General Impressions Always a treat to get these things in the mail. I actually withheld looking at it until I was sitting down and comfortable and ready to take in your brilliance. I’m not sure if you want anyone else seeing your stuff (I know that I’m pretty shy), but JoAnn has enjoyed your stuff, too, and it has opened her eyes as to the differences in style between comic creators—kinda cool, huh?
Again, keep in mind that when I say “Mark, Chris, and John”, I mean the Mark-character, etc.
What worked 1) I don’t know if it was intentional, but in most panels you have the three of us in some way relating to one another (except for #1 and #8). This is good because it helps to show the different reactions and how the reactions (unbeknownst to the characters) play off of one another. You even carry it so far as the last panel in which John doesn’t say anything, but still makes a point. That’s why I wonder if you could have worked all of us into panels #1 and #8 to give it overall unity. That’s not a criticism, it’s just a thought that because you set up this “triad” that it might be something to think about for future projects—how every panel relates to other panels. Having said that, it is clear that the “setting” information in the first panel is necessary, and it might not have worked to put John and me in so soon.
2) The discrepancy (I’m not sure if I would quite call it “dramatic irony”—but close) between the panel’s caption and what was actually going on in the panel worked pretty well. The only problem is that it shifts halfway through. What starts as the Mark character directly narrating turns into a Mark “voice-over.” Again, it’s not really a problem with the story, but it is something to be aware of. In any case, I think that comics (and maybe film) are one of the few mediums in which you can have this kind of effect, so I’m glad to see you exploring it.
3) I liked the little added touches that “help out” the panels: the down arrow in panel #5 and the emoticons in panel #7 (that replace the words of the characters, but still carry across a message—neat!)
What didn’t work 1) I wasn’t as psyched about the panel borders with the different little pictures. I could understand that you wanted to liven things up, but I felt that they were more of a distraction. Maybe if they seemed more integral to the story—i.e., if the border around a panel was somehow related to what was going on in the panel. I found that with my Christmas card (did you get one?) the panel borders helped to set things off, but I tried to make them have a thematic tie to the panel.
2) The length was just about right, but I wondered if the story needed more development/explanation. (I know, I know, we said we only had to do one page). I don’t say this because mine was longer, I say it because I already knew the story, and could fill in the “gaps.” What I mean is, I didn’t have any problem understanding what was going on, but I wondered if someone else would have as easy a time. I’m not quite sure what you would have needed to add, but maybe if the voice-over were used throughout, you could have used it to set the story up a little more. Or not; you should probably ask someone who isn’t familiar with the story.
By the way, don’t think that just because I’ve done panel borders and longer comics, that I think that I have the right answers. I’m just trying to point out things that I’ve tried, so feel free to reject.
Questions/Suggestions Here again, Mark is a stick figure while everyone else has weight (or is it depth?). I know that drawing a human form in a pain, but I think that you’re getting better. While the bodies in the 2nd panel need some more thought, those in the remaining panels look pretty good. Chris is pretty well fleshed out (except he’s a loser), and even your secondary characters are fleshed out in a charicature fashion—the nurse is a nazi and the doctor is Mengele. I would say, “go with that instinct” to make cartoony pictures for some characters and more “realistic” pictures for others—it makes a nice mix, and it helps to set up a certain expectation in the reader’s mind in terms of “how to read” the situation. I’m not sure if I’m making any sense. Anyway, I would encourage you to “do more” with Mark. The Mark character doesn’t have to have weight, but you said that you liked the Mark character from one of my panels—feel free to steal it if it works for you. I don’t know, maybe a stick figure is the correct style, but you seem to be moving beyond stick people even from comic #1 to comic #2.