The Skinny on Cartoons and Comics

In This Chapter

^ Exploring the various cartooning genres ^ Understanding some drawing basics ^ Considering the future of cartooning c o you want to be a cartoonist? Or maybe you already consider yourself a cartoonist — and a darn good one — but you don't have the slightest idea how to market your work. Or perhaps you just enjoy drawing and you'd like to become better at it.

If you want to draw cartoons, you're not alone. Right about now, thousands of budding cartoonists are doodling on any scrap of paper they can find, dreaming of breaking into the cartooning business someday. And who's to say you won't be the next Charles Schulz or create the next Garfield? One thing's for certain: If you're a cartoonist with something to say and you get your point across well, you can — thanks to the Internet — be published anytime and anywhere, even if it's just on your own Web site or blog.

Many people draw well, but they aren't sure how to adapt their drawings for the cartoon or comics market. Others have new ideas, but they draw somewhat crudely and need help pulling a cartoon together. Whether you're brand new to cartooning and want to experiment with different characters and settings to create your first strip, or you've been drawing for quite a while and want some helpful advice to improve your characters, you're probably looking for someone to give you a few pointers. You've come to the right place.

This chapter serves as your jumping-off point into the world of cartooning. Here I give you an overview of cartooning and the different cartooning genres that I cover in this book, I show you how to master the drawing basics, and I discuss how cartoons are marketed and how those markets are evolving. If you've always wanted to be a cartoonist, this chapter gives you the skinny.

Understanding the Different Genres

To be a cartoonist, you need a firm grasp of the different types of cartoons and comics in today's market. I discuss several in this book. Some categories that were once popular now face challenges with the ever-changing market, especially traditional comic strips and editorial cartoons that are married to newsprint.

However, other forms of cartooning that were once off the beaten track have exploded in popularity; they include webcomics, editorial cartoons on the Internet, graphic novels, and comic books. The traditional markets are changing, and the new markets provide an exciting opportunity for cartoonists to get in on the ground floor of cartooning's future.

If you love to draw cartoons and are thinking about trying to become a professional cartoonist, study the categories in the sections that follow and the details about each. Do you have to stick to just one genre? No, but many cartoonists do, which helps their work become identifiable. Check out Chapter 2 for more on different genres and how to work within them. No matter what type of cartooning you may be interested in, it all begins with the basics of drawing and character development. Great ideas and great character development are what make animation in all its forms continue to be popular (refer to Chapter 4 for drawing basics).

Following familiar characters: Comic strips

When you think of cartooning, comic strips may be the first thing that pops into your mind. Comic strips are basically a satirical look into the lives of the characters that inhabit them. Comic strips often reflect the subtle truths about our own lives in their observations and insights into the world around us. Comic strips have the longest continuing run of popularity among cartooning genres, largely because people like to follow their favorite characters. This genre historically has been a staple and popular feature in newspapers. As newspapers face market challenges and try to adapt and evolve, popular Web-based comic strips have popped up all over the Internet.

Modern comic strips were first created at the turn of the 20th century as a way to attract readers to newspapers. Comic strips appeared on the scene long before other forms of entertainment media — like radio, movies, and TV — became popular.

Expressing a viewpoint: Editorial cartoons

Editorial cartoons are a popular and sometimes very controversial form of cartooning. Editorial cartoons are simply cartoons written to express a political or social viewpoint. They also first appeared on the scene about the same time as the modern newspaper gained widespread popularity.

Early newspaper publishers used editorial cartoons the same way they used comic strips — to attract readers. Editorial cartoonists in the early part of the 20th century were the media celebrities of their day. Their cartoons preceded TV by several decades and were a source of information and entertainment for readers. Editorial cartoons of that era were very influential, even influencing political elections and reforms. From Thomas Nast and his exposure of corruption in the underbelly world of New York politics to the Washington Post's Herbert Block (better known as Herblock) landing on Nixon's enemies' list during the Watergate scandal — and up to the scathing criticisms of the war in Iraq — editorial cartoons have played and continue to play an important role in the annals of political discourse.

Editorial cartoons have evolved over the last century and remain very popular today. However, market realities are challenging for new editorial cartoonists. The profession has traditionally been tied to print journalism, and in the past few years, newspapers have had massive layoffs and cutbacks. But like comic strips, editorial cartoons are thriving on the Internet, and unlike their print counterparts, the Web versions are done in full color, and some are even animated. Check out Chapter 11 for more info on editorial cartoons.

Delivering the punch line: Gag cartoons

Gag cartoons are another popular category. Gag cartoons may look similar to comic strips, but in fact they're quite different. Unlike comic strips, most gag strips don't have a regular set of characters or story lines, and they're usually single-paneled. Each new cartoon is a brand new gag or visual punch line delivered in a single frame or box.

Despite not having regular characters, gag cartoons do have advantages over comic strips. One main advantage is that they're marketable to publications and Web sites that want a lighthearted, joke-of-the-day feature that a strip with characters may not fulfill. Gag cartoons tend to be more generic and better suited for these markets. One of the most well-known gag cartoons, The Far Side, set the bar high for the genre, and the next-generation successor to Far Side creator Gary Larson has yet to surface, so get busy, before someone else beats you to it!

The comic strip's close cousin: Comic books

As the other cartooning genres face the challenges of a shrinking and evolving newsprint industry, one cartooning genre closely related to comic strips is becoming so big, so fast that it dominates not only the cartoonist business but the whole entertainment industry as well. Comic books have exploded in popularity in the last decade, and you have to look no further than the top movies in the last few years as proof.

The following is a list of movies based on comic books or graphic novels, along with each film's worldwide box office sales numbers as of 2009:

You can see by the numbers that these movies grossed more than $8 billion. That kind of financial

The first four Batman movies Batman Begins/The Dark Knight Three Spider-Man movies Iron Man

Hulk and The Incredible Hulk

Sin City

The first three X-Men movies success guarantees that Hollywood will make many more movies based on comic books in the future.

The comic book/graphic novel industry continues to thrive. If you have the skills necessary to enter this popular market, go for it — it's a worthwhile and potentially lucrative market to consider. Although comic books merit an entire book of their own, I focus this book more on cartooning and comic strips. But even if you're more interested in creating comic books, you can still use many of the core pieces of advice that I offer about character development, humor, background, lettering, and so on.

$1.3 billion $1.5 billion $2.5 billion $582 million $509 million $159 million $456 million $1.2 billion

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Freehand Sketching An Introduction

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