Creators Corner: Adventures in Cartooning, Week 2

I’m a writer, not an artist. But for the next 9 weeks, I’m going to be a cartoonist.

And you can join me on this journey–not only by seeing what I do, but by completing the exercises I do along with me.

*Note* To see Week 1’s adventures, click here.

The great cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, also a teacher of comics/cartooning, has a book that publishes his course; it is a 10 week “class” that has a few exercises for each week, some of which I might even use in my own graphic novel class.

brunetti cartooning cover

I thought it’d be fun–especially since I’m a writer and need to challenge my skills as an artist–to run myself through his course and post each of my exercise on here. So without further ado, let’s take the next step in our journey…

Exercise 2.1

Get handful of index cards and write phrases/sentences that you’ve heard recently (from eavesdropping, conversations you’re actually a part of, something you saw on TV, etc… Brunetti didn’t specify a certain number, so I just went with 5 index cards; you should use 7 or more, since the next exercise involves drawing 7 single-panel images and then pairing them with these phrases.

Exercise 2.2

Using some new index cards draw a single-panel cartoon (no words allowed) of these things; then pair them with the index cards from 2.1, mixing and matching until you find the best caption.

The intent behind this is to show that sometimes the funniest or just best comics happen when juxtaposing things that don’t seem to go together.  (Case in point: my carton that shows firefighters helping put out a housefire, which was combined with a caption featuring someone trying to bargain/extort the other; that’s not really how firefighters work, but that reversal of expectations builds the humor).

It also shows that we should pay attention to the world around us, because it might offer the best way to complete an idea (more of this tip in Exercise 2.3).

Check out my work!  I’ve both typed the captions and scanned them, because my handwriting is so awful someone might not be able to read the scanned caption.

1) the funniest thing you can think of (someone entering a party so enthusiastically they slap food and drinks in others faces)


2) something sexy (I didn’t do this, sorry)

3) something scary (my house–and all my books and comics–burning)


4) something abstract (looks like panels of a comic, but maybe not?)


5) the saddest thing you can think of (an alien landing on Earth and, first thing, shooting a library with a space ray gun). This is one of my favorites–either my favorite or second favorite–because of the unexpected caption, but I did cheat and make it a few panels, all wordless.


6) something you saw in a dream lately (I didn’t do this one, sorry)

7) something boring or mundane (sleeping the months away and doing nothing). This is one of my favorites–either my favorite or second favorite–because the caption both fit and didn’t fit (he’s cooped up inside so needing a door open kind of makes sense, but a closed door shouldn’t make someone sleep a couple months away). I also did a small cheat and used the ZZZs to indicate sleeping, but they don’t count as words–they’re accepted symbols for sleeping–so I think it’s fine.


Exercise 2.3

Over the course of the week, take note of 12 small objects and write them down.  Then, brainstorm commonalities for all 12.  After that, eliminate 2 objects, because they’re most dissimilar to the rest of the objects.  The purpose of this is to create more and more connections between things–which is what art does after all–but to see what can be jettisoned to be more streamlined–which is what great art does after all.

My list:

watch, lunchbag, strainer, phone, book, cleats, notepad, picture frame, lighter, nametag, cat toy and waterbottle.


things found in a house, things to make memories with

What I got rid of and why:

cleats and waterbottle; being associated with sports, exercise and outdoor activity it didn’t fit as much with these things found and mainly used in a  house.

While I like how this exercise tries to show that we can find more commonalities between things than we normally feel–although we shouldn’t force these commonalities too much–I wasn’t the biggest fan of this exercise.

I think my brain already does that (hence the reason that my comic, Rebirth of the Gangsteris influenced by my experiences with the students I teach and the coworkers I instruct with, Breaking Bad, issues with immigration, The Wire, hip-hop,  The Godfather, the opiod epidemic and even more recent political/social issues; I’m even throwing a little Shakespeare in the mix with a taste of Macbeth and Othello.

Exercise 2.4

Create a one-panel cartoon adaptation of a famous literary work.  Brunetti gives an example of how he would adapt The Catcher in the Rye, a piece he recommends because there aren’t already film adaptions or comic adaptions of this piece, so the visuals are more original.  To see that, though, check out the book, because it’s insightful, but too in-depth for me to go into without risking copyright infringement.

I chose Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett, which focuses on a Night Watch group (although this group has seen better days, with only 4 members, 3 of whom don’t enforce the laws and just get drunk instead–the only one who does is a new country boy who enforces dated laws from an old book he had read).  And in the midst of this lack of law, a dragon starts terrorizing the countryside.

Here’s my cartoon, and this was probably the most fun I’ve had in the first two weeks (I’ll type the caption beneath it too, since my handwriting is awful):

“That dragon is in violation of law 24.5–an unnecessary and unapproved flight path.” “What are we supposed to do about it: we’re just the Guard. Have a drink.”


That’s it for Week 2!  Come back in about a week to see how Week 3 turns out.

And if you can’t wait that long, check out until then on my blog at where I post each exercise individually.

I try to post daily but as a teacher (and since I’m working on the print edition of the first story arc in Rebirth of the Gangster, cover below and digital copy available now), it’s an ideal goal that hasn’t become a reality yet.


Thanks and see you next time!