Making a Comic, Part 6: The Finished Product!

Remember this whole thing? Probably not, but you can refresh your memory at the bottom of the post. Either way, I just found the scans of my original pages, so I figured I'd provide a little closure, four years after the fact. If you got a printed copy, cherish itβ€”I don't even have one anymore!

If you're at all interested in learning how to make comics and you're in the New York City area, check out the Cartooning Basics class at the School of Visual Arts. Tom Motley is a great teacher. I went into this with zero drawing ability and came out with three drawing ability. Maybe four. Registration is actually open right now for the upcoming semester, which starts on September 20. 

I also dug up the thumbnails I made for the second chapter, so look for that sometime in 2019.

Previously:

Making a Comic, Part 1
Making a Comic, Part 2
Making a Comic, Part 3
Making a Comic, Part 4
Making a Comic, Part 5

Making a Comic, Part 5

The finished product! Last week was our final class, and everybody brought in their printed sheets to fold, trim, staple, and trade. There are a bunch of little things I'd change, of course, and I'd like to print some new copies with a little better contrast, but overall I'm pretty proud of my little minicomic. In ten years, I've gotten pretty accustomed to seeing 300- and 400-page magazines that I've worked on, but this little guy was all me, and it's a pretty cool feeling just to hold a copy.

I plan to scan in the pages and post the whole thing here, webcomic-style, but if anybody wants a printed copy, I've got plenty. And if you're in New York and are interested in taking this class, I really can't recommend it enough. It's Cartooning Basics at the School of Visual Arts, and the instructor is Tom Motley, a really talented cartoonist and teacher. The class is great for people of all skill levels, so don't feel like you need to know too much going in. If you're interested in making comics on any level, it's the perfect place to start.

Making a Comic, Part 4

Hi there! Now that I'm not freaking out about the election anymore, I hope to return to my regular, sporadic posting schedule. Last time around, I was trying to figure out the main characters for my minicomic. While we were asked to start coming up with story ideas and work on some rough outlines, we spent some time in class talking about expressiveness and some of the ways a cartoonist can convey emotion. For homework, we had to complete the following worksheet:

This was the first time we actually had to ink an assignment, and putting that pen to the paper was pretty stressful. You can sketch and erase with pencils all day, but once the ink comes out, shit gets permanent. Anyway, I was pretty happy with most of these. I will admit to stealing those weepy manga eyes from a Scott Pilgrim page - I knew what I wanted to do but just couldn't make it look right, so I flipped through for a reference and pretty much copied those. I would do the background differently for Angry, but I like the idea that these are birds who, if pushed to far, will produce teeth specifically to gnash them.

Next we talked about basic perspective and establishing shots--wide shots that are used to give readers a sense of the environment where the story or scene is taking place. Logically enough, our next assignment was to draw and ink a full-page establishing shot.

I never did get around to completely finishing this one, but I'm pretty happy with a lot of the things here. The idea is that the guy on the bottom of the page has to leave his fancy neighborhood and stay temporarily with his friend (who, in later drafts, would become his cousin) in a somewhat crappier part of town. This was originally going to take up the two middle pages of my comic, but I just couldn't afford to lose that many panels, so I'm redrawing it as a half-page panel instead.

Bonus sketch! One of my still-nameless characters, getting his Tim Gunn on.

Up Next: Sequences and storytelling

Previously:

Making a Comic, Part 1
Making a Comic, Part 2
Making a Comic, Part 3

Making a Comic, Part 3

Now that I had a couple characters to build on, things seemed to be getting a little easier. I still had no idea what kind of personalities these guys would have, so I decided to be the kind of artist who lets his creations speak for themselves. In other words, I kept drawing with no fixed goal in mind, hoping something would happen.

My favorite thing about drawing so far is that, after a few minutes, you sometimes go on auto-pilot. Alan Watts would call this your Floodlight Consciousness taking over - the mental state you're in when you're, say, driving a car for miles and miles without consciously doing anything. Sporty types would call this The Zone; it's where you want to be when you need to sink a 30-foot putt. I remember reading an interview with Lynda Barry, an amazing artist and human being, who says she draws monkeys every day as a kind of meditation. I kind of get that now.

Point is, when I finish a page of sketches and start looking it over, I'm usually kind of surprised by what I've drawn because I don't remember doing half of the stuff, particularly the good stuff. I really like the look of the long-necked little dude in the upper-right part of the page, but I don't remember what made me draw him that way. I've been thinking about a part for him in the comic, but I'm having a hell of a time drawing him again correctly. Now that I've drawn him, I need to teach myself how to do it again, and that's going to take some time.

Our homework assignment for the second week of class was to draw our characters in action - moving, gesturing, and generally doing things other than standing around.

Apparently, these guys spend their time jamming, fighting, and resting up for future jamming and fighting. Not a bad way to roll, I s'pose.

Here's one more, a full-page drawing we did in class. We had to make a dozen "string drawings" (essentially, wavy stick figures) to illustrate the way a body's parts are positioned while performing certain actions. Then we had to pick our favorite and make a full-page drawing of one of our characters in that pose. I chose one from the "comic distortion" set:

Up Next: They might have names!

Previously:

Making a Comic, Part 1
Making a Comic, Part 2

Making a Comic, Part 2

After working through a couple pages of bad sketches, I found two characters that I kind of liked, so I started trying to develop them a little more. At first, this just involved drawing different variations of their heads and faces:

Once I had a halfway-decent feel for how I wanted their heads to look, I tried some full-body drawings and some different facial angles.

At this point, I made a couple decisions. First, I'd stick to the three-quarter view for these guys, keeping things fairly two-dimensional. (I ran that by my instructor, who reassured me that some cartoon characters simply only "exist" in that perspective.) Second, I really liked the basic round body and tiny stick legs in the third drawing down on the right, so I decided against doing human-shaped characters with birdlike heads. These guys - whoever they were - would have wings and skinny little legs. Once I figured that stuff out, my drawings started to come together pretty quickly, even showing some much-needed personality:

When I finished that page in my sketchbook, for the first time, I felt like I might not be completely out of my depth here. Maybe it's a little weird for a 32-year-old man to get excited about a picture of a bird scratching its ass, but as 32-year-old men go, I'm a little weird, so it fits.

Up Next: Action!