For me, the characters actually begin to form after I’ve drawn up a few cartoons, but I think it’s equally valid to start by establishing characters first. However, I find it’s only after a while that I begin to work out the characters.

In this example, I’ll use my ‘The DIYers’ series as my reference.

I knew the humour had to be related to home improvement so I formulated a few gags and reflected on them (I’ll have a section on my methods to coming up with jokes later).

Most of the humour revolved around something going wrong: for example, the character coating an outdoor garden table with golden syrup instead of varnish, or a knocking down a supporting wall by accident.

From there I determined that my lead character would need to be a little bit hapless, yet committed and enthusiastic. I also decided that it should be a ‘he’, as we can all recognise those characteristics in our fathers, grandfathers, etc. I decided to call him Bernard, and to save time I decided his surname could be Bernard too. Bernard Bernard * was born.

What I thought would make his exploits even funnier was to have an unimpressed observer – someone who had to persevere through the relentless sanding, unfinished projects and lop-sided shelves. Bernard should have a wife. Excellent. To emphasise the contrast between them I made her a real sourpuss. Hello long-suffering Margaret Bernard.

Bernard and Margaret’s son was created in order for certain gags to work. He arrived a little later as I realised I need a fellow conspirer for the DIY activities. For example, I had the idea of Bernard Bernard boasting about his DIY planning skills – while simultaneously painting himself into a corner. It clearly needed someone with him that would quietly observe him without pointing out the obvious flaws in his actions (I couldn’t imagine Margaret allowing her husband to make those mistakes - she would have pointed them out). I also liked the idea of Bernard grooming the next generation of terrible DIYers. Mostly through laziness I opted to call the lad Bernard too **.

Finally I created Fluffy. Originally the cat/dog/lamb/other animal (no-one can tell what Fluffy is) was invented for a one off joke: I drew a gag in which Margaret interupts Bernard’s wallpapering efforts to ask, “where’s Fluffy?”. A faint bulge in the wallpaper gives away the answer. At first I thought Bernard ‘wallpapering’ Fluffy was an accident, but gradually I changed my mind and gave it a degree of deliberateness. I liked the concept of Bernard having an archnemesis; a rival that challenges every ounce of his intellect, initiative and deviousness (fairly easy). This allowed me to continue the theme in other gags, such as the one below:

I think there could be room for future characters to appear, but I’ll conjure them up as and when I need them. I think it’s better that way as it reduces the liklihood of creating characters that aren’t relevant.

Hope you found this interesting.

Millsy

* Through the power of copy & paste I can now write the name twice as fast as if he was called Bernard McGregor.

** Copy & paste rules!!

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