Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The weakly strip

I picked up a copy of the Beano last week which is not something I always do, but it had four things by me in it and I thought it would be worth keeping for posterity. Although my Lord Snooty feature works pretty well, my new strip Big Time Charlie reads terribly. It's a pretty thin story about school food and the ending doesn't work. I quickly threw the Beano down, disgusted with myself. I've written lots of weak stuff before of course, but this one really feels like it was phoned in. It made me think of my favourite writers and how they managed to maintain the consistent quality of jokes and ideas in a strip despite the extreme limitations of the form: Set the story up, making sure conflict is involved. Let the characters respond to the situation as their personalities dictate, cram as many jokes in there, have as satisfying an ending as possible, preferably a funny one, avoiding a terrible pun. All in a maximum of about 12 or 13 frames.

So it strikes me that at the moment Charlie's personality is not fully formed and I am finding that limiting a character to a suburban setting is not my natural milieu. Nuke Noodle, the time travelling wrestler was a joy to write because he was the exact opposite of those things. Strong personality (stupid, arrogant, violent) and I had all of time and space to set it in. Think of a character from history, do a little research, introduce Nuke, sprinkle in some horrific beatings and my secret ingredients: a complete curve ball somewhere in the plot, and ridiculous turns of phrase ("It exploded like a bad shoe.") Done.

Charlie, hopefully, will improve as he goes. In the next few episodes I have explored a few different approaches to telling Charlie's adventures, and I have found a very surreal form of clumsiness is emerging again and again. In time we shall see whether these strips lead to Charlie having an extended stay in the Beano, or being another character that couldn't hold his own amongst their classic pantheon. I'm being pretentious now, so I know it's time to stop writing.

Oh, and there might be some news for Nuke fans soon....