How to Decide Whether or Not to Change the Format of Your Comic

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Reader Comments (59)

Just as funny the sixth time, Scott.

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMrGuy

LOL in every frame. You're not stale yet, Scott. Keep trying.

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSterling Camden

There are so many different ways to spin the same subject matter.
For example: I frequently have to explain my fear of butterfly faces to my friends (they either didn't believe me the first time I explained or just like to see me squirm). Each time I explain my fear it's different. The first time it was more a "Aaaah! Holy Christ their just horrible and scary!" The second time was more wordy "Jesus Christ! You don't understand! Their freaking demon bug faces from hell!" By the third time explaining it I've devolved into mere sound effects such as "Ahhhhhh! Geeeeeh! Eeeeek!"
So don't worry about reusing material. Everyone does it!

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTabitha

Excellent. Desperate times, desperate measures. Now we get to send you all our pathetic ingenious ideas.

Do one about Star Wars!

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRudi

[Chuckles at third panel, realizing that he already has his RSS feed labeled BI]

Just add more female characters and I can get behind the renaming to BI.

December 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSoul of Wit

Not just an LOL in every frame, a GIANT lol in every frame! Wonderful to have Missy back. And you know what? I'd like to see a strip with you and Rick called "BI." Especially if it was tight and lean, which on second thought I guess might be too much of a stretch for Rick.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBobbo

This is just brilliant.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBI Fan

Nah, you're not creatively bankrupt. The allusion to KFC was particularly lucid, and it happened right in the middle of an introspective comic. That's trickier than a lot of people might think.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRJ

I'd comment, but I wouldn't be saying anything that hasn't been said before.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDrake

I've been following you for a couple years, been through all the archives, and I have several favorites. This comic, however, was one of your best for sure. As Sterling said, Lol'd in every frame. Great stuff, thank you for your work.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDan

"Welcome to Basic: You Still Won't Learn."

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterByron Black

Pure awesome. Seriously Scott, you've got some raw and major talent here.

If you wish to change the format, then just play around with it a little.

I'd suggest makin' a few rerun samples. Tweaking comics already made into your new format idea, and then linking them in, but not as a main feature Then you ask for feedback and see what happens. ^_^

Well, that's what I'd do anyways, just to test the water.

Anyways, whatever you do, I'm sure it'll be FRIGGING* brilliant!!!

(*Is that too obscure for an inside joke?)

Keep cool, Scott!!

~ Sniff.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSniff

Hey! We bi people take MAJOR exception to panel three. But the other three panels pass inspection. Carry on.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJudas Peckerwood

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is how the age-old, grammatically incorrect, maxim goes I do believe

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercamelchild

You're hitting winners every time! If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlan

I think after 2008 you´re entitled to a debt reorganization. Do we get any assurance that the comics will still be taking off on schedule and the mileage program will be honored?

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbrazilian_guy

I've read over 500 of these? Wow!

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJesse

If you run out of ideas for instructions, I'll assume that my studies here are complete and that I can now go out and make my own way in the world. The wisdom of the BI people will travel with me.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarco

It'll never not be funny.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

"Young humorists borrow. Mautire humorists steal."
-Mark Twain (but maybe not)

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercjr


December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWang Chung

The format never gets old for your readers! I can see how it would sometimes limit the writer, but never your fans. No one else does this, and the fact that you have successfully done 500 is amazing!

It always irks me when people say, "Haven't you done this topic before?" They are taking liberties with criticism they wouldn't waste the time sending if it weren't so easy in this online format.

Get Fuzzy is another of my favorites, and there are recurring topics that are just spun different ways, but it's still funny. How many ways can Bucky's obsessions with monkeys make us laugh? Who knows? We haven't stopped yet.

That said, I would love to see any experiments you'd like to try. You're a comedian and an artist. Break your box if you want to!

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterVictoria

Good stuff, Scott!

LIsten, from time to time, I leaf through your first two books and still get a kick from them. Some I don't bother to look at all like the one with the cat and mullet boss. *shudder*

I remember when you tried different stuff at Scott Adams' suggestions and I was glad you stayed with this format. However, nothing wrong with trying different stuff if only to stretch yourself. Just don't be thinking that what your doing is somehow not working and you need to do something different.

Some of the longest running comics are pathetically predictable, yet they keep making money at them. Many people don't want change, they want comfortable.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAC

Family Circus never changed why should you.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhwuu

Scott, you've created a comic where the readers feel an emotional connection with the characters. Not many artists have done this as well as you. In the lives of people in the real world, most days are pretty much the same. So if the readers care about the characters the same way they care about real people, they'll forgive a little bit of recycling of situations. Scott Adams and Stephen Pastis wouldn't be able to get away with it, but you can.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbefuddled123

500 is an impressive milestone. I'd guess that better than 400 of them were really good, too. Your success ratio is much higher than most cartoonists (is that the right occupation?). I can't think of a comic that entertains as consistently as Basic Instructions. Kudos. And don't sweat revisiting topics... Most comics can be summed in a single sentence. Dilbert is awkward and his boss is stupid. Garfield is fat and lazy. In the Farside, cows wear dresses. Calvin is a disturbing kid. The sentence for Basic Instructions might be: The boss is a jerk and rick is a little bitch.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDrowlord

Scott.... your comic is uproariously funny as always!!!!!! If there is even a speck of truth to the idea that you have been considering the idea to change your format, however, I hope that the idea fades away. The construct of your comic is very unique, wonderfully creative, and amongst the funniest I have ever read. The look and feel of your comic is also very special as well, as it is easy and obvious to spot anytime because it has a clean, bold look. The idea of being upset at "redundancy" is also, I hope only being mentioned here for comedic value, because, in my opinion, even though you may have at times used a similar story idea, each time, there are definite, valuable, nuanced differences that make the "new look" equally or sometimes even more valuable than the original.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPipeTobacco

Hey Scott,

I agree with everyone who said it still works for the readers I am continually pleasantly surprised at the consistent entertainment value and laugh-out-loud humour of your comic. Having said that, I'm sure you are probably wasting up to 8 hours a day on useless activities like sleeping and eating, so why not create a second strip and keep them both running?

Just a thought.....

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSolak

But there are so many basic instructions that we need clarification on:

What is the meaning of life?

Why should I get out of bed in the morning?

How can I fix the government single-handed?

If the Enterprise were attacked by Luke Skywalker, who would end up being Luke's father, Spock or Kirk?

If birds do suddently appear every time you are near, would it be socially acceptable to hunt them Dick Cheney style?

If my boss is making my life hell, is it socially acceptable to hunt him Dick Cheney style?

If the world ends in 2012, what should I do to prepare? Is running around in circles screaming like a girl acceptable?'re right, coming up with 500 different ideas it hard. I didn't make it to ten....

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTygerblade

How about "Advanced Instructions"?

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

You sort of answered your own question(s) when you called it "reorganization of my debt". Look to the government to bail you out! : there's an endless supply of material there ... how to decide who not to vote for, how to become the president of something you can't manage, how to decide how to allocate your resources in a timely and efficient manner...&&&&& Whatever you do, do not become BI.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergobbler

I love you...I mean your comics.
I love your comics.

I don't find them repetitive. I just started reading them, and I read all of them in a week in order to catch up. All of them were equally fresh and hilarious, in my opinion anyway.

But even if you did remove the instructions you could still keep the name. It wouldn't matter much. There are plenty of strips whose names don't really make sense unless you look into it.

Like that one I can't remember because it's really random, or Peanuts, or Pajama Diaries, or Dilbert (seriously where do they come up with these things).

I feel like there should be a conclusion, but this isn't an essay so that’s not going to happen. Sorry this ended up so long.

Good day sir.
I said Good Day!

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeska


I suggest that you take a hybrid approach. Instead of doing away with the instruction format entirely, just make one small change: the first two words of your instruction. By allowing yourself to deviate from the strict "how to", you open up a wide range of possibilities. Phrases like "why you should", "never", and "if you ever" at the beginning of the instruction would allow for extensive creative license, while still maintaining the tried and true format that your readers have come to love.

Or BI is cool to......

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrett

Cripes, I about wet myself on panel three! Brilliant!

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Considering both letters are capitalized, I figured the "BI" joke was that it is also the abbreviation for "Bowel Incontinence," rather than what most people are interpreting it as. I think poop jokes are probably more consistent with the strip's style of humor.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicad

LIFE gives us recurring topics!
Besides, nobody has complained about The Adventures of Rocket Hat, which is non-instructional. Just do what comes naturally, and if it has your style, it's all good.
Actually, it might be fun to do a new piece on each topic sequentially, starting from the first one. It would show us how your perspective has changed with expirience.
Don't change the name - you'd lose brand recognition and respect for trendiness, and that usually works as well as anything that says "new and improved" on it.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDee

Hmm ... if you're reorganizing your debt, does that mean us readers have to get a haircut???

-Cougar :{)

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCougar Allen

You can pull a Jeffrey Rowland and create other comics while persisting with BI.

You can also play with the format some to try out new effects. break panel integrity, cross talk, title frame

....and animation! like Stevens. not often, as it is a pain, but they are like Easter Eggs when they happen.

or go the full strongbad route and put in actual Easter Eggs. mouse over effects

fun with flash, or stylesheet or what you like.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermoops

I'd like to thank everyone for the support that's been flowing my way since I posted this comic.

The point is well taken that almost every other comic repeated subjects. The unique corner I've painted myself into is that I loudly declare the subject at the top of every comic. It's as if Penny-Arcade had to write "Video Game Logic Makes Little Sense" at the top of every third comic.

The suggestion was made that I not adhere to a strict "How To" format. I might give that a shot. In the mean time, get ready for some transparently re-worded titles.

December 9, 2011 | Registered CommenterScott Meyer

Creative bankruptcy? I know creative bankruptcy. I won't mention names, but I have followed certain comic strips for (literally) decades, and some of them could and probably should have declared creative bankruptcy around 1972. BASIC INSTRUCTIONS isn't even NEARLY there yet. And if you ask why I continue to follow those old comics, I have a simple explanation. Shut up.

December 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

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