A question!

Friends! I have a question that I’d love your thoughts & feelings on. As you know, Intelligent Life is more character-driven than anything… (It’s how I write) and I’m curious about something, as IL isn’t just full of humor, but also full of characters and heart (to me)… how do you feel when the characters get into real “life” situations, that can get a bit deep and serious, such as in a storyline? I like the way things happen organically and naturally… I just transcribe what the characters dictate in their own directions and events… but I’m curious (not so that I make decisions based on your opinions, rather, just to hear what *you* think about the serious side of things, because I value your thoughts (and we’re in this together)… make sense? Thank you for any comments you might leave (and for reading this (as usual) verbose post! – David

27 thoughts on “A question!

  1. It has to fit in with your overall theme and how you have developed your characters. You actually have some potential drama with the creepy IT guy, Jeff the Intern who was actually working for Mr. Finch, Sarah returning, and potentially MIke’s, Skip’s, and Gwen’s family. Heck, I’d even say Barry’s family would be open for potential drama as a way of explaining his ultra-masculine attitude.

    The two that should be stayed away from are current events and politics. Sorry, but it doesn’t fit the characters. TV show and movie politics(movie disappointments, DC vs. Marvel, fantasy vs. sci fi etc.) are perfectly fine and are fitting with them in the past and some strong disagreements between the characters over them might make a good story arc or two. Just not general politics nor current events. It’d detract from the comic and might drive away readers.

    I personally would like to see Mr. Finch make and appearance and have the notes Jeff took get reveal and the office be put into turmoil. It happens, and it would be a great way of showing just how they are important to the company and why the trio are only ever seen at the office on their breaks instead of while working.

    • Excellent comment, LI! I appreciate it very much as ever. I try to avoid politics, it’s not really what IL is about. The “climate” of things, sometimes, perhaps, but not direct politics. DOn’t we get enough of that? 😉 Excellent thoughts and I can see you clearly follow the characters very closely, which is incredibly gratifying to me,. Thank you, LookingIn.

  2. I don’t know, I liked the story line where Barry helped the veteran. Is that politics? In any case, when you have a character driven story line, as you do, it is inevitable that the characters will have more serious storylines, and that’s okay. It helps the reader see them as “real” and relatable. Go with the flow and the issues will find you.

  3. I would love it. I have really enjoyed your writing and really look forward to the longer story arcs with the deeper dives. I think mixing in more serious topics would really build on what you have created.

  4. Yeah. More drama, less humor (well, not really less but less is okay if the character/drama is good enough).

  5. I also love character based stories. It’s one of the reasons I stayed when Scott from PvP pointed us this way. (That and Gwen, whom I love.) You are doing a great job bringing us along for the ride.

    (I also loved FBoFW.)

  6. I really enjoy the character driven work you’ve done so far. Some of the stuff is a lot deeper than I’d expect from this medium. That’s not a judgment just noting that 3 panels a day can be limiting which makes your work all the more impressive. Even when the comic takes tones I dont agree with it feels organic and correct for the characters. This has made it so that I disagree with (for example) Skip’s point of view, not the point of view of the comic overall.

    My one criticism would be the duration spent on arcs. Gwen is my favorite character but I stopped reading daily during the Rose/Floyd arc. I did go back to read once every one or two weeks. I could be off but it felt like literal months of the same thing without a break. I didn’t hate the plot, first few weeks was exciting, but it was like watching your favorite movie three times in one day. Just my opinion, hope it helps.

    • Thank you, Will. I appreciate your comment so much. Yes… the Rose/Floyd story arc was, even after all this time… a learning experience. Even I felt it went on too long. I learned from that. And… I appreciate your direct and honest feelings on this. I grew up in an antique shop… and I grew up sort of… old school. I read storyline strips from the 30s and 40s… character development… Milton Caniff and Alex Raymond, for example. I love character development and I love character-based storytelling. It’s one of the reasons I love so very deeply Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. Ever-changing… ever-evolving… ever-unpredictable. I go with the organic flow of the characters and their world… because it’s a world in which I live myself. Cheers, Will. And please… keep the well-thought out comments coming. I may delay in replying, but I read them all.

  7. There’s not enough conflict in this strip. I get the sense from this post that you’re aware of this problem on some level, but you’re assuming conflict has to be “serious.” Your cast is ripe for hijinks, but you never seem to want Skip or Gwen to stray from their perfect geek-pride life. All of the conflict so far has mainly been centralized on the rather obsolete premise that geekiness is some sort of a stigma or an obstacle such that being unembarrassed about it often passes as a punchline. In an America where people who DON’T follow the MCU are in the minority, this is absurd.

    This doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of aspects of geek culture perfect for conflict and waiting to be explored through plot arcs, new characters, or tweaks to the characters you’ve already got.

    One assumes you’ve at least witnessed the kind of passionate, well-intentioned, yet supremely vitriolic hatred that arises in places like the AICN talkbacks regarding remakes or the like, or in such feuds such as Marvel vs DC, Star Trek vs Star Wars, OT vs Prequels, etc. Such irrational discontent can be hilarious, but you’ve chosen to completely ignore it in-universe in favor of the 1960s-era Jock vs Nerd debate, which has devolved into fairly sadistic Barry-bashing. If you included a positive portrayal of a Jock and/or a negative portrayal of a Geek, it wouldn’t feel so much like a wish-fulfillment scenario contrived by a jock-hater.

    During the “afraid to ask out Gwen” phase of the strip, i felt vexed that the premise was presented without evidence. At every turn was flashing neon of “Skip is a great guy!” “Gwen hates shallow jocks like Barry!” “Skip and Gwen are really good friends who get along really well!” all of which severely cheapened how seriously the audience could take his apprehension towards approaching her romantically.

    You’ve had Skip mention anxiety once or twice, but I’m forced to assume you’ve never experienced any bad anxiety yourself, and instead found it an easy term to use which fit the niche of internet-dwellers and introverts that you think you’re appealing to. From where I’m sitting, Skip is presented as supremely confident and self-assured. How is one supposed to believe he’s suffering from low self-esteem or anxiety disorders if you never portray any of the self-destructive thoughts that characterize these things? His biggest problem to date has even been that he was being stalked by an obsessive would-be girlfriend! If you’re the type to be cautious or afraid of failure in the dating scene this is the exact opposite of a problem. Now, if you allowed him a character flaw or two and let him overanalyze or overreact to this type of non-problem, and in doing so jeopardize this heavenly geek nirvana you’ve designed for him, therein lies potential for interesting plotlines.

    It’s too late for this one, but consider this example:
    A pre-Skip Gwen dates a super-attractive dude. 6’4″, 250 lbs pure muscle, and kind and charming enough to ensnare her perfect intelligence. Yet, he slips in subtle jabs at Skip, who is constantly embarrassing himself trying to impress Gwen. Of course, while the audience can see from Gwen’s POV that she likes him, Skip conveniently witnesses none of this warmth.

    Blaming his physique for her disinterest, Skip turns to Barry for help in buffing up. Instead, Barry takes him through a slew of other manliness exercises, which essentially teach him to become an arrogant jerk. Proudly toting his new attitude in front of Gwen, he fails yet again, making her avoid him even more, insisting “idk what happened to you, you used to be so sweet!” before he learns the error of this particular pursuit, wises up and apologizes his way back into the friend zone.

    None of this needs to feel serious or consequential, especially if you turn up the dial on how ridiculous Skip’s behavior changes become, it can be a gold mine for humor in playing against type. And if you repeat this sort of self-defeating storyline can prolong established character relationships, as well as offer regular lessons on “being yourself,” which I know the cornball funny-pages audience tends to adore.

    • While I’m glad you *didn’t* do this particular storyline (it’s pretty standard rom-com fare and I thought your Rose-Floyd storyline was refreshingly atypical), I do agree you should feel empowered to explore deeper subjects and more conflict.

      Please, for the love of Pete, don’t use the script of Friends to generate your storylines, but you seem well equipped to come up with non-stereotypical means to do so.

      • Never to worry, Anne. I only write what comes from myself and the characters… I am impervious to the influence of others. I just like to listen to your thoughts now and again. 🙂

    • Thank you, Stephen, for the most excellent and passionate comment you wrote here. I read every word (twice) and deeply enjoyed your thoughts and viewpoint. And while I can appreciate your view of what’s happened thus far with the character… my view… he characters themselves… see further into the future, than what is seen each day alone. There’s more to them, and to IL, than stagnant quips and stereotyping, as I also, like you, feel it’s not that cut and dry and simplistic as we might be led to believe in geek culture and existing media. Intelligent Life is ever-evolving… it never rests on complacent gags… rather… it acknowledges and even shows thongs that are able to grow, evolve and change… such as life. This, in part, is why I adore your comment so much. You’ve really followed the strip, and the characters and their motivations (and potential alternate possibilities ileitis) and I want to acknowledge my deep appreciation of this, and my hope for more. And in the way of anxiety… to paraphrase The Alan Parsons Project (one of my favorite groups)… “We’re two of a kind… anxiety and I… we need a chance to talk things over.” Thank you, Stephen. Please don’t be a stranger.

  8. Weellll, I read funky Winkerbean everyday and that works but I dont think I would like to see it here. One of the previous commenters mentioned the interaction of Barry and his Family which could be caring as well as funny. I think Skip should maybe remain a very special guy with some insecurities which fit his profession (I was a programmer for many years and social insecurity is rampant in the occupation and of course long days in a cubicle makes it hard to lightly socialize). The character has a lot of a future building his relationship which I would say goes the whole sleeping together, living together, marriage and children thing but all at the pace you have selected already.
    If most of your readers are everyday types (and that is likely) then carrying on two separate but related story arcs seem well within the current structure.
    Your doing great so don’t stay up worrying, think about where the story goes and let it go where it needs to.

  9. I liked the story line concerning Barry and the homeless vet. Gives Barry a little bit of a character boost and makes it so he’s not all two-dimensional clueless buff guy. He served it country and has a heart. Good stuff.

  10. The realism and complexity of the characters is what I love about this strip. I can really relate to the characters and the story lines. I think it’s a good mix of serious and funny – like life 🙂

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