I’ve cranked up the Way Back Machine and set it for twenty-two years ago to show you how we used to create a strip. Excerpts are from an article in Cartoonists Profiles, edited by Jud Hurd.
Back then, Jerry hand wrote the gags on a legal pad. That was before we were using computers to do this. It’s a heck of a lot easier to read the gags when they’re typewritten, but I kind of miss the scribbles.
I sketched the gag on tracing paper and faxed it to Jerry. Here, I got to the final panel and realized that, because of the order of the dialogue, I should have swapped Darryl and Wanda’s positions. Also, it helps if the funniest part of the image is seen after the reaction in the third panel. I changed their positions in the last panel.
To fix my mistake in the final drawing, I flopped the first three panels—one advantage of using tracing paper, it’s translucent, so you can copy on a photocopy machine from the back side.
Lesson learned here: Always read the gag to the end before you start drawing. I can’t say I’ve completely learned that lesson. I still occasionally succumb to drawing first, reading later. My wife says that’s the stupidest thing she’s ever heard: “You don’t read it all first??” Well, yeah, I do. But it might be more skimming for the joke rather than really reading it in the sense of noticing things like what order the characters will have to be speaking by the end of the strip.
What can I say? I’m a work in progress.
I’ve only been doing this twenty-two years.