Like it or not, most of us get better at by making mistakes. You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, as they say. Still, we can learn plenty from the mistakes of others, which is why I put together this list of five things NOT to do when cartooning. Maybe we can save a few eggs.
#1 DON’T use the passive voice. “Was approved,” “Has been decided,” “Was angry” are all examples of the passive voice. These phrases are weak and inexact to the human ear. While grammatically correct, the they have no place in cartooning. So the next time you are tempted to write something like “Johnny was getting angry,” change it to “Johnny got angry.”
#2 DON’T worry about people who won’t get it. The easiest way to kill a joke is to explain it. Too many cartoonists dumb things down for the small percent that will fly under the radar. Rather, you should make it your goal to confuse dimwits with less obvious punchlines. After all, how many times have you frowned and searched a comic strip you didn’t understand as opposed to one that a 6-year-old could write.
#3 DON’T be relevant. Political cartoons are often clever, but they also have the shelf life of grapes. You should aim for something with the endurance of Twinkies if you’re not it the political game. The more generic the time and location, the better. Don’t agree? Pull a newspaper from six months ago and try to create a comic strip about any of its talking points.
#4 DON’T fret over color. The mavens of advertising have learned that, just by adding a single color, recall of a given ad increases by scores of percentage points. That doesn’t mean you have to use every corner of the color palette and shun white space. Use it wisely. Make it work for you, like the simple placement of red in Robbie and Bobby (right).
#5 DON’T rely on running jokes. Even regular readers will lack the ability to recall something from several strips past. Assume each srip is the first experience of a first-time reader. It should stand on it’s own. It doesn’t always have to be a comedic masterpiece, just something well-rounded and of itself.