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So You Want to Be a Neopian Cartoonist, eh?


by caloriemuncher

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Each week, the Neopian Times editors read and judge tons of comics. All the tutorials say, "Be original, practice, and make your comic really, really funny and you'll have a chance of getting into the Times!" But let's face it: the editors are a hard bunch to impress. You have to draw better than other Neopians, have a superbly original and funny punch line or joke, and then you just have to cross your fingers and hope it will appear next issue.

Since Neopian cartooning has been a hobby of mine for many months, I decided to write about some of the "secrets" I use and constantly refer to. I'll bet you a Lime Jelly that as soon as you're finished reading this, you'll be that much closer to being the next Neopian Times cartoonist.

TYPES OF COMICS

There are two types of comics: gags and strips. While strips can have a punch line as a result of other characters speaking or doing something, gags can be easier, as you can usually just draw a scene and think of a funny caption. It really doesn't matter which one you choose, but if only the punch line is necessary, then there's no need to draw three other panels as well. (Plus, gags are a lot easier, hehe.)

IF YOU'RE DRAWING A COMIC ON THE COMPUTER

For those of you with graphic and drawing skills, then I'd suggest using a graphics program to create your comics. For this, it doesn't matter at all which program you use. I've seen great comics done with Paint (but I highly recommend getting some good practice in before making the comic). Alternatively, if you have a more advanced program, such as Adobe Photoshop or Jasc Paint Shop Pro, then you can use those. It all depends on personal taste.

Tip #1: Don't overdo the special effects. One or two computer-generated effects or filters will spice up your comic, but seriously, don't put more than a few, as the more you include, the harder it is to read. Remember, you don't want to leave readers and the editors blinded. :)

Tip #2: You can edit the looks of the character(s) you've used, but don't make it so that, say, a Gelert looks like a penguin. Really put some effort into making the characters look good... and... like themselves, unless you want the editors scratching their heads and saying, "HUH? What on earth is this?"

Now, there's a cool technique I use that I like to call "digitised sketches." A digitised sketch is a rough draft you've drawn with pencil and paper that you've scanned in and traced with a drawing tool in a graphics program. If you draw well on paper, but not on the computer, then I'd highly advise this technique. You'll notice a lot of comics are drawn with airbrush effects - either people use this technique, or they're that good at drawing on the computer. Or they have a graphic stylus tablet, which you can also use if you don't have a scanner.

Of course, who says that you have to draw it on the computer? A strip I particularly enjoy is drawn by hand, then coloured on the computer. This (and other variations) is a perfectly fine way of doing it. Try to come up with an original style, and it'll make your comic that much better.

Or, on the other hand, you could just draw it on paper, scan it in, resize it down, and submit that. Keep in mind, though, that while these may be side-splitting hilarious, they're also somewhat hard to see. That is, if you've drawn it on notebook paper, or if the lines aren't bold enough.

WHETHER YOU'RE HAND-DRAWING YOUR COMIC OR USING A COMPUTER, REMEMBER THESE TIPS...

There's definitely a lot more to cartooning than just drawing well and having a good sense of humour. Things like speech bubble placement and lettering are also incredibly important, and not to mention other necessities like...

SHOWING MOVEMENT

Dashing away from the scene: You've seen it before, the ol' "dash cloud" when a character dashes away. Simply draw a cloud where the character was standing, and straight lines from the cloud to the direction the character ran.

An object falling or rising quickly: If a character slaps his or her hand down on a table or other surface, draw about three straight lines from where the hand was to the hand itself, or three curved lines if the hand curved from somewhere, like from the top of the head to the stomach. If an object fell or rose from off the panel, draw lines coming from the panel's edge to the object.

SPEECH BUBBLE PLACEMENT

When you read a comic, naturally your eyes will go from the speech bubble on the top left to the one directly next to it, or beneath it. Remember this when creating comics. The first speaker's speech bubble ALWAYS is either on the very top or on the left, or the top left. Use the chart below to help diagram speech bubbles.

Two speakers

First speaker: Top left --> Second speaker: Top right

First speaker: Top left --> Second speaker: Bottom left, or around the middle left

Three speakers

First speaker: Top left --> Second speaker: Top right --> Third speaker: Beneath the two

First speaker: Full left --> Second speaker: Top right --> Third speaker: Middle right or beneath #2

PANEL PLACEMENT

Usually a comic will have either three or four panels in a row, one large panel, or a lot of panels with two per row. If your comic has a lot of panels, don't just randomly place them all around the canvas or page. Put them in logical order. It's like a story: you wouldn't put the introduction in the middle, nor would you put the conclusion at the beginning. Paragraphs (or, in this case, panels) should follow a logical path. If, however, your comic has irregularly placed panels, you can draw arrows to show which panel is read first, then second, then third, etc.

HUMOUR

What's the point of a comic? To make people laugh, right? So take the time to think up a really creative, funny joke. Don't pull out the nearest joke book and make a joke based on a joke-book punch line, and DEFINITELY don't copy another comic, no matter what!! You might try making a comic based on your life, or maybe funny situations of which you've seen or heard. It doesn't matter, just so long as the joke is good. After all, the joke is what the judges read, so make it a good one.

THE CONCLUSION

To sum it all up, just keep the points below in mind as you draw.

* BE ORIGINAL. Seriously. If you copy someone else's idea, what will the editors think of it? They certainly won't think it's publishable material.

* TAKE THE TIME TO COME UP WITH AN ORIGINAL IDEA. Neopets doesn't go away, so it really won't kill you to sit around for a few days to come up with an idea.

* USE CHARACTERS AND NEOPETS YOU CAN DRAW WELL. It'll make the comic much easier to draw, plus the editors will see your amazing drawing and consider it.

* PLACE PANELS AND DIALOG BOXES IN A CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. That way it'll be that much easier to read, and it will also appear more organised.

So now that you've been told this, go ahead and grab a pencil and paper... and soon you'll have the next huge comic! Happy cartooning!

 
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