Learning to Strip

I’ve always loved comic strips. Furry Widdle Bunny started as a multi-row web comic, but there’s something special about the traditional 3-panel structure. You could write books on the skills displayed by great cartoonists like Charles Schultz and Bill Watterson in telling stories in 1 to 3 panels. They provided enough context in each strip that you could understand what was happening without even knowing the characters or settings (as hard as it may be to imagine not being familiar with Peanuts or Calvin and Hobbes!).

Think of how much more skill is required to do single-panel strips! Whether or not you like Dennis the Menace or The Family Circus, Hank Ketcham and Bil Keane are incredibly talented story-tellers.

I’ve attempted a 3-panel strip before, and I really enjoyed learning how to fit dark, satirical points into the structure. My biggest problem was that there was no continuity. Every strip was a unique statement, requiring re-invention every time I wrote one. That’s proved to be more difficult than I could keep up with, and after my second months-long hiatus I gave it up.

It shouldn’t surprise anybody by now that decided to try my hand at a comic strip again.

This time around I have central characters, a situation, and even a few long plot-arcs. That helps the writing considerably, as I always have a direction to head in if I’m stuck for an idea. In fact, I want to write an arc’s worth at a time, then get the strips completely drawn, and only start releasing them after that. It makes the strip much less adaptable or responsive, but it’s fairer to readers if any pauses happen only after major stopping points.

I’ve stated elsewhere that I only write scripts if I’ve talked to the artist, and as I might wind up drawing the comic that’s still true. I’m keeping another artist in mind, so if he agrees to draw it I’ll have him review the planned story and existing strips and hash out any changes.

It’s likely going to be some time before this strip materializes, but I’ve been happily scripting it as a break from other writings in progress. It’s made me all tingly, so I just had to share my renewed interest in stripping!

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