Category Archives: On Making Comics

Building out the Warren

This time around, I want to create a greater sense of place in “Furry Widdle Bunny”. While the 1st two months of strips (already queue!) are the familiar sparse environments, I’m building out 3D models of the more frequent locations that the strip will occur in.

First up, for December and January strips, is the common living space in Simon’s co-op house. I’ve got a large piece of that work done and just need to put in things like couches and tables and such.

LivingRoom

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Expanding the Borders

Some times three panels just aren’t enough. Then you have to figure out where to fit an extra one. Here’s what I wound up with for the layout of a Furry Widdle Bunny strip I worked on this afternoon.

4 Panel Layout

Crazy, right? Even with this I’ll wind up with art breaking through one of the panels…

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Pencilling the FWB Strip

With six weeks remaining before the debut of the weekly Furry Widdle Bunny strip, I’ve started pencilling the first storyline. Here’s an in-progress peek at the very first panel, awaiting finishing and colors!

1st Panel of the FWB Weekly Strip (Pencil)

The lettering is completed, barring any minor nudging, and I’m pretty happy with how the custom font is working out.

I’ve settled on really thick borders, not rigidly squared. It has a nice bold feel to it that I like. FWB started without any panel borders at all, which I still think worked for the opinion page look it was shooting for. Funny page strips thrive on borders, though, so I’m over-compensating by giving more border than required.

Onward to “inking”!

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This Is Only a Furry Widdle Test

With the deadline for prep work looming, it was time to bite the bullet and actually test out the theory that I could produce a comic digitally. This meant learning the tools at least well enough to make myself look silly. This, I feel, has been accomplished. Behold the test strip, written in seconds and taking hours to produce. At least I have an idea of what I need to do for the real strips… that I need to start drawing by this weekend, if I want to keep my schedule!

FWB Test

Probably my biggest concerns are getting the panel and word balloon borders in shape. The rest of it is relatively under control. Anyway, I’m still feeling excited about this. Now back to work!

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Modeling Cartoon Anatomy

From the time of the third Furry Widdle Bunny strip I drew, I fretted over how to handle characters in side view. The full circle head works for the front view, but looks bizarre from the side — and it honestly doesn’t make any sense. A spherical head on a cylindrical body would have a squashed bottom, like a Fisher Price toy. But I wanted that full circle from the front view!

For the new strip, I wanted to solve this problem. I downloaded a 3D modeling app and worked it out.

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It’s a bit rough, but I think it corrects the biggest problems. And, yes, that’s a butt bump in back.

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Learning to Draw Again

I plan to dive back into producing webcomics later this year, and as part of my preparations I’m learning how to draw on the computer with a spanking new tablet and pen. Wendi advised me to begin by drawing over text. Letters are comprised of the basic shapes that underline any drawing, so it’s a good way to make the adjustment to working digitally.

So I fired up my drawing app and wrote a long sentence in a word balloon.

Text-Based Drawing Goal

Then I took my first stab at digital art.

1st Attempt to Trace with Tablet Pen

I’m going to need just a little more practice.

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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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Respecting Your Co-Creators

I just read a (justifiably) irate blog entry from an artist who frequently gets approached to fulfill people’s comic-making dreams. A lot of people feel that their idea is so fantastic that artists will drop everything to pursue it with them, and that’s neither fair or realistic.

I have worked with a handful of artists, and I am extremely grateful for the hard work they put into bringing our stories to life. I say “our stories” because comics are a collaborative medium. Everyone who works on a comic (writers, artists, editors, colorists, letterers, etc) contributes to the final book. One person or another may drive the work or lead the effort at times, but the end result is the product of the dedication and effort of everybody.

I’m stunned by writers (and artists, let’s be fair) who approach other creators as drones useful for implementing their personal vision. If your story is so intimate that you can’t let anyone else influence its telling, then learn to do it all yourself.

I enjoy working with others. Artists inspire me to create different works, and they push me to improve my writing. I am sorry that I’ve only now gotten to a place financially where I can offer money for their time, and I’m so truly grateful that they’ve been so enthusiastic about our work that they did it for equal rights and issues to sell. For that I have to credit my respectful approach more than the quality of my ideas.

I only approached creators with whom I already had on- and off-line relationships. Making my own mini-comics, hanging on forums, selling at conventions: I got to meet many wonderful and talented people. We talked. We read each other’s work. We drank a lot of beer. One day I’d get an idea of something I’d love to see someone draw, and I’d toss the idea to that artist. We’d email or talk on the phone, and feel our way to a story. I’d turn it into an outline, we’d work on it, and on an informal agreement I’d start writing. The rest is details.

Sometimes there wasn’t much interest, and that’s totally fair. These are friends and colleagues who are working on projects of their own. If they don’t sound excited, I’m not going to press them — even now that I can pay — because I respect their time, and I can’t wait to see what they are working on!

Anyway, to anyone still reading this I say: your idea may be fantastic, but it won’t make a good comic if you don’t respect the people who can help you bring it to life.

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