A few questions and answers…

Responses to your questions as you draft your comic and Author’s Note. I’ve summarized/combined some of your questions.

— How many different sources can I use to create the pictures in my comic strip (magazines, drawing, clip art, etc.)? I don’t think there is a clear number to use or not to use. The important thing is to recognize the impact that one type of a source (say a magazine clipping) will have over drawing. If it’s not meant to be an important image, a brightly colored cut-out might not be the best match.

— I understand that my entire comic cannot have solely action to action or word specific combinations, but can the majority of my comic? I certainly don’t want to rule-out action-to-action transitions or word specific combinations entirely. They have their place, and as McCloud said, remain extremely popular. Just try not to use them exclusively, and in workshop, ask you peers if more diversity is needed.

–How important is a cohesive story? Is it okay if our story isn’t a traditional beginning-middle-end? It’s absolutely fine if it’s not a traditional, linear story. In fact, if you are using a variety of transition techniques, a traditional narrative/story will be hard to achieve. I like the idea of mixing it up.

–Should the Author’s Note have a step-by-step or frame-by-frame process of why we did it a certain way? No, not really. It should be organized according to the main visual strategies you used and what you tried to achieve. This will probably include some detail of why you did it, but a step-by-step or frame-by-frame process will probably bore your reader and fail to emphasize the strategies.

— Are title pages and titles needed? Your comic should have some sort of title. As for a formal title page, it’s not required, but you can create one if you like. For the Author’s Note, no MLA title page please.

— What should the final presentation be like? Is pencil okay? Should it be bound or laminated? Should it be on special paper? All these choices are up to you, but I think paying for binding or laminating is more than I’m expecting. I’ll talk on Wednesday about possible presentation strategies in more detail. Pencil is okay, so long as the comic appears obviously finished.

— Is it cheating if we copy/parallel the visual styles of another comic or meme? You can certainly draw inspiration from elsewhere. Stay away from “copying” quite closely if you can, and be sure to clarify where you got your inspiration in your Author’s Note (as then its inspiration, not plagiarism).

— I’m worried about the “meaning” of my comic. Can it just be a humorous story? I’ve talked about this a bit in class, but while it doesn’t need to have cosmic meaning or consequences, the readings we’ve done have pushed us to think beyond comics as “oops, that was funny” types of texts. So even if it’s a funny story, make us care about the characters involved – this can build meaning.

— I need to draw some different realistic images but am not a great artist. Ideas? It may be that you’ll need to ask yourself whether or not the realism of the image is of crucial importance. If it is, then perhaps take some time to trace and practice drawing the image, or use a drawn image from the Internet (and credit it in your Author’s Note). But as we learned, sometimes abstraction can go a lot further than realism.

— I plan to have my comic mostly done, but I want to leave some things in pencil that I plan to ink or color later. Is this okay? Yes, this is fine. The goal is to have a near-complete draft, rather than a few panels or a page.

— I’d like to use color, but mostly for aesthetic reasons. Does everything we put in the comic need meaning? It’s alright to make some fairly arbitrary decisions. But as we learned in analyzing comics, the reader is going to look for – and find – meaning based on your choices, whether you want her to or not. So for that reason, make your decisions carefully.

— I hadn’t planned on using a lot of words in my comic. Now I feel like I should. Should I? No, not necessarily. It’s just an option for you to consider – you can focus your attentions elsewhere, though you may ask your peers in workshop if words would have provided crucial help anywhere.

— Could you post a few examples of Author’s Notes? The closest thing I have to a real sample are the sample paragraphs from the PowerPoint when we talked about Author’s Notes (on BlackBoard). It’s always a dilemma for a teacher, but I feel if I gave out a model or two it might squash your personal style. The reality is that there are lots of ways to achieve the sort of analysis I am looking for, and I want to see how you navigate those decisions. (In a 1000-level course, I’d be more prescriptive.)

— Can we have multiple stories in one big cluster? I don’t see why not, if how the reader is supposed to read the story is clear. It’d depend how you used panel shapes and transitions to make this “cluster.”

— Any suggestions for scanning? I suggest that you scan it all into one file (probably PDF) so that reader doesn’t have to open multiple files. Depending on your scanner, this can be harder to achieve with JPEG files.

— Are icons useful or do they detract from the meaning of a comic? Icons/symbols are certainly useful. My only warning is that if a symbol is particularly loaded (maybe something like this, which I love but is complex), then be careful how you use it. By all means, use it if you’re wanting that powerful message relayed, but I wouldn’t include a peace symbol if you’re trying to communicate something more complex and not related to traditional peace movements.

— Do you draw your own comics…ever? I am not going to claim to be a comic artist. I have done visual analyses – a year ago I gave a presentation on what I call “gastrointestinal pornography,” which is the consistent portrayal of slender female stomachs when advertising for less savory gastrointestinal products (like Activia, Tums, etc.), though this never happens when such products are geared toward men (instead imagine the overweight male customer at the diner, complaining of heartburn). I am an avid photographer, and I do like to assemble my photos with captions into a “story,” sometimes ironic. I’m now wishing I had time to whip up a comic before Wednesday. I will try, but we all have to promise NOT to take it as a model!


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