Unusual Strip Format Failure

By | Sunday, January 14, 2007 1 comment
First off, here's today's Red and Rover comic strip...

It took me a couple of readings to figure out what was going on because instead of following the two-row, left-to-right format of most comic strips, artist Brian Basset has chosen to work his strip in more of clockwise fashion; left-to-right on the top row, right-to-left on the bottom.

I applaud Basset for trying something different, especially given the context of "high" art within this particular strip. The problem, though, is that it doesn't work terribly well here. In the first place, the newspaper comic strip format is VERY standardized and, while I don't necessarily agree with that, it's set up an expectation for the readers. Anything other a typical format must be handled very carefully to ensure that readers won't get lost. In the second place, the distinction between the first and second rows is too definite. You could literally cut the strip in half and you won't "break" the strip. What needed to happen is that the right-most panels, where the transition is occurring, should be more transitive and show a definitive merge from one direction to another. In effect, it needed to be drawn as one larger panel with two sets of figures.

Again, kudos to Basset for the attempt, but it didn't quite work this time. But what I think this means is that we need to see more experimentation of this type in the newspaper strip format. Assuming, of course, the newspaper strip is going to be around long enough to see that!
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I think what would've helped is a new layout in that far right panel. The top half probably could've stood to have been moved up a bit, allowing a little more room in the invisible middle panel. That could've also been brought upwards and could've helped to draw the eye downward.

As you said, that yellow word balloon (and the line of footprints that move horizontally before dropping down) serve a little too well to recreate the missing gutter.

But, hey, I'm still thrilled to see this kind of change to the typical (read as: boring) panel layouts.