My first attempts at producing cartoons were single panel ‘gags’, which while I enjoyed, I found they lacked the character and story opportunities available in a ’strip’. Fairly quickly I moved on to drawing a cartoon strip based on a group of university friends sharing a flat together (inspired by my own experiences).

I thoroughly enjoyed establishing my own cartoon but as my first effort, it was inevitably a ‘work in progress’ – an experiment. It was a hugely beneficial process and through it I realised the importance of writing and drawing about things that you are passionate about or interested in.

There were (are) a few things I could have done but I decided to focus on my hobby of ‘wargaming’. I’d spent much of my youth collecting models, assembling and painting them and fighting battles on home-made boards with my brothers and friends. Not only could I think of hundreds of funny incidents and eccentric practices associated with the hobby, I belived it to be original too (always helps!).

With the question of the subject matter resolved, I began to establish the format:

  • How many characters should there be?
  • What age, look, personalities should they have?
  • How would they interact with each other? What is the ’situation’?
  • Are there sufficient ‘themes’ to inspire the series?

Once again, the experience of my first strip helped me – you cannot always expect to get the answers straight away.¬†Instead, I just ‘doodled’; sketching out characters, names, and ideas without any hesitation or agenda. Some names and faces may look stupid but they all help – even it they reveal how you shouldn’t draw your characters!

I’ve included one of my sketch pages for reference:

Taking¬†a notepad with me everywhere, I would just keep drawing – on trains, in bed, at the dinner table, and even at work (*ahem*). Eventually, after filling pages and pages with hundreds of unstructured (and often terrible) drawings, I had four characters and the ’situation’ confirmed in my mind.

  • I decided that the perfect scenario would be a gaming club, where a few characters meet on a regular basis to paint, chat and battle each other.
  • There would be two main characters to begin with (enough to produce a strip and also not too many to reduce the possibility of future expansion, if ever necessary).
  • There would also be two part-time characters (for diversity and to help story lines).
  • I wrote down bullet points of themes, stories and ideas and satisfied myself that there was sufficient material for a long running cartoon series.

With my subject matter decided upon, the next step was to develop the characters… which I’ll address in my next post.

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