Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mom's Cancer Notes: Page 3

I'm annotating individual pages from my book Mom's Cancer as they are posted on These are my notes on Page 3 (May 4). 

There's a convention that comics characters wear the same clothes all the time--Charlie Brown's striped shirt, Clark Kent's blue suit. The "pro" of this convention is that it keeps the characters recognizable: once the reader gets used to seeing the characters dressed in a particular way, they don't have to stop and figure out who they are when they show up later. A uniform helps identify them. The "con" is that it's unrealistic. Cartoonists beginning a long project need to think about which way they want to go. In Mom's Cancer the characters wear the same clothes most of the time; when they change clothes late in the story, it helps signal the reader that time has passed.

I admit I didn't put a lot of thought into my own pants and polo shirt ensemble when I began Mom's Cancer. I don't even wear polo shirts that often! However, I dressed Mom in a striped long-sleeve shirt because I knew the stripes would be graphically interesting and draw the eye to her, the story's protagonist. I wanted Mom to be the center of attention whenever she appeared.

Similarly, I gave Kid Sis a sweater with a big floppy collar to emphasize the slenderness of her neck. In cartooning shorthand, skinny necks = youth, and thick necks = age. Nurse Sis and I are older than Kid Sis, so we have thicker necks and rounder curves (and Mom, even older, has hardly any neck at all!).

Me: thick neck, round chin, high hairline, and a wrinkle or bag under one eye.
That all helps make me look older than....
Kid Sis, who has a thin neck, sharp chin, perky nose, unlined face, and alert eyes.

These are some of the things I think about when designing characters.

By the way, my college friend Tina recently told me that she remembers me sitting slouched exactly as I've drawn myself in today's page of Mom's Cancer (Page 3). So I got that right.

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