Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Mulling Over a Change

It's not a secret that I haven't posted here very often lately. (And I'm not exactly the first blogger who can make that claim.) That said, I don't want to stop posting. I was wondering if it would make sense to re-post some earlier material from the blog, perhaps revised a bit and outfitted with things like illustrative clips that weren't available when I started the blog in 2004. The nature of this blog is that almost none of the material is topical, so a post about an older movie, play or show isn't really dated unless I've changed my mind in the interim -- and if I have, maybe I can comment on why I changed my mind since then.

I don't know if that's what I'll do; I'm just thinking aloud here, and trying to figure out a good way to do some new(ish) posts.

Meanwhile, here's something I was thinking of incorporating into one of my earlier Archie-comics posts but didn't get around to using: when I wrote about Frank Doyle's writing, I was planning to do this little structural analysis of a five-page story I've always liked since childhood. It's not really a complete post, but I thought I'd put it here anyway.

Someday I'd like to do a fuller explanation of the structural strength of these stories compared to all the competitors -- even the best of them, like some of Stan Lee's humor titles. Lots of "teen" comics had simple or minimal plotting, but few of them did it with a feeling that the story was actually going somewhere, no matter how little was happening. Also, just the fact that lame jokes are acknowledged in-story as lame jokes gives this kind of story a slight sophistication boost over its competitors.

Art: Harry Lucey
Script: Frank Doyle
Inks: Terry Szenics
From Archie # 124

This is a surprisingly well-constructed story despite an almost total lack of plot (in common with many Frank Doyle scripts). It's based on a very simple premise, but in only five pages the premise is fully worked through and put through several variations:

Page 1: Doyle makes sure, as usual, to have the first joke on the first page, and not waste panel time as many humor comics writers do.

Page 2: The premise, introduced briefly on page 1, is fully elaborated on and even leads to a punchline (she was calling him just so he could pull that stupid joke on him). Note also the trademark Lucey reaction -- the circles of surprise coming out of the head. Then she leaves, and Jughead arrives, setting up the next variation.

Page 3: The variation is that whereas Betty was trying to set Archie up for the stupid joke, Jughead gets the idea right then and there. Then he goes on, doing his own verbose version of the reply. Then we get a bit of violence.

Page 4: Variation # 3: the old lady who doesn't even seem to be replying this way as a joke, but genuinely thinks he was calling her.

Page 5: Archie is finally driven 'round the bend by the rule of threes, leading to opportunities for the artist to draw running and hiding poses, so it's not just a static story. And then, in the last two panels, as always, we get the little twist ending and a great facial expression from Lucey.

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5)

So it's a really basic and simple story but a lot of craftsmanship went into it, and that's the difference between the Archie comics of this era and their many failed competitors -- there is a really solid comedy foundation to the scripts and drawing, which even the best competitors (like Stan Lee's team on Millie the Model) often lacked.

Most importantly, the story is constructed to maximize the visual possibilities. Even though it's just people talking about not much, there are all kinds of chances for the artist to do different types of reactions, gestures, physical actions. Good comics writing is done with a view toward telling the story in pictures.


Andrew S said...

Yes do repost old postings with current examples (film or audio clips). I like your blog so much I've read back all the way to 2005. And links to examples (film clips or audio clips) are almost always not functioning anymore.

I enjoy your insights (quite a few are really original and mind stimulating) and opinions (even though I sometimes disagree), but I skip reading postings about things I have no interest in.

So what interests me are "classic" (old) films, musical theater, traditional popular music (pre-rock era). I have no interest in comics, TV sitcoms, and minimal interest in cartoons.

Hope you will continue to write new material too, but revisons of old stuff are good by me.


Plato said...

What, not posting so often? I demand my money back!! If you feel like posting revised material, I say go for it. And/or continue posting things that don't count as "real" posts (whatever the qualifications are for that).

I sometimes wonder with stories like this if the author started out without any real plot in mind and waited for something to suggest itself. Start with Betty running up urgently and maybe you'll think of a reason why she's dong that. Nah, still nothing? Well, hey, there's an opening for that lame old joke. Lather, rinse, repeat a couple of times and you've practically got a whole story! Then just polish it off. On the other hand, maybe the whole idea was there from the start. Because it is polished, you can't tell: regardless of how it started, it's given the full treatment. (And the joke about rude teenagers is great.)

-David "makes up his own life much the same way, as it happens" Green

Snodge said...

Great post.
A question regarding a Jughead/Archie story:
Do you remember the story about Jughead and Archie creating their own soft drink in chemistry class?
Do you know what issue this story is in?