In an effort to become a more competent storyteller,I’ve put together a list of sequential art from emerging talent, establish artists and the greats. As I read, I’ll share. (P.S. Will Eisner isn’t on the initial list, but I am reading his classic “Comics and Sequential Art” concurrently.) So, here we go!
Lunchnotes by Chris & Laura Samnee
What’s It All About?
I came home from HeroesCon with an armload of new reading material. But the first one I grabbed was the third volume of “Lunchnotes” — a collection of quick cartoons artist Chris Samnee puts in his wife Laura’s lunch bag. You can see them on Laura’s blog here: http://lunchnotes.blogspot.com/
Maybe it’s because Chris is one of my favorite artists today. Maybe it’s because Chris and Laura are two of my favorite people in comics. Maybe because I grew up in a house full of collections of daily and Sunday comic strips ranging from Pogo to Doonesbury to Bloom County. Either way, this one called to me … and I read it with relish.
What’s It Got Going For It?
In a word — honesty. It takes a lot of skill to convey a story or make an emotional connection with a reader in three panels, let alone one. And, Chris has it. The truly great daily strips have a unique voice, not one that tries to be all things to all people. They don’t force comedy or speak down to their audience, but rather challenge readers to exert some effort and learn about what they have to say. They require audience participation. And, once that connection is made … the relationship between writer and reader flourishes. That’s the difference between a comic that’s “nice,” and one that you have to read or that you clip out and stick on your bulletin board because it speaks to you.
Think about the first time you saw a “Far Side” panel. Gary Larson didn’t talk down to you. He had an odd voice. He took a chance that you wouldn’t get the joke. He was challenging you to see the world from his skewed perspective. And, that’s why his strip stood out and always will.
Chris made his comics for Laura, and not for me and you. But, the it’s the honesty and sincerity of his voice that you and I appreciate. It’s where we can make a connection and find ourselves. He’s not forcing the comedy. He’s tapping into real emotions and sharing small, genuine moments. Not “yuk yuk” comedy or sappy emotions. Just little moments. And, it really, really works.
Chris and Laura may disagree, but I think that “Lunchnotes” has a voice that would speak to readers around the world and, if syndicated, would be a hit. And, it’s not because Chris tries to “bring the funny.” You can feel that he created these on the fly. He didn’t have time to overthink it. He just went with his gut. That’s exactly why they work so well.
Here’s a particular favorite:
What Did I Learn?
In storytelling, there’s always a temptation to force it, to go for the big moment. But, it’s often the little, genuine moments that sell. Have something personal to say, and trust that, if it’s done with craft, the audience will understand and appreciate the sincerity. They’ll “get it.”