What Did I Learn?
Here is a color webcomic by the name of Stix and Bones by Darrell Toland. Stix is the little girl and Bones is the white Bull Terrier. Who talks. Along with Grandma the tree in the front yard, Dad experimenting in the basement and other assorted friends. I think you meet more cast members in the first three months of this comic’s updates than most comics ever show.
Most of them are one shot appearances (for now, at least) And a number of them are dead but reanimated by a splash of mad science. (It’s not all about dead people, don’t worry.) Dad is a little careless with his toxic sludge but is a very impressively skilled scientist and his little daughter Bones is not far from his brilliance. She has a lab under her bed, which was a nice touch. I get a kick out of mad scientists and their peccadillos.
All the characters have a good amount of depth to them. Stix, the dog, studies Kung Fu and carries a walking stick like an old Kung Fu master might. Though he is a bit of a wiseacre and hides his ability to talk from the neighbor kids. He is also fully dog and accepts that he cannot resist barking at passing cars and chasing the swishing tree rodent tails. That’s a lot of material for story making before we even get into the unnamed past or changes in the characters over time. It’s also nice that the character designs match the personality of the character. Bones has mismatched eyes which signals that her personality is more off balance than you might give her credit for. She’ll strike you as the normal one for awhile but she slips up and shows some of her real thoughts sometimes.
At this point in the story, we still have to find out what the wheezing old man wants from Bones. It’s a bit creepy and super-villainish at the same time, which is probably the plan. That dovetails with my overall impression – almost everything in the comic serves a couple of different purposes at the same time. You know, the dialog is supposed to reveal character while moving the story along and the poses the characters strike is supposed to reveal character and be visually interesting. And so on. Stix and Bones does that.
The mix of story arcs and short term gags is pretty amusing and gave me some ideas for handling character dialog outside my usual choices, too. If the characters are strong, the dialog should write itself and be interesting.
Can I talk about my only off thought? It’s minor, really, but I generally prefer this style of lettering for comics involving children. If you compare that to more typical lettering, I think the former conveys child better than the latter. Now, I realize the lettering advice we get usually encourages us to use all caps for legibility and making the lettering work easy. In this case, the effect was softened by reducing the size of the text. But that’s me – most people are happy with option A and a few choose B but I always want to find out about options C, D and E. In the end, the lettering should fit the particular comic – I don’t think there is a one size fits all solution.
What Did I Learn?
Aside from my meanderings about the lettering, this comic is solidly constructed and is hitting its stride. There is plenty more character material to mine for stories and I didn’t see anything without a good twist on it. It can be very difficult to do something unique but if you have a vision, you can make it look as easy as Stix and Bones does.