Thursday, January 31, 2008

Comic Strip Gag Writing: Postage Stamp Story - From Scripts to Strips

PC & Pixel by Tak Bui

Where would PC Odata go if he had a stamp stuck to his tongue? That was the question I asked myself while writing a series of gags for the daily comic strip PC and Pixel by Tak Bui.

What if this stamp was stuck really, really good ... Where would you go? The doctor? Hospital? Dentist?

Well, if someone buys a product and it doesn't work properly, they usually send it back to the manufacturer (or store where they bought it). So, if a stamp were to malfunction, I figured there's only one place where PC would go:

Hawaii.

The complete story took place over a series of three Sundays. All three parts are included below.

For those who might be interested, I've also included a copy of the original script beneath each part. These will give you an idea as to what I submit to Tak for consideration. Whenever I'm writing comic strip gags, I always try to think visually. You see, although I'm describing each panel in words, I have to consider the pace and timing of the strip in its final form. For example, not every panel requires dialogue, but they should tell a key part of the story/gag. And so, I include suggestions with respect to camera angles, character acting/poses, etc. (anything that might help the overall presentation).

Of course, the scripts are just the ideas. I always look forward to seeing Tak's drawings bring them to life.

I hope you enjoy them too ...

ORIGINAL SCRIPT - PART 1/3:

[Sunday Format]
The first 5 panels should all be drawn from same angle and size, and occupy top tier. Waist up is best, with PC’s gut covered by his kitchen table at the bottom of each panel.

  1. PC is holding a sealed envelope in one hand (we see the back of it) and he licks a stamp with his other.
  2. He pulls his hand away (mouth closed), but no stamp is there. PC looks at little confused.
  3. He tilts his head back and sticks out tongue, revealing the postage.
  4. He tries pulling it off, stretching his tongue out far.
  5. Panel shows his empty chair.
    Bottom tier is two panels:
  6. Pixel see PC putting his coat on by the front door:
    - "Where you going, PC?"
  7. PC bends over and sticks out tongue, showing the stuck stamp to Pixel who says:
    - "You’ll need to add more than THAT."

ORIGINAL SCRIPT - PART 2/3:

  1. PC approaches a large desk in the postal manager's office. The well-dressed manager greets him:
    - "I understand you have a concern with one of our stamps, Mr. Odata?"
  2. PC sticks out his tongue and points:
    - "Uh-huh! Wyatt Heeya!"
  3. The manager examines it closely:
    - "Oh dear ... I'm afraid that's one of our new SECURE stamps."
  4. PC scratches his head, looking a little nervous as he is led out of the office:
    - "Th-th-thick-ear thumps?"
  5. The manager explains, hitting his right fist into his open left palm:
    - "Yes, the gum refuses to release until the postage has been properly cancelled."
  6. They enter the sorting room where conveyor belts are shooting millions of letters and parcels about. The manager is walking towards a giant machine that looks like an automobile wrecker and says to PC:
    - "This way please ..."

ORIGINAL SCRIPT - PART 3/3:

  1. Interior of PC's home. Pixel is awoken by the doorbell (DING-DONG).
  2. Pixel opens the door and is greeted by two mail carriers. One holds out a clipboard to and says:
    - "Special delivery ... Sign here please."
  3. As Pixel signs, the two carriers lug a large cardboard box with "FRAGILE" written on it. PC's head is sticking out of the top where a hole has been carved.
  4. Pixel jumps on top of the box and stares at PC's head:
    - "I thought you had a stamp stuck to your tongue."
  5. She jumps down and claws the box (tearing it open) as PC says:
    - "I did, so I went to the post office ..."
  6. PC emerges from the box wearing a Hawaiian shirt:
    - "But I got lost on the way back."
THE END

You can read PC and Pixel daily at United Media's Comics.com.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Potential CUPE Strike" Editorial Cartoon in The Hamilton Spectator

The Hamilton Spectator - Front Page - Monday, January 21, 2008This past Monday, I had an editorial cartoon published in my hometown newspaper, The Hamilton Spectator.

The Spec's extremely talented staff cartoonist, Graeme MacKay, was away, so I was honoured by this opportunity to temporarily fill-in his regular spot in the Opinion section on Page A14. If you're not familiar with Graeme's work, I highly recommend that you visit his website.

My editorial cartoon was drawn in response to the potential strike by city workers (Canadian Union of Public Employees - CUPE Local 5167). The union represents 2,700 city workers, ranging from parking enforcement to garbage collectors to snow removal. Talks are resuming today, but as the old English proverb goes:

"Hope for the best, prepare for the worst!"

The Hamilton Spectator - Potential CUPE Strike Editorial Cartoon by Mike Cope
"Potential CUPE Strike" in The Hamilton Spectator (Monday, January 21, 2008).

Click the above image to see the full cartoon.

One of the great things about The Hamilton Spectator is that it prints all of its editorial cartoons (and comic strips) in full colour. Needless to say, my family and friends got a good chuckle when they recognized a familiar funny face ...

A Familiar Funny Face - Self Caricature by Mike Cope
"A Familiar Funny Face" - Self Caricature by Mike Cope

Special thanks to the editors at The Hamilton Spectator.

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My Comic Strip Syndicate Submission - PART 5: “Dissected by The Panel Mammals"

My Comic Strip Syndicate Submission by Mike Cope - PART FIVE: Dissected by The Panel Mammals

Egads, I’ve been dissected! Well, not literally, but my comic strip syndicate submission, K is for KRICK, has been put under the microscope by Jim Tierney of The Panel Mammals ...

SCREENSHOT: The Panel Mammals - Comic Strip Dissection - K is for KRICK
SCREENSHOT: The Panel Mammals - Comic Strip Dissection: K is for KRICK

Not long ago, I received an e-mail from Jim in which he asked if I’d be interested in having my comic strip dissected by him on The Panel Mammals blog. For those not familiar with the Panel Mammals, they’re a group of five very talented and enthusiastic comic strip cartoonists. Their membership includes:

According to their Mammal Manifesto, they hope to “cultivate an environment of open discussion on anything and everything comic related.”

Needless to say, I was quite happy to participate in this voluntary examination!

Here are a few snippets from Jim’s review:

“When I look at this strip, the first thing that jumps out at me the artwork. The art of K is for Krick has a very classic comic strip feel, and does a good job of balancing detail with narrative clarity ...”

“My only issue with the writing is that I find it a little too sweet for my taste, but that might be more personal preference than true criticism ...”

Although I’m still waiting to hear back from 99% of the syndicates, Jim’s review echoes the feedback that I’ve received from several others who have seen my comic strip samples.

As a cartoonist seeking syndication, it’s encouraging to hear that people enjoy looking at my artwork. After all, the drawings are what first attract readers to a comic strip, so it’s good to know that I’m using the right kind of bait.

Regarding the writing ... This is where you just have to accept that you can’t please everyone. Some folks like the cute, sweet, and light stuff while others prefer the in-your-face edgy. As silly as this may sound, I’m sort of letting the characters decide what they’d like to say and how they’d like to react. I’m still getting to know them too, so who knows what they’ll say next!

Near the end of the dissection, Jim raises a few questions:

“Since Krick is a substitute teacher, does that mean after a couple of weeks of comics he’ll be moving on to a new class? Or will he spend his entire comic life within a single class?”

Excellent questions! In fact, I think I’ll save the answers for an upcoming post because I need to dig out a few sketches from months and months ago! For now, I’ll just say that to-date, I’ve only heard back from one syndicate regarding my submission, and while they like the artwork, they would like to see Krick teach a grade other than Kindergarten.

A special thanks to The Panel Mammals (especially Jim) for their gracious hospitality. Best of luck to all of you in your own comic strip endeavours!

Stay TOONed!

- Mike Cope