Near the end of last year, I was reminded of a topic that I’ve talked about at least a few times before. I am, of course, talking about art quality and comics. Even though I’ll mostly be talking about single-panel comics/ cartoons here, everything in this article can also apply to comics that contain multiple panels.
Amongst the things I got for Christmas last year were several books of cartoons. Most of these were single-panel cartoons that had either been published in magazines or newspapers, or they were political cartoons.
The interesting thing was that virtually all of them used fairly simple and fairly basic black and white line art. Some of them looked like the kind of thing that anyone with any drawing experience could easily scribble in a few minutes.
And yet, they were deemed fit to be published professionally, in actual books. Why? Well, it’s all to do with the writing.
The most difficult part of making a humourous cartoon or a political cartoon, (or even a full comic) isn’t making the art. No, it’s the writing and/or the idea behind your comic. This is the part that makes people laugh, this is the part that makes people think, this is the part that makes a point. This is the most important part of your cartoon or comic.
The art can enhance the writing and it can illustrate some ideas in a better way than words ever can. But, if the idea behind your comic isn’t any good. If the joke in your comic isn’t funny, then your art could look like something from the Renaissance and your comic would still be kind of crappy.
However, if the writing is good and/or your comic contains a suitably interesting idea, then as long as the art vaguely resembles what you’re trying to depict, then people will ignore the art and focus on the writing. They’ll laugh at the joke you’re telling, they’ll think about the point you’re making. The art can help you to express your idea or illustrate your writing, but it can’t be a substitute for either of these things.
Of course, it helps if the art also looks good – but this isn’t essential if the writing or the idea behind your comic is really good.
A good metaphor for this would probably be the difference between a badly-written and unoriginal Hollywood movie that has multi-million dollar special effects and a really cool TV show with a lower budget, but better writing and more interesting characters. One of these is something that you’re probably going to watch once and forget about, the other is something that is probably going to linger in your imagination for quite a long time after you’ve watched it.
So, yes, although comics are a visual medium – the most important part of any comic or cartoon isn’t the art, it’s the writing.
And, this is why comics and cartoons with “badly-drawn” art end up getting published professionally. The writing is so good, the humour is so funny or the ideas are so interesting that they more than make up for the low-quality artwork.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂