, different comics, same name.  No, I haven't read the second Jack yet.

So when using the name, change it up a bit.  Sandra and Woo uses two names and The Adventures of Dr. McNinja and The Adventures of Wonderella both add the very generic "The Adventures of" to the name, but make it stand out (not that Wonderella or Dr. McNinja are very common, but still).  Others like Edge the Devilhunter or Connie Van Helsing, Monster Hunter add jobs to the list.

Some titles simply demand that you read the comic.  They're so over the top it's almost required.  Kristy vs the Zombie Army, Cleopatra in SPAAAACE!, Sister Clair:  Pregnant Nun, Holy Crap! and Anne Frank Conquers the Moon Nazis are but a few with these wild titles.  Each one screams "READ ME" and often they deserve it.

Worst comes to worst, the title can tell the reader exactly what the comic is supposed to be about.  The Best Band in the Universe, Worst of the Timelords, Here There be Robots, Shi Long Pang the Wandering Shaolin Monk, and The Teddy Bear Trauma all are pretty descriptive about what they are about, and rather creative too.

Sometimes, though, the title is too creative for it's own good.  leveL is specifically written backwards like that, but tells you little about the comic, and means little to the comic.  UnCONventional doesn't make sense unless you know what the CON part means.  Mad About U requires connecting the U to university, and the mad part still doesn't make sense until you read the comic.

Locations are a good source of names as well.  Wapsi Square, Templar, Arizona, Winters in Lavelle, and City of Reality are good examples of this.  In some ways they can be just as descriptive of the work as any other title.  Winters in Lavelle especially as the "Winters" part refers to the last name of the two main characters, but can also refer to the time of year they arrived in Lavelle.

There are some titles that are, um, too much for a comic.  A Lesson is Learned but the Damage is Irreversible is probably the longest title of any comic I've ever read.  It tells nothing about the comic and is just a pain to write.  Supermassive Blackhole A* is a strange title and not one that I think stands out.  More likely to confuse some poor physics undergrad student than attract a new readers.

The weirdest titles, though, are often reserved for the daily gag strips, or those that started as that.  Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, The Parking Lot is Full, Voices in My Hand, Cyanide & Happiness, Does Not Play Well With Others and even Sluggy Freelance all started as gag comics and all had some of the most interesting names.

And then there are the REALLY weird names.  Dresden Codak, Exiern, ReVVVelations, and 5ideways just to name a few.  Strange, but appealing on some weird level.

Of course, some titles go off the rails.  Exploitation Now shifted gears near the end of it's life so the title meant little to it.  Sluggy Freelance ceased being a gag strip long ago.  String Theory started about a scientist, now it's on a prison break.  Life of Riley got really strange near the end, and really wasn't the life of Riley any more.

A good title can, and will, be the driving force behind visiting a comic or not.  A simple, but intriguing title should be the goal.  Take Blip for example.  So simple, so short, so interesting, you almost have to check it out to know what it is.  The Adventures of Superhero Girl tell you everything you need to know about the comic, but still make you want to read it to see who Superhero Girl is, and what her adventures entail.  Spinnerette stands out as a name very quickly, is easy to remember and oddly simple to spell (seriously, I keep checking that I spelled it right and I always have, go figure).  Girl Genius, Gunnerkrigg Court, Punch 'n Pie, The Call of Whatever, Dreamland Chronicals, hell, even Penny Arcade has a simple, easy to remember name and it keeps people coming back, spreading it around and encouraging others to read it.

Oh there still need to be good art, good story, good humor, good drama or whatever, but a good title acts as the first attractor and I've put more links into my Future Read list simply based on the name than anything else.  Something to consider.

Well that's enough for this week.  See you next time kiddies.

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