Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Cartoonist for a Day

Cartoonist. I know what the word brings to mind, but believe me a lot more goes into being a cartoonist than dating supermodels and driving Bentleys. The Rolexes, the botox injections, the trips to Monte Carlo--behind all the bling is a lot of hard work. I know because as of April 1st 2008, I am a published cartoonist. My friend, Josh, creator of Welcome to Falling Rock National Park, invited me to be his annual April 1st guest cartoonist. I jumped at the chance, and you can see the final results right here.

So how did it go? Well, after sketching out a rough draft, I discovered that you can't just use any old pen and paper lying around the house for the final project. So I made a trip to Ruple's art supply store in downtown Akron (where Chuck Ayers of Funky Winkerbean buys his supplies, incidentally) and procured the proper equipment. That done, I set about the task. You can't imagine the time I had just creating the panels. After many false starts, I was ready to fill the two boxes with my take on Falling Rock.

I knew I wanted to use my two favorite characters--Pam the javelina and Carver the owl. Carver has always seemed like a natural born republican to me, so the Richard Nixon theme was obvious. Being a fan of disembodied heads under glass, the joke just sort of grew from there.

Drawing the characters was, surprisingly enough, the easiest part of the process. This being an April Fool's gag, I was free of the impossible task of creating replicas. After taking a thorough glance at Pam and Carver on Josh's website, I drew from memory. Nixon proved more of a challenge. How to create a cartoon image of someone everybody knows? Nixon's is easily one of the more caricatured faces in American history, but I am not a cartoonist. What I came up with is, in my opinion, a passing resemblance.

Then came the scenery. Falling Rock takes place in a mythical national park in the American southwest. I was too nervous about stuffing the strip with bad desert art, so I settled for a lone cactus to do the job, along with a jagged line that I hoped would resemble a kind of rugged terrain. What really struck me during this process is how cool Josh's backgrounds look, and how much detail he adds without it ever looking cluttered.

After completing the first panel, I encountered the challenge of making the characters and, especially the static landscape, look similar from one panel to the next. Obviously with the characters, there is room for movement, but with Nixon and his machinery I was more restricted. Overall, I think I did a fair job recreating the scene in the second panel.

All of these difficulties pale, however, to the task of lettering. Having naturally sloppy handwriting, I tried my damndest to make the words neat and readable. Screwing up the lettering, after all, meant starting over. While the words are certainly readable, I hate how messy and poorly spaced they are, and how they blend into the background in some places. The spot that really bothers me is where Nixon speaks in the second panel. I don't think the part where he is meant to be whispering is very clear at all.

All-in-all I'd have to say that I'm pleased with my first attempt at a comic strip, and I thank Josh for the opportunity. I don't know how funny it is, but I did have a great time. I've always loved Falling Rock (the official comic of McBone) but I think I have a better understanding of how awesome an artist Josh is, and how much effort goes into creating five great cartoons every week. Hell, making one just about wore me out.

I hope all of you out there will check it out, and, more importantly, click on to Welcome to Falling Rock National Park every day. You will not be disappointed. I, and McBone, guarantee it.


PS: Hey, syndicators! Syndicate Falling Rock now!

PPS: Being published is really cool.

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