You may think that a comic book is simple, that there is no depth to it and its just pure entertainment for kids. That’s where you’re wrong. It takes creativity, passion and tons of hard work to make a comic strip successful. Competition is fierce is comic book land with thousands of budding comic creators sending in their work to publishing houses every day. It reaches a wide audience too, with adults appreciating the simplicity of Calvin and Hobbes in the daily paper, to the more detailed graphic novels by Neil Gaiman.
Here are some comic strips that had humble beginnings and shot to fame to the characters we know and love today.
- Calvin and Hobbes:The tales of an adventurous 6 year old boy and his stuffed tiger are chronicled by Bill Watterson in the strip that became so popular that at the height of its popularity, it was featured in more than 2,400 newspapers worldwide. The idea was conceptualized when Bill, working in an advertising job he didn’t like, began devoting all his spare time to cartooning. He faced a lot of rejections from many Editors until the Universal Press Syndicate took notice of him and push started his career.
Basically, try, try, try and never give up.
- Garfield: Jam Davis created a comic strip on a gnat and was rejected when the editor said that his work was good, gags were great but nobody could identify with bugs. This is when he took the Editor’s words to heart and had a good look at what he had created. He saw that there were a lot of cartoon strips on dogs, but none on cats and considering he grew up on a farm with 25 cats, he had plenty of fuel for creativity. This is one thing to keep in mind, to understand your audience and see what they like, and to appreciate constructive criticism to grow further.
- Archie:Based on people he met whilst travelling through Mid-West America, this cartoon strip was created by John L. Goldwater. There was a boom of popularity in the superhero niche with The Shield and Captain America being released before Archie. He wanted to create a set of characters that a normal American person could relate to. It is good to draw inspiration from the people and objects around you, they will give you fuel for your imagination.
- Tintin: The adventures of the boy wonder reached foreign shores as his popularity grew leaps and bounds. Tintin was so popular that the comic strip was translated into 70 languages, had his very own magazine and reached sales of over 200 million. Created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, aka Hergé, it first appeared in a youth supplement to a Belgian newspaper. From that moment, there was no looking back. Each comic strip has its own humble beginnings.
- Superman: How can he not be included in the list when this character has topped sales globally? The combination of his superpowers, and his heritage makes him the ultimate hero, saving lives while being incognito as the unassuming Clark Kent. Superman, living a double life holds enough mystery to remain as popular as when it was introduced 82 years ago. Sometimes it good to read a comic for the entertainment value.
So many fictional characters have come and go, but the above mentioned personas have lived on to tell their tale in many forms. They have been transformed and brought to 3D life with movies and TV shows spinning off the characters. When you create something that works so well, people just want more of it.
When you think about it, comic books are a stepping stone to books. They have the creativity, forces you to use your imagination visually, and transports children and adults alike into a world of make-believe. I’m sure we’ve all read comics when we were kids – whether it was Archie, Marvel or DC comics or a simple Calvin and Hobbes strip that came in the daily papers. They had wit, humour and a lesson to be learned sub-consciously. We learned about good and evil, about right and wrong, and many still remain our favorites today.
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Here’s what you need to know to create a comic strip:
- Have a basic idea: Every story needs a plot, and a comic strip is no different. You need to have an outline for your story so there is a continuation in your comic strip that flows with each frame. A bad story line can really ruin your comic strip no matter how much hard work you put in.
- Script: Just like a play, the comic strip needs to work well frame to frame. After your initial thought process in Step No. 1, you need to build on it further so there is clarity all throughout your comic strip. This is where your entire strip will be based on, so think of it as the solid foundation from where your comic strip will be built upon.
- Paneling and layouts: Choose how you would want your readers to view your strip – what size frames, how many frames you would want in your layout, does each page have a separate layout or would it be a constant panel.
- Sketching/ Rough Doodling: Now you have to give life to your thoughts, and you can start by sketching what you have in mind. Is your character a young boy? What style of dressing? His height? His hair? This is the initial steps of visual creation. These can be little thumb nail sketches so you don’t have to go into great detail until you are satisfied with a certain look.
- Inking your sketch: Here is where your character gains in clarity. Once you ink it, the outlines of your character become clearer.
- Coloring: If you don’t want a B&W strip, you may want to add colours.Colours give vibrancy to your comic strip – you’ll have to carefully select colours that your character will be seen in. For E.g., ifBatman was in pink and purple he wouldn’t look like the menacing Dark Knight, would he?
- Lettering: This is also just as important in a comic strip. Just imagine if Marvel comics had all their heroes and action sequences’ dialogues written in Comic Sans. Utter no-no. It has to be a clear and concise font that is easy to read but fits in with the whole look of the comic strip. For E.g., this may be cliché, but in comics like Asterix and Obelix, the font would change with the nationality of the person they were conversing with.
- Cover: Last, but not least, this is the selling point of your comic strip. This is what will draw people to your comic book, so it has to stand out in terms of lettering, graphics and placement.
So, enjoy, create your own comic strip, and don’t forget to sign your work! Who knows, one day it become a collector’s item! J
The artist who creates comic books won’t have an easy life. There is struggle and hard work involved, but the rewards are equally good. You may have to slog for years, trying to break into an industry that is set in its ways, but the satisfaction and pride of seeing your work published in a newspaper or with a company can rival no other. That is your creation, come to life and shared with all, with your name on the cover. You have achieved immortality.
Let’s find out what you can do to get the attention of companies that would be looking to hire a cartoonist/ animator.
- Local Newspaper:You need to have passion and you have to work, work, and work. Once you have your own style of drawing, and you feel you are skilled enough, start building your portfolio. Create cartoon characters, sketch story lines, and start with your local newspaper. Send in your work to get a chance of having your own comic strip featured, and this will act as a stepping stone to greater things. These newspapers could be like the local Gazette, or The Daily Times (Pekin, IL).
- The State Newspaper: E.g., the Chicago Tribune. This paper has a circulation of nearly 450,000. That’s a lot of people having access to your comic strip if you are lucky enough to have a spot there. Due to the high reach of the paper, your strip would get more publicity and would get more attention from large publishing houses that would be interested in taking your comic character further.
- Small Press Publishers: There are many small press publishers that are on the lookout for fresh talent who have already created well thought of, fully developed characters that they can add to their selection of work. Think of them as the talent pool for bigger companies. Once you have a foot hold in them, it becomes a lot easier for editors of larger companies to notice you. The best thing is that they always want fresh talent, so you may have a good chance of getting a foothold in the publishing door.
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- Large Animation Companies: The list ranges from the big wigs of animation like Disney and Pixar to Marvel and DreamWorks. It’s every cartoonist and animator’s dream to be part of a company like this where the pay is good, your name comes in Credits, where fame and fortune could follow you provided you have the drive and the talent. There is a transition for certain people who move from being cartoonists to becoming animators, and if you find that you are of this inclination, this may be one path for you.
- Comic Book Publishers: This is the pinnacle of the comic book world. Cartoonists’ dream of being associated with companies like Marvel, DC comics, Dark Horse Comics to name a few. Their comics are read by a huge chunk of the world’s population. Very few children have not heard of the legendary exploits of Superman, Batman etc. But the editor’s in these prestigious publishing houses do not have time to sift through the thousands of portfolios that are sent to them daily.
Don’t lose heart, with perseverance you can become part of the Comic Greats – who knows, maybe shake Stan Lee’s hand, and learn a few pointers from him. Anything is possible today. All you have to do is to never give up. Do everything Step by Step and soon you’ll find your name in print. Then I’ll be looking for your autograph to sell for a huge amount on EBay. J