Comic Craft: Eleven Rules–Rules 1-3

I watch a lot of YouTube. The subjects I pay attention to are comic creation vlogs, fish-keeping videos, and travel vlogs. Two comic vlogs caught my eye this week: 9 Tips For When You Make A Longer Comic Or Manga Project” by Natalie Batista and “Kevin Makes Comics 1 – 13 Rules” by Kevin Cross. Batista and Cross are professional comic artists with many years of experience. Between the two of them, they came up with twenty-two different rules for successful comic creation for both print and electronic comics.

Cross has a non-rule rule. He created a rule that gives the individual cartoonist the option to make their own list. His rule is called “Season to Taste”. This rule means the comic artist is essentially free to make their own rules just like a cook seasons their food according to their own preferences. I like this rule, so I distilled Batista and Cross’s twenty-two rules down to eleven of my own by combining some rules, keeping some rules, and discarding. I have eleven rules. This week I am going to list the first three with full descriptions. Next week I will continue this list.

Here are the first three rules:

  1. Read. This is Cross’s second rule. He suggests a successful cartoonist would read a lot of fiction and nonfiction and as often as possible, read non-comics. In my creative writing classes, the professors said as a minimum, a poet or author should read ten times the amount of work in their genre as they produce and then to read a lot outside their genre.

This is a challenge for me since I am so busy, but since I am going back to school in the fall, I will definitely be reading a lot of non-comic materials. However, this also adds emphasis to what I wrote about last week when I said I am having problems finding comics I want to read. Right now, I am only reading one web-comic three times a week. If I am posting two comics a week, I need to be reading twenty or more web-comic posts a week.

  1. List Inspirations. This is Batista’s seventh rule. She recommends a cartoonist, particularly a manga artist (not that there is much difference), should make a list of what personally inspires the cartoonist.

To me this means keeping a notebook with me wherever I go, so I can keep notes when I need to. Essentially, if there is something that I can use from my life to improve or contribute to my comic I won’t forget. Another application is if I have a new idea for a project, I can have a place to flesh it out. Now, I am doing this with my bi-monthly D&D game, but I do not plan on making a D&D fantasy comic unless I can be sure it won’t be derivative.

  1. Personalize. This is Batista’s first rule. She said to make comics personal, meaning it has to be about something that carries special meaning to the artist. Once the cartoonist has this idea in mind, then the cartoonist should then refine that personal concept and brainstorm the concept out so it can be easily applied to the cartoonist’s comic project.

Last week I mentioned some of the things I do not want to write about or read in a comic. That is not to say I think what is important to other cartoonists is not worth writing about. It is just not important to me. This is where my challenge is: what is important to me? Right now I am writing about my fish hobby. I know there are a lot of people who think the fish keeping hobby is important. It also meets all the requirements I listed last week. There is another story I wrote ten years ago in short story form that I think would make a great comic. There are bits of everything I listed last week in it, but none of those four restrictions dictate the direction of the comic.

The rules listed above are great brainstorming rules. Sometimes, brainstorming is hard, but by staying aware of what is going on in contemporary literature, making lists, and keeping the project grounded in passion, the cartoonist, including myself, will be able to begin organizing a successful project.

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I Wish I Read More Comics

I started reading comics. Again. I took a year off. Keep in mind, when I read comics before, I meant daily, newspaper style political cartoons. I would really have loved being a political cartoonist, but I am just not partisan enough to be an effective political cartoonist. I’ve taken loads of those political surveys to plot where I am politically and I always come out a centrist with slight libertarian tendencies.

Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me either. The biggest problem is I gave up when the Republicans decided to nominate Trump and Clinton looked inevitable. I couldn’t believe our country would nominate the two least qualified people to be president.

Please, I don’t want to argue.

So, I’ve had a reset. I’m reading new comics by artists I’ve never read before and it’s a hard journey. I do not find pleasure in the comics I used to read daily (except Bug Martini). So I’ve had to re-examine the types of comics I want to read and also produce. As of today, I’ve published two comics and scheduled another, but I deleted one of the comics and am quite nervous about the other two comics. I have the same problems with what I’m producing and what I am trying to find to read.

This sucks, but I would love suggestions.

What am I looking for? Ummm:

  1. Non-political. I’m looking for something that isn’t political. This, of course, is impossible, but I would like if politics rarely, if ever, comes up. I do know the cartoonist’s politics will always bleed/leech through, but I would like politics not to be the subject of the comic.
  2. No Porn. I’m looking for something where sex isn’t important. This is not impossible, but I need to be clear, I’d like a comic where the gender identity, gender demographics, and sexual preferences and habits of the comic characters is unimportant to the direction of the comic.
  3. No RPGs. I’m looking for something where old D&D/Pathfinder campaigns are not rehashed in even the most interesting of ways. I play Pathfinder and started playing D&D back when D&D books came with staple binding. I love the game, but RPG comics are beat to death and generally boring.
  4. No Super People/Things. I’m looking for something where superheroes might exist, but just have no bearing on the characters involved. I hate spandex. I hate mutants. I hate powered people. The metaphor is boring, over-wrought, and cliche.
  5. Non Fiction (-ish). I’m looking for memoir, journalistic, and educational comics respecting the above requirements even if they incorporate some fiction elements.