Create Your Own Cartoon Characters

Advice for developing character spreads for publication — and pay.

| January/February 1970

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    Character spreads should consist of eight to 10 unique characters who represent various personalities or characteristics.
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

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If there's anything an editor likes better than a well slanted cartoon, it's a well slanted, offbeat cartoon feature. Preferably, something he doesn't see arrive (in dozens) every day of the week. The character spread is such a cartoon feature.

And what is a character spread?

Pick a subject. Any subject. Sports cars, lawn mowing, seduction, fishing, drinking, sleeping, TV viewing ... anything. Then, figure out eight to 10 types of guys whose viewpoints on that subject just about cover it from every angle.

Then draw them, being certain you pack plenty of "omph" into each characterization and keep the backgrounds simple to the point of almost zero. Include only the props necessary to put each characterization across. Write two to six sentences for each character, put the whole works in the mail to whichever magazine it's slanted and wait for the fat check to arrive from a delighted and grateful editor.

The character spread — besides being sufficiently offbeat to warm the editorial heart — has the added advantage of being a fluid product insofar as the editor's space problems are concerned. If he is unable to filch the necessary space to use the whole spread at one time, point out that each unit (each character) can be used one at a time over a series of issues. Most editors, however, seem to prefer using the spread all at once since it carries more wallop that way.

Although many professional cartoonists use the character spread from time to time, it's a leadpipe cinch few editors of house organs and the smaller trade journals see decently built character spreads. If you begin marketing this cartoon form to them, you're going to make all kinds of money. Even in the trade journal field, it's common to ask — and get — $100 for a 10-part character spread. This is, of course, assuming the drawings are good, the short copy fairly clever and the slant right on target.


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