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Comic Writing: A Laugh, An Invitation and A Story
Laughing. The giggles, out right haha-ing and a smile are, at some point, a part of life. Entertaining someone in making them laugh is not uncommon, whether goofing off with friends or preparing jokes for a larger audience. A comic strip is a form of this, the art of making someone laugh on paper. From a crazy doodle to drawing quirky characters based off of real people (like the famous strip Zits), comics can come in many forms.
Writing comics isn’t just about Superman, Spiderman and other comic book heros. Humor, in the form of comics, can be used as a way to criticize or report on news in a way that will invite people to think more about it. A kind of journalistic artwork.
"Humor helps readers enter that otherwise big gray mass of type that is the news,” says co-author of Zits comic Jim Borgman. “I spent 32 years as an editorial cartoonist and I always felt that by approaching subjects graphically and with a bit of humor I was inviting readers into the debate who might otherwise not participate.”
Comics, which were often used as a tease to bring readers to newspapers, have seen big changes in recent years. Most changes are because of diminishing comics in newspapers and have caused simpler art and less character development.
“William Randolph Hearst felt that if his newspapers carried comics that readers developed a loyalty to, they would continue to come back to the same newspaper to read them every day,” says Borgman. “Comics can still serve this purpose, though many newspapers seem to have forgotten their role as a reader magnet, shrinking, distorting and burying the strips.”
Despite diminishing roles in newspapers, there is still room for comics and their writers. With the widespread use of the Internet and smart phones, the comic industry, like the newspaper industry, will continue to move forward in whatever direction consumers demand.
"I believe that comic strips are a wonderful and timeless art form that people just plain enjoy,” says Zits co-author Jerry Scott. “Cartoonists will adapt and find their audience through whatever means are available.”
The true form of laughter not only comes from lovable characters from the narrative they tell, often offering insight, humor and exaggeration.
“Readers care about characters and stories, no matter how they're delivered,” says Borgman reminding us of the beloved characters Charlie Brown, Pogo or Calvin. “The digital world, of course, invites motion and sound, so the art form will likely gravitate in that direction. Cartoonists with a story to tell will always find a way, I believe. I think the future will reward the flexible cartoonist who can adapt to any medium or forum as technology evolves and the paths become clearer.”
In adapting to current trends Borgman advises future comics to always keep an eye out for inspiration and encompass all tools available.
“Carry a sketchbook, daydream, be an observer of life, study the work that has gone before you, develop a healthy sense of humor and master your tools,” advises Borgman. "The set of tools is broader now — instead of just ink, pens and brushes, the toolbox contains animation, interactive web stuff, social networks and graphics programs. It's still all about conveying a vision to an audience, though.”
As the world around inspires, keep in mind what the end result is — a smile, laugh or just brightening up someone's day.
“Now and then we realize we might be on a higher mission, when we hear from kids or their folks that Zits helps them talk to each other or realize they're not alone in their challenges," says both authors of Zits. But, "most of the time, our goal is simply to drop a smile into everyone's busy, hectic day.”