It’s one thing for you earthlings to design a cartoon any way you wish. So one leg is shorter than the other or perhaps one eye is too big. Maybe the ears can’t possibly work because they are too small and can’t pick up all the necessary sound waves for intelligible speech. No problem, right?
But what if you are a cartoon character! I mean, design is all I have. Sure I’m superior. Sure I’m better than you. Sure you are in awe of me. But if I’m designed wrong, my quality of life suffers big time. My quality of life—you know, the one that matters.
Unfortunately my fate is sealed. I am already “designed” and have to live with what that Rembrandt of a cartoonist Walters has done to me. The best I can do is to keep complaining until Walters hires some “real” artists to draw me in a consistent and predictable manner. Until then, I am at the mercy of what amounts to a butcher who uses a pencil rather than a knife.
But I’m in a rare charitable mood. (I can’t explain it so I’ll just go with it.) Because of my suffering, I will offer advice on how to do a comic strip so it’s done right. I hope to prevent the future sufferings of the paper and ink set—my brothers and sisters in solidarity!—from future ill conceived and poorly executed comic strips. So here is my advice:
Think of character design. What common characteristics will bind your characters together? For example, the characters of Peanuts all inhabit short squat bodies with dinner roll-like shoes, Doonesbury denizens all have distinctive blackened-recessed eyes, and Family Guy stars either have too little or too much of a chin. The distinctive binding characteristic you select to design a cartoon will be the most important way people will recognize your work. Choose wisely.
Make decent personalities. Fortunately, the other characters in the Lunar Antics® are really cool: Drusus is really smart, Linda is gorgeous and Zed is a true blue. Even the hapless professor is likeable and almost a father figure to me. But don’t tell anyone; I don’t want it to get out.
The interplay of personalities will become more apparent as you work through the strips. But if you take the effort to decide the personalities of your characters before you begin the strip, the fine congealing of your comic characters will occur more rapidly.
Age your work. When you get a new idea, write it down and wait a month. If it is still funny when you read the idea a month later, it has a decent chance of being funny later. This waiting time is no problem for me since I am over 2 billion years old. An additional month is meaningless—just like you.
Be ready to do a comic strip all over again. Of all the advice I have given, this is the most disturbing. If your cartoons just aren’t working, then you may want to stop working on them and create a whole set of new characters. Believe me, this is something I don’t like to face. To think that one day Walters may wake up in a funk and decide to nuke all traces of us on his hard drive is existentially terrifying. But moving on to more successful characters may be the best option for an earthling cartoonist.
Now that I reminded myself that Walters has the ability to move on to other characters, maybe I’ll be nicer to him. Note that the operative word is “maybe.”