DFC Submission Guidelines v2 (Apr 1999)

Here are some guidelines for getting a caption accepted in the DFC, in no particular order. (Note: One of the DFC editors, Mark Rosenfelder, has his own list of guidelines which is pretty sporty, and probably a better read than this one.)

Also, it should be understood that, in many places where I use the first person in the text below, it's actually meant to refer to myself and my editors.

The current editing process (and implications)

Originally, my editors could close out a cartoon and send it right to the archive. Since the archived versions are most important to me, I'd give them a short list of captions I didn't want accepted: topical references, superglue captions, and whatever current joke I'd decide was being beat into the ground that week.

However, it then occurred to me that if the archive was most important to me, I should be more personally concerned about it. So it's a two-stage process now: my editors close out cartoons, which sends them to a holding area; then I come through and make a final editing pass, and send them off to the archive.

Thus, my editors' jobs are made easier, as I now only give them the following directive:

Keep whatever you think is funny.

For you regulars, this includes topical references, SpinnWebe references, editor-related jokes, and everything I've always said will be shot on sight. Anything's fair game, and if an editor thinks it's funny, he/she can take it, and you can see it posted while the cartoon is active.

However, you may have to be worried about me anyway, because I decide what goes in the final archive. If that's important to you, I'm using the following directive for myself:

Keep whatever I think is funny, and consider whether it'd be funny in context of the archive's "random caption" feature.

Right now, I think the random caption feature is the funniest way of viewing the archive, so I'm most concerned about that. The implication there is that topical references will have a tough time getting past me, because I'm thinking in terms of someone hitting that caption two years from now and not getting it because it has to do with Yakoff Smirnoff or Intellivision or something. It also means, if you're sending a caption for #450 that has to do with something that happened in #447, that's going to be harder, as well. (But that should always have been true, because you can't expect that someone would go sequentially through the archive and understand what you're talking about.)

Know the characters.

  1. Daddy, Bil. (One "L".)
  2. Mommy, Thel. Maybe "Thelma", but I don't think I've ever seen it.
  3. Billy. This is probably a bad picture to use as an example, since Billy has blond hair. Remember he's the one with the pipe in the back of his head.
  4. Dolly.
  5. Jeffy.
  6. PJ.
  7. Sam.
  8. Kittycat.
  9. Barfy.

Not pictured are the grandparents. One grandfather is dead, and shows up with surprising frequency for someone who's not alive; his widow has broccoli-like hair.

Look at the cartoon.

Seems like a dopey thing to say, but sometimes one gets the impression that people type in some of these captions while reading Blondie. Pay attention to expressions, and to who's talking.

In this one, for example, I received the following caption:

Why does Sam always hump Kittycat over MY ice cream, god dammit!

Okay, it's kind of amusing, but generally not something one would say while smiling. If you really wanted to do this direction (and I wouldn't suggest it anyway), you could try something like:

Gee, Mom, thanks for letting Sam hump Kittycat, right over my cereal. It's the BEST. YUM. YUM. YUM.

That's maybe a little better, since it might excuse the smile, but you'd still expect a more sarcastic expression. But that'd have a better chance of going through.

Some are trickier, and I'm thinking about not using them altogether, because most people generally can't handle the complexity. (Ah, but some of you come up with some really good ones, so who knows.)

This one, for example, has two people speaking. Some captions, like the "slides" or "memoirs" ones, step outside the cartoon and don't really "speak" at all. But if you have one talking, you should have both. I suggest putting text in quotes, a statement for each person. The cartoon's generally set up to take that format anyway, so your caption should be made obvious enough by the layout.

Try to avoid the obvious.

Some cartoons just really scream something or another, but resist the temptation. This one, for example, got a whole spew of milk carton captions, which carries my dislike of milk carton captions to this day. I've only scanned one or two with milk cartons since then, and every time, around 70% were about someone's picture on the carton.

So unless you're one of the first people to enter a caption for a cartoon, don't go for the easy shot. Or even if you are, you should probably avoid it anyway, since other people will think of it, and someone might do it better later on.

Avoid contrived captions.

Here's one of my pet peeves: one-sided phone conversations on sitcoms. I forget which, but there was some kid's show that was especially bad for this, one episode. Probably Blossom.

"Hello?" (pause)
"Well yes, my refrigerator is running." (pause)
"What do you mean, I'd better catch it?"
(maniacal laugh track noise ensues)

This is not how anyone would ever talk in normal conversation. It only draws attention to the fact that the actor is speaking to the audience, not the person on the phone.

Here's one I received for this cartoon:

Mom, why did you put some of this in out dinner a wile ago. Oh and, what does R, A, T, P, O, I, S, O, N spell?

It just takes too long to get there. Bil's comics are usually one-shot things and hit you quickly. As far as I'm concerned, this one's roughly equivalent to, "Hey Dad, why do you want me to open this bottle of queen bee pheremones, and why are you standing there with a beekeeper's outfit and a buzzing box?" Perhaps a better version of the one above would be, "Uh, mom, this bottle is clearly labeled 'rat poison', not 'parmesian cheese'. I think you made a horrible, dreadful--uh, what's so funny?" That's only a bit better, because it still pushes it a little.

Concepts to ignore/avoid

This section's just here for my regulars, who knew it was here...basically, I want to explain why I've taken this stuff out.

There used to be a medium-sized list of things that I'd want you to avoid here, but I've removed it. Two reasons: many of them no longer apply (due to the new editing process, as I've described above), and people tend to ignore them anyway. I'm also phasing out the whole difficult/impossible zone concept for myself, because telling you I'm not going to accept something doesn't seem to slow most of you down.

That's for myself, though. Since my editors can add their own comments to each cartoon, how they handle their submissions is largely up to them.

The Cat's Ass
[an error occurred while processing this directive]