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August 12th, 2014

9 Rules for my Comics

Filed under: Comics Criticism,Manifestos — Tags: — William Cardini @ 9:05 am

Skew is up to page 55 on Study Group and I’ve got a pretty good buffer built up. I set Skew up so that I could crank out the pages quickly in the limited studio time that I have now that I’m a father. One page per panel, three colors that mix for a total of seven colors plus white. I always try to make things easier for myself by creating rules and layouts for a project before I began.

Skew spoiler
Skew spoiler. You can see the layers that I reuse for every page.

I decided to generalize my comics-making rules, if any of y’all are curious:

  1. Don’t proscribe. These rules only apply to my current comics project. I’m not trying to delineate absolute or universal rules for anyone else’s comics practice (including my future self).
  2. Decide on the parameters of a comic before I begin (size, colors, number of panels).
  3. Start each page with the same grid, which can be modified (for example, two panels combined into one) but can’t be supplanted (an eight-panel page when all previous are six).

Vortex template
Vortex template. I keep the horizontal and vertical panel lines in separate layers so that I can easily delete them to combine panels.

  1. Draw on the computer. I want hard-edged bitmaps. I want to control whether each pixel is black or white. Plus, drawing on a computer is much faster because it cuts out scanning. The final comic is the art object, not the original page.
  2. Draw with an expressively wavy line and turn off any line-smoothing effects. Computers can draw perfect straight lines or smooth Wacom-drawn lines for me so I should zoom in on my human imperfections.
  3. Don’t dwell on the past. The trap of drawing on a computer is the infinite malleability. Once a page is finished, keep revisions to a minimum. This rule is the hardest for me to follow but I try to remember the words of Chögyam Trungpa: “First thought, best thought.”

One-page comic template
One-page comic template (originally developed for my Smoke Signal submissions). I drew vertical panel lines that split each row into thirds and a second set of that split each row into fourths.

  1. Don’t outline my plots. The story will come to me as a draw. To outline is to kill the idea by pinning it.
  2. Show what happens as clearly as possible. Keep narration to a minimum. Use as many panels as is necessary to show the beats of an action.
  3. Challenge my subconscious assumptions when designing characters. Even when I’m designing aliens, I unthinkingly default to light skinned and male. Rethink these assumptions.

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