Panic at the Pumps!

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Phoenix
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by Phoenix »

Lew Stringer wrote:Balance is the best option IMHO, such as in this large panel from my Super School strip. Stinkbomb is farting but there's lots more going on in the picture as well:
I definitely like that panel, Lew. There is plenty of balance, certainly. A few examples that come to mind are the two figures flying up through the air in the top right being balanced by the ghost and mole-like figures in the bottom left, who are either coming up out of the ground or going down into it, a success either way, the green-headed boy's tongue balances with Superman's right arm, and the upward-pointing triangular flame surrounding the head of some kind of fireboy up on the left is in balance with the inverted triangular beard of the old gentleman with a walking stick down on the right.

Some of the humour, though, comes from the unexpected, Spiderman toasting a piece of bread on the fireboy's burning head, Superman doing his personal noughts and crosses with his gloved right hand on the bald head of a boy who must clearly be as dim as he looks, and his two-fingered gesture with his gloved left hand towards Always Late Boy, which simultaneously manages to look like a snail, which is then allowing it to double up as an emphasis on, and further oblique reference to, the slowness of the boy, who would clearly be too slow to catch a cold. Of course, if he is always late, he could be offered up as a paragon of reliability! The anger of the cameraman whose camera has been broken is contrasted with the general hilarity and anarchy elsewhere.

The whole is anchored by the eleven seated figures, and of course the figures clinging to the upper form, one of whom is in the classic Chad/Kilroy position, are totally unaware that the left end of their form, as we are viewing it, is going upward towards Spiderman who is flying downwards, while the other end is moving downwards, away from the upward-flying duo previously mentioned. Ridiculous elements are present too, such as the bearded baby and the cat-like figure whose green ears or horns are supporting a very short clothes line with only one sock pegged out on it.

Yes, a nice piece of work.

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-MikeD-
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

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Lew Stringer wrote:I find the weekly criticisms of children's comics by people far older than the target audience to be quite bemusing really.
The comics themselves are written by oldsters who sit around trying to second guess the target audience. If we believe that certain powers in DCT incorrectly believe success involves underestimating the sophistication of the average young reader, such as overusing allegedly funny fart gags, then this is a legitimate area of criticism. Whatever your age and interest in the industry.

Phoenix touched on the old argument between folks who, on the whole, believe an audience should be spoon fed more of what they like, if it keeps them happy, and other folks who prefer to give them what they believe they should like, however unpalatable it seems initially. This really is at the root of Beano's problems right now - too much of the former, very little of the latter. In other words, in my humble opinion, a real lack of inspiration of the creative kind. On the other hand, did the Dandy relaunch show us that risk taking means eschewing the commercial imperative in this day and age?
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philcom55
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

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DC Thomson have always gone out of their way to monitor the likes and dislikes of their core audience. While they've shown themselves capable of taking risks with Dandy I don't think they can be faulted for giving the readers what they want in the pages of Beano - which is apparently far more popular after all. Personally I'd be surprised if they don't carefully analyze each week's sales figures in relation to the content, so who can blame them for increasing the lavatorial humour if it invariably leads to a corresponding increase in circulation (in the same way that DC's Julius Schwartz ended up with a gorilla on the cover of every other comic-book he edited!).

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-MikeD-
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by -MikeD- »

philcom55 wrote:...Personally I'd be surprised if they don't carefully analyze each week's sales figures in relation to the content, so who can blame them for increasing the lavatorial humour if it invariably leads to a corresponding increase in circulation
And that kind of thinking, if applied inflexibly, leads to stagnation. It's actually intellectually lazy and doomed to failure, even in a commercial sense, as it only rewards innovation that gives immediate results. Only the marketing bods should be interested in that kind of research. I think artists and writers have a duty to go wherever their imagination takes them, and communicate, even emolliate the Shock of The New. In fact, this has been the path most of the really objectively successful creators have chosen.

And there are too many fart gags in The Beano. And they stink. :D
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by Lew Stringer »

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Haw7hupmvEc/T ... ol_all.jpg
Phoenix wrote: Yes, a nice piece of work.
Thanks for the studied analysis of my illustration, Phoenix. I'm pleased you liked it.

I must confess though that you've put more thought into its composition than I did when I drew it. :lol: My main intention was to fit as many characters in there as I comfortably could (most of whom were created just for that one image), keep it lively and hopefully amusing, and not to leave too much redundant space.

Fair point on the stretchy character's hand looking like a snail, although I'd better point out that he's not giving a two finger salute to a character behind him (perish the thought in The Beano) but is playing a trick on the woman in front of him by doing that tedious thing that some people do on photographs when they stick their hand behind someone's head.

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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

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Lew Stringer wrote:I'd better point out that he's not giving a two finger salute to a character behind him (perish the thought in The Beano) but is playing a trick on the woman in front of him by doing that tedious thing that some people do on photographs when they stick their hand behind someone's head.
Yes, I might well have spotted that as well, eventually, but possibly not, because I was focused on balance, and the sheer number of characters to inspect was rather overwhelming, you must admit, so much so that in considering disposition and movement, I didn't even manage to stand back from the panel in order to see whether there was any similar balance of colours. Looking at it again this morning, I see an obvious parallel between the three essentially blue seated figures and Superman's arms and helmet, but as I can't see much else, I suspect that colourwise, you were not making a conscious effort to achieve more than a panel that was pleasing to the eye.

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swirlythingy
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by swirlythingy »

To me, the Beano feels - and has done for some time - very tame, safe and middle-of-the-road, compared to the risk-taking and much funnier Dandy. After a certain amount of time, a lack of risk-taking evolves into stagnation.

Don't forget that, when the Dandy and later the Beano launched back in the late 1930s, they were considered revolutionary for their day (even if the extent of their innovations, such as strips with speech bubbles, has been overstated). Later, in the early 1950s, the Beano brought about nothing less than a revolution in children's entertainment, with the anarchic Dennis the Menace (soon joined by other iconic characters) superseding all the tired old clichés about affable tramps, anthropomorphic woodland creatures and jolly old boarding school chums. Neither of these innovations could be described as anything less than a massive risk. What if Albert Barnes had instead decided to go down the safe route, and deliver to the public more of what it had been clearly proven to like, and which DC Thomson were already making a quite comfortable profit out of, thank you very much?

It could equally be said that the eventual downfall of such venerable titles as Comic Cuts and Illustrated Chips was at least partly down to a failure to innovate, and swallow the accompanying risks that went with it, on the scale of the 2010 Dandy. Instead they stuck to a formula which they thought they knew worked, and were, despite their initially pioneering status and long decades of commercial success, eventually punished for not moving with the times fast enough. These days the competitors are the Internet and video games rather than rival comics*, but the imperative is the same - if you produce a product which is clearly inferior to your competition, you can't expect to invoke a grandfather clause and keep on going like that forever.

Invoking the grandfather clause is, in fact, more or less exactly what the Beano tried to do with its most recent cover redesign and launch of a new range of "Retro" merchandise. This is no longer a comic which is looking to the future - instead it's seeking solace in its comfort zone of the past.

I didn't post this topic in the Beano section because the lack of inspiration in writing appears to be company-wide. The Dandy isn't as bad as the Beano simply because a lower proportion of its strips are staff-written, but what there is sits very uncomfortably with the strips written and drawn by its unparalleled collection of fresh new talent. It couldn't be plainer, to someone who reads both comics, that the old centralised model is dying, if not already dead. Even strips like this week's Bananaman, in which the full extent of the plot is that someone I've never heard of makes a milkshake and then drinks it (with no reference to farting whatsoever), read like someone sitting there mechanically filling in a set of boxes.

It's going to be a very uncomfortable step to take, particularly in such a notoriously conservative company as DC Thomson, but I honestly think there needs to be a major upheaval in the writing department, because the current lot are beginning to show very visible signs of burn-out, and the contrast with the majority of the Dandy really isn't helping.

* This should not be taken as an endorsement of Dandy Xtreme. There, somebody who saw that the Internet and video games were serious competitors but didn't really know a whole lot about them, and thought imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, produced a textbook example of how not to do it. Nobody ever won market share by copying everyone else.
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Jonny Whizz
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

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One problem which I think has affected the Beano in recent years is how difficult it has become for newer comic strips to establish themselves in the comic - it's been five years since a character been introduced and become a firm part of the comic's line up (Fred's Bed), and even longer since a fully new strip established itself (Ratz, the previous year).

In that time, a number of stories have been introduced, some of which have been inspired (Johnny Bean and Super School) while other have been poor (London B412), but, with the exception of Meebo and Zuky, none is currently in the comic. Although the number of new strips created in this time is far less than the number created for the Dandy since its 2010 revamp, it's far from the leanest spell of new strips in the Beano's history. The early 1980s only produced one new strip, Smudge, but he established more of a foothold in the comic than any of the strips that have started since October 2007. Even Meebo and Zuky doesn't seem as secure as it ought to be, which is a shame as it's one of the comic's most consistently entertaining strips (not just due to the comic violence either - for instance, a number of Meebo and Zuky strips have been well-crafted parodies of film genres).

In the Dandy, on the other hand, after a flood of new strips was introduced in the revamp, most of the better strips have been able to establish themselves in the comic - think of, say, Mr Meecher or Nuke Noodle, while the inferior strips have generally been discarded (there have been exceptions, where good strips like Robot on the Run or Harry and his Hippo have been dropped). In my view the success of a strip cannot be measured in time alone - Jonah only lasted for five years in the Beano, yet he is remembered more fondly than several strips which ran for longer.
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by Digifiend »

Having now read this week's Beano and Dandy, I see what Swirly meant. There was overkill on the fart gags this week. They should've spread them out a bit. Beryl's strip could easily have been a Gnasher's Bite script this week as well (so the Dandy isn't always original).

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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by swirlythingy »

Digifiend wrote:Having now read this week's Beano and Dandy, I see what Swirly meant. There was overkill on the fart gags this week. They should've spread them out a bit. Beryl's strip could easily have been a Gnasher's Bite script this week as well (so the Dandy isn't always original).
The divide I was complaining about isn't between Beano and Dandy, it's between staff-written strips (most or all of the Beano, some of the Dandy) and artist-written/freelance strips (most of the Dandy). Beryl is staff-written, so you're actually reinforcing my point.
Jonny Whizz wrote:it's been five years since a character been introduced and become a firm part of the comic's line up (Fred's Bed)
I think Meebo and Zuky (now two years old) is very much a "fully new" "firm part" of the comic's line-up, particularly given how popular it is. (Then again, Super School was supposedly very popular, and look what just happened to that.) The fact that it keeps skipping weeks is reportedly due to issues in Laura Howell's personal life.

One which mystifies me is Beano's Got Talent. How many strips did that have? Four? Each one seemed to be commissioned specifically to replace that week's Meebo and Zuky (apart from the last one, when both strips appeared), and it has to be said that they seem to share a similar taste in humour. We haven't seen one in a while now. What was going on with that?
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by swirlythingy »

This week's 'totally gross stuff' tally:
  1. Dennis: Bogeys. In no way relevant to the plot, but splashed on the cover anyway - with a caption ("Can you pick a bigger bogey?") last seen on the cover little over a year ago.
  2. Ratz: None.
  3. Minnie: Overeating.
  4. Numskulls: Edd guzzles a load of beans, and burps.
  5. Meebo & Zuky: Zuky guzzles a load of beans, and farts.
  6. Bash Street: Overeating and burping.
  7. Pup Parade: Farting.
  8. Ball Boy: None.
  9. Fred's Bed: None.
  10. Billy Whizz: None.
That's six out of the ten strips in the comic.

And that's before you even consider the reprints:
  1. "Totally Gross" Germs: Burping and farting,
  2. Bananaman: Overeating and burping.
  3. Roger: Overeating.
  4. No 13: None.
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Tin Can Tommy
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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by Tin Can Tommy »

I wouldnt really conisder overeating to be "totally gross" unless it is done in a particularly grotesque way which isn't the case for all your examples.
To me jokes about bogies/farts/burps/vomit/fæces/urine are the only thing that I really consider to be toilet humour.

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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

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Tin Can Tommy wrote:To me jokes about bogies/farts/burps/vomit/fæces/urine are the only thing that I really consider to be toilet humour.
I can, just about, see the point of using the odd topic from Tin Can's list every so often in a comic, whose function is to make people laugh. But there really is a lowest-common-denominator aspect to it, and, to me, this is sad. Life is full of so many other possible sources of humour that could be mined more regularly. I just don't see humour in bogies and faeces etc. Perhaps I'm too long in the tooth but I used to read comics from both major companies, and laugh at the antics of lots of their cartoon characters, but I do not recall any strip that relied on what Tin Can is calling toilet humour to achieve its comedy.

It was always possible. When Keyhole Kate was preparing to spy on someone she could have farted when she bent down, Aunt Aggie could have forgotten to remove a couple of pats while she was preparing to bake a cow pie for Dan's tea, Rupert could have vomited for some reason or other all over Bill Badger's new clothes, Wullie could have pi**ed in his bucket and then mixed it into a glass of lemonade to offer to PC Murdoch in order to get his own back on him etc. But none of these or similar incidents ever occurred because they would have been inappropriate. It is my personal opinion that children these days are being shortchanged by many of the offerings in their comics, offerings which I deem to be inappropriate. I hasten to add that I do not blame the cartoonists, but rather the strictures within which they have to work. I see a parallel between, on the one hand, the current government's refusal to change course from their austerity package when even members of their own party can see they are digging themselves further into the mire, and, on the other hand, comic producers, from whichever company, that, despite falling sales, seem reluctant to jettison the bulk of the toilet humour, and replace it with situation comedy that doesn't rely on bogies and things for its sales. Yes, we are living in a different age now, progress is key. I just happen to think that despite all the obvious improvements that have been made to our lives, not everything is better.

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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by PaulTwist »

I don't find bogies funny... but that's because I'm NOT EIGHT YEARS OLD. I'm sure I did when I was. Plus one of my favourite ever things from comics was The Plops from Oink!, and they were much more "gross" than anything The Beano has ever printed.

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Re: Panic at the Pumps!

Post by swirlythingy »

PaulTwist wrote:I don't find bogies funny... but that's because I'm NOT EIGHT YEARS OLD. I'm sure I did when I was.
Yes, but the obvious response to that is: "Did you find anything else funny when you were eight years old, apart from bogies?" And if not, can you think of a valid reason why the comic should not be renamed The Bogey and contain nothing but strips where the punchline rests on the shock value (something notoriously vulnerable to the perils of overuse) of bogies?

The short-termism inherent in overexploiting one relatively narrow branch of the fertile, infinitely varied, ever-shifting field we conventionally call 'humour' can be explained using analogies very similar to the old argument, "Every issue of the Beano is someone's first." If that has such precedence over longer-term readers of the Beano, then why don't they just reprint the same issue of the comic over and over again each week?

I still feel I can't have managed to emphasise this strongly enough: I am not against toilet humour, or related tropes which share the quality of deriving their innate humour from the cultural shock value loosely defined as 'grossness'. I am against the overuse of any specific type of humour, which, as we all know, will simply result in it becoming less funny. It just so happens that the specific type of humour being overused in this case is 'gross' humour.

Everybody knows that if you tell a joke often enough, it stops being a joke. Please stop doing it... for great justice.
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