Cartooning Like You Mean It

Cartooning, Teaching & Living – by Tom Hart

Second Obstruction: Tom’s Response, part 6

with 7 comments



Well, here is the final, the first panel.

I’ve made a mess of it, but it’s not unsalvageable. Of course, “salvageable” was not the challenge here, so we’l have to see let a dialogue about it ensue.

Here is the final strip.


I forgot to mention my one Mulligan I was going to ask for was a character flip in panel 3- which isn’t even essential, it would just read more easily.

So I neglected to be rigorous in my pursuit of the color constraint. It fell away. If I reworked this to ink (ideally) I would add a gentle flip to the ending somehow to bring this stuff more around. Not sure yet.

It’s a strange enough strip- as a sort of adventure, between point A and C strip- so that I don’t dislike it, but it’s not wholly satisfying.

I’m awaiting the 3rd Obstruction. I’m sure there will be some negotiating, advising, thoughts from all around on how to proceed to in finishing this.

Matt- have you written backwards like this before? I’ve done it from the last panel a million times, but never one panel at a time, diligently trying NOT to engage with the previous panel before finish the later ones.


Written by hutchowen

June 11, 2007 at 5:29 pm

7 Responses

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  1. Ironically, Tom, I just did a backwards jam strip, less than a month ago, with Mike Wenthe. It was interesting. It was a two-pager, and wound up being about an astronaut who grew up in Alaska, thinking about “the last frontier” his whole life. As in this case, we had a sort of vague idea of where is was going to “end” (you had to tie back in to the previous strip; Mike and I had a specific line we were supposed to end with).

    We found it pretty fun, to tell the truth — and since it was a jam, we weren’t able to plan the preceding panels (or the direction of the story) much at all. But I think it turned out well.

    I’ll bring a copy of our new Satisfactory Comics (which has that strip and others) to MoCCA for you, if you’re going to be there. Matt, you’ll get a copy, too.

    Isaac Cates

    June 11, 2007 at 7:01 pm

  2. Hmm. This one is much less satisfying than the previous one. Your just pulling stuff out of nowhere: tea cups, dolphins, guns… I’m not really clear what the last panel is about. Colored darts? Give as in shoot?

    Some of the dialogue seems superfluously obvious: “woah he’ll overturn the tea cup” and “I’m trying to shoot him, he keeps diving” seem like poor short hand to get around better visuals of the situations, though I may be expecting too much from a single strip, not a lot of room to show the danger of the dolphin overturning the cup or the shooting.

    There is a really nice movement of the placement of the cup/characters from panel two to panel three that creates a lurching (not quite the word I want) sea motion. It would be great if this up and down motion ran through the strip (not something one could easily do in backwards planning I guess).

    The penultimate panel really is a waste. It doesn’t seem to lead to anything in the final panel. It could be excised without any lose.

    But, hey, it’s easy to snipe from the sidelines.

    (this is fun to watch)


    June 11, 2007 at 7:23 pm

  3. Looking good, Tom. Since this is a weeklong series, you have the opportunity to explain the birds, dolphin, teacup and darts, and I hope you will. I am going to make the request that it not be an “it was all a dream” little nemo conclusion.


    June 11, 2007 at 8:00 pm

  4. Tom, I agree with your own assessment that this is likeable but not wholly satisfying. The constraints have worked to generate an amusing and unlikely scenario–and bonus points for saving Hutch from the birds–so in that sense the strip’s a success.

    However, now that you’ve gone through the backwards process I think it’s fair to make a few changes, although they should be limited. Let’s say one change (to drawing or text) allowed per panel (see? I can be generous too!).

    Derik makes several good points about superfluous dialogue, and I think you might be able to fashion something more compelling here simply by tweaking the dialogue.

    In a way I think you’ve overcompensated in exlaining the teacup but done so at the expense of the dart gun. The fact that O arrives in a giant tea cup is funny and weird and is in fact the kind of non sequitur you could probably get away with without further explanation. What I’m more curious about is the dart gun. Where did it come from? What do the colors mean?

    I leave it up to you whether you want to post your changes in pencil form or just show us the final inked version–we’ve probably meddled with this one enough.

    And no, Tom, I’ve never tried this myself. I offer it as a constraint to follow when I do jam comics with my students and it consistently leads to the most coherent (and often funniest) stories.

    I will try to post your third obstruction tonight but I can’t promise that…


    Matt Madden

    June 11, 2007 at 8:37 pm

  5. as others have said the dialogue in this one is kind of superfluous, do you think that this was just a result of working backwards, and feeling like you needed to over-explain yourself?
    I am really confused by “it’s the dolphin i rode in on”. He rode in on the dolphin? Then found the teacup out in the middle of the ocean? or the dolphin towed the teacup? or I don’t even know what.
    And is a blue one more humane than a green?


    June 11, 2007 at 11:11 pm

  6. Well I steeled myself up to read these comments. They’re mostly correct, in fact.

    I learned a lot doing this. I mentioned one post previous, that had I started, in panel 1 (panel 6) from simple desire, (the dolphin “wants” a blue candy) and not panic (throwing in the tea cup) and mood, I would have been ok.

    Most of the weirdness comes from the panic of working backwards. I was very vigilant about not even thinking about the panel previous. I tried too hard!

    I think Derik’s comments are well-said. Though without getting too defensive, like to say that I rather like “It’ll overturn the tea cup” and “I’m trying to shoot him- he keeps diving!” In fact- that transition between 3 and 4 is something I so rarely do that it still delights me to read it. Specifically panel 4- I guess McCloud would call it word-specific or something. It’s that kind of Marvel comic panel: “my punches- they have no effect!” I really delight in the transition there, and I’ll use it again. It’s new to me.

    I think “the dolphin I rode in on” was crazy and dumb. It sounded like a joke when I wrote it. I wonder if the story would be better if it followed Oswald there, and it was up to Hutch to save the day. Yes, probably.

    In fact, what follows is the simplest change I can imagine to rectify the strip:

    Changing three words raises it, for me, up from the nonsensicle.

    “Darts” becomes “candies” (which I’m sad about, because it means my first idea was better than my thought-out one here) and “give him a light blue one” becomes “he wants a light blue one.” Now it’s about Hutch negotiating and communicating with the dolphin. (And it strengthens the penultimate panel.) Not great on the whole, but an interesting piece bearing in mind its origins.


    Matt’s offer of one change per panel is quite generous. I’m not even sure what I would do with that much, but I’ll see if there’s another version in there worth discovering.

    I might -on my own time- poke around at omitting the tea cup and starting again, in sketch-form.

    Thanks, people.


    June 12, 2007 at 12:52 am

  7. Tom, that Marvel kind of panel is probably what bothers me about it.

    Though probably it has a lot to do with the telescoping of action to fit into a single strip. I’ve never worked in such a restricted narrative space (I’ve become much more comfortable with the page as a single unit).


    June 12, 2007 at 9:32 am

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