Everyone's a Comic
I recently began dabbling in comics. Not reading them, but actually creating them. One of the beauties of the internet is that everyone can attempt, on some rudimentary level, to create art in forms previously barred by high entry in skill or cost. But today you can create movies, produce music, record radio shows and publish books for basically free and with limited technical ability. Trust me, I have done them all to even levels of success. That's ok because we live in the age of the amateur. I have gotten my Charles Schultz on and have become a comic artist (well let’s say more writer.)
I specifically use Bitstrips.com which has a bright palatte that reminds me of the Sunday morning comics that I splayed across the den of in my youth. Bitstrips originally made a splash at the 2008 SXSW just two days after going alpha. With shop set up in Toronto, this little company soon became a minor sensation. In the past three years, a slew of copycat sites have expanded the options for comic making exponentially (for an article on other options read http://goo.gl/FauH). I chose this site because, well, I had heard of it first. But I am happy I chose it. It’s flexible, fun, and socially savvy in a meaningful way. So many web sites add a social component because they think they should. In this case, making friends allows you to get viewers, to trade graphics and to learn new tricks. This last point is important because their help function is woefully limited.
(A great example of sharing on the site is tyreesa. Above is one of the many wonderful
dresses that she offers to “Friends” to use in their strips.)
The site is free. In fact the only way I could spend money there is if I wanted my avatar on a shirt. Bitstrips, like some other sites, has a premium area that focuses on programs with schools. Currently they are embracing the cause of the moment with a dedicated section for anti-bullying efforts. Because so many students use the school section a lot of the free area members are very young. But with some dedicated searching you can find a good group of very talented adult writers as well.
(Far funnier than anything you will find in the Sunday paper is the work of Ralph LeBeau.)
As a writer I get great enjoyment from exploring unique comic art forms. Comedy demands different approaches for different disciplines. I remember a public reading of a dark play I wrote about Alabama politics which was filled with evil and vindictive characters. I thought I had written an exposé but the audience saw it as a farce. The group dynamics of a closely seated audience in live theatre elevates the absurd from tragedy to comedy. Film, television and literature all have unique comic forms.
So wordy development should be saved for the novel, elaborate visual gags should be saved for film, and TV is home of the three laughs per page. So what have I learned about comedy in the strip form? For comics, strong reactions, distinct contrasts and a clearly defined beginning, middle and end are the rule. Now Garry Trudeau in Doonesbury proved that you don’t always have to follow these rules but he still usually ended with a joke. Like Berke Breathed in Bloom County and Garry Larson in Farside I soon discovered that comic strips are a great place for ironic humor.
(One of my strips.)
Check it out it and maybe you can do better than me! (Friend me at VastineS.)