I came from a comic where I had lots and lots of panels, and that was where I cut my teeth, comics-wise. I always wanted more panels. At the same time, Shawn was putting a lot of work and many hours into the comic, and was already doing far more work than I was. The work load was already out of balance, and the stuff I wanted to write would have made it much moreso.
Solution: Shawn draws the pictures, and I do the layouts, bubbles, lettering, etc.
My plan was to request just 3 images for each comic. I’d drop those into the layout, but I’d also add them to my depot of images that could be re-used later. In a subsequent strip, maybe I’d recycle one of these images. The idea was to increase the panel count without increasing Shawn’s workload. (And since I was doing the layouts, even reducing his work a bit.) You can see in this comic that panel 3 is just a different crop of panel 2.
This created a bit of unexpected tension. I was zooming and cropping his art, which was great for giving me panels but bad because it wasn’t very flattering to his work. The comics flowed better, but Shawn wasn’t getting as much satisfaction from the final result. He didn’t enjoy the new system, which was really important to the ongoing health of the thing. Since the comic wasn’t paying anything, the only reason to keep doing it was because we loved the project. He never said as much, and it never occurred to me at the time, but this change to the process transformed him from contributing artist to image mill.
Any idea that turned it from a hobby into a job should have been dismissed on the spot. It wasn’t until we abandoned this system that I really understood why it wasn’t working for him.
I kind of think of this strip as the beginning of the end. (Dun Dun DUH) As mentioned, we’d switched up the workflow. This sadly did not have the positive effects desired. When I put together Clockworks or the earlier Chainmail Bikini strips, I tend to think about things like how word bubbles are centered, how the entire thing comes together as a composition, etc. I can’t help it. So the new CB strips looked very odd to me. All I could see were things I’d have done differently. Now, enough time has passed that I can happily look at comics like this one and enjoy them as they are. But at the time I could not.
Now, all that said I do enjoy this strip. I think the central gag is great and the panels of the gaming mat were a lot of fun to draw. Plus, you’ll note Chuck’s immaculately painted barbarian miniature. which was referenced in the now nonexistent cast pages. Also, Marcus singing Depeche Mode still amuses me. I love the idea that all of Jade’s bardic songs were either Depeche Mode, The Cure, or The Smiths. (Originally, I wanted them all to be Dashboard Confessional songs. But I don’t actually know the words to any Dashboard Confessional songs and I wasn’t about to subject myself to them to find ones to use.)
I want to make a joke to the effect of “Isn’t it funny how players will haggle over the minutiae of esoteric rules during an intense battle?”. But then I do the joke and instead of laughing at the common experience, a lot of readers try to “solve” the exchange.
“That’s not how that rule works! You wouldn’t use it here!”
“Alex is interpreting the rules incorrectly. Bob is in the right. This joke is dumb.”
“This rule is dumb anyway.”
We’re supposed to be laughing at the general idea of rules lawyering, but instead we get sidetracked into the details of one specific rule.
I invented the fictional D&D&D system to attempt to head this off, but then people ask questions like, “How is Chuck using a character and weapon from another setting?” It’s nitpicks all the way down, and I don’t know how you solve it. If it was just one or two people I would assume they were just spoilsports who don’t get the joke, but this happens often enough and comes from a diverse enough group of people that it might be an inescapable drawback of the form. I think, to a certain extent, that any story attempting to straddle the real-world and the game world like this is going to run into this problem.
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