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Bug-Eye, Triangle Jaw, Shoe Drop

Here’s another post about change.
One thing I love about drawing comics is how to alter a character’s expression from panel to panel. There is a lesson I learned from Calvin and Hobbes – never use the same expression twice. It’s more fun when “Carver is Surprised” really is surprising. If I’m going to draw the same face over and over again, why not just cut and paste in Photoshop? I hate the super consistency that a computer offers. Why even bother picking up the pen when I know what the result will be? Why even get out of bed in the morning? The cartoonist wants to have as much fun as the reader.
I like my comic to look like a real person draws it. I do whatever I can to draw well, but not “perfectly”. My comics are happily inconsistent. I try to make them look intentionally so. I don’t mess with proportions – Carver’s wings remain the same size in relation to his body, Melissa’s tail doesn’t mysteriously grow at random. But if Carver or Melissa look slightly different when they are supposed to be sitting still, I keep it that way.
I don’t use measurements to keep characters the exact same height from panel to panel. I dislike rulers anyway; using them for more than panel borders and dialogue spacing is tiresome. I know generally that Carver is about waist-high on Ernesto. Pam is slightly shorter than Dee. Ernesto might be my tallest character, but only because he wears big shoes. I think if Dee ever wore high heels, she’d be taller. I can’t imagine why Dee would ever wear high heels, but there you go.
Most of the time, comic characters begin to look static when multiple people work on them. This is especially true in animation, when you have dozens or hundreds of animators drawing the same character over and over. Donald Duck can’t look different in every cel: it wouldn’t animate. But when you have this happening to a comic strip character, it takes all the air out of it. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it is just that the comic strips I love offer so much variability, it becomes part of the pleasure of reading the comic.
Comics aren’t supposed to look professional. They’re supposed to look funny. And you know what? Professional isn’t funny.

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