Tuesday, July 11, 2006

But these are funny

Three silent penultimate panels today:
Get Fuzzy by Darby Conley
Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis
Sherman's Lagoon by Jim Toomey

Okay, so my whole reason for being here is that I think the SPP is a useless cliche--that it is a lazy symbol of comic timing and not actual comic timing itself. But sometimes a strip that uses one is actually funny. And here we have Pearls Before Swine and Get Fuzzy.

Both funny.

But not funny enough to prove me wrong.


Anonymous Eugen said...

I believe spp's (didn't know they had a name!) are a very powerful instrument. Here's why:

You have a strip made of 3 or 4 panels. Consider these 'resources'. If you 'sacrifice' one and leave it blank in terms of active expression (be that dialogue or even movements, grimaces, etc.) you are practically communicating the pause as a very relevant component of your story. When you have 3 panels, for instance, that's 33.3% of your whole episode. This makes the reader take the suggested pause, which is great, as pause is yet another powerful instrument, very very hard to impose to your audience if your material is presented in printed form. I find it very frustrating when I look over the shoulder of people reading strips (even mine) and see them skimming through the panels. A pause causes them to stop and smell the roses.
Of course, like all other instruments, it's wrong to abuse this.

3:03 AM  
Anonymous Ferrick said...

The Pearls SPP doesn't seem any different than most of the abuses you note here. The joke is funny but that pause seems too "long."

Which brings me to Get Fuzzy. I did think that the SPP in the strip was funny and well done because it expressed different emotions from different characters. In Pearls, the characters look exactly the same. With no dialogue, maybe I feel that they are pensive. But the panel is identical to the others minus the balloons. That seems lazy and unoriginal like an '80s TV cartoon.

But Get Fuzzy not only gives us something in the panel but it changes it up. Notice how small the panel is compared to the others. Very little wasted space and it conveys the *short* pause better. This is an example of the SPP making the strip better.

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Eugen said...

well, that's yet another debatable topic. In my view, it's also cool to use blank expressions from time to time, because it entices the reader to fill in with his own ideas about what should be on their faces. It is indeed a minimalist approach, kinda like in manga, where sometimes only the protagonist is animated and the crowds behind him are a still background plate.

on the other hand, I've always been partial to Pearls... so I may be very biased trying to find arguments for why I find them always hillarious.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude. Pearls isn't funnier with the SPP. No way. Get Fuzzy is. Pearls would be funnier if you removed the SPP, or, if you bumped the punchline to the second panel and created a reaction from the customer character in the last panel.

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Ferrick said...

I'm all for the blank expression. I think it works really well to express a lot. Outside of comics, The Office, especially the British version, used quiet and blank expressions very well. But the blank expression works better if it is framed a bit. How about a little bit of movement in the Pearls panels? We don't even see that their mouths are open. I think the gag is funny but I think it could be funnier, even with the SPP, if they were actually doing something. How about when the guy is ordering, he has his hand on his chin or he motions to the menu. I don't know. I also might be a little bit too analytical about it, too.

9:22 PM  

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