Creator’s Corner: Exercises in Cartooning Week 9

I’m a writer, not an artist. But for the next 2 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, to see Week 2’s adventures, click here,  to see Week 3’s adventures, click here, to see Week 4’s adventures, click here, to see Week 5’s adventures, click here,  to see Week 6’s adventures, click here, to see Week 7’s adventures, click here and to see Week 8’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.  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…

Exercise 9

The requirements for this exercise are pretty wide open:

A) draw a one-page story, using any layout and any number of panels you want to

B) the final size should be 11 x 17 inches, even if reduced (good thing I did mine on Bristol board!)

C) use at least one color, not counting black, white, or gray (you can use those, but they don’t count as “one color”)

D) have a title in the comic itself, in its composition

E) consider adding a sub-narrative, something that contrasts with the main narrative, sees it from a different perspective, etc…

With those as my guiding suggestions, I created this:

Some reflection on my comic and insight into my choices:

This comic was heavily inspired by my childhood: partially through characters and events, but mainly through the type of comics, books, etc… I was reading at the time.

Jack is loosely modeled after me; he’s a geek and a loner who loves comic books.   I wasn’t physically bullied like he is in this piece, but I experienced some verbal bullying and teasing.  Because of this–like Jack–I often read comics, books, and other media as a form of escapism/wish-fulfillment.  I sometimes pictured myself being like Wolverine, slicing through my enemies (I wouldn’t really do it of course, but imagining it released stress temporarily–it might be worse for stress in the long run, but I didn’t always use the best coping skills as a kid [still don’t!]).

Sergeant Starbird is based on Spaceman Spiff, Calvin’s alter-ego in the comic masterpiece Calvin and Hobbes.  I loved reading this strip as a kid, partly because I heavily related to Calvin’s overactive imagination and stronger desire to live in a fantasy world than deal with the schmucks in the real world.

Now, to focus on the focus of this assignment: color.  I colored the comic and Sergeant Starbird scene (one of those sub-narratives Brunetti talks about) with Copic markers; the rest of the scene was colored with colored pencils.  This was supposed to show that Jack’s fantasy life was more dynamic and more entertaining than the real world, which is certainly how I often feel about fiction vs. reality.  I had also just purchased those Copic markers, so I was also looking for a chance to use them.  But–as any good creator knows–balance and purpose matter, so hopefully you can see I didn’t overdo my use of those Copics.

The end result: a cross between Calvin and Hobbes and my own life.  Ideas for next installments: “Jill in Jeopardy”, which would focus on her similar situation (not very popular, uses books as escapism); “Jack and Jill in Jeopardy”, which finds them bonding over their shared plight and entertainment preferences.  See–it might start out a little sad, but it’ll get happy eventually.


That’s it for this week.  Stay tuned for my next entry: the last one (Whew!  I like these exercises, but I’m ready to move on and create my own stuff without the guidelines).

As always, check out my other work and my latest news at or follow me on Twitter @cj_standal.