July 16th, 2014
by Countess Tea
Welcome back to the Comics Kingdom Blog! I’m your Comic Strip Critic, and we’re halfway through my week hosting here on the Blog. I’ve actually had the chance to ask cartoonists some questions before on my show:
But I always have so many more to ask. So with that in mind, I’d like to ask the cartoonists of Comics Kingdom: What’s the best piece of constructive criticism you’ve received about your work, and who was it from?
My response to “constructive criticism” of Zippy is to turn it into a strip as quickly as possible–Bill Griffith, Zippy The Pinhead
Way back when, I did a series called “Cheers for Losing Football Teams”. A gentleman named Frank Pauer sent me a note saying that stuff like that was too easy. Around that same time, my wife Cathy said that I could do better. So I began to attempt work that was more ambitious which started me down the road to being an outlier. –Tom Batiuk, Funky Winkerbean
When I was 23 my aunt and uncle had a surprise for me when I traveled to Santa Rosa CA to see them; they’d arranged for me to visit Charles Schulz. Meeting him at his ice rink, I was given the following advice: sit down and draw fifty strips. Of those, maybe five will be funny. Build on those and throw out the rest. Do fifty more. Now perhaps ten will be usable. Repeat this process again and again and eventually one will have enough strips to create a submission to the syndicates. –Bill Holbrook, On the Fastrack and Safe Havens
Believe it or not, years ago, before “The Simpsons”, Matt Groening took the time to critique my work. I had friends in Atlanta who would send me the alternative paper to see “Life in Hell”. They said, “This guy is doing what you are doing. Write to him!” so I did, c/o Creative Loafing, and miraculously I received a 3 page letter. Instead of saying “Give it up” as I feared…he said “Keep going, you can definitely have some sort of career” and he told me how he used to make little books and just give them away until he developed a following and could sell his work, instead. He also said how he was starting to do these little animations for the Tracey Ullman show! I doubt he remembers all this, but it meant a lot to me and kept me going. Thank you Matt! –Stephanie Piro, Six Chix
I’d occasionally get emails from male fans asking if I could make Rob (the husband) less passive and more involved as a parent. I never made him that way intentionally – I think because Jill is the main character, I subconsciously put everything on her. But I took the comments to heart.
Instead of making Rob “Mr. Mom” overnight, I turned this “passivity” into a marital issue. Every so often, Jill and Rob get into heated debates about Rob needing to be more involved in parenting and chores. Consequently, he is a much better husband and father now. (By the way, my own husband has always been a totally involved parent, thank goodness!)
And….When I first got syndicated, I got some flak about pushing the envelope too far when it came to Jill and Rob’s sex life. Consequently, I pushed the envelope further. –Terri Libenson, The Pajama Diaries
I remember being in development with Tina’s Groove and every day was a workshop in constructive criticism! My editor was Jay Kennedy, and I learned a lot from him in those early days. To single out a couple of things that Jay imparted to me, I’d choose the following two because I think they are the most constructive.
Several years ago, I was writing a multi-part special for E! Entertainment. Jenny McCarthy was the host, and I was pounding out my usual blend of Noel Coward/ Rocker Grrrl comedy. Unbeknownst to me, E! had recently embedded an older low-level media manager whose job it was to go over every script in the building and edit anything that didn’t fit with “brand.” Oh, and she had zero background in television. That’s a prerequisite for basic cable.
Now, as I later found out, “brand”, as defined in her brocaded lexicon, included the proper mixing of participles and adherence to the Queen’s English. I, of course, prefer to write in the vernacular, which sounds more natural coming out of real peoples’ mouths. I built a career on this. So, I would get my daily revisions back from this editor, blood-stained in red pen (yes, she actually corrected our scripts with red pen, like a dour school marm), with eye-popping suggestions like: “Kim Kardashian is considering a sequel with Ray J, for whom she gave up the booty.”
It sounds so natural, just pratfalling off the tongue, no?
This show was a slog. I battled Mrs. Doubtfire’s red pen every step of the way. Things came to a head one night when I got a revision on a toss to break. This a TV term which refers to a host’s “coming up later…” banter before the show goes to a commercial. There was a segment which discussed the sentencing that was handed down to OJ Simpson in his Las Vegas robbery trial.
Now, to help you understand what I’m about to describe, a show which airs on television today is actually written months, sometimes years in advance. The show I was writing was going to air in about a month. But the writing, the host taping and all the production was going to be done this week. Now comes the important part… the O.J. trial was going to finish a few weeks beyond that.
Pre-taped pop culture tv shows like to appear current. It’s what spurs Dating Hotline companies to give so much money to run commercials on their network. So there’s a problem… a show writer has no way of knowing the exact details of a big event that’s going to take place weeks after a show is wrapped. And the O.J. trial / sentencing was going to happen two weeks after our show ended production. So, the standard protocol is to be ambiguous in your scripts, with dialogue like: “O.J. is never going to see the light of day this decade” or “The judge really threw the book at the Juice.”
Here’s what I got back from Miss Marple:
“These guidelines are unacceptable. I want the actual sentencing he received.”
I. Kid. You. Not.
I sent back a reply suggesting something along the lines of me wishing to buy a ticket on her quantum leap machine once she builds it. If you can imagine, my sarcasm was lost on her.
It was right around this time that I started on my journey of getting my own syndicated comic strip… –Jeff Corriveau, Deflocked
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