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12 January 2005 @ 05:50 pm
Webcomic Constraints Challenge #1: The Knight's Tour  
My childhood interest in chess has been recently rekindled (in particular, an interest in fairy chess and other chess variants—more on this in a later post), and I've been doing a bit of reading on the subject online lately. Today, in the Wikipedia article on the classic knight's tour problem, I read that it had been used as a literary constraint by some writers. The idea of constrained writing seemed interesting—I've believed for a long time that relaxing restrictions in art is not necessarily progress in and of itself (not a big fan of free verse here!)—and I wondered about how it the idea could be applied to my favorite medium, comics. Something clicked, and I realized that the comics page, in which panels are generally layed out in a grid, is the perfect surface for a knight's tour!

So, without further ado, the challenge:
Draw a single-page comic that forms a coherent narrative when read in the usual left-to-right manner and when the panels are read in the order of a knight's tour starting at the top left corner.

A knight's tour is a sequence of chess knight's moves that visits every space on the board (or, in this case, every panel in the page) exactly once. A knight's move, for those of you who aren't familiar with chess, is an L-shaped move: either one step orthogonally (vertically or horizontally, not diagonally) and two at a right angle to the first step, or two orthogonally and one at a right angle, jumping over all intermediate spaces. A tour can be cyclic, meaning it leads back to the space it started on, or acyclic, meaning it leads to a space that is not one knight's move away from the space it started on. The traditional knight's tour problem is on the full 8×8 chessboard, but you don't have to make your page that big!

As an additional stipulation, at least one panel aside from the first must contain some dialogue (the first panel may or may not contain dialogue, but at last one other panel must). This is because just about any sequence of silent panels can seem to form a coherent narrative of sorts. Also, just filling the page with identical copied-and-pasted panels, so that the different paths result in the same sequence, is cheating.

There are plenty of other possible nifty challenges related to this one, but I'll keep it relatively straightforward for now.

Any takers?

(This challenge is dedicated to Scott McCloud's infinite canvas experiment My Obsession With Chess)

EDIT: Changed the title. Yes, I do intend to make a series of challenges like this.
Current Mood: crazycrazy
Current Music: more KCSM, not gonna bother checking the playlist right now
Alun Clewealun_clewe on January 12th, 2005 03:05 am (UTC)
Sounds like an interesting idea, and I would give it a shot, if it weren't that my dissertation and such is keeping me busy enough I don't really have time to keep my comic on schedule as it is. Maybe in a few months, after I'm done with my dissertation, I'll go for it...
Madison: consideringkadharonon on January 12th, 2005 03:27 am (UTC)


There goes all planned productivity. And I'll only ever get done with half of something like this. Though it sounds like an awesome idea. But I'd never finish it.

gwalla: lon chaneygwalla on January 12th, 2005 04:40 am (UTC)
Aw, c'mon! You only need to have one knight's tour that forms a narrative along with the standard reading direction (although, bonus points for multiple workign tours!)

I'll also say that I'll allow "holes": blank panels that do not need to be visited. That makes the smallest possible layout a 3×3 square with a hole in the middle, having two possible tours (clockwise and counterclockwise).

Doooo eeeeet!
Alun Clewe: coolalun_clewe on January 12th, 2005 10:11 pm (UTC)
Hm...now that may be a different matter...if you're allowing something as small as a 3x3 grid with a hole in the middle, I may have time to come up with something after all. In fact, I've got an idea for something that would work (though only with one knight's tour forming a sensible narrative, not both)...which I can probably have done by some time next week.

A larger knight's tour comic might still be fun to do, too, but that'll have to wait till I'm done with my dissertation...
Daniel Of The Boustrophedonical Perspectivemaboo on January 14th, 2005 12:42 am (UTC)
I'll have to keep an eye on this.....