I'm a Lazy Bastard!
The first thing I say when presented with an idea or project is "How can I make that easier to do?" or sometimes when I'm really in the zone it comes out "Hrmph." Lazy, you'll find that particular motivation has left its fingerprints all over anything I do.
I consider myself to be a storyteller. I'd like to consider myself a writer but until I actually succeed in being paid for it I'm just a storyteller. I tell good stories. I just have a hard time making one into a complete book, movie, or what not. I could tell you a whole story over a nice pot of tea (or a bus ride) and you'd probably be entertained through most of it. It would help that I serve good tea, of course.
But stories told and stories written have very different needs that must be met, and there in lies the challenge to making the transition. I have a problem with characters. Either I know them completely or they don't exist. When telling a story it's OK to say "a girl" or "a business man" since a listener is involved more with the overall tale than identifying with any particular character. When I write early drafts of stories they often have these types of characters in them. Until one day when suddenly (months later) I can see, hear, smell, and (thankfully not too often) taste them, making the whole story something different and magical all over again.
As a result I have a story I've been working on for about eight years now. Is it done? Pretty much, I could finish it in a day or two. But is it done? No, I've still got a nagging feeling that there are some spaces left that need to be filled in and some characters that don't really exist to me. They have names and they say things but they really don't exist. I know that when they make themselves known the missing pieces will fill in and it will be done. I don't mind waiting a few more years on that project because what is done and who does exist make it worth the wait.
Now, doing a comic strip is a whole different breed from either one of those. Brian has funny ideas and I have funny ideas, but translating them into a coherent comic is another thing. There has never been any doubt in our ability to be funny. Until we try to be funny that is. Mid September we took our first steps toward this goal with a three-hour lunch that did kind of feel like "Gilligan's Island."
We had plenty of funny things to share and possible ideas for the strip but nothing that rang true for both of us or really strongly for either of us. When it was done we still didn't have a name or main characters. We knew that we both wanted the comic to be a bit dark and set a tone that made it OK to be controversial from time to time. Although we both had slightly different ideas about what the ideal audience would be we were definetely not making a comic for kids. But most importantly we knew that we were still going to do it.
A few weeks later while testing out Google's new chat program Brian suggested that it would probably be a bit easier if we just made the main characters ourselves and go from there. I'm sure that we had said this at some point earlier in the process but for some reason this time it struck a chord in me and the flood gates opened.
The next day I started a new job and at lunch started another new job as a writer for a comic strip. As mentioned earlier each medium has it's own particular obstacles to overcome. For the comic the first big one was space. How do I trim down a joke to fit? As you can tell by now, I tend to be a bit talkative and don't mind taking my time to get to the punch line if I think its worth it. When I got my first few ideas with us as the main characters they were just that "ideas" but since I knew the characters I could confront them with it and see what happens. I started to realize that with comics the whole story does not have to be in one comic. That sounds kind of obvious but it's not easy to accept until you can actually see it happen to your own idea.
To tell the first joke I had it would take something like twenty panels to get to the punch line. Not really realistic or fair to Brian, who would have to draw the damn thing. But when I started in on it I realized that it was actually five separate comics. Two that were really funny, two filler comics that set up the big punch line but were closer to amusing than funny when left on their own, and the big punch line. Suddenly I could understand how comic strip writers managed to be funny everyday. Which was something that had always bothered me as a child reading the funnies. Now that I knew that you could get a week or a months worth of comics out of one brief little idea the whole thing seemed so much more reasonable.
I mentioned that Brian would have to "draw the damn thing" and it sounds like he's the artist and I'm the writer but its not that simple. It would be more specific to say that I can't draw. Take a look at that post called "Dirty Plus Sign" for an example of what a comic drawn by me would look like. I can't even draw a damn square USING A RULER (Granted, holding it with my toes, but come on.) I'm not really that bad, that was for something else I was doing and wasn't meant to be quality work. I assure you that the roughness of it was a big part of its humor. Brian actually has skills. I will probably have to learn to draw at some point down the road to make it fair but even then Brian will still be the boss of the artwork on this project.
At one point I said the comic would be signed:
Art by Brian,I'm not quite sure what "Science" means but I have studied comedy my whole life (No, really! It's kind of an obsession.) to the point where I consider it a science. I also intend to do a good deal of the promoting, merchandising and web mastering for the comic. So "Science" seems good to me.
Science by Matt,
Written by both.
So when will we have some comics to show? Still, not quite sure. We still haven't quite nailed down the name, but we are very close. We have the general concept but we're toying with slight variations on it in an attempt to find the optimum balance between rememberability, brevity, promotability, and not being embarrassed when we tell people what it's called. I'm pretty sure I just made up a word or two in that last sentence but I'm feeling wild now so I'm leaving them. As funny as "Choking a Chicken" would be for a name I really don't relish my mother trying to tell her friends about her son's exciting new project. Or as Brian summed it up:
I want a name that fits into this statement "Up next we've got the hilarious creators of the wildly famous online comic "..." Brian Elias and Matt Petty. Followed by Jessica Alba and her new bikini."Actually, I added the Jessica Alba part but I doubt he'll argue the point.
So when we get a name figured out we'll let you know what's going on, and when we have some comics done you'll see them. That's the answer, but for now please try to find some humor in this dreary world without our comic.
Until I'm funny,