One From Column A, One From Column B-movie

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The Script For Today's Comic!

Panel 1:
(Tom and Carla at a party with other people – a sedate party, where people are laying on couches and talking. Feel free to go nuts on the detail.)

TANNER: "Did you hear what happened to whats-her-name on Battlestar: Galactica?"

TOM: "She got raped, didn’t she?"

Panel 2:
TANNER: "I thought you didn't watch Battlestar, Tom."

TOM: "I don't. But she's a female character, and one of two things can happen to her: she'll get raped, or she'll get pregnant."

Panel 3:
(Party fades away as Tom gestures to an infinite row of bearded, ugly men behind him, typing away at keyboards and typewriters.)

TOM: "You see, movies and TV are mostly written by men — and the sorts of men who get drawn to writing science fiction and fantasy tend not to have a whole lot of experience with women."

Panel 4:
(Tom still narrating, now in front of a group of apelike men standing in awe in front of a 2001-style monolith with a Playboy pinup taped to it)

TOM: "They don't know much about women, having gleaned their knowledge from porno, but they know women can give birth and be raped. Thus, to a TV writer, that is the only function that women have."

Panel 5:
(A good science-fiction writer being turned away at the door by a corporate executive [Harlan Ellison might be good visually], and at the back door he's dangling a few paltry bucks to the Dawn of the Dead-like crowd of wanna-be writers out back, who react with joy and thrills.)

TOM: "Plus, real science-fiction — the kind that postulates alternate universes, as opposed to just westerns in space — terrifies TV executives and alienates audiences, so the people who usually write sci-fi and fantasy are underpaid, undertalented, and too lazy to come up with another motivation for a woman that's not vagina-related."

Panel 6:
(Return to the party. Tanner and the rest seem vaguely discomfited by this thought.)

TANNER: "So how would you fix it, smart guy?"

TOM: "I'd just balance it out a bit."

Panel 7:
(A large, wicked pair of scissors in front of a pair of dangling cherries.)

TOM: "See, the rape is every woman's worst fear, but we rarely see every man's worst fear — castration."

Panel 8:
(Cast of your favorite show [or several shows], each male with fresh bandages over his crotch and looking anguished)

"To maintain equal rights, every time a woman was raped or pregnant, I'd neuter a male on the cast."

Panel 9:
(A rusted, serrated spoon in close-up while the Big Action Star of your choice cowers in the corner, shrieking like the girl in Silence of the Lambs.)

TOM: "Imagine the drama of the chop! The anguish of the recovery! The callousness of the men around him! The Oscar-award-winning performances!"

Panel 10:
(Same Big Action Star, standing tall amidst a bunch of singing choirboys two feet shorter than he is, some of whom are looking up at him quizzically. Action Star is singing joyously.)

TOM: "…and, finally, the recovery."

Panel 11:
(Return to the party. Stunned silence.)

Panel 12:
GENERIC WOMAN #1: "You really know how to kill a conversation, Tom."

KARLA (snuggling close): "That's why I love him!"

TOM (eagerly): "Did I ever tell you my theory on Oral Roberts?"

Ferrett Says

This was the most difficult strip we’ve ever done… And the most difficult strip I ever intend to shovel onto Roni. By the time we were done with this damn thing, we called it “Doctor Hell.” And there are many good lessons to be learned about writing cartoons from this.

It’s funny, but let’s talk about why it doesn’t work from a production standpoint.

See, when we started the strip, Roni had specifically asked for “interesting things to draw.” So my initial strips were written with fantastic flights of visual fancy in mind, but I was radically wrong. Here’s everything that’s wrong with the strip when it comes to a web comic:

1) “Interesting” != “Complicated.”
In an ideal world, Roni would be doing this full time, and not be on any kind of schedule, so that she could work for as long as she wanted on individual strips. In real life, she’s doing this part time, and we have to get a strip out every two days. It’s all fine and well for me to say, “Draw an army of shabby-looking writers with their hands out,” but that means that Roni has to draw an army, which is are basically seventy zillion individual characters. In two days. And that’s just one panel out of twelve!

(Sadly, this is not the last time that Roni will be drawing an army for this strip – wait until next week.)

When Roni said she wanted interesting, she meant “Karla in a jester’s outfit,” or something that would be fun to draw. Seven zillion needy writers is not fun.

2) Long Is Bad.
There’s a reason most strips are four panels – again, the deadlines. Doctor Hell is a long strip, since I’m used to going off on long rants in my journal – and the sad thing is that the way I structured it, there wasn’t a good way to cut it off in mid-strip to split it off into two separate jokes. This isn’t to say we’ll never do long strips, but I gotta save ‘em for special occasions and plan them after a week of really simple strips where Roni has a little time to burn on an extra-special comic.

3) No Repetition.
To save time in a webcomic, you often want to have talking heads. I knew that talking heads weren’t interesting, and so I tried to avoid them… But having a whole new and separate piece of art in every panel is ludicrously hard for poor Roni.

Roni is eventually going to hold forth on the topic of “cut-n-paste art,” and I’ll leave that for her in a future “Roni Says.” But ideally, I should have her at least draw the characters she knows how to draw (and can draw quickly), as opposed to forcing her to create new designs for seven panels in a row. That’s really hard.

4) Disagreement.
Unfortunately, I discovered too late that Roni had some issues with the point of the strip, which was my fault in communication. She and I have very different styles of communication, and to a large extent our relationship is a lot like dating, except instead of clashing about sex, we argue about lines – punchlines and deadlines. We got it worked out, but my rough-‘n’tumble Hulk Smash damn near tanked the strip before we began… Whoops.

For the record, Roni does not see eye to eye with Tom’s take on this one. Me? I look at what happens whenever writers run out of storylines for female characters, and these two topics rear their heads time and time again. X-Files, Farscape, Angel… Even Buffy all fell prey to it at some point. It’s not universal (and Tom, like me, occasionally stretches for effect)…. But then again, we’re going for the funny, not the total accuracy. But that’s a subject for another day, and if you want to go nuts and debate it in our forums.

5) Weeeeeener.
When you’re writing scripts, they go bang bang bang. You get an idea for three solid jokes, and you churn ‘em out, and there they are – punchlines in a quick staccato rhythm, and then you’re on to the next storyline.

But when they’re finally published, they drip slowly. You have the space to reflect on how this will look as it unspools in real time. There are two days until the next strip, and then another two days, and only then does it occur to you that come Monday, you will be making your fourth consecutive crotch joke.

But it’s too late. The strips are drawn, and you have the rest in storyline order, and you realize that despite your careful planning you are going to establish Home on the Strange as “The comic that makes weenie jokes.”

This is not a niche you had wanted to carve out for yourself.

Somewhere, a Secret Service agent is jumping in front of your ISP in slow motion, screaming, “NOOOOOooooo…..”

6) Rape.
Roni attended a con this weekend, where the #1 rule in comic writing was, “Don’t make jokes about rape.” Which was a fine thought for her to carry over the rest of the weekend, I’m sure.

For the record, this isn’t a comic about rape. It’s about bad writing. If by somehow by mentioning it you think that we’re pro-sexual assault and anti-female, you are just frickin’ wrong. I’m sayin’.

We are, however, pro-castration.

Despite the problems, it was a vital lesson. And I will never do this to Roni again. Sorry about that, chief.

Roni Says:

I also didn't figure out the Layer-->Multiply function until # 8. That's made life much easier.

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