Nineteen-Ninety-Something vs. Off the Deep End

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Okay, folks, Nineteen-Ninety-Something has been running as a daily strip for about half a year now. I've produced about 200 strips so far, and it's pretty clear now what the series' world is like and who the characters are. Devoting all that time to this series has slashed the amount of time I have to spend on Off the Deep End, but you've also seen a pretty decent chunk of that too, and I just did those character profiles this week that offer a little more insight into who the main characters are.

So, that being said...which series do you like better?

A lot of the feedback I've been getting on NNS seems to be the same: "Oh, this is unpleasant." "I was hoping for a happy ending to this story." "Man, I hate this character!" Whereas the feedback on the little glimpses I've been able to do of OTDE are more along the lines of "Aww, this is adorable!" "I remember always wanting to do this!" "This is some of your best stuff!" And that tells me that maybe I'm putting all my time and effort behind the wrong series.

Yes, Nineteen-Ninety-Something has been my primary endeavor for the last eight years, and it's only now that I've finally turned it into something viable. But even I've noticed how nasty and unpleasant it's become. Nothing ever really works out for anybody, except the characters who don't deserve it, and in trying to capture that snarky, cynical tone of the 1990s, I think I may have just created a world that nobody really wants to spend any time in. Off the Deep End, though, is a decidedly more positive series, about a family of people who genuinely love each other, as opposed to Joel's family who are dysfunctional as all hell. OTDE is bright and sunny and playful, whereas NNS is gray and oppressive and pessimistic.

I've been hesitant to pursue Off the Deep End as an ongoing series because I thought the underwater photography thing would confuse people. But for the most part, everyone seems to be pretty accepting of the premise, and the characters seem to have really captured people's hearts. I certainly don't get comments about how much readers "loathe" them, as I have been getting for my last few weeks' worth of Nineteen-Ninety-Somethings. I do write for myself, of course, but I consider my audience as well. So be honest - what would you guys rather see more of?

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UPDATE: So far, opinions seem to be pretty well split. A lot of folks argue in favor of Nineteen-Ninety-Something continuing, particularly so they can see Michelle and Kendra and Steve and Jocelyn come back. And I admit, I've missed them dearly too. Right now, three of them are set to make their grand returns between September and November of this year (as it stands, Jocelyn probably won't come into the strip until August 1991).

But the major criticism against the strip still stands, which is that it's way too dark and cynical for its own good. And unfortunately, before I get to bring back these characters, I have a four-week story coming up next month that's probably the darkest and most cynical I've ever written. But Michelle returns literally the week after it ends, so it's sort of like the grand finale of the "everything in Joel's life sucks" attitude that's permeated the strip up 'til now. The tone is something I have control over, and I can make a conscious effort to lighten the atmosphere. That's a simple enough fix to make.

However, the one thing I can't fix, and the biggest argument I've received against keeping this series going, is that there just isn't much about it that's new or original. It's a four-panel daily comic strip, set in the 1990s, that follows the misadventures of a dysfunctional family...how is this any different from FoxTrot? Just because I added extensive swearing and masturbation jokes? With pop culture references that are 25 years out of date, it's impossible for me to break any new satirical ground with this series - pretty much all the shots I take at stuff that was popular in 1990 is the same jokes everyone else has already made. And half the people who read this series don't even get what I'm referencing, because they weren't even born when it happened.

Off the Deep End, on the other hand, is far less reliant on outdated pop culture humor, has a much brighter atmosphere, has a wide selection of likeable characters, can appeal to all ages, and uses a wholly unique premise that's more likely to make it stand out - who's ever done a series about an underwater photographer before? It's a far more personal project that speaks my voice better than my current series does.

So, as much as I really want to keep Nineteen-Ninety-Something rolling, as much as I want to introduce all my main characters back into the strip and revel in the nostalgia-soaked goodness of the decade I grew up in, it's kind of sobering to think that it'd just be spinning my wheels for ten years, treading in the footsteps of cartoonists who already did all this stuff 25 years ago, and much better than I can. Which does kinda inch me closer towards pursuing Off the Deep End instead. I haven't made up my mind yet, but that's definitely looking like a better option at this point.
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kingofswing617's avatar
My suggestion is character development. Such as  Tina, she not unlikable like later-seasons Lois Griffin or Peggy Hill, but still she is obnoxious. I would just like for her to loosen up a bit and realize that not everything that young people are into is some product by the devil himself.