Well, at the time of writing, I was busy making a webcomic mini series that will probably be posted here in late June (in the meantime, you can find links to many others here).
Since this webcomic mini series will be something of a parody of traditional “cosy” detective stories (and it’s also kind of like these other detective comedy comics I’ve made), I thought that I’d talk about how to make detective comedy comics today. But, first, here’s a preview of the first comic update from the upcoming mini series:
So, how do you make detective comedy comics? here are a few basic tips:
1) Research and inspiration: The best detective comedy comics are usually a parody of various pre-existing things in the detective genre. So, do your research first! I mean, the main thing that inspired the upcoming webcomic that I mentioned earlier was the fact that I’d watched a couple of series of the classic ITV adaptation of Agatha Christie’s “Poirot” a couple of weeks earlier.
Find a type of detective story that interests you (eg: hardboiled detective stories, “cosy” mysteries, modern forensic detective shows etc..) and then immerse yourself in them as much as possible. Binge-watch DVDs, read online articles, read novels etc… until you can firmly picture what one of these stories looks like. After all, you can’t parody something if you don’t know much about it…
2) Detective types: As any fan of the detective genre will tell you, detectives come in many types. There’s the classic “Sherlock Holmes”-type detective, who uses logic and reason. There’s the more sophisticated Agatha Christie-type detective who uses an understanding of the human condition to solve mysteries. There’s the hardboiled gumshoe of the film noir genre who isn’t afraid to get tough to get some answers etc…
One of the easiest ways to make a detective comedy comic is to put a detective in a story that is set up for another type of detective. For example, the main detective in my occasional long-running webcomic series is more of a “Sherlock Holmes”-type detective (with maybe a few hints of a classic pulp fiction private eye), so by putting him in a more Agatha Christie-style story, there will be a few differences between audience expectations and the events of the story.
Of course, you can take this a step further by, say, putting a genteel Agatha Christie-style detective in the hardboiled world of, say, 1930s Chicago or something like that.
3) Farce and dark comedy: By it’s very nature, the detective genre is absolutely perfect for old-school farce. After all, it’s a very physical genre – there are bodies lying around, villains lurking behind things and all sorts of unusual items that could be used as murder weapons. It doesn’t take a genius to see how these things can be used for farcical slapstick comedy.
Likewise, because detective stories revolve around murder, evil and treachery they are absolutely perfect for the dark comedy genre too. You can do all sorts of things, like showing that the crime has been committed for a really silly reason or adding some humour to the discovery of the body. Likewise, the detective’s deductions can also be a good source of dark comedy, like in this old comic of mine:
4) The detective gets something wrong: This one is really self-explanatory, but people expect detectives to actually solve mysteries.
If your detective gets either all or part of the final conclusion to the mystery wrong, then this can be a brilliant source of comedy. Of course, you can also go one better than this and have your detective realise that they were wrong – only to come up with another wrong answer.
If you want a brilliant example of this comedy technique at it’s best, then check out an episode of a classic BBC sitcom called “Blackadder Goes Forth” called “General Hospital”, where the main character has to find a German spy in a WW1-era field hospital.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂