Stickman

I came up with this idea during the spring semester of my freshman year at college. I took a creative elective class that was classified as a ‘journalist’ course, but for the first two or three weeks we were taught how to draw. It was to teach us us how to tap into our right brain, creative side or something like that. I liked the idea of Celeste taking the class and griping about being forced to draw.

The artwork is so simple, that I probably drew all five strips in one day. The Daily Texan was a M-F publication. My five strips would be a perfect strip to run consecutively for the week (Unfortunately, my comics never ran consecutively until my senior year). At the time I was proud of my artwork, but looking back it doesn’t look very dynamic. In these earlier drawings, Celeste’s hair lacks her iconic shape.

The Daily Texan kept ‘losing’ my submissions, so I kept re-submitting them. At the time, it was the funniest stuff I had created. It wasn’t until the spring semester of my sophomore year that someone at the paper told me what was wrong with it. Evidently, in the last panel I used the actual name of the professor of the course. I also drew a basic caricature of his features. It was against Daily Texan policy to name actual University of Texas faculty in the newspaper comic section. (I thought he would have been flattered.) I wish they would have told me that months earlier instead of throwing the strips away and then telling me only after I stopped and asked why. It was such an easy fix to drop the surname and change the face of the professor (I have here the original drawing here). The fix took less that 15 minutes to make, I resubmitted the strip (once again), and the five strip story line was published infrequently over a two month span. The Daily Texan prepared me for the endless frustrations of the real world.

(Common Ground. 1998)

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Week 1: The first half of the week I have Celeste and Dave going to a client meeting with G.W. “Nero” Hill. I was still trying to make Nero an interesting character at that point, but he never really took off. The fist three strips weren’t really good. The artwork is nothing more than talking heads, the wording is too long and winded, and some of the speech bubbles don’t line up correctly. The only thing somewhat interesting is the first panel of Tuesday’s strip un which I drew a city block scene. I can do something better now, but then I was something novel and different for me. Starting on Wednesday, the stickman story finally begins when Celeste draws an idea for Paige. The ideas were better, but again the dialogue (and monologue as in the case with Friday’s strip) were too wordy and the punchlines fell flat.

Sunday 1: (Stickman Cometh) This was a slow ‘animation’ of the stickman crawling out of the piece of paper. However, as the stickman was already coming out in Saturday’s strip, Sunday’s strip felt redundant. In the latest incarnation of the stickman storyline, this strip was was edited out. The last panel artwork and punchline is similar to the Common Ground‘s Wednesday strip. I also didn’t like how the thickness of the stickman’s arms change. Poor draftsmanship.

Week 2: The first three strips were okay (except for the horrible rendering of the desk in Tuesday’s strip. The angles were totally off and was jarring to the eye) The last three strip’s ideas were okay but the implementations were not. In Thursday’s strip, you never get the sense that Celeste is really hiding in an air duct. In Friday’s strip, there is too much going on and it is hard to determine what is happening. In Saturday’s strip, the ‘punchline’ just doesn’t work at all. When it came time to redo this story, the last three fell on the editing room’s floor.

Sunday 2: (Stickman Goeth) This strip was better. I used the same colors as the previous Sunday’s to show continuity. I modeled Celeste on Calvin’s mom in Bill Watterson’s book, “Lazy Sunday Book”. It was in the Spaceman Spiff storyline in which Calvin throws a water balloon at his mom.* It was such a good, animated drawing, that I re-used it again for Something about Celeste.

Week 3: These were okay strips and both have gone through the least amount of changes from the 2001 to the 2007 storylines.

(Soliciting Celeste. 2001)

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Week 1: This time I jump right into the action of the story. I eliminated the first three strips of the first week and the last three of the second week of the Soliciting Celeste. Those strips were just mere ‘fillers’, and were not doing much to advance the story. In the first comic, I changed Paige’s line from “It looks like three sticks stabbing a circle” to “It looks like a fork is having sex with a circle.” I think the second punchline works better. For years, while I was trying to get syndicated, I would self-edit my work. When submitting to editors to the syndicates, all mention of ‘sex’ must be avoided at all cost. But by 2005, I had given up on syndication and was making my comic my own way. That decision has liberated me ever since.

Another change was to the Wednesday strip. This strip replaced the Soliciting Celeste ‘Sunday’ strip. In this version, I have the stick man come out of the paper in a span of three panels instead of dragging the whole process out in a slow animation like I had done with the Soliciting Celeste strip. The ‘magic marker’ punchline was also a better alternative to the punchline used in both Common Ground and Soliciting Celeste. Both has the stickman grab and pull Celeste’s shirt, which looks like it is trying to grab her breasts. It was too violent, but more importantly, not all that funny.

One last note. Thursday’s strip was inspired from a Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip. Celeste runs away from an angry stickman and tried to hide by slamming the door on him. However, she was thwarted by the fact that the stickman is two-dimensional and can slide under the door crack. In the C&H strip, Calvin also runs away and then slams the door only to find out that the alien can materialize through the door. Celeste’s face of utter bewilderment and fear was based on Watterson’s drawing of Calvin in the same situation. **

Sunday 1: The Something about Celeste strip is similar to the second Soliciting Celeste Sunday. In the SC strip, I used alternating colors of green and purple in the background to tie it in with the first Sunday strip. However, now that I didn’t have another Sunday to tie this one with, I dropped the green/purple background and put in an actual office scene. Maybe it looks better; maybe it doesn’t. It isn’t as simple as the first so the problem is at a lower resolutions in publication, the action can get lost in all that clutter. But it does give a real sense of space to the world that Celeste both works and lives in.

Week 2: These two have changed the least. I have updated the artwork but the dialogue stayed the same. I alternated the positions of Dave and Celeste because she is the first one talking (or shouting), she should be on the left. Readers read from left to right, so a good rule of thumb is the first action or thing said should come from the character on the left. It reduces the time that a reader has to read or reread a strip. I believe that when the character on the right is the first speaker, it creates a circular motion of the reader’s eyes. (Yes, I get that technical when I make layout decisions when drawing my strip.)

I also want to note that the inspiration to the line “Stay back you crazy, nefarious stickman from Hell!” is from (you guessed it) Calvin & Hobbes. I thought the bombastic and hyperbolic titles “Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons” and “Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat” were hilarious.*** I thought it would be cool if Celeste had a similar line.

(Something about Celeste. 2007)

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*Calvin and Hobbes: Lazy SundayBook. Page ix. (1989) Scanned06-1

 ** Calvin and Hobbes: Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat. Page 123. (1994) The original: Scanned06 The three panels I’m referring to: Scanned05

*** 61KojJRumpL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_      Homicidal_Psycho_Jungle_Cat

™Copyright by Bill Watterson and distributed by Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission…which I don’t have….so…..shhhhhh.