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Things Aren’t Always Black and White

Obviously, today’s strip is markedly different from those that have preceded it. I have dropped color and moved to a black and white format. Let me explain this move.

I have recently been reviewing my archives. I am always rereading to get a sense of how the comic works as a whole. Does it, or does it not, display a narrative arc? Can my readers differentiate between characters? Can it be read both isolated as an individual strip and as a cohesive portion of a greater whole?

As we’ve slowly built a larger archive, it has unfortunately become apparent to me that the comic is not reaching its greatest potential. Although a greater arc is planned, the slow pace inherent in my update schedule places too much time between related strips, and for those that do not know me in real life, it is my fear that the personality distinctions between characters are not readily apparent. While this may not prevent the comic from being readable and entertaining on a one off basis, it is a definite impediment towards any lasting connection with character or story. That is not a situation that I find acceptable.

I wish to provide my readers with ongoing stories, and the chance to truly understand, if not connect with, my characters. Although they are all based on real life individuals, each is becoming a unique personality within the world of the comic, at least, in so much as I have planned it… and I do have a number of storylines planned.

In order to tell the story that I want to tell, and to allow readers to connect with both story and character, I need to increase the pace of storytelling. As such, I need more content, more strips per week. While I would love for those to be all color strips, “Life from the Cheap Seats” is still a labor of love for me, done in my off hours when I get home from work. Multiple full color strips is not manageable under my current time restraints. Thus the only way to increase my output, is to decrease the time spent per comic. Black and white strips are the logical choice, cutting the time per comic by half, if not by more.

What does this all mean for you, the reader?

First of all, it means there will be a one week hiatus of the comic. While I already have six more strips complete or nearly complete (and in full color), the change of pacing requires me to reexamine all strips and storylines within the context of the new pacing. I am taking one week to retool the current comics, to help reinforce my buffer of finished comics, and to adjust the order of the strips to best reinforce the new storytelling methods. This essentially equates to an extra week drawing and inking as many comics as possible, while also making story arc adjustments.

Second, when we return on April 11th, the comic will have a new schedule. There will still be a new strip every Monday, but there will also be a new strip every Thursday. Most of these comics will be black and white, but I will be examining a regular pacing for color comics. Right now, I am tentatively looking at a new color strip every two to three weeks (or every 4-6 comics). During the initial run of strips within this update schedule, however, the color schedule may be somewhat sporadic, as one, I try to push forward with as many strips as possible to create a strong backlog of comics, and, two, the already completed color comics may disrupt any attempt at a specific pacing for color strips.

Outside of increasing my output and the frequency of my posts, this retooling will involve an inherent change to the method of storytelling. While comics will still have a level of self-containment, comics will be strung together in storylines and I intend to stick with each story for a week to two weeks, often returning to said storyline weeks later. This means that there will essentially be 2-4 comics in a row dealing with the same subject matter. The hope here, is that by introducing this longer form of storytelling, readers will be spending increased time with characters and plot points, allowing both for a greater understanding of each character’s unique personality and greater story investment – the two together hopefully equaling a more enjoyable comic.

This change in both format and pacing will be major for us. It will definitely affect more than the visuals alone, also having ramifications within tone and the method of reading – sequence will become important.

In some ways this change is daunting – both for the work it requires of me and the change it presents to my readers. That being said, I am excited to be taking the comic in this direction. It was, in fact, my original intention when creating “Life from the Cheap Seats.” However, as I often do, I got carried away, wanting full color all the time. Now, I must pull away from that approach. While this may be disappointing to some, I hope that you will continue to read us in our new format, and continue to find some enjoyment in my musings on my daily life. Thanks for reading.

- Chris Hutton