The Zuda Challenge (Part I)

The JENNY STRANGE package is graduating to the clean-ups phase.  Digitally unsmudging my pigeon poo inks and random coffee stains now.  And I mean that literally.  Sure, I love comics, and I love art, and I love the creation of comic art… but I honestly doubt I will ever enjoy clean-ups.  Coupla buddies once offered to shoot a video of my pencil-to-ink process (like them Gnomon cats, but with zero production value), and I knew these fuckers, y’know? And I knew they liked watching highway police chases and car crashes and train wrecks unfold on TV, y’know? So…ha ha ha!  Rain check, you bastards.

So JENNY’s for Zuda, and that’s DC’s webcomic… ongoing contest… thing.  I honestly still have no idea what to call it without having to say it’s a slush pile, but Zalben went with that on an episode of the now-defunct The Stack on Pulp Secret.  The Zuda browser fills most of your screen with a landscape-orientated comic page.  This was a challenge to me because up until now I’ve only been working on standard comic page/portrait orientation.  Switching gears to landscape had me rethinking my panel design, sweet spot positioning, and pretty much the entire flow of the page itself.

The standard comic layout, given how I’ve gotten used to reading, allows for a simple Z-shaped flow to the reader’s eye; and this way, no one really has to worry about the last panel (bottom-right of a typical page) attracting too much attention as you read toward it, simply because it’s in the very bottom of the page and thus it is literally the last panel your eye travels to.  Put simply, it is read last because it is seen last.

Now because comic pages are typically broken down in such a way that the last panel is usually either the “period” in that page’s sequential sentence, or the ellipses leading off to the next sequence of events (the next page), the intuitive positioning of the last panel is tantamount to the effective flow of a sequential page.  And of course, better flow equals better comic… and that never hurts.

Which brings me to the tough part about the Zuda pages with their landscape orientation — Suppose your script calls for you to lay out the page into two rows of panels: a top row and a bottom row.  Now let’s say there are three panels up top and two in the bottom, with the second bottom panel being the big plot event happening on the page.  It’s problematic because said big-event panel is right underneath the build-up shots.  Yes, I’m aware I could be bitching about a moot point, seeing as how most Zuda readers are probably “professional” comic readers and I’m just a jackass, but doesn’t it annoy you when you flip a page and your eye is accidentally drawn to the big twist/event right away, and so you feel you just got cheated out of what would have been a great build up?

And of course I’m aware that the Z flow still applies to the landscape orientation since it’s still western media, but I found the intricacies and challenges of the tilt to be fun and interesting to talk about, especially since, unlike the ever-dashing Derrick Fish, I have little to no experience with the strip format.

I’ll share some JENNY STRANGE pages in a coupla days as well as take a look at how some professionals play with the landscape orientation, and maybe then get told off on how I’m just talking out of my ass. Till then… keep ‘em warm, ladies.

4 thoughts on “The Zuda Challenge (Part I)”

  1. Is it possible to move the big event plot happening to the following page? if not, that’s just the way it goes I guess. Just make sure that the first three panels have kick ass drawings so the big lower panel doesn’t immediately grab attention.

    One thing to consider also: The landscape orientation could be interpreted as half of a printed comic book page. I don’t know what Zuda has planned, but do they intend on publishing in print some of this stuff? If they do, they would most likely put two landscape strips on top of each other in one page. It’s another thing to consider when planning out your layouts. It’s probably presemumptous to plan that far ahead, but I have no problem buying a plot of land where I’ll be buried in one day (I have). It’s better to be safe than sorry.

  2. Thanks for the tip, man. I’m kind of approaching every page like a double-page spread, if that makes any sense. So I’ve ended up having to look into Immonen’s USM and Leinil’s Secret Invasion stuff. Bendis work generally lends itself very well to the landscape, I think.

  3. I suggest taking a look at HIGH MOON on Zuda. I think the creators there make a strong go of making every pages WOW you!

    Also, the format is not too different from the old PHANTOM and TERRY AND THE PIRATE serial strips from my day.

  4. Richie, I see what you mean. Unfortunately the horizontal strip requires me to flex a set of muscles I am yet to really develop. Thanks for the suggestions though, man. I’ve only been checking out a lot of old Fantagraphics and European landscape stuff more than anything else.

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