Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Mystery of Comic Strip Sizes

This is a strangely difficult area for many cartoonists (including me) to get their heads around. It's maybe a right-brain/left-brain, thing. I know people who really agonise over this and yet, as soon as they do start working on syndicated strips they seem to get along just fine.

To many people, saying 'you can basically just work to any size you like as long as ...' or, 'a standard size is 13" x 4"' really doesn't answer all the questions they want to ask. So I'll try to help a little with this.

Perhaps Lee Nordling's book, Your Career in the Comics is still the best guide. Here's a page or two from it:

Still unsure? Okay, I've highlighted the big half-page format with an X for a reason. That is the daddy of the Sunday foramts and it can be aranged in a number of ways. If you read Lee Nordling's book you'll see that it is a very clever and intricate piece of work that can be converted into a number of different formats. The most obvious and most frequent change to this template is that the newspaper can dispense with the top row, panels 1 and 2 (which is why it is often a throwaway gag or maybe just a comment, and the strip still reads as a complete strip.

These sizes are sizes you can either work to, or scale-up from, so long as your work scales back down to these sizes (I'm reluctant to put, or thereabouts).

I think we can make this a little easier by using a Peanuts Sunday template, full scale. The original was larger than this, Schulz worked larger, but the copy for publishers fits the dimensions of Format A, above. Remember, you can scale-up (click for the hi-res copy)

It still smacks a little of the dark arts, I feel, and especially so to us UK cartoonists who could not, you may recall, add our own tone to drawings until the 1980s, when we often still had to submit original drawings, and so everything, literally, was done for us.

Templates then, are very handy. However, I have a few Manga templates - blue-lined pages (blue does not scan or photocopy on certain settings) that are finished drawing size, the same size as the thing is published, rather than the size the project can be comfortably drawn at (see my post on the difficulty of drawing the Bee-Man same-size).

Blue-line Pro pads look pretty good. Those are Bristol Board sheets with 2 daily strips, 13"x4" and 1 Sunday strip ready ruled, in blue line.

And you can now add the Canson Fan Boy range to the mix. My friend, cartoonist and writer, Paul Abittabile (who helped with the Canson Fan Boy design) sent me the latest Canson Fan Boy catalogue and I feel a bit like a kid in a sweety shop, albeit looking in fropm a distance as, yet again, I'm going to have to get the tools I need from overseas. Like a lot of illustrators I'm familiar with Canson's products, in fact Canson is one of the few Bristol Boards you can buy in the UK, so I'm really looking forward to working on these. Anyway, it looks like a well-thought out range, including layout pads, comic book pages, and comic strip and even Manga-page formats, and I'm certain it'll go some way to putting the minds of we mathematically challenged cartoonists at ease. Perhaps now, size won't matter too much.


Gianfranco Goria said...

Hi! I talked about you in my daily news agency www.afnews.info.
Best! :-)
Gianfranco Goria

Rod McKie said...

Hey Gianfranco,

nice site. I'm gong to put a link to you up over the weekend.

Anonymous said...

So does anyone make boards for the three level/Sunday strip comics? Maybe a comic book size board would work? I like the strip boards, especially the Canson for texture.

Strathmore is coming out with a line of blue lined comic boards.

I would like something so I don't have to A. scan three boards and then photoshop them together or B. resize a 11x17 board. Both I've done, but I would rather not.

Thanks for the great blog.

Chuckles Austen said...

Hi Rod,

Thanks so much for posting this. Thank God the internet is forever! I'm a recent convert to strip cartooning (or re-convert), just in time for the decline of newspapers. I've done manga, comics and animation for many years, and suddenly find myself interested in this field again.

Yours is the first mention I've found of Lee Nordling's book, and I appreciate it. Can't wait to look at the other blogs you have here.

Thanks again for a very helpful post!

Chuck Austen