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May 28th, 2013, 3:19 am

Zelkova Asks IV: The Joke's On Me

Apparently my Questions box wasn't working a few days ago (is it working now, guys? The site I'm hosting it from has problems periodically so let me know if it's still down), so Zelkova decided to send me some questions via PM. And, as per usual, several of them were directed at me and require answers too long to put in a handwritten response. So, here we go with volume four of my never-intended-to-be-a series, Zelkova Asks!

1. Do you ever worry that your jokes or witty comments may be seen as unfunny to most people? Not implying anything of course but everybody have different sense of humor and I personally don't ever see my own jokes ever being funny for example, it is pretty much a gamble for me whenever I try to say something witty.

Do I worry that you guys won't think I'm funny? Usually. I mean, there are a few jokes that I've made that I knew would be funny to basically everyone who reads the comic, but those are usually ones that have huge crutches. Take Rorschach's impersonation of Finn from Adventure Time. I knew that would be amusing to most people because the overlap for people who like Pokemon and people who like Adventure Time is HUGE. So, in a way, it was sort of a cop-out. A lot of my other jokes, though, are more difficult. There are a good portion of them that I feel are only half as funny when read, and the full effect of them doesn't work unless you've heard my voice and can read it how I would say it. A lot of the phrasing jokes, like Tyton's line about having seven Pokemon and making it sound like a disease, are less funny if you don't know what I sound like and how I'd deliver that sort of line. And, since only like three of you have heard my actual voice (not my man-voice from that video), I think it lost a lot of its humor.

What I try to do with my jokes is to make sure that, if you don't understand my sense of humor, not getting a joke/not thinking it's funny won't detract from the page/comic as a whole. That's part of the reason why there have been very few jokes that take up more than a single panel. It's very important that a joke comes effortlessly, so even if the joke itself isn't funny, it didn't waste a ton of time building up to it. A pun that falls flat is way worse than completely unfunny situational humor.

But, to be honest, I don't write my jokes for the majority of my readers. I have a sort of mental image of the audience I want this comic to cater to, and base jokes around that. I'd rather have my comic be funny to intelligent high-school students than fifth-graders sneaking onto SmackJeeves while their mom is buying groceries. So, because of that, I try and write jokes that I would want to read, not the kind that I think would necessarily appeal to most of my readers. I suppose in that way I'm alienating my audience a bit, but I think it's important for the comic to maintain a reputation and integrity that I can be proud of, so I'm willing to use more niche humor when given the opportunity.

Of course, this doesn't mean that I think that my jokes are necessarily high-brow or better than others. It just means that I have a more defined sense of the humor I want to use for the comic. If you find something unfunny, that doesn't mean I think less of your sense of humor or something. As Allie Brosh explains so succinctly: "Humor is simply your brain being surprised by an unexpected variation in a pattern that it recognizes. If your brain doesn't recognize the pattern or the pattern is already too familiar to your brain, you won't find something humorous."

So, here's hoping I can still surprise you every once in a werewolf.

2. This kinda go with my last question as I have another part to it. You seem to like to be original and try to have a decent story while others Nuzlockes use memes and jokes like crazy. Do you ever feel like being random within the comic (not counting Rorschach) but can't because of your quality? Basically do you regret not making any jokes when you had the chance because it wouldn't fit?

Well now, that IS quite related to the first question, isn't it?

Yes, there are several times where I've thought it would be really funny (or just really surprising/different) to put something into the comic that I ended up not. The scene with the Poke Mart clerk dancing to "I Knew You Were Trouble" is a fantastic example of a time when I actually did put something really offbeat and strange into my comic. I thought of the scene about two weeks before I drew it, which was another two weeks or so before I posted it. That whole time, I debated about whether or not it would fit with the comic and whether or not people would like it. Eventually, though, I decided that it just HAD to be done. And, thankfully, the reception for it has been pretty positive.

When it comes to scenes like that, though, I try to decide if the effect of its presence outweighs the fact that it feels mostly incongruent with the comic as a whole. I would rather have a cohesive comic with only one or two random moments than one filled with hilarious non sequiturs that doesn't actually have a leg to stand on. I do, however, think taking risks is important, so when I feel strongly about a scene (like the Taylor Swift dance), I'm willing to put it in. This opens up a lot of new doors for the comic, and as long as I don't open too many, it still all works together.

Thankfully, like you mentioned, I have Rorschach. Because he's so far removed from most of the comic's universe, I can use him to get my random thoughts onto the page and have the comic still make sense. I don't know how you guys are surviving with Rorschach having been off-screen for so long.

I believe I mentioned my lack of meme use somewhere else, but I'll recap here. I think jokes based on character interactions and pop culture references are a lot funnier than pre-formatted or obvious jokes. After a while, Professor Oak forgetting his grandson's name just isn't funny anymore. I'd much rather focus my humor on the characters I've created because then I know that it'll be unique to my world. While humor should have a certain sense of universality, it should also be something that can't quite be recreated by anyone else.

Also, as a bit of a side-note, I almost decided to make the dance scene a bonus comic that was housed somewhere else on the site. However, I soon decided that I didn't like that idea very much, because randomness isn't very random without context. So, with the few exceptions of characters dressed up as celebrities that I've already posted, you'll either see my absurd plot ideas in the comic or you'll never see them.

3. Do you regret making the comic as long as it is? There is a completed comic (http://www.smackjeeves.com/comicprofile.php?id=96779) that have two nuzlockes within it but only happen to be 76 pages long including bonuses and such. At the moment with your page number he could have made 13 completed nuzlockes out of them. To be fair he was speeding through it. Just saying at this point you could went with quaintly over quality and potentiality be known as "that nuzlocke guy" quite easily.

When I started this comic, I knew I wanted it to be more like a comic book than a bunch of oversized strips. So, I knew it would be a pretty long story. I'd prepared myself for that. Even by cutting all the fat from my written log, the outline for the comic is so unwieldy that there was no way that I could accomplish the comic in less than 1000 pages. However, I started getting really into both the art and the characterization, and I was soon drawing out the scenes a lot longer than I'd originally intended, which further increased the comic's length. That, combined with my unwillingness to go back on my word, has committed me to a page a day for the next...I'd say two to three years. In that sense, choosing to make the comic so long was a terrible decision. I'm to the point now where I spend around two to three hours a day at minimum drawing pages, outlining the rest of the series, answering questions, updating the Hogwarts page, and just generally overseeing the comic. The comic and my schoolwork are constantly at war with each other, which is why I'm both down to a week of buffer and haven't started an essay that's due Thursday. On top of that, I don't get paid anything for all my work and I haven't even hit the 150-fan mark after nearly a year and a half. Add all that together and you don't exactly get a picturesque comic-making experience.

I wouldn't change a thing about it.

What I'm making is completely unique. It's a manifestation of pure love and dedication. Not to pump up my own ego, but I can't think of a single other comic as completely devoted to itself as this one. It's got an air of "I know I'm not the best comic around, but darn it if I don't love every moment I exist", something that I could never have intentionally put into it. Everything about this comic is a direct result of the simple fact that I love the characters, I love the story, and I love making comics. So what if by the time it ends it means nothing? So what if it gets lost in the SmackJeeves archives a month after its completion? The point of this comic, moreso than anything I've ever done, is the journey of it. Being able to write something that people actually enjoy is an entirely new concept for me, since everything else I do stays pretty exclusive to me. Plus, everything I do in this comic can be seen as practice for my future writing career. If by the end of this comic everyone hates it, at least I'll have a gallery of mistakes I made that I know now to avoid.

I hope that that's not what happens to this comic. I feel like there will be a tipping point where it gets the attention it deserves. Not the attention I deserve, mind you, because I know that there are better artists and writers out there than me. But I think that the comic, the characters, the story--they all deserve to be enjoyed by more people. It's the kind of comic that you can have a relationship with. Most comics, especially Nuzlockes with so many similar series, don't quite have the heart that lets you genuinely care about everything, that makes you feel invested into it, that makes you feel like a part of it. I think that this comic has that, and I can't tell you how it happened. It wasn't anything I did intentionally, and I can't tell you whether or not I'm to blame for it. But it happened, at least in my mind, and I think that will just become more apparent as time goes on.

Furthermore, this comic NEEDS to take a long time. It would lose so much if it didn't. Just imagine if it had stuck to its original plan, and by now Ty was already heading for his sixth badge. think of how much time you wouldn't have gotten to spend getting to know these characters, and how quickly plot points would have been resolved. It would have had a much different feeling. Try putting it into perspective of TV. By my estimate, this comic will run for about four or five years. If you think of each chapter as an episode, then it will have around 60 episodes. Depending on the show, that's between three and five full seasons of material. Think of how much can happen in that time versus what can happen in just one or two. It gets so much more room to breathe this way, more time to build up to crescendos and wallow after terrible losses. It just offers so much MORE.

It also doesn't help that I'm not very good at condensing things. I have a very hard time trying to tell a story within just a few pages or even within a single book. I think in terms of volumes, so deciding to make my comic run for several more years makes me feel much more at home.

Do I want to be making this comic when I'm 23? Not particularly. Is it weird thinking the second Avengers movie will likely come out before the epilogue to my comic? Definitely. But when this is all said and done, I think it will have been much better for the comic.

Plus, it'll mean the sequel will have a lot of history to build from.

Comments:

Zelkova, May 28th, 2013, 7:12 am

"I know I'm not the best comic around, but darn it if I don't love every moment I exist"

lol great quote. If nothing else you may also beat the world record for the longest nuzlocke comic. =P I believe that would be brag worthy.

It going to be weird that 20 years from now you could be a famous writer and I would be redirecting people to this comic to prove that I actually knew you before you became famous.

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