Wednesday, October 22, 2008

31 Days of Halloween - Day 22

A few years ago the licensing folks at Warner Brothers decided that all the stories in the Scooby-Doo comic book (this also pretained, and still does, to other licensed Cartoon Network properties) could no longer be 21 pages in length. rarely could they even be 12 pages, or 10. The ideal length now was 8-pages or less.

The reason for this had to do with repackaging the stories for foreign publications. To this day, no one involved with the production of the domestic forms of these comics has ever seen one of these foreign repackages. If any one reading this lives outside the USA and has come across any of the Cartoon Network comics, especially one's I've written, please contact me. I'd love to get my hands on some.

This decision to condense the material ended up proving problematic. "Scooby-Doo" involves five characters who solve mysteries. Try writing a mystery, in which clues need to be discovered, motivations worked out, and action scenes worked in culminating in the capture and unmasking of the villain, with five characters, a supporting cast and jokes too, all in a bout 40 panels. It's not easy. Imagine being asked to do that in 4 pages.

My ingenious solution to this problem was to avoid trying to tell the traditional mystery stories altogether and instead create a series of vignettes that could be done in as little as 1 page, and up to 6, depending on what my editor needed to fill any gaps on a particular issue. These little segments were of three types, a humorous piece that played with concepts and expectations that the reader has involving one or more of the characters (Scooby-Doo and Shaggy demonstarting their own recipes, Velma losing her glasses, etc.), a game of some sort (usually a maze, or "I spy" type of thinh involving clues, and again, also playing off of the characters' personality types) or an educational piece, often with a humorous punchline. This last type has proven to be extremely popular, whether its Freddie showing how to change a tire, or Daphne's fashion tips. The most popular of these educational pieces has now become a regular feature called "Velma's Monsters of the World." In each segment Velma provides information on a different monster taken from the folklore, or mythology of various cultures around the world.

Prior to this, I had done a few segments that would evolve into the regular "Velma's Monsters of the World" features. This one, illustrated by Robert Pope and Scott McCrae, was the first.


Trix said...

So I'm guessing you're fairly certain where you found the source of this post... ;)

You are just too in the world did you come up this novel idea?

Robert Pope said...

Hey John;
my sister-in-law lives in London and has seen several of my stories printed in the English "annuals," which she's bought for her son. I'll see if she can get some spare copies (I owe my nephew a pin-up, so hopefully there'll be some mail passing between us before Christmas)
I still like the Plat-Eye best, if only because of my love of all things SC.

Stephen said...

Geez, that yara-ma-yha-who is going to give me nightmares now!

John Rozum said...

Trix -- Desperation. When I realized there was no way to tell a decent mystery in such a short number of pages, I realized that if I wanted to keep my job I was going to have to come up with an alternative that would be acceptable and still capture the spirit of "Scooby-Doo." It ended up being a really good dumping ground for all the monster lore I picked up over the years as well as some other stuff.

Robert -- I'd love to get a copy. I really liked the Plat-Eye as well. That one was really popular with the kids too. I know that lots of them sent in drawings of their versions of the plat-eye, which I find rewarding, as should you.

Stephen -- Blame Mr. Pope here for that. I gave him what ever basic descriptions I could find, but Robert is responsible for how they ended up looking. I agree though, that's one cool, creepy monster.