A few weeks ago I announced I was working on a Retros comic strip with the ambition of getting it into newspapers. I am well into the artwork part of the process, having inked the 15th of the daily 20 pages required for most syndicate submissions yesterday. Some syndicates require samples of longer, fully colored Sunday strips, so once I am done with the last few daily strips I’ll jump into those.
One of the things I like about The Retros webcomic is the sometimes brutal restrictions of the format. Trying to tell a portion of a story in four panels that are about 2 1/2 inches wide/long isn’t easy. Four panels really demand concise pacing and storytelling, the square shape demands re-thinking layout and the size requires a lot of planning in terms of what to add and what to leave out. Some cartoonists hate any sort of restrictions when it comes to creating but I really like them. Most of the time.
Doing a newspaper strip also requires adhering to restrictions of a format. I am working with a horizontal layout as opposed to squares, for example. I think the biggest parameter I need to work with is creating a submission that walks the fine line of a strip I think an editor would like and a strip I would want to do. Since I’ve been doing comics the only thing I focused on was having fun and not worrying what others thought. I mean, I hoped that people who read what I was doing liked it, but I figured if I wasn’t having fun, it would show in the result and no one would like it.
But this is new territory for me. I need to show that this concept can work in a newspaper comic format. The strip is really a throwback to the popularity of adventure comic strips from the 30’s and 40’s where daily episodes told a bigger story, but I am working in more comedy elements since most current newspaper strips focus on jokes and gags. I think I am doing a pretty job marrying these two genres and still staying true to the spirit of The Retros while doing a strip that I want to do. I suppose I have the chops to do a gag-a-day strip about a family or a wacky animal but I just can’t see myself having a lot of fun doing something like that long term.
I’ve been told that daily adventure strips don’t sell. I also know that the likelihood of actually selling this thing is a trillion to one. Combine the two and my odds are astronomically incalculable. But this is the strip I want to do and I’d rather get a rejection letter for a strip I love working on than a strip I’m kinda meh about it.
Working on the artwork is part of the process, the other part is the pitch itself. I am terrible at describing my work but I know that I need to work on that. I think I am close, though. The summary of the The Retros is coming down to something like…having to save the world with your coworkers and ‘all killer, no filler’. Having such limitations with the format is requiring me to cram as much storytelling and action into a daily strip. I have some daily strips that have as many as six panels in them. Again, this goes against what most strips have but it falls back into my ambition to do a strip I want to do, as opposed to what most strips look like. The 20 pages are a single, self-contained story that I think shows what the strip would be. I can’t believe how much happens in the finished 15 pages so far and I am almost intimidated by what needs to happen in the final 5 pages to wrap it up. So far there’s a new villain named Tankface, two battles with vampires, shopping for groceries, an attack at a power plant, some science, typical Retros bickering and bantering and more. Oh, and a missile.
Although this project requires more forethought and planning and wondering if an editor will like it or at least “get it”, I am having a blast with it. I’ll post better pictures of the finished strips soon, once they are scanned and Photoshopped, but here’s some of the panels so far.