On Strips: Size Matters

By | Friday, June 26, 2015 Leave a Comment
Here's Tina's Groove from Wednesday...
Tina's Groove
Pigeons + large umbrella = dangerous place to store food.

Exactly how funny you find that is a matter of taste, of course, but I think people can understand where Rina Piccolo was coming from even if the gag isn't quite their cup of tea. However, Piccolo noted
What's interesting to note is that she specifically cites concerns from the Comics Kingdom audience. Not her Twitter followers, not the folks hitting her website, just the ones seeing the comic on Comics Kingdom. So I clicked over to see how it was displayed there and what folks were saying. There weren't a ton of comments, but no one who did comment (besides Piccolo herself) seemed to understand it.

But there's a difference in how the comic is displayed. It's notably smaller on Comics Kingdom than elsewhere. You can click to get an enlarged version of the strip, but since you can read the text and identify the figures at the smaller size, I can see why a lot of people wouldn't bother. So my guess is that, in the smaller size version, it's too difficult to "read" the kebab fixings as kebab fixings thus preventing viewers from getting the joke.

That's a challenge of newspaper strip artists. Their art can and is viewed at a wide variety of sizes and formats. The illustration has to be simple enough to read in black and white at the small size many newspapers print them at, but it also has to be adaptable to color, and not so simple that it looks stark and empty on a large desktop monitor. Not to mention all sorts of permeations in between, including smart phones, email inboxes, feed readers, and the syndicate's site itself. Although it would seem to fly in the face of common sense, webcomikers actually have MORE control over how people read their comics and at what size(s). Their work might cross any number of digital platforms and venues, but it's still all digital, whereas newspaper strips also have to contend with print versions that are subject to the layouts and placements of hundreds of individual editors. Many of which, I might add, likely operate with a nagging fear that their employer (and, by extension, their own job) will become obsolete soon.

My point is that newspaper cartoonists have a more difficult time than they used to. There were long-running complaints that the size that comics were printed at was shrinking, frequently leaving room for little more than talking heads. Which is still the case. But now they ALSO have to be rendered at a larger size that can fill up a computer screen and not get lost in a sea of banner ads, social media icons, and the like. Inevitably, you're going to wind up with some jokes that simply do not read well at one end of the spectrum or the other.
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