Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Flip Test

One trick that overworked “readers” in Hollywood use to decide whether a script is worth checking out is the flip test. Goes like this: you start from the back of the script and flip forward, scanning the pages without actually reading the words in order to see if the script has a good balance of action and dialogue. Are there huge chunks of scene direction squatting like monoliths on the pages? Or endless long-winded passages of dialogue that straggle from one page to the next? If the screenplay doesn’t have a nice variety of direction and dialogue, it probably sucks and isn’t worth reading.

Does that seem fair? Maybe not, but if you had to read a million point six screenplays and write coverage reports for your producer bosses, you would probably think otherwise. From what I understand, the flip test is actually a pretty good way of determining whether your boss will want to read the damn thing. Remember, this is Hollywood we’re talking about. They’re interested in making money, not high art.

I’m working on a screenplay right now (one of the reasons I’m not posting a lot these days) and I keep the flip test in mind as I crank out the pages. Bear with me, I’m going somewhere with all this.

My number one job in writing the script is to entertain the person who is going to read it. A big part of that means to make it as easy as possible to read. If I’m writing a big action scene you can bet I’m not going to have huge blocks of unbroken text describing the action – it is death to read. You gotta break that shit up. Similarly, big dialogue scenes will be interspersed with scene direction to add more variety to the page – it just reads better.

I used to work in a comic book store back in The Day, but nowadays I’m just a consumer. I have X amount of time and Y amount of money to spend in a comic book store, and so I’ve started doing my own flip test on comics I think I might like to buy.

Sure, there are some books I will pick up just because certain writers or artists are involved, but lately I’ve been doing the flip test and it’s a surprisingly painless way of making comic buying decisions easy.

(Before you think I’m being callous or flippant, which I kinda am, I would remind you that we all do the flip test when we watch movie previews. In two and a half minutes you make up your mind whether you want to spend money on a flick or pass.)

I love Thor! Let’s check out the Straczynski/Copiel relaunch. Flip, flip, flip… Wait a second, where’s all the head-smashing? Maybe this is just a slow issue, let’s look at another one. Flip, flip, flip… OK, I’m just scanning this from back to front, but I see a lot of talky-talky and not a lot of hammer-to-skull. PASS.

That was easy.

New Avengers! Bendis’ Mamet-y dialogue and Leinil Yu’s vascular artwork. I haven’t picked this up in a while. Flip, flip, flip… Hey, this entire issue takes place during one plane ride? Hmm. What about this issue? Flip, flip, flip… Lots of talking, Wolverine gets shot in the crotch… Sorry, the talking to action ratio seems off. They must want me to wait for the trade. PASS.

OK, let’s give DC a chance. I haven’t picked up that Blue Beetle book yet. Flip, flip, flip… Looks kinda cute, lots of jumping and fighting. Flip, flip, flip… Hmm, there’s some talking and shit, too, so there must be a plot… Flip, flip, flip… Oooh, look, it’s Giganta! SOLD!

This may all seem very glib, but I guess I’m trying to make a point. I don’t want to buy an individual comic book that is really just a chapter in the inevitable trade paperback collection. I want to buy a comic, a 22 page floppy, that stands on its own. The entire industry seems to have drifted from producing comics as an end product towards producing comics that will be repackaged in a couple of months in trade form.

Well, fuck that.

I’m not saying you can’t publish a quiet issue or a ball-busting all-action issue of a certain comic. But if I’m browsing through my local comic shop and have ten minutes and twenty bucks to spend, you had better GRIP MY SHIT. Sorry, if I’ve never seen an issue of Ultimate Spidey before and I pick up 22 pages of Mary Jane and Peter talking on a bed? (I know I’ve used this example before, but Jesus, it still bugs me) I’m never going to buy your comic. I’m a consumer looking for a good comic in a crowded market place, and you blew it.

I don’t want to wait five issues for something exciting to happen in Thor. I don’t want to buy a chapter in your trade paperback. I want a fucking good comic NOW and if you can’t deliver, if your story telling strategy is to “pace for the trade” then you’ve lost me and my measly twenty bucks. Every issue is somebody’s first and somebody’s last, and unless you make EVERY ISSUE entertaining and gripping, forget it. You don’t deserve my cash.

You didn’t pass the flip test.


Thats a great idea guy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Thor #3 had good balance. Thor #1...yeah, not so much. Not a great way to launch a comic. Not much shit-gripping to be had.

On the other hand, having a comic gripping my shit is a little weird.

Anonymous said...

Thor - definitely paced for a trade collection, but the most recent issue was pretty good. Not a strong start, tho, which sort of proves your point I guess Dave. How many people piked up the first issue and were so turned off they never stuck around for a couple months waiting for it to get good?

k.bonifield said...

I actualy picked up the first issue of Thor and forgot that Thor even had a series until you just reminded me.

Talk about not gripping shit.

Anonymous said...

You know, back in the day, comics did a sort of on-the-rack flip test all on their own: By having a cool ass cover.

None of that flipping through several issues to see if the current decompressive rock star writer happened to trip over a story element! Those books told a story WITH the cover. The stuff inside (which may or may not bear any resemblance to the cover) was just icing on the cake.

I barely read any comics these days, and the flip test shows why.

Anonymous said...

What you said!

Seriously, if I were more articulate this is the thing what I'd have wrote.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dave!
That explains exactly why I'm not reading comics right now... Back in the early 90s most comics failed my flip test because they didn't have enough actual story... Now the pendulum swings back in the other direction.... Now we have nothing but chatty dialog and well, still no story actually...

When artists are the rock star we seem to get nothing but pin ups... When it's the writers we get nothing but dialog.


Anonymous said...

I agree with some of what the other folks said - I think a lot of comics could benefit from better covers that more accurately represent the interior contents, and thus readers could benefit. For some reason, DC seems to get this more than Marvel...

Ferretnick said...

Dave, I totally agree with you on this!

As the prices keep going up on issues, I have less and less cash to spend on them. There are many titles that I've slogged through just to get the whole story, but you're absolutely right.
If it's just a chapter of a bigger story, don't waste my time.

A few years back, I was working as a volunteer at the local comic convention in Seattle.
They had a Marvel panel with a Q&A session. One of the people in the crowd got up to ask this question:
"As a retailer AND a fan of comic books, why is the industry trend favoring comics that take several issues to tell the story in stead of plain old 'done-in-one' issues?
As a retailer, I find it hard to introduce new readers to comics when there are all these back-issues they have to read to get caught up and as a fan, I just don't have the time or money to waste when I can just pick up the trade a little later."

They basically side-stepped his question by going off on a different tangent, but their basic answer was, "Because the consumers (fans) enjoy it."

Really? Is that so?
Or is it because we'll buy what's on the shelf because we like the character and since you (the publisher) are directing the market, we just accept what we're being given?

It's time we used the flip-test and voted with our dollars to see "what the consumers want".

Edward Liu said...

I kinda agree with the "Flip Test," though I'll usually read the first 5 or 6 pages and WAIT A SECOND Dave is writing a SCREENPLAY ohmygodohmygodohmygod THE VELVET MARAUDER is gonna be on the SILVER SCREEN this is SO COOL I CAN'T WAIT but then Dave is going to become one of those asshole Hollywood people who takes meetings and does lunch and delegates his "people" to write his blog for him and it won't be as funny and then there will be the inevitable fall from grace and he's gonna end up on DRUGS and in the GUTTER ranting "F$*K YEAH" a lot and getting arrested because he's trying to get people to grip his shit or something oh Dave DON'T DO IT!!!


Anonymous said...

Amen, Brother Dave!
I pine for the days when a six issue story meant six issues of gripped shit. Six Issues used to mean Galactus or Dr. Doom. Now it's 1.5 issues of story, and the rest is filler.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I 100% agree with this post.

Even if you didn't ask for them, here are some titles which fit your rules (as mine) regarding the subject of singles vs. trade paperback split in six:

Fell, Casanova (of which, notably, the format is engineered that way), Booster Gold, Criminal (one simply cannot miss the back matter only found in the singles)... Age of Bronze, er... I can't think of more titles which are not written for the trade and manage to tell self-contained stories in, gasp, just one issue. And are worth buying, too.

Ekleberry said...

I really like New Avengers and Thor, but essentially I agree with you.

In unrelated news, I just came across this site trying to verify if Obnoxio the Clown was a real comic or just some douche screwing around on wikipedia. So thanks for answering that question... I think.

Anonymous said...

Marvel in particular has such a crappy system going. Big events! Chaaaaaange to status quuuooooo! But they all last 6 issues. Some of them don't even properly finish in that space.

But big things are happening, and you're totally left out for half a year unless you throw down three dollars for a 22 pages that share about 20 panels between them.

And how bland have those Thor covers been?

Unknown said...

I completely concur. Between decompressed story telling and delays between issues, it's getting harder to justify spending any money on comics these days.

If I find a storyline that is really intriguing, I'll wait for the TPB. Why by the individual comics when the story will be collected anyway?

Sleestak said...

Preach it, brother!

David Campbell said...

I should clarify re: multi-part stories. I have no problem with a two-parter or a six-parter or whatever provided that the narrative demands it. Daredevil: Born Again? Loved it, and they made me WAIT for DD to suit up. What I can't handle is padding, or issues that are all filler, no killer. Give me a multi-issue epic if you must, just make sure that every single issue is absolutely gripping and makes me want more, and make sure that the length of the storyline is dictated by events. Above all, entertain me and I will buy your comic, whether it's Thor or Obnoxio the Clown.

BTW, Criminal and Cassanova are the shit. I mean that in a good way. Booster Gold is good? I'll have to give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Booster Gold has been fun for it's two issues, so I would recommend at least giving it the flip test.

Carla said...

God bless you, sir. Monthly comics should grip your shit so much that when they come out in trades it's like one long screaming train of awesome in a book format.
I'm just going to mention Dini's current run on Detective on the sly here and again, thank you for these words.

Anonymous said...

Dave, bitching about comics? You sound like a... a BLOGGER!


Anonymous said...

Carla's right that Dini's run on Detective Comics has been quite good -- a lot of done-in-one (-or-two) detective stories featuring some of the best of the Rogues Gallery -- but the last issue did very little for me, almost precisely because it was a Countdown tie-in, with major threads to Amazons Attack and Secret Six and an allusion to the upcoming Salvation Run.

But Criminal? Absolutely fantastic.

Anonymous said...

$3 for PART 4 OF 6 doesn't do it for me. I can't buy comics anymore because doing so is a GAMBLE for being satisfied. And it's a HUGE GAMBLE for being $3 worth of satisfied.

That doesn't mean I buy fewer comics for my money---it means I buy NO comics for the individual prices. It's not that I can only buy fewer comics for $20---it's that not a single one of them is worth $3 a piece. I think it's a shame that there's so much RISK of buying pure shit at the comic book shop. This is buying entertainment, not blue chips---there shouldn't be that much risk!

A while ago, probably over a year ago now, Beau Smith wrote an article with analysis similar to your FLIP TEST. He counted the pages and categorized them as being either a TALK page, a MOVEMENT page or an ACTION page. There was also a BUSTED KNUCKLES categorization of pages, but there were ZERO pages in his stack that badass.

The Beau Smith column:
The Busted Knuckles Manly Super Hero Survey

52 Week Fourteen
Total Pages: 22
Talk = 19
Movement = 1
Action = 2

Captain America #5
Total Pages 21
Talk = 10
Movement = 4
Action = 7

New Avengers #17
Total Pages: 22
Talk = 15
Movement = 4
Action = 3

So, as I ask about every superhero comic: Where is Thor busting heads? I need action in my superhero stories. It's what they're good for.

Anonymous said...

Read "The Brave and the Bold". Mark Waid knows how to hit the balance fantastically and raise the crazy quotient on the last page of every issue. The first storyline was 6 issues of awesome packed into 6 issues.

As opposed to, you know, 6 issues of okay packed into 12 issues.

Vis a vis the flip test - would you have read Dan Slott's She-Hulk based on that test? Or would you have missed out?

David Campbell said...

I'll try anything Dan Slott writes just on principle, yes. Same with Jeff Parker, Matt Fraction, Gail Simone, Warren Fucking Ellis, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Ed Brubaker, Frank Miller, Paul Dini, and Greg Rucka. I'm missing a bunch, I'm sure, but it seems like going with writers who have solid track records is a more reliable predictor of quality than buying a book with a character I love.

BIG said...

Well played.

I used to hear shit like that when shopping scripts. "There's a lot of black."

There's something to the flip test, but sometimes... you just gotta bet on black. Ask Snipes.

Tom the Bomb said...

This week I FINALLY got around to reading the first trade of Walt Simonson's Thor. Holy crap! Talk about not having to wait a few issues for something exciting to happen. Each issue is a jam-packed story with no flipping required. The man can juggle five or six different plot threads in a single issue with no filler or confusion. No skimping on action, dialogue, or character.

The difference between the new Thor and Simonson -- no comparison. I feel like I never truly got the appeal of the character until a few days ago.

Anonymous said...

The nail has been well and truly smiteth on the head by Mjolnir.

My fanboy-ish needs have blinded me to this glaring failure of most comics to deliver the necessary bang per buck.

Stan the man said that every issue is somebodys first so write them as such - grip them, thrill them hook them!

Thor is the best example of this - I am internally apologising for every "fat man wading through molasses" issue as "it'll all be worth it in the pay-off issue". Why? I love this character but I'm not its fucking bank manager - give me what I want!

Here's to every success for your screenplay mate.


John Soanes said...

Couldn't agree more - a few years ago there was a lot of bleating in the industry that comic readers were 'waiting for the trade', and that this was damaging sales of comics.
Which might be true, but let's face it, there are a staggering number of comics scribes who are clearly WRITING for the trade, and as a result the pacing's all over the place.

Anonymous said...

Booster Gold is very good. Issue #3 hits today, and the book's most important feature is *fun*. Also, it takes more than 3 minutes to read and is actually good. It avoids the trappings of many post-Watchmen/DKR books and tells self-contained stories where Booster travels in time through the various DC universes and tries to fix various wrongs, like Max Lord's killing Ted Kord. That wasn't a big spoiler btw; it was merely planned just in the first issue, it hasn't happened yet.

Think of it as a post-modern in-continuity DC superhero book where the writers have Booster Gold piss on all things grim and gritty in the DCU, including the infamous event from the Killing Joke.

Unknown said...

Speaks volumes that BLUE BEETLE is written by John Rogers, who is also a professional screenwriter...

David said...

I fundamentally agree with you, but I wait for trades all the time - I prefer having comics on my bookshelf than in a box.

That said, the killer/filler ratio has been shrinking, and this is not a good thing - even when collected in a trade, filler shows.

Dar-EL said...

Great article, Dave. Well said.

big said
There's something to the flip test, but sometimes... you just gotta bet on black. Ask Snipes.

Once he gets outta jail for tax evasion I'll be sure to ask him. :)

Anonymous said...

I am torn between agreeing with Dave and my weird predilection for actually LIKING a lot of dialogue talky-talky in my comics.

SURE, don't get me wrong... I DO enjoy the smashy-smashy as well.
One of the main reasons for READING comics is to witness the bombastic brawls and face-kickery.

However, even as a young lad, it always pissed me off to NO END that comics would fill a huge chunk of pages with B.S. hero-against-hero "mistaken I.D." in-fighting.
It just seemed to be a useless trope that got old. Fast.

I don't necessarily NEED a LOT of actual battles to be happy, but there should be SOME and some real ACTION (i.e.: Daredevil wading thru a group of thugs or a bar-room of heavies looking for information. ROM blasting some wraith-scum to hell or backhanding a stabby hairy-ass mutant).

Not many comics these days do that in each issue.
But, again... for me, they don't necessarily NEED to - as long as the stories are gripping.

You're going to have 22 pages of talking? Fine. Then make the conversation exciting, intriguing, suspenseful, and integral to the story.

But then, I'm definitely a different breed of comic reader.
My favorite characters (and titles) are DOCTOR STRANGE & MAN-THING.
BOTH of which have always been heavy on the words and concept with action being in the back-seat.

Along those lines, the first issue of the new THOR kinda gripped me a bit and made me buy the second, then the third.
I don't see myself collecting it for too long, (strictly due to finances and trying to trim down the buying) but I seem to be in for the first 6 issues due to my liking the first 3.

That said, my # 1 gripe against recent talking-head comics (usually BENDIS) is GET THE VOICE OF THE CHARACTER RIGHT, DAMMIT!

Not everyone talks with your damn stilted manner of speech Bendis!
Having sentences interrupted with secondary thoughts, or disjointed connectors is not the way that most intelligent people speak.
Especially Doctor freakin' Strange!

I'll give you Tony Stark or Peter Parker talking like that.
Even though they're both intelligent, they're also more "human" and down-to-earth than the others in their league, so I'll accept that they might do so.

But Reed Richards, Stephen Strange, Professor X and the like would have better, more thought out patterns of speech.

What I also don't like is wanton destruction.
It always irked me that a super-battle would take place and they'd trash umpteenth number of cars and buildings, yet no one seemed to get hurt and no one had any lasting issues with what a menace super-powered people were.
I'm surprised that it took so long for a "registration act" to become the norm (not that I was for or against it in Civil War. I saw both sides of the argument and had a hard time denying any sides validity).

But, dollar for dollar, I'd rather buy a comic that has talking for the majority of it, IF it's well-written and takes more than 5 minutes to read.

That's story-wise.
There's GOTTA be some good art too, but that's a whole other situation.

ThanX for wading through all my "black".
I guess this POST would fail the "flip test".



Anonymous said...

Geez Dave, you bypassed Thor and New Avengers for Blue Beatle?!

You passed on good storytelling and art for a wam-bam-thank-you-ma'am issue.

This "flip-test" example shows me why nearly every Hollywood movie I watch stinks worst than the last one.

I watch a lot of TV and to me the suspense and the "tune-in next week" cliffhangers is why I prefer TV to movies and I, myself look for the same in my comics.

It's what makes me look so forward to Wednesdays.

Maybe that shit works in screenplays but not in my comicbooks.

Yonatan said...

But the Peter and Mary Jane on the Bed talking issue (Ultimate Spiderman 13) was the best issue of the series

otherwise im going to have to try it out...maybe I will build up the gumption to drop Countdown

Anonymous said...

Unlike most of the folks here, I have to disagree with Dave on this one.

I agree that decompressed storytelling can suck. And nobody likes filler.

But I like some of that talky shit. The best issues of the DeMatteis/Giffen Justice League were the ones where nothing much happened, the characters just hung around talking crap to each other.

Likewise, the hallowed Suicide Squad. It had lots of really cool action, but that's not why I loved the series; I was into SS because of Waller's talkdowns or the loopy psychanalisis in dr. LaGrieve's couch.

Hey, don't get me wrong. I like some kick in the face, no holds barred action as much as anyone else. But the talky shit can be good too. And sometimes 22 pages just isn't enough to tell a complex story and still find room for the exploding helicopters.

I mean, in the good ole' days (the 80s), some comics were pretty much "fight of the month".

There'd be a little plot and then some lamo villain shows up and there's a fight merely for the purpose of there being a fight. And that shit was lame.

Anonymous said...

I read comic strips in the flip book style.

If the last panel doesn't look like it has a good punchline that'll make sense in context, count me out. PASS!

I don't like borders around all four panels. If there isn't one that's sort of floating in space, I'll read a strip that's not so constricting. PASS!

One panel, Billy blaming his latest misadventure on "Not Me?" SOLD!

Unknown said...

This test is ass-backwards. It's how crap movies like Pearl Harbor and other Michael Bay movies are formulated: nice equal mixes of action, romance, and comedy. The result is always well-polished pabulum.

The wordy issue of Ultimate Spiderman you mentioned won plenty of awards and deserves them. It also sold just as well as all the other action issues. Luckily the editors didn't put it through the 'focus group approval' process.

Anonymous said...

As other posters have said, demanding some sort of industry-wide flip-test-friendliness could only lead to the production of even blander pap than we're getting.

Everybody leafs through the pamphlets at the store, but I find that this provides a pretty unreliable measure of a comic's quality (especially if one is applying rigid criteria like the "balance" between action and dialogue).

The strength of (a member of) a creative team, internet reviews and buzz (the online equivalent, for our rather small community, of word-of-mouth), etc. provide far better clues in the neverending quest for gold nuggets in the turd pool.

Harvey Jerkwater said...

Writing a screenplay? They can be frustrating to the comic book fan.

In a comic, if you need a jolt, you can always throw in rocket-powered monkey ninjas and send them and your protagonist back to ninth-century Russia to build the World's Greatest Cheesecake in a desperate attempt to prevent a thousand-foot tall statue of Huggy Bear from destroying every Thursday ever. As a matter of fact, Grant Morrison's probably done that.

In a screenplay, that'd get red-flagged as "too expensive."

Do you really want to work in a medium that won't touch something as awesome as MODOK for reasons of mere money? Sure, there's fame, fortune, and the unironic use of calling everyone you meet "babe," but is it worth it to work in a MODOK-less medium?

Won't somebody think of the MODOK?

CalvinPitt said...

I have never tried the Flip Test myself, but I think there has to be some balance to a title especially over the long haul. I too, like that issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, but I didn't like it when Bendis would three consecutive issues of talking, which didn't seem to advance the story arc at all (the Hobgoblin arc leaps to mind as one where I'd finish reading and say to myself "Nothing happened? What the hell?")

I don't think there's anything wrong, as Mr Campbell noted, with multi-part stories, provided there's enough there for it to justifiably be multi-part. I don't get that feeling from multiple issues of the New Avengers arguing about which of them is really a Skrull.

Anonymous said...

The new avengers do rock.

Stephen K. Chan
Stephen K. Chan

Anonymous said...

String Quintet in C major said...
The strength of (a member of) a creative team, internet reviews and buzz (the online equivalent, for our rather small community, of word-of-mouth), etc. provide far better clues in the neverending quest for gold nuggets in the turd pool.

Thus increasing the probability that you will wind up having your $#!@ gripped, rather than gripping $#!@.

The purpose of my earlier question RE: She-Hulk was this: in 2004, She-Hulk was Dan Slott's break out title. He wasn't a well-known guy then, so the Slott-factor wouldn't get him on your pull list. Issue 1 has a lot of talking and maybe two pages of fighting (Avengers vs. MODOK and AIM + Blizzard - in SPAAACE!). Issue 2 has a lot of talking and a very distinct un-fight between Danger Man and She-Hulk. Issue 3 is more no fighting as She-Hulk moves in to the Excelsior, moves out of Avengers Mansion, and has a ghost imprisoned for attempting to have his girlfriend falsely convicted of his murder.

For balance between dialogue and action, She-Hulk started off with no great shakes. For balance between totally awesome and fantastic, She-Hulk was great.

Possibly the exception that proves the rule, but then, I like the Mary Jane talking on the bed issue of Ultimate Spider-Man, too.

Anonymous said...

"In a comic, if you need a jolt, you can always throw in rocket-powered monkey ninjas and send them and your protagonist back to ninth-century Russia to build the World's Greatest Cheesecake in a desperate attempt to prevent a thousand-foot tall statue of Huggy Bear from destroying every Thursday ever."

Man I would so buy that comic :D

Anonymous said...

I'm astonished at whoever said "you're passing up Thor and New Avengers for Blue Beetle?" Well, yes. Because the current Thor is intriguing but has major flaws, New Avengers is tedious and irrelevant, and Blue Beetle is just great comics. I don't see why the shock. BB is one of the best things DC is putting out at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dave, whatever you do, please make sure that the Velvet Marauder screenplay that you are DEFINITIVELY writing passing the douchebag Hollywood flip test.

I SO need to see Ben Affleck playing McKenzie peeing in his suit after bowling!

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

A Velvet Marauder movie would be awesome on top of awesome wrapped in cool

Anonymous said...

Your flip test works because New Avengers and Thor both are terrible, but Blue Beetle is awesome.

Anonymous said...

Blue Beetle is a snoozefest. Even the character is badly designed.

I'll take the alien invasion conspiracies in my New Avengers and my brooding Norseman in my Thor.

Both of those have been excellent so far as showing the dynamics between different characters.

Blue Beetle does none of that.

I don't have the attention span of a goldfish so I can handle a few issues of talking and build-up before the big fight scene.

It makes me more interested in the issues.

If I wanted to see a slugfest every week with poorly designed and poorly thought out characters, I'll watch wrestling.

I can understand the flip test working for a screenplay as they are quite wordy and heavy on page numbers.

However, that won't work for a 22 page comic book.

Jayzgame said...

I'm sorry, Dave. I gotta disagree with you on this one, buddy.
The flip test sounds like an equation for a mediocre book every time. I agree that I want more from my comics than talk, fight, splash page, splash page, talk.

There's a lot to be said for building characterization and taking your time to tell a great story. The flip test is fine for certain books, but if every big 2 comic followed that same format then, I guess it would be the mid to late 90's again.

Anonymous said...

"The flip test is fine for certain books, but if every big 2 comic followed that same format then, I guess it would be the mid to late 90's again"

More like the 60s through 80s. The 90s would fail the flip test because they'd be all action and no talking at all.

I more or less agree with Dave's point. It sounds crude but if you know how to quickly appraise an artist's storytelling, you can almost immediately tell if a comic is worth the money or not. I wouldn't necessarily compare it to testing screenplays, though, because movie scripts are pretty long compared to floppy comics and you really can't get a feel for a film script's quality with a brief flip test.

Anonymous said...

Thor could never gripst thine shit wearing mirrorball longjohns, no matter how Vahalla-worthy the fight, nor mellifluous the skald's tongue.

Anonymous said...

I must disagree. Hollywood sucks and the more comics return back to their stupid-ass fight-o-the-month roots, the more I mourn the fact that the good parts of the 80s didn't stick. I was born in the mid 80s and I thought comics were the shit. By the time I was 16, I didn't like most new comics at the time, and it WASN'T because puberty hit and I suddenly was more interested in getting laid. It was because the 90s biz embraced some of the worst of the 80s. Low, low quality tripe, and as a kid, I honestly didn't have time nor the money to spend on ANY comics except the trades. My parents didn't allow it. Trades of filler art and bad dialog frustrated me to no end. I turned my back on comics and became a bibliophile, and I've never looked back but once.

I'm of a mind that they should just do trade paperbacks instead of comic issues. I know I just blasphemed, but hear me out.

Back before The Day of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, when my older friends and I grew up, comics had repetitive plots, soap opera dialog-as-exposition, and great covers and sometimes atrocious inner pages. They were mostly kitsch. Be honest. How much of 'Superman is a Dick' type tripe stole away your hardearned cash as a kid, just because you were a loyal customer?

Instead of wasting our money on the now-low demand one-issue comic book (everyone I know waits for the trade paperback, because issues paced for trade tend to be a lot higher quality in the story, because, hey, the art carries the genre and you don't necessarily have to worry about it), why not just save everyone money, extend the deadlines, and elevate the quality of the books?

Why CAN'T we have "graphic novels" in a literal sense, not a hoity-toity sense? There could be one printing, and it's trade, and the story took a year to write and something like 6 months to ink and color, and thus every page is lush, perfectly paced, and it's as if Watchmen is suddenly the standard, not the acception, to the industry.

Wouldn't that be nice?

I want my comic books to be goddamn novels with pictures. If idiots stopped reading comics (I'm gonna wish idots would stop being catered to in video games, Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels, and movies, too while I'm at it), all the better. More quality for me. I'll pay any price--any price--for a good story. But it has to be good. I'd spend 40$ on a 300 page comic book trade if it was genuinely good.

But if it merely passed your mediocre flip test? No. We'll just seem more crap and never demand better.

David Campbell said...

OK, I'd like to defend the idea of the Flip Test to those who think I'm insane. The flip test merely tells me if a book is paced for trade or if I'm going to get my money's worth in terms of story and art. A quick flip through a comic cannot tell you if the characters are nuanced or the dialogue is crisp or the art is lovingly rendered. What it can tell you is whether or not the comic has enough "comic" to be worth shelling out a couple bucks.

I don't think I was clear enough in my post, because some folks have misconstrued what I mean. I happen to like Bendis' writing, for instance. That Peter Parker/MJ sitting on the bed talking issue? That was some well written shit, it really was. However, it's not what I want to read in a 22 page comic book. As part of a trade? Sure. But if I'm paying over two bucks for some entertainment? It better be more than one scene. That's like watching a quarter of a movie but paying full price. The New Avengers plane crash issue? It was well written, but it was ONE SCENE. They talk on a plane, it crashes. Again, fine if it's part of a trade, but I want more from my floppies.

That's what the Flip Test is. It's not a shallow assesment of quality (although we all do that every day), it's a quick way to measure whether I'm getting enough story for my dollar. I really, really hate "pacing for trade" writing and that's what this is all about.

There, hope that makes sense.

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