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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

I’ve claimed in previous posts that all you need to create a comic is one image, one character in one pose, and the rest will follow. So I thought I’d give it a try and shine a light on my own creative process.

I began with a doodle–which just means drawing without any particular goal in mind. This figure emerged:
I was trying to keep it simple–and so repeatable, a key to cartooning. I didn’t know anything about this guy, including whether he was a guy or not. I liked his balletic arrogance and so extended the pose into a four-part action:

And then I thought I’d reverse that forward tilt with a backward reaction:No idea what was pushing back, I was just playing with the shapes of the body. Since I told my students they need to know their doodle-originated characters from multiple angles, I tried a front view:

That wide open chest seemed a little too wide open, and so I added an emblem, one that imitated the geometry of the body:

Put it together and I had an 11-part action:

Which felt like too much. So I divided into two pages and converted the first half of the action into some kind of superheroish energy blast:

Which I didn’t love even after converting it to white by changing the background color:


Then I noticed that the exclamation point on his chest could shift 90 degrees and become the energy blast. Also, the garish colors were giving me a headache, so I converted to black and white:

I still had the second page of action, and though I thought shrinking and compressing the exclamation-point beam would convey that he was meeting some irresistible force from beyond the page edge, it didn’t quite work. But I did like the new zigzag reading paths that replaced the three-row layout:

So I scrapped page two and added words to page one, giving it a poster or splash page feel. I’d also realized that the “energy blast” was really just a giant flashlight. The chest emblem evolved as well, into a sort of changeable thought bubble, expressing the figure’s mental state through punctuation marks. Some white highlights gave him some needed depth too:

But then why would the light stop mid-beam? Since it wouldn’t, and since the page would look better if it didn’t, I extended it.

Here’s my final result:

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