December 17th, 2009

My Wordy Defense…

by Terri Libenson

I came across this little piece by R.C. Harvey in “The Comics Journal” the other day thanks to our ever-reliable Google Alert system. It was a criticism to a particular strip: Dec 1. At first I kind of wrote it off. Why get defensive, right? To each his own. But then I caught myself later quipping to my husband, “You know one of my biggest pet peeves? When someone tries to define what a comic strip is.” After all, comic strips are constantly evolving. Like other art forms, how can anyone define its parameters?

So I’d like to take a stand. Yes, of course I’m aware that Pajama Diaries is wordier than many cartoons. It is in diary format. But if you read it on a daily basis, you’ll notice I tend to balance the wordier ones with more visual or less text-y strips. Not that I should defend that process at all. I mean, geez, has anyone read a Doonesbury cartoon?

In college and beyond, I was an admirer of artists like Lynda Barry and Nicole Hollander, whose comics are not only wordy, but feminine-skewed. Like Lynda Barry, I deal with both narrative and dialog. I like that dynamic. And after hmmph-teen years working in the card business, I also came to realize men and women generally gravitate toward different styles of humor.

Not that I’m trying to appeal just to women, but let’s face it. When I do hear from both sexes, the men tend to like my quicker, gag-based jokes while women usually appreciate the story lines and relatable stuff. Those often include the heavily “verbose” strips. Honestly, most of the time I’m just writing for myself…and you wouldn’t believe how much paring down even the wordier ones are subjected to.

But no matter. Harvey points out that this strip’s wordiness gets in the way of the art. The artwork certainly looks fine and engaging on my computer screen. And in the case of this particular strip, I simply didn’t want the visuals competing with the message.

Okay, so he isn’t fond of my “verbosity.” No problem. But next time I’m busy “emasculating” my strip, think about my biggest audience: MOMS.

 

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