At first glance, Talkin' may seem like just a quickie,
too-easy, lame-ass attempt to do a comic because I'm too lazy
to do a real one with original art. But it's more than that.
Talkin' takes it's name from the term "talking
heads". No, I'm not talking about the David Byrne musical
group. It's a term used to describe a certain type of comic
strip convention: multiple panels of the same characters in
much the same pose with the only real differences being
changes to the mouths and the word balloons. In the worst
cases, it really is exactly the same images in every panel
with only the word balloons changing.
It's a simple formula and it's used a lot even by many of the
best comics. But is it enough?
In particular, we're seeing it more and more in online comics
because online comics are almost always created at least
partially in a paint program and it makes it so easy to do a
talking heads comic strip. We're getting good writing
from a lot of those strips but the artwork is so
undifferentiated that it almost seems as if we might as well
just be reading a text file and leave the visual artwork out.
So I gave some thought to this simple little formula. It's
easy to do. It's common and accepted even in syndicated comics
(maybe even especially in syndicated comics). Doesn't
the audience care whether they get any new visual art in each
new comic? Is the predictable repetition somehow comforting?
Just how much repetition will they take before they catch on?
Just how far can this formula be stretched? Is there a limit?
And so Talkin' was born. In part, it is an experiment to
explore the limits of this simple formula. It is also a satire
of comics which use this formula.
It sure is.
I wanted the comic to be as repetitious as possible. Every
strip is the same length. They even have the same three
panels. I didn't even draw two characters - I drew one
character and then mirror-flipped it. And the dialogue for the
one on the right never never never changed (which actually
made the comics harder to write).
What have I learned from creating Talkin'?
Well, first I learned that most people wouldn't know satire if
it bit them on the ass.
Second, I learned that I can get a lot of unique comics out
of this formula without having to draw any new artwork, more
than I even thought was possible at first.
Ultimately, I learned, much to my dismay, that, while a purely
talking heads comic is not entertaining enough to be
#1, it is good enough to stay in the top 20.
|Calvin and Hobbes by Bill
Watterson ||November 11, 1987
more thoughts on the "talking heads" phenomenom
from the mind of David Craig Simpson of Ozy and Millie.