Cartoon Comic Character Development – When Drawing Becomes Acting
As a cartoonist, you are not just an artist, you are also a writer, a film-maker, a director and an actor– and your film may be an animation, a comic strip, or even just a one-scene, one-panel gag.
Your comic character is your alter-ego – you have to create him, understand him, so you can present him to others as a believable character. All the characters you create are the “stars” of your stories, and although they don’t have to be complicated, they do have to convey a personality, and you are in control of that personality… you are responsible for it.
Every time you draw a new character and put him in a situation that creates humor, you decide how he reacts to the situation. You define his expressions, his physical and verbal responses, and you define this based on the personality you create for him.
As an illustrator, your roles of actor and director have come strongly into play. You know what you want your comic character to do, and how he is to do it… but then you have to draw him in his role. Your imagination and creative memory may do most of this work, knowing how you would stand, what you would say, how you would look in such a situation – and you transfer this to your drawing. But you can go a step further and physically act-out your character – using a (full length) mirror to practice and observe subtle expressions or body-posture.
It’s not always necessary to go into deep character development, especially when you’re creating single-panel drawings. Sometimes it may be enough to work with less – a blank face and frozen posture can work wonders. But certainly when it comes to character building as part of a comic strip, the more clarity and range you apply to your characters, the more “star-quality” you can give them; and they can make or break a story, just as the personality of an actor can determine the success (or failure) of a comedy film or show.
So spend some time in your roles as an actor and director, develop the unique personalities of your creations, use a mirror often, and turn all your cartoon characters into stars.