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Mr. Comic Strip? Meet Mrs. Internet

I got a lot of nice e-mails about Saturday’s cartoon, so I thought I should comment on it. Because the size and shape of Saturday’s strip reflect a conscious decision on my part…and the reasons for it are worth sharing.

Which requires that I step back in time to explain.

As many of you may remember from the launch of the Sheldon website, newspaper comic strip syndication was always my hoped-for dream, growing up. Which makes sense: In post-WWII America, newspaper syndication was the best way — perhaps the only way — to make a consistent living as a comic strip cartoonist. So, if you wanted to create comic strips, it followed that you wanted to create comic strips for newspapers.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the newspaper. A.) Folks my age and younger stopped reading newspapers B.) Newspapers themselves took increasingly fewer risks in launching new strips, and C.) Newspaper comic strips themselves got increasingly stale as they catered to the realities of points A and B.

But in the last 5-7 years, more and more cartoonists began sharing their art and making their living online. These were cartoonists who were producing fantastic, interesting work; who were talking directly to their readers by e-mail, blogs, and forums; who were taking a direct hand in the way their characters, books, and licensing were being handled; and who were taking risks with their strips that traditional newspaper syndication never would’ve allowed.

For me — a cartoonist who had been chasing that nirvana of newsprint, but then “saw the light” on internet cartooning — it’s taken me a while to break the mindset of newspaper formatting. But in the last few months, I’ve started to dip a toe into formats, sizes, and shapes that wouldn’t have been possible in traditional newspaper strips.

So, with strips like the “Crotchley Labs” jokes (#1, #2, #3), I was able to use an odd shape and grayscaled images to help convey the feel of cheesy, 1950’s newsreels. And with the recent Home Depot strip about standing in a never-ending line, I was able to string out the strip’s physical size…reinforcing the point of time’s passage. And finally, with Saturday’s strip, I was able to play with a larger negative space…showing the fall of the baby duck in a way that a “normal” strip sizes wouldn’t have allowed.

These experiments have been fun to do, and I think they’ve benefited the strips in which they were used. So, on that front, I’m inclined to use such experiments in the future.

But I’d be curious to hear what you’d have to say on the matter, as a Sheldonista reader. That’s far more interesting than what I have to say on the matter. So, if you have a thought to share, swing by the ol’ Sheldon forum, or let me know via e-mail.