Sunday, December 05, 2010

Tic Tac Toe Jam--a new jam comic constraint, for two players

I'd been kicking around an idea for a jam comic based on the game of tic tac toe. Recently I invited Tom Hart to meet up with me at a café before class at SVA and give it a try.

I posted about an earlier aborted comics project that led to this idea here. The idea is fairly simple: one cartoonist is X the other is O. You lay out a 9-panel tic tac toe grid on a page and play tic tac toe, only instead of simply putting an X you need to draw a comics panel that incorporates the X in some creative way. The game proceeds alternating players until the comic is finished. (Keeping track of who wins is optional.)

Tom Xs and Os...
...while Matt Os and Xs
What appeals to me about the idea is that the constraint works at a few different levels: there's visual play and word play and there's also an unsual storytelling challenge since you're not telling a story in a linear fashion, instead you're jumping from panel to panel, alternating with someone else, and trying to mold it all into some kind of coherent narrative.

game record of the above comic
In the comic above I started with the top right panel: I drew a bald guy because that seemed O-like and had him say ""Oh" as he opened and read a letter--that seemed like a story starter. Tom did the next panel and made an X out of a stack of envelopes, deciding they were summonses. We talked back and forth as we worked but didn't always know what the other had in mind. So when he wrote "24 weeks" I couldn't for the life of me figure out the reference. I decided that six more would make 30 which is XXX--a winning game in tic tac toe. It turns out he was thinking of X being the 24th letter of the alphabet. And so it goes. With the bald guy and all those X's Tom found it irresistable not to end up filling this strip with X-Men references, though we barely even know the characters (yes, we know Johnny Storm isn't really one of them).
Our other strip took a totally different direction, as you can see. In conclusion: a bit of a silly game but the results are not bad and we had a lot of fun doing it and talking about the process. This would make a great minicomic anthology. If anyone out there ends up doing this kind of comic, please send it my way and who knows, maybe I'll get enough to put a mini together.

PS As Tom points out in the comments, what we did to save time (and ensure a nicer looking final comic) was to pencil only during the jam session (as in the pix above), then we each took one home to finish up and ink.


Tom Hart said...

I should mention that the second strip happened this way:

Tom p 5
Matt p 7
Tom p 6
Matt p 4
Tom p 1
Matt p 9
Tom p 8
Matt p 2
Tom p 3

No winner. I inked the second strip, Matt the first.

Also worth noting is that I accidentally let Matt win the first strip. I didn't mean to, I got seduced by the final panel when I should have blocked with the second.

But since we finished the remaining panels, I got to win too (final row.)

Isaac said...

So you keep going even after someone has won the tic-tac-toe game? I guess you have to...

mattmadden said...

Tom, thanks for filling in some gaps; Isaac, yes, we decided to finish the comic even after the game was finished (win or draw). We toyed with the idea of ending the comic as soon as the game was decided and to let the leftover panels blank. I think that would be a worthwhile variation to try.

Anonymous said...

Such a clever, creative idea!

Would it be confusing to the narrative to put a little 1, 2, 3, etc. in one of the bottom corners of each panel so it's evident on the page what order they were drawn?

mattmadden said...

I dont think that would be confusing, but perhaps a little ugly... Could be funny to number the panels in the corner like in old Winsor McCay strips only the numbers follow the sequence of the game.

Or else make the numbers an additional constraint: if you start with O you also need to incorporate the number one into the panel somehow.

Stuart Immonen said...

Lovely. I'm always looking for ways to jam; bookmarked for future reference!

elcerdo said...

Another great exercise Matt.
If ever I go to America, I would sit in a bar with you and play the Tic Tac, or when you come to Brazil.

mattmadden said...

@elcerdo It's a deal!

Miha Hančič said...

.awesomeness :)

Chaping! said...

Matt! Tom sent me your tic-tac-toes so Rina and I tried doing it, too.

Bottom one on this post!

gonzalexx said...

Incredibly fun exercise.
Must try it.
Thanks so much for sharing!!

thefusionman said...

That's a GREAT idea, Man! Ditto on ".awesomeness:)" It's ideas like this that keep the art of comics an "Art!"

Miriam said...

Very cool

monocat said...

we used a variation of this ...some years back... take 3 people, 3 sheets of paper (can be done with more people & paper)

divide the paper into 6 panels (or 8 if there's 4 people etc)

you're creating a 3 page comic strip, (or 4 page with 4 people) so one person is designated as creating the start page (so they have a potential 'title panel' - another has the 2nd page & the third the last).

Two sequential panels are drawn at the top of each page - at this stage it shouldn't really be know what the others are drawing...

when the 2 panels are finished it's time to pass the pages around page 2 -> page 1, page 3-> page 2, page 1 -> page 1 and in this way it's better understood how the narrative needs to progress to the get to a point of the pages joining together (knowing what you last drew)

and pass & tie the narrative together.

methodology devised & fist practiced by ed & darryl & myself

...used to do this one by post as well

mattmadden said...

Great idea, @monocat, thanks for sharing. I'm planning to post here or at about a similar collaborative jam comic initiated by a former student of mine where people also trade of thumbs, pencils and inks. And then there's Jesse Reklaw's Shuffleupagus, which I've never quite gotten my brain around.

Andrea said...

My friend made this and I thought of your comic: