I get a lot of emails asking me how I create Disciplinary Action Adventures each week. I thought it might be interesting for aspiring and fellow cartoonists, as well as fun for readers, to see what goes on behind the scenes to create a World of Warcraft cartoon.
1. THE SEED OF AN IDEA
The first stirrings of a comic begin when I think of something funny to write about. For me, this is almost always a single line or character facial expression that makes me laugh. Frequently I’ll wake up with a clear sentence in my head that demands to be explained, and it goes from there.
Insider Moment: For Episode #1, it was “WTB Boobies”, which I overheard on a crowded trade chat. In Episode #2, the phrase “SPLORT!” came to me during lunch. These things cannot be explained.
2. THE POST-IT NOTE OF AN IDEA
Once I have the key phrase, I generally flesh out the comic in an extremely poorly-drawn sketch. These are usually perpetrated on Post-It notes (which I always keep handy), or, if I’m feeling fancy, notepaper. They’re unlovely but help me block out the number of panels I’m going to need and firm up the actual text of the comic. I pull the Post-Its into general coherency with a final, single-page draft of the comic:
3. CREATING THE BOILERPLATE
My first order of business is to pull up my blank comic template in Photoshop and start sketching out the frames.
I load in the header, which is the same for each comic, and change Liala’s talk bubble in the heading.
The next part is certainly one of the most tedious for me, which is blocking out and then drawing the frames. I’ll reference my original sketch, but start to rework the flow if more or fewer panels are needed to keep the page looking uncluttered. The comic is organized by left page and right page, and then by frame within each page. It helps keep the multiple layers (having over a hundred per comic is not unusual) straight in my head.
4. ADDING THE DIALOGUE
After the frames have been drawn, I go into each panel and add the dialogue roughly where I think it will fall in each panel. After that, I go back to each piece of dialogue and add the talk bubbles to the layers underneath.
5. CREATING THE CHARACTERS
At this point I have a pretty clear image in my head of how each panel will look: the size and placement of the dialogue helps to guide the ‘look’ of each panel, as well. With that information in my head, I open up WoW Model Viewer and create my first character. For new characters, I play around for a bit getting their hair, face, and clothing right, and then I begin to pose that character for each frame.
I cut away the non-character background noise, and repeat the process for each panel that the character is in. At the end of the process I’m left with a single file with all of that character’s poses for the strip.
6. POPULATING THE COMIC
Once all of the characters have a sheet of poses for each panel, I import each pose into the corresponding panel. At this point, everything looks ferociously untidy, but in fact it’s the most fun part of the process.
After that’s all set, I go into WoW, visit the location I want, and take a few screenshots to use in the background. After that’s done, the background gets sized and pasted into each panel.
Then it’s back into the panels to move and resize the characters, add the tails of the talk bubbles, and paint the shadows. This is when I go back through and make all the little changes or add details.
A quick final check, and then it’s ready to post for my readers’ amusement and edification:
The entire process, from idea to finished post, takes about ten to twelve hours, which I tend to spread out over two or three days.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about what goes on behind the scenes here at Disciplinary Action Adventuuuuuuuuures!