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Rina Piccolo: Writing for comic strips “sucks” sometimes
Tina’s Groove creator Rina Piccolo on why writing for syndicated comics sucks sometimes:
This brings to mind the notion that comics – especially the ones in newspapers – are for kids. That is a crazy idea that only two types of people can entertain: those who are ignorant of comics, and those who are just plain ignorant. I think most kids aren’t bothering with tame newspaper comic humor – they’re watching TV and YouTube where they can find stuff that’s edgier. (I swear I’ve seen billboards say things that would be a no-no on the comics page.) The truth is a large portion of comic strip readers are adults, and a large portion of comic strips are written for adults, and so I find it unfortunate that these strips can’t seem to get out of the “Father Knows Best” realm and keep up with the rest of the entertainment world. I’m not saying that comic strips ought to be as racy as the raciest thing on TV. Not at all. I’m saying that there’s room enough on the page to push the envelope just enough to allow the comics to better compete with other popular forms of entertainment. I’m saying that Tina, Carlos and Suzanne – to use my own characters as an example – should be able to use accepted forms of speech, like “Oh my God”, “this sucks”, and “What the hell?”
I think you can see why writing for syndicated comic strips is extra hard. It’s challenging to get the attention of an HBO audience with “Leave It To Beaver” humor. But here’s the flip side (and isn’t there always a flip side?): constraint nurtures discipline. Creators of syndicated strips are often forced to find novel and creative ways around these restrictions, with sometimes wonderful results. Even without the fairness of a level playing field, I believe quite a bit of newspaper comic strips are better written, sharper, and more entertaining than most of what’s offered on Television. I think you’ll agree.
Reminds me of a story Amy Lago told me. Scott Adams tried to use the word “crap” in Dilbert. Of course that wasn’t going to fly, so his creative solution was to have his character use the word “carp” instead. Got it through the censors. Since then I’ve tested out the word “carp” a few times when I had to watch my language. Not sure how it played out on the funny pages, but I just got blank stares.