How to Draw Comic Strips

Cartoonist Larc Relhok talks about how he develops ideas for cartoons and works on a freelance basis.

| January/February 1970


An example of a multi-panel gag that Relhok drew for Skin Diver.


When I'm not going off at a tangent by getting myself involved with selling advertising space for various local magazines or animated signs or any other fast-buck deal that looks sufficiently interesting to lure me from the ofttimes lonely drawing board and typewriter, I usually produce freelance material in three main forms: advertising cartoons, entertainment cartoons and humor pieces.

However, since I've done my share of howling ecstatically over the value of the ad cartoon — and since there are not likely to be many would-be humorous article or story writers in the IG audience — I think I'll stick to the single-panel gag cartoon in this diatribe.

To be begin, I reluctantly admit I have no supremely masterful method of formulating gags. In fact, my gag writing is rather a chaotic process: Something of a blemish upon my alleged professionalism if you consider that I have been hawking cartoons long enough to have whomped up some sort of systemized gag production.

Anyway, I simply choose the magazine I intend to hit. Study it thoroughly, being quite certain to read the editorial section for slant and the ads for double slant. Start working out gag situations based upon (generally speaking) some of the material already published in the magazine.

Take the Fisherman Magazine, for instance. I first sold to them just last year. After studying a copy of that book, I sat me down behind the light board and stared a neat hole in a clean sheet of paper. I quietly considered the editorial articles (freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, types of gear used, boat handling, etc.), the advertising (rods, reels, hooks, lures, sinkers, boats, lines, etc.) and I mentally reviewed every fisherman I have ever known . . . tossing in recollections of my own fishing experiences for good measure.

At last, I decided the best approach would be to pick some very typical problem or happenstance familiar to any guy who has ever spent a day trying to catch fish. Being married and knowing my wife is a good example of feminine criticism, I simply reached for a personal experience and came up with the following gag:

Guy coming through living room carrying rod from which dangles an empty hook with fantastically intricate lure on the line. Guy is sunburned, tired and disgusted,and has obviously been fishing without catching anything. Wife stares at weird-looking lure on the line, fascinated. She chirps: "Honestly, John, you catch the damnedest looking fish!" 

Fisherman bought that one (and four others similar to it) on the first trip out. I have little doubt but that you might find a fancy term for the gag, classifying it as a This-type or That-type. And you may be right. In my book . . . it's just a gag . . . and nothing more.

A much neglected form (anyway, there aren't as many in print as I should think there would be if cartoonists understood them better) is the multi-panel gag. Aside from being a roomier form for humor, the M-P also makes a dandy regular feature vehicle . . . being nothing more than a comic strip for magazines.

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